1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 1975
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Resource Revenue and Sharing Act (Bill 37). Mr. Bennett.
Introduction and first reading — 643
Municipal Consultation Act (Bill 38). Mr. Bennett.
Introduction and first reading — 643
Budget debate (continued)
Mr. D.A. Anderson — 643
Mr. Curtis — 651
Hon. Mr. Lauk — 657
Division — 663
Committee of Supply: Premier's estimates lion.
Mrs. Dailly — 663
Statement Purchase of Aberdeen Hospital.
Hon. Mr. Cocke — 663
Mr. Curtis — 664
Mr. D.A. Anderson — 664
FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 1975
The House met at 10 a.m.
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): Mr. Speaker, I know you'll be pleased to know that in the gallery and touring the buildings this morning we have 11 students from George Elliot high school, whose home is the community of Winfield, part of the fruit bowl of the world, the Okanagan.
We have a very strong bond of pride among all our people in the area, but we're particularly proud today because we have among the students Graham Marshall, who won the right to represent British Columbia at the national finals of the Hammarskjold debating competition, and Bonny Young, who won third affirmative speaker's position. They were competing — that little group from that little community of Winfield — against 43 other teams from around British Columbia. They're here with their classmates and their chaperons: Mr. and Mrs. Young, Mr. Tucker, and their vice-principal and also debating coach, Mr. David Aspinall. I would ask the House to give them a very warm welcome and to wish our debaters luck.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS (Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources): Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the House to welcome today the Hon. Jeanne Sauvé, Minister of the Environment for Canada who is meeting with us throughout the morning, and Mr. Len Marchand, parliamentary secretary to Madame Sauvé.
HON. G.R. LEA (Minister of Highways): Mr. Speaker, because of the distance between the capital and my riding, it's not too often I get the opportunity to ask the Members to join with me in welcoming people from my riding, but I have that honour and privilege today. Seated in the Members' gallery are members of the Prince Rupert senior high school girls' basketball team, the Rambirds. They've been down here taking part in the provincial tournament and are with their coach, Mr. Kim Mah. I would ask the Members of the House to join me in welcoming Prince Rupert people to Victoria and to the House.
MRS. D. WEBSTER (Vancouver South): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of welcoming, and hope the House will also welcome, several members of our Vancouver South constituency association who are seated in the Members' gallery.
Introduction of bills.
RESOURCE REVENUE AND SHARING ACT
On a motion by Mr. Bennett, Bill 37, Resource Revenue and Sharing Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
MUNICIPAL CONSULTATION ACT
On a motion by Mr. Bennett, Bill 38, Municipal Consultation Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Orders of the day.
ON THE BUDGET
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): I was going to join in welcoming the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mme. Sauvé) and Len Marchand, the parliamentary secretary, but I see that the provincial Minister's need for advice is so great that they and the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams) have left to get on with their discussions. They certainly need help and we are glad that Len and Madame Sauvé are able to come and provide it.
My 40 minutes today will be devoted first to outlining some of the changes which we think are necessary in the whole structure of government which has been outlined by the budget presented by the Premier, and then to go on and deal with a couple of other subjects which I believe are of considerable importance: namely, the credibility of this government and the problem of labour relations in the public sector. These three subjects are, I believe, of critical importance to us at the present time, and I will try to stay within the 40 minutes allotted to me.
Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that at the present time....
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): You have no choice.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Except by leave. At the present time governments are growing and budgets are growing at an enormous rate. The Hon. Member for Cariboo (Mr. Fraser) mentioned a moment ago that when he came to this House, only six years ago, the budget was below the $1 billion mark. We've gone from under $1 billion dollars to over $3 billion, essentially in the first five years of this decade. As the Hon. Member mentioned to me, there has been a phenomenal growth, and this growth is matched by governments at the federal and municipal levels. The total amount taken from the public to support these governments is increasing exponentially. We are even
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reaching the point where disincentive is taking place, where,
because of tax rates and the fact that people do not get the reward for
which they work, they are refusing promotions and they are refusing
they are refusing the type of thing which, up to now, has kept our society very productive.
We have, I think, what is approaching a crisis problem. It's not the only time. I would refer you to 1932 when Premier Tolmie appointed a committee to investigate the finances of British Columbia. This committee, I might add, made some dramatic suggestions for change, including reducing the size of this Legislature to 28 Members.
HON. R.M. STRACHAN (Minister of Transport and Communications): He wanted to close UBC, too.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: That may well be, Mr. Minister. Conditions have changed a great deal since the '30s. The committee reporting to Premier Tolmie was talking about a total government budget of under $30 million. We are now talking about a total government budget of $3.2 billion, an enormous increase in expenditure. But the essential problem was the same. There was the concern about the total level of expenditures and the direction these expenditures were taking.
Just last week my colleague from Vancouver–Point Grey, in the alternate Liberal budget, pointed out, with his usual modesty, that he had been right every year he had put in an alternate budget. He was right last year. He was 99 per cent accurate; I think his error was less than 1 per cent. As I mentioned, with his becoming modesty he pointed out that his budget this year would similarly be far more accurate than that provided by the government. I am sure that will be true. Year after year it happens and year after year the Hon. Member for Vancouver–Point Grey is proved to be correct.
His budget was cast in conventional terms, the conventional terms of the Social Credit administration that preceded the present NDP administration, the conventional terms in terms of government organization. We are wondering in this party whether or not this is the correct approach to the whole question of government organization.
Government in British Columbia, like Topsy, "just growed." It got bigger and bigger for a variety of reasons: programmes were virtually never terminated; new programmes were added; new Ministers were added; new divisions within those Ministries were added. We have enormous transfers of money within the community. We have a vast increase in the number of civil servants, and there has not been a stopping — a sitting back — a look at the direction we are going and an examination of the benefits.
We know what happens to a government; we've seen it here. Members on the back bench wish a promotion; new Ministries are added. It has happened with the Ministers Without Portfolio and new Ministries — Consumer Services, Housing and Communications. The government simply growed, just as Topsy did. That's what has happened in the past three years.
It was happening before. The difference is that previously we had a penny-pinching Premier (Hon. Mr. Bennett), now we do not. That was the check previously. That check no longer exists.
Mr. Speaker, I think that while the government, particularly the frontbenchers of the government, read the newspaper political pages and react with enormous sensitivity to what they read, they should perhaps look at the gardening pages as well. What we really need in this government is a pruning of the government itself, an attempt to cut back in areas where the plant may be worn out or dying, an attempt to put in something which better suits the needs of the late '70s.
So my first recommendation is a proper look at the government of this province. It does not mean we reduce services; it does not mean at all that we should reduce services which people consider necessary. Indeed, it is just the opposite. It is a reapportioning of the moneys we have available so that they go where they can best be utilized.
There is plenty of evidence that such an examination is needed. All Members saw a report, I'm sure, dealing with the attitude of the students who worked for the government last year. An enormous number of them doubted whether the work they were doing was worthwhile and, worse, doubted whether the work their colleagues in the permanent civil service were doing was worthwhile.
We had the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Lea) get up and state that when he first entered a civil service, the federal civil service as it was, I understand, he was told by a colleague that he should keep his nose clean, keep out of trouble and he would get to the top. He has indeed done just that thing.
The fact is that in the civil service this attitude does exist, both provincially and federally, not because the civil servants themselves are in any way badly motivated or ill disposed but simply because the system in which they work, as the Minister of Highways made clear, doesn't lend itself to innovation, change and the type of pruning that I talked about and which he talked about.
If we look at the present budget brought down by this government, we find one or two fantastic things. We first find a phenomenal increase in advertising expenditure, which was referred to by the Second Member for Vancouver–Point Grey (Mr. Gardom) — this enormous increase in money spent puffing up the government — of over $6 million.
The second thing that I noticed was the enormous amount of the budget devoted strictly to
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administration. Approximately a third of the budget, approximately $1 billion, is simply going into administration and not into programmes. It is maladministration in many instances. It is money wasted. It is money which is not put to any productive use. It is money which is not transferred to any group in society which needs assistance. It is simply money taken off the top for administration, reducing the work force for more constructive work elsewhere, reducing the amount of money in tax revenues that can be put into positive, constructive programmes.
So the first step is an examination of the government institutions in this province. We think we should get advice not only from people in the public sector but also in the private bureaucracies as well. Let us face it, most of the major companies in British Columbia are bureaucracies in their own way, not dissimilar to the bureaucracy of the government. We should consult people in the private bureaucracies, people in the public bureaucracies — people at the universities such as Dr. Perry, who is currently establishing a school of administration at the University of Victoria, or Prof. Bourlet who is a visiting professor at UBC and who has made a life study of this area of government.
I am convinced that such an inquiry would point to substantial savings of public money with no sacrifice of efficiency — indeed, in the end result an increase in programmes for the citizens of British Columbia.
It might even mean a smaller civil service. I trust it would. But in my view, the remaining civil servants would have more interesting, challenging and productive jobs. Some of the frustrations they now feel in their work would disappear.
Mr. Speaker, in a report prepared for Premier Tolmie many years ago, the suggestion was made that this province could be run by five Ministers in addition to the Premier. This, for reasons that are obvious, instantly appealed to the Liberal caucus. We thought there was something really worthwhile in a suggestion that five men could run the province. However, we looked at it a little closer — we realized that we intended to win a few more seats — and we decided that the breakdown of the Tolmie report was inadequate under the present circumstances. In it there would have been a Premier, an Attorney-General, a Minister of Finance, a Minister of Social Services, a Minister of Public Works, and a Minister of Natural Resources.
At the present time there is a much greater range of demands for services from the government. Obviously, six Ministers would not be adequate.
But it is time we started asking some basic questions about the role of government in British Columbia over the next 25 years and the ability of the current machinery to handle those needs.
Institutions created years ago are no longer appropriate in many instances. Are they giving good value for money?
Without prejudging that study that we recommend, we feel there are questions that could be asked. Do we really need a separate Department of Highways and a separate Department of Transport and Communications? Even a government Minister has suggested that there is no need for the division. We wonder whether Agriculture should be a separate department. Certainly, people in the agricultural industry would like that, but perhaps, if more money was available through savings in administration — more money available for programmes for them — they might be quite happy with the change. There will always be complaints in any restructuring from what you might call "client groups" that want their own Minister, that want to have a special advocate or spokesman who, somehow, they hope, will distort the system in their direction.
It should be possible to reorganize the structure of government in British Columbia so as to provide substantial savings and improve services in every area of government activity.
At the present time we've got 19 cabinet Ministers overseeing 20 departments. I believe that an objective look at the cabinet of British Columbia would reduce that number of cabinet Ministers to 10 Ministers, each responsible for newly defined ranges of responsibilities. It would result in a direct saving through elimination of the cost of the offices of these nine Ministers. The average cost, I might add, just for the office of each Minister of this government is just under $1 million.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Whew!
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The resultant streamlining would provide better services at lower cost.
People will say: "Look, we need all those Ministers — they've got so much to do." But the United States federal cabinet has 11 cabinet Ministers, and the United States federal budget is over 100 times the budget of the Province of British Columbia.
MR. D.E. LEWIS (Shuswap): They're not doing anything.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: We have 19, for 1 per cent of the work that they have.
The federal Canadian cabinet has 29 members, and that number, in my view, is far too many. The federal budget is 10 times ours, and that budget figure is probably excessive as well.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): Probably? You've got to be kidding.
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MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, the point is this. If this Minister here, who does so little with the money he has, and who gets paid so much — more than the Prime Minister of Great Britain — for doing so little, would only start analyzing what he actually has and hasn't done, he would quickly realize that the number of cabinet Ministers in B.C. and the work they have bear no relation whatsoever to bureaucracies and political systems elsewhere.
We have two-thirds as many Members as the federal cabinet and we have a budget one-tenth as large. Proportionately, in financial terms, even considering the already swollen federal cabinet, on a per-Member basis, each of them has six times the workload of our provincial cabinet Ministers here.
HON. MR. LAUK: What a bunch of nonsense!
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Each provincial cabinet member of B.C. has only one-sixth the responsibility in financial terms — the yardstick I'm using — of his federal counterpart. Mr. Speaker, if Ottawa is top-heavy, we must admit that we're even more so and that there is a great opportunity to get rid of the administrative burden on top and put the money saved into productive programmes.
AN HON. MEMBER: They don't have one-tenth of the ability.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Yes, it's true. It was mentioned that when you have Ministers here with only one-tenth of the ability, it's sometimes necessary to have more of them.
Perhaps reorganizing might give some of the Ministers over there, who are now being so critical....
HON. G.R. LEA (Minister of Highways): That's what Ron Basford was saying.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I do hope they'll be quiet because at the end of my outline of the 10 Ministries, I'm going to name the 10 cabinet Ministers, sonic of whom are in the room, and some of whom, of course, will be fired under my revised cabinet. (Laughter.) So wait, Mr. Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Lea) and Mr. Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. King), before you be too critical until you discover whether you're on the list or off it, because then you'll be able to tell whether or not this brilliant idea, which will give you twice the responsibility, a better workload and less annoying, stupid cabinet colleagues to deal with, will indeed be an advantage or a disadvantage.
HON. W.S. KING (Minister of Labour): Who else do you love besides yourself?
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I am looking hard at the list, and I see that the Minister of Labour...he may be on it, Mr. Speaker, but I ask him to wait.
Obviously, we need a Premier — this is on my list — even though cynics might say we don't have one at the present time. He and his support staff should take on the co-coordinating task, free from any direct departmental responsibilities, including that of Finance. We need a separate Minister of Finance who would combine his budgeting responsibility with co-ordination of the administration of government. It would be the job of the Minister of Finance to see that the budget is made and responsibly adhered to.
Let me digress for a moment on that, Mr. Speaker. One of the problems the government civil service in British Columbia faces is that all budgeting has been up to the present time essentially phony. Therefore they did not have to abide by the budgeting rules put down by the budget developed within their department that went into this House. They knew full well that there would be overruns; they knew full well there would be supplementary estimates; they knew full well that the budget, indeed, was a fraud. The result was that the public service of British Columbia was not working through a proper framework.
Public servants and Ministers must learn that they must live within their means. They must live within the budget, and they can't have champagne on a beer budget and them later on revise the beer budget in order to pay for their champagne tastes. So a proper financial department is necessary.
We need a chief law officer, and we think the Attorney-General's title is appropriate. It's his role to ensure protection of people and property, and he should have grouped under his care many of his present responsibilities — except in the energy field — plus responsibility for the protection of consumers, the safety aspects of Transport and Communications and probably some of the responsibilities of the present Department of Labour that involve protection of the worker.
Since the main role of that department is to protect workers from adverse conditions and the public from adverse labour-management relations, we feel these could be done better under the framework of the Attorney-General.
We need a department of natural resources, and this could cover the jobs presently handled by the Ministers of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, Recreation and Conservation, and Mines and Petroleum Resources. Agriculture could quite well be in that area as well. The public housing responsibilities of the latter department would be part of Human Resources.
However, stimulation of the private initiative area, which has to be the bulk of the housing provided in British Columbia, has to come from the private
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sector. Stimulation of the private initiative in the housing field would be the job of a Minister of Economic Development who would have wider tasks and a larger share of the budget than at present. I see the Minister's (Hon. Mr. Lauk) ears beginning to prick up.
A regrouping of functions from such departments as Travel Industry, Recreation and Conservation, Lands, Forests and Water Resources, Mines and Petroleum Resources would be undertaken, and this Minister would be the link with the people who create wealth in this province.
Mr. Speaker, I see he has now adopted a statesmanlike pose — nose in the air, thinking of some Churchillian phrase no doubt. I would like to say a word or two about this great little Minister.
His job is to deal with wealth creation in the private sector of the economy of British Columbia, as well as the public sector. My colleagues, the Members for Vancouver-Point Grey in particular, outlined the various types of expenditure that a government or society can make, and laid particular stress on wealth creation. I would like to underline what was said by them.
The socialists opposite spend a great deal of their time and energy in this House attacking profit. They spend a great deal of their time figuring out redistribution of the province's gross provincial product by way of tax transfers and payments to citizens' groups. In this they are not unique; all governments, in varying degrees, show concern for redistribution.
But adjusting the size of the slices of a pie does absolutely nothing to increase the size of the pie. Unless we can increase the size of the pie, unless we get worthwhile economic development, there will be no extra money for new social programmes, and the overall wealth of our economy will diminish. A successful, innovative, investing private sector is vital if the amount of wealth that we all share is to increase. Only a vital, energetic private sector can provide the tax revenue that we need for redistribution or other social programmes.
It is a matter of great pain that the present government is simply ignoring this fact. The Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Lauk), in his speech earlier to this House, spoke glowingly about the women's division in his department but he said nothing about his responsibility, which is to create wealth, I trust, as he is reaching for his microphone, that he will interject a small comment or two in this debate after I have finished speaking.
The present government simply is not doing what it should to assist the private sector in creating wealth.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, I have spent a great deal of my life in the foreign service of Canada, and I've been abroad in many countries with resources that equal ours, with people just as intelligent as ours, just as well-fed and just as able. But their level of wealth is infinitely lower because the social organization of their society simply does not lend itself to wealth creation. The attitude of the people in positions of power simply does not lend itself to wealth creation. While this province is a wealthy province, while this province has a reasonably well-educated and certainly an intelligent a population as any other, we are suffering from essentially the same problem — a lack of understanding by the government that wealth creation increases the pie for all of us.
In addition — and I refer specifically to the Minister of Economic Development — when you have such an active, innovative, investing society, you can pick and choose among the programmes that come forward. You don't have to take a steel mill, if that is what the Japanese are offering to us; you don't have to do it. You can pick and choose among a number of industries, one of which may be substantially better than the other three or four. But when you are only offered one, or when you have to go out and encourage, entice one to locate, you have no bargaining position whatsoever.
The Minister of Housing (Hon. Mr. Nicolson) has managed to give us, at great expense, the worst of all possible worlds. We have a stagnant private sector and a faltering public sector. There is simply not the slightest glimmering of understanding in his mind of the need to create a healthy private sector in the housing industry. The idea that society as a whole will benefit if there is an adequate supply of housing, provided without taking any money from social programmes in the health or education fields, has simply not entered his head.
Mr. Speaker, the new Minister that I mentioned is responsible for wealth creation. He is specifically charged with ensuring that the size of the pie in British Columbia that we all share, our gross provincial product, expands to meet growing social needs.
His clients and his interests would be balanced by a Minister for the environment who would be the guardian of the public interest and the future of our province. He would take over the tasks of Recreation and Conservation, Lands, Forests and Water Resources, and elsewhere, and would not be caught in the conflict of interests which plagues the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources at the present time. He will not be charged with managing companies or being responsible for the profits of individual companies. He will not sit as a director of some of the companies he is supposed to regulate, He will not be responsible for the conflicting objectives that have created such problems for the present Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams). The public interest is not served when those responsible for protecting the public
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interest are also given the responsibility for the economic performance of the companies they are meant to regulate.
Next we need a Minister of government, a provincial secretary — a secretary of state, but let's call him provincial secretary — who will be the Minister responsible for intra- and inter-governmental relations. He'll be the province's link with the junior and the senior levels of government. He would take over many of the tasks currently performed by the Provincial Secretary, the Minister of Public Works, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Finally, we would have a Minister of communications whose role and responsibilities would include much of what is now Department of Highways and Department of Transport and Communications.
I mentioned costs earlier. Let's give an example of cost savings. In 1973 there was a Department of Highways. Expenditure in the Minister's office was about $55,000. There was no Minister of Communications, so there were no costs for his office; but now the two Ministers' offices cost us five times that amount only two years later. You can see how escalation takes place at the top.
I said that there would be 10 Ministers. I've left one vacant for troubleshooter. Now, if the Ministers present will sit up, I will give you my new breakdown of the responsibilities. I have not paid any attention to calls for resignation on the grounds of anything but ability. Laziness is down here as well as some other factors which should be considered.
We're leaving the Premier with Mr. Barrett — or the Hon. Member for Coquitlam. We're giving the Hon. Member for Surrey (Hon. Mr. Hall) the Finance portfolio. The Attorney-General's department will remain with the present Minister (Hon. Mr. Macdonald). I see the Member for Vancouver Centre looking disappointed here. While the present Attorney-General is appallingly lazy in his job and while he tends to neglect many areas that he should be much more energetic in, we feel he has the competence if he would only exert himself.
Natural resources would go to the present Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich).
HON. MR. LAUK: The House is empty, David.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Don't worry, your name may be on this list. Human Resources would go to the present Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke). Economic Development would stay with the present Minister (Hon. Mr. Lauk). We're delighted to see that.
I see that there's a division in my caucus about that.
HON. MR. LAUK: The professor gave me 9 out of 10, and I'm grateful.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: We gave you three out of 10, Mr. Minister, but most of your colleagues got one or less.
We think the environment could best be handled by the Member presently seeking the leadership of the national New Democratic Party, the Second Member for Vancouver-Burrard (Ms. Brown). She needs to have her energies directed in a more constructive vein than she presently is devoting her time to. We feel she would be a burr under the saddle of some of her cabinet colleagues, and we think she should definitely get in the cabinet. The reasons the Premier has not put her in so far are really irrelevant.
Communications, we feel, should go to the present Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams). He is ill-placed in his present job and should be given a different one.
The Provincial Secretary will be taken over by the present Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. King). And we have an extra space for troubleshooter which we're giving to the Member for Prince Rupert (Hon. Mr. Lea).
To the other Ministers who are fired we say, well, we're sorry about that, but we feel that a smaller cabinet, working more effectively, might eventually lead to a more effective government, and they will have to suffer their little losses for the greater good.
This breakdown is not the final answer, but it seems to make more sense than the present hodge-podge of programmes with enormous variety and size and responsibility that we have at the present time. Again, in financial terms, one department is 1/350th the size of another. That doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense when all Ministers are considered to be equal at the cabinet table. We need a proper study, but such an examination and such a new breakdown would, I feel, be a step in the right direction.
I would like to turn now to one or two other issues related to the financial affairs of the province. The first is the issue of government credibility.
Now when I first commented on this budget, I congratulated the Premier on what seemed to be his first attempt to honestly estimate revenues and expenditures. The old Social Credit used to underestimate revenues, and expenditures were not too far off. The first of the NDP budgets tended to be wrong in both revenues and expenditures. Now we have the government returning at least to honesty on the revenue side. Looking at it closely, we feel there may well be a lot of padding on the expenditure side, but at least revenues don't seem to be too far off.
It is important, we feel, for government, and this government in particular, to be believed and be believable, and I'm afraid this government has done little to develop basic credibility. We have a Premier making statements in this House that are contradicted by sworn affidavits, by court testimony and by a
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supreme court judgment — consistently refusing any examination into that matter. And this does nothing but destroy the credibility of the government.
We have a Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich) with selective amnesia, a Minister of Agriculture who could not recollect, either in this House or before a judge, what took place at a meeting, while all the other witnesses called seem to remember with great clarity.
We have an Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) who believes his responsibility as chief law officer does not extend to the protection of all, but feels that he has a special responsibility to protect his cabinet colleagues, which we feel to be wrong.
We have a Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams) who conveniently forgets what is in his incoming mail, who forgets who might be an expert on the treaty, who forgets dates — a Minister who forgets government policy regarding such things as condominium conversions, a Minister whose credibility has sunk abysmally low.
We have a Minister of Education (Hon. Mrs. Dailly) who can't remember any blacklisting procedures on Monday. Indeed, she said: "I don't know what the opposition is talking about." But on Tuesday, she recalls all the details. On Wednesday she gives out a few more details — that's, of course, after the B.C. Teachers Federation threatens to blow the whistle on her. But on Monday, she couldn't remember a thing.
We have a Minister of Housing (Hon. Mr. Nicolson) whose statements to the Legislature on such issues as the purchase of Casa Loma are constantly being contradicted by outside evidence, by his own officials, and by his own subsequent statements and by documents that he tabled in this House. That, Mr. Speaker, leads to tremendous problems of credibility with him and everyone associated with him.
More recently we've had a Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi) who would have us believe that there is some direct connection between money deposited in his bank account on September 7 and a cheque written two days earlier on another account, apparently in another bank, signed by his wife. The connection, Mr. Speaker, has not been established.
Just rushing through those questions of this government's credibility, we feel it's time that the government started to look back at some of the practices of the previous government. I'm quoting from an article August 1, 1973, written by one Peter McNelly, "Victoria Comment," in The Province newspaper where he said: "The critical weakness of the previous government was former Premier W.A.C. Bennett's refusal to send his deadwood Ministers packing."
We have essentially the same problem, now complicated by the fact that the Premier himself is involved in the credibility problem, I'm quoting now from August 1 again, from the Premier. This is in The Vancouver Sun, page 2: "If the government's credibility is threatened by the behaviour of any cabinet Minister, then the government is impaired. It's just as simple as that."
That is precisely our problem today. I doubt whether there is a government in Canada where the credibility of the Crown Ministers has been so impaired as this present government here in British Columbia.
MR. LEWIS: Oh, garbage! You don't read the papers much, my friend.
MR. C. LIDEN (Delta): What about Ottawa?
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: If the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Lauk), who is a lawyer, will allow the RCMP to investigate some of the matters, particularly the Minister of Human Resources' cheques, I would be delighted. There happens to be an RCMP investigation on the case you talked about. When you start getting RCMP investigations in this province for Members of this Legislature, we will be very happy to have it happen, Mr. Minister.
HON. MR. LAUK: Are you suggesting there are criminal charges?
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): Oh, be quiet and let the Member make his speech.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, the problem with this government is that, whenever you really hit, they start squealing away. But the fact is that the credibility of this government is appalling. There are no guidelines that have been published with respect to conflict of interests. Ministers can accept gifts apparently without any criticism from the Premier, providing somehow they give another gift away, either before or after. This government's credibility has just gone all to pieces. It's time that the government itself started to realize it.
We've had essentially a back bench in government which consistently puts forward statements which are very questionable, which consistently refuses to clarify them, which consistently refuses any impartial, non-partisan inquiry. It's time that we had a major change in this government and its attitude towards its responsibilities. The credibility of this government is deplorable.
Mr. Speaker, in the time left to me, I'd like to say a few words about labour relations in the province, particularly in the public sector. It is clear that we are going to have to find new techniques to handle strikes in the public sector. Strike in the industrial sector, as I mentioned the other day, is an acceptable technique for achieving a settlement in a labour dispute in most
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instances. The strikes in the private sector are, after all, aimed directly at the owners of the means of production, and the public tends to be hurt incidentally. But the problem in the public sector is totally different.
We presently have a strike in Victoria; we have strikes in the educational systems in Victoria and Vancouver. At the moment they are aimed not at public inconvenience, not at the employer and his profits; they are essentially aimed at the children involved. That is how the political settlement will be arrived at. No way that you can relate this to profits and productivity as you can in the private sector.
It's not the fault of the unions concerned; they are using the only means at their disposal. What we need are new means. It's neither fair nor just that our children should be pawns in labour-management negotiations. What we need in the public sector is to get away from the adversary system which may have worked in past years in the private sector.
Personally, I rather like the idea suggested recently by Mr. Ed Finn of the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Transport and General Workers. Mr. Finn also writes, as you know, Mr. Speaker, for The Toronto Star. He has suggested a labour peace commission, and I heartily endorse his proposal.
MR. LIDEN: You better catch up with the news.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: He suggests a labour peace commission to be set up to monitor working agreements in essential industries and services and to propose equitable terms of settlement in areas of negotiation. This commission should be impartial of government. It should establish fair and reasonable standards, standards which unions and employers could reject only at the price of public pressure and the forfeiture of public sympathy.
MR. LIDEN: What's that got to do with the post office?
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Member, we have strikes in Victoria at the present time, and you know it, and that is the constituency that I represent in this House. You couldn't care less what happens in that CUPE area and you couldn't care less what happens to the students who are not getting the education that the laws that we passed in this Legislature say they should get! So sit down and be quiet!
MR. LIDEN: You better catch up with the news.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: This commission would establish standards through impartial inquiry, as I mentioned. It would reduce the area of friction between unions and employers to a minimum, and provide the criteria for dispute settlement which would greatly assist us in the essential services, as well as, of course, in the other public services. It would provide an alternative to the jungle law which is all we have at the present time. Mr. Finn, in his examples of why strikes in the public sector really are impossible, mentions our problems of last year, the problems when the municipal firemen of the greater Vancouver area had labour disputes and where, indeed, just as soon as they tried to exercise the right, we met here to take the right away and then later passed an amendment to the bill which would give us three weeks to assemble in any future case when a strike was threatened in an essential service. We have left a system intact paralleling the private sector system and yet we have taken the guts out of the weapon that the workers have under the private sector system — namely the right to strike. We have substituted nothing for it.
My suggestion is that we get going on working on alternatives because we cannot have the government, which is the employer one way or another now of 50 per cent of the work force in this province and across the country (over 50 per cent of the labour contracts coming up for negotiation this year, I understand, are in the public sector) act as we are doing where we pass the laws meant to be fair for all but we are also essentially the employer.
MR. LIDEN: Tell that to Ottawa.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: There is simply no way we can carry on our present system where we have this conflict of interest. Governments are not only custodians of the public interest for all the public; they are employers. It is impossible for them to wear both hats and handle both roles effectively, as the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. King) knows well when he starts dealing with labour negotiations on the B.C. Railroad. How can he, as the director of the company, also be the Minister of Labour in whom the members who are on strike against the company have confidence? He cannot do it.
If we continue to carry on pretending that the new militancy of the civil service unions will one day go away, we are fooling ourselves. There is a scramble going on, a leapfrogging, an attempt to catch up, but unfortunately no one is too sure what they are catching up to. We have no way of judging profitability and productivity in the public sector as is done in the private sector.
The responsibility of the union leadership of the IWA this present year — what I have seen of it — impresses me. It impresses me because they realize there are on the outside factors of the need for capital investment, which you do not find present when you start dealing with public service unions. None of those things are involved in the public service. This is the difference.
[ Page 651 ]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Hon. Member's time has expired.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me just finish by saying that this is the major difference between the public sector and the private sector. Until we start realizing that there is a basic rift, on the one hand where the private sector goes for wages out of profitability and, on the other hand, the public sector where an increase in wages can only come through political pressure or public inconvenience, until we work out new models (and I suggest that labour peace commission of Mr. Finn), only then can we start dealing with the root causes of our problems in British Columbia.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): To find myself in wrap-up position for the official opposition after two weeks' debate on the 1975-76 budget as presented by the Minister of Finance carries both advantages and disadvantages. That disadvantage will be found in the fact that so many points have been well covered by members of the government and other opposition speakers. Page-by-page review has been carefully undertaken by a number of Members. There is in fact at this point little so-called "new ground" to be explored.
HON. MR. LAUK: Then sit down.
MR. CURTIS: On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, there has been an opportunity to listen to varying points of view and to get an overall impression of comments from both sides of the House in these two weeks.
I think it is correct to say that the fundamental approach of the government speakers, particularly the NDP Ministers who have taken their turn in this debate, can be described as a diversionary tactic, to the point where many of them have given the impression that they, too, know that it is not a good document.
As a result, they've attempted to shift attention from the budget itself by way of an attack on the opposition. In fact, I think at times, Mr. Speaker, that a detached observer would be understood for thinking that this was a replay of the 1972 election campaign.
Rather than to report in detail on achievements in their specific departments — their areas of responsibility — Ministers have tried to turn back the clock with repeated references to the shortcomings of the former government. With respect, that is not what the citizens of British Columbia want to hear. That's an old tune. It's a very old tune now and a scratchy record which has been played too often by the present group in power. This is 1975; it is not 1972. We should have received throughout this debate from
Members of the cabinet benchers a stewardship report. Now I know that's an old term, but it's a pretty important one in local government and in areas of service to one's community or to one's province or country.
Stewardship — from each Minister in turn — that's what we should have heard in two weeks, as to how he or she views the past 12 months and what is proposed for the new fiscal year. Stewardship involves so many things. The leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. D.A. Anderson) spoke just a little while ago about credibility. Stewardship is apparently of concern to the Premier as well, in view of his statements yesterday. Stewardship involves matters of unanswered questions. The events of yesterday, I suggest, must...
HON. D.G. COCKE (Minister of Health): Where's your leader?
MR. CURTIS: ...be discussed in this House. In the Premier's own terms, from Hansard:
I took the matter most seriously. You know of the incident to which I refer. That is precisely the position that we took then and that we take today. We take very seriously the possibility that we may have here a manufactured defence.
If the Premier, who is not in his seat....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. CURTIS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Yesterday the Hon. Member asked leave of the House to make a statement. Actually, what he is now raising is on the same line as what he did yesterday. I pointed out then and I point out now that charges of a personal nature against another Member of the House are not permitted unless you pursue the proper course. You have not done so. Therefore, I point out to you....
MR. CURTIS: You are attempting again to deny a speaker on behalf of the opposition the right to pursue a matter which should be of concern to this House.
MR. SPEAKER: May I point out to the Hon. Member that when a Member of this House makes a statement of a personal nature to the House, we are obliged by the rules to accept that statement? If you dispute that statement, there is a well-recognized parliamentary course to follow, which you have not followed. My job is to be the guardian of the rules. That is what I am trying to do, and if you want any citations, I would be prepared to give them to you.
I have on many occasions stopped other Members precisely for the same reason, and I will have to
[ Page 652 ]
continue to do so if I am to discharge my duty fairly and correctly.
MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, you are telling this House that I am not permitted to make fair comment on an incident which is of concern to this House and which should be dealt with in this House.
MR. SPEAKER: If you are saying that you are doubting the word of the Hon. Member who spoke yesterday — and that is what I presume from your words you are saying — you are not permitted to do that by the rules.
MR. CURTIS: I am questioning a number of aspects which have been raised inside and outside this House.
MR. SPEAKER: Then the proper course is to do it by a substantive motion, as I have indicated to you dozens of times. Why should I change the rules for you?
MR. CURTIS: I will resist any comment.
MR. SPEAKER: I suggest to the Hon. Member, if you dispute my word on this question of the rules, that you find me the rule that permits you to do what you are trying to do.
MR. CURTIS: Well, you are telling me that I cannot raise questions related to this situation.
AN HON. MEMBER: Of course we can.
MR. SPEAKER: What I am saying is that you cannot doubt the word of an Hon. Member or challenge his integrity in the manner that you are seeking to do. If you wish to do so, there is a substantive method which I have read out to you on many occasions from May. That is your route and that is what you are supposed to do.
MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, the issue before us in this connection is a moral not a criminal one. It is a moral question. I am very sorry....
MR. SPEAKER: If you are attacking the moral character of another Member of this House, you are in exactly the same boat as if it were from a standpoint of a criminal.
MR. CURTIS: No, I said, Mr. Speaker, that it is a moral question. I am not attacking the moral integrity of any individual in this House. I am attempting to raise the moral question which is before us.
Very well, Mr. Speaker, let the record show, as it will....
MR. SPEAKER: Let the record show that the rules are observed.
MR. CURTIS: Let the record show that I have been denied the opportunity, as I take my place in this debate, to ask a number of questions which I believe should be of concern to you, Sir, as well as to the people in this House and the people of British Columbia. So be it. So be it.
[Mr. Speaker rises.]
MR. SPEAKER: I ask the Hon. Member to withdraw that statement that the Speaker runs interference for anyone.
[Mr. Speaker resumes his seat.]
MR. CHABOT: I withdraw, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much.
MR. CURTIS: Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, back at the ranch, there has been considerable comment in this debate with regard to province-wide advertising, and I trust that I am not offending any rule with this.
This isn't a complete newspaper; it is from the Victoria Daily Colonist, March 4, 1975. It is a full-page advertisement dealing with the budget, over the name of the Minister of Finance and Premier (Hon. Mr. Barrett). Another one from my own constituency, the Saanich Courier, March 5, 1975. Of course, it has been widely publicized in weekly and daily newspapers.
MR. CURTIS: I'm not tabling the material — I think it has been well-circulated. But, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the flip-flop attitude of the Premier and Minister of Finance with regard to advertising. You might be interested to have me quote very briefly from the Victoria Times of March 21, 1972, just about three years ago to the day. This is headlined: "Tax Money Being Used for Ads to Push Bill 3, NDP Charges."
Well, what did the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Barrett) have to say about advertising?
"We think the government's action in placing this ad is an arrogant disregard for the traditions, usages, authority and dignity of this Legislature. It is reprehensible that the government would use public funds to further its case on the debate that is not yet completed in this House,
[ Page 653 ]
and it's reprehensible that the government would use public funds to subvert the deliberations of the Legislature."
Another paragraph from the same newspaper article, March 21, 1972, quoting the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Premier and Minister of Finance:
"It means now that a government has the right to use public funds to buy newspaper space without compensating funds for the opposition. The reason the Speaker couldn't find a precedent is because no government has ever gone that far before, and it is a crass misuse of public funds, in my opinion."
The statement of the Premier when in opposition. And on the other hand, Mr. Speaker, advertisements throughout the province stating the NDP's version of this budget.
The Member for Delta (Mr. Liden), on the government side, seemed to be enjoying himself the other evening in this House when he took a few minutes to read quotes of remarks that I made a few years ago, statements in which I was highly critical of the former government in matters relating to municipal affairs. I want to deal at some length with the relationship between the provincial government and municipalities in British Columbia. Mr. Speaker, I make absolutely no apologies for that earlier criticism because those statements were made — the criticism was made — when I held offices as mayor and chairman of the regional district, in what I believed to be the best interests of local government and its difficulties with the provincial government of that time.
MR. LIDEN: Now you're trying to bring back those days.
MR. CURTIS: I hope the Member for Delta will listen to this carefully rather than interject.
The relationship between the province and its municipalities is rarely easygoing, relaxed and totally pleasant. That's still the case with the NDP government, particularly in view of the fact that the present Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Lorimer) is obviously not a strong member of the cabinet. But some of the fault lies squarely with the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which from time to time, as I well know, is too quiet, too meek in its contacts with the Minister, the government and with other departments of the government. Often it would appear that the UBCM is perhaps even intimidated by the province and its various Ministers, regardless of the party in power.
So whether it's the former government or the present government, or a future government formed by this party, the official opposition, it is absolutely vital at all times that the UBCM speak out publicly when it believes that the province is not dealing fairly with our organized communities and regional districts. It must do so. It must do so with strength and with well-researched material and statistics.
I say to the Union of B.C. Municipalities — I believe one of their representatives is in the gallery at this time — and I also say to cities and districts towns, regional districts and villages which form its membership: be strong, be critical regardless of the party in power, as and when necessary, and make your case with as much conviction as is necessary. No government in this province, past, present or future, no matter how hard it tries, can possibly score 100 per cent in its association with municipalities and regional districts.
It's the duty, it's the responsibility, of the municipal association in B.C. to make certain that the public — the local property taxpayer and tenant — clearly understands the position of local government.
Throughout the budget debate when cabinet Ministers and government backbenchers have not been attacking the official opposition and there have been just a few moments of that when they haven't been restaging the battle of 1972, a number of speakers for the government have listed off the manner in which the NDP has increased its assistance to local government.
We've heard considerable praise for the sewerage facilities fund, the Community Recreational Facilities Fund, the reduction in the percentage share of social assistance costs to local government. When kept in perspective, these programmes are useful and welcome — no one will deny that.
However, what many of the government speakers have failed to point out is this: the largest portion of local government expenditure in any given year is in salaries, in wages — the payroll costs for its employees. I did a random sample of nine municipalities in this connection in the last few days and determined that this total payroll cost in relation to the general tax levy by a municipality — that is, excluding business taxes, licences, permit fees and senior government grants, provincial and federal — averages 78 per cent of their general tax levy, which is a significantly high percentage.
If we are to assume that the payroll cost will increase by 20 per cent in 1975, and I think that's a reasonable estimate if one is to include fringe benefits and other expenses directly related to payroll, then it's quite clear that municipalities will be faced with the choice of only two options this year and in 1976: a drastic increase in the property tax levy or a severe curtailment of services which have come to be expected of local government. There is no other answer. Capital grants for sewerage facilities or recreation centres are of no use at all when a municipal council sits down to evaluate its payroll budget.
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Now that the Premier has been fishing to learn about that business, and he's now in the Cariboo experiencing work on a green chain, I would like again to ask the Premier, as Minister of Finance, to sit in with a municipal council when it is working on its budget in the spring of the year to see how municipalities have to wrestle with limited income and very pressing outgo.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, considerable space in the budget document has been devoted to a detailed listing of the projects involved and approved under the Community Recreational Facilities Fund. This list, as you well know, occupies pages 36 to 45 inclusive, and identifies, I believe, about 181 individual grants. For those Members of government who referred to this as "assistance to municipalities," 77 of the receiving communities out of the total of 181 are not municipalities at all. Almost half of them are not municipalities at all in terms of the Municipal Act, or as we identify local government. So let us not continue to smokescreen all of this money under that broad, catch-all heading of "assistance to municipalities."
Earlier I mentioned the increases facing local government payrolls during 1975. I'm going to expand on that briefly. As the situation becomes clearer for the current municipal year, for 1975 budget purposes, it now appears that the typical mill rate increase for education alone in the average municipality over 1974 will be around 8 mills, and for general purposes — payroll, road work, park maintenance, and so on — 6 to 7 mills. Combine the two, Mr. Speaker, for a total of between 14- and 15-mill increases at the municipal level in this province during the current year. That, naturally, excludes municipalities where lockouts or strike situations apply, resulting in total budget reductions in this troubled area of local government.
What does it mean, Mr. Speaker? Well, mill rate increases of even 10 — speaking positively, perhaps, about the increase — 12 or 14 mills in one year would not appear to support the contention of the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Lorimer), who is not in his seat, and others to the effect that municipalities have never had it so good. Mr. Speaker, that government position is not supported by the facts in this budget and in municipalities in British Columbia today.
Finally, on the subject of local government, I think it is time for the people of this province to recognize that the present provincial government is not friendly to, nor understanding of, the municipalities. In spite of the grants, in spite of the highly publicized revenue-sharing which the Minister of Finance spoke of in his budget, it is a government which encourages and condones interference in purely municipal and regional district jurisdictions by the Department of Highways, the Land Commission, the Department of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat, and other agencies. Community resources boards are clearly intended to gradually dilute the authority, the autonomy and the responsibility of elected councils, and this can only be to the detriment of the citizens in our cities and towns and districts.
While all of this is going on we have a Minister of Municipal Affairs who is not powerful enough to combat the situation in the cabinet and, secondly, passively stands by while this government continues its programme of undermining and eroding local government throughout the province.
I want to quote briefly from a statement prepared recently by the Cariboo Regional District on this very subject, a further indication of the downgrading of local or regional district responsibility:
"The board (that is, the Cariboo Regional District Board) and the public have obtained the impression, particularly during the past two years, that the function of the regional district board is to endorse and execute decisions of the provincial government which appear, to the board to be often unreasoned or unreasonable."
Later in the same statement:
"It is difficult to conceive that the provincial cabinet should be vitally concerned with, for example, a zoning bylaw amendment to permit the location of a mobile home in a residential area or a minor commercial use in an appropriate location, particularly when the cabinet and its staff are not familiar with local conditions and requirements."
"The board wishes to cooperate as fully as possible with the provincial government and its departments. It wishes to contribute to the decisions of the Environment and Land Use Committee, its secretariat, and the deliberations of the inter-sector committees and any other committees. There has, to date, been little or no communication between the regional district and these bodies. The board questions the apparent lack of co-ordination between these various bodies and resource departments which is reflected in the delays experienced in obtaining government approval of regional district bylaws and amendments."
Just a few days ago we had the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Lorimer) indicate that the delays were occurring at the municipal level. They are occurring because local government — regional government — is not being consulted, is not being involved in the decision-making process by this government. That is bad news for people in municipalities and regional districts. Not the mayors and aldermen; I'm not speaking of the mayors
[ Page 655 ]
and the aldermen and the senior staff. I'm speaking of people who have come to expect certain services and decisions and actions by their municipalities. They pay for them, they deserve them, and they do not deserve interference and being ignored at the provincial level.
In addition to this growing interference with regional districts and municipalities, we have the statements of the Minister of Municipal Affairs himself, speaking in the budget debate on March 4, where he said, and I believe the quote is complete:
I'm concerned by the actions of some municipalities or, alternatively, the non-action by some municipalities, and delays in preventing needed housing units going ahead. This is not a widespread problem, but it's a very big problem in two or three municipalities, and they are standing in the way of building and housing.
The Minister then went on to threaten local government with this statement:
The government is going to have to take a look at the situation and take action to circumvent this type of action by some of the municipalities.
Big stick! Big Brother!
The Minister could not, or would not, tell this House which municipalities offend him in this regard. He didn't indicate that he's made any attempt to meet with the troublesome councils to communicate with them and discuss where the problem might lie. Instead he chose his budget debate to indulge in general condemnation of local government. If that latest example of NDP scorn and displeasure doesn't provoke strong resistance from the UBCM and its member communities, then I'm going to be very surprised and disappointed.
It can be described as a big-stick or Big Brother attitude, an increasing hostility towards its own municipalities. The Members of this party and other opposition speakers have criticized this budget in two weeks because it is inflationary. The budget will do as much as any other single force over which British Columbians have control to contribute to, to stimulate, to support an unacceptable rate of inflation in British Columbia.
I cannot tell you what an acceptable rate of inflation may be, but I can tell you that 12 per cent inflation in one year is unacceptable to the people of British Columbia.
I want to outline briefly what the forces of inflation have been doing in the province over the past five years. The consumer price index is perhaps the best measure of inflation that we have available. It isn't perfect, but it's the best.
In 1970 the consumer price index rose by 1.6 per cent; in 1971 by 4.9 per cent; in 1972 the increase was 5.7 per cent; in 1973 it was 9.1 per cent, and in 1974 it was 12.1 per cent.
HON. MR. LAUK: What about the rest of Canada?
MR. CURTIS: These figures indicate one thing only: accelerating inflation in Canada and, to a greater extent than the national average, here in British Columbia.
HON. MR. LAUK: Nonsense!
MR. CURTIS: The Minister of nothing says: "Nonsense."
HON. MR. LAUK: That's not true, and you know it. That's not true. You're only talking.
MR. CURTIS: These percentage figures, reflecting increasing inflation, have been coupled — as the leader of the Liberal Party said — with declining productivity. That's an extremely dangerous collision course. In simple terms, it means that the value of a wage-earner's dollar is declining. The figures mean that the value of a working person's time is becoming less.
In B.C., a province that has always placed the value of work among its highest priorities, people are now getting less for their money, getting less for their work — less value for money, less value for work, less buying power. I don't think there's a family in British Columbia which believes that work and money bring more today than two and a half years ago.
Inflation, Mr. Speaker, as others have told you, is the cruelest tax of all. It strains family budgets, it brings added problems to the collective bargaining table — and we have clear evidence of that this year. If last year's 12.1 per cent consumer index increase continues over a period of years, and not too many, really, inflation will then fully threaten the social and economic fabric of our society.
In my constituency there are many taxpayers who live on what is called a fixed income and many more who live on a relatively inflexible income. Many have earned their place in society; they're not interested in getting more from society and they're not asking more from the economy than they already have now. But to put it in impersonal economic terms, these people are satisfied with their standard of living as it has been. They don't want more, but they do not deserve less. Yet it's the type of leadership given this province by this government, and reflected in this budget, which more than anything else fuels the fires of inflation. It has been characterized as a "big number budget." It is big numbers, but it's also smaller value for the dollar. These people that I've described in my constituency and in the province generally can blame this government when in the months to come they find themselves unable to maintain that level standard of living to which they are entitled — not a better standard, just a constant
[ Page 656 ]
Citizens on fixed incomes suffer the most from inflation, but as well there's not a family in British Columbia today which is not aware of and which has not suffered at the hands of inflation. There's not a family in British Columbia today which has not learned that inflation means not increases but cutbacks to hold the family budget in some kind of balanced position.
With this provincial budget before us now, it seems that the only budget maker who doesn't understand the situation is the Minister of Finance. Families in every community are cutting back on their inessentials; they're searching their budgets to provide less for leisure and luxuries, more of the family budget for essentials — food, clothing and shelter. These same families have learned, as has mine, that one of a few ways left for people to cope with inflation is to cut back where they can.
It has become a principle of sound family budgeting in every community in the province to place a high priority on the elimination of waste. In fact, the downturn in demand for pulp products which is now occurring, and which has been discussed in the debate, can be blamed in part on the increased attack on waste by consumers and companies alike. Consumers are buying fewer plastic garbage bags, fewer paper towels. Supermarkets, you will notice, have abandoned the old practice of double bagging at the checkout counter. Newspapers have tightened their pages and rearranged their makeup to conserve newsprint. All of these steps are inflation fighters and all are concerned with eliminating waste.
Once again I have to suggest — and I think the people of the province agree and understand — that it is only the NDP government and the Minister of Finance which do not yet have the message. The waste and the extravagance of this little provincial government are unequalled anywhere in Canada today. Nowhere in this $3.2 billion budget is there any indication — we see no sign at all — that this government wants to eliminate waste and to control its spending.
The budget is inflationary because, first of all, as others have told you, it shows absolutely no restraint. It's a freewheeling budget. Families throughout B.C. have been forced to restrain their spending habits; they have no choice. Yet the Minister of Finance has raised people taxes, gone to the taxpaying money tree to keep on spending at will — at whim, indeed.
The budget shows no leadership at all to encourage restraint and to bring about the beginning of the end of inflation. It shows no desire to take leadership in the society. Who is more powerful, Mr. Speaker, to do this job than government? There is no one else. There is no leadership. Who will follow when there is no leadership?
The inflation psychology which is reflected on virtually every page of this budget is not a laughing matter. As government insists on taking more of the pie — and I have to use the same analogy as the previous speaker — our people are forced to do the same: more and more of the pie for everyone. Mr. Speaker, someday soon there will be no pie left. People in every community are cutting back, municipalities are cutting back, family budgets are being cut back to cope with inflation, and yet there's not a red cent of cutback in this Minister of Finance's budget.
What the Minister of Finance is telling the people of B.C. in this budget is that his government is going to increase spending by 40 per cent. Well, I hope that he realizes that his government, again, is the only budget maker in British Columbia capable of doing that.
It would be great in a family to say: "We're going to increase our spending by 40 per cent." It would be a pretty great time for a short while. What is even more spectacular about the deceit of this budget is the estimate of revenue. The leader of the official opposition has commented at length on the revenue estimates, and I won't. I would make one short comment.
When this budget was prepared, the Minister got together with the quarter-million-dollar gurus who infest this place and told him how much they wanted to spend this year — $3.2 billion, to be exact. They told their gurus: "We will spend that much, so cook us up some figures that will balance the budget." That is about how accurate those estimate figures are. Keep the inflation pots boiling and we might balance the budget.
The budget is inflationary for a second important reason. I refer to the effort among our people to eliminate waste. If there is one thing that this government has proven so far in its short life, it is its unquestioned ability to waste the money of the taxpayers of British Columbia waste through mismanagement! Waste through lack of planning! Those characteristics are the trademarks of this government. If this government could just stop some of its waste, who knows how many millions of dollars could be saved — tens, perhaps even hundreds, of millions of dollars — without cutting back, Mr. Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke), on essential programmes. Don't misunderstand. Cutting back on waste — you know the point I make.
The question in this budget is not whether services to people should be cut. It is unfortunately already a fact that they will be. The services-to-people departments of this government will spend 61 per cent of revenues, down almost 10 per cent from 68 per cent. The biggest budget in our history is up 40 per cent, and services to people, the real purpose of government after all, are down 10 per cent.
We believe that the policies and the programmes of
[ Page 657 ]
this government have not only resulted in declining services to people, not only threatened municipal governments and the job that they have to do, the services which they have to provide, but this budge and its figures threaten the revenue base of this province which will ensure that those services can continue. Indeed, this budget is the beginning of the trend of declining services to people. To ensure that those services will continue, government must be responsible.
We see no sign of responsibility on the part of this present arrogant NDP government. It must provide leadership in the economy. This government must do it. If it does not, no one else in the province will. It must provide leadership in the economy to ensure the protection of the revenue base. This, above all else, is where the government has failed.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): I'm the windup speaker on the budget debate.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): Somebody wind him up.
HON. MR. LAUK: He has been waiting all session to say that, and off he goes. There he goes. Out for coffee. Let's hear it for whoever that man is.
I received a note from the Clerk's table, Mr. Speaker, and it says: "In your windup, let's hear it for the Clerks." So let's hear it for the Clerks, everybody. (Applause.)
I thought I'd get the niceties out of the way right away.
MR. SPEAKER: Highly irregular, as a matter of fact.
HON. MR. LAUK: The last opposition speaker described himself as the last opposition Member to bat. He says he is the cleanup hitter. I know what his political history is, and I would describe him as a switch hitter.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. LAUK: I was disturbed when he started out in his speech to guttersnipe in the House. Then he went on...
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.
HON. MR. LAUK: ...to get to substantive matters. I would prefer he went back to guttersniping.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't think....
HON. MR. LAUK: That seems to be his style, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't think it is regular to call another Member a guttersnipe.
AN HON. MEMBER: That is a type of bird.
MR. SPEAKER: Quite unparliamentary.
HON. MR. LAUK: I said "guttersnipe tactics," didn't I? I thought that is what I said.
MR. SPEAKER: I doubt it.
HON. MR. LAUK: Well, I will withdraw that and say "guttersnipe tactics," Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I really can't accept that either as being parliamentary.
HON. MR. LAUK: If he is going to do it, Mr. Speaker, why doesn't he stand behind it?
MR. CURTIS: Tell us about your department.
HON. MR. LAUK: Why don't you do something about it instead of spreading innuendo and guttersniping in this House, Mr. Member? The people of British Columbia are used to irresponsible comments from the opposition and cowardly acts.
MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Member to observe the rules of parliament, which also include not using unparliamentary expressions like "guttersnipe," "guttersnipe tactics," or "cowardly." Would the Hon. Member please withdraw those expressions?
HON. MR. LAUK: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I will withdraw those phrases. Thank you. The people of the province know full well.
MR. CURTIS: Tell us about your department.
HON. MR. LAUK: The Member for Saanich and the Islands (Mr. Curtis), Mr. Speaker, when he was discussing the budget talked about inflation and, as usual, misused statistics (I'm sure not deliberately) to mislead the House — twisted statistics. He used the consumer price index. Everybody in this province, especially the Liberals, knows that the people in this province pay higher prices for consumer goods because of the tariff protection of the federal government that protects the central manufacturing base. He knows that. Look at all the inflationary
[ Page 658 ]
factors. We are not above the national average, in spite of the fact that we have to pay higher consumer prices because of federal government policies.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. LAUK: You know that, Mr. Member, and standing up here to pretend you don't is nonsense.
MR. CURTIS: Tell us about your department — that's what you're here for. Give us a report.
HON. MR. LAUK: The Hon. Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) made a speech. It was like a professor, sitting on the sidelines, marking us all out of 10, which is typical of the Hon. Liberal leader.
He talked about the civil service. You know, there are many other factors to consider except giving a simplistic story about the civil service in this province. When we took office the civil service was the lowest paid civil service anywhere in the country. There were some people that would qualify for welfare benefits in the civil service. You people would keep them there, as the previous administration did for 20 years.
In addition to that, the numbers that presently reflect the numbers of the civil service include the largest ferry system in the world. They include a large Highways department. They include Liquor Control Board employees, which other civil service figures do not include. In spite of that, Mr. Speaker, we are exactly where we should be in the national average of civil servants in terms of our population: fourth, one civil servant per 68, as opposed to Ontario and others that are much higher. So let's look at the real facts before we get running off in several different directions, Mr. Speaker.
The increase in the size of the pie is another point that was made by opposition Members. "Let's get involved in the investment world; let's encourage this private industry." They haven't noticed that for the first time since we entered Confederation this province has a development corporation which is creating jobs all over this province, which is creating loans to small businesses all over this province. To the man who laughs from Columbia River (Mr. Chabot), there are three loan applications from his area.
HON. MR. LAUK: There's three. Shall I say that he's against them, Mr. Speaker? Shall I go up there and tell the people of Columbia River that he's against the development corporation?
MR. CHABOT: Come right up any time you want.
HON. MR. LAUK: Are you against it, Mr. Member? Are you against the development corporation in your riding?
AN HON. MEMBER: Sure he is!
HON. MR. LAUK: All right, I'll tell those three applicants that you're against them.
You know that they are doing a job in this province. They are creating jobs all over this province, and where it counts — labour-intensive industry with small businesses. It's the small businessman that this government is here to protect, and it is the small businessman who knows that. For 20 years people begged you for a development corporation and you laughed.
MR. CHABOT: You have given them higher assessments, but how many jobs?
HON. MR. LAUK: How many jobs, Mr. Member? Hundreds of jobs in the province have been created, and many more in the future, and you know it. I'll table all of those documents during my estimates.
HON. MR. LAUK: You sit here and you don't know what public information there is. We've announced loan after loan in the press. Read the newspapers, or have someone read it for you. (Laughter.)
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the investment climate and the wealth producing in this province, may I remind the people of this House and the people of British Columbia that if it weren't for this government preserving the economy of the great northwest of this province, there would be thousands of people on welfare, as there would be if that administration across the way were still in power. Instead, we have totally reversed the situation in the northwest, we preserved the jobs for the people of this area, and we have become the second-highest corporate earner in this province, Mr. Speaker.
I didn't hear the Hon. Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) talk about the federal civil service. He brushed over it, but he didn't talk about it. He said that he thought the federal budget was excessive. He thought it was excessive. What a concession to make. Talk about the thousands and thousands of people in thy federal civil service gathering statistics and regurgitating them and passing paper to one another. Infamous! And he says that he "thinks" the federal budget is excessive.
Well, so much for the professor, Mr. Speaker. I thank him for his high marks.
Now for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett). When he was dealing with the
[ Page 659 ]
budget...it's difficult to criticize the Leader of the Opposition for his attack on the budget because he didn't say anything. He really didn't say anything. He said we should have budgeted a surplus as a hedge against inflation, and that we're spending too much on civil servants and welfare recipients.
Personal taxes, he says, as a percentage of taxes are greater than resource taxes. Then I see that this morning he tabled the bill — of course, I'm not going to debate the bill at this stage — intituled the Resource Revenue and Sharing Act. I'm getting the impression that he's calling upon this government to raise resource taxation.
[Mr. Liden in the chair.]
He says it's not a big enough percentage of the taxation pie. He's arguing for an increase. He's ensuring that we provide them an increase of resource taxation to the municipalities.
MR. CHABOT: Debate the bill later.
HON. MR. LAUK: He said that it's too small a percentage of the taxation pie. He's calling for higher resource taxation in this province. That's what he's calling for. Boy, am I going to tell MacMillan Bloedel about him. They'll cancel their cheque.
What programmes would the Social Credit Party cut if they were in power? I'll tell you what they'd cut — and you know what they would cut. Because they failed to answer that question directly, we know what they would cut. They're just afraid to say. Pharmacare, Mincome, aid to the handicapped...the leave-it-to-charity boys over there. "Are there no workhouses, no orphanages?" says the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett)."Why can't the Red Feather handle it? It was all right in my daddy's day."
That's the kind of mentality we have over there. We know what they would cut from the budget.
He says that we're going to have a deficit in this province. We've had a deficit for the past 15 years because of the financial bungling of his father on the Columbia River Treaty.
When we took office, each man, woman and child owed $1,200 through a contingency plan; that he and B.C. Hydro set it up for us, our children, our children's children. Magnificent foresight! We're paying the bills now for that financial bungler, and we'll balance the budget. In spite of the disaster we've inherited from the previous administration, we're going to balance the budget, because we only have one set of books. And we will honestly represent the expenditures and revenues to the people of this province.
Perhaps the saddest speech from the opposition on this budget was by the Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams). It was a sad speech. He called for a return to the good old days when your people were grateful to work. Now they're just bums.
Well, I suppose there are a few bums in society, but the young people in this province, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Member, are committed to this province and committed to its future — not in the old way, not in your way, not in that old way where there was "come and get it, boys; rip it off, boys," like the previous Premier.
"Nothing is freer than free," said the previous Premier. He meant that when he called upon foreign exploiters to come in and take the natural resources without leaving anything to the province and the people of this province. "Nothing is freer than free," he said.
That's what the young people are upset about today. They're upset about their futures being mortgaged by old-time, Huey Long type politicians of the past.
HON. MR. LAUK: And I'll tell you, this Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound called upon, in a most nostalgic way, the return to the work ethic.
HON. MR. LAUK: You know, the former Premier of this province.... What do you expect from people who see what's happened in the Columbia River treaty? Do you expect them to be happy about that, to work for the future of this province? They will. You're only talking about a handful of people.
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): Ten per cent unemployment.
HON. MR. LAUK: You know, the previous Premier was saved.... Oh, nonsense! You don't know what you're talking about. You don't know what you're talking about.
The former Leader of the Opposition, the present Minister of Transport and Communications (Hon. Mr. Strachan), warned the previous Premier, and the previous Premier stayed back from the Wenner-Gren hoax. He was saved from the Wenner-Gren hoax only to fall over the cliff again. He's just a rube begging to be taken, and he was taken.
MR. CHABOT: Tell us about McBride.
HON. MR. LAUK: What was sad about the Member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound's speech is that he called upon this government to protect the
[ Page 660 ]
future for future generations. Do we all remember what stand that Member took on the Land Commission Act? Do we all remember how he went on hotline programmes, travelled to constituencies all over this province, and said that we don't need to protect farmland? "This is just an example of this government's taking away private ownership of land." He made the extremist statements.
Let's say it today, Mr. Member. You know it's a good Act. It has preserved farmland. It was the first of its kind in the western world, and it will preserve farmland for future generations.
Then he complained bitterly about how high the budget was. He complained about the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi) and the over $500 million we're expending on handicapped people, on old people, on unemployed people.
He said: "Cut it back."
We said: "What would you cut?" He ignored us.
We asked him again: "What would you cut?" He ignored us.
What a complete failure of philosophy. You haven't got the guts to stand up and tell us what you would cut, Mr. Member. That is a failure of philosophy.
HON. MR. LAUK: He says: "Return to the good old days."
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: If you had a change of philosophy, you wouldn't have to have one-sixth of the budget for welfare.
HON. MR. LAUK: He's nothing but a semantic stutterer. He can't stand up in this House in his twilight years of political life and tell us what he stands for.
HON. MR. LAUK: The previous administration calls for jobs. They keep on saying: "Jobs!" The Hon. Member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot), who's only a country boy, says: "Where are the jobs? My people in Golden want jobs!" There's only one job they want — his. (Laughter.)
In the previous 20 years where were the job programmes? Not one. After recession and boom-and-bust, communities shut down and empty streets and empty schools in our rural communities, where were the job programmes of the previous administration? Not one.
Now we have the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. King), the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams), the British Columbia Development Corp. — all of our processes are operating to provide jobs. All of them.
The Port Simpson cannery, for example.... I noticed in the paper, the Prince Rupert Daily News — which I know is not pro-government. The Member for that area (Mr. Dent) told me that and I believe him. (Laughter.) It says that we've taken over 20 people off welfare, and we haven't even started full production.
Can-Cel, Port Simpson in the northwest, the BCDC throughout the province, job programmes through the Minister of Labour, manpower training, the previous administration? Empty talk, promises — the Kelowna garter.
Where was the development corporation? Time after time, the Liberals and the CCF-NDP stood up in this House and said: "Give us a development corporation. The small businessman is being squeezed out." And he was. He was. This once grand populist party took the side of the big corporations and squeezed out the small businessman in this province so that the number of small businesses, 20 employees or under, decreased and declined year after year in this province under that administration. Under ours, it has increased.
HON. MR. LAUK: No attempts to diversify the economy. Just empty talk, boom and bust, empty streets, empty schools, deserted communities — that's the kind of party we had over there. And they have the audacity to stand up in this House and criticize this job-security budget.
No pressure on the federal government to provide more money from Industry, Trade and Commerce and the federal Department of Supply and Services or the Industrial Development Bank. They're increased by tens of percentage points in this year because of the pressure and the catalyst provided by my department, my Ministry and the B.C. Development Corp. That's a fact and you know it.
We've got more of our share and we'll get more next year because I'm keeping up the pressure. I don't just stand here and talk.
They've been talking about steel production in this province since 1896. They've talked about steel production in this House since 1896. In 1975 you have action. We've got a feasibility agreement for the definite substance of building a steel mill.
What about copper? Talk for 80 years; in 1975 you'll see action.
MR. GIBSON: What kind?
HON. MR. LAUK: You're going to see lots of action, my friend.
The Member for Cariboo (Mr. Fraser), who said: "While this government is in office there will not be a
[ Page 661 ]
copper smelter built in this province" — I ask him to put his seat on that, and if he puts his seat on that, he will have to resign.
What about trade missions, Mr. Speaker? For 40 years we've had boondoggles leave this province — boondoggles for trade missions. In 1975 they come back with signed contracts. That's the kind of programme we have.
There has been a lot said about the economy and where we are going from the doom-and-gloom boys — that's all we hear from them, all the negativism. You'd think that they had no stake in this province, had no support for it and had no loyalty to the people.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. LAUK: When they stand here and talk about doom and gloom, they have no faith in the working-class people of this province who have been the backbone of this province and will survive this present economic storm.
I'll tell you one thing: the Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips) and the Hon. Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) have been very flattering to me during this debate. (Laughter.) The Member for South Peace River said he places the world economic problems squarely on my shoulders. He said: "It's entirely your responsibility." (Laughter.)
I called the White House and I asked to speak to the president. The janitor replied: "Who shall I say is calling?"
I told him and he had a chat with the chauffeur. They both apologized to me, that they hadn't heard who I was.
I said: "Don't you realize that the Member for South Peace River and I believe that I'm totally responsible for the world economic recessionary factor? Don't you know that?"
He said: "No, I'm sorry, I didn't." (Laughter.)
The Hon. Liberal leader wants me to take over the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Resources and one or two others. I'm flattered — I'm really flattered, but my wife and child don't think that I'm home enough as it is. Although I think I have enough to do and although I think I am great, I don't think I am that great. (Laughter.)
But it's nice to have that kind of support from the opposition. Once in awhile they have a clear moment. (Laughter.)
But what is the economy? Let's talk about the economy. Let's look at the facts and don't just talk about doom and gloom and the Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett), who is nothing but a "chicken little" leading his chicken-little parade, and, I hope, right out of this province.
The bond market has improved; the stock market is rallying; interest rates are lowering; the bank prime lending rate has dropped to 9 per cent. The Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Montreal and five other banks dropped their rates from 9 per cent at the end of February. Central Mortgage and Housing Corp. is reducing some of its mortgage interest rates; loans under assisted home ownership programme lowered to 10 per cent from 10.75 per cent. The automobile industry, a key industry in the North American economy, shows some sign of recovery from the recent slump. Price reductions in January and February stimulated auto sales, and some are planning moderate production increases.
As far as the outlook is concerned, I wish you people would read more of my speeches, then you would know where the economy is going. I don't exaggerate on the one hand or become doom-and-gloom on the other. I give you an honest appraisal. I feel that's my responsibility; that's what my colleagues have asked me to do.
The current available information suggests little change from earlier forecasts of the outlook for 1975. It is the general consensus that the current economic slack will persist until mid-year when a gradual expansion and upward turn is expected. That's the same forecast I gave in the middle of January.
MR. CHABOT: You're all alone on that forecast.
HON. MR. LAUK: Nonsense! This forecast represents the major economic forecast throughout North America. How would the Member for Columbia River know, for heaven's sake — the previous leader made him Minister of Labour so that he could get him out of his caucus. He knew that that Minister would be such a disaster he would lose his seat, and he succeeded beyond his wildest expectations. He didn't know anything about labour, let alone the economy. He had to be escorted under armed guard to get to the House. (Laughter.)
What about the unemployment — as everybody says — as represented by the real leader of the opposition over there, the Member for Columbia River? If only he had better family connections...here he is, an elder statesman, been in this House for years. All of the ushers know who he is; the only people who don't know who he is are the people who work in the library. (Laughter.)
[Mr. Speaker in the chair]
HON. MR. LAUK: He's calling for jobs. But let's tell the truth about jobs; let's tell the truth about unemployment. Let's tell the truth for a change, and let the press hear this. This increase of unemployment that we've experienced in British Columbia reflects, in large part, the continued inward migration of workers to this province. In the past year our labour
[ Page 662 ]
force grew at a rate of 60 per cent above the Canadian average. In spite of our increasing rate of unemployment it should be realized that in the past year the number of productively employed British Columbia workers increased at a rate of 35 per cent in excess of the Canadian average. That 's what this government has done.
I might also say that there are some men in this province who are worried because the employment market for men is evening off. On the other hand, the number of working women has increased by 41,000 or 13 per cent in the past year.
We have the highest standard of living in this country, we are the fastest-growing province in Canada, and young people who are coming out here are willing to work. God willing, we'll find them work in the greatest province in Canada.
One final point: we talk about small businesses — we talk about the protection of small businesses. In September of 1972 there were 43,000 small businesses in this province. A small business is defined statistically as a "business with 20 employees or under." And the Masters of Business Administration from Harvard could tell you that, if nothing else.
HON. MR. LEA: Maybe not even that.
HON. MR. LAUK: In September, 1974, there has been an increase of 4,000 small businesses in this province. We happen to know that many of those 43,000 small businesses back in 1972 had grown to medium-sized and larger businesses in this province because of the progressive, encouraging programmes of this government towards small businesses.
Since 1972 we have experienced an 11 per cent growth rate in small businesses in this province, the highest rate since that former administration took office. In 1974 the highest number of new incorporations in any one year had occurred in this province.
HON. MR. COCKE: Right on.
HON. MR. LAUK: And they say we are not interested in protecting the small businessman in this province. I say nonsense!
Now what about the budget? The 1975-76 provincial budget reflects an honest and astute appraisal of the performance of the provincial economy in the past year and shows we are fully aware of the need to maintain a healthy economy, especially in the context of fairly serious problems in the international economic climate.
HON. MR. LEA: Signed, Robert Bonner.
HON. MR. LAUK: However, we are also aware of the threat — I'll tell you who wrote this in a minute, Mr. Member — the inflationary spiral poses to the working man, the elderly, and the other vulnerable citizens, and have balanced out budget in a responsible manner.
Are you aware that in this current fiscal year only British Columbia and two other provinces have balanced their budgets — and those are Alberta and Saskatchewan? I say that if all levels of government did this, including the federal government, we would have a serious redressing of the inflationary problem in this province.
In 1974, we sustained a 5 per cent real growth rate in the gross provincial product. As the decline of housing starts was one of the early indicators of the economic downturn, we feel that we have seen the worst. In the United States, interest mortgage rates are lowering and housing starts are coming up. The mid-term upturn, that I predicted in the middle of January and in December, is coming true.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Oh, don't be so modest.
HON. MR. LAUK: I'll be more modest than that, Mr. Member. I've got a great staff. We have managed to increase it from 12 people to 80 people from all over this province, many of whom were formerly working with the federal civil service as senior economists and now are with us because they have seen the light.
We were encouraged, and I am encouraged, to see the suggestion of a new financial institution that may make credit more available to small businessmen and the general public, and the tax breaks and exemptions for the small businessmen to continue our philosophy of protecting the little guy in this economy, to make sure that free enterprise really works. Free enterprise is only talked about on that side of the House to protect the large corporations, to protect the big campaign donations. They don't talk about the little guy with 20 or 40 people employed.
It's a job-security programme in this budget — $700 million additional money — because this government has recognized that inflation, although decreasing, and recessionary factors are at play. We have got to counteract that by priming the pump and putting more money in there. That is traditional stuff. It is good stuff, too. It is going to keep this province the best off in this country during the present recessionary trend.
I commend the Minister of Finance for his emphasis on the value of health, education and social services, which are essential services, from the economic point of view, for the long-term development, for the skills, the energy and the health of a working force, a working class that really does support this province. The budget demonstrates our responsibilities in securing the people's vested interest
[ Page 663 ]
in the provincial economy. Our abilities have been proven, showing a profitable return on investment dollars. One of them is Can-Cel, and so on.
I don't see why we have to budget for a surplus. But I suppose that the Hon. Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) and his 12 gnomes in Switzerland, or whoever gave him the advice when he made his budget reply....
MR. WALLACE: That's the other leader who has the 12 gnomes.
HON. MR. LAUK: Well, no, I am talking about the Leader of the Opposition, the official opposition. I'm sorry. Yes, the Member for South Okanagan (Mr. Bennett); the man who inherited the seat of South Okanagan. That gentleman said that he had consulted 12 economists. Then he said: "Budget for a surplus." I would like to meet those 12 economists. I really would. I would like to see who they are.
HON. MR. LEA: There they are. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. LAUK: I couldn't believe my ears. It is like putting your money in a sock and saying at the end of the year it is going to be worth more.
MR. WALLACE: It's enough to rot your socks.
HON. MR. LAUK: Anybody knows, even the Member for Oak Bay knows, that if you keep your money in a sock, it is worth less at the end of the year. You know that. Even he knows that. They don't know it.
MR. WALLACE: We used to do that, but no anymore.
HON. MR. LAUK: Take a trip to the library; better still, read some of my speeches, Member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot), and let your leader know.
HON. MR. LAUK: What are we doing in this province? It seems to me the opposition party has failed to comprehend the thrust and dynamic nature of this budget.
The Liberals suggest we are budgeting for a surplus and yet still want us to cut back on Human Resources and housing expenditures, while the sanctimonious Social Credit leader says we are going to have a deficit. If he were sitting in his seat this morning, he would have learned something. But no, he was over there, lolligagging some place, wasting his time and the taxpayers' money. (Laughter.) We are paying his salary to sit in his seat and he is over there lolligagging with somebody, not in here listening to me when I am telling him about the facts of the economy. He should be here listening to me. He says that there will be a deficit in this budget. The Liberals say that there will be a surplus. They are both wrong, and that's their usual consistency. Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: I take it that the Hon. Minister supports the motion. The motion is that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of supply.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 31
NAYS — 13
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Dent in the chair.
Hon. Mrs. Dailly moves the committee rise and report progress.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The committee reports progress and asks leave to sit again.
HON. MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, with leave of the House, I'd like to make an announcement.
HON. MR. COCKE: There has been a great deal of controversy in the Capital Regional District recently around the Aberdeen Hospital and the possible closure of the Aberdeen Hospital, which would mean
[ Page 664 ]
that there would be a number of people without chronic care in this area.
We have this morning completed negotiations and we have purchased the Aberdeen Hospital for the people of the province.
MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, in response to the statement by the Minister of Health, we welcome the news that this has been acquired by negotiation, and that therefore these beds will remain available in the capital region.
We appreciate it very much.
HON. MR. LAUK: Are you the new leader?
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: To preserve tradition, and also to point out that I believe that this is in my riding — I'm not exactly sure — I would just like to thank the Minister for this.
HON. MR. LAUK: You wouldn't know.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I trust it will be followed by a more comprehensive policy with respect to chronic care and government involvement therein.
The Hon. Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) and I have often mentioned this to him. I'm sure that we're about to get a major policy statement in this area. We will welcome it.
AN HON. MEMBER: What did it cost?
Hon. Mrs. Dailly moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12:12 p.m.