1976 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 31st Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 1976
[ Page 401 ]
Possible leak of budget details. Mr. Macdonald — 402
Mr. Speaker — 402
Mr. Lauk — 402
Mr. Speaker — 402
Mr. Macdonald — 402
Mr. Speaker — 404
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 404
Mr. Speaker — 404
Mr. Macdonald — 404
Mr. Speaker — 404
Mr. King — 404
Provincial and ICBC cash balance. Mr. Stupich — 405
Appointment of board of inquiry re dispute between Human Rights Commission and B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons. Hon. Mr. Williams — 409
Mr. King — 410
Hon. Mr. Williams — 410
Budget debate (continued)
Mr. Bawlf — 411
Mr. Levi — 413
Mr. Chabot — 420
British Columbia Deficit Repayment Act, 1975-1976 (Bill 3).
Mr. Cocke — 424
Mr. Gibson — 430
Mr. Kerster — 434
Mr. Nicolson — 435
Appendix — 440
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 1976
The House met at 2 p.m.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, before I ask for the minister who is with us today to say prayers, I would like to draw to your attention the fact that a previous member of this House, Charles Grant MacNeil, passed away in his 83rd year, in Vancouver.
He was a former MP for Vancouver North and served in the House of Commons from 1935 to 1940. He was the CCF member for Vancouver-Burrard from 1941 until 1945 in the British Columbia Legislature.
I'm sure that you would all want to join with me in a moment of silence in commemoration of a past and former member of this House, and say a silent word of prayer on behalf of his family.
MR. W.S. KING (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for drawing to the attention of the House the passing of one of our fallen comrades, Grant MacNeil. I would just like to make the observation that the caucus of the official opposition particularly recognizes the contribution which Grant MacNeil made to the public affairs of this province and this nation. We certainly regret his passing, because he contributed greatly, not only to the public affairs of the nation but also to the wisdom and the guidance of our party as an element of the public life. I certainly want to extend the condolences of the New Democratic Party caucus to Mr. MacNeil's family.
HON. W.R. BENNETT (Premier): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government and the Social Credit Party, I, too, would like to pay tribute to the memory of Grant MacNeil, a political person who fought for his province and what he believed, and a man who has set an example for all who follow, not only in his party but in others. To his family I extend our condolences on behalf of the government and the Social Credit Party.
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver–Capilano): On behalf of the people of North Vancouver, which constituency Mr. MacNeil represented in the House of Commons, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier.
MR. L.B. KAHL (Esquimalt): Mr. Speaker, in the Speaker's gallery this afternoon I have three guests, my daughter Jacqueline and her friend Heather Auchinvole, and a constituent of mine, Jim Bates. I would like the House to welcome them, please.
MR. J.J. KEMPF (Omineca): Mr. Speaker, we have with us today in the gallery, from Vanderhoof in the great constituency of Omineca, Mr. and Mrs. Eric Turner and son Bob. I ask this House to join me in welcoming them.
HON. K.R. MAIR (Minister of Consumer Services): Mr. Speaker, in the House today are two of my daughters, Cindy and Shawn, and I would very much like the House to welcome them.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today is a good friend and alderman of the city of North Vancouver, Mr. Frank Marcino. I ask the House to make him welcome.
MR. E.N. VEITCH (Burnaby-Willingdon): Mr. Speaker, I would like this House to welcome four people who are situated in the gallery today, Mrs. Angelo Prasow and her three children.
MR. W. DAVIDSON (Delta): Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today are 48 citizens from Breakaway Bay in my riding, and I would ask the House to join me in welcoming them here this afternoon.
MR. H.W. SCHROEDER (Chilliwack): Mr. Speaker, today is a special day. Although I have been a member of this House for several years, this will be the first time that members of my family will be here in the gallery, and the entire family is here. I would like the House to bid them welcome.
MR. J. HEWITT (Boundary-Similkameen): Mr. Speaker, we have in the gallery today a guest from the City of Penticton, Mrs. Kinsey. I would ask the House to recognize her.
MR. R.E. SKELLY (Alberni): Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome in the House today, and to the precincts of this House, the people from the Pacific Life Community and those people who are concerned about the establishment of a Trident missile base near Bangor, Washington, which contains some of the most dangerous and abhorrent weapons ever known in the history of man.
HON. R.H. McCLELLAND (Minister of Health): Mr. Speaker, before the Attorney-General rises I would like to welcome 40 students from Vancouver Community College, along with their teacher, Mrs. Hilley. Welcome to this House.
HON, G.B. GARDOM (Attorney-General): By popular acclaim, Mr. Speaker, I think it would be most appropriate if all of the members of the House would welcome those few remaining members in the gallery who have not yet been welcomed.
[ Page 402 ]
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy presents the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Redefinition of Electoral Districts, dated November 7, 1975, submitted in accordance with the Public Inquiries Act.
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy presents the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into certain aspects of Vancouver Community College, dated July, 1975, submitted in accordance with the Public Inquiries Act.
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy presents the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the use of pesticides and herbicides, final report, dated May 30, 1975, submitted in accordance with the Public Inquiries Act.
Hon. Mr. Gardom presents the fourth annual report of the Criminal Inquiries Compensation Act of British Columbia, and also the Liquor Administration Branch 54th annual report.
CLERK: Report pursuant to standing order 73(6): report, office of the Clerk, March 31, 1976, in the matter of the petition presented to the House on March 30, 1976, by the hon. first member for Vancouver East.
The said petition is irregular in the following respects, namely: (1) the petition contains statements made by members in the House. See May, 14th edition, p. 795; (2) A member, being himself a petitioner, should not present the petition. See May, 18th edition, p. 799.
All of which is respectfully submitted, I.M. Horne, Clerk of the House.
MR. A.B. MACDONALD (Vancouver East): I am rising on a question of privilege. Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to make on a question of privilege, and I am prepared to show — which I think has been stated from the Chair so many times that it is not necessary to restate it — that the question of privileges of the House is always in order.
I make my motion, and the motion reads as follows and is seconded by the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes): that this House hereby instructs the committee of selection, appointed on March 17 last, to name a committee of privileges to examine the statements quoted in the petition filed by the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. first member for Vancouver Centre; and that a said committee....
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. MACDONALD: I am not proceeding on the petition; I am making a motion of privilege.
Mr. Speaker, the privileges of the House and a question of privilege is always in order and we're not going to have any kind of closure on this kind of an incident or any kind of cover-up about budgetary leaks, and it's not going to be permitted by this side of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please.
Hon. member for Vancouver East, before you continue, I'd suggest to you that you read your motion to the House without editorializing on it and hand it to the attendants who can give it to me. I'll take the motion that you are presenting, which is a motion on a matter of privilege, under advisement. But I'd suggest that we confine the remarks to the motion itself right at the moment, please.
One moment, please. The hon. member for Vancouver East yielded the floor for a moment while I consulted with the clerk.
AN HON. MEMBER: If it's a point of order, go ahead.
MR. SPEAKER: If it's a point of order, I'll take it, yes.
MR. G.V. LAUK (Vancouver Centre): Mr. Speaker, you have indicated to the House that you will take the first member for Vancouver East's motion under advisement. I should remind you, Mr. Speaker, that this is a matter of privilege that has precedence over every other matter in the House.
MR. SPEAKER: No, hon. member, I'll take the motion under advisement to consider whether it's a matter of privilege or not, but I can't do that if I've never seen the motion.
MR. LAUK: Well, Mr. Speaker, there were several objections to the petition. This is a most serious matter of privilege. If we delay any further, we may be held accountable for delaying our prosecution of this matter.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your instruction that I be permitted to present the motion, but after I've done that, since you are going to take under consideration the motion, I would like to refer to one or two authorities to assist you when you come to that decision.
The hon. Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. McClelland) says that I cannot assist the Chair by giving
[ Page 403 ]
precedence from other jurisdictions with respect to matters of this kind, and I suggest that hon. member maintain some reticence.
MR. SPEAKER: Proceed with the motion.
"That this House hereby instructs the committee of selection, appointed on March 17 last, to name a committee of privileges to examine the statements quoted in the petition filed by the hon. member for Vancouver East and the hon. first member for Vancouver Centre, and that the said committee of privileges so named shall with all speed inquire into the said allegations and statements, and whether unauthorized persons had prior knowledge of confidential budgetary information, and report its conclusions thereon to this assembly with power to summon witnesses, call for papers, documents and things."
Will you present that to the Chair — to the Speaker?
Mr. Speaker, the precedents I suggest should be looked at include the following: from Beauchesne, fourth edition, at page 95, "It has often been laid down that the Speaker's function in ruling on a claim of breach of privilege does not extend to deciding the question of substance, whether a breach of privilege has in fact been committed" — with respect, that is not your decision, Mr. Speaker — "a question which can only be decided by the House itself."
Secondly, I would ask Mr. Speaker to look at the proceedings of the Canadian House of Commons in the case of John M. Reid, who was a parliamentary secretary to the president of the privy council, and who was alleged to have prematurely leaked information in forthcoming fiscal legislation relating to a tax on boats, and to have relayed that information to constituents. The Canadian House of Commons immediately on the second day.... It was raised on July 24, and on July 25 they set up a select committee on privileges to hear the witnesses, and this House can do no less than the Canadian House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, the other reference I would give you is to the Hon. Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, who in the year 1947, after a distinguished career, made inadvertent leaks of budgetary information with no intention or expectation that they would be published. They were in fact published a few hours before the budget was released.
A select committee on privileges immediately looked into the matter and the hon. Hugh Dalton terminated by resignation a most distinguished career. All members are familiar with that. But the British
House of Commons without delay set up a select standing committee to look into the matter, and this House can do no less than the British House of Commons.
Finally, Mr. Speaker — I won't give all of the authorities because I'm sure they'll be drawn to your attention.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.
MR. MACDONALD: Beauchesne in the fourth edition again, page 103:
"The Commons' right and privilege so far extends, that not only what is done in the very House, sitting the parliament, but whatever is done relating to them, during the parliament and sitting the parliament, is nowhere else to be punished but by themselves or a succeeding parliament, although done out of the House.... In a just sense, any offence committed by a member relating to the parliament, though done out of the House, is termed an offence in parliament."
Mr. Speaker, the result of the allegations in the petition, whether it is technically in order or not, is something that exists and is referred to in the motion. It leaves a cloud upon this House, upon every Member, upon the Minister of Finance, upon the Premier which should be dispelled one way or the other and can only be done by the summoning of witnesses....
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. MACDONALD: I hope therefore that the motion that is before....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, Mr. Member. I ask you to withdraw those phrases which referred to a "cloud over the Premier and the ministers of the Crown."
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when there are allegations out in the community from several sources including an hon. member of the House that there was premature disclosure of budgetary information, that casts a cloud upon this House and particularly upon the executive council.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. MACDONALD: I'm not saying whether it is justified or not but I do say that it should be investigated in the parliamentary tradition by a select standing committee forthwith.
[ Page 404 ]
HON. D.M. PHILLIPS (Minister of Economic Development): Wild man!
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please, before I recognize the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer) ; I will recognize you upon the completion of my statement.
The Clerks have indicated to this House after reading the petition that you presented that it was inadmissible and found at fault in certain areas. That does not preclude you, hon. member, from re-presenting the petition in an acceptable form. It does not preclude you either from taking any of the other parliamentary processes that are available to you, including a motion, if the motion is in order, on privilege.
But I would like to refer, if I might, for just one moment to practices and procedures of parliament — actually, from the parliament of India. But it is based upon the practices of the United Kingdom. It says: "Though the leakage of the budget proposal may not constitute" — may not constitute — "a breach of privilege of the House, parliament has ample power to inquire into the conduct of a minister in suitable proceedings in relation to the leakage and the circumstances in which the leakage occurred."
Hon. members, it is not a matter for the Speaker to make an immediate decision on because it is a matter of grave importance. On the petition, we had ample opportunity to peruse the petition and see if it was admissible. I have not had that much time on the motion itself. I will certainly take it under advisement, but before I do, could I hear from the hon. Minister of Education who wished to rise?
HON. P.L. McGEER (Minister of Education): Sir, I was just going to draw your attention to the same authority frequently quoted in the House from the Lok Sabha saying that "leakage of budget proposals before they are presented to the Lok Sabha, do not constitute a breach of privileges of the House." I would submit that this is the only precedent which directly bears on the allegations that the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) has brought to this House.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
HON. MR. McGEER: It's very clear, Mr. Speaker, that there is a remedy available to that member which he has consistently avoided taking, namely to put a substantive motion on the order paper. I might also add, Mr. Speaker, that the allegations that the member for Vancouver East has brought forward are rumour only and they have been specifically denied, in fact, by hon. members of this House.
MR. SPEAKER: One moment. It's not, at this point, hon. member, a matter of debate....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I am prepared to listen to the hon. member who proposed the motion and his back-up information quoting points of order from other jurisdictions or points and decisions from other jurisdictions. I am prepared to listen to that same type of advice from the government side of the House. But I am not prepared to allow a full-scale debate of the issue before we have even concluded whether the motion is admissible or not.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if you will refer to the Hansard (House of Commons Debates) of July 24, 1975, p. 7888, where Mr. Speaker in the House of Commons on the John M. Reid allegation being brought to his attention said: "I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but I do not think he need argue the sanctity of budget secrecy." On the following day that Hon. Speaker allowed the motion — and there were two or three motions — as a matter of privilege, to be accepted by the House, and the matter was forthwith referred to the standing committee.
I don't know about that Indian precedent, but I know what the precedents are in Ottawa, and I know what they are in the British House of Commons, Mr. Speaker. And when the hon. members draw this kind of a matter to the Speaker's attention, as a matter of privilege of all the members of the House, then it is not for the Speaker to decide the matter, but it is for the House to say whether it should not forthwith be submitted to a select committee.
MR. SPEAKER: No, hon. members, if I could just interject for one moment, it is not a matter for the House to decide until I have had an opportunity to determine whether the motion is an admissible motion to the House itself. At that time there could, perhaps, be a decision of the House which would be at difference with the decision of the Speaker, because the House does, in fact, determine its own business.
But until that decision is made...and I have suggested to you, hon. member, that I will certainly peruse this as quickly as possible and reserve any decision on it until I have had time to look at the references which you have given me, and the motion itself.
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order: I would ask, in light of the very serious and grave nature of this matter, if the Speaker would consider
[ Page 405 ]
adjourning for a short period of time, a short recess, to allow full consideration and report back to the House.
MR. KING: What do you want to do, cover up? This is very important.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Another Socred cover-up. We just want to clear the air.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, one moment, please. Hon. members, the practice is that if this matter is in order, then it is given priority for debate at the time that decision is made. I do not think that we need at this moment to adjourn the House or take a recess, because the ordinary course of business can proceed with someone relieving me in the chair and we can go into the business of the House, as we do ordinarily, without in any way detracting from any recourse that you as a member may have as to whether the motion is in order or whether it is not in order.
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt again. This is a point of information. Is it the House's understanding, then, that you will take this matter under advisement solely with respect to the question of the acceptability of the motion?
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Leader of the Opposition, I'll take under consideration the matter and all other matters that have been brought before me concerning this matter. I have the benefit now of references given to me by the member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) and from the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer). These will be looked at, as well as others, and I will report back to the House as quickly as it is possible to do so.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, on a separate point of order, I would just ask Your Honour if you might now be ready to report on the question of parliamentary language, which was raised some time ago, or have you any idea when you may be able...?
MR. SPEAKER: A report will be given before the House rises this afternoon, hon. member.
PROVINCIAL AND ICBC CASH BALANCE
MR. D.D. STUPICH (Nanaimo): Mr. Speaker, a question to the hon. Premier, as presiding member of the executive council: by order-in-council 1061, an order was given that $181,510,000 be paid to theInsurance Corp. of British Columbia from the consolidated revenue fund — an order-in-council that was approved today.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the presiding member would not sign such an order without having knowledge of the questions I ask. And I ask: what was the cash balance of the general accounts of the Province of British Columbia after paying this amount, and what was the cash balance of ICBC after receiving this amount?
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance was standing in his place and was prepared to make a statement on this very question.
MR. STUPICH: Oh, I didn't know that. It's a good question.
HON. MR. BENNETT: It's a fair question.
HON. E.M. WOLFE (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, on rising I have in mind answers to other questions, but also dealing with this particular one, which was originally raised by the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson).
There seems to be a certain degree of curiosity as to what the cash position is. I sort of detect this. (Laughter.) I might just explain that it takes a certain degree of calculation with estimating the number of outstanding cheques at the end of the fiscal period. This was the reason for any delay that was involved in this.
The statement of cash position, which I have here today, is as follows — and this is as of yesterday, March 30, 1976, after deducting trust funds and special-purpose funds, $25.4 million; cheques outstanding, at an approximate value, $254.8 million — leaving a shortfall of $220.4 million.
I might explain that this does not include major expenditures contemplated in April, 1976, which will be reflected in the final fiscal year-end cash position. Also, this does not include March 31 payroll cheques which are estimated at $14 million, so this would have to be, once again, added to the shortfall figure.
I believe you asked a subsequent question the other day with reference to revenues and having to do with whether there were any significant extra revenues anticipated before the end of March. The answer is no.
MR. GIBSON: Does it include ICBC cheques...?
HON. MR. WOLFE: Yes, but it does not include, as I explained, Mr. Member, substantial expenditures which will be incurred in April, and which will be reflected in the final year-end position.
[ Page 406 ]
MR. STUPICH: Supplementary question. I think I heard in an exchange, Mr. Speaker, that this figure does include the transfer to ICBC, although you gave us figures as of March 30, and this order-in-council is not signed until March 31 — not approved until March 31. But it does include this figure?
HON. MR. WOLFE: That's right.
MR. STUPICH: My original question was asked of the Premier. My question now is: was he aware, when he approved this transfer of $181.5 million to ICBC, that it would put the province into a deficit position? The second question that he didn't answer, nor did the hon. Minister of Finance answer: what was the cash position of ICBC after receiving this $181.5 million?
HON. MR. BENNETT: For the first part, the transfer of the cheque, and the commitment to pay the cheque before the end of the year, has been well documented both in government policy and in the Clarkson, Gordon review. We knew full well....
MR. STUPICH: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. Premier is on his feet.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I'll just finish answering his question. The government had announced that this money would be spent to make up the tremendous losses that have been incurred by ICBC.
MR. STUPICH: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Now I'll have to take the second part of your question, as to the facts of ICBC, as notice, as I'm not a director of ICBC, nor do I have....
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. STUPICH: Perhaps the hon. Premier did not hear my question. My question was: was he aware, at the time he signed this order, that it would put the accounts of the province into a serious overdraft position? That was my question, Mr. Speaker: was he aware of it when he signed this order yesterday?
HON. MR. BENNETT: The government knew full well that the overdraft position would be compounded by this additional sum. We already had outstanding cheques more than the cash balance, and we were counting on this House to pass the necessary borrowing authority, as has been our policy, to save the government from some embarrassment.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm on a supplementary as well: it's a question of some puzzlement. Given this very serious cash position, namely $40 million of a cash deficit without the ICBC cheque, why was that cheque issued to a corporation which is already swimming in cash? I'd just like to understand that better.
HON. MR. BENNETT: The member already has the announced government policy to pay up all the debts in this year, and it was the subject of a non-confidence vote and a debate in this House. He voted against it.
MR. LAUK: Supplementary question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker: when was the cheque issued to ICBC?
HON. MR. BENNETT: You might ask the Minister of Finance; I don't issue the cheques.
MR. LAUK: To the Minister of Finance: the same question, Mr. Speaker.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I am quite prepared to answer the questions, or redirect them when you don't ask them of the right minister. Are you not aware that the Minister of Finance would write the cheques? The Treasury Board does not sign the cheques. The former Minister of Highways should know that.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. LAUK: I redirect that question to the Minister of Finance.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that there are substantial expenditures of outstanding cheques in the amount of....
HON. MR. WOLFE: Instructions to issue the cheque have been issued. I couldn't state exactly the date it would be actually transferred. I can get that information for you, gladly, and supply it.
MR. LAUK: Is the hon. Minister of Finance saying that the cheque has not been issued?
HON. MR. WOLFE: It's been issued, but it's
[ Page 407 ]
outstanding. It's an outstanding cheque, which is in the report.
MR. LAUK: Are you saying the cheque has been issued?
HON. MR. WOLFE: Yes.
MR. LAUK: At 2:45 p.m. today?
HON. MR. BENNETT: It's been issued.
MR. LAUK: Will the Minister of Finance say that in this House?
HON. MR. WOLFE: The cheque has been issued.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance: I would seek some understanding from him, and I'm not asking for the solution of a legal proposition, which we can't do in this House, but my understanding is that according to the law the government may not be in deficit as of the end of the fiscal year, which happens at midnight tonight, and doesn't it look like that's what's going to happen?
HON. MR. WOLFE: No, it isn't, through you, Mr. Speaker. This is a matter of some conjecture whether it would be contravening legislation, but certainly it does reinforce the fact that we do need this legislation that is before us at this time. I think that all members should treat this matter with some degree of responsibility rather than attempting to delay the procedure of this bill as has been happening.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. GIBSON: On a supplementary, then, Mr. Speaker, could I ask if it is correct — and I just heard very brief reports outside the House — that either the Premier or the minister has suggested to British Columbians that they should not cash government cheques in the meantime?
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, I said the government would be in an embarrassing position if the people all cashed the cheques before we get the authority to borrow. That's right, the government will be in an embarrassing position.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Now it is a matter of some seriousness. British Columbia hasn't been faced with this situation in some years, Mr. Speaker, and I find it unfortunate that the architects of this deficit sitting over there will hold up the passage of this bill.
I think all British Columbians are aware of the information contained in the Clarkson, Gordon review, and they know full well who to blame for the deficit, Mr. Speaker, and they know full well who is holding up passage of this bill. Let that slow group be accountable to the people of British Columbia.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We'll have the debate on the bill, I presume, when it is called.
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please. Do you wish to reply to another question that was asked by another member?
MR. SPEAKER: Surely to goodness you are going to allow the minister to answer questions that have been asked.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Evidently the members really ask questions they don't want answers to.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. WOLFE: Do you want to hear some answers to those questions you asked yesterday, or don't you?
MR. SPEAKER: Proceed, hon. minister.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Well, I would appreciate just a minute or two to reply to those questions but, before I do so, I would like to make just a brief statement...
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
HON. MR. WOLFE: ...with regard to special warrants in order to emphasize how they're handled by Treasury Board, the Minister of Finance and the cabinet of this province.
MR. LAUK: Have you finally decided?
HON. MR. WOLFE: I want to quote from the Audit Act, which the member who just spoke should be very clearly understanding, I think, and I don't believe he does. It says: "If any occasion arises in which an expenditure not foreseen or provided for by the Legislature is urgently and immediately required
[ Page 408 ]
for the public good, then, upon the report of the Minister of Finance that there is no legislative authority and of the minister in charge of the service in question that the necessity is urgent......
HON. MR. WOLFE: I'll be very brief, Mr. Speaker. I think the members....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. KING: You've got a point of order here.
HON. MR. BENNETT: There's no point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
HON. MR. WOLFE: They don't want the answer, Mr. Speaker. They don't want the answers.
HON. MR. WOLFE: I'll be very brief....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
HON. MR. WOLFE: I want to give you the comparison of special warrants issued this year and last year for the 30-day period prior to the Legislature sitting.
MR. SPEAKER: One moment, please.
HON. MR. WOLFE: They don't want the answers, Mr. Speaker. No, they don't want the answers,
HON. MR. BENNETT: They don't want the answers.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! Order, please!
[Mr. Speaker rises.]
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, before we proceed any further in debate I would like to make one point. It would seem that it gets to that point occasionally in the question period.
The practice of the House, when questions have been taken on notice, has always been to allow the member or the cabinet minister who took the question as notice to reply to that question. Now it would seem that in order to interrupt members on both sides of the House in question period, we have hon. members rising on points of order, either while a question is being asked, or while a cabinet minister or some other person is answering a question.
I'm of the opinion that a point of order cannot be raised by members when either a person is placing a question or a member of this House is answering a question.
If anyone, if any member of this House can show me an authority that says the Chair should recognize a point or order when a person is either placing a question or another hon. member is answering a question, I'd be pleased to see that order or that rule.
Mr. Member, can you quote me an authority for raising a point of order while a member was on his feet replying and answering a question?
[Mr. Speaker resumes his seat.]
AN HON. MEMBER: That's their new edition of May.
MR. SPEAKER: I requested all members to take their seats.
HON. MR. WOLFE: They didn't want to hear from me, Mr. Speaker. They wanted to shut me up.
MR. N. LEVI (Vancouver-Burrard): Mr. Speaker, the other day the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. Williams) in replying to a question in the House asked leave to make a statement in order not to take up the time of the question period. If that Minister of Finance wants to do that I'm sure he'll get leave of the House. Now ask for leave and get up and tell us!
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Are you the financial expert over there?
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, order please. Order, please!
MR. SPEAKER: Order please!
The hon. member for Prince Rupert on a point of order.
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MR. G.R. LEA (Prince Rupert): Mr. Speaker, it's not a point of order, but I would like to ask leave of the House to have the Minister of Finance make a statement if he so wishes.
MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order.
MR. LEA: It's not a point of order. I said, Mr. Speaker, it was not a point of order. I would ask leave of the House for the Minister of Finance to make a statement if he so wishes on that matter.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
MR. SPEAKER: One moment. Order!
MR. COCKE: You've lost control of that group over there.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame! Shame!
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh! You don't like it, do you?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please — order! Order, please!
During question period members ask questions which are taken as notice. If the minister feels that the answer would best be given in terms of a report to the House, then the minister asks leave. But that does not say that the minister must always give the answer in the form of a report by leave of the House. It is quite in order for the member to ask a question and for the minister to rise and state that he wishes to answer a question that was asked on a previous day. We observe both practices in this House and will continue to do so, I would hope.
As for the matter raised by the member for Prince Rupert, it is not a procedure of the House, hon. member, for you as a member from Prince Rupert to ask leave on behalf of another member for him to make a statement.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
MR. LEA: I'd like your direction. Is it not in order for me to ask leave of the House for the minister to make a statement? He's indicated to the House that he would like to, and is it not in order for me to make that request?
MR. SPEAKER: No, it is not in order, hon. member.
MR. LEA: Well, then, possibly the minister would like to ask. On this side of the House, we will surely give that leave. He wouldn't want to do that?
MS. R. BROWN (Vancouver-Burrard): Mr. Speaker, would it be in order for us to ask leave of the House so that hon. Minister of Finance could table his report so that we can get a reply to the questions that we've been asking of him? Would it be in order to ask leave for him to table his reports?
MR. SPEAKER: No, it's not in order, hon. member.
MS. BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order please! The hon. Minister of Labour has the floor!
HON. L.A. WILLIAMS (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, as I have noted to an earlier Speaker, you seem to be keeping a disorderly House. (Laughter.) Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House to make a statement.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that there might have been a question during question period on this most important matter. Because the time was used up otherwise and because of the significance of the matter I wish to raise, I must make this statement at this time.
Yesterday in one of the Victoria papers an editorial appeared which may have, in some respect, cast reflections upon my conduct as Minister of Labour — but that is of no concern.
I am, however, concerned that the editorial has cast reflections upon the Human Rights Commission, the way in which the legislation of this province is carried out and upon the activities of others who are involved in human rights matters in this province.
I wish, therefore, to make it perfectly clear that a board of inquiry has been appointed into the matter
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of a dispute between the Human Rights Commission and the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons. In fact, the board of inquiry was appointed by me, as legislation provides, on March 23, 1976. I apologize to the press for not advising them immediately but I thought it appropriate that the members of the board of inquiry and the parties who were directly involved should hear from me first and when I was satisfied that they had my formal notification I would then have made a statement.
In the circumstances, however, I must say as well that it is suggested in the editorial that under certain normal circumstances persons other than the Minister of Labour appoint boards of inquiry. I don't know what the practice was under the previous government but I wish to assure the House that that responsibility rests with the Minister of Labour and will be carried out by him.
I must also say that in the editorial it says, and I quote one sentence: "It wouldn't have anything to do with the nature of the inquiries, of course." And this sentence appears in the editorial when the question of possible delay is raised. I wish to assure the House that it is just because of the nature of the inquiry that there has been a delay in appointing this board of inquiry.
A very significant issue has been raised by the Human Rights Commission in connection with the policies of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and it is a matter which receives some approbation from the Government of British Columbia. And because of the very nature of the issues involved, I thought it appropriate to take particular care in the appointing of the members of the board of inquiry.
The editorial also would suggest that perhaps there's some politics involved in the appointment of such boards. I wish to assure the House that such is not the case. I am pleased to announce that this board of inquiry will be chaired by Mr. Leon Getz, who is the distinguished chairman of the Law Reform Commission of this province. He will be joined by Mr. C. Paul Daniels, a highly-respected member of the Bar, by Mrs. Monica Angus, a past president of the Registered Nurses' Association of British Columbia, by Dr. Frank A. Turnbull, a retired but highly-respected member of the medical fraternity in this province, and by Mr. Josiah Wood who has given distinguished service in the matter of human rights in this province and has been of particular assistance to the human rights branch and to the government.
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister of Labour for his statement and I want to assure him that if things were more orderly in this House perhaps we would have had an opportunity to put that question to him. It was one that also concerned me.
I would point out, however, that in all these cases it's not a matter of the Human Rights Commission establishing the principle or the inquiry. As I understand it, the chairperson of the Human Rights branch is quite often moved to request a board of inquiry in response to a particular complaint that is received — not necessarily by way of the Human Rights Commission.
So I am not sure the article reflects any impropriety on the commission at all. Rather I think it decries the delay — and it was my understanding that a board, if I recall correctly, was already constituted in the first matter of the College of Physicians and Surgeons dictating areas in which doctors must serve.
I wonder why the minister felt moved to alter the initial board of inquiry that was established, because that would not, in my view, assuage the concern of the people, as he tried to in his statement that there are no political considerations in these kinds of appointments.
If I recall correctly, and I stand to be corrected on this matter, it seems to me that a board of inquiry was already established and appointed for that investigation.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: If I may briefly reply, Mr. Speaker. No such board of inquiry was appointed but it has been now.
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, I do not wish to take any more time on this point except that it has been drawn to my attention that both the hon. Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer) and Your Honour have quoted from proceedings in Lok Sabha. Lok Sabha is not governed by British practice but has an entirely separate code of practice. We follow the British practice. India did not adopt standing order or any similar order.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, hon. member.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, in replying to the point of order raised by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, I think it only fair to draw to your attention the ruling of that Speaker which referred specifically to the House of Commons.
The Speaker there ruled: "So far as I can gather, only two cases occurred in which the House of Commons in the United Kingdom took notice of the leakage of budget speeches. In neither of these cases was the leakage treated as a breach of privilege of the House, nor were the cases sent to the committee of privileges for inquiry." This is the British House of Commons, Mr. Member.
"The prevailing view is that until the financial proposals are placed before the House they are an official secret. A reference of the present leakage to the Commons committee of privileges does not therefore arise."
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Mr. Speaker, this is the British House that is being referred to, so that even if there were a leakage of budget information, which has specifically been denied by hon. members of this House, it would not be a matter for a committee of privileges according to the usage of the House of Commons.
The members on the opposition side, Mr. Speaker, are guilty of frivolous and vexatious proceedings in this House.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Order! Order!
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members....
HON. MR. BENNETT: Irresponsible wreckers!
MR. SPEAKER: Order! Hon. members, a short while ago a reference was made to the fact that the Speaker keeps a disorderly House. I'd suggest to all of the hon. members that I am the servant of this House and not its warden.
I'd like to suggest to you that if the House is disorderly then I think that each and every member should look to their own conduct in this House to see if they've added to it or made this an honourable place in which members can debate issues in a manner that is in keeping with parliamentary traditions.
Orders of the day.
ON THE BUDGET
MR. S. BAWLF (Victoria): Mr. Speaker, as I resume my maiden address — and I might say, with some trepidation — before this House you will recall that I was speaking of the arrogant treatment of the City of Victoria under the heavy hand of the NDP and that government's shameful neglect of municipal financial needs, and, as a result, the crippling growth of property taxes for our citizens — especially our senior citizens.
This was on top of the unfortunate loss of large numbers of our senior citizens who did not receive any adjustments in their benefits to protect them against inflation during the last 18 months of NDP government — 18 months which saw the worst inflation this province has had, thanks in large part to the undisciplined fiscal and economic management of that same government.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Now they're experts,
MR. BAWLF: I have spoken earlier of the shocking state of hospital facilities in Victoria after three years of NDP government with virtually no increase in the number of hospital beds available in my constituency, also ably documented by the hon. leader of the Conservative Party.
Mr. Speaker, fortunately for the people of my constituency and for all of the people of this province, that hopelessly inept NDP government was turned out of office.
This government has immediately begun to take positive steps to relieve these problems, including adjustments to Mincome to compensate for inflation and steps towards removal of property taxes from the homes of most senior citizens. These are very commendable, enlightened steps, Mr. Speaker, which demonstrate this government's concern for people and which are very much appreciated by my constituents.
Furthermore, this government has stated clearly its commitment to the concept of a full partnership with the municipalities for a fair sharing of the growth in its revenues. This will come as a great relief to our beleaguered municipal taxpayers and marks the beginning of a new era for local governments in British Columbia.
This promise extends to more than revenue-sharing, Mr. Speaker. Underlying it is a concern for restoring respect for the autonomy of local governments and for healthy cooperation with them on the part of the provincial government.
I am looking forward, Mr. Speaker, to an early step in that direction in my own constituency which will see the reinstatement for the Capital Improvement District Commission as the sole agency responsible for liaison between the province and the City of Victoria in planning and implementing the beautification of the province's lands in the Inner Harbour.
This step will go a long way towards restoring the confidence of my constituents, and a healthy dialogue with them through their council, after the unfortunate behavior of the previous government.
Sadly, Mr. Speaker, the former government left this province in a serious deficit position. As a consequence, this government cannot move as quickly to alleviate the mess that is the legacy of the NDP as we would like. My constituents understand this, Mr. Speaker. I believe they're prepared to be patient because this government is an open, up-front government and therefore has credibility unlike the previous one.
Consider some statements from Hansard, Mr. Speaker, when the last government introduced their last budget. Our Premier, then Leader of the Opposition said: "This budget ranks as the most irresponsible and dangerous budget which has ever been laid before the people of British Columbia. This may be the first deficit budget in many, many years in this province." Compare that statement with others made at the same time, Mr. Speaker. The
[ Page 412 ]
former Highways minister (Mr. Lea): "For the first time in my memory a budget has come into the House that says here is the expected amount of revenue we're going to take in, and we're going to spend it, and they coincide." They coincide, Mr. Speaker. That member seemed very enthusiastic about balanced budgeting at that time. I wonder when he became so enamored of deficit financing, Mr. Speaker.
The former Minister of Labour (Mr. King): "I think it is a very excellent budget, the kind of sound fiscal management that this government was elected to bring to the province. That is the kind of sound management we have achieved." Well, Mr. Speaker, we know the awful truth about that budget now and we know who is credible. Revenue overestimated by $300 million, non-budgeted expenditures more than $250 million, a deficit for the fiscal year now ending of $541 million.
Staggering, but still it doesn't include the total depletion of the B.C. medical plan, $46 million in one year gone. There's $52 million in tax bills owing to the federal government via the B.C. Petroleum Corp. B.C. Rail has no money left. B.C. Hydro has no money left and contrast that, Mr. Speaker, with what that government inherited, a sound healthy treasury from its predecessors, the former Social Credit government. Just three and a half years ago this province had perpetual funds of $85 million, special capital funds of $126 million, cash or term deposits of $200 million, B.C. Hydro term deposits of $97.6 million, B.C. Railway in temporary deposits $66 million — $575 million.
On top of this, Mr. Speaker, the NDP increased spending of the people's money by 112 per cent in just three years, a compound annual growth rate of over 30 per cent, and they have the audacity...the $100 million man over there, Mr. Speaker, stood up a week or so ago and had the audacity to express his concern for the senior citizens of this province at the hands of inflation. So still, Mr. Speaker, they managed to run us into a colossal mess, a deficit for the fiscal year now ending equal to more than $200 for every man, woman and child in this province. A shameful situation.
Now we hear from the official opposition that deficit financing, mortgaging the future of our citizens, is okay with them. Borrow now so that the people of the province will have to pay later, when the reason for having to pay has become conveniently hazy. That's their approach, Mr. Speaker. It's very convenient to the former government, isn't it?
Well, sadly for the people, this province must go into debt to pay operating expenditures for the first time in my lifetime. Since the opposition so ardently favour this approach, I feel sure that they will support the government's reluctant action in this bill, and perhaps while they're at it, they will explain to the people of this province why the former Premier went around this province just a few months ago saying that the province was in good financial condition.
We heard a great deal from the opposition the last day or two that the Minister of Finance and the Premier ought to have the financial status of the province at their fingertips. Well, if that's so, then surely the former Premier must have known that the expected revenue was down by hundreds of millions of dollars. He must have known that his government were overspending their budget by hundreds of millions of dollars. He must have known that the medical plan was broke and there were no tax dollars to support it. He must have known that ICBC was broke and there would soon be no money to pay its employees, let alone $165 million in unpaid claims. He must have known. Apply your own measure. He must have known about these disasters and others that were the results of his government's financial mismanagement.
We've heard a lot from the opposition, Mr. Speaker, about so-called politically motivated statements. What was the former Premier trying to accomplish with statements that everything was rosy in the province's finances? Political survival, Mr. Speaker. Political survival, at the expense of everything else.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): On a point of order: I adjourned the debate the other day, yesterday afternoon, hoping I'd have the opportunity to continue my speech at the first opportunity. I'd like, Mr. Speaker, to have this opportunity to finish the few minutes that I have left of my debate in this budget.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, I am under the impression that the next speaker in order was the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi), followed by....
MR. CHABOT: Do you maintain a list for speakers? I don't have a list, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I am under the impression that the list of speakers is: the member for Vancouver-Burrard, followed by the member for Columbia River. But if that is not correct....
MR. CHABOT: Oh, that's fine with me, providing I'm allowed to.... Sure, okay, I'll follow the....
MR. SPEAKER: That is my understanding, hon. member.
MR. CHABOT: I'm easy to get along with.
[ Page 413 ]
MR. N. LEVI (Vancouver-Burrard): Mr. Speaker, I haven't had an opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment. In view of the very hard work you did last night, it's rather unfortunate that you are going to have to take a pay cut, but that's the way it is. It's no reflection on what you are doing — that's the way it is.
You know, the previous speaker...I'm rather interested in some of the unfacts that he comes out with; he actually believes most of the propaganda that was put out by his party during the election. He made some reference to senior citizens not getting any assistance for 18 months. I remember that during the election that group over there campaigned on the fact that they were going to introduce a cost-of-living clause to the Mincome programme.
I don't know why it is that nobody realized — certainly the Minister of Health (Mr. McClelland) was aware of it; certainly the member for Atlin (Mr. Calder) was aware of it — that that had been the case since October, 1973, that we had been passing on the quarterly increases that were coming down.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's the cost-of-living clause.
MR. LEVI: That's nothing to do with the cost of living, Mr. Member, because what we have now is....
MR. LEVI: Oh, that's federal. But what we have now is a new kind of Mincome programme. In fact, it's so new that the name doesn't even appear in the book any more. We don't call it Mincome any more; we have rewritten history and we have written out the Mincome programme. Not only have we written it out....
The first member for Victoria (Mr. Bawlf) is very concerned about the senior citizens in this city. Very concerned! I wonder how concerned he really is when he should know that, as of tomorrow, the people between the ages of 60 and 64 will be getting less than the people over the age of 65. He doesn't talk about that; he's not that very concerned.
Well of course, those millionaires over there say: "Oh, what's $4 or $5?" But that's a reality, Mr. Member, through you, Mr. Speaker: tomorrow there will be a difference in terms of the kind of money that people get.
You've done away with Mincome: we're going right back down the time tunnel to the days of old W.A.C. Bennett, and we're going to have a real good means test. A means test...but, you know, one can't relate it in any realistic way to you people — everything has got to be the bottom line. But, you know, you'll hear from your people in your ridings. You, Mr. Member for Esquimalt (Mr. Kahl), you'll hear from all those retired people: "Where is my Mincome addition?" The handicapped people, they'll be asking you: "Where is my Mincome addition?"
MR. LEVI: Oh, you sure did. But you'll be hearing from them.
I was interested in the comments of the former mayor of Victoria, in respect to one of his former aldermen, who is now in this House, and he says: "I guess Bawlf was the brightest of a rather lacklustre bunch." Well, he was sure right on that.
MR. BAWLF: You should hear what he had to say about you. (Laughter.)
MR. LEVI: I know what he had to say about me. When this government finally settled with the city of Vancouver — the hospital problem, the so-called Park Lane cases — when we made available to them last July $500,000. I remember what he said then. He said: "At least you can deal with this government," and he got the money.
You talked yesterday about the kinds of expenses. I remember what he had to say in 1973 when the government took over the administration of social services and saved the city of Victoria $126,000. I remember what he said. He didn't say what you said — but, of course, you weren't there then.
MR. LEVI: Do you know what the people who got it said about the $100 million? They got it: that was the important thing.
The Pharmacare and the Mincome and the homemaker service and the day care and all of the child-care services, the home care, Mr. Minister of Health, the home-nursing care which comes under your department.... What are you doing with it?
You know, I was in Cache Creek the other day and they tell me it's disappeared.
MR. LEVI: I want to talk for a minute before we get into the debate about the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe). You know, there's an extremely brave gentlemen. He comes into the House. He's unable to answer questions, but he wants to make long statements, because that's what happened to our question period now. The question period is now a debate period. And then he comes in with bills and he sits there all by himself without his deputy minister. Now I'm sure that the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) wouldn't do that. He wouldn't come in and introduce a bill without his deputy minister. You
[ Page 414 ]
wouldn't, would you, Mr. Attorney-General? See, he sits shaking his head. He would never do that, but that little Minister of Finance comes in by himself. Well, of course, he's okay as long as the Premier's with him, because he's there to mix them up. But to come in here without his Deputy Minister of Finance — that's a really tragic thing to happen to a minister.
He said in his speech it's a recovery budget. It sure is a recovery budget, the people out here haven't recovered from it yet.
MR. LEVI: What we have from them, in terms of the bottom line philosophy, is that we're going to make everything run on time. We're going to make a profit out of everything, and if we can't make a profit, then the people won't get the service.
MR. LEVI: Yes, it sure is good stuff, Mr. Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Phillips). I'll be coming to you in a minute.
MR. LEVI: The farmers are really fascinated with what you're going to do with income assurance. You are the genius who is going to do the same thing last year that was done this year with the same amount of money. You know, that's real north country thinking, that is.
HON. D.M. PHILLIPS (Minister of Agriculture): You could never understand. It's too thick for you.
MR. LEVI: Too thick? You're darned right it's too thick. It's really very thick.
MR. LEVI: Well, that's what concerns me about your budget, because in your budget you talk about introducing a Mincome programme for the people 55 to 59. You know, Mr. Member, I'm just wondering how many of that 140,000 people in this province in that age category are going to get this programme. Let's say that 10,000 are going to get it; 10,000 out of 140,000, and you're going to pay them this....
MR. LEVI: This is what we're told. You're going to pay them $265 a month. That's what it's going to be, so you're going to need about $30 million for just 10,000, and yet you don't show anything in your budget about that.
Here, you also don't show in your budget how much money you expect to make from the Petroleum Corp. You know, it may very well be that you'll be going down to Ottawa and asking them to reduce the export price. You know, that's the way the former administration operated.
AN HON. MEMBER: Appear to be credible.
MR. LEVI: Appear to be credible. Okay, we have a budget and, you know, the interesting thing, we were looking at the impact of the budget on the average working people. Now, of course, you're experts on the average working people. What is it going to do to them in terms of the money they're going to be able to spend? You know, there was an interesting analysis in the Victoria paper where it's going to cost the average person $550 more a year to get by. That's your gift to them. You're going to balance the books, and you're going to put it to them. You're the government that does things to people — not for people, but to them. We didn't really expect that you'd be any different than you were before and, of course, you're falling right back into the mould.
Last night's debate gave us an indication, for sure, that if we're not careful we're going to go back to legislation through exhaustion. You know, it's a little different now. You have a different kind of group over here.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: If you had stayed in we would have been broke, broke, broke.
MR. LEVI: Broke, broke, broke. We have an example of the kind of broke that takes place, and the kind of responsibility. We have the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe) telling us that he needs over $200 million to meet the bills before March 31, and on the same day he transfers $181 million to ICBC, and they have something like $300 million. I suppose what's going to happen tomorrow is the government is going to go, if they get their bill through, and borrow the money back from ICBC to the government, and that seems to be the plan, the game plan. They tell us that what it is is a matter of policy. It's a matter of policy that they established previously, that we're going to balance the books, that we're going to show that there was a big deficit, and in order to make the deficit you run up $135 million of special warrants. You transferred $181 million to the ICBC, and then you justify it. Based on what? The Premier talks about the Clarkson, Gordon report.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: New York socialist.
MR. LEVI: Well, we know about the Clarkson,
[ Page 415 ]
Gordon report. The member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) covered it very adequately yesterday, and talked about the gimmickry that existed.
You know, the Clarkson, Gordon report really is a bit of an insult to the staff that you have in the Department of Finance. They came out right at the beginning and made a statement about what they thought the situation was but, no, you wanted to set it all up. You know, everything was stage-managed. Dan Campbell figured he was putting on the biggest extravaganza. He was going to have a cocktail party and they were going to lay out the sandwiches and they were going to tell the people how things were. And they published the Clarkson, Gordon report. Well, I would imagine that the Premier's father....
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: The Clarkson, Gordon report is true.
MR. LEVI: True! Nobody has denied the facts in the Clarkson, Gordon report. You know, they're there. The only thing is we don't agree with the conclusions. That's the only thing. You know, of course it's true. You know the difference between....
MR. LEVI: Oh, come on, Don, just relax. Relax. Relax. You know you've got to go and look after the economic development department. I am sure, based on what I received this morning, that you are ready to make this province really go, really go. And yet in the budget I don't see anything. No indication whatsoever of what is going to happen, to quote you,"to getting this province moving." The only thing that's moving in this province economically is your mouth. Nothing else is moving but you.
AN HON. MEMBER: Not economically.
MR. LEVI: Not economically. Well, if he was to try and live with economy he would button his lip, but he has a little trouble.
AN HON. MEMBER: An economy of words.
MR. LEVI: Yes, that's it, Mr. Member, an economy of words. That's the important thing.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: It's a good job, because I've done more in three months than your previous minister did in three and a half years.
MR. LEVI: Oh. oh, oh! Oh, yes, you've been meeting with the farmers on a regular basis. We know that the farmers are so happy with you that they are prepared to trade you in for the Member for Coquitlam (Mr. Kerster). That's the rumour that's out there in the farming community; at least they'd rather have that individual than you.
MR. C. D'ARCY (Rossland-Trail): They want Cyril back.
MR. LEVI: Yes, that's the fellow who should be there. You're right, Mr. Speaker. Let's bring Cyril back. Let's bring Cyril back.
What's Jimmy doing down there? I can't get used to seeing that member, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot) sitting so far down the line. That's terrible. Mr. Premier, it's very unfair of you to put him that far down the line. It's really very unfair of you. After all, he is one of the best debaters in the House — one of the best debaters. And do you know what's going to happen to him? He's going to start a movement to secede to Alberta. He has already indicated that. He's unhappy about having too much social service in his area. Too much social service, eh, Jimmy? It really worries you.
Where's the other former cabinet minister? Way down the line there again. Way down the line.
AN HON. MEMBER: You've got no leader, and you know it.
MR. LEVI: Oh, we've got a leader. We've got two leaders there. We've got a leader out there and one who can lead us in here ' and he sure led us last night. We saw last night the great retreat of that group over there — the great retreat. Those people down there.
Surely, Mr. Premier, you could have been a little bit more considerate. After all, they're long-standing members of your party. They are long-standing members. There you are, sitting there surrounded by all your Liberal friends. It's incredible. I don't think that's fair at all.
AN HON. MEMBER: It really gets to you, doesn't it?
MR. LEVI: It does. It really touches me. You know, you've got a party of a political tourists. They go from the Socreds and they go over to the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. We had one go away from us. But we don't talk about that.
MR. LEVI: I just want to talk about the kind of fiscal co-ordination that appears to be going on over there because this is something that really concerns me. I am not able to understand it and maybe we can get some indication from the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe) or from the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. McClelland). He announced the other day
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that they are going to increase the acute-care rates to $4 and the extended care to $7 a day.
What occurs to me is, who did he consult with? Did he consult with anybody? Did he talk to the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) or did he just talk to Dave Brown who wrote the speech? The Minister nods his head and said that he talked to the Department of Human Resources. Well, if you had talked to the Department of Human Resources, how is it that nobody knew that people in extended care were no longer getting Mincome? How is that possible? You sat in the House last year. You sat over here when I made the statement in the House, and yet nobody knew — nobody knew....
HON. R.H. McCLELLAND (Minister of Health): It's the provincial share.
MR. LEVI: Provincial share, my foot! Nobody knew in your government....
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Nobody was getting income supplement before....
MR. LEVI: Income supplement? What's income supplement? You mean Guaranteed Income Supplement? We're talking about Mincome. Mincome.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. members! Address the Chair.
MR. LEVI: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Thirty-one hundred people in extended care. Twelve hundred affected by the reduction. Those are the facts. You are the minister of unfact. You wouldn't know that. But what you have to do is ask your civil servants, They'll tell you.
No cooperation, Nobody seems to know what's going on. You have one minister saying one thing and another minister saying the other. You have a Premier saying that you don't need the money in ICBC. You have the Minister of Finance coming up and saying that they not only need it but they need it now.
AN HON. MEMBER: The whole bunch!
MR. LEVI: They come in here and bring in their bills -- last minute Charlies, every one of them, bringing in their bills.
AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't.
MR. LEVI: We didn't bring them in? Six weeks after we were elected 108,000 seniors got some assistance. Let's see you match that one.
Tell me, Mr. Speaker, aren't you concerned about this budget? I'm just wondering whether they're going to be able to balance it. Are you going to be able to balance it, Mr. Premier? You're not sure....
MR. LEVI: I can't get anything out of you.
AN HON. MEMBER: You've always wrong.
MR. LEVI: Not always. Mostly right, very rarely wrong.
But let me ask you. You've got your fantastic programme that you've announced, these 55 to 59. Perhaps when we get into the estimates, Mr. Speaker, we'll be able to get some more facts about this programme, because search as I might through the general budget I can't find that you've even made any allowances for that. After all, there are 140,000 people that are in that age group. We don't know how many are going to qualify but if there's anything similar to what existed in 1972, then we probably can look for something like 8 or 9 per cent of the people qualifying after they go through one of these rigorous Social Credit–type means tests and then they'll pay it.
The other thing in the budget which concerns me is some kind of a statement that's made by the Minister of Finance. You know, it's only a question of accuracy and understanding. Unfortunately he's left the House again. He keeps going back and forth. You know, you've got to keep a tighter reign on that fellow because he's really having trouble in here.
There's a statement in the paper that says: "These extended-care benefits will provide $17 million more in payments taken at very little cost to the province because the bulk of the funds will be provided through federal sharing. The previous government, in our opinion, was remiss in not taking advantage of the federal money that was available in previous years to provide the increased benefits."
Mr. Speaker, they're talking about a programme that doesn't exist. It doesn't exist and yet you're talking about a loss of $17 million. You're talking about a loss of money. Yes, if we will go the way you think, Mr. Premier, what you will do is you will have less people on Mincome, you'll have cut into the Pharmacare programme, you'll cut into the Home-maker programme, because you're one of the guys on the bottom line.
You know, Mr. Speaker, this fellow's going to get a sore throat. Chirp, chirp, chirp all afternoon!
MR. LEVI: But he talks in the budget speech about a programme that does not exist, and he talks about money that could be saved. But again, the programme does not exist. If they're talking, on the other hand, about how they can get more money
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from Ottawa, then what we are looking at is simply less people being eligible for programmes — less senior citizens, less handicapped, less people eligible for day care, less people eligible for home-maker care.
That's what worries me, Mr. Speaker, about this budget. If they're going to balance the budget at the expense of all of these people, then what they say about doing things for people...then that's wrong. Because I think what they're going to do, they're going to do things to people.
That's what worries me continually because when we were the government we had to pick up some 20 years of neglect, and it looks like in their rewriting of history that nobody's going to remember anything because they're going to take it away from people.
One of the themes that was abroad in the election was the whole issue of freedom. We had two members from the opposition party, the mover and seconder to the budget speech, who talked about freedom, and "somebody out there". Nobody was quite sure who it was, but "somebody out there". The fear...and yes, the fear is out there amongst the senior citizens, and it's out there amongst those people who receive social assistance and receive the programmes through this department, and through the Department of Health. It's out there and you members should know it.
And yes, the member shakes his head; he enjoys having people being fearful. You do, Mr. Member, eh? That's what you want in this province — to go back to the days of '72 when everybody was afraid to open their mouths.
That's where we're back to. You know, we have a kind of creeping suppression and it's going to go on. I remember it when I became the minister, the kind of things that people used to say: "It's amazing that we can talk to you". Now I'm picking up the same thing that they said again in '72: "We can't talk to anybody; we're afraid."
That fear is there and there he is; that's the architect of the fear. Over there, that's the architect, just like his father, lots of fear. You know, last night he gave us a lecture on something he called the Whip system. Yes, he wasn't here when his daddy was here and when we had the Whip system. I remember the Whip system then, Mr. Member, when his daddy used to say to the Whip: "You tell them if the minister gets his salary they can go home."
You want that kind of Whip system? You tried it last night and you didn't make it, and you're not going to make it, and the reason you're not going to make it is because the public is out there and they're watching you, and they are going to keep watching you because they are afraid of what you want to do to this place.
HON. W.R. BENNETT (Premier): You won't let it work.
MR. LEVI: Won't let it work! Won't let it.... He tells us about a member who has an agreement.... The member stands up and says: "Well, I didn't have an agreement."
AN HON. MEMBER: No, he didn't.
MR. LEVI: He didn't say that?
AN HON. MEMBER: You should apologize to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. members.
MR. SPEAKER: Order! The hon. second member for Burrard has the floor.
MR. LEVI: During the business of the present government we've had an earlier statement by the Minister of Housing (Hon. Mr. Curtis) who says that they're going to save certain housing units and they're going to put them on the market because they can't get people. I'm glad that the minister is listening because I know that he has now reversed himself and that they are going to make the housing available and that he is not upset; he is not overly concerned that somehow he'll set up ghettos.
Well, that's a good move, Mr. Member. In my riding there are four such small housing projects under completion. What I'm concerned about is: will those people be able to remain in them and that somehow you're not going to put them up for sale?
MR. LEVI: Yes, you said it in the beginning. Yes, you would turf them out. You said it in the beginning and then you backed off. All right, I appreciate it. You're a new boy; you're very enthusiastic. You said something; it slipped out. All right, that's true. You've learned; most of them have learned. They now keep their mouths shut.
The thing with the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Nielsen) we've yet to get him to open his mouth.
HON. J.A. NIELSEN (Minister of Environment): How condescending! Thank you.
MR. LEVI: I hope Hansard picked that up.
MR. LEA: Was that his maiden speech?
MR. LEVI: But the important thing is that we have a Minister of Housing who has learned something — and that's good. You know, the one thing that I don't understand — and I hope that
[ Page 418 ]
during his estimates we'll be able to get some understanding and some explanation from him in more detail — is his great need to be so terribly munificent with those municipalities. Why, even Frank Ney who used to sit over there was quite surprised that suddenly it all arrived on his desk, that usually they'd been getting quarterly payments....
AN HON. MEMBER: Over there.
MR. LEVI: No, he used to sit on that side, Mr. Member. I know he sat down there but he used to sit on that side.
MR. CHABOT: He was the overflow.
MR. LEVI: Yes, that's right — that's it. You're edging towards that overflow. (Laughter.) Do you know where that goes when it goes from there? Down the tube, Mr. Member; that's what happens at the end of the overflow. So you guys have got to cling desperately to the sides because you'll slip down. If you lean on that fellow there that you're with, you'll all go down together. (Laughter.)
The mayors of the municipalities, Mr. Minister of Housing, through you, Mr. Speaker, have indicated some surprise that suddenly all of this money has arrived. Of course, it would be terribly suspicious and unfair of us to suggest that what you really want to do is to empty the treasury and then justify the deficit. But we'll have an opportunity to get at you in your estimates and then you can tell us — yes, you can tell us exactly why it is that you wanted to do what you wanted to do. That's why we have estimates.
AN HON. MEMBER: They were in shock.
[Deputy Speaker in the chair.]
MR. LEVI: Yes, they sure were in shock. All of a sudden they got a pile of money that they weren't expecting.
MR. LEVI: No, that's not the statements that are in the paper.
MR. LEVI: Oh, have you read the statement of the mayor of Kelowna?
HON. MR. BENNETT: The former government was in default for two years.
MR. LEVI: Oh, and where were you as the MLA?
Where were you as the MLA of Kelowna if the former government...? You never raised it once on the floor of this House; not once did you raise it on the floor of this House. You didn't do your job as the MLA — no, you did not. Not once did you raise it on the floor of this House.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please!
MR. LEVI: Mr. Speaker, take him out for tea. Take him out for tea — his throat's getting sore.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please, Mr. Member. You will assist us greatly in managing an orderly House if you will address the Chair and if other hon. members would please remember that it is the hon. second member for Vancouver-Burrard who has the floor. Please continue, sir.
MR. LEVI: The member for Chilliwack for Speaker — a beautiful gentleman, a really beautiful gentleman! Just keep the Premier in order. He's constantly in a state of disorder; keep him in order.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I need all the help I can get.
MR. LEVI: Constantly in a state of disorder. He tells us that the mayor of Kelowna is upset because they were behind. Mr. Speaker, I really get the feeling that you're listening. He isn't, but you are. For two years they were behind and he was the MLA and not once did he raise it on the floor of this House. The boy is a politician. If he wanted to get at the government of the day, that's what he should have.... Did you ever raise it?
HON. MR. BENNETT: If you're wrong, will you resign?
MR. LEVI: Did you raise it on the floor of the House? Oh, come now.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Yes, three times.
MR. LEVI: Three times.
MR. LEVI: Did you raise it on the floor of the House?
MR. W.S. KING (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, would you call the little rich boy to order?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: On a point of order?
[ Page 419 ]
MR. KING: He's becoming petulant.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: That's no point of order. Thank you. Hon. member, continue.
MR. LEVI: Okay. We'll leave the Premier for now, Mr. Speaker. I think what we should do is get back to the business of the House because what he wants to do...he wants to appear in Hansard so often. He wants to be able to get as many volumes of Hansard as his daddy's got. Well, that's quite easy because all the time his dad was here we had just one little old thin volume, that's all.
Can you imagine what 20 years of volumes of Hansard would have looked like on the former Premier's (Hon. W.A.C. Bennett's) shelves? Impressive. But he's just got one slim little volume, and that's really terrible.
You know, I remember some of the good things and the other things that he said in this House, but they're gone, disappeared, so all you have there, you must remember, is in terms of Hansard. I'm glad, I'm really glad, that we still have Hansard. It's important.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's a surprise.
MR. LEVI: Yes, it is a bit of a surprise, but I'm glad that we still have Hansard, because all the golden words these new members are going to come out with are all going to be noted down. It's useful for us — very useful for us.
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about the balancing of the budget, really concerned, because of the kinds of expectations that have been laid out in the throne speech and the kinds of figures that appear, and in fact whether it is going to be possible for them to deliver some of the things which they say. But we don't know.
We tried yesterday and today to get some information from the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe), and we were unable to. You know, he has under him an extremely talented, experienced deputy minister of Finance who has yet to sit beside him when he is trying to steer a bill. But it is going to be important that we have the up-to-date figures, and we were told by the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) that those figures are available on a monthly basis and that they should be made available.
We'll see when we get the first quarterly report. We'll wait for the first quarterly report.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: The first in the history of B.C.
MR. LEVI: When is the first one? When are we getting the first one?
MR. LEVI: When are we getting it? Which quarter?
HON. MR. BENNETT: The quarterly report.
MR. LEVI: The quarterly report. Okay, Well, we can expect the quarterly report July 1; that's what the Premier has just indicated.
HON. MR. BENNETT: You'll get a quarterly report.
MR. LEVI: July 1. Yes, we're going to get one on July 1. The Premier scratches his chin, and that's an indication that we will be getting a quarterly report, Mr. Speaker. If he shaves his chin, that kind of commitment has probably gone down the tube.
MR. LEVI: A quarterly report, that's what you'll have. Then we'll be able to see how they've indicated in there just what the state of the finances are. Of course, what is going to be worthwhile is for us to be able to look, certainly when we get into the estimates — because we didn't get an answer to that question this afternoon — on the actual cash position of ICBC. They didn't tell us that.
As I said earlier, I am concerned, Mr. Premier, that having transferred the money to ICBC you are now going to apply to them to loan it back to you.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): In the next fiscal year.
MR. LEVI: In the next fiscal year, which starts tomorrow. I wonder if that's what you've got in mind. You know, that's pretty sound fiscal....
MR. LEVI: Yes, we'll see what's going to take place. If that's what's going to happen, that the public is going to have to underwrite this game that they're playing, this game where you're taking money that's needed today and putting it into an operation that doesn't need it, then we're going to see what kind of fiscal management is going to take place.
MR. LEVI: You have never given us the facts, Mr. Premier. We told you this afternoon....
HON. MR. BENNETT: ICBC facts?
[ Page 420 ]
MR. LEVI: The facts. What's the cash position? You don't know the cash position because you're not the minister.
HON. MR. BENNETT: It cost $181 million and you wouldn't tell the public....
MR. LEVI: What's the cash position? You see? He doesn't want to answer the question.
HON. MR. BENNETT: It cost $181 million.
MR. LEVI: He just doesn't want to answer the question. He just wants to keep going like this all the time. He's a chirper, you know. His mouth's full of wood and he'll choke on it eventually if he's not careful. But he hasn't answered the question. He doesn't let his Minister of Finance answer questions. You know, they have a kind of Mutt and Jeff relationship. He keeps nudging him here, pushing him there, pulling him away, talking about peace and love. It's very difficult to be Minister of Finance under that Premier.
MR. KING: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Wolfe.
MR. LEVI: Yes, that's it. The vaudeville team of Evan and Billy, you know. That's a good vaudeville team.
MR. KING: Three-dollar Bill.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. LEVI: It's devalued now. It's not a $3 bill, it's only $2.75.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Vicious!
AN HON. MEMBER: You had your way and it didn't work.
MR. LEVI: Where did that come from?
MR. KING: Hawaii.
MR. LEVI: Oh, Hawaii. Aloha! (Laughter.)
MR. LEVI: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure but I think I've got to sit down. How much time have I got? Are you keeping time? Because I've got to adjourn the debate.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is still time left. The green light has not arrived, sir.
MR. LEVI: Where is the green light?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Right over there.
AN HON. MEMBER: You've got seven minutes.
MR. LEVI: Seven minutes? Are you sure it's seven? Okay.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I just want to go back over the basic concern that I have in terms of the interests that I've had in the past which relate to the social policies which are indicated in this budget. I am concerned that it has already happened to people, that they are not going to get the level of service that was available to them under the previous government.
What I am also concerned about is that there are large numbers of groups who from time to time over the years have petitioned the government on behalf of the various people who require service in this province, and who came, when the NDP was the government, asking for the initiation of programmes.
Since the new government has been in and some of the programmes are being dismantled, I am concerned that these groups have not been speaking out, have not been speaking out on behalf of the people who were getting the service. I mention names among some of those groups I dealt with and which were articulate, vociferous and demanding, and rightly so, when I was the minister in charge of the department. I'm thinking of people like the United Way who speak so well on behalf of people; the Retarded association which speaks very well on behalf of their people; the Cerebral Palsy people with the Canadian Paraplegic association. All of these people now have to be the watchdogs in this province to make sure that the programmes now in place not be taken away.
But so far, Mr. Speaker — and I've watched the gradual dismantling of some programmes — we have not heard from these people. I think this is to be regretted, and that these people must speak out. They must inform and advise and urge the government that all of the programmes that are in place are programmes that are needed by people who are senior citizens, by people who are handicapped, by people who need training. All of these programmes are necessary because what is also happening in the loss of programmes is that there is the creation of unemployment.
Certainly, I would hope, we'll have an opportunity in the estimates under the various departments to elicit the exact facts of what programmes have been eliminated, what loss of service there is. Then we must ask for the assistance of all of those community groups out there to raise their voice in protest. Because they can be doing it now, and we have yet to hear from them, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): Mr.
[ Page 421 ]
DEPUTY SPEAKER: On a point of order, the member for New Westminster.
MR. COCKE: (mike not on)...if we are going to establish a precedent, I would suggest that leave of the House be asked for.
MR. COCKE: He missed his place last night; he wasn't here.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: According to the practices of the House, Mr. Member for New Westminster, if a member adjourns debate, he is the speaker next called on when the debate in that particular category is called. If the member is not present in his chair at the time, the practice is that he is not prevented from speaking when he does return. As a result, it is not necessary to ask for leave.
MR. CHABOT: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity of finishing the remarks that I started yesterday. I was, however, rather disappointed to listen to the former Minister of Human Resources in what I consider to be an incredible speech, a speech where he was asking everybody how many more minutes he had left to speak, hoping for interjections so he could continue for the time allotted him, the 40 minutes. You know, it was almost like listening to the Harold Wilson swan song, listening to the member for Vancouver-Burrard.
You know, when the minister talked about Mincome, he talked about supplementary assistance as if it didn't exist prior to the socialist government coming to office in this province. This province has always taken care of its senior citizens to a better degree than any other province in the country — long before the socialists ever came on the horizon, long before they ever came on the horizon.
The only thing that was ever invented by that outfit over there when they were government was the word — they coined a phrase "Mincome," and they attempted to lead the people of this province to believe that they started a programme to assist senior citizens, a programme that was well in place, a programme that was helping senior citizens in British Columbia to a greater degree than was ever done in any other province in this country.
I'm sure if I had the opportunity this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, to ask the people in the galleries what their opinion is of that member who just spoke, in the management of his department when he was minister, when he overspent $100 million of taxpayers' money before he realized he'd overspent his budget, I wonder what the people in the galleries this afternoon would say. They would say: "Shame on you! That's sloppy mismanagement and you have no right to be in government."
No wonder. Mr. Speaker, the socialist government was defeated on December 11 in this province, because that phony minister over there was the prime architect of the downfall of that government, with its $100 million of waste and extravagance. His was only one of the departments that showed the kind of waste and extravagance that was the criterion, was the kind of bastion of that government over there when they were in office. No wonder they were kicked out! No wonder they will never come back.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about my constituency.
MR. COCKE: Where is that?
MR. CHABOT: Well, the member for New Westminster is not aware of where my constituency is — Columbia River. Nevertheless, that's typical of the old socialist thinking; they can't think past Hope.
MR. G.V. LAUK (Vancouver Centre): You're beyond hope! (Laughter.)
MR. CHABOT: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about economic development. I'm sure the former minister, who did so little for three and a half years when he was minister, is very interested in hearing what I may have to say.
In British Columbia, as far as economic development is concerned, we are at a serious disadvantage in attracting it to this province, regardless of which government is in office — be it the socialist government, or be it a free-enterprise government — because we have in British Columbia the highest wage structure in this country, which is a disadvantage to attracting secondary industry. We have a bad reputation as far as labour unrest is concerned, which makes it difficult to attract secondary industry in this province. We have a lack of a proper population base to attract secondary industry. Then we are faced with the freight-rate situation as well.
But I want to suggest to the government — and I have examples within my constituency — ideas where we should have industry established there. We have the gypsum quarries in the southern part of my constituency, in the Windermere district, that ship all this gypsum rock to Vancouver, to other provinces and other states in the United States. There is no reason in the world, as far as I'm concerned, why we shouldn't have a wallboard plant right in the Windermere district, using up this gypsum rock and creating jobs for people in the Windermere district.
We have a buoyant potential market for wallboard in that great-growth province of Alberta, yet we're
[ Page 422 ]
MR. LEA: They have low freight rates.
MR. CHABOT: We're right on the border of Alberta; it's 180 miles to the city of Calgary, one of the fastest growing cities in this country, and I can't see any justification of why we should send this raw material out of the Windermere valley. I know that the municipality of Invermere has attempted to negotiate with Western Gypsum Products to establish a plant in the area, but they weren't successful.
I would like to get encouragement from the Department of Economic Development, not only encouragement but assistance as well to make it possible to establish secondary industry, such as this, in areas such as mine that need diversification — areas that are primarily tied to a single industry, a single-resource industry, the forest industry.
I think what we need in the Department of Economic Development is a more aggressive and enlightened approach as far as attracting secondary industry to the province.
I think there should be some form of assistance, some form of incentive for these industries to come and establish in the more remote areas and the least populated areas in the province that have the raw materials. I think the government could attach the, incentive to the industry rather than attaching it to a region, instead of a depressed area, such as the federal government established in the Okanagan a few years ago.
They superimposed upon an area — a basically rich area — a designation for assistance. I think that the assistance should be tied to the industry, and this would in turn give the government flexibility to direct these industries into areas which need diversification, areas that are tied to a single industry, areas that are desperate for diversification.
I am sure that with the proper assistance and initiative from the Department of Economic Development we can attract industry. Golden is a fine example. Last year, in the year of problems in the forest industry, the community was severely depressed because it relies almost entirely upon the forest industry. That's why there's such a pressing need, not only in Golden and Invermere but also in other smaller communities in British Columbia, for diversification.
At the moment in the Golden area — hopefully, we will be looking for government assistance — a group of individuals are going to invest in the neighborhood of $1million for the establishment of a ski facility. We hope that when the time comes and we approach the government, be it the Department of Economic Development or the Department of Highways, we'll look forward to some form of assistance as far as the provision — financial assistance I'm talking about — of highway access into the proposed ski area, and that at a later date, that assistance will be given in the maintenance of this access.
Golden is the logical place for the establishment of a ski resort because Golden is located within that ski triangle that goes to Lake Louise, Banff, Kimberley — North Star at Kimberley — Fairmont Hot Springs, Revelstoke, the Bugaboos, Panorama at Invermere. Golden is a logical place for an industry such as this. Golden is in desperate need of some kind of assistance in the winter months.
Also, when the government is contemplating the possibility of establishing new minimum security prisons, for instance, in the province I would hope that they would look at communities such as Golden for the establishment of these facilities so that additional jobs can be created in that area and diversification can take place, which is desperately needed.
MR. LAUK: You want more people with convictions.
MR. CHABOT: No, I want not necessarily more people with convictions, more people with jobs — that's what I'm recommending here.
Mr. Speaker, my time is not too long. I want to speak about the budget. You know, during the session of 1975 we were rather kept in the dark about certain estimates in the various departments called salary contingencies. I recall very clearly one night attempting to get some information as to what this kind of allocation really was directed to, and needless to say we weren't able to extract too much information from the minister concerned.
But there were some massive sums allocated for salary contingencies. I had the opportunity to review the allocation of the Attorney-General just as an example. For salary contingencies we had over $13 million in the Attorney-General's estimates. So I looked at the nine-month spending to December 31, 1975, and I find that they spent only $5.7 million.
We suggested to him at the time when we were in opposition that there was no need for this kind of massive allocations for salary contingencies. The record is very clear that there was no need for these kinds of allocations. Yet they were millions underspent in the salary allocations. What is so surprising is that they are millions overspent in the budget. So it hasn't been overspent in salaries; it's been overspent on ill-conceived programmes of various ministers of the Crown.
Bob Williams is a fine example of a waster of taxpayers' money.
MR. CHABOT: Well, Mr. Speaker, the former
[ Page 423 ]
Minister of Health, the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) says that Bob Williams has made more money than I ever will. Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I have never taken an apartment building and turned it into a condominium and kicked people out. That's one thing that Bob Williams did. He took this apartment building that people were renting in the city of Vancouver, renovated it, made it into condominiums and told the occupants: "You have 30 days. Good-bye or get out." There is the member for New Westminster supporting a former minister that had that kind of a concept, that had that kind of consideration for people. He should hide his head in shame about that former minister.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
MR. CHABOT: Oh, I'm not.... Time doesn't permit me, Mr. Member, to talk about the island. I will, maybe at a future occasion, be able to talk about the island. No, Mr. Speaker, this budget is not a budget that provides for a fictitious forecast in increased spending of 48 per cent. That's all the increase of 48 per cent was last year — a fictitious fabricated figure on the part of that government over there.
We see in this budget in a year of restraint a very realistic increase in the allocated expenditures — 4.5 per cent. We also see that with the 1975-76 expenditure $218 million higher than anticipated and a revenue shortfall of $323 million, for a total of $541 million deficit, Mr. Speaker. No wonder we had an election on December 11. They weren't prepared to tell the people of this province the kind of mess that they had generated.
Talking about the budget that had revenue shortfall of $323 million and over expenditure of $218 million, Mr. Speaker, I have a very amusing statement made, no doubt in all seriousness, on the part of the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) when he was talking about the budget on March 5, 1975, when he said: "For the first time in my memory a budget has come into the House that says here is the expected amount of revenue we're going to take in and we're going to spend and they coincide." And they coincide. What a statement! What a statement!
A budget that now has seen the light of day has a deficit of $541 million, a deficit of $541 million. No wonder, after a statement like that, it is quite obvious to me that the treasury bench wasn't keeping the former Minister of Highways (Mr. Lea) very well informed. They should have told him that they had established a fictitious 48 per cent increase in their anticipated expenditure and revenues. They should have told him. Maybe he wouldn't, had he known that the budget shortfall and the expenditures had been far in excess of what had been budgeted and passed in this Legislature.... And, Mr. Member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke), we would have to, I hope, have some respect for what we vote for in this House.
But I am sure that the former Minister of Highways concluded that there was sufficient money for his joyride, because I am sure we all recall that when the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) first became Minister of Highways, he was quite elated. He wanted to impress the people from the north and he chartered a helicopter to fly over the highways so that he could see the highways, Mr. Speaker. He wasn't really examining the highways. He was trying to impress the people of the north that he was now a cabinet minister and that he now had a responsibility over the highways.
But I think the shocking part of this trip, of which I understand the former minister was sleeping most of the way, was the cost. The taxpayers of this province spent $50,000 for the joyrides of the former Minister of Highways throughout the north.
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): Shame! Shame!
AN HON. MEMBER: How many fish did he catch?
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver–Capilano): How about the former minister?
MR. CHABOT: Well, he certainly didn't engage any $50,000 helicopter trips, Mr., Member for North Vancouver–Capilano. No, Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the member for Prince Rupert wasn't being kept informed of the kind of shenanigans which were taking place on the Treasury Board, the kind of fictitious kiting of the figures given to them by the Department of Finance.
No, Mr. Speaker, when one looks at the sorry mess and the sorry record of that government, one has to come to a conclusion that the budget we are debating now faces reality because this is a budget that starts to move to look after the needs of people. We are starting on a genuine programme that was promised by the socialist circling...but nothing was ever done about it: to remove taxes from the homes of those people 65 years of age and over. This budget is once again going to help make British Columbia the Mecca it was destined to be. This budget is going to help make British Columbia a better place to live, work or invest in.
AN HON, MEMBER: Hear, hear!
MR. CHABOT: Once again we are going to have a budget that means pay as you go. No longer will we have deficits in this province, I hope, to the extent that we have experienced in the last year, and we are
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not going to accept that statements of the opposition that a deficit is good management by pointing to other provinces in this country that are on substantial deficit budgets.
I don't think the proper role of government is to encumber future generations with the costs of servicing fantastic debts incurred by deficit financing. I am one who strongly supports the pay-as-you-go concept, one which has richly rewarded the people in British Columbia over the last 20 some odd years. No, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that this budget will restore confidence in the economy of this province which was so terribly shaken over the last three and a half years. This budget makes it possible for British Columbia to develop in an orderly fashion to the benefit of all British Columbians. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Waterland moves adjournment of the debate.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I move that we proceed to public bills and orders.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Second reading of Bill 3, Mr. Speaker.
BRITISH COLUMBIA DEFICIT
REPAYMENT ACT, 1975-1976
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, it came to my attention yesterday, through the Blues, that the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke), even though I protested to the Speaker in the chair, was not given an opportunity to adjourn debate till the next sitting of the House. According to page 290 of the latest edition of May, the order for second reading becomes a dropped order, meaning the motion for second reading should be reinstituted or put again and the debate begun from the beginning.
I might add, Mr. Speaker, that I would not raise this point at all had I not been told "to take my seat" while trying to point out the error in procedure. No one could see me standing. Maybe that was the problem. (Laughter.)
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I refer the member to standing order 32 which reads:
"If at the time of the adjournment of the House a motion on the orders of the day be under consideration, that question shall stand first on the orders of the day for the sitting at which orders of a similar class are properly taken up, next after the orders to which a special precedence has been assigned by standing order or orders of the House."
The advice to the Chair is that the speech of the member for New Westminster was interrupted by the indication of the clock and, therefore, he does not lose his place in the debate, but he has precedence when this debate is called. So I recognize the member for New Westminster.
MR. LAUK: Ordinarily I would agree with you, if the House did follow standing order 32, but they did not.
"If at the time of the adjournment of the House the motion on the orders of the day be under consideration, that question shall stand first on the orders of the day for the next sitting at which orders of a similar class are properly taken up."
DEPUTY SPEAKER: That's right.
MR. LAUK: Oh, I see. But what I was saying was it should have been taken up immediately. (Laughter.)
DEPUTY SPEAKER: It says: "Orders of the day for the next sitting at which orders of a similar class are properly taken up."
We recognize the member for New Westminster.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me. It strikes me that there's a danger in the relationship that has been going, in that the member for Vancouver Centre lives in the same house I live in, and I suspect that maybe he's decided that he should take me on.
Now, Mr. Speaker, seriously, what he was challenging was whether or not the whole question should be off the order paper by virtue of the fact that there had not been an adjournment, but I think it's quite clear the way it is now.
Mr. Speaker, when I closed last night at 11 o'clock, and we had a long debate about the hour of adjournment, I was talking about the whole B.C. Hydro question. I was relating that question to this bill that has been brought up by the Social Credit government of our day, Bill 3. A bill for $400 million has been put forward by the government to indicate that they're in the hole $540 million or whatever; it's a different figure every day, but so be it.
I said at the time that had the NDP government in 1972 decided to take that same kind of vindictive course, we could very easily have put up a bill for $1 billion to pay the amounts that I outlined, the Hydro $845 million, the $52 million for BCR, and the $222 million for the extension of the BCR, but, of course, we were not that kind of vindictive government.
Mr. Speaker, I would, however, like to review a couple of messages we got at that time, a couple of messages from members who somehow or another
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lost their way in the dark on their way to the cabinet.
Speaking of Hydro, Mr. Speaker, what did the now Minister of Education, the then member from Point Grey, say? Hansard, good old Hansard — kind of nice to review every once in a while. This is what the member, Mr. Pat McGeer, a member from Point Grey at the time, still member from Point Grey but now Minister of Education, said on October 18, 1972:
I want to make one small comment before concluding about what is left over as one of the largest projects in British Columbia and one of the greatest bungles that has ever been made.
The member for Point Grey, the now Minister of Education is referring to the Social Credit bungling.
I refer to the Columbia River Treaty, the fact that we are short probably on the order of $400 million.
That was all that was known in 1972, but now we know it's considerably more, over double that amount.
We are committed to store water for a period of over 100 years from today and it looks like all the money we'll ever get has been obtained.
He went on to say, Mr. Speaker, interestingly:
Unless the present government takes active and aggressive steps to have the Columbia River Treaty renegotiated, the great errors, Mr. Speaker, that were made by the former Premier and his government, not putting a cost-of-living clause into the advance payments that were made. That was the reason we were left with the $400 million and some short.
But the second error in negotiation — and this was the principal reason why the present head of B.C. Hydro was thrown off the negotiation team — was because he believed that the peaking power needed to be taken into consideration.
Those who negotiated the treaty made the stupid blunder of ignoring it completely. So, Mr. Speaker, we've been badly skinned on the Columbia River treaty. It's been a major disaster.
The Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer) said that in 1972. Interesting times, interesting indeed. However, he wasn't alone. What did the now Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) say? The second member for Vancouver Point Grey (Hon. Mr. Gardom). He said: "Hydro? It's a real high-amperage mish-mash."
AN HON. MEMBER: It's called eating crow.
MR. COCKE: "We pay the highest rates in B.C. — in the Pacific northwest." February 10, 1972: "Our service is a question mark. The performance of Hydro and its prospects are beyond public scrutiny, and it carries the lion's share of public debt. Now the situation that we have in B.C. with those appointed directors..."
HON. MR. GARDOM: You should have told Lorimer.
MR. COCKE: Listen to this, Mr. Member; you must hear this: "...those political Jack Homers, the pals of government...pretty juicy plums! No accountability to anyone!"
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I could go on with those kinds of quotes ad infinitum. They were all made and conveniently forgotten by this group. However, in my short time left to me let me say a few words about ICBC. We saw today the most....
MR. COCKE: Well, leather-lungs is back. Where've you been? You haven't been talking to the farmers.
AN HON. MEMBER: Why didn't you speak on ICBC when you were a director?
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, interestingly enough I spoke plenty on ICBC.
MR. COCKE: We have a group across the floor in this House, a group who are sly and cunning. But are they ever clumsy! And they're getting clumsier every day. They're losing every battle that they're putting forward on this whole question of trying to deceive the people of British Columbia on the whole question of whether or not we need Bill 3. And, Mr. Speaker, let's review something that happened.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the member suggesting that any member of the government is trying to deceive the public?
MR. COCKE: No member, Mr. Speaker, a government.
A cheque written, by the admission of the minister during question period, on March 30 — a cheque to ICBC for $181,510,000 that they didn't need — and if they did, why wasn't it shown?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Did they lose that much money? Did they lose that much money? Shame! Shame!
MR. COCKE: What was the cash position of ICBC today?
MR. COCKE: I'll read some of the quotes of the
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Premier (Hon. Mr. Bennett) in just a second.
That cheque was signed on March 30. Guess when the Lieutenant-Governor signed the order. They do things backwards. Guess when the Lieutenant-Governor signed the order permitting the signing of that cheque.
AN HON. MEMBER: When? When?
MR. COCKE: March 31.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh!
MR. COCKE: March 31. Disgraceful conduct, Mr. Speaker. Nothing done in a businesslike way since that government has been in power. "Businesslike," that's what we heard. The businessmen from Prince George, Fort George, Kelowna — all over the place.
AN HON. MEMBER: An illegal cheque.
MR. COCKE: They can't even do business in a businesslike way. What was the business? It was to give the people of British Columbia the business — that's what it was. To establish that they're broke. The Premier walking down the hall today wringing his hands, in front of the press, saying: "We're broke; don't cash your cheques."
AN HON. MEMBER: That's against the Criminal Code.
MR. COCKE: An absolute disgrace in a rich province like this, Mr. Speaker. I want to remind you what the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) said: "What are they doing to the reputation of this province all over the world?" I ask you. Restoring it? Destroying it! Destroying it! Down the drain with it, you say, and what a bunch of political connivery! Be ashamed of yourselves. Hang your heads. Go back to Kamloops and apologize to the people in Kamloops for this kind of destructive action.
MR. LOEWEN: You did it!
MR. LAUK: Get back in your sandbox.
MR. COCKE: Oh, that little member for Burnaby-Edmonds (Mr. Loewen) who just came in from Alberta.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please! The member for New Westminster has the floor.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry that I make them nervous. We gave the alternative, the gas tax route on ICBC. The government decided to turn their back on it, Mr. Speaker. The government decided instead to create a debt, to create a debt so that the people in British Columbia can pay the interest, and to do it immediately, raising the rates triple and quadruple for the young people.
That wasn't enough. Raising the rates 139 per cent, that wasn't enough. No, they had to create a bill called Bill 3, and then, Mr. Speaker, the audacity to try to ram it down our throats like a bunch of bullies!
Mr. Speaker, we're not going to be bullied. We won't be bullied by that group over there who don't have enough understanding to know what's going on around them. Some of you might be able to run a used-car shop, but let me tell you, member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf).... Incidentally, I was up in this country and I was watching his arguments. Interesting, interesting, interesting, but Mr. Speaker....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, may I interrupt you just long enough to...?
MR. COCKE: Yes, of course, as long as you don't take my time, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes. The standing orders, standing order 17(2) — and this is for the attention of all members in the House — says: "When a member is speaking, no member shall pass between him and the Chair, nor interrupt him except to raise a point of order." I wish the members to observe this regulation while the member has the floor. Will you please continue, sir?
MR. COCKE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, thank you.
Mr. Speaker, we know why they want this borrowing authority — to create the biggest possible debt. They're trying to punish the people in this province for having done that dastardly thing in 1972 in electing a New Democratic Party government.
Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, they also have to justify all of these audits which were not audits. They have to try their very best to do it, and the Premier says they don't need it. The Premier says they didn't need it. The Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe) the evening before last said they don't need it. So who's kidding who?
Mr. Speaker, let me quote from the Victoria Times, January 27, 1976:
"Premier Bennett said today not only has the government decided to pay off the $181 million deficit left by the ICBC's first two years of operation, but the money will not be needed right away and ICBC can invest it and earn millions of dollars of interest and this will help
[ Page 427 ]
cut the cost of this year's insurance."
Well, he didn't cut the cost of this year's insurance, Mr. Speaker, so ICBC's investing the money. Build a case. I know what you're doing. You're tricking the people of British Columbia, a disgraceful performance for a new government. Usually the Socreds wait a little bit longer than you've waited this time. You're right on the people's backs already.
Mr. Speaker, the form of the bill suggests the Socred government should not be trusted to borrow money. I say that for this reason: that the form of the bill is a once-only proposition. It says no Liberal government, no Conservative government in B.C., no NDP government, or for that matter no future Socred government is permitted to borrow money — just this government, using every trick in the book.
But a bill I suggest to you that is nothing more than the Clarkson, Gordon report, a bill that we'll see floating all over this province with all sorts of preamble words added — it's a piece of PR, Mr. Speaker, nothing more, nothing less, an idiotic piece of PR.
Mr. Speaker, in Alberta the Socred government ran deficits for years. And what of Conservatives in Ontario? Sure, they're pretty lucky in Alberta today, Mr. Minister of Finance, through you, Mr. Speaker. What of Conservative Ontario? They talk about these deficits and all the rest of these horrendous things. Ontario this year has announced a deficit of $1.6 billion, and I just saw....
AN HON. MEMBER: They're going to get rid of the PCs.
MR. COCKE: Good, and the NDP will get in. But anyway, in any event, Mr. Speaker, yesterday there was an announcement in Ontario, an additional bond....
AN HON. MEMBER: An NDP government in Ontario?
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, that former great critic of the Socred government, the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) of this province, has finally got over his embarrassment and he's got his tongue back. It's nice to see you back in the debate.
Mr. Speaker, Ontario announced a bond issue yesterday of an additional $650 million. Yes, Mr. Speaker. But this kind of debt that we're raising in this province is debt that is artificial; it's a figment of their Minister of Finance's mind; it's a figment of the Premier's mind, but it had to come up. It had to come up because. they had to prove all those points that they've been suggesting.
Mr. Speaker, I don't think that there is anybody that can suggest, if you look around you at all, at the ways of raising....
MR. COCKE: That was a very, very astute remark, Mr. Minister of Finance. I'm very pleased that you've joined us.
Mr. Speaker, there are ways of raising money in this province, but you know, you don't want to kick your friends in the backside. Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you — and all you have to do is read carefully what is going on, look in the estimates — and I suggest to you that these are the people who will be kicked around: the aged, the poor and the sick. But I'll tell you who won't be by this government, Mr. Speaker — the resource industries.
Let me read out just a few voting lists that occurred in the last few years in British Columbia, voting on issues. Let's take a look at Bill 70, the Petroleum Corporation Act. October 23, 1973. How did they vote on that Act — that Act that provided our last government and will provide you with hundreds of millions of dollars, money that was being bilked right out of the economy? This is the way they voted, Mr. Speaker: "Nays" — listen to them carefully. Listen to the names. You may recognize some. "Nays: Curtis" — oho, I see him — "Gardom, Bennett, Schroeder, Morrison, McClelland, Phillips, Wallace, Anderson, D.A., McGeer, Fraser, Smith, Jordan, Richter, Chabot." Nays! Nays!
MR. COCKE: That's right, it could very well be a police blotter, because by voting "nay" they could easily have deprived the people of British Columbia of hundreds of millions of dollars. What are you going to do with the petroleum corporation now? That was income. That was real income coming into this province.
What about the Mineral Royalties Act? Another police blotter, Mr. Speaker.
AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us about it.
MR. COCKE: Yes, I'll tell you about it: "Curtis, Gibson, Gardom, Schroeder, McClelland, Phillips, Wallace, Williams, L.A., Anderson, D.A., McGeer, Fraser, Jordan, Smith, Chabot — Gibson, Morrison, McClelland, Richter, Phillips, Williams, Anderson, Fraser, Jordan, Smith, Bennett."
AN HON. MEMBER: Recorded!
MR. COCKE: Record it! Mr. Speaker, the reason I bring this up is because these are the people who are exhausting the non-renewable minerals and petroleum
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products in this province. These are the people that are being protected by this government. That's why we have Bill 3. That's why we have this kind of borrowing. That's why we have no imagination as to how to finance this province.
A government, Mr. Speaker, a government who only knows their friends, and who deceive the people of this province.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Order, order!
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Order, Mr. Member.
Are you suggesting that deceit was used by any member of the government?
MR. COCKE: No, by no member.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you. Because if you do, I will have to ask you to withdraw that remark.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, just to carry on for a few minutes. The Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer) trusts no one. He hedges for Health. He hedges for Finance — defence minister today, when the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe) was in trouble.
Mr. Speaker, what are they doing? What are they doing to this province? I suggest to you that we should be raising Cain; they're not really looking carefully at the way the Minister of Finance should be going. He shouldn't be turning to the man on his right or the man on his left. I think he should be going on ahead and looking for sources of funds that can run this province, and that those sources are not another debt on the back of the people. And don't forget, contingent liability is a debt as surely as the kind of debt that has been created.
That $3 billion on B.C. Hydro, and the BCR, all created by that former government, with the exception of a few hundred million dollars, that happened during our course of office, and justly so.
But we've never gone around denying it. We called it debt. Just so much for that. And so, all of a sudden, out of the blue, they come up with this kind of talking. But what are they doing to the reputation of our province?
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health said B.C. is bankrupt — B.C. is bankrupt. The same minister, Mr. Speaker, who destroyed the medical centre and poured millions of dollars of planning money and work down the drain said: "B.C. is bankrupt."
I'll tell you who's bankrupt, Mr. Speaker. I'll tell you who's bankrupt: a government that cannot come up with anything better than that. Anything is better than that in a rich province like this.
In any event, why — why, I ask you — spoil our reputation? Hopefully, the thought won't catch on. Depressions are created by things like that. Read your history. Just think about it — how rumours start and stock markets go and this happens and that happens and all of a sudden you're into a real tailspin. Depressions are often created by impressions. Phone calls from fictitious people, the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) says.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mystery phone calls.
MR. COCKE: Mystery phone calls. How about those mysterious people that are able to pick up briefcases during election campaigns? Have you looked into that since you've been Attorney-General? Interesting, interesting.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's sub judice.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, negative impressions....
MR. LAUK: Sense of humour? How would you like your briefcase stolen? (Laughter.)
AN HON. MEMBER: And your lunch with it. (Laughter.)
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, negative impressions created by a government are very serious impressions to have abroad — very serious impressions indeed.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, that member said that I'm trying to negatize this bill with my derogatory remarks. (Laughter.)
MR. L. NICOLSON (Nelson-Creston): Withdraw!
MR. COCKE: Withdraw that unparliamentary language.
MR. LAUK: It's irrelevant.
MR. COCKE: It's irrelevant, yes.
MR. LEA: Disirregardless. (Laughter.)
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, in any event let's not spoil our reputation any worse than it's been spoiled by remarks such as we've heard and by creating unnecessary debt and foolishness by trying to put together a political pamphlet that we can wave around. This bill is nothing more than a political leaflet — a political leaflet Socred style. The
[ Page 429 ]
minister's messages to the backbenchers are inexcusable because the backbenchers don't really understand what's going on. I'm sure that they're going to use this political leaflet not really knowing the real basis for its being put together.
MR. COCKE: You'll have all the time in the world. You can speak for many, many hours; this debate has just begun.
I suspect that I will not be voting for this bill — I suspect not. Mr. Speaker, this government brings in a bill, waits until 48 hours before they want to have it passed, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, brings it on the floor of the House. Then they say: "Let the Whip system prevail. Let the Whip system work." This is with never a by-your-leave or an announcement — just bringing it forward. That was an imagined deadline proved by what occurred today — proven by what occurred today — because we had these hastily drawn cheques, these hasty orders-in-council swiping $181 million right out from under our noses and into the coffers of ICBC.
AN HON. MEMBER: When they don't need it.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, what was the talk of that 48 hours?
MR. COCKE: Why, Mr. Speaker, are we asked to allow that kind of activity?
This government brings in that kind of bill and then asks us to pass it quickly. They ask us to make the Whip system work. But that's not the way the Whip system works. It doesn't work on a ramming-down-your-throat kind of situation. I find the bill a major disservice, and that's what I announced before. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I spent a lot of time in industry and around a very successful branch....
AN HON. MEMBER: Would you insure that cabinet over there.
MR. COCKE: Yes — as good a record as anyone over there holds in that regard.
You know, I was in that industry long enough to know...
MR. COCKE: Yes, I know what I used to say — that this kind of situation is something that is put upon us because of a very, very traditional grasp of the past, and that is that we do nothing, as a government of this sort — that is, a government that adheres to the establishment — to offend in any way the establishment. Don't live in the past, Mr. Speaker. Take on your friends; take a look at the petroleum corporation and what can be done. Take a look at the other resources of this province. Mr. Speaker, if necessary in this coming fiscal year, without creating debt in the past, why not take a look at a...?
MR. COCKE: Oh, is that right?
Why not take a look, Mr. Speaker, at other ways of financing? Other governments do it; other governments will continue to do it. As I suggested to you, some of the most conservative governments in this country have done it.
I say that there's no way this group over on this side of the House can possibly support Bill 3. I say that Bill 3 was only brought into this House to try to spoil the past government's performance. Mr. Speaker, that was most unfortunate because the past government's performance was a performance of serving people — serving people in health care, serving people in need, serving people in law, serving people wherever they live wherever you find them.
Mr. Speaker, that's the way; that's the way we should have a new government — not a government that's out creating debt, not a government that's trying to do it in such speedy fashion that they confuse everyone. The one group that they're not confusing is this group over here, and this group says: we won't support Bill 3 in any way, shape or form.
I would like to hear the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Phillips) up on this and telling us why we should support the bill. I would just like to hear him get up and tell us all a fairy tale — like he told us in 1973 when he did 14 hours on one bill.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I was enthused about what I was saying.
MR. COCKE: Yes, you were enthused about what you were saying. Mr. Speaker, he read from every....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is my duty to inform you that you have only two minutes left.
MR. COCKE: Okay, Mr. Speaker.
That member, when he was speaking on his bill that he endorsed so enthusiastically, was reading books upside down and everything else in order to carry him through 14 hours of continuous debate.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, if he wasn't reading them.... Oh, sorry, I confused him with someone
[ Page 430 ]
Mr. Speaker, I hope the House will think seriously about this bill; think seriously about the way things are coming together; think seriously about the way they write cheques then pass orders — a cheque that's unnecessary. Why haven't they given us the figure that we asked today? It just takes a phone call to phone ICBC and find out how much cash they have on hand. And it's a lot of cash on hand, Mr. Speaker — $200 million or more, and we're giving them another $181 million. That's enough for us; we're not voting for this bill.
MR. COCKE: The Minister of Finance says that I'm wrong, Mr. Speaker, and there he sat, mum.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for your kind attention to a few words of comment on Bill 3.
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver–Capilano): Mr. Speaker, on second reading of Bill 3 here, we've known for some time in the province that a deficit existed in terms of the books of the province. But we discovered today in a statement from the Minister of Finance that this province is in the extraordinary position of currently not being able to pay our bills, a position where we have cheques outstanding in a far greater amount than we have cash in the bank. I find that a very disturbing situation, and very relevant to this bill we are currently discussing.
The problem arises today because we have in our province a law which says that the province may not go into debt. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this is a thoroughly foolish law, and that the bill we are being asked to pass today doesn't remedy this anywhere into the future. It may remedy it for the next few months, but because the government doesn't have this kind of financial flexibility we are in a situation where bad legislative management has led to non-sufficient-fund cheques being issued in this province.
Let me recap quickly the figures that the Minister of Finance gave this House today. There are $245 million worth of cheques outstanding today.
AN HON. MEMBER: Rubber-chequed bills.
MR. GIBSON: There is $14 million more in payroll cheques going out today.
AN HON. MEMBER: Three-dollar Bill!
MR. GIBSON: That is a total of $259 million. The minister advised us that there is no significant revenue expected in today. Less cash in the bank, as of today, of about $25 million; that brings us down to $234 million that cannot be covered.
Now, Mr. Speaker, of that $234 million we understand, from the minister across the floor of the House, that $181 million of that is ICBC — a cheque issued yesterday under authority granted today. That cheque, presumably, can be held back from the banking system for a few days; therefore that cheque, presumably, won't bounce as long as the ICBC obeys the dictates of its political masters and simply keeps that cheque clutched close to its corporate bosom now that it's done its job of establishing where the deficit lies.
HON. K.R. MAIR (Minister of Consumer Services): I've heard of corporate bail, but never corporate bosom. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBSON: That reminds me of a great line that Churchill had once. He was told of a new MP by the name of "Bossom" and he said: "Bossom, Bossom — that's a strange name; neither one nor the other." (Laughter.)
AN HON. MEMBER: Can we have the Blues of that?
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Consumer Services has very effectively led me away from my train of thought. I'll have to find it again.
AN HON. MEMBER: Well, it wasn't much to begin with.
MR. GIBSON: That's a matter of opinion, Mr. Member, a matter which we shall so vigorously contest in your home riding at the next opportunity.
So, Mr. Speaker, after all that, even if the ICBC decides not to present its cheque of $181 million until the funds are available, there is $53 million outstanding on ordinary account today that the province has no money to cover. So we were treated to the spectacle of the Premier having to advise us in the House today that the government would be in an embarrassing position if those cheques were presented, and it certainly would be.
I have endeavoured to ascertain, and I believe my understanding is correct, that within that $53 million figure there are no other significant Crown-controlled amounts that can be withheld from presentation. I haven't been able to nail that down absolutely, but that is my understanding. So if that's the case, this is a serious situation and obviously some kind of authority is needed to get the government out of the mess that it got itself into.
[ Page 431 ]
And it is into this mess because of the foolish laws. It's into this mess because....
MR. GIBSON: The deficit is there, Mr. Minister. There's no question of that. There's a cash shortage now, though, and that cash shortage....
HON. E.M. WOLFE (Minister of Finance): We got ourselves into it?
MR. GIBSON: You got yourselves into it, yes, because of the way you have managed the business of this House, and because of the rules that the previous Social Credit government put on the management of the financial accounts of this province.
There is currently sitting in the coffers of the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia something in excess of $150 million there in cash.
MR. LAUK: Considerably in excess.
MR. GIBSON: Far more than enough if the means existed to look after it — far more than enough to transfer, for the time being, to the account of the province and cover those outstanding non-sufficient-fund cheques. But because of the archaic financial laws of this province, put in place by the former Social Credit government, there is no way of doing that, and this bill does not remedy that situation.
MR. LAUK: What about that cheque, Evan?
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you that non-sufficient-fund cheques should in no circumstance be issued by the government of this province.
MR. LAUK: Even the paperhanger.
MR. GIBSON: In no circumstances.
MR. LAUK: Rubber-cheque Bill and Evan the paperhanger.
MR. GIBSON: First of all, it is a practice that erodes parliamentary control of funds. Secondly, I am not sure it is legal.
I hope that the distinguished counsel from Kamloops (Hon. Mr. Mair) might in due course take his place in this debate and give us the benefit of some free legal advice on this question.
HON. MR. MAIR: Oh, not free!
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Member, you are being paid an awfully good salary.
MR. GIBSON: It's to give the people free advice, Mr. Minister.
But irrespective of what the learned counsel from Kamloops might tell us, I do know it is a fact that the courts have not traditionally looked with favour on cheques knowingly issued with an insufficiency of funds to cover them. I think that this House deserves to know from the minister in closing debate on second reading who certified the issue of these cheques. It's normally done within the Department of Finance. Did the minister himself? I assume it was the minister himself who signed these cheques. Did he do so knowing that there was not enough money to cover them? If that is correct, Mr. Speaker, I suggest it is an absolutely incredible move. I suggest as the hon. member for Prince Rupert says: "One law for the people and another law for the government." If you and I did that, Mr. Speaker, in our private capacities, we would receive a visitation from out creditors or from our bankers or from the police if it carried on long enough.
AN HON. MEMBER: From the Attorney-General.
AN HON. MEMBER: Go to jail.
MR. GIBSON: From the Attorney-General? In his pink shirt?
Especially, Mr. Speaker, non-sufficient-fund cheques should not have been issued to the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia at this time because it is swimming in cash. It has more money than it can possibly use this month, and the next month, and the month after. The only reason for the issue of this NSF cheque to the ICBC is a political one.
Hon. members, I almost apologize for having led you into applauding because I have to go on to say that I think the political reason is not invalid. I think it proper that the loss should be fixed in the last fiscal year. But it should have been arranged.... No, no, you've got the wrong writer. I write my own stuff, Mr. Minister.
AN HON. MEMBER: Where did you get that flower? You look like a character out of Damon Runyan today.
MR. GIBSON: Harry the Horse? I hope Hansard recorded all of that. Parts are going to seem strange.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's fair enough to proceed in a way which will fix the fiscal year in which the loss was incurred, which was the last fiscal year in which the loss was incurred, which was the last fiscal year and the one before it. But why wasn't it done legally
[ Page 432 ]
with proper forward planning? What's the procedure going to be, how much washing of money back and forth is there going to be, and how much is it going to cost the people of this province in financial fees? Let me trace the possible course of events.
First of all, the government pays the ICBC with an NSF cheque. Secondly, the directors of ICBC, including the hon. Attorney-General and others, get together and consider this cheque and decide that it needn't be cashed today or tomorrow or at any time that's inconvenient to the government. Next, the government in due course receives some kind of borrowing authority from this House and scuttles down to their favorite bank and borrows money from the bank.... I don't know what their favorite bank is, Mr. Member; perhaps their favorite credit union. I don't know.
MR. GIBSON: They borrow the money from the bank, at an attractive rate, as one of the members from over there just suggested — that's right, Mr. Member — and then the ICBC comes along to that bank and presents their cheque.
Now at this point, Mr. Speaker, the government has a debt to the bank of — on ICBC account — $181 million. The ICBC now has in its account at the same or a different bank something well in excess of $300 million. We're obviously in a strange situation here because the government is paying interest on the one hand and a lot of money is not being used on the other.
So the government then borrows some money back from the ICBC under the authority of this Act paying, we hope, a fair rate of interest and takes that money and pays the bank. That is the way it goes. You push the middle valve down and the money goes round and round. But what comes out the side, Mr. Speaker? How much in the way of financial fees are the people of British Columbia going to have to pay for this transaction, which could have been so much simpler had this bill been brought before the House in proper time?
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the mismanagement of the government in this regard does not bode well for its future financial planning, and I would hope that as a result of this exercise we will be able on any given day to ask the Minister of Finance how much we have and how much we owe, say within $10 million, and he'll be able to tell us. Because I'm surprised that we have to arrive to this day, the conclusion of our fiscal year, the day when the law of this province, albeit a foolish law, says that we are not allowed to have any debts and be told in this House that there's $245 million outstanding and $25 million in the bank.
A great deal of this is because of the accounting practice we have in this province. If the government wanted to fix the blame on the ICBC — on the past government — they had to make a cash transfer this year. If we had an accrual accounting system instead of a cash accounting system, that kind of silly little hassle would be avoided.
If we had a capital accounting system that separated the difference between capital expenditure and current expenditure, then we might finally get some decent perspective in this province on the question of whether or not the province should go into debt for items of capital expenditure — items chargeable properly to future generations and not all to this year. If we had a proper consolidation of public accounts — not just the government but closely related government agencies — so that we could follow the cash flows through ICBC and the B.C. Ferries and all of the separate accounts, then we would not be subject to the kind of flim-flam that we had in the budget debate claiming that expenditures were only going up 5.4 per cent when really they were going up 16 per cent.
What I suggest, Mr. Speaker, with great respect to the Premier and the Minister of Finance, is that it would be an excellent thing during the course of the next year to set up a study of the accounting practices of this province. The minister comes in as a brand new minister; he is not necessarily wedded to the practices of the past. I think if he could set up a task force in his department to study the procedures of other governments in other parts of Canada, in other parts of the world, to study in particular the relevance of accrual accounting, of capital versus current accounting in British Columbia, and the proper consolidation of public accounts, we might have at this time next year a far more coherent and understandable financial position to present to this Legislature and to the people of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, Bill 3 is untimely; it is badly brought forward.
MR. GIBSON: It is truly unfortunate. It is, I suspect, asking for far more borrowing authority than will, in the event, be required. That is not necessarily unwise; you have to keep some coverage on that kind of thing. We have to have it because of the circumstances of today, because of those NSF cheques that are out. I say it's disgraceful that those cheques were issued to put this Legislature in that kind of position. I hope that the people of British Columbia understood completely and thoroughly that this government has, in fact, attempted to blackmail the Legislature...
MR. CHABOT: Nonsense! It's the same as the Supply Bill.
[ Page 433 ]
MR. GIBSON: ...into passing a piece of legislation because the government has entered into commitments that the Legislature must support for the good name and credit of this province. That is a bad, bad thing.
The hon. member opposite says it's the same as the Supply Bill. He's absolutely incorrect. We are voting the Supply Bill before the expenditure of the money in the coming fiscal year. That's the important thing and, as you should know, Mr. Member, the comptroller-general is not authorized to authorize the expenditure of money in the new estimates until such time as that interim supply is passed. It's a completely different thing.
MR. GIBSON: Who's going to pay this bill? Who's going to pay the bill with which the Legislature was brought under duress to a position where we had to make good the marker of the government? That's where we are today, and I think there's little alternative. I think it has been handled very, very badly and I hope the people of British Columbia understand that. I hope that they can all look into their own experience and know that they cannot present NSF cheques to the bank or to their creditors and get away with it. It's a shocking thing that this government has admitted that on the floor of this House today.
HON. MR. MAIR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. To listen to my friend opposite, and I may have missed what he said, but I thought I understood him to say that the government was blackmailing the Legislature. If that's so, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that that is unparliamentary language and ought to be withdrawn.
MR. SPEAKER: On the point of order, did the hon. member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson) say, in those words, that the government was blackmailing the members of the Legislature?
MR. GIBSON: Yes, I did, Mr. Speaker.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Withdraw!
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, I think that's the type of language that would best not be used in this House. It casts a slur on all of the members of the Legislature.
AN HON. MEMBER: Heavens, no!
MR. SPEAKER: Order! I would ask the hon. member to withdraw it, please.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw it and replace it with the intent of the words — unacceptable coercion.
HON. MR. MAIR: Point of order. It seems to me that a crime has been alleged, and whether you call it coercion or blackmail, the fact remains that it is a crime. I suggest that the language has not been improved by the member for North Vancouver–Capilano.
MR. SPEAKER: Could I say to the hon. members this? It's a well-accepted practice in parliament that a member cannot make a qualified withdrawal or withdraw a statement and replace it with other words that mean the same thing. So I would ask the hon. member to just withdraw the statements that he made when he indicated blackmail of the members of this Legislature.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't, I don't think, replacing it with words that meant the same thing. The impression I intended to convey is that the Legislature had been placed in a position by the actions of the government where it had no alternative, if it wished to maintain its good name, than to pay a certain bill or a certain penalty. And it would strike me that that is not an incorrect definition of the word blackmail. But since that seemed to offend the sensibilities of the learned gentleman from Kamloops, I was willing to replace it with, perhaps what you might call, a word of a different colour. But it seems to me that in any case, the description is correct and parliamentary.
HON. MR. MAIR: With respect, it's not a question of the sensitivities of myself or this side of the House. I suggest to Your Honour that the words are unparliamentary, that they suggest misconduct that is prescribed by law, and ought to be withdrawn without qualification.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, order! The expression that was used, as I understand it, is "blackmailing the members of this Legislature." In using that term, I suggest to you that you did cast a reflection on all of the members of this Legislature. So would you withdraw that phrase? If you had used the first phrase, instead of the word blackmail, it might have been acceptable in parliamentary terms, but what you have tried to do now is sort of skate around the issue and substitute words. Would you withdraw it for the benefit of all of the members of the Legislature, please?
MR. GIBSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, may I assure you
[ Page 434 ]
that I had no intention of imparting improper motives to any member of this House. I was trying to describe the position that it seemed to me that the government had put this House in. But if Your Honour rules that the word is unparliamentary....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Let the member proceed.
MR. GIBSON: I am naturally prepared to withdraw it.
MR. G.H. KERSTER (Coquitlam): Mr. Speaker, hon. members, we have listened to many things in the debate last evening and again today....
MR. KERSTER: Those dulcet tones getting to you?
AN HON. MEMBER: Over to you.
MR. KERSTER: Put away your sling-shot.
But I really can't believe that the hon. member for North Vancouver–Capilano really believed what he just said, because if he does, not our economy but Hawaii's and Maui's economy is definitely in trouble. Now if that's objectionable, I'll withdraw.
MR. GIBSON: No, just mention the name of the resort, Mr. Member.
MR. KERSTER: Maui Lu; that's a commercial. No, we did have an "aloha" extended earlier from the hon. second member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi), who has made a speedy exit. At least we're not playing a shell game.
We spent considerable time last night, as I said, listening to frivolous conversations and readings from newspaper articles....
MR. LAUK: Don't lecture the House.
MR. KERSTER: No, I'll leave that up to your child actors, during the debate on Bill 3. Recently the hon. Leader of the Opposition referred to what he interpreted as disparaging remarks about some Commonwealth nations and their socialist governments in the conclusion of the hon. Minister of Finance's speech. Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer you to two articles, one which appeared in the Province newspaper this morning. I'm not going to be reading the newspaper to you — just an observation by the Province. It said: "Given the red tape involved in going through the External Affairs Department the hon. member, who shall remain unmentioned, who was mentioned earlier, might just as well have sent his own formal apology for what he called the 'scandalous allegations.'"
Now this is again quoting from the Province, but we can just see the replies, if I may quote these, Mr. Speaker. This one — an alleged reply now — from Malcolm Fraser, the Prime Minister of Australia: "Please don't apologize. The socialist government that I defeated in December has run us into a $2.5 billion deficit and 6 per cent unemployment."
Now this one — and alleged again — from Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister of New Zealand: "No hard feelings at all. The socialist government I defeated in December had run us into a $2 billion deficit and 15 per cent inflation."
From Britain, and, of course, again an alleged....
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, would you please relate your remarks to Bill 3?
MR. KERSTER: Well, I'm relating my remarks to statements that were made in regard to the deficit financing, Bill 3, relative to the budget and statements made, and I'd like to, if I may, Mr. Speaker, finish the last quotation.
This one from Britain: "Don't mention it; the socialist government I quit this month has run us into a 25 per cent inflation, soaring unemployment, slumping pound and $8 billion trade deficit." That one was allegedly signed by Harold Wilson, but it had a P.S.: "Didn't know British Columbia had a king."
MR. LAUK: That's it, eh?
MR. KERSTER: Wait your turn. That was cute; dull, but cute.
Secondly, the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) quoted a recent article printed in the Los Angeles Times. In his quotes he singled out the hon. Premier and the Social Credit party for what I consider irresponsible criticism by omission. If I may fill in some of the blanks that he left out, the commissions from the same article, I believe it will help set that record straight.
I believe this is the article that he was quoting from yesterday. He only read very small portions. I believe his quote was something to the effect of: "The Bennetts belong to the Social Credit Party — and Socreds in the local press — a party at the opposite political spectrum from the NDP, conservative in its policies, and a history of being cozy with big business." That's something along the line of what he quoted.
Now what he forgot to mention:
"But enough of British Columbia's voters brought this to mind in December to put the
[ Page 435 ]
Bennett Social Credit government into office. Indeed, Mr. Barrett's three-year legacy of socialism found a rapid acceleration of government inroads into many phases of provincial life. Among them" — these are infringements on freedom now — "were nationalization of several companies, some of which are understood to be in financial difficulty. These included producers of natural gas, forest products, land developers, local steamship services and creation of the star-crossed ICBC insurance corporation."
That was in the same article, but he neglected to read that.
MR. NICOLSON: Read on. Keep reading.
MR. KERSTER: I am. Are you listening? Good, listen and you'll learn. Okay.
ICBC, back to it again: "The three-year-old government auto insurance firm has contributed in no small part to British Columbia's financial distress." Now he didn't read that part. I'd say that was an omission, a gross omission.
"The firm, which started out with the noble intentions
of plowing back premium surpluses to keep rates low, lost $34 million
in its first financial year ending February 28. Then it lost $147
million in the most recent financial year, February 29, 1976.
Additionally, ICBC officials have estimated that if the Barrett
government" — and listen to this one — "had remained in power and
implemented its proposal to raise auto insurance rates only 19 per cent
" — and that was questionable; it was really 34 per cent — "the 1977
MR. KERSTER: Listen now. Listen. Try listening.
MR. LAUK: Have you got a speech of your own?
MR. KERSTER: Yes, I'm getting to that in just a moment. "The 1977 loss would have amounted to $250 million."
MR. KERSTER: I'd like to remind the hon. member, through the Speaker, of the conduct of members, as was brought out here recently — section 17(2): "When a member is speaking, no member shall pass between him and the Chair, nor interrupt him except to raise a point of order." I'd appreciate that courtesy, hon. member.
MR. NICOLSON: It works both ways.
MR. KERSTER: I'm learning.
MS. R. BROWN (Vancouver-Burrard): I hope so.
MR. KERSTER: Rapidly. I have an answer for that one too, but I won't go into it.
I think that the only way I can really describe this bill is: unfortunate. It's unfortunate in the fact that it's not been necessary for this great province to borrow money to pay its bills for over 20 years. Unfortunate and disgracefully shameful, downright shameful, to have to borrow money and pay interest on a legacy of poor judgment and irresponsibility in the former government's management of our affairs.
Like it or not, I feel that this government places this bill before this assembly only with regret after finding itself being placed in a position of having to make difficult and agonizing decisions to correct inherited deficiencies. It's my sincere hope that such a bill will never again, by necessity, be placed before this assembly.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Speaker, I would first of all like to take this opportunity to do something which I was derelict in not doing in the first opportunity I had to speak, and that is to congratulate you upon your appointment as Speaker.
If I might just digress for a few seconds, with respect I might point out that when I did sit on the cabinet benches and was in question period, Mr. Speaker, I regret that I might have sometimes been somewhat vexatious to our Speaker at that time, Mr. Dowding. I did. But I was corrected, of course, by Mr. Dowding when I gave lengthy answers — and I tended to sometimes indulge in debate during giving answers in question period.
I would like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that as a member of the opposition I will attempt to remain in order when asking questions. I'll try to keep them short and to the point, and not try to do that. I hope that all members would maybe think about today and think about how we can make that work.
But as this is on Bill 3, Mr. Speaker, a bill which this official opposition is going to oppose...
MR. NICOLSON: You know, that member — the previous member who spoke — the hon. member for Coquitlam (Mr. Kerster) was quoting an article from the Los Angeles Times. He talked about ICBC, and he criticized someone else who had used the article, but didn't read the whole article. After he talked about ICBC he stopped; he didn't go on to talk about how that article, in a very even-handed manner, talked about some of the pluses and maybe some of the minuses on the ledger, how they praised and pointed out that we had taken companies that had
[ Page 436 ]
been utter failures in the private sector and had turned them into profit-making companies. Not only that, but we have preserved jobs: jobs in Prince Rupert, jobs in Ocean Falls, jobs in Nelson. It's rather interesting to see some of the members who have returned to this House representing those areas like Castlegar, Prince Rupert...
AN HON. MEMBER: Casa Loma.
MR. NICHOLSON: ...Ocean Falls, Nelson.
Mr. Speaker, there are deficits and there are deficits. The Liberal leader said that we should have a better, more up-to-date method of keeping the books of this province. I quite agree with him. What would the depreciated value of this very chamber have been prior to the NDP taking office? That would have been in a fantastic deficit position because that group, in the previous time they were government, went ahead and just let this building go to wrack and ruin. Right over our heads there were the tents of plastic to catch water that came through every time it rained. That's a deficit, Mr. Speaker, a deficit that had to be paid sometime. You know, you can put off the repairs to this building; you could put them off for 10 years, if you wanted to, but eventually it would crumble about us and it would have to be written off.
With that bottom-line group over there I have no doubt that they wouldn't hesitate to write this off. Oh, they'd probably move us up in the new 55-storey building they had over in Vancouver. They have to respect for parliamentary traditions, Mr. Speaker. No, they had allowed this building to be run down, and that was a multi-million dollar deficit, but it didn't show up in their books.
In development corporations, some of which I was on the board of directors, it was a different way of showing a deficit or a profit. We took into account assets — increases in assets. We took into account depreciation — values of assets. But in this type of bookkeeping this isn't done.
In fact, if the affairs of this province in 1972 were compared with 1975, it would show a tremendous growth in the real assets of this province, even in bottom-line dollar terms.
MR. NICOLSON: That's true, that's true.
You know, Mr. Speaker, this bill comes about very unnecessarily. It comes about because of a mess that was promulgated perhaps through ignorance. Perhaps the Premier and the opposition MLAs of that time, prior to the 1975 election of December, perhaps they really did believe that somehow, for three years, we had managed to disguise a financial mess while all the time we were expanding services, we were building housing for people that they could afford.
If you look at the housing starts for about the last six or eight months, you'll notice that they finally turned the corner, after the years of neglect by that group. I said it would take some time to get going, but they turned the corner and they're reaping highs as compared to every previous month of the previous year.
Mr. Speaker, they've turned the corner so much that the new Minister of Housing (Hon. Mr. Curtis) thought that there was no rental housing crisis. Now I wouldn't go as far as to say that, Mr. Speaker, but those are assets, Mr. Speaker. Assets that would show up on the bottom line, and they're also assets in terms of the needs of human individuals that have need for basic things such as shelter, security.
Now this bill came about because the Premier, during the election, and before the election, went around saying that there was a financial mess, that we had to clean it up. And he promulgated this so much, he inculcated his members and all of his party supporters, and they went running around.
There is that master of synecdoche over there. Mr. Speaker; I hope that isn't unparliamentary. But they went around and they spread this, and they talked about it, and they talked about it, and they thought about it. They sort of washed in each other's bathwater, until finally they actually came to believe it, and they got people to believe it too. They got people upset, concerned. Perhaps this was the case.
Then it became an obligation to this government, after they were elected, to prove it, to prove that there actually was a financial mess in the province; and I think they really believed there was. I think most of the back bench still believe there is.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, they said: "We'll get an independent auditing firm, chartered accountants, to bring out the Clarkson, Gordon report." And they assigned, first of all, somebody who worked down just below this chamber, and then it unfortunately leaked out that he was a member of the Point-Grey constituency association.
MR. A.B. MACDONALD (Vancouver East): What was he doing there?
MR. NICOLSON: Well, he was a financial expert at getting campaign contributions and various other things, and we need people like that in politics, Mr. Speaker. We need people like that in politics. Parties depend on that type of thing.
But the firm felt that that perhaps was a little unwise, and they took him off. They put someone else on, and then we heard about all the preparations and the party and everything for the press, and how things were getting done, real big, in big style, and we waited for the announcement. People were very concerned, and we waited, and they postponed it. They postponed it again, and arranged that it was
[ Page 437 ]
going to be on a Friday and then some other day, and some other day.
But finally we heard the Premier, and the press people, prime time. He came on with his message: "Where British Columbia stands." And he said if people want a copy of the Clarkson, Gordon report, send in to his office and he'd be pleased to send them copies.
What he didn't tell the people was that he also was going to send them a copy of his speech. The Premier put a political speech in with what they would have us believe was an independent report by an auditing firm of chartered accountants.
AN HON. MEMBER: Politics!
MR. NICOLSON: I think that Clarkson, Gordon went to great lengths to say that they were instructed to consolidate information that was handed to them by various government departments and governmental ministers and deputy ministers, and I think they went to great lengths to point out the problem.
You know, I can't help but feel sympathetic towards my constituents in Nelson-Creston because a lot of them really seriously want to grasp the conflicting statements about the financial health of the province.
The main source of the confusion lies in the fact that the Premier made this political speech and annexed it to something that was supposed to be an independent outside audit and then it didn't turn out to be an audit; it turned out to be a review.
After reading it — not the Premier's speech but the review — I couldn't take serious issue. I thought they were darned decent chaps to point out some of the aspects of it. For instance, they made an honest effort to show how easily deficits and surpluses can be manipulated by the timing of expenditures and the receiving of revenues.
They point out that the revenues for January, February and March are based on estimates as supplied by various government departments, and that they were instructed by the government that the government intended to transfer $175 million to ICBC prior to March 31, 1976, and they had included this in the building up of this $500 million deficit.
You know, that was a predetermined course of action by this government, and I made a press release on it on March 2, 1976, and that was some time after the report was released. The House wasn't sitting then, Mr. Speaker, and if they had intended to bring in this bill, and if it was so urgent, they could have called the House together. They could have debated this bill. They didn't have to bring it in just a couple of days before the end of the fiscal year.
The timing of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is most unfortunate. I don't know what euphemisms a member would have to use to say what the government is doing to the opposition. Maybe you would accept "whitemail", Mr. Speaker. That's a term suggested to me by the hon. first member for Vancouver-Burrard (Ms. Brown).
The Premier claims in his speech, annexed to the review, that "the financial review discloses an alarming trend. Personal income taxes are the fastest growing revenue services; the 5 per cent sales tax is next." You know, I was disturbed when I saw that remark because I took that to be that we could be in for an increase in taxes.
In a press release of March 2, 1976, I warned the constituents in Nelson-Creston what this government was up to and that they were in for an increase in people taxes, in regressive taxes, particularly in the area of sales and income tax.
I made the prediction and, unfortunately, I was borne out by the actions of this government. Between March 31, 1972, and March 31, 1975, the combined revenues of personal income tax and 5 per cent sales tax increased from $512 million to $920 million — an increase of 80 per cent, Mr. Speaker — while in the same period the combined revenues from corporation tax, lands and forests, minerals, petroleum, energy and natural gas increased from $244 million to $628 million — an increase of 180 per cent.
When the Premier made that speech and he talked about the alarming trend of taxes such as personal income tax and 5 per cent sales tax and referred to them as being the greatest growth factor, he left in the minds of the people of Nelson-Creston the impression that these were the fastest growing rates of tax in the last three years when, in fact, that was not the case.
The fastest growing taxes fell on corporations, natural resources and other such things which, when we were government, this opposition sought to increase the return of to the people of British Columbia.
Another thing with which I took much exception and which helps to create this myth that we have to borrow S400 million by tonight...
MRS. JORDAN: Did you teach math?
MR. NlCOLSON: ...is when the Premier said: "One comfort I can give you is that governments over the year have built up sizable amounts of cash; $143 million of this remains." What does "remains" mean? When I looked at it I thought that perhaps that's all that's left from the days prior to 1972 when his father was the Premier. But in fact on September 15, 1972, when the NDP administration took office, we inherited a cash surplus of only $98.5 million. In other words, there wasn't just $143 million remaining. It has been increased, Mr. Speaker, about $45 million. And in addition to that, we had reduced the outstanding parity bond instant debt. There was a
[ Page 438 ]
$253.5 million debt in parity bonds outstanding. And when we handed over the reins to the new administration there was only $110 million — or it was reduced by $110 million.
You know, the Premier, in that annex to the Clarkson, Gordon report, also referred to special funds, and he left some confusion in the minds of the people of Nelson-Creston. He said that "many of the funds established for special purposes that depend on capital funding by the government are short of cash or out of it altogether." Then he cited as an example the fact that the Green Belt Protection Fund, which originally had $25 million, would only have $2.8 million by the end of March.
You know, expenditures were made by the previous Social Credit government and they were made by the NDP government from this fund, but the assets acquired in terms of real accounting practice were considerably in excess of $25 million. Just one example which I often have the opportunity to drive by is in the riding of the hon. member from Boundary-Similkameen, just east of Grand Forks. There's a winter range which was purchased while we were government, Mr. Member, and there are little signs there so you can identify it just as well as you can identify pieces of property in Delta that were acquired by the previous Social Credit government. But the Premier said that of the $25 million in this one little instance, only $2.8 million remains.
Well, that money was there to be spent for green belt protection and you can't protect green belts if you don't buy it. If some people give it, Mr. Speaker; some fine people like those people the Ruckles from the Gulf Islands will donate this, but for a lot of it you have to pay. Then he talked about the transfer of funds from the Third Crossing Fund, but what he did not say and what got the people of Nelson-Creston confused, Mr. Speaker, was that the perpetual funds and other special funds stood at only $350.7 million on March 31, 1972, and as of March 31, 1976, they had been increased to $487.8 million, according to the Clarkson, Gordon report.
You know that while some of the cash funds had been turned into real estate assets and don't count in that $487.8 million amount, even the cash amount in those special funds was increased during the NDP administration. So is it any wonder that people might be confused?
Well, thank goodness that Clarkson, Gordon did a little bit better job, and if one had the patience to read the report, they tried to dispel some of the confusion. They pointed out that they were instructed to co-ordinate the production of certain unaudited financial information for the year ending March 31, 1976, from information supplied by various government departments, Crown corporations, boards and agencies.
And they also pointed out that the timing of expenditure or the receipt of revenues can cause deficit or surplus within any given year. They pointed out, for instance, that if an expenditure was made, and they used the date March 31...and that's today. They said that if an expenditure's made on March 31 it will go into last year's budget, and it could help make a deficit, could contribute toward a deficit. On the other hand, if they chose not to collect a revenue, maybe coming from some Crown corporation and if they chose not to make it until April 1, which is tomorrow, then this could create a surplus for next year. It could help to create a surplus for next year or, if it were collected today, it could help to create a surplus in this year.
So that this day when we stand here debating this bill is a very important day as is pointed out by Clarkson, Gordon. They went to other great lengths to show that while they had produced estimates that revenues would be $2.9001 billion and expenditures would be $3.4411 billion, thus producing a deficit for the year of $541 million, you were very careful to explain how that happened, how it could have been something else, how it might have been a surplus.
It could have been more; it could have been less. Of course, the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) has gone to great length.... Perhaps he's a modest man, Mr. Speaker — because the member for Nanaimo made some predictions, upon the Clarkson, Gordon report coming out. He said that estimates of certain revenues were perhaps a little bit too low, and, of course, he pointed out expenditures that weren't necessary — like transferring $175 million to ICBC.
He talked about revenues from forest industry; he talked about revenues from sales tax — that indications about retail sales might just have put Clarkson, Gordon a little bit out in their estimates.
He's not a man to say "I told you so." He's a modest man. But you know, I think he's a financial genius. He told us, when Clarkson, Gordon were saying that the revenue for privileges, licences and natural resource taxes and royalties would be $387.2 million, I believe that the member for Nanaimo took exception with some of these estimates. He said they were wrong, and we see in the revised estimates in the budget that they're $477.8 million — a discrepancy of $80.6 million. A discrepancy of 20 per cent between the figures in the Clarkson, Gordon report — no fault of Clarkson, Gordon — based on information supplied, in less than three months.
When we did estimates, Mr. Speaker — you will recall, we spent some time on estimates last year — prior to the estimates, of course, the departments supply information. In fact, that was when they supplied that information; it would be more than 15 months ago. But in 15 months I don't think they got out 20 per cent, such as these estimates got out in less than three months. What's going on? What kind of a
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That was an abuse of the reputation.... But I don't think that the reputation of that firm will suffer like some other accounting firms that suffered at the hands of the previous Social Credit governments, because I think that people acknowledge that Clarkson, Gordon made it very clear that they were doing what was instructed.
We had some debate, and the debate still rages, I guess, even on interim supply. Some questions haven't been answered, and the government is prevailing upon the opposition and asking us to look after our duties. Why should we look after the duties on this side when they have neglected to do anything responsible over there for three and a half months?
We'll be responsible, though, Mr. Speaker. We'll be responsible in exposing Bill 3 as the cheapest political charade that has ever been perpetrated in this chamber.
It is pure politics, Mr. Speaker. It is a pure commitment to live up to promises made by that group when they were seeking office, and that is not our responsibility. We don't have to live up to their promises; it's up to them to back them up with facts instead of such a political charade and the abuse of the integrity of fine upstanding organizations of chartered accountants.
Today we heard the most incredible thing — that faced with this, and faced with the balance of cash on hand and outstanding cheques, including a voucher cheque to ICBC in the order of $181 million that was only today announced as an order in council.... What are the headlines going to say up in Nelson-Creston tomorrow? What will the Nelson Daily News have as its headlines? "Government is NSF." What a headline!
MR. NICOLSON: They still have the chance.
Mr. Minister of Finance, go out. Stop payment on that cheque; do it immediately; do your duty.
AN HON. MEMBER: He doesn't have to; there's no funds. It's going to bounce.
MR. NICOLSON: You know, they want to create this deficit. If you wanted to create a deficit why did you have to pass warrants of $7 million, the details of which are still a mystery to the House when you have to suddenly, mysteriously and in great sense of largesse send money out to the municipalities, which will eventually have to go to them — but unexpectedly?
AN HON. MEMBER: Paid in advance. Why are you doing that?
MR. NICOLSON: You know, if you really want to build up that deficit, though, Mr. Minister of Finance, phone the mayor of Nelson, phone up mayor Louis Maglio. Tell him: "We'll give you an advance for the lakefront project." Give him an advance for the lakefront project. You can pump it up another million; you can pump it up $2 million if you like, Mr. Minister; I won't object.
MR. NICOLSON: If you want to pump up your deficit, if you want to play your political games, phone up the mayor of Creston, Cec Lamb. "We want to give you $100,000, $250,000 — what do you want, Lamb? We'll help you pay for that land acquisition for bypass of the town of Creston — for improvement of the downtown area."
AN HON. MEMBER: Throwing the money away.
MR. NICOLSON: "We'll make a special grant through the Minister of Municipal Affairs" (Hon. Mr. Curtis). If you want to pump up that deficit, phone up mayor Hearn in Salmo; give him a call. Call him tonight; make a long distance call, Mr. Minister, and tell him that maybe some of the recreational facilities that are needed in Salmo can be passed before March 31, before the end of the fiscal year, and "we'll blame it on those nasty NDP people. Oh, yes, sir, we'll blame it on them. And I'll tell you something else if you want a big laugh, we're going to stick 'em for $181 million on ICBC. We passed an order-in-council today. We don't know if it's legal, but we think it's good politics." That's what you should phone up and say.
MR. NICOLSON: Then, you know, I might be a little bit.... I might have to consider how I was going to vote. But I know you won't do that. No, you just think of the $181 million to ICBC — it's big enough. I might ask the leader of the government to entertain an adjournment of this debate.
Mr. Nicolson moves adjournment of the debate.
Hon. Mr. Waterland files answers to questions 12 and 13. (See appendix.)
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, I noticed that the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson) is not in his place at the moment, but I do have a report, which I discussed with him a little earlier, and he knows what's in the report so I'm going to file it
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with the House at this time. Hon. members, I have now had an opportunity to consider the point of order raised March 29 by the hon. member for North Vancouver–Capilano, namely that certain words within the budget speech are unparliamentary. As I understand it, the words complained of are contained in page 35 of the speech as printed, and read as follows, and I quote:
"Mr. Speaker, the parties that expound this irresponsible use of public funds are on the skids everywhere in the world. The people have thrown the socialists out in Australia. They have been thrown out in New Zealand. They are hanging on the ropes in Britain, and their leader has quit, and they have been thrown out here."
The hon. member who raised the point of order quoted from the 18th edition of May, at page 417, which reads, and I quote:
"Nor may opprobrious reflections be cast in debate on sovereigns and rulers over, or governments of, independent Commonwealth territories, or governments in amity with Her Majesty or their representatives in this country."
I find that the word "opprobrious" is variously defined as "abusive" or "vituperative," and I note that the opening sentence or the passage complained of referred not to government or other nations but to parties, and, accordingly, I must find that the words complained of do not constitute an unparliamentary abuse or vituperation towards a friendly government as contemplated by the authority.
Hon. Mr. Gardom presents the annual report of the Fire Marshal for 1974.
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
12 Mr. D'Arcy asked the Hon. the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources the following questions:
1. How many tons of copper concentrates were produced in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975?
2. What was (a) the estimated value of these concentrates and (b) the royalty return to the Province on an annual basis?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows:
"1 and 2:
"¹ Shipments have been used rather than production as this is the level that a valuation is applied.
"³ The Mineral Royalty Returns and Mineral Land Tax Assessments are subject to audit and may be adjusted at a later date.
"† Based on 1974 production revenue."
13 Mr. D'Arcy asked the Hon. the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources the following questions:
With reference to coal mined in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975—
1. What was the total tonnage of coal mined in each year?
2. What was the total amount of royalty or land tax in lieu of royalty paid on coal mined in each year?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows:
"1 and 2:
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"² Based on 1973 production.
"³ Based on 1974 production."