1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, MAY 9, 1975
[ Page 2207 ]
Statement Inquiry into B.C. construction industry. Hon. Mr. King — 2207
Fisheries Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 70). Hon. Mr. Radford. Introduction and first reading — 2207
Committee of Supply: Department of Agriculture estimates On vote 7. Hon. Mr. Stupich — 2208
On vote 8. Mrs. Jordan — 2227
On vote 9. Mr. Wallace — 2229
Point of order Interpretation of standing order 45(3). Mr. D.A. Anderson — 2236
The House met at 10 a.m.
HON. W.S. KING (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House to make a statement.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I would like to announce to the House that yesterday an order-in-council was passed commissioning an inquiry into the construction industry in British Columbia, appointing James Kinnaird as the special inquiry officer under the terms of section 123 of the Labour Code of British Columbia, having the following terms of reference:
Mr. Speaker, I would just observe that many of these problems contained in the terms of reference have bedevilled the construction industry and created instability in that industry for many, many years past. It's my view that Jim Kinnaird, who was formerly president of the Yukon Building Trades Council and formerly Associate Deputy Minister of Labour, has an intimate knowledge of all the unique problems in the construction industry and, more importantly, has the confidence not only of the trade union movement but of the industry as well. So I look forward to some very positive results flowing from this inquiry. We'll eventually report to the House again.
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, we welcome the statement by the Minister. We welcome his announcement this morning and hope that from it will come some stability in the construction industry. We, too, realize the problems the province has had in the past and the necessity that stability, particularly at this time, be brought about. I hope that the inquiry will have the desired result, and I welcome this action.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Mr. Speaker, we welcome the Minister's statement. We believe that the terms of reference, as outlined by him, are good. We believe the choice of personnel involved is also very good, and we congratulate him for it.
It's a curious thing that just this morning we heard that the Quebec National Assembly has two bills before it now to put unions in the construction industry in trusteeship and, of course, look into other aspects of the construction industry there. We've had demonstrations on the lawn, and I trust that the action of the Minister and his commissioner and the report by October 15, 1975, will prevent in British Columbia some of the problems that are facing other provinces of this country.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): We add our full support to the Minister's efforts.
HON. MR. KING: May I say, Mr. Speaker, that I think it would be unfortunate if anyone viewed this announcement as having any relevance or relationship whatsoever with activities in Quebec. We have our own unique problems, and they are quite different and separate from any that may have been experienced in eastern Canada. This is strictly a provincial initiative.
Introduction of bills
FISHERIES AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
On a motion by Hon. Mr. Radford, Bill 70, Fisheries Amendment Act, 1975, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Orders of the day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Dent in the chair.
ESTIMATES: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
On vote 7: general and financial services, $48,388,601 — continued.
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HON. D.D. STUPICH (Minister of Agriculture): Mr. Chairman, I should have asked for leave earlier, but I do have the 1974 report of Agricultural Aid to Developing Countries and World Disaster Areas Fund that is available for distribution and, with leave of the t House, I ask that distribution be made.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. You should table it when the committee rises. However, it can be circulated, I would think.
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): Mr. Minister, we appreciate the tabling of this report. It would have been helpful, I must say, if it had been tabled in time for Members to study it before we came to this particular vote. I'm sure that Members now will hope that there will be no rush through this vote in order that they can study your report and comment on it in due course without being ruled out of order.
I'd like, Mr. Minister, to touch on one or two other points at this stage. Under agricultural and rural development you mentioned that this included general ARDA programmes, irrigation programmes and community pasture programmes, and I wonder if the Minister has given any consideration there for more assistance in the rural areas in the way of rural electrification.
When you liken this programme and the efforts that are being made under agricultural and rural development and relate that to the farm income assurance programme, you see that there has been a sad lack of concentration in the area of rural electrification by this government.
We wonder why you, as Minister of Agriculture, are not more forceful in your presentation to get more money for this programme this year. Mr. Chairman, no doubt the Minister is aware that the land freeze, Bill 42, has made it virtually impossible to increase the population density in many of these more remote areas, and that the B.C. Hydro formula for rural electrification is based, in part, on population density. I believe that I am correct in suggesting that it used to be on the basis of one customer every three miles, and it is even impossible to get this in many areas now because of the land freeze.
This means that those producers who are in the remote areas of the province are in a position where it is virtually impossible, under the present policies of the government, to even consider the opportunity of rural electrification and getting power to their operations, This means that they are in a position of having to compete either under income assurance or against income assurance at a very strong disadvantage. If they are in the income assurance programme, which is based on modular units, as the Minister is aware, then quite obviously they are going o fall below the norm in their production, just in the production of hay and alfalfa, for example. If they don't have power, it is unlikely that they will be able to go into any type of extensive irrigation. Therefore hey can only count on one major crop a year — maybe two at the most — and certainly their second crop would be of a very questionable quality.
Now if they are producing in order to feed their cattle and they are on the income assurance programme, this is going to affect their place, as I understand it, in their role in the income assurance programme. They are at a disadvantage. Obviously they can't be as efficient and productive on an acre basis or a head basis as an operator who has minimum transportation problems and no power problem. If the producer is not in the income assurance programme, then he just faces further major costs of production. There is, I understand, a cattle producer who is a lady in the Peace River who suffers from this problem of added transportation and labour costs, and then the problem of trying to provide power. They also face the fact that these producers who would be under the income assurance programme are probably more able to purchase necessary commodities with the assurance that they can pay for them and perhaps will not bargain quite as stringently as they might have. Therefore the producer who is not under the income assurance programme doesn't have the collective weight of the whole farming community in bargaining for the best price on their basic needs, That sets them in a position of disadvantage.
I would like to ask the Minister why he was not successful in achieving more money for rural electrification, assuming, indeed, that he made a strong presentation to cabinet. What does he intend to do about it? Will he undertake, by giving a commitment to this House, to see that next year's budget has a good deal more money for rural electrification and that it has a new formula which will acknowledge that the majority of people in this province do now have power and those who don't are in the most remote areas and simply are not ever going to be able to qualify under the present formula?
I would like to again speak in terms of the income assurance programme. I asked the Minister some questions last night which he failed to answer. I am very interested to know his budgeting, which he has not really made available. If one looks at the $27 million set aside for income assurance this year and then tallies up the anticipated costs that the Minister is presumably entering into with the negotiations underway, one must recognize that a good deal of the money that the Minister is talking about now will not be shown on the books in terms of a cost to the Crown until 1976 and 1977. I would like the Minister to break down for the House, if he would, what his
[ Page 2209 ]
anticipated costs are in terms of catch-up for any funds that are deficient for past years, 1973 and 1974, and which programmes he anticipates will be paid for this year out of the $27 million. When does the government intend to make those indemnity funds their contribution to the indemnity? Will it be in the 1975 fiscal year, or even possibly moving over to 1977?
I wonder if the Minister has any plans in mind in terms of the government bargaining committee for Monday when they are meeting with the cattle producers' association bargaining committee. The Minister spoke with confidence last night, and I wonder if he would give a commitment to this House. He has had ample time. It's Friday today and quite obviously the position of the government bargaining committee is very clear. They are going in Monday morning. The Minister is fully aware of what the cattle producers are willing to settle for. Can he guarantee this House that these negotiations will reach a conclusion on Monday and that the cattle producers' association negotiating committee will be able to go to the annual convention of their association with a positive package?
In light of this, will the government's negotiating committee have the authority on Monday to, so to speak, close the deal? There has been a lot of concern in these negotiations that either the Minister is not sensitive to what some of the problems are or he has closed his eyes to what these problems are. I would suggest that the Member for Chilliwack's (Mr. Schroeder's) comments regarding the dairymen's association and the dairy industry in the Fraser Valley and the Minister's response to that in the debate last night is very indicative of this. Mr. Minister, your negotiating committee has not been as informed as it should or could have been, and this is not their fault. I think, as administrator, you must assume this responsibility. The Minister has never made clear who has the authority in these negotiations.
Would the Minister answer these questions specifically? Does the government negotiating committee have the authority to come to a conclusion at the bargaining table? Have they had it in the past? If not, who is making the final decision? Is it the Minister himself? Does each negotiating package have to go to Treasury or does the Minister have a special committee behind the scenes that advises him and the government negotiating committee?
The industry itself, the dairy producers in particular, are very concerned about the changes in ground rules that are taking place. The Minister shucked this off very lightly last night as it if was nothing. I say either he's insensitive to what's going on or he's trying to brush it under the table. Mr. Minister, you can be accused of using subtle manipulations and fear tactics in these negotiations and, in essence, getting the B.C. Federation of Agriculture to do a lot of the dirty work for the department and for yourself. Whether this is intentional or not, this is causing antagonism between the commodity groups and the B.C. Federation of Agriculture.
The commodity groups entered into these agreements in good faith, secure, they thought, in the knowledge that the B.C. Federation of Agriculture was fully representing their interests. The B.C. Federation of Agriculture entered into these negotiations in good faith, fully confident that they were representing the producers' interests. But if the Minister persists in manipulating these negotiations by not allowing his negotiating committee the authority they need and the backup they need to negotiate in a responsible and knowledgeable manner, then he's guilty of letting fall on the shoulders of the Commodities' overall representation the job of taking the blame for the inefficiencies and the weaknesses in the Minister's administration.
We don't think this is right. We believe it's essential that the commodity groups have their right to representation by their own people and by the umbrella organization they belong to. And that organization's responsibility is to the producers as a whole. It shouldn't be in a position where the Minister is trying to use it as a tool for his own political purposes, his own inabilities or his own weaknesses.
I think if the Minister can give this House assurance of the authority of his negotiating committee for Monday, this would help in some way alleviate the concerns about what really is in the package for cattlemen, what the government really does intend to do in light of their continual switches in the past.
These switches are most unusual at the negotiating table — where the government would come in with one programme based on its own rules and its own formula, negotiations would carry on for a number of meetings and then all of a sudden the government negotiating committee would come back with a much lower proposal. This is a complete reversal of the regular negotiating procedure. This has caused considerable concern among the producers and has put the various negotiating committees in a most embarrassing light. Frankly, they just wonder if they can have confidence in this Minister's word.
Mr. Minister, this is why the debate yesterday was so essential. You're handling a great deal of the public's money in income assurance. The effectiveness of this programme is going to affect not only the Treasury but also very drastically affect the lives of many producers in this province.
It's going to have a far-reaching effect in the communities. It's essential that they have confidence
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in the Minister as to his truthfulness, his administrative ability and his word. Because of the fluctuations in the negotiating approaches, because of the fact that the negotiating committee for the government does not appear to have had any real authority, has not had the proper backup that it should have, this has added one more log on the woodpile of concern for the Minister's credibility that's been building in the province.
I feel, as I mentioned before, that if the Minister can satisfy some of these questions this morning and be more open in his projected costs, where the money is coming from, how he's budgeting and who has the authority, this would go a long way toward alleviating these concerns.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I welcome this opportunity to say a few more words about the agricultural income assurance programme, but if I could just comment first on rural electrification. There was discussion of this under vote 62 and I think it's more appropriate that any further discussion should be under that vote another year. I'll just say this....
MRS. JORDAN: Another year is right! We want to discuss it this year.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Well, you had your opportunity when vote 62 was up for discussion.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Exactly! You did take your opportunity then; it was discussed at that time. I didn't take part in the discussion at the time, but I will now comment briefly on this whole business of rural electrification.
I think a community has to sometimes consider just how far it is prepared to go in providing community services to people who elect, because they prefer, to move away from communities. I'm saying we have to strike some kind of a balance in deciding just how much the taxpayers are going to contribute to individuals, or even a group of individuals, who choose to move away from communities.
We have a balance now. I'm not saying it's the proper balance; I'm not saying it isn't a balance that should be considered and reconsidered, and that there might be some wisdom in moving further in this rural electrification programme, as an example. But I am suggesting that some sort of balance has to be struck and that the balance could change from time to time.
I am also saying that the appropriate place to discuss it would be under vote 62. I am saying also that it does not come under the ARDA programme, which is a joint federal-provincial programme. Rural electrification is not one of the items included there. Can I guarantee that the discussions on Monday will reach a conclusion? No, I can't guarantee that. I am optimistic, as I said last night in the discussion. I don't know whether they are going to reach a satisfactory conclusion. If I knew what was going to happen Monday, we wouldn't need Monday. If I knew what was going to happen Monday, then obviously we have already done everything that has to be done. They are going to meet on Monday. They will be discussing and they will be negotiating.
Who has the authority? Ultimately, cabinet has the authority because the plan will be described by regulations that will be drafted and will be approved by Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. Within the limits that are in this vote, cabinet has given me the authority to negotiate income assurance plans for producer groups. I have that authority, although I will have to go back to cabinet. I have a responsibility to stay within the $27 million that is being asked for in this vote.
Does the negotiating committee have that authority? No, I haven't passed or delegated that authority to anyone. I have delegated certain responsibilities to the negotiating committee. I have given ballpark figures that were announced last night. But when the staff committee, my committee, has met with the cattlemen's committee and when they have brought their positions closer together, they can then come to me and find out whether or not this is a position that I am prepared to recommend to cabinet. At that point, we will know whether or not the negotiations have reached a satisfactory conclusion. Cabinet has the ultimate authority; cabinet has delegated a certain responsibility to me. I, in turn, have asked the negotiating committee to try and bring the two parties close enough together so we can reach agreement. Whether it will be Monday, I just can't say at this point.
The Member has taken this opportunity to really question the whole programme of income assurance. The only question that I ever hear coming from farmers, in spite of the concerns that she has voiced, apparently speaking on behalf of farmers, is that they are worried there may be a change in administration and they may lose the whole income assurance programme. Never have I seen anywhere and never have any of them seen anywhere anything in print guaranteeing that any change in administration would mean a continuation of something that is brand new. B.C. is the first province to get involved in this kind of a programme. It is spreading. There is an article here from Country Life, March, 1975: "Canadian Federation of Agriculture adopts farm income protection policy based on B.C. concepts." It is moving across the country.
The Hon. Member for North Okanagan, I believe, asked yesterday evening whether the B.C. programme
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was dependent upon federal support. Not in this fiscal period. I am not counting on getting federal support. We will operate within the budget — that is, the figures that are being offered to you today — in this current fiscal period. We are still hoping that Ottawa will contribute meaningfully to a farm income assurance programme. We are negotiating with them; we are urging them. But at the moment we are not counting on it. What we will be able to do if Ottawa does meaningfully participate in the programme is something that we have to leave open because we don't know when or if that is going to happen.
The programme for this year, the $27 million for the current fiscal year, will cover the four commodity groups — five now; another one was announced today — where we have reached agreement, as well as others that are being negotiated. Particularly the cattlemen's plan, the broiler hatching-egg producers and the commercial egg producers will all be covered within the $27 million figure, and hopefully one or two more. But we will have to wait until we get these operating and then discuss the possibility of bringing others in.
As I said, I haven't heard the concerns from the farmers that the Member opposite seems to have heard. I have all kinds of letters from producers welcoming the plan and telling me how well it is working. The B.C. Federation of Agriculture recently started publication of a newsletter that I understand is going out to all of their members affiliated with the B.C. federation. In the recent issue, May 5, 1975, as recently as that, they don't seem to have the concerns that are voiced by the Member opposite. If I may quote from this newsletter, Mr. Chairman, under the heading "Farm Income Assurance Outside B.C.:"
"All credit to Dave Stupich, Minister of Agriculture, for the breadth of vision which allowed the government to introduce such a realistic programme which, in the words of our then president, Charlie Bernhardt, in 1973: 'held a new hope for a better economic future for the province's farmers.'
"The concept of income assurance is beginning to catch on. Quebec is drafting legislation similar to B.C.'s and Ontario, too, expects to follow suit. The fact of the matter is that B.C. is stimulating keen interest from eastern Canada."
The whole page goes on to talk about this programme.
The farmers in the province welcome it. The farmers in the province, I think, would like some assurance from all of the opposition parties that, whatever happens after the next election, whenever that might be, and if some disaster were to overtake the Province of B.C. and there was some change in administration, there would be at least a continuation of the farm income assurance programme. I am waiting to hear that; the farmers of British Columbia are waiting to hear it. They are not complaining to me about the inadequacies of the programme. They are welcoming the programme and they are continuing to come in and ask for negotiations to include more and more commodity groups. I think there is no better way of showing their support for what we have done so far other than to ask us to include this kind of protection for more and more individuals, more and more groups.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the Minister's comments. As usual he tried to turn it into a great political wheel-and-deal about what we're going to do when we're government, and he says the producers....
HON. MR. STUPICH: If, not when. If.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Minister, you've been thrown out before. I suggest you're going to be thrown out again.
But what the Minister missed is one of the paramount questions in the producers' minds in British Columbia today: what is your government going to do if by chance it should be re-elected? It is the inconsistency of the Minister's statement, it is the inconsistency of the authority that he's given his negotiating committee, and it's the inconsistency of the negotiations themselves which has brought considerable concern to the producers' minds.
One inconsistency that I'll point out to you is that the Minister stated initially that, on questioning from the opposition, no way would income assurance be used as a vehicle for controlling the producers in this province. Yet initially the position was put to the interior vegetable producers that in order to qualify for income assurance they must join up with the coast vegetable producers. If it hadn't been for Rusty Freeze, who has long supported your party, Mr. Chairman, getting up on his high horse and everybody backing him, the Minister would have proceeded. But he is noted for testing the political wind before he even attempts to make a decision and we all know that he withdrew that position at that time because of the weakness of his own position.
That's one example, Mr. Chairman, of their concern: this Minister said there would be no manipulation through income assurance, when in fact there have been attempts. Is it not true — and perhaps the Minister would answer this — that in order to get agreement with the egg producers in this province, one of the conditions is that the Egg Marketing Board must stay within CEMA?
Mr. Minister, your government is noted for using a carrot to attract people in, build their hopes, then slap them to the ground and force them into a
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position of desperation so that any little offering the government makes them grateful. We saw this sort of thing done with the independent insurance agents — backing them to the wall, taking away their livelihood, and then making them grateful for any sort of a contract ICBC or the government wished to make.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Member to confine her remarks to this vote, please.
MRS. JORDAN: In the actual negotiations themselves, a constant shifting...and let's use the cattlemen's negotiations because these have gone on for months. Indeed, there are complexities and everyone appreciates this, but the major complexity, which is still confusing the cattlemen today, is why the government negotiating committee was forced by the Minister to change its position so radically on, I believe, Friday, April 11, when the head of the government negotiating committee, Mr. C. Peterson, made it very clear that: the ground rules of the whole negotiations were to be changed; the original commitment made by the government was not to be met; the cattlemen were not to have the amount of money, the $7 million that was estimated by the government negotiating team and the Minister himself that would be needed; and the cattlemen's programme would not stand in an equitable position with the other income assurance programmes. This is after nearly nine months of negotiation. The Minister had his team completely shift their position.
The cattlemen went away absolutely discouraged and confused. They understand money problems. They understand negotiating problems, But what they don't understand is a negotiating committee that really doesn't know where it stands, not through its own fault but through the fact that the Minister seems unable to meet commitments that he makes from time to time in various parts of the province and that often they're conflicting.
Then what confused them, Mr. Minister, is why, all of a sudden, now all the money is available. Is it because — and they asked this — there's an election around the corner? Is the government attempting to use this sort of manipulating money management and income assurance management to buy the votes of the producers? And then what is going to happen if there is an election and this government is re-elected? That's what's on their minds and that's what concerns them, Mr. Minister.
You're the government, Mr. Minister. You're the Minister who's been shifting ground. You're the Minister that they're asking the questions of. Your responsibility is to answer — to be forthright and frank with these people, not to play games with them and not to question where the opposition stands.
We'll answer to the producers, but we don't have to answer to you. I find it a sign of weakness on the part of the Minister that rather than speaking confidently and having policies for his own programmes, he shifts around trying to find out what the opposition programme is.
Also at this time I would plead with the Minister once more, in complementing the income assurance programme, to make capital grants available to the industry rather than the loan, particularly in areas where there have to be major capital outlays for a realignment of that industry in order for it to maintain its position on a competitive basis.
I cite the fruit industry as an example. In the building of the two controlled-atmosphere storage plants, I've repeatedly asked the Minister and challenged the Minister. I ask him again: why not meet the federal government's one-third grant with a cash grant from the provincial government? Why tie it in a loan? Income assurance only barely meets their estimate of cost of production. It is wrong, in my view, to tie in this type of debt to the producers.
These are almost pilot projects because of the serious concern as to what is going to happen, in this instance, in the apple industry when the major increase in production in Washington comes on line. Why keep saddling them consistently with long-term debts? The interest rate is not that low; 8 per cent is a lot of money. When this government talks about low-interest loans, they really aren't low-interest loans. Doesn't the Minister consider a low-interest loan in the area of 4 per cent or 5 per cent rather than 8 per cent?
There are other realignments that have to take place if these industries are to survive. Again I'll use the fruit industry as an example. The Minister forced a resolution through this House that forced the position of this House that if they adopted his resolution for a vote on the one-desk selling agency concept for the fruit growers, they also had to accept the concept of the Hudson report. Mr. Minister, one of the major recommendations in the Hudson report, which obviously the Minister has fully endorsed, is to realign, refurbish, and if not, rebuild and streamline the various packinghouses in the Okanagan Valley.
Mr. Minister, as an incentive to these, I think it is not enough that your government assists with the study and the design costs, but also that this is considered as a pilot project and that moneys loaned should come in the form of a one-third matching grant with the federal government. If the federal people put in one-third and if the provincial put in one-third, then the producers have one-third, and it is a long-term loan for them, but it is something that's manageable. I would urge the Minister again to consider this policy.
Certainly, I feel that it's essential in some of these areas for there to be capital grants. I don't think the
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government has to have shares; it doesn't have to have its finger in the pies of the producers' business. There's been too much of that now; it leaves too much room for criticism of political appointees and political manipulation. I invite the Minister to comment on whether he is willing to undertake the thought of capital grants matching with the federal grants in some of these areas.
HON. W.L. HARTLEY (Minister of Public Works): The Member for North Okanagan, Mr. Chairman, I believe, did speak the truth in one sentence.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Minister rephrase his remark? It gives the imputation that the Hon. Member was not telling the truth.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: I'll say she was particularly truthful when she said: "A little thing will make the farmers have to give them very much." I think that was quite an admission from this farm critic for the Social Credit. It shocks me that that's the best Social Credit can do; but realizing that Social Credit did so very little for 20 years, I shouldn't be surprised. Certainly this Minister, this Department of Agriculture and this government would have to do very little to show the improvement over what happened after 20 years of Social Credit.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Minister speak to the vote, please.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Yes. We realize that over 17 canneries shut down in B.C. when Del Monte bought out Aylmer brands and Dominion brands; that was Social Credit — corporate control.
Under this vote this Minister dared to break new ground, dared to be different and dared to show a little courage. When he brought in the land-freeze legislation, did that win the government support? Yet today the farmers throughout B.C. — even the chamber of commerce in Chilliwack — said that that's some of the greatest legislation. It's given the farmers security.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The land-freeze legislation is not a part of this vote. I would ask the Hon. Minister to stick strictly to this vote.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Well, this does relate to farmers being more secure and satisfied in farming.
To move on to income assurance....
AN HON. MEMBER: How about the Agriculture Minister himself?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Income assurance is innovative. The dairy farmers throughout B.C. today, especially those who are in the areas that have taken advantage of farm income assurance, are upgrading their equipment, upgrading their farms and are feeling more secure than they ever did before. They see a way that they can make a good living and retire and pass their farms on to their sons and daughters. They know that because of farm freeze those private real estate developers are off their backs. They are no longer chasing the farmers off the farms.
The one spot in the whole of North America last year that showed a great increase in dairy production was mainly the Fraser Valley of this province. This came about as a credit to this Minister, that he would dare to do something different and be innovative. True, as I said at the outset, he wouldn't have had to do very much to improve over the 20 years of do-nothing — the 20 years on the part of developers pushing the farmers off the farms. But this Minister, through this legislation, has given the farmers far more security then they ever had before, and the farmers appreciate it. I am surprised that that agriculture critic would dare to criticize it.
As far as the cattle ranchers are concerned, what is her position? What is the Social Credit position with farm income assurance for the cattle ranchers? I'd like them to answer some questions. I happen to know of a veterinarian that has some of the largest cattle ranchers in the empire, certainly in the nation. The big cattle rancher doesn't want farm income assurance. He says he can produce beef at 30 cents a pound. Some of them don't want farm income assurance, because they realize that it's going to make the small beef rancher more viable. He will be able to stay in business and help provide good food for the people of this province and this nation. But the great corporate cattle ranchers would just as soon see those little guys out and go bankrupt so they can be gobbled up by the big guys. That's selfish, old free enterprise which that Member across there is trying to defend.
Yet free enterprise in farming has failed, and failed miserably. It failed under 20 years of Social Credit. We saw farm after farm go out of business. We saw cannery after cannery shut down in her riding, throughout the Okanagan, throughout the Fraser Valley and throughout this province. Free enterprise has failed the farmer miserably, and if there is one man who will go down in history as a Minister of Agriculture, it will be the Hon. David Stupich, Member for Nanaimo.
HON. MR. STUPICH: The Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) asked three questions that the Hon. Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Hartley) didn't answer and I would like the opportunity.
With respect to the egg income assurance programme: was there a requirement that the Egg
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Marketing Board remain as a participating member in CEMA? The answer is yes. As I said yesterday evening in talking about income assurance, any income assurance plan depends upon supply management, and the vehicle for a supply management in Canada as a whole in the egg industry today is CEMA. So egg income assurance, as one of the income assurance programmes, depending upon supply management, carries with it the proviso that the B.C. Egg Marketing Board remains as a fully participating member in CEMA at least until the end of 1975, as they agreed to do and as they agreed to give a year's notice, late in 1974, in accordance with the terms of the CEMA agreement. If they live up to that agreement, that is one of the requirements before an egg income assurance plan will be operative to the egg producers.
I was asked about the constant shifting in negotiations. Mr. Chairman, that is negotiation. If either party goes in with a firm position from which it is not prepared to move under any circumstances, well, then there is no negotiating. Negotiation means that two parties, in the process of discussion, are prepared to give and take to change their position. So there has been constant shifting. There will continue to be constant shifting until agreement has been reached.
The Hon. Member asked about my policy with respect to capital grants for the fruit industry. I certainly welcome her support for everything that we have done in agriculture in the short space of two years and nine months. The increase in the money available for the Department of Agriculture was almost tenfold in two and a half years, and she is suggesting now that we should increase the Agriculture budget even further. I welcome her support. I think it would be a good idea to have a good deal more money to spend on agriculture in the Province of British Columbia.
However, I am coming to the Legislature in this session asking for a total of $60 million rather than the $5 million-odd that was spent in the fiscal period ended March, 1972. I am presenting to you how I think the $60 million should be spent. Next year I would hope to come back to the Legislature and ask for more money. Possibly at that time we would have some new programmes to announce. But I feel this manner of spending this amount of money is the best that I can do for the agricultural industry in the province, and it is on that basis that I am presenting these estimates to you. I just don't understand the source of the Member's complaints.
I am not sure what farmers she has been talking to. I have quoted from newspaper stories and I have a letter from the B.C. Federation of Agriculture and I will read from part of it. It is dated March 6, 1975:
"In order to keep you posted, we are happy to report that the loss of producers at the rate of one per day during the past 10 years or so has, we believe, come to a halt. Our latest figures show the federation membership at 10,408, February, 1975. Whereas just a few short months ago the figure was as low as 9,460, October, 1974.
"Certainly a great degree of this turnaround has been due to the new agricultural programmes now in effect."
Now this is the current thinking of the B.C. Federation of Agriculture.
"Our great concern previously had been the unwillingness of the younger generation to get involved. Although we have no figures to substantiate our positions, we do believe that younger people are becoming involved, primarily because of the more stable conditions in agriculture."
This is the word I am getting from farmers and from farmer organizations. I just don't understand where the Member opposite is getting all of her uneasiness.
I do want to note in passing — I think Hansard will record it — the official opposition, when given the opportunity to put itself on record with respect to farm income programmes, declined to say whether it opposed them, supported them, and what it would do should that sorry day ever some to pass when they might again take office.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the Hon. Minister's twisting and turning. I also appreciate some of his frank answers, which have been very slow to come in this House.
Before I comment and ask a couple more questions, I would just comment on the Minister of Public Works' (Hon. Mr. Hartley's) statements. I am sorry he is not in the House, but it is quite obvious after listening to him why the Hon. Member's list of office vacancies is nothing compared to his list of cerebral vacancies.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member please not indulge in personalities, but rather consider the vote before us and keep her remarks relevant to the vote?
MRS. JORDAN: I would just correct the Hon. Minister. He suggested that his ranchers can produce cattle at 30 cents a pound. One of his major answers is on record in The Kamloops News as of Monday, April 21, saying that producers are getting per month.... I don't want to read the whole quote, but he says the cost of production without allowing any for the interest in the cattle produced stacks up to 80 cents a pound, and the average price for calves over the past four months has been about 30 cents a pound — that's to the producer. He goes on to explain that, and he says on the overall he's losing
[ Page 2215 ]
approximately 50 cents a pound.
So not only is the office vacancy there, but the cerebral vacancy is there, and I pinpoint it on the fact that the Minister said his producers could reduce the 30 cents a pound, and it is not true.
The Minister of Public Works did bring up an important point, and that is the matter of passing family farms from father to son, and the great things that the NDP government have done. I have in other debates, and would like to now, in view of the fact that the Minister introduced this — and I think it does come into the income assurance programme as well, because income assurance just won't allow for the situation that is happening — advise the Minister that there are some serious problems in this area, both in the gift tax area and the estate tax area. If the Minister is going to believe some more of his publicity and jump up and say, "Oh, you can pass family farm to family farm," I want to make it clear I understand that. However, I would suggest that if a farm qualifies as a family farm it may pass to a child exempt. But there are approximately 10 points in that qualification, and there are very few family farms....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member relate her remarks to the items in this vote, please?
MRS. JORDAN: It means, Mr. Chairman, if you relate it to income assurance, which probably is the most logical relationship, that it would be still extremely difficult and, I suggest, morally wrong for a child to have to utilize the income assurance as part of his means of purchasing his own family farm. We believe that the family farm should be passed in the family without gift taxes and without estate taxes.
If you look at the cost that would be involved to income assurance, you have to be aware that there is no exemption for a farm passing to a spouse. In other words, there is no exemption for a farm passing from a wife to her husband, or a husband to his wife, except for the basic $125,000 and the value of the family home. That includes insurance and non-community annuities to the minimum of $150,000 in total. When one examines the accelerated value of land in this province today, if one can sell farmland, one would realize that in adding that to the cost of equipment and to the cost of operating the farm, most capital investments of family farms exceed both the formula and the allowances in the present Estate Tax Act. Therefore what the Minister claimed in previous debates is not a fact.
It should be known that spouses can defer duties for up to 10 years if the farm is continued as a family farm. This again still imposes a tremendous hardship on those farms and would reflect itself in the income assurance.
I do again say that a once-in-a-lifetime gift of $10,000 of farm property may be made to a child, plus $2,000 each year, and a spouse may be given $10,000 a year. This is an unsatisfactory and really around-the-bush way of trying to force families into expensive bookkeeping and manipulation. We believe there should be no estate tax.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Hon. Member has failed to convince the Chair that there is a relevance between estate tax and this particular estimate. I would ask her to draw the relevance a little more securely.
MRS. JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think I've made my point.
If the Minister cares to dispute my words, just in closing on that point, I'm suggesting that this would impose a roundabout cost on crop insurance and I would suggest that this is straight from the director of taxation.
Again, I must go back to the Minister's comments when he replies to the concerns regarding the income assurance and his almost silliness in continually insisting that because we ask questions we don't appreciate the income assurance programme.
When he suggests that all negotiations have shifted, I suggest he is right. But what he doesn't understand and what the producers don't understand is why he considers it normal for a negotiating position to be shifted down from the original base from which they started, the base set out by that Minister. This, in essence, brings in a whole new ball game that is not in evidence in other forms of negotiating.
I think if the Minister could stop fiddling around with the political angles and think about this, he would understand why there is major concern in this area. This is nothing to do with the good points or the bad points of income assurance. It is a major problem in the negotiating procedure; it is a major concern in the minds of the producers; it gives substantial substance to the fact that the producers wonder just what this government's policy is going to be on income assurance and what sort of games they are playing.
In relation to income assurance, I would like to ask the Minister what his policy is on social services tax on British Columbia. There are many producers who feel that some of these products should be taken off the list and others should be added on — for example, drainage tiles. There is a strong move for rehabilitation of agricultural land. In many instances, the involves the use of drainage tiles. Establishing a drainage system is extremely expensive, often beyond the capabilities of many producers. But added to this, when they go to purchase the drainage tile, they have to pay a social service tax of 5 per cent. I would ask
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the Minister to remove the tax on this particular commodity but also to have a review in cooperation with the agricultural people of this list. I hope that there is no substance to the thought that the Minister has no intention of adjusting the social service tax because income assurance can absorb this cost. This is a fallacious argument.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I don't believe that this Minister is responsible for administering the social service tax. I would ask her to confine her remarks to his responsibilities on this vote.
MRS. JORDAN: Well, Mr. Chairman, if a producer has to pay social service tax on farm commodities and farm equipment, then it is reflected in his position in income assurance. The Minister appears to feel that this doesn't matter, that this is something income assurance would absorb. I suggest that this is a policy which should be reviewed, because many producers are not on income assurance and therefore they have to pay this tax without receiving any benefits from income assurance. This is just an added cost to the producer, putting coins in the provincial treasury — some could say for waste on empty offices and things like this. But we would hope there are some constructive programmes. But, also, the income assurance programme really doesn't absorb to total cost. I suggest that the Minister's argument in this area doesn't hold water. I would ask him to give us a commitment that there will be a review of these products and that he won't suggest that income assurance absorb the 5 per cent tax.
MR. PHILLIPS: I would just like to go back for just a moment to rural electrification, where the Minister said we should strike a balance.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member indicate where in this vote we have rural electrification? If he is speaking in relation to a specific item in the vote, he would be in order, but I would ask him to relate his remarks to a specific item in this vote.
MR. PHILLIPS: I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman. Maybe I could start my comments in a different manner and say that I would like to see the Minister — this has been discussed for some length of time, and it was discussed on the agriculture committee — bring under the umbrella of the ARDA programme rural electrification, because in some areas it is a very costly and high expenditure for an individual farmer and it certainly does improve the operation of the farm and could be brought under the umbrella of the ARDA programme. Does that satisfy the Chairman? When we are talking about striking a balance, Mr. Chairman, the ARDA programme, in my estimation, is to improve and open up — improve the production of agricultural land, open up new agricultural land. The Minister says we should strike a balance between how far we are going to go. If people want to move out into the country, they are moving out into an area which has previously been bush. They are moving out; they are still pioneering; they are opening up areas for the production of food.
I have heard the Minister say the world is starving and we need to increase our production. I believe one of his aims is to make British Columbia self-sufficient in the production of food. The only way we can do it is to open up more agricultural land. There are certainly many hundreds of thousands of acres in your area, Mr. Chairman, and in all of the northern parts of the province that have not been brought into production. A lot of it is in scrub brush timber at the present time. By new methods of fertilizing and rotating of crops, this land can be brought into production. So maybe the Minister would advise me just how far he wants to go in bringing this unproductive land under production.
I think we have to have a policy, and where do we go? Do we first of all go and put in the roads and put the land up for bids? Or is the government going to clear the land itself, and then lease it back? There are, as I say, hundreds of thousands of acres that could be brought in — land that's presently going to waste. It's not even producing merchantable trees; it's under aspen and poplar. By proper management, this land can produce good legumes; it can assist in cattle production.
Where is the balance? How far do we go? Are we interested in opening up this land for food production, or are we not? I think this is a question we have to ask ourselves. If we're going to open this up for food production.... I've seen it happen: a farmer goes farther into the area, then others follow and pretty soon there's a need for rural electrification.
If you're going to tell these people.... I hear it all the time — a person moves into a remote area where there presently are not good roads so school buses and so forth can service the children of these families. If there's not going to be rural electrification, then they are really not interested in opening up this land.
This is what the ARDA programme is all about — to improve the land for the production of foodstuffs. We have a $5 million vote for ARDA. What is going to be used for other than assistance in improving land that is presently under production? Maybe we should extend it to bring unproductive land into production. I think the Minister should work with the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett) and with the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams), who is a director of Hydro, to have the formula changed. I spoke at some great length in this
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Legislature during the Premier's estimates on this very subject. The Premier said that he would look into the possibility of a change in the formula so that the more remote areas, and the farmers who are still waiting for the hydro to come.... I don't think we're going to get the opportunity to discuss this under the estimates of the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources. If there's more money needed in this vote, the money certainly should be available. After all, you know, as you go through these estimates here, between $6 million and $11 million is being used strictly for advertising the government's programmes. This money could be used to assist the farmers in this area.
As you know, we've taken $5 million to establish a think-tank out at the University of British Columbia which is producing no results whatsoever for this government. As a matter of fact, I think they're sort of letting it die by its own ends. The Minister says that he has asked for a big increase, but you must remember there's a difference. When the government has no regard for money and wastes it on careless spending and on other items that are not really assisting the people of this province, then we have to ask for more. Now if the government was being prudent in spending the taxpayers' dollars, trying to save the taxpayers' money, we could say, well, they're trying to decrease taxes and, yes, we shouldn't provide these services. But when we have a government, as I say, that has no regard for the taxpayers' dollars and wastes many, many millions and millions of dollars.... We also have those farmers who go to those remote areas, who are still paying their additional 2 cents per gallon for gasoline for lower mainland transit. There always should be a balance. If the farmers of the province are going to pay for lower mainland transit — which is losing $17 million a year, by the way; Hydro has to subsidize it — surely to goodness we can stand some more assistance for rural electrification.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Member if he is proposing an increase in the amount of money in this vote? I would point out to him that this is not permitted, because we're considering the request by this Minister for a certain amount of money under this vote, and whether or not it should be granted. Therefore we debate whether or not the money should be granted to this department for this vote. You're proposing your own estimates.
MR. PHILLIPS: My point really is: could the Minister move to work with the federal government to bring rural electrification under this vote? There are many areas throughout the Cariboo and the central interior that need to upgrade their Hydro service from straight power to three-phase so that their equipment for irrigation will be less costly. The Minister is well aware of this He travels around the province. As I say, what really grieves me.... I was quite astonished at the Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Hartley), a man who has wasted $358,000 of the taxpayers' money on empty office space because he hasn't any management ability....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member confine his remarks to the estimates in vote 7?
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, Mr. Chairman, do we have two rules? When the Minister of Public Works was speaking in the Legislature this morning he was rambling all over the place and I didn't....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Chair, if you recall, called him to order on two or three occasions. I'm trying to apply the rules equally to the Minister of Public Works and to the other Members as well. But I would ask you to relate your remarks to a specific item within this....
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, I just want to remind you, Mr. Chairman, that I don't think that Minister had the right — a Minister who wastes the taxpayers' dollars the way he wastes taxpayers' dollars — to stand in this Legislature....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member comment on his remarks rather than making comments about the Minister?
MR. PHILLIPS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Maybe the Minister of Agriculture would like to tell me if he's planning this and explain to me what his policy is going to be with regard to opening up more farmland. Certainly if more money is required in the Department of Agriculture it should certainly be available. We also have, Mr. Chairman, as you know, the Premier (Hon. Mr. Barrett) going on an ego trip, taking $350 million to build an oil refinery. And that is not necessary.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Again I would ask the Hon. Member to confine his questioning and remarks to the specific items of this vote.
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, I have to relate to spending of money, Mr. Chairman, to the spending of money. That's what I'm doing. If we can spend money on one project, then we can have more money for another project.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. PHILLIPS: How could I make my point?
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MR. CHAIRMAN: I would make the distinction again for the Hon. Member. What we are considering here is an estimate being requested by the Minister of Agriculture on behalf of the Department of Agriculture. It's at a maximum amount, and the Hon. Member is to question whether this amount should be granted to the government for this purpose, not to propose his own estimates. It is not the purpose of estimates to propose your own estimates, but rather to question the estimates that are put before you. Would the Hon. Member speak to the vote?
MR. PHILLIPS: As usual, I'll certainly abide by your decision, Mr. Chairman. Maybe the Minister of Agriculture will comment on the questions I've posed.
HON. MR. STUPICH: The Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) accuses me of being political when I talk about the wonderful things we have done for agriculture in the Province of British Columbia in our short two years and nine months. Meanwhile, as is her habit in every debate, with every phrase she utters she drips venom. That's just her way of doing it. I suppose she has no other way of speaking. It's unfortunate, but it certainly doesn't add to the debate. If I were to discuss the Gift Tax Act, the Succession Duty Act and the SS and MA legislations, I would be just as out of order as she was in her remarks; so I will not. If she were to ask me what my policy was with respect to those Acts, then I suggest this should have been done under vote 3.
The Hon. Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips), picked up the discussion, which was rather out of order, but if we relate it to the possibility of including rural electrification under the ARDA programme, then I suppose we could stretch it so that it would be in order. As I said, this is a provincial-federal agreement that does not at this time include rural electrification.
I'd like to make my position again that I think we have to strike a balance. In the ARDA programme, it is a system of grants where the local producer pays only one-third. In other provinces it was one-quarter; 75 per cent was shared by the senior levels of government. But the previous administration in the province felt that it was fair to charge the producers a higher proportion, and we have not yet been able to change that agreement. It is being renegotiated.
But there is another programme available and that, of course, is the ALDA programme. It is available for opening up new land. I think there is ample evidence to show that this administration does believe in assisting farmers in the more remote areas and does believe in assisting them to open up land.
There are some figures; they are not the most up-to-date ones. Since March, 1974, under our ALDA programme, 592 contracts for land development were issued for a face value of $3.5 million. This was by the end of the calendar year. By the end of the fiscal period, we had used up the total amount of $4.5 million. That was the original vote of $2.5 million plus a special warrant of $2 million, a total of $4.5 million.
By contrast, the previous administration had a total of 184 contracts — that is in the last fiscal year under the previous administration — rather than 592 contracts. They issued only 184. Rather than the $4.5 million that we spent in the fiscal period, the previous administration spent only $526,200. So I suggest to you there is real evidence that this administration does believe in working with the farmers and in helping to develop the agriculture industry in clearing lands.
You say there is a difference now that there's a big increase in the budget. But there is a difference now. There was an election in August of 1972, and we now have a government that believes in these programmes. That is the difference.
A discussion of transit losses and the think-tank are not proper under this vote, so I'll not get into that discussion.
The concern on the part of the Member that there would not be time to deal with the estimates of the Minister of Lands and Forests (Hon. R.A. Williams). I suggest to you that that is something, really, that should be laid on your own heads. Yesterday, for example, some three to four hours were spent discussion a court case that dealt with an historic happening, a court case that is long since past....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
HON. MR. STUPICH: ...and the time for appeal long since past.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! I would ask the Hon. Minister to speak to this vote.
HON. MR. STUPICH: But the fact that we don't have enough time to discuss this vote properly or to discuss the other votes in my department properly or the other votes for other Ministers is something that should be laid completely on the heads of the opposition. You can bear the cost of that yourselves.
MRS. JORDAN: Absolute garbage!
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): Mr. Chairman, I was quite interested in the Minister's remarks, saying that he was never political, then even getting into election time here in replying to the Member for North Okanagan. I just would like to pursue rural electrification a little further.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Before the Hon.
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Member embarks on this discussion, I would ask him, if he's proposing that it be brought under ARDA, to indicate....
MR. FRASER: Yes, I think that we....
MR. CHAIRMAN: You must speak to the items as they're listed here in the vote.
MR. FRASER: We're speaking to that now, are we not?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Member proceed?
MR. FRASER: The difficulty with rural electrification is that there are just not adequate funds. Whether it comes out of here or there, I don't know. I would say the same as the Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips): we've had a $3 million vote for extension of rural electrification for years.
With inflation, that is now worth only about $1 million. There are a lot of people — the Minister of Agriculture hears from them — who want extension of existing rural electrification or the upgrading of it.
I can't see why it doesn't come under ARDA.
The other thing I want to say to the Minister on this vote is that he has done some good things for agriculture, I'd like to point out some of the things that he should know about that are happening in other departments that are nullifying a lot of the good work Agriculture is doing.
I refer to the Minister of Mines (Hon. Mr. Nimsick), regarding the mineral rights on farmland.
The Minister replied to that; I spoke on it then.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon.
Member indicate what mining rights have to do with any of the items in this vote?
MR. FRASER: Well, it's to do with the operation of the Agriculture department and how they are trying to help the farmer, and other departments are
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! We are not considering the operation of the department; we're considering specific items under this vote.
MR. FRASER: That's right.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Very specific, and I would ask the Hon. Member to....
MR. FRASER: The development of farmlands and so on. Putting more farmland into production was just discussed before. I would like to relate to the Minister what's going on in his colleague's, the Minister of Land's (Hon. R.A. Williams'), department regarding the agricultural land.
Just recently the individuals are applying for land that's classed as agricultural. I refer to Crown lands. Always in the past the applicant got the timber that went with it. Now they're saying that they can't have the timber; they can't even bid on the timber. they're certainly willing to pay for the timber — I'm referring to the applications for agricultural land — but they will not even allow them to bid on the timber that's on Crown land. This is nullifying the act of this land going into agricultural production. There's no question about it, because the people who are trying to develop land can get some income from his. Of course, now they're denied it by the Minister Lands and Forests. I don't think the Minister of Agriculture knows this is going on. I'm just saying his though: this will certainly slow down the opening up of agricultural land in this province. It is doing it now.
There is another thing that hasn't been discussed, Mr. Chairman, which I think properly comes under his vote. What about the cattle complex that was discussed, I believe in February or early March, and as supposedly going in the area of Kamloops? The Minister did reply at that time, but I imagine there have been new developments. I'd like to hear what hey are regarding the cattle complex for a feedlot setup as well as a marketing complex in the Kamloops–Cache Creek area.
MR. R.H. McCLELLAND (Langley): I'd like to follow up, Mr. Chairman, on a couple of questions hat were asked yesterday and follow up on some of he answers that the Minister gave with regard to question asked by the Member for South Peace River Mr. Phillips) and myself regarding tax payments on eased land, if I could go back a couple of weeks to answers the Minister made in question period.
The Minister told us the Land Commission paid axes, or at least there was legislation under which the and Commission must pay taxes. He also said there as money in the estimates for property tax purposes. Both of those statements aren't strictly correct, Mr. Chairman. In the first place, the Land commission Act only says that they "may" pay municipal taxes. Secondly, the money in the estimates is this $100,000 in this vote, which is clearly determined only for leased land.
First of all, the Minister said yesterday: "Well, I guess the government policy over the years has been and still is that the amount paid will be comparable o the local tax situation." Mr. Chairman, that isn't strictly correct either because the government has been riding on the backs of taxpayers for years and ears with regard to local property taxes, whether it be lease land or land that is owned by a government grown agency or department. Most of the time the
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government will pay 15 mills towards property taxes. That's certainly not comparable to what the local government body needs to operate its municipality. I don't know of any instances where the government ever pays school taxes. It pays only for general and debt services. So that statement isn't correct either.
The Minister went on, in answer to those questions later, to say:
We're not leaving ourselves open to special assessments that we're afraid some taxing authorities might place on us. So if we feel that the tax levy imposed is a fair one, then the amount paid will be the same as is being levied on similar landowners in that community.
I don't know who decides whether the tax levy is fair. First of all, the Assessment Authority of British Columbia, which is supposed to be an authority completely independent from government, makes the assessment now under the new legislation; then the municipal government has to pass a budget based on those assessments and based on the amount of money it needs to operate its municipality for the year. So why would the government come along and decide there was something unfair about that? I am just asking the Minister if that is a back door that the Minister of the Land Commission or any other government department can slip out of if it decides that it doesn't want to pay the full property taxes in the municipalities.
In answer to another question of the Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips), yesterday, the Minister then went on to say that there will be no loss of revenue by virtue of the fact that ownership has changed from private ownership to Land Commission ownership. I would like to know whether the Minister means that when the government takes that particular piece of land, the government will continue to pay the taxes that were levied on that land at that time. Everyone knows that because of the increases on assessments, particularly on vacant land, many property taxes went up six and eight and 10 times on vacant land. If the Land Commission, for instance, or some other government body had taken over that land prior to that increase, would the government only pay the taxes that were levied before or will it pay the increases?
If I could just relate it to a specific situation, Mr. Chairman, I would say that on 2,000 acres of land bought by the government recently in Langley, taxes last year were approximately $100,000. This year, given the 20 per cent tax increase that the municipality is going to encounter, those taxes will be around $120,000. The question I would like to ask the Minister then is if he will follow through on the commitment that he seemed to make yesterday, but he skirted around a little bit. If those municipal taxes this year on that particular piece of land are $120,000, will the Department of Agriculture or the Land Commission pay that $120,000? That is a specific item for which a specific answer could be given.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think the Hon. Member can only expect to get an answer on those lands which are under the jurisdiction of this Minister.
MR. McCLELLAND: That is what I am talking about, Mr. Chairman — those lands under the jurisdiction of this Minister.
MR. D.E. LEWIS (Shuswap): Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Minister of Agriculture, his staff and the Land Commission...
MRS. JORDAN: For pointing out the error of your ways.
MR. LEWIS: ...for the fine job they did in making representations to the hearings regarding the proposed CPR line through some 27 farms in the Shuswap district. The CPR had intended to put in a new line which would have wound through any number of farms, making many of those farms unworkable and unviable, and causing considerable problems in regard to the environment in that area. I would just like to say that the presentation made by the Land Commission was first class and certainly should have some bearing on the outcome of those hearings.
Also I would like to make a few comments in regard to statements made by opposition Members in this House and in particular the Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) and the negative stand she takes in regard to programmes that have taken place in this province under this Minister during his time in office.
How she can stand up in this House and be so critical of the farm income assurance programme, which is there for the betterment of the farmers and commodity groups, is beyond me. I just hope that everybody in her riding and people throughout this province hear the stand that that party is taking, because prior to this government's being elected there wasn't a plan for, agriculture in this province. Farmers were left out in the open at the mercy of every cut-throat organization there was. But under this Minister there has been a very solid movement towards some sort of assurance that the farmer will survive.
I just hope that the people in her riding get a copy of Hansard and look at her statements. If they don't, I'm going to make a point of it to send copies of Hansard throughout the interior with statements she has made in regard to the commodity groups and
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statements that she has made in regard to how the farmers are being mistreated. They certainly won't agree with her. They certainly won't support that stand in this province. If she is returned to this House, I will have completely lost faith in people in this province, I'll tell you that.
This Minister has done more for agriculture in this province in the three years since he has been elected than all the previous governments in this province together. That includes Liberals, Conservatives and Social Credit put together.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member be more specific in dealing with items under this vote?
MR. LEWIS: I don't know how I can be more specific, Mr. Chairman. I think I have hit the nail right on the head in regard to how I have condemned that Member's attitude toward agriculture and the Minister of this province.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, in hitting the nail on the head, that Member better watch that he doesn't hit his thumb. I am amazed at how consistently this Member gets up and tries to twist the facts and play politics. He talks about the record in this province! Mr. Chairman, I challenge that Member to say the same things in his constituency that he says in this House, because there is a growing record of inconsistencies in that Member's statements!
He will come down here and champion one thing and he'll go home and tell his constituents he doesn't believe it. He stands up in this House, Mr. Chairman, and damns the former administration up and down. Yet on television — CHBC-TV in the Okanagan Valley — he went on record, publicly, to say that the producers of this province fared better under Social Credit than they did under the current Minister. You deny that and I'll produce the film!
MR. LEWIS: That's a lie!
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, he is so mixed up!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!
MRS. JORDAN: He stands for anything he thinks his constituents will fall for. He's a man whose principles should be questioned.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MRS. JORDAN: Talking about the record, Mr. Chairman, I'll quote Hansard — I'll quote Hansard on agriculture. And I'll quote the Member for North Okanagan....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Minister on a point of order.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I just suggest that if the Member wants to make that kind of a political speech attacking the Hon. Member for Shuswap (Mr. Lewis), a more appropriate place would be to hire a hall in his riding.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. On the point of order....
MRS. JORDAN: I don't have to hire a hall.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair wishes to make a point of order in this respect. The Hon. Member for Shuswap was out of order partially and I called him to order and asked him to be more specific.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! We've allowed the Hon. Member for North Okanagan a similar amount of time in order to relate her remarks to the vote, too, and I am just cautioning her to relate her remarks to the vote.
MRS. JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. PHILLIPS: You're a biased Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! I would ask the Hon. Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips) to withdraw the remarks that the Chair is biased. If you wish to attack the Chair, there is a proper method to do it. I would at least ask the Hon. Member to use the courtesy of using the proper method of attacking the Chair! (Laughter.) I don't mind the Chair being attacked as long as it is done according to the rules of the House.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, I am sorry if I didn't use the proper method.
MR. CHAIRMAN: All I am asking is that if the Hon. Member wishes to attack the Chair on any point, he do it in the proper manner provided. That's all I'm asking.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, I don't want to attack the Chair and I don't want to impute that you are not being completely impartial. But it would appear to me that you are.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! I would ask him to withdraw unconditionally, Would the Hon. Member stand and please withdraw the imputation that the Chair was biased?
[ Page 2222 ]
MR. PHILLIPS: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'll withdraw, completely unequivocally, that you were biased.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Member for North Okanagan continue with her speech? Again, I am merely cautioning the Hon. Member. I am not trying to stifle her speech, I am just trying to caution her that she should in some way relate her remarks to the vote. As the Hon. Member for Shuswap did make mention, at least once, of the farm insurance programme, I would ask....
MR. PHILLIPS: Just remember, it's only the government.
MRS. JORDAN: That's about the only fact he mentioned, Mr. Chairman. If this government is so competent in its programmes and feels they are so completely perfect that they can't be criticized constructively, or if there hasn't been some concern about their ability to carry them through, why do they have to keep patting themselves on the backs? Why do we have to have so many people get up and so blatantly and shallowly defend the Minister?
Mr. Chairman, relating to income assurance, I have expressed on repeated occasions and in this particular debate what some of the genuine concerns of the producers are. The Member for Shuswap has asked me where I stand. I won't take long, but let me quote just a couple of quotations from Hansard of Friday, March 7, 1975. The speaker is the Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) when the question is posed to the Minister: "Are the boards to be used as a vehicle in combination with income assurance for manipulating the producers into a position that the government desires?"
Mr. Chairman, that concern has been borne out by some of the actions of the government. We don't think they should be used as vehicles to manipulate the producers into a philosophical position. When discussing income assurance at the B.C. Federation of Agriculture convention, that Minister told the producers that they were the greatest socialists of them all. Here, take a few pence, take! The Minister was vacillating and changing the ground rules and, in fact, making finally the innuendoes that he had been dropping through civil servants — a deplorable tactic — at various conventions when he brought them into light by suggesting that there was indeed a shortage of funds to meet the commitments that he had made. The Member for North Okanagan is on record as saying on March 7, 1975:
Mr. Speaker, a commitment is a commitment is a commitment, and this government through its Minister of Agriculture made a commitment and agreed to principles of an income assurance programme for the producers of this province together. The producers have put their cards on the table and I call on the government to do the same. Put your cards on the table. Allay the concerns of the producers.
Mr. Chairman, we believe, and the producers in this province believe, that it has been the constant pushing and hammering by this opposition whenever the opportunity, which is rare under the new closure rules of this Legislature, to bring to this government's attention its weakening position and its vacillating Minister, combined with the pressure in this Legislature and the excellent work done by the producers themselves.... in this Legislature and the excellent work done by the producers themselves.... It is that, and only that, that has forced this Minister into a position of meeting a commitment, and even that commitment has been broken in many instances, such as the milk producers — Mr. Chairman, that and the fact this government is running scared. It has by nature proven that it's incapable of responsible budgeting, and this Minister has proved that he is incapable of making a decision without testing the political winds first.
The political winds are telling him that there is an election in the wind, the government is in trouble, and income assurance is a vehicle through which they could try to buy some votes — not because they believe in the plan; and he's willing to keep his original commitment. I challenge this Minister to meet every original commitment in that agreement. I challenge the Minister not to invoke his newly found powers where in that agreement he has the right and the authority to change anything he wishes, when the producers themselves thought that it was a mutual agreement, in the agreement made by the two parties, that only after mutual discussion and mutual agreement would there be any basic change. If that isn't changing the ground rules, if that isn't causing concern on the part of the producers, then I ask that Minister what he thinks will cause concern.
Our position is strong, Mr. Minister; we don't have to run around parading a flag as you seem to feel you do. We'll deal with the agricultural issues when they're presented.
Speaking of income assurance, I would like to bring to the Minister's attention a matter of concern which relates itself to income assurance, because if this type of practice is followed throughout the province, the cost to the cattle producers, if they do go into income assurance, is going to be prohibitive.
This is in relation to a major piece of land, 160 acres in total, in the Myers Flat area of the southern Okanagan. This area is a vital part of an operating ranch. They are cattle producers, and I assume that they will be having their voice in the decision of whether or not to take part in the income assurance programme. This area is part of a fenced area of that operation of other land, and this land is being taken away from this viable operation by the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A.
[ Page 2223 ]
Williams), and we heard not one word of defence from this Minister, not one word of concern.
I would ask the Minister what his opinion is of the fact that this land has been associated with this ranch for over 50 years, the fact that a woman is operating this ranch — a widow who will be voting on income assurance, I'm sure. Her management of her rangeland and the operation — and I say it with no criticism of her husband — is, in fact, considered by the agricultural department to be far superior to the previous operation. In other words, there has been no major criticism of the handling of these rangelands in the past. Everyone recognizes there can be improvements, but it's felt that since she has taken over the operation, the management has improved considerably.
There has been no consultation between the lands branch and the Department of Agriculture regarding this land and whether or not it should be retained as a grazing lease by this unit, whether it should be and is feasible to put part of the land or the whole of the land into alfalfa production. And the Department of Lands has called for the whole of the land to be in alfalfa production.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. For the benefit of the committee, I would request that the Hon. Member relate her remarks to a specific item in this vote.
MRS. JORDAN; I'm relating this to income assurance, Mr. Chairman, because when I mentioned the upset price to you, you'll realize that the effect on income assurance would be very marked.
There was no consultation between the Lands department and the grazing branch of the Department of Lands. Yet the Lands department has set an upset price of $150,526 to purchase this land, or $7,526 a year to lease this land. That will have a marked effect if this lady goes into income assurance. But even if she enters income assurance, the Minister knows, and I know, that on the basis of the model there is no way a bona fide rancher can at this time incorporate those costs into a viable cattle unit.
[Mr. G.H. Anderson in the chair.]
This lady applied when she heard that the lands branch wanted this to be put in alfalfa production. It was their idea; they haven't discussed it with the Department of Agriculture, and they haven't discussed it with the grazing branch. She applied even though she knew the land and knew that a major portion of it has drainage problems, that it would have to be drained before it could be brought into production — this would probably be in the neighbourhood of $20,000 to $30,000, along with the upset price — that the only water available for irrigating would be by well, and this would involve an entirely independent power system, that the land itself is in a condition of extreme alkalinity due to the flooding problem, and that only a small portion of the land could be brought into even one crop a year of alfalfa production. However, she advised the department that in order to hand on to her lease she would endeavour to bring what parts she could into alfalfa production. But still this department of the czar of this government would not a flow her the right to renew her lease. They set it out for public tender on these terms. Their answer was: "Other people want the land."
Mr. Chairman, when I discussed this with knowledgeable people in agriculture, both from the point of view of practical production and the cost of production, they tell me that there is no way, at today's return for hay production, that anyone could do this on an economically viable basis, even with income assurance. There is no income assurance for hay production at this time, unless they were extremely wealthy and were prepared to subsidize it.
Now my question to the Minister is: why has there been no discussion between your department and the Lands department in this area? Is the Minister prepared to give us a commitment that he will intervene on behalf of this producer? Will the Minister assure us that he will stand behind the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, the White Bay Cattlemen's Association and other people, the MLAs of the area, myself, who want to see that this lady's bona fide ranching rights are protected? Will the Minister advise this House on how many other pieces of Crown land are being alienated from viable production operations by the lands branch — any that he knows about — and does he have any suspicions that there are others that he doesn't know about?
What is the Minister going to do to stop this constant erosion of grazing land? This breaking and chipping away of family production units that are viable is going to destroy agriculture in the cattle industry, whatever you do about income assurance, and it is going to reflect itself in the higher cost of beef to the consumers. So the consumer in British Columbia is going to lose; the producers in British Columbia are going to lose. The then Minister will find himself in a position of propping up a programme which the Minister's own government, or the former government, cut apart.
In other words, where does this Minister of Agriculture stand in weight with the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams)? Why isn't he standing up for the producers in this area? Will he give us the assurance today?
One could almost accuse somebody in this government — and I would assume in this instance it would be the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources, although the Minister of Agriculture could
[ Page 2224 ]
be included if he doesn't defend this woman's right — of practising some form of discrimination. Here we have a lady who is knowledgeable in the business, who is willing to assume the responsibility, and her stumbling block is Big Brother government.
MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Chairman, I would certainly like the Minister to comment on the tax situation a little further than he did yesterday.
HON. MR. STUPICH: In pursuing this question of rural electrification under ARDA, I don't think I can add anything further to what I have said already. It is not an ARDA programme. It would be more appropriate under ARDA, I believe, and could be pursued under that.
The cattle complex. The industry committee is working with the Department of Agriculture, and certainly I'm ready to move as soon as there is agreement reached between the industry committee and the department on the programme.
The Hon. Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland), in asking questions about this vote and code 090 with respect to tax payments on lease lands, should note that it is tax payments on leased land. In other words, on land that is required by the Land Commission and is then available for lease to farmers, under this vote, we would pay taxes levied. All taxes that are levied we pay under this vote. As the property is turned over to my property management branch and is leased out to farmers, then under this vote we accept the responsibility for paying all taxes levied on those lands.
The Assessment Authority. We discussed that. Of course, that is not under my authority at all.
The Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) again, I believe, was attributing to me a quotation to the effect that there was a shortage of funds to meet commitments. I deny making any such statement. There is no shortage of funds to meet commitments, and there will be no commitments beyond my ability to finance those commitments.
With respect to farm income assurance, the total is $27 million. There will be no commitments beyond that. There will be no shortage of funds to meet commitments.
The grazing division used to be under the lands branch. At the request of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association — not simply because they asked for it but certainly in line with the request of the cattlemen's own organization — the grazing division was transferred from lands to the forest branch. The Department of Agriculture has absolutely no authority over the grazing division. The question should be asked of the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams). As I suggested earlier, it is on the heads of the opposition themselves that they don't have time to ask those questions in the proper place.
I was asked if I was going to intervene on behalf of someone who has a problem with the grazing division. Certainly, if that person cares to write me a letter, I'm quite prepared to look into it and to discuss it with the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources.
MRS. JORDAN: There is no liaison between the Agriculture department and the grazing branch. Although the cattlemen recognize....
AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Minister on a point of order.
MRS. JORDAN: They certainly don't want this type of vacant attitude on the part of the Minister. There should be very constant dialogue among the grazing division, the lands branch and the Department of Agriculture. For the Minister of Agriculture, who bends his arm and his elbow, priding himself on his accomplishments, to stand up here and say that he had no intention of rising to the defence of this agricultural production unit is simply unbelievable.
MRS. JORDAN: Well, the original cracker just spoke.
Mr. Chairman, I simply can't accept the Minister's answer. I would impress upon him the need for dialogue between these two branches. There should be no agricultural lands alienated, no grazing lands alienated, without the consultation of the grazing division or without consultation with the Agriculture department. After all, the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources made a statement in the north end of the island that lands are more important than people. Is this policy again being endorsed by this Minister?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I find it difficult to find this under this vote, Madam Member.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, just following the Minister's comments, I would say that his comment that there is no time to bring these matters up under other Ministers' debates should hang very heavy on his head. This government is forcing selective closure on this House. This Minister himself is hiding behind the skirts of the Chairman, is hiding behind the skirts of mother democracy....
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Withdraw! Withdraw!
[ Page 2225 ]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, Madam Member. I can't find that in vote 7 either. Would you please return to vote 7?
I recognize the Hon. Minister of Public Works.
MR. PHILLIPS: There's the Minister of empty office space.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are out of order, Mr. Member.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: They have wasted twice as many hours in this debate as any previous government.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, in the event that the Member was not listening when I spoke on this question of the grazing division, I would like to say once more that the grazing division was under the lands branch, and is now under the forest branch. It has never been under the Department of Agriculture as far back as I can go in history. With respect to what she said, if she knows some of these things, I am surprised that she opens her mouth and says some of the things that she does.
I did not say in the course of my remarks that I was not prepared to discuss this matter with the Minister. I simply said that if that Member or that correspondent wishes to take this up with me or to write to me, then I am quite prepared to discuss it with the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources. But the administration of the grazing division is under the forest branch.
MR. McCLELLAND: It seems as we move along here that we are getting a clearer picture of what the department policy will be with regard to paying municipal taxes. As the picture becomes clearer, it also becomes foggier. The Minister says now that the department will pay full municipal taxes, all taxes, on lands, which have been leased out to farmer-operators. That is fine, although I don't quite understand why we need $100,000 for that purpose. I would expect that good property management would include in a lease the provision for the payment of taxes by the lessee. I think that is normal, standard procedure in leasing property such as this. I don't understand why there needs to be $100,000 for that purpose in this vote.
Further, is the Minister saying that we will pay full municipal taxes on lands that are leased out, but that we won't pay full municipal taxes on land that has not yet been leased out? I would come back to my question about the 2,000 acres in Langley. I know this is under the Land Commission vote, and I can wait if you want, but it is interrelated, Mr. Minister, because, you know, you have said that as they get transferred over to your property management department, then you are going to pay full taxes. But I think the Minister must tell us whether he means that he won't pay full taxes on land that hasn't yet been leased out.
HON. MR. STUPICH: The Member has answered his own question: on land that is leased out the Land Commission will pay taxes. We will discuss Land Commission when we get to that vote. As to why we need $100,000 — we don't know how much land is going to be transferred during the course of the year. In some cases the leases provide for the lesser to pay the taxes; in some cases the lessee. Again, these are all negotiated on a one-to-one basis, and it varies.
MR. McCLELLAND: I won't bring the same matter up again until we get to vote 9, but I did want to ask a couple of other questions regarding the answers the Minister gave in connection with the proposed poultry-processing plant in the interior of British Columbia, The Minister indicated that there wouldn't be any direct subsidy from consolidated revenue, from the taxpayers of this province, for this facility which he has admitted, according to his own feasibility studies, will loose money for at lease three years. The company which is going to operate that proposed facility is 40 per cent owned by the government. Is that not correct? So if any losses, 40 per cent of those losses will be borne by the taxpayers of British Columbia, which in effect is a direct subsidy from the people of British Columbia as long as the government maintains ownership in that facility. If the thing loses money for three years, then the people of British Columbia lose money for three years as well. I would like the Minister to tell me whether he agrees with that assessment or not.
The question I would like to ask in addition to that is: how much intervention, if any, will the Department of Agriculture make to the broiler board to ensure the needed flow of broiler chickens that is necessary for the success of that plant?
How much intervention will the department take part in in order to make sure that we get up to the needs? In the press release that the Minister made on October 16, 1973, he said that to be in a sound economic position the plant required 2.5 million pounds of product annually. Yet presently only some 1,300,000 pounds are available. That's a considerable shortfall at the present time, Mr. Chairman. I wonder how the Minister is going to make up that shortfall?
It's too bad that there wasn't some kind of an outside study done so we could all have a look at it. But the Minister said it was an in-house study. He also promised to tell us how much the projected losses are. I'd like to know whether the feasibility study
[ Page 2226 ]
that the Minister talked about last night recommended any other areas rather than this part of the interior for that poultry-processing plant. For instance, did any of the people in your department recommend that that poultry processing plant might better have gone to the Kootenay area, Prince George or the Peace River area, all of which are served to a large degree by Alberta product at the moment? Even though I understand the criticism that the Okanagan area is served by Fraser Valley chicken to a large degree, at least it's all British Columbia product. In those other areas, it's practically all Alberta product. I'd like to ask whether or not the feasibility study recommended any other area rather than the area in which the poultry-processing plant now seems to be going.
I also would like to point out that the marketing board itself has done a number of feasibility studies. It was pointed out that in the '60s the industry tried to establish in that area on quite a few occasions and always went bankrupt.
MR. LEWIS: That's false.
MR. McCLELLAND: All the feasibilities done since 1968 have pointed out that without some kind of availability of provincial funds, the operation cannot be economically viable.
So, Mr. Chairman, the only other question I'd like to ask in relation to this is: what happens, for instance, if the plant doesn't make money after the three years? Who pays for those losses then? I just think that somewhere along the line there has to be a direct taxpayer subsidy. Even by virtue of the fact that the Government of British Columbia owns a 40 per cent interest in the company which operates it, the losses will be borne to some degree at least by the people of British Columbia.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, is the Minister going to answer the Member for Langley's question?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair cannot force anyone to answer anything, Madam. Do you wish to speak?
MRS. JORDAN: Are you going to answer the Member's questions?
MRS. JORDAN: I'll certainly yield the floor to the Minister if he would like to answer now.
HON. MR. STUPICH: With respect to the 10K plant: as I said yesterday, no direct subsidy. Now that does not preclude the possibility or even the likelihood that they will qualify for assistance under the Farm Products Industry Improvement Act, which calls for a discount of interest.
The three-years losses. The fact that a company in its first three years of operation experiences losses does not mean that the shareholders will be called upon to make up those losses. That would mean calling upon the producers, of course, to put up 60 per cent of the losses in that period. The likelihood is that the losses will be accumulated in the opening years; the hope is that the profits in subsequent years will make up for those losses. There will be no direct government subsidy to make up for the operating losses in the early years.
Any other areas recommended? No, because the possibility of the plant becoming profitable in the future depends upon a relatively large market for the fresh kill. The largest market available, apart from the lower mainland itself, is the Okanagan area. That is why the committee is not recommending, really, that there be any plant in the interior, but if there was going to be one in the interior, it should be in the general Okanagan area.
MRS. JORDAN: Just further to the Minister's statement, I apologize if I missed the point. Who did the studies on the disease factor regarding poultry in the lower mainland? Would the Minister be prepared to make this study available to the House? Also, what studies have been done to ascertain whether there is any danger of there being a disease problem when the transfer of a major portion of poultry production takes place in the Okanagan area?
I think the Minister recognizes that the Okanagan is a very narrow valley. Low water lands are part of our problem. Drainage is a major problem in the area, both subsurface and surface drainage, to the point where certain areas of the area might be, without the Minister's knowledge, absolutely frozen at the moment. You can't build a house; you can't put in a septic tank because of the underground water patterns, which apparently are shifting with geographic shifting of soil. In the last earthquake some shifted. So we're getting extraordinary outcroppings of water, which is reflecting itself in problems of production in major fields as well as septic tanks and in relation to stream areas. In regard to the fact that the Minister has expressed concern about the disease factor, perhaps he would assure us that major studies will be done to be sure that there is no introduction of this factor into the Okanagan.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, the references I made yesterday to the fact that there is increasing concern about the loss of efficiency of poultry meat and egg production in the Fraser Valley, which was attributed to the heavy concentration of poultry population in that area, was reported in a fairly recent issue of Canada Poultryman. I can look
[ Page 2227 ]
that up — I don't recall the author of it, but that's where I read it. I could look it up for the Member if she wants to repeat her request for a copy of that magazine.
With respect to the difficulties about locating the poultry-processing plant in the interior, I appreciate the difficulties and that is why we have been frustrated for a year and a half now in trying to find the best location and a location that would be suitable from every point of view. We're still trying to find that location.
Vote 7 approved.
On vote 8: special and regulatory services programmes, $4,345,770.
MRS. JORDAN: I wonder if the Minister would outline the core of the biological and insect control programme, and whether he is expecting any dramatic breakthrough in these areas in relation to some of the more specific diseases such as the cherry fruitfly.
HON. MR. STUPICH: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the last phrase.
MRS. JORDAN: Are you expecting any dramatic breakthrough or have under study the cherry fruitfly situation? As the Minister may know, this has been a disease disastrous to the cherry producers in the Okanagan because they have had to literally cut out their orchards, good or affected, in order to build up barriers so there couldn't be an extension of this insect.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, either the Member is talking about something that I'm not familiar with or she is referring to the little-cherry disease. Would it be the little-cherry disease problem?
MRS. JORDAN: Locally they call it the cherry fruitfly.
HON. MR. STUPICH: Well, that's one of the means by which they expect that it is spread. Am I expecting any dramatic breakthrough? I don't know. I think I quoted the director of the Agassiz research station some time ago to the effect that all of the easy things have been done. A tremendous amount of research has been done on this question of the little-cherry disease. The fact that we haven't had any such breakthrough, and have no reason to expect that there will be a breakthrough, is the only reason that we're pursuing the only known method of control, which is to eradicate it wherever we see it, to remove infected trees and to remove trees in the vicinity of infected trees.
Things look good now, but there's no telling when there might be another outbreak. All we can do is hope that there will be some breakthrough. That's one of the reasons why we're very concerned that the federal government is not putting as much money into research, into problems such as this, as we would like them to. We're continuing the pressure trying to get them to do so. But I have no reason for expecting a dramatic breakthrough. That doesn't mean that there won't be one. We can only hope.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Members, I would ask leave of the House to make an introduction that was impossible this morning.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have in the galleries — they just came in about five minutes ago — a large music class from John Peterson junior high school in Kamloops, accompanied by Mr. Pashnik and Mr. Epp. I would ask the House to make them welcome. Thank you, Hon. Members.
MR. P.C. ROLSTON (Dewdney): Mr. Chairman, I asked during the votes under the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett), and I'll ask again here: what attempts have you made to try to get taxes off veterinary supplies? I get many letters and phone calls from people, especially in the poultry business, who are still paying sales taxes. That seems quite unnecessary, especially when you think of the kind of money we're talking about in the previous vote for income assurance. If agriculture is all that marginal, surely your department could be making stronger overtures to the Minister of Finance to remove the last vestige of, I think, unnecessary sales taxes on, I gather, all veterinary supplies — and also some, especially for the poultry business, really, strange items. You know, ordinarily I would just assume in agriculture that if you got a tax number you were exempt from all these things. It seems unfortunate. I mentioned it in the Minister of Finance's vote and he suggested I bring it up with you.
MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Chairman, under this vote, under code 20, insect biological control programme, is mosquito control included in the studies that are going on in reference to that?
HON. MR. STUPICH: Not with reference to that $100,000.
MR. McCLELLAND: What's happening with mosquito control? You know, it's really a cumbersome problem now to get spraying done in areas, particularly in my constituency in the Fort Langley area along the Fraser River. The delay of
[ Page 2228 ]
getting cabinet approval to get spraying done sometimes means that, particularly if there's high water, the problem is so bad by the time cabinet approval comes that people are literally driven out of their homes. The cattle are driven off the land.
I don't think that anyone who hasn't experienced the problem on both sides of the Fraser River would ever understand how bad it is — people do get driven out of their homes. Some better form of control has to be established pretty soon.
HON. MR. STUPICH: The question about SS&MA. I can only be consistent here, I suppose. I said in the previous vote, I believe, when asked questions about this that if it were questions about general policy, they should have been asked under my salary vote rather than now. If they were questions about SS&MA, they should have been asked under the Minister of Finance's vote.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, Madam Member. The Minister has the floor.
HON. MR. STUPICH: The Hon. Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) asked me about mosquito control. What we're trying to do here, of course, is walk a tightrope between those people in the community who are concerned about the environment and about the effect of sprays and the people who are concerned about mosquito bites. That's the problem.
Cabinet reacted to this some time ago by saying that we had to have a tighter control of this situation. When requests for spraying came in, they had to be dealt with by cabinet rather than by myself or by someone in my department. Then, as the pressure accumulated from the people who were being bitten by the mosquitoes, the cabinet backed off from that position and gave the responsibility to myself. I, in turn, gave it to officers in the field. And that would certainly be my recommendation.
MR. McCLELLAND: I'd just like to thank the Minister for that comment, because that's the kind of action that's necessary. I must say, too, that any time I've attempted to get approvals, they came very quickly. But you will appreciate that even quickly is too late in some cases.
MRS. JORDAN: ...particularly the insect and biological control programme. It's a new vote here.
I mentioned this under a previous vote; I think I must point it out again, Mr. Minister. I recognize that it is the value we get for the dollar spent that has to be taken into consideration, but I suggest to you it's a fact that there is such limited opportunity for the producer to use sprays that have been vital to his production pattern, the quality control in his production and maintaining a high standard of use for his land. This opportunity is so reduced now by the environmental concerns; reflected in the use of sprays. Your insect biological control programme at this time is simply not going to meet the need that is imposed upon it. Once again, they will not be able to bring up enough answers soon enough to help the producer. We don't want more situations of producers having to kill cattle or seeing their land destroyed because of infestation by weeds or other diseases.
MRS. JORDAN: If the Minister of Agriculture is using the Minister of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Hartley) as one of his most astute advisers, as it appears, no wonder the Minister of Agriculture has got some problems. He certainly has my sympathy in that area.
Once again, the producer's going to be left holding the bag in this area. It's he who is going to have to bear the cost of trying to enter into weed control without the tools he needs, trying to enter into insect control without the tools he needs.
HON. MR. STUPICH: I agree there is this concern in the community about the use of sprays that are so necessary in agricultural production. Last year there was a lot of publicity given to the use of a hormone, Alar, that attracted a lot of attention, much more attention than should have been attracted. I think Canada has an enviable record in the world of protecting the health of her citizens and in controlling the use of insecticides, herbicides and materials of that kind better than any other country in the world. I think our agricultural industry, too, is being very responsible. The insect biological control programme, again, is some recognition of the fact that people are concerned about sprays that we are using.
For some years now a programme has been underway to try to develop another method of controlling the codling moth — that is, sterilizing the males and releasing them. This programme depends upon having enough sterilized males ready to release; it depends first upon a thorough and intensive spray programme to try to reduce the codling population. That will be done this year. It's a joint programme; It's not the producers only who'll be paying for it. The producers, the provincial government and the federal government have agreed that this is the year they're ready to move on a very heavy spray programme, followed by this biological control programme that we hope will give relief from the necessity to spray, at least for a number of years. It's something that has been tried on the laboratory level.
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They're satisfied now that it's worth trying in a practical application. I think it's very interesting, very exciting, and I'm hoping that it will perhaps point the way some day to control mosquitoes.
Vote 8 approved.
On vote 9: Provincial Land Commission: $580,510.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Mr. Chairman, I think it would be very remiss of the opposition to pass vote 9 without some discussion. This was one of the principal policies implemented by this government upon coming to power. It's perhaps been the most contentious piece of legislation, with ICBC a close second. The government takes some pride in stating that no opposition party would have the guts to repeal or substantially alter the Land Commission Act. I think in some measure that's true. The principle was never contested — namely that with only 5 per cent of the land arable in the province we should make some very strenuous efforts to preserve farmland. The principle is sound. We've seen some amazing situations along the way since the Land Commission Act was passed.
I am particularly referring to the fact that we see the government taking a very authoritative position in giving itself authority to act unilaterally regardless of the framework of legislation that applies to other levels of government, particularly the regional and municipal governments in relation to this kind of legislation.
I don't want to waste a lot of time reiterating a point that has been made many times, but I wonder if in the course of replying to these comments on vote 9, the Minister could tell us one or two things. First of all, the Laws Declaratory Act amendment, which we passed, in fact, gives this government complete and total power to act as it sees fit and not to be bound by legislation which would otherwise bind the Crown. In simple terms, Mr. Chairman, the power given to the Land Commission would be to overrule or contradict, or in any way it wishes thwart municipal or regional decisions regarding the use of land or improvements.
Could I ask the Minister: has there been any such action taken using the power under the amendment to the Laws Declaratory Act in the dealings of the Minister's department or of the Land Commission?
Secondly, is there any such situation of controversy pending in the province at the present time where, if local cooperation or local opinion opposes the Minister's wishes or the wishes of the Land Commission...? Does the Minister contemplate that the amendment to the Laws Declaratory Act will be invoked?
[Mr. Dent in the chair.]
The third question I would like to ask relates to a specific example of where conflicting levels of government seem to be either working in isolation or in opposition to one another.
I am referring to the issue that I previously raised about the Columbia Valley area near Chilliwack where a fair amount of publicity was given to the fact that the federal government, apparently acting on its own without consultation with the provincial government, wants to take something of the order of 700 acres of agricultural land for training grounds for army cadets.
The first publicity was given in the newspapers on April 7 of this year, and the matter has been raised in the House in question period, but within the imitations, of time in the question period we haven't really covered this particular aspect of land use where we have the most senior level of government in the country apparently going ahead on its own and trying to acquire options on land with the provincial government being left either in the dark or purposely being avoided.
One of the press statements that appeared at the time of the publicity given to this area near Chilliwack was that: "The defence department agents threatened the owners with expropriation in attempts to get them to sign options on their land." It's quite clear from some of the comments of the individuals who were involved that they really had no wish to sell the land, but a certain amount of coercion or fear was involved.
In the discussions that had taken place with the Department of Defence — I'm sorry to say that the Lieutenant-Colonel concerned — his name is Wallace.... anyway, Lieutenant-Colonel Wallace at the Canadian Forces Base at Chilliwack said that he understood that Ottawa had about $1.8 million to spend and the minimum amount of land required was 700 acres. There were 33 parcels of land and about 24 owners involved. Residents were to be given until June 30, 1976, to get off the land.
Now without going into all the details of this particular issue, I want to just ask a general question and follow it with a specific question. To what degree does the Land Commission maintain close and realistic lines of communication with the federal government? More specifically, in this instance, how can it happen that a substantial area of land of this size can become involved in federal negotiations? When we asked the question in the House, I got the answer, I think both from this Minister and the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams), that to their knowledge they knew nothing about it.
Now who does control Crown land? Who does control land use under Bill 42? Is it the Land
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Commission? I have always been under the impression it was following the fierce debate we had in this House. Or is it possible for the federal government, in their unilateral and authoritarian way, to go and make its own deals with landowners in this particular instance? The Land Commission and the provincial government are very much late on the scene.
To what degree does this government consider it has the final authority, if it so chooses, to cancel any options that have been reached between the landowners and the federal government?
Beyond that, the final specific question is: what rezoning will be involved? This is agricultural land and they want to start having manoeuvres and military training on the land. What classification of land do you need to have cadet training camps?
If rezoning is involved, where does the Land Commission fit into all this? If the federal government has already decided that they want the land for this use, being the senior level of government, can they thwart the power vested in the Land Commission by Bill 42? There are quite a number of questions, I think, that should be asked, not just because of the specific instance but because the same situation will presumably arise in the future.
I wondered also about just a brief question on this coloured brochure put out entitled: "The B.C. Land Commission." I wonder if the Minister could tell us what this cost. Could we find out? Presumably it is an informational brochure to tell the people of the province the progress of the Land Commission activities since the bill was passed. But it is obviously an expensive publication with exceptionally high-quality photographs in technicolor. I just feel that it would be interesting to know the purpose of this brochure and the cost. I wonder if we can be assured that the resignation of the chairman of the Land Commission was purely a voluntary decision by the chairman. In travelling throughout the province I have heard very complimentary things about Mr. Lane and the dedication and sincerity that he brought to this potentially contentious job.
The last question I would like to ask is this. In getting around the province, one of the questions that was raised quite often was the whole question of delay in being able to change the proposals for the agricultural land reserve — the whole question of the time it seemed to take to process applications to have land excluded when the boundaries had previously been proposed by the regional district.
The other point I would like the Minister to clarify is the speed and efficiency with which land which clearly is not agricultural land and which on many occasions has been included in the land reserve can be made available, if possible, for housing purposes. I notice that in Prince Rupert the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District says it really can't afford to process property owners' appeals under the agricultural land reserve Act. They are only allowed to charge $25, but each appeal costs something in the nature of $300 to $400 for all the paperwork and processing. I am quoting from a fairly recent statement back at the end of March. The district board chairman, Peter Lester, complained that the cost is a real problem to the regional district, with the continued attempt by one government to exploit another level of government by passing on costs which they find difficult to bear.
Of course, that leads to the final point that there has been some debate in various areas that the Land Commission has purchased land and then does not pay the equivalent of full taxes. I gather the Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) had already raised this issue some time ago. The statement was made, I think by Mr. Lane, in refuting the charge that indeed they do pay full taxes on any property acquired under their authority. But it would be nice to hear that commitment from the Minister, because throughout this session of the Legislature, through various other departments we have heard of the difficulties of local government whenever the provincial government acquires land or improvements. I am thinking particularly of the City of Victoria, where there is tremendous apprehension by the mayor and council, for example, at the proposal to build more and more government offices in the city.
On this side of the House, we would like once and for all to try and get a commitment out of this government that whether it is the Land Commission or Public Works or Highways or anybody else, the municipalities will be assured of receiving from the provincial government the full amount of funding by whatever vehicle, which is equivalent to what any private individual would be paying in property taxation. The statement has been made that the Land Commission is paying the equivalent of full taxes. I wonder if the Minister could give us a commitment not only that this is the case but that this will be the policy in the future.
MS. K. SANFORD (Comox): Establishing the Land Commission Act and the Land Commission is probably the finest thing that this government has done in these two and a half years that it has been in office. Future generations are going to thank the Minister and the government for the courage they have shown in taking action on this very important matter. Not only will future generations be ensured that there will be farmland on which to grow food here in British Columbia, but other jurisdictions across Canada and in North America are looking very closely at this legislation. I understand they are contemplating introducing similar legislation.
The whole of North America will be thanking you, Mr. Minister, for the efforts which you have made.
[ Page 2231 ]
There are always problems when you establish legislation which applies to land throughout the province. In a riding like Comox, particularly in the southern part of the riding where there is a good deal of farmland, there has been a problem in establishing the agricultural land reserve. No doubt the Land Commission was keen to establish the reserves as quickly as they possibly could because people found that their property was under a freeze passed by order-in-council and were anxiously waiting to have the agricultural land reserves completed and put into place.
As a result, I am quite confident that the Land Commission would have wished for more time in establishing these maps throughout the province. I'm thinking particularly now of Cortes Island, where the Cortes Island residents were quite dissatisfied with the way in which the agricultural land reserve maps have been drawn up for their particular area. The Cortes Island residents brought their problems to my attention and to the attention of the committee which was travelling, looking at the matter of the islands trust. They brought to our attention the problems they found with respect to the agricultural land reserve maps on Cortes Island. They complained to me, they wrote to me, and I made some inquiries on their behalf of the Land Commission.
To the credit of the Land Commission, they took seriously the complaints of the residents on Cortes Island and sent out an expert to the island who spent several days there meeting with the residents, talking to them, looking at the land, travelling the island. Consequently a new agricultural land reserve map has been established for Cortes Island, in consultation with the residents there.
Mr. Minister, I would like to read, for the benefit of the House today and for your benefit, a letter from Mr. John Spellman, who is secretary-treasurer of the Cortes Island Ratepayers' Association, who writes:
We want to thank you for arranging for the Land Commission to send Mr. Terry Lewis to go over the land on Cortes and to draft a new map of the agricultural reserve lands. His work was so well done that we were able to recommend approval of the map exactly as he drew it.
"If this degree of thoughtfulness and willingness to work with local people were more widely applied, a great deal of resistance to new programmes would be removed. Our attitude changed from wanting none of it to a sense of satisfaction at having participated in protecting one aspect of our future."
I compliment the Land Commission on their response to this particular request, and, Mr. Minister, I compliment you for that whole piece of legislation.
MR. McCLELLAND: If I could just follow up on the problem of taxation for a moment, Mr. Chairman, the Minister asked me if I would discuss this part of the taxation problem in this vote.
He said earlier that all property purchased by the Land Commission which was leased would pay full municipal taxes. Okay. The question is, again: will property which has not yet been leased pay full municipal taxes? Will the 2,000 acres which has been purchased by the Land Commission in Langley pay full municipal taxes? I say again that those taxes will be approximately $120,000 this year. They were about $100,000 last year in total taxes. Will the Land Commission pay those taxes? Or will the Land Commission only pay up to 15 mills on property which it has not yet leased?
MR. C. LIDEN (Delta): That's Socred policy.
MR. McCLELLAND: It's NDP policy. Mr. Chairman, I would like to remind some of the Members who happen to be the government at this time that it is NDP policy. That's what it is.
On those lands which have not yet been leased, will the Land Commission pay school taxes? In other words, will they pay full municipal taxes on all the land which has not yet been leased?
I would like to ask the Minister if any decision has been made yet about what will be done with that 2,000 acres that was purchased in Langley from private ownership, and whether or not feasibility studies are going on, whether any planning studies are going on, whether or not the municipality of Langley and the Central Fraser Valley Regional District are involved in any of those discussions. It was quoted, when that land was bought, that there was full discussion with municipal officials before they bought that 2,000 acres, a pretty large chunk in a municipality like Langley. But only a couple of days later both the mayor of Langley and the municipal administrator expressed complete ignorance of any negotiations that were going on by the Land Commission. So the Land Commission is still going out without consultation with the local municipalities and just buying up land wherever it feels like it is going. I would like to ask the Minister why the Land Commission felt it had to buy these 2,000 acres in the first place, particularly since it said that it didn't have any real plans for the land at this time? Mr. Chairman, I don't know whether you are aware of this, but there was a verbal agreement at least — and that is, of course, not really the responsibility of the Land Commission or the Minister — but I would like him to be aware that there was a verbal agreement with the previous owners that if there was to be any change in the ownership of that land, the strawberry farmers in the area would be given first chance to purchase it if they wanted to. Now they have lost
[ Page 2232 ]
that chance. Will they be given and are they being given the opportunity to lease that land right now? Will the land that is in strawberry production be left in strawberry production?
I would like to ask the Minister, too, whether or not the municipality of Surrey will be receiving full municipal taxes on the Kennedy farm, a 235-acre vegetable-growing operation which the Land Commission bought for just under $1 million. It is interesting that the owner of that property, Mr. Kennedy, was quoted as saying before he sold that he had an offer from a California company to buy that and he would be silly to take any offer without going to the government. He said that if you want to make a big profit, run to the Land Commission or the government because they will pay anything for property. Mr. Chairman, I would like to know what future plans there are for that property.
If the government doesn't embark on an ongoing programme and an upgrading programme of flood and drainage control in the area where they bought that Kennedy farm, that Kennedy farm won't be there very long. In fact, there will be no vegetable growing in that whole area. As the effluents continue to build and we continue to blacktop and remove trees from that area, the flow into that lowlands, which is the salad bowl of Canada right now, is just becoming too much for the present equipment to handle. The Land Commission was requested by Surrey municipality and by the diking commission to hold a special inquiry to find out whether or not some funds could be found to make available an increased programme in that area that would allow that part of British Columbia to expand its vegetable-growing operation and to make sure that the housewives in the City of Vancouver get the opportunity to buy locally produced products for a much longer part of the year and on a much more steady and reliable supply rate. But without it, that is an impossible situation.
The water resources branch seems bent on allowing that property to return to sea water. The latest was a proposal on a joint federal-provincial sharing programme which the water resources board shot down in flames without ever doing any kind of a proper feasibility study, without ever approaching even the Agriculture department in the Cloverdale or Surrey area, without approaching any of the farmers, without approaching anyone. They turned the thing down, shot it down in flames, and said: "I'm sorry, there will be no money available because it isn't economically feasible."
Is that the attitude the Agriculture department has as well? That kind of surface study, certainly not in-depth study, by the water resources branch says it isn't economically feasible. Is the Minister of Agriculture prepared to say that that whole couple-of-thousand-acre area which could be producing vegetables for almost all of the province is going to return to sea water? I don't think that is what the Minister wants. At least, I hope it isn't. I hope that he will press the Land Commission to get on with some kind of a study and find some money so that drainage and diking in that area can be upgraded immediately.
Mr. Chairman, I think it is time we did know just exactly where this government stands now and where the Land Commission stands in relation to those tax situations that I have raised. I would ask the Minister to comment.
MR. H. STEVES (Richmond): At this time, I would like to give my thanks to Bill Lane, who was the chairman of the Land Commission and is now retired from that job. Mr. Lane was the solicitor for Richmond for many years and I was able to work with him on land matters in Richmond. He did a fine job in Richmond and I think, a very fine job for the Land Commission. His job was well done; he has done the job of getting the Land Commission started. I think that was a major job. I would like to wish him luck in his new endeavours.
Mr. Chairman, at this time, however, I would like to raise the matter which is of very much concern to me in Richmond and also to my fellow MLA in Delta (Mr. Liden). That is the state of which the GVRD calls the "secondary land reserves." At the present time, we are faced with hearings coming up on May 21, being sponsored by the GVRD at the Town and Country Motel in Delta, with regard to about 6,000 acres of farmland in Richmond and Delta. Much of it, a large proportion, is No. 1 land; some of it is 2 and 3. But it is prime farmland. I want to raise this because what we are facing is a degradation of the Land Commission Act through the processes of the secondary reserves and what is happening in these ridings.
In specific, I would like to refer to what has happened at the Delta council. The Delta council, with only one dissenting vote, called for the removal of the secondary reserve from the land Act.
In Richmond, they did not call for the removal of a good portion of the land, largely because people had protested last fall. We had a 9,000-name petition to prevent rezoning of a piece of land that was unsuccessful, but the general feeling of the public was that the land in the agricultural reserve should remain as agricultural land. The council, aware of this, turned down applications to take land out of the reserve recently. But the rider in this was that it didn't lead into their five-year plan and they didn't want to see the land taken out at this time. So they, too, have left a feeling of impermanence in the minds of the bona fide farmers and the residents of the community. It is this feeling of impermanence that I am very much concerned about.
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What happens is that speculators move into the areas and are still buying up the land. They are paying fantastic prices for the land. The speculators who own some of the farmlands in these areas are also appealing on May 21 to the GVRD hearings. They are claiming that the land isn't good agricultural land because they can't make enough money on it. What they are doing, of course, is leasing the land out to farmers for around $65 an acre. The same land, if it was that good a quality, would be at least double that price further up the valley. In Mission and other areas where the land isn't as good, land is being leased out at $100 to $120 an acre, but in Richmond it is being leased by the speculators at $65 an acre and they are claiming losses on their land.
Some of the people who own the farmland in Richmond have briefs and petitions: Rideau Investments, Abbey Glen Property Corp., Northern Condominiums, Sturgeon Developments, Wall and Redekop, Golden Land Development, Temple Construction, Quilechena Golf and Country Club — it's an unending list. This is just a start of the attacks on land reserves.
What it amounts to is that if any of this land is removed from the reserve, it will increase the impermanence of agriculture in the area, the feeling of impermanence on the part of the bona fide farmers. Also, it will increase the dependency of the farmers upon services elsewhere. For example, we used to have a B&K feed outlet in Richmond for providing feed; now the nearest is Ladner. We used to have tractor repairs and sales; now the nearest is Langley. And as another farm goes down, then there are less farmers to serve and the services go further out of town.
I'm sorry, it looks like I haven't too much time, but I have one very serious aspect of this which I would like to raise. There is one portion of land — and I want to give this as an example — 324 acres in the area south of Steveston Highway adjacent to Shell Road and Steveston Highway. In 1970 to 1971, this land was purchased by a German company, Fromm and Sichel — which has their head office for Canada in San Francisco — for a price of $1,100,000, or approximately $3,500 an acre. On January 31, 1974, after the Land Commission Act had been passed, Western Realty Projects picked up an option on this land for $4,272,000, or $13,000 an acre. Now Western Realty, I might add, is the company that I raised in my speech in the Legislature on the Land Commission Act. It had written secret internal documents saying that they were willing to take risks and risk their capital on purchasing land in the agricultural zone. Prior to Bill 42, the land was zoned by the municipality as agricultural. In January 31, 1974, they extended that risk to risking their capital in the agricultural zone after Bill 42 had come about. At any rate, they did drop the option and the next option was picked up by Adera Construction and Techrarn Securities Ltd., for $5,932,000, or $18,000 an acre. This option has recently been transferred as of February 24, 1975 to Gilmour Estates for $18,000 an acre. The address of the lawyers handling it is McLean, Hungerford & Simon in Vancouver. Mr. McLean, as it turns out, is the same lawyer who was representing NuWest Developments in the Riverside hearings that we had last fall. And I happen to have some information from someone whom Mr. McLean had contacted when he was setting up a syndicate to buy the land. The feeling of these financiers he was trying to interest in buying the land was that $18,000 an acre, or $5,932,000, was a good investment because they hoped that there would be a change in government and they would be able to get the land out of the zone sometime in the future. Now this is what I am talking about as impermanence.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): Tell us about your farm. What's happened to it?
MR. STEVES: The change in government, Mr. Chairman, is such that if there is a change in government and these people are able to get their land out of the reserve, they will sell that land for a value of $70,000 an acre, or a total of $22 million, for a profit of $15 million for rezoning this one piece of farm property. Now that, Mr. Chairman, is what I am worth as an MLA to that developer if I don't get re-elected. That's what this government is worth to that developer if this government doesn't get re-elected. They, the opposition, can holler if they want, but that's the kind of money that is involved in my riding right now — just from one farm area is $15 million. Now swallow that if you like: $15 million, and that's what it's worth for the developers to get those guys elected.
MR. FRASER: Tell us about yours.
MR. STEVES: I just raised this because I want people to be aware of how much is at stake in the next election and how much is at stake at these hearings that are being sponsored by the GVRD on May 21.
I would like to suggest that the government should consider taking actions to assure that these lands remain in the agricultural reserve and that none of these farms are allowed to be frittered away and allowed to gradually go down the hill until there's no agricultural land left and no services to serve the farmers in those communities.
Mr. Chairman, I think that the opposition should stand up and be counted in this matter and tell us what they're going to do, especially if some of these people offer them campaign funds to help them out in the coming election campaign.
[ Page 2234 ]
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, the Hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Steves) was expressing some concern about the so-called secondary reserves presumed to have been established in the Greater Vancouver Regional District area. These so-called secondary reserves have no basis in legislation. The Land Commission Act provided for a reserve to be established of agricultural land. Any land that is in the agricultural land reserve will be dealt with by appealing to the Land Commission if anyone wants to make any changes in the boundaries or the Land Commission land.
So the fact that some people look on some of these areas as being more accessible than others in the agricultural land reserve has no basis in legislation. Each case and each appeal will have to be dealt with in the regular course of events by going, as the legislation provides, first to the regional district. If the appellant is successful at the regional district level, the appeal then goes to the Land Commission. If successful at the Land Commission level it then comes to myself as Minister of Agriculture. So there is this procedure laid on and there's no difference in the eyes of the legislation between so-called primary and so-called secondary reserves.
The Hon. Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) asked some questions about the Kennedy farm and about taxation policy and about other areas acquired by the Land Commission.
In the two previous votes, discussing the money that is available there for paying taxes on land that had been leased out, I said what the policy was with respect to land that was leased out. With respect to other land that is acquired by the Land Commission, those of you who will recall the legislation realize that the Land Commission may acquire land for other purposes. It may acquire it for land banking, it may acquire it for park purposes, for example, it may acquire it for agricultural purposes, and greenbelt as well. There are different purposes.
When land is acquired for any one of these purposes and when the purpose is identified — whether it's identified before or after — whichever comes first, then the property in course of time is transferred to the appropriate department for administration.
I have answered what the policy is with respect to land that is leased out for agricultural purposes. I cannot answer for what government policy might be with respect to park purposes, for example. There may be some change in that. I have told you that today the Land Commission is paying full taxes on land that the Land Commission has acquired. I cannot commit the government to a future course of action with respect to land acquired for other purposes. I can say what it is today, and I can say what the policy is with respect to land that is acquired for agricultural programmes.
MR. McCLELLAND: Where is the money in the budget for that?
HON. MR. STUPICH: It's in the $25 million Land Commission fund and the balance remaining — some $11 million at this time. The Land Commission uses those funds for various purposes, and if you follow the legislation you'll know that they can do all kinds of things besides acquire property. They can make improvements on property; they have the authority to enter into all kinds of agreements and all kinds of programmes. So the Land Commission has the authority to pay items like that out of the fund.
The accusation that the commission will pay anything. I'm very surprised that the Hon. Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) attributes that remark to the owner of farmland who had to deal with the Land Commission. The Land Commission has been very careful in its dealings, in its acquisitions of farms. It is very careful to get outside appraisals as well as in-house appraisals of land before it ever enters into a deal. I've had many letters across my desk where farmers have approached the Land Commission, have tried to sell their land to the Land Commission and have complained that the Land Commission is too tough when it comes to negotiating price. The Land Commission has taken the stand that it is prepared, in the event that it is interested in purchasing a particular piece of property — either because it wants to stop the breakup of a farm unit or because it wants to pursue the policy of acquiring a buffer zone of farmland — to pay only the agricultural value. There have been one or two exceptions — for example, in the case of land that was acquired for allotment garden purposes. Again, as far as the Land Commission is concerned, it will pay the agricultural value. If anything in excess of agricultural value has to be paid for land that the government in its wisdom wants to purchase, then the Land Commission point of view is that it will pay only that portion of the price which can be attributed to the farm value of that property. Any difference in the price must be charged against some other fund or some other department of government.
So I'm very surprised at any suggestion that the Land Commission is paying more than the appraised value under any circumstances.
Is the Agriculture department willing to lose that particular site to the sea water — the 2,000 acres he talked of? The Agriculture department has persisted in that position from the beginning. It's our determination that this land is important agricultural land and that it will be retained for food production.
With respect to the taxation policy for the Langley land, I have already spoken on that.
Planning for the use. I answered a question in oral question period one day and told you that the Land Commission itself was doing the planning for
[ Page 2235 ]
development of that 2,000-acre acquisition.
With respect to the leases, again, I answered in oral question period that leases for the strawberry farmers have already been arranged, I believe for all of them. I wasn't aware myself that there was ever a verbal promise that the strawberry growers would have that right. I suppose a verbal promise is only as good as the person who gives it. Nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge, leases have been entered into for all of the strawberry farmers in that area.
Why did we feel we had to buy it? We didn't feel we had to buy it, but here was an area of some 2,000 acres. We knew from the quality of the land in that 2,000 acres, most of which was in the ALR, if not all of it, and the pressures from areas around there that if this 2,000 acres changed from one private ownership to a number of private ownerships — this was the alternative — the owners presented to us — the likelihood was that there would be tremendous pressure on the Land Commission to start releasing part of the 2,000-acre block.
We felt it was a very important area, one that was worth saving and one that was offered to us at a price considerably lower than the appraised value for land of that kind in that area. For those reasons, while we didn't feel we had to buy it, we felt that it was in the interests of developing our own policy and in the interests of the people of British Columbia as a whole that the Land Commission did proceed to acquire that land, and it did.
The Hon. Member for Comox (Ms. Sanford), in describing the work of the Land Commission in her own riding, described actually what the chairman — and Mr. Lane is still the chairman — talks about as the fine-tuning process that has been in effect. As each s ALR is established, regional district by regional district, there is this fine-tuning process that provides for changes to be made in the agricultural land reserves.
The Hon. Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) asked the same question.... He's not in his seat, but I'll deal with the questions he asked about our policy on property taxes. I've already answered that question. This is the first time in this debate this question has been asked about the cost of appeals from the point of view of the regional districts. I have had representation from a number of regional districts, and as recently as Wednesday of this week had an extensive discussion with the Land Commission. I met with them for about five hours.
One of the questions raised during that discussion was this recurring request from regional districts that they receive some financial assistance to deal with these many appeals which they are getting. Fortunately, the number of appeals is dropping off and the nature of the appeals is changing. But, nevertheless, regional districts are still having to deal with these appeals.
The Land Commission presented their point of review. They endorsed the position of the regional districts: that is to the effect that there should be some financial assistance for regional districts. I will be discussing this with the Minister of Municipal affairs (Hon. Mr. Lorimer) when he returns. I intend to discuss it with him Monday and hope to be able to announce that some assistance is available to regional districts in financing the cost of appeals.
How quickly can non-agricultural land be removed from the agricultural land reserve? It depends entirely on the circumstances and the nature of the land and he urgency of the request. The Land Commission is sealing with these requests one by one as they come in. The City of Kamloops came in with an appeal that dealt with 14 different areas, a total of 4,000 acres. It took a long time to deal with that block appeal, if you like. But, in the course of time, some 2,325 acres were deleted from the agricultural land reserve — part of the process of fine-tuning that is going on.
The resignation of the chairman. I can assure the House that I regret very much that the chairman designed from the Land Commission. He assures me hat there was never any suggestion that it was because he couldn't work with his fellow commission members or that he was having any trouble at all in supporting government policy with respect to the and Commission. It was just that he had an opportunity to go to alternative employment that appealed to him. He wrote me a letter to that effect. The press release, I think, indicated that there was nothing in it other than an opportunity to go to something else.
The Columbia Valley and Chilliwack — whether or not rezoning will be required. This is one of the uses, strangely enough — it may seem strange right now — hat can be accommodated under the Land Commission Act.
HON. MR. STUPICH: I don't like it either. I was very surprised, for example, to find out that when the and Commission was asked about this — not officially, but in letters — they took a stand that this was not an irreversible use of that land. The Land commission, to my dismay and astonishment, was not prepared to come out in strong opposition to this federal government proposal. They couldn't stop it anyway.
HON. MR. STUPICH: But I'm not interfering with them; they have the right to pass that advice on. But I was very surprised to find that out. As far as the crown land is concerned — I think completely, if not almost so — it is not in the ALR. Most of the privately owned land is in the ALR. The federal
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government can take it anyway and do whatever; they have
that constitutional authority.
I said in question period one day that we would check that. We are now satisfied that they have the authority to do it. I understand also that the federal government or the department involved is prepared to enter into lease agreement with the farmers from whom they are expropriating the land so that they may continue to use the land for farming.
They say that they can continue this, but the federal government feels that it has to have control of the land — the sort of ownership.
Where local boards have conflicting positions, what will be the policy? Well, of course, if we felt that the local regional districts could handle this we would never have gone through the bill 42 debate in the first place. The local regional districts had the authority to deal with this, but it was because they did not accept responsibility that we had to act.
I was surprised when the Hon. Member said that the opposition parties together did not oppose the principle of Bill 42, because certainly there is ample evidence that the opposition parties, all of them did their best to oppose the principle of Bill 42 on every occasion on the floor of the House and in public. They opposed the principle; they voted unanimously against the principle of the legislation when we discussed it in second reading. If they supported the principle they had the opportunity to say so and vote for it in general principle in second reading, but they opposed the principle completely.
They are on record, Mr. Chairman, as opposing it all the way down the line. The official opposition did not even present amendments to it. They went on record and they maintained their position of constant opposition, trying to obstruct the work of the Land Commission, trying to do away with it. Not only that, Mr. Chairman, but I asked the official opposition three times today to take this opportunity to go on record as saying they supported the principle of farm income assurance. They declined to do so. I ask them now to go on record as saying how they feel about the work of the Land Commission.
I would like to read into the record, Mr. Chairman a quotation.... There was one question about this publication. I don't know just how many were published, but they cost 70 cents each.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Hon. Second Member for Victoria on a point of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Mr. Chairman, the Minister has made a number of statements, one of which I know to be untrue, namely the statement that this party opposed the principle....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. This is not a point of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Yes, it is. You have the opportunity of correcting the Minister when he made the false statement. I know he has done this unwittingly....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: If he casts his mind back to the debate he will see that the principle of protecting farmland was accepted by this party....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Rodney, sit down!
[Mr. Chairman rises]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
[Mr. Chairman resumes his seat]
HON. MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I can only repeat my statement, and that is that when we voted in second reading we voted on general principle and the opposition unanimously voted against it. But to bring this back to the heads of the official opposition, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) he said, and this is a newspaper report of a speech, in The Vancouver Sun, February 13, 1975: "A Social Credit government would return control over land zoning to regional districts."
Mr. Chairman, that's where it was in the first place! It was because they weren't doing a good job of protecting farmland that we had to go through Bill 42, and we had to bring to another level of government with the control to save farmland for the people of today and for posterity. It was worth it. We saved the farmland, and even the Leader of the Opposition would eat those words if the time should ever come to pass that he would lead a government in the Province of British Columbia!
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports resolution and asks leave to sit again.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: A point of order. Mr. Speaker, I have no wish to suggest that the House be tied up on procedural matters. However, the wording of rule 45(3).... I have to state this is rule 45(3) on page 18, because there happen to be three rules 45(3) in the book. This indicates: "At the conclusion of the 45 sittings," which has just happened, "or the conclusion of 135 hours contemplated under this standing order, whichever shall last occur, the Chairman of the Committee of Supply shall forthwith put all questions necessary...."
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Obviously this requires going back into committee at once. I merely suggest, Mr. Speaker, that as it is not possible and the wording of this rule does not say "at the next sitting of the committee" but says "shall forthwith," I suggest that this House pass a motion unanimously to waive this rule 45 so that the provisions of rule 3 can apply.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): On this point of order raised by the Hon. Liberal leader (Mr. D.A. Anderson) it seems to me that the definition of "forthwith" means with all reasonable haste, and I would ask Mr. Speaker to review the rules and the parliamentary interpretations of the word "forthwith." It appears me that "in all reasonable haste" means that it is the first order of business whenever the House, in its normal time, sits. There is no need whatsoever to waive the rule as it now stands.
MR. SPEAKER: I don't think we are dealing yet with the question of a motion. I think we first have to deal with the interpretation of the rule as to what happens at this time.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I have no wish to dispute with the Hon. Minister on whether waiting more than 24 hours constitutes "with all reasonable speed." I believe that what we should do, Mr. Speaker, is simply to waive rule 45, which is clearly inapplicable, and I so move.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the point of order is the first consideration — what the rule means.
MR. SPEAKER: I was going to say that the first consideration has to be the point of order on the interpretation of the rule before you make any proposals to change it by any motion of the House. It would, of course, take a substantive motion in any event to change an order of the House. That would require notice and would require debate and considerable consideration of the change.
The real question before the House now is that upon the conclusion of the estimates, it requires, under this standing order, that the votes and all questions necessary to carry every vote and item of each estimate shall be put. The word "forthwith" is included there.
Now it is obvious that the rules of the House still prevail over the Committee of the Whole House. When it says "forthwith, " it means whenever the committee is sitting. The committee is not now sitting. We are in the House. Therefore the House will carry on its normal business of adjournment and renewal of its requirements under sessional orders as are provided in standing orders.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May I please explore this matter? It is a serious matter.
Therefore the situation is that we are now in the House. The House has to meet again. Since the time has come for adjournment — it is after 1 o'clock — the usual motion is that we designate the time of the next sitting as ordered by the House. That would mean that that motion would have to be put now. Then, we have a sessional order that was adopted on February 27 which stated:
"That this House will at its next sitting resolve itself into a committee to consider the supply to be granted to Her Majesty, and that this order have precedence over all other business, except introduction of bills, until disposed of." This means that every day, without question, unless there has been a substantive change, this House will resolve itself into Committee of Supply so that on the next sitting after today, whenever that is appointed by this House, that committee will be called again until all its business is disposed of or until it rises and is called again on a subsequent day.
That is the situation as I interpret it from the standing order 45(3) referred to. We are not now in Committee of the Whole House. I presume that the matter will come up again on Monday in the normal course and Committee of Supply will be called. As I see it, the situation on Monday is that Committee of Supply will be called and we will then comply with the standing order as usual.
Hon. Mrs. Dailly moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 1: 11 p.m.