1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 1975
[ Page 1711 ]
Committee of Supply: Department of Public Works estimates. On vote 231. Hon. Mr. Hartley — 1711
Division on adjournment — 1737
The House met at 8:30 p.m.
HON. L.T. NIMSICK (Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources): Mr. Speaker, I would like to let the House know that I've got two representativess from the farmers' institute in my area, Bim Barker from Ta Ta Creek and Dave Mader from Galloway.
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): Tonight in the Members' gallery are Mr. and Mrs. Howard Lowry, big game guides from the Horsefly area of the Cariboo. I would like the House to welcome them here tonight.
MR. D.F. LOCKSTEAD (Mackenzie): Mr. Speaker, tonight in the gallery we have one of the outstanding residents of Texada Island, Mr. Stan Heisholf.
Orders of the day.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Dent in the chair.
ESTIMATES: DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS
On vote 231: Minister's office, $88,895.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): Tell us about the Golden tourist information booth.
HON. W.L. HARTLEY (Minister of Public Works): Mr. Chairman, I think it is only right that I bring in a front-page story of the Victoria Times.
AN HON. MEMBER: When you get home, read the paper.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Well, that's a good story.
This shows one of the first steps in the planned development of some one million square feet of office space for the capital city. In this building there are approximately a quarter of a million square feet. With our health services building and the Public Service Commission, there are better than 400,000 square feet on the way now.
Along with these projects that are planned and underway, we have the...
AN HON. MEMBER: We have the Yale.
HON. MR. HARTLEY:...site preparation complete. Had we not had settling problems the past year, the Abbotsford trout hatchery would have been underway now. However, the tenders are called and we hope to be letting the tenders soon for a $5 million project so that we can hatch trout and steelhead in B.C.
We are planning an agricultural centre in Abbotsford.
In Ashcroft, we are planning the restoration of the old BX stagecoach building which served for many years as a courthouse and we hope to restore it in a style befitting that fine old building.
In Burns Lake ...
AN HON. MEMBER: You are going to take over the mill.
HON. MR. HARTLEY:...we are planning a courthouse addition. That's the spirit. This is being programmed in keeping with the Justice Development Commission.
In Prince Rupert, we are redesigning the old liquor store for a special facility for the land registry office.
In Vancouver, a remand centre for corrections. In Kamloops, a health centre.
In Nanaimo, a community health centre.
In Vancouver, public health labs and a motor vehicle licence plate production facility.
In Surrey, a motor vehicle inspection office.
In Kamloops, a general purpose office.
In Prince George, a general purpose administration office.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): You're a Minister without.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: In New Westminster, a general purpose office building.
The major buildings under construction as of now include a 20-bed unit hospital for mental health in Tranquille, a part of the Tranquille school.
A provincial government building for Fort St. John for the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald).
A Department of Public Works maintenance building in Kamloops.
An extension of the law courts. This is a building underway now in Victoria for the Attorney-General.
In Victoria, a health service building on Pandora at Blanshard. This is also underway.
A provincial government building in Victoria at Blanshard and Burdett, 30,000 square feet. This project is also underway.
A multi-discipline building for Burnaby. BCIT, Department of Education.
A classroom and lab building in Burnaby for the BCIT, Department of Education.
Highways maintenance establishment in Fernie for the Highways department; Highways equipment building in Sparwood, Department of Highways; Highways equipment building for Keating Cross
[ Page 1712 ]
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Oh, one day, my friend, they'll get a new Member. That'll warm things up. (Laughter.) It's most unlikely that he'll be around much longer.
A Highways equipment building at Keating Cross Road, Victoria, for the Department of Highways.
Revelstoke, a provincial building — this building is designed by the same architect who designed this fine legislative building, Francis Rattenbury. We are restoring the provincial building in Revelstoke in a style that is fitting to that great architect.
MR. FRASER: Tell us about Yale.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Today we announced the start of a building at Douglas, Blanshard, Courtenay and Broughton Streets, a quarter of a million square feet with 54 parking stalls. This was designed to conform with that part of town with....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's 540 parking stalls, sorry. I dropped a zero. Thanks very much.
This is a low-density, low-rise building, in keeping with this part of Victoria, with open space and a maximum of natural light. There's a plaza designed into the centre of the complex with a skylight over it so that the interior walls of the offices, those facing out into the street, will have the benefit of natural light. We are also trying to make maximum use of open space with ample use of greenery and shrubs.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Blocks 51, 61 and 71 in Vancouver are well on the way, on schedule. Yes, a mirror too. We are letting a little light shine in on downtown Vancouver; plenty of greenery and grass.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's right. In your day you were having a 55-storey building — I should say in your daddy's day — casting a great black shadow right down the centre of Vancouver.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The following are buildings which have been completed this last year: Valemont, a provincial court building officially opened January 7, 1974; in Lytton, a provincial tour building, officially opened January 28, 1974; in Grand Forks a Highways establishment; in New Denver a Highways establishment; in McLeese Lake, a Highways establishment; in Vancouver, the Dogwood Lodge, personal care home, and the first resident guests were received on June 5, 1974; Powell River, a provincial government building and law courts, officially opened on July 4, 1974, approximately 2,300 square feet of office space; Bob Quinn Lake, Highways establishment, no official opening but turned over to the Department of Highways on October 2, 1974; Tatogga Lake, Highways establishment, no official opening but turned over to the Highways department on October 2, 1974; Burnaby, the Dogwood Lodge, a personal care home, and the first resident guests were received October 15, 1974, approximately 56,000 square feet of usable space; Blue River, Highways establishment, turned over to the Department of Highways on October 15, 1974, now operational; Logan Lake, Highways establishment, turned over to the Department of Highways on October 16, 1974....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Logan Lake is in the riding of the Member for Kamloops (Mr. G.H. Anderson).
Dawson Creek: provincial government building, law courts, officially opened October 28, 1974. I would like to commend our Bill Allen for the fine job he did; he arranged to have a very fine display of flowers, and he put on a first-class opening. I am sorry the Member for that area isn't here.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes, the Member was invited to the opening, my friend from North Peace River (Mr. Smith). Things have changed. That old order has gone out. That way of never having the opposition Member on the platform has changed. The Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips) did sit up on the platform.
Whistler, the Highways establishment, turned over to the Department of Highways, November 12, 1974.
Nelson: provincial government building officially opened November 29. Approximately 35,000 square feet of office space.
Kamloops: the Ponderosa Lodge Personal Care Home officially opened December 11; 87,000 square feet of serviceable space.
Kaslo: the Department of Highways equipment storage and office building turned over to the Department of Highways November 27, this year. Now operational.
Golden: the B.C. Tourist Reception Centre to be officially opened on May 6.
[ Page 1713 ]
HON. G.R. LEA (Minister of Highways): Do you want to be there?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The Member will be invited. Now after the display he put on this afternoon, he may not choose to show up. If he doesn't, I don't blame him.
MR. FRASER: He wants to talk.
HON. MR. LEA: We can't teach him everything. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I'd like to say this, Mr. Chairman: that fine tourist centre that was designed by Public Works, I believe, does justice to the most westerly approach on Trans-Canada Highway, the Golden approach to western Canada. It's a first-class building. It's a building that every one of us as residents of the province, when we're returning to the province, can be rightfully proud of. I'm sure that non-residents.....
MR. CHABOT: It's in the wrong place.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's right, we're not a broken down old government, they couldn't afford to give this government the dignity and the prestige it deserves.
AN HON. MEMBER: It should have been in the Crowsnest.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That Member would foul his own nest.
MR. FRASER: It cost over $80 a square foot.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Right. And I would like to say this: tourism, one of our fastest-growing industries, contributes very, very little pollution to the province, takes the minimum capital investment and....
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): Tell the Minister of Highways.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes. And I think the very least we can do is design and build a first-class post-and-beam tourist centre to let people know that they're welcome and that we appreciate them coming, even though the Member from Golden doesn't.
In Vancouver at the provincial court building at 222 Main Street, the official opening is planned for May 30, 1975. There are approximately 128,000 square feet of office and court facilities.
Fort St. John: the provincial government and law courts building is to be officially opened on June 2 of this year; approximately 2,200 square feet of office space and court facilities along with some 11,000 square feet of storage space. I hope the Member will make note of that. If he hasn't already received an invitation for June 2, he'll certainly be receiving that in due course.
MR. BENNETT: Yes, save the stamp; you've spent enough money.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Shortly after taking office we asked Dr. Keenleyside to prepare a study and make an inquiry into the problems relating to electrical inspection. That study....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, you have a copy. I sent you a copy, my friend.
He made certain recommendations. He found many things, some of which we already knew. We knew that we were inheriting great problems in the field of electrical inspection. To cope with that, we have more than doubled the number of electrical inspectors, and we're moving on to triple that number. We feel that it is in the best interests of safety, the protection of homeowners, the protection of the public as a whole, that we have proper inspections and that we have a sufficiently large staff, an adequate staff, of electrical inspectors. We'll be bringing in certain legislative changes to further implement the recommendations that Dr. Keenleyside made.
MR. R.H. McCLELLAND (Langley): When?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: We've had the inquiry, and you have a copy of the report, my friend. If you've misplaced it, I'd be pleased to provide you with another copy.
We find that the totals of interested people, tourists — residents and non-residents — who have visited this building is an all-time high. We find that people are very interested and appreciate the restoration job that has been done in the building — not just in the chamber but throughout the building.
MR. CHABOT: The green light's on.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: While the opposition chose to criticize that in the earlier months, I believe even they are convinced that it's right to show proper respect to this fine building in the capital, this home of our top democratic institution.
Last year, in January, there were 1,868 persons
[ Page 1714 ]
who visited the building and were shown about by the tour guide girls; this year, in January, there were 2,170. In February last year, 3,000; this year, 3,100. In March, 5,400; in March of this year, an increase of 1,400 to 6,800. The total so far this year is 17,000 as compared with 15,000 last year. I think this indicates that students, local residents and visitors are interested in dropping in and seeing what is going on. Some are even sitting up in the galleries to listen and watch what is going on.
MR. CHABOT: The green light.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Is the green light on?
AN HON. MEMBER: No.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's your act this time.
On forming the new government, we attempted to take steps to correct problems, problems of lack of management in, say, the Department of Recreation and Conservation.
MR. FRASER: Order!
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The Minister of that department has found it necessary to increase the number of conservation officers, biologists and other people that are ...
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Order!
HON. MR. HARTLEY:....necessary to improve the management in that area. In our department, we found that we had to increase the number of electrical inspectors and inspectors in other departments. I mention this, Mr. Chairman, because these are the reasons why we found that we needed space, far more than what had been used previously.
MR. FRASER: Does that account for all the empty ones you've got?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: In other departments we brought forward new policies and new services. The Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi) brought in Mincome.
AN HON. MEMBER: Order! Order, Mr. Chairman!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This meant more people, more staff and more space.
MR. G.B. GARDOM (Vancouver–Point Grey): Order, Mr. Chairman!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) is completely reviewing his department of justice. In so doing, this placed a great call on the Department of Public Works for space.
MR. GARDOM: You missed the Department of Health.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, we're coming to Health. Yes, the Department of Health is building hospitals. (Laughter.) They provided a first in this province, and that ...
MR. GARDOM: Is this a leadership speech?
HON. MR. HARTLEY:...is a province-wide ambulance service.
MR. GARDOM: Who have you missed, Bill?
MR. FRASER: He missed Highways.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, no. We've done Highways.
MR. McCLELLAND: You haven't said anything about the hotel.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's right. We have a hotel, too. (Laughter.) The Glenshiel has shown a fine surplus.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, by no means are we ashamed of the Glenshiel.
AN HON. MEMBER: What did you pay for it?
MR. FRASER: He never told us.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes, you bet we told you.
MR. CHABOT: $150,000 too much.
MR. GARDOM: Who got the gravy, Bill?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I can tell you this, Mr. Chairman: no property acquisitions....
MR. N.R. MORRISON (Victoria): Did you take the inventory before or after?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No property acquisitions
[ Page 1715 ]
in this department, under this government, were made without proper appraisals — not one. By having proper independent appraisals, we were able to buy the Glenshiel for some $50,000 less than we would have done had we travelled the road that had been done by that old government just by letting the real estate fraternity buy it at their price.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: My friend from Columbia River (Mr. Chabot) says the taxpayers got ripped off. They have raised the matter of property. You know, just prior to the 1972 election, as late as May, the old government decided to do something about greenbelts. They all of a sudden, before the election, became ecology conscious. So what did they do? They turned over the job to one real estate firm here on Vancouver Island, with the responsibility of buying so-called greenbelt properties on Vancouver Island. And where did they buy them? Where did they buy these greenbelt properties? Any little location alongside a main highway where they could put up a sign: "This is your greenbelt."
MR. GARDOM: Order!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Minister to be sure that all the material is under his administrative responsibility.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This is correct, Mr. Chairman. This is property acquisition. I'm comparing the policy of this government where they have private, independent appraisals done, and the tired old government that merely turned over their greenbelt acquisition to the real estate fraternity and allowed them to buy anything that was handy, pay the price that the real estate man thought was good — a good price for him, at least. There was not a single independent appraisal, and they spent almost $8 million prior to the election just so they could put up signs saying "look at your greenbelt." They hoped to be able to suck the people of this province in on an ecology act.
HON. D. BARRETT (Premier): Eight million dollars, and no appraisals.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's correct, Mr. Chairman — some 46 different projects and no independent appraisals. That's what they did with the taxpayers' money. That's why this mouthpiece for the private developers is up and hollering now.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear! That's right.
MR. FRASER: Sit down so we can get into the meat of things.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: We don't use a real estate firm.
Here we are: Greenbelt Protection Fund Act — mainland and the Queen Charlotte Islands; the owner, Doris B. White, leased ....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No. 2: Mabel Elliott, two-bedroom home; neglected land on Highway 17. See, that was the big thing — they wanted it on the main highway so they could put one of those signs up.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No. 3: Owner, Richard and Helen Weaver; dairy farm, Highway 17. Yes, we can have another sign up on Highway 17.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Minister to relate his remarks to his administrative responsibility.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This, Mr. Chairman, relates to the Department of Public Works, property division.
Now what has this government done in the way of greenbelt and property acquisition? Just a few weeks ago at Cosens Bay on Kalamalka Lake the old Coldstream Ranch was acquired; some 2,400 acres, 1.5 miles of shoreline. And you know, this was really non-partisan, because for 20 years that tired old government had had this opportunity. For six years that North Okanagan area was represented by a cabinet Minister, yet that government and that cabinet Minister failed to act to acquire this fine block of land for the people of this province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would again ask the Hon. Minister to relate his remarks to his own estimates.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Further, Mr. Chairman, under the property division, another fine greenbelt project was the Boundary Bay shoreline where the whole shoreline between the Nicomekl River and Beach Grove has been acquired.
MR. CHABOT: Thank God the green light is on.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This has been acquired to protect that fragile marine area. The whole foreshore and a greenbelt area behind it has been consolidated. Now this is proper, planned greenbelt acquisition.
Probably the closest to home is what has just
[ Page 1716 ]
happened in the Inner Harbour — the old CPR ticket office, and that foreshore land along with the Reid centre. This is consolidating....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Time, time!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, or we'll add an extra two minutes on to the speaker.
AN HON. MEMBER: You can't win.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would just ask the Hon. Minister if he is responsible for the administration greenbelt front. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Right, and the green light, too. (Laughter.)
The remarkable difference between our property acquisition on the greenbelt is that it was done in the years after the election, not three months before the election, nor through the real estate fraternity. It was done through our own department and the Department of Lands, as it should always have been done.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, I'm not sure that we are on the right vote to bring this up.
AN HON. MEMBER: Then sit down!
MR. BENNETT: The Minister who figured out $25 insurance for the government is now covering the greenbelt fund, when in fact many people around the province are concerned about his handling of the Public Works portfolio and the millions of dollars that are being spent, much of it being wasted in empty office space — misspent.
You know, Mr. Chairman, last fall — in fact in January of this year — somebody reported to the Leader of the Opposition that there had been space leased in the Lake City industrial park and that this 12,500 square feet of space that had been leased had sat empty for almost eight months. It was originally leased, the Minister of Public Works said, for a pharmaceutical warehouse for pharmaceutical supplies. But it was never used for that purpose. In fact, it sat empty month after month after month.
That office space was leased as of January 4, 1974, and eventually, after months of sitting empty at a high cost to the people of this province, with no adequate supervision from the Department of Public Works or the Minister, some old trucks were moved into the warehouse and eventually some sandbags. But when we identified this problem publicly, I would have expected the Minister.... We expect the Minister to act responsibly. The money he handles and spends is trust money. It's the people's money. He's spending it and dealing with it in trust, whether it is to build new buildings or to rent buildings. This Minister has an obligation to spend the public's money wisely, as if it were his own.
If he doesn't treat his own money wisely, he should treat it as if it were somebody's money which he would like to save.
But this property sat empty. It sat empty for many months. So on March 24 of this year in this House, Mr. Chairman, I identified to this Minister a problem of a building in Prince George, a building known as the Oxford Building. I would like to refer to my line of questioning at that time, because it is indicative of the casual and frivolous way this Minister treats the very serious responsibilities of his department.
At that time, and I quote from Hansard of March 24, Mr. Chairman:
To the Minister of Public Works with respect to the Oxford Building in Prince George, which has leased 4,900 square feet of space to the provincial government at $6.50 a square foot. Could the Minister explain to the House why it was necessary to contract for these premises in August, 1974? As of this date they remain vacant and unused.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Speaker, if the Leader of the Opposition would care to table any documents that he has to substantiate this statement ...I would be pleased to respond.
MR. BENNETT: Supplemental, Mr. Speaker. If the Minister is unaware that his department has contracted space for the Department of Housing and parks at $6.50 a square foot, I wonder if the Minister could tell the House what procedures are followed to determine the need in leasing office space in advance of the requirement or after the requirement develops.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say this: any time I have asked the Leader of the Opposition to table documents.... He has yet to table his first document.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! I think no private Member is required by our rules to table documents except with the leave of the House.
It goes on:
HON. MR. HARTLEY:...Members over there have got up and made statements from documents that we find have been falsified.
Now I know of no documents tabled in this House that have been falsified. The only question we have over documents that have been tabled is a report tabled by the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams) in which the cover appeared to have been typed by a different typewriter. It's the only document that I have knowledge of in this House that is under question for having been tabled and was not tabled as represented.
MR. BENNETT: A supplementary because of the Minister's answer. He said that they take no steps, after
[ Page 1717 ]
he got to the point. Would the Minister tell us why in Prince George they have leased space several months in advance of the need at a cost of $32,000 a year? Would you advise how this could happen with that policy?
MR. CHABOT: He didn't even answer.
MR. BENNETT: It continues:
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Speaker, in many cases, even in new buildings, if we lease space we have to design them to suit our particular needs. I just cannot accept what has been said, but I would be pleased to take this as notice and give a full report at a future sitting.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: What date was that?
MR. BENNETT: March 24.
MR. BENNETT: A further supplemental. When you are advising the House, could you advise if you do have a policy that will prevent this from happening throughout the province, because it seems an excessive cost to the taxpayers.
Those are the questions that were asked a month ago to this Minister. To this date we have had no explanations; no answers in this House. This Minister has shown the same disregard for the Legislature as the government has in bringing in rules to stifle debate, to eliminate the possibility of questions and the inability of the Ministers there to answer the questions to the satisfaction of either this House or the public. We have had no answers.
Just to show the Minister the pictures, I'll pass them around. This is the Oxford building in Prince George, and there's the picture of the empty space. Mr. Chairman, as I pass this around, I'd like to say that we did create some action, although we got no answer from the Minister. Almost immediately after asking the question in the House, the question he promised to answer, some furniture was moved in, but to this date no department has moved into that building. Somebody shows up every so often and dusts the furniture.
MR. CHABOT: Ninety-two dollar stacking chairs from Denmark, maybe?
MR. BENNETT: So we have expense following expense — just further cost to the public; no service. Taxpayers' money is being wasted and never getting back to services to people but being wasted on cost of government that isn't even being delivered because no department occupies that space.
HON. D.G. COCKE (Minister of Health): Tell us about the road runners.
MR. BENNETT: Then again, Mr. Chairman, on April 15 after coming back from the Easter recess and after his trip to the energy conference in Ottawa, I asked the Minister in this House, and I repeat:
Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Public Works: could the Minister confirm to this House that his department has leased 4,025 square feet of office space located at 10575 and 10579 King George Highway for a five-year period on a triple net basis?
Now I would be out here in identifying this space that was leased for the purpose of the Whalley Mental Health Centre, because there was no number on the building, when we phoned the rental agent to get the terms of the lease, which he provided, the rental agent provided a mistake in the single digit. Indeed, that address is not 10575 but 10675, just adjacent to the address which, in error, I gave to the House.
But the terms of the lease that I identified and the use to which this building was to be put should be well known to the department. I would hope that the Minister and his department, from the description, could tell a building less than a block away was the building that was identified in this House.
I think it's irresponsible for the Minister to hide behind, or try and hide behind, the mistake of a digit. The Minister came into this House and smirked and said: "Ha, ha! The address given was that of a Kentucky-fried chicken." (Laughter.)
But I want to say that when we went and took pictures of this building on the King George Highway, we were aware that the empty space was there and that the government had leased it. I'll pass these around. We saw the Kentucky-fried chicken; in fact, we stopped there. We knew it couldn't possibly have been bought by the NDP because they serve more than left wings and backsides. (Laughter.) We knew that that space could not possibly belong to this government or have been leased by this government.
But we were concerned, Mr. Chairman, that there was in this area a space of 4,000 square feet leased for the Whalley Mental Health Centre, leased as of August 1, 1974, still vacant at an annual cost of $18,000.
Here we have a building in Prince George; now we have a building on the King George Highway rented far in advance of any need at a great cost to the taxpayers of this province, and the Minister treats it frivolously. But, Mr. Chairman, I don't blame just this Minister in the incompetence of his department. He was supported in that lame excuse by the whole cabinet over there and by the one protection this Legislature should have from waste in government — that is the Premier and Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett).
I think it's shocking that the Minister of finance would hide behind this flimsy excuse, because while departments and cabinet Ministers may waste money, the Minister of Finance should be the guardian of the
[ Page 1718 ]
public purse. He should be there to guarantee that when he has Ministers who do not have the competence to deal with the public purse he will guard the public's interest because he, above all, should recognize that this money is trust money and that any waste of the taxpayers' dollar, indeed, reflects not only on the Minister, but also on the Minister of Finance as well. But we watch that Minister of Finance and the Premier pound his desk and smirk and yell out "finger-lickin' good" — hiding behind a digit while the people of this province ....
We see every day in the paper that the community colleges are starved for funds, the public schools are starved for funds, the universities are starved for funds, but the Minister of Public Works cares not. He'll pay money to any corporation that has an empty building just to build up his empire and say: "What a big boy am I." This is the Minister that developed the $25 car insurance for this party in the last election. This is the Minister that worked out how we could deliver car insurance for $25. While he couldn't deliver the $25 car insurance, Mr. Chairman, he certainly has delivered a lot of space — empty, expensive space — to the people of this province.
Then again, on April 16, I asked the Minister about space that was empty in the province. I've asked him about space that was empty in Surrey: 7,818 square feet; annual rental, $32,000; leased April 1, 1974; still vacant as of April 23, 1975. The waste to date on that building is approximately $34,000.
It's not an isolated case, Mr. Chairman. It's not just a building in Prince George; it's not just a warehouse in Burnaby; it's not just a building on the King George Highway. Here is a building in Surrey at a cost of $34,000.
Then again in the Legislature, I asked the Minister about the McLaren Building on Manor Street in Vernon. Thirty thousand square feet leased and still empty as of April 23, 1975, in excess of $6 a square foot; annual rental more than $180,000 a year. The whole space sat empty for six months; approximately half of it is still empty. Waste to the people: $131,000.
Then again, Mr. Chairman, I asked the Minister on a further date about the Allstate Building in Burnaby. Leased July 1, 1974; annual rental $54,000; still vacant as of April 23, 1975; approximate waste: $42,000.
Then I asked the Minister on a following date, Mr. Chairman, about a space in the Ellery Block at 900 Ellery in Esquimalt; 15,000 square feet; lease signed July 1, 1974. This building is still vacant as of April 21, 1975. Approximate waste on this building alone: $35,000.
Now, Mr. Chairman, you would think that having the problem identified, this Minister would stand in the Legislature and say: "Thank you for identifying the problem. My department will move speedily and hastily to stop this waste of the public's money. We are concerned now that you've solved the problem for us. You've been a good opposition, a good watchdog on the public purse, and we will waste no more." But instead we get smart-alec answers, no responses in the Legislature, corridor interviews and attempt to hide behind a digit and a Kentucky-fried chicken as an excuse.
That's not good enough in a province where the public is concerned, because right now in British Columbia homeowners have to watch their budgets. The people of this province have to be concerned about how they spend money. Costs are rising; many people are unemployed in British Columbia today. More are unemployed now than have ever been unemployed before in the province. They're concerned about their budget and they still have to send their taxes to Victoria. They have no choice because they spend taxes every time they purchase. They pay 5 per cent tax. The taxes on their homes are escalating because this government doesn't treat the municipalities fairly. The taxes on their homes are escalating from education costs because this government hasn't met its promise to take the education tax off property. These people know that the cost of clothing for their children, the cost of heat to heat their homes is rising, and they have to save money and they have to be prudent.
Here we have a department of government...and I don't just blame this department, Mr. Chairman, because this waste and mismanagement is applicable to all departments. It's just more evident here and more inexcusable because this Minister refuses to deal with it. This Minister has promised this Legislature — not to the Legislature but out in the hall, as reported in the paper — that during his estimates he would make a statement and that he would assure the House that this waste would continue no longer. Yet in his opening statement we heard him talk about a vote that comes under the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall) we heard him talk about greenbelts, but at no time did he attempt to deal with the question before us — the waste of public money in rental space, the possible waste of money in the renovation of buildings, the possible waste of money, perhaps, in contracts and construction of buildings.
It's symptomatic of the arrogance of this government that not only do they restrict debate, not only do they bring in closure, not only do they attempt to manipulate the closure further with selective closure, but they refuse even to answer the questions in their much-heralded question period and they refuse, so far, to deal with them during the Ministers' estimates.
There are other buildings I can identify, but I would like to continue to pass around some of the empty space that I have identified tonight. There's
[ Page 1719 ]
the empty space in Surrey; here's the empty space in the McLaren building in Burnaby; there's the empty space in the Allstate building in Burnaby; here's the building that has the empty space in Esquimalt.
I'd like to talk about further empty space in Prince George. This building is 1777 Third, Prince George. The lease was signed in November, 1974 at $6.50 per square foot. It's still vacant as of April 22; waste — $13,000. I'd like to pass that space around.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, those figures on those seven buildings add up to $292,000. But we're not through because there's additional space that we're investigating now. There have been dozens of phone calls to our office and to the Leader of the Opposition saying: "We have such a building in our area." These are not isolated instances; these are instances that are taking place in every part of this province. There's an accumulation of waste and a scandal of waste that, although apparent in this department, this Minister, whose arrogance in failing to deal with it in this Legislature is now more obvious than ever, and the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett), who pounds his desk in glee when the Minister attempts to provide a flimsy excuse — his partner in the crime of covering up waste — are not even preparing to deal with the subject of waste and the waste in his department in this Legislature.
We can go on, because it isn't just commercial buildings. How about housing? There is a housing shortage in this province — people requiring accommodation — and yet we have occasions where there are houses.... Here is a house that was apparently purchased in Duncan in February, 1974 — purchase price, $37,000. This house in the pictures still sits empty. I'll pass them around.
When we went to take the pictures of the house to find out why the house sat empty.... Even if the Department of Human Resources, for which this house was apparently purchased, has not found a use for it in over a year, perhaps they could have leased it out. Perhaps in an area of a shortage of accommodation they could have helped to meet the public interest. But there's no such thought for people. This house sits empty, and when we go to the door there's a notice. I'm glad the Minister brought up the great job they're doing with electrical inspection, because on the door is an electrical energy inspection department notice. It's dated March 10. It says:
"Dear Sir or Madam:
"On this date we called to make an inspection of the electrical work in your premises but were unable to gain entry. Will you kindly notify our office where we may call and when, and where we may locate the key?"
Commercial buildings for all departments, houses sit empty; but it's not just rental space, Mr. Chairman, that's causing a waste. How about buildings the government has purchased? Because the Minister quite proudly announced large amounts of money that were being dispensed on buildings. How about these buildings? How about the building...? I'll pass some pictures around on this building. Here's a building: 800 Viewfield Road, Esquimalt — lot A, section 11 and 32, plan 198047. It was formerly used by McIlwaine Cartage. It has an estimated 65,000 square feet; valuation, $425,000. It was purchased by the government in a title search on November 30, 1973. This building — this 65,000 square foot building — sits empty today. Oh, not completely empty — it has a totem pole in it; 65,000 square feet since 1973 to house a totem pole. You know, totem poles tell a story. When that totem pole went into the warehouse it was smiling, but today it's sad. (Laughter.) Today it's sad because it, too, realizes the hardships that are being caused in expenditures to services for people in this province because this Minister and this department, symptomatic of a disease of waste and incompetence that permeates this whole government, is wasting the taxpayers' money, is robbing the people of services.
The Minister refuses to deal with the subject or even to take remedial action; continues to ignore questions in this House — questions that were raised a month ago.
It is shocking because the Premier condones this action. The Minister of Finance condones it. He pounds his desk in glee; he pounds his desk when he thought the Minister had an out. He shouted: "Finger-lickin' good." I think it is disgraceful.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): Some defence!
MR. BENNETT: Some defence! Here is a department — and it is obvious they have spent a lot of money on gold paint in the buildings — that in area after area in this province has spent and wasted ...
HON. MR. COCKE: You're a disgrace!
MR. BENNETT:...a lot of the public's money. The budget for Public Works in 1974/75 was $48,000.
AN HON. MEMBER: Forty-eight million.
MR. BENNETT: Forty-eight million. But of course they had a revised budget because they overspent, and I can see why. The revised estimate in the budget this year for that year is $67 million. The estimates for this year are $90 million. Consider, Mr.
[ Page 1720 ]
Chairman, if this Minister's programme of leasing and maintaining empty office space continues, how many empty buildings we will have next year and how we will have to curtail services in other areas of the government because of the waste of this department, waste that is not being dealt with by this Minister, waste that is robbing the people of British Columbia of services.
We have seen rent from the public Treasury for this department go from $3 million in 1972 to $15 million in this year's budget. But, in fact, are we actually filling more space or are we just accumulating an inventory of leases?
AN HON. MEMBER: The Peter Principle.
MR. BENNETT: Although we have seen the government service go from 29,000 to almost 46,000 people in this short time, apparently even the departments that are accelerating their hiring cannot fill their offices as fast as this Minister leases them. They cannot not only hire people but they can't even buy the desks and the fancy furniture that go up to the Minister's offices fast enough. I guess they can't even fill these empty offices around this province.
I think this Legislature should get some answers. I think the people deserve answers and the people demand answers.
Even while this apparent waste is going on, this scandal of waste, we see advertisements by this department published just the other day, advertisements which are calling for more people for the Department of Public Works. To do what? To act as rental agents to lease more space. Here they want property negotiators and they have run two advertisements. It says:
"The Department of Public Works has openings for two qualified persons in the public services branch. Salary: $15,000 to $17,000. Under direction" — whose direction? — "to be responsible for the administration of the field property office and the programme of acquisition, leasing, exchange and disposal of property."
We don't have enough property sitting empty....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The green light is on.
MR. BENNETT: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I have no trouble identifying colours, thank you.
Mr. Chairman, this scandal of waste is hitting proportions that not even the opposition dreamed of when we investigated those first few buildings. This Minister hasn't provided answers. Even if he has, we will be bringing before this Legislature further examples of the deterioration and the loss of benefits to the public from the public purse through the waste of money of this Minister. It is a scandal of mounting proportions.
I don't blame just that Minister. The public is already alerted to overruns in all departments. We now have it officially from the Premier and Minister of Finance as of the other day that he condones this Minister's action, he condones the waste...
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT:...he plots and pounds his desk.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The time is up.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, the public demands answers to this very, very serious waste and extravagance in this province.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, I held back on answering the questions, giving the statement that I promised. I have the facts here.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Were you withholding statements from the House?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, at no time. I say I withheld until now because I thought the Leader of the Opposition at least knew that a major portion, a considerable portion, of the increase in our rental budget, some $3.3 million dollars, was the responsibility, the load, that we had taken from the backs of the cities of this province. I am shocked that he didn't know that.
AN HON. MEMBER: He doesn't know very much.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: His old daddy let the cities carry the brunt of the burden of administering justice in this province. Under our rental budget this year, we are budgeting for $3.3 million that this department will pay that was formerly paid by the cities of Kelowna, of Vernon, of Vancouver, and of Victoria, and so on.
MR. CURTIS: Wait for your tax bill.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Public health: $1,125,000 million; Human Resources: almost $2 million. So there is almost $7 million of that $15 million budget that was formerly paid by the cities. By making the statement and the false accusations that you've made tonight, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, you completely overlooked....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. If the statements that the Hon. Minister of Public Works says are false,
[ Page 1721 ]
the Hon. Leader of the Opposition can rise in his place on a point of order and correct....
MR. BENNETT: On the contrary, I demand withdrawal now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I do not believe the Hon. Minister of Public Works is accusing the Hon. Member....
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, the Minister has....
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, I demand a withdrawal.
MR. McCLELLAND: Hear, hear! Play fair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I will ask the Hon. Minister of Public Works to withdraw any imputation that the Leader of the Opposition was deliberately making a false statement.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, I made no imputation. I merely stated that he was making false statements. Here I have a $7 million figure that formerly the cities of this province were paying.
MR. BENNETT: I demand a withdrawal.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. On the point of order we have to establish a principle very clearly. The Hon. Minister may say that the statements are false. However, he may not say that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition has deliberately made false statements to the House. They are two different things. However, if the Hon. Minister of Public Works was imputing an improper motive to the Leader of the Opposition, suggesting that he was deliberately making a false statement, I would ask him to withdraw the imputation.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, I was merely correcting and edifying the Leader of the Opposition.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask that if he was making the imputation, he withdraw it.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, I wasn't making the imputation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Hon. Minister of Public Works has indicated that he is not accusing the Hon. Leader of the Opposition of deliberately making false statements.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, would you just...?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think the Hon. Leader of the Opposition appreciates that you cannot ask a Member to withdraw any statement saying that statements are incorrect or false, but rather that he is deliberately misleading the House, or making false statements in order to mislead the House. They are two different things.
The Hon. Minister has said that he is not accusing the Leader of the Opposition of deliberately misleading the House.
AN HON. MEMBER: Different rules for different sides.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, Mr. Chairman. I was merely pointing out that I was surprised that the Leader of the Opposition hadn't studied the estimates to the extent to know that the provincial government....
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): Point of order: just in the interests of clarifying this, Mr. Chairman, I consulted the dictionary that is at the foot of the chair up there and I find that "false" means (1) not genuine, relating to documents or teeth and (2) intentionally untrue when it relates to testimony. I just mention that to you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Again I would just make the distinction for the Hon. Member for North Vancouver-Capilano: the Hon. Minister of Public Works has indicated that he has not in any way accused the Leader of the Opposition of misleading the House, but rather he has simply said that some of the statements he made were false.
MR. GIBSON: But the point of order, Mr. Chairman, is that the word "false" is defined as being "intentionally untrue." That's part and parcel of the definition of the word.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Again I would ask the Hon. Minister of Public Works to clarify the matter. Did you charge the Leader of the Opposition with deliberately misleading the House by making false statements?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, it is certainly not my intention to accuse the Leader of the Opposition of deliberately misleading the House. I think if we check the Blues, you'll see that I stated that I was shocked with his lack of knowledge of the budget, that he failed to study the budget and find that this little government had taken a burden of some $7 million from the backs of the cities, even the city in which he
[ Page 1722 ]
lives. That the Attorney-General's department had formerly ....
MR. GARDOM: Waffle, waffle, waffle.
HON. MR. HARTLEY:...moneys that had been paid by the cities previously. Now the Department of Public Works, on behalf of the Attorney-General's department, is paying $3,358,059 for court rentals that formerly would have been paid by the City of Victoria, the City of Vancouver, the City of Vernon, the City of Kelowna, the City of Prince George and so on.
MR. FRASER: Balderdash!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: In Human Resources we are providing facilities that some of our cities would have paid to the extent of $1,902,000.
In public health we are paying for facilities $1,179,602.
MR. BENNETT: What about the empties?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: And what I said, Mr. Chairman, was that I was shocked that the leader of any party, particularly the leader of the official Opposition, didn't know that. Here he was saying that our increase in budget was because of waste space. He doesn't know what he's talking about. Furthermore, Mr. Chairman, when any responsible Member of this House implies to the media, and fails to stand up and recognize his mistakes ....
I'd like to read a letter that the Leader of the Opposition wrote to me, as Minister of Public Works, on December 13.
He outlines a programme of renovation and restoration for his office space. Not only does he do that but he encloses three sketches of what he would like to do. Then he has the audacity to stand up and criticize this government for spending money for refurbishing his suite. I think that that is a very chintzy political attitude.
MR. BENNETT: We had just acquired a new Member. We were trying to get an office for him.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, this was back in 1973, just after we had acquired you. You didn't win a seat; we inherited you. Your daddy passed you on to us. You are a leader by inheritance.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Minister speak to the vote, please?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I'm speaking to this, Mr. Chairman. When this Member would lead the Sun columnist, James Nesbitt, to believe that he didn't want the refurbishing....
I would like to table this with the House, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Members not interrupt the person who has the floor, please? Wait your turn to speak.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: To put on a great act that he is the saviour of the taxpayers' dollars.... We didn't object to him asking for renovated space; that is fair enough. We were pleased to give it. But when he would be so chintzy as to get up and deny that he wanted it, and make a big play in the paper that he didn't want it....
MR. CHABOT: How do you spell "chintzy"?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Here's the letter; I'll read it to you. "To the Hon. W.L. Hartley, Minister of Public Works.".
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Before the Hon. Minister proceeds, I would ask him to withdraw the suggestion that he is using an offensive term against another Hon. Member by accusing him of being "chintzy."
HON. MR. HARTLEY: What's "chintzy"? There's nothing offensive in that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think the criterion has to be that if Members are offended by the use of a term against another Hon. Member, it would have to be considered as offensive.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: If it makes him feel better, Mr. Chairman, I would be pleased to withdraw the word "chintzy." But I think it was a very cheap politician that would do that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think there is a distinction between "cheap politics" and "cheap politician," and I would ask the Hon. Member to withdraw any direct imputation against another Member of the House.
MR. BENNETT: On a point of order. I don't object to the phrase "cheap politician." I would like to respond by saying that that Minister is a very expensive politician — to the people of this province.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
[ Page 1723 ]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Minister proceed? The matter seems to be settled.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The letter says: "Dear Mr. Minister:
"As discussed with my administrative assistant, I am enclosing sketch proposals for the rearrangement of an office layout in the Leader of the Opposition's suite. You will note from the enclosed sketches that essentially both plans involve relative changes to the divider walls."
These were the expensive folding walls that had been put in.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: It continues:
"Plan No. I involves rearranging dividing walls in both the secretarial area and in the area now occupied by the caucus research assistant. Plan No. 2 involves rearranging the dividing walls and the office now occupied by the caucus research assistant.
"You will note that both plans involve the removal of the folding partitions between my office and the caucus room, with replacement with a proper dividing wall. I would appreciate it if you would have your staff either discuss this proposal directly with me or with my administrative assistant.
"Yours sincerely, Bill Bennett."
MR. MORRISON: Come on down and have a look.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: December 13, 1973. And then to imply that we were wasting taxpayers' dollars carrying out something he had requested....
MR. BENNETT: Tell us about the empty buildings.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I have closely tabulated all questions that were asked.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The Leader of the Opposition may have had other....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Members please maintain some level of decorum so that the Hon. Minister can proceed?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: On March 24, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) asked about the Oxford Building in Prince George. Space in the Oxford Building was leased for the following departments: the Department of Travel Industry, which moved in on September 1, 1974; the Department of the Attorney-General, which moved in on October 1, 1974; the Department of Recreation and Conservation, now in occupancy, as is the Department of Housing; the Minister of Northern Affairs (Hon. Mr. Nunweiler) is moving in.
On April 15, the Leader of the Opposition asked about a building located at 10575 and 10579 King George Highway, Surrey. As I mentioned previously, one of the addresses given by the Leader of the Opposition is a parking lot beside the Kentucky Fried Chicken stand. I can also report that another address given....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: My friend asks if I will confirm if we had a lease. Well, Mr. Chairman, I would like to tell you this: I asked our people to check our leases, and we had no leases at either of those numbers. I asked one of our employees to go out there and look to make doubly sure. He went and looked and he said: "We have no number that corresponds to that address, and we know of no time having leased property adjacent to the Kentucky-fried." Now we went to all of that trouble to make certain that the question he had asked was legitimate.
Now I know that he has fired one executive assistant, and if he can't type up questions better than that, maybe he should seriously look at his new executive assistant. Now I'll carry on.
I can report that another address given by the Leader of the Opposition is the location of a locksmith's shop. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that we have not leased this locksmith shop.
HON. MR. BARRETT: The Tory leader needs that. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, I think our security owes an apology to the Tory leader. I understand that last night he was mistaken for the leader of the official opposition. (Laughter.) But may I assume that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to a space leased on the King George Highway in Surrey
[ Page 1724 ]
for a mental health centre. Our designers have worked with the mental health staff in developing plans for this facility. Public tenders have been called and a contract has been awarded to Westward Construction.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to his question of March 21, 1975, regarding the Oxford Building in Prince George. I have searched the Hansard for March 21, 1975, and can find no indication of any question by the Leader of the Opposition for the Minister of Public Works.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Oh, you're wrong again. You are all mixed up. If it was the 24th, why didn't you say so? You said the 21st and that's what Hansard says. As a matter of fact, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, not a single question was placed on the order paper by you on March 21 to any cabinet Minister.
On April 16 the Leader of the Opposition asked about a lease for property at 10344-10356 137A Street in Surrey. This building was leased for the Family and Children's Law Commission. Later more suitable premises were leased and these were assigned to the Department of Agriculture for the dairy herd insemination staff and to the Attorney-General's department for credit union inspections.
On Thursday, April 17, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister of Public Works about office space in the McLaren Building on Manor Street in Burnaby. Part of the space is being prepared by the Department of Labour and the remainder is being prepared for by the motor carriers' branch and the Motor Carrier Commission. A labour dispute delayed the renovation.
On Monday, April 21, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister of Public Works about the lease of a two-storey building on Norland Avenue in Burnaby. This space is for the Department of Highways and is occupied.
MR. BENNETT: You'd better look at the pictures.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: On Tuesday, April 22, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister of Public Works about a lease of office space in the 900 block of Ellery Street in Esquimalt. Space was leased at 929 Ellery Street in Esquimalt for the Queen's Printer, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Mines.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. BENNETT: That's disgraceful; you're supposed to be a watchdog.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! I would ask the Hon. Premier and the Hon. Leader of the Opposition not to interrupt the Minister of Public Works.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The space for the Department of Mines is now being renovated for the headquarters of the provincial emergency programme of the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall). They were evicted by the federal government from their quarters on Dallas Road; that building is now being demolished.
Now there's as full an answer as I can give on the various properties. I would like to state this, Mr. Chairman: early in the programme we recognized that we had problems. First we recognized that we had space problems, then we recognized that certain systems under which we were trying to operate were not as efficient as we would like. So last September we instructed our property people to adopt a turnkey system so that all renovations would be completed before occupancy. These recommendations have been implemented. We have also made certain recommendations to Treasury Board. You will notice that this year, if you study it, Mr. Leader of the Opposition, for the first time we have a global budget. Instead of going for each separate unit before Treasury Board, we are given a budget, and believe me, we will be responsible.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): Is that a promise?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: In January, at the first of this year, we changed our procedures to extend the authority of the rental co-ordinators to extend to all aspects of the leases, including all departmental moves.
We intend to further extend the authority of our six superintendents. We intend to move the responsibility from our bureaucracy in Victoria and from all departmental bureaucracies and replace it with the six superintendents in the field so that they can have a closer touch with every area in the province. The Department of Public Works divides B.C. into six zones. Each zone has a district superintendent who is responsible to the director of maintenance and construction. We feel that this will give a much tighter control over all workings of this department.
We further intend to introduce legislation that we feel will provide innovations in the approach to all aspects of the construction and maintenance branches of this department. There were problems when we took office. We set up new departments. There were fantastic space shortages.
[ Page 1725 ]
AN HON. MEMBER: Waste!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The public service had been crowded in cheek-to-jowl.
AN HON. MEMBER: Waste! Waste!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: It is not waste. Mr. Chairman, to give the public service, the working people of this government, proper working conditions is not waste. I think we should let the public service know what the Leader of the Opposition is saying, that it is waste to give our employees and our colleagues adequate working services. That's another remark just somewhat like what he said before. He gets up and says he doesn't want improved facilities for his colleagues, his elected Members and his staff. Then we show a letter he wrote a few months previously and requested it. It's complete inconsistency.
MR. P.L. McGEER (Vancouver–Point Grey): Mr. Chairman, perhaps the Leader of the Opposition needs to follow up on a remark or two that were made about him.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. If it's agreeable to the Hon....
MR. McGEER: If he could just follow through, then we would like to....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Leader of the Opposition on a couple of follow-up questions.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to say that it's even worse than we suspected. The Minister not only is wrong and incompetent, but he doesn't even know enough to blush when he makes those lame excuses to this Legislature.
HON. MR. COCKE: What are you blushing about?
MR. BENNETT: I just heard the Minister say that the Allstate building at 3876 Norland is now occupied. This afternoon that building was empty. That space was empty this afternoon. That space was empty.
Secondly, it's shocking to me, as it must be to all people in this House and the people of British Columbia, that the Minister can treat this so lightly and try and hide behind...
MR. BENNETT: ...a missing digit in Hansard and try and hide behind his own interpretation about the space allocation for the opposition offices in this building.
MR. BENNETT: I'll deal with that, and I'll deal with it very clearly.
Late last fall a very significant event took place. The Member for Saanich and the Islands (Mr. Curtis) crossed the floor in this Legislature. There wasn't adequate space in the opposition offices to give him his own office. As we had been in discussion with some members of the Department of Public Works, we wrote a letter asking for a change in the office space to house this Member. We suggested cutting down on the size of the office of the Leader of the Opposition to make this space available. In discussion with the architects from that department, they suggested that, yes, they were already concerned about the space allocated to the opposition in these buildings. Perhaps it's because they had a premonition that now that they had fixed up the offices for themselves as government they had better prepare a place for themselves as opposition. They know what the public thinks of them.
Those architects further said to me in discussion that they were going to prepare to make the whole space flexible, because right now it houses three parties. Who knows how the representation may be divided in the future? At no time did I question the cutting down of the size of my office, because it was too big. We're glad to welcome new Members such as the Member for Saanich; and I'll make my office smaller next time if there are any defections from the government benches.
What we turned down was not the redistribution of space in the opposition offices to make space for more Members. We turned down an offer of fancy furniture and desks and couches and things such as adorn the cabinet Ministers' offices. We said that the furniture we have is adequate. The job to be done will be done in here and out there with the people of B.C. We don't have to stay in our offices and not be aware of empty office space developing around this province.
I'd ask this Minister if he'd like to clarify his remarks about the space in Burnaby that he said tonight was full, because this place was personally inspected by a member of my staff today. That space is empty as of this afternoon — 3876 Norland.
Further, I find it shocking that after a documentation of space has been made and an explanation of the single-digit figures on the King George Highway, an explanation that was not only made to the press but would have been made to the Minister if he hadn't stayed absent from the House the last two days, perhaps to duck further questions on housing, on empty office space.... The explanation would have been offered to him in the House. But it's well evidenced that he or his
[ Page 1726 ]
department should know that when space is identified, both as to the amount of space and the price of the space, when it's right adjacent, that's the space that was being discussed.
[Mr. Liden in the chair.]
It's shocking that he would hide behind or attempt to hide behind and would have that excuse condoned not only by the cabinet but by the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett), who is supposed to be the watchdog on the finances of all departments, and that he would attempt to deal with Hansard and a mistake in a date in Hansard. I must say this. There has been a lot of talk about doctored Hansards or types of Hansard. I will never make changes in Hansard. If we're going to have a Hansard, let it be as it's recorded and not as now it's corrected by Members after the Hansard staff has dealt with it. I refuse to make corrections.
The Minister must have known that March 24 was the date because he was the Minister that said:
Mr. Speaker, in many cases, even in new buildings, if we lease space we have to design it to suit the particular needs. I just cannot accept what has been said. But I would be pleased to take this as notice and give a full report at a future sitting.
Mr. Chairman, he knew very well what space we were talking about and what date we were referring to.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I presume, Mr. Chairman, that the Leader of the Opposition was referring to the question of Monday, April 21. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister of Public Works about the lease of a two-storey office building at 3876 Norland Avenue in Burnaby. Is that correct?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: My information — and I just had word sent in to me — was that while the people were expected to occupy ....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: The phones have not been installed. As soon as the phones are installed, it will be occupied.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: My friend the Leader of the Opposition stood up here in the House and, you know, I thought he did know a few things. But he doesn't even know when that Conservative Member walked across the floor. The letter that you wrote to me was in December of 1973 — December 13, 1973.
Now you stand up and tell us when the Member of the Conservatives walked over. Was that prior to 1973? No.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: When did you need additional space?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Okay, why is that letter dated December 13, 1973? I'll send the press up a copy so they can see. That letter was written to me prior to Christmas in 1973.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, you can't fire Dan. He's gone.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, we have problems. Many of these problems we inherited. This government is building buildings and buying property. The previous administration kept selling property and buildings to pay the mortgage on the home.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The Minister of Public Works has the floor.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, why did the previous administration sell that historical courthouse right in downtown Victoria here that should have been preserved as a fine, historic architectural structure? No, they sold it. They sold it to help make a payment on the mortgage, the mortgage of this province.
Why did they sell the Bay Street Hydro property? They sold it for a song, and the developers came back and tried to sell it to us for over $1 million more than his daddy sold that property for. They jacked it up $1 million and tried to peddle it to us. We checked at the land registry office and we said: "No, you're asking $1 million more than what you paid the Hydro for it." Now there was a perfectly good piece of property that could have been converted to office space. But because of the short-sighted policy of that government, they sold it. They sold the courthouse.
What did they do up in my constituency? There the B.C. Hydro had a beautiful experimental farm that the old B.C. Electric had developed so that they
[ Page 1727 ]
could help the farmers use Fraser River water for irrigation so that they could experiment in new crops and help agriculture to survive. The B.C. Electric was doing more to help the farmers than that government did. The Leader of the Opposition's daddy sold that B.C. Hydro farm to get some cash so he could brag about a surplus. These are the things that we inherited.
AN HON. MEMBER: What about the Belmont Building?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes, I would like to tell you about the Belmont Building too.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, boy! That's a beaut!
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Just a short piece up Government Street is the Belmont Building. My friend's daddy was offered the Belmont Building, a federal government building, for $500,000. So what did they do? When I took over this office, I found we were locked into a lease with a developer whereby the previous administration had agreed to pay $250,000 a year on a five-year lease.
MR. BENNETT: You can look after the waste in your department right now.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: We are going to have to pay $250,000 in rent for a property that the previous administration could have bought for $500,000. That was the kind of business that you and your daddy were heading up.
MR. BENNETT: You're incredible.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: These are the things that we inherited. The previous administration, rather than building new office space and buying new properties, were selling the people down the river. They were selling properties that the people owned rather than converting them, renovating them and providing space.
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, it's 10:10 p.m. and the Minister this evening has taken, so far, about one hour and 10 minutes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I remind the Member that I know the rules of the House. You have the floor to deal with estimate 231.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! I recognize the First Member for Vancouver–Point Grey on vote 231.
MR. McGEER: I'm going to stay on vote 231 but, Mr. Chairman I hope we can continue with this vote beyond the two and a half hours originally scheduled by the Member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann). The Premier told us that he was quite willing to have the votes of any Minister presented to the House if the opposition requested. I would think, right at this moment among the opposition, we could have a unanimous request that tomorrow morning....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, you are not dealing with vote 231. I remind the Member, if you want to deal with vote 231, you do so. Otherwise, you take your seat.
MR. McGEER: Oh, Mr. Chairman, don't you run interference for that Minister. We have a commitment from the Premier and we don't want you sitting in that chair trying to railroad this House. That Minister has been filibustering his estimates...
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. MeGEER:...for an hour and 10 minutes. He has refused to answer questions. You sit in that chair and listen to vote 231.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. McGEER: If the Premier put commitments on this House, you honour them just like anybody else.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. McGEER: We want to hear from that Premier and from you that tomorrow morning, because of a unanimous request of the opposition Members, we will continue to deal with vote 231.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! Order!
MR. McGEER: I have the floor now and I am dealing with vote 231, and I don't want to have interference from the Chair!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! What I am telling you is that you should be dealing with vote 231, not the rules of the House.
MR. McGEER: Yes, Mr.; Chairman, I am on vote 231. You know it, and don't you interfere with free speech in this House. It is not your job as Chairman to interfere with free speech!
[ Page 1728 ]
HON. MR. BARRETT: Point of order.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. McGEER: Now, Mr. Chairman, look at this thing impartially.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! Will the Member for Vancouver-Point Grey take his seat? There is a point of order.
AN HON. MEMBER: Send him back where he came from.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Will you take your seat?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. If the Member is speaking for the total opposition and puts the request in writing, that Minister will be called tomorrow.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's not a point of order!
HON. MR. BARRETT: You put it in writing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! That's not a point of order.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Okay, Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: We are dealing with vote 231.
MR. McGEER: I serve notice to the House...
MR. CHAIRMAN: And you're on vote 231.
MR. McGEER:...that I request....
MR. CHAIRMAN: You're not dealing with the vote.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You should be dealing with vote 231, not the rules.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I am on vote 231.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You put it in writing.
MR. McGEER: Keep that in mind. That'll be in writing. We want that Minister back here tomorrow morning.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You put it in writing, signed by the three parties, and he will be on tomorrow!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
HON. MR. BARRETT: He'll be on tomorrow!
MR. CHAIRMAN: On vote 231, I recognize the First Member for Vancouver–Point Grey (Mr. McGeer).
HON. MR. BARRETT: You put it in writing....
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Put that Chairman away again. It's the first step to a better House. Send him to Europe. He's better off there.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You put it in writing, and he will be on tomorrow.
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, the Minister has taken up a great deal of time this evening, but not in answering questions of the opposition, not in being accountable for the public purse. He has talked about greenbelts, he has talked about the Health department, he has talked about rentals of the Attorney-General's department; he has done everything but deal with the serious charges laid by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Minister of Public Works presented a report to the House and I commend him for this. The Members have had an opportunity to read this report, which was distributed over the dinner hour. It is signed by William L. Hartley, Minister of Public Works...
MR. FRASER: It's 13 months late.
MR. McGEER:..Parliament Buildings, December 30, 1973.
MR. FRASER: Where was it?
AN HON. MEMBER: Where have you been hiding it?
AN HON. MEMBER: Where was it?
AN HON. MEMBER: It was one of those lost years he didn't know he had.
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, this is the document that the public has been given to discuss this evening, signed not by the Queen's Printer or by anybody in the civil service but signed by the Minister on December 30, 1973 — 15 months.
MR. FRASER: Big deal! Open government!
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, there's a marvelous
[ Page 1729 ]
picture of the wild-eyed Minister here. The thing that I find ironic about this picture — it's a handsome portrait — is the hounds tooth jacket. If any Minister of the Crown was less like a tiger with the public purse, it's that Minister. His accountability for his department and his defence of charges, whether in question period or whether in his opening statement this evening or whether in answer to questions raised by the Leader of the Opposition, is a little like what you might expect from Zero in the Beetle Bailey comic strip.
The Leader of the Opposition, I thought, documented his case reasonably well when he passed around pictures of the empty office space to the Minister and other Members. I think if you've actually got that kind of evidence, it doesn't become a Minister to defend himself by saying that the dates of the question were wrong, that the address that was given was wrong, or something that's completely away from the point at issue. The point of issue is that somebody in government, namely the Minister, has been completely careless and irresponsible with the funds that have been given to him in trust under the estimates that we are voting tonight, and which a year ago we voted to that Minister.
Mr. Chairman, the Minister has not given any satisfactory answers at all as to how he or any Member of his staff could have gone around British Columbia, waving a fistful of taxpayers' dollars, leasing space here and leasing space there without it ever being needed. It even motivated the leader of the Conservative Party (Mr. Wallace) to enter into that Fearless Fosdick escapade of doing his own private investigation. But even he was able to come across another empty building rented by the government.
I want to raise with the Minister a completely separate issue. He stood up this evening defending the position of his department, telling us how much his department was saving the cities and municipalities in British Columbia by their paying the rental on buildings that would have to otherwise be leased by these cities and municipalities.
Just a few days ago cities and municipalities of this province were presented with a bill that absolutely shocked them. This was a bill of 1.17 mills on their assessment to cover the cost of assessors' offices. In the City of Vancouver this is going to cost that city an increase in their budget of from $900,000 to $2 million. No indication given by the government as to why something which cost less than half the year before should have doubled in cost, even after the Premier had promised the cities and municipalities that that increase in cost would be borne by the provincial government.
In the municipality of Delta what is going to happen is that office space taken by the provincial government to house assessment is going to be left vacant. Perhaps some of the buildings that the Minister and his department are renting will be to take over for officials who will leave city and municipal offices. I'd like to ask the Minister if the government has rented, leased or built any space for assessment authority that will be taken over by officials leaving city and municipal offices that are currently being rented by the provincial government.
I'd further like to ask whether, when these officials leave.... The indications I have from the municipal office in Delta, as one example, are that they are leaving and that they're leaving behind expensive office equipment which has been purchased by the cities and municipalities to service the assessment officials. In other words, part of this 1.17 mill levy that is going on property taxes all around the province will be to take over new office space for assessment officials who will then leave vacant office space in city and municipal halls, and unused office equipment. Again, it's a senseless waste of taxpayers' money.
The Premier and Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett) just passed the bill on to the cities and municipalities after having given them a solemn pledge that the provincial government was taking over the full costs of administering this programme.
That's not what's happening at all. The provincial government is applying a new tax, placed on property owners, for this service. While they're doing that, they're vacating office space in city halls and municipal halls which will now remain vacant and unused; furthermore, they're wasting valuable office equipment. I'm not sure what is worse: for the government to take on new office buildings on a lease basis and leave them empty, or to take on new office buildings and fill them up with redundant people, because, while the latter course of action would make it appear that at least there was some usefulness, when it comes to departments like Human Resources — and the Minister did say some of the buildings he was renting were for that department — it's really to saddle the public with even higher costs. What we really have in the Department of Public Works is waste layered upon waste.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) was quite correct in saying the things that he's brought to light are only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath it — office buildings that we haven't yet discovered that are vacant. Underneath it — useful facilities, complete with equipment, in city and municipal halls, that will soon become vacant.
The purchase of new buildings and equipment, long-term leases for an overloaded civil service for jobs that aren't necessary — all this in a continuing overlay of government costs without additional services being offered to the people of British Columbia. It's a runaway situation brought on by a Minister and a government that have no concept of authority, no sense of responsibility, and no respect
[ Page 1730 ]
for the taxpayer's dollar. The Minister is the one who must answer for the things that his department is doing, tonight and tomorrow and perhaps long after that.
Mr. Chairman, it's fair to ask: where has Treasury Board been? What kind of a Treasury Board do we have operating in this province? We have a Treasury Board....
MR. D.T. KELLY (Omineca): A good one.
MR. McGEER: A good one?
MR. KELLY: You bet.
MR. McGEER: A good one, says the Member from the north. Is it a good Treasury Board that halfway through a fiscal year discovered that one Minister has made a $103 million clerical error? Have we ever had a Treasury Board in this province, or anywhere in Canada, that made that kind of an error? A Treasury Board is supposed to keep careful watch on Ministers who want a key to the vault and a shovel, like the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi) or a Minister like the Minister of Public Works, who couldn't compete with Zero in the Beetle Bailey comic strip. (Laughter.) It's a second line of defence.
But, Mr. Chairman, we have no second line of defence in this province. We do not have a Treasury Board with any greater sense of responsibility than some of the weakest Ministers in the cabinet. That places the additional burden on an opposition that already feels overworked in considering about a billion dollars in additional expenditure and is limited only to 135 hours for consideration of that expenditure. When you add to that the routine filibustering of estimates, which seems to be part of the government's strategy, you can see that we're down to just a very few minutes to talk about huge sums of money which are being squandered by Ministers and by departments.
We would like to have from the Minister this evening, first of all, an explanation of what's going on with regard to the assessment authority, the office space being requested by these officials of government and what unused space is going to be left open by provincial government moves.
The next thing is that we want to have a point-by-point explanation by the Minister of Public Works of those buildings for which we saw pictures this evening — not that the address might be wrong or the date that the question was asked might be in error, but what the devil we are doing with these empty office buildings?
MR. McCLELLAND: Nothing.
[Mr. Dent in the chair.]
MR. McGEER: Almost every other day we get some kind of announcement by the Minister of Housing (Hon. Mr. Nicolson), Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams), or the Premier (Hon. Mr. Barrett) of some real estate purchase. It's like the government had a satchel full of money that it could buy farms ...
MR. MORRISON: Monopoly.
MR. McGEER:...cruise ships, housing developments, properties.
AN HON. MEMBER: Chicken factories.
MR. McGEER: Here's another one: a wonderful sketch of the $17.5 million government building. Can anybody be left with a different impression than a cabinet full of individuals running around with a satchel full of money, with $1,000 bills spilling out all over the street, offering to buy this, that and the other thing, giving no thought at all as to whether or not it was needed or whether, after that satchel full of money was empty, there would be another one?
MR. FRASER: Shame on you!
MR. McGEER: Why are we leasing office buildings when we are buying cruise ships, when we are buying ranches that raise race horses, when we are buying islands...?
MR. FRASER: Playing on the stock market.
MR. McGEER: Playing the stock market is quite right. And losing on the stock market. It's not like the B.C. Tel shares were going up; they're going down. Yes, the Minister of Transport and Communications (Hon. Mr. Strachan) got up in black rages in this House about one jet aircraft that was leased. I think we've got as many jet aircraft now as we have ferries.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member try to speak to the vote, please?
MR. McGEER: I don't want to speak about the profligacy of the Minister of Transport and
[ Page 1731 ]
Communications or any of the other Ministers. I think it's sufficient for the moment to concentrate on the bowling lanes, the empty office space and all the other purchases and leases by the Minister of Public Works. For heaven's sake, Mr. Minister....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: What's your question?
MR. McGEER: My question, Mr. Minister, is what are we doing on the assessment situation and what are you doing about these individual office buildings that you've leased and left empty? It's not enough to say that he got the address wrong or he got the date wrong or some other trivial detail. Stand up and tell us what the devil your department was doing in the first place and what they are going to do now to correct the situation.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, I was really surprised by the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. D.A. Anderson), really surprised. Here he was....
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): You're in for a lot of surprises.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: You sure won't provide them, though. The representative of the Liberal Party gets up and criticizes the acts of the assessment commission, and yet he is a Member in the House along with his party and along with all opposition parties who voted in support of the assessment authority legislation. Under that legislation, authority was set up that, through the Department of Public Works acting as an agent, to rent space so they could carry out their assessment work. All we are doing is acting as an agent. The authority, in the legislation, was empowered to do this and to provide the cash. The cash isn't in this budget. You should have been called to order. Prior to this authority being set up — and this is correct....
Mr. Leader of the Liberal Party, if you weren't so lame you'd get up and speak on it rather than leaving it to one of your lieutenants.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I'm not the only guy around.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Well, why did you let the ex-leader get up? If you are such a smarty-pants, why don't you do it? Why don't you do it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Minister address the Chair, please?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Mr. Chairman, this assessment authority that the representative of the Liberal Party was speaking about was set up by an Act of this Legislature. The paper, the stationery that he is using now, is paid as capital costs out of that legislation. It is paid by the assessment commission and not by this vote.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I'll bet you the Premier would like to take your job over and do it himself.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: So as far as the details of that are concerned, it is the responsibility of the commission.
MR. FRASER: Ma Murray won't be very proud of you tonight.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: There were two or three matters that I should have mentioned earlier on with regard to the Okanagan.
In Kelowna we have met with Mayor Tredgold to work out a joint city and provincial facility that will serve both parties, and I hope that before too long we can announce a location that will be mutually satisfactory.
In Vernon the Minister of Education (Hon. Mrs. Dailly) and I have worked out, in consultation with representatives of the Okanagan College.... We have agreed to allow them to use 25 acres of the old Harvey farm for the use of Okanagan College.
On the matter of facilities for the Social Credit Party, I have had correspondence sent in to me where the staff of the Social Credit had contacted our architect, Mr. Hodgson, and they had requested four items: a planter....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Oh, it was a good place for it. There is no greater need anywhere than in your office, my friend.
They had requested a planter, a coat-tree, five chairs and one table. But after that request, Mr. Chairman, the leader of the Social Credit Party called a press conference in the hall and tried to call this extravagant waste, after he had had the audacity to request it. Now we feel that he is entitled to those facilities. But to call a press conference and try and make political mileage out of a few chairs, a coat-tree and a planter — that shows how destitute they are of good, positive, political input.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): I'm happy to take my place in the late show. I've always felt it was a basic concept of any government that no matter what the ideology or policies might be, how good or bad the government, the one area in which you never make mistakes if you can help it, and if you make
[ Page 1732 ]
them you try and deal with them, is in spending the taxpayers' dollars in any way that looks the least bit irresponsible. That really has to be, as I see it, the No. I rule of any government.
There is a story the Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams) told me tonight about Diefenbaker. At one time one of the Members who had been made the financial critic of the Conservative Party had made a long speech, talking about millions and billions of dollars. Diefenbaker made the point very clear. He said what you should really say is that the Minister of Finance has an ashtray on his desk that cost $125, and he doesn't even smoke. That principle, I think, in the identifying way in which the man in the street looks at the way government is spending money surely has to be the biggest and the most potent reason that this government will be defeated.
You have made lots of mistakes, and you may well be defeated anyway. But if there is one overriding factor — and I've said it a hundred times in this House — it's based on the image that you are creating a vast army of civil servants and that you are wasting the taxpayers' money. If you did some of the best things that any government ever did, and you still continue to make these two mistakes, you will be defeated. When the citizen who is struggling to make a living, trying to keep up with the cost of living, reads of this kind of situation, the political ideology just disappears into the mists, because it is the dollar that the taxpayer is paying to this government that he sees being wasted.
My assistant just sent me in a note: "What are the odds of you getting on the floor tonight?" (Laughter.) Well, I've got the floor. What the odds are on making any real progress I don't know.
Seriously, I'll try to be constructive. It would seem to me that some of the mistakes the Minister has made that have been demonstrated tonight.... I think it's disappointing that he hasn't been more specific in his answers.
Very quickly, I just want to refer to the particular building in my riding that has been mentioned. I was just a little disappointed by the Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) who said that even the Conservative leader took some initiative in his own riding — as though I am some kind of strange or weird individual who isn't concerned about spending government money in my riding, as if only the Leader of the Opposition had any grey cells enough to make him think that maybe he should do some of his own homework. That's all I was trying to do in the building on Cadboro Bay Road.
I just want, very quickly, to point out that that building was bought for $435,000 on March 4. Subsequently, the Minister issued a press release dated February 28, saying that there would be $67,370 worth of additional work. When you add all that up and divide by 11,400, which is the square footage, you come up with a figure of $44 a square foot. I just made some other inquiries, and another contractor tells me today that he just finished a four-storey, air-conditioned office building for $31 a square foot. I agree there are differences; there are buildings and buildings. I would just like the Minister to tell us whether he considers the particular building that I'm referring to at 2588 Cadboro Bay Road good use of money that finished up at $44 a square foot, On that issue, despite all the reasonable good humour that's been attached to my little experience last night, no one was to blame, really, but myself. I don't expect any apologies from government. I would be very upset if the individual who got involved in this incident in any way was considered to have been at fault. This is not the case and I hope the issue can be left at that point.
What I would like to ask the Minister is: does the government have some overall policy? It would seem to me that a Public Works department should either decide to rent property or build space. The incredible thing that we see is that you're doing both and you're doing it on a gargantuan scale.
Very quickly, I have to refer to our own capital region where the fourth building has just been announced today with a picture in the paper, which will ultimately provide one million — am I right — one million square feet of the four buildings that have been announced, according to the report tonight. This is the fourth of a series of pretty large buildings in the greater Victoria area which we're building. This one will be $17.5 million. I don't have the projected figures for the other three buildings.
At the same time, you look at the budget, and rentals are going up from $8 million to $15 million. Maybe there is an explanation, I don't know. It's very puzzling to consider that we seem to be building a large amount of square footage, and presumably the amount of renting is being doubled in the coming year. When you put these two together, the ordinary citizen, looking at the buildings that are already empty, has to wonder if the Minister has any overall plan that he started with, that he has X number of employees to house and Y number of square feet. The public is left with the impression that it's a completely haphazard, hit-or-miss situation with a building here and a building there, some of them leased, some of them to be built and owned by the government, but no overall outline.
If there is an overall outline or policy, maybe the Minister could tell us what it is. Is it a 50-50 situation where the Public Works has decided to rent half the space they need and to build the other half? If so, within what period of time? Could you tell us, with all these large buildings to be built in the capital city of Victoria, which departments are going where, or do you have a game plan? Are you just building the
[ Page 1733 ]
space in a sort of approximate fashion where you think you'll need certain buildings and certain space without defining which departments are to be housed there and what numbers of people are involved?
This building that's depicted on the front of the Victoria Times tonight certainly looks very attractive. But, as I say, the price already at present cost — or does this include escalation costs — is at $17.5. When is it to be built? I'll start here: "It is estimated to begin construction in the middle of May and completed in 30 months." Is that $17.5 million the price when it's completed or is there the kind of escalation of costs we are seeing in the construction industry 30 months from now?
If the figure of a million square feet is wrong, maybe the Minister could tell us what is the accurate number that will be encompassed in these four buildings. That's just Victoria. Maybe the Minister could tell us about these other buildings.
What's his latest plan for the very large building that was to have been built in Vancouver and which I believe is being scaled down? But the capital spending projected in the budget is $40 million for this year. Rentals are to be doubled from $8 million to $15 million.
The Minister doesn't seem to realize what the man in the street wonders about when he sees these huge sums of money in one year for both renting and capital construction. I think that the points made by the Leader of the Opposition are absolutely valid and should be explained even over and beyond the fact that we have the vast expenditure of sums of money and no clear outline of what seems to be an overall plan — an integrated and co-ordinated plan, a three-year plan, a five-year plan or whatever.
There are one or two specific issues I'd like to touch upon quickly. I wonder if the Minister, either today or tomorrow, could give us some idea of the progress within the parliament building itself. How much money has been spent? To what degree are costs escalating beyond the costs that were projected? When is the project scheduled to be complete? What are the specific plans for the precincts? We've heard previously about the increasing traffic problems around the parliament buildings, the parking problem. Frankly, I think that's a far more urgent issue perhaps than the attention that it is being given simply because of the distracting nature of these other issues that we've tackled the Minister about tonight. The last point I had in mind.... There are two or three smaller points that can wait till another time.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Thank you, Mr. Member for Oak Bay. I believe that this has been about the most sensible approach and certainly the most sensible questions from the opposition tonight.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: That's right. I agree.
The first question was our policy with regard to an overall plan. Yes, we do; we have a plan for the precinct area. Only yesterday we sat down with the city planners, our planners, architects and some of the elected representatives, including the mayor. In this precinct plan we're trying to work out traffic patterns. On certain buildings the city — when we first started talking about building new buildings, and this includes the building that's in the paper tonight — would ask that instead of making a great high-rise, solid office structure we keep it low density, down to five, not more than six, storeys in that area and that we use the bottom floor for commercial purposes so that business firms that would like to establish in that area could. This way you have a mix of the public and the private economy.
This building brings to a half-million the square feet of office space; our projection is one million. The buildings that are mentioned in that article will bring the office space that is now under construction up to a half-a-million square feet. We have other buildings we hope to be announcing in due course.
You asked about Block 61. I had dealt with that earlier. Block 61, 71, the downtown Vancouver courthouse and administrative centre complex, is moving on schedule. In Vancouver, as in Victoria, we have sat down with the mayor and council and discussed what they wished and presented our plans for low density green space with trees and shrubs right in the heart of Vancouver.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Basically we feel that governments should own their buildings. We've had to rent space so that we could refurbish this building, particularly in Victoria, to make space for our new departments — Consumer Affairs, Transport and Communications, Housing, and so on — and extra staff that departments like Human Resources needs to implement medicare and so on. This took many extra people, so we needed more space.
I had mentioned — possibly the Member was out — that on the budget in our rentals some $7 million had been carried by the city prior to this year. That's the chief reason that our rental budget has escalated so much over last year.
Does that cover all your questions?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Oh, yes. Your figure was a little out. I think you said that we paid $430,000 or $440,000; we paid $410,000, I believe. We feel that about $40 per square foot was a pretty good price
[ Page 1734 ]
for building construction at that time.
If you'd like to give me the address of your friend, I'd be pleased to invite him to compete on future tenders. All of these jobs are either under construction management, or we put the entire building or sections of the building out to tender. We were concerned: after being in office one year we found that of about 60 per cent of the tenders we had let, there had been two or less tenders submitted. So we met with the B.C. contractors and discussed this problem. They made certain suggestions whereby they thought that we could get better participation in our tenders; they suggested certain times of the year that we should be letting tenders. We have acted on their suggestions and we find that more interest is being shown.
MR. WALLACE: Who was on the panel that awarded the bids for this building? You say there's a panel which picks and chooses the lowest bidder.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No, this is construction management.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Minister repeat a question when it's asked in that manner?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Beg your pardon, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Minister repeat the question for the benefit of Hansard when it is asked in that manner?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Would you repeat your question?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Perhaps if the Hon. Minister takes his seat, the Hon. Member for Oak Bay could properly put the question.
MR. WALLACE: I'll ask it very quickly, Mr. Chairman. The report on the building that's mentioned in the papers tonight said that the lowest bid wasn't necessarily accepted and that there was a panel of people who looked at the bids. I just wanted to know who's on the panel that would make this kind of decision. I would have expected it to be made at the highest level in the Minister's office.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes. Well, we have a competent staff of architects and planners, and this building is a construction-management project. We called for various interested parties to submit their proposals for the management of this project, and our staff made the decision as to which, in their professional opinion, would be the best firm to manage this project for us. Under construction management they will roust about and try and see that we have many tenders for the electrical, the plumbing, the air-conditioning, for the excavation and so on. This is one of the services. We are trying this to try and get greater interest in our work, and, we hope, lower the cost of building buildings, lower the cost per square foot of the construction of buildings.
MR. CHABOT: Just a few questions to the Minister.
I'd like to ask the Minister a question regarding the government building in Kimberley, which was started in 1972: where it presently stands in its phase of construction; whether the government intends completing the building or whether the government is playing games with this building in the community of Kimberley.
I notice in your report that there's a statement which says: "The year has been an extremely busy one for the whole staff, yet with all the pressures of the moment, time was taken to reflect on the direction of the department, to reshape our goals as a service agency of the government, to reassess our responsibilities to the public."
Well, that was said in 1973. I haven't seen any new directions as far as reassessing your responsibilities to the public because we have witnessed a tremendous amount of waste and arrogance in 1974 in your department, and a continuation of that policy of waste and arrogance in 1975. I wish I could put a little bit of faith in the statement in your annual report of 1973, but from the evidence we have, there's no faith that can be put in that statement.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to raise one issue here regarding a building in Revelstoke — renovation of a provincial government building in Revelstoke. Tenders were called; contract was not awarded; there were two bids. I understand renovations are underway. They've been underway for some considerable time. The bids were $593,000 and $791,000, to renovate the provincial government building in that community.
HON. MR. LEA: What would you do without that book?
MR. CHABOT: I was wondering if the Minister could tell me how much the renovations of that public building have cost to date and how long renovation has been underway. I understand it's some considerable time. I'd like to know, as well, how much the government has spent leasing or renting space while the government building was vacated — how much they spent in leasing of space in the community of Revelstoke.
Regarding the St. Eugene Mission School near
[ Page 1735 ]
Cranbrook, two contracts were awarded for alterations. One in the amount of $158,000 was awarded to Kirkwood Construction Ltd.; the renovation to the water supply of the St. Eugene School was awarded to Kirkwood Construction, apparently the only bidder, on a contract of $24,858. We have invested now, in 1973, in the St. Eugene school, $183,000. How much was expended in 1974? When does the government propose to utilize this space for which the taxpayers have paid over $183,000 in 1973 and possibly considerably more in 1974? Is there any intention on the part of the government to utilize this space and, if so, for what purpose?
I understand the idea of its being used has been rejected by the Department of Human Resources. I am wondering whether this is additional money that has been wasted in your department.
This afternoon the Minister of Travel Industry (Hon. Mr. Hall) talked about the tourist information booth. I think it is appropriate that I raise the issue here. I realize there is a need for a tourist information booth in Golden. I am not going to deny there is a need. But the kind of extravagance and the lavishness that has been superimposed on that community is just unreal. I just can't understand how the government can possibly award a contract for a building that costs in the vicinity of $80 per square foot.
I know of a building that was built in that general region that is as well built. I am sure it is as well designed. It was designed by an architect from Calgary, a post-and-beam, air-conditioned, rock-faced building, and it was constructed for $25 a square foot. And I thought that was extravagant!
MR. KELLY: When was this?
MR. CHABOT: One year before this building that is costing in the neighbourhood of $80 per square foot in Golden. And it is as nice a building any day as that one in Golden. I am wondering why it would cost so much money. Why do you need 3,000 square feet? Are you going to have banquets there? Are you going to turn it into a steak house or something? You don't need 3,000 square feet to distribute tourist pamphlets.
Even the newspapers in Golden frown on this kind of expenditure. They call it a $224,000 boo-boo.
MR. MORRISON: Bill's boo-boo.
AN HON. MEMBER: He put his boo-boo there with the taxes.
MR. CHABOT: It is extremely extravagant. That was the contract price. I wonder what the ultimate price is. What is the landscaping cost? It was built on Crown land. There is no cost involved in land, thank God, because they probably would have paid about 10 times the going price. They don't realize the going price in many communities. They always pay way too much, like they did for the Molson hop farm.
We have 3,000 square feet of tourist information booth constructed by the Department of Public Works in the wrong place. It is on a hill in a congested area just east of Golden. It should have been built on the flat adjacent to the weigh scales in Golden. That is the criticism that has been leveled against the tourist information booth. The issue of lavishness might never have arisen had it been placed in the right place.
I have attempted to secure information from that Minister on numerous occasions. I'm not going to go to his office because I might get the same kind of treatment that he gets in the Stampede Cafe in Lytton. When the owner told him not to come back, the Minister goes back three weeks later, just about three weeks ago. He was bodily removed in his own constituency.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well!
MR. CHABOT: I wouldn't want that kind of treatment to be leveled at me.
MR. BENNETT: And that's just a forerunner of what is going to happen.
MR. CHABOT: No, Mr. Franks wasn't very happy about the Minister coming to his cafe again after he had told him he didn't want to see him.
I didn't want to go through that procedure of maybe the Minister throwing me out of his office after my having written him three letters which he has never even so much as acknowledged.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's fantastic.
MR. CHABOT: He never so much as acknowledged my letters. I wrote to him on June 19, I wrote to him on August 3 and October 22, trying to get a reply from the Minister regarding my letter of June 19. Never so much as an acknowledgement. How arrogant can you be?
MR. BENNETT: Don't ask him in question period. He doesn't answer then either.
MR. CHABOT: On June 19, I wrote to you "Re: provincial tourist information booth." I said: "File 132074." I said:
"Further to our conversation in my office on Thursday, May 16, 1974, in which you indicated that the provincial tourist information booth should be located in the
[ Page 1736 ]
vicinity of the new weigh scales on the Trans-Canada Highway, strong objections have been raised in the community of Golden on the original proposed location. Would you kindly confirm by return mail if the new structure will be located as agreed in our conversation May 16 adjacent to the new weigh scale?"
Do you recall coming to my office and telling me that it was to be built adjacent to the weigh scales in Golden?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: No.
MR. CHABOT: You don't? You deny it. In other words, I can't take your word for nothing, then. You came to my office and said specifically that it was going to be built near the weigh scales. Despite what the Minister of Travel Industry (Hon. Mr. Hall) said this afternoon, the mayor of Golden objects very strenuously to its location.
On November 13, 1973, long before construction started, long before tenders were called, a letter was directed to the director of design, Public Works, and it said: "This will acknowledge your letter of November 2 concerning...."
HON. MR. COCKE: You're haywire!
MR. CHABOT: I'm reading a letter sent by the mayor of Golden. Are you suggesting he's haywire? I wish you would stop attacking municipal officials. Leave that to your Minister over there who gives them nothing.
"This will acknowledge your letter of November 2 concerning the proposed B.C. visitors' centre located at Golden and disposition of former Department of Highways' property in Golden. We are looking forward to receiving your study re the disposition of the Department of Highways building and property. We are pleased this study will include proposals for the possible addition to the courthouse.
"We must, however, continue to argue against the proposed location of the B.C. visitors' centre east of Golden. Previous correspondence and previous discussions point out that the proposed location east of Golden is not suitable. There are three main reasons for this, and they are as follows:
"(1) Poor visibility to westbound traffic.
"(2) The proposed location is at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and a very well-used secondary highway along which is located the Department of Highways shop, as well as considerable residential development. Location of the visitor centre at this intersection will increase traffic congestion and thereby increase the danger of accidents in that area. There is a very considerable amount of traffic through Golden from Highway 95 south. These people will be able to avail themselves of this visitors' centre if located east of Golden. We strongly urge you to reconsider the location of this facility. Either the old weigh scale property or perhaps a spot adjacent to the new weigh scale would be much more desirable in terms of the facilities carrying out the intended function. Perhaps it may be worthwhile to send the site inspector from your department to investigate these sites first hand.
"Thank you for your cooperation and look forward to hearing from you in this regard.
"Yours truly, Walter Zazuluk, mayor."
There are strong objections raised as well by other concerned residents in the community about its location. The Golden and District Chamber of Commerce wrote as well, long before tenders were called, even before the Minister came into my office and told me that they had reconsidered its location, and the location would be adjacent to the weigh scale. Despite coming to my office, I was shocked when I arrived in Golden to find that the construction was underway after having had a firm verbal commitment from the Minister.
MR. CHABOT: The Minister came to my office just a few hours before his estimates were to be debated in this House. Consequently, having taken his word as the truth, I didn't raise the issue in the House because I trusted him, as I should. Absolutely. But I am losing my trust in you, Mr. Minister. Your word doesn't appear to be very good. You don't even answer your correspondence. I've had to write to you three times, and never had so much as an acknowledgment on the question. Don't you answer your correspondence? Three times I have written to you on that issue, and not so much as an acknowledgment.
I pointed out to you that you had come into my office....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. CHABOT: That's a falsehood. He didn't come to my office at my request. That's not true. You came on your own volition. You came there and told me a lie about the location of the tourist information booth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Member if he is imputing an improper motive to
[ Page 1737 ]
the Hon. Minister.
MR. CHABOT: I'm suggesting that the Minister misled me in my office. I don't know whether it was deliberate or not. It appears to be.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member withdraw any imputation that the Minister deliberately misled him?
MR. CHABOT: Do you know what I should have done, Mr. Chairman, when that Minister came into my office?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. CHABOT: Give him the same kind of treatment that he received at the Stampede Cafe in Lytton three weeks ago.
[Mr. Chairman rises.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) made a good point in suggesting that I apply the rule in the same manner, and I will. I will ask the Hon. Member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot), if he made an accusation that the Minister deliberately misled him, to withdraw his imputation.
[Mr. Chairman resumes his seat.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. These are precisely the same words the Chair is using as before: that he deliberately misled the Hon. Member.
MR. CHABOT: I never suggested for one moment that the Minister deliberately misled me. I am not aware whether he deliberately misled me, so I am not going to impute the fact that he might have deliberately misled me.
I was misled by that Minister. I was misled — there is no doubt about that. He came just shortly before his estimates so that I wouldn't raise the issue here, which I didn't either.
MR. CHABOT: Then we find that his word isn't worth too much. I'll tell you, Mr. Minister, don't bother coming to my office again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Hon. Minister of Transport and Communications (Hon. Mr. Strachan) on a point of order.
HON. R.M. STRACHAN (Minister of Transport and Communications): On a point of order....
MR. CHABOT: I'll give you the same kind of treatment as the owner of the Stampede Cafe in Lytton gave you. He threw you out. He threw you out about three weeks ago — out of his cafe.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Minister of Public Works on a point of order.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This Member is trying to impute that I was asked to leave some place in my riding. I can tell you categorically that at no time have I been asked to leave a home, a commercial residence or anything else, so lay that to sleep.
Now if you would like me to answer the questions while I am up....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The Hon. Minister of Transport and Communications.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: In view of the time I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Order! My attention having been drawn to the clock, I am now leaving the chair.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No way!
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports progress and asks leave to sit again.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I move the House at its rising do stand adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 30
[ Page 1738 ]
NAYS — 13
|Wallace||Williams, L.A.||Anderson, D.A.|
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, early this evening the Liberal Member for Vancouver–Point Grey said that it was the unanimous desire of the opposition to call the estimates of the Minister of Public Works tomorrow morning. The government Whip approached the Whips of the other three parties, asking them to initial the following request: "We are requesting that the Minister of Public Works' estimates be continued Friday morning, April 25, 1975."
The Whip of the official opposition refused to sign it, and the Whip of the Liberal Party refused to sign it; therefore tomorrow's business will be Recreation and Conservation.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: If we can get up and discuss this on a point of order, in the way the Minister did....
MR. SPEAKER: I don't think quite properly it's a point of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: In other words, he was totally out of order in what he said at that time. That's what you're telling me.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order! May I point out that as a courtesy Members on this side have often asked what the order of business is tomorrow. I've always acceded to that question, even though it is not in order, because it helps the committee meet tomorrow. Now the Hon. Minister has indicated what the business will be tomorrow. If there's any objection to that, I would strictly rule everyone out of order, and that they cannot announce anything any more, but I wouldn't want to do that to the House.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, if we can discuss the point of order raised by the Minister of Transport and Communications.... He got up on a point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, then your point is that it wasn't a point of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Well, that's a very valid point.
MR. SPEAKER: I agree with you that it was not a point of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted it confirmed that the Minister was out of order when he made those remarks.
MR. SPEAKER: It's my recollection, and that of my adviser, that the Hon. Minister did not get up on a point of order. Hansard will tell us this, in any event.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:21 p.m.