1975 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 1975
[ Page 3345 ]
Department of Lands, Forests and Water Resources estimates
On vote 152.
Mr. Wallace — 3345
On vote 153
Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3345
On vote 154
Mr. Fraser — 3348
On vote 155
Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3349
On vote 158
Mr. Lewis — 3350
On vote 161
Mr. Fraser — 3352
On vote 162
Mr. D.A. Anderson — 3352
On vote 163
Mr. Richter — 3352
On vote 164
Mr. Wallace — 3353
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11, 1975
The House met at 10 a.m.
HON. E. HALL (Provincial Secretary): Mr. Speaker, with a great deal of pleasure I introduce to the House the visiting delegation from the Yukon Council. The Legislators who are seated on the floor, behind me, Mr. Speaker, are Mr. Alfred Berger, Mr. Stu McCall, Mr. Willard Phelps, who is the Deputy Speaker, and Mrs. Florence Whyard from the Yukon Council, and opposite to me on the other side of the House are Mr. Dan Lang, Mr. Ken McKinnon and Mrs. Linda Adams, the Clerk of the Yukon Council.
I hope the Members will greet the visitors and we will have a fruitful and happy time together. We will be seeing you on a number of occasions during the next two days and you will be looking at our work, I am sure, with a great deal of interest this morning, if we all turn up.
MR. D.M. PHILLIPS (South Peace River): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition I would also like to welcome those visitors from the Yukon, and being from that great Mile 0 city on the Alaska Highway I would like to add a special word of welcome because I feel tied to these people, being from that northern part of the province.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON (Victoria): Mr. Speaker, we also would like to welcome the visitors from the Yukon. They just about outnumber us. We've heard about British Columbia taking over the Yukon but it appears they're taking over British Columbia. We welcome them here and hope they enjoy their stay.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Mr. Speaker, the whole Conservative caucus welcomes our friends from the Yukon. (Laughter.)
MR. D.F. LOCKSTEAD (Mackenzie): Mr. Speaker, I too would like to add my welcome to our Members from the Yukon and remind the Members of this House that at 11 a.m. the Members are invited to the Ned DeBeck lounge to meet our guests from the Yukon for coffee.
MR. SPEAKER: Leaving, I hope, some in the House.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Liden in the Chair.
ESTIMATES: DEPARTMENT OF
LANDS, FORESTS AND WATER RESOURCES
On vote 152: Water Resources Service, general administration, $204,594.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I'd like your guidance on the proper vote. I wish to raise the whole question of the confused jurisdiction over management of oil spills off our shore and the change of jurisdiction when the oil hits the waterfront. There are one or two other votes, I notice, dealing with pollution, and there may be a more appropriate vote, but I would appreciate your guidance. Vote 164 is pollution control. I don't know whether you prefer that we discuss it under 164 or under the general administration of our water resources.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps you should ask the Minister if he'd rather comment under the specific vote or under 152.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS (Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources): Well, Mr. Chairman, there is the operation of the pollution control branch under this specific vote and I think that would be more appropriate. There's a shared jurisdiction with the emergency programmes staff of the Provincial Secretary.
Vote 152 approved.
On vote 153: Water Resources Service, water rights branch, $1,959,818.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, under this vote I'd like some explanation from the Minister about the Chemainus dam. We had a decision to build the Chemainus dam which overrode the decision of the water rights branch from the control of water rights. The decision was made by a cabinet committee, including members of the cabinet who had no knowledge — or at least no specific responsibility — for the area of water rights or pollution control. The dam in question would have affected fisheries, and particularly provincial fisheries, mainly trout and steelhead. It was a decision which was inexplicable at the time, but equally unexplained has been the reversal of the decision following the outcry that took place.
There's no doubt that the reversal of the decision was correct. There's no doubt that the Minister is dead right in rapping the knuckles of his cabinet colleagues, or punching them on the nose, or whatever he did for their iniquitous decision earlier which overrode the water rights branch, but this whole history of this affair is just too serious to pass without question.
There are a number of questions. Why was the control of water rights decision overturned? Why was it ignored? Was this a deliberate attempt to get this decision to a cabinet committee just as soon as
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possible because the cabinet committee had given some indication, or a cabinet member had given some indication, that there would be a favourable decision in favour of the dam if it did hit the cabinet committee? Was the reversal which was based upon — I read the press release, and it said it was based upon inadequate information. Was that known to the cabinet members on that committee when they made their decision to proceed?
It looks to me like we had a situation where there was some inside knowledge that there was a favouring of this dam at the cabinet level. It went up to the cabinet just as fast as it could, ignoring the civil service experts down below. When it got to cabinet, the decision was made.
Let's face it, Mr. Minister, there was refusal after refusal after refusal to reopen that, as your correspondence shows. Later on, just before this session began, the reversal decision took place. Again, there was no adequate explanation of what had changed the cabinet's mind. It looked as if all along they knew it was a rotten decision but they were making it, deliberately ignoring the decisions of the public servants. They went ahead and reversed it once they realized that the pressure of public opinion was against them and once they realized that there was enough technical information in the hands of groups such as the Amalgamated Conservation Society and others who were at that stage launching a campaign to have the decision reversed.
The interesting thing in terms of decision-making in the government is how that committee ever got set up in cabinet, composed of cabinet Ministers who really had no special knowledge of the problem. Secondly, how did the reversal take place? Were there extra studies done or was it just this Minister, who we know is somewhat more powerful than some of his cabinet colleagues, saying: "To Hell with it! It's not worth it. There is too much trouble involved. There is going to be a hassle. It's a wrong decision anyway. Let's ignore the rest of that little cabinet committee who were clearly acting irresponsibly and foolishly, and let's get this decision reversed back to what the comptroller for water rights suggested in the first instance"?
The whole procedure is very curious. In fact, the whole procedure stinks. I wonder if the Minister would get up and indicate the steps in this decision-making which ultimately led to the reversal of the cabinet committee's decision and, of course, the reinstatement of the comptroller of water rights' views. I just don't understand how it took place. It appears that that cabinet committee was not looking at the facts. It appears, from the final decision of the Minister later on, that he knew they were not looking at the facts, the information and the technical studies. I would like to know how on earth this decision was ever made.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The Hon. Member has covered some of the ground — or water. The normal course of appeal on most of these matters in terms of appeal to a cabinet committee is, it seems to me, reasonably conceived in the sense that cabinet members who have not been directly involved in the question consider the matter. That explains why neither myself nor the Minister of Recreation and Conservation (Hon. Mr. Radford) was on the appeal committee; we are involved in the initial processes.
Nevertheless, the matter was considered not only by myself but rather the whole Environmental and Land Use Committee of cabinet. It was simply a matter of reconsideration by the nine-member committee. It was as a result of that reconsideration that the decision was made. It was the result of additional information and technical advice that caused the reconsideration. As a result of that, we are proceeding with pretty detailed technical studies, because there was a consensus that information was lacking, particularly with respect to groundwater resources in that general area. We are currently undertaking groundwater studies to see if there can be domestic supply from groundwater without having to use the Chemainus system. It seemed to us that additional hearings on the question wouldn't be too productive unless the technical work was done. The consensus of the nine-member cabinet committee that reconsidered the whole matter was that the technical work should be done and then we should hold additional hearings and make a final decision.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The Minister has still not indicated why the four-man cabinet subcommittee went ahead without the proper technical advice and information that the Minister talked about. That's what they did. That's what he's admitted they did.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: I don't report to the four cabinet Ministers. You're asking the wrong Minister.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Minister, you can't question four members of a committee under their votes. We have to question you under your vote, which is the vote that deals with the whole Chemainus dam and other water rights problems.
The Minister states that the nine-man Environmental and Land Use Committee looked at it. Why on earth were they not looking at it previously? Why did it come up so much later only as a result of public pressure? Why was this four-men-and-woman committee set up before that time to make decisions which were stated to be irreversible and final. Why were those decisions made?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Will you guess a second look?
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MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The Minister says for a second look. What type of system do you have for having a proper first look?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Flexible.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Most of your decisions are made by such committees and not all decisions go on to the second look. If the second look is the thing that counts, can't we wipe out one step in the procedure and go directly to where it counts?
There have been some very curious statements made. I'd like to know what connections there might have been between the developers of that subdivision who wanted that water, and what contact they had had with cabinet Members prior to the decision of that cabinet subcommittee.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Oh, come on.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: But I would like to know. There really is no explanation whatsoever for that cabinet subcommittee decision on the basis of technical studies. The controller of water rates went against it. Later on, the Environmental and Land Use Committee went against it on the basis of technical advice. But in that interim period the cabinet committee went the other way, and they must have done it on the basis of some information, and the only information that hasn't been raised is the information that might have been given by the developers of that subdivision.
I would like to know what contact there might have been, and what the Minister knows about the contact there was, or might have been, between the developers of that subdivision and members of the cabinet.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: This strikes me as absolute nonsense. It certainly is outside of the departmental jurisdiction, Mr. Chairman. The determination of the members of the initial appeal committee was made by the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall). There would have been absolutely no knowledge by the other parties in terms of that decision-making process. To suggest this is just utter nonsense.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: It may be utter nonsense to the Minister, but the fact is that there is no explanation given for that cabinet subcommittee flying in the face of technical studies. There has got to be some reason for them making that decision, and this is the Minister responsible for decisions in that area.
Now I commend him for overruling, via the Environment and Land Use Committee, the decision of that cabinet subcommittee, but we have a very serious problem in trying to understand the decision-making of the cabinet level. It appears there was good technical information below, at the civil service level, when the controller of water rights made his decision. It appears there was good technical information at the Environmental and Land Use Committee level, but apparently somewhere in between, other factors decided the cabinet subcommittee to reverse the original decision.
I just find the Minister's explanation quite unsatisfactory. It's all very well for him to shrug and say it is the responsibility of other Ministers, but ultimately the whole question of the Chemainus Dam and water rights is his responsibility. He is obviously the only one we can question in terms of what's happened in the last year in the water rights area. Now we've had this cabinet subcommittee and there has been no explanation given for their decision.
I was at a Fish and Game meeting in Nanaimo last spring, a little over a year ago, when the Minister of Recreation and Conservation (Hon. Mr. Radford) simply didn't know about the problem until he was informed of it there by Members of the B.C. Wildlife Federation. When you have Ministers who are meant to be responsible for the fish and game aspect not knowing, we assume that it must be under your department, Mr. Minister. It was, because it was the decision of the controller of water rights. Then, of course, we had the fun and games with that cabinet committee. Apparently something along the way persuaded them to change their minds, and there has been no information given as to on what basis they made that decision.
I just ask the Minister once again: how is it that the cabinet subcommittee simply didn't have the information, which this Minister had later, which the Environmental and Land Use Committee had later, which the controller of water rights had earlier, but in that period, apparently, some other factors took over?
HON. L.T. NIMSICK (Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources): Mr. Chairman, I've been listening to this discussion, and as a member of that committee I would like the Hon. Member to understand that when a cabinet committee is appointed to deal with a certain subject that has been appealed to the cabinet, they have got to deal with the evidence that is presented to them.
There was no subdivision appeal made for the water rights. On behalf of the whole area the appeal was made that they needed more water because they were going to be cut off before very long by the industry that was supplying them with a percentage of their water at that time.
We were not given any direct evidence that there was any alternate as far as a really sure water supply. The submission made by the people who were
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interested in wildlife was not a good submission, and when we weighed the whole issue, we judged in favour of the community — that they had to have water eventually and that it was the only definite place to receive that water.
Maybe the evidence given by the water rights branch or by the wildlife branch was not done as well as they should have done it. Even after the changes were made and a second look was taken, in the end the decision of the cabinet may be the one that will be the final decision yet. Nobody knows at this point because they are making an investigation.
But I was on that committee, and there was no thought of anything except to judge the case on the evidence that was presented. And the evidence presented was definitely in favour of building the Chemainus Dam and supplying the people with water.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, that type of explanation goes a long way to make estimates run through the House more quickly. But he has raised one other point — that he does not feel that the Environmental and Land Use Committee is a final one.
I'd just like to know from the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources at this time what the status is of that Chemainus Dam. Is it simply in limbo until some other studies come forward? So, in other words, it's still.... He shakes his head affirmatively.
The question, then, is still very much up in the air; there may well yet be a dam built on the Chemainus River. I ask him that question.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: That's the position of the community. The District of North Cowichan has endorsed that idea and that's why the appeal committee made the decision they did. They've carried out their technical studies and invested a fair amount in that proposition. In turn, we're investing a fair amount in technical studies in terms of determining whether the alternatives — that is, groundwater supply — are feasible. We won't get the results of the groundwater studies until mid-fall.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Well, can I ask the Minister then whether these groundwater studies he talks, about will be made available? We have many, many studies done by government committees. The Surrey refinery is an example where the reports and studies are not being made available to people who are interested. I would ask him whether or not these studies will be made available within, say, a week or two or, three from about the time they are received by him. There's no reason to conceal them. There's no reason....
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: It should be abundantly clear, Mr. Chairman, that that in fact will be the case.
The intention is to have a hearing process. The date will be made available. I indicated earlier that we did not think the hearing process would be productive unless there was new information, new research, new data. So, yes, the answer is yes.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Good.
Vote 153 approved.
On vote 154: Water Resources Service: assistance to improvement districts, $25,000.
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): Just a short question, Mr. Chairman. Assistance to improvement districts, $25,000: do you advise the improvement districts that this is available? How do you dish it out?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Well, as the amount indicates, it's a modest amount and if there is a sort of an interim problem it would be used — or, say, preliminary engineering that might be charged back into the capital programme once they proceeded.
MR. FRASER: Thank you. In other words, for preliminary engineering or something that's going to a capital project: you say that this is where they might get financial assistance.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Yes, it's essentially a loan basis with a slight risk involved.
MR. H.A. CURTIS (Saanich and the Islands): It would be appropriate at this point, I think, Mr. Chairman, to seek the Minister's response to the need, recognition of the need firstly, for significantly increased assistance to improvement districts. I certainly have heard from a number of them who are very concerned about both the short- and long-term problems that they face in expansion of their systems, or upgrading of existing systems. The Minister has already indicated that this is a modest amount, and certainly one would have to agree. But we've done a great deal with respect to sewerage facilities of one kind or another. And we've spoken about this in other estimates and under the legislation itself.
But I wonder if the Minister could ten the committee if he, first, recognizes that what I've said is essentially correct and that — I'm not certain of the exact number — well over 100 individual improvement districts, I believe, are still existing and operating in British Columbia. Hopefully, government at some early date will recognize the problems they face not only in upgrading the existing systems but expanding to meet the increased demand.
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HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Well, there's always concern about these matters, Mr. Chairman. We have various incentives with respect to other status situations under the Department of Municipal Affairs. I have some sympathy for what the Member is saying.
MR. FRASER: Just on the present and future status of improvement districts, what is the government policy on improvement districts? Is it to encourage further improvement districts, or to discourage them and put them under the regional districts — that is, specified function? I'd just like to hear the Minister say what the present and future policy is. I've heard that the government is discouraging new improvement districts and suggesting they get things in the rural areas under specified areas of the regional districts. Just what do you intend to do?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: That's really a matter for the Department of Municipal Affairs, Mr. Chairman. The legislation has gone through. It's very clear in terms of what the aid programmes are meant to serve. I think the regional districts have a clear role and the legislation is also clear in terms of providing opportunities for special areas within the regions.
That's really a matter for the Department of Municipal Affairs, in terms of their basic work and settlement policy. I'm not free to comment.
MR. FRASER: Thank you, Mr. Minister. In effect what you are saying is you want the improvement districts to phase out and go on to regional districts in specified areas.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: I've no opinion on the matter myself, Mr. Chairman.
Vote 154 approved.
On vote 155: Water Resources Service; Canadian Council of Resource Ministers, $40,000.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I'm surprised, Mr. Chairman, that this vote has gone down very substantially, not only by the result of inflation, but the fact that it's dropped from almost $53,000 down to $40,000.
Now it's clear that there is provincial jurisdiction over resources. At the same time it's clear that there have been many federal-provincial battles on resource issues — no need to go into that. It would appear, as a consequence, that there's a tremendous need for co-ordination between the various provinces in their approach to the federal government on resource issues. I don't really understand why we are weakening the council of Resource Ministers which could provide co-ordination and provide some sort of assistance in between federal-provincial conferences, when at the same time we know full well there is encroaching jurisdiction from the federal government.
It appears that at this time it would be appropriate to strengthen rather than to weaken the co-ordinating body which exists for the resource Ministers and for the provinces in right of their resources.
I wonder whether the Minister could indicate why we're cutting back so substantially on our contribution.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, that's the decision of the council itself, in terms of working out the budget. So all of the provinces in concert with the federal government came to that conclusion.
The senior staff member left the service of the Canadian Council of Resource and Environment Ministers in the last year so there hasn't been somebody of that salary level, I don't believe, replaced. That would explain part of it.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: It's Mr. Delatt, I guess — the man who left?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Could I ask whether the Minister and his colleagues are making efforts to replace Mr. Delatt, who appeared to me to be a very competent man, with someone of equal stature because surely the idea of a co-ordinating body for the provincial governments and the provincial resource Ministers is worthwhile. Surely, under the present circumstances there would be opportunities for such a body to co-ordinate approaches, circulate information between the governments and make sure that there was some sort of common policy.
Federal-provincial conferences are well and good, but looking at them as an outsider and observer — an observer in the room, or an observer on television — you are struck by the lack of co-ordination between the provincial viewpoints. It would seem to me that if we are genuinely concerned about protecting our provincial jurisdiction in this area, the resource Ministers council could be most helpful.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: There's no question, Mr. Chairman, about the strength of the provinces in terms of managing their own resources. Land and water are clearly provincial jurisdictions...
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Even Indian ones.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: ...in this country. Still, if you applied the $40,000 across the country, in terms of the provinces, it's still a significant budget for the group as a whole, and the co-ordinating is taking place.
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Shortly there's a meeting in Edmonton of resource and environment Ministers, at which time I think the final pieces will be hammered out in terms of an environmental accord across Canada. British Columbia is far in advance of most of the provinces in terms of standards, in terms of environmental controls. So there is a cooperation going on. The evidence is beginning to come out of that cooperation, and whether you have to add to some kind of federalist bureaucracy to achieve that, is a moot point. It's my own view that you don't.
MR. WALLACE: I'd just like to ask the Minister briefly what success he feels the Canadian Council of Resource Ministers has in presenting a harmonious and united front to the federal government in some of the areas, such as the area that I would like to ask him about under pollution control.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: I think there's been a fair amount of agreement in terms of this environmental accord across Canada, and that's from the have-not provinces of the Maritimes to central Canada to British Columbia.
We think we're ahead of most in the country in terms of environmental controls. We're pleased that the rest of the country is moving in a sort of common direction.
It's certainly a useful area in terms of exchanging ideas, but the real legislative powers and authorities under the constitution reside with the provinces. As the result, I think British Columbia has something to show the rest of the country already in terms of the approach of the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Stupich), the Land Commission and agricultural land preservation. I think through this council we have something to show the rest of the country in terms of land-use management. Because we have more common public land than any of the other provinces, I think we are going to be able to show the rest of the country how we can co-ordinate the use of the public lands on a scale like we have in British Columbia. So it's a useful instrument to exchange ideas. But at the moment I think it is a case of British Columbia showing many of the other provinces what, in fact, can be achieved in this field.
Vote 155 approved.
Vote 156: Water Resources Service; inspector of dikes, $70,057 — approved.
Vote 157: Water Resources Service; water investigations branch, $2,226,889 — approved.
On vote 15 8: Water Resources Service; investigations, hydraulic surveys and projects, $2,033,000.
MR. D.E. LEWIS (Shuswap): Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few words under vote 158. I have some concerns about riverbank erosion and the problems that we encounter in rural ridings throughout the interior.
Often there are several acres of land lost each spring on some parcels of property — sometimes it is very good farmland. It seems that we haven't adequate money for the provincial government to help very much with this type of erosion. I realize it is on private property and that the property owner has some responsibility, but at the same time we have farmland legislation where we say that farmland must be protected as a resource, so I think we have some responsibility to try to assist in the protection of erosion that takes place.
Some of the rivers that are particularly bad in my area are the Eagle, Salmon and Chase Creek. There are several others as well. I know it is a tremendously large problem all across the province, and there is no way we can protect all these rivers. But I think that if there is some way the federal government would cooperate with funding, and the property owner pay part of it, we could do considerably better.
I was just wondering if the Minister has any agreement with the federal government, or if there is any consultation going on with them at this time to see if this sharing can be expanded to more parts of the province.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Well, the amount under this vote, in terms of projects, is $850,000, which, in terms of a province like this, is not that substantial. But that is applied on a 75-25 basis, with the property owner paying 25 per cent of the cost of the project and the province paying 75 per cent. So it is a decision by the landowner to meet a quarter of the cost at least. Now that is established on a priority basis after engineering studies by our staff, so those funds, in fact, are committed for this fiscal year on a priority basis now.
We have urged the federal government to expand the basic Canada-British Columbia Joint Development Act which is covered under vote 161. There has been some agreement in that regard in terms of extensions of the Fraser River system, such as the Thompson. So that is being applied in Kamloops for example. But they haven't agreed to expanding beyond that, so we are continuing discussions regarding that whole agreement at the moment. That involves the federal Treasury Board and all of the complications that are tied up in that chunk of the federal bureaucracy.
MR. FRASER: I would just like to make a few comments on vote 158. I was pleased to hear the Member for Shuswap (Mr. Lewis) get up and talk about it. I don't have too much in common with him most of the time, but I agree with all his remarks
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except to say that he only has a little bit of streams in his riding. In the riding of Cariboo I have the Fraser River and the Quesnel River and the farmland erosion there is a big item.
I would point out to the Minister that where a farmer has to put up 25 per cent, that's a financial hardship. I know we are coming down to the vote later that maybe is the answer, but the farmer just will not contribute the 25 per cent; he can't afford it. I've had experience on this with this Minister and this department where they said: "Well, let the farms fall in the river."
This government is for the preservation of farmland. I've actually seen that in writing. If he won't contribute to the farmland....
I might point out that these are in the valleys of the Fraser River, and while the chicken farmers and egg producers from the lower Fraser Valley think they have all the best land, there is good farmland in the upper reaches of the Fraser River as well.
There is something wrong here, but, as I say, maybe there is an answer in vote 162, but it is rather a serious problem.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Well, that's true, but I would have thought the Hon. Member for Cariboo would have thanked us for the recent expenditures in his own riding, and his home town of Quesnel, in terms of protecting the riverbank that their general hospital is situated on. There probably wouldn't have been a parking lot so one could visit people in that hospital if we hadn't taken a generous chunk out of this vote for that situation in his own riding.
The way the Member is nodding, I am assuming that he is pleased that, in fact, we were non-partisan and applied generous funding in his riding.
Just to indicate the range of creeks and streams we are working on in this budget, this will give you an idea:
Allison Creek, South Alouette River, Anderson Creek, Antler Creek, Apalmer Creek, Bear River, Bella Coola, Bellevue, Bertram Creek, Bolean Creek, Bonaparte River, Boundary Creek, Bulkley River, Capilano, Cecil Lake, Chase Creek, Chemainus River, Cherry Creek, Christina Lake, Coldstream Creek, Coldwater, Columbia, Courtenay River, Cowichan Bay, Cowichan Lake, Cowichan River, Craigflower Creek, Cumming Creek, Duhamel Creek, Duteau Creek, Eagle River, Ell; River, Englishman River, Fraser River, French Creek, Gates River, Glenora Creek, Goat River, Gold River, Granby River, Green Lake, Hardy Creek, Harris Creek.... We are only up to "H," so it gives you an idea of the range we are covering even within that budget.
MR. FRASER: I just want to reply to the Minister and publicly acknowledge and thank him for being non-partisan in looking after the Fraser River erosion in the town of Quesnel. I might say that I don't think the town of Quesnel got anything organized and I doubt that they will now until fall, but I imagine the money is good until then. That is in the town of Quesnel itself. The area I was referring to is really out in the rural area where the farmlands are. But we do appreciate that.
You might also be interested to know, Mr. Minister, that you are bringing the retaining wall up to within about 100 feet of my home. I'm wondering why you can't go a little bit further. Thank you. (Laughter.)
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: You're home by the Fraser; come on, you don't want to do that.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: The Minister mentioned that these requests by landowners are established on a priority basis. Would he indicate if he has received $10 million or requests of which he can only handle one-tenth, or is he more or less meeting the requests that come in with this money?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: There are requests well beyond the vote, but it is established on a priority basis. The 25 per cent funding does condition many people in terms of applying.
Vote 158 approved.
On vote 159: Water Resources Service: environmental qualities studies, $380,000.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: May I ask the Minister if the environmental law centre money comes out of this vote or another one?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: No, that is under the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Could he explain then a little more about this vote? There is just one lump sum of $380,000. Are there salaries involved in that or is it simply outside consulting studies? How is the money spent?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: There is a range. This covers, for example, grants to the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which carries out air quality control in the metropolitan area. In addition, grants to recycling depots in communities around the province, studies jointly with the British Columbia Research Council, and some aspects to do with litter are funded out of this vote. It is a fairly wide range.
Vote 159 approved.
Vote 160: Water Resources Service: Okanagan
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flood control, $105,000 — approved.
On vote 161: Water Resources Service: Canada-British Columbia Joint Development Act, $14,625,000.
MR. FRASER: This was referred to earlier under vote 158. What is the difference between the programme under 158 with 75-25 sharing and the programme here regarding the Fraser River programme?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The difference is federal funding. This is basically on the southern main stem of the Fraser River — the lower mainland Fraser Valley. This was subsequent to the 1948 flood, various studies and the subsequent statutes. This is covering diking and drainage programmes in Delta, Richmond, Sumas, Chilliwack, Dewdney, Kent, Pitt Meadows, and all those communities. It is basically a 50-50 funding between the federal and provincial governments with the municipalities contributing the right-of-way for the dikes.
MR. FRASER: That really means then that the only thing for bank revetment in the central and upper regions of the Fraser is back under vote 158. There is no money in this programme for the middle or upper reaches of the river.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: No, unfortunately. That is a matter we have been arguing over with the federal government.
MR. FX RICHTER (Boundary-Similkameen): Under this vote for the Okanagan basin programme there is a slight increase in the vote. But I want to ask the Minister if this is the area in which the committee will carry out their implementation of the results of the study, or does the money come from local assessment?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: This is really the winding up of the studies that have taken place. The technical groups are still working together preparing recommendations to both the federal Minister of the Environment (Hon. Jeanne Sauvé) and myself, but that has not yet been finalized.
MR. RICHTER: For funding?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: That remains to be seen. There are some recommendations regarding capital projects, as I understand, but they still have to come up through the system.
Vote 161 approved.
On vote 162: Water Resources Service, B.C. hydrometric stream-gauging, $522,000.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Is this a new programme?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The federal Treasury Board has been working overtime and it's pulling out of many various programmes that they've been involved in in the past. They've argued that much of the hydrometrics stream-gauging that's been taking place in British Columbia is purely of a provincial interest rather than a national interest. They've since designated streams that they consider in the national interest for stream-gauging purposes and have reallocated the costs. That was jointly agreed to between Madam Sauvé and myself several months ago. I think it was formalized here in Victoria. So it's part of a change at the national level, in terms of breaking costs down on a regional and federal basis. We got stung for $300,000.
Vote 162 approved.
On vote 163: Water Resources Service, southern Okanagan lands project, $20,000.
MR. RICHTER: This is a phasing-out vote, changing from what was a government-subsidized irrigation district, and there were large blocks of land which couldn't possibly be irrigated from the system. My understanding is that this land will no longer be administered under Water Resources but will be administered under Lands. Has this transition taken place?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: No. What did happen, of course, was that there was major capital funding by the province last year for the southern Okanagan lands project, with the intent that it would be a self-supporting organization managed locally. Insofar as the lands that are Crown-owned that have been managed by the Water Resources Service, we are considering the transfer of the management of the Crown lands to the lands branch but that has not been done yet.
MR. RICHTER: The other question I have for the Minister is in regard to the airport lands which were transferred from the federal government to the provincial government. The airport lands are excessive acres there to the needs of air services. Will these surplus lands be made available to the communities for development of housing? There is a lack of land for this type of development pertaining to apartment buildings.
My understanding is that a committee known as the Airport and Village Advisory Planning Commission drew up a plan which the municipal
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council agreed with and then made application for the land, and the price of $10,000 per acre of this particular grade of land seemed like it was excessive for the approximately eight acres that were applied for, because I believe at one time they were offered to the community for about $3,500. In the most recent application there is also a proviso that if the village council is prepared to pay the $10,000 per acre they will not have the prerogative of resale in the event that they did develop it for a housing proposal.
Is there any clarification? I know applications have gone to the Department of Housing on this, and it seems it's just stagnant at this time.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, I would think that really part of the problem is that the Water Resources Service is really not geared up for handling land development or alienation programmes. That's why transferring to the lands branch makes quite a bit of sense, from our point of view. So the best bet probably is the transfer of the lands to the lands branch and then getting them in harness with the local community and trying to achieve some mutually satisfactory arrangement.
Vote 163 approved.
On vote 164: pollution control, $3,641,734.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to try and get some clarification of where we stand at the different levels of government on the problem of oil spills and the costs and the jurisdictional responsibility involved in cleaning them up.
We've had the most recent example in Mill Bay and the explanations that have been given are a little confusing. I just think it worthwhile taking a moment to go into this, because although the oil spill in Mill Bay was fairly small, and we had a small spill last year in my riding of Oak Bay, there is obvious confusion as to where responsibilities lie. There doesn't seem to be any problem as to who should actually do the clean-up. The federal authorities, as I understand it, admit responsibility at sea. But I would like the Minister to clarify their position on the known origin of the spill.
If I could just digress for a moment, in relation to the Oak Bay oil spill, the federal government says it doesn't know where the oil came from. So they're taking a completely hands off attitude. Now the oil just didn't come from thin air. Somebody spilled that oil from a ship, presumably. If there's anything else sailing off Oak Bay I don't know what it would be, other than a ship or a boat of some sort. There's been interminable correspondence between Oak Bay and the federal government to try and determine who's responsible. The oil spill occurred on January 22, 1974. The sum of money is not large; it is the principle. The sum of money is $463.91. Even that isn't negligible to a municipality these days. But at any rate the point was that the application for reimbursement was made to the Department of Transport. They spent a long time exchanging letters, and then finally they turned it over to the Minister of the Environment. The correspondence continues, Mr. Chairman, and there's no end in sight.
The point which the municipality of Oak Bay and the mayor of Oak Bay is concerned about is: who defines when a small oil spill becomes a large oil spill? Okay, it was $463 this time. Supposing it was $4,600 next time? That would indeed be a substantial financial expense to the municipality.
In this latest incident that occurred in Mill Bay about June 4 or 5, it's very confusing for the public, I think, and myself to read that different individuals and different levels of government are all scurrying around denying responsibility. I'd just like to quote Mr. Keir, who is the chairman of the Cowichan Regional District. He says: "Since when is it a regional district's responsibility to handle oil spills? We don't have the know-how, the staff or the money to clean it up." And then we have Mr. Doug Rodway, who is the Vancouver Island co-ordinator for the provincial emergency programme, and he says that the federal government will be responsible for oil spills of known origin before it hits the shoreline. This is really rather ridiculous. The more you think about it, if it wasn't so serious it would be humorous. It's just a typical example of different levels of bureaucracy passing the buck. Then Mr. Rodway goes on to say that after the oil has washed up on the beach, clean-up is the responsibility of the local government.
In this instance, Mr. Chairman, the provincial government — and I think it deserves credit — has stepped in and agreed to foot the bill for $6,000. There again it would seem to me from the information available that the provincial government is setting a precedent here. I can't find anybody who can tell me where there is any written agreement or any firm understanding as to who is responsible for what, in terms of the cost of clean-up. It seems to me that first of all we should have the provincial and federal governments straightening out this whole question of known origin of oil spills. Surely if the federal government has jurisdiction over our offshore waters one would assume, if any reason or logic were applied at all, that whether it's known where the oil came from or not surely the federal government is responsible. I suppose what the federal government's trying to do by defining a known source is to try and go after the ship that spilled the oil and get their money back from the owners of that ship. That's reasonable enough too, but I think to suggest that there should be some preliminary definition of origin before the federal government gets involved at all in
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meeting some of the costs is a pretty autocratic approach — which, mind you, is nothing different from the federal Liberals, I agree, but I think the provincial government should be trying at least in a logical way to define the federal responsibility and get some commitment.
The next problem is that as the oil hits the beach the whole question, I guess, is a jurisdictional one of the degree of involvement that the provincial government should have. I asked this question the other day in question period and there really wasn't time to go into it in the amount of detail that I think it justifies, but I wonder if the Minister could answer just one or two questions. Where are we at with the federal government in our discussions? Secondly, what does the provincial government feel it can do with the local governments in terms of the know-how, the staff and the money? Is there any agreement being developed? Thirdly, and most importantly, what efforts are being made to classify and define the size of an oil spill? As I mentioned, Oak Bay can pay $463 but they would be pretty upset if it was $4,600 or $40,600.
I wonder if the Minister has been having, in co-ordinator on with the emergency programme provincially, any discussions with the municipalities. I would assume that through UBCM there would be a channel of trying to develop an arrangement. The Minister is nodding; perhaps he wants to respond.
Just before I sit down, there is just a last question in relation to the pollution of rivers. The throne speech, which seems to be a long time ago — let me see, when was that now? February 18, 1975, which seems a long time ago. It mentioned that there would be legislation somewhat similar to the attempts that have been made in the United States to classify different rivers in three main categories. The idea, I guess, is to define rivers where some measure of pollution has to be acceptable for commercial reasons while attempting at the same time to provide legislation to preserve the so-called wild rivers. We introduced a private bill trying to outline the interests of this. I guess the wildlife federation is very keen on this. Probably we've run out of time for new bills this session, but I wonder if the Minister would touch on that question, even though the bill isn't coming in this session.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, the problems of working with the federal government in this area are quite difficult. Like the Member for Oak Bay, I find it difficult to understand their reasoning in terms of responsibilities. If these spills take place, origin known or unknown, obviously it's in an area of federal jurisdiction and the responsibility should relate to that. But we're going through the usual kinds of arguments between the governments where money is involved. That's disappointing, but something we got used to.
The provincial emergency preparedness people under the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Hall), in conjunction with the pollution control branch, have carried on discussions with UBCM people and municipal people in terms of the kind of preparedness they feel they should be geared up for in these situations. I suppose in a sense the emergency people, while they've proved to be helpful in the Mill Bay situation, have made it clear that this is regarded as a federal responsibility — that the source was in federal jurisdiction and it seems only reasonable. I think the federal people have established other precedents in Boundary Bay and West Vancouver as well in the past, where it was such a scale that public opinion was greatly aroused. Then they simply moved in and did much of the work.
MR. WALLACE: Who defines the scale?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Exactly. That's it — and who goes after the offender? In the situation the Provincial Secretary's department has been generous and helpful with a local community that's not of any substantial means at all. But it's the old story: The provincial government is closer to the people than the federal one so the expectations seem to be higher of us than of the federal government, despite their high revenue sources and wide sources of revenue. So I'm afraid that's a matter for agenda for future federal-provincial meetings in terms of resolving these matters. I can't really give anything more definitive than that at this time.
The question of wild river legislation has been considered by the Minister of Recreation and Conservation (Hon. Mr. Radford) and by the Environment and Land Use Committee. I think there is some general sympathy for the establishment of some wild river areas in the province. It's still quite complex in terms of interdepartmental jurisdictions and the like. So the work is continuing at the staff level. I guess this session will go on quite a long time, adjournments or not, so we might well see it come forth once the staff work is done.
MR. D.E. SMITH (North Peace River): Mr. Chairman, I couldn't allow this vote to go by without bringing to the Minister's attention...
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: A pearl of wisdom.
MR. SMITH: ...something that seems to be a great change of at least philosophy on the part of the present-day government. I'd like to draw his attention to the facts that I have before me — a number of pages from the British Columbia Gazette, going back to 1971. In this particular edition of the Gazette, I saw a number of applications for permits:
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"Application for permit under Pollution Control Act, 1967."
Because of the fact that the Act was in force at that time, we see a number of permits from a number of companies including Canadian Cellulose Co., Weyerhaeuser Corp., Savona Timber Co., and so on and so forth.
It is interesting to note that the almost identical wording is found in the applications that are presently before the pollution control branch. I would refer to a couple of recent applications, one of May 28, an application by Weyerhaeuser Corp. of Kamloops. There was another application of the same date from the City of Prince George. I would like the Minister to tell me, if he can, why when these applications were published and gazetted in 1971, we heard a great, great outcry from the now Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources about the number of applications to pollute issued by the provincial government. Every time one of them appeared in the paper, it was an application to pollute. Now suddenly they have become respectable. They are an application to control pollution. Could the Minister define the difference between the form that is used now as compared to that used in 1971?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The new "Rinso white" approach, Mr. Chairman, is one of regulatory protection of the environment. Let's just look at the amount of regulatory protection that has been achieved in recent years.
MR. SMITH: Take a look at the permits.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: In 1970 it was 59 under the former government. In 1971 it was 99. In 1972 it was 166. In 1973 it was 393. In 1974 it was 582. This is regulatory control of the environment — environmental protection on a growing scale with more significant industries all of the time coming under permit and regulation.
MR. SMITH: Mr. Chairman, what difference a couple of years makes. It seems that the permit application is exactly the same now. It serves the same purpose that it did in 1971. I'm glad to see that there is an increase in the number of permits issued each year. I do believe that this is the type of control that we have to effect. The way to do it is to identify the problems through the applications that are required now and always have been by the Pollution Control Board.
There is one other point I would like to briefly deal with. We talked about oil spills for a few moments. The type of oil spills that I am mainly acquainted with are land spills that take place in and around the oil patch. These people have developed, within their own industry, a highly skilled, mobile force they can mobilize on hours' notice. In setting up this particular force there was a question of who would pay the shot. Of course, this is one of the problems you face on a coastal spill where you are involved with the federal government.
They came to the conclusion that the most important thing is to correct the problem immediately. Regardless of who the companies are, if they happen to be operating in the north eastern part of British Columbia, they will be assessed a small, proportionate amount of the cost involved. They came to that conclusion collectively. I think that we could de well to look to them and their experience in setting up a highly mobile and professional clean-up force for the coastal waters.
It's a technique that they can develop. There is special equipment that they manufacture and use for cleaning up oil spills. That's the main thing — do it quickly. Get on the job and get the clean-up started before the really permanent damage happens. They have found that it will work on land spills in the oil patch. I would assume that the same technique with modifications could be used in coastal waters.
MR. FRASER: I have just a few questions on the pollution control directorate, I guess you would call it. I believe this directorate is now all regionalized. I imagine the staff has increased. I would like to know a little more about it. How many regions are there? How many do they have on their staff and what is proposed in this budget? I think the people we have are doing a good job but I have reason to believe that the people in the field, who I am talking about now, have their hands full.
I would also like to know the position of the Minister and the government regarding beehive burners. They were all to be phased out for economic reasons, I understood. I believe an extension was given to the operation of beehive burners in the sawmill industry. How long is that extension for? Is it indefinite, or just what is the government's policy?
The last item I have is the continuing problem from pulp mills: (1) the odour; (2) I think more vexing than the odour is what they call saltcake. That is in the atmosphere, a sort of foam.
There are no end of problems in my riding with the Cariboo pulp operation. There have been a lot of complaints made to the pollution control branch, and I have copies of the correspondence.
I really think that this is unnecessary, as far as the saltcake and foam, in the operation of this pulp mill. I'd like to know what the branch intends to do about it and when. It's been going on now for over a year and the complaints have been pouring in for over a year. I imagine there is somebody there who is conversant with this problem. I wonder if the Minister could answer any of the questions.
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MR. WALLACE: There are just a couple of brief questions, Mr. Chairman.
Oh, and before I forget — I wonder what happened to the oil spills committee that was set up as a standing committee of the House. Maybe the Minister could report. I seem to recall that the Member for Esquimalt (Mr. Gorst) was chairman of a standing committee in 1973, I reckon. I wonder if that was just a committee for that one session of the Legislature, which, presumably, was not reconstituted. I wonder if perhaps some such committee — an all-party committee of the House — would be any better a vehicle for the Minister to successfully bring about some of the negotiations which he referred to earlier, and which had been unproductive with the federal government in particular. I think an all-party standing committee of the House might be useful in meeting with the municipalities to determine the kind of handling of some of the problems which I mentioned earlier.
In relation to vote 164 I notice there's just a fantastic increase in temporary assistance. Last year we had $6,000; this year it's $338,000. I presume there's some explanation for this tremendous increase, but I would like to know what the explanation is.
I think the Minister has touched on this already, but I wonder if he could just quickly tell us again what the reason was for the actual reduction in staff in the pollution control branch. One of the areas that this government emphasized in the election campaign in 1972 was the former government's lack of attention to pollution control. I just wonder why the staff in this department has gone down from 191 to 173.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, the decentralization of the pollution control staff has been underway over the last couple of years. The orientation is to the resource regions which were defined by the Environment and Land Use Committee some six months ago or so. The regions are centred on Smithers, Prince George, Williams Lake, Kamloops, Nelson, Vancouver and Nanaimo.
There are now six regional organizations around the province, and 85 staff members are out in the regions. So that's a fair movement in the direction of decentralization of activities.
In terms of the decrease in staff numbers — that's basically departmental reorganization, so much of the research capacity of the pollution control branch has been shifted into an environmental studies section of the Water Resources Service. In fact, most of the biological research is now within the environmental studies section of the service. The intent has been to make the pollution control board more of a regulatory and policing agency with a strong regional establishment, with the research function basically outside of this section.
The question of beehive burners was reconsidered. For a period there was a steel shortage which was a factor in the decision. In addition, the programme was by and large fairly successful in terms of eliminating many of the worst offenders. The matter has now been in the hands of the director of a pollution control branch, as all other permit matters are. So it is a matter of discussion, negotiation and sort of a reasonable timetable in relation to specific situations.
There are many small operators, for example, that do not have an assured wood supply. Until questions like that are resolved, it seems unfair to require a high capital expenditure in a poor market period. So it's a flexible situation at the moment, but one that I think is reasonable and still is moving towards elimination of the burners.
With respect to the Cariboo pulp situation, I understand new spray devices have been used, or are in the process of being used with respect to improving the situation considerably. Discussions are ongoing regarding the salt question. Technical people do not regard that as that serious a matter.
The House in committee question is certainly a matter for the government to consider, because it's clear that the federal government seems to be backing off this whole area.
MR. WALLACE: What about temporary assistance?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The temporary assistance — there are a fair number of summer employees involved in the programmes.
MR. WALLACE: Students?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, I was most interested in two aspects of the Minister's more recent statement — one in particular, the pollution control branch. He states that it's going to become more of a regulatory agency and less of a scientific agency. This is going to totally change the branch's ability to grant any permits because if they are to be regulatory and are to have their biologists hived off to other departments, there is no way that the branch itself will be able to make the initial decisions dealing with whether a thing should proceed or otherwise. Perhaps once another scientific body, or a more scientifically or biologically oriented group under the Minister's department, has given the go-ahead, later on they can carry out checks or enforce — be the policemen. But in terms of taking a problem, analyzing it, doing research and deciding whether or not, for example, a pulp mill should be located on
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such and such an inlet, apparently the pollution control branch will not have those powers or that ability.
I wonder whether this is why the branch has lost quite a number of biologists — Palmer, Webster and Langford are three. These people have left the branch mainly because of their unhappiness with the bureaucratic setup. The Minister's explanation for the loss in personnel tended to ignore the fact that a large number of people have quit. Many of them are scientists, good scientists, and they have quit because they can't stand the branch's policy. They feel that the branch simply is becoming a bureaucratic regulatory agency and is ceasing to have any scientific justification — therefore they've left.
I wonder whether the Minister could expand on this. Because if he's correct in indicating the direction the branch is going to go, there's really no point in having as many biologists as there have been in the past.
The branch, clearly, has changed very substantially over the last couple of years. This drop in personnel and the loss of many of your scientists is a good indication of it. I wonder whether the Minister really is a good indication of it. I wonder whether the Minister really is aware of the extent of the problem. I received, with no covering information, a memorandum dated August 27 of last year, dealing with the Ucluelet harbour. This was simply sent to me in the mail; I'll read it so the Minister can....
"As per your request, attached is a brief outline representing the present state of the Ucluelet harbour project. No attempt has been made to interpret any of the data since only 23 days has been spent obtaining it. In addition to the reasons, which are listed under the heading of Introduction, regarding the justification of this project to the administrators, there is one other very realistic one which should be stated in this covering memo, that is: already several good biologists have quit the PCB, (i.e. K. Palmer, I. Webster and B. Langford), all of whom had extremely good potential as scientists and were an asset to the branch, but they left because of poor administrative policy. That is: they were tired of accomplishing nothing and being token biologists for PCB administrators. In fact, so renowned is the reputation of the PCB biologists for waffling, stalling, procrastinating and being indecisive that it has gotten embarrassing that one belongs to the PCB at all."
I go on and read a little more.
"The top pollution control board administrators can rest assured that unless the policy of the branch drastically changes with regard to its biologists, in a few years there will not be a single good biologist among them, and we will have truly earned the reputation of coming from Hertz 'rent-a-biologist' department."
The memorandum covers a brief dealing with Ucluelet harbour. The concluding paragraph is of interest. It talks about the problem there:
"A sewage diffuser is going into a narrow inlet, and no one knows what will happen to the ecology of the area. Whether or not we are 'officially' responsible for it is not the point. The fact still remains that the pollution control branch has given the go-ahead for the construction of the system and cannot simply shrug its shoulders and take on the negative attitude that its responsibility ends when the pipe goes down."
Apparently, from what the Minister has said, the pollution control branch, indeed, is going to be totally emasculated in terms of scientific ability and is going to become the policemen. So how on earth can it be responsible for granting permits? Whether or not at the present time it's doing a good job — and it's indicated in this Ucluelet study that it's very questionable because of lack of time and other things — in anticipating problems and analyzing problems is one thing, but when its staff is dropping, and in particular its scientific staff, as the Minister has indicated, then you're into a situation where the pollution control branch can only become a policeman subsequent to a decision of some other division of the Minister's department.
I think that it's a fairly serious thing when the pollution control branch scientists are leaving. I think it's a serious thing when the Minister, in such a casual way, indicates that it's going to be downgraded so substantially because we have had no clear indication of what is going to happen in the other divisions of his department to take its place.
There obviously is a need for an evaluating agency, an agency which can evaluate proposals from industry and from municipalities and can then give some indication of what should follow in terms of the environment. From the loss of the scientific staff it appears that the pollution control branch will not be this evaluating agency. It will simply become a regulatory, policemen agency after these things are introduced and certain criteria are laid down. I hope the Minister will comment on what is happening to the scientific staff of the pollution control branch. Why are there morale problems? Why are they being downgraded? Are they being shifted around to other departments? Is that what's happening? The pollution control branch is generally considered to be what protects the B.C. environment. And it appears that it has become not only a smaller department in terms of numbers, but a very much weaker department in terms of the role it's meant to play.
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HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Well, I don't really think that's so, Mr. Chairman. We have this regional organization and it does include both engineers and biologists. It's not as rigid a line as might have seemed from what I said earlier. So there is the biological capability as well as the engineering and basic managerial capability there.
I think the kinds of problems the Hon. Member is talking about are problems of an earlier stage. We do have a new Deputy Minister in the department. We do have a changed Pollution Control Board with new membership and somewhat different attitudes. I think that's apparent from the decisions the board itself is making these days, be it in Ganges or wherever. There's obviously a change of direction by the board since the government changed that indicates greater sensitivity, I think, to environmental protection. And the very kinds of problems the Member raises seem to me to have indicated the need for the kinds of administrative changes that in fact have now taken place.
That the biologists have much of their research capability being established in an environmental study section gives them a kind of pure base to operate within. I think that's all to the good for the department. They're in the same building. They have access to one another. It's all within the same department. But it seems to me that that was the reasonable way to deal with the kinds of problems we had.
I think that the problem of staff leaving is a problem of the past and a problem we had prior to the changes we've made. Now since that time, a fair number of the people who left have in fact come back. That's an indication, I think, that the steps we've taken so far have definitely been an improvement, and the fact that the staff have come back is a good indication of that.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Which members of the staff have returned? I looked at the vote and it appeared to me that there were 11 biologists, roughly speaking; I think I counted correctly. There are now only seven allowed for in the estimates. So you've had a real cutback in your scientific staff. Your agriculturalist is gone. Your technicians have dropped from 26 to 21. I've been doing a quick count here. By contrast it appears your stenographic and clerical staff is increasing. Your engineering staff isn't increasing. It appears that there is a very definite switch away from the scientific, and if that switch is taking place, we need more than a soothing word from the Minister. We need a fairly clear statement of what the branch is going to...or at least what other branch is going to take over the analysis and scientific function of the pollution control branch, because clearly it's going down now.
If, as the Minister says, some of the biologists have returned, it appears that the figure of seven, which I gave him a moment ago of the biologists who were down here, was even lower a short time ago, and 50 per cent or more of the biologists have left. I ask him about Palmer, Webster, Langford, Dailly. Have those people left, or are they back? I certainly know that three of them have left. But are they back among those who the Minister indicated were returning to the branch?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Yes, that's my understanding. If you check vote 157, you'll see that that's gone up by over half-a-million dollars — which is the water investigations branch. Water management environmental studies section is within that branch. That's where this staff have shifted to. There are 16 biologists who were transferred from the pollution control branch t o the water management environmental studies part of the water investigations branch under vote 157. They're currently carrying out watershed and air studies of study areas: biological, limnology, hydrology, geology, engineering, meteorology, airflow patterns, economics, public involvement programmes, regional studies concerning water conservation, water quality and development possibilities, studies to determine the effects of various land use practices on watershed yield and quality.
In addition quite specific detailed studies are now being carried out: in the Kootenays a major baseline study, an environmental baseline study for both the east and west Kootenays, where there is a significant industrial base; the Thompson River and the Kamloops area, the Coquitlam River basin, and several local areas on a priority basis.
All of that is on going with the staff, much of which was transferred from the pollution control branch to the water investigations branch.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I thank the Minister for stating that the pollution control branch is, indeed, not going to be doing the studies that it previously did and that the water investigations branch will be doing not only water investigations but air pollution investigations as well. But could he give a little scenario? How does the application go? Do people still apply to the pollution control branch and they farm out the scientific work to the other government divisions? Or do they carry on as before but without their biologists?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: They are not without biologists.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: No, they aren't. They have seven instead of 11, according to the estimates book.
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HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: With staff in each region of the province.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Yes, staff in each region, but we are dealing with the overall staff for the province and there is definitely a very substantial reduction in the number of biologists.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: There are 16 of them in water investigation.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: That's right. What I want to know is what happens to the applications. Is the application made directly to the water investigations branch, or are we carrying on with the previous procedure? The Minister knows fully well that there have been staff problems with respect to biologists in the pollution control branch. He knows there has been a great deal of unhappiness there. He knows that some, indeed, refuse to admit that they belong to the pollution control branch and suggest that they belong to other departments because they are so embarrassed about the work they do. I would just like to know, in the downgrading of pollution control, if they are still going to be responsible for the initial applications.
Suppose that Company X decides to put a mill in a certain inlet. After doing their own engineering and environmental studies, do they still apply to the pollution control branch or do they apply to the water investigations branch?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Neither. The initial broad work for any major new project such as that would be carried out by the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat with input from the Water Resources Service, water investigations branch, pollution control branch, and possibly the Health and Recreation and Conservation departments. The whole range of staff would be involved in something of that nature. There is now a planning capability within the public service that we never had before. It is not a matter of a regulatory agency. There is that planning capability involving all of the departments.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: That's well and good, but previously the pollution control branch was built up....
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: It may be well and good, but I don't even know if you understand what I am saying.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: You told me that there is now more government ability to handle problems of this nature.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Exactly.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Very good. I'm trying to sort out where the responsibility lies. It is all very well to talk about the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat. In the past I had some idea of what the pollution control branch did. Apparently it is a very changed function. As the Minister admitted, it has become simply regulatory.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: More regulatory.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: More of a regulatory agency, he says. Yet he will not specify precisely what it is going to be doing. From the point of view of the staff which, you know, has staffing problems, I think it is important that they do know what the function of that particular branch is going to be. From the Minister's statement I would say that he is going to take in everything from everywhere within his department before he makes any decisions, something that was obviously not done by the cabinet committee in the case of the Chemainus dam. I just am not at all clear what the pollution control branch's role will be in the future.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: I think the list of permits alone is an indication, Mr. Chairman.
MR. P.L. McGEER (Vancouver–Point Grey): I would ask the Minister if he can give us an idea of whether the government has any real programme for cleaning up Howe Sound. It is an important recreational area for half of the people of British Columbia. The environmental quality of Howe Sound is deteriorating alarmingly. It is an unsafe place for pleasure craft because of the pollution of the waterways with wood waste. That is increasing substantially year by year.
Two of the most polluting pulp mills in British Columbia are located on Howe Sound, one at Woodfibre and the other at Port Mellon. Of the two, the one at Port Mellon is by far the worst. In connection with the pulp mills there are extensive booming grounds where there is no attempt made at all to care for the environment. On occasion the air pollution extends not only over the Howe Sound area but comes right into the Vancouver and West Vancouver areas and it is extreme. Only last week I had occasion to take the chairman of the Science Council of Canada for a drive up Howe Sound and we had to turn back before we reached the head of Howe Sound because of the complete blanket of fog from the Woodfibre pulp mill that had descended over the whole Squamish-Woodfibre-Britannia region. I cite this to indicate that as far as I can tell, since the new government which was pledged to an anti-pollution programme took over, the degree of pollution has increased substantially.
What used to be the most attractive recreational
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area in Howe Sound, namely the north side of Gambier Island, has been completely run out by the pollution from Port Mellon, and all of the former summer cottages that were along that area have been abandoned. Not only the air pollution but the surface water pollution from wood waste and the mixed water pollution, if you could call it that, from the black liquor run-off into that area of Howe Sound have created what some time ago was the most attractive recreational area close to the lower mainland into one of total blight.
I had occasion to call the pollution control branch in a moment of disgust last summer — again when I was taking visitors through that area, and we were appalled by the air and water pollution — to ask what was being done by the branch. I was informed that it was on a long-term programme and nothing was really being done for approximately five years. But the problem is that in this time, while the pollution control branch is marking time on that particular area, the environment is progressively deteriorating. I wonder if the Minister could give us some indication of what his plans might be.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, the situation with respect to the Woodfibre plant of Rayonier is that it is a five-year programme commencing in 1973. We expect that by the end of this year there should be substantial success in terms of air emission controls which should be of considerable benefit to the constituents of the Member in Vancouver–Point Grey (Mr. McGeer) and the university district. I have many letters myself regarding questions such as that.
The rest of the programme to be completed by December 31, 1978, and a capital expenditure anticipated in that period between now and then is 10 million at the Woodfibre plant.
This is also a programme that will allow the productive capability of the plant to continue so that jobs would not be affected in the process of establishing those kinds of controls.
With respect to Port Mellon, the Canadian Forest Products, the plant is to meet the level B standards of the pollution control branch by 1980. That means that they in fact will be given greater flexibility than the Canadian Cellulose plant in Prince Rupert. The abatement programme includes the installation of scrubbers on the lime kilns this year, a new precipitator on the No. 2 recovery boiler in 1977, incineration of non-combustibles in 1979, smelt tank scrubber in 1979 and topping scrubbers on the recoveries by 1980.
MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to pursue that.
MR. McGEER: Incineration of non-combustibles! Well...
MR. McGEER: ...that's the basic problem, Mr. Chairman. They are incinerating non-combustibles, and the non-combustibles are rendering the area unusable for recreation.
I'm pleased to hear that these pulp mills are beginning to spend a little bit of money in upgrading their facilities. I can assure the Minister that as of last Thursday no progress had been made with respect to air pollution from the Woodfibre mill. Now maybe as of this week there will have been some progress, but as of last week the total north end of Howe Sound was blanketed under a white fog of air pollution from Woodfibre.
The cost-benefit factors that have to be taken into consideration with respect to these pulp mills are the recreational needs of half the people of British Columbia. To give a kind of half-baked programme to the pulp mill at Port Mellon, asking them only to reach level B by 1980, to my way of thinking, isn't good enough. That pulp mill has desecrated a large area of Howe Sound and, in my view, the pulp mill, if it's to remain in existence, should be rebuilt now. The Canadian Forest Products Co. is not a poor company. If it has to take losses for a number of years in Port Mellon, let it take the losses, because that company has made adequate profits in other areas.
I don't think it's tolerable at all that that mill should be permitted to continue desecrating an important recreational area. The Minister is soft on pollution; he's tolerating a situation that I consider intolerable. He's making half-hearted efforts and he's extending way into the future the opportunities for that company to make these limited changes. In view of the importance of Howe Sound as a recreational area, I would say quite flatly to the Minister that this isn't good enough.
We used to hear about how he was all against pollution when he was in opposition. Here's an opportunity to perform. Really, Mr. Chairman, I think that the programme of the Minister is a pretty sick one.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: Mr. Chairman, we get a little confused over on this side when the Minister brings forward his half-baked programmes to incinerate non-combustibles. I wonder whether the Minister could deal with another subject now — that is, why the secrecy of the environmental report dealing with the proposed Mohawk refinery and the proposed government refinery? Are there no studies done? Is that why none have come forward? Surely if the Surrey council gets this information the citizens of Surrey can get it; surely if the Surrey council gets
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this information, the Member for Langley (Mr. McClelland) should get that information, and he hasn't got it. I haven't got it. These are the environmental studies on the proposed government refinery.
It's all very well for the Minister to have studies, to keep them behind closed doors and to wait and wait and wait until the decision is made and there's no possibility of public participation. But it's just not good enough for us. We feel that this information should be made available and perhaps now is the time. Or else the Minister should come up with a fairly convincing reason for keeping it secret. This was meant to be an open government — the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) came in and told us about open door government and letting the sun shine in. Yet this Minister is particularly secretive. We only find out afterwards about things like the Chemainus dam when the Minister of Mines (Hon. Mr. Nimsick) is good enough to get up and give us a little information that was not previously available. We'd like to know what studies have been done.
We've heard from government Members — the Member for Delta (Mr. Liden), for example — about the tremendous problem of locating anywhere but in the lower mainland. Yet we've heard from government Ministers about the fact that it has to be there because of transportation problems. What is the situation? What is the situation with respect to water, air and land pollution if a refinery is established there? I don't particularly believe that this information, if it's available, should be restricted to the government or simply to the Surrey council. This is the type of information that should be made public; the public should have an opportunity of participating in any decision — that's always possible. But at least they should know what the facts are and what they can expect, and they should know that they've had the opportunity of influencing government decisions. They're not getting that from this government; it's secretive, closed-door government. These two examples, both on refineries — the Mohawk one and the government one — are cases in point. I'd like to know why we are not getting information on those two refinery proposals.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: With respect to the Mohawk refinery, the studies are currently underway, so that may be an explanation for not having received it. The studies that have been undertaken in Surrey have been undertaken on behalf of the petroleum corporation and the responsibility for the corporation exists elsewhere. That material is still under review by the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat.
As for the question of being soft on pollution, in the period 1974-76, for example, environmental expenditure by the forest products industry of British Columbia adds up to something like $95 million. How does that compare with other parts of Canada? It's $51 million in Ontario, $29 million in Quebec — a total in Canada of $188 million. Half of the expenditure will be in British Columbia, because we've taken a harder line on pollution questions than any other administration in the country, especially in our primary industrial sector, the forest sector. So all the comments by the drifting Liberal has-been or whatever they call themselves these days just add up,to zero.
MR. FRASER: Don't get political — it's almost lunchtime.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Okay. I accept what the Member for Cariboo says. I simply say that on any per-unit measurement basis by independent outsiders, even the industrial observers or whoever you like, they have come to the conclusion that the expenditures in British Columbia are double on a unit basis what any other administration in Canada has. In fact, we're spending twice as much in terms of environmental control in our major industrial sector than any other administration in Canada.
MR. FRASER: That's enough.
MR. R.H. McCLELLAND (Langley): Just to follow up briefly on what the Second Member for Victoria (Mr. D.A. Anderson) said about the environmental studies for the refinery in the Surrey area and the Sumas area....
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think it was pointed out in the reply that they weren't under this Minister.
MR. McCLELLAND: Oh, Mr. Chairman, I don't care what was pointed out in his reply.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're dealing with vote 164.
MR. McCLELLAND: I don't care what was in the reply, Mr. Chairman. The Environmental and Land Use Committee is under this Minister, and the pollution control branch is under this Minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Not on this vote.
MR. McCLELLAND: The Mohawk Refinery is not under this Minister, okay. But the other one is, Mr. Chairman, and the Minister's reply bothered me somewhat.
Last week the Minister said that studies were going on under the Environment and Land Use Committee and the pollution control branch with regard to the proposed refinery in Surrey. Later in the week, after the Minister gave that reply, some of the members of
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the B.C. Petroleum Corp. met with two members of Surrey council. None of the other members were allowed in at that meeting. It was more than a closed door meeting; it was a private little conflab between some chummy little friends. What were they shown?
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: The mayor is your man.
MR. McCLELLAND: The Minister tells us now that those studies are still under review, so how could they go before any members of Surrey council and make a definite proposal, which apparently the B.C. Petroleum Corporation did, if the Environment and Land Use Committee and the pollution control branch are still making those studies and still reviewing those studies?
Mr. Chairman, it seems incomprehensible to me that they could go and make that kind of an approach to any council in British Columbia, and then, presumably, come along later on and say: "Oh, I'm sorry, the studies now show that we can't have a refinery, so you can stop."
MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Chairman, that's an incredible approach, in my opinion, to any kind of pollution planning in this province.
Now the second question with regard to pollution control has to do with, again, a comment that the Minister made in answer to a question last week, and that had to do with the report from Environment Canada which said that any study into pollution problems with regard to a refinery on Sumas mountain would take a minimum of one year and possibly two years to complete.
The Minister gave a flippant answer in reply. He said that if the federal government says two years, we can cut that in half or in quarters, or something, because we can work that much faster. But we are still talking, perhaps, three months to six months. Yet here we have studies done in a matter of days or weeks, and on the basis of those quick studies we're going to build a $500 million refinery in Surrey.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Since when? When was that decision made?
MR. McCLELLAND: You made the decision — that government made the decision, and it is pretty obvious....
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think you are out of order in this vote. I would like to remind the Member for Langley that the Petroleum Corporation is under another Minister.
MR. McCLELLAND: Oh, well does this vote not have to do with pollution control, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: It was answered earlier that those studies were being done outside by another firm, and under another Minister.
MR. McCLELLAND: Does this vote not have to do with pollution control, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: It has, and I'll tell you when you are out of order, and I'm suggesting to you that you're the first one who has been out of order this morning.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: Simply as a matter of clarification, Mr. Chairman, I might confirm what I was saying earlier — essentially the pollution control staff is a regulatory agency. So the point is that it is an application for permit. The preliminary studies would basically involve the Environment and Land Use Secretariat, and this matter of permit is a matter of certain standards. The standards that would be applied would be as high as any on the continent, beyond, in fact, the kind of San Francisco standards that are applied in the Bay area which are extremely high.
So in terms of this agency's area of jurisdiction, it is a matter of permit. The kinds of standards that would be required are extremely high, but the analytical work and broad environmental planning work comes under another vote.
MR. McCLELLAND: Well, thank you. Mr. Chairman, in regard to the granting of the permit, if and when a permit is applied for in regard to this refinery, if the refinery goes in that location — in a gravel pit which has very porous soil which could retain water and discharge it into the streams in that area a year from now or a year and a half from now — will the Minister assure this House and the people of that area that the pollution control branch will demand that those studies will be of such an exhaustive nature that it will be ensured that there will be no pollution down the line a year from today? Will those studies take that into account and will the pollution control branch ensure that that happens?
That's the point that Environment Canada made, Mr. Chairman. Those studies must go on that long.
HON. R.A. WILLIAMS: I think there is every chance of that, Mr. Chairman, in view of the enthusiasm in Merritt for the refinery.
MR. D.A. ANDERSON: I'm still worried about the question of revealing information on pollution an environmental matters. I feel that this is a most important area. For years I tried to push the idea that the public needs to know what might happen. It is
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their environment and they should know. I am not at all impressed by the Minister's argument that these studies have been commissioned by the Petroleum Corporation of British Columbia and therefore the public doesn't have a right to know. We've heard a lot of things from the government about the petroleum corporation being a public corporation, owned by the people of British Columbia. Well, why doesn't the corporation trust its shareholders? Why doesn't it trust its owners? Why doesn't it make this information available?
It's all very well to say that certain people — a mayor or two or one or two aldermen who may be friendly — can be called into a room and they can see certain things, but others who are interested and concerned, such as, for example, the local Member for the provincial Legislature, are denied access to that information. I feel that if you are going to run an open government and if the petroleum corporation and other Crown corporations of that nature which are meant to be owned by the people are truly to be run in the spirit that the government says they are run in, then surely this sort of information should come forward.
This is a subject which I feel very strongly about. I have in my hand a speech I gave at the first annual UBC Law Review dinner back in 1971 which was essentially on the need for the government to trust the public and have the public participate in environmental decisions. It is my belief still that there is no reason in the world to deny access to this sort of information to the members of the general public. They have their own views and they should be consulted. They may have information which has missed the experts. That has happened time after time.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports resolution.
The House adjourned at 11:59 a. m.