1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4, 1975
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Motor-vehicle Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 108). Hon. Mr. Strachan. Introduction and first reading — 3047
Natural Gas Revenue Sharing Act (Bill 110). Hon. Mr. Lorimer. Introduction and first reading — 3047
Municipalities Aid Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 106). Hon, Mr. Barrett. Introduction and first reading — 3047
British Columbia Auditor General Act (Bill 123). Mr. Gardom Introduction and first reading — 3047
An Act to Amend the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act (Bill 124). Mr. D.A. Anderson. Introduction and first reading — 3047
Interim supply requirements. Mr. Bennett — 3047
Regular reports from ICBC. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3048
Law courts renovation. Mr. Wallace — 3049
Imported frozen butter. Mrs. Jordan — 3049
BCR work stoppage at Fort St. James. Mr. Fraser — 3050
Election expense bill. Mr. Gibson — 3050
Drug traffic in B.C. airports. Mr. L.A. Williams — 3050
Copper task force report. Mr., Richter — 3051
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 68). Third reading.
Division on third reading — 3051
Legal Professions Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 76). Third reading — 3051
Automobile Insurance Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 69). Third reading.
Division on third reading — 3052
Trade Practices Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 88). Third reading — 3052
Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act (Bill 85). Committee stage.
Amendment to section 3 Mr. Wallace — 3052
Amendment to section 3. Mr. Smith — 3053
Mr. Chairman rules out of order — 3054
On section 3. Mr. Smith — 3054
Amendment to section 3. Mr. Wallace — 3055
On section 4. Mr. Gibson — 3055
Amendment to section 6. Hon. Mr. King — 3056
On section 6 as amended. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3057
Amendment to section 6 as amended. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3057
Amendment to section 7. Hon. Mr. King — 3058
Division on amendment to section 7 — 3060
On section 9. Mr. Gibson — 3061
Amendment to the title. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3061
Report stage — 3062
Savings and Trust Corporation of British Columbia Act (Bill 86). Committee stage.
On section 1. Mr. Morrison — 3062
Amendment to section 3. Mr. Bennett — 3062
Hospital Insurance Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 98). Committee, report and third reading — 3069
Workers Compensation Amendment Act (Bill 105). Second reading. Hon. Mr. King — 3069
Municipal Amendment Act, 1075 (Bill 103). Second reading. Hon. Mr. Lorimer — 3073
Renters Resource Grant Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 104). Second reading. Hon. Mr. Nicolson — 3074
Health Statutes Amendment Act, 1975 (Bill 102). Second reading. Hon. Mr. Cocke — 3077
Privilege Control of government expenditures. Mr. Gibson — 3079
The House met at 2 p.m.
Introduction of bills.
MOTOR-VEHICLE AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
Hon. Mr. Strachan presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 1975.
Bill 108 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.
HON. J.G. LORIMER (Minister of Municipal Affairs): Mr. Speaker, with your consent, I missed the introductions, and I do have a group of children — not children, really, students — from Moscrop junior high who are here in the gallery, and I would like the House to join me in welcoming them.
MR. SPEAKER: I'll see if my consent can be obtained.
HON. MR. LORIMER: Are there any other introductions?
MR. SPEAKER: I think you have already introduced them. Do you have some more?
HON. MR. LORIMER: No, but I have some messages.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I think message bills come before anything, if advantage is taken of message bills.
Does the Minister have something further to add?
HON. MR. LORIMER: A message bill, but there seem to be further introductions.
MRS. D. WEBSTER (Vancouver South): I, too, would like to have consent to make an introduction. I would like the House to welcome a group of students from Strathcona School with their teachers, one of whom is Mr. Kehar Sekhon, who is a leader in the East Indian-Canadian community in Vancouver South. I would like this House to welcome them.
HON. A.A. NUNWEILER (Minister Without Portfolio): Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome a group of students who have come a long, long way to observe our proceedings here today. They are a group of students from the secondary school of Valemont, and their teacher, Orville Brown.
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): I'd like to welcome a group of students from what used to be Rutland, but is now Northeast Kelowna since we had our enlarged city, and I ask the House to bid them and their teachers welcome.
NATURAL GAS REVENUE SHARING ACT
Hon. Mr. Lorimer presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Natural Gas Revenue Sharing Act.
Bill 110 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.
AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
Hon. Mr. Barrett presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Municipalities Aid Amendment Act, 1975.
Bill 106 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.
AUDITOR GENERAL ACT
On the motion by Mr. Gardom, Bill 123, British Columbia Auditor General Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. D. BARRETT (Premier): Is that the end of the independents' legislative programme?
AN ACT TO AMEND THE MUNICIPALITIES
ENABLING AND VALIDATING ACT
On a motion by Mr. D.A. Anderson, Bill 124, an Act to Amend the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act, 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.
INTERIM SUPPLY REQUIREMENTS
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier and Minister of Finance.
On March 26 the Premier brought to the interim supply bill, which was for $537 million, or one-sixth
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of the proposed budget, which I presume would cover two months of expenditure so that the much-needed programmes could continue while democracy took place and we discussed the estimates. Has this amount been adequate, and do we need a new supply bill now that it's June 4?
HON. MR. BARRETT: I'll take the question as notice.
MR. BENNETT: While you're taking it as notice, there's a problem that relates to this, if I might just read a letter. There's some confusion in the public from a small business in Penticton which writes to me quite concerned. He says:
"We were successful in winning a number of truck tenders totalling 120 trucks. To date, out of these 120 trucks, we've only put out some 15 trucks, and the various departments, such as fish and wildlife, forestry, parks branch, and so forth, have cancelled all other orders. They cannot take any trucks until the budgets have been approved by the Legislature.
"In addition to this, the departments have notified university help they cannot hire them at the present moment, due to the fact that the budgets have not been approved."
Has the Minister advised his departments to advise the public that normal business is being held up because the Legislative estimates have not been passed?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, I understood the slogan was "not a dime without debate," so I suggest that you write a letter and tell him where the fault lies.
MR. BENNETT: Supplemental. Is the Minister saying, then, that the departments have been authorized to spread this misinformation because of their new austerity programme... ?
MR. BENNETT: I want to find out. Are the rights of the Legislature being blamed, after we passed an interim supply bill, for the government holding back on contracts?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the question is more rhetorical than argumentative.
MR. BENNETT: No, it isn't.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the Hon. Member rephrase his question so we can grasp the full intent of it?
MR. BENNETT: The question is, because this has been offered as a reason for business contracts not being continued that were awarded to this truck firm, would the Minister of Finance please advise the House that surely the departments are not under instructions to blame a slowdown in government activity on the rights of the Legislature to debate estimates after we passed an interim supply bill?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Not a dime without debate, Mr. Speaker.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, that's a frivolous answer. (Laughter.)
MR. BENNETT: Would the Minister take it as notice, then?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. BENNETT: Do you mean that the departments have been advised to play politics, and blame it on the Legislature?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
REGULAR REPORTS FROM ICBC
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Can I ask the Minister of Transport and Communications whether ICBC provides him with a monthly progress report on the operations of the corporation?
HON. R.M. STRACHAN (Minister of Transport and Communications): I attend directors' meetings. They're held when required. It depends on what is on the agenda whether or not there's a monthly report.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Could I ask the Minister more specifically, then whether he receives a report from ICBC on a monthly, or at least regular, basis which includes information on estimated profits and losses, and in particular if the Minister would check whether he received such a report for July of last year?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I get indications, reports. I don't see every report that's prepared within. I've already explained many, many times that, especially in the early months of the organization, there were unlimited numbers of projections that were not reports as such. They were internal projections. This was all discussed on the air, I think, last August when someone obtained one projection sheet.
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MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, as it has not really been discussed in this House, could I ask the Minister more specifically whether he receives any regular report on the financial position of the corporation either on a monthly, weekly or bi-monthly basis so that he is aware of expected losses and/or profits if any? Is he aware of the actual financial position of the corporation in terms of expectations for the remainder of the year?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Yes, I get these reports.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Members who wish to speak or get the floor, just leave your microphones up. It will save jumping up and down. I'll recognize you.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Not all of us play tennis with Riggs.
LAW COURTS RENOVATION
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'd like to question the Minister of Public Works with regard to the plan to renovate the law courts building on Blanshard, and for cases to be heard during the renovating period of at least a year in what was formerly St. Ann's Academy. Could the Minister tell the House how many meetings took place between the Department of Public Works' planners and the professionals using the law courts, namely the judges and the lawyers, with regard to plans for the future use of the existing building and the two new floors to be added?
HON. W.L. HARTLEY (Minister of Public Works): Several meetings. I know I met on at least two occasions, personally, with Chief Justice Nemetz. I know our planners met both with lawyers and judges while the whole programme was being developed. It was as the result of some of the meetings that we have prepared temporary space in St. Ann's, should the noise become too great during the period of construction. If not, they can carry on.
MR. WALLACE: A supplementary. I take it from that, Mr. Speaker, that the decision is not irreversible that they will move to St. Ann's Academy on July 1. The Minister's answer implies that there's an element of doubt. The lawyers have been given to understand that the move certainly will take place. Perhaps to save time I could also ask: is the Minister satisfied that the facilities for prisoners or witnesses that exist in St. Ann's Academy would be adequate for a period of a year?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Originally the engineers who did the sound studies felt that court could be held, particularly by doing that part of the work which would create the most noise during the summer recess. Then they would be able to carry on. But we are planning on having the extra court space ready for July 1 so that the courts can and will move in there. I'm advised that both court services and ancillary services in connection with the court are adequate.
MR. WALLACE: A final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. The extra two floors that are to be built on the Blanshard Street building, I understand, are to be used for government office space and not for new court rooms. I wonder if the Minister had consulted with the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald), since it was always my understanding that the courts and the executive branches of government should always remain separate. Yet here they are cheek by jowl in the same building.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: This is possibly some misinformation that is being sent out. Over the years....
MR. WALLACE: What will those two new floors be used for?
HON. MR. HARTLEY: They will be used for office administration, with our open-area design. In future, as the need for greater court facilities grows in Victoria, this space can be converted to court space in the future. At the present....
MR. WALLACE: Not immediately.
HON. MR. HARTLEY: Not immediately. But over the years there has been a mix of people and court business offices. Throughout B.C. most of your government agents act as clerks, and the courtroom is in the provincial government building, and often referred to as the court house. But there was often a public health person, a human resource person, government agents and other government representatives in those buildings. So this is certainly nothing new.
IMPORTED FROZEN BUTTER
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): I'd like to address my question to the Minister of Consumer Services — when she gets her eye drops in. Is she aware of the fact that approximately 95 per cent of the butter sold in British Columbia is imported from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and other countries and comes in in a frozen block, is thawed, wrapped, labelled and, in a majority of cases, refrozen and sent out to the retail marketplace, put
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on the shelf and not marked as a frozen product?
I'm also advised, and would like to know if the Minister is aware, that frequently this product is taken home by consumers and refrozen, making a possible three refreezings of butter as well as at times being frozen and defrosted in the process of getting to the marketplace. Is the Minister aware of this fact?
HON. P.F. YOUNG (Minister of Consumer Services): I'll take the Member's question as notice.
MRS. JORDAN: Supplementary. If the Minister is not aware of the fact and is going to take it as notice, would she also, in bringing in her answer, advise the House if she is prepared to look into this problem and meet with the industry to bring in a reasonable solution in order to inform the consumer that this product has been frozen, and whether or not it is in the best interest of the product to be refrozen two or three times?
BCR WORK STOPPAGE AT FORT ST. JAMES
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Economic Development in his capacity as executive vice-president of the British Columbia Railway. The British Columbia Railway has been stopped and put out of function at a point 40 miles north of Fort St. James for a period of several weeks. I would like to know from the Minister what he is going to do to get this railroad functional, because either now or in the immediate future there are 800 jobs at stake. In other words, the people can't work.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): Mr. Speaker, this is currently under review. I'll have to take the question as notice.
ELECTION EXPENSE BILL
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): Mr. Speaker, a question for the Premier. In view of the Premier's statement of possible delay in the election expense bill, I wonder if he could assure the House that it will definitely be introduced before the next election.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Unless the election comes within the next few days or so, I'm hopeful that it will be introduced. We are experiencing some technical problems. It may be later in this same session; we may adjourn and come back in the fall, as has been our practice. I don't anticipate an election before returning in the fall, but you never know. I have to follow the course of the federal Prime Minister when he said: "The universe is unfolding." (Laughter.)
MR. GIBSON: On a supplementary, Mr. Speaker. If the Premier could unfold a little bit more of it.... (Laughter.) In view of the fact that the redistribution process may take longer than the other, can the Premier say whether that will be put in effect, set in motion, before the summer recess?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I am not the universe, so it's difficult for me to unfold any further. As a consequence....
MR. BENNETT: You're sure unfolded.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I've lost a little weight. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. BARRETT: To answer your question, it is the information of the government to name an independent committee to work through the summer hopefully, and earlier in the fall on redistribution, and then, report back to the House in the fall.
AN HON. MEMBER: Tony Gargrave?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Tony Gargrave — no, Mr. Member. Are you suggesting some other independents? (Laughter.)
MR. BENNETT: When they report back in the fall, will it be dealt with in the fall session?
HON. MR. BARRETT: That is the idea, Mr. Speaker.
DRUG TRAFFIC IN B.C. AIRPORTS
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (Vancouver–Howe Sound): Mr. Speaker, to the Hon. Attorney-General: is it true that your racket-busting career is at an end? (Laughter.)
HON. MR. BARRETT: He pulled the strings.
HON. A.B. MACDONALD (Attorney-General): I would not want at any time to humiliate an older man. (Laughter.)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Hon. Member for Boundary-Similkameen, I think. Do you have a catch-line?
MR. F.X. RICHTER (Boundary-Similkameen): Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the....
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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the Hon. Member wanted to cap it.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, it was a serious question. I don't know why the Attorney-General treats it so lightly. I was going to ask him as a supplementary if CLEU is taking into consideration whether or not the experience with regard to drug trafficking is to be found in the airports of British Columbia.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: There's no special attention given to airports in B.C. that I know of. I hope we don't have the Montreal problem. I don't think we do.
COPPER TASK FORCE REPORT
MR. RICHTER: I direct my question to the Hon. Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources. Could the Minister tell us if and when he is going to release a copy of the copper task force report?
HON. L.T. NIMSICK (Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources): In due course it will be released.
Orders of the day.
HON. E.E. DAILLY (Minister of Education): Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House to proceed to public bills and orders.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, third reading of Bill 68.
INSURANCE CORPORATION OF BRITISH
COLUMBIA AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
MR. SPEAKER: A point of order?
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): On a point of order, I wonder if the Hon. House Leader could make available to all the opposition Members the list of business that she proposes to deal with this afternoon.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that it was noon when the House adjourned today, when I would assume that Members would be here if they could be, although I understand there were meetings. I did make available verbally to the House and gave the list to all who were present in the House. I regret that you were unable to be here, but I am sending across to you now the list. In the future, I will attempt to see that you all have it at the same time. I need to know whom to talk to in the three independents.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: We are all independents, Mr. Speaker. You just send photocopies. We talk to each other from time to time.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, with the permission of the House, while we are waiting for the count, it might be easier if I re-read the order. Then we won't have to send it over.
Third reading of Bills 68, 73 and 76.
Report on Bills 69 and 88.
Committee on Bills 85, 86 and 98.
Second reading of Bills 102, 103, 104, 105 and 107.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Scratch 107.
Bill 68, Insurance Corporation of British Columbia Amendment Act, 1975, read a third time and passed on the following division:
YEAS — 33
NAYS — 15
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, we have the motion there by Mr. L.A. Williams on third reading of Bill 73. The Premier replied and said the report would come in. We will now move instead to third reading of Bill 76.
AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
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Bill 76 read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, report on Bill 69.
AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
Bill 69 read a third time and passed on the following division.
YEAS — 34
NAYS — 15
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, report on Bill 88, Trade Practices Amendment Act.
Bill 88 read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, committee on Bill 85, Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act.
LABOUR EDUCATION CENTRE
OF BRITISH COLUMBIA ACT
The House in committee on Bill 85; Mr. Dent in the chair.
Sections 1 and 2 approved.
On section 3.
HON. W.S. KING (Minister of Labour): Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Page 22, in orders of the day — the amendment standing in the name of the Hon. Minister of Labour.
Pardon me, it is the amendment standing in the name of the Hon. Member for Oak Bay. (See appendix.)
HON. MR. KING: Oh, I've got the wrong....
MR. CHAIRMAN: It was just an error. Let's correct the error. I should have recognized the Hon. Member for Oak Bay. These were his amendments.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be brief. The amendment merely echoes the points that were made in my comments on second reading that this educational institution is designed to provide services for everyone involved in the matter of collective bargaining and negotiations. All the amendment does is to add after the words "trade unions," the words "and members of management, including small businessmen." I think this small amendment just puts into simple language the principle that we were talking about in second reading. I move that section 3(l), line 2, after the words "trade unions," be amended by inserting "and members of management, including small businessmen."
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, there is no conflict of intent here between what the Hon. Member for Oak Bay proposes in the amendment and the intent as I outlined it in second reading on this bill. It is indeed anticipated that industrial relations education will be open to managerial groups. I stress the need, particularly in areas of elective positions, such as councilmen and so on, for these persons to become familiar with bargaining processes. But I suggest and submit, Mr. Chairman, that under section 3 there is ample scope for inclusion in this programme of all others involved in the collective bargaining process.
It is a matter of semantics, really, but the bulk of the people to whom this new education centre will be directing its activities will be in the trade union area. That is by sheer volume of numbers. I don't think it is really necessary to amend the language of it at this point in time. It is clearly broad enough to encompass all interested parties. Therefore I suggest that the amendment is really redundant and I oppose it on that basis, Mr. Chairman.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I don't know if you will correct me on procedure. I also have another
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amendment to a different line in section 3(2). In fact I have four amendments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think we could take them in order, one at a time.
MR. WALLACE: I am trying not to waste the time of this House, because the principle in all four amendments is the same. I am asking for something in black and white, in writing, which simply states the principle that both sides of this House have mentioned in speech. Now if you wish to go through them one at a time, I will take my place and come back to the second amendment later on.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If it is agreeable and the Hon. Member wishes to put them in one group, if they are of the same intent ....
MR. WALLACE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had better get leave first.
MR. WALLACE: These other amendments include such simple phrases as in section 3(2), line 4: after the words "process" add the words "including any employer and any small businessman." In line 6 of subsection 2: after the word "organizations" add the words "and for members of management representing employers in negotiations for collective agreements," and so on.
In other words, I accept the Minister's clear statement of principle here. But again, I find it a little unfortunate that I had to congratulate the Minister in second reading in that he had taken the step about otherwise acquiring property other than by expropriation. In other words, he had made in very plain English the kind of statement that the opposition have been asking for in other bills. Here we have the other example whereby these very simple amendments that I have made and that it is not just the trade union movement that is involved in this bill. Although the Minister quite rightly quotes section 3(2)(a) — "others involved in the collective bargaining process" — I just feel that that is about the only line in the whole of the bill that seems to imply that everybody in the collective bargaining process will be included and involved in this educational institution.
So I don't feel that these amendments are really unreasonable. I think they are simply spelling out in just a few words exactly what the bill is intended to cover. I think that the word "trade union" is mentioned many times throughout the bill, but there is only one line in the whole bill which can be looked upon as referring to management and employers; that line is the line quoted by the Minister, "others involved in the collective bargaining process." I really feel, Mr. Chairman, that these five amendments are simple, they are explanatory, they merely put into clear English in black and white what the Minister and this side of the House understand as the intent of the bill.
On the amendments.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I join in support of the Member for Oak Bay and his several amendments. I disagree entirely with what the Hon. Minister of Labour has said. I think it's unfortunate that he has risen so quickly to express his opposition to this amendment.
The first subsection to section 3 is the purpose section of this whole legislation. It is spelled out very clearly there that the purpose of the centre is "to initiate, stimulate and engage in educational activities for members of trade unions" — it is exclusively for that purpose. The centre is then given certain powers which it may or may not exercise. Among those powers you find some passing reference to other persons who are involved in the collective bargaining process. If you look through the other powers, you will find that out of seven of them the restriction to trade union members is repeated. This was discussed during the second reading. The Minister has indicated that this educational centre is to assist in the improvement of industrial relations in British Columbia, to improve the calibre of bargaining. You're just not going to do that by excluding everybody except the trade union members. If it is not your purpose to exclude others, it's obviously necessary for you to spell out in the purpose section of this legislation those very words. What the Minister says is what this Legislature intends. That's the important thing because the legislation will be read as this House speaking, not as the Minister may choose to speak from time to time in debate or elsewhere.
On section 3.
MR. D.E. SMITH (North Peace River): I have an amendment to move to section 3 if you'll just give me about 30 seconds to complete writing it out. For the benefit of the Minister before I complete it I will tell him what the content of the amendment is. It would be to add to section 3 another section known as section 3(3):
"Notwithstanding anything in this Act otherwise contained, the purpose of this Act shall be to advance on an equal basis the education of those engaged in management and small business, as well as those in trade unions. To ensure such result, 50 per cent of the budget of the centre shall be spent in respect to trade
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union members and 50 per cent in respect of management or small business."
The intent is the same, really, to a great extent. I'll just have to complete it, Mr. Chairman. It is relatively the same as the previous amendments moved by the Hon. Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), and that is to spell out by statute what the Minister has said in debate of second reading of this bill.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Could we have the amendment before the Hon. Member proceeds any further so that the Chair can rule on it?
MR. SMITH: Okay. I've got to finish writing it out so I can put it.... I have it in my book.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your indulgence. The amendment, and I'll repeat it for the benefit of the Minister, would have the same intent and the same purpose as the amendment previously suggested by the Hon. Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), and that is to say not only verbally that the intent of the Minister to encourage....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Before the Hon. Member proceeds, the Chair would make a ruling. I would have to, unfortunately, rule the amendment out of order on two grounds. First of all, it's basically the same subject matter on which the committee has already ruled. Secondly, it directs the Crown as to how money is to be spent. An amendment giving this kind of direction is out of order in the hands of a private Member. Therefore I have to rule the amendment out of order.
MR. SMITH: On the basis of your first comment, Mr. Chairman, I would have to challenge your ruling. But on the basis of the fact that it directs the expenditure of funds, I have to abide by your ruling.
I do hope the Minister will take into consideration the legitimate concerns of not only the opposition, but all people who are concerned about this matter of labour-management relations and the furthering of a catalyst that will promote better understanding. If it was the general feeling abroad — and speaking on this section as it is — among most people that this particular section of the bill was to apply only to those people in trade unions, to the exclusion and at the expense of management and small businesses, it would be unfortunate.
In order to relieve some of the tension that is quite often generated in this matter, and to provide a more peaceful situation with respect to the whole problem of labour-management relations in the Province of British Columbia, I would hope that the Minister will certainly follow through on his suggestions, and in fact his words on second reading, and that there will be an encouragement to management and small businesses to take advantage of any educational process so that it is an exchange of ideas which can then be taken back to both sides. That is the only way, in my opinion, that we'll ever come to any sort of a resolve that will be effective in this whole problem of labour-management relations in the province.
HON. MR. KING: If I might just say to the Hon. Member that I have, indeed, outlined the intent of the bill in second reading. I have pointed out that section 3(2) does indeed provide the involvement of all those involved in the collective bargaining process. I have indicated that the main thrust naturally is toward the trade union movement, because certainly, by sheer volume of numbers, they are the bulk of the people who will benefit by this programme. In my view, that's as it should be.
I would draw to the Member's attention the Labour College of Canada which caters exclusively to the trade union movement rather than to management at all. I think that's an error. I think there must be scope for management to become involved, too.
We're dealing with semantics in a way. I've clearly outlined the function and the intent, but one should recognize that this Labour Education Centre will be administered by an independent board. To that extent, I think we have to provide flexibility for them to direct the main thrust, the imperatives, in accord with their own perception of what's necessary and what the priorities should be.
I think it would perhaps be a mistake to try to spell out too specifically in legislation all of the conceptual ideas contained in the bill. I agree with the Members. I think that certainly there is a case to be made for involvement of the people on the management side. There's no conflict; there's no disagreement there. I have given that commitment in speeches I've made in this House and publicly. The flexibility does obtain in the Act, to deliver that, and I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that that's adequate.
MR. SMITH: I shall be very brief.
If nothing else, Mr. Chairman, I think the discussion we have had this afternoon in committee and in the second reading of the bill, when the Minister introduced it, has probably given food for thought. Certainly the board that will be appointed to administer such an educational centre would be well advised — and I think they will — to look at the remarks made in debate concerning this particular bill, and be guided by some of the thoughts and suggestions that have been made on the floor of this House. If they follow through on those ideas and suggestions, then the purpose of both government and opposition will be well served.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I will also be
[ Page 3055 ]
brief, but I just can't understand in regard to this bill — and no more or less in regard to any other bills — that when a principle is spelled out.... We as supposedly intelligent people just want to spell out that principle clearly in simple English. I've never ever understood in the six years I've been in this House why it is so immensely difficult, apparently no matter which government is in power, to accept a simple, rational, clear statement in plain English as to what the principle of the bill has verbally been said to contain.
I find it disturbing, when we have such a simple argument to present and such plain English in which to present it, that there should be this resistance. With respect to the Minister, he's said several times today that it applies to all others involved in the bargaining process. Just let me point out in the section we are debating that the word "all" is not included in that sentence. Line 4 of section 3(2)(a) reads:.... as well as rank and file members and others involved in the collective bargaining process It doesn't say "all others involved." It says "others involved." So I move an amendment to section 3(2)(a), line 4, to insert after the word "and" the word "all." I so move.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could we have the amendment in writing before we debate it?
MR. WALLACE: In moving the amendment, Mr. Chairman, I'm at least trying to insert the clear understanding that anyone and everybody would be considered legally entitled to be involved in this educational institution. Since the Minister has said once or twice this afternoon in this discussion that it does involve all others, but the word "all" does not appear in the section, I think it wouldn't be unreasonable just to put the word "all" in line 4. I so move.
On the amendment.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, sometimes I wonder about the opposition, though I have, indeed, accepted amendments — the Labour Code, when it was being debated, and certain other statutes which I have introduced — where the opposition made a rational and worthwhile suggestion in terms of an amendment. I don't believe in resisting for the sake of resisting. On the other hand, I question the inclusion of redundant language when the intent has been quite clearly spelled out.
In this case I have no objections to including "all." I really don't think it contributes that much, because "others involved in the collective bargaining process" is pretty clearly identifiable. But if the Member for Oak Bay feels that "all" is a little broader and a little more all-encompassing, then I'm prepared to accept that amendment as a show of good faith.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: I am pleased that the Minister accepted this amendment because I was very concerned when he spoke a few moments ago to think that we had finally come in this province to a situation where we were being governed not by legislation but by Ministerial commitment. As we all well know, this Minister of Labour won't be Minister of Labour much longer, and his commitments then won't have any effect whatsoever in this province.
Section 3 as amended approved.
On section 4.
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): I have a question for the Minister on section 4, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I would ask why these appointments are during pleasure rather than for a term definite.
Secondly, I would draw to his attention what appears to be a drafting error or omission, and that is due to the fact that we are told in subsection (2) that eight of the first members will be appointed for two years, during pleasure, and the remaining eight for a period of one year, but it makes no reference to the term of persons appointed thereafter. In other words, it seems to me that the statute being silent on this, it would be incumbent on a subsequent government to appoint members for three years or five years, or whatever they might wish, there being no prohibition of that in the Act, and no specification of a term except for the first board of governors.
I would ask the Minister if he could comment on that. First of all, why are members appointed during pleasure rather than for a term certain? Secondly, what will happen after the first directors when there is no provision as to the terms of appointment?
HON. MR. KING: If a vacancy occurs, there is provision for the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to appoint a replacement. Once the terms are established, the date will be two-year terms... date will be one-year terms. That ratio, that timeframe for appointments obtains until it's altered, regardless of the possible turnover of representatives. That's the explanation I have; that's the intent of the provision. I am informed that is the legal application of it also.
MR. GIBSON: I respectfully suggest to the Minister that if that's the advice he has received, it's not very good advice. There's nothing here that refers to the term of the persons after the first appointments are made. The learned Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams) was
[ Page 3056 ]
commenting last night and he may have something to add to it.
I would also ask the Minister why these appointments should be during pleasure, which to me, Mr. Chairman, means that they can be cancelled by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council for cause or without cause at any time they might wish. Therefore it would seem to infringe upon the independence that one would want to have in the board of this kind of institution.
HON. MR. KING: I wouldn't think there would be any conflict there. I think this is consistent with appointments that the government makes in other areas. There is always the possible eventuality of conduct which requires removal. There are a variety of eventualities that could occur which would require removal from the board, perhaps through the volition of one of the board members rather than initiated by the government. That's simply a power that's consistent, I think, with most government appointments and other boards pertaining to educational institutions.
I can't quite understand where the Member finds the restriction of the terms of appointment to simply the first appointments. As far as I am concerned, that continues in subsequent years.
MR. GIBSON: I will just explain to the Minister where I find it difficult. I'll read to him the only section of the Act that I can find that fixes the terms of members of the board, and that's subsection (2). "Eight of the first members of the board appointed under subsection (1) shall be appointed during pleasure for a term of two years..." That's eight of the first appointees. "... and the remaining eight members shall be appointed during pleasure for a period of one year from the date of their appointment." These are the original appointees, Mr. Chairman. There is no provision whatsoever made for those persons to be appointed thereafter, even as to the possibility of their appointment, though perhaps that's implicit in the statute — but certainly not as to their term.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Maybe as we are discussing this matter, the Hon. Minister could engage himself in conversation with one car with his distinguished Depute on this important point. The fact of the matter is that there is no power to make successive appointments to the board. The only power you have is to make appointments in respect of a member who leaves the board before his term has expired. But once his term expires there is no power to make successive appointments. You will have eight people serving for one year with no power to reappoint and you will have eight people serving for two years with no power to reappoint. After two years you are going to have nobody on the board.
HON. MR. KING: Clause 1 of section 4 indicates very clearly that the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council shall appoint to the board of governors of the centre not more than 16 persons. That's authority for the appointments and that's not restricted to the first-term appointments. So it's clear from the first section what the power of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council are. Subsection (2) simply refers to the method in which the first appointments will be made so that there will be a varied appointment in terms of the timeframe to maintain some continuity and so that all the members will not be terminating their appointments on the board at one time. I think if the section is read in proper order by my distinguished legal friends on the other side, they would agree that the power is inherent in the section.
Sections 4 and 5 approved.
On section 6.
HON. MR. KING: I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper. (See appendix.)
MR. WALLACE: I just wanted to ask why the Minister is choosing to delete the words "the appointment of a chairman" as, coming within the authority of the board to make bylaws and pass resolutions with respect to the appointment of a chairman.
Is this an afterthought on the Minister's part or is it basically that the Minister has some concern about the board being in an authoritative position to choose its own chairman?
HON. MR. KING: No, Mr. Chairman, that is a drafting amendment. There is really no change in the intent of the section.
MR. WALLACE: But, Mr. Chairman, the appointing of a chairman is a very important matter, whether there are 6 or 16 or 60 people on a board. In the appointment of a chairman, who is the leader of the orchestra and the person who can make or break a board sometimes, it seems to me that it makes a very substantial difference to subsection (f) to take out the words "appointment of a chairman."
The section is described as the section dealing with the powers and capacity of the board. One of the powers and capacities of the board in the original bill, before the proposed amendment, was that the board could make bylaws and pass resolutions. One of the bylaws and resolutions which was in the original bill was in relation to appointing the chairman. Now we find this amendment is taking away that power.
[ Page 3057 ]
I think for the Minister to suggest that this is just a drafting change is really less than accurate. I think that if board members of any board have the power to be involved by resolution or otherwise in selecting or suggesting or disciplining or doing anything else about the chairman, that is a very considerable degree of power. Now we have this amendment which is removing that from section 6. I feel I would like to have a better explanation as to why the Minister doesn't want the board to have some say in relation to the appointment of the chairman.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, section 4(6), which has already been passed, clearly spells out: "The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council shall appoint the chairman of the board, who has the casting vote." That has already been approved. The amendment in section 6 is simply to bring it into consistent language with the provision of section 4.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I am not trying to drag this out; I am just trying to make the point. I quoted what section 6 says, that the board could make bylaws and pass resolutions with respect to the appointment of a chairman. I suggest that if we delete that, they can't even make a resolution relating to the whole area of the appointment of a chairman. It may well be that the Lieutenant-Governor has the ultimate authority to appoint the chairman, but doesn't this mean that this deletion, this amendment is even taking away the power of the board to pass a resolution relating to this subject of the appointment of a chairman?
I would think that, again, a chairman can be such a key person in the efficiency or inefficiency of the running of a board that surely the board members should be given the authority at least to pass resolutions about the appointment of a chairman. I think it is a dilution of authority to greater or lesser degree, which I feel is unfortunate. I feel that any board should have some authority, at least to pass resolutions about the whole question of appointing a chairman, even if they can't nominate the person or select the person or have any authority beyond passing. resolutions. It seems to me that at least they should have that authority.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, the authority and the functions and responsibilities of the board are outlined in the Act. They may pass resolutions pertaining to those matters which they are specifically given jurisdiction over in the framework of the Act. The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council clearly has the authority to appoint the chairman. I think it would be improper under those circumstances for the board to pass resolutions. They are certainly free to make submissions and suggestions and, indeed, that is customary in the normal practice. But their function is clearly pertaining to the educational role, the curriculum content, the manner in which courses will be mounted, and so on. That is specifically their function.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, I oppose the amendment because it is a clear indication that the government wants to control this labour centre not only with respect to the way in which it will conduct its affairs but with the appointment of a board of governors and the chairman of the board of governors; and later on we are going to come to the executive director. This is certainly going to ensure that this education centre for labour matters in British Columbia is not all independent of government.
On section 6 as amended.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Mr. Chairman, I would like to know why in section 6(2)(b) disclosure of interest is not required from members of the board where it becomes discretionary to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. Once again it seems unnecessary to give the government this extra power. If the principle that the government accepted last year when they passed the Public Officials and Employees Disclosure Act can be accepted and the statements made by the government can be accepted, surely the people who serve on the board should be required to disclose just as people who serve on school boards, municipal councils or in the Legislature should be required to disclose.
If the Minister can provide a reason, perhaps he will be willing to give it when I move an amendment, which I will do now — namely, to delete in 6(2)(b) the words "disclosure of interest and," and add a new section which would follow section 6. Section 6A would be: "The Public Officials and Employees Disclosure Act applies to all members of the board." I so move. Perhaps the Minister could indicate if there is any reason for the government holding that power.
On the amendment.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, there's been no suggestion under the Public Officials and Employees Disclosure Act that those provisions should extend to the board of governors of universities, as I understand it, in this province. These are hardly public officials in the sense that was anticipated under that particular statute. They're not elected members, and they're not in positions of confidence such as highly placed public servants. I would suggest that it would be most improper to make fish of one and fowl out of the
[ Page 3058 ]
other in terms of the similarity between their function and that of the boards of governors for universities.
The provisions of section 6(2) indicate that the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may make regulations respecting possible conflicts of interest, which I think would be fairly narrow in terms of the function of this kind of board. But provisions may be made which would be appropriate, and I think that's adequately covered in the section. I oppose the amendment, Mr. Chairman.
Section 6 as amended approved.
On section 7.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper. (See appendix.)
On the amendment.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, once again, why is it necessary for the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to interfere with the appointment of the executive director? Surely the board and the chairman of the board appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council should have the power to determine who shall be the executive director. Surely there's no need for the government to adopt this nursemaid approach which they're doing, whereby they're going to keep interfering and advising and commenting upon the decisions of the board. If the board is properly appointed and good people are chosen, surely the appointment of the executive director is well within their abilities and within their powers — and should be within their powers, not subject to the approval of the cabinet, as is suggested here.
This amendment simply once more indicates the heavy hand of government control creeping in on the board, and I just fail to see any justification for it whatsoever. Perhaps the Minister has one, but I certainly can think of none offhand.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, this is an initiative that has been taken by the government for clearly identified purposes; and those are to improve the quality of industrial relations in the province. There will be a considerable outlay of public expenditure for this purpose and I think it's reasonable that in terms of selecting and setting the remuneration for a director the government should have a part to play in ensuring that the tax dollars of the people of this province are being well spent and prudently spent.
We're very much involved in making this institution possible. The main concern, I would think, with respect to independence would be the full independence that the agency has through the board and through the executive director, pertaining to course content — the policies and the course outlines that are pursued. That's the imperative thing in terms of the sanctity of their independence.
But I think, so long as the taxpayers of British Columbia are involved to the extent that they are, that we should have some part to play — in ensuring that the executive director is chosen wisely and his remuneration is set reasonably, and that the public interest is protected.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I can see those are laudable objectives. But what on earth makes him think that the 16 people he appoints to the board will not be capable in their collective wisdom of coming up with a decision on those points which would be generally acceptable? Why should the government once more interfere? It just seems unnecessary to have that additional amendment which the Minister is trying to put in. He talked earlier with a fair amount of heat and passion about not having the centre so bound up with unnecessary amendments, and yet here is what is clearly a totally unnecessary amendment being inserted by the Minister.
I find him contradicting the earlier statements he made in opposition to the amendment by the Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), where he now starts introducing restrictions which just in no way seem necessary in the light of the hoped-for competence of the board itself.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I also would want to oppose this amendment to section 8. I am very well aware, as the Minister has pointed out, of the very sensitive nature of this new educational centre. On both sides of the House we have talked about the importance of independence and trying to ensure that government appear not to be interfering in the independent decisions of the board and the way in which the centre is run, the content of curriculum and many other things which the Minister has mentioned.
It seems to me that it's established by numerous examples that where you have a board running an operation, and an executive director, the executive director is responsible to the board. I can't think of too many examples — in fact, I can't think of any — where executive directors working for a board, in a very responsible position and responsible to that board, are not, in fact, appointed, hired or fired by that board.
I think this is another initiative that the government is taking whereby it is saying to 16 people: "We are asking you to run this new
[ Page 3059 ]
educational centre. We're giving you the capacities and powers that are spelled out under section 6. You will need an executive director to carry out these powers and capacities, but we, the government, want to pick the executive director."
I don't know why the Minister is shaking his head. The amendment reads: "that the board shall, subject to the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, appoint an executive director," Now if that doesn't mean that the board can say they want John Brown to be the executive director, and the cabinet can say that they don't think John Brown is a suitable person, for whatever reason.... The 16 board members might be unanimously agreed that John Brown is the man for the job, but if John Brown is not acceptable to the cabinet for any one of many possible reasons, then John Brown's body would lie moldering in the employment grave because he wouldn't get the job.
I just feel that, again, if the principle of this bill is as we have been told — that it's for everybody in the labour-management field, and it's to operate and function completely free of government and possible political interference — then it's very difficult to reconcile that principle with this amendment, because there is no doubt at all that this amendment supersedes the authority of the board to really determine their own executive director.
Mr. Chairman, if you look at the section we're amending, the executive director has some very considerable powers of his own. If you read the bottom of the page, it says that he generally will supervise and direct the instructional, administrative and other staff, and exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as are assigned to him by the board. In other words, the executive director is a very powerful individual in his own right.
When you consider the authority and power vested in the executive director, and then consider that the government wants the right to say yea or nay to that appointment, one has to wonder to just what degree this body, this new educational centre, can be looked upon as truly being independent of politics and independent of the government of the day.
Further on in the same section, without prolonging the debate unduly, there are certain other considerable powers afforded to the executive director under (a), (b) and (c). Really only one of these powers relates to the curriculum, as the Minister has emphasized. If we really want to follow out the original principle of this bill in relation to independence from political influence, I see no good reason why the cabinet should want to have the authority to appoint the executive director. For that very strong reason, I oppose this amendment.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, the Member is presuming that in the first place there will be a conflict between the wishes of the board and cabinet's receptivity to accepting their appointments. But when he turns it around and puts it in the blatant fashion that cabinet is hiring and is designating the executive director, that's a bit much.
It says that "the board may, subject to the approval of the cabinet." In other words, they make their selection and submit that to cabinet for approval. That's a good deal different from the kind of picture that the Hon. Member for Oak Bay was trying to draw. I'm surprised at him; he's usually a fair-minded individual. There's a vast difference there.
I see nothing objectionable about it. I think the government has certainly taken the initiative in developing something that is unique in Canada, as a matter of fact, with respect to this institution. I think that the funding of it has been carried basically by the taxpayers of this province — not industry, not labour. Therefore I think we have a valid and legitimate interest to make sure that this instrument functions in the most efficient and effective way possible. We have an interest in who the directors are and who the executive director is.
It's not quite like an academic institution. It's a different kind of thing getting off the ground for the first time. While all the Members across the way may be paying great lip service to it, I think they should recognize also that this has been a need in the province for the last 20 years. It's too bad it wasn't introduced before now. Perhaps we'd have a better climate of industrial relations in this province.
Every new idea, every new concept this government brings in is usually damned roundly by the opposition in debate in the House and subsequently voted for. I can remember the debate on the Labour Code of British Columbia, where all the expressions of fear and awesome powers were expressed regarding the Labour Relations Board. It has proven to be a very effective and a very acceptable institution that's doing a good service for the parties who are most interested. I'm getting a bit tired of all the picayune sniping at the language of these bills. The concept is a good one; and if the Members disagree that violently, well, all they can do is vote against it.
MR. WALLACE: Well, Mr. Chairman, it seems that we've struck a tender cord.
HON. D. BARRETT (Premier): Stop the mumbling over there. One at a time, please.
MR. WALLACE: First of all, I don't believe I tried to create the impression that this amendment gave
[ Page 3060 ]
the cabinet the right to choose the chairman. I said it gave the cabinet the right to turn down the recommendation of 16 board members, either if they were unanimous or a majority. If I left the impression the Minister says I left with the House, that was certainly unintentional. I withdraw it and apologize if I made that implication. I simply want to make it plain that I don't see the need to give the cabinet the authority to reject, if it so chooses, the chosen person that the board wants as executive director.
The Minister seems very full of self-righteous indignation this afternoon that we're not 100 per cent behind every bill that comes before this House under the Minister of Labour.
MR. WALLACE: I'm glad to see the smile back on the Minister's face. He looks so intense when he's unhappy. I'm glad to see him smile again, because this effort — at least from this particular desk — is only an attempt to make the bill a little better. Just because we support certain bills — and we've supported quite a few and I'll go on supporting bills that are good bills — I think it's going too far to suggest that because we support most of the bill or the principle of the bill, we should have our motives questioned because we're trying to make it a little better.
This is a difficult area we're moving into, and I do again commend the Minister for the initiative that he's taking. But I don't think he should become affronted because we feel on this side of the House that there's a little section here, a little section there that might be made better. I just feel that if the concept of setting up a board of 16 people, who will obviously be experienced people and highly capable people in their field, and we give them the authority as directors of the board, but then say to them: "We don't think you should have the total authority to select your own executive director, " when the executive director has the kind of power that he has, then I think that is contradicting your stated principle.
I'm trying to think of other examples where boards.... Let us take, for example, the Workers' Compensation Board. What about the executive director in the Workers' Compensation Board? I wonder if the Minister knows — I don't know without looking up the legislation — whether the appointment of the executive director of the Workers' Compensation Board is subject to cabinet approval.
HON. MR. KING: It is.
MR. WALLACE: It is?
HON. MR. KING: Right.
MR. WALLACE: Well, there's the one example where a large amount of money is being spent — which isn't public money in the first place; it's money put up by corporations — and yet the government seeks to control or to approve or disapprove the appointment of the executive director.
In this first step towards an educational institution in the whole sensitive area of labour-management, I just think that the Minister might well have left the executive director's appointment to the total authority of the board to see how things go. If there has to be amendments later on down the road, I feel that that would be more judicious than creating this element of government interference right at the start.
As the Minister knows, the initial phases through which this new institution will go are very crucial to its ultimate success. One of the primary initial goals was that it not only appear to be free of political interference but that it be seen to be free of political interference.
This would be just one more way in which the Minister would be showing his confidence in the ability of the board to run its own affairs in an independent manner. I really feel that it would still be reasonable for the Minister to reconsider this amendment and not proceed with it.
Amendment approved on the following division:
YEAS — 30
Section 7 as amended approved.
Sections 8 to 12 inclusive approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Hon. Member for North Vancouver-Capilano — on which section?
[ Page 3061 ]
MR. GIBSON: Section 9.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. GIBSON: I was on my feet, Mr. Minister!
MR. CHAIRMAN: In order to deal with this matter, when we get to the end perhaps I could ask if the section could be reopened. But we have gone by it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Do we have leave to reopen section 9?
On section 9.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Hon. Member for North Vancouver-Capilano proceed on section 9?
MR. GIBSON: I will, Mr. Chairman, but I object a little. There shouldn't have had to be leave. I was on my feet and I want to make that point. I just have a simple question for the Minister which relates to the financing of this institution. I would ask if the Minister contemplates that in the various courses which will be extended by the institution, either through its own facilities or through colleges, schools or the like, any fees will be charged as a matter of income to the education centre.
HON. MR. KING: Yes, I think it's customary that certain costs be borne by the students, depending on the kind of course involved. I foresee a variety of courses. Some will be structured courses, perhaps for two months' duration. Under those circumstances, I would imagine that a cost would accrue in terms of the books and other costs for accommodation and so on that might be involved. In this respect it's quite customary for the Government of British Columbia and for industry and labour to mount bursaries or scholarships to help those attending with the costs incident to that kind of course.
On the other hand, I see a variety of course material going out to various areas of the province which would be, I think, very minimal in terms of cost pertaining to the books and that kind of thing. Where people could attend within the vicinity of their own domicile, of course, material that was available, audio-visual material that might be developed for the purpose of giving instruction, lectures and so on — that's the kind of thing that I anticipate the board will be directing and addressing themselves to in developing curriculum. You are probably aware, but maybe you are not, that the Government of British Columbia has for some years made a contribution to the Labour College of Canada to the extent of $4,000, I think, a year. This basically provides scholarships for various students from this province. Industry and trade unions mounted scholarships for their own people as well.
Section 9 approved.
Sections 13 and 14 approved.
On the title.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: To better indicate what this bill is all about and what this centre is all about, I would suggest that instead of having it called the Labour Education Centre which might indicate a large number of possible courses to the person who simply saw the title, we change it to read the Labour Relations Education Centre. The Minister has made constant reference throughout that this is essentially a labour relations college and a college which will be attended by people other than just members of the union movement. Therefore I would suggest that an amendment of this nature would better reflect the true nature of the college and also at the same time better indicate the Minister's intention with respect to this institution.
I move that the word "Relations" be added into the title so that it now would read: "Labour Relations Education Centre of British Columbia Act."
On the amendment.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, again we are becoming involved in a matter of semantics. What's more important than the title of the bill is the customs and the practice and the respect that is built up around the institution, and I think that is what it will be known for. I doubt, quite frankly, whether the title of this bill bears any significance in terms of the direction and the policies that are developed by the board. Accordingly, I think the amendment to the title is unnecessary and I oppose the amendment.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Perhaps the Minister has forgotten the fact that we come to this Legislature and we read enormous numbers of pieces of legislation which are on the books of the Statutes of British Columbia and it makes sense to have the title of any piece of legislation reflect the intent of the legislation. It's a relatively simple amendment. It's not something I wish to beat to death; it's just that this would better reflect what this bill is all about. It would aid people who try and judge these bills when they look at them, and I think it would be a minor step in terms of clarity.
[ Page 3062 ]
I have to, at this stage, express my opposition to the Minister's approach which is that words don't count — that it is what he says in this House that counts in terms of what this thing will do. Well, that's not so. Legislation stays on the books for years. It should reflect as closely as possible the intent of the Legislature; the words should reflect the intent of the Legislature.
We are not in an American jurisdiction where judges or others have the opportunity of checking back to the debates which set up the legislation to find out what the intent of the legislators was at that time. We are in a commonwealth jurisdiction where the words themselves are meant to indicate as clearly as possible what the intent of the legislators might be.
I think this amendment is similar to the others put forward from this side of the House. These have been to try and clarify this bill, to make it a better bill, better capable in the words of the legislation of reflecting the ideas the Minister has put forward in the House. This amendment is nothing more or less than just that, and I just fail to see why the Minister cannot accept it in that spirit.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 85, Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act, reported complete with amendment to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: In committee on this bill a division took place. The committee asks that this be recorded in the Journals of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Shall leave be granted?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Correction, there was no request for recording.
MR. SPEAKER: There was no request?
MR. CHAIRMAN: No.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, then, in that case there will be no recording.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Committee on Bill 86, Mr. Speaker.
SAVINGS AND TRUST CORPORATION OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA ACT
The House in committee on Bill 86; Mr. Dent in the chair.
On section 1.
MR. N.R. MORRISON (Victoria): Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask the Premier if he would give us an explanation of what guarantee means in the interpretation section. What are the limits of the guarantee? Who will be guaranteeing it and what will the client be able to look to for that type of guarantee?
HON. MR. BARRETT: The guarantee will mean that the provincial government will guarantee the funds in the organization. The limits are spelled out in another section.
MR. MORRISON: So it is the provincial government that guarantees.
HON. MR. BARRETT: It's the provincial government, yes.
MR. MORRISON: A question then on that same section, on item (v), a "public body." Could he give us some indication of the.... It's a pretty open-ended section, and what are the people you have in mind who might come under that section for the need for it? What type of body?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, it's spelled out in (iv) — "any other body elected or appointed under an Act to administer Now represents....
MR. MORRISON: No, no. Section l(v).
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, subsection (v) — I'm sorry. It means generally the same description as item (iv), Mr. Member, a public body.
MR. MORRISON: Can you name one specifically?
HON. MR. BARRETT: A village perhaps, or a municipality.
Sections 1 and 2 approved.
On section 3.
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Chairman, I wish to move the amendment
[ Page 3063 ]
standing in my name on the order paper by adding the following to section 3, and numbered 3A: "Notwithstanding anything in this Act and the regulations made pursuant to this Act, the company shall not open branch offices so as to be in competition either directly or indirectly with the credit unions as defined by the Credit Unions Act."
In speaking to the amendment, I might point out that we are dealing with the objects of this section, and while one of the objects has been referred to in second reading as to be a partner with the credit unions, it certainly isn't spelled out in this object. In fact, the intent of the bill, if taken with all the good intentions that may be stated during second reading and in any discussion surrounding this bill.... Once the bill is passed it's there, and nowhere does it say that this savings and trust corporation will not be a competitor to the credit unions in this province and will not eventually, because of the weight of government ownership, do away with the credit union movement in this province.
It doesn't suggest in here that we are going to offer them a 10 per cent equity. Even a minimal equity like that doesn't guarantee any opportunity to stop any move any government would take with this savings and trust corporation. I think we need to spell it out.
The credit union movement was originally established to meet the special needs of the communities. I know we have a B.C. Central Credit Union which has brought some stability to the credit union movement, but originally the credit unions have tried to reflect special needs area by area, community by community. In many cases the type of financial services they have offered have varied from various areas. When they formed the B.C. Central, the B.C. Central was to bring some stability to the smaller credit unions. These special rights of these local credit unions must be protected. I am sure that all of us in the province are concerned that this bill or this savings and trust corporation at any time could be used without this provision by any government in the future to eventually unfairly compete or perhaps replace the credit union movement.
I would say, in support of the regional aspects of credit unions and why they are so important, that we have 16 credit unions in the Kootenays, Mr. Chairman. They have 53,000 members. We have 17 credit unions in the Okanagan where I come from; they have 80,000 members. Westminster and the Fraser Valley have 28 credit unions with 95,000 members. Greater Vancouver has 74 credit unions with 174,000 members. In the north, there are 17 credit unions with 46,000. Of course, Vancouver Island has 31 credit unions with 91,000. From community to community, area by area, these credit unions have filled a special need.
They were originally formed because the types of loans and services weren't available through the normal banking institutions or through any of the savings and loan or trust companies that were doing business in their areas. In many cases in the early days, when no mortgages were available in the interior of this province from any of the large financial corporations, the credit unions themselves provided the capital for the type of mortgages for their members that weren't in those areas or allowed in those areas or provided in those areas. I think we have to recognize the uniqueness and the distinct advantages of a credit union movement that will not become institutionalized by government takeover or government participation. They must be allowed to continue to develop on the basis for which they were formed.
I agree that this savings and trust can indeed do a great service to the credit union movement. We know the B.C. Central has brought a great amount of stability to the smaller branches. But we also know that the B.C. Central and the credit union movement are the largest customers, I understand, of the Royal Bank in B.C. Indeed, if they have to borrow their money from one of the chartered banks, it is hard for them to then re-lend it to their smaller institutions and compete.
Through the savings and trust, the government could provide financing through arranging loans with the credit of the province. The credit of the province could be well used in this manner. I would like to see the province's guarantee on this savings and trust corporation being used to float long-term money available to the B.C. Central to guarantee funds to these smaller credit unions throughout the province so they can get into more and more diversified long-term borrowing. It is also possible that by providing this service, the government can, even though they already have the authority under various other statutes to subsidize mortgages and make them available, direct the type of mortgages and some of the special rates that the credit unions would lend this money out at. Of course, that is why I believe the savings and trust with this provision, with this amendment, could guarantee to the credit union movement that they could continue, they would have greater strength, they would be able to provide a better service to their customers and to their communities. The government would be making a strong contribution to their movement and to their financial stability, and yet at the same time would be guaranteeing that no government in the future, let alone the good intentions of any government, would use this savings and trust corporation to go directly into competition and perhaps weaken the credit union movement, perhaps even take it over.
The offer of a 10 per cent equity, which isn't contained anywhere in this bill, does not guarantee them a future. It is not guaranteed and does not provide the guarantees that this amendment would
[ Page 3064 ]
provide, an amendment which would show clearly to the credit unions of this province that this Legislature and this bill which would set up the B.C. Savings and Trust Corp. is indeed designed to help them and not to be a competitor, is indeed designed to strengthen them and help them provide additional services and not be a takeover, and indeed is designed for the government directly through their large network of retail branches to provide specific types of loans, perhaps even subsidized, that they can't do now because of a lack of long-term financing that they haven't been able to make up from their deposits.
I would be hopeful that the government and the Minister of Finance will accept this amendment and will encourage its passage so as to indicate clearly to the credit union movement that we in this Legislature are on their side.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, the arguments presented by the Member, I think, are essentially political. If you really believe that there was any possibility of takeover, then don't vote for the bill on second reading. You're just flogging a political horse.
How can we possibly pass an amendment like this saying we won't go in and open up some offices? The credit unions haven't even said that they're going to become partners, and we wouldn't take the position that the credit unions are going to make up their minds because of this bill or amendments. They have the freedom to make up their minds on their own. If they don't want to come in on this, fine; but if we pass your amendment and they don't come in, that means we don't open up shop at all. That's absolutely foolish on your part.
I don't see why you keep on repeating the words "takeover" or "threat to the credit unions" when you vote for it on second reading. There is no intention of this government to take over any credit union, and there is no capability in this legislation to do that — absolutely none! Not one single lawyer anywhere in the world will tell you that this bill can take over the credit union movement, and the only people who are flogging that line are the mixed up Member for Vancouver-Point Grey — the independent mixed up Member — and the Leader of the Opposition. Not one lawyer anywhere in the world will tell you that this has got any capacity, ability or law to take over the credit unions. So what are you trying to peddle here? Are you really coming here to help this financial instrument, or are you coming here to play politics?
Now what's it going to be? You keep on repeating the word "takeover." You keep on repeating the word that we're going to force the credit unions to confirm to us. The credit unions have the option to pick up 10 per cent of this corporation. If they do, it will strengthen them in terms of giving a broader base of money to provide services to their members. If they don't, that's their choice.
But the point is this: if the credit union movement takes up the option, I've said we would open up a limited number of regional offices — no more than 14.
MR. BENNETT: Where does it say that in the Act?
HON. MR. BARRETT: It doesn't say that in the Act, Mr. Member. The credit unions haven't even bought in yet, and maybe they won't want to, and then if we pass your amendment we can't do anything with your amendment. Your amendment is designed to hamper the implementation of the purpose of this Act.
I don't understand why you find it necessary to take this kind of political line when you should be helping the development of this financial institution, not hampering it. Why do you get up and say those things? You have no basis in fact. No lawyer will tell you that your statement is correct. This is an opportunity for the credit unions, and if they don't buy in, someone else can, if they care to, to help us provide this service to the people of British Columbia. Your amendment emasculates the very purpose of this bill which you voted for yesterday.
If you show me where a lawyer says that the 10 per cent partnership is a takeover of credit unions, I'll show you a lawyer who's charging you for bad advice, because the bill doesn't say that. There is no legal capacity to take over the credit union movement in this bill. Your whole argument is specious.
MR. BENNETT: Well, the Premier is being highly political. We're trying to bring some guarantees to the credit union movement, guarantees that he only says, with his usual flamboyance and rhetoric.... We know how much the people of this province trust the word of the government. We know how much they trust the word of the government. They can't trust the word of the government.
What we said in second reading is that we want a guarantee that this savings and trust corporation would not go into competition with the credit union movement. Today the Premier threatens the credit unions: "If you don't buy equity in this corporation, you get no help." That's what the Premier and Minister of Finance just said. He threatened the credit union movement. "Buy shares or you get no help. We'll go somewhere else." That's what he said.
All the concerns that we had for the credit union movement are justified with that type of argument and that type of threat. Just ridiculous. The government could destroy the credit union movement through competition, competition that the government can direct through subsidized mortgages in direct competition. With their type of lending
[ Page 3065 ]
facility in community after community, they could emasculate the credit union movement; certainly they could. And we want guarantees. We don't need threats from the Premier, with the taxpayer's money, that if the credit union movement of this province doesn't buy 10 per cent, doesn't buy shares, they won't get any financial help. "Not one cent" is what you said. You said you'd get it somewhere else. You threatened the credit unions of this province.
It's just incredible. This Legislature is to sit and establish laws and facilities for the benefit of the people. The benefit of the people's financial institution, the credit unions, was one of the reasons the Premier said — although it's not in here — that this bill came down at all. Yet nowhere is there any guarantee that the government through competition won't emasculate the credit union movement. Today we have the ultimate insult: the Premier is threatening the credit unions that if they don't buy shares, they won't get any funds from the government savings and trust corporation.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I didn't say that.
MR. BENNETT: You said specifically that you would turn to some other financial institution.
HON. MR. BARRETT: For another partner.
MR. BENNETT: What they want, in talking to the credit unions since this bill was first discussed before the concept was presented to the House and discussing it with credit union members and executives around this province, is some guarantee of stability through long-term funding. None of them want competition from the government. They want the government to be a partner for security. A partner for security doesn't mean equity or threats; it means providing the guarantee of long-term funds which they are short of and which presently they have to get from the Royal Bank.
Mr. Chairman, we're not being political. (Laughter.) We're being the advocates of the guarantees to the credit union movement that they will survive because this financial instrument will be a partner for security and not a competitor to spell the death knell of the credit union movement.
If the Premier was serious when he talked about this bill being designed to help the credit unions he will accept this amendment and give guarantees to the credit union movement.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the Member said that I said "not one cent to the credit union movement." I did not make that statement; the Blues will prove it. You're just as wrong as you are when you talk about misinterpretation about your statements on Kierans.
This bill offers the credit union movement the opportunity to buy 10 per cent of a new facility. If they wish to buy it, fine; if they don't, fine. That is the government's statement of policy. If they don't buy it, then we will look for another partner. But when you say that we're threatening the credit union movement with your new-found interest....
HON. MR. BARRETT: I said if they don't wish to participate in this, they do not become a partner. Then you went on to say "not one cent," which was absolutely false. Did I say "not one cent"?
MR. BENNETT: I heard you. I heard you say you'd get another partner.
HON. MR. BARRETT: That's what I said. But did I say that they wouldn't get a cent, Mr. Member?
MR. BENNETT: Will they get...?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, now we're getting down to it. Let me read what the credit union movement....
HON. MR. BARRETT: Will you please be quiet? Let me read what I said before and say again that this government has done for the credit union movement what Social Credit never did. They have had up to $25 million of short-term funds from the NDP government; never a penny from Social Credit — that's a matter of record. Your government — your party — never allowed the credit union movement to handle one cent of general revenue — not one penny — and now you come in here with this crying new-found interest in the credit union movement when for 20 years your government refused to deposit one single cent in the credit union movement.
Whether the credit union movement wishes to participate or not, the following things that we've done with the credit union movement will stay. I challenge any party to say that they'll take them away from the credit union movement. We will still continue to deposit money with the credit union movement, which that outfit never did before. How are you able to stand on your feet and feed us that pompous guff about some new-found interest when your own record against credit unions was scandalous?
MR. BENNETT: That's wrong.
HON. MR. BARRETT: It was scandalous! You never allowed them to have a cent of government
[ Page 3066 ]
money — never. Is that true or false?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, we have allowed the credit union movement in drafting the new credit union movement to meet modern day conditions... that Act was brought in by us.
We have allowed them to act as agents for the motor vehicle branch as a convenience for credit union members. Is that a takeover of the credit unions, allowing them to act as agents?
The request to act as agents for B.C. Hydro — is that a takeover?
The request to act as agents for B.C. Telephone — is that a takeover?
They requested to act as agents for Okanagan Telephone — is that a takeover?
They requested to act as agents for the municipalities — is that a takeover?
They requested to act as agents for Inland Natural Gas — is that a takeover?
We made it possible for credit unions to act in the sale of Olympic and Western Canada lottery tickets — is that a takeover?
We made amendments to allow the economic.... I read all of this yesterday — two pages of moves that this government has deliberately made to allow the credit union movement to participate. I'm not going to read it all again today.
Mr. Member, I put the challenge to you. We reject your amendment because it is an attempt to emasculate this legislation before it gets a chance to serve the people of this province. If you feel that strongly about this amendment, then I tell you, Mr. Member, vote against the bill.
Vote against the bill, but don't play that shallow game of coming in this House, talking one way and voting another way. That's my challenge to you. Vote against the bill.
MR. BENNETT: Well, Mr. Chairman, all through second reading, introduction and the windup on the bill, we never did get anything but this type of rhetoric, talking about the Credit Unions Act that was introduced and passed in this House. I'd like to say that the very fact that there is a healthy credit union movement that has grown over many years in this province indicates that from time to time.... If we look back at the Credit Unions Act and the many times it was amended at their request, giving them additional responsibilities as they grew and were able to take on more services, you would know that various governments have had a commitment to the credit union movement by making changes as they've requested them.
What we're talking about is not money that was given but money that they were allowed to borrow on a short-term basis. What was the rate? What was the rate, Mr. Chairman? Was it a special rate? Was it 6 per cent? Was it 7 per cent? Was it 8 per cent, or was it the rate that the chartered banks pay? What's the favour?
What we're looking for in this savings and trust corporation is a guarantee of long-term money, not money that they perhaps can get from time to time in bidding on government money as we have it, which is short-term money. We're looking for long-term money. They didn't get special rates on that $25 million. That was competitive rates at the particular time. It wasn't long-term money; it was short-term money.
What the credit union movement in this province needs is a specific amount of long-term money to give them the stability they need. They need guarantees; they don't need the talk that we did something else in another bill. That has been going on continually and will go on when this government is gone as the credit union movement matures and progresses. That's part of the continuing responsibility of any government of the day: to meet with the credit unions as they make additional requests.
I looked back through the statutes at all of the changes that have been made over the years. I went to the credit unions and asked how many times they had been turned down. It was amazing. I couldn't find some of the specific areas that they'd been turned down on. You would have thought from the Premier yesterday and today that they'd been made to live in the basement, muzzled. That's not true.
It was a good move to allow them to bid on short-term money, but what we're looking for is long-term money. Short-term money at the same rates the banks pay is no great advantage. It's short-term help. What they're looking for is long-term stability.
I don't think there's anything wrong. In fact, I think there's something very right in making this legislation to set up this savings and trust corporation specifically, relating it to the arguments that have been made but aren't incorporated into the bill, that is here to help the credit union movement. Nowhere does it say that 10 per cent of the shares will be offered. Nowhere does it say that the credit union will be guaranteed large sums of money. Nowhere. What it does do is set up a savings and trust corporation that could be a major competitor and that could weaken the credit union movement. I say they have a structure, a structure that's community oriented to people who developed this movement over many years. It's grown; and now it needs stability, not competition.
All I'm saying is: provide that stability. Guarantee that you won't compete it out of existence or into weakness. Put in the legislation what you allude to in your remarks. But if you're not prepared to put it in
[ Page 3067 ]
the legislation, then the legislation can be a sham.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to point out that the Member is now saying that we would weaken the credit union movement. He's dropped the takeover. I appreciate that.
Now he also says — as I tried to make notes — that the credit union movement was granted everything it asked for by the previous government.
HON. MR. BARRETT: It is interesting, Mr. Member, that you have to listen very closely to what the Leader of the Opposition says. When he's pinpointed down, he changes his statements as he goes along. He's changed from "takeover" to "weaken". When I said that I wrote down that he said the credit union was granted everything it asked for by the previous government....
HON. MR. BARRETT: You said you met with them and they told you that everything they asked for they got. Now he says "almost everything."
I am advised, Mr. Chairman, that for many, many, many years the credit union movement of this province asked for the right and the opportunity to competitively bid for short-term money. It was denied every single time they asked for it by the Social Credit government. How can you come in this House and try somehow to leave the impression that every request was granted? When I try to pinpoint you, you say "almost." The facts are that at no time was there ever a policy granting the request of the credit unions....
HON. MR. BARRETT: You don't believe that? The truth is, Mr. Member, that the credit union movement asked for the rights to bid on short-term money, and Social Credit consistently said no. And that's true. So when you come in here and try to leave the impression that everything was granted to the credit union movement, that is not true. When was the date of the first time that short-term money was deposited with the credit union movement? It was after the election of this government.
MR. BENNETT: At what rate?
HON. MR. BARRETT: They bid for it competitively. They had the right to bid for it. When was the first time they had the right to bid for that?
MR. BENNETT: What rate?
HON. MR. BARRETT: After our election. They were never allowed to bid before we were elected, yet you come in here and say....
MR. BENNETT: What rate? What rate?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, don't be silly, Mr. Member. What rate!
MR. BENNETT: Just answer the question.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, you are really something else.
Now when you come in here you have altered your story twice in the period of 15 minutes. Mr. Member, I am telling you, and I tell you again clearly: the intention of this is to provide an alternate system to traditional banking. When the Bank of British Columbia was introduced, it was a threat to the credit union movement on the same terms that you define because it was a competitor.
MR. BENNETT: It was a chartered bank.
HON. MR. BARRETT: It was a chartered bank and it was a competitor. As a matter of fact, it was so much a competitor that the former Premier got on the phone to sell shares of the other bank. That's a matter of record.
Was there ever a statement by the former government or the former Premier that his flogging those shares would threaten the credit union movement? I don't recall that. I don't recall one single statement by the former government saying that the Bank of B.C. might endanger those community efforts known as the credit union movement. Yet the former Premier was recorded as stating that he had indeed gone out and flogged shares for the B.C. Bank which is no longer really a B.C. financial institution — a major shareholder is in Ontario.
So I just don't understand the logic of your position, Mr. Member. You've changed your story twice in 15 minutes. I have said that there is no way that this bill can be a takeover, and now you've said it is weakened. You said that they granted everything the credit union wanted. I point out that for years they wanted the opportunity for short-term money and never got it. So where are you going? Where are you going?
I'm telling you that this government will not accept your amendment, and if you are unhappy with the bogeyman that you're trying to create, then vote against the bill. Vote against the bill. But the people of this province will have to know and read Hansard as to your arguments.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Well, I can't let the
[ Page 3068 ]
Premier go with some of his asinine statements without some comment. The B.C. Savings and Trust Corp., as it is incorporated here, the powers granted and utilizing being a creature of the provincial government with its credit, is far different than B.C. getting its first chartered bank in many, many years with a head office in Vancouver. That wasn't to compete with the credit union movement; that was to provide a chartered bank under federal regulations that could compete with those eastern-centered organizations. If you're against a chartered bank with its head office in B.C. — and the Minister of Industrial Development, (Hon. Mr. Lauk) is.... Are you against a chartered bank centred in B.C.? Are you against a chartered bank with its head office in B.C.?
MR. PHILLIPS: Let the people know.
MR. BENNETT: Are you against a chartered bank?
MR. BENNETT: All right. No, he says. That's just like the Premier saying that the former government or governments were against the credit union movement. I tried to tell him that time and time, year after year, when amendments were brought in they were initiated, in the most part, by the credit union movement.
MR. BENNETT: They were initiated by the credit union movement, and that isn't being against the credit unions.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): They were given everything they asked for; that's what you said.
MR. BENNETT: That isn't being against the credit unions.
Now we know the Premier would like everybody to believe that this bill is what he says it is outside. But the people of this province can only go by what is passed in legislation, and they've learned from other Acts and other statements that this Premier and this government have made that they have to be concerned that the legislation and the guarantees are spelled out.
There is nothing in this Act that mentions that it's to help the credit unions. There is nothing in this Act to say they can buy 10 per cent, or can even continue to hold it. There is nothing to say that they are going to get help from the government. All we want is a simple guarantee that the government will not compete the credit unions out of business. All we want is a simple guarantee that you won't compete the credit unions out of business. Just a simple amendment, an amendment that should be there if you mean what you say, and if you have meant what you said. But certainly if the government and the Premier are not sincere in their comments, then don't accept the amendment, and we'll tell the credit unions.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh. Here comes the heavy.
MR. SMITH: If we look at the objects in section 3 of this new financial institution, we note that section 3(a) suggests the institution will provide a full range of financial facilities and services. In section 3(b) it is being incorporated to provide competition to the financial markets with a view to reduction of the interest rates on borrowing by citizens and institutions of the province.
Look at section 3(f): "To increase the availability and amount of credit for low-income and middle-income citizens." I'd like to repeat that, Mr. Chairman. "To increase the availability and amount of credit for low-income and middle-income citizens, and to farmers, fishermen, and small businesses." Is that not the traditional market of the credit unions in the Province of British Columbia? I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that it is and it always has been the low-income, the middle-income people, the farmers in the province, the fishermen and the small businessmen, the people who did not have the type of collateral that many of the large financial institutions in operation in this province would accept.
That is the traditional market of the credit union movement in the Province of British Columbia. Those are their traditional customers. There must be great apprehension on the part of the credit unions at this particular time because they have been told this afternoon: buy in, or else. Even if they do buy in and take an interest, a 10 per cent equity, there is no guarantee by the government that they will be looked upon more favourably than in the past and that they will receive equitable treatment from this new savings and trust corporation.
That is why, Mr. Chairman, we believe the government knows full well that the credit union movement, through its members, represents a substantial segment of the population of this province who traditionally look to that institution to supply them with their needs. They should be protected, and the protection would be a simple amendment, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett). Not only what is said on the floor of this House but what is written into the statutes of this House when they are passed would give a clear-cut definition of the position of the credit unions not only now but in the future.
[ Page 3069 ]
They have been a substantial contributor to the overall economy of the small and middle-class individual and business person in the Province of British Columbia.
I think the Premier has tried to confuse the issue and not to clarify it. He would seem to suggest in the remarks, as I have listened to them, that really this institution will become a major competitor to the credit union movement in the Province of British Columbia. Whether they buy in or not is of no consequence.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SMITH: They will become a major competitor to the traditional market of the credit unions.
Would it not in many respects to far more simple to guarantee to the credit unions that there is no intent on the part of the government to go into competition in their traditional markets, that there is no intent on the part of the government to establish branches in close proximity to the credit unions now in operation in the Province of British Columbia?
Their history is long. It's been an uphill battle, and not without setbacks. They've learned the management and the skills that are necessary to manage finances and funds, certainly far more adequately than I would say the Premier of this province has demonstrated as Minister of Finance. But they have learned it the hard way, over trial and error — a situation which has developed over a period of 20 or 30 years.
Now I think it is time they were given an opportunity to advance that other step that would put them on equal footing with any banking and financial institution in the Province of British Columbia. They are certainly on the threshold of that now. But the establishment of a savings and trust corporation, which will not only be a competitor in their traditional markets but which will allow them to bid for short-term money at the highest going interest rate — and, after all, the only way they are going to receive the benefit of those funds is to pay the highest interest rate among those people who bid for them — will rob them not only of their traditional market but will undercut them by subsidizing loans. That's exactly what would happen if you try to reduce the interest rate paid by the preferred customers of the Savings and Trust Corp. of British Columbia.
You could wipe out the credit union movement as an institution for the benefit of small people in this province. In one year they could be wiped completely out. The people who have invested their savings and money there would be wiped out with them. I hope it is not the intent of the government to do that, but if they do not accept the amendment that is proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, then the government is saying to the people of British Columbia: "Once this bill is passed, we are in competition to every credit union in this province for their traditional customers." Make no mistake about that.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I am enjoying this debate so much that I regretfully have to ask the committee to rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again. Unfortunately, I have to go to Vancouver, but I have enjoyed the debate and I am looking forward to it being resumed.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports progress and asks leave to sit again.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, committee on Bill 98, Hospital Insurance Amendment Act.
AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
The House in committee on Bill 98; Mr. Dent in the chair.
Sections 1 to 7 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 98, Hospital Insurance Amendment Act, 1975, reported complete without amendments, read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, I will just have to break the order because the two Ministers are not here. They will be here in a couple of minutes, but instead of wasting time waiting, I would like to proceed to second reading of Bill 105, Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, Minister of Labour.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION AMENDMENT ACT
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, this is a bill to continue the improvement to the Workers' Compensation Act in the province. The main content
[ Page 3070 ]
of it relates to the inclusion of commercial fisherman for compulsory coverage under the Workers' Compensation Act. The Members of the House will undoubtedly be aware that there are a variety of problems in extending this kind of protection to commercial fishermen, because they are involved in a different industry, an industry which differs from the industrial sector in that there is not always a constant employee-employer relationship. Some presumptions have to be made in terms of determining that kind of relationship and providing for the compulsory payment of assessment.
However, I think all Members of the House will agree, particularly in light of the tragic events of the current fishing season, that it is imperative that the workers in the fishing industry and their families be covered in a compulsory and a comprehensive way by the protection of workers' compensation. Certainly we had a tragic loss of life in the fishing industry this past season. It is imperative that the families of those people in future involved in tragic accidents of that nature — the sinking of vessels and so on — be covered like other industrial workers. So within the administrative machinery and capabilities of the Workers' Compensation Board, certain presumptions are proposed in these amendments which will make it possible to extend the right of coverage to all fishermen, whether or not they be involved in fishing as a personal enterprise or from packers at sea or whatever the relationship.
The other general area of the amendment — the most significant one, at least — deals with the upgrading of old pensions, those pre-1966 pensions that were not provided for under the consumer price index adjustments; they were the pensions that were established on the basis of projected earning capabilities.
It seems appropriate at this point in time, some 10 years later, to have a look at what has happened to those projected earning capacities and the projected pensions of people in the category of permanent disability pensions or partial disability pensions. That's what is proposed in the second major section of the amendments so that the board might upgrade those pensions to a certain basic floor level and assess partial disability pensions that were granted pretty nearly 10 years ago on the basis of a loose projection. Certainly in those days no one could anticipate the startling increase in the cost of living, the inflationary impact on wages, pensions and fixed incomes of all sorts. I think it's appropriate that this group of workers be looked at with a view to upgrading and improving their circumstances so that they can function in today's high-cost economy.
There are a number of other amendments embodied in this bill. Most of them are basically housekeeping amendments, administrative amendments clarifying the function of the commissioners. There is one giving the board more flexibility in terms of the pay — but for workers under custodial care when there are no dependents. But generally the two most significant aspects are the broad inclusion of commercial fishermen for compulsory coverage and the upgrading of the pre-1966 disability pensions. So I support the bill in second reading, Mr. Speaker.
MR. WALLACE: I would certainly like to give strong support to the Minister in his effort through this bill to give protection to fishermen. It seems to me that there's been some unfortunate lack of clear action by the federal government in some of these areas regarding fishermen. The tragedies to which the Minister referred as having happened in the herring season this year certainly should have brought home to everybody in this province that the fisherman perhaps has, if not the most dangerous job in the world, certainly one of the most dangerous along with others in the mining industry, perhaps. But we have recently a very good record in the mining industry. There's a great effort on the part of this government to protect the miner not only from accidents but from silicosis and other diseases. I think that this action in trying to protect the fisherman and give him fair play in the work force is to be commended. It certainly has our strongest support.
I think sometimes it's a whole question of out of sight, out of mind. The fact that the fishermen often seem to be many miles out at sea and we hear about the tragedy sort of less than first hand, perhaps, has led to a tendency by the community at large to put them into some kind of separate category. Certainly this bill in that regard is just catching up with a situation that should have been dealt with formerly.
The committee which went around the province felt that the time was now for fishermen and workers in the agricultural industry to be given the same kind of support in society as other segments. So I can't support too strongly the attempt in this bill to give the fishermen what is only their just protection in society.
Secondly, if the rest of the bill is mainly to help pensioners keep up with the cost of living, I certainly support that most strongly. If we have those who are still in the work force or those who have retired with a disability talking very much in terms of cost of living, allowances, surely it only stands to reason that people who are already on pension or who have been on pension for some considerable time — I think it's pensions prior to 1974, in particular, that are mentioned in one section of this bill — it seems that adjustments in keeping with the cost-of-living indices, again, is a very sound principle. So we very happily support this bill.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, certainly I
[ Page 3071 ]
rise in support of this bill amending the Workers' Compensation Act provisions to fishermen is an excellent one.
I trust that we will see further extensions very shortly when the committee report is accepted by this House. It was delayed the other day due to the absence of the Minister, actually. It was not discussed at that time because he was not with us. Perhaps, when that committee report comes in, we can extend it to others as well, namely those in domestic service and those specifically in agriculture. That's what our committee spent a fair bit of time looking into.
I would, however, at this stage indicate once more my concern at the artificial division that exists between those who are self-employed and unable to take advantage of the Workers' Compensation Act with respect to rehabilitation programmes and those who are employed by others. We discovered in our committee travels that if we do amend the legislation, a farm worker would be entitled to protection of the Act and the rehabilitation services — which are excellent, I might add; I think the Minister and the board are to be congratulated on this — but the person who is self-employed, even though he may earn less or as little as an employee of another man or another person, is not able to take advantage of the excellent facilities and the fine services provided.
As this is a discussion of principle, Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest that while we extend this Workers' Compensation Act step by step, group by group, we should also think of extending it so that any person injured in the course of an accident might well get the advantage of what have to be the best facilities available in the province for rehabilitation.
Back to the example often referred to by the Hon. Member for Vancouver-Burrard (Ms. Brown) who was on the committee with us, she and I discussed a number of times the curious dilemma that a domestic servant — if we put them under the Act — might be entitled to benefits if injured on work but the housewife would not be. It seems a very serious distinction whereby the housewife, who would be doing the identical work, who would be doing it for most of the weeks of the year, but who might because of illness or otherwise have someone in to help during a particular period, would be placed in a different category when it came to rehabilitation and the advantages of the rehabilitative medicine than the employee who might be in that home for just a week or two or three or four.
I wonder whether the Minister in closing this debate will give us some indication of the government's intentions with respect to extending this service. I believe that anyone injured in British Columbia should be entitled to the same rehabilitative medicine and services as anybody else. I believe that if we're going to have a system based on medical health plans by contribution or by tax money, we should set up a system whereby all citizens are treated equally and, in particular in the health field, are all treated equally when it comes to rehabilitation. It should not be the situation we have at the present time where some are fortunate because they fall under this Act and some are far less fortunate because they are excluded from it.
I must admit this is a detail which perhaps should be looked into in committee stage. The self-employed fisherman, for example, might be in a different position than the person employed by a company — B.C. Packers or a fish-packing company, Canadian Fishing Co. or something like that. I don't think that distinction should exist. If we extend this to farmers, the self-employed farmer who has no employees should be entitled to the same sort of rehabilitation if a tractor tips and injures him as a person who is employed by another farmer whose tractor might tip and injure the employee.
It's wrong in principle, when we believe in equal opportunity for obtaining health services, to have a system set up whereby rehabilitation is very different depending upon what category you fall into. That's an extension of the principle of this particular bill. This bill adds fishermen to those who are covered. My arguments simply are that the extension we can accept, but the extension obviously should go a great deal further. I trust the Minister, in closing the debate, will perhaps give us a few words on how quickly we can expect a proper system for all people in the province for rehabilitation in the case of injury.
MR. SMITH: Speaking to the principle of this bill, we feel it's a welcome addition to the people who presently come under the Workers' Compensation Act. I know it's been a vexatious problem with administrations for some time as to how to attack the problem of fishermen who to a certain extent are quite often self-employed people and, as a result, fall into a different category than those working in industry. Even though they may be part of a crew of a large fish packer, they quite often share equally in not only the responsibilities and the work involved but are also co-owners of the particular boat they fish on. In that respect they're management as well as labour. It does become a problem in trying to determine how to deal with it.
I agree that because their work is certainly more hazardous than many professions and many vocations, they should now be compensatable for any injuries suffered or sustained.
I think in the committee stage of the bill we could, perhaps, query the Minister on how he intends to apply this particular extension of the Workers' Compensation Act, and what method he might have in mind to collect employer contributions for workers' compensation from those people who are self-employed. Perhaps the same system, or
[ Page 3072 ]
something similar, will be worked out for self-employed farmers in due course. I think this is one of the problems with self-employed people. There's the matter of trying to set up an employee-employer relationship under the Workers' Compensation Act, and quite often there was no means of collecting premiums on a sustained basis.
[Mr. Dent in the chair.]
I would also like to know, not necessarily now but in committee stage, how he will define a commercial fisherman. I know it's outlined in 5A(1)(a). It alludes to any person who contributes in any manner to the catching or landing of fish or sale or commercial use. I suppose that would include those people who traditionally fish more as a hobby than on a commercial basis, provided they sell their catches through a recognized wholesale outlet. Perhaps when we get into that stage of the bill, I do think we could have a brief discussion on that at least.
But in principle we support the extension of workers' compensation benefits to those people who are engaged in fishing in this province, particularly when we are one of the few provinces in Canada with a coastal area adjacent to us which affords employment for people, and which is not afforded to those living in inland provinces in Canada.
MR. G.H. ANDERSON (Kamloops): It's been many years since I was with the fishing fleet: 1952 to 1955 — four years of long-lining with halibut and black cod and two years on the salmon seining. Even that long ago fishermen were asking and asking over and over again to be covered under workers' compensation, and being told that it was a federal matter. Then when they went to the federal authorities, there was not one there willing to talk compensation.
It's an industry that is one of the most hazardous we have. Although many people think the biggest hazard there is in the fishing industry is that you could possibly be drowned with the sinking of the boat, it isn't so. When large halibut hooks whipping around while hauling gear in rough weather get imbedded in a leg — as happened one time to myself, and another time in a hand — there was no compensation. Infection quite often sets in, so you lose a trip or two. The only thing we had to rely on at that time, and for many years before, was the Disabled British Seamen's Act. At the time I was injured with the hook, this is what I was treated under in Kodiak, Alaska, as the only method available.
But there was nothing there that would help in any way if you lost work due to your injury. Anyone who has seen the arm of a man who has been pulled by the hooks into the gurdies that haul the gear aboard, and the smashing that takes place.... In half the cases the arm is, for all purposes, useless and his career as a fisherman is finished. Then you'd know that compensation is badly needed for these men. It's been asked for years and years and years, and been denied. I certainly want to compliment the Minister on this forward step. I not only intend to support the bill, but I will do so enthusiastically, and I know that the whole fishing fleet will be in the same position.
DEPUTY SPEAKER; The Hon. Minister closes the debate.
HON. MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. D.A. Anderson) raised a couple of points that I would just like to comment on briefly. He raises the point about the possible extension of full rehabilitation services to those individuals covered voluntarily under the Act. Unfortunately, he is not in the House at the moment, Mr. Speaker, but that's something that we certainly are prepared to have a hard look at. I see no valid reason, quite frankly, why there should be a distinction drawn between those people covered in a voluntary way and those under compulsory coverage in terms of the services available by the Workers' Compensation Board.
The only argument I would make to the Hon. Liberal leader, though, is when he says that there should be uniform standards of care for everyone who becomes injured in the province. He mentioned the expenditure of public funds, and that all citizens are entitled to a uniform standard of care.
But he must be aware that there are indeed no public funds expended on workers' compensation. It is a levy against the industry and workers. The whole concept of workers' compensation has been developed over the years to provide protection, workers' compensation and rehabilitation for those people involved in industrial accidents and industrial diseases. It has always implied an employer-employee relationship.
There may well be a case to be made for a broad, comprehensive look at the multiplicity of health care schemes that are available in this province and elsewhere, but that is another question. The main point is there are no public funds expended. This is an instrument and an agency developed for workers' protection throughout the province. If it is anticipated or if it is recommended that that relationship should be changed, then of course there would be a complicated and very exhaustive review which would have to be undertaken with respect to overall health care in the province. That involves something that we haven't got time for in this session. It also involves more than the Department of Labour.
[ Page 3073 ]
The Hon. Member for North Peace River (Mr. Smith) wondered about how the board would determine the employer for the purpose of levies in the fishing industry. That is fairly clearly spelled out in section 1(c). We will be dealing with the bill section by section in committee stage, but I would just make the point that the section reads:
"...and, to such extent as the regulations may provide,
each such person shall be deemed to be the employer of all
commercial fishermen who contributed in any manner to the
catching or landing of the fish bought, obtained, or paid for
by or through such person...."
So there has to be a presumption made; there has to be a designation made by the board as to who the employer is.
The levies are dealt with also in section 1(b). I think we can wait until the committee stage of consideration of the bill to discuss those provisions in more detail. It should be understood, though, that under this provision, as under the broad industrial section, the Workers' Compensation Board does have regulations, does have authority to issue regulations covering the levies, adjusting those levies from time to time, not only on the basis of financial requirements as they apply to pension levels and so on, but also consistent with the accident and safety record of the employers involved. It will take some time, I presume, for the board to develop experience and develop a method of monitoring and assessing the regulations that are appropriate to the fishing industry.
Just in passing, I would note that the board is now starting to exercise a presence in the fishing industry, relating to the inspection of vessels and equipment to determine that the standards there measure up to the industrial standards set throughout the province. In light of the many tragedies we have seen over the past year, I would say it is about time that some agency made its presence felt more effectively in the fishing industry than has been the case heretofore.
I move second reading of the bill, Mr. Speaker.
Bill 105, Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 1975, read a second time and referred to Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 103, Municipal Amendment Act.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
HON. J.G. LORIMER (Minister of Municipal Affairs): This is just a small housekeeping bill to take care of a few items that were missing in the Act and also to bring about one or two other principles for the bill. I think the bill can be better debated during committee stage, so I will just close by moving second reading, Mr. Speaker.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): I made notes of the many points covered by the Minister when he introduced the bill for second reading. We agree it is more properly a committee bill, but that certainly is fortunate, Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as while we sat here for weeks with very little legislation being introduced, we have the scene of this being introduced on June 3 and being debated in second reading one day later, which does seem to be a bit of a hurry. I feel rather sorry that it has been called for second reading so early in view of the fact that while Members of this House are expected to do their homework in as short a time as possible and to review documents such as this, we have a situation where, as far as I can determine, municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities — their executive, to say the least — probably have not even received the bill as yet, unless the mail service is better than has been the case for the last two or three years.
So hopefully committee debate can be delayed for at least a few sittings, in order that mayors and aldermen and senior administrators in a number of municipalities will have an opportunity to digest the document and the many points which are covered in it. I realize that in second reading it is not permitted to dwell on a single section but I would suggest that that portion of the bill which introduces the sharing of tax revenue by municipalities or regional districts will certainly cause some concern in a number of municipalities. We will have many questions to ask of the Minister when we do get to committee stage.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, one of the most engaging things about this Minister is his commendable modesty. He grabs headlines in the major papers, has major interviews on this piece of legislation, makes it the major news story of the day and then modestly suggests that it really doesn't need much discussion in second reading stage. And he's probably right.
I've had a look at this. I have asked for comment, like the Member for Saanich, but unfortunately this thing has come upon us rather suddenly.
HON. MR. LORIMER: Adjourn debate, if you wish.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Well, I would like to thank the Minister for the suggestion. He has suggested that I adjourn the debate, and I would so do.
[ Page 3074 ]
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Second reading of Bill 104, Mr. Speaker.
RENTERS RESOURCE GRANT
AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
HON. L. NICOLSON (Minister of Housing): Mr. Speaker, last year this government took the step of recognizing renters beyond just elderly citizens — all tenants — with the Renters Resource Grant Act. This year, as outlined in the budget, steps will be taken so that in 1975 renters tax credit would be calculated on the basis of the $100 minus 1 per cent of taxable income.
So this is an improvement; it gives the benefit to the people who most need it. It also ensures that for this year elderly citizens who would be very much in need and be expecting this, as they have had the elderly citizens renters grant for some years, will be able to expect the $80 this year. As outlined again in the budget but not yet introduced, they would be able to expect between $80 and $100 next year.
Mr. Speaker, I would support the second reading of this bill.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, this bill comes up with a somewhat curious history and I'm surprised the Minister did not make reference to some of the most startling things about it. The Minister will remember that either on May 21 or May 22 I reminded him of this legislation and the fact that on June 1 the entitlements began again, under this legislation. I reminded him at that time that people who were applying in accordance with the legislation were having their applications for the resource grant turned down even though they were legally entitled by legislation passed in this House a little over a year ago.
So I find it curious that the Minister did not mention this. I find it curious also that he did not mention one of the gravest defects of this bill, which is its retroactive effect. We've been sitting here, Mr. Speaker, for literally months. It's quite possible for the government to bring a bill in one day and give it second reading the next. Indeed, that's precisely what this Minister has done with this bill. It beats me as to why it was not brought in before, because at the present time — and this carries on until such time as this bill gets royal assent — the previous Act applies. And at the present time people who apply under the existing legislation are not being permitted to take advantage of it.
I mentioned to the Minister on the 22nd of last month that it was curious that simply because legislation may be amended or simply because a new bill might be put on the order paper the Minister and his staff feel justified or seem to feel that they're justified in simply ignoring the legislation that is on the books — namely the Renters Resource Grant Act which is there at the present time. This particular piece of legislation certainly deals with those over 65; certainly it brings it in line with what was stated in the budget.
But the two major principles which this bill should be opposed on is that the present legislation is not being honoured. This government is simply ignoring the wishes of the Legislature. It's flouting the law and refusing to honour existing legislation. To bring in a bill of this nature retroactively after June 1 - which was the time at which the entitlement began again — to even introduce it later or after that date simply isn't good enough. Either in this province the law entitles people to certain rights and privileges, or the law should be changed. Until the law is changed, surely people should be entitled to take advantage of the existing law as it is.
That's the problem with this legislation; that's the problem with the principle of this bill; it's the problem with the retroactive provisions, and it's the problem with the Minister's department. They don't understand what law is all about.
The Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. King) earlier today objected to the opposition proposing wording changes to bills on the grounds that we are just fiddling around with the words. Well, it is the words which give people rights. It's the words of legislation, the words of bills and the words of law which people are convicted on, sent to jail on. It is important what is written in law, but this government doesn't seem to understand that one little bit. This Minister, in particular in the way he has treated people who have applied for the renter's resource grant either in the last few weeks, or in particular since June 1, simply has not been obeying the law. He's an outlaw; he's acting as an outlaw. It's just outrageous that Ministers of the Crown should act in this way.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Is that unparliamentary? I withdraw it if it's unparliamentary.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland), I'm sure, is going to have a valuable contribution to this debate as soon as he seagulls enough to get to his feet.
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) gets up and pooh-poohs the lack of respect for law in the province and what he forgets is that it starts at the very top. It starts at the Ministers of the Crown who have no respect for law. No respect for law is shown by the actions of the Department of Housing, the actions of the Minister of Housing's (Hon. Mr. Nicolson's) staff, acting
[ Page 3075 ]
apparently on his instruction, when it comes to requests by citizens entitled under the law who request grants and have these requests rejected on the grounds that even though the law exists — even though they have rights — sometime in the future it's going to be changed.
There are other examples of lack of respect for law which I won't go into at the present time.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the Hon. Member to try and speak more directly to the principle of this bill.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The principle of this bill is a retroactive bill to try and justify illegal acts currently being committed in the name of the Minister of Housing — that's the principle of this bill. Okay? Am I in order?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please. I would also point out to the Hon. Member that if he is accusing the Hon. Minister of illegal acts, the proper method to do this would be by a substantive motion.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Ohhh!
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think it is highly improper to charge the Minister on the floor of the House during debate on second reading with illegal acts.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: The Speaker's told you that, hasn't he?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Rather, he should merely state the facts in relation to the principle of the bill.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, sometimes these debates go so much better if you relax a little, and I think this might be one of them. The fact is that this legislation has its retroactive provision in it to protect the Minister and his department from their acts which, up to now, and indeed up to the time that this gets royal assent and is proclaimed, are not in accordance with the existing law. Now how's that? Okay? Good.
Now that we've clearly established that this legislation is retroactive justification for acts which are not in accordance with the law at the present time, I think we can discuss the fact that this bill is pretty rotten legislation. We feel that the government should honour existing law. We feel that those who are entitled should receive resource grants — renter's resource grants or any other. We feel that the mere indication in a budget speech that legislation may follow later on is simply not good enough. We feel, finally, that when the Minister is warned in this House a full week before the deadline — on the 22nd of the month when the first of this month was the deadline — he should at least have the courtesy of trying to introduce a bill before that deadline passes.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
I did my very best. I raised it with him; I added a sentence which the Speaker might well have picked me up on because it was an explanation of a question; I indicated to him clearly that he was in defiance of the law at that time — or at least his staff were with the correspondence they were sending out — and that on June 1 it would be much worse. He didn't see fit to bring in the bill before June 1, and I feel that I have a legitimate right to complain.
Mr. Speaker, to the principle of the bill: we just feel that the principle of all bills which is absolutely paramount is that the government should obey the law. We find that in this Renters Resource Grant Amendment Act, and in the actions of the Department of Housing leading up to it, we had a flouting of the law. There are other examples — plenty of other examples — which, no doubt, we will discuss in due course.
In this instance, I believe the Minister is certainly deserving of censure for bringing in this legislation on second reading and not mentioning the major principle of this legislation, which is to give ex post facto justification and legality to acts which are presently taking place and which are currently illegal.
MR. D.M. PHILLIPS (South Peace River): I, too, am concerned about what is going to happen with the legislation that is presently on the books, which has been on the books and active for the first five months of this year. This government, in bringing in this legislation at this time, seems to have a complete disregard, Mr. Speaker, for people's feelings. There are many thousands and thousands of people in British Columbia who would be applying for the renter's grant under the existing legislation who have, small as it may be, maybe budgeted for it and some who may have even put in an application.
I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to have the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) censure them for putting in a fraudulent application under the existing legislation.
But to get to the heart of the matter, Mr. Speaker, there will also be those between 60 and 65 particularly whom the government recognizes as people in need, in view of the fact that they are granted Mincome, but who now for some reason or other are not allowed a renter's grant under this legislation. I would like the Minister in closing debate in second reading to advise why these people.... As
[ Page 3076 ]
I say, they are recognized by Mincome.
I would also like him to advise me how many applications to date have been received under the existing legislation and what he intends to do with these people. Does he intend to give them the grant or is he going to return their applications?
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this grant is to give a resource grant to those renters in the province 65 years of age and over, a grant of $80 or approximately $6.50 per month. There are probably numerous people in the province who, even though they are 65 or over, are in circumstances where they do not need or require this grant. I feel, Mr. Speaker, that we should be moving into an area where we are giving renter's grants to those who need them. There are many people in this province who need assistance to pay their rent, who are much younger and in some cases much needier than some of the people who may be receiving the grant.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, we should be moving into an area, because of the increasing costs of providing accommodation, where we help the needy. I think the Minister must realize, because of the amount of accommodation he is trying to provide, that there are those who do not want to move because of location or because of family from their existing quarters. These people should be given more help immediately and they should be given certainly more help than the $80 a year or $6.50 a month which he is passing out.
Mr. Speaker, it bothers me that the Minister of Housing is falling into the same sloppy habits as the rest of his colleagues by bringing in his legislation in this manner. As has been pointed out previously in this House just a few moments ago, the budget has been down since February 28. The Minister had ample opportunity to bring this bill in and pass it through this House prior to this date so he didn't mislead a lot of people in British Columbia who maybe didn't get an opportunity to read the budget, who didn't know there was going to be a change coming. This government has had almost three years in government. We will soon be winding up the sixth session of legislation where this government has passed hundreds of bills. Yet we continue to see the same sloppiness and inability of cabinet Ministers to run the government in a businesslike manner.
This is a young Minister. He had an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to prove his worth, to follow the law.
AN HON. MEMBER: A $2 million profit.
MR. PHILLIPS: A $2 million profit, Mr. Speaker, and it still isn't up to what he paid for it. It still isn't worth what he paid for it in the first place. It still isn't what he paid for it in the first instance — and I refer to Dunhill.
After a year of operation, he still hasn't got a company that's worth what he paid for it in the first instance. But, Mr. Speaker, we have just seen altogether too much of this sloppy legislation this year. We saw the Premier bringing in a school tax removal Act, Bill 26. Then he had to turn around and withdraw it and bring in another bill. We've seen more recently where the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams) completely flaunts the law. We are supposed to be lawmakers here. Here's a man who has had two months to bring in legislation to make his B.C. Steamship Company legal, to make the payment of wages to the persons employed in this company legal, and we still have the company operating in a completely....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! The Hon. Member is on the wrong legislation obviously. It has nothing to do with Bill 104.
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, I am trying to compare, Mr. Speaker, the fact that this bill should have been in sooner, and that there is legislation which is....
MR. SPEAKER: What bill?
MR. PHILLIPS: Bill 104. We're on Bill 104, are we not?
MR. SPEAKER: That's correct, yes.
MR. PHILLIPS: It's the Renters Resource Grant Amendment Act, 1975.
MR. SPEAKER: Yes, if the Hon. Member will deal with that bill.
MR. PHILLIPS: Yes, well, I am just comparing it to the way the government brings in their legislation. I'll certainly stay on the point. I have finished my remarks. But, as I say, it bothers me, as a lawmaker, to see the sloppy way in which the government runs the province. I was just outlining. I could go on. I could probably talk for half an hour in other instances where we have had similar abuses of the law, but I certainly won't do that this afternoon.
But it does bother me, Mr. Speaker, that this Minister would have so little regard in bringing in this bill, so little regard for the feelings of all those people in the province, all of those people who are renting. Little as it might have been by past legislation, they were looking forward to it and have their applications in already. The Minister is going to have to send them a letter and say: "I am sorry. We have changed the legislation."
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: He's done that already.
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, has he? Oh, in anticipation
[ Page 3077 ]
of the legislation passing.
But I'd like to know and I want the Minister to answer me in closing second debate how many applications he has had to turn down with brutalness from people who have.... Turned them down illegally. Yes, that's right — turned them down because he wasn't astute enough to bring this legislation in shortly after the budget announced that it was going to be changed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, it is, I suppose, regrettable that the opposition has delayed by deliberately getting themselves thrown out of the House on several occasions. Well, you talk about lack of respect for law. Many times you say there is no higher law than the law in this House, and yet you consistently have defied that law. So I find it very hard to stomach those accusations, Mr. Member. And that's in spite of the fact that I am half Italian and I am sometimes sensitive to attacks of that nature. Oh, the better half, I'd say.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. No vendettas.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: Well, that wasn't a threat, Mr. Speaker, that wasn't a threat.
I think that we do have to keep in mind that the purpose of this Act is not to deny people the $30 renters grant but to make it possible for people who need and who deserve to receive a $100 grant. This is a step forward. This is, in effect, a double payment for the year 1975 for senior citizens over the age of 65. It is really for the calendar year 1975...
MR. PHILLIPS: Doubletalk by that Minister.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: ...that people will be filing through an income tax form and return. There have been to date 5,000 applications which we have advised will have to be resubmitted next year under what we anticipate will be the new terms of the Act and be the new, improved, better terms of the Act.
It's rather ironic, Mr. Speaker, that these people talked about our estimates of the number of persons who would apply for the grant last year. They said that people wouldn't apply. But, in fact, 179,194 people did apply for the grant under the Act last year.
AN HON. MEMBER: After massive advertising.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: Our expectation was a rather rough estimate in round figures, and we estimated 200,000 persons.
HON. MR. NICOLSON: While they didn't all come in in one rush as we had expected in the month of June, they came in a rather steady stream throughout the year. We did receive the applications. I know that many renters have, at least, recognized what we said. We said it was a start, a step, and a step towards the recognition of tenants in this province.
So, Mr. Speaker, I now move second reading.
Bill 104, Renters Resource Grant Amendment Act, 1975, read a second time and referred to Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 102.
HEALTH STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 1975
HON. D.G. COCKE (Minister of Health): Mr. Speaker, for a number of years the Health department has felt that the Attorney-General has had a place in the sun because he introduced an omnibus bill, so we thought maybe it was time the Health department did exactly the same thing. We have five amendments in this particular bill, and I just want to quickly go over what those amendments are all about.
The first amendment is with respect to the metropolitan boards of health which in the past haven't had borrowing power, haven't really been able to run any kind of programmes properly. Sometimes they have done it on an ad hoc basis, and that is really not quite good enough. Therefore, this amendment.
The second amendment, as part of the Medical Centre of B.C. puts the B.C. Cancer Treatment Research Foundation out of the Act and brings in the Cancer Control Agency which has replaced the foundation.
HON. MR. COCKE: That's right.
I think the third one is a little bit important in this respect: when the federal government turned over Veterans' Hospital in Victoria to provincial status, we then turned it over to the Royal Jubilee Hospital. On doing so, we asked the Jubilee if in fact they would make room for a member of the Canadian Legion on the board. After all, they were still taking responsibility for a number of veterans, and we felt a legionnaire should be on the board. They decided to ignore the request for a number of months. I felt, and we indicated, that should that not occur finally, we had access to the legislation, and that is exactly what we are doing now; we are making a place on the
[ Page 3078 ]
board for an appointment from the Western Command of the Royal Canadian Legion. I think it is fair enough. I mean, after all, they wish to protect their interests.
The fourth area of change is because of inflation. Where hospitals have the power to borrow or to have construction changes and so on in regional districts, they can have programmes up to $200,000 now instead of the $100,000 which was permitted before. That doesn't say that a district with a smaller amount can go to the whole $200,000, but will be allowed a proportionate amount greater.
The Tuberculosis Institutions Act is repealed because it is no longer needed. We feel that they are part of the other hospitals and institutions in the province, and therefore no longer needed.
So, Mr. Speaker, with that I move second reading of the Health Statutes Amendment Act.
MR. McCLELLAND: It is appropriate, I suppose, that one of the changes in here came today, allowing a member of the Royal Canadian Legion on the board of the former Veteran's Hospital, especially since the Legion members are meeting today in Victoria in convention. I am sure they will be happy to hear that.
I am a little disappointed with this bill. The Minister mentioned in opening the debate that it was sort of taking this bill away from the Attorney-General's field in which the omnibus bill usually comes in and covers all of these things. But in the omnibus bill, every time I have seen one, and I am a relatively new Member of this House, there is always a sleeper in there somewhere, about halfway through the bill, in which they really lower the hammer on the opposition with a section that is all-powerful and all-pervasive, and nobody is expecting it. The government always tries to get it through, hopefully, without the opposition seeing that section of the bill. But I can't find one in here. I think the Minister has let us down. He should have had something in here that would have been a sleeper and would have been kind of sneaky, but he hasn't done that that I can see. So we don't have much choice but to support the thing.
HON. MR. COCKE: Thank you.
MR. SPEAKER: I am sure the Hon. Minister will clear that up.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Speaker, as we are continuing committee stage of this bill, started by the Minister as he went through clause by clause, perhaps I could refer specifically to that Provincial Royal Jubilee Hospital Act of 1890, and the amendment there, and ask whether this amendment has been brought on by complaints by veterans that the service and care that they are receiving in what was formerly veterans' hospital is not up to what it was previously when that institution was run by the Veterans' Affairs department.
The Minister and I both know that there's been a long history of to-ing and fro-ing, and backing and filling on the issue of turning over these veterans' hospitals, and the group that has been most vehement in opposing it has naturally been the veterans' organization, which feels that by having a hospital where you have a maternity wing, a few sick kids, and others, they'll be destroying the happy, almost club-like atmosphere that some of these wards have had when the older veterans of Vimy get together in certain areas and discuss old times, and veterans from other wars and other times similarly are there with their peers. They feared when the hospital was turned over that the standard of care would become less, and the institution become more impersonal as it tended to deal with, of course, many other people as well. I fully approve, by the way, of the handing over of these institutions because of the under-utilization of the beds in the former veterans' hospitals, but I do feel that we have to watch very closely to make sure that the veterans themselves are getting the type of treatment and the type of attention that they thought they would get when the hospitals were turned over.
So I wonder whether the Minister would indicate to the House, when he closes debate and moves third reading, as I presume we've had our committee stage, whether or not he's received representation concerning this problem with respect to the former veterans' hospital here in Victoria, and whether he's had to take any action, or any people of his staff have checked out complaints that the standard of service is not what it was. When he closes debate perhaps he could indicate to us, if he has taken any steps, what those steps might be.
MR. WALLACE: I think this is an important part of the principle of the bill because it's setting a precedent in one sense. By enlarging the board of the Royal Jubilee Hospital in order to encompass one position for one particular segment of society, one has to ask to what degree the Minister may come under progressive pressure in the future as other groups might seek to have the same privilege. I well understand the specific nature of this particular move that the Minister's making, and would automatically think about the Vancouver General Hospital, in relation to Shaughnessy. Has the Minister been approached, for example, by anyone on the mainland who is associated with the Shaughnessy Hospital who wants the same kind of legislation applicable in Vancouver?
Beyond that, I think the other point that's been raised is the whole question of the veterans who are concerned that they are losing something by having
[ Page 3079 ]
the veterans' hospital building incorporated under the jurisdiction of the Royal Jubilee Hospital. I've had correspondence with veterans raising the point, and I think the situation as I understand it is that veterans requiring hospital treatment unrelated either to a previous war injury or to a war-inherited disability no longer have any priority regarding admission to the Royal Jubilee Hospital, whereas, because beds were vacant in the veterans' hospital before the changeover, sometimes a veteran might receive some priority in admission, although the condition for which he was being admitted was totally unrelated to any war-acquired disability or illness.
It seems to me, in looking at the economics of health care, and particularly hospital care, which the Minister has agreed many times is one of rapidly escalating costs, that society as a whole has to have the most economic and judicious use of all facilities in the community. If one has any criticism, it would be that there was a long delay between the actual acquisition of the veterans' hospital, when you think of the original studies that were done right across the country. I forget the name of the gentleman — was it Porter? No. I can't remember the name of the person who issued the report. Anyway, the interesting thing was that Victoria was looked upon as the most suitable one to be taken over first, in that report. As it happened, time went by, and I think the one in Calgary was taken over, and the one in Toronto — I can't recall its name either — but this has been happening across the country.
Not to prolong the debate, but I wonder if the Minister could tell us if he has had other requests in relation to Shaughnessy. What about these other hospitals in other provinces where the DVA hospital's been taken over by a community hospital? Thirdly, can he clarify or confirm the comment I've made that under the new system, where the veterans' hospitals are part of a community hospital, the veterans no longer have any priority on admission if the condition is unrelated to war-acquired disability or disease?
HON. MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I extend my feeling of being inadequate across the floor to the Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) in not coming up with an all-powerful or all pervasive section in the bill. Maybe if he read it long enough, he might find one.
But in any event, I just want to very quickly deal with the one section that seemed to attract the attention of two Members, one from Victoria and one from Oak Bay, and that is about the complaints about the veterans' care.
There have been no complaints to any greater extent than what you would normally expect in that kind of transition. We don't feel that the standard of care is less. As a matter of fact, it improves because there are more doctors available under the new circumstances than there were before. That was what the Department of Veterans Affairs was worried about, because there was a reduction in patient care by virtue of the fact that they could not attract professional staff.
The last thing, Mr. Speaker: the groups that we would expect would go along this route.... There aren't any others that we can anticipate would go that route because it is an entirely different situation than you would normally expect. Shaughnessy did it automatically. Shaughnessy accepted it as a principle, a good principle. Jubilee didn't. I understand most of the other hospitals across Canada accepted it automatically.
As far as the priority is concerned, Mr. Speaker, the priority is there for veterans. There are a number of beds, the number that they asked for, set aside. But most veterans want to stay in their own community wherever they happen to be, and use their own doctor, whoever he happens to be. If it is not a war-related injury, why should they go to a different hospital?
So, Mr. Speaker, generally it is working out well. We expect it to work better. I therefore move second reading and we can discuss the bill in committee stage.
AN HON. MEMBER: That is more like it.
Bill 102, Health Statutes Amendment Act, 1975, read a second time and referred to Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on what I believe to be a serious matter of privilege, a matter affecting the privileges of this House and all Hon. Members.
MR. SPEAKER: State the matter briefly, please.
MR. GIBSON: It goes to the fundamental freedom of this House and the protection of the citizens: namely, the control of expenditures of the government by this Legislature. It is an ancient privilege. Without attempting to read the whole of May, may I just read three citations? First of all a section on page 132 of the 18th edition relating to contempt in general:
"It may be stated generally that any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of parliament in the performance of its function, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency directly or indirectly to produce such results,
[ Page 3080 ]
may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence."
Then later, Mr. Speaker, at page 678 of May, the question of legislative control is dealt with directly:
"The Treasury, unless otherwise authorized, has no power to make an issue from the consolidated fund of sums granted to the departments unless such grants have been appropriated by statute to the service and object to which they are destined."
Later on, this specific question of financial privilege, at page 777. This is from a section headed up, "Basis of Modern Practice with Respect to Privilege."
"...all aids and supplies and aids to His Majesty in parliament are the sole gift of the Commons, and all bills for the granting of such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons, and that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants which ought not to be changed or altered by the Lords."
Mr. Speaker, later on I will cite two specific cases where this has not been done. The first case relates to the steamship Marguerite. The second case relates to the payment of the public servants engaged in the Rent Review Commission.
I just say before that that certain aspects of our law have been codified in the Audit Act and it is made very specific in the Audit Act.
I refer Your Honour to section 18 which makes it clear that moneys must be granted to Her Majesty by the Legislative Assembly to defray expenses for any specified public purpose. I am underlining that phrase "specified public purpose."
Later on the duty of the comptroller-general is outlined, section 24:
"The comptroller-general shall see that no cheque is issued for the payment of any public moneys for which there is no direct legislative authority."
Then section 25: "Subject to the provision of subsections (2) and (3) no cheque for the payment of any public money shall be issued except upon a certificate of a comptroller-general that legislative authority exists."
Now, Mr. Speaker, the current authority that the government has for the expenditure of moneys in this year arises from Supply Act No. 1, Bill 11 in this House. I'll read out section 2 of that Act:
"No sum out of the supply shall be issued or applied to any purpose other than those provided in the main estimates, or in excess of the estimate of the expenditures therein, and the due application of all moneys expended under the authority of this Act shall be accounted to Her Majesty."
I emphasize "any purpose other than those provided in the main estimates".
Mr. Speaker, I have to draw to your attention two specific cases. One is that I have ascertained to my satisfaction that in the matter of the Princess Marguerite, which vessel was acquired, apparently, out of the Greenbelt Fund, I believe that payments were made from general government accounts in respect of salaries and supplies for that vessel. Curiously enough, Mr. Speaker, I am today advised that there was reimbursement to the government, of that account receivable, of funds which had been paid out, I argue, illegally in the last few weeks. Reimbursement from a private company entitled the B.C. Steamship Co., 1975, Ltd. It's strange to me, Your Honour, that public property such as the Marguerite should be operated by a private company. I was unable to ascertain who are the owners of this private company.
MR. SPEAKER: I am going to ask the Hon. Member if he is sure of his facts.
MR. GIBSON: I have these facts, Your Honour, from a government official whose name I will be glad to give you.
MR. SPEAKER: Do you have the letters patent for this company?
MR. GIBSON: No, I don't, Sir.
MR. SPEAKER: Do you have the names of the shareholders — whether they are trustees for the government or anyone else?
MR. GIBSON: No, indeed. I was unable to ascertain that.
MR. SPEAKER: I see. It's rather relevant, isn't it?
MR. GIBSON: Well, it may or may not be, Sir. That's exactly the point I am coming to.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, it determines whether it's a Crown agency or it isn't. I have to know that, don't I?
MR. GIBSON: No, no. The fact is that expenditures were made by the Crown. The compensation to the Crown was made by this private company. I mention that merely in passing.
MR. SPEAKER: The Hon. Member refers to it as a private company. I ask the Hon. Member if he can relate the facts to me, like the letters patent or the
[ Page 3081 ]
names of the shareholders — whether they are trustees for the Crown, or whatever they may be.
MR. GIBSON: All I can tell Your Honour at this stage, because I'm raising this at the earliest opportunity, is that this is a federally chartered private company, called B.C. Steamship Co. 1975, Ltd.
MR. SPEAKER: That means I've got to investigate the facts, I presume, before we consider whether there's any question of privilege.
MR. GIBSON: Yes, I'm going to make that suggestion to you. That is the first case.
The second case relates to the Rent Review Commission which under the legislative authority of section 64 of the Landlord and Tenant Act was granted funds to operate and for the persons working for that commission to be paid their salaries. That authority expired on March 31 of this year.
Since then, I argue to Your Honour, payments have been made illegally to persons working for the Rent Review Commission, and not included in the estimates. The only estimate which could conceivably be involved in the estimate for rentalsman, and I refer Your Honour to page L-53 of the estimate book describing the office of the rentalsman and noting that his duties do not include "with the exception of questions of rent increases" — these questions, of course, being reserved to the Rent Review Commission. There therefore is no legislative provision for these payments, whether under Supply Act No. 1 or anywhere in our estimates.
Furthermore, I would refer Your Honour to a quotation today in the Vancouver Sun, June 4, the column of Marjorie Nichols, where she quotes an employee of the comptroller-general's office as saying: "They shouldn't be paid. I told them in the department that they shouldn't be paying them," — referring to the Rent Review Commission.
The question I submit to Your Honour is not one of the merit of these expenditures. It's rather one of the respect of the privileges of this House by the government. I ask Your Honour to ascertain whether such illegal payments were made, and if they were, to ascertain what kinds of pressures were brought upon officials to have them made. I suggest to Your Honour that the only protection this House has is the integrity of financial reporting. If this is being subverted, an important part of the privilege of this House is gone.
Therefore I ask your honour to take under advisement these facts, to inquire and, if appropriate, to seek authority from this House to take action to stop any illegal payments immediately, and to take appropriate action with respect to any such payments which have been made in the past.
MR. SPEAKER: I have a few questions. I have listened with interest to the statement of the Hon. Member. I think the Hon. Member realizes that on matters which may concern the question of privilege and whether, in fact, the House is being in any way obstructed or impeded or any contempt has been displayed to the powers and prerogatives of the House, that certain questions have to be answered first and a proper case made before the Speaker could see whether a prima facie matter should be left to the House.
The questions I had have been partly answered and partly will have to be investigated. One is: is there an entity now owned by the Crown, either owned directly or indirectly by some emanation or by agents or by trustees or by shareholders who are holding trust for the Crown under letters patent for some steamship company, as you indicate? That's the first question. It can be operated quite outside the present terms of the Audit Act if it is receiving money of its own from revenues.
The question I still have to ask is: is it in a profit position or a deficit at this present time, and therefore draining the consolidated revenue fund or not, and is there expenditure required from any statutory source as of this time, or will it be required in the future? Is it operating on receipts or is it operating on notes? If so, is it under a statutory loan or under a private corporation loan by those who may be trustees holding for the Crown, and what might the effect of that be?
Then I have to look also, I would submit, at section 31 of the Audit Act where, if expenditures are made, they must be then accounted for with the Comptroller-General and the Minister of Finance, and that must be reported under section 36.
I'm grateful to the Hon. Member for giving me advance notice of this to the extent that I could at least understand what the nature of the complaint would be. As to any investigation of it, it takes a little more than that.
I point out that we have had notice from the government that some steps are being taken to institute some kind of an agency or authority — I don't know the nature of that because I haven't seen any bill. But I also point out that in May there are two provisions that seem to bear somewhat in the British practice, although I haven't studied this in detail to see whether it applies here, In the 18th edition at page 684, it says:
"Although legislation is needed to give complete sanction to parliamentary grants, temporary and provisional validity is given to resolutions of the House of Commons granting supply to the Public Accounts and Charges Act, "
Now we don't have quite the same thing. I must relate that provision they have in the British practice
[ Page 3082 ]
to another page in May, page 728, where it deals with appropriation to be completed each session:
"The principle of appropriation, the constitutional importance of which has been indicated in the previous chapter, page 684-6, requires that all money issued from the consolidated fund should be appropriated by statute to the service for which it has been voted and that the session should not be closed before this has been done.
"If it is intended to dissolve parliament before supply for the year has been provided, any grants on account that may be necessary must be appropriated by an appropriation Act before the session is closed."
So one would assume, and I hope we all quietly pray, that either the appropriations are all completed or that bills are passed giving statutory authority to whatever is being done and we don't have to invoke section 31 or section 36 of the Audit Act.
But I will look at the question and see if I can ascertain more facts so that I might better understand whether it falls within the complaint made by the Hon. Member, that we are in breach of the provisions set out in May on the pages that he has cited.
Thank you very much. I will look into it and try to report back to the House.
MR. GIBSON: If I could perhaps be briefly helpful in responding to Your Honour. The question of the existence or non-existence or the legality of the B.C. Steamship Company ... I am not making any particular allegations there at the moment. I've not had time to investigate that sufficiently.
What I'm saying is that there were payments out of the consolidated revenue fund, without legislative authority, which have since been reimbursed by that company.
Secondly, with respect to section 36, I would suggest to your Honour that it might be useful to inquire whether such a report has been made to the Treasury Board and, failing that, it might be useful to inquire under section 25 whether the Attorney-General has given a certificate that such a payment is in order irrespective of the opinion of the....
MR. SPEAKER: That would have to be done within 15 days of the next session, under section 36, not this session.
MR. GIBSON: Yes, but section 25, however, provides for an earlier certification.
Next, as to the question of which law applies, the British or our own, Supply Act No. 1, 1975, I would think, would be the most specific authority, and that Act, as I suggest, says: "No sum out of the supply shall be issued or applied to any purpose other than those provided in the main estimates," and I suggest that neither of these expenditures were so provided.
MR. SPEAKER: I will certainly look into it.
MR. CURTIS: In order to assist you further in reviewing the matter raised by the Member for North Vancouver-Capilano, you will recall that I raised this in question period earlier this week, and I was informed today that the registrar of companies, as of this morning, I believe, had no knowledge of a company by the name of British Columbia Steamship Co., 1975, Ltd.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the Hon. Member has probably cleared that up. It would be a legal thing that the Member would not be aware of, that letters patent are usually granted by the federal authority, the Secretary of State, not by the provincial authority.
MR. CURTIS: Nonetheless, the ship, Mr. Speaker, is sailing merrily back and forth between two ports, presumably without the authority of this House, in Canadian and American waters.
MR. SPEAKER: It wouldn't be right if we didn't hear from a lawyer.
MR. GARDOM: Just following the point made by the former speaker, it is true that if it is a federally incorporated company it's not necessary that the provincial registrar of companies would have knowledge of that, but if it is a federally incorporated company that is doing business in the Province of British Columbia, it has to be extra-provincially registered under our B.C. Companies Act.
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I believe that if it is plying between two ports, one outside the jurisdiction and one inside, it sounds logical that it would be a federal letters patent. The facts of the matter I will try to investigate as quickly as possible to satisfy the House that whatever is being done is being done without any offence against this House, its privileges or its prerogatives.
Hon. Mrs. Dailly moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 6:05 p.m.
[ Page 3083 ]
85 Mr. Wallace to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 85) intituled Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act, to amend as follows:
Section 3, subsection (1), line 2: After the words "trade-unions" insert the words "and members of management including small businessmen".
Section 3, subsection (2), line 4: After the word "process" add the words "including any employer and any small businessman".
Section 3, subsection (2), line 6: After the word "organizations" add the words "and for members of management representing employers in negotiations for collective agreements".
Section 3, subsection (2), line 8: After the word "staff" add the words "and of members of management who represent employers, including small businessmen, in negotiating collective agreements".
Section 3, subsection (2), line 13: After the word "trade-unions" add the words "and employers and their representatives in negotiations for collective agreements".
85 The Hon. W. S. King to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 85) intituled Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act, to amend as follows:
Section 6, subsection (1 ), clause (f), lines 4 and 5: By deleting "the appointment of a chairman, ".
Section 7, subsection (1): By deleting subsection (1) and substituting the following:
"(1) The board shall,
"(a) subject to the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, appoint an executive director, and
"(b) appoint instructional staff, and determine their remuneration and terms of appointment."
86 Mr. Bennett to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 86) intituled Savings and Trust Corporation of British Columbia Act, to amend as follows:
Section 3, by adding the following after section 3:
"3A. Notwithstanding anything in this Act or the Regulations made pursuant to this Act, the company shall not open branch offices so as to be in competition either directly or indirectly with any credit union as defined by the Credit Unions Act."