1971 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 29th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 1971
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The House met at 2: 00 p.m.
On the motion of Mr. A.B. Macdonald, Bill (No. 101) intituled The Environmental Bill of Rights Act, 1971, was introduced, read a first time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
The Honourable W.K. Kiernan presented to Mr. Speaker a Message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.
On the motion of Mr. Kiernan, Amendments to Bill (No. 67) intituled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act were introduced, read a first time and Ordered to be referred to the Committee having in charge Bill (No. 67).
The Honourable D.R.J. Campbell presented to Mr. Speaker a Message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor.
On the motion of Mr. Campbell, Bill (No. 78) intituled Mobile Home Park Fee Act, was introduced, read a first time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
On the motion of the Honourable W.A.C. Bennett, the House proceeded to the Order "Public Bills and Orders."
The following Bills were read a third time and passed:
Bill (No. 27) intituled An Act to Amend the Public Libraries Act.
Bill (No. 32) intituled An Act to Amend the Infants Act.
The following Bills were committed, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed:
Bill (No. 48) intituled An Act to Amend the Provincial Home Acquisition Act.
Bill (No. 69) intituled An Act to Amend the Jury Act.
Bill (No. 72) intituled An Act to Amend the Land Act.
HON. W.A.C. BENNETT (South Okanagan): Second reading of Bill 74, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 74, An Act to Amend the Attachment of Debts Act. The Honourable the Attorney -General.
HON. L.R. PETERSON (Vancouver-Little Mountain): Mr. Speaker, this bill contains a number of important amendments to the Attachment of Debts Act. Under the present legislative provisions, the exemptions to a person who has his wages garnisheed are $150 in the case of a person with dependents, and $75 in the case of a person without dependents. This bill will increase those exemptions so that 70 per cent of the wages will be exempt. Further, Mr. Speaker, the minimum exemption in each case will be $200 for a person who has one or more dependents, and $100 for a person without dependents.
I think it's been some seven years since we've had a look at these exemption provisions in the Attachment of Debts Act. The bill before us not only increases the exemptions, which is appropriate I suggest at this period, but also incorporates a new principle in putting it on a percentage of earnings basis, nevertheless, with the basic exemptions still remaining. There are separate provisions that apply in terms of exemptions for those in matrimonial and other family situations. The bill spells out the nature of that exemption as well. We're also proposing in this bill to empower a judge or registrar to order the release of a garnishing order and to substitute payment of the judgement by installments. Heretofore, the practice has been every pay period to issue a new garnishing order and garnishee the person's wages. This creates additional expense and inconvenience both for the debtor and for all parties, as a matter of fact. Now, it will be open for the debtor to apply to the Court and have, in lieu of future garnishing orders, a monthly payment stipulated.
Another problem that has been the subject of some comment, not only in this House but in the House of Commons, as well, is the fact that the collection of money, under these circumstances, can be frustrated by the dismissal of the employee once the garnishing order is served on the employer. We're providing now that, in future, an employer cannot terminate the employment of a person solely for that reason - that a garnishing order has been served.
The last point I want to make mention of on this bill, Mr. Speaker, is bringing the scope of the act to apply in respect to employees of boards or commissions which are agents of the Crown, such as employees of the B.C. Hydro and Power Authority, because there has been some doubt in that instance. Mr. Speaker, I move the bill be now read a second time.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Member for Kootenay.
MR. L.T. NIMSICK (Kootenay): Mr. Speaker, it looks as though I've been scooped on this bill. You know, it's a little difficult, I suppose, for the Honourable the Attorney-General to give credit, sometimes, where credit might be due. It's exactly - one clause in there dealing with dismissals - it's almost word for word . . . When you went on to that subject, you wouldn't give the credit to the Opposition Member for having brought this to the Floor, but you said it was debated in the Federal House or some other place. You didn't say anything and I think that the ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Now that the Member has the credit, will he now proceed to the principle of the bill?
MR. NIMSICK: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Honourable the Minister in accepting this, this one point that I brought in Bill 64 ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Member must proceed now with the discussion of the principle of this bill.
MR. NIMSICK: I'm thinking of this point of no dismissal.
MR. SPEAKER: I've read the bill carefully and haven't found that revealed in the contents of the bill. Now would you get down to the principle that's in the bill, please'
MR. NIMSICK: It's in the bill. You haven't read the bill, then, in regards to the dismissal of an employee, because he just said it.
MR. SPEAKER: I think that you're referring to your own MR. NIMSICK: No, I'm referring to the section that he put in the bill.
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MR. SPEAKER: Very well. Can we get on to the principle of it then?
MR. NIMSICK: Yes. I want to thank the Honourable the Attorney-General for his generosity. The first part of the bill and many parts of the bill are good, I think. I think it's time that the exemptions were increased (interruption). No, I think it's time that the exemptions were increased. I understand that this bill is going to committee. I don't know whether it is or not, but that's the understanding I've been given.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to move it to the committee?
MR. NIMSICK: If it isn't going into committee, I have no real objection to the bill. I think that the bill is updating the Attachment of Debts Act and it gives the person that's a victim many times a little bit better break than what he had before. I accept this and endorse the bill.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Minister without Portfolio.
HON. G. McCARTHY (Vancouver-Little Mountain): Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words in regard to the principle of the bill. I feel that it's application to the Wive's and Childrens' Maintenance Act that was spelled out last night in second reading is particularly important. I'm certain many Members in this House have had the experience that I have had in very many of our communities, where we have a break-up of a marriage and we have a maintenance order made for a wife and children. Very often the husband reneges on payment. There has to be a garnishee order made and attachment to his wages. The present system, when his wages are taken, garnisheed, we are now, under the present act prior to this change, taking too much of his wage and leaving him in a position, not only of being angry and vindictive over the situation that he finds himself in, where someone is garnisheeing his wages, but he is also having so much of his wages taken that he then throws up his hands and says, "it is better for me to go on welfare than it is to remain at my job." Therefore, the present act really pushes people into the welfare situation and the State, then, not only takes care of the husband but is also forced to take care of the wife and children who, of course, are really the people who we are trying to take care of in the first instance.
The act itself will fix up that particular situation as it stands now and it updates the situation where the man is left with sufficient to live on - or the woman. Again, as I said last night, it's a two-way street and it applies both ways. Can I just reiterate what I said last night, that there are very few cases where the woman leaves the man with the children under that situation? When it does, it is applicable both ways. It's a very good act and I think all people in the House should support it.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for North Vancouver-Seymour.
MR. B.A. CLARK (North Vancouver-Seymour): Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise on a Point of Order here, so that I would not lose my place in this debate, and seek your guidance. The Attorney-General indicated last night that this bill would be referred to committee and, as you know, we ended up in some discussion regarding procedure at this point. Could you clarify what procedure the House will follow?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, if the bill is being referred to committee, our Standing Order No. 81 defines that a bill having been read a second time must be referred to a Committee at a future time whether it is the Committee of the Whole or to a select standing committee. The House shall, in the words of our Standing Order, "be ordered for committal" . . . Under these circumstances, the onus is on the person who is piloting the bill, to refer it to committee at that time.
Last evening, and the Member rises on a well thought-out Point of Order, the Speaker, in error, refused to allow discussion on the matter of whether or not a bill should be referred to a committee during the second reading of the bill and said that that was not within the principle of the bill. Upon reviewing the circumstances, at the instigation of the Member, it appears to me that it's the only opportunity the Members have to discuss whether or not a bill should be referred to committee. Today, and in the future, the Chair will permit Members to discuss whether or not a bill should or should not be referred to a select standing committee or the Committee of the Whole. Members should recall that there is no debate nor no amendment to the referral of a bill to the committee. The Honourable Member for North Vancouver-Seymour.
MR. CLARK: Mr. Speaker, speaking then, to second reading of the bill, and I appreciate your explanation, I wish only to make a very small point which I have made privately to the Attorney -General. I would like to make it in the House, as well.
In referring bills to committees, I fully support the principle here to make such referrals, but I make a suggestion, which I hope the Government will take as being constructive. If, earlier in the Session, bills such as this, where the intention was to refer them to committee, if there had been some indication given to us before the committees were struck as to what the business of any particular committee might be, it would be possible for all the caucuses to give consideration to the membership of those committees, based on the material that will be placed before them. Now, the committee the Attorney -General has indicated this particular bill will go to is a committee that I think is functioning very well, under the terms of reference it now has. But 1, as one member of that committee, feel somewhat inadequate, when being confronted with these specific bills, which are very legalistic in nature. I would point out that this is a committee where there is only one lawyer assigned and that lawyer is a Minister of the Crown, very busy with other business currently before the committee.
I make this suggestion in a positive sense. I, as one member of this committee, will be happy to tackle this but, in future, if we had some indication of such business, I think the committees would be better structured. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. D. BARRETT (Coquitlam): I welcome your ruling since, last night, I was attempting to make part of the same point made by the Member from North Vancouver-Seymour.
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Beyond this, the question of actually having refreshed minds dealing with this matter in the Welfare Committee, at this point, is very likely not possible, because it appears that the Government does have a closing date in mind for the Session. This bill will go to committee and we've been sitting and will be sitting probably every evening. The Members won't have that kind of time or energy to do good service to the bill.
The second point raised by the Member is really interesting. I wonder if he's actually asking for a ruling from the Speaker, rather than for some courtesy from the Government leader because, in the past, when we've been faced with situations of naming committee members, such as you are asking in this instance, we have asked to change members and we've been refused that. We've had to name committee members in the blind. So, the Member's asking ... I would prefer to ask for a ruling from the Speaker on this matter, rather than asking for courtesy of the House. That courtesy has not been extended in the past and I wonder if the Speaker could take under advisement whether or not, at this late date, we have the right to change committee members, in light of the business being presented to the committees.
MR. SPEAKER: The standing rule, of course, is that Members who wish to change any member on a committee places a motion before the House for consideration of the House and the House will, at its leisure, discuss the motion and take the necessary action. I think there is, indeed, such notice on the Order Paper during this current Session.
MR. BARRETT: If I may, Mr. Speaker, it's reduced to a matter of Government majority, rather than courtesy of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Honourable Member for Surrey.
MR. E. HALL (Surrey): Mr. Speaker, I wish to address myself to one of the principles of the bill, namely, the prevention of dismissal by an employer of an employee by reason of the service of a garnishing order. The principle is well founded and the Member for Kootenay has taken the House through a short course of history.
I wish to address myself to what I think is a failing in this bill, insofar as there is no provision, in my mind, for the employer to have to pay back wages owed during the period of the dismissal. I realize we're getting somewhat particular, Mr. Speaker, and I know that we're going to committee so I won't take a long time on this. But it seems to me, that having got the penalty in of no more than $500 or imprisonment for a term of no more than three months, that another salutary, preventional method could be, simply to say that if an employer does discharge an employee because of the garnishee order, then, that employee, when reinstated, gets back all the money that he would have got had he been on his job. I think it's important that that be done, because what happens is that the situation that normally exists with people who are garnisheed is usually a situation that can best be described as at the bottom end of the totem pole, in terms of money, ability to cope, problems, both marital and others. I think, to put that person, knowing how crowded the Courts are and what lengths of time it's taking to deal with these matters, that person could well be without any money whatsoever, other than the public purse in terms of welfare, until he gets his day in Court and proves his case. I think we should certainly add that missing principle, Mr. Speaker, that the employer be responsible for full back money - full back wages.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Yale-Lillooet.
MR. W.L. HARTLEY (Yale-Lillooet): Mr. Speaker, I feel this legislation, while it is good, is certainly long overdue. When we're living in this day and age of credit, Chargex, finance companies and the whole bit, particularly the young couples are encouraged to charge up as much as they can when they're first married. Whether they buy a home or not, they're probably buying a car, furniture and everything else. Our former legislation that would reduce a man's earnings to $150 if his wage were garnisheed, all that was saved for him, his wife and his family was $150 and was, as the second Member for Little Mountain mentioned, one of the reasons that the welfare rolls in this Province have continued to grow over the past several years. Just this past winter, a party from Kamloops came in. They'd worked for the Provincial Government. They'd been garnisheed for a total sum of approximately $300, but they just couldn't subsist on the basis of $150 a month for the two months while that was being paid off, or for the better part of two months. So they had to quit their job and try to find work elsewhere. It was during the winter and the man and family wound up on welfare. I believe this legislation is good. I think we should certainly take into consideration the matter the Member for Surrey raised in guaranteeing that, if the man does go before Court, loses his job, comes before Court, then, proper restitution should be made of his job and wages that he has lost.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver East.
MR. A.B. MACDONALD (Vancouver East): Mr. Speaker, the Attorney -General, in introducing this very worthwhile amendment about not being fired, or it not being a ground for dismissal, if you've been garnisheed, said that it would help the creditor because the man couldn't be fired on receipt of the garnishing order and, therefore, no money paid into Court. But its real benefit is the protection of the working man because, in many of the industries of British Columbia today there's a company rule that two garnishees and you're fired. It's a very unfair rule but it's been upheld by arbitration boards in labour disputes. This suggestion, which came from the Member for Kootenay and been adopted by the Government, and has been passed in the Province of Ontario, is a very worthwhile one because it's a very genuine protection for the working people of the Province, even when they're under union contract and get fired under company regulations today simply because two garnishing orders have been issued against them.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Burnaby Edmonds.
MR. G.H. DOWDING (Burnaby-Edmonds): I would like to mention, before this matter is referred to a committee of the House, that the section that deals with the maintenance orders, that the Honourable the lady Member referred to ... one of the problems that has to be taken into account and I hope the committee, whatever committee is charged with the responsibility of studying it, realizes that one of the great
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problems in the field of maintenance orders is that there's often a period of long unemployment by a father or husband, during which the meter is still running and he ends up with thousands of dollars owing to his wife for the support of her and the children. It becomes such an insuperable obstacle, either psychologically to him, or otherwise financially, and certainly when he gets back to work, again to be faced with garnishing orders of the magnitude that could result, would be a very serious handicap to his continuing in his occupation.
I hope the committee will give a lot of thought to that particular aspect of it. I don't know whether the lady Minister is on that committee and, if she isn't, I think she should be. I'm going to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that, when I presume the Attorney ~General finishes, he will say a word, he will have to make a motion, to refer this to a committee. I note in May's rules of the House, at page 640, where it deals with the addition to committees of members or discharge of members from select standing committees that, in later years, in the House of Commons in England, they've made a practice of adding members to a committee or substituting members to a committee without bringing it before the House and without notice. In other words, the committee meets and makes the changes by agreement, presumably of the committee, it appears from a note that I have of something that happened in 1938-39 in the Journals of the British House. It seems to me that, without the protraction of the business of the House, the committee of selection that we appointed in this House, could well make a few substitutions, when it is the subject of such technical interest to certain people in this House. Some have the competence in the field and are not on this committee - Members, like the lady Minister from Little Mountain, who should be on this committee, because of the work she's been doing in this field. I know, on our side of the House, a number of people, as the Member for North Vancouver-Capilano pointed out, who really should be on that committee or else there should be a committee of those people who are particularly informed particularly informed on this subject or interested in it.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver-Howe Sound): Mr. Speaker, we certainly will support this bill and, as a necessary companion to the previous bill which is being referred to committee, I can understand the reason for the changes which are being made in the attachment of debts procedure because, if anything, it's worked a terrible hardship, our present law, upon those people who are entitled to benefits under other Statutes. I'm shocked and disturbed to hear the Member from Vancouver East praising the section which relieves the working man from being fired because, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, in my experience, the working man pays his bills. The trouble you have is with the sort of fly-by-night and the workers in ... (interruption). Well, yes, you're right. There are some there. The responsible working man in our communities is not the one who gives us the difficulty. I think it behooves the members of the commercial community to take note of the changes which are being made in this legislation because what is happening with regard to many people who have credit extended to them the old law is shifting from "Let the buyer beware," to "Let the seller beware." I think that this is very appropriate legislation in this regard because, it seems to me, that sometimes credit is too freely granted. It is the responsibility of the person who grants the credit to make certain that the proper collection of the indebtedness will be forthcoming in the proper way.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before the Attorney-General closes the debate, may I call the honourable Members' attention to Standing Order No. 69, which has to do with the composition of committees? ". . . in the case of members proposed to be added or substituted, after the first appointment of the committee, a new notice shall be given including the names of the members proposed to be added or substituted." Under the circumstances, of course, a notice of motion would be required without the necessity of -consent by the House.
The Honourable the Attorney -General will close the debate.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, there are two points that have been raised in the course of this debate, which I would like to reply to. First, the Honourable Member for Kootenay - I want to assure him that I'm never reluctant to give him credit and I've done so on a number of occasions in this House because I feel he needs all the credit he can get in this respect. I want to tell him this, Mr. Speaker (interruption). I want to tell him this that the reason for such a difference between his provision on this question and the provision that you find in this bill, which is now the subject of debate, is the fact that, when we drafted this provision, this bill was not even printed. We hadn't seen it. That's why. I've just checked, as well, with legislative counsel on this point, so let's be very clear about it. That's the reason why our provision is so different from yours in terms of making it an offense, etc. So, as I say, I'm never reluctant to give the honourable Member credit when he deserves it.
Now, on the question of committees, Mr. Speaker (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. PETERSON: There are many other points in this bill, which, I think the honourable Members will agree, are major changes. It hasn't been easy to shift to the percentage basis, in terms of determining what the percentage should be in each case and, therefore, we weren't in a position to bring it in any earlier. I can assure you there were no intentional delays in bringing this bill in. If the Members feel that it's impossible to do justice to it, at this Session before the committee, then, that's a matter for the committee to determine. I feel that it would be useful to have this bill dealt with by the same committee that is dealing with the other bills on the Family Courts, but that will be a matter for the committee to determine.
I can assure the honourable Members that, at the time the committees were established, it was not known by anyone, including myself, that we would have this bill completed for this Session and going before this committee. So, we weren't keeping any information from the other Members of the House, Mr. Speaker. I move the bill be now read a second time.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 74 read a second time and Ordered referred to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare and Education.
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MR. BENNETT: Second reading of Bill 75, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 75, An Act to Amend the Small Claims Act. The Honourable the Attorney-General.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, Bill 75, is An Act to Amend the Small C(aims Act. I think the explanatory notes are sufficient in explanation of the sections, most of which have resulted from recommendations of the judges of the Small Claims Court and persons involved in practise before those Courts. The other provision, of course, is the removal of the garnishee proceedings, that were included in this special act, and that the garnishee proceedings, in the future, would be governed by the Attachment of Debts Act. I move the bill now be read a second time.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for New Westminster.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Mr. Speaker, we certainly approve the bill in principle. We rather wish, along with the other bills, that it had been sent to that committee a little earlier. I am on that committee and we do hope that these three bills will establish something new in this House.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. G.B. GARDOM (Vancouver-Point Grey): Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to see that these two specific amendments dealing with service ex-jurists and also dealing with third party proceedings have come into the Small Claims Courts. For the life of me, I can't really understand why they haven't come in years ago because there hasn't been legal consistency with the jurisdiction of that Court insofar as these two points are concerned.
There is one item, Mr. Speaker, that gives me some degree of worry about this bill. I still don't quite think that the Small Claims Act goes far enough. When I first was elected to this House, I advocated an increase in the jurisdiction to $200 and I think that came in and, now, it's up to $500. It started with your predecessor and, I believe, you, Mr. Attorney -General, had one kick at the can insofar as increasing the dollar jurisdiction of the Court, but I don't think for one minute that today a jurisdiction of $1,000 for the Small Claims Court would be untoward. The value of the dollar has very much diminished and I think the general public has exhibited a far greater desire over the past few years for what I'd call "legal independence." I think the Small Claims Court provides a procedure that is simple and is quick and there's next to no red tape. The people aren't burdened with the time and problems of the exchange of pleadings. There is not any need for examinations for discovery, which is the question and answer period before an official Court reporter, prior to the trial. No end of cases ... and the Attorney-General would probably have some figure on this. I don't . . . or his Department would. I would assume that the majority of cases that come before the Small Claims Courts are no-contest cases. Picking a figure out of thin air, I guess that about 70 or 80 per cent are no-contest cases and end up being default judgements. I'm probably not too far out in that figure. So it would seem to me that this would provide, once again, a less expensive and a less troublesome vehicle for the general public if they could go to this Court by themselves, without the necessity for legal or professional intervention, with the type of do-it-yourself law to provide exactly the same kind of remedy which they can receive through default provisions in the Supreme Court or in the County Court. I would put my hands on the crystal ball, to an extent, Mr. Speaker, and I would guess that we will see an amendment coming in next year to increase the jurisdiction of this Court. I rather believe that you'll find the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Courts in the Province increases, year after year up, to say a figure of $3 or $4 or $5,000 because, if the general public are capable of handling and wish, shall I say, to take the risk of handling their own claims, perhaps they should be entitled to do it. We do know that they do have the opportunity to proceed by themselves in the Superior Courts of the land but, on the whole, it's a very unwise procedure usually for them to take, by virtue of the complexities of the rules of evidence. I do feel, Mr. Speaker, that the Small Debts Court essentially covers itself with liquidated claims with not any contest. Let's open the door wider than it is open, and I would say, at least, by 100 per cent, and increase the jurisdiction to $1,000.
MR. SPEAKER: Are you ready for the question? All those in favour say Aye.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.
MR. SPEAKER: Contrary minded, no. The motion is carried.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be referred to the Select Standing Committee on Social Welfare and Education.
AN HON. MEMBER: .. on the advisability ...
MR. SPEAKER: There's no debate nor amendments to that motion.
AN HON. MEMBER: On the advisability of reference to that Committee'
MR. SPEAKER: The motion has been made that the bill be referred to committee. The debate must take place during the second reading, as I tried to explain earlier. The question is that the bill be referred.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 75 read a second time and Ordered to be referred to the Select Standing Committee on Social Welfare and Education.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 76, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 76, An Act to Amend the Department of Commercial Transport Act. The Honourable the Minister of Commercial Transport.
HON. F.X. RICHTER (Boundary -Similkam been): MT. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to set out more clearly the guidelines in relation to the overloading and the oversize loads on commercial trucks. It also sets out the maximum fine, plus a penalty, which can be imposed depending on the excess of weight which is carried over the allowable amount.
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Along with that, it prescribes a minimum fine and penalty and has to do with the setting out, by way of regulation, the weight-to-horsepower ratio for commercial vehicles and authorizes the Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister of Highways, to enter into agreements where companies are using roads which they have built and the public has taken over and, in this way, sets a license fee accordingly.
It also extends the privileges to the regional districts on the same basis of a municipality, in relation to licensing. I think that pretty well covers the ... It's a proclamation bill and will come in progressively, once passed. I move second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Member for Kootenay.
MR. NIMSICK: Mr. Speaker, on this bill, where there are penalties for overloading, and if there's damage done, we'll say to a road, due to the overloading and that the Highways Department has got to repair that road, is there any way of being able to recuperate the losses that would be involved?
When you stated that it was giving the same authority to the regional districts in licensing as to the municipalities, well, would this mean that, in the regional districts where there are municipalities, that it would be a double licensing set-up or does the regional district cover the whole area and let the municipality out as far as being able to license the vehicles? This is something because, if it gives a double right, I mean, if the municipality has the right, and the regional district has the right, and the Provincial Government has the right, it gets pretty costly in this regard. I just wondered if that is what you mean by it.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Minister will close the debate.
MR. RICHTER: In relation to the damage done, the penalty Section 1s a means of deterring people from excessively loading. There is no provision within the Commercial Transport Act to assess the damages that may be caused on the highway although I believe there are some provisions within the Highways Department for damage. This could be in any number of ways - cattle, vehicles with hard tires and so on, going over the highways when it's excessively warm or something like this and ridging them. I believe there is provision within that act, but not within the Commercial Transport Act.
Now, in relation to licenses, we're talking about the $2 licenses for municipal vehicles and, where a regional district has vehicles, the $2 licensing factor ... (interruption). No, no. If a regional district wishes to acquire a Provincial license for their vehicle, then, they'd get it for $2. This provision wasn't there before. A municipality can do this now. I move second reading.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 76 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 77, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 77, An Act to Amend the Provincial Court Act. The Honourable the Attorney-General.
MR. PETERSON: This bill, Mr. Speaker, contains certain amendments to the Provincial Court Act. I think the explanatory notes are sufficient to describe the changes that are being made, unless there are specific questions from the honourable Members. I move the Bill be now read a second time.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver East.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, the bill is an improvement so far as the Judicial Council is concerned, but it doesn't really say that the Judicial Council's proceedings in respect to an infraction alleged to have been committed by a judge, which might lead to his resignation or retirement, should be in public. I still take the position that these enquiries should be in public. At the moment, the council would still have the powers to close the door to press or public and I don't think that should be the case. I think it should be spelled out in all of our Court proceedings that they shall be conducted by the light of day, with the few exceptions which are known to the law, such as the case of an infant, or the case of a particularly sexual nature, where the judge has the discretion.
You have given the council now the power to subpoena witnesses and I understand this was said to be the cause why the previous enquiry was held in camera. But correcting that still means they can close the doors, Mr. Attorney -General, and I say that's very bad practice.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Member for Burnaby-Edmonds.
MR. DOWDING: I welcome the change here that permits this type of action by a Judicial Council with the powers of the public enquiry and I agree with the honourable Member who has just spoken. I point out that one of the difficulties that appears to have occurred in one previous experience relating to a judge was that the public has been left with question marks as to what went on in that enquiry and whether, indeed, the judge was properly before the Judicial Council and whether its deliberations and its recommendations to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council were valid ones, in the light of a statement made by the Attorney -General afterwards to the effect that the judge, who was the subject of this hearing, had not been shown to have done anything wrong in his judicial duties. It makes you wonder, if you're a member of the public, what in the world went on in that secret Star Chamber. It's ... (interruption). Well, it is a Star Chamber, if it's in secret.
AN HON. MEMBER: But nothing went wrong.
MR. DOWDING: If nothing went wrong, so far as this man and his conduct on the Bench, then, this is something the public has a right to consider - that it was held in secret in the same fashion that was abolished in England when Star Chamber was abolished. Now, another serious aspect of it, I note, in one newspaper of the time, when this matter was before the Judicial Council, statements to the effect that there had been tape recordings made of conversations on the telephone that amounted to eavesdropping on those conversations of this judge, who was the subject of this enquiry.
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There has never been any public statement as to whether this was true or not and, of course, if you have a closed hearing, then, you are indeed compounding the evil of the Star chamber method of trial by using eavesdropping as a method of producing evidence, of not allowing the public to know whether that evidence was accepted or acceptable, or whether the procedure by which it was obtained was proper, and it casts a cloud over the functions of the Attorney-General's office and the functions of the Judicial Council to have this sort of hugger-mugger proceedings, as one Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada called a similar proceedings, relating to immigration, once. I suggest that the Attorney-General, before this comes to committee stage, give some thought to requiring that, in this bill, there also be a provision that all proceedings be held in public, say, where the Judicial Council is empowered, within its discretion, in a proper case, to hold proceedings in camera. I would suggest that the examples of where cases should be held in camera, in our law and under our Court system, are almost so minute as to be almost nonexistent. I can think of cases in ordinary Courts where, out of some sense of delicacy, a judge will not want to subject a very young child or girl to the full glare of publicity relating to some offense practised upon her. That I can understand. But the idea that we practice these cases in private is dangerous under our form of law. I think that the public is entitled to know because sometimes the public can come forward and lend a little light to a proceeding that is in Court, if they know about what's going on in Court. To hold it behind closed doors, locked doors, without the press and without members of the public being entitled to attend, would be like holding the legislative Sessions in secrecy.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the honourable Member has gone well into the matter. He's discussing a principle which is not contained in the bill, in any instance. The Honourable the Attorney-General will close the debate.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to reply to the remarks of the two members of the legal profession who have addressed themselves to the principle in this bill.
First of all, I want to disassociate myself completely with the remarks of the honourable Member who has just taken his seat, suggesting and alleging that the hearings of the Judicial Council are Star Chamber proceedings. There is no foundation for such allegations at all. I'm amazed that these two members of the legal profession, when they're talking about public hearings, in this instance ... I wonder whether they support public hearings when allegations of misconduct are made against them and the matter comes up for determination under the Law Society. I wonder whether they would call those Star Chamber proceedings, when complaints are made against an individual member. You say those should all be heard in public, as well?
I want to make it very clear that, as far as I am concerned, I would hope that most of the proceedings ... (interruption). Well, they're not at the present time, but I've never heard these honourable Members speak on that subject before but, now, that we have a very competent Judicial Council ... (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. PETERSON: ... strongly represented, on which we have representatives of labour, laymen, as well as members of the judiciary and, then, to come along and suggest that these are Star Chamber proceedings, Mr. Speaker, there is no foundation in fact. I want to repudiate these allegations completely.
Mr. Speaker, I might say this that I would hope that the Judicial Council in the exercise of its discretion, a discretion which I submit it should have, would hold the hearings in public, in most instances. There are circumstances, I'm sure, without going into detail, which could arise where it would not be in the interest to have all of the proceedings in public. The reason why this last enquiry, the first enquiry and last so far, was not in public was, simply, because of the fact that the Judicial Council did not have the authority to subpoena witnesses. They had decided, as a matter of fact, to hold the enquiry in public but then counsel for the judge in question indicated that it would not be possible to have certain witnesses attend, if this were done, because there was no power in the Judicial Council to subpoena witnesses. That's the intent of this particular amendment - to give that authority to the Judicial Council so that it, therefore, would not be met by this allegation when next it is called upon to enquire into matters. I move the bill be read a second time.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 77 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 80, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 80, Ecological Reserves Act. The Honourable the Minister of Lands and Forests.
HON. R.G. WILLISTON (Fort George): Mr. Speaker, on two occasions now, I have spoken about the fact that we are establishing ecological reserves throughout the Province. This started as an effective project to honour our Canadian Centennial in 1967, when it was determined that the project across Canada was that ecological reserves would be established in various parts of the Nation. The actual enthusiasm for establishing these reserves and, of course, the Province, which has the greatest range of conditions throughout its length and breadth, is the Province of British Columbia and, therefore, a greater number of these reserves are required to be established for basic study purposes now, and into the future.
As I've indicated, in speaking to the Legislature before, it is our hope to establish at least one hundred ecological reserves in the Province. They are being handled, basically, as a study function with the co-operation of the Lands Branch, but most of the study work is being carried out by the University of British Columbia, at the present time, and Dr. V. Krajina is the person who has been largely responsible for developing the programme which we have at the moment.
I think the bill itself, Mr. Speaker, is self-explanatory and I move second reading.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Surrey.
MR. HALL: We, in looking at this bill, realize in some ways that it's a further step in terms of the actions first taken and I think there were some 20-odd park reserves already established. We see it, too, in terms of principle, Mr. Speaker, as perhaps the beginnings of a living laboratory, I think
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would be a useful expression to use, and that it should be tied, in some way, to the whole question of land use and the environment and indeed with pollution. If it's a laboratory as indeed I think it's fair to say it is, a living laboratory, then, that information, of course, has got to flow through to the other departments and to the committee that is the subject of another bill.
I think, too, that it's time that the Government brought some of these things together and for that reason I will be proposing, Mr. Speaker, some amendments on this bill which perhaps would give it some greater importance than that which I think it has received already in the public eye. I want to suggest that, whilst this is the, kind of administrative bill that the Minister is famous for, and we congratulate him for his efficiency in that regard, it's not really doing very much in terms of promoting and exciting people about our battle against pollution. We want, I think, on this side of the House perhaps to help the Minister become somewhat more exciting, if not excitable.
I think one of the ways we can do it is to look at what other jurisdictions are doing. For instance, in Washington, I have photostats from not only our library but also from the States themselves of the way that they're enlisting aid and support on the principle of what this bill is simply saying. When they set up an ecology commission and environmental committee, they don't just leave it to those very efficient but, somewhat faceless, technical people who I respect and admire just as the Minister does but, instead, they give it some political pizzazz, some meaningful swing, so the people know what's going on and if there is one thing perhaps the Minister could learn it is those techniques.
I notice, for instance, Mr. Speaker, that when the State of Washington sets up one of these environmental control programmes, they say, for instance, that there shall be one member who is a representative of organized labour that has something to do with this thing, that one member shall be a representative of the business community, that there should be one member who is a representative of the agricultural community and that there be four ordinary people involved in the kind of decision-making that so often we find in these Statutes are reserved simply and solely to the Minister. One thing we've noticed is that the Minister has an incredible amount of responsibility and I think that that responsibility can be shared. Not only that, but they go further and they say that, true, there should be technical people and they refer to a number of departments - agriculture, commerce and economic development, fisheries, game, health, natural resources and the parks and recreation. They, too, have a part to play in the formation of environmental and ecological programmes and defenses and, in short, they have mounted, in the State of Washington, the kind of environmental crusade that can well be described . . . as an example, two of the parks. Now, that's not to say, if I may perhaps anticipate the Minister's reply, that they're not as polluted as we are, that they're not in either good or bad shape, that they're not making mistakes. What it does mean is that, when they want to get the people aroused, they seem to have an affinity and ability to do it that somewhat escapes us here.
One of the reasons they're able to do that is that they make sure that not only are the actions of their department in setting up these boards and reserves and areas together with their pollution control mechanisms, but they ensure that they're open to public scrutiny, to public change, to public pressure. I think, in the estimates, we canvassed that subject fairly thoroughly, in which we suggested that the people should always have a right to challenge the decisions that are made in terms of pollution control and so on by use of the Courts. Here we're suggesting, if you like, the other side of the coin, that the people in the Province should be concerned and involved in the decision-making process.
Let's go on to the actual main principle of the bill which, simply, as the Minister says is explained in the note, is to set up a minimum of a hundred, hopefully, by 1975, ecological reserves which, as I say, could well be described as living laboratories. The one thing that I feel is missing in the act, Mr. Speaker, in closing the remarks on second reading, is that we feel that these ecological reserves are so important that, once established, they should only be changed by an act of the Legislature and not by ministerial decree.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for North Vancouver-Capilano.
MR. D.M. BROUSSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): Mr. Speaker, we also support this bill and welcome it. I think it's formalizing what is actually taking place already and we're very glad to see it. I would also associate myself with some of the remarks of the speaker who has just sat down and add, perhaps, two or three questions of my own.
The subject matter here is obviously very closely associated with another department of the Government -Recreation and Conservation and Parks - where there is a Minister who is specifically charged with the responsibility for conservation. So it seems strange to me, Mr. Speaker, that this particular subject is put into the responsibility of the Minister of Lands and Forests, whose primary responsibility, which he performs very well - I think everyone agrees with this - but he performs the major responsibility of managing the forests and cutting down the trees to the greatest profit of British Columbia. That is not the purpose of this bill. It's an ecological reserve. It's to separate certain specific areas from the forests and the other areas of the Province. I would like to see very much the Minister responsible for this whose major responsibility is conservation and that, I think, is the great weakness of the principle of this bill. It would appear that we have, in effect, another conflict of interest within this department.
Being a little more specific, if I may, at this point, Mr. Speaker, I noticed in the definitions that are given of the various types of ecological reserves - the ecosystems and so on - virtually no reference is made to water. It says a good deal about soil and climate and that sort of thing but I can visualize perhaps some of the most important ecosystems that might be found within the Province being almost entirely consisting of water, or very largely. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, the bill could be improved perhaps by some specific reference to water as a habitat. It certainly is a very important habitat in British Columbia, as well as the land and the forests and the other areas.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am agreeing with my predecessor in this debate. I note with disappointment the ease with which an ecological reserve can be destroyed just by a scratch of the pen. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," with no reference to anyone else. I would wish it were very difficult to cancel or destroy such a reserve once it were established. Perhaps reference to the Legislative Assembly, at the very least, to some sort of public hearing, a public board, perhaps, a public hearing under the auspices of the Land Use and Environment Committee, which is to be established ... I think all of us, knowing the past record of the Government
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and, particularly, of this department, would feel a great deal more confident if this kind of safeguard were included.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Burnaby Edmonds.
MR. DOWDING: Mr. Speaker, the problem that will be faced in dealing with setting aside ecological reserves is that it's again put in the hands of three or more Members of the Cabinet. I'm beginning to wonder how these people could hold public enquiries around the Province and take the detailed time that would be necessary to make sure that they had obtained all the points of view on the subject from the different activities that are involved in the use of land and the setting aside of land. The three Members of the Cabinet, in effect, become the committee - it may be three or more it says.
I think it would have been better perhaps to have considered a committee made up of distinguished citizens. We appoint them when we're on a Royal Commission or a public enquiry. Very often, they are three distinguished citizens of the Province, who have the time, if they were selected carefully, to do a real study throughout the Province and, then, make their recommendations to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. Instead of burdening the already overburdened Ministers of the Crown, and I can imagine immediately who would be the Ministers on the spot - it would be the Minister piloting this bill; it would be the Minister for Recreation, it would be the Minister, perhaps, for Mines. I can see those three Ministers being burdened once more with another job. That is the kind of overburdening we don't want to get if this job is to do done properly.
I don't think that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be consulted, so, don't look hopeful. There's not a chance but, so far as the other Ministers are concerned, they'll be once again charged with the problem of solving this along with all the other committees that they serve on. I wish the Minister would give some thought to a different way of bringing this matter before the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, a different way, once the decisions are made on these reserves, of retaining them because the way this is worked out is just the way this Government works everything out - on a political basis. It's always the politicians who make these decisions that affect the wellbeing of industries, of farmland, of farmers, of different areas of the Province, of competing industries in the Province. All these are settled by a bunch of politicians moving around us listening to competing claims. It's the sort of thing that should have some independent group, or an independent commission, doing. I think, before any changes are, then, made from these reserves, that it should come before a committee of this House for our determination.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Yale-Lillooet.
MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Speaker, this bill is good, but it's not good enough. We heard the Minister of Lands and Water Resources a year or two ago, when the matter of the Skagit was being discussed say, "Well, I'm not sure what you mean by that term, 'ecology."' Here we do have a definition under lb: "ecology" means the study of the inter-relations between man or other animals or plants and their environment, and ecological has a similar meaning. At least, we've got it down in the definitions. But I agree with the previous speakers who have said that, now, surely, changes of this nature should be referred to this Assembly. I think that is only right.
I believe this bill should be expanded in section 2, so that it would read, "Section 2: the purpose of this act is to reserve Crown land for ecological purposes," instead of including, "encompassing the entire Province." Then, if this were the case, Mr. Speaker, situations as many people now have great reason to regret - such as the flooding of the Skagit Valley, the mistakes we made in the Columbia, the building of Bennett Dam and the flooding of Williston Lake area - had we had this type of legislation that would refer such changes in the ecology of these areas I have referred to, then, these matters would have come before this House. Not a single one of them came before this Assembly. It was decided by the Cabinet, possibly, by one or two Members of the Cabinet. They were allowed to amend treaties or go along with treaties. When we have large valleys flooded as certainly is the case, many valleys in the case of Williston Lake, it could change the entire ecology of the whole northern part of British Columbia. For that reason I say that this legislation is good. It's a start but it's too little, too late. It's not good enough, not big enough.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Dewdney.
MR. G. MUSSALLEM (Dewdney): In my opinion, this bill will be hailed as one of the great landmarks in environment and ecology of our country. Everyone here knows that, and if we read our history, we know that when the Magna Carta was established it was not considered of any great importance. But as the years have moved on, it has now become recognized as a great landmark for the common man in the law of all the Western world. Such a thing is represented here in the ecologies of our Province of British Columbia. I'm sure this bill will be a standard for the rest of Canada and perhaps for the continent.
One thing that we have to consider, above all, as the years go on, is the importance of maintaining the environment of our country for the future. It was not long ago that, if we had mentioned the importance of considering ecology and environment, people would have said, "How could you destroy so great a thing as the whole world?" We came to the point where this had become tragically within the realms of possibility and I compliment the Minister and the Government on having the foresight enough to meet this challenge, at a time long before it's necessary, to lay the pattern, the framework and the architectural design for the future of this very important matter which, to us, is life itself.
It would be very easy for us to say there is plenty of time, but I congratulate the Government in moving at a time like this before we recognize it as a demanding need. We have established this area and have made the future safe for our Province and I think perhaps safe for the world. We may not realize it, but there are few countries in the world that recognize the question of environment and ecology. In the Old World, it's practically unheard of. In the United States, they're just talking about it but in British Columbia, I say, with pride, that in British Columbia we're doing something about it. I ... (interruption). Yes, we all talk about other countries and we say they are doing well, and they are. But I say that British Columbia is in the vanguard of all these matters and British Columbia moves forward more quickly in these matters than any other Province or State in this country. Forever, we hear, as we've heard today the question
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of the Skagit Valley, and this is not the time to debate it. But the importance of the issues is not the little pinpricks you look for. There are bound to be pinpricks everywhere. Nothing is perfect but, if we ask for perfection, we have a design here that will create more perfection for the future than has ever been done in matters of ecology up to this time, in time. I congratulate the Minister for having the foresight and the courage to come forward with a bill of this magnitude - and of great magnitude it is. It seems so innocuous but matters of great importance appear innocuous when they come, because they're too big to be comprehended. I am honoured to be in this Legislature at a time when a bill of this magnitude comes forward, when we can say that we started on this day the future of the clean environment for this Province and perhaps for the continent.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Kootenay.
MR. NIMSICK: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the previous speaker about the wonderful day we're starting but, no matter how good a law you may put into effect, it's the will and the desire and the determination to do something with the law that will count. This is very important in the Province of British Columbia. I don't know on this Ecological Reserves Act what it's doing in the Lands, Forests, and Water Resources Department because it should be in the Department of Recreation and Conservation. When you speak of conservation, that's what it's all about. I don't know why we put it in this act where the Minister has definitely got a conflict of interest between one and the other. If you go around at public hearings, what is this going to do? You're just going to balance one against the other whereas, if somebody were dealing particularly with the ecological values and the conservation values, then, they would be able to discuss this problem from that angle. It seems to me that your department may in this bill.... and that may need a lot of researchers and people who are experts in regards to keeping our environment the way we would like it to be kept. I take it that, with this bill, if somebody is going to develop a mine, it would be the job to come under this act, when they issue their plans, so that you would know beforehand what damage it's going to do ecologically to the area where that mine's developed. We've got many places today where they're stripping right and left, the terrain and the ecology of the areas, and we do nothing about it. We wait until they have got to the point of spending, maybe, millions of dollars, and then we find out, all of a sudden, that it shouldn't have been gone ahead with, for the simple reason that it's going to destroy the area around it, and the lakes and the streams around it and, yet, we do nothing about it.
We talked about the strip mining a few years ago in the same category that we're talking about this Ecological Reserve Act today and what a wonderful step it was. Yet, I get a letter today and I'd like to just read this letter. To the Pollution Control. "Dear Sirs: I'm writing to you to see if anything can be done about the terrible pollution of the Elk River. It was very bad about a month ago but, at that time, there was a very mild spell with considerable run-offs. It might have been, at least, partly excusable; however, at present the nights are very cold, there's very little thawing during the day and run-off is negligible. For the last four days the river at Fernie had been running thick with black slime with the shores coated with the same material, being as much as one quarter of an inch thick on the rocks in some places. I presume this pollution is coming from the Kaiser operation as there's too much to come from anywhere else. Any action you can take on this matter would be very much appreciated."
AN HON. MEMBER: What's that got to do with the principle of the bill?
MR. NIMSICK: It's got plenty to do with the principle of the bill because, I say, these are the things ... the ecological value . . . What's the good of the bill if it's not going to look after the ecology of the land? Knowing what damage-is going to be done, there's no use setting aside and reserving an area as an ecological area and, then, right alongside it, you're destroying the stream that's going through the ecological area with an industry above it. It's not going to do any good unless you've got the will to see that the act is put into force (interruption). Well, he's talking about it in here, about these conservancy areas. You wouldn't know ... If you'd like me to inform you, I'll tell you.
I would like to ask the Minister, in this regard, when they talk about conservancy areas and that, would that include the few wilderness areas that have been set up in the Province? Are they considered in the same light as conservancy areas or would they not come under this bill? I hope the bill, when it's passed, that the Government actually makes use of it and not just use it as a palliative to satisfy some of the people on the outside who are crying for something to be done in regards to our environmental control.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Saanich and the Islands.
MR. J.D. TISDALLE (Saanich and the Islands): One of the most important commitments that was given to society, the human race, was to subdue and to populate the earth. We're beginning to subdue it but we want to unpopulate it apparently. Speaking of the bill, and I certainly support it, this is not a sudden development. This Government's policy from 1952 and on has been the emphasis of bring it into subjection to the people's will. We have continually moved in this direction to assure the people of play areas. Always, in the park and recreational areas, focus was upon this area of development for the people, that the areas would be attractive to them in their leisure time. Now, we are moving from the exclusive park representation to the fact that all of the areas should serve man in a natural form, if possible, but that we shouldn't just identify our needs with parks and recreation. We should identify the whole of the country in keeping with the desire to keep it in relative appeasement with human beings and with man. This is the attitude that we've taken. This is not just a sudden development. This is an evolution of legislation, right from the park areas, right into the general area and policy of the Government. I think, to be specific, to try to write into recreation and conservation all of the ecological and environmental controls that we want, would be very narrow, very restricted. Here's an opportunity to move into the whole picture. It will be most interesting to watch the development out of here, to see the protection of the people, the population in general, not only in the cities, but also around the outskirts and throughout the whole community of British Columbia. This is legislation for the Province as a whole and I'm very happy to see it.
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MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. L. A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver-Howe Sound): Mr. Speaker, we, too, will be interested to see how this bill develops. It has a very fine preamble and one which we, on this side of the House, have been urging on the Government for some time. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether or not the Government shouldn't consider what the Honourable Member for Kootenay has suggested - whether or not the conflict of the Minister of Lands, as a head of a resource oriented department, a department which is specifically charged with the responsibility of the exploitation of our natural resources, is really the one to charge with the kind of responsibility which is set out in this art. The act speaks of areas which are rare or in danger, areas which serve as outstanding examples of ecosystems - and we applaud the Government in this regard - but, when you look at other sections of the act, you find that one of the powers that is being given to the Cabinet, in respect of these areas, is to control the dumping that may take place in these areas. Already we have seen the rather tragic results of the dumping of waste substances in areas where they don't belong.
I would rather have thought, Mr. Speaker, in the light of the preamble to the legislation, that we would have seen provisions in this act, specific provisions, which would have prohibited, for all times, the dumping of waste substances into any area which is established as an ecological area. We don't want to find that rare or endangered areas in this Province, which should be preserved, being confronted with a problem and having some equivocation about what should be done. It's almost as if we were saying that we're interested in our environment but we're prepared to make adjustments. It's the nature of those adjustments that gives me concern. I must have this concern, because of the Minister's other responsibilities. This is no criticism of the Minister as an individual - and Members of this House are aware of his concern in matters of this kind - but there is a conflict, a conflict which can only be resolved by placing these responsibilities in the hands of one whose sole responsibility is the preservation of our environment.
The purpose of this, Mr. Speaker, is so that when decisions come before the Lieu tenant-Govern or in Council as to how a particular area may, should, or should not be affected, that we will have a Minister sitting at the Cabinet table who stands up for the environment, not one who, because of other responsibilities, is obliged to make some decision, some choice between exploitation of a resource or preservation of the environment.
It is noteworthy, as well, that the Minister has power to appoint advisors under this act. I would have thought that, rather than have him appointing advisors, we would have had established a committee spelling out the qualifications of the people who will serve in this advisory capacity. If the appointment were of a mining engineer or a petroleum engineer, I would have grave concern as to the quality of the advice that might be given to the Minister. I would hope that the Minister, at least in this latter regard, when he closes this debate, will give some indication of the calibre, the training and the qualifications of the individual or individuals upon whom he will rely for advice.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Esquimalt.
MR. H.J. BRUCH (Esquimalt): Mr. Speaker, I want to support this bill and, unlike the last speaker, I don't see any conflict. All of our Ministers have concern for the environment, and who has a greater range of knowledge of the areas in this Province that need preservation than the Minister concerned? There are three particular areas that I think should be considered under this act, Mr. Speaker. We have here on Vancouver Island the rain forests and we still have a few stands of the big spruce and I think that should be one of the areas that should be preserved. They are unique. The second is in parts of the rain forests, like at Clo-oose, where you have the 18 inches of moss ... (interruption) on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where you have the moss 18 to 20 inches deep. It's unique and I think it is something that should be preserved. Thirdly, I believe, some of the potholes on the west coast at Port Renfrew, that have been of such interest to people from all over the continent, have not, in the past, been preserved. I think this should be one of the areas that should be looked at under this particular act when it comes into force. Certainly we applaud the approach that is being taken by this particular act and we're looking forward to these areas being selected and set aside in perpetuity.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. P.L. McGEER (Vancouver-Point Grey): Mr. Speaker, this bill is a very nice piece of window dressing and I'm sure it's going to reassure everyone who likes window dressing. We'll vote for window dressing, too, but, Mr. Speaker, really I don't want to refer to the specifics of the legislation. We've hardly done anything to preserve ecological reserves when, with one breath, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council can establish an ecological reserve and, in the next breath, dismiss it or any portion thereof. Really I reread some of the sections - three and four - several times because 1, literally, couldn't believe my eyes that a bill that had as little to offer as this would be seriously brought forward by the Government and, Mr. Speaker, particularly by the Minister concerned, who has a record of plunder unmatched by any individual who's ever served the Government of British Columbia. Places like Cypress Bowl, they undoubtedly would have been an ecological reserve under this act and they'd have been cancelled and plundered and perhaps part of it put back in again. I think the history of Cypress Bowl would very neatly fit into the package of this particular bill. Set up a reserve one minute, sign the Order-in-Council deleting it the next, bring back part of it at some future time. This is the kind of protection that we have in British Columbia, the protection of that particular Minister, and that's why it leaves so many of us on the Opposition side quaking in their boots.
Mr. Speaker, I would think, after a these years and the record of Williston Lake and Duncan Lake and Cypress Bowl and Powder Mountain, Skagit Valley, this long, sorry record of plunder that, if the Government wished to reform and repent, that it would do so by bringing in a bill with some teeth and some meaning.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 80 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 82.
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MR. SPEAKER: Second reading of Bill 82, Environment and Land Use Act. The Honourable the Minister of Lands and Forests.
MR. WILLISTON: Mr. Speaker, the ranging debate on the last bill brought into consideration some of the matters that are contained within this bill. I really think that there may have been a little bit of confusion in some of the Members' minds between the two Statutes as they were debating them here this afternoon.
The first one, and I'm indebted to the contributions that were made by the Members, at least to the contributions that were positive and gave some assistance ... One or two were of specific interest and, I think possibly in the light of the act as it moves, might be widened and even in the choice of terms, I think, this will become known likely as the Living Laboratories Act. I'm particularly indebted for those words to come out because I think that's exactly what it is. It's a study area, a living laboratory, and once you've said that, I think, you have made clear some of the other information that was debated.
This Environment and Land Use Act ... both of these acts are designed specifically to bring about public interest and a degree of public involvement because, as already has been stated in the House, both of them are matters of actual concern and actual operation at the present time. To indicate the serious intention of the Government concerning these matters, it was decided to codify them in Statutes and the activities and the functions of the Environmental and Land Use Committee are contained in the Environment and Land Use Act. Really, Mr. Speaker, this spells out the basic philosophy that, it we are going to have an environment in British Columbia of which we'll all be proud, it's going to involve the act of participation of just about everyone who lives in the Province of British Columbia.
At the present time, environment is something which we've tended to put in an ivory tower and, then, thought about having a policeman in the ivory tower to make sure that everybody, in fact, adhered to a certain group of restrictions and developed a country of which we would all be proud. We have taken the tack that everyone who is directly associated with the development of resources, the development of the physical nature of the country, should be involved as a member of the Environment Committee and that the attitudes, the principles and, actually, the activities of the various departments should reflect the basic policies of environment and land use in their day-to-day operation. Unless you do this and unless we, as individuals in British Columbia, as a people and as individuals, make this a matter of our everyday life, then, we're never going to have the type of environment that we would wish in the future.
The main feature of this act is that before lands are alienated and before projects are developed, they shall be subject to public scrutiny to see if, in fact, they can be established without basic detriment to the environment. For the first time, public hearings are called for and, if you will notice, at those public hearings, prior to the public hearing, an overall investigation of the effects of the proposed development will have been the subject of study, and that expert opinion ... provision is made for providing expert opinion for carrying out research in advance of the hearing to make that evidence available at the public hearing, so the people will have, not only their own opinions, but expert opinions, at the same time, by which they may indicate whether they are in favour or not in favour of a development proceeding and, if this development does proceed, of the basic precautions which have to be taken by that development as it is carried out.
In the structuring of the Environment and Land Use Committee, which becomes the strongest committee of Government, it allows for a breakdown in committee work from the Cabinet committees to the deputy committees to the regional committees and, at any level, moving down, outside representation may be brought into the deliberations of the particular committees as they carry out their function. As I have indicated, Mr. Speaker, we have had initial experience with this type of an organization, now, for the last year, and, as a consequence, people are talking one thing against the other but they will find that the basic ... the Federal Environmental Bill, that's coming through at the present time is sitting also at the top ... but underneath that is the Forestry Act, the Water Act, the Fisheries Act and so on. All of these people sit on this in future as deputy ministers. There is one overall deputy minister, and assistant deputy ministers represent each of these departments. So, from an administration point of view, the groundwork that's been laid, here, administratively, in handling these matters in an environmental manner, has been practically copied and, as the Honourable Member from Surrey has said, with a lot more pizzazz than I happen to possess in getting it out and having it copied from here as to how it's carried out and how it happens to act. This has actually been operational and has worked in the year and we think it deserves codifying in Statute to indicate the seriousness with which we view the whole matter of environmental development. Again, Mr. Speaker, this is a simple act. It's self-explanatory and I take pleasure in moving second reading.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Surrey.
MR. HALL: Mr. Speaker, the first point I want to make on the principle of the bill, of course, is that, in line with some of the remarks that the Minister has just said, the significant fact is that, in Bill 80, you provide us with a preamble dealing with the setting up of some ecological reserves and, yet, on this piece of legislation, which could and should and, hopefully, will be the most important committee, decision-making body and future-effect sort of situation we've got in the Province, there is no preamble. If ever a bill needed a preamble, it is this one. If ever a bill needed codifying, as the Minister said, but also nailing down with a preamble, it's Bill 82.
If you had a preamble that said that we recognize and declare it to be the policy of this Province that it's a fundamental and inalienable right of the people to live in a healthful and pleasant environment and to benefit from the proper development and use of natural resources, if you had said that as an opening sentence, you would have put this bill and your committee on page 1 instead of page 27. It is uppermost in the minds of the people, instead of something that somehow is in the back of their minds as to what they are doing. If we'd have said and spelled out, as you did in Bill 80, in the preamble thereto, that it is considered to be highly desirable that we want to regulate this and we want to look after our natural resources in some manner ... I've got a number of preambles that may be of interest to you from other jurisdictions, which I can read from, but everybody can read anyway and it is public information.
The fact is that this committee, as the Minister rightly
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Says, is going to have the responsibility of evaluating the development in areas of the Province. When we look at section 3 of the bill and look at the duties of the committee, it says that they shall, "ensure that all aspects of preservation and maintenance of the natural environment are fully considered in the administration of land use and resource development commensurate with a maximum beneficial land use ......
What I think we've got to look for in this bill and what we have to look for on this committee is, as I said, last year, and every year prior to that, to 1967, that what we have to have is a minister or a committee who has the sheer, unmitigated gall to say no to somebody every now and again. If we had that, then, I'd feel much more comfortable. I know the Minister can stand up and say, "Well, it's not enough to say no." He said it in a speech in October, I think it was, in which he said that saying no isn't simply enough. I know that the Minister is trying to be rational about this but, if ever there were a point in time when, somehow, somewhere, this committee could do a useful service, it's in simply saying to the developer, at this stage of the game, "Mr. Developer, this committee says no, because the damage you wreak, the substances you're going to use, or the social accountancy that we are now embarked upon, means that we must say no." I think, by that, that, in itself, you may only have to take one doing, one instance, that, in itself, is going to make this committee the muscular kind of committee that we are expecting. Unless this committee does work in that way, unless it adopts as its credo the principle of social cost accounting, Mr. Speaker, the living laboratories that we talk about may become living lavatories and that's something I think we all want to avoid.
I happen to represent a riding which has the largest sewer in the world going past the north end of it - the Fraser River and, whilst I know that we can ask for ecological reserves of trees and all the rest of it, as soon as somebody comes along with a pick-axe and a shovel, or whatever is the modem equivalent, and finds any of those precious minerals, unfortunately, we seem to lose out sense of purpose and we seem to lose the kind of language we found in Bill 80, which should be in Bill 82.
Really what I'm saying is that it just simply isn't enough to have the authority to manage, and that's what this committee's got - the authority to manage - but they must discharge that authority on a much more widely-based set of principles than I think we've seen this Government use heretofore.
I'm impressed with the fact that the Minister, in his earnestness, is saying that the committee is now the top committee of Government and is working efficiently and doing the various things that the Minister reports from time to time. I hope, when he closes the second reading of this bill, that he will tell us that, on that Committee, he is sure that there are people with enough intestinal fortitude to say no to one of the major developers of this Province, one of the major exploiters of this Province, so that the principle I'm asking for, where every single cost to the Province is evaluated before the developer permits are given, is taken into account. Until that happy day arrives, we must, of course, perhaps only consider them as managers, rather than as defenders of our environment.
Lastly, may I say, Mr. Speaker, that, whilst I appreciate the point that the Minister made, that all the descending levels of administration and decision-making that will underpin this Environmental Land Use committee, there is access for outside people, I still feel that, if we could get some outsiders on the committee, that principle that I'm relating as social cost accounting, that desire I hive to see some real tough decisions made, will perhaps have a better chance. When I see that other departments of Government, other jurisdictions are prepared, even in the system they have below the line, to give some decision-making prior to commissions, I feel that it's an experiment we can usefully embark upon and an experiment that should commend itself to the House. When you think of the other important agencies of Government where there are outside people on them making important decisions, I'd like the Minister to have a little trust in some of the people outside his department, as well as the well-placed trust he has in the people in his department and in other departments of Government. If he would do that, try it, then, we would all be the more confident that the dispute that other Members have referred to, that must take place in the Minister's mind, as a developer par excellence, by duty, and the conflict of interest that must take place, when he's on this committee, then, I think that we would all feel happier that he could discharge that rather schizophrenic duty much more satisfactorily.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for North Vancouver-Capilano.
MR. BROUSSON: Mr. Speaker, we welcome the priority and urgency given environmental management by this bill. I think we must regret the length of time that it has taken to produce this kind of attitude as an official Government policy. Perhaps some of the pressure from the Opposition and the pressure of public opinion is, finally, winning a small victory in this regard.
Mr. Speaker, the responsibilities and duties as they are spelled out by this bill, as we read the words - we believe the words - sound very wonderful. Under section 3A it says, " . . . establish and recommend programmes designed to foster increased public concern and awareness . . . " I would say up to this point, Mr. Speaker, the public awareness and concern has been greater than that of the Government. Now that they are putting this in, as an official responsibility and policy, perhaps the Minister will follow the suggestions I made in the debate last week in his own estimates. Perhaps, the Pollution Control Board or the Minister's department might, specifically, provide a public information programme for the general public as to how each person, individually, can make his contribution to the'problem of pollution and pollution control.
Reading on to the second part of section 3 and this is, perhaps, the real meat of the bill, "preservation and maintenance of the natural environment." Mr. Speaker, it says only, "preserve and maintain." Those words do not even consider the problems that we already have, the programmes and the mistakes that are already underway. It doesn't say anything about cleaning those up, or improving them, or restoring the environment, it just says, "preserve and maintain." We've got a lot of problems already. The Minister has already referred to, perhaps, the mistakes of Utah. We've got the pulp mill problems around the Province. We've got the problems of strip mining. They're already created and were referred to earlier by the Member from Kootenay. We've got the problems of the routing of the PGE in northern British Columbia going through park reserves, going along the waterfront, destroying potential future environment, recrea
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tional. areas. All of these problems are with us now. Certainly this machinery, theoretically, on paper, won't allow those problems to happen again or I hope it won't.
I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister might include in the words of this bill in the responsibility and the duties of this committee, not only " . . . to preserve and maintain" but, also to restore to original standards."
Finally, Mr. Speaker, the people of British Columbia will be watching to see if these words are anything more than just words.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Kootenay.
MR. NIMSICK: Mr. Speaker, again, I wish to say, in regards to this bill, that I feel that it should have come under the Department of Recreation and Conservation, not that the Minister has got, maybe, any more ability but, at least, he is free from the influences of the resource industries of the Province. This committee that you're setting up - if it's the committee that you had before - you've got the Minister of Mines, the Minister of Lands and Forests and the Minister of Recreation and Conservation and, also, I believe, the Minister of Health. To me it's a two-to-one committee almost before it starts because it will depend on the strongest influence and, under the economic system that we operate on, based on greed, I look for very little out of such fine legislation - and I do think it's good legislation (interruption). I said the economic system that we operate under. I've advocated for years that we change that from greed to co-operation but nobody has got wind of it, yet, really, to realize the situation that we're in.
It's easy to put these on the Statute books and placate the public outside but, unless we have the determination to do something about it ... and don't forget when you get out there and you say that you're going to have public hearings, who are going to be the strongest voices? It will be the people who are in industry, who are doing the polluting today. They are going to be the strongest voices. All they need to say is, "Well, if you make us do this, we'll have to close down." You'll have it right down to the worker crying, "Don't do this." So, where do you end up? You end up right where you are today - doing nothing and the Land Use Committee has been in force for a while already.
In my area, alone, when I first moved into Kimberley, Mark Creek was clear. Then the phosphate plant was put in. Then the steel plant was put in. I used to take people, when I first came there, down to look at the Mark Creek Falls. I was ashamed to take them down there after that because there was nothing but a black mass coming over the Falls. There's been nothing outside of it. They've controlled the gypsum, at the present time. They've gone to the extent of pounding the gypsum but the overflow is still there. Mark Creek is still contaminated. St. Mary's River is a sick river. Then it goes into the Kootenay and pollutes that. Now, we've got the pulp mill and it's polluting the Kootenay River and, at the other end, we've got the coal mines. There's a coal mine going to be developed down on the Flathead country. There's been no effort made to find out what this is going to do to the ecology, no effort at all to find out what it's going to do. They allow them to go ahead and I say that this is wrong. If we're going to do the job right, we've got to make these plants recycle the water that they're polluting. That's the only way you're going to do it. This is one of the first moves that we should make - the water that's being dumped into the Elk River and dumped into the Mark Creek and dumped into the Kootenay River should be recycled for further use because, when you take millions of gallons of water and dump it into a small creek like Mark Creek, and it goes in the St. Mary's River, it doesn't take long to pollute it. If we are not going to use the recycling system and, I know, "It's probably the company, " you will say, "it's too costly for them to do." But, it's got to be done if we are going to bring back any of these areas. All those rivers and creeks that come under these industries, are being polluted today, just since I came to Kimberley. They were all clear before.
They have made an application to dump the tailings into the Slocan Lake now. What have you done there? When you go from Salmo towards the line and see that huge pile of tailings, when you go from Princeton and see the pile of tailings that comes out of the Copper Mountain Mines and just realize that, when you put that into a bottom of a lake, a bottom of not-too-large a lake and realize what's going to happen to that lake ... That's what's happening if you allow this permit. I don't know whether you've allowed it yet or not - into the Slocan Lake, but that's exactly what's going to happen there.
This bill here should be ... if you're going to make use of it and make it work, then, I say that we've got to put more teeth into it. One of the questions that you've got to ask yourself is can you continue using the water just once and dump it into the river or into the creek? We've got to go to some sort of recycling of water, if we're going to solve any of these problems at all because the more industries that are set up along these lakes and along these rivers and creeks, the more that are set up, they're using the water, the next one's using the water and all the whole area. Mark Creek, itself, has no water running down it in the summertime, because it's all being used by the city of Kimberley and by the Cominco, the mine. They've even got to pump water back from the St. Mary's River to have enough water. So it's all dumped and only you ...
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can we come to the principle of this bill?
MR. NIMSICK: I say that, in this Environment and Land Use Act, if you're going to try to bring back the environment or even ... I don't agree that we can say that we're going to maintain the environment. We've got to bring it back, if we're going to recuperate any of our losses today. Unless this is just another, as I said before, method of placating the public, I'm still dubious as to whether anything really will be done. This Government has been in 17 years and it took them until this time to do this. I don't expect them to get any urgency now.
AN HON. MEMBER: Nineteen.
MR. NIMSICK: Oh, 19 years. I'm not looking for them to be any more anxious and, probably less, because old people, old men, an old Government, has less anxiety and less energy to put a bill like this into force.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver-Burrard.
MR. B. PRICE (Vancouver-Burrard): Mr. Speaker, this is a relatively easy bill to speak about, for the simple reason that, when you start talking about environment, everybody agrees that something should be done. I don't care whether it's a
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person putting too much oil in their car or whether they're throwing away gum wrappers or tossing pop bottles away or beer cans or trying to get rid of packing boxes, all these things are part of the environment that individuals today seem to take for granted and feel that it's quite all right to do anything with them.
It's rather a strange thing to me when I hear of people coming from outside areas that only have a few hundred people talking about pollution when in the city of Vancouver so much has been done with regard to pollution. In Vancouver today we have less air pollution and less water pollution by far than what we had 15 years ago. It's strange for me to hear the Socialists talking about the Social Credit Government being greedy and free enterprise being greedy because, if you want to take the actual common everyday meaning of the word, socialist, they want to take away everybody's value, anything they have they want to share it with them. If that's not being greedy, I'd like to know what is.
Mr. Speaker, in connection with this act, I feel that the most important thing and the only real important thing in this act, that can be done, is to foster public concern. Unless you do foster public concern in the environment and in the land use, you're never going to get anywhere. Land looks after itself, wilderness looks after itself and it doesn't change. Instead of getting worse, it just becomes more beautiful as far as the human being is concerned. It's the individual that we have to change and the way we go about increasing our standard of living because it appears that, as we improve our standard of living, we use more material goods. They have to be processed in various ways and the result is a lower-class environment and disturbing the land use. I feel, myself, that, eventually, if we're going to overcome what we call environmental control, the law will have to be thoroughly ruthless. I don't see how you're going to overcome this with public hearings, because public hearings, in the final analysis, always reach a compromise and they reach the common ground of everybody's opinion. That's not going to be good enough when it comes down to changing or improving the environment.
If a committee is going to be lukewarm, it will be useless. I am of the opinion, Mr. Speaker, that we'll have to go back to the simple things which most of us, at my age, learnt when we were children about keeping streets clean and keeping their yards and their homes clean, keeping your person clean. It's a funny thing, today, how people will change their clothes every day of the week and yet they'll think nothing about throwing a cigarette butt on the sidewalk. This sort of thing to me is absolutely contrary to a proper way of living. I think the Government is to be thoroughly commended on setting up this Environment and Land Use Act. I hope that it will go a long way towards improving the environment but, first of all, in order to do that, you must improve the individual. I think we'll have to start in our schools and, before that, start with our schoolteachers.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, I wish the Second Member for Vancouver-Burrard could get together with the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It seems to me, just a year ago, the Minister of Municipal Affairs was up accusing the teachers of misrepresenting the amount of pollution that existed in British Columbia. Of course, it's wonderful to have an Environment and Land Use Act and to have this committee. I must say, Mr. Speaker, it strikes me that the objectives are just a little bit twisted around, though, because it, says that the programme should be designed to foster increased public concern and awareness of the environment." Mr. Speaker, in my experience, the public is aware and the public is concerned. T'hey're aware of the Minister and they're concerned about him (interruption).
Well, what, Mr. Speaker, would the Attorney-General have us do? Try to educate the public against draining Divide Lake and making a strip mine out of it in exchange for a couple of boat landings in Lac Le Jeune? Do we need to get the public disturbed about that? I remember the editorial in one of the newspapers that said, "Want to buy a lake?" It was the Minister of Recreation and Conservation who was making the deal. We don't need to establish public concern about Cypress Bowl. We just need to get a little concerned about the Minister. As I see the duty of this committee, if and when it's established, it has to recommend programmes designed to foster and increase concern of the Minister and of the Cabinet. They'd be doing a useful function, then, but as far as the people are concerned, they've been wanting something done about the environment for years.
I think back on the problems of strip mining. Did we need to stir up public concern about strip mining, or did we need to stir up a little concern on the part of the Minister of Mines? Did we need to work up some public concern about Utah Mining, or some concern in the Cabinet, that they allowed $35 million to be spent before they ever asked any questions? Do we need to stir up concern in the Member from West Vancouver-Howe Sound about Powder Mountain, when it is another logging operation endorsed by the Minister of Lands and Forests? Do we need to stir up public concern about Pennask Lake, when you are going to turn that one to the use of Brenda Mines, Summit Lake for Valley Copper. In Heaven's name, Mr. Speaker, example after example, we can quote, where the public has not only been concerned but they've been outraged. A committee to develop concern in them? How do we find a committee to develop some concern in the Government? That's why, when a couple of people out in Burnaby decided something had to be done and they decided to form this little organization, SPEC, before they knew it they had thousands and thousands of members in 28 branches. It sprung into life immediately. What was their purpose? To develop some concern in the Government! Political? Yes, yes, Mr. Speaker, it was political, because all the decisions that are wrecking our environment are political decisions.
I regret very much, Mr. Speaker, that the implication of this bill is, somehow, that the people are at fault for all these decisions - perhaps in being careless in returning a plundering Government to office once more but I think that, in the public's mind, there are reasons that over-ride the environment. I consider those even more regrettable ... (interruption).
Oh, we're going to turf you out as Minister of Recreation and Conservation because your department is Rec and Con. You would think it was not possible for another escalation in arrogance but you people manage it year by year.
Mr. Speaker, I would like the Minister, when he closes the debate, to give us some indication of how he and the Cabinet are going to be educated by this committee because, surely, this is where the education is most needed, where it should commence. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I think the public is aware. I can't recall a single instance of the Government protecting
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the environment - not one single instance of the Government protecting the environment when the public has complained, not one. But, Mr. Speaker, I can think of dozens and dozens and dozens of examples where the public has complained because the Government has not protected the environment and, surely, that's the issue. Who are the ones that need educating - the public or the Government?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Dewdney.
MR. MUSSALLEM: Mr. Speaker, the last thing that you need is a speech from me, at this time. However, I must speak in this matter because, to me, this is the most exciting day in the Legislature this Session. When you have two bills ... you see, the only reason you hear laughing, Mr. Speaker, is because they lack foresight and they have very poor hindsight. When you have that, that's akin to blindness and that's exactly the trouble with the Opposition, today. All they're looking for is for trouble. They never try to forecast the benefits of these two acts which we are dealing with -Ecological Reserves Act and Environment and Land Use Act. What the Opposition would have us do is stop the world, they want to get off.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.
MR. MUSSALLEM: Well, exactly. You said stop the mining, stop Cypress Bowl, stop dumping effluent in the Fraser River, stop, stop, stop.
The fact of the matter is that this Province is a leading light in environmental control on the whole of the continent. They heckle me and they say no. But, let me tell you something a friend of mine who is a legislator in the State of Hawaii, whom I have known for many years, asked me and he said, "Please, do it quietly. Send me everything that you can that your Government is doing on pollution because we recognize you as leader." I said, "Why don't you ask the Minister." "Well," he said, "I don't want him to know about it because I want to take all the credit for it." That's perfectly legitimate. I've been sending him everything and I'll send him these two, as well.
We have pollution in the Fraser Valley. We have pollution in this House. Pollution is everywhere, but pollution is life itself. Did you ever stop to think of that? The Lord said He made the land. He saw the land and it was good and He asked the people to use it. You know that, Mr. Leader of the Opposition. Use the land but don't cover it up and seal it under. There's a good way to stop pollution and that's for everybody to die. But this right and proper matter is to use the land properly, to use the rivers properly, to use all our great assets given by nature properly and we are leading that in British Columbia. We are in the lead in British Columbia, not backwards, not behind, but in the lead. I'll tell you one thing. I was at a meeting a few months ago. It was called by an organization called SPEC and they were having a meeting to determine the results of their examination of the Fraser River. They asked me to go. I did go but they never asked me to speak. I found out it was not an examination of the Fraser River. It was a beat-George-Mussallem-over-the-head meeting, that's all it was. It didn't do them any good; it didn't do me any harm. But I want to tell you the greatest danger to pollution we have in this land is the red hot environmentalist who doesn't know what he's doing, the big hotshot who doesn't understand the problems today. They are a danger to our society and a danger to this country. But this Government is leading (interruption). They are wrong - because they don't know what they're talking about, they're so red hot. The Skagit noise - I never heard so much nonsense in my life as this trash, complete trash (interruption). I am in favour of the flooding of the Skagit, yes, because it's the proper thing. You'll see, by the time the next Legislature sits, or three more. You think, "Well, he'll lose a lot of votes on that." I'll lose no votes on that because it's the truth and the truth never condemns anyone.
We are for the proper environment of the country. If you people, you great hotshots, who talk about the mighty Skagit Valley, this beautiful pearl in the centre of British Columbia, if you'd only had been there and knew anything about it, you would stop this drivel and nonsense. The Skagit Valley, when it is flooded and if it is flooded, will be a jewel in the British Columbia crown. It will be a park, it will be a camping site, it will be roads, it will be a place where people can go fishing, a place for life and a place to live.
The Honourable Leader of the Opposition continues to tease me. He said, "George, if you don't stop, I won't go up to your territory and help you on the next election." But I know he will. He almost spent his full time there helping me at the last election. Thanks very much.
I say that the ones we should fear the most are the ones who are so red hot they cannot see for the fire in their face and their wild eyes. But, for a Government like ours that stands up and faces the ridiculous nonsense like this and goes on to progressively better legislation, year by year, disregarding the little fleabites of the Opposition, I say to you again this is a most exciting day in this Legislature for me. It is on the level, I believe and you will see this, the level of the Magna Carta - what could be a greater level? The Magna Carta of its day was for the people. The Magna Carta of today is ecology - this bill and the other bill before it (interruption). They laughed the same way about the Magna Carta.
Today, is a Ted-letter day in this Legislature and it's too close to you for your vision to see because these two great acts . . . you think they are small but they are the biggest things that have ever happened in this Legislature to this date.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. D. BARRETT (Coquitlam): Mr. Chairman, one thing about that backbencher, that colleague Member of mine from the north side of the Fraser River, is that when he talks nonsense, it's humourous nonsense. One thing about George, the Member from Dewdney, is that . . .
MR. MUSSALLEM: I don't need your help.
MR. BARRETT: I know you don't need my help and I don't intend to give you any. But, Mr. Speaker, it's really remarkable the kind of performance that we have. That's loyalty, that's the testimony of loyalty. Anybody who could stand up in this House and say the Government's never done anything wrong in the past and, if there have been a few little mistakes, it will all ... He mentioned Cypress Bowl. He mentioned Skagit Valley. He said, "We're going to flood it." Under this particular bill, maybe, it would be a good thing if we flooded it because, you know ... Look, Mr. Member, this Government has made a few mistakes. Some of the blindest
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people you can talk about are those two Members over there in the Cabinet who, unfortunately, have been referred to as the Gold Dust Twins. The kind of stature those two Cabinet Ministers have taken in this House, when a poor, defenseless, little Member of the Opposition came in and said, "Fellows, you're making a mistake." That Member was here in the House at that time and he said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're making a mistake." He went along blindly with it, too, and the performance of the rest of those wonderful backbenchers, who have no strings attached to them, because their minds are free when they vote, they, too, went along with it. I remember the invective, the personal insult ... (interruption).
Well, let's handle the debate as we have it. If the debate satisfies you, you smile and applaud. If it doesn't satisfy you, then, you get upset about it. But I remember the invective, I remember the personal attacks, the calling down, the lectures and the nice performances by the Cabinet saying, "Nothing like that could happen in British Columbia. We're the watchdog of the people." The Member was casting fairy tales. He's like a mountain goat leaping from mountain top to mountain top. The two of them and, then, they had that incredible performance by that backbencher, and those two Cabinet Ministers sit there saying, "Yeah, yeah, that's right, man. We're with you. You're cool, baby. You know what's happening."
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that that kind of loyalty ... there it is - look, he's back playing the banjo again. There he is. You know what, Mr. Speaker, just to show you the loyalty of the Social Credit backbenchers, they would call that a harp.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can we get back to the Environment and Land Use Act?
MR. BARRETT: There's the banjo and it's part of the road show, you bet your life, because this Land Act is needed. Mr. Speaker, I'm glad you drew this to my attention because you certainly avoided it with the previous speaker.
Anyway, let me point out to you that if this act is going to be of any use, it should go beyond the role of the politician. I've seen the performance of those two and every time issues were brought to them, specifically, their answer back was, "That Member is being an Opposition critic. He's being nasty to us in the Cabinet." "He has no faith," was the line the former Attorney -General used - "he's lost his faith. Doesn't he believe in the Ministers of the Crown, who are here to defend every living tree, every living bug, every little butterfly? Why, we sit in caucus and we go through this performance, we count the little flies." The Member said, "It's just a little fleabite from the Opposition," and $400,000 worth of trees head for the Dominican Republic (interruption). Yeah, - and as the trees float away and as the sun sets in the west, this Government gets skinned again, skinned again. Then, when the trouble comes back and we're presented with this bill, we get the performance of that great thinking, in-depth, perceptive, backbencher from Dewdney saying, "It's a red-letter day, gang. It's the highlight of the Session, boy. We should pack her up after this because it's now happened. Nirvana is here. Hallelujah, brother." I want to tell you that that performance has to be duplicated in front of television for the people of British Columbia. And, then, the last bit that we're dealing with, in terms of mind-expanding drug researches - how anybody, without using pot, could come to the conclusion that the flooding of the Skagit Valley is to create a new jewel in the crown is beyond comprehension.
I want to tell you this - it's kind of a delight to sort of catalogue the experiences one has in this House, of the terrible Opposition attacking the poor Ministers, of the terrible Opposition fleabiting those hardworking Members in the Cabinet, of the nasty Opposition saying, "Don't flood the Skagit Valley, " of the nerve of politicians making issues into political matters - shame! Shame that someone should discuss the Skagit Valley on political terms, shame that someone should discuss pollution on political terms, shame that anyone should take these things out as election issues. Why don't you have faith in the Social Credit Land Use Committee? They're going to do the best. We don't have to listen to anybody here because guys might come in from the Bahamas and give us their advice. We know that the further away a man is from home he's an expert and, if they come flying in from the Bahamas and the Residential Resorts Limited, with all their gambling money and they say, "We're going to have a big development here in British Columbia," we don't ask them where the money comes from. We don't ask them to come in front of the Land Use Committee. We say, "Hallelujah, it's a new dollar for British Columbia." So, rape the land, cut the trees, flood the valleys, it's all Social Credit progress. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that's the performance of this Cabinet. This bill is no red-letter day. It's just another piece of hunkum-bunkum, scare-them-up-imheoutskirts, let-them-think-we're-moving-ahead legislation, that means that this stagnant Cabinet isn't going anywhere.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Minister will close the debate.
MR. WILLISTON: Now, Mr. Speaker, whatever bill it was that I introduced here a while ago, I move that it be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today (laughter).
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Just one moment. We haven't had second reading yet.
MR. WILLISTON: I move second reading now.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 82 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 83, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Bill 83, An Act to Amend the Water Act. The Honourable the Minister of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources.
MR. WILLISTON: I'm almost afraid to introduce this bill, Mr. Speaker. You never know what's going to happen. Quite simply, before we start and before somebody else starts, the bill is merely designed to allow the improvement district to make a charge for fire protection to mobile home parks for the service which they happen to provide. That is, simply, all that's there. If this has some Shakespearean motive behind it, I don't know what it is. I move second reading.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for
[ Page 760 ]
MR. DOWDING: No explanation other than what we got from the Minister ... Well, I just want to point out that more and more people in British Columbia are beginning to live in this kind of accommodation referred to in this bill. The Government is playing around with words and somebody over there has got some kind of a book that gives him substitute words and semantics seems to be the order of the day. You know, there used to be an old-fashioned word they used in these. The words they used such as "tax" now, it's called a toll and I always understood this to be a toll-free Province. They used the word, in another section, in the Municipal Act, dealing with taxing mobile homes in mobile parks. They don't call it a tax, they call it a fee. These people are buying $7,000 and $8,000 homes and you people in the Cabinet, apparently, are going to keep imposing all the obligations of a home-owner on these mobile homes that are settling down on a piece of land (interruption). Well, I can read it, but you call it a toll. You know perfectly well it isn't a toll. A toll is where you stop somebody on the road and demand payment before you let them proceed - that's a toll. The robber barons knew what a toll was. On the Rhine, they used to put chains across and they wouldn't let the barges or ships through until they paid a toll. Now you're translating the Rhineland into British Columbia where we're going to have tolls for mobile homes and mobile home parks. I think it's time that this Government started to readjust either the language or their philosophy in regard to those people who get their homes built at place (a) and settle down in place (b). They don't want them to get the home-owner grant, that's pretty obvious.
AN HON. MEMBER: Vote against it.
MR. DOWDING: Why should I vote against it? Why should I ever take that Minister's advice?
Motion agreed to.
Bill 83 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 85, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Bill 85, An Act to Amend the Sale of Goods Act. The Honourable the Attorney -General.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, the Sale of Goods Act provides that in every sales transaction there are supposed to be certain implied warrantees and conditions that are a part of every sale. Basically, there axe four of these, the more important ones. One is that there is an implied warrantee that the seller has title to the goods that he's selling; secondly, an implied condition that the goods sold, by sample or by description and, subsequently delivered, would correspond with the sample or the description; thirdly, an implied condition that, if the seller knows the purpose to which the buyer is going to put the goods, to show the buyer relies on the seller's skill or judgement, there's an implied condition that the goods he's selling are fit for the purpose; and, fourthly, an implied condition that the goods are of merchantable quality.
Over the years, the practice has grown up, which is now almost universal, for a simple disclaimer clause to be included in every contract which excludes these implied warrantees or conditions so that they do, in fact, have, generally speaking, no operation at all. The purpose of this legislation, of this bill, is to prevent these implied conditions and implied warrantees from being negative or, in any way, diminished in a contract of sale of goods to a consumer. The provision relates only to the retail sale of goods, not to secondhand, not to used goods. The reason for this is that, in the case of used articles, it's not infrequent that articles are sold on an "as is, where's" basis and, if we were to have these conditions apply in such sales, it would prevent that type of transaction from taking place. So this is, in effect, Mr. Speaker, consumer protection legislation. I move the bill be now read a second time.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 85 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 88, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Bill 88, An Act to Amend the Regional Parks Act. The Honourable the Minister of Recreation and Conservation.
HON. W.K. KIERNAN (Chilliwack): Mr. Speaker, this is primarily involved with three or four fairly simple propositions in these amendments to the Regional Parks Act. Within the two areas where regional park authorities have been functional, now, for some time, it has become apparent that the ability of a regional authority to obtain, either by easement or by purchase, trails for hiking and horseback riding and things of a like nature, is not only a legitimate but quite a desirable function of a regional park authority. So, the Statute is to be amended to provide for the acquisition by a regional park authority of trails and the authority, of course, to spend money both for the acquisition and for the purpose of maintaining those trails, as well as obtaining property for regional parks.
There is a further provision, not previously in the Statute, that permits a regional park authority, with the concurrence of the Minister, to lease park land for park development purposes. You will notice when you come to the detail of the bill, however, that a lease shall be for not less than 21 years, since we do not consider it would be sound to expend money on park development if the life over which you had certain use of the area would be less than 21 years.
There is a further provision to permit in the acquisition of property, despite the fact that no agreement to purchase must be for a greater period than five years if the property that a regional park authority is purchasing has an existing mortgage where the interest rate is more beneficial than the current interest rate in the country, the regional park authority may assume that beneficial mortgage, even though the term of the mortgage may run beyond the five years. There are occasions, of course, and this has been especially so in the last couple of years, where properties acquired had a mortgage, perhaps, of 6 or 7 per cent, but if the regional district went out to get the money from the bank, even on an interim period, they pay substantially more than that 6 or 7 per cent.
I think this generally covers most of the principal points
[ Page 761 ]
contained in the amending bill.
It does provide, of course, for temporary bank borrowings against the revenues to be received by the regional district, but those bank borrowings are to be limited to the year in which the revenue is collected.
It also requires that, within five years, a regional park district shall prepare a regional park plan, not that a great amount of detail is demanded in the plan but rather as an assurance to both our planning division and to the public involved in the area, that the regional district is working towards a comprehensive and understandable plan and not simply, as it were, functioning on an ad hoc, day-to-day basis. The desirability of such planning, of course, has been quite obviously demonstrated and I think there will be no difficulty in regional districts preparing such a regional plan within the first five years of their operation and I move second reading of the bill, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Surrey.
MR. HALL: Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of the debate until the next sitting of the House.
Motion agreed to.
MR. PETERSON: Second reading of Bill 89, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Bill 89, An Act to Amend the Summary Convictions Act. 'Me Honourable the Attorney-General.
MR. PETERSON: This Bill, Mr. Speaker, contains several technical amendments to the Summary Convictions Act, all of which are set out in the explanatory notes and I move the bill be now read a second time.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. GARDOM: I wonder if the Attorney-General would explain the reason for the first section there. It services notice of appeal on the peace officer of a traffic violation notice.
MR. PETERSON: I assume this covers the situation where there's a traffic violation notice and, then, there's a finding by the judge and, then, there's the desire to appeal to the County Court. It gives greater flexibility in terms of who may be served, than presently exists in the act. It adds the peace officer, who signs a violation, in addition to the informant.
MR. GARDOM: But there isn't really an informant. It's either ...
MR. PETERSON: Yes, there may be. It's either and or.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Could we deal with that in committee?
MR. GARDOM: Can you? OK. Maybe, in committee, if you could give us the explanation.
MR. PETERSON: No problem.
MR. GARDOM: Thanks.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Really, the Minister speaking there should have closed the debate.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 89 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, "Adjourned Debate on Second Readings." Adjourned debate on Bill 22-.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Assessment Equalization Act. The Honourable Member for Cowichan-Malahat.
MR. R.M. STRACHAN (Cowichan-Malahat): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bill 22, Assessment Equalization Act. I thought I had a copy of it here but I'll have to find it in the book. I was in the House when the original Assessment Equalization Act passed, I think it was 195 3. At that time, we were led to believe that the function and purpose of the Assessment Equalization Act was to bring about equalization of assessments. We discovered, as time went on, that really the purpose and function of the bill was to increase taxes.
From that day to this, by and large, the average citizen has found his taxes going up and, as a variety of fixed formulas were brought in, the increase in assessment didn't bring with it a declining mill rate as had been the system up until that time.
I have listened to the debate so far on this particular bill and I recollect that the Member from Alberni spoke briefly on the bill. He told us that the real problem is that the assessors have more property to assess than they can handle and that was the gist of what he said. That was all he said. I thought perhaps the Member might have read the letter that he got from the city of Port Alberni as an indication of what's happening around Vancouver Island and the premiums that we get from municipalities around Vancouver Island as to what they think of assessments. The city of Port Alberni sent all Members of the Legislature a letter dated January 13, which asked the Provincial Government to freeze all assessments, other than those for new construction, for a period of one year, and asked them to hold public hearings during 1971 respecting needed or suggested changes in the said act, similar to those held in 1967, with respect to the Municipal Act, and to redraft the said act for passage during the 1972 legislative Session, in light of the information produced at the said hearing. But, as I say, the Member didn't mention that little letter from the city of Port Alberni.
I know that the municipalities in my constituency take the same position as was taken by the city of Port Alberni. I'm surprised also that the Member from Port Alberni didn't read the brief that was prepared last year by the Alberni Valley Citizens' Association, because it brings home very clearly the sort of imbalance that has taken place in the whole assessment field in this last 12 to 15 years. I don't know how many of you have sat in on an Assessment Appeal Board but it's an interesting experience to sit in where a citizen is appealing his assessment because he feels it's too high. Let me tell you, once you've sat through that, you'll realize that the poor sucker taxpayer hasn't got a chance, he hasn't got a chance.
[ Page 762 ]
AN HON. MEMBER: I won one.
MR. STRACHAN: You won one. Well, that must be a mistake.
AN HON. MEMBER: Twelve years ago.
MR. STRACHAN: Twelve years ago, yes. I found I sat there and I listened to the assessor for the district submit his evidence. He submitted the comparison of property sold in the adjoining areas to the particular assessment that was being appealed. He said this particular piece of property, the land was sold for so much, this property, the whole thing was assessed at so much; and, on the basis of the values around it, in recent sales, this is the valuation we arrived at. Then, I discovered that, although the act says 50 per cent of the true value shall be the assessment, " I discovered that they don't really charge 50 per cent. It's from 35, 369 37 per cent because of some way they want to equalize the school thing. So, because the act says 50 per cent, and they only actually assess it at 35 per cent, and with all these other properties around there that have been sold recently as a source of establishing the value as I say, the poor guy hasn't got a chance in the world of winning an assessment.
It is significant that that is how we establish land values for assessment purposes because the question, then, comes into mind: how often is a pulp mill sold, how often is a pulp mill sold? How do we arrive at the increase in value of a pulp mill in order to be sure that the pulp mill owners are making the same value contribution towards the coffers of the municipality, or the district, or the Province?
AN HON. MEMBER: Or railroad yards.
MR. STRACHAN: Yes, or railroad yards. How often is a pulp mill sold? Well, the Alberni Citizens' Association prepared this comparison of what had happened in Alberni. It's very interesting because it shows that, in 1968, the total land assessment of Port Alberni was $5,600,000; in 1969, that went up to $6,300,000, with residential property bearing the total increase in that increased assessment; no increase at all in the amount being paid by the pulp mills. They point out, in this brief, what happens in an area like Alberni. They show the increase from 1962 to 1970. In 1962, residential and commercial values were $3,400,000. They went up to $6,600,000, an increase of over 100 per cent. That's not allowing for new land. During that period, industrial land of MacMillan and Bloedel was only increased by 10 per cent. A 100 per cent on the residential homeowner, on the poor people, on the workers, 100 per cent increase in the assessments - MacMillan Bloedel, 10 per cent.
AN HON. MEMBER: Fair treatment for all.
MR. STRACHAN: That's right, special privilege for none. They also pointed out ... they say, "The above figures, some of which are approximate, nevertheless, serve to illustrate the very drastic shift in tax loads from the industrial to the residential and commercial property in the city of Port Alberni as far as land taxation is concerned. The result of the appeal of assessment on M & B land was that no increase could be justified on this assessment, since no significant evidence could be produced to show that sales of industrial property within the city of Port Alberni had occurred to prove a higher value of this industrial property." MacMillan and Bloedel owns practically all the industrial property. They say that, because there was no indication of sales to show an increase in value, this assessment went up 10 per cent and the private dwellers went up 100 per cent. So, you see, I was surprised that the Member from Alberni hadn't raised that as a specific issue. It makes me wonder what happens in my own school district - the Nanaimo school district, I wonder how often the assessment on my pulp mill has gone up. I think I'll write a letter to the mayor of Nanaimo, asking him to make the same kind of comparison of the change in land values - these would be the MacMillan Bloedel plants and the residential property. As a matter of fact, the mayor of Nanaimo is, I think, the only mayor in the whole of British Columbia who is not opposed to this legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's right.
MR. STRACHAN: I think he's the only mayor in the whole of British Columbia who is not opposed to this legislation.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can we come back to Bill 22?
MR. STRACHAN: Well, I'm talking about who's for the legislation and who's opposed to it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The principle of the bill is to be debated here.
MR. STRACHAN: We try to find a reason for this bill because I recollect that, in 1968, we tried the principle of this bill. We tried to implement the principle of this bill by putting a 5 per cent increase on assessments. It created chaos and it was abandoned. Now, we're trying it again, except with a 10 per cent limit on assessment. As I pointed out, the B.C. municipalities are opposed to it, the assessors are opposed. Listen to what the assessors say. "When such legislation was previously enforced, the public could readily identify the assessor's opinion of the value of the property and were sure that all properties were treated in an equitable manner." That was the ... They are asking to return to the assessment at actual value. This is what they're asking for a return to assessment on actual value. That is easily understood, a comparison can easily be made by anyone and fair is fair. That's why the assessors are opposed to this particular piece of legislation.
The municipalities point out that this particular legislation will help the speculators. Last December, the B.C. municipalities charged that, " . . . the Provincial Government is subsidizing a small group of land speculators by imposing limitations on assessment increases. This type of artificial assessment limitation has its greatest detrimental effect and produces its most glaring inequalities where land has been rezoned to a higher use, where farmlands have been subdivided to residential lots." Now, I don't know whether anybody in this House is interested in dividing farmland into residential lots. I don't know, but I think there are people in the Province who are interested in subdividing farmlands into residential lots. " . . . where shifting business activity from one section of a community to another has occurred, resulting in higher market values in the more active area, and where it is desirable to achieve equity between new construction and older construction . . . " the brief pointed out. The B.C. Section of the Bar Association of British Columbia is opposed to it (interruption). Well, I'm just pointing out that the people who are in a position to know the impact of law,
[ Page 763 ]
the people who have to live with it, the people who understand it fully, the people who will be charged with carrying out this legislation, are opposed to it. I think that gives a clear indication to us that if we won't learn from the mistakes of the past, at least, we should listen to the people who have the responsibility of carrying it out. It's obvious that there is an unfair situation and that an unfair situation will continue to develop. This 10 per cent limit on individual increases will simply freeze that unfairness and lock it right into the whole assessment system.
I would ask the Minister to reconsider this whole bill, learn from the past, listen to the assessors and change it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for North Vancouver-Seymour.
MR. B.A. CLARK (North Vancouver-Seymour): Mr. Speaker, section 37 of the Assessment Equalization Act is a very critical line which, in one sentence, sums up what we are talking about, where it simply says that the assessor shall determine the actual value of land and improvements. It is the lead line and the most important line, in my opinion, in the Assessment Equalization Act. The purpose of that line and the whole purpose of the act, as it was originally conceived, was by the assessor determining the actual value of land and improvements, the taxpayers, in any given area, would pay their fair share of the costs of services in that area. It follows from that, that any determination of the value of land and improvements that is not actual will result in an assessment of costs that is not fair. That is the whole principle of the Assessment Equalization Act.
When the 5 per cent limitation came in, it was this line and this section that the assessors drew our attentions to, at that time, by saying that by upsetting the actual value, by imposing an artificial limit, the result would be, henceforth, that people in any given tax area would not necessarily be paying their fair share of the costs of servicing that area. Again, a very simple proposition. As the years went by, the result of the 5 per cent limitation was that the inequalities multiplied and a factor was put into the whole inequality. Things went from bad to worse. The problem was, I'm sure, seen by the civil servants, at an early stage, and eventually got to the Cabinet level and, in my time in this House, we repealed the 5 per cent limitation. What immediately followed was an attempt by the assessors to go back to this one line in section 37 and they, again, attempted to put an actual value on the land and improvements in their areas. He result, in trying to level off the inequalities that had developed over the years, was a shock to many, many home-owners because the home-owners who had been artificially benefiting from the 5 per cent limitation were suddenly being assessed according to this line and their taxes took a dramatic jump.
We are now being asked, by this bill, to impose a 10 per cent limitation and, again, I suggest, impose an artificial limit which is contrary to what the first line of section 37 actually states that the assessor shall determine the actual value of land and improvements.
Mr. Speaker, what happens when the values of land are not actual? Who suffers? There have been some who have suggested that the person who suffers is the little homeowner, this imaginary person, the small taxpayer. In point of fact, it's the opposite way around. The person, who is going to suffer by Bill 22 - I beg your pardon, the person who is not going to be protected by Bill 22 - is the very person who some are suggesting needs to be rescued. While assessment may appear to be a complicated subject, this principle is really very simple to understand. If somebody's assessment is going to be lowered and the costs of servicing the municipality remain the same, then, somebody else has to pay the bill. Now, that's a pretty simple concept. If two taxpayers live in a municipality and their taxes are $50 each and the total costs of servicing the two taxpayers is $100, that's fine, but, if one of those taxpayer's taxes go down to $40, the other guy's got to come up with $60. It's as simple as that. What's going to happen by Bill 22, tragically, is that, by coming to the rescue of those - and some are speculators but I suggest all are not - by coming to the rescue of those who are seeing their land increase in value because of the actual benefits that land has, by coming to their rescue, you are going to put the taxes they would have paid on the very small home-owners in this Province who can afford it least.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.
MR. CLARK: Now, I was very disturbed, Mr. Speaker, when we were last in this debate, as I heard this point being made in a variety of ways by speaker after speaker, hearing Members across the way saying, "It is not so." I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that any person who says it is not so has just not looked at the facts available to them in their own tidings.
Mr. Speaker, while it would appear some are not even interested in listening - and I wish they'd go to coffee - I would like to illustrate by giving some actual situations from my riding, that are not big land developers or anything else, but typical examples of what's going to happen under this bill. For those who would like, I could even give the legal description of the properties involved.
Here's a parcel of land, for example, Mr. Speaker, on the east of the Riverside Drive in North Vancouver. Riverside Drive is a road that winds down Seymour River. In 1969, when the municipality was planning this particular section of North Vancouver, they determined that this tract of land was not practical for building purposes. It was a very steep bank and could not be subdivided into residential lots. As a result, assessment has been kept low. Now, since then, the demand for building lots has grown and people are building where, even a year ago, it wouldn't have been thought imaginable. A developer made a study of this particular land, in 1970, and he determined he could subdivide and develop it. He convinced the planning department of the municipality and he received approval from the municipal council. No physical change was made to the land. Now, let's take a look at what happened in the assessments. In 1970, reflecting the fact that this land was not considered to be subdividable or buildable, the assessment on this property - and I'm talking about 18.28 acres - was $15,778. In 1971, after the municipal council had agreed to subdivision and after this land was suddenly marketable and buildable, the assessment was $86,693 - now, that's 1971. 1 would note, Mr. Speaker, that the owners of this land at no time appealed this assessment. They took no objection to it. It is, in my opinion, a fair assessment in view of the land around it, now, that it's buildable.
When this bill is passed, if, indeed, the Government persists with its plans, the assessment will drop back to $17,355. The developers of this 18.28 acres, overnight, will have a saving in taxes of $4,333. Mr. Speaker, as I stated earlier, the municipal costs to service the area are the same so that that $4,333 must be paid for by those people whose
[ Page 764 ]
property has not gone up by 10 per cent, the fellow with the 50 foot lot or the 60 foot lot.
Let me give you another example (interruption). It is not. There is nothing ... No, I beg your pardon. You'll have your opportunity, Mr. Minister, to show me how it's covered, but I suggest to you it's not. I have read it and it's not covered.
Here's another example. This property is on Mill Street in Lynn Valley, an average lot in the district of North Vancouver. In 1970, the assessment on this property was $3,349, the improvements were $2,700. The Court of Revision determined that the assessment of the assessor was in error and the people went to the Court of Revision. The Court of Revision accepted their proposition and they reduced the total assessment to a market value of $11,800. The next year, the owners sold their land and, when they sold their land, they sold it for what the assessors had said it was worth in the first place - $21,513. So, although they had gone to the Court of Revision and said the assessors are assessing too high, within a year, they sold their property for the very price the assessors had placed on it. But, by this bill, the market value, the assessed value, will drop down again to $16,700. What's happened here is a straight capital gain but the benefit that that one person has made by a capital gain will become a charge against all the other property owners in the district of North Vancouver.
I see the Minister of Social Rehabilitation shaking his head but, Mr. Speaker, I challenge the Minister to find any assessor in the Province who would disagree with what I have just said. There's no other way. I'll give you another one, Mr. Speaker, and here's a pretty dramatic one. This is a lot in North Vancouver, again, that's very steep, a single lot. It's so steep that, in 1970, the assessor said it was only worth $429. Again, the pressure of building lots was placed on the municipality. Somebody came along - and I can give you the actual owners but I don't think it would be of benefit. It's a development company that picked up the lot and they said they could build on it. The assessment the following year was placed at $2,788. Now, was that an accurate assessment? To give you some guidance, the lot was sold by these developers, not for the assessed value of $2,788, but for $9,500. By the bill, the assessed value that taxes will be paid on this $9,500 lot will be $471 and the taxes that this development company will not pay will be paid by the average homeowner in North Vancouver. I don't know how many examples have to be given in this House, Mr. Speaker. You could come up with every possible situation.
The amendments we're considering do not even protect the situation that might occur where zoning is involved. Let me give you an example of zoning. A series of properties adjoining, zoned single-family, residential, assessed values ranging from $3,800 up to $8,300, there's five lots involved, and that's the range... In the preceding 12 months, the zoning on this property has changed to "garden apartments" or, in the municipality, known as RG2 - garden apartment zoning - and within that 12 months the obvious market value has increased. The $3,800 lot is assessed at $6,100; the $8,300 lot is assessed at $22,051. Apply Bill 22 and this $8,000 lot, that is now valued at $22,000 because it's for multiple use, will drop down to $9,148. When you take these five lots joined together - and here is the real tragic story -the total assessment, in 1970, was $25,000, the assessed value in 1971 was $52,000; by Bill 22, the total assessed value will be $28,000, a difference of about $22,000 assessment on five lots, alone, being developed by a development company for garden apartments. That $22,000 will be paid for by the average taxpayers in North Vancouver.
Mr. Speaker, when I first came into this House, I spoke against the 5 per cent limitation and it was with some belief in sanity that I saw the amendments come in to wipe out the 5 per cent limitation. To see the 10 per cent limitation come in, now, is just hard to believe. I've given but a half-dozen examples. In my municipality, alone, I could occupy the House for many, many hours because the assessing department informs me that as many as 50 per cent of the properties in my municipality will be changed by this act. "The assessor shall determine the actual value of land and improvements" - it's right in the act this Government introduced. What you are doing by Bill 22, is not only going against the spirit of your own act, but you're going against the property owners in British Columbia who can least afford to pay the tax increases that this bill will bring about.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Nanaimo.
MR. F.J. NEY (Nanaimo): Mr. Speaker, in property tax it's very, very easy to criticize any form of property taxation and it's very, very difficult to come out with a completely fair and equitable taxation of all properties. I'd like to point out one thing that down in Washington State, this year, they have faced a crisis because of their form of property taxation, so much so that there have been demonstrations on their Legislature, politicians have lost their cool and great hardship has been inflicted upon the taxpayers. Because they don't have assessment equalization legislation such as we have had, during the past year they've had cases where properties have increased in assessment by 100 per cent, 200 per cent and, in one case, 400 per cent. Now, all of a sudden, the Congress in Washington State is considering bringing in legislation such as we have here except that they are going to use the factor of 6 per cent, not 10 per cent. I'm just considering, right now, if we didn't have this type of legislation, many, many of our citizens in the Province of British Columbia would be having a hardship inflicted upon them within this Province.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver East.
MR. R.A. WILLIAMS (Vancouver East): Mr. Speaker, it's very clear that this legislation is going to help only a few. This legislation is going to help the landed gentry of British Columbia, and the Member from Nanaimo is fully aware of that. This legislation is, clearly, legislation designed to help the few at the expense of the many and the Honourable Member from North Vancouver-Seymour, who has had municipal experience, has clearly outlined what it's going to mean for the average person in his own constituency. You can multiply that about the land here in British Columbia, because what applies in North Vancouver-Seymour applies everywhere else in British Columbia. For the Member from Nanaimo to talk about hardships, when we all know that the biggest private land bank in British Columbia surrounds Nanaimo, is just a little bit too much to hear in the House this evening.
Let's took at some of the other information that the Association of Assessors has brought forth, Mr. Speaker. It's in every municipality. This brief went to the Cabinet on January 7, 1971. The Minister of Finance had a chance, after getting all this information, to hoist the bill. Instead, he announced unilaterally that the law was going to change and
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that the assessors across the Province had better change their tax rolls because he said the law was going to change. That's the kind of Legislature we have in British Columbia, that's the kind of Government we have in British Columbia. One man said, "The laws are going to change and everybody fall into line." Now they're falling into line.
The assessors tell us, in Burnaby, that there are properties, apartments, and industrial properties, that, in fact, should go up 127 per cent. What's going to happen? They're going to go up only 10 per cent and it's the average small home-owner in Burnaby that's going to have to take up that short fall. That's where it's going to lie. The assessors gave us examples in Richmond and there again, an example of land zoned for apartments should have been assessed at $254,000. It will be $175,000. The average home-owner in Richmond is going to pick up that bill because the Minister of Finance has decided to protect the private land bank owners and the relatively few who are trading and doing very well in this realm.
The district of Port Coquitlam, the assessors tell us, in one case, the assessment will be only 7.69 per cent of what it should be under fair, equalized taxation. That's what will happen in Port Coquitlam. What about West Vancouver? The assessor in West Vancouver says that the owners of speculative property will benefit at the expense of the home-owners. That's what the qualified man in the district of West Vancouver says, Mr. Speaker. What do they say in the city of Vancouver? They say, for example, that recent changes in assessed values, due to rezoning, show land value increases ranging, in fact, from 142 to 244 per cent over a two-year period. The 10 per cent restriction would limit it to 10 per cent. These people have already had the benefit once of having their property increase in value tremendously. They've traded in it and reaped the huge profit in capital gain and, then, they don't get taxed, even on an annual basis. So, they ride free each time.
In the land of free riders, Mr. Speaker, let's look again at the Okanagan. In the city of Kelowna, I've pointed out to this House that we don't have equalization there, that the Premier and the Minister of Finance's own residence, in terms of taxation in relation to the city of Kelowna, amounts to riding on the bus for 20 cents when the average citizen is paying a dollar for the bus ride. The Premier is riding for 20 cents when the people in the city of Kelowna are paying a dollar for the same ride. What is this legislation going to mean in relation to that, Mr. Speaker? It's going to mean a two cents increase in the bus ride for the Premier and it's going to mean a ten cent increase in the bus ride for the average citizen of Kelowna. So, who is it going to protect" It's going to protect the Premier, the Minister of Finance. It's not going to protect the average citizen in Kelowna. I pointed out, as well, Mr. Speaker, that on the edge of Kelowna, there's a shopping centre and we all know who has developed that. The land surrounding the shopping centre, when the shopping centre traded for $35,000 an acre, is now assessed for $160 an acre. What's the 10 per cent going to mean there? It's going to mean that the speculative holdings surrounding the new biggest centre in the Okanagan can only go up $16 an acre. So, who is it going to protect? Not the average farmer, not the average home-owner in the Okanagan but the people who are already benefiting a great deal in terms of windfalls around the highways. Now, we're going to nail it down to see that they benefit year, after year, after year. That's who is going to benefit and the Honourable the Minister of Finance and Premier knows full well who the beneficiaries of this retroactive legislation are going to be.
Who were the groups that have opposed this, Mr. Speaker? The Member from Cowichan-Malahat has already said almost every municipal leader in the Province, with the exception of the Member from Nanaimo, has said that this will be inequitable, that it will be unfair treatment of their citizens. The great exception is the near-silent Member from Nanaimo, who speaks out, tonight, on this issue, when he probably shouldn't be heard at all. The Union of B.C. Municipalities speaks out against this as well, Mr. Speaker, the city of Vancouver and most of the municipalities, the professional people in the field who want equality of assessment. The B.C. Association of Assessors says it's wrong and inequitable and the Canadian Bar Association, the B.C. Branch, says that it's wrong.
There's no question, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance wants to protect the landed gentry of British Columbia year in, year out, and that's what this legislation will do.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, at one time the Premier of this Province attempted to convey his election message throughout this land with the slogan, "Special privileges to none, fair treatment to all." But this bill is a bill which will give special privileges to big business in British Columbia. It is the big business protection act. It's an attempt to protect the big businesses in this Province so that they don't have to pay their fair share of taxes that the little people of British Columbia will have to carry as an extra burden because of this bill. The Member from North Vancouver-Seymour gave some excellent examples. The Member from Cowichan-Malahat read briefly from a detailed brief, a factual brief, pointing out how this bill will work and the Member from Vancouver East has also given examples.
In my own constituency, in the city of Port Coquitlam, the CPR's assessment will be protected by this Government. If there's one outfit that doesn't need protection from this Government, it's the CPR. I never thought I'd see the day when this Government would have legislation protecting the CPR in a way that this bill is going to protect that corporation. I've been in this House when the Member from Comox would get up and berate the CPR and threaten to take over their lands. The Premier himself has attacked the CPR but, when it comes down to the testing time, this legislation is designed to protect outfits such as the CPR. I never thought I'd see the day when Social Credit, which used to claim to be the fighting party for the little man, has now become the Establishment's party. Big business is protected under this bill and amongst them the CPR, MacMillan Bloedel. You know, a voice crying in the wilderness. Your turn will come soon, Mr. flying Member.
AN HON. MEMBER: Don't threaten anybody.
MR. BARRETT: I'm not threatening anybody. You're threatening the little people of British Columbia with this legislation. That's what you are doing.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to bring to your attention a brief from the Alberni Valley Citizens' Association, giving some comparison of how the little people will be taken by this legislation, those people out there who were told, in the last campaign, that it would be Bennett or chaos and, now, under this legislation they're getting both. I'd like to read this quote to you, Mr. Speaker. It says, " . . . the impossibility of
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evaluating this particular legislation, when one owner possesses practically all of the property of one specific type. The MacMillan Bloedel group owns practically all the industrial land. The net effect is, as illustrated above, the other classifications of property rapidly increase in assessment, while the industrial land assessment remains static or moves up very slowly. We have assessed values of about 10 cents per square foot for the most valuable industrial waterfront property occupied by a pulp mill, while land occupied by a barbershop bears an assessment of $2 per square foot - a little barbershop, struggling to make a living in this great Province that's supposed to give equal treatment for people to achieve the good life, pays $2 per square foot while the big giant, MacMillan Bloedel, pays 10 cents per square foot. "Fair treatment for all, special privileges for none."
I can remember the days when the Member from Burrard used to be in this House. He, too, used to attack the inequal taxation structure in this Province. Will he vote for this bill and protect MacMillan Bloedel and CPR, while the barbershop pays $2 a square foot and MacMillan Bloedel pays 10 cents? Who's fighting for the little man? Will the Member from Shuswap get up and defend his constituents in this debate, as he's done in the past with his valiant efforts?
The residential land assessments run to about 25 cents per square foot. We've seen further evidence of this and you can read from this brief. One could hardly imagine a more grossly inequitable law than this. One has only to recall that MacMillan Bloedel and its predecessors enjoyed 30 years of fixed assessment in the city of Alberni - 30 years of fixed assessment and, just at the time that the concession was due to expire, that is, their free ride was due to expire, the Provincial Government enacted the provision in the Municipal Act whereby this industrial machinery was removed from the tax roll for general and debt rate purposes. Will you stand up, the Member from Alberni, and defend the citizens of your area against this giant's privileges, or will you be voting in favour of this bill to protect that outfit? Now is the time, more than any other time, for the Premier of this Province to stand up and say he still has the ability for a second look (interruption). You'll get your turn and I'll tell you what to say (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: I don't intend to threaten any Member, but I'm going to get back to the principle of this bill.
MR. BARRETT: I agree, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that I'm not interrupted when the Premier is out of order again. I appreciate your attempts to keep law and order in this House, in spite of the rude interruptions. In reading from this great ... (interruption). For those people who can't control themselves, we've always got the Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, in reading from this brief I want to point out that this bill protects the large landed gentry, protects big business, protects those people who, obviously, have an ear of this Government, protects those corporations who, we suspect, donate campaign funds to this Government, protects the land speculators, protects everyone except the humble little British Columbia citizen who has to work from week to week for his living, the little home-owner in this Province who has built up his equity in his home over years of effort and toil on his part. It protects everyone except the average man who has come to this Province hoping for the good life, hoping for an equal opportunity of tax laws in this Province, only to find that the large corporations have the ear of this Government and have legislation like this to protect them.
We know, now, what's going on in this Province. The old Coalition became the handmaiden of the Establishment in this Province and, now, Social Credit is. Social Credit has turned Tory projectionist for big business in the Province of British Columbia. The Premier of this Province can snicker. The Premier of this Province can carry his slogans abroad but we know very well that Social Credit, now, thinks only of big corporations against the little people, and this bill is introduced to prove that. The Bennett administration, it used to be said, was concerned about the average man and the little people. I'll tell you, now, Social Credit is nothing more than the face of the old Establishment in British Columbia, protecting big interests as it always has been in this Province and it always will be under that Government.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. GARDOM: With a little bit of luck, Mr. Speaker, with a little bit of luck, I may have an opportunity to say a few words.
Mr. Speaker, I'm going to be quite short. There's no question of a doubt that the municipalities are against this bill, the cities are against it, the Bar Association is against it and the professionals are against it and those are the assessors. We've not heard, Mr. Speaker, from the Government side so much as a ray of light as to why the Government is supporting it, except one thing - divine belief in the fact that the Premier says it's OK.
What do we hear from the Opposition. We've heard some dark inferences from the Second Member from Vancouver East and those haven't been answered. But we've not heard a word from the Government side of anything that is either plausible or fair by way of explanation. That, to me, is absolute gall because this Government has ignored the experts, they've ignored the assessors and, you know, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I think that those people should be commended for the courage that they've had in speaking out in the way they have. Those people spoke out in the face of almost a directive, an ultimatum, dated October 16, 1970, from Mr. W.P. Wright, the Assessment Commissioner, to all assessors: "The Honourable the Minister of Finance has announced that it is his intention," not even the Government's intention, "that it is his intention at the next Session of the Legislature to pass legislation that would limit the increase of assessments on land and to limit the increase of assessments on improvements in respect of the 1971 assessment rolls," and, then, it goes to the formula here, It says, "Although, at this time, the substance of the proposed amendment is not available, assessors are advised," there's a pretty dark work, "are advised to examine their operations to date, in order to comply with the intended legislation and with a view to completing their assessment rolls so that later alterations will be minimal." In other words, "Boys, be ready for it. I've said it's coming in. Never mind the debate in the House. It's going to be the law of the land." It ends with this great statement, "This office will give all possible guidance and assistance in these new circumstances." "This office will give all possible guidance and assistance in these new circumstances."
I wonder whether or not the Premier had even discussed the proposed amendments with the Members of his Cabinet, when this letter went out under his direction and under his authority. You know perhaps in ignoring the professionals,
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ignoring the assessors ... this, to me, Mr. Speaker, is like having a battery of doctors telling the Premier that he needs an appendectomy and he's saying, "Oh, no, some quack down the street told me it's an earache and I believe him." It's this kind of insensible and insensitive belief that the backbenchers have in this dictate that the Premier's laid down to them that, to me, is the second gall. There's absolutely no reason. We've not heard one reason. We've heard a statement from the Mayor of Nanaimo, the Honourable the Member from Nanaimo, and he's the only one that I've heard who supported ... no, the only backbench Member who supported this thing and not . . . (interruption).
He's completely fallen apart from his compatriots in this thing. It would seem to me there's a pretty severe case of conflict of interest in his position. But ... (interruption)
Well, there obviously is. What is he speaking as? Is he speaking as a member of the Government? Is he speaking as a mayor? (Interruption.) Oh, well. I don't know what his business activities are. I haven't the foggiest idea, but it certainly seems to me that he's not supporting the principle of this bill (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: I think it wasn't the intention of the honourable Member to impute motives to the Honourable Member from Nanaimo. I think that he was discussing, number one, his responsibility as a Member and, number two, his responsibility as a mayor. If I'm wrong in that interpreta-
MR. GARDOM: I don't think I've imputed a motive to Members since I've been a Member of this House, Mr. Speaker. The Premier seems a little sensitive tonight. He wants to get to his feet. I'm delighted to see that he is going to speak. How long are you planning to speak - eight minutes? Can you handle it in eight minutes'? Well, sit down. See if you can handle it in seven.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier sums up, it would be nice if he would explain to us how this letter came into being, why he sort of just put this out to the assessors in B.C. He didn't have any knowledge whether the legislation was or was not going to go through the House. No doubt he had hoped and might have felt that there would be a ray of light in some Members on the back bench and, if they would have looked at this thing and if they would have reached the same conclusions that the municipalities did, that the cities did and that the assessors who are the professionals in the Province of B.C. did ... this is really a slap in the face to a professional man, this particular bill. These people are the only people in B.C. who truly understand this act. They have said, "No, it's a bad measure, " and a bad measure it is. Are you ready? Let her go.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Premier will close the debate. The Honourable Member for Kootenay.
MR. BENNETT: See, they don't want the Premier to answer before ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please (interruption).
MR. BENNETT: See what they're trying to do.
MR. NIMSICK: There's too much to be said about this bill here. In 1953, when we passed the Assessment Equalization Act, it was for the purpose of equalizing assessments. I don't think that this has been carried out. The Premier is, now, trying to do something else to prevent it from being carried out at all. There must have been somebody's toes stepped on for the Premier to bring out this letter that he sent to the assessors. I would like to ask the Premier how did he come to write this letter to all the assessors? (Interruption.).
Well, that's all right. When your time comes, you can do it. This is what it says. "The Honourable the Minister of Finance has announced that it is his intention at the next Session of the Legislature . . . " Now, what authority had you, at that time, to send out a directive breaking the laws of the land, breaking the laws of the land? That's exactly what he was doing and I'm sure he didn't take it up with the rest of his Cabinet. I'm positively sure that the Caucus never heard of it. I'd sure like to see something like that done without going to our Caucus. There'd be real trouble, Mr. Speaker, if that were the case.
In our area, alone, over the years, in the case of the small people, the people who build homes, they've been soaked and soaked plenty in regards to upping the assessment in our area. There's one case that went up 17 times. It went up from $8 an acre to $137 an acre in one year.
AN HON. MEMBER: The poor little people.
MR. NIMSICK: The big companies, though, they remain about the same. You can take the companies in the Crowsnest - Kaiser, Cominco - and they all remain about the same amount, $3.50 an acre or $4.50 an acre. You've got one instance there, where a man owns 6,044 acres and the assessment is $3 an acre, right along the highway. I don't know who he votes for but if there were equalization of assessment, why is that, why is it that, in the area outside of Kimberley, one person will be charged a hundred and some dollars an acre and right alongside of them, others will be charged a very small amount?
AN HON. MEMBER: Special privilege.
MR. NIMSICK: Your assessment down in the Crowsnest country, $3 an acre for land that they sold to the municipality of Sparwood for $200 an acre.
AN HON. MEMBER: Special privilege.
MR. NIMSICK: This is not right, but this bill, here, is just going to make it that much more wrong. You're going to, through this bill, you're going to force ... (interruption).
Well, I'll move adjournment of the debate until the next sitting of the House.
Motion not agreed to.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the Honourable Member having unsuccessfully adjourned the debate has lost his place and exhausted his right to speak.
MR. NIMSICK: You talk about closing ... Six o'clock and you won't give an adjournment (laughter).
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Burnaby Edmonds. Order, please.
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MR. DOWDING: Mr. Speaker, simply because the hour is nearly six is no excuse to close off this debate, when there are a lot of people who want to be heard about a very important matter concerning taxation all over the Province.
I've got a letter here, Mr. Speaker, from the Municipal Assessor of Burnaby that indicates just how foolish Bill 22 is going to be if it ever becomes law. He pointed out to the mayor and the council in March of this year that the 10 per cent limitation on individual assessments has had the effect of removing $5,500,000 school and hospital values from the 1971 assessment roll. It made no change to general purpose assessments, as they are not subject to such a restriction. He says, "A relatively few owners," those are the lucky ones, of course, I add, "share the advantages of this limitation, which represents a tax saving this year to them of approximately $170,000. As a result, this amount must be raised by increasing the taxes of all the other owners in the municipality.
I ask this House why should a few owners share in this bonanza and force all their neighbours to have an increased amount of taxes to pay because of this inequitable provision that the Premier is trying to foist upon this House and upon the land owners of British Columbia? Why should those people share in this bonanza when, for the main, they have not built up the district where they are? Many of them are strangers in this Province, even. I'll give you an example, in the city of Vancouver - Four Seasons Development - for years, they have been battling against an increase in assessment before the Assessment Appeal Board. It went to Court twice and the result of that, Mr. Speaker, is that you would think that the value of that waterfront land was only about a million and a half dollars. I intend to draw his attention to it. You would think that that was the value of all this beautiful waterfront land but some people from Ontario want to build a hotel at the entrance to the park because it will be just a magnificent capital gain to them to have a park as their front garden. When it comes to taxation purposes, all the people of Vancouver have to bear the load that those property owners are not at the present time bearing. When it comes to selling their property, do you know that the owners of it wouldn't sell for $14 million? But, they are not paying taxes on it as a value of $14 million.
Mr. Speaker, I observe that the time is after six o'clock and I presume that you would want to go and have dinner ... (interruption). I'm not moving adjournment, certainly not.
MR. SPEAKER: The hour is six o'clock, and the Speaker's attention having been drawn to the clock, I leave the Chair to return at eight.
Mr. Speaker left the Chair at 6: 00 p.m.
The House met at 8:00 p.m.
On the motion of the Honourable R.R. Loffmark, Bill 97 intituled Hospital Corporations Act was introduced, read a first time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
On the motion of the Honourable W.A.C. Bennett, the House proceeded to the Order "Public Bills and Orders."
HON. L.R. PETERSON (Vancouver-Little Mountain): I call the motion on page 21 of the Orders of the Day, moved by the Premier and seconded by myself.
MR. D. BARRETT (Coquitlam): Point of Order, Mr. Speaker. This is a motion without notice and I'd like to . . . Before it can be called, I would imagine it would need to have leave of the House to suspend the rules. Before leave would be granted, I would hope that the Attorney -General would give some explanation.
MR. SPEAKER: May I interject, Mr. Attorney-General? I refer the Honourable Leader of the Opposition to page 388, in the 17th edition of May, where it is discussing the revival of dropped orders. You will notice that, "To replace a dropped Order of the Day upon the notice paper, a motion is made before the commencement, or after the close, of public business, to appoint the Order for a subsequent day. These motions, which are made without notice, are usually treated as purely formal motions." But, if one drops down to "k," in the small print below "When it is essential that proceedings on an Order of the Day, cut short by an unexpected adjournment, should be resumed at the next sitting of the House, a notice of motion is placed for that purpose, in the name of the Minister of the Crown, upon the notice paper for the next sitting, at the commencement of public business; and the dropped order is placed printed in italics, at the head of the list of the Orders of the Day or at the place among the Orders of the Day at which it is proposed to be taken." It is under this regulation, because our own rules are silent, that (a) the motion has been placed at the head of public business and (b) that the bill in question has been printed in italics.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I am not opposed to the intent of this but it is a question of precedent in interpretation. If when our rules are silent, are we bound ...
MR. SPEAKER: ... by Standing Order number one.
MR. BARRETT: ... by Standing Order number one. There have been experiences in the past where orders have been silent and we've not been bound by that. An example I could give, without taking up too much time of the House, is the committee subpoenaing a witness to the committee at the orders of the authority of the committee chairman. Not that I am opposed to this motion. I want to proceed with the business. But it's the establishment of the precedent ... I don't mind,
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, I would find myself in agreement with the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition to this extent that I would hope this procedure might not be regarded as a precedent to be followed for all time in the future. I am of the opinion that, once a Government bill is brought on, it would automatically continue. This might be explored, subsequently. I think, however, this is certainly in order and I would hope that we might, at least, for this evening's sitting, follow this procedure, which is set out in May, without necessarily binding the House, for all time, in connection with this procedure.
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please. With the greatest of respect to the Attorney -General, this does become a precedent, not so much a precedent as being any sort of a new innovation but, really, simply following the Rules as
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they are set forth. This is not something that's going to happen on March 23 this year that wouldn't happen on March 23, 1973. It is positively in the Rules.
MR. PETERSON: Mr. Speaker, if I may, I was only indicating that if there are other ways in which to have the matter continue on the Order Paper discovered in the future, we would not necessarily feel ourselves bound by this particular procedure.
MR. SPEAKER: If it were the will of the House, of course. The Honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, one last comment. I wouldn't want the Attorney-General to leave the impression that the will of the House may alter what is obviously the proper form. I welcome the Speaker's interpretation, I welcome the Government's initiative in moving the motion, where our Rules are silent. The traditions of Parliament are such that when the Rules are silent this, in my opinion, is a beautiful commitment to the parliamentary system. I must consider it is a precedent and would not want the Government to feel that it had options. I welcome them following the Rules, I welcome it.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Cowichan-Malahat. Are you speaking to a Point of Order'
MR. R.M. STRACHAN (Cowichan-Malahat): If other methods are discovered, I suggest that the proper procedure would have been to allow the Member from Kootenay to adjourn. Then, you wouldn't have had to go through all this.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a Point of Order.
MR. STRACHAN: It's a better procedure!
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please. It is not a Point of Order. The motion has been moved by the Honourable the Premier, seconded by the Honourable the Attorney-General, that the adjourned debate on the second reading of Bill 22, intituled An Act to Amend the Assessment Equalization Act be appointed for consideration at this sitting. The Honourable the Member from Burnaby-Edmonds.
MR. G.H. DOWDING (Burnaby-Edmonds): I would like to point out that we have that decision that you made in 1966, where, at page 106, dealing with this very perplexing problem, it was pointed that, when the order of priority is, for example, at the head of the business of the House and, in this case, of Supply and Estimates that are before the House, except for the introduction of bills, the Government is, in effect, seeking to bring back to the House, in this opening, now, a different order of business with a different order of priority, by means of this motion which is being presented here without notice.
I'd like to know where I stand on this, naturally. If this motion passed and we ignore the Rules to the extent of saying that leave is not necessary, and maybe leave isn't necessary, I haven't given it that much consideration, but if we do, I presume that I commence where I left off ... is that your understanding?
MR. SPEAKER: I can give you an authority for that in a moment. The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRET: Mr. Speaker, we will support the motion because it is a commitment to the Rules of the House. The authority cited in May, in my opinion, is quite valid. Despite the Premier's reversal on his own motion, we welcome it and hope it is a precedent.
Motion agreed to.
On the motion for the third reading of Bill 47 intituled An Act to Amend the Public Schools Act the House divided.
Motion agreed to on the following division:
YEAS - 33
NAYS - 17
|Lorimer||Williams, L.A.||Dailly, Mrs.|
Bill 47 read a third time and passed.
HON. W.A.C. BENNETT (South Okanagan): Second reading of Bill 22, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Bill 22, An Act to Amend the Assessment Equalization Act. The Honourable Member for Burnaby-Edmonds. One moment. As the Member resumes, it may be well for the House to follow a similar authority on the matter of who is next in order to speak. The House will recall, this afternoon, the Honourable Member for Kootenay, in adjourning unsuccessfully the debate on the motion upon which we are now engaged, exhausted his right to speak. The authority for that is page 444 of the 17th edition of May, where it says, "A Member who has moved a motion for the adjournment of the debate, which has been negatived, is not entitled to speak again to the main question." Then, it deals with the interruption of business which concerns my honourable friend from Burnaby-Edmonds. "In like manner, when a debate has been adjourned while a Member is speaking, upon the interruption of business prescribed by the Standing Orders, he has been allowed, on the next occasion, to resume the adjourned debate, and continue his speech."
[ Page 770 ]
This, then, is the authority for the honourable Member to proceed.
MR. DOWDING: I'm not asking you, at this stage, for a vote of thanks for getting our dinner but I point out that, from previous experience, I found it was better to stay on my feet at 6: 00 p.m. and have the Speaker leave and get our dinner than be back at 6:05 p.m. So, I want your vote of thanks later.
Now, with regards, Mr. Speaker, to where we left off. I want to point out that a vote of thanks should also go to the Premier and the Minister of Finance, with respect to this bill, from a very small and select group of people who will get the advantage of not paying on an assessment rate that will not go up in accordance with the increase in the value of their property. I've mentioned the Four Seasons group. They have a very beautiful inn in the park in London at Hyde Park. They have another beautiful inn in Toronto and, now, they are proposing, although they can't quite get inside the entrance of Stanley Park, they are going to have this park right on the boundary of Vancouver on the waterfront. This property, assessed year after year in a desperate struggle by the owners at the lowest possible rate ... I believe it's now up to $21/2 million. It was $11/2 million. There was a big fight by a citizen who decided patriotically to appeal their assessment. It was raised half a million dollars. If you tried to buy that property, the way the Four Seasons people have been trying to get it to develop it, if the City Council would agree to a big hotel complex and an apartment complex right at the gates of Stanley Park, you couldn't buy that property for $14 million dollars, today. They don't pay taxes on the $14 million assessment. It's not assessed at one seventh that amount and there won't be any increase, for that group, of more than 10 per cent, in any event, under this bill (interruption).
Well, I couldn't tell you the latest assessment because that has been appealed and the decision has not yet been handed down. But I know it's no way near the value. It's about a seventh of the value (interruption). Well, I'm right. Of course, I'm right.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DOWDING: The point I'm making is that the citizens of Vancouver have to make up that missing value. They have to ...
AN HON. MEMBER: You're lucky if you get Two Seasons in Quebec.
MR. DOWDING: I may not know as much as the Honourable the Member for Cariboo about civic affairs but I certainly imagine that the B.C. Association of Assessors knows a great deal more than he does. I'll read from their brief ... I'll point out, Mr. Speaker, that, in a resolution, the B.C. Association of Assessors sent a brief to the Premier, which included the city of Vancouver's brief and also the executive of the UBCM, in December, 1970, sent their resolution to the Cabinet. What was said in that resolution? This is from the UBCM executive. "Be it resolved that the Provincial Government be urged to amend the Assessment Equalization Act, so as to restore the principle of equalization." Why would they say that if there were equalization today? Obviously, it is quite unequal. " . . . based on a fair and equitable formula." Why would they say that, if there were a fair and equitable formula, applicable to all classes of property? Why would they say that, if it were applicable to all classes of property? " . . . without any artificial limiting conditions, whatever, to ensure fair and equitable assessment within and between all classifications of property in all municipalities and in all sections of the Province." That was their resolution, which this Government has ignored. I know why the Government ignores the facts of life in this matter.
They have a very elemental and visceral reaction to the idea of politics and to the ideas of assessment. They believe that they can fool the people by saying, "Look, we stopped the increase in your assessments by putting that Bill 22 through that made no more than 10 per cent increase in your assessment, and the assessors can't increase your property more than that." The irony of it is that the very people they are telling that to, are the ones who are going to have to reach in their pockets and pay for those who are the free riders, who are not paying when they should be paying on the increase. Those are the speculators of British Columbia.
There was another point that was raised in the previous debate on this question, besides the fact that the freeloaders are going to force the other citizens to pay the additional taxes that they should be paying, and that was an item of the debate that took place here, where the inference was left that the Assessment Commissioner, that's Mr. Wright, through his orders to individual assessors, will be able to prevent inequities arising from this sort of limitation, this artificial limitation of 10 per cent.
I want to point out that, as this limitation creates inequities each time it has an effect on an assessment, the conclusion that the Assessment Commissioner, through his orders, will make this bill ineffective is quite mistaken. There was a statement in the press that appeared after the first debate on this matter which said as follows. It was in the Sun, March 10: "A clause in the bill, which would freeze property assessment increases to 10 per cent, also gives Provincial Assessment Commissioner, Percy Wright, authority to over-rule the limit. He said Tuesday that he had the power, under subsection 2 of section 9 of the bill, to amend the Assessment Equalization Act to order a reassessment of any property which, in his opinion, is inequitably assessed. 'The 10 per cent limit also doesn't apply when there is a change in the physical characteristics of the land, such as new construction or development,' he said."
Our municipal assessor in Burnaby, in answer to that, says that the Assessment Commissioner obviously would not do that. What he did, in 1968, when the 5 per cent limitation on individual assessments was in effect, was to use his power to correct errors and balance assessments between different areas. I believe, he says that he will use his power in a similar manner this time. In other words, to say that he will alter this 10 per cent rule is absolute nonsense. He can't do it under the act and he wouldn't dare do it under the act because he would be challenged immediately under Supreme Court, if he so tried. So for anyone to get up and pretend that the Assessment Commissioner can render negatory the provisions of Bill 22 is just nonsense and an attempt to lull into quietude those disturbed taxpayers who realize the full import of Bill 22.
This is what politics has got to in this Province - that it's all right to try to fool the people into believing that they are going to, somehow, have their assessments protected from any increase by this 10 per cent rule, when the fact of the matter is that it's quite the reverse. It's an Orwellian world we are living in, where that propaganda may succeed in
[ Page 771 ]
fooling some people who don't enquire, but every knowledgeable taxpayer, who happens to have property and looks into it, will realize it is the speculators, the land sellers, it's the used property owners, it's the big industrial complexes that benefit from this, and not the small- or the medium sized home-owner. I hope that they will get this message as the assessors have got this message, as every civic official has got this message. If we do our duty in putting this to the people, this kind of propaganda effort in Bill 22 will not succeed.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for New Westminster.
MR. D.A. COCKE (New Westminster): Mr. Speaker, so much has been said about this bill, today, that I don't plan to say very much more, except to register one more complaint. It seems that practically every municipality, city, assessor group in the Province has come down hard on the advent of this bill ... and New Westminster, not to say, the least, has also done exactly the same thing as everybody else. I got the following letter from the clerk in New Westminster: "This is to advise that the following resolution was contained in the minutes of a meeting of a Council in Committee of the Whole held February 8, 1971, and adopted at a regular meeting of council held February 15, 1971. Moved, seconded and carried: Council endorsed the resolution forwarded by the city of Port Alberni with the exception of section (a) -freeze all assessments other than those for new construction for a period of one year - and that this information be forwarded to the Members of the Legislative Assembly and the Union of B.C. Municipalities."
It seems, Mr. Speaker, clear that those in this Province who are concerned about the people, the taxpayers, the little people, are concerned that this bill will not do the kind of job that the Government seems to indicate that it will, but will serve the interests of the speculators and big business in this Province.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver-Howe Sound): Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief ... (interruption). Yes, I could - at length. Mr. Speaker, I recall, in the early days after the passage of the Assessment Equalization Act, the concern that was abroad in this Province on the part of real property owners about the changes that were taking place in their assessments. But, slowly, the message was conveyed to them through responsible assessors that the changes that were, then, taking place were the result of a conscious, deliberate and responsible effort on the part of assessors throughout this entire Province to bring about equalization and to ensure that each property owner in this Province paid his or her own fair share of taxes in this Province. That was the basis upon which the act was originally passed. When the first amendment was proposed, which interfered with this equalization, there was cast upon the task of the assessors a virtually impossible responsibility of attempting to justify how one taxpayer could be favoured over another. It was a responsibility, Mr. Speaker, that no responsible assessor could possibly discharge and they have not discharged it over the years. The difficulty, Mr. Speaker, is because the distinction between assessed values and the taxes which are paid by the individual property owner, are obscured by this legislation and by the changes that have taken place in it over the years.
In the spring of the year, when the assessment notices go out to the property owners throughout this Province, they are left in a quandary as to what they should do. If they respond by raising complaints against the assessment that has been levied against their property, they are assured, certainly, in municipal areas that the assessment doesn't matter, it depends upon the number of dollars that the municipality is obliged to raise in taxes and, after all, it will all be spread over the total assessment. That is fine, if the assessments are equalized. When the tax bill arrives and they find that their taxes have risen they are, then, told by the municipal governments that, if there is disparity, it's not the fault of the municipal government, it's the fault of the assessment system n this Province. And the assessment system in this Province is the direct responsibility of this Government and the Minister of Finance. When the assessment equalization was brought in, there was an attempt on the part of this Government to provide quality and equity between property owners. All that we have had from this Government is an attempt to disturb that equity over the years. Why, Mr. Speaker' Over the years, this Government has cast upon municipal governments and the local taxpayer financial burdens, which are the responsibility of this Government. This legislation is nothing more nor less than an attempt on the part of this Government to excuse itself and to indicate to the local taxpayer that they are doing something about it when, in fact, all they are doing, Mr. Speaker, is to con the people, to suggest to them ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am going to ask the honourable Member to withdraw that statement.
MR. WILLIAMS: I apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark. I suggest that it is an attempt by this Government to cast abroad a concept which is not borne out by the facts.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear.
MR. WILLIAMS: I've been around enough, Mr. Speaker, to know that it is so and so has the Honourable Minister, and the Honourable Minister of Municipal Affairs has not risen in his place in this debate to say, otherwise. He will stand condemned for that, throughout this Province ...
SOME HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh.
MR. WILLIAMS:. . . silent, through this whole debate, the Minister of Municipal Affairs. That part of his responsibility, which has the greatest bearing upon the taxpayers of this Province, and he is silent. He chirps from his place. Mr. Speaker, we have had demonstrated here, not only the complete disregard of the responsibility of this Legislature on the part of the Minister of Finance but, we have also seen the unfortunate suppression of a senior member of the Civil Service.
The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey has read to the House the letter of October 16, 1970, over the signature of the Assessment Commissioner, addressed to all the assessors, advising them of the intentions of this Government, in fact, of the intentions of one man to pass legislation. One man to pass legislation! Monolithic structure is what we have. The strange thing is, Mr. Speaker, that, when you consider this Assessment Commissioner, a
[ Page 772 ]
post established by the very act we are amending ... it provides in section 3 that there shall be an assessment commissioner, he shall be paid, and it provides in a mandatory way that he shall perform the duties and exercise the powers conferred upon him by this act. When you look at the Statute, Mr. Speaker, you find that one of the powers entrusted to this Assessment Commissioner is to establish equalized assessments of land and improvements in the municipal corporations and rural areas. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance forces this senior civil servant to send out this kind of a letter to municipal assessors doing just the opposite. This is not An Act to Amend the Assessment Equalization Act, it's an act to create inequality in assessments in this Province.
We should not only have a change in the bill, we should have a change in the title of the act. What the Minister proposes to do with this amendment is to confuse the people of this Province. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, they will not be confused because the message will be taken far from this place. Mr. Speaker, we cannot accept this amendment.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Premier will close the debate.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, we listened this afternoon to the most radical leader that the NDP has ever had - the leader of the Waffle group in this Province, my friends, extreme socialists. I warn the people of this Province the NDP is the most radical now than it has ever been previously. No wonder they attack free enterprise today. No wonder, Mr. Speaker, because this leader of the NDP, who tries to be so calm at certain times showed his true colours, today. He's a member of the Waffle group, my friends ... (interruptions).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT: Now, I just want to say, my friends, as well, that that little Liberal group there, they call themselves the sleeping giants. They are the sleeping hollow, my friends. You compare the vote in this Province between those people who vote Liberal Federally, and those who vote Provincially and you know very well that no good Liberal in this Province votes for these little Sleepy Hollow groups (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Would the Honourable the Premier please come to the principle of this Bill!
MR. BENNETT: Goodbye. I want to tell you that these people of Sleepy Hollow and the se socialists ... (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Would the Honourable the Premier please come to the principle of this bill" I think we've had a good round so far (laughter).
MR. BENNETT: The principle of this bill is to protect the ordinary people of this Province ... (laugh ter, applause). ... against the Waffle group and against the Sleepy Hollow group, that is the principle of this bill (interruption). What movement organized equalization of assessment? Was it the Liberal group?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No!
MR. BENNETT: Was it the NDP group?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No!
MR. BENNETT: It was Social Credit, when we first came to power. We brought it in to protect the people of this Province. What for" For an equalization for school tax, . . (interruption). Will you keep quiet, my friend?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT: Laughing at the Speaker, are you?
AN HON. MEMBER: You're the speaker.
MR. BENNETT: Social Credit established the first equalization ever in this Province, not that it's something that has been perfect, but it's aimed towards a certain important cause. That aim in life is to see that we have a formula so that we can give proper grants to the school districts (interruption). To where'? There are those city slickers, against the country people. These fat cats and these labour-boss leaders (interruption). Well, you're worse ... (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT: I want to say that the municipalities tried to use the assessment for their own taxation and it was never meant for that, Mr. Speaker. When the assessment went up, Mr. Speaker, they said the reason why your taxes are going up in the city of Vancouver and elsewhere is because of the Social Credit Government of British Columbia. Well, I want to tell you, my friends, this bill before this House is to make sure that these people cannot say that any longer.
I remember well when assessments started to go up with inflation. The honourable Member, who now sits for Cowichan-Malahat, rose in his place and read a whole bunch of letters from people who were protesting an increase in assessments and said, "Mr. Premier, that's your fault." Now, we bring in a bill to rectify that and, then he says he's not going to vote for it. He talks out of both sides of his mouth at once, Mr. Speaker. All through this Province, I'm going to tell them that the Liberals and the socialists voted against holding the taxes down for the people of this Province. We are in a period of inflation caused by that Liberal Federal party. People go in and buy homes and pay high, ridiculous prices and, then, here's our regular citizens in these areas . .1 . Because these prices go up for these residential properties, they go up and so the assessment goes up, not 10, but 20, 30 and 40 per cent. This bill is to stop it, Mr. Speaker. This is a party, not of the special interest of the labour bosses (interruption), not of the Bar Association quoted today, not with any special interest. We represent the ordinary people and the grass roots of this Province. From time to time, every special group in this Province is against us but, when election comes, the people are for us, my friends. My friends were saying about the assessors today but, then, they went on and read and read and condemned the assessors - the very people they are quoting. So, they talk both ways at once. That's ... (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT: The act now ensures that the property owner will not pay taxes more than 50 per cent of the assessed value of land or 371/2 per cent of the assessed value of
[ Page 773 ]
improvements. That's the maximum amount - which is 75 per cent of 50 per cent. The act also ... (interruption). Only since we've been Government, my friend. It hasn't always been the case, at all. Never under the Liberals, never under the Liberals, my friends (interruption). and you opposed it, then. Certainly, it was all right.
The act also limits the increase in assessment of school districts. In spite of these provisions, it has been drawn to the Government's attention that some home-owners have received too steep an increase in assessment in this period of inflation. To ensure that any increase is not too sharp, effective in the 1971 assessment year, amendments for the act are now proposed to limit the increase in any assessment of land or improvement to a maximum of 10 per cent of the previous year's assessment. But this is the important part, Mr. Speaker, in this bill, the important principle in the bill, as well, it excludes from the 10 per cent limitation ... calculations are changed in the classification of property . . . that's not controlled by the 10 per cent, if there is a change in classification of the property. Nor is it controlled by the 10 per cent - the physical characteristics or new construction. In addition, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the equity of assessment continues and the limitation does not lead to abuses, the Assessment Commissioner is empowered, in this bill, to order a reassessment of the property, of any property, regardless of the 10 per cent limit. I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.
The House divided.
Motion agreed to on the following division:
YEAS - 33
|Kripps, Mrs.||Dawson, Mrs.||Chant|
NAYS - 17
|Lorimer||Williams, L.A.||Dailly, Mrs.|
Bill 22 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. BENNETT: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 38, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 38, Mortgage Brokers Act. The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, as the Attorney -General indicated when he opened this debate, this is a most significant piece of legislation, and one which I'm sure, when it was introduced, was welcomed by all sides of this House. Certainly any Member of this House who has had any connection, whatsoever, with the mortgage field will recognize the opportunity there has been for abuse in the field of mortgage transactions. Not the least of the abuses are to be found in those areas where mortgages are granted and significant interest rates are charged and bonuses are charged and there has been some confusion or perhaps some misunderstanding on the part of the borrower as to what his or her responsibility might be.
I had the occasion, in the past ten days, to be visited by a man and his wife who had lost their property. Their property was owned by the wife and, during the husband's absence and in order to provide certain monies that they required to continue their business operation, the wife was encouraged to take out a mortgage on her property. The last thing that was said by the husband to the wife before this event took place was to make sure there was no bonuses. The wife remembered that. She went to the office of a person in the mortgage business, with a person whom she understood to be a confidant and advisor. She asked if there were any bonuses in this mortgage and she was told there was not. As she read the mortgage, she saw something about a discount. She didn't understand it but she signed the mortgage, certain monies were advanced in various ways to pay off various expenses, and it turned out that, within two days, what she had understood to be a discount was, in reality, a bonus. One might think that she might have immediate redress for such confusion on her part, in view of the questions which she had asked. But, lo and behold, she learned that, within the space of the two or three days that it took for her to understand what had taken place, the mortgage had been assigned by the original lender to another party. She found that it was beyond her ability to seek redress.
Now, I admit, Mr. Speaker, that this is perhaps an extreme example of what can take place in transactions of this nature. I quickly say that such instances are, fortunately, exceedingly rare in this business because we have in the mortgage running business in this Province, responsible, respectable people and one must not be lead to believe, by reason of some of the examples which one can cite, that people are in serious danger when they approach lenders to negotiate mortgages on their real property. But, nonetheless, the opportunity for abuse does exist. It is an abuse, which it is the responsibility of Government to remedy.
When this bill was first introduced and we read it and we listened to what the Attorney-General said, and he said, as he introduced this bill and to the press immediately following, that we want to be able to exercise some control over companies in this business. He made some casual reference to the possibility that persons associated with some organization, which often is referred to as the Mafia, might find the mortgage business to be one attractive to them. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I was thoroughly confused to hear these remarks from the Attorney-General and I waited with anticipation for him to introduce this bill to second reading for I thought that, at that time, the Attorney -General would indicate, with some strong evidence, a succession of highly
[ Page 774 ]
irregular dealings in respect of mortgages in this Province, highly irregular dealings sufficient to match the action that has been taken in this bill. Let no one be confused, what is done in this bill, in part one, was to deal with registration, and is to establish a registrar, who he will be we know not at the moment, to establish a registrar, with the power of search and seizure without warrant, the power of holding hearings without notice, the power to conduct hearings without extending to the person, in respect of whose activity the hearings are held, the right to counsel. I would think that the Attorney-General, in introducing this legislation, would have demonstrated to this House an almost criminal element in the mortgage lending business of this Province. I am confused, in the circumstances, when I read the kind of powers that are given to the registrar, and when I know the kind of people who are involved in the mortgage lending business in this Province, to balance the kind of power - the suppression of civil rights to be found in this legislation - against what I know to be the fact in the vast majority of cases within the mortgage field.
It might be suggested, Mr. Speaker, that we are providing the Attorney-General with the opportunity of investigating those institutions engaged in the mortgage business which might see fit to act in other than a responsible manner. The proof of whether or not the registration provisions of this act will function will rest entirely upon the calibre of the investigation to be carried out by the registrar and the way in which this Government will provide the registrar with the staff that is necessary in order to ensure that those persons not properly following within the ambit of legislation can be brought to account for their activities.
It is noteworthy, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, in this respect, to find that there are certain institutions, certain corporate organizations and individuals, which are exempt from registration under this act. One of the class of corporate organizations which are exempt are trust companies. I trust that the Members will excuse me if I recall to them the sad experience which we have recently had with the company called Commonwealth Trust. Is this one of the companies that we would exempt from registration under this act? Indeed, Mr. Speaker, when one considers the lack of attention which the Honourable the Attorney -General and his department give to already existing registration bodies in this Province, there is need for real concern.
I had occasion, in the past week, to attend the office of the Registrar of Companies to examine the file of a trust company and I was shocked to find that this trust company has not complied with the requirements of the Registrar of Titles for five years. Five years! When I enquired from the Registrar of Companies about this particular matter, I was informed by him that, in accordance with his responsibility, he had advised the inspector of trust companies of the situation and was waiting for further word back from him. But this trust company remains on the register of the Registrar of Companies and is entitled to carry on business in this Province. Yet, this is one of the companies which is exempted from registration. The only purpose, Mr. Speaker, in drawing this to your attention is that, if we are to have a registrar whose responsibility it is to ensure that people who engage in the mortgage brokerage business do register and do comply with his requirements, it is useless as a protection to the people of this Province, unless the Government of this Province ensures that that registrar is given the organization with which to carry out his responsibilities under this act.
I was concerned, when reading one of the opening sections of this act, whether or not it would be possible to ascertain what persons were really engaged in the mortgage brokerage business. The Attorney-General, as I indicated earlier, in his responses to the press, said that this was the kind of business that the Mafia people might find profitable. But, what good would it do? How would you know, Mr. Attorney -General?
I was concerned that one of the early sections of the act, namely, section 3, would perhaps provide that the corporate organization would be a shield for those people who might wish to engage in this business, even though they were of the kind whose money might not be welcome in this Province -we've already had one example of that. I was a bit in doubt but, I must say, that, when the Honourable the Attorney-General introduced the amendments which we have to section 3, there was left no doubt in my mind that the corporate shield, not the corporate veil, but the corporate shield is available to those persons who might not otherwise be welcome in this Province to engage in the mortgage brokerage field.
Now, you might say, how can this happen? Well, today, in the office the Registrar of Companies, on another errand, I had occasion to search a group of companies and I found that, amongst an intertwining directorate and shareholdings, all of the control rested in one company. Strangely enough, Mr. Speaker, in spite of the reports available in the Registrar of Companies, the identity and the address of that controlling corporate shareholder was not disclosed in those records. I found out, in other ways, by going outside of the records of the Registrar of Companies ... and I know where the company is located but anyone searching in the office of the Registrar of Companies in this Province would not know the identity and the address of that controlling corporate organization.
If this is the kind of registration procedure which we are to have under this act, Mr. Speaker, then, I suggest that the kind of control which the Honourable the Attorney -General expects to have over people engaged in the mortgage business will be sadly lacking. I think the very fact that this problem is aware to the Attorney-General is made clear in one section of this act and that's a section which indicates that no person, registered under this act, shall hold himself out as a mortgage broker, a specific prohibition. You would think that if these registration provisions were indeed to provide some real semblance of protection the Government would say, "You must say that you are a mortgage broker, registered under this act," but indeed the Government, realizing how difficult it may be to police and control this particular business, has decreed that no one shall hold themselves out as being a mortgage broker registered under this act. The reason is obvious. They don't want any one to come into that man's office and be lulled into a sense of false security because of the existence of some certificate hanging on the wall, a certificate which may be worth nothing because, when one goes to search, if there isn't the staff, if there isn't the attention given to the regulations of registration, then, the fact of registration is really meaningless so far as protection is concerned. The Attorney ~General has said in the press, and I agree, that the matter of the control of interest and other terms of mortgage so far as the financial aspect is concerned may be beyond the jurisdiction of this Province. True. But it is not beyond the jurisdiction of this Province to ensure that there is the fullest complete disclosure and control of those persons who are engaged in this business. There is no excuse, whatsoever, for there being any doubt as to the individual
[ Page 775 ]
engaged in the business or to those individuals who, in a corporate organization, are involved in this business. It may be suggested that the corporate control may rest in some organization established in some other jurisdiction. That can be cured as well - force them to disclose. But the act does not go that far.
Part two of the act is a good attempt, on the part of the Government, to ensure that once a person is in the negotiation stage with a lender of mortgage monies and before he or she signs the mortgage, that the terms of that mortgage are clearly set out and form part of the document. We commend the Government for this move. There is some concern, nonetheless, not only because of the effect this may have upon the individual directly involved, but because we have had, in this Province, a Land Registry Act which, over the years, has been a guiding light for many of the people in other jurisdictions. We have had a registration system with respect to land in this Province which is second to none. We have always been in the position, Mr. Speaker, of being able to rely on the titles issued by the various registrars of titles throughout this Province, but, under this act, we are creating a circumstance where, for the first time, doubt may be cast upon the indefeasibility of the titles in this Province. I know that the registrars, as responsible representatives of the Government, will do the job that is required to be done. I am satisfied with that but the effect of this, Mr. Speaker, may be to delay the registration of financing documents to the detriment of people who seek their registration. I trust that the Attorney-General will perhaps take this under consideration and I refer particularly to sections 16, 17 and 19, and consider the impact that this may have upon the registration system. I would hope that part 2 of this act would not force the conveyancer in this Province back into the days before the Torren system, when extensive and expensive examination of titles and the rights of individuals only served to delay and hinder the proper transaction of business in land and construction.
Now, one final matter. In earlier debates in this House, I have raised my objection to the all-too-frequent provision which we are finding in our legislation today giving power to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to make regulations and, in effect, to supplant the responsibility of this Legislature. This is found in this bill, too. But, more than that, Mr. Speaker, I find that, not only is the Lieutenant-Governor in Council empowered to make regulations, but, now, the registrar is empowered to make regulations. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, how far we are prepared to go in this House in the delegation of the responsibility of this Legislature, not only to the Cabinet, but, now, to members of the Civil Service, particularly, when they are unnamed. We do not know, yet, who this registrar will be. If it is a choice of this Government that it be one of those responsible superintendents already in existence in this Province, perhaps, perhaps, the delegation to that individual of regulatory powers may be acceptable. But, in principle, Mr. Speaker, it is wrong. It's wrong to pass from this Legislature to an individual over whom this Legislature has no control, the power to make regulations under our Statutes.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. G.B. GARDOM (Vancouver-Point Grey ): Mr. Speaker, I would just like to add a few remarks really in complement to the statements made by the last speaker, the honourable the Member of the Liberal Party in front of me. I think he's made an exceptionally valid point insofar as the Land Registry Act is concerned. I do hope that the Attorney-General appreciates the ramifications insofar as the Land Regist?y Act is concerned because the act does not ... quite frankly, what you've got in here is just going to create an absolutely holus-bolus situation for the Land Registry Act.
The second point, which is much more the important one that I would like to make, Mr. Speaker, is this that, what we've got in this Statute is a system whereby, under certain limited circumstances, an individual may be apprised of the cost of borrowing ... under certain limited circumstances ... and, again, only with certain limited classification of people, and those people are the ones who are defined as mortgage brokers. But this Statute is of no assistance to those who are harmed by the individually unscrupulous. It's of no assistance to the person who happens to run into one-shot gyp. The Statute, really and truly, is designed to prevent a continuance of abuse. Fine and dandy, but applying the thing, say, to the field of murder or manslaughter, you don't find too many people murdering more than one person. But this is no protection, whatsoever, for the first murder. This is a repetition type of Statute.
To me, if you are going to go ahead and introduce this schedule, which, quite frankly, I support ... I think this schedule is a good thing insofar as the disclosure of the cost of loan ... but if we're going to have a disclosure of cost of loan, why not have a disclosure for cost of loan in all mortgage transactions. This doesn't offend me and nor do I think, Mr. Speaker, it should offend banks, it should offend lawyers, it should offend credit unions, or should it offend trust companies. The troublesome thing, Mr. Speaker, with trust companies, particularly, in this Province, and I'm not going to dwell on the frightful situation of the Commonwealth Trust Company, which is the greatest case of corporate incest that has ever hit the Dominion of Canada, but there are other trust companies carrying on business today in the Province of British Columbia, as the first Member mentioned, and as I can mention ... I am going to read from a balance sheet of a trust company and I'm not going to name the trust company, but this balance sheet of the trust company, its auditors indicate, for example, acquisition of certain land - that does not comply with the Trust Companies Act, a loan granted and so forth - that does not comply with the provisions of the Trust Companies Act. By virtue of the extreme secrecy under the provisions of the B.C. Trust Companies Act, if a member, or if a lawyer, or if an individual attempts to ascertain information as to whether or not a particular trust company is complying with the law of the land, the inspector of trust companies is absolutely hidebound to respond, by virtue of ... I've forgotten the section. I think, it's section 26 of the B.C. Trust Companies Act ... he cannot answer, because this is sub rosa. He cannot answer because this is classified information. Therefore, we have trust companies, at least, the one that I've got here, carrying on business which is probably contrary to the law of the Province of British Columbia may well be loaning and may well be loaning conventional mortgages. If it is on the basis of entering into a conventional mortgage loan, what, in the good grief, has it got to lose by having to comply with the terms of schedule, which is referred to on page 10 in the bill, under section 16 - disclosure of the cost of borrowing -absolutely nothing.
I would like to see the safeguard in here and I think to go
[ Page 776 ]
ahead and restrict this bill to a person who is defined as a mortgage broker, . . . a person who receives in a calendar year a thousand dollars or more in fees for arranging mortgages who is a fellow who just goes ahead and trots around the community and arranges either first, second or third mortgages and receives a kickback or a percentage for doing that type of a thing, or any individual or corporation who loans money on the security of ten or more mortgages. . . You can have one mortgage for a fantastic amount of money, or you can borrow a fantastic amount of money, or you can have one mortgage to a person who puts up his house, which is his only resource in society, and his house may cost $10,000 or $50,000 and he may be hooked left right and centre. It may be completely what I loathe to say, particularly, as a lawyer, to say . . . it may be legal stealing. That's right, it's a hateful phrase but this happens in the communities, this happens in the communities (interruption). It would take a lawyer to figure that out. I'll tell you one thing you'd never see it, boy, you'd never recognize it at all. You've got a different ethic than I have. But I can see it quite readily. However, Mr. Speaker.... (interruption). . . . . or any kind of stealing, that's right. But these things can happen in these individual circumstances and, Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely nothing to prevent the people who wish to circumvent this act to circumvent it. The thing is chock-full, unfortunately, of loopholes. I have read comparable legislation in other parts of Canada and I like this act. Mr. Speaker, through you, to the Attorney-General, I advocated that we have this act in B.C. and I back that up 100 per cent. But boy oh boy, I would like to see you do one thing that the other Provinces have not one and I'd like to see you take the next step forward and go ahead, if we're going to talk about mortgages, talk about all mortgages, if we're going to talk about agreements for sale, talk about all agreements for sale. Let's not go ahead and restrict it to people who write so many per year, or write them under one particular hat or another particular kind of a hat, because that is not doing too much.
There is another thing that I quite frankly don't have an answer for and which this act does not do. It does not go ahead and, really and truly, protect the ... well, it's a difficult thing I suppose in society at any time, to completely protect the uninformed, but this act does not do that. Somehow or other, Mr. Speaker, in this act, if I could have the attention of the Attorney -General on this point, I'd much appreciate it. If there is some way that we could go ahead in the Province of B.C. and maybe, have a provision whereby the borrowers could be informed of the fair market rate of a loan... As long as we have a total disclosure of cost of loan in this type of thing, the act is complied with but that does not mean that, short of fraud, which is very difficult to prove in these cases as the Attorney -General well knows, short of that, and to seek rescission, there is really no way that a borrower can go ahead or the uninformed borrower can make up his mind that he is getting something that is at the going rate. I will just give you ... (interruption).
I've said, my friend, that it is an exceptionally difficult thing to do but I would like to give you an illustration here, just to cover this particular point, to show you how shocking certain things can be. I do hope that the disclosure provisions that we have in this act will cure this type of thing. This is a situation of a man and I'm just going to use round figures here. He had three properties and he had mortgages against those three properties of approximately $30,000. The three properties were worth approximately $50,000 so he's got
$20,000 equity. This man wished to borrow $7,500 for a period of about, I think it was, 10 months. In order to borrow the $7,500 for 10 months, first of all he agreed to pay a $6,000 bonus; number two, the people who loaned him the money agreed to take over the mortgage payments which were about 6 or 7 per cent to payments, interest rates on these mortgages, for the 10-month period. He agreed to pay them 12 per cent for anything that they paid back but, over and above that, and this was the worst thing of all, this was the absolute shocker in the thing, in order for him to borrow this money, he conveyed his total properties and had an option to pay back. Now, I'm getting to the real hooker ... (interruption).
Dreadful man, I'd hate to tell you his name, dreadful. You're talking about the lawyer for the lender - he didn't have one, Honourable lady Minister. That's the point. Let me continue. If you just listen to this, I think you will get a great deal of interest out of it. Mr. Speaker, he had $50,000 worth of property, $30,000 worth of mortgage, $20,000 equity and he wanted $7,500. For the period of time, the 10 months, he had to put up the $6,000 by way of bonus. He also had to pay 12 per cent on any payments made but, this is the most ghastly part of it, he conveyed the three properties to the lending company - this was the understanding - he would convey to the lending company and, in order for him to redeem at the end of the 10-month period, he did not have to keep the mortgages up-to-date, but he had to redeem them. In other words, that man would have to find, over 10 months, about $36,000 in order to recoup, which is an absolutely shocking state of affairs. I am happy to say that I personally feel that the provisions that you have in this act will do very much to cure that (interruption). Well, it was unconscionable but there's the man facing a trial. It's much better that he not get into this situation than get into it and have to bail out of it.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Dewdney.
MR. G. MUSSALLEM (Dewdney): We on the backbenches are concerned about Section 1 I and we are sure the Attorney -General will have an answer. We note the law society is exempt, here, but why is not the notary public exempt foy the same reason? We just bring this point up. We think it's rather important. I notice also that the banks are exempted but what about the national trust companies and the national mortgage companies, who were doing business with mortgages long before the banks' I would commend these two points to the Attorney -General. I think they are very important and should be considered (interruption) ... yes, and car dealers, too.
MR. PETERSON: There seems to be some confusion in respect to this bill that is before the House. I think one of the problems in drafting legislation is to try to make it understandable but when you have legal members of the House misunderstanding the bill as well then, I take it that we can conclude that we didn't quite succeed.
I'm not suggesting that the Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound did, but from the remarks from the Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey, I think you will agree with me that he hasn't quite understood the full impact of the bill. The point is this, and it's been raised as to the disclosure provisions that are designed to inform the consumer as to what the cost of borrowing this money is going to be, the full rate of interest, the full bonus, etc. What are
[ Page 777 ]
the total costs? That's the reason for the disclosure. Just because people are exempted from registration under part one of the act, doesn't mean that they are exempted from the disclosure provisions of the act. The banks, trust companies, you referred to - these terrible trust companies - and why they shouldn't have to provide disclosure, well, they do, under the legislation, Mr. Speaker. I think that point should be certainly clarified. Now_ . . (interruption).
As a matter of fact, this is an act that, in some respects, there is legislation in other Provinces but, in other respects, this legislation breaks new ground. It's not something that has come suddenly. As a matter of fact, we had it in one version almost ready, not quite, almost made the last session of the Legislature. But we have been working on it, during the year, improving it further and even though now, at this stage, we get it in the House, we still find, in some respects, that there is room for other improvements. Hence, the amendments and I will have more to say on that at a later date.
As far as notaries public are concerned, most of the notaries are engaged as well under the Real Estate Act and, under the Real Estate Act, they are required to be registered as mortgage brokers, not all of them but the great majority, I think, are in that category, In any event I don't think the other legislation elsewhere exempts notaries public, either.
The other points that were raised and I come to the Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound ... He didn't say precisely, "Why is this legislation necessary?" but he certainly left that impression. He spoke in very glowing terms of his constituents, who are in the mortgage business. I must agree that a great many of the people who are engaged in mortgage businesses, Mr. Speaker, are very responsible, reliable people. The fact that this legislation is necessary should not reflect to their detriment at all. But the fact is, and I suggest that practically every Member of this House could quote examples of situations where people loaning money on mortgages on land have not acted responsibly and I cite you a few examples of that ... I have a case, for example, where the amount of money requested on a property was $2,000, the quoted rate was 14 per cent. That's high enough but, then, when they discovered there was, also, after the deal went through, a bonus of $800, plus 18 per cent on the $2,800, which is equivalent to about 26 per cent on the $2,000 ... Now, that's the type of thing that is going on in this Province by some companies who are advancing money on mortgages on land. Another case, amount requested, $6,500, the quoted rate of interest 18 per cent on $5,000, 24 per cent on the remaining $1,500 (interruption). Well, the interest was as quoted but the $1,500 was never paid, that was, presumably, a bonus, so that that would work out at an even much higher rate. Another one and I'm not going through all the list. Three thousand dollars amount requested, the quoted rate 18 per cent on $3,000 and no bonus. What did they find, after the blanks were filled in, a bonus of $900, plus 18 per cent on $3,900? (Interruption.) The provision that requires this disclosure in advance should meet this as well as the provision for registration. Those engaged in putting through these loans that I referred to, tonight, will be required to register under this act. Certainly, I suggest to you, while the Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound complained of the powers of the registrar, and I agree they are extensive powers, they are not unique. There are similar powers in terms of dealing with real estate, similar to the powers for the supervision of brokers. I would suggest, with examples like this, you need extensive powers and you conveniently neglected to point out that provision has been made for an appeal from the actions of the registrar exercising his powers. That's provided for in this section.
I can't quite follow the suggestion that the individual should be named in the legislation before powers are given. I don't know of any legislation that we have passed where that is done because individuals change, or positions are changed from time to time, Mr. Speaker. I think it's an unreasonable suggestion that that should be disclosed in advance.
Mr. Speaker, there are other matters that have arisen. While the Honourable Second Member for Vancouver-Point Grey has praised the schedule, I might say that, since we've developed this schedule, we feel that there are further improvements that can be made. Fortunately, that schedule can be changed by regulation, so that the schedule can be improved in that respect and will be improved before the act is proclaimed. It is subject to proclamation and it would be my intention to proclaim the part dealing with registration first, and the disclosure provisions at a later date. But, certainly, none of it will be proclaimed until we're satisfied that all of the necessary improvements have been made.
I think those were the major points that were raised by the honourable Members. I move the bill be now read a second time.
Bill 38 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate, Mr. Speaker, on second reading of Bill 4 2.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate of Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Mines Regulation Act. The Honourable Member for Kootenay.
MR. L.T. NIMSICK (Kootenay): Mr. Speaker, at the time I adjourned this bill, I hadn't looked it over. Since that time, I find that it has got quite a few improvements in it in regards to regulations in the Mines Regulations Act, and a few extra protections. I would like to have seen it, after the two or three years that the Minister has had with the regulations concerning the strip mining. I thought, maybe, he might have had some changes in that, but I don't notice any. I don't know whether it, probably, has been put to work. What's in this bill, I intend to endorse.
Bill 42 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 43, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on Bill 43, An Act to Amend the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, 1965. The Honourable Member for Atlin.
MR. F.A. CALDER (Atlin): Mr. Speaker, on Bill 43, this bill, itself, has been in operation for up to six years and, from what I can gather, the companies involved and the Government, who provides guidelines, have indicated that this act has been a practical one and that there have been satisfactory situations all around. This amending bill involves a certain
[ Page 778 ]
amount of housekeeping clauses and I think that it is only right since the oil business is not as old as the other natural resources and, no doubt, any Government would have kept a close eye on how the laws introduced are operating. I think this is good, in view of the fact that other countries are discovering oil in other parts of the world and they, too, are setting out guidelines. But, in a space of six years, and particularly from what I can understand in the last two years, there has been quite a thorough survey made, which now has accrued to these amendments. The fact that the Government has been alerted to unnecessary drilling ... I think, the laws setting out for this guidance, that there be no unnecessary drilling, I think, are welcome.
I'm particularly interested in the principle of unitizing, in which x number of companies, with an x number of leases, pool their efforts and production. I think this is most welcome. In other words, you provide guidelines by which they can provide proper management. I think this is only well because you are thinking in terms of proper marketing and, I think, you are also thinking about transmissions. Even though I understand that a lot of the companies have not yet made any income over this, the fact remains that the Government is considering the proper management of all the newly discovered oil wells. Some of them are rather small but, by getting companies to work together, this provides for good business.
I think, and this is actual Government involvement, I think, in this particular field, there should be a real Government involvement because we note, in the past few months, where the Federal Government has taken steps to actually control, that's in the Federal field ... They are thinking about the taking over of the Home Oil, for instance. In order to take an active part in the development of the Arctic oilfields, I think, other countries are doing the same thing.
Now, I may be slipping out of the main principle, but unitizing is the base upon which I am giving these examples. I think, on this basis, too, this Government should also be considering a more active part, to the extent of creating a Crown corporation, which would be public ownership of the oilfields in British Columbia and, also, to the extent of controlling transmission lines. This has been thought of by Canada. At one time, this might have been a socialist getting up and saying, "Well, socialize," but, then, other countries, and I know your department is focusing attention to this ... This is something that has to be considered - more complete public ownership of the oilfields in all its phases, including the transmission lines. I would just urge that the Government continually think about this point because, one day, you may. We're all interested in what Canada is doing in the Arctic, what the United States is doing in Alaska, and what they are heading to is a full management and control of production and everything else, rather than to private industry. A fall Government control in this and I would just urge the Government to consider this particular fact. In the meantime, we are going to support this bill.
Bill 43 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 44, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on Bill 44, An Act to Amend the Marriage Act. The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to this bill. I think it's a retrograde step. It proposes to change the waiting period from the application of license and the granting of license for a marriage from three days to two days. I think it's a mistake. I have no idea why the Minister has brought this in and I think it tends to lead to the rush to the altar for the marriages that we already have in North America.
Most of the ministers, who have written me concerning this act, and proposals that I have made for delaying the marriage license time between granting a license and the actual marriage taking place, most of the ministers have written me . . . I have not received one letter from any minister in favour of this particular change in the Marriage Act.
As a matter of fact, when I spoke a year ago, on a proposal of having a six-week waiting period before marriage and a mandatory premarital counselling system be established during this waiting period, I received a great number of letters from ministerial associations, and private ministers, and social workers who are in the field. Now, I see the Minister of whatever he is shaking his head there, and I suppose he's happy when someone in his congregation gets a divorce that can be traced very quickly back to a very hasty marriage and people who were not prepared properly for marriage.
Mr. Speaker, I cite the statistics of divorce in North America: in the United States, where three out of five marriages are failing; in Canada where almost 40 per cent of the marriages are failing ... the kind of conditions that exist in a North American society that urge people into an early marriage, the State intervening at the divorce end of a marriage, but the State not getting involved before marriage. If the State, and I take this position, Mr. Speaker, before I make a few other comments, if the State presumes to look upon marriage as an agreement that they wish to interfere with in terms of setting the terms of divorce, then, the State has a moral and social responsibility to get involved before the marriage takes place. It is my definite opinion, from my own professional experience in the field of marital counselling, which I refused to do any longer because, in most instances, in my experience with marital counselling, I found very quickly that, if the couple concerned had had proper counselling before the marriage, in most instances, it would not have taken place. What does proper counselling include? What can you do in premarital counselling? Certainly, as I said earlier, you can give free advice, which is freely rejected, but you can raise questions between a couple, who are contemplating marriage, in areas that they might not be considering in their haste to get to the altar.
I suggest that most married couples, who enter the contract of marriage, have very little information about the practical aspects they are going to face in their life together. For instance, where is it in the curriculum of schools that they discuss budgeting, simple budgeting, for a housewife. or for a husband? I want to suggest to the Minister that he doesn't even have sex education in the schools. The silent Minister of Education ...
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can we get back to the Act, An Act to Amend the Marriage Act?
MR. BARRETT: Right, well, I'm coming to this act. The
[ Page 779 ]
preparation is nonexistent by the State, prior to marriage, and the Minister of Social Rehabilitation and Industrial Development or whatever the title is, the former Minister of Welfare, knows very well that, in this very Province, Mr. Speaker, there are over 13,000 children in foster homes, largely from broken marriages, and we have the highest number per capita of children from broken marriages of any Province in all of Canada. Your department has to pay the money and look after these children and, in many instances, we receive these children in care from broken marriages of youngsters who get married at the age of 17, 18 or 19, totally unprepared, with a State presuming no responsibility, prior to marriage, but being stuck with paying the bills and the social havoc that's caused because of inadequate preparation for marriage. My friend, the Minister of Welfare, shakes his head as if it doesn't change anything. Why don't you try? Whatever your gold-plated paper says, Mr. Speaker, why doesn't the Government experiment a bit? Do you know that your colleague, in terms of helping married couples, has one of the best programmes of prenatal counselling anywhere in North America? Do you know what his service has done in terms of statistics in the child mortality rate? It's been a tremendous boon to keep our child mortality rate down. That prenatal programme, under the Public Health Department of British Columbia, is a fantastic success. It started as an experiment and it's proven a tremendous success. I'm suggesting that premarital counselling be made available through ministers, even that minister, and made available through social workers and through doctors. When I receive testimony to this approach, from established churches, agreement right across this Province that this is a good idea, I suggest that the Government give it some consideration.
I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, a society falls apart when a family falls apart and the destruction of family life in North America, that this Government seems Hell-bent-to-leather to do, through this legislation, is a threat to the very fabric of the very kind of society we're trying to create. There is absolutely no justification, in my terms, for a cutback in the waiting period of a marriage, none, whatsoever. What about the other areas raised, in terms of the physical tests for venereal disease? Will those reports be completed in time? How many marriages will be closer to annulment because other arrangements were not made and precautions not taken?
Mr. Speaker, regretfully, I do not speak for my Party on this issue. I have not convinced all my colleagues, yet, but one or two or more of the enlightened Members of this House have seen the necessity for moving in the direction I am. I recognize, Mr. Speaker, that my arguments will fall on deaf ears but, you mark my words, within the next 10 years, legislative jurisdictions in North America will be moving away from this kind of legislation towards a delay of seven days, two weeks and three weeks of a waiting period before marriage. I think it is the only sensible thing to do. I advocate it very strongly.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable First Member for Vancouver East.
MR. A.B. MACDONALD (Vancouver East): Mr. Speaker, when Romeo and Juliet fell in love, Friar Lawrence knotted the cord in the Christian church in short order, happily, in that case, because their doom followed shortly after. I am a little afraid that there is a loophole, no matter what we do with this kind of a law. I am a little afraid if the waiting period were too long that, say, Prime Minister Trudeau would have married in, say, Bellingham. That is the kind of loophole that exists, as long as we live in British Columbia (laughter).
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Honourable Minister will close the debate.
HON. R.R. LOFFMARK (Vancouver South): Mr. Speaker, there are two authorities that are qualified and competent to perform the marriage ceremony, a marriage commissioner or a minister properly licensed for that purpose. Now, there is nothing to prevent a minister, before whom a couple appears seeking his services to perform the marriage, from inviting these young people to take a little time to think the matter over. Whether it's two weeks, or a month or six months is a matter between the minister presiding at the ceremony and the couple themselves. It is conceivable that, in the last two weeks before the marriage ceremony takes place, after their minister, their counsellor, has gone over the qualifications of the two people it is conceivable that he might persuade them that they shouldn't go on with this marriage. I think that, too, there are other situations where, under the same circumstances, for example, the publishing of the bans over a period of two weeks, gives them an opportunity to reflect on the matter.
AN HON. MEMBER: It takes three weeks.
MR. LOFFMARK: No, I think it takes two weeks. . . you have to have notice, the announcement is another week. The bans are published over a period of two weeks 'out it is a week to wait, so, in effect, it is three weeks. I mention this only for this reason that, for those people who do attach a very special, religious significance to this 'ceremony, and I mention that there are other people who do not and who treat this as a civil matter, but for those who do want to take the time to examine the budgetary abilities of the other member to their ceremony ... I must say, in my own case, it never occurred to me, during that two-week period before the marriage, to ever enquire of my wife's ability to carry out a budget. In intervening years, I've had cause to regret this but I doubt very much whether, in the circumstances, I would have been persuaded not to enter into the contract simply because of this obvious deficiency in my . . . they are so typical, my friends, that I think you should find them useful.
The point is that for those who do want to participate in premarital counselling of this type, the minister involved, I think, can do that. For other persons who feel that this is a matter of civil contract, they are entitled to have, I think, a law which is analogous to that which is found in other provinces. I think the best point is that this brings us into line with other Provinces. I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.
The House divided.
Motion agreed to on the following division:
YEAS - 43
|Marshall||Dailly, Mrs.||Campbell, B.|
[ Page 780 ]
|Kripps, Mrs.||McCarthy, Mrs.||Loffmark|
|Price||Dawson, Mrs.||Campbell, D.R.J.|
NAYS - 5
Bill 44 read a second time and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 49, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Bill 49, An Act to Amend the Department of Highways Act. The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, in the earlier debate of this bill, I was referring to some of the historical aspects that lead to this bill being placed on the Order Paper. In my reference to those historical aspects, I cast the minds of the Members of this House back to the 1968 Session when the former Minister of Highways resigned his post. At that time, Mr. Speaker, the official reason for the resignation of the Minister of Highways was defined in a number of ways. It was defined by the Premier as the Minister of Highways resigned because he had a very sore jaw from dental surgery. The statements from the Premier were not substantiated by the Minister, nor were they substantiated by other members of the Social Credit Party.
At that time, Mr. Speaker, there was great public awareness of the historic debate that had taken place in this House about the great increase in land values created by the establishment of highways, the construction of new highways or the new location of old highways. The principle in this bill was to cover that particular matter raised by the First Member from Vancouver East and raised again by the Second Member from Vancouver East. The principle expounded firstly in this Legislative Chamber was based on the practice that the Opposition group wished to establish in the Province of British Columbia and, to make the point of establishing this practice, the Opposition detailed cases where lands alongside highways had been created or had been given whole new values because of the location of that highway.
The Member for Vancouver East, at that time, was abused and attacked for proposing this new principle. The abuse was not related to the principle that the Member was expounding but, throughout that hectic Session, the Member consistently maintained his position that all such lands should come into the name of the Crown. He gave examples that reflected that such was not, indeed, the case but that certain people were making money out of these properties alongside the highways. A new word was coined into the vernacular of highway development in British Columbia and that word was the road runners.
Mr. Speaker, when the First Member from Vancouver East spoke of the road runners, which led to public speculation around the reasons for the resignation of the former Minister of Highways, the Premier, as I said,stated that the former Minister had resigned because of dental surgery. That was not the impression left in the public's mind.
I'll read a quote here from an editorial, March 22, 1968, in the Vancouver Province. "Mr. Gaglardi is not out of the Highways Department because of anything that is proved wrong. He is out because he did not follow the basic code which is that, not only should he be free of wrongdoing, but he should have taken all steps to enable the public to see there was no possibility of wrongdoing." Mr. Speaker, the newspapers were not interpreting his resignation as having anything to do with illness. The newspapers were interpreting his resignation as directly relating to the lack of policy in his department on the process of acquiring lands alongside new highways. After the Premier announced that the Minister's resignation had taken place ... (interruption).
I'm coming to the Premier's statement that deals with the bill, right now. My friend, you were not in the House, at that time, nor would you know the reasons why the Premier made ... (interruption).
Will you tell us? Will you tell us? Mr. Speaker, I'd like a little order in the House as I proceed with the principle of the bill. It was at this point, on Monday, April 8, 1968, that the then Minister of Highways, the Premier of this Province, stood in his place in the House and stated the following policy, and I quote from the newspaper, relating to this bill. Monday, April 8, 1968, three years ago the Premier of this Province rose to make the following policy statement. "'On all highways throughout the Province,' Highways Minister Bennett said, it will be Government policy and I have so instructed the Deputy Minister of Highways - that we are to secure land where there will be development, and ahead of time. We haven't yet decided policy on whether we will put them (the lands) up for bid or lease them.' Alex Macdonald, NDP Vancouver East, who raised the original charges of "road runners" said in reply to Bennett's announcement, 'This was the original thing that led me to raise the matter. There are great public revenues available. I think the Premier sees, as Minister of Finance, that there is big revenue available for the people of this Province."'
At that time, the Member from Coquitlam was myself, and I am quoted, in the paper, as saying that I welcomed the Premier's announcement but that I expressed my dissatisfaction for the following reasons. "It is a clear-cut policy change and we want to know the reasons. Does this mean something is wrong? Has something been wrong?"
The Premier having given that commitment to this House and to the people of British Columbia left the impression, earlier in this Session, in his very cautious way, left the impression that that policy had been, indeed, in practice. The following day, after having questioned the Premier in his
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estimates, as to whether or not that practice was in effect, I phoned the Deputy Minister of Highways, whom, the Premier told us and the people of British Columbia, had been instructed to implement such a policy to find that no such policy did exist, Mr. Speaker. The Premier of this Province mislead the people of this Province.
HON. G. McCARTHY (Vancouver-Little Mountain): Point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I am just asking your advice at this point, after hearing the Leader of the Opposition expound for some time on something that he has brought before this House very many times before. I am wondering if this act, Bill 41 if indeed, in discussing the principle of the act, can the Member dwell at such lengths on his opinion as to when the bill should be presented.
MR. SPEAKER: I am doubtful that the line of argument that is being used by the Leader of the Opposition is, in fact, discussing the matter of expropriation as is discussed in this bill as amended. The act itself is being amended by this bill and, unhappily, I have just come into the House. I think he's not taking a line of argument that has to do with the principle of expropriation in this particular bill.
MR. BARRETT: I must talk about the bill, itself It's not expropriation. It says here in the bill, by adding the words, the Department of Highways Act, being chapter 103 of the Revised Statutes of British Columbia-, 1960, is amended by adding, at the end, the words, ",or for the purpose of protecting and controlling the use of any land adjacent to the right-of-way on any proposed, new or newly relocated highway, at such places and for such depths at . . . "
MR. SPEAKER: I am quite able to read the section. If the honourable Member would look at the original act, section 9, subsection 1, you will find it is under expropriation. I think the line of argument being used is not in accordance with the principle of this particular amendment.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, we must discuss the principle of this bill, and the principle is to acquire land alongside highways so that they may be disposed of. I'm discussing that principle and I am pointing out to the. House, and I don't wish to be constantly interrupted by an embarrassed Premier, so that I can complete my debate ... I want to point out to the House that we were promised this legislation and it is only, now, before us, after a three-year delay. We were told that such policy was actually in existence when it was not. Now, when we have this bill in front of us, discussing the principle, the House, apparently, on the Government side, is not prepared, not willing, to discuss the reasons why the principle should appear but is also unprepared to discuss the reasons why the three-year delay on a promise made by the Premier.
I believe that all land alongside new highways, all land that has a brand-new created value because of a location of a new highway, access areas and access routes should be publicly owned. Any new land value, created by the construction of a highway that entails only expenditure of public funds to build that highway, those lands should be held in the name of the people who spent their money that created those new land values. Those lands should never be alienated by any private group, by any individual, because those land values have been created by the sweat and the toil and the taxes of the people of British Columbia and they have a right to share in those profits.
This bill does not come near what the Premier stated he intended to do. This bill only speaks of the possibility of acquiring land, alongside new highways. This bill says absolutely nothing about relocating accesses to already existing highways, nor does this bill spell out the promulgation, no promulgation, whatsoever, of the method by which these lands will be disposed. The principle of this bill is to give the illusion that the policy promised by this Government three years ago will, indeed, come into existence but the illusion will not fool those people who have watched the performance of the former Minister of Highways, the interim Minister of Highways, and the subsequent events.
Mr. Speaker, the principle of this bill was to incorporate an idea, an idea of responsibility that was first spelled out clearly by the Member from Vancouver East. That idea was that, when there was an expenditure of public funds on behalf of all of the people of British Columbia, no one, under any circumstances, should be in a position to benefit privately because of that expenditure of funds. No one can tell me, Mr. Speaker, that this Government, in its three-year delay, bringing in this half-measure, is anywhere close to cleaning up the basic problem that lead to the whole debate in 1968 and lead to the Premier's original pledge. The principle of this bill and the debate around it which lead to the resignation of the former Minister of Highways still leaves room for doubt, for question and for evaluation on a series of events that have transpired in this Province. This bill was brought in as an afterthought and I challenge the Premier of this Province to live up to his pledge of April, 1968, and bring this bill up to the full measure that he promised it would be on that dark April of 1968.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Premier.
MR. BENNETT: I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that every day is a dark day for the Leader of the Waffle group in this Province. I want to say this, that again in my opinion, he's tried to mislead the people of this House and the people of this Province. Right in this bill it says " . . . for the purpose of protecting and controlling the use of any land adjacent to the right-of-way of any proposed, new, or newly relocated highway and, Mr. Speaker, he said it didn't deal with the newly relocated highway. It's right in the act, Mr. Speaker. He's misleading the House. He's misleading the people of British Columbia. He should resign, himself, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver East.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is right that this bill is restricted to new or newly relocated highways and the speculators on the existing highways, the cats with cream on their whiskers, can say, "What we have, we hold." Yes, it doesn't touch the speculators who have the land, now, which, hour by hour, is increasing in value (interruption).
No, no, I'm not speaking about the farmers. I'm speaking about the land, say, at Del Cielo, which is now rezoned from agricultural to light industrial, with its value going up ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: That's the kind that we are talking about that is left out of this bill, Mr. Speaker.
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MR. SPEAKER: The House is not discussing what has been left out of the bill but what is actually in the bill and its principle.
MR- MACDONALD: Yes, and what is in the bill is the discretionary power that the Government may, on new or newly relocated highways, exercise these powers. They may - or they may not. And, after three years, what the Government has given us in this bill is a definite "maybe." I want to say that the fight is not over, that we intend to go right on to the end, until we are able to achieve for the people of the Province the benefit of the land that their tax dollars create. We're not going to be palmed off with this kind of a bill. We're going to be watchdogs for the public interest in this Province, Mr. Premier. It is not enough that this bill ... at least, I think, it admits you were wrong. I think it admits you were too late - three years - but that is paltry political penance. It's not good enough. Whether or not you are contrite doesn't matter. Because, in this group, as I say, we intend to make sure that this kind of real value accrues to the people of the Province.
I might say, too, Mr. Speaker, that this bill enlarges the! powers of the Minister to take land because, under the old Department of Highways Act, land could be taken at highway intersections or along the highway, if it were necessary for the purpose of the highway, or to obtain better access or to protect birds and animals, I think, the phrase goes. This enables the Minister to take, or retain, larger tracts of land and they will, then, be in his power and control. The possibilities of abuse of that trust are enhanced under this bill and we say that they should be retained by the Crown and leased out. It should be clearly spelled out in this bill that that's what should happen to these lands, because additional lands can now be held and retained by the crown. Unless you spell out clearly that there shall be, under no circumstances, any hanky-panky with respect to such land, you've got a dangerous bill, a dangerous bill. As I say, the fight is not over. We intend still to be, in this matter, watchdogs for the people of British Columbia.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I join in seconding the remarks of the First Member from Vancouver East. We have heard, over the years, in this House, criticisms about the expropriating powers of this Government in several of its acts. I would have thought that if we were going to amend the expropriating powers for the Minister of Highways, that we would do so by bringing in a new Expropriation Act, which covers all of Government's authority and responsibility. Instead, we have, here, an amendment which gives the Minister of Highways, the additional power of expropriating, not only for the highway itself for those purposes which are properly connected with the highway, but, now, to take lands for such depths as the Minister may deem appropriate at right angles to the highway. I suppose that we can now expect that, as the Minister of Highways goes through this Province and there is a proper bend in a highway and it's a nice little place for a gas station or something, he'll expropriate that, as well. Yes, it would be a heck of a mess and, in particular, it's a heck of a mess, Mr. Speaker, when you consider that, at least, under the present act, the Minister has power to dispose of those lands only when they are no longer required for any public works. But what is found in this Statute, Mr. Speaker is, that those words are being deleted from the disposal section of this act. So, now, having acquired these additional lands along highways, which may be capable of some other use, the disposal rights of the Minister of Highways are being extended so that he may now dispose of the lands whether they are required for any public purpose or not.
So, we have in this act, the principle which gives to the Minister expanded powers of taking and expanded powers of giving away. And that is the principle we object to. We have no objection to an expropriation Statute, which may take those lands, properly required by the Minister in the performance of his responsibility as the Minister of Highways but, when he is given powers to go beyond that responsibility in the taking of the land and when, having taken the land, he is given free reign to dispose of it whether needed or not by the public, then, we oppose this legislation.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Minister of Rehabilitation.
HON. P.A. GAGLARDI (Kamloops): Mr. Speaker, I believe the Leader of the Opposition did mislead the House in many ways. I want to stick particularly to it, for, at an appropriate time, I'll deal with the other issues. I want to speak specifically about what the Premier stated in regards to the control of intersections, as far as highway procedures were concerned. The Premier was right. There certainly has always been, as long as I was in the Department of Highways, at every intersection, if you check the legislation, you will find that a distance from all of the intersections, that land adjacent was always controlled land. If it were within a municipality, the municipal body had the control and the zoning. If it were outside, the other departments of Government had the control and the zoning. That control has always been there, it has always been there - from half a mile from the intersection, that's right. Always been there, and the zoning, yes. The control was with the Department of Highways but the zoning, yes, yes, the zoning has always been with other departments. That's right, and that's in the act. You will find it in the Municipal Act, and the municipal bodies control the areas adjacent to any one of the intersections, if it were within a municipality and if it were outside a municipality then it was whatever bodies, whatever department, had the power of zoning in those areas, regardless of who owned them. Further, there has been a very tragic misleading in this House in regards to profits that have been made on the side of highways. It is impossible, Mr. Speaker, . . . (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Just a moment. The honourable Member spoke at very considerable length on this very subject. Now, when the Minister wishes to answer, there's an objection raised.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, a Point of Order. I was not permitted to continue. I was interrupted by a speech, not by a Point of Order. I ask you if you are going to apply order I am going ...
MR. SPEAKER: This is a most unfair accusation upon the Chair. I allowed the Member to speak at some very considerable length, some very accusatory remarks were made and there's to be no opportunity, now, for rebuttal'
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MR. BARRETT: My opposition to your decision is this, that you are acknowledging rebuttal on a debate that I wasn't permitted to continue on.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the Honourable Minister please confine his remarks to the principle of the bill?
MR. GAGLARDI: The principle of this bill, as I understand it, Mr. Speaker, is to control property so that excessive profits from land speculators cannot be carried on in certain areas, prescribed areas. I think there is a tragic misleading in this House as to what was done in the past. There is absolutely no record anywhere, Mr. Speaker, of these things being allowed at any time by this Government. I think it's a well-known principle that, if a farmer, a poor farmer, owns a. piece of ground and that piece ... (interruption). Yes, a rich farmer or a poor farmer, but usually the farmers are not rich, excepting some of them, but usually the majority ... what I mean is that the majority is not rich. That's right. They are not land speculators and, when a highway goes through their property, the principle that the Socialist Party in this House is advocating is that that farmer who has held that land for 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years, or 15 generations, is not allowed to sell that piece of property as he should be allowed to sell it for a profit and a capital gain. If a land speculator picks up property on the side of any highway and he sells that land ... if he buys it for $5,000 and sells it for $50,000, who makes the profit? The speculator does not make the profit. The speculator has to develop it. He has to pay for the zoning. He has to take care of ... (interruption).
Just a minute. Wait till I get through. He has to pay for the legal responsibilities of the zoning, legal bills come high, that's right. Now, further, the real estate agent gets 10 per cent and the Federal Government comes along and lops off 50 or more per cent. They are the ones that make the money - the Governments make the money - at the good management of the people who buy land (interruption).
You don't know what you're talking about because anybody that's developing land, as a land speculator, has to pay a tax. There is no such a thing as no capitals gains tax for anybody that is speculating in land. So, all down through the years, Mr. Speaker, there has been a misleading presentation on the floor of this House as to the people who deal in land. You would think all of them were nothing but crooks, when, in the final analysis, they have to, maybe, purchase 50 pieces of land to be able to sell one at a profit.
I suggest to you that the Premier in his statements, in all of his statements, has been 100 per cent correct for the control has always been there. This control makes it a little bit tighter ... for the tragedy of many of the poor farmers who might not be able to realize what they should be able to realize from the land that they have owned down through the years.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver East.
MR. R.A. WILLIAMS (Vancouver East): Mr. Speaker, it's just a little hard to take the statements from the Honourable the Minister, with respect to misleading the House, in view of the history that the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out to the House tonight. "Misleading," the Minister says and the Minister has been involved in the question of access of highways and in controlling access of highways for a longer period of time than any Minister in the history of British Columbia. He says, "There's always been control," and that the zoning has always been controlled. He knows it's not so. The man next to him, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, knows that's not so. Most areas of the Province, in fact, have not been zoned. They are in unorganized territories and they are simply not zoned at all. So, there is nothing to do with that.
What's really misleading from the Member from Kamloops is the idea that it is the poor farmers who will suffer with this bill. Now, I take it the Minister is going to vote against this bill. I'm sure it's against his principles. He certainly spoke against it. "The poor farmers, it's the poor farmers who will suffer, " says the Member from Kamloops, and "it costs so much to handle development of land. Development costs so much." All you have to have is the handle to the money machine and the handle, as the First Member for Vancouver East has said, is access from highways and zoning, if necessary. In many of these cases, zoning isn't necessary. You talk about the cost, there's no cost, whatsoever. But to say that you are worried about the poor farmers is totally misleading, just as the Premier totally mislead, suggesting that it's the poor farmers who will suffer.
We're not talking about random windfalls in British Columbia, Mr. Speaker. Have they not heard the debates throughout the Sessions over the last three years I We're not talking about a random bingo game, where some people win and some people lose. We're talking about a system that's been operating where only a few win, and everybody else loses. It's that kind of bingo game we're talking about. These are not random windfalls. We have pointed to specific cases, where the sons of Ministers have been involved with respect to access to highways, where the sons of Ministers have benefited and, in fact, it's abundantly clear it is not random at all. 'Mere has, at least, been an unholy trinity that has benefited along the highways of British Columbia. Make no bones about that. The question . . . the point is ... (interruption).
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. GAGLARDI: Point of Order. I am asking, Mr. Speaker, if the present speaker is imputing any motives or suggesting any such a thing as even an idea of wrongdoing of the former Minister of Highways? If he is, I demand that he withdraw.
MR. WILLIAMS: That's an "iffy" question, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, the honourable Member, under no circumstances, may impute improper motives of another Member of the House.
MR. WILLIAMS: I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker. The specific facts, Mr. Speaker, have been presented before this House on numerous occasions. The beneficiaries have been pointed out on numerous occasions. They have done extremely well. The point has been made that profits have not been random. It's not poor farmers, it's not the people who have been settled there for 15 generations - that would be my friend from Atlin - and it's not them who have benefited along the new highways of British Columbia.
The question, really, Mr. Speaker, is whether we've got another kind of misleading situation as we had in 1968 from
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the Premier, because the Premier mislead this House. He said this policy, in fact, existed and it did not.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Can we get back to this particular bill and discuss it first'?
MR. WILLIAMS: But there are still major ... We regard this bill as a modest step forward in a battle that we have been carrying on for a few years. We will be voting for it because it is a modest step forward. The bill, however, does not say, "shall," so, again, it puts the onus on the Minister in terms of determining who will benefit and who won't. That's a situation that should not, in fact, exist. It's not an enviable position for the new Minister. As one newspaper pointed out, editorially, the new Minister has a major job. I think they suggested the equivalent of cleaning the Augean stables. But, at any rate, we would hope ... (interruption). I'm quoting the newspaper ...
MR. SPEAKER: Order. State your Point of Order.
MR. GAGLARDI: If the speaker is casting any reflection, of any kind, by stating his statements about cleaning up or straightening out something from the former days, I demand that he withdraw because there is no such thing.
MR. SPEAKER: The Member may want to clarify that he is not imputing improper motives to the former Minister.
MR. WILLIAMS: No. I can't speak for the newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, in its editorials. But, I would have expected a letter to the editor, if it had been of undue concern, prior to now, because the editorial was about two weeks ago.
We would hope, Mr. Speaker, that the new Minister of Highways will refine this bill and come in with further legislation, at least, in the next Session dealing with the whole question of disposal of these lands, in the handling of leasehold tenure along such valuable sites, in the handling of bidding with respect to these new tenures, and so on. There axe major gaps that remain so that we see this only as a modest victory, the first step in a programme that we have been advocating for some years.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver-Point Grey.
MR. P.L. McGEER (Vancouver-Point Grey): Mr. Speaker, it seems to us that the bill being put forward doesn't quite meet a situation, and I'm not, by describing what I see as the problem, I'm not in any way imputing motives to people past or present, but just to describe a problem. Suppose, at some future time, with some future Government, we're building a new highway in British Columbia and there are people who will want to put service stations along that highway, perhaps hotels, or motels, something like that ... and the oil companies, who want to get service stations, know that there is no point in applying to the Government, themselves, in order to get the leases with access on and off that highway. Those companies know that they will have to go to certain insiders, who are known to the Government and, so, oil company x knows it will be refused if it goes directly to the Government but, if it goes via a Mr. Smith, then, they will get their access to the highway.
Now, how do you deal with a situation like that, that would tie the hands of a Government from any such approach, when new highways were being put through, and still take care of the situation that the former Minister of Highways described about the poor farmers, who had an opportunity for a windfall, waiting all those years for the highway to come through their property? I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, that we have all the answers but, it seems to me, that this particular act seems to imply that the Government hasn't been doing this properly in the past, otherwise, they wouldn't feel compelled to bring this legislation in.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, you can't say that.
MR. McGEER: If they are expressing guilt by this bill, they are certainly not expressing any will to reform, because there is nothing commanding about the wording of this particular bill, nothing commanding at all. We're just left with the idea, "Maybe, we'll reform." It seems to me that the bill does neither one thing nor the other. It doesn't expunge any guilt that the Government may feel for its past action. It certainly doesn't solve any problem for the future because it says "may."' This hypothetical situation that I described, whereby an oil company that wanted to get a location for a service station would know there was no point in that oil company coming directly to the Government, it would know that it would have to go through certain people known to the Government ... That's the kind of thing that you really have to prevent. I'm not talking about now, or in the past, but at some future time. If a system like that ever were to be established by a government in a province, Mr. Speaker, if a system like that ever did exist, then, that government should resign or be dismissed by the people.
MR. SPEAKER: I am wondering what this line of argument really has to do with the principle in either section 1 or section 2 - a hypothetical situation that doesn't exist, as has been admitted by the Member?
MR. McGEER: I'm pointing out how a situation could exist and how a bill, Mr. Speaker, should anticipate a problem rather than to close the door after the horse has got away. This is what we're trying to do. You see, this bill, Mr. Speaker, if I may, is so permissive that it doesn't deal with the problem that I think it's intended to deal with. On the other hand, if we want to try to protect people, as the former Minister of Highways suggested, this evening - the poor farmer who has scratched out a living all his life and he has this one single chance to make a windfall - this opportunity might be taken away by an over-zealous Government. It might take his land away, feeling that they were going to be criticised by the NDP if they didn't. So this man, who might be entitled to his profit, he's going to have that taken away by this bill, if you have an over-zealous department. That's the tragedy of section 2 - You may gyp the farmer. The tragedy of Section 1 is that you don't stop the road runners.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Saanich and the Islands.
MR. J.D. TISDALLE (Saanich and the Islands): Mr. Speaker, in relationship to the remarks by the Leader of the Opposition and also the Second Member from Vancouver East, I would like to inform them that the road runner is the enemy of the rattlesnake and he always kills with his mouth shut.
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MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Burnaby Edmonds.
MR. DOWDING: I think one thought should be corrected, that the Premier threw across to the House and that is that, the farmer is somehow benefiting from this question of new highways and new access routes. When you look at section 9, as being amended by this provision, assuming that, maybe, in his discretion, the Minister of Highways might decide that he will do something under this amendment - not that he shall, but that he might - then, you have the question, looking at this afterthought legislation, whether any farmer ever benefited, in the past, by these new highways, these limited access routes, these new interchanges, that have occurred in the last 12 or 15 years.
I'll give you an example of one where a farmer didn't benefit and that was at the Oak Street Bridge on the Deas Island throughway. There was a farmer there, he really kicked up quite a fuss, because the Minister of Highways took a great deal more land than he certainly needed for the freeway. Then, when he had this surplus land there, which he said he needed to store some of the earth, after the highway was completed the farmer said, "Well, give me back my land I'd like to keep on growing vegetables on my land." The Department of Highways said, "Oh, we took that land from you. We expropriated it. You are just a farmer. You are not going to get your land back." They sold it out to some syndicate that ended up building a marvellous hotel there, in a beautiful position on an interchange, right by the Oak Street Bridge. Now tell me what the farmer benefited by that? He was paid on the original value of his land as farmland but, boy, did it become valuable after the freeway was there and wonderful, with an access interchange right there from the airport, for a beautiful hotel' Did that farmer benefit? Not one bit. That's a good example of how farmers benefited under the previous policy of this Government. I don't know that the people of British Columbia benefited by it. I doubt it very much. They got the highway but the values that were created by that highway went to a private group that now has a hotel there that is benefiting by that interchange to the airport.
I suggest that this modest step forward, which is, in my opinion, afterthought legislation must be supported, but we must go on from there to make it mandatory that public lands at highway interchanges be treated as public domain for the benefit of the public as a whole in years to come.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 49 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on Bill 61, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on the second reading of Bill 61, An Act to Amend the Soldiers' Land Act. The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition adjourned the debate.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, as I recall, I adjourned the debate on behalf of the Second Member from Vancouver East.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, that's quite right. The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver East.
MR. WILLIAMS: I am aware of the intent of the bill, with respect to the South Okanagan land irrigation district, to dispose of works and assets. It appears to be a reasonable proposition at this stage.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 61 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on Bill 62, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on the second reading of Bill 62. The Honourable Member for Burnaby-Edmonds adjourned the Debate.
MR. DOWDING: I had a chance to look this over, Mr. Speaker. I have no further comments at this stage.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 62 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 66, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on Bill 66, All-terrain Vehicles Act. The Honourable Member for Kootenay adjourned the debate.
MR. NIMSICK: Mr. Speaker, this bill deals with a type of motor-vehicle and I do not quite understand why it shouldn't be in the Motor-vehicle Department because they are going to keep all the records and that to handle it. They probably will have to be licensed. I think there is a need for regulations in regards to these vehicles. Some of these regulations, I think, are a little bit difficult to understand. You state in there that one of these vehicles can't go onto private land, unless they go and request. Now, when there is six feet of snow and the fences are covered over, it's pretty difficult sometimes for these people ... and a lot of these people who use this type of vehicle are out for pleasure. It's one of the pleasures that they have in a snow country. Families go out on Sunday or two or three of them go out and they have a weiner roast or something. These vehicles are not all used for chasing game, or doing damage, or anything like that. An awful lot of them are used very conservatively. Industry uses them and, I think, that if you are going to say ... and if a person can be punished for running one of these vehicles on top of six feet of snow because he happens to be on somebody's land without permission, I don't think that this is quite proper.
We've got to try to use our land as much as possible in a multiuse way, otherwise, people will not have any pleasure out in these places. Sometimes, you have to go across somebody's land. If it's posted, I say, "Fine," but if it's not posted, with "No trespassing" signs on or anything, I don't see any reason why we should have that in there denying people the right to run out in the wild country. You've got
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all the power in the world, under other acts, if that person does any damage at all with a snowmobile ... and you're going to put numbers on them and everything ... if he does any damage to any private property certainly he can be sued. There is no question about that. I don't see why we should say to the person, "You cannot go on private property." Most of this is done out in the wilderness, where they are not going to do any darn age. I just think that that section should not be in there because, just as sure as anything, somebody is going to be picked up by somebody who is not too sociable and they will pick somebody up, the judge will get this bill and there will be no alternative but to fine the person for traveling on that property. If you left it some way that they could ... in a lot of these places, the owners are not there and it's impossible for a person to go and ask if they can go across their property when they are not living there (interruption). Listen, I don't think that we should place anybody under this type of a situation. We've got the other acts, if they do any damage, they can be sued by other acts, the Trespass Act, or any act you like. But, to say that a person is breaking the law by crossing somebody's property with a snowmobile, when you don't know where, maybe, the fence is or anything else, I don't think it's the right thing to do. This is just a suggestion to the Honourable the Minister and I hope he will take it into consideration.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound.
MR. WILLIAMS:... a Statute to call them all-terrain vehicles, is nothing compared to the kind of a bill that it is. I don't happen to agree with the Member, who just sat down, because someone, who can afford to buy a snowmobile or a trail bike or a dune buggy does not, Mr. Speaker, I submit, entitle that person to go wherever he may please, across whatever property he may choose, without penalty or responsibility.
It seems to me that this act is bending too much to the impact of some of our manufacturers upon our society. They keep producing these new vehicles and everybody buys them and then, suddenly, they shall be entitled to go up every trail that exists, to disrupt the peace and serenity of the countryside at will, regardless of who else may be inconvenienced by their actions. We see campers going around and they have these vehicles on the front and they are on boats and they land on the islands and in our inland waters. If you happen to be out enjoying our environment and you are hiking and so on, and then, suddenly, you are confronted by some fool on a vehicle. I'm just not sure that I entirely agree with the scope of this bill but I certainly do agree with some of its restrictions. It seems there are some restrictions that are lacking. I note in the bill that, if you are a person who rents such a vehicle, you must ensure that that vehicle is equipped with a third-party public liability insurance policy. Well, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that no person should be registered, or issued a permit, or certificate of registration, or whatever it may be, with respect to the operation of that vehicle by himself or by any other person, unless he produces an insurance policy. If you happen to be out on Crown land, or wherever these vehicles may be properly operated, and are suddenly confronted by one which knocks you down you are just as badly injured there as if you were on a highway and the consequences of that injury are just as great. Yet, it may be operated by some 12-year-old child. No insurance? No insurance on the vehicle, no insurance on the operator, no insurance on the owner of the vehicle. I think this is a serious shortcoming in this act. If a person can afford to acquire one of these all-terrain vehicles, a dune buggy, or whatever it may be ... you may be out on the beach, someplace, enjoying yourself and, suddenly, over the top of a dune comes one of these buggies right into the middle of your picnic, with disastrous consequences and . . . no insurance. So, it seems to me that this is something which, if we are going to have this act, if we are going to give these permits and allow these machines to function under control, we should ensure that the people who own them have the financial responsibility to compensate those who may sustain damage as a result of their operation. I hope the Minister would be prepared to consider this.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Surrey.
MR. E. HALL (Surrey): Mr. Speaker, I think one of the interesting things that happens every Session is, when the 55 Members meet, they exchange the problems that they have come across in casual conversation in the corridors and in the coffee shop and so on. I, for one, was intrigued to hear of some of the problems in the north country to which this bill addresses itself and, I think, for that reason, and for that reason, alone, it commends itself to the House in terms of the question of registration and identification. On that basis I think it should be supported.
There are a number of other principles. One of the principles is, apart from the question of recognition and identification, is the question that you make the people operating these things do certain things at certain times.
I want to address myself, if I may, to the principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker, that deals with the question of accident reporting. I would not have thought, from my vantage point in Surrey, that there would be that many accidents. I would ask the Minister to prepare for us, if he is of a mind to do so, any information he can share with the House on the question of the record that he is able to discern on accidents, the need to report, the kind of dollar value in terms of real property accidents and in terms naturally of human misery that may have come across his desk in the last 12 months. I think it's important for the House to know that kind of thing before it can make an intelligent decision on the very complex situation that can arise from, specifically, section 6.
May I say, Mr. Speaker, that I find it very hard to understand why this bill should call for the onus of proof that the loss or damage in an accident should rest entirely on the operator. That is a reversal of what I thought was the basic law - that you are innocent until you are proven guilty. I thought we all believed in that and, yet, here in section 6, it reverses that, so that you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. I suggest that the language has come from the Liquor Act and the Drug Act, two Statutes that, frankly, I don't think are applicable to the question of registration of motor-vehicles. I want to impress on the House that, when I see a Statute that's calling for a reversal of that time-honoured principle - that you have to prove yourself innocent - I frankly can't agree. I want to raise that with the Minister.
The question of any information the Minister can give us to substantiate the need for this rather complex section, I would appreciate the House either receiving, when he closes the debate, or in readiness for committee stage.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Esquimalt.
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MR. H.B. BRUCH (Esquimalt): Mr. Speaker, supporting this bill, I want to urge the Minister in the Department, now, that we are making people responsible for these unusual types of vehicles and the use of them . . . they are coming out with new types day by day and I think we're not just dealing with snowmobiles and that type of vehicles. We are getting more and more of the dune buggy and the other types of vehicles, as well ... that we have to keep a close eye on the changing conditions, the changing types of vehicles that are coming forth, and bring in public protection much sooner than it has been, heretofore, in that we have been a long while waiting for protection from this type of vehicle and its abuses. We have to keep up with the changes and make sure that they are dealt with as new types come along.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable Member for Atlin.
MR. F.A. CALDER (Atlin): I will be very brief, Mr. Speaker. I am heartily in approval of this bill, here, with what knowledge I have of the use of snowmobiles up in my part of the country. Just a while ago, my colleague here from the Kootenays mentioned about not being able to identify anything due to a certain footage of snow. I know some of these vehicles have been used to acquire fuel wood, or small logs, and drive them over properties and some of the private property fences are just so high you barely see them, and when these logs come swooping in, they destroy the tops of these fences. There has been a lot of criticism over this in many parts of my territory.
Some of the vehicles have been stolen and used to go out and abuse game. The owner may be away at Whitehorse, over on the Yukon side, where the central areas are, where they go shopping. In the meantime ... and we have several cases where a snowmobile has been used for game and just left. When the police come, they don't know who owns it, whereas, if there is a number on it, registrations and everything, you know this. Where we live, Mr. Speaker, even the small boats are registered and, in drownings, we have been able to identify through the registration of these small boats and many other examples, so I am in approval of this. These small machines have to be looked after and I am in approval of putting the onus on the owner. Perhaps a lot of it is his fault as to why it is so free to use these vehicles. As far as putting it under Recreation - what I know about the use of these machines in the abuse of game, I think it should be under the Recreation Department.
MR. SPEAKER: The Honourable the Minister will close the debate.
HON. W.K. KIERNAN (Chilliwack): Mr. Speaker, I think this has been a useful discussion and I would be the first to tell you that I don't think this is a perfect bill. I expect we will have it back here to amend it. I expect the year after that we will have it back to amend it again.
What we are trying to do here is establish a legislative basis upon which we can, at least, register and identify and get some accurate count, not only the machines, but who is doing what with them.
Insofar as one or two of the points raised are concerned, there is such a thing as innocent trespass, although you may be on somebody's private property. You will see, in one section of the act, it says that if you are apprehended on somebody's private property and asked to produce your certificate of registration, you must do so and, when requested to leave, you must leave. Now, that doesn't imply, in itself, that anyone is expecting a judge to take a severe view of innocent trespass. There is the other situation, of course, where people are making a ruddy nuisance of themselves and they are imposing themselves on somebody else's property, at the other person's inconvenience and, I think, in that kind of a situation, a judge would take a more severe view of what the people were doing.
The question of insurance, as it relates to people renting these vehicles, arises from the fact that, since this is a new business, some of the people going into the business may not be very well financed and, yet, they will be the registered owners of these vehicles upon whom the first liability will lie. Now, if they do not have public liability insurance, they might well be unable to pay for damages that would come as proper claims against them, arising from the operation by renters of their vehicles and it was felt essential to make, at least, that basic provision initially. There will be considerable thought and consultation directed to the preparation of any regulations coming from within the framework of this Statute but I would be the last to pretend that it's a perfect Statute. We will have to gain some experience with it and be prepared to amend it in the light of our experiences (interruption)-
No, we've had no indication in that respect, because we can't even tell anybody, including ourselves, how many vehicles there are, how fast they are growing in numbers. There are no available records kept of these vehicles at the present time. A year from now, we may be better able. I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 66 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 68, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 68, An Act to Amend the Forest Act. The Honourable the Second Member for Vancouver East.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I suppose the main point of the bill deals with the question of taxation of timber lands for protection purposes. As the Minister pointed out, one of the changes involved centres about shifting from a per acre charge to an annual cut charge. He made that fairly clear in his presentation. It is abundantly clear that the levies in this area, in our basic industry in British Columbia, are extremely low. They are ridiculously low and the idea of a levy of 12 cents per acre in one area, and 2 cents in the case of volume, is clearly an almost ludicrous level of taxation. I know the Minister will say this is only for a single purpose. We should compare these kinds of levies with the levies paid by the small landowner in the rural areas, Mr. Speaker. The levies paid by the small landowners ... for example, you talk about a rural acre worth, say, about $500 and a mill rate of, maybe, 40 mills, you would be talking about a levy of $20, instead of a levy of 12 cents. That is the kind of range that we have. It's a 12 cent levy in the case of a certain type of timber license and it's a $20 levy in other cases in the rural areas. That's 160 times more.
The Minister talked about a difference in philosophy with
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respect to revenues from the forests of British Columbia, and there is a great difference in philosophy between the Official Opposition and the Government. The Government's philosophy is clearly one of only modest charges against the forests and, then, allows the forest to get out of public hands for a long period of time for a modest charge and, then, sees to it that the modest charge prevails over the years. So, these levies, Mr. Speaker, are totally unacceptable to the Opposition, in relation to the kinds of revenues we should be getting from the forests.
It is true that the switch to annual cut is a modest improvement but, if the Minister wants to work in these limited areas, as he's so prone to do as an administrator, then, I would refer him to the Finnish examples and how they handle taxation in Finland. There they base the taxation levy on soil quality. If you are dealing in this kind of taxation, then, soil quality is a far better base for the tax, even than an annual allowable cut. I urge it upon the Minister to look into the Finnish example. It may be unique in the world. The good thing about the Finnish example, and one that should appeal to the Government side of the House, is that it carries with it no disincentives. If work is done on the forests to increase the annual cut, then, there would not, in the Scandinavian example I refer to, be the disincentives built into the tax structure. That modest disincentive - because when you are talking about pennies, they are pretty modest disincentives - would, at least, disappear.
On the question of licensing ground wood and refiner ground pulp, the central issue really lies in the question of the degree of processing that we encourage and demand in British Columbia. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we should be demanding a greater degree of processing and we shouldn't be happy with simply the production of refiner ground pulp in the Province. The main point, Mr. Speaker, is that the Minister had a chance to take a somewhat broader view and obtain, at least, a near decent return on the resource rather than just look at this narrow area. Instead, he's continued to take the point of view of talking about pennies when he should be talking about dollars. For that reason, we will be voting against this bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 68 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 70, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on the second reading of Bill 70, An Act to Amend the Police and Prisons Regulation Act. The Honourable the Leader of the Opposition.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 70 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
MR. PETERSON: Adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 71, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Adjourned debate on the second reading of Bill 71, An Act to Amend the Controlled Access Highways Act. The Honourable the First Member for Vancouver East adjourned the debate.
Motion agreed to.
Bill 71 read a second time, and Ordered to be placed on the Orders of the Day for committal at the next sitting after today.
The House adjourned at 11: 26 p.m.