1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
MONDAY, JUNE 9, 1975
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Supply Act, No. 2, 1975 (Bill 80). Second reading. Mr. Gibson — 3249
Division on second reading — 3258
Supply Act, No. 2, 1975 (Bill 80). Committee stage.
On section 1. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3258
On section 2. Mr. Gibson — 3260
Amendment. Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3263
Mr. Chairman rules out of order — 3263
Report and third reading — 3264
Royal assent to bills — 3265
The House met at 6:07 p.m.
Orders of the day.
HON. E. HALL (Provincial Secretary): Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House to move to adjourned debate of second reading of Bill 80.
SUPPLY ACT, NO. 2, 1975
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver–Capilano): The point at which I was before the adjournment related to giving an example of the failure of institutions that this House must be able to trust if we are to vote supply to this government. If this House cannot allot money to specified purposes, in the security that it will not be used for other purposes than we are voting for, then we're in very serious trouble because we are not equipped as an institution to do the kind of auditing work that's necessary to search out every byway and highway of the government's disbursement of funds. We must rely for that on the financial process which has been set up under the Audit Act.
I suggest to you, Sir, that these two cases of undoubted illegal payment of funds give prima facie evidence that that control structure has failed in these two cases. It appears to me — and I may be wrong — that the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett) has not taken those cases seriously. I believe it to be a matter of utmost gravity.
I won't go on through all of the sections of the Audit Act, but I'll just mention here that section 31 states that the comptroller-general shall report to the Treasury Board through the Minister of Finance when any sub account has expended moneys where there is a disagreement, basically, over an appropriation.
Was there such a report? I asked the Minister of Finance that. Has he received such a report, and what has he done about it?
Mr. Speaker, it's absolutely essential that these questions be answered. I want the Minister of Finance, on closing debate on second reading, to answer them or else to expect that they're going to be repeated in committee, because this whole system of financial control by this House is fundamental to the voting of money by this House. I say to you that unless the law of this province, under the Audit Act, is observed, then this House loses any ability to do what its job is — among other things, to protect the taxpayers of this province in voting expenditures of their money and in controlling the expenditure of those moneys.
Therefore, I say that there is a very serious question of control and accountability in this bill, particularly relating to section 2, and it must be resolved by the Minister of Finance before this legislation should pass.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Quite obviously, for the sake of people concerned in receiving salaries and payments which the government owes them, we will support this bill.
The points that have been raised by the Liberal Member are very valid ones. We've got so many smart-alecs in this House that I suppose the people in British Columbia are just like myself. They read the accusations and they read the answers, and we're not experts on constitutional law, or the spending and allocation of funds, and I'm pleased that we've got so many experts in the House who can enlighten ignorant people like me. The man I talked to in the street isn't any financial expert, but he is concerned that he can trust government. The man in the street, as I hear the comments, says, yes, they're pleased that the Princess Marguerite is sailing, and the businessmen are very happy, but the question is being asked: did the government blunder, even with good intentions?
Well, you're all shaking your heads over there. All we want is the answer. If you didn't make any mistakes, and you didn't break the rules, just tell us. The Minister of Finance often says he's just a country boy, and as far as money's concerned, so am I. I just want the simple answers. Did the government use funds which it had no legal or constitutional authority to use? Just tell us. If it was done by error or mistake or ignorance, that might be excusable also, but it is certainly nothing less than the duty of opposition Members in this House, when questions are raised of this nature, to ask for a simple explanation. If, in fact, the legal power was not there, how is it that the government could get itself into this kind of mess and now appear to be rather slow to give us an explanation, either how the mess or the mistake happened, or how it is to be corrected.
Just as a very ordinary observer of issues that I don't understand in great detail, I just say we've now got the bill introduced to try and correct the situation. I would have thought that the very least the government might have done was to proceed with that bill at the earliest possible moment.
Now these are just simple, ordinary questions that I think everybody in the province is asking, once they read the newspapers. So we will support this bill for the obvious reason that we have a commitment to civil servants and many other people to be paid. But I do think that we are entitled to a very straightforward explanation without any more messing around or any more debate. If the Minister would just tell us that he has got the answer ready to give us, we can even stop the debate. But I assume
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that other opposition Members feel that we are not likely to get the answers.
There is one other point I would just make. The Member of the opposition quoted a memorandum that points out that the government is cutting back on some of its expenditures, and I guess we on this side of the House can't have it both ways. I'm very pleased to hear that you are cutting back on some of your expenditures. That's one of the basic criticisms we've levelled at this government from the day this session started. So for my part, anyway, speaking just as one person of the opposition, if, in fact, government is trying to trim its spending, I'm very pleased to hear that. I hope that when the Minister winds up discussion on second reading he also will point out if, in fact, there is some attempt by this government to realize that money doesn't grow on trees, that inflation is a serious problem, and that the best example for every citizen in the country should start with government.
MR. D.M. PHILLIPS (South Peace River): As stated, we will certainly support this bill, but I think before we support it we should have a few things straightened out.
Mr. Chairman, on June 4, five short days ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) asked a very sincere question in this Legislature. He asked the Premier about an interim supply bill. I would like to quote out of Hansard. He said, the Leader of the Opposition:
On March 26 the Premier brought in an interim supply bill, which was for $537 million, or one-sixth of the proposed budget, which I presume would cover two months of expenditures 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 supply bill now that it is June 4?
The facetious answer of the Minister of Finance, five short days ago, was to take the question as notice, Mr. Speaker. To take the question as notice!
When the Leader of the Opposition went on to quote from a letter which he had received where civil servants had said that they could not continue to carry on with their programmes because the estimates had not been passed through the Legislature, again the Minister of Finance gave a facetious answer. I think it is time, Mr. Speaker, that we had a little more truth and honesty from the Minister of Finance.
We talked about curtailment of programmes, and the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall) said he had no knowledge of them; he had missed the Treasury Board meeting. The Minister of Finance said he had no knowledge of curtailment of programmes or cutbacks. And here is the Minister of Finance, the chairman of the Treasury Board, who had no knowledge of cutbacks in government expenditure. To me that seems incredible.
I just have to wonder, Mr. Speaker: were the Premier and Minister of Finance and the Provincial Secretary trying to mislead the people of this province, or did they not know? It seems incredible to me that the Minister of Finance would not know, that the Minister of Finance and chairman of the Treasury Board would not know that there were directives being issued for curtailment of programmes in various departments.
AN HON. MEMBER: Incredible!
MR. PHILLIPS: It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, completely incredible. But I want to tell you that the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich), when asked about the same programme, and he sits on the Treasury Board — what did he say? He said, "No." But I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke) was asked during his estimates if there had been a memorandum or a question with regard to cutbacks, that Minister was honest and he stood in this Legislature and he said, "Yes."
MR. PHILLIPS: That's right. Yet the Minister of Agriculture had no knowledge of the same cutbacks. Who knows what's going on in that government? The Minister of Agriculture sits on the Treasury Board. The Provincial Secretary sits on the Treasury Board. The Minister of Finance sits on the Treasury Board. Who knows what's going on in that government? Who knows what's going on? I just have to ask you: who knows what's going on in that government if the Minister of Finance doesn't know what's going on?
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. PHILLIPS: What we want, Mr. Speaker, is a little more truth and honesty in this government, because here we have budgets going through this House which are completely meaningless to me.
We had the same thing last year before the ink was dry on the budget. The Minister of Education (Hon. Mrs. Dailly) was changing her estimates; the Minister of Finance was changing the whole budget. I don't even know why we discuss estimates in this Legislature, because before they're passed through there are changes taking place.
We have the case of where the government is going out completely disregarding section 31 of the Audit Act, where it says:
"The comptroller-general shall report to the Treasury Board through the Minister of Finance any case in which a sub account charged with the expenditure of public moneys has expended moneys in excess of any advance as provided by
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section 19 or beyond the amount for which there is no authority or any other appropriation or purpose not connected with such advance."
Complete disregard for the laws of this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. Then when asked about them, what do they say? "Oh, there's legislation coming in."
This Legislature and this government has deteriorated to the point where it is a complete farce. The people of this province are concerned. They are concerned about truth and honesty in government and they are concerned about statements being made by the Minister of Finance. Before we finish debating the estimates of this Legislature, they are already changed. So all I can say is that the budget is a complete false document.
What is happening, Mr. Speaker? Programmes that were started last year — a lot of time and effort put into them, particularly with the Department of Human Resources that built up expectations in the minds of many tax-payers in this province and built up expectations in the minds of many needy in this province — are now this year being curtailed. Programmes that were started last year are being curtailed after building up expectations of many of the poor and needy in this province.
It's no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi) is not in this House tonight. What a waste of effort! What a complete disappointment to citizens in this province! It's no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that there is no love in this province. What we find as we travel throughout this province is mistrust of this government, hate of this government, disdain for this government.
The Premier can make all the glowing speeches he wants to about this province being run on love. I'll tell you, there is no love in this province, not for that government — no love in this province for that government.
HON. D.G. COCKE (Minister of Health): Roll in your own bath water, my friend.
MR. PHILLIPS: I'll give the Minister of Health credit. At least he had the intestinal fortitude to stand in this Legislature when asked about curtailment of programmes and say, "Yes," while the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich), the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall) and the Minister of Finance said.... Well, the Minister of Agriculture said, "no." The Minister of Finance said, "I don't know of any."
I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, if we're going to have any respect — if we're going to have truth and honesty in government — we want the people of the cabinet benches to tell the whole story in this Legislature. You wonder why debates run maybe longer than they should in this Legislature.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. PHILLIPS: I'll tell you why. It's just because of the misleading statements...
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. PHILLIPS: ...that we get from the cabinet benches. That's why we have to question and question and question, because when we are given answers, Mr. Speaker, we're never sure whether they're truthful answers or not.
MR. SPEAKER: May I point out to the Hon. Member that we are dealing here with a very narrow debate that has to do with whether the province needs the sum of money that is required to carry on until the budget has been completed?
MR. PHILLIPS: That's exactly what I am arguing, Mr. Speaker. Because it's one-twelfth of the budget and there are already cutbacks; and the Minister of Finance blaming cutbacks on programmes on the fact that the opposition hasn't passed the estimates is completely misleading — completely misleading. I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, that this gentleman in Penticton who wrote the letter — Siva Transport Ltd., 499 Main St., Penticton — to the Leader of the Opposition starting out, "Thank you for nothing," blaming on the opposition benches the fact that that government is curtailing expenditures, is completely misleading. Mr. Speaker, the government is bringing more politics into the civil service. Do you think that we should let this pass without debate? Where did this man get this idea? Did he dream it up? Did he write this letter? Did he have a bad dream? Or was he told, as he said...?
"We were successful in winning a number of tenders totalling some 120 trucks. To date of those 120 trucks we have only put out some 15 and the various departments" — not only one department, Mr. Speaker — "such as fish and wildlife, Forest Service, parks branch and so forth have cancelled all other orders. They cannot take any trucks until the budgets have been approved in the Legislature."
What a misleading statement, Mr. Speaker! We're passing interim supply of one-twelfth. I want the Minister of Finance to tell me after this interim supply bill is passed if he is going to continue with these programmes or if he is going to continue with the tight-belt policy that he has adopted so far.
MR. PHILLIPS: Yes, I intend to read the next line. "In addition to this, the departments have notified university help that they cannot hire them at
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the present time due to the fact, again, that their budgets have not been approved."
The letter continues: "By your delaying tactics in the Legislature you have cost our company thousands of dollars and have directly put hundreds of university students out of jobs for the summer months."
That is the type of farcical statement we hear from that government. Then when you tell them the truth, they hammer their desks and say jolly good. I call that complete ignorance, Mr. Speaker, complete ignorance of the facts. First of all, they mislead the people about what is going on in the province, and when you tell the truth, they hammer their desks in great glee.
"By your delaying tactics in the Legislature you have cost
our company thousands of dollars and have directly put hundreds
of university students out of jobs for the summer months."
That is what this ill-informed man says. By whom was he informed? He was informed by the very department that he wanted to do business with, Mr. Speaker.
Is that what the Minister of Finance has been telling the civil servants in this province — that they can't continue with their programmes because the estimates have not passed through the Legislature? Who gives out these memorandums? Who informs these people? Who informs the civil servants?
"All I wish to say at this moment is that we wish to thank you for nothing. You can rest assured that we as small businessmen, and other small businessmen who are directly affected by your delaying the budget will remember you in the next election."
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, there go the ignorant lambs now. The lambs who normally bow and cow to the front bench of the cabinet are making mockery of somebody who is misled, a small businessman in this province who is misled about the true reason for programmes that are being cut back.
Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we will support this bill, but we would like the Minister of Finance to give us some of the true facts. Exactly what is happening in government? Why is the government hard-pressed, and in many cases delaying the payment of accounts to small businessmen in the province by 90 to 120 days, those small businessmen whom he claims so gloriously out in the ridings to help? Is the government broke? Where is the money? Is the government going broke?
I think it is time we brought in some truth and honesty in government, and that the Premier of this province, the Minister of Finance, started using some common sense instead of being political in the running of his department.
HON. E. HALL (Provincial Secretary): The Member who has just spoken has taken an answer of mine out of context and used that instance to make a political speech based on a false premise. My statement was in response to a specific question by the Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams).
Mr. Speaker, the Member's actions were either deliberately misleading or were inadvertent. If they were inadvertent, they are in keeping with his intelligence. If they were deliberately misleading, they were in keeping with his political principles.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Mr. Speaker, I have listened to a lot of kind words being exchanged between the Provincial Secretary and the Member for South Peace River (Mr. Phillips) but I think that there has been a certain amount of confusion here. If, as the official opposition seems to believe, this government should cease to be the government, should leave office, then obviously they are duty-bound to vote against this particular piece of legislation. So we are going to vote against it unless the Premier and Minister of Finance comes up with some very good answers to the many questions posed to him by the Member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson).
After all, it is not just a question of worrying about the programmes of the government which are ongoing. Surely, we should spend a little time worrying about whether or not they should continue. If that is the case, if we don't think they should continue, the obvious way to change it is a vote.
I would like to ask a few questions of my own at this stage. I was going to get to my feet to congratulate the Minister of Finance for coming forward — he got 60 days supply, and he managed to stretch it out for 69 days. I thought perhaps we would hear a few words of praise that the man is trying hard to tighten his belt, to cut down on unnecessary programmes, to get rid of the fat in government. But apparently he is being attacked by the official opposition for squeezing those extra days out of the money allotted.
If it is possible for us to grant one-sixth of supply, and the Premier and Minister of Finance can squeeze it out over, essentially, another 10 days, I wonder, when he is closing the debate, whether the Minister of Finance would indicate whether or not expenditures are not as expected. Clearly these extra nine days are a very clear tip off that we are spending less than the estimate book calls for.
In addition, Mr. Speaker — you certainly are aware of this — as some of this money has been spent for
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purposes not considered and not put forward in the estimates book, it appears that the economies being practised by the government — and let's face it, there are some economies being practised by the government — are having some results. Surely the Minister of Finance should indicate to us what his revised expectations are.
We passed his supply bill No. 1 on March 20, I believe, and we are now here on June 9. Clearly the government's been able to squeeze a few more days' work and a few more days of programmes out of those moneys that we voted at that time. Surely the time is now to indicate to us precisely what these economies are. Can we expect, as a rough guess, that the Premier is not getting $7 of value for every $8 he budgeted? In other words, can we expect a continuation of this little decrease of expenditure on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis, which will lead us into a different financial position than he outlined to us in the budget speech and the one that's put forward in the estimates book?
The second question then that comes from that: what cuts can we expect by Ministers on the floor of the Legislature in the committee when they bring forward their estimates? What cuts are they going to propose to the committee? What indications are they going to give us where economies have been made in the last two months and will continue for the remainder of the year? Very obviously they are under some sort of instructions to cut back. It may not be a formal memorandum; it may not be a 10 per cent figure which is laid down as an objective. It may just be that they're being told to cut back on little things such as travel plans, to cut back on the redecorating of offices where that's in the budget, to cut back on temporary help, to toughen up all along the line.
Perhaps the statement by Mr. Fryer of the B.C. Government Employees Union, indicating that he's in for a rough ride with the Provincial Secretary this time around, again indicates that the government is toughening up and that some of the messages that have been preached this side of the House are hitting home and that the government indeed is getting away from its profligate spending of the past two years. I hope these questions will be touched on, if not answered, by the Premier when he closes the debate.
Another point, and that is that I think that the events of the last few days governing this money as well as, of course, the illegal expenditures show very much the need for an auditor-general in the Province of British Columbia. It would be, I think, a very worthwhile thing for the Minister of Finance to comment on when he takes his place in debate — to indicate when we're going to get government legislation setting up an auditor-general and an auditor-general's department in the Province of British Columbia. Rough figures would be — if we use the federal figures — that we would need about 25 to 30 people to handle that particular task.
Surely the illegal expenditure that has been made, surely the overruns in certain departments, surely the cutting back that's taking place now: all these things indicate that what we need is something better than just the public accounts committee, even though that has improved, I understand, substantially over the previous administration. We need something more, and an auditor-general and an auditor-general's department would be called for at the present time. I urge the Premier and Minister of Finance to give us a commitment on that.
I don't want to prolong debate on this, but if the Premier and Minister of Finance comes up with some good answers to the questions that have been posed to him today, we'll support this particular bill on second reading. But if he doesn't, we don't feel called upon to vote for it when it's perfectly clear that this is a good and traditional way for a vote to be taken which could, if the back bench would only show a little initiative and look at some of these things, defeat the government. This is, in effect, a classic no-confidence vote, and we can't understand why the official opposition doesn't see it in the same light.
MR. P.L. McGEER (Vancouver–Point Grey): I voted against the budget because I didn't have confidence in the financial management of the current government. The events of the last two or three months have convinced me the government is inept in its handling of the finances of the province, and I intend to vote against this bill.
It is, of course, a traditional way of voting non-confidence in the government. But there's another reassurance that the public could have by the government being defeated on a financial matter at this time. It is that during the period between the defeat of the government and an election, then the only expenditures of money would be legal expenditures. They'd be done under special warrant with proper legislative authority, so we would be guaranteed during the interim period until there would be a new government that the public's funds would be properly spent.
I find it strange that a government would give directives to the civil service, through the Treasury Board, which would have to be clearly enough understood by the civil servants to require implementation to cut expenditures — to do that on the one hand, and then to stand up in the House and tell us that it hasn't been done.
You can't clearly present one argument to elected Members of the Legislative Assembly while at the same time try to communicate exactly the opposite to the civil service and not be found out. Mr. Speaker, the Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams), I think, had highly accurate information when he said a directive had gone out.
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Here the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) stands up today and reads the memorandum. So there can be little doubt, Mr. Speaker, as to what the government was doing in a covert way. But at the same time, Mr. Speaker, it tells us that no such directive was sent. Now it expects the Members of the opposition, at a time when supply is to be voted, to have confidence in their financial management, confidence in the integrity of the statements they give to the general public.
I certainly support what the Member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson) had to say about the nature of the expenditures for the Princess Marguerite. It's very clear from the legislation that has been introduced since the commencement of operations of that ferry that the expenditures were in fact illegal. But, Mr. Speaker, the problem is this: there is no auditor-general in British Columbia. Myself, my colleague from Point Grey (Mr. Gardom) and other Members of the Liberal Party past and present have called for the establishment of an auditor-general in British Columbia for the past 10 years. The events of the last few weeks, I think, make it clear why the provincial government, this government, has so steadfastly refused the bringing in of independent auditors to watch the expenditures of the government.
What does a civil servant do, Mr. Speaker, if he's ordered to make an illegal payment? I ask that question. I would know what a civil servant could do if there were an auditor-general. A very simple telephone call to the auditor-general and he could be down there the next day investigating.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! I think the Hon. Member is anticipating a debate on a bill that's before the House and has to do with an auditor-general. I would ask him to desist and deal with the sole question before us, which is whether interim supply shall be granted to the amount of one-twelfth of the budget.
MR. McGEER: I understand that. I certainly don't want to encroach on the principle of an auditor-general, but I want to leave the question in your mind. Without such an Act but faced with the Act we must vote on now, lacking any safeguard, what does a civil servant do if he's given such an order? What does he do if he knows that there is no legislative vote, if he knows it's a violation of the Audit Act? What can he do? The answer is, Mr. Speaker, that he can't do anything except resign. And I don't think the civil servants should be placed in that logical dilemma in British Columbia, as apparently they had been placed. Yet here we're being asked with this particular vote to grant supply, presumably to carry on with the same kinds of practice.
The Member for Kamloops (Mr. G.H. Anderson) tells me he's hungry, Mr. Speaker. They lack no appetite. They lack no appetite in the Treasury benches — no appetite for power, no appetite to do as they wish with the public money, right or wrong, no respect for legislation that has been passed in this House by all the Members of the Assembly, no respect for the historic rights of parliament, the traditions of safeguarding the public purse, changes to the Revenue Act that remove all the traditional safeguards — a winking at the Revenue Act and the Audit Act. The Minister of Lands and Forests (Hon. R.A. Williams) is now set up for any corporations that he would like to have. Just his own whim, and away he goes.
These are the things that the money we voted for before have been used to do. Yes, Mr. Speaker, in all good faith the House passed the budget, the House passed interim supply for two months and then we find that these are the kinds of expenditures that have been entered into. No, Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I have to vote against this bill.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): Just very briefly, I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the Member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson) and the remarks of the First Member for Vancouver–Point Grey (Mr. McGeer).
We passed interim supply to deal with the expenses of this government for the period commencing April 1, 1975. Last Friday the Minister of Finance, in a very carefully prepared address to this House, introduced the British Columbia Railway annual statement to December 31, 1974. It was carefully prepared by a firm of chartered accountants in whom the Minister and all people are entitled to have their trust. But, Mr. Speaker, I find that those distinguished accountants saw fit to talk about events subsequent to December 31, 1975, to point out that in January and April, after April 1, this government made grants to the British Columbia Railway without authority.
I must vote against this bill.
MR. SPEAKER: The Hon. Minister of Finance closes the debate.
HON. D. BARRETT (Premier and Minister of Finance): This is an interim finance bill that is known as supply. I understand through the Whips that there was an agreement to bring in one-twelfth of the budget. If I am incorrect....
HON. MR. BARRETT: One-twelfth — there was an agreement for one-twelfth. Is that correct?
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HON. MR. BARRETT: No, no, no, I didn't say that. I'm saying there was an agreement of one-twelfth. That's why the figure is for one-twelfth. Is that right?
MR. WALLACE: That's right.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Okay, thank you. That's why we have one-twelfth here as agreed by the Whips and reported to me by the government Whip.
We are delayed again for whatever reason anyone wants to interpret it politically. But we had passed an interim supply for two months. We need more time, and now we are going to pass another 30 days of interim supply. If that is not enough, I assume that the House will be asked to pass further interim supply. This is not unusual in the Commonwealth that such interim supply bills be presented to the House.
Now the questions rise about the handling of funds through Treasury Board. First of all, no memo has been sent out ordering a 10 per cent cut in budget. None. No memo has been sent out ordering a 10 per cent cut in budget.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Okay. All right?
MR. PHILLIPS: The Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke) said there was.
HON. MR. BARRETT: No memo has been sent out by Treasury Board ordering a 10 per cent cut in budgets. He did not say that. You go back and read his words, and read what the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich) said as a member of the Treasury Board before you twist the words.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Some of the cabinet Ministers ordered cuts in their own departments. They are entitled to do that with reports to the Treasury Board on what action they wish to take within their....
HON. MR. BARRETT: There are periodic memoranda to the Ministers from Treasury Board. There are occasional memoranda sent out.
AN HON. MEMBER: Read the directive....
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, you've got a copy of it. You read it. Does that say anywhere in it ordering a 10 per cent cut in budgets? Does it?
MR. PHILLIPS: Read the directive!
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, don't be stupid.
AN HON. MEMBER: Quit playing games.
HON. MR. BARRETT: "Quit playing games," they say. They read words into the memorandum that are not there, and when it is discovered that they are deceiving the House, they don't like it, Mr. Speaker. They don't like it. The fact is they do not have a memo saying we ordered 10 per cent cuts, and they don't like to have that fact come out because they've been attempting to twist, twist, twist that memorandum.
There is a memorandum, and there are memoranda from Treasury Board to the various cabinet Ministers instructing them as to what Treasury Board wants from time to time, Mr. Speaker. If Treasury Board didn't do that, it would be derelict in its duty.
Mr. Speaker, we are monitoring expenditures through Treasury Board. That's the way Treasury Board should function. If you suggest that Treasury Board should not monitor expenses, not keep an eye on expenditures, not meet regularly and come to fiscal policy decisions then you are asking Treasury Board not to even function at all.
So, Mr. Speaker, when you follow the words precisely of the official opposition you find that they are not accurate, they don't reflect the facts and they are attempting to give a false impression of what is taking place.
AN RON. MEMBER: Nonsense!
HON. MR. BARRETT: Nonsense?
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.
HON. MR. BARRETT: It certainly is nonsense that has being peddled by you and your colleagues in the front benches for weeks.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Does that Treasury Board say a 10 per cent cut? No, it does not.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, you file it.
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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, Mr. Speaker, I know for a fact that it does not order a 10 per cent cut.
AN HON. MEMBER: Read it into the record.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Now, Mr. Speaker, to deal with the other matters raised.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you not reducing programmes?
HON. MR. BARRETT: We had two emergent situations, one the Princess Marguerite and the other the rentalsman. I'm pleased that no one has been alleging criminal actions by this government. But the word is "illegal." All right.
Two situations arose that demanded government action based on the time that this session has taken. In the case of the Marguerite we made a conscious economic decision when faced with the facts of the impact of having that ship removed from the economy and from the economic base of the community. That decision was not made when the budget was drawn up and when the budget speech was prepared. That situation came about later.
MR. PHILLIPS: You'd been dealing on it for two months.
HON. MR. BARRETT: We had been dealing on it, Mr. Speaker, and if the Member would remain silent, he would understand that we took our time to make up our minds because we wanted reports submitted to Treasury Board to make the decision based on facts rather than whimsy. Once having made that decision, we received an advance from the greenbelt fund.
If you want to claim this as a criminal act, which nobody has — and I'm pleased that you haven't gone that far — then I think you would be stretching things quite a bit.
But here we are faced with a situation: the House sitting; we asked legislation to be drawn and we had to make an immediate decision. We made that decision and, quite frankly, I think the decision has already proven to be an excellent one economically and socially.
I have yet to hear anyone criticise the decision. I have yet to hear anyone say: "Cut off the funds for the Marguerite." But what we do find is an attempt to somehow blacken the government, that somehow we're monstrous, evil, illegal operators in an emergency situation in the purchase of the Marguerite. The alternative to that is to believe that they would not have purchased the Marguerite themselves if they were government.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Bought the operation. Yes, Mr. Member, what you don't like is the fact that it is operating.
AN HON. MEMBER: That doesn't make it legal.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh, Mr. Member! There are two bills on the order paper that will be debated in this House: one deals with the Marguerite; the other deals with the rentalsman. Does anybody in British Columbia believe that we would leave this session before it is adjourned without having those two items fully debated in this House? Does anybody truly believe that it was the intention of this government to shut down the House and walk away from here without any discussion on the Marguerite purchase or the rentalsman? Do you really believe that?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, if they really believe that, then surely there would have been legislative remedy far before today's debate to illustrate on the order paper their dissatisfaction with anything the government has done in terms of the Marguerite or the rentalsman.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I find that the opposition is attempting to become nitpicking over their picayune attitudes — picayune in vision and picayune in terms of understanding a decision that was made to save the small businessmen of this community. What about the MLAs from those two areas? Have we heard one statement of criticism from the two MLAs from Victoria about this?
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: On the legality, yes.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You go and sell that 40-days or 30-days delay in getting a bill through to the businessman in Victoria saying: "Really, that ship shouldn't sail, you know. All those American tourists shouldn't be in here, you know, because Davey has been illegal, you know." I'm sure you're going to peddle that stuff when you go up the street in Victoria.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I sat in silence listening to their arguments; now they're all yapping back when they hear my arguments. I challenge you to go up the streets of Victoria and say
[ Page 3257 ]
to those people who are affected by the bill: "You know, the government should have waited."
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): You know that's not the issue.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. BARRETT: A whole session could have gone by.... Oh, the issue is not the issue, eh?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You are the last one to speak about breaking the rules, Mr. Member. You're the jubilant delinquent.
HON. A.B. MACDONALD (Attorney-General): That's what they are — jubilant delinquents.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I find it a little bit typical of the opposition and its attitudes. You have not done one single thing to help this government do anything. Everything we've done, you've been opposed to. You talk against it, you block it, you try to sandbag it. When you come to the Marguerite....
[Mr. Speaker rises.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member refrain from shouting all the time, please? I think the Hon. Member who is speaking has the same right that you ask for yourself.
MR. SPEAKER: I think that all persons who are using the sidelines should sit quiet for a while until we finish this debate.
[Mr. Speaker resumes his seat.]
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the Marguerite, it is a typical attempt to block. You want the finesse of the illegality, as you define it. The two bills are on the order paper; if you think you've got a major point to score political points on, you go right ahead. But you know there was no intention of this government to leave this current session without debating the Marguerite or the rentalsman.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You know that. Okay, having said that, the official opposition decides that the only way they can attempt to score points on the case of the Marguerite is to turn themselves into a U-boat crew. There they are — they've got the periscope up, and they're drifting through the political waters. When they come to the City of Victoria, it's down periscope. But when they go up country, up it goes, the big flag waves and the skull and crossbones comes up and says: "Let's stop that hateful gang in Victoria." There they are — the skull-and-crossbones gang going around and trying to sabotage every single thing this government has done — every single thing.
Now we're faced with interim supply which will ask for funds to continue the programmes. In two areas we've had an emergency advance of funds.
HON. MR. BARRETT: That's fine, Mr. Member. We're asking the House to authorize it before we leave this session. Had we known ahead of time what the Marguerite was going to cost us, it would have all been there. But if we had waited for your schedule and your plan, those businessmen in downtown Victoria would be facing empty shops today.
I've gone through the records of the British House of Commons for instances where there have been advances made in emergency situations. Mercifully there were not the same kind of debates. One of the outstanding examples of an emergency in terms of granting money at a time before supply was when war was declared and the government decided to build air raid shelters. With the kind of opposition we have in this House, mercy and faith might have taken care of them. With the absence of air raid shelters, just imagine what would happen to the opposition.
AN HON. MEMBER: Especially with all those seagulls.
HON. MR. BARRETT: We try our best to build shelters for the opposition but they always take their U-boat out there and try to sabotage anyway. What are we going to have to do? We're going to have to tell the people that when the vote came and the debate came on the Marguerite, when there was a bill on the order paper, when we took action, all they could do was criticize us because we asked for an advance to get the job done. You know what? They
[ Page 3258 ]
stayed up nights figuring out how they could attack it.
MR. PHILLIPS: Poor little bulldozer! We feel sorry for you.
HON. MR. BARRETT: And now, Mr. Speaker, even with all the noise, the volume, the crudeness and the interruptions from the official opposition, it is our intention to carry on presently with interim supply and carry on with debate on bills related to the Marguerite and the rentalsman. There will be nothing left in terms of responsibility before we ask the House to adjourn, and on a traditional motion of second reading on interim supply, I now move interim supply so that people of this province can go on about their business and get the service they want from this government while the politicians continue their petty little game here in the House. I now move second reading.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 39
NAYS — 4
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill 80 be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
Bill 80, Supply Act, No. 2, 1975, read a second time and referred to Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
SUPPLY ACT, NO. 2, 1975
The House in Committee; Mr. Liden in the chair.
On section 1.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Now that we are in committee, Mr. Chairman, I wonder whether the Premier could indicate how successful he has been in curbing the expenditures of some of his rasher Ministers. It is clear that we managed to squeeze a few extra days out of the first 60-day supply granted. I wonder whether he would indicate whether we can expect a similar performance in the future, perhaps cutting off — who knows? — something better than 10 per cent from the overall total of the budget.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are scrutinizing all votes through Treasury Board and we are keeping a very close watch on expenditures. I welcome the statement from the Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace). We think that that is the proper role of the Treasury Board. It is meeting weekly and is supervising very closely all expenditures. I don't see anything wrong with that.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, the Premier and Minister of Finance misunderstood. It is not a question of anything wrong. We are delighted to hear that the Treasury Board is meeting weekly. I rise to congratulate the Minister of Finance in getting an extra nine days' work out of that 60 days of budgeted money.
What I want to find out is whether the lax spending habits of some Minister, perhaps the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Lauk), perhaps the Minister of Consumer Affairs (Hon. Ms. Young), perhaps the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Lea), is being adequately curbed. We are now in a position where we can visualize a different overall expenditure by the government than was originally forecast in the budget and than we find in the estimate book. It is not a question of criticism of what the Treasury Board is doing. A question might come up as to why Treasury Board hasn't done this before, but no one is criticizing at the present time a proper examination of expenditure by the government. I wonder whether the Premier and Minister of Finance could now answer the question, which was: what sort of expectation does he have now in terms of spending less money in this coming financial year? Clearly, he has done something which I've got to applaud — he has squeezed a few extra days of government action out of that 60-day supply that we gave him last time. A lot of people might suggest that is good. I just wonder whether this is going to continue, whether it was a one-shot thing, and whether or not we can expect lower government expenditures than
[ Page 3259 ]
otherwise would be the case.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, the extra days were not a reflection of X number of dollars spent. It was on the advice given to us by the department that that leeway was the amount of time we had if we had completed the work. Obviously we weren't. We got the report on the 5th and we arranged the bill for today, the 9th. The Treasury Board will continue to scrutinize all expenditures. The task is one that takes a great deal of time, but I felt it was necessary, as Minister of Finance. Perhaps in another 60 days, we will be able to see the impact. But the instruction is that everybody must live within their budget. We are seeing that that indeed is the case. Certainly I am happy with it.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Just one step further. I am very pleased to hear that everybody is under tight instructions to live within their budget, but is there anything that the Minister could tell us today which would indicate that they are doing slightly better than that — that they are actually spending less than is budgeted for — because the figures given do indicate there is some....
HON. MR. BARRETT: I'll try and get the information for you, Mr. Member. I can't be specific.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): Just one quick point, Mr. Chairman. The Premier keeps talking about scrutiny from the Treasury Board regarding expenditures. We have a vote here which we're dealing with, one-twelfth, which comes to a total of a budget of $3.228 billion. Really the one-twelfth of what's actually being spent or what's actually been budgeted, appears to be wrong in view of the directives that the Minister of Finance has issued.
Now we're not talking only about a question of scrutiny; we're questioning about a matter of a Treasury Board directive being issued on April 29 which really reflects an inaccurate request for funds. This one-twelfth of the $3.2 billion budget has to be inaccurate in view of the Treasury Board directive of April 29. I'm wondering, you know, if we're playing around.... It was really unfortunate that when questioned in this House on the question of 10 per cent restriction, the Ministers played games on the issues. They suggested that it was not 10 per cent, even when questioned outside the chamber where I think they have a responsibility to stop playing games. If it's not 10 per cent, maybe it's nine per cent, that Treasury Board directive which everybody seemed not to be aware existed. It's quite obvious there has been a directive suggesting severe restrictions.
I wonder if the Minister of Finance wants to tell us which programmes are going to be curtailed, whether it's the Department of Human Resources. I know that there's been phony excuses for the curtailment for the lease and purchase of 120 trucks in Penticton. The Premier is very adept at skating around an issue. He should almost go in for skating and challenge Miss Magnussen. He's that capable of skating around the issue.
He's asking here for one-twelfth of 3.2, after having issued a directive from Treasury Board on April 29 to institute budgetary restrictions.
Now is this the legitimate amount which we are asking for? It appears not to be. I'm wondering if now that the Premier has an opportunity, he wants to level with us and give us the straight goods once and for all. Once in your life tell us the facts as they are. Stop playing around with words, and come clean.
HON. MR. BARRETT: The best that I can tell the Member is that I've asked the department to calculate as close as possible what the expenses will be for one month. I can't give you an absolute precise figure, because it's not available. The best advice I have is that the figure here presented will suffice for the month, considering the instruction that we want everyone to stay within their budget allotment.
I wish I could be more precise, but it's just impossible at this point. We have figures as close as 90 days, no other province has a figure as close as 90 days. The federal government doesn't have it. We inherited that system from the former administration, but we can't bring it down any more than 90 days. The system that we inherited from the former administration, I think in terms of that amount of updating figures, is closer to what I gather any other province has.
Even at that, we can't give absolute figures. This is on the best advice of the department, and I can't give you any more precise information than that.
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): Could the Premier tell us if the budget we are still debating in estimates is accurate in light of the Treasury Board directive? Is that 3.2 billion figure still accurate?
HON. MR. BARRETT: I want to point out to you that it is as accurate as any of the last 20 years. It's the same system. I'm telling you it's as accurate as any in the last 20 years. In some of the previous administration there were huge surpluses, yet we asked the same question of the same system, and we were told to the best of their ability it was accurate.
Now if you're saying that Treasury Board was withholding information then, that's a question to be asked. But I'm telling you now that it's as accurate as we know.
MR. BENNETT: The Premier and Minister of Finance made a big to-do about a change in
[ Page 3260 ]
budgetary procedure when he presented the budget this year...
HON. MR. BARRETT: Accounting methods.
MR. BENNETT: ...and he was talking about realistic budgeting, and he was talking about $3.2 billion and it was a question of whether the figures could be realistically achieved. Now we see within the fiscal year just starting April 1 a Treasury Board directive already restricting, and perhaps even curtailing, whole programmes which we may be discussing in a budget or in estimates — it may not be relevant any more.
MR. PHILLIPS: The Minister of Finance is talking about the system with regard to Treasury Board. I'd just like to ask the Minister of Finance — last year in one department we had an overrun of $103 million. Now were you paying attention to the system? Did you know this was going on? Did you know in the last two years when your budget in two years had been overrun by $719 million? Were you using the same system then? Did you know that, as Minister of Finance at that time, and did you okay it? Now you seem to be doing a 90-day check.
The Minister's talking about the system that he inherited. If the system isn't working, why don't you change it? Am I to take by the Minister of Finance's statement that he was aware that his government departments were overspending in two years by $719 million, the estimates were laid down — the budget that was laid down in this Legislature? That Minister of Finance knew exactly what was going on because he just said that he used the system.
Now that the government is short of money, and the revenue is not coming in in the way he anticipated, is he changing the system, or does he really know? Did he know in previous years?
HON. MR. BARRETT: There is sufficient revenue to cover our budget commitments.
MR. PHILLIPS: What was that again?
HON. MR. BARRETT: There is sufficient revenue to cover our budget commitments. It is a false statement — an incorrect statement; I'm sure you're not saying it falsely — to say that the government is "broke," or to say that not enough money is coming in.
MR. BENNETT: One question, because the Premier covered it in second reading, in response to questions in the House of a serious nature, such as the question on which we provided information to the Premier last Thursday concerning the comptroller-general. That was a serious question over a published report which would lead people to believe that there was an improper spending of money. Why could not the Premier, Minister of Finance, have reported back to the Legislature that evening — it was Thursday evening we sat — or Friday, or today? Why do we have to wait until we question it now? At that time the name of the person who confirmed such a thing to us was furnished to the Premier. Does he not think that he was being a little lax in his regard for providing immediate answers? We've had a whole weekend. He's got an explanation today, but I feel there's been a lack of courtesy, after he asked for the names and the specifics and the newspaper article, that we didn't get an immediate answer.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I think that I have provided the answer today in reply to second reading. I'm sorry, Mr. Member, that I wasn't perhaps a few hours earlier, but I think you've got the answer. I think I've responded fairly quickly to your questions.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Well, I'm sorry that I can't satisfy you in this section.
MR. PHILLIPS: The Minister of Finance has stated very clearly here this evening several times that there is no curtailment. In other words, he's asked his Ministers to stay within their budgets. Would the Minister of Finance then explain why certain programmes are being curtailed, programmes that were started last year, specifically those by the Department of Human Resources?
MR. PHILLIPS: Does that mean, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister of Human Resources again overestimated his expenditures, and that if he was not kept in line by the Minister of Finance he would indeed have another overrun? The Human Resources Department is definitely and clearly cutting back programmes throughout this province.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. GIBSON: Section 2 relates to how the moneys being voted under interim supply shall be expended. In his reply on second reading the Premier suggested that emergent situations, as he called them, apparently justified this kind of thing, this kind of thing being deviated from the specified objects that the Legislature sent out.
I'd ask the Premier if he's aware that the rent review, that so-called emergent situation, was brought
[ Page 3261 ]
to the attention of his officers before that vote expired, and that it was ignored. Payments were continued to be made, and they were made after March 31. They were made illegally, and they were charged to the rentalsman's vote illegally. Is the Premier aware of that? I'm just asking him that simple question. Is that an emergency situation when you were told before the authority ran out on March 31?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Member, I think that I've adequately explained that the legislation did run out. There's other legislation on the order paper now. The House hasn't got to the business yet, and that's the end of the situation. I'm again thankful that you're not suggesting criminal acts.
MR. GIBSON: We never suggested that.
HON. MR. BARRETT: No, you never have, but the overtones over there....
MR. GIBSON: Well, I'll try once again to get to this question of how an emergency might arise that might lead the government to consider that it has the authority to make unauthorized payments.
HON. MR. BARRETT: The Act ran out.
MR. GIBSON: I asked the Minister if he's aware of the timetable on the Marguerite. Nobody's talking against the merits of the Marguerite, not even though you purchased it out of the Greenbelt funds. But you purchased it April 1, and legislation to fix that up didn't come in until June 5.
In the meantime, a month later, your government had found the time to form a private company on May 5, when it had five weeks to bring that before the Legislature. How can that be an emergency situation? It's not a question of being against any positive thing to do. It's a question of being against the illegal expenditure of money; it's a question of being for the control of powers of this Legislature.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, order! The Member for North Vancouver–Capilano is on section 2.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, I believe that at the time some of these cheques were issued, it was known they were issued without authorization. I ask the Minister of Finance if there is going to be any inquiry into that. I ask him if it is going to be an independent inquiry, and I ask him, if there were any orders given or if he will find out if there were any orders given to issue any illegal unauthorized cheques. I ask him for the answer to those questions.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): Throughout the debate in second reading and in his responses to comments with respect to the Princess Marguerite, I have to say that I am very disappointed in the position that the Premier and Minister of Finance has taken. The simplistic equation that if we are....
HON. MR. BARRETT: Do you want us to sell it?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. CURTIS: "Do you want us to sell it?" — that's not the point, Mr. Chairman. Why not close down the Legislature?
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The Member for Saanich and the Islands has the floor.
MR. CURTIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dare we ask a question about the Princess Marguerite without suggesting that we are opposed to the service? Dare we direct a question to the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams) with respect to the cost of the refit without running into that kind of twist, twist, twist across the floor? We're not opposed to the Marguerite, and you know it!
Mr. Chairman, the Premier and Minister of Finance knows that we're not opposed. I would suggest that any responsible government in power in British Columbia at this time would have moved to acquire the Princess Marguerite.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. CURTIS: But we would also, I suggest, have introduced a bill four or six or eight weeks to cover the operation of the vessel. That's the point at issue. We sat here day after day after day...
MR. CURTIS: ...with no bills. We've had half-answers from the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources: "Take it as notice. Take it as notice." Where was the legislation? The legislation could have been introduced several weeks ago. The Premier and Minister of Finance knows that had he been sitting on this side of the House in opposition, he would have been putting the same questions with the same force and with the same strength.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: The old wrecking crew again.
MR. CURTIS: Nonsense, Mr. Attorney-General — absolute nonsense. Irresponsible nonsense, and you know it, too. You know it as well, Mr.
[ Page 3262 ]
MR. CURTIS: Are we not permitted to ask questions about the vessel?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. CURTIS: Delay, delay, stall....
AN HON. MEMBER: Juvenile delinquents.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The Member for Saanich and the Islands has the floor. We are dealing with section 2 of the Supply Bill.
MR. CURTIS: I note, Mr. Chairman, that on March 26....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The legislation on the order paper that....
MR. CURTIS: On March 26, Mr. Chairman, we had interim Supply Bill No. 1 — that was Bill 11 — passed through here very quickly. Just a few days later, apparently, the Princess Marguerite deal was settled — just a few days later — a few sitting days, certainly. I must condemn this government for stalling for all these weeks — not for putting the ship into operation, not for saving the service — I commend the government for that. But I condemn the government for its sloppiness and its around-the-back-door approach to the whole question.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, I remember in a debate similar to this, the Premier came up with essentially the same defence as he did today. It's the old Mussolini defence — if you're in favour of trains on time, you must be in favour of Mussolini. If you're against Mussolini, you have to be against trains on time. This is the type of....
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I hope that the analogy is not directed to me, Mr. Member. If it is, I ask you to withdraw.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I will certainly withdraw any suggestion that the individual is concerned...but the argument, though, has got to be understood. We are asking questions on illegality of payment, and they are important questions to us.
HON. MR. BARRETT: On the same point of order, Mr. Chairman. I'm not opposing the argument; I'm opposing the analogy. I ask the Member to withdraw.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Right. If the analogy is offensive to the Premier, I'll certainly withdraw. But I do want it understood that the suggestion of questioning the legality or otherwise of cheques that are issued, asking questions such as the most recent ones, and the last one asked by the Member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson), which was not answered, and which was: was it known that these cheques were being issued illegally, and was that fact known? The deliberate refusal to answer these questions and the deliberate attempt to suggest that this somehow meant that the people who pose these questions are totally against any service by ferries or anything of that nature is just not right and not fair. We have a duty in this Legislature to ask questions on expenditure of public moneys. That is an important duty of the opposition. When moneys are expended illegally, without even legislative heading, we feel we have a double duty to go after those particular things.
So I trust, Mr. Chairman, the Premier will once more get to his feet and answer the question about these illegal payments. Was it known to him as Minister of Finance or to his Deputy or to others whom he has questioned since, that these payments were being made illegally?
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): Mr. Chairman, during second reading debate I asked the Minister about the $35 million grant to B.C. Rail. I would like to know what portion of that was made after April 1 and what the authority was upon which those funds were made available to the Crown corporation.
With respect to the matter of the rent review commission, it is true that there is an amendment to a bill which the Attorney-General brought in on May 16. He just amended it last Thursday to rectify this problem, but the fact of the matter is, Mr. Premier, no matter what that amendment says, on every payday that has come since April 1, the staff of the rent review commission have been paid illegally. I want to know whether you are going to find out in the Department of Finance who authorized the issuance of those cheques. There wasn't a vote against which they could be charged nor any legislative authority.
On the question of the Marguerite, the bill which is before the House, if the Attorney-General would take the time to read the legislation in this House, he would know it does not correct the problem you have. You formed that company early in May and this bill does not rectify that problem. The boat was registered in the name of Her Majesty the Queen in the right of the province in the name of the Minister of Transport and Communications (Hon. Mr.
[ Page 3263 ]
Strachan) on April 11. Weeks before that time, the negotiations were concluded with the CPR for the acquisition of that vessel. We have legislation before the House today which does not rectify the expenditure that was made, the incorporation of that company, or any of the financial details concerning the Princess Marguerite.
Mr. Premier, either you don't know what is going on or your advisors don't know what is going on. In that case, how can we expect that section 2, regarding the application of supply, can possibly be dealt with properly by your government?
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, I can't believe we aren't going to get answers from the Premier on these questions.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I gave you the answer.
AN HON. MEMBER: There are two bills before the House.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order. We're on section 2.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, the Premier says he has given us the answers.
HON. MR. BARRETT: You're not happy with them, I know.
MR. GIBSON: You haven't given the answer to this question: are you aware...
HON. MR. BARRETT: Oh!
MR. GIBSON: ...that illegal cheques, cheques without legislative authorization, were knowingly issued? That is question No. 1.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: You're assuming a lot.
MR. GIBSON: It is not assuming a lot, Mr. Attorney-General. I have made inquiries.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: You can't assume much less.
MR. GIBSON: Question No. 2: were any orders given that caused that to happen?
Question No. 3: will you undertake an inquiry to find out how that authorization came about and whether there were any orders and, if so, what was the chain of command?
That is the essential question. That is the question of the control of the Legislature over this supply we are being asked to vote today. It is a very serious question.
Section 2 approved.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I have an amendment, a new section 3, which I handed up to the table just as soon as we came into the committee stage. It's a new section 3 which would read: "No sum out of supply shall be issued or applied in order to repay any funds which, at the time the payments were made, were made illegally, in contravention of the Audit Act."
This is perfectly in order. It would cut down on the expenditure to the Crown among other things, so it is perfectly in order, and it would crystallize the dilemma that we are facing on this side of the House in questioning the government on this question of illegality.
If it is not illegal, well, then there is no problem for the government.
MR. GIBSON: Right on.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: If there is illegality, this will show it up with crystal clarity because these expenditures will not be covered by anything that we are voting today.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let me first rule on the amendment itself. We have had time to consider the amendment as you handed it in earlier, which I thank you for. The amendment is clearly out of order on a number of counts. First of all, it attaches a condition. The 18th edition of May, page 719, clearly shows that it is out of order. It is not relevant to the bill which limits expenditures.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Could I just simply refer you, Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't want to argue the question of whether or not it is in order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: No, no. But it is one of those things on which you hear argument, not necessarily "argue." Section 2 reads:
"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 estimates of expenditures therein, and the due application of all moneys expended under the authority of this Act shall be accounted for to Her Majesty."
This amendment of mine, which adds a new section 3, is in essentially the same language. My amendment might well have been put as an amendment to section 2, in which case I am quite sure you would have had to accept it. The fact that I put it in a separate section perhaps is worrying you, Mr. Chairman, but there is no question that a limitation of this kind in terms of expenditure, to
[ Page 3264 ]
make sure the expenditures are for legal purposes, must be in order.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!
MR. CHAIRMAN: We have had time to consider and we have listened to the point you've made and the amendment is clearly out of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: You mean, Mr. Chairman, an amendment which would require that moneys be spent legally is out of order?
MR. CHAIRMAN: It's clearly out of order. I've stated one point to you. There's another, and that is that it's not relevant to the bill, which already limits expenditure to votes approved in the Committee of Supply. The amendment is out of order.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Would it have been appropriate, then, as an amendment to principle?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Same rule.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I have May, page 719, that you talked of. Would it have been acceptable...?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I don't think I can speculate on something that didn't happen.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The fact is that we've had governments amend bills very substantially, and opposition amendments have been put forward, following acceptance of principle....
MR. CHAIRMAN: We've had opportune time to consider this and it's clearly out of order!
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Well, it's all very well to say it's clearly out of order, but the fact of the matter is that this amendment is limited in scope which would simply make sure that all expenditures are under legal headings.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Order!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The amendment is out of order.
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 80, Supply Act, No. 2, 1975, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
MR. SPEAKER: His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor is approaching. Would all Members please rise?
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took his place in the chair.
Public Trustee Amendment Act, 1975.
Investment Contracts Amendment Act, 1975.
Administration Amendment Act, 1975.
Co-operative Associations Amendment Act, 1975.
Farmers' and Women's Institutes
Amendment Act, 1975.
Real Estate Amendment Act, 1975.
Fair Sales Practices Amendment
Pacif North Coast Native Co-operative Loan Amendment Act, 1975.
Securities Amendment Act, 1975.
Special Funds Appropriation Act, 1975.
Duty Amendment Act, 1975.
British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (1964)
Amendment Act, 1975.
Assessment Authority of British Columbia Amendment Act,
Corporation Capital Tax Amendment Act, 1975.
Gasoline Tax (1958) Amendment
Gasoline Tax (1948) Amendment Act, 1975.
Motive-Fuel Use Tax Amendment
Coloured Gasoline Tax Amendment Act, 1975.
Mortgage Brokers Amendment Act, 1975.
Farm Products Industry Improvement
Amendment Act, 1975.
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia Amendment Act,
Automobile Insurance Amendment Act, 1975.
Fisheries Amendment Act, 1975.
Community Care Facilities Licensing Amendment Act, 1975.
Medical Services Amendment
Status of Men and Women Amendment Act.
Legal Professions Amendment
Personal Information Reporting Amendment Act, 1975.
Labour Education Centre of British Columbia Act.
Trade Practices Amendment Act, 1975.
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Free Public Toilets Act.
Hospital Amendment Act, 1975.
Hospital Insurance Act, 1975.
Agriculture Statutes Amendment
Supply Act, No. 2, 1975.
CLERK: In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth assent to these bills.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
Hon. Mr. Hall moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 7:46 p.m.