2011 Legislative Session: Third Session, 39th Parliament
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Beaufort Room, Best Western Westerley Hotel
1590 Cliffe Ave., Courtenay, BC
Present: Rob Howard, MLA (Chair); Doug Donaldson, MLA (Deputy Chair); Bill Bennett, MLA; Mable Elmore, MLA; Dave S. Hayer, MLA; Pat Pimm, MLA; Bruce Ralston, MLA; Bill Routley, MLA; Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Jane Thornthwaite, MLA
1. The Chair called the Committee to order at 8:59 a.m.
2. Opening statements by Rob Howard, MLA, Chair.
3. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions:
1) ORCA Children's Advocacy Centre Society
2) Comox Valley Child Development Association
3) North Island College Faculty Association
4) Comox Valley Hospice Society
5) Healing Journey Counselling Services
6) Geoscience BC
Dr. 'Lyn Anglin
7) Truck Loggers Association
8) PacificSport Vancouver Island
9) Legal Services Society
10) Nanaimo District Teachers' Association
Comox District Teachers' Association
Campbell River District Teachers' Association
4. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 11:33 a.m.
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
select standing committee on
Finance and Government Services
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Issue No. 49
* Rob Howard (Richmond Centre L)
* Doug Donaldson (Stikine NDP)
* Bill Bennett (Kootenay East L)
* Dave S. Hayer (Surrey-Tynehead L)
* Pat Pimm (Peace River North L)
* Dr. Moira Stilwell (Vancouver-Langara L)
Jane Thornthwaite (North Vancouver–Seymour L)
* Mable Elmore (Vancouver-Kensington NDP)
* Bruce Ralston (Surrey-Whalley NDP)
* Bill Routley (Cowichan Valley NDP)
* denotes member present
Arlene Carlson (Administrative Assistant)
Shirley Ackland (President, North Island College Faculty Association)
Lorraine Aitken (Executive Director, Comox Valley Child Development Association)
Dr. 'Lyn Anglin (President and CEO, Geoscience B.C.)
Mark Benton (Executive Director, Legal Services Society)
Azima Buell (Healing Journey Counselling Services)
Drew Cooper (General Manager, PacificSport Regional Centre Vancouver Island)
Derek DeGear (President, Nanaimo District Teachers Association)
Fred Ford (ORCA Children's Advocacy Centre Society)
Dave Lewis (Executive Director, Truck Loggers Association)
Terri Odeneal (Executive Director, Comox Valley Hospice Society)
Steve Stanley (President, Comox District Teachers Association)
Neil Thompson (President, Campbell River District Teachers Association)
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
The committee met at 8:59 a.m.
[R. Howard in the chair.]
R. Howard (Chair): Good morning, everyone.
I've got a little business to take care of, so I'll start up as the members take their seats. My name is Rob Howard. I'm the MLA for Richmond Centre and the Chair of this parliamentary committee. I would like to welcome everyone and thank you for participating in this important process.
Each year, in preparation for next year's budget, the Minister of Finance releases a budget consultation paper which guides the committee's annual consultation process. The budget consultation paper presents a current fiscal and economic forecast. It also identifies key issues that need to be addressed in the next budget.
There are well-published global economic challenges in Europe and the States. 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 by the fiscal 2013-2014. This will serve us well to protect and grow our job base.
These challenging circumstances mean there are difficult questions ahead, and we look forward to hearing about your priorities in these challenging times.
The paper outlines 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; and what programs and spending are your priorities?
Print copies of the 2012 budget consultation paper are available at the back of the room with Arlene.
The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is the parliamentary committee which is responsible to conduct public consultations on the forthcoming provincial budget. Our all-party committee is required to report back to the Legislative Assembly no later than November 15 of this year.
This year we will hold 13 public hearings in each region of the province. We've also scheduled two video conference sessions in order to hear from residents of eight rural communities. This is the third time we have tried this consultation method.
Last week we were in Vancouver. This week we were in Fort Nelson, Smithers, Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops, and today in Courtenay and Victoria. In the weeks that follow, we will be in Surrey, Chilliwack, Cranbrook, Kelowna and Richmond.
In addition to public hearings, there is a wide variety of other ways that British Columbians can share their ideas with us. We accept written submissions by letter or e-mail and also video or audio files. Further information on how you may participate using one of these methods is available on our website, www.leg.bc.ca/budgetconsultations.
Committee members carefully consider all the public input we receive, whether it's an oral presentation made here today, an on-line survey form, a submission in writing, or an audio or video clip. Deadline to receive submissions is Friday, October 14.
At today's meeting each presenter may speak for ten minutes, with up to an additional five 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 also 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 also be retained on the committee's website.
I will now ask the other members of the Finance Committee to introduce themselves.
B. Bennett: Good morning. I'm Bill Bennett from Kootenay East.
R. Howard (Chair): From the other side of the table.
B. Routley: Good morning. Bill Routley, MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
P. Pimm: Good morning. I'm Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North.
M. Elmore: Good morning. Mable Elmore, MLA for Vancouver-Kensington.
D. Hayer: Good morning. I'm Dave Hayer, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead.
B. Ralston: Bruce Ralston, MLA, Surrey-Whalley.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine, in the northwest part of the province, and Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee. Good morning.
R. Howard (Chair): I should also mention that Dr. Moira Stilwell is on a flight that was a little delayed. She will be joining us sometime this morning.
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Also joining us today, I'm pleased to introduce our Clerk, Susan Sourial. At the back of the room we have Arlene Carlson staffing the registration desk. We also have Hansard Services staff, Michael Baer and Monique Goffinet Miller, who will record and prepare the written transcript of this meeting.
With that, I'd like to call our first witness, ORCA Children's Advocacy Centre Society — Fred Ford.
Welcome, Fred. Just as you're getting set up, I'm sure you caught it. You've got 15 minutes. I'll give you a little heads-up around ten minutes. Then you can either take questions thereabouts or just push forward. Your choice.
F. Ford: Wonderful. Thank you very much.
First of all, I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak to you today about an extremely important issue which has many implications for children, families, the community at large and, really, the economic future of the province as well.
The document that I've presented to you is an attempt to summarize in one page what our issues are. We also have a website, which we hope that you would also take a look at in order to see some of the background to this issue and to find out a little bit more about children's advocacy centres, in general, and the initiative to create B.C.'s first children's advocacy centre in greater Victoria.
A children's advocacy centre is a centre that is intended to coordinate the delivery of services, to investigate and prosecute cases of child physical and sexual abuse. It is intended that ORCA centre will provide direct services in greater Victoria and outreach services upon request to Vancouver Island communities.
The name ORCA stands for organized response to child abuse. In 1985 the first children's advocacy centre was created in Huntsville, Alabama. It was the initiative of a regional prosecutor who saw that the various professionals that were involved in responding to child abuse cases were not well coordinated. As a result, cases fell through the cracks, offenders were not held accountable, and children were retraumatized by the very system that was intended to protect them and to investigate crimes.
Interestingly, around the same time one of the most tragic cases that I think British Columbia and Canada have seen in relation to a tragic outcome of a case involving child sexual abuse occurred in Victoria. The case became very well known. A mother whose husband was in jail for having sexually abused their child, in desperation, as that person was about to be released from jail, doused her children and herself in gasoline and set them on fire.
A little girl, the five-year-old daughter, walked out of the ravine smelling of gasoline as the fire department arrived, thinking that they were attending to a grass fire. What they found was that the mother and the two children were badly burned, eventually died. Vicki Mansell, the five-year-old girl, survived.
The inquiry, in response to that tragedy, identified the lack of coordination of police forces and child protection agencies and others that were involved and made sweeping recommendations for improvements to the system.
I had the opportunity to talk to Vicki about three years ago, when she was 25, and I wanted to tell her that one of the positive outcomes of that case was the creation of the sexual abuse intervention programs provincially, which had operated for 17 years at that time. I was at that time the director of Mary Manning Centre, which is the main agency in Victoria that does counselling and victim services.
We told her that we had another idea — to create a centre like this that would provide a more coordinated response to child abuse cases. Even 20 years after that case had occurred, even though the sexual abuse programs were put in place, many of the miscommunications and structural problems in coordinating investigations and prosecutions were still in place. That still exists today.
In Victoria we have a particular problem, because we have seven municipalities, seven police departments and only one or two with any specialization in these kinds of cases.
Today there are 900 children's advocacy centres operating in the United States, and there are others being developed around the world. Most provinces in Canada now have children's advocacy centres.
In October of 2010 the federal Department of Justice announced $5.25 million in funding to stimulate the development of these centres across the country. They're recognized as best practice. They result in cases costing 45 percent less than the traditional approach, lead to an increase in charges laid, better evidence, more guilty pleas, higher conviction rates and more appropriate sentences. Most importantly, it reduces the trauma experienced by children and youth.
For example, court cases in the city of Edmonton, where the Zebra Centre has been operating for ten years, have been reduced from two to three years, to less than a year. There are many other outcomes that I could tell you about.
We have appealed to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General for funding for the development and operation of ORCA Children's Advocacy Centre. We feel that the victim surcharge special account is the most appropriate source of funding for this service. The fund was created to provide funding to a service or a project which may benefit victims or lead to the development of services that may benefit victims.
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Children's advocacy centres address the needs of our most vulnerable victims: child and youth victims of crime. There is currently in excess of $45 million surplus in that fund. It is available. We recognize the financial situation that the province is currently in. The last thing we want to do is take resources away from other agencies. This is one of the unique situations where funding can be provided to children's advocacy centres without doing so and without hurting the financial situation of the province.
In fact, this will be a financial benefit to the province, as it will reduce many of the costs that are associated with child sexual abuse and child physical abuse in the country. In the United States, where this has now become the way of doing business in investigating these kinds of cases, there has been a reduction in actual child sexual abuse rates of between 30 and 40 percent. In Victoria and other B.C. communities we have not seen any evidence of such a reduction. The number of referrals to agencies like the Mary Manning Centre, for example, has remained constant over the last 20 years.
We have community support from police, Crown, victim services, other agencies that are involved. We've been working together for the last year as a working group to develop protocols. But the key issue today is the lack of funding and policy support from the province. We're at a crossroads.
At a meeting with the area chiefs of police in greater Victoria in March they indicated that they needed to know that the province supports this initiative. We agree. We do not intend to attempt to open ORCA centre without operating funds, but we are prepared to move forward as quickly as possible and make this a reality in our province.
Sexual abuse is an issue that affects thousands of children and youth on Vancouver Island. There are many other tragic cases that I could bring out and describe. I don't know how many of you recall the tragic murder of a family in Black Creek in 1999 in which the Children's Commission, which did a review of that case, identified the lack of coordination of agencies involved in investigating a child sexual abuse case involving the perpetrator of that murder as a factor in the deaths of that family.
This is a deadly serious issue that affects children and youth every day in our province. So we are calling upon the provincial government to follow the lead of most other provinces in the country. Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have all announced support and funding for children's advocacy centres. Manitoba made an announcement in July. Calgary made an announcement in August. We have been attempting to bring the government's attention to this issue and secure funding. We cannot move forward without provincial support for this.
We're advocating for the model as well. We've drafted a discussion paper related to the victim surcharge fund as an appropriate source of funding for children's advocacy centres in British Columbia, and we've talked with the Victoria Foundation as a possible organization which may administer that fund. We will be sharing that with the committee before the hearings end. We're still in consultation with some of our community partners about the materials that we're going to be putting forward.
This is a worthy cause, we feel, that we've presented. We'll be presenting a mechanism for the funding of children's advocacy centres in B.C.
Just to clarify the name. It's a little bit of a distraction for some people. They think we're going to be going out and advocating. The name really comes from the fact that in the United States victim assistance workers are called victim advocates. The central piece of this is to ensure that a victim advocate is involved in every single case to ensure that the child's needs are met and not sacrificed as the police and child protection workers go about their work.
It's also notable that our society has gathered together statistics on police-reported violent crimes against children and youth, for the first time. All these disparate police detachments have not been able to provide us with that information. We've got the statistics now for 2009-2010. What we find is that in less than 20 percent of cases are victim advocates involved. The victim services provided by Mary Manning Centre are underutilized, and children are suffering as a result.
This centre would co-locate police, Crown and other essential agencies involved in investigating. It's at a very low cost, and the benefits are significant. I could give you details about costs and other things as well, but I'll stop there.
R. Howard (Chair): Okay. Excellent, Fred. You're at 11 minutes, and we've got some questions.
M. Elmore: Thank you very much for your presentation. It's very effective in terms of bringing out the issue. I was just wondering if you've had a chance to talk to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth, about this issue — and also what the cost is for operating the centre in the general way, with the operating.
F. Ford: Yes, we've been fortunate to have Mary Ellen talk about this issue from its infancy. Mary Ellen was the guest speaker at our annual general meeting last September. Incidentally, next Thursday is our next AGM, and the CEO of the Zebra Centre, in Edmonton, will be presenting.
We spoke with Mary Ellen again during the summer and have asked for her support. She has endorsed this model and is very supportive. The operating costs are
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not finalized. We have a draft. We feel that the cost will be in the neighbourhood of $235,000 for personnel, plus facility costs. The facility costs are difficult to gauge. In Edmonton the police have covered all of the facility costs, so they only have their actual operating costs.
Some 80 to 90 percent of the costs of this are already in the system with the police, and those individuals would still continue to work for their employer. Mary Manning Centre would continue to operate as it does now. This is just going to create integration, efficiency and collaboration.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent.
D. Hayer: Thank you very much for your presentation. My question is: will this society be set up in each town, or will it be one society in the province that will provide its services all over the province for each city and town? And do you have maybe a rough guesstimate if it will be $4 million or $5 million, or $2 million or $3 million, or half a million, in total? Just a guesstimate on the total costing.
F. Ford: It is difficult to estimate that. It would not be cost-effective to have a centre like this in every community, although in the United States they've done some really interesting things in small towns. We are planning this centre to provide direct services in Victoria and outreach services to Vancouver Island communities upon request.
There's a similar group trying to start an agency like this in Surrey. There's a group in Richmond. There's a group in Vancouver. I'm not sure how they will do that, if there will be more than one in the Lower Mainland. I would see that there would need to be a centre in each region, which would provide coordination and collaboration with smaller communities in those areas, but I can't presume to know what works best in those other parts of the community.
Ballpark figure? I really couldn't say. We've done our best to estimate for Vancouver Island, and we think that this could all be done for under half a million dollars, including the facility. Again, that's the wild card, and we can't proceed with space planning or any of those kinds of things until we get some provincial funding and support.
R. Howard (Chair): Thanks, Fred. We've run out of time. We still have two questioners, Ralston and Pimm, who can perhaps catch up to you after the session or in the days to come. Thank you for your presentation.
F. Ford: Okay. Could you tell me again who had the questions, in case I do need to run out?
R. Howard (Chair): MLA Ralston and MLA Pimm.
F. Ford: Great. Okay, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you.
Next up we have the Comox Valley Child Development Association — Lorraine Aitken. Welcome, Lorraine. As you know, you've got 15 minutes. At around ten I'll give you a heads-up, and you can either stop for questions or keep going — your choice. The mike is yours.
L. Aitken: Terrific, thank you. Good morning everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. This is my second opportunity to speak to this standing committee. I made a presentation last year, and I recognize some of the faces, but many of you are new to this.
You have in front of you a copy of our presentation, and on page 1 is a little bit of information about the Child Development Association. I'm sure you've heard from other child development centres and child development agencies across the province, and you will in the coming weeks, as you make your tour.
Like many other agencies, we've been doing this for over 30 years. We provide services to children and youth with special needs, developmental needs — diagnosed and undiagnosed developmental needs. Last year we provided services to 778 children here in the Comox Valley. We had over 11,000 visits to our facility.
Our core provincially funded services include early intervention therapy services — that's speech-language therapy; occupational therapy; physical therapy; the infant development program, which serves children from birth to three, and their families; and the supported child development program, which serves children up to age 12 in child care settings. We also provide a range of other services that are developed locally to meet the unique needs of our community.
The majority of our funding is from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. However, we do have contracts with VIHA, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, we do a lot of local fundraising, and we rely on donations and gaming grants and however else we can be creative to find ways to raise money. We've been running a telethon for 36 years. Our 36th one is coming up in November. It's a huge fundraiser for us, and we're highly dependent on it.
Our submission is going to focus on local issues; however, we are a member of the B.C. Association of Child Development and Intervention, and I believe they're making a presentation to you. Their presentation is going to include sort of the more detailed cost analysis. Our presentation is focusing more on local issues.
I've summarized our recommendations on page 3. I'm just going to ask you to flip over to page 5, which gives you more detailed information on the recommendations. Included in the report is a little bit of
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background information and local demographics, which you can glance over.
On page 5 our number one priority is early intervention therapy services for young children, birth to school entry. We have had chronic wait-lists for these services for a number of years. We've made lots of recommendations in the past about increasing funding for early intervention therapy services.
In a small community like ours you can see that on our wait-list for occupational therapy right now we have 51 children; for speech-language pathology, 31 children; for physical therapy, 17 children. These wait-lists tend to stay stable all year round, and at this time of the year they're actually smaller, because we have a lot of kids go off to kindergarten that we didn't even get to see. Now the wait-lists will continue to grow over the course of the year until next September.
This is a critical window for early intervention, and we're missing a huge opportunity to be really effective with children with early intervention and getting parents involved in home programs and activities to support their child's development. We're really missing a lot of opportunity to get children going and to help prepare them for school entry as well. Our recommendation there is to increase the funding for therapy services, which you're going to hear in every community you go to across the province.
Our second recommendation is around operational and capital costs — all of our costs for doing business. We don't receive any infrastructure funding from the federal or provincial government. Our contracts are based mostly on the cost of the wages and benefits for our staff. That's where our fundraising is so huge. We don't have the ability to turn on the lights and heat the building without doing the fundraising, and yet our services are seen as core services.
In addition, contracts have not kept up with the true cost of wages and benefits over the last number of years, so more and more of our fundraising is actually now going to cover the true costs of staffing. Contracts just don't cover it. We would like to recommend that contracted agencies such as ours, which are accredited — we have to be accredited to receive the contracts with government — receive a fair contract that covers the cost of infrastructure.
Gaming funding. I know that there is a current review going on. I'd just like to reiterate that agencies such as ours that provide services in the community to vulnerable children and youth should be a priority for gaming funds and that a formula that provides some stability and not sort of one-shot-only funding would be most helpful.
Our fourth recommendation is specifically for services for children and youth with autism spectrum disorder. I'm sure you've heard in many submissions about the increasing numbers of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and the effectiveness of quality intervention programs. Currently children under the age of six are funded up to $22,000 a year, which is a good start, but it isn't quite enough to cover the true cost of providing an effective early intervention program.
In the Comox Valley we provide services to over 50 children and youth a year with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. I think we're doing a great job. We're making a huge difference. We're really getting children on track with learning and social development. But the tipping point is just out of our reach for being able to make that much more of a difference. That funding model is a little bit short.
In addition, the administrative process of the billing and invoicing system with the autism funds processing unit is incredibly onerous. Minister McNeil has looked at it, has directed her staff to come up with some recommendations, and very small improvements have been made. But we spend an inordinate amount of administrative time managing a payment system that could be so much more simple.
We're an accredited agency that has large contracts with government. We have for over 30 years. The amount of detailed invoicing and minute counting is quite onerous. We could be providing services instead of shuffling paper.
Services for youth with special needs — our fifth recommendation. Over the past few years government has struck several working groups, gathered information and drafted many recommendations to provide services for youth with special needs. However, we haven't seen the results in terms of programs or services or funding.
This is a huge underserved area of our population. We tend to focus more on the younger children when it comes to programs and services for children with special needs, but by the time children get to those teenage years, there's a real lack of funding. I'd strongly recommend that we move forward with some of the recommendations that have already been made but have never been acted upon for services and funding for youth age 13 to 19.
R. Howard (Chair): Sorry, Lorraine. Just so you know, you're at ten minutes. We've got questions if you're….
L. Aitken: Okay. Should I just finish the last one?
R. Howard (Chair): It's up to you. Sure.
L. Aitken: Okay. Just the last one — training for pediatric therapists in British Columbia. There's a chronic shortage of trained pediatric therapists in British Columbia, so just a recommendation to increase the size of the training seats at UBC and to expand those seats in programs to the University of Victoria and the University of Northern British Columbia.
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R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you.
B. Bennett: Thank you very much. I'm impressed with all of the child development centres, associations, that we've heard from. We've actually heard from, I think, four just this week.
I'm interested in how you organize yourselves. You call yourselves an association. The other groups that have presented to us call themselves child development centres. I'm interested in the extent to which it's necessary and beneficial to pull all these different services together kind of under one roof or perhaps one integrated operation.
L. Aitken: Our legal name is an association. Many people call us the child development centre. We're similar to the other organizations.
B. Bennett: Are you under one roof, basically?
L. Aitken: We're under one roof — yes.
B. Bennett: Do you have physicians?
L. Aitken: No. We have….
B. Bennett: Pediatricians?
L. Aitken: We have them in the community, but they are not under our roof.
B. Bennett: But the therapeutic services, early intervention services, autism services are delivered mainly from the same place?
L. Aitken: Yes, all in one building. We have one umbrella contract with the Minister of Children and Family Development. A lot of efficiencies are maintained by having all of those services integrated and within one society and in one location.
We also have at our facility the child care resource and referral program for the Comox Valley. It co-locates with us. We also have a private contractor who provides a range of services for children and youth and adults, and she contracts with Community Living B.C. and the Ministry of Children and Family Development's school district. We are all serving the same population, so we really make a lot of use of those efficiencies of being together.
M. Elmore: Thank you for your presentation. Just in terms of the gaming grants, did you experience a cut with your gaming grants? Were you impacted by that?
L. Aitken: We didn't because we didn't have the bingo affiliation. We had the community gaming grant, so our gaming grant of $25,000 we received again. Plus we got a nice bonus, a little $6,000 amount that we weren't expecting. However, we ask for $50,000, and we get $25,000. But we never know from year to year. We put in our submission in November, and we sit and wait on tenterhooks until February, until we find out.
M. Elmore: That's why you're recommending the multi-year.
L. Aitken: Yes.
M. Elmore: And just in terms of your invoicing and payment system — streamlining that and cutting red tape. So you've had some discussions, and there has been some movement, or it's just not enough?
L. Aitken: We've had the discussion, and the issues have been identified. However, the changes have not been made. So tiny little improvements, but it needs a big shift.
P. Pimm: Thank you, and again, following MLA Bennett's…. We have heard from child development centres across the country, and they do fantastic work.
One of your stats here: about 10 to 15 percent of your community of youngsters between birth and 19 years of age are of special needs. Is that consistent with the rest of the province?
L. Aitken: That's consistent with the country. That's a fairly common statistic that comes from research.
P. Pimm: So is that just a stat for the province, or is that this area specifically?
L. Aitken: Every community in the province. That's a general statistic. School districts use the same statistic. It's a common statistic.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks again this year for your presentation. We've heard from other child development centres about getting phone calls recently from the Ministry of Child and Family Development about attempts to claw back funding. Specifically, it was around maternity leave situations. Have you received those calls?
L. Aitken: I've received those phone calls. Yes, I have.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Can you elaborate on them a little bit?
L. Aitken: We received a phone call from our community services manager about a month ago, advising that he had been directed to look for efficiencies, savings,
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and was particularly looking at two things: vacant positions that hadn't been filled because we couldn't recruit someone to fill that position, and also maternity leaves. We've had several maternity leaves, but we filled those positions immediately.
I'd just like to point out that under the terms of our collective agreement, when we do have a maternity leave, it costs us a lot of money. Those amounts aren't covered in our contracts, as well. So when we fill a maternity leave — as soon as someone goes on maternity leave — we're actually almost double funding, because there's a top-up portion for maternity leave that we must pay, and benefits still continue as well.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent, Lorraine. We have another question from MLA Hayer, but we're out of time, so I'll have to ask him to catch up with you later. Thank you very much for taking the time to come out this morning.
Next up we have the North Island College Faculty Association — Shirley Ackland.
S. Ackland: Good morning.
R. Howard (Chair): Welcome, Shirley. As you know, I think, you've got 15 minutes, and at about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up.
S. Ackland: That sounds great. It's a pleasure to be here in Courtenay. I apologize. I don't have copies of my presentation. I'll send them electronically. I drove down late last night and wasn't able to get them to you, so my apologies.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. You have until October 14 to do that.
S. Ackland: That will happen.
I am the president of the North Island College Faculty Association. Actually, I'm an instructor in the Port Hardy region and live in Port McNeill. Most of the courses that I teach are actually in a collaborative program with BCcampus on line.
Just by way of background, North Island College has four campuses in this region as well as a number of learning centres. We take our mandate as a comprehensive community college very seriously, with a lot of emphasis on outreach in our community to make sure that we make the most of the resources that we're given.
Our current enrolment is about 2,000 full-time-equivalent students, and these students are involved in a broad range of disciplines, including apprenticeship programs, various two-year certificate programs and diploma programs, as well as university transfer and four-year degree programs.
To meet our mandate as a comprehensive community college, our institution developed a number of programs that not only support the students' learning objectives but also link with a number of employers in our region. For example, in Port Hardy we hosted a health care assistant program that was part of a response to VIHA's additional 11 beds that happened in the extended care in Port Hardy. The graduates of that program were hired the day they finished, so they're all working in our region, which is a wonderful example of how we respond to what the community needs.
We also have a practical nursing access program that was just introduced in the Port Hardy region this year as well. Not only is it important for VIHA, but it's also helping to fill the growing demand in our region for practical nurses. I should add that this nursing program is also available in Port Alberni, and it runs every year in Campbell River, and it has a wait-list every single time it's offered.
Port Hardy has established this year a carpentry access program to begin improving the opportunities for young people in the region to acquire trades training. This has been very important for First Nations in our region as a way to get their foot in the door and learn the skills to be able to train in a trade.
Our colleges believe that post-secondary programs need to demonstrate innovation as well as the responsiveness to local needs, and I think you can see both of those attributes in the two other programs that we've put in place. The first is our coastal tourism program that takes advantage of the growing tourism industry in the province. The Mount Waddington and Strathcona Park areas are significant tourism draws, and they support new industry in the region. The certificate program ensures that we have the ability and the talent to grow the industry even more.
The second example that we have here in the Comox Valley is the collaborative fine arts program that we've established in conjunction with Emily Carr University. The program has generated considerable interest in the Comox Valley. It shows that our public institutions are prepared to share the expertise in ways that provide equal benefits to both institutions, and students take advantage of that.
North Island continues to support a wide variety of developmental education programs throughout the region, and the programs are in many respects the core to our mandate of being a comprehensive community college. We want adult learners to have the opportunity to learn, to acquire new skills, but most of all, to build the confidence to make lifelong learning a part of what they do.
Part of that effort has been to provide some of the programs on line through BCcampus so students can learn at their own pace, from their own computers. I'm happy to say we're able to offer some of these programs in Alert
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Bay for the first time since 2001, when the college was forced to close that community centre. So we are now back in that centre offering a collaborative program with support from instructors from the Port Hardy region, and that's really exciting for Alert Bay.
It's important that the committee understand the context in which our public post-secondary education system is trying to operate. It would be an understatement to say that post-secondary education will play an increasingly important role in the future of our province. We know, for example, that 70 percent of all new jobs will require some post-secondary education — a degree, a diploma or a certificate or some apprenticeship.
However, we also know that only 60 percent of the workforce has that current level of education. It's a concern to us. We need to close the gap, so we need to address that right away.
Unfortunately, the most direct investment that the government makes to our post-secondary education system is the annual operation budget. It shows we're not getting close to the status quo anymore. Real per-student operating grants for colleges and universities in B.C. have declined by 8 percent since 2001.
That decline was one of the reasons that North Island College closed 12 of its learning centres out of the 16. I used to work in a centre in Port McNeill. It was closed in 2002. The centres in Tofino have been closed; Alert Bay, Sointula, Port Alice — many of these resource communities with very little other access to post-secondary education.
We were forced to retreat from our mandate, which is to serve our community needs and the post-secondary education that's required by our communities for us to provide. Many of the program offerings that we've able to put in place over the past years are more a reflection of doing more with less than evidence that we're making new substantial investments in post-secondary education.
Adding to the problem is the fact that we've also made affordability a larger challenge for the students. Starting in 2002, the provincial government brought in a policy which allowed tuition fees to be deregulated. The immediate impact was for tuition fees to skyrocket, particularly at this college. We actually boast some of the lowest tuition fees in the province, but they increased quite substantially. However, the average often understates what happens in specific program areas. In many vocational and professional program areas the rates of increase have been much higher.
Tuition fees have gone up. The economic pressure on students has increased dramatically. Student debt has increased. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, the average student debt now is approaching $30,000. I have a daughter who just finished a health care assistant program here in the Comox Valley, which is less than a one-year program, and she had to take out a loan for $15,000. She's 21.
The rise in tuition fees also means that today's post-secondary students have to shoulder more of the cost of their own education than was the case for the previous generations. I'm one of them. For any of the committee members, like myself, who went through our B.C. post-secondary education system in the '70s or '80s, our tuition fees accounted for about 15 to 18 percent of the total cost of our education. Right now that range is about 25 to 30 percent of the total cost of education. In a few institutions the current percentage is even higher. At Thompson Rivers, tuition fee revenues account for over 40 percent of total revenues of that institution. That's huge.
Rising tuition fees have also forced many students to drop back from being full-time students to being part-time students. They turn to part-time work to help cover the costs of higher post-secondary education fees. But at $10 an hour, part-time work doesn't make a dent in the current tuition cost or the student debt.
I should add that part-time work and full-time courses don't make for great learning environments. I have students that have scaled back on the courses that they've taken in order to feed their families — single parents that are trying to raise their children and go to school to make better work lives for themselves. Our faculty members know too well that overworked, stressed-out students have a much tougher time completing assignments and passing exams.
The deregulation of tuition fees sent a wrong signal at the wrong time. At the very point where we need to be encouraging more students to access post-secondary education, closing the skill gap and addressing a growing skills shortage, we have made post-secondary education far more expensive.
There are serious problems, and we need to find the resources necessary to fix them. What seems to be missing is a stronger commitment from the provincial government to make the necessary investments that we now need to address the problems.
I want to commend the committee for some of its recommendations from last year. In particular, I think the recommendation to provide interest rate relief was a positive step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the Minister of Finance didn't implement that recommendation. I would urge the committee to press the minister on this point and make the case that investing in post-secondary education is an investment that has strong public support — current polling confirms that — as well as strong economic benefit.
The higher skills our students have will give them access to better jobs and more stable employment — something the Premier wants, something we all want these days.
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I hope your report to the Finance Minister highlights again the need to increase the most direct investment government makes to our institutions: the institutional operational grants. In the absence of that investment, our ability to provide affordable post-secondary opportunities for students will come under increased pressure. It's an outcome which is not what this province needs, and it's not what our students need.
Thank you for your time this morning.
P. Pimm: Thank you for your presentation. The area that I'm kind of interested in, more so than another, is your apprenticeship program. Now, on your apprenticeship program, are your seats full?
A second question I have is on electrical instrumentation. I don't know if you have instrumentation here or not, but electrical for sure. Do those folks currently have sponsors? Do they have jobs to go to once they're through, or are they working through their apprenticeships without any sponsors?
S. Ackland: The problem with the apprenticeship program…. Most of our programs at North Island College in the trades are at pre-entry level, so the students take the first year and then have to find an apprenticeship. It's very difficult.
In some instances, for example — I can't give you one in electrical; I can give you one in mechanics — a student will finish the entry level, will try to find an apprenticeship, for example, in the Comox Valley, and the relationship with ITAC isn't working. They're not being set up — sponsorships or places for those students to be.
One young fellow has an apprenticeship at a local car dealership, and he's being apprenticed one day out of five a week. So how long is it going to take him to finish his apprenticeship? Four days a week he washes cars; one day a week he's actually under the tutorial of the tradesperson for that apprenticeship.
It gets increasingly difficult for students to find apprenticeships here. The funding and the relationship with ITAC has not worked for our institution at all.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation. Very important — the role of community colleges, in the non-urban areas of the province especially.
My question was around trades training as well. We heard a presentation from Northwest Community College that their apprenticeship training program and budget had been cut by 73 percent. Are you experiencing similar problems?
S. Ackland: Yes, we are. In fact, the layoffs we have that have occurred to faculty members in the past three years have been in the trades.
One of the difficulties that we have, particularly in rural colleges, is the funding formula. If there's a trades program that's offered where there are 15 seats that have to be provided in order to fund that trades program, Port Hardy might be able to manage, in that region, eight people to enter that, so it's not given permission to go ahead.
Eight people with that trades training in my region is huge. It's life-changing. But again, the province has said: "No, the mandate is that there have to be 15 people to fill that class or it's not funded." So that really disadvantages small communities.
I think there needs to be a better way to look at how we fund rural colleges. The access issue is huge. Our students, many of them, are First Nations — there are 12 First Nations north of Campbell River — that don't move. They don't leave the communities. They are the largest-growing population, and they need access to those programs.
Being able to have the funding that would be modified to allow a program to go ahead with eight or ten students instead of 18 would be something that would address the specific needs in those areas. So that's what we're looking for.
R. Howard (Chair): Thanks. Shirley, if you were the faculty association…? Have you done any costing for your requests? Do you know how much money you're talking about?
S. Ackland: I think what we're looking at, and it's not just North Island College, is the FTE. The way that we're funded doesn't work for the small colleges of Northwest Community College, Northern Lights, Selkirk. We cover 82,000 square kilometres. There are only 15,000 people north of Campbell River.
These resource communities…. I work in Port McNeill. Gerry Furney has been the mayor there for 42 years. But the logs and the resources that came out of the communities built this province.
Our small resource communities are looking at a more effective way to fund them so that we can provide access to education in those communities. But something I will take back…. I know the greater Federation of Post-Secondary Educators would welcome the opportunity to look at what that would cost, because we are seeking some way to fund rural institutions differently than the greater Vancouver area that has, you know, 1,500 people on a wait-list all the time — right?
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. I've run you out of time. I've left MLA Hayer on the question list, so he'll have to catch up to you later. Thank you for coming.
I'm looking now for Comox Valley Hospice. Welcome, Terri. How are you?
T. Odeneal: Thank you. Fine.
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R. Howard (Chair): I think you probably heard. You've got 15 minutes, and at ten minutes I'll give you a little heads-up.
T. Odeneal: I've heard. First of all, I'd like to welcome you, Chairman Howard, and committee members to the Comox Valley.
As you know, my name is Terri Odeneal, and I'm the executive director of the Comox Valley Hospice Society. Today I'm here to talk to you — on behalf of our board of directors, our staff and, most importantly, the people we serve — about end-of-life care in the Comox Valley.
Just to give you a little background about who we are, we've been a not-for-profit society expressing compassion in the Comox Valley for over 27 years. Our team of dedicated health care professionals and trained volunteers provides palliative health care and support services free of charge to people in the Comox Valley and our surrounding communities. These people are faced with dying, with terminal illnesses, caregiving or coping with the grief of losing a loved one.
Our organization, in collaboration with others dedicated to end-of-life care, strives to meet the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of the dying and their families in ways that are sensitive to individual preferences, choosing to acknowledge their beliefs and their cultures. Simply stated, our goal is to support people in living to the fullest until they die and to help their loved ones go on living with their lives forever changed.
When we were founded, our community hospices were founded, they were almost entirely volunteer organizations to help care for the dying. Today our hospice offers a wide range of services provided by well-trained volunteers and a small complement of part-time health care professionals and support staff. Between our three master's-prepared clinicians and our two bachelor's-prepared clinicians, we have a combined experience in our little staff of 4.8 FTEs of over 81 years of hospice palliative care.
We have more than 150 volunteers, and those people bring a broad range of life experiences and skills. They are trained to the provincial standards for end-of-life care. These dedicated volunteers offer practical assistance and supportive care to patients and families facing end-of-life issues in their family homes, in hospitals, in care facilities and other community programs.
Whether people are faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, chronic disease or are suffering from the traumatic, sudden loss of a loved one from an accident, homicide or suicide, hospice staff and volunteers make a very positive difference in the lives of those we serve. Our hospice volunteers are truly the heart of hospice.
Our staff and volunteers offer a tremendous value-added component to the traditional health care system. We receive no core funding — I repeat, no core funding — from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and in 2011 alone the Comox Valley Hospice Society provided more than 21,513 volunteer hours. When you extend that at a minimal $16.50 an hour, which is an undervaluation by most sources these days, that translates into over $350,000 of volunteered labour.
We've raised over $230,000 from the local community in grants to support programs and services to over 1,037 patients and clients, and that doesn't include participants in our self-care programs.
We've delivered in excess of 145 hours of community education and awareness programs, from promotion of advanced care directives — something that you all are very familiar with, launching in September this year again — to dealing with the residual effects of unresolved grief, to helping people navigate through the complex maze of end-of-life care services. We've offered free weekly self-care clinics, staffed by volunteers, to help sustain professionals, volunteers and caregivers as they journey with those who are dying and bereaved.
One of the things we're probably proudest of is that we've been the catalyst in this community to develop community partnerships that have minimized duplication and inappropriate use of services, saving the traditional delivery system untold thousands in unnecessary acute hospital admissions and emergency room visits.
As you know, depression, addiction, poor grades at school, acting-out behaviour, faltering relationships and loss of productivity in the workplace impact our families regardless of where they are. Whether people are faced with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, chronic disease or suffering, the loss….
I'm sorry; I have a repeat paragraph here. Let me go back to what I was talking about — loss of productivity in the workplace.
Those are the costs of unaddressed loss and grief. If the health care system had to pay for the services provided by the Comox Valley Hospice Society, the cost in our community alone — I'm talking about the Comox Valley, not other hospices across the Island or other hospices across the province — would be in excess of $580,000 annually. The reality is that supporting community-based hospices means high-quality care that simply makes good business sense.
As we look to plan for our future, all of you, I'm sure, have heard the term "silver tsunami." Well, we know it's no longer coming; it's here. Unlike a normal tsunami that comes, recedes and is gone, leaving devastation in its path, this one is going to be sticking around for a while. We are the bolus in the snake, so to speak, and many of us, I can see from the hair on our heads, fit pretty close into that category.
B.C. statistics tell us that in 2011 our population of 4.5 million will experience 35,000 deaths. Adjusted for age and longevity, projected for 2036, B.C. will be home to
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over 6.1 million people and will experience over 64,000 deaths annually. Research tells us that each death has serious effects on at least five other people. In addition — and I find this one particularly charming — statistics show us that only 10 percent of us will die suddenly. The remaining 90 percent will experience gradual decline and various plateaus of pain and ability.
I can tell you're all happy about that. Good morning.
R. Howard (Chair): You must have heard about our flight last night.
T. Odeneal: Maybe you were moving towards the 10 percent.
I guess there are critical questions that we need to look at. What care will there be for us in 15 to 25 years if no action is taken now, and what care is available for people in need today?
The majority of this committee, at least when I looked at its composition, I believe, live in communities that receive core funding for hospice palliative care programs and services. Most of you have access and choice, at least to some degree, about how and where you want to die.
Right now if you're living north of Nanaimo, we have no access to dedicated acute palliative services for pain and symptom management. We have no access to residential hospice programs where you can choose to spend your last days cared for in comfort by dedicated and well-trained professionals and volunteers who understand the needs of you and your loved ones.
We would like to suggest that where you live should not determine what kind of end-of-life care you receive. As you know, the challenge is to have the right kind of care in the right place at the right time from the right provider and at the right cost. This kind of care has been exquisitely described in B.C.'s A Provincial Framework for End-of-Life Care. I assume most of you are familiar with that document.
R. Howard (Chair): While you're looking, Terri, just so you know, you're at about ten minutes.
T. Odeneal: Okay. Right there.
I guess we'd like to, in closing, talk about: will there be facilities and programs in place that are going to allow us or our loved ones to effectively manage pain and other symptoms that may present? If dying at home places too much burden on family members, will there be a residential hospice available that feels like home yet is staffed by trained professionals and volunteers? Can we afford to rely on the existing medical system?
Over the past five years we've been working collaboratively with local care partners to develop a comprehensive hospice palliative care program so we can provide those services here in the Comox Valley. We have a well-researched and thoughtfully developed clinical program. We've conducted a thorough gap analysis, and we've done a community survey on end-of-life care with professionals and the lay community.
What do we need from you? We need you to think outside the box, to champion this cause with your colleagues. We need you to help palliative patients and their families live fully and with dignity, with choice and freedom from pain until they die, by helping us leverage community funds. We need you to partner with us to develop innovative clinical programs and training opportunities for existing and new health care professionals and volunteers, and we need you to help us gain a commitment from the Vancouver Island Health Authority to provide the operational funding for this project.
Some of the things we put off until later often don't reveal their true importance until we come face to face with a crisis. It's clear now that it's time for us all to plan for the future care we want for ourselves and our family.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation. Last year we had a presentation in Prince George from the hospice society there, who had built a facility and had shown the efficiencies, cost-wise, of having those beds versus beds in hospitals. They were encountering some frustrations about trying to acquire further funding to build more of the beds. It was a matter of reallocation, I believe.
Have you received any feedback on funding from the proposal? You're looking here at a ten-bed end-of-life care centre of excellence. What kind of recommendation would you like to see regarding the budget in that regard?
T. Odeneal: We're willing to raise the project's capital costs here in the community, so we're not asking for a handout on that. What we're asking for is the commitment from the health authority to cover ongoing operational funds.
If you look across the province and look at the costs of a day in hospice palliative care, it's around $300 or $325 a day. In an operational ballpark — I'll put it that way — you're looking at $1 million or $1.2 million to fund ten beds.
Now with that, you're having people come out of alternative level of care beds. You're decreasing hospital admissions to acute care, where they're not appropriate, to a much less costly kind of care. You're giving better care — more appropriate care, I would suggest; I think the research shows that — and you're truly dealing with the entire experience of dying.
You're not only dealing with the patient, but you're dealing with their family and how you support people to go on living afterwards. We're also dealing with caregivers, and how do we not kill them in the process. As more things are being shifted to them, we're doing a lot of that.
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R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Terri. I just missed it — $1.2 million for how many beds?
T. Odeneal: Ten.
R. Howard (Chair): Okay, well, thank you very much. Appreciate you taking the time and effort to visit with us this morning.
Now I'm looking for Healing Journey Counselling Services — Azima Buell.
Hello, Azima. As you're getting set up, I'll remind you that you've got 15 minutes. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up. You can either take some questions thereabouts, or you can use up the whole 15 — your choice.
A. Buell: First of all, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to come forward and make a presentation, and I want to thank your for your time and attention in making this happen as well. I think the whole collaboration around what happens provincially and how we spend our money is a really important thing.
I'd like, first of all, to introduce myself. My name is Azima Buell. I live in Campbell River, and Healing Journey Counselling Services is my private practice name. That doesn't have a lot to do with what I'm doing today, other than that's how I make my living.
The style of what I'm doing this morning is more ideas. I'm not so much a money person. I really respect this last speaker that said: "We need $1.2 million, and this is what we need it for." I'm not coming from that place. I'm coming more from a place of ideas and beliefs and something that I feel passionate about. I can tell you a little bit at the end about what's important to me in terms of priorities, but it's more the ideas and giving us the opportunity to kind of broaden the way that we think about things.
When I began my counselling career, I was at Information Children, which is a society out of Simon Fraser University. It's a parenting education place, and people that are in developmental psychology work there. My job was the workshop coordinator, so I worked on creating parenting workshops, as well as a telephone help line for parents.
Barbara Coloroso was our parenting guru. Have you guys ever heard of Barbara Coloroso? People are saying yes. Okay. Her whole idea is that we want children to say: "I like myself. I can think for myself. There's no problem so great it can't be solved. I'm important. I'm listened to." I don't remember what the sixth point is, but her whole philosophy is that you have to create a style of parenting that will make it so that your kid comes out at the end, and all the way through the process, with those beliefs.
That's where I come from with this too. It's like: what do we want as a province? What do we want our citizens to come out with? What do we want to create, and what's going to be necessary in order to create that for people? You know: do we want this for palliative care? We want this for housing. We want this for education and for job projects and so on. But what do we want to create in terms of the people?
I think, for me, one of the most important things that I would really invite people to consider is volunteerism and how we create a sense of belonging in people, where we're all coming together to create a world that we want to create.
The idea of tikkun olam is something that is familiar to me — the idea that we have to leave this planet in better shape than when we came into it. There's a First Nations saying, also, that says that we don't inherit the planet from our parents; we borrow it from our grandchildren. So having that attitude of care is what I want to figure out — how we together as a province can make that happen.
Values-based decisions — you know: "I like myself. I can think for myself." Belonging, respect and environmental awareness are things that I think are really critically important, and the way that we get there is through fiscal responsibility. I want to really respect the fact that this government has made a lot of efforts to try and do well with our money. That's a good thing.
What I want to talk about a little bit is the whole idea of volunteerism. My wish would be that the government find a way of promoting that more — if there was a ministry or one particular office that was responsible for coordinating volunteer action in the community. So if we need to come up with $1.2 million for a palliative care centre…. There are people who are making a lot of money that have a desire to help.
For example, every now and again I'll buy a lottery ticket and think: "Okay, when I win $35 million, what am I going to do?" Everybody has that list. So after we've bought all the toys and bells and whistles that we could want for ourselves and our family and friends, then what do we do?
Everybody has some place of "then what do we do?" Okay, what is my passion? Is it about helping create an environment that is sustainable for the future, for my children and grandchildren? Is it around women's issues? Is it around end-of-life issues? What is it around?
Everyone has that place, and there are people in our society that have the means to be able to help with that. I'm thinking of Joseph Segal, who came forward and said: "I want to donate some very large amount of money to the hospital care system, and I want the government to match that." It didn't quite totally happen, so that didn't necessarily work out. But I believe that there are many Joseph Segals in the province that have a desire to help in some way.
If there's a particular agency that helps figures out how we do that…. If you're a person who wants to help
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with end of life, these are all the ways and means of doing that. People with their tax dollars at the end, when they're wanting to make a contribution, would be able to identify what particular areas are their passions — what they really care about. So having some way of creating that — it's just an idea. It's not totally well thought out. It's just an idea to go with.
That also carries forward more into the school system. I believe a sense of belonging is really critically important for our children. What do you do if you're growing up in a family where there is no money, where no one has ever worked the entire time that you've grown up and neither have your grandparents? How do you get a sense of belonging and a sense of social responsibility? Much as I would really like families to be able to give that — that's certainly the first place where that needs to happen — our school system has a really huge role to play in that as well.
When I was going to graduate school, I remember reading about a project at an inner-city school in New York City where there was a huge, high crime rate. People would not take off their raincoats when they went to classes because they were afraid that either their coats would be stolen or what was in their pockets would be stolen, and they were probably right. So it was an attempt to change that system through collaboration, through giving people a sense of social responsibility and belonging.
There are experimental programs to try and engender that, and it requires somewhat changing the focus of the educational system so that it's not about cramming information down, but bringing forth from people the best in who they are. If they're not getting at home what they need, at least the school system can help mitigate that.
The idea of volunteerism starts at school, even in grade 6, where kids go out for a certain amount of time and volunteer, so that by the time they're graduating at grade 12, they've had experience in volunteering. They might go: "Oh, I really like that kind of work. That was really interesting. What are the things that are important to me?"
Volunteerism both in terms of people that are in a financial position to help the province, as well as engendering a sense of belonging and social responsibility in children, would be something that would happen there.
I want to speak just very briefly about some other ideas I've had, and I don't know if they're possible. But the penal system and working with FAS and FAE are two other things that are important to me or that I've thought a lot about. Fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are really a pervasive problem. They're huge; they're gigantic. If somebody is born with FAS or FAE, you can be pretty sure that they're going to require help through the system for 80 years. For 80 years they're going to require help. They're not necessarily responsible for the fact that the penal system is full of people that have FAE.
What do we do about that? This is where I become somewhat of a fascist, although my politics are generally pretty left-wing and liberal. I really want that to stop. I'd like to see mothers that have problems with alcohol and drinking be in a position where they're supported through the pregnancy.
The fascist part of me says that any woman that is drinking and drugging when she's pregnant needs to go into an environment that will help her not do that. This is nine months out of your life, and it's 80 years out of somebody else's life. That's probably going a little far. I don't think we're going to be able to mandate that.
I speak to one of my close friends who works at the ministry of social services. She is the team leader in the aboriginal team, and she says: "Yes, there would be people who would voluntarily do that, who would voluntarily commit themselves for nine months so that they're clean and dry and can produce a baby that's going to be healthy." Starting on a volunteer basis and using the whole volunteerism in the first place to be able to fund a project like that would be excellent.
Then I just have one other idea too. I think I'm running out of time.
R. Howard (Chair): You're at about ten minutes.
A. Buell: One other idea I have relates more to the penal system and the whole notion of volunteerism and how it's possible to create a society that will work. I've spent quite a bit of time on kibbutzim in Israel, which is somewhat socialistic. It's a whole way where you come together as a community to create something. I lived in a housing co-op in Vancouver. Similarly, the philosophy and the belief in that is: let's find a way to create, together, a community.
If it's possible to take people that are higher- functioning…. A lot of people in the criminal justice system are not, so there need to be people that can help with that — that they come out of their time of incarceration, where there is really, truly some rehabilitation thing. How would it be possible to build something that, for the future, is going to be a service to society, so that when I go into the penal system, I will actually be helping society?
They're covering my expenses to live for however long I'm incarcerated, and I want to be able to help. Whether it's with farming, whether it's producing goods, whatever it is, there's some way for my time in there to actually be of service to the people that are paying for me to stay alive. Similarly for women — not necessarily women but people that are on social assistance: that there be some way for them to be able to
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contribute because their well-being and their needs are being taken care of.
What would it look like for them to be able to contribute in one way? How could they help? What would be their choice? To say: "Okay, thank you very much, government, for supporting my needs. These are the things that I have some feelings about, and this is how I would like to contribute back to that"?
That's probably enough. Those are the main points that I wanted to make. I don't know if they've made sense. I hope so. I know that I didn't say…. It's not a practical thing, but that's my presentation. There you go.
R. Howard (Chair): No, I appreciate that. Some good ideas there, I think. Thank you very much for joining us this morning and taking the time to share your thoughts.
A. Buell: I don't know if you have any questions or comments.
R. Howard (Chair): Well, the people will get to you individually if they have questions.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): You'll submit the written material?
A. Buell: Well, the written material is just ideas. Would you like me to submit my…? I mean, I wrote this down, but they're just kind of my ideas. Do you want me to submit them?
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Yes.
R. Howard (Chair): A written submission would always help. It will be on Hansard, so it will be…. It's part of the record, because you've been here.
A. Buell: Okay, all right. I've got two more minutes, so I'm just going to tell you….
R. Howard (Chair): You do.
A. Buell: Okay, good.
What I'll tell you is that I've also consulted with friends and colleagues to say: "What do you guys think? If you had something to say to our government about what you want them to do financially, what would you say?"
Some of the comments that I've had are that there are a lot of kids running around with degrees hanging out of their pockets, and they can't get jobs. So really focusing on trades and practical skills would help with that. I know that my daughter has a commerce degree, and she's really struggling to find marketing positions right now.
The other thing is affordable housing — critically important. My friend that I was talking about before says: "Well, just give people a bus ticket, and tell them to move to Campbell River. Tell them to move to places where it is affordable to live."
Of course it's not affordable to live in Vancouver, but there are lots of people that want to live in Vancouver. So if there's a way of creating more housing co-ops, I believe that is the strongest way of creating community. Not only is it allowing people to have affordable housing, which is really critically important, but a sense of belonging and creating community are what co-ops are all about. They're really a powerfully wonderful way to live.
One of the ways I thought about how that could happen is…. There's a lot of foreign investment in the housing market in Vancouver. What would happen if there was, like, a 10 or 15 percent surcharge for people that are buying housing from outside of Canada, which goes into an accumulated pool so that it's possible to build a housing co-op in five years down the road or something? Yeah, Vancouver affordable housing would be really critically important. The job thing and….
The other thing that one of my other friends also said is: "Look, in the Victoria area there are all these municipalities, and it costs a lot of money to keep them all individually funded. You know, they all need letterhead. They all need office space." So amalgamating that in some way is another possibility for saving some money.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Azima.
Next we have Geoscience B.C. — Dr. 'Lyn Anglin.
L. Anglin: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and Mr. Deputy Chair.
R. Howard (Chair): You may have heard you'll have 15 minutes. At around ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up. You can either take some questions, or if you need the time, you can use it. Your choice.
L. Anglin: Okay, that would be great. Thank you very much.
Thank you to you and Deputy Chair Donaldson and members of the committee for the opportunity to come and speak to you again. I've just got a short, six-page deck. I think you all have it in front of you.
What I'd like to do today is just give you a brief update on Geoscience B.C.'s 2011 activities. As you'll see at the bottom of this first page, one of the first things I would like to do is acknowledge the provincial government and to thank the government for an additional investment in Geoscience B.C. this year. It's going to
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allow us to continue operating to 2014 at least — we hope.
Geoscience B.C. was created in 2005 with an initial investment of $25 million from the province. We do consider ourselves to be a true partnership with government and industry, and I think we've been successful in quite a number of ways.
On the second page I've just outlined our operations and governance. We've continued to deliver on our initial mandate, which was to attract investment to the province in both minerals and oil and gas activity through provision of geoscience.
We operate quite efficiently with a small staff in Vancouver, a low overhead. We get an enormous amount of support from volunteers and industry and communities and academia. We're working more and more with First Nations and with government, and we think we've had some quite significant impacts, which I'll talk about in a minute.
In terms of our results, the total investment now from the province has been almost $50 million, of which we've spent well over $30 million. We've delivered results over much of the province. We've worked with over 110 different partnership groups, be they academics; individuals; consultants; companies; and government, both provincial and federal. We've generated a lot of new mineral staking; some discoveries; lots of investment activity; and out of that, lots of jobs and opportunities in local communities, most of which are in rural and remote communities in various parts of B.C.
On the next slide just a quick summary of what we're doing in 2011. We've launched a major new minerals project we've called QUEST Northwest. We launched it in Stewart at Minerals North in April, and the data collection started this July. It includes airborne geophysical surveys, ground and geochemical surveys. Bedrock mapping we're doing in partnership with the B.C. geological survey.
I apologize for the acronym. I realize I didn't spell it out. For those of you who don't know, the BCGS is the B.C. geological survey, which is part of the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Of particular note is that we did engage with the Tahltan First Nation and have generated an employment opportunity and training for a member of the Tahltan on each of our crews. The two airborne geophysical crews will have Tahltan observers. On the geochemical crew we actually had a Tahltan employee working with the crew, and it all worked out really well.
In the photo, actually, is Kammy Dennis from Iskut with one of the Aeroquest Airborne survey employees. She's just gone back to school. That survey is still ongoing, so we're actually hiring another Tahltan to replace her.
The map at the bottom is an outline of all of the areas that we've worked in this summer. The blue outline is the mapping that the B.C. geological survey did in partnership with us, and the other outlines are the other projects that we did this summer.
On the next page a little bit about the impacts of our minerals projects. I reported last year that we had a little bit of an economic analysis done of our results, and from our major project activities, we're seeing at least a 2-to-1 leverage of the spending that Geoscience B.C. has done on collecting new data.
We're seeing about $2 of industry investment within a few years of these projects. We know that that data is continuing to be used and will continue to generate investment.
In fact, I just had cross my desk in the last day or so an announcement that Xstrata, which we know came back to B.C. partly as a result of our QUEST project, are continuing to do work in the province and have just…. Fjordland and Serengeti, two junior companies that actually called their project their QUEST joint venture, which was as a result of one of our initial major projects, have just announced partnerships with Xstrata. They're continuing to explore in that part of central B.C.
Then I also have just learned that there's another company that's doing some exploration for rare earth elements, based on results of ours and the B.C. geological survey. They just said they're going to spend at least $2 million this summer, following up on data that we generated, I think, two or three years ago. I have to get the details. But that's the kind of investment that continues to go on from these kinds of data sets.
As I mentioned last year, one of our data sets from our QUEST West project generated some new exploration and a new discovery at the Huckleberry mine. If that new discovery does lead to a mine expansion — I think it's in permitting and feasibility right now — it will be another 220 jobs a year and $3 million to $4 million in direct revenue to the province every year that mine continues to operate. That helps pay for all the social services, the health services, the education services that the government wants to provide to all British Columbians.
Now changing hats for a moment to our oil and gas side, we've been very, very involved in studies on water in northeast B.C. since the government granted us money in 2008 to do geoscience to facilitate responsible development of the natural gas in the northern part of the province. As you know, there's a huge resource opportunity there. Pat, you probably know a lot about that.
P. Pimm: A little bit, yeah.
L. Anglin: A little bit, yeah. Probably more than you want to. The oil and gas industry has invested a lot in this province, and they continue to invest in northeast B.C.
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But along with that huge resource, there is huge public concern about the development and, especially, the impact on water.
So when the province first granted us that money, we recognized that this created a real opportunity for the province to be a leader in doing research on water and trying to answer some of those public questions. The industry definitely prioritized this as the type of work they wanted to do in partnership with us.
On the next page I've just put together a couple of slides on the two projects that we have launched since 2008 in northeast B.C.: the Horn River basin projects and the Montney water project. I won't go into the details, but these are both major partnerships with industry and with communities and academia and, especially, government — both the Oil and Gas Commission, the regulator, and government ministries — to really get a handle on what the water resources are in the northeast.
Actually, I should mention that we've also, in the second phase of our Horn River project, made a particular effort to engage with the Fort Nelson First Nation and the Acho Dene Koe First Nation. They're actually based in Fort Liard, but they have a significant amount of traditional territory in northeast B.C.
We made it a component of the new three-year water monitoring study that we've just launched in the Horn River basin to have First Nation training. That took place, actually, just a couple of days ago — the first training meeting with the company that's doing the work for us. They had their training session with, I believe, three people from each First Nation. According to the consultant, it worked out very, very well, and there will be employment opportunities for several of those people almost immediately.
We also have strong support from industry in the communities and those First Nations to continue and expand the work that we're doing in northeast B.C.
Then on the last slide just a quick comment. With the funding we received this year…. As I said, I think this is going to allow us to continue delivering programs into 2014. Just last week we had a bit of a brainstorming session with partners and advisers, and what we heard from them very strongly, from the mineral side, was that they really want us to continue to deliver these QUEST-style projects, like what we're doing up in the northwest right now and what we've done over the last four years.
To find new mineral deposits, you have to explore. One of the most cost-effective ways to get companies to get out there and explore is to give them new geoscience data. It gets them interested, gets them out of the office, gets them raising money and gets them out there working. That means a lot of on-the-ground investment in B.C.
From the oil and gas companies we also heard very strongly that they do want us to continue with the type of water research that we've been doing in the northeast and expand beyond Horn River and Montney into developing plays, like the Cordova embayment, the Liard basin, and to stay ahead of the curve, ahead of the development activity, and collect real baseline information to help answer those questions about cumulative impacts and what this means for the people in the area and people concerned about water.
R. Howard (Chair): Doctor, just so you know, you're at about 10:30. I'm sorry. You're at about ten minutes. You've got five left.
L. Anglin: I know I like to talk, but I was a little worried.
R. Howard (Chair): We do have some questions.
L. Anglin: All right. Well then, I'll just quickly wrap up with the final points. We do have strong support from all of our partners and supporters to continue engaging with communities. We're looking to launch a project in the East Kootenays with the East Kootenay Chamber of Mines, hopefully this fall. Part of the reason I'm here in Courtenay is that we're in the process of actually trying to develop a project on northern Vancouver Island.
We're having a meeting with northern Vancouver Island mayors at UBCM next week and with some mineral exploration people, and hopefully, we'll get a project going there soon. Then we've also…. It's been flagged for us that communicating with the public is something that Geoscience B.C. could do more of.
We've had the question of geothermal cross our desks as to whether this is something that Geoscience B.C. should be getting involved in, and that's something that we want to look into and talk to government about — what our role might be in that.
Also, we're supporting a recommendation that came from the Association for Mineral Exploration to keep supporting the geoscience agencies within the government as well.
So thank you very much, and hopefully, I did leave some time for questions.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. I should note for the record that we're joined by Dr. Moira Stilwell. Welcome.
P. Pimm: This is a great presentation. Certainly, I am familiar with the work you're doing, and you guys are doing a fantastic job. Partnering with the industry in my region is huge, and it shows a commitment that they have to finding these things.
On your Debolt system, I'd just like to acknowledge that the last frac…. Ninety-eight percent used the saline water from the Debolt system. So that's fantastic knowledge.
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But what my question is…. On your baseline water study in the northeast, I'd like to know how you're making out with that. I know you're working on that at this point in time. I know identifying that amount of water and the base parameters is paramount for the industry. Where are you at with that?
L. Anglin: Well, we have just launched this surface water monitoring program in the Horn River, because there are very, very few climate or hydrologic stations in the basin. There is very little data on which to even do an estimate of what the water resource is, so we're just putting out those stations to try and collect the minimum of three years of data.
But at the same time we're working with Allan Chapman, a hydrologist in the Oil and Gas Commission, to actually do a regional model on the basis of regional climate data of each watershed. I think it's 65 watersheds that encompass all of northeast B.C. So that will give us a very coarse overview of what we think — just on the basis of rainfall and estimates of evaporative transpiration — what the actual amount of water is, and when it's there in each of those watersheds to help us just get a regional estimate of the total water budget. Then from there we'll be able to estimate where we need more data — where there is no data and we can't do a good model or where we need, because it's going to be a sensitive watershed, more information.
We're hearing from First Nations and companies that one of the things we have almost no information about is water flow through muskeg. Up in northeast B.C. it's mostly muskeg, and it's just not something we have a lot of data on. So we've been talking to companies and academia, and we think there's an opportunity for a research program on that.
Those are the kinds of things that we're looking at launching over the next year or so with the additional funding provided by the government.
R. Howard (Chair): Just about out of time, but we can squeeze one more in.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation. A couple of quick questions. One would be on the northwest QUEST project. You mentioned the Tahltan observers on the flights. We're often looking for synergies, and I'm not sure if there are opportunities that have been explored, or in your expertise, whether those flights could be used for other purposes as well. I know the wildlife inventory data is lacking in the northwest for the kind of use that's taking place right now — so just your opinion on that.
The other question is on the informal brainstorming session with partners. Do you have other partners than the ones listed here? For instance, we heard from the Pembina Institute in a recent presentation, and they seemed to have a lot of expertise and knowledge and some perspectives on water usage, especially in the northeast. Are they one of the partners that you would consult in these informal sessions?
L. Anglin: The last question first. We didn't actually have the Pembina Institute in our brainstorming session, but we are open to any expertise we can get our hands on.
One of the things that we pride ourselves on is not reinventing the wheel if we can help it and not duplicating efforts. We figure we want to get this money stretched as far as possible. In fact, one of our consultants who has been advising us on oil and gas issues mentioned to me a couple of times that he would like to arrange a meeting for me with the Pembina Institute's water specialist. So we're working on actually having that conversation.
In terms of the first question, the flights that we do are usually pretty specific to the geophysical data collection, and this often means that when the data collection is actually going on, we don't have anybody in the helicopter except for the pilot and the instrument operator.
In terms of applying those flights to other needs, I would never say never. It might be something that we could do, but we haven't traditionally done it, because these surveys are usually contracted out. So we have the contractors do all the design parameters, and they don't make an allowance for anybody else in the helicopter when they're actually collecting data — not to say it couldn't be done.
It's interesting. We did get a very similar question from the Tahltan. We tried to actually go and have a meeting with the Tahltan on the 8th of September, and Mother Nature washed out Highway 37, which I'm sure you heard all about. So we couldn't get to Dease Lake, and we couldn't get the flights in because we got to Smithers the day the highway closed. So we're hoping to follow up with the Tahltan and have more of those discussions.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Doctor. We've run you over the time limit, so we'll thank you very much for that. Appreciate your coming out.
Next up we have the Truck Loggers Association — Dave Lewis.
D. Lewis: Good morning. Thank you for having me here today.
R. Howard (Chair): Welcome, Dave. You've got 15 minutes. At about ten I'll give you a heads-up. You can stop for some questions, or you can keep going.
D. Lewis: Perfect. Thank you.
I've presented in front of this committee for five years now, so I very much appreciate the effort that you go
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to around the province to meet with groups like ours. I know it's a gruelling schedule, so I'll try and make this as brief as possible.
Most of you are aware of who the TLA is. We represent small independent business in B.C.'s coastal forest sector. I think one of the things that's most unique about our group is that we represent everyone from different sectors — manufacturing, transportation, harvesting. Our diversity stretches right into communities, with First Nations membership and municipal members.
When we tend to put out policy positions or make submissions, it's a very fine line we walk, because we can't just target one specific interest. We have to make sure that all of our members' interests are represented. Hopefully, I'll do that today with the three issues I bring forward to you.
The single biggest issue that has faced the coast for quite a while has to do with a pervasive and endemic undercut of our sustainable harvest levels. We've not harvested our annual sustainable cut since 1992. We've had three complete business cycles in that time. So I think it's pretty obvious that the market isn't going to save us with this problem. The gap between what we can grow and what we can afford to harvest has been widening. This often, as I said, is referred to as a coastal undercut.
Since 2005 on average we've harvested less than 75 percent of our sustainable quota, and that represents about 46 million cubic metres. It's no secret that there's a direct correlation between harvest and revenue and employment. So when I try to present to your panel each year, we try not to come with our hands out. We try and provide some benefit back to the province.
The first issue I'm going to speak to is how we might generate employment and revenue for the province. This is occurring because of simple economics. It simply costs more to harvest than the timber can be sold for. Therefore, it's left behind. Costs have continued to increase more than revenues over the last two decades, so more and more is being left in the woods.
A lot of this timber is old. It's not growing. It's falling down. It's contributing to carbon release. It's not a case that: "Oh, well we can just wait until it does become economic, because that's a good thing."
The industry has cut its costs 20 percent since 1998 in terms of delivered log costs. That's in spite of inflationary pressures. This has impacted all stakeholders in terms of wages, profits, municipal taxes, government revenues.
While cost-cutting continues, the answer to the problem doesn't really lie on the cost side of the equation. It's now the revenue side of the equation we need to look at. We have to find a way to get more revenue for our timber. Until harvesters have the certainty that they'll be able to sell their timber for more than it costs to harvest, they're not going to invest the millions of dollars that it requires to develop, plan, build roads and harvest the stands.
In terms of a cost to the problem, in the handout I've provided you with, since 2005 direct provincial revenue from this undercut has suffered to the tune of $3.7 billion. Since that time also, when you look at contribution to GDP, it's $15.7 billion. Annually it's about 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in the coastal area.
I think when we look at this, if we can find some solutions, there definitely is a payback and a benefit to the province and the people of the province.
One of the possible solutions we've put forward has to do with the issue of log exports — extremely contentious issue even within my own membership. As I said earlier, I represent manufacturer and harvester communities alike.
Right now there's a process undergoing to review the current log export regulations and the system. To be blunt, I've been at this quite a while. I don't see a solution coming forward. I think the interests are just too polarized, and I don't think you're going to get enough buy-in from the parties for you as politicians to make that courageous step. There is no winning answer. You're going to have some unhappy campers.
What we've tried to do is focus on an opportunity that may exist where we can get buy-in. What we would suggest is instead of looking specifically at rewriting the regulations right now, just look at how to apply what exists in a differential manner.
What we're suggesting is you target the instruments you have available to you now towards the undercut, towards the uneconomic timber. It's been growing…. As I said, market isn't going to fix it. On the manufacturing side, if we can bring some policy to bear that starts to access that timber and bring it to the domestic marketplace, that's timber they wouldn't have had otherwise.
Short of exporting 100 percent of that timber, there's going to be an increase in terms of the domestic fibre that's available to manufacturers. Typically within the stands, the most you'll see exported in many of these is 30 percent, because that's all of what's there that's really worth exporting to foreign buyers. As I said, even if it went up to 50, 60 or 70 percent, you're still getting an incremental bump in terms of fibre that comes into the domestic marketplace.
I've got the export submission that we've made to government recently, in a forum they're holding, attached at the back in the submission. I'll try not to get into the details of it, but I think what's critical is that we don't talk about banning exports. I think we talk about how best to manage them and apply them.
At a recent forum where we've proposed this and put it forward, all of the industry stakeholders have unilaterally supported this notion in principle. Always the devil is in the details. But as Bob Matters, who's the chair for
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USW local, said, log exports that strategically support jobs is something we can support and is a good place to start. If we have that sort of conversation occurring with the union, I think that really tells you that there's some merit in pursuing this a bit more.
My request to you would be to familiarize yourself with the submission we've provided. As the issue comes forward, whether it be within caucus or just general discussions or in the House, we approach it with an open mind. We approach it on the revenue side of the issue, because it is significant dollars that we're forgoing and significant employment on the coast.
The second issue I'll bring up is with regards to the PST-GST transition. Previously we had a system whereby logging equipment supplies were exempt from PST. However, roadbuilding equipment was not exempt. So you had individuals, my membership, that would use the same piece of equipment to build a logging road one day, and then they'd take it to go do harvesting activities the next. This required that accountants track which day it was used for what. They would have to itemize which oil filter was used for this piece of equipment as opposed to that piece of equipment.
This impacts these businesses in terms of inefficiency and the accounting issues. It increases their costs, and it limits investment because a lot of companies are saying: "I don't want to get into roadbuilding because it's just a big hassle trying to figure out how I'm going to manage between the two."
All of these three were justifications for bringing in the HST — reducing inefficiency, reducing cost and increasing investment. So as you redesign what the PST-GST system looks like in the future, my request would be that we simply lump roadbuilding equipment and supplies under the exemption that falls with harvesting equipment so that it's a single unilateral application of the rules to ease the accounting burden and increase investment and reduce costs.
The final issue I'll talk to you about is workforce issues. The average age of a forestry worker is 55 years old. It's an issue that plagues a lot of industries. The forest industry contributes about 30 percent towards GDP, so this is fairly significant, I would think, looking ahead.
During the worst downturn in our industry's history a couple of years ago, I held a strategic planning session for my board. I was fully anticipating that their big concerns would be around profits and financial viability and access to capital. I was very surprised when the number one challenge they mentioned would be workforce. So in terms of a long-term view, that is what we need to begin to focus on.
What we've done is we undertook to operate one of the stimulus funding initiatives that was put forward — training for forest workers. It was a bit unique because it was available to independent business people and it was designed to train them to stay in the industry, not to train them to go somewhere else.
We've spent, probably, within the TLA, about a million dollars on the past two decades with regards to education and awareness programs. Much of the work that's gone on within our industry towards education has been done in a piecemeal fashion, very disjointed and with a low priority.
We need to compete for workers with oil and gas and with the mining sector. Typically, we pay mid- to low $20s; mining pays high $20s; oil and gas, low to mid-$30s. It's no secret that they simply use us as their farm team. We need to collectively, for every industry, do a better job so that they can't continue to steal our people.
R. Howard (Chair): Dave, just so you know, you're at about ten minutes.
D. Lewis: Okay, great. Thank you.
What we've done is we've developed a comprehensive education, training, recruitment strategy. It commits about $300,000 we're spending already towards its development and implementation. It's comprehensive in nature and seeks to provide a community-based forest education component from K-to-8, practical high school programming, college-based introductory forest worker training programs such as pre-apprenticeship programs, trades training, and diploma and degree program opportunities as well.
Our objective is to provide a platform that's seamless and is portable between communities. We've got a lot of interest from a variety of communities. We're looking to move it forward within two specifically on the coast, Port Alberni and Campbell River. A lot of this stuff is already in place and has been funded for a few years and is moving forward.
My request would be that as you look at your funding within Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, they put their concentration towards the workforce. We can talk to them and deal with how to best create this opportunity that can be ported into different communities. I think we'd look at them in terms of matching funds to begin with in the two communities, but if that expanded around the province, it might be more. But it is a significant issue that we need to focus on.
That wraps it up for me.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. We have some questions.
B. Bennett: Hi, Dave. I just want to ask you a question about the log export file. I know it's complicated, and I'll read the submission that you've got at the end of this document.
What you're proposing, I think, is to stay within the policy guidelines that we have today and harvest the
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undercut, hopefully, and use those logs for export, which are theoretically surplus to the needs of the coastal mills. That's not new. So I'm just wondering: what exactly is it that you would propose to do that would allow us to utilize this policy that has actually existed for a long time?
D. Lewis: Great question, and it's difficult to get into all that detail. Thanks for giving me the chance, Bill, to talk a bit about it.
Right now on the coast, if you look at historical operating capacity, all of the mills and utilizers of timber run at about 16 million metres a year, and our coastal sustainable cut is 24 million. So there's eight million metres of timber that sits there that's very difficult for manufacturers to use. What we would need to do is target, through an order-in-council….
Presently, we need to advertise any timber if it's to be exported. Harvesters need to spend the money up front, to plan, to build roads. They need to spend millions of dollars and harvest the timber, and then they advertise it. If someone domestically wants it, they can get it at a much cheaper price than what they need to get in order to justify harvesting it.
There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and that's where we get this undercut, because no one goes after any of the wood that's on the margin. They just don't know if they're going to be able to sell it for that export premium. So what I would look to do is what you've done on the north coast and midcoast, where you provide some certainty around that, and you say: "We will give you 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent — whatever it might be — of species in grade, so that you have the certainty to go and invest those millions of dollars up front."
Now, what we're doing, and we've spent significant money on it now, is we're trying to define what the uneconomic stand looks like in every area so that we have hard facts that say: "Okay, this is what is not being harvested here. This is what's contained. This is what you would need to export in order to generate enough revenue to justify the investment."
It's a very good question. It's just a buildup, or a build off, of what you're doing already, MLA Bennett, and I think it's…
B. Bennett: …just a little more certainty around….
D. Lewis: Absolutely.
B. Bennett: If you took half of that eight million and said, "That's going to be available," they would probably go take it.
D. Lewis: Well, if you provided them enough surety that they can sell it…. It's all in the package. This past spring foreign buyers were paying double what domestic buyers were for low-end wood. When you have that sort of premium, you can all of a sudden go in, if you're guaranteed that you're going to get that. You can invest money in that wood that's on the margin. But without that certainty that you're going to get it, if you may have to sell it to someone else for $50 instead of $100, no one goes after it.
It really is a certainty piece. We've seen a huge harvest response on the north coast from what you've done with an OIC up there.
R. Howard (Chair): Dave, thank you so much. Unfortunately, we've run you out of time. Almost everybody at the table has a question. We might have to have another meeting after we view your materials.
D. Lewis: Thank you very much. We've held caucus meetings and dinners in the past, so I'll definitely follow up with you and provide that opportunity, because it's something that we think has a lot of opportunity. It has got a lot of support right now, and that's pretty rare when you talk log exports.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you for coming forward.
Next up we have PacificSport Vancouver Island — Drew Cooper.
Welcome, Drew. As you probably heard, we've got 15 minutes for you. At about ten minutes I'll give you a heads-up, and you can take some questions or push right through — your choice.
D. Cooper: Great. I heard the drill, so I'm ready to go.
Good morning, everybody. Like everyone else before me, I really appreciate the opportunity to address you this morning. First and foremost, I want to start off by saying that the handout you have received is merely a copy of my comments this morning for you to review later if necessary.
PacificSport has been in existence since '95. In '99 we were contracted through and received some provincial funding to address the needs of high-performance sport in the province, specifically within the region we serve here on Vancouver Island north of Victoria.
In the first Olympic Games after we received that funding, which was Sydney, we had no athletes from our region participating in those games. By the time Beijing rolled around four years later, we had five athletes. We had our first winter athlete at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic/Paralympic Games. Leading up into London next year, we're looking at six or seven athletes from this region possibly representing this region at those games.
Each one of those athletes ends up being a role model and an inspiration that really creates a groundswell of
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momentum that continues to perpetuate people's interest and involvement in sport, so I just want to say, on behalf of my board and the people that we work with, a very special thank-you for your investment in sport.
With some of the new funding that we have received just since December, we are very much looking forward to how we can have a similar kind of impact at the grass-roots level, where that funding is targeted. I'm going to speak a little bit to those issues in my comments here.
The sport and arts legacy fund speaks volumes to this government's commitment to ensuring that B.C. leads the nation as a culture that values sport excellence and, most importantly, sport and physical activity as a vehicle for health promotion and for prevention.
A strong and vibrant community sport and physical activity program is an important element in community-building, and participation in sport and physical activity is a critical tool for building healthy families and healthy communities in B.C. To help build a long-lasting sports system that supports our communities from the playground to the podium, the evolution of the sport and arts legacy fund into base funding for sport and physical activity would cement an enduring legacy for the 2010 Olympic Games.
The 2010 games marked the beginning of a new era of sport in Canada. We experienced the power of sport in our homes, huddled with friends and family; in the streets, celebrating with fellow citizens; and for some, live and in person. Sport has the power to unite communities and break down social barriers. Sport and sport hosting have great economic benefit, as we've seen here in B.C., and sport has the power to inspire people to pursue excellence and live a healthier lifestyle.
We believe that high-performance sport is a key part of the sport-for-life continuum. Our Olympic and Paralympic athletes are vivid examples of excellence, and many dreams were born in young Canadians during the 2010 games. One of the huge benefits that we see from these athletes is when they go out and pass along some of that inspiration into the schools and other public events that we host. It's very dramatic.
It's paramount that the network of PacificSport centres is armed to capitalize on the momentum built by 2010 and carried into the support we provide to athletes and coaches as we go to London, Sochi in 2014, the Summer Games in Rio in '16 and Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018.
We plan on building on the success of our summer athletes' performance in Beijing, where B.C. athletes represented 40 percent of Team Canada and correspondingly brought home 40 percent of the medals. Now, for the province that represents a mere 13 percent of the total Canadian population, we're punching well above our weight.
Our goal for London is pretty ambitious. We're going to send half the team. We're going to win half the medals. So in building on a tradition of excellence, B.C. is leading the way.
Participation in sport, winter sport in particular, continues to increase, thanks to the inspiration born out of the Winter Olympics. As custodians of the sport system, it's our job to ensure everyone has a place to play and a way to get into the game.
As the children of 2010 get into the game, we're helping to build complete champions through our Ignite Athlete development program. Across the province the network of B.C. PacificSport centres is working with targeted athletes between the ages of 14 and 17 to develop a well-rounded foundation based on explosive power, balance, strength and speed, so that they power their way toward podium performances.
What about the impact on our schools? Well, the support of the province to help fund the pilot phase of the sport school program is helping to introduce athletes to a high-performance daily training environment and building champions who will become leaders not only in their sport but also in their communities.
The school sport program fills a key gap in the existing education and high-performance systems. As high-performance athletes go through high school, they're faced with increased pressure from both their sport and their academics. They're faced with a difficult choice. Excel in sport, or excel academically.
In many cases we lose promising athletes because they cannot balance both these needs. To ensure that high-performance athletes in every region in B.C. are better prepared for the demands of sport at the highest levels, we'd like to see this sport school model expand across the province after this inaugural year. While the performance side is important, I think most of us want to see how it impacts on the grass roots.
Participation and its impact on health. It's well known that sport has the power to change the direction in life; inspire healthy choices; and, in some cases, be the route for someone's pursuit of excellence, whether to become a great local runner or somebody who aspires to be an Olympic champion.
Sport can be a cross-sector tool to achieve multiple agendas, particularly maximizing our potential to impact the province's growing health care costs by getting more people moving. Sport can serve many masters. I'm particularly excited about a recent engagement that I've had with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, working with early child care education providers on how we can instil more fundamental movement skills and provide some training for daycare operators.
With regard to physical literacy, the importance that our youth develop fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills is critical if children are to feel good about physical activity. The network of PacificSport centres, through programs such as Active
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Star and XploreSportZ, is helping to ensure that kids are armed with appropriate skills to allow them a fruitful physical activity experience, minimizing injury and maximizing enjoyment.
On the coaching development and education front, ensuring that each region and outlying communities have skilled leaders who can build multisport and sport-specific programs to serve the sporting community will help athletes at all levels achieve their personal podium performance. The network of PacificSport centres, in partnership with provincial sport organizations, is equipping these leaders with administrative support, professional development opportunities and key support services.
B.C. is a leader in Canada when it comes to recognizing the power of sport and investing in a culture of excellence. Thank you for your continued support for physical activity in sport. Together we continue to help athletes win gold medals for Canada, inspire our citizens to use sport as a vehicle for health and the pursuit of excellence in their own lives, and build vibrant communities from the ground up through sport for life.
R. Howard (Chair): Thank you, Drew.
D. Donaldson (Deputy Chair): Thanks for the presentation. I have to say that my hometown is the hometown of the winner of the first gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, Carol Huynh, and I was involved with her in coaching and in track in high school. She achieved that level — and this is from her coach of a long time, Joe Sullivan — because there were grants available for the high schools to assist in travel to provincial competitions, within that granting system.
Would it be the opinion of your association that those kinds of grants…? What would your opinion be and your recommendation to the budget around those kinds of grants?
D. Cooper: Well, the whole issue around travel is a huge one, particularly for us here on the Island. One of the things I constantly hear, about our athletes' biggest challenge, is: how do they get off the rock? How do they get to the mainland so that they can then get on a plane to attend a training camp somewhere else? From my experience, that has a huge impact, so any kind of additional funding that can go into that is going to be huge.
I know in the instance that you're describing, another reason that athletes cite success — and we're starting to see more athletes develop from the north, the Interior and outside of the major metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Victoria — is because of the supports that they're getting through centres like ours. This allows them to have their coaches and their services in their home community. That has probably been one of the biggest impacts.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, Drew. We appreciate your taking the time to come out and talk to us today.
Next up we have the Legal Services Society — Mark Benton.
M. Benton: Mr. Chair, I've heard everything about the 15 minutes available.
R. Howard (Chair): So you're going to get a heads-up at ten minutes.
M. Benton: Nine minutes and 56 seconds, I think, is what I have left.
R. Howard (Chair): Good stuff.
M. Benton: My name is Mark Benton. I'm the executive director of the Legal Services Society.
The Legal Services Society is a statutory organization. It's B.C.'s legal aid provider and public legal education information provider. I'm going to tell you a little bit about what we do in order to understand what I'm going to propose to you. Basically, what we've been pursuing for the last eight years are methods that really make a difference in people's lives — to use legal services; to get early, stable resolutions to legal problems; and to help people get back on their feet and become economic contributors in B.C.
Here's the deal. I've been with the Legal Services Society for more than 25 years. I've been executive director since 2002. One of the most important things that I've learned and my board of directors have learned in the last ten years is that the justice system has to be focused on helping people find timely and lasting solutions to their legal problems, rather than just focusing on fair process, which is often the reason you'll hear for why there ought to be legal aid.
Let me just frame it up this way, because I think this highlights some of the core issues. What would you rather have? A family crisis that drags on for a year and ends up in court, with all the attendant justice and social costs? Or a family crisis that gets resolved out of court within a month by a mediator, a counsellor, and the family moves on to the next stage of their lives?
In both cases the problem's been resolved in what we broadly call the justice system, but one path is obviously better for the family, the community and the taxpayer. Achieving this requires reframing justice system priorities and a different focus for justice system investment. That's what I'm going to talk about this morning.
I'll begin with some brief background information about legal aid in B.C., so you'll have some context for my comments. Then I'll describe three low-cost, innovative
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programs the Legal Services Society has introduced and the benefits we see that they bring.
First, some background. Most people think legal aid is lawyers representing clients in court. In fact, legal aid is actually quite a bit more than that. The number of people who intersect with the Legal Services Society tends to be far more on the information and advice side than it is on the representation side.
We deliver self-help information through websites and publications and by telephone and in person. We have advice programs that assist people to resolve problems on their own. This is done through lawyers stationed in courthouses who help unrepresented litigants and through telephone advice programs as well. And we provide the core representation in court that most people think of as legal aid.
Our advice and representation services are only for people who have serious family, criminal and immigration matters. We do not have funding to cover other areas of law, such as poverty law matters, employment law or the full range of legal problems that tears families apart.
Representation and advice services are provided by private lawyers. In '10-11 fewer than a thousand of B.C.'s 11,000 lawyers took legal aid referrals. The average lawyer earned about $52,000 from legal work. Nobody gets rich doing legal aid. I'm sure it won't surprise you. I lose about 5 percent of those lawyers every year. So in the last ten years I've got half the lawyers I had.
Ninety percent of our funding comes from the Ministry of Attorney General. It rounds out to about $67 million. In the '09-10 fiscal year B.C.'s per-capita legal aid funding was the fourth-lowest in the country. This coming year it will be the third lowest.
There are more than 50 locations around the province where you can get help from the Legal Services Society, including private law offices, courthouses and community service agencies.
Finally, it's important to remember that 25 percent of legal aid clients are First Nations. They're members of aboriginal communities. So everything I'm talking about here has a disproportional impact on those communities.
Now I want to turn to three low-cost, innovative programs that we're running and what their benefits are. We learned some time ago the importance of moving to objective, evidence-based evaluations of these programs to look at the outcome differences they make in our clients' lives.
We're currently undertaking a large-scale family program. I can't report on the results of that because it's just starting up at this stage, but it's the second one of these where we look at how our services can make the greatest difference in helping get early, stable resolutions.
I think most of you know, partly because you all run constituency offices, that the justice system is an overwhelming and confusing place for just about everyone. Many court users, particularly in the criminal system, have substance abuse and mental health issues that prevent them from getting to court on time, let alone understanding the proceedings.
You step inside any courthouse, and you'll hear people asking: "Where do I go?" "What do I do?" "What does this mean?" Answering these questions doesn't require a lawyer's training.
I have been doing this work for a couple of decades now. I know that these are not questions you need a professional to answer. Nor do they need a judge. But we have a system set up where there are lawyers and judges in that building. They're the ones, typically, who end up answering those questions, because they're the ones in direct contact with the person asking the question.
They are the most expensive resource for this type of service. There are savings to be had there. One of the things we're doing right now is to look at what low-cost non-lawyers can do in that setting to help people navigate the justice system. At the Legal Services Society we call these people legal information outreach workers. They perform a similar role to the patient navigators who we're now seeing in the health care system.
We have a legal information outreach worker, who is stationed in Vancouver's community court. She helps people with court forms, explains the proceedings to them and helps them get to their next hearing. She makes the justice system run more efficiently.
I'm going to tell you one story here about an example of a case. I've got a couple of these, but they don't all fit in ten minutes. So you get one today.
One day Silvia is helping a man she's helped in the past. He's a regular, as many people are in the downtown community court and in many courthouses around the province.
He comes in just to say: "Good news." He's got a job. He's leaving the Downtown Eastside. It doesn't get better than this — right? This is terrific news. Got a job, moving out of the Downtown Eastside. But Silvia knows that he has a probation order that requires him to report every 30 days in the Downtown Eastside. His job is going to take him on the road around the province.
We know that the chances are that he'll likely get picked up for breach of probation in a place like Prince George. A police officer will escort him back to Vancouver. He'll then be charged with breach of probation.
Those administrative offences, by the way, are the fastest-growing criminal offences in the country right now. There'll be a sentencing. He'll have another tag on his record, and there will have been a whole lot of court and criminal process in the mix.
Instead, what happens is that Silvia speaks to the duty counsel. The court file gets brought forward. The probation order gets amended, and he's out of there on the same day and not likely to come back.
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Not having clients come back is one of our great achievements, when we can get it. We would like to get those solutions early on and help people move on with their lives. It's really been one of the focuses for wherever we've had discretionary dollars over the last several years.
So you can see that the benefits and cost savings to society are significant here. We have one less citizen in breach of a court order, one less person in the justice system, one less person for police and corrections officials to deal with. And the cost to legal aid is minimal. This isn't a lawyer service. This is using existing services and using people who are simply knowledgable and good communicators about court process to help the system work better.
A small investment in legal aid would allow us to expand that program. We only have one court-based legal information outreach worker. We have several others, but we don't put them in courts. We think this offers a real possibility for significant savings and benefits that happen not just in the court system but, in that case, in other parts of the system.
So for police and corrections…. Of course, they're in the Solicitor General's ministry. As you'll hear from some of these others, we've also got services that we think work better for health care and social services.
Let me go there next. One of the things that most of you will know from your constituency offices is that low-income people face more difficulties than they have in the last several decades. Homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental health are just a few examples.
Many legal aid programs now work with social service agencies to address underlying issues such as these that result in legal problems. Legal problems have been shown — social science tells us this — to actually trigger mental health problems. The stress of a legal problem triggers the mental health problem, aggravates it.
Early intervention programs that address both the legal problem and the mental health issues tend to get people back on their feet sooner. That's one of our objectives here. We've got two of these programs. One is at B.C. Women's Hospital. The other is at the Hastings and Main drop-in centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Both are for women who are pregnant or have babies and have drug and alcohol problems. Most of the women are aboriginal.
We provide a lawyer a half-day a week at each location. That lawyer assists the women with family law, child protection and other issues. What we're doing here is taking lawyers out of the courthouse and out of law offices and putting them in a medical setting, whether it's a drop-in medical clinic or the hospital itself, and in that circumstance helping particularly vulnerable individuals address their legal problems at the earliest possible moment.
We're able to help these women find early resolutions to their problems, before they fester and become worse. Stable resolutions help these women get their lives back on track and help them get out of the downward spiral.
One of these programs was initiated by the head nurse. She phoned us to say: "We think that you could help us help these women." It's working quite effectively. Our evaluation of that program is underway at the moment. Both those programs together cost $30,000.
R. Howard (Chair): Mark, just so know, you're at about ten minutes.
M. Benton: Okay. In that case let me tell you about the third program, the telephone advice program. Right now we run a family phone advice program focused on family. It runs mornings, five days a week. We can see it helps hundreds of people a month.
What we see as a benefit of this program is its early identification of legal problems, and it assists people in getting to the correct place as soon as possible. Sometimes it helps them to resolve the problem themselves.
Clients give it high reviews. We use lawyers across the province to do this, so a lawyer in Bill Bennett's riding may well be talking to a client from Doug Donaldson's riding. It avoids conflicts of interest and a variety of others. It works well.
We would like to see it run afternoons, evenings and Saturdays, because that's when people have the time to phone and use it. It is income-tested, but we want to target the working poor as well as people who fit that core poverty line.
So three programs represent a modest expenditure. The benefits exceed those core ones you typically think of as flowing from legal aid. They do offer opportunities to get people back on their feet and contributing economically sooner and offer potential savings on demand in other ministries.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you. We have some questions.
M. Elmore: Thank you very much for your very informative presentation. I'm just wondering: do you have a dollar amount estimated?
M. Benton: To move the telephone program to evenings, afternoons and Saturdays — $450,000 a year. The legal information outreach worker programs we could extend to five other courts for less than half a million dollars. The interventions in health care are about, as you see, $15,000 a pop, and we would like to see those in ten more hospitals.
M. Elmore: Is that across the province?
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M. Benton: That would be ten more hospitals across the province. That would be a good place to start, a good step to start.
M. Elmore: Okay, great. And I'm just curious. Do you have many inquiries from temporary foreign workers? I know, certainly, I come into contact with them in my office — over 60,000 now in British Columbia, in agriculture and different sectors. They often present with many complex questions around legal issues.
M. Benton: Yes. We're contacted a lot. It's not an area that we have the funding to provide service in, so we're not able to assist at the level we'd like. But it's a good example of how complex legal problems can be and of how modest amounts of assistance can make a big difference in stabilizing the circumstances of those people.
B. Bennett: Thanks, Mark. Just really quickly. You mentioned five other courthouses — a hundred grand a piece. When you start to get into the smaller centres…. I don't know where Cranbrook would fit in or Smithers and places like that, but is there considerable value in having these workers in those smaller courthouses as well, do you think?
M. Benton: Yeah. Mr. Bennett, one of the things that we are doing right now is building a broader network of partnerships with community agencies around the province, and we see potentially training up local community workers with the skills and information necessary to do this kind of work.
It wouldn't necessarily be a full-time job, because remand court doesn't happen in your community on a full-time basis. It's something where, with modest amounts of funding, we could move into those communities — so quite scalable to individual needs.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you very much, Mark. Appreciate you coming out this morning.
M. Benton: My pleasure.
R. Howard (Chair): Next up we have Comox District Teachers Association, Nanaimo District Teachers Association and Campbell River Teachers Association — Steve Stanley, Derek DeGear and Neil Thompson. We've got everybody.
Welcome, gentlemen. As you've heard, 15 minutes, and I'll give you a heads-up around ten.
S. Stanley: I'm Steve Stanley. I'm president of the Comox Teachers Association. I'd like to thank you for allowing us to be here today.
We represent the voices of the public school teachers and students in Comox. I want to begin by acknowledging that this meeting is being held on the traditional territory of the Comox First Nation, and we thank them for that.
We appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. What I'm going to focus on are some disturbing trends that we see in public education funding in the B.C. budget over the last ten years. We're going to point out just one specific way those issues impact on classrooms.
First, let me say that the teachers are very proud of the public education system we have in the province. Our students perform very well on international tests, and our system is the envy of other provinces and countries. However, neglect and poor maintenance can bring down even the mightiest castle, and that is our concern today. We have suffered through over a decade or more where funding has been reduced and where more money, by percentage, is going to private education than public schools.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that relative spending on public education has been in decline for many years. If you'll examine the first page of the handout I've given you…. This one. I know Derek's is in there as well. If you take a look at the first page of that handout, it shows that the percentage of the GDP spending on public education in B.C. has declined at a faster rate than has been the national average.
We have fallen from spending 3.6 percent of the GDP on public education in 2000-2001 to spending 3.1 percent in 2007-2008. Being below the national average means we are having the other provinces catch up to us, and in a very competitive economy, where our students need to fight for university placement and for jobs, this is a concern to see.
We turn to the second slide. That shows you how this reduced funding is impacting schools and classrooms. We see that the national average ratio of students to teachers — this is where you want a small number — is 14.4, whereas B.C. has 16.5.
As you may know, the smaller this number, the more contact teachers and students can have and the more personal the connections can be between students and their teachers. We believe that class size and class composition are among the most significant factors for student success, so this trend is also a big concern for us.
The next slide in your package illustrates how funding for public education has fallen as a percentage of the total budget over the last two decades. We can see that in 1991-92, K-to-12 education's funding was 26.36 percent of the total budget, whereas in 2009-10 it declined quite dramatically to 15.34 percent. How are we supposed to maintain a top-quality product and serve the ever-increasing needs of our students in light of such funding decreases?
Finally, the last slide shows you how, even within the funding for education, we can see that funding for
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private education or independent schools has been increasing, and they are getting a bigger piece of a continually shrinking pie. While we value private schools for providing more options for parents, we believe that public schools truly represent all the children of the province, especially our most vulnerable children and their families.
These changes to education funding have had many negative effects in our schools across the province, but due to the time constraints, I'm going to just take a closer look at one of these implications in budget trends in classrooms in my district over the last ten years.
As you may know, we used to have concrete class-size limits. In our secondary school shop and industrial education classes this limit was 24 students. Since this limit was taken away in 2002, we have seen the average class size increasing to 27 to 30 students, and our teachers have struggled and continue to struggle on a daily basis with the ramifications of this change on student safety.
Most of our shops are designed only for 24, so there are only 24 stools for kids to sit on. The rest have to stand or sit on tables when the teacher is giving directions or teaching lessons. Workspace is tight as students move about the shops carrying tools, equipment, pieces of wood and metal, and so on. Our teachers tell me that they have had to change the way they teach and the types of projects they give students based on these crowded and potentially unsafe conditions.
In grade 8 and 9 classes we see long lineups of students waiting to use the one bandsaw or the other single pieces of equipment in the shops, and the pace that they can learn and work is often dictated by the availability of equipment.
In grade 11 and grade 12 classes, where we want students to be challenged with projects that push their skills and which give them confidence in using a wide variety of tools and equipment, teachers have backed away from doing so. They are forced to modify their curriculums, as they cannot safely supervise so many students at one time.
This, again, has had an impact on those of our students who want to go into apprenticeships or take jobs in construction or other trades-related fields, as they are perhaps not as prepared as they might otherwise be if they had greater opportunities and greater challenges while in high school.
While the number of accidents in shop classes has, thankfully, not increased, what we have seen has been a drastic change in teaching pedagogy and curricular outcomes for students due to these conditions. Teachers worry every day about whether they can keep all of their students safe while at the same time introduce them to potentially dangerous equipment and get them to complete projects which challenge, engage and reward them for their efforts.
That's one area that we see in our district. I just want to turn it over now to Derek DeGear from Nanaimo to talk about his concerns.
D. DeGear: Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
I come from the Nanaimo District Teachers Association and speak on behalf of teachers in our district. For myself personally, I'm not necessarily a numbers guy. I know in our local I often take the advice and the expertise of others. I really come from a place of values, and it's values that brought me here today. So I'm going to take this opportunity to speak to you from that angle.
At university I took a course called "The History of Education in British Columbia." Unfortunately, it's not offered in a lot of universities anymore. I learned about a lot of the people who had influence in education in British Columbia. Two people who come to mind are Amor De Cosmos, lover of the universe. He was instrumental in getting our public education started. John Jessop is another fellow, first superintendent of education. He instilled the values of public education as a common good that, as a society, we would contribute to.
I'm going to bring your attention to the Charter of Public Education, which states: "Public education is a sacred trust. As a community, we promise to prepare learners for a socially responsible life in a free and democratic society, to participate in a world which each generation will shape and build."
As an educator, I firmly stand behind those comments. I believe that we have a rich population of students, rich in diversity. I also believe that in our province we have students who come from backgrounds of poverty. We worry about how those lives will unfold. I also know that as an educator I have two duties. As a public educator, I must look after the students in my classroom and work to protect the public education system I believe in and have chosen as my life path to serve.
With that being said, I've put in a couple of suggestions for positive changes. My suggestions would be: class size and composition guarantees; specialist teachers in every school; equal opportunities for all students, no matter their background; and increased investment in public education.
With that comes an issue of taxation. I know that with recent issues, such as the HST, a strong tax base to pull from is a concern of our government. I want to speak to you for a moment about the hidden costs of the income tax cuts that are now a decade old. We received a 25 percent cut to our income taxes. I know it's been brought to my attention as an educator that it provided $3,000 in my pocket. I look at that $3,000, and I look at what it's cost me in the past decade, and to tell you the truth, I think I'm getting a bum deal.
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As an educator, I've seen my colleagues and myself suffer under conditions that are less than ideal. As a parent, I have my children now in grade 5 and 6 in the education system, never knowing the level of support that I enjoyed in this education system 20 years ago. My children are being shortchanged. I'm talking to students from VIU who are facing student loan debts in the $40,000 to $50,000 to $60,000 range, trying to get a start in this world with a big debt burden on their backs. As a society, I think we have an obligation to those people, as well, and I don't believe we are fulfilling that obligation.
Although we received that income tax cut, between my parents not getting the health care that they deserve, my children not getting the education they deserve and my colleagues not working under conditions they could deserve, I believe that we need to look back at a fairer model of taxation.
Finally, as my recommendations — I call it 21st-century collaboration — I'm asking you today to reconsider and renew a positive relationship with teachers of the province. I believe we've reached a stalemate that isn't serving students, isn't serving teachers, isn't serving the government, and I really do see this as an opportunity for positive change.
I encourage you to negotiate collective agreements which respect both teachers and the needs of the students we teach; encourage, support and fund school boards to enable them to work with teachers to successfully bargain a collective agreement and resolve issues locally. I know that in our local, teachers have been asking us for post-and-fill language, evaluation language, which we're unable to fulfill.
I recommend that the level of public education funding increase to provide students and teachers in British Columbia the conditions needed to maintain and improve one of the best systems of public education in the world.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I'll pass it over to Neil.
N. Thompson: Good morning. My name is Neil Thompson. I'm president of the Campbell River District Teachers Association, and I represent the teachers of Campbell River. What I'd like to do this morning, if I could, is just provide a concrete snapshot of what happens in our district, although I'm sure it happens in all the other districts as well.
Specifically, in our district the last three years that I've been president we've had to deal with, as a district, a deficit compared to the funding that was provided the year previous. In March all the partner groups get together — trustees, senior admin, principals, vice-principals, DPAC, CUPE and the teachers. We break off into function groups, and we take a look at where the money's being spent, and we say: "Okay, where is it that we can make cuts in order to meet this deficit?"
The goal has always been to try to insulate the students inside the classroom and start from the outside of the structure, hoping not to get to the centre, the student in the classroom.
This year, it was sad to say, some of the cuts that hit, that we had to go through, directly impacted the classroom. So what I'd like to do is give you…. I don't have a handout, but we provide a list like this. In this case, last year it was 27 items where the trustees had to sit around the table and determine: "Okay, which ones are going to meet the $1.1 million deficit?"
This year, as I said, was different. I saw trustees with their heads in their hands. I myself, personally, had to get up and leave the meeting because it was just too hard to see the decisions these people were going to have to make. What they did make was they adjusted the formula at the middle and high schools. That directly impacts the class size and composition in the middle schools, so now we're going to have even more crowded classrooms.
There was a reduction in special education staffing so that kids that need the staffing the most were affected. Elementary music — one position. Elementary library — one position. Reduction in district library supplies. Libraries in our district — virtually none of them have a librarian. Now we're going to start taking the books out of them.
Reduction in special education district staffing — one position. Reduction in special education teacher staffing for the elementary — half a position. Again, three examples of the kids that need the help the most being cut.
Reduction in school-of-choice busing. We have French immersion students all over the district that are not going to be able to bus anymore. They're going to have to have their families drive them to their school of choice because they want to take French immersion, which could be halfway across the district.
As I said, I had to leave this meeting last year, because after three years of watching the trustees with their hands tied, with the purse of money…. It's finally hit the classrooms where our students now, particularly our special needs kids, and the class size and composition…. It's just unbearable, in my mind.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
R. Howard (Chair): Excellent. Thank you, gentlemen. We've run out of time, so I'll thank you for taking the effort to get out and talk to us today.
We had one no-show, it looks like, today. So I think that does us until this afternoon. We will adjourn and reconvene for a video conference this afternoon in Victoria.
Thank you, Courtenay.
The committee adjourned at 11:33 a.m.
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