1976 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 31st Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MAY 11, 1976
[ Page 1605 ]
Committee of Supply: Department of Education estimates.
On vote 39.
Mrs. Dailly — 1605
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1605
Mr. Lauk — 1610
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1612
Ms. Brown — 1613
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1616
Mr. Gibson — 1618
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1618
Mr. Lea — 1618
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1619
Ms. Sanford — 1620
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1620
Mrs. Dailly — 1622
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1622
Ms. Brown — 1623
Mr. Cocke — 1624
Mr. Nicolson — 1625
Hon. Mr. McGeer — 1627
TUESDAY, MAY 11, 1976
The House met at 8:30 p.m.
Orders of the day.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Schroeder in the chair.
ESTIMATES: DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
On vote 39: minister's office, $126, 940 — continued.
MRS. E.E. DAILLY (Burnaby North): Mr. Chairman, when the House adjourned we had not yet heard from the Minister of Education, and a number of questions were posed to him, not only by myself but also by the hon. Liberal member and the Conservative member. I wonder if the minister is now ready to answer some of those specific questions.
MR. G.V. LAUK (Vancouver Centre): The next leader — watch your back. (Laughter.)
HON. P.L. McGEER (Minister of Education): Mr. Chairman, I would like to commence by introducing some of the officials from the department. Here next to me is Dr. Walter Hardwick, our very able Deputy Minister of Education. I believe that the last time I was complimented for anything, it was on his appointment.
MS. R. BROWN (Vancouver-Burrard): Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: In the background there are Mr. John Currie, the departmental comptroller, and Mr. Joe Phillipson, the Associate Deputy Minister for our K-to-12 programme. Other officials of the department will, from time to time, be appearing on the floor and I'll introduce them as they come to the floor of the House. I want to extend the welcome of the department to all members of the House to the senior officials of the department at any time to get any information that they would wish.
Now a number of questions were posed by the senior spokesman for the opposition, and I would just like to answer the questions that were raised.
First of all, the member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly) asked about the assessment programme that's going on in the Department of Education. It's not something that commenced with the new government; it commenced with the former government and the former minister, and we are very proud of that programme; we think it's an important and effective one. It's going to continue and be expanded with the full support of the new government.
She asked a specific question: what will we do with information that is developed? It's the intention, Madam Member, that the results will be published on a province-wide basis and, naturally, they'll be made available to the school trustees and to the BCTF. On a confidential basis, the results will be supplied to each of the school districts, and there isn't any intention at all that this programme will be used in any way to undermine the activities that are going on in individual schools and in individual districts.
The intention, I think, as everybody realizes, is to determine whether or not skills are being developed in our youngsters as they go along. But above and beyond that, the department is encouraging school districts, individual schools and individual teachers in schools to do their own testing to determine how the youngsters in their classes, in their schools and in their districts are doing, relative to North America and province-wide norms. We're not attempting to force anybody to undertake this kind of individual testing.
The B.C. Teachers Federation itself, when they did a public survey of the desires of parents in British Columbia, came back with a strong wish on the part of parents of this province to have testing in the schools so they would know, and the students would know, exactly how they were managing in the area of general knowledge. So we support individual school districts in carrying out that policy. Again, Madam Member, we are not forcing that from the Department of Education.
There was a question raised about corporal punishment in the schools. I think I've explained several times that that's not a priority of the department.
With regard to the restructure of the secondary school programme: the former Minister of Education (Mrs. Dailly) was at the convention of the B.C. school trustees when I said that we were taking a look at how we could get better articulation between the secondary school programme and the post-secondary school programme. Nothing was said, there or subsequently, about people leaving school at grade 10. It only takes one unfortunate story in the press to create a myth that you then cannot run down; you cannot dissociate yourself with that often enough.
MR. LAUK: You've noticed!
HON. MR. McGEER: That's right, and I sympathize. I know that former ministers have had precisely that problem. What I want to do is assure the member and the House that nothing of that kind was said or contemplated.
Now what we are attempting to do, Madam Member, is develop a better articulation between what is going on in the secondary school system and
[ Page 1606 ]
the post-secondary school system, with a view to students being able to get on with the kinds of programmes they themselves want and need and with a minimum of artificial hurdles placed in their way. We feel the consequence of that will be to develop retention in the system so that people, out of discouragement at not being able to get into the programme they want by the end of grade 10, might drop out, to their regret and our regret.
We definitely believe, obviously, in recurrent education — that's the new "in" word, for the members of the House, for people leaving their educational development at some propitious stage and then later on going back for further education. As a former Minister of Education in a former government did, I speak of the hon. Wesley Black who, after he left politics, took a course in public administration, and now has a Masters degree in that. That's recurrent education. So, of course, Madam Member, we strongly support that kind of thing.
We are in consultation with the Department of Education.
HON. MR. McGEER: Yes, it's possible, Mr. Chairman, that even the member for North Vancouve–Capilano (Mr. Gibson) might eventually take advantage of the opportunities in our educational system. They used to say that you could always tell a Harvard man, but you couldn't tell him much. (Laughter.)
HON. K.R. MAIR (Minister of Consumer Services): He could go back for a course in humility.
HON. MR. McGEER: Anyway, without dwelling further on our ambitions for that hon. member and for everybody in British Columbia, I want to tell the member who raised this question that we are indeed in consultation with the Department of Labour. It's our intention to send out to any educational institution in British Columbia a letter asking those institutions to identify for us programmes, which we may not yet be aware of, where there is a demand for the graduates, where there's a waiting list to get into the programme and where the neck of the bottle, if you like, is the size of that particular programme and which is limiting job opportunities, and where students are being held up in the educational process because they can't get into the programme. Medicine is one obvious example, but one could list many others. We're going to give priority to those programmes because it makes good educational sense and it makes good economic and social sense.
Obviously, much has been said about educational finance. That becomes a topic of considerable debate every year in this House. I can only tell the House that the Minister of Education does not have total command of the provincial budget. The Minister of Education, as the former minister knows, always attempts to get as much....
HON. MR. McGEER: What was that, Mr. Member?
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Thank heavens! You have practically broke everybody in B.C. already.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
HON. MR. McGEER: We'll come to that if you wish to raise the subject. We'll have discussion on that. But, I can only say to the member that many taxes were increased in this past year. We weren't the architects of the shortfall of funds which we inherited when we came to office. We had to deal with it, including the past debt of ICBC of $185 million. That's going to be paid out of current taxes, and education will be among the services to people that will be partially deprived as a consequence of the policies of the former government.
HON. MR. McGEER: I say shame, yes. It is a shame. Property taxes did increase to help pay for education — that's true, Mr. Chairman. But I think the member and the House should realize that across the province this year the average increase in mill rate for school tax purposes was 5.55 mills. The year before....
HON. MR. McGEER: It's shocking — but Madam Member, you didn't say shocking last year when, as a result of the financial policies of your government, the increase was 6.92 mills. When did the property taxes increase most? This year, under the new government? No — last year under the NDP, Mr. Chairman.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Right on!
MS. BROWN: Smear! Smear!
HON. MR. McGEER: The member raised some questions about the special warrants in the Department of Education...
AN HON. MEMBER: Smeared! Smeared with the truth!
[ Page 1607 ]
HON. MR. McGEER: ...and the Clarkson Gordon report.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, hon. members. Let's listen to the minister.
AN HON. MEMBER: Who?
HON. MR. McGEER: Now when the Clarkson Gordon report was prepared, the increases in estimated expenditures for education were for the following purposes. They were statutory items of $2.2 million, which was the teachers' pension fund; $2.679 million, which was the reserve for the teachers' pension fund; there was a night school grant and training programme of $300,000, which is partially recoverable from the federal government; and the post-secondary educational training for vocational programmes of $3.855 million. Now it was the sum of these warrants that went into the Clarkson Gordon report.
Now there will be, as you say, some underexpenditures in the Department of Education, and those will be rationalized when you come to final public accounts, because we don't yet know what the underexpenditures are. But those will ultimately appear in public accounts, which hopefully this year will be out sooner than they were last year.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: The exact figures will be available then.
MR. COCKE: Have you any good reason to think that they will?
HON. MR. McGEER: That what will, Mr. Member?
MR. COCKE: I just said: have you any good reason to think that?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, hon. members.
HON. MR. McGEER: An excellent reason: a more competent Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe).
MR. CHAIRMAN: May I interrupt just long enough to remind the members...?
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
MR. CHAIRMAN: May I interrupt you just long enough to remind the members that Hansard has no way of recording questions and, as a result, answers given make no sense at all without the questions. Let's follow the standing order which says if you wish to speak, please stand and be recognized so that Hansard has the record.
HON. MR. McGEER: Just for the record of Hansard, Mr. Chairman, the question from the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) was: "Did we have any reason to believe that public accounts would be out sooner this year?" The answer was: "Yes, because we had a more competent Minister of Finance."
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: I wouldn't want Hansard to miss that point. (Laughter.)
Now, Madam Member, not included in the figures for Clarkson Gordon was the $7.5 million warrant for the universities. We've gone into this before and I'd be happy to go into it again because I think there is a very fundamental point involved here and it's a difference in philosophy between your government and this government.
We have indicated to the universities of this province that they may spend, with whatever agreements they work out during this fiscal year, the amount of money that we have made available in our budget, but they may not commit legally the universities to expenditures in next year's budget. The reason is that we cannot have people, whether they're on boards of educational institutions or anywhere else, bargaining on behalf of the treasury for next year.
What happened, Mr. Chairman, under the former NDP was that with their policy of unionization at the universities — that's fine; they can have that policy — many agreements were signed which committed the government to increases in the budget in ensuing years. The first thing that I had to review, as the Minister of Education, was a request from the universities council for increases in their budget because of legal commitments that they had undertaken during bargaining sessions in that fiscal year.
What we said was, "All right, we will meet those legal commitments," and in our view that was a charge on last year's Education budget. Now you may take a different view of that if you wish, but the point that I want to try to make to you, and to all the House now, is that we do not expect people in the educational system, or anywhere else, to be bargaining for next year's taxes. That's the prerogative of elected officials in government. They can go ahead and bargain all they like for increases this year, providing they can show that all those legal commitments they undertake are within the amount of money that the treasury has made available to them. But that was something that was undertaken after the Clarkson Gordon study had been instituted
[ Page 1608 ]
and which is a policy of the Department of Education at the present time.
Now dealing with the matters raised by the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson), he asked about family life. I'm a little reminded, Mr. Chairman, of the story about the senator who was coming back to his constituency. He found that half of his supporters were in favour of the nomination of one candidate for a member of parliament and half were in favour of another candidate for a member of parliament. He said: "Some of my friends are supporting Smith and some of my friends are supporting Jones. I want everybody to know that I am supporting my friends." (Laughter.) I want everybody to know that family life is not part of the core curriculum of the Department of education. Family life is an optional programme that can be undertaken at an individual school district if they feel that this is part of the additional programme they would like to offer.
We're quite prepared to consider the submissions that are made to the Department of Education about this controversial and optional programme. Just today we had a suggestion from the Home and School Federation that we should appoint a co-ordinator for programmes to look into family life and other controversial optional programmes, and we're going to study that particular suggestion. But I think that when one is considering the introduction of a programme in a school district, even if that programme is at a local option, the local group that is sponsoring and introducing it should consider very carefully the sensitivities of the people within that school district. They should have a very strong consensus, in my view, in favour of any optional programme they introduce. If a programme which is not strongly supported at the local level is nevertheless pushed at the local level, then, of course, you're going to have dissension. This has been the history of family life.
The minister asked about the educational finance formula.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): The minister?
HON. MR. McGEER: The member. The member asked the minister.
MR. WALLACE: I just wondered which minister you were referring to. This minister?
HON. MR. McGEER: He's got plans for himself.
MR. WALLACE: I didn't know Gordon had become a minister.
HON. MR. McGEER: Our plans for the member differ somewhat. But anyway, the member asked about the educational finance formula.
HON. MR. McGEER: No threats. We didn't specify; we left it to the member's fertile imagination. He asked, Mr. Chairman, about the school finance formula. Of course, Mr. Chairman, the member represents a district that has a highly enriched programme. He should be very proud of that programme and the district should be very proud of the programme. The whole area, Mr. Chairman, of school districts being able to set their own budget and determine their own mill rates is that they would have the option of enriching the programmes to any degree that they wish — there are no limits on that at all. But, Mr. Member, don't expect the government to pay for that enrichment. I think that we should make it very clear that this is a local option: enrich as much as you like, but after you have enriched, don't come and ask for special consideration from the Department of Education because you have done so. We'll tell you, Mr. Member, that we're very proud of the fact that your school district, at its option, has enriched its programmes.
MR. GIBSON: But you're only paying 41 per cent of the basic, let alone the enrichment.
HON. MR. McGEER: Well, Mr. Member, your plea, as I interpreted it, was for special consideration for your school district because of the high cost of your programme. All I'm saying is that if a programme is enriched in a local school district, we're very proud that they've done it, but we don't feel obligated to support it. Our responsibility, Mr. Chairman, is to support a sound, basic education programme distributed without favour all across the province, and that's what we're doing.
MR. GIBSON: We've got a 56 point mill rate.
HON. MR. McGEER: I quite understand that. Mr. Member, I think I explained to your school board...and I'd be happy to explain to you or to have you and the school board in together to indicate why it's that high. They have the highest administration costs of any school district in the province and lowest pupil-teacher ratio. These things do add up at the local mill rate. The school trustees understand that, or they should understand that. They can go to their local taxpayers and ask for support at that level. If the local taxpayers give them that support then they deserve to have it. But don't ask the property owners from Delta or the general taxpayers of all of the province to support that — that's the local responsibility.
I told them that, Mr. Member. We'd be happy to
[ Page 1609 ]
have all of the resources of the department made available to them if they should wish us to suggest ways that they could spend the education dollar more effectively. But we certainly won't interfere in any way with their option to enrich the programme to whatever degree they consider appropriate for North Vancouver.
Now there was a question asked about the appointment of school superintendents and, as you know, some are supported by the local school districts, some are supported by the Department of Education. I think it only worth observing, Mr. Chairman, that where the Department of Education supports the school superintendent the salaries tend to be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 more than if they're supported by the local school districts. But again, that's the local school district's option if they choose to follow it.
MR. GIBSON: That's not their option.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!
MR. WALLACE: We're just trying to enlighten the minister.
HON. MR. McGEER: We understand that. We're not....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, if you have something you wish to contribute to the debate there will be plenty of time when you stand and are recognized.
HON. MR. McGEER: Now there was a question about independent schools. I want to indicate to the member, Mr. Chairman, that we would be very pleased to have the support of that member and all the members of the House for support of independent schools when legislation is brought forward. The legislation will not be introduced at this session simply because we don't have a budget this year for the independent schools. We hope that the economic climate of British Columbia under a strong free enterprise Social Credit government will have improved next year to the point where we can support independent schools. Of course, under socialism it would be difficult to find the funds for those activities, desirable as they may be. I certainly support everything that the member said about the desirability of support for independent schools, and that's why this government is going to do it.
MR. L. NICOLSON (Nelson-Creston): Next year? The year after?
HON. MR. McGEER: Probably next year. But it depends again on the performance of the economy.
Now the member, Mr. Chairman, raised a plea for the exemption of teachers from the national guidelines, a plea that I might say was made far more eloquently on three occasions by the teachers themselves than by the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson). Nevertheless, the point has been made. We understood it well, but, Mr. Chairman, it's the view of the government that in a time of national restraint when there are national guidelines there should be no exceptions. Everybody should be included in the programme. That's why, eloquent as the teachers federation presentation was — and it was well done; they made their point of view strongly and advanced every argument that I think could have been advanced in their favour — it's nevertheless the view of the government, and I think that view would be strongly supported by the public at large, that there should be no exceptions. Now in the case of the teachers....
MR. LAUK: What about the Public Schools Act?
HON. MR. McGEER: I'm pointing out — and I guess the member hasn't yet grasped, Mr. Chairman — the significance of the national programme announced by Prime Minister Trudeau last October. It was to be national in scope. It was to include everybody with no exceptions.
HON. MR. McGEER: Wonderful, but I want to point out, Mr. Chairman, that obviously a national programme the Minister of Education....
MR. CHAIRMAN:, Order, please! Could we have a lower level of noise, please, in the House? There's no way that hon. members who wish to hear what is being said are able to hear. A lower level of noise, please,
HON. MR. McGEER: I was just trying to get across to the member the significance of the national programme, Mr. Chairman, and I hope that he grasps that and that he'll support it, being a good Liberal.
MR. WALLACE: How about yourself?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
AN HON. MEMBER: Order is right!
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Minister of Education has the floor.
[ Page 1610 ]
HON. MR. McGEER: You see, Mr. Chairman, why the Tories are getting nowhere?
MR. GIBSON: I notice, Mr. Chairman, that you mentioned there were only two minutes left. Since the minister is answering questions from three separate speakers, I wonder if we might have leave of the House for him to continue until he's completed....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No, no!
MR. CHAIRMAN: There will be ample time. The minister has the floor for one more minute.
AN HON. MEMBER: Chabot is in his usual good humour.
HON. MR. McGEER: I'll carry on if it is the wish of the House.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: I just wanted to dwell on that particular point until we got it across.
Mr. Chairman, there was a question asked as to whether we supported parent involvement. I would say absolutely, and that's why the department spent such a long time today with the Home and School Federation. We do strongly support the idea of the parents expressing to us, to the Teachers Federation and to the School Trustees Association their expectations of what the Department of Education and what the individual schools should be doing in the province. I can tell you, we're going to respond to their wishes.
A question was asked about Jericho Hill School. Now what the department wishes to do with regard to the communicatively impaired is to support their education through special grants in their individual school districts. I think the reason is a very obvious one, and it's one that the member apparently hasn't quite grasped — that is that the communicatively impaired youngster, after the school programme has finished, is going to have to perform in a community where the majority of people are not hard of hearing and do not have limited vision.
If you institutionalize them, as was done for so many years in British Columbia, then what you do is take them away from their homes, take them away from their parents, put them into one centralized institution where they see other people all the time who are as impaired as they are impaired, and afterwards try and return them to a community where they are not in such an atmosphere. It doesn't work nearly as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Time, please.
HON. MR. McGEER: Time? Well, I'll deal with answers to some of the other questions later.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Chairman, I have a short point to make with the minister. The point involves a serious matter, and I hesitate to describe it as a charge, but it does....
MR. WALLACE: Go ahead anyway.
MR. LAUK: When I outline the details of the matter, Mr. Chairman, it will require, I'm sure, a very sensitive and, I hope, responsible answer on the part of the minister. I'm asking you, Mr. Chairman, to bear with me as I give some of the background of this situation that has something directly to do with an administrative decision made by the minister himself.
It involves really, a discussion of a history of the Chinese people in Canada and, in particular, Chinese Canadians in British Columbia. I recall my great-grandfather in the 19th century was — and I'm one of the few that can use this expression without indictment — a Polack working on the railroad, and who described to my father and his children the relationship that these workers had with one another and with Chinese labourers who were imported — and I suppose that one could not put it any more politely than that — to work on the national railway. There was a great loss of life, as history points out to us; there was hardship and there was struggle.
There was some suggestion that after the railway was built these Chinese people would be returned to their country of origin, as they may not easily assimilate into Canadian society. But we saw that a great number of them chose this country as their adopted land. They settled in areas of British Columbia and across Canada — but a great many of them in British Columbia.
For years in the city of Vancouver, and indeed in all of Canada, but in the city of Vancouver — as it was pointed out to many of us who are citizens of that city, and who do remember some of its history — the Chinese citizens were excluded from public parks. I'm sure the hon. Minister of Education can recall the signs that used to appear — and certainly are in the Vancouver City Archives — saying: "No Dogs and No Chinamen Allowed in This Park." I'm sure he can recall, as well as I, that the orientals did not have a vote in this country. I'm sure he can recall, as well as I, the old Liberal advertisement in 1937 which stated that a vote for the Liberals will keep the Yellow Peril out of Canada.
MR. F.A. CALDER (Atlin): That's a Barrett speech you're using.
[ Page 1611 ]
MR. LAUK: Throughout the many years, Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Member, I'm waiting to hear the relationship of these remarks to the vote, which is the administrative responsibilities of the Minister of Education.
MR. LAUK: I'm getting to that point, Mr. Chairman. I was hoping you would bear with me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm waiting very patiently.
MR. LAUK: The contribution of the Chinese community, of the Chinese people, to Canadian life has been substantial. In particular, once again, its social and cultural contribution and contribution to the business life of Vancouver and B.C. has been substantial.
Since the war, as the Minister of Education well knows, great strides have been made by all levels of government and by all ethnic communities in our society to live in greater harmony with Chinese fellow citizens. They now have the vote.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Order!
MR. LAUK: They're now more actively involved in business life. They're now contributing to our social and cultural life.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Order!
MR. CHAIRMAN: They are now directly....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Mr. Member....
MR. LAUK; Mr. Chairman, if you would show as much impatience with some of the members on the opposite side as you're showing to me tonight, it would be a little bit more beneficial. I'm taking a few minutes of time to give a background situation involving a very serious matter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. LAUK: It's obvious that the members on the opposite side of the House are a little disturbed with the matter I'm about to bring forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Chair is only requiring that you relate your remarks to the vote, according to the standing orders.
MR. LAUK: I'm about to. These delays are delaying my opportunity to do so.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I believe that we've been more than patient and I ask you to relate your remarks to the vote.
MR. LAUK: I'm about to do so, Mr. Chairman.
MS. BROWN: Why are they so nervous, Mr. Chairman?
MR. LAUK: We felt in the NDP administration that we would not only continue the process of living in harmony with other communities — and this is directly involved in education — but we hoped to accelerate it. One of the things that happened was the appointment of Mr. Randall Wong to the position of provincial court judge — a first-class lawyer with a second-to-none reputation.
Another young man was appointed to the board of governors at the University of British Columbia: a hard-working student, a devoted individual, an excellent architectural student, devoted to his family, his community, to his people — the Canadian people.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, Hon. Member. I must ask you now to proceed to remarks that are related to vote 39. We fail to see how this is related.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Please proceed.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Chairman, I deeply regret the response that is being made on the other side of the House. I feel that it is one of the disadvantages of a lengthy supper adjournment.
AN HON. MEMBER: Shocking!
MS. BROWN: It is shocking!
MR. LAUK: Mr. Chairman, here was a young man who was, as I say, a hard-working student. He worked his way through university. He was a man recognized as completely devoted to the community of Vancouver at large — not only the Chinese community — who was appointed by the NDP administration as a member of the board of governors at the University of British Columbia, by the former Minister of Education. He is a man who is known throughout his community as being sensitive to academic, cultural and social needs. He was a great asset to the board. He was the first Chinese person ever appointed to the board.
HON. MR. MAIR: What's that got to do with it?
[ Page 1612 ]
MS. BROWN: Everything.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, Hon. Members. The speaker is just relating his remarks to matters educational. Let him continue.
MR. LAUK: The student population of the University of British Columbia, I think, is in excess of 12 or 13 per cent Chinese, although on my inquiries, Mr. Chairman, no exact figure was ascertained. When the new-coalition, ex-Liberal minister was appointed to his present post, he summarily dismissed Mr. Byng Thom, the member that I'm talking about, without any notice and without any reason — without any reason whatsoever.
MR. COCKE: That's right.
MS. BROWN: Shocking!
MR. LAUK: I couldn't believe it when I read it in the newspaper, because I know the minister to be an honourable man. I said to myself: was this a malicious move? A vindictive move? I said it couldn't be. There must be some other reason for this summary dismissal of this individual. I asked myself: was he attending board meetings? I checked; he attended them all. I'm told by some of his fellow governors that he contributed greatly to their deliberations and was highly regarded by them.
The senate of the University of British Columbia voted to condemn the action of the minister. It is the first time in the history of the senate of that university that such an action has taken place — a resolution of condemnation of a Minister of Education.
MR. GIBSON: That's right — and richly earned, too.
MS. BROWN: Shocking!
MR. LAUK; Once again a very important ethnic group, a Canadian ethnic group is excluded from the mainstream of society and from representation on another board. I consider the actions, without further explanation of the minister, to be totally and completely reprehensible, and I call upon him tonight, Mr. Chairman, to reinstate Mr. Thom to that board of governors.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I think there was a note of racism in the member's remarks.
HON. MR. McGEER: I want to tell you that it doesn't matter what the office is in British Columbia, the appointment to that office should not be on the basis of being Chinese, Indian, Negro, or any other race. It should be on the basis of merit.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: When we begin appointing people solely on the basis of their race and expect them to retain office solely on that basis, then what we are doing is we are abandoning the merit system or criteria that a government feels would be appropriate for any office at all.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
HON. MR. McGEER: You have to understand that what you're arguing for, Mr. Member, is racism in British Columbia.
AN HON. MEMBER: Right on!
HON. MR. McGEER: We made it very clear, Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please address the Chair.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, we made it very clear....
MR. LAUK: A point of order.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. On a point of order, the first member for Vancouver Centre. Your point of order, sir?
MR. LAUK: Mr. Chairman, I confess that I don't understand why the minister would refer to me as a racist or impute that I would be a racist. I find that offensive and I ask him to withdraw that allegation.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, come on!
HON. MR. McGEER: No, I said his remarks were.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If the minister referred to the member as a racist, would you kindly withdraw that?
HON. MR. McGEER: I didn't say that. I said his remarks were, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The minister says that your remarks were racist. He did not impute any improper motive to the member directly.
[ Page 1613 ]
MR. LAUK: It's clear to any schoolboy that they were not. I ask him to withdraw the imputation that I was a racist or that I would make racist remarks. I find those offensive and unparliamentary.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. On the same point of order?
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I'll leave it to the member to make his own interpretation, and for each member to make their interpretation of his remarks. But, Mr. Chairman, I want to make it very clear that....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. On the point of order, if any improper motive was imputed, would you please withdraw?
HON. MR. McGEER: What do you consider to be an improper motive?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's not for me to decide. If an improper motive was....
HON. MR. McGEER: Let me put it this way, Mr. Chairman: if the member considers that I have imputed an improper motive to his remarks, then I withdraw his interpretation of my remarks. (Laughter.)
But, Mr. Chairman....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please, Mr. Minister, may I ask you that in the interest of orderly conduct of business in this House, not only tonight but in future days, let us not get into splitting hairs. Would you just kindly withdraw any imputation of an improper motive? Then there'll be no problem.
HON. MR. McGEER: I'd be happy to, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you so much. Please continue.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, we indicated at the very beginning what our criteria were for appointments to the boards of governors of educational institutions. These were three, and they are very simple. They stood then and they stand now. It has nothing to do, Mr. Chairman, with political affiliation and, above all, it has nothing to do with race. The criteria are these: achievement in one's own field of endeavour; knowledge of and interest in education; and a sense of fiscal responsibility. These are the three criteria, and I want to tell the member, and all members of the House, that we would be delighted to consider for appointment to boards of governors anybody whom they would care to recommend who fulfils these criteria.
I want to say that we don't feel any obligation to retain a person on a board of governors of any educational institution because they represent labour, because they represent management, because they are Negro or Chinese or any race,
MR. LAUK: Why was he fired?
HON. MR. McGEER: What we intend to do is to upgrade wherever we can the people who are on the boards of these institutions, and whether you appointed them or whether we appointed them, if we feel that we can improve those institutions by changing the people who are the government representatives, we are prepared to do so. That's the only way that you can get excellence on any board of governors: be prepared always to get better people if you can possibly get them.
MR. LAUK: Why was he fired?
AN HON. MEMBER: He's telling you!
HON. MR. McGEER: Now, Mr. Chairman, I want to say again that no one who has a position on a board can consider that as a sinecure. They were appointed because of these three criteria; they will be retained because of performance. Mr. Chairman, we are grateful to all the people who serve on the boards of these institutions. I think it's too bad that the member had to introduce this particular note into something which should be non-political, which had only excellence as its motive, and which should be beyond politics and, above all, Mr. Chairman, beyond any tinge of racism.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I am very glad to see that this discussion is out in the open once and for all at this time. By the minister's own statement, Mr. Byng Thom met all of his three criteria. There is no question that the man was an architect beyond compare. We are very proud of the kind of things that Byng Thom has designed in this province, including the B.C. Electric building, which is now the B.C. Hydro building. There is no question that he was a student of great merit. There can be no question at all about his academic criterion nor can there be any question about his fiscal responsibility.
The member for Vancouver Centre placed in historical perspective something which has been in the shadow of this province for a very long time because the fact remains that despite the fact that the history of British Columbia is that it was one of the
[ Page 1614 ]
stops on the underground railroad, one of the places where slaves could find security when they left the United States, the history of the treatment of Orientals and East Indians and Japanese and other people has left absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that visible and invisible barriers have always existed to various racial and ethnic minority groups.
What is the criterion that was used to remove Mr. Byng Thom from the board? He attended all the meetings. You said that political affiliation did not enter into it. By your very own statement, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, you said that if people were appointed to the board on the basis of their race or sex, that would be a racist act. That was your very own statement. In fact, there is no question that people of many races and many cultures have contributed to the development of this province, and by your very act you have failed to recognize this.
The very first thing that you did when you assumed the responsibility for the portfolio of the Department of Education was to remove from the board, not just of UBC but from some of the community colleges as well, not just Mr. Byng Thom, but a woman who was of Indian heritage. What are you trying to do to this province? The member for Comox will deal with this. I think her name was Mrs. Rene Taylor. She will deal with this in more detail.
MS. BROWN: Mrs. Rene Taylor, Alert Bay.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please proceed.
MS. BROWN: Thank you. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chairman, that this province is not inhabited merely by male Anglo-Saxons. The Minister of Education has failed to take note of that and whether he cares to admit it publicly or not, consciously or unconsciously, he had no justification for removing Mr. Byng Thom from the board of the University of British Columbia, and, consciously or unconsciously, his act was racist, and there was no question about that.
MR. W.G. STRONGMAN (Vancouver South): Withdraw!
MS. BROWN: I will not withdraw that statement. I will not withdraw that statement unless the Minister of Education can prove to me that Mr. Byng Thom did not meet his three criteria.
AN HON. MEMBER: Withdraw!
MS. BROWN: It is interesting how uncomfortable, how uncomfortable that total male mass over there gets whenever one starts to talk about....
MS. BROWN: I am not superior. I know what it is like to live in this province, Mr. Member, as you do, too. And unless that minister can prove to this House that Mr. Byng Thom did not meet the three criteria, and unless he did not meet the three criteria, then there is no question that his act was one of pure, simple and unadulterated racism.
AN HON. MEMBER: Withdraw!
MS. BROWN: And I will not withdraw that statement. I will not withdraw that statement.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! Order, please. I must ask the member: are you imputing any improper motive to the minister?
MS.'BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I have made my position absolutely clear.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just asked a question,
MS. BROWN: I am quite prepared to listen to the minister explain to this House...
MS. BROWN: ...if I can proceed without interruptions.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please proceed. I am listening.
MS. BROWN: If the minister can explain to this House which of the three criteria Mr. Byng Thom failed to meet, I would be very happy to withdraw, but unless the minister can do that he will have to justify his statement.
It makes me very sad, quite frankly, Mr. Chairman, to make that kind of accusation, because I have great admiration for that minister, as he knows, but it leaves me no option but to conclude that the decision made, consciously or unconsciously.... I'm quite prepared to accept that a lot of the racism in this province is unconscious — that with the best intentions in the world the acts are unconscious — but I would appreciate if the Minister of Education would explain to this House which of the three criteria laid down by him Mr. Byng Thom failed to meet.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Madam Member, I must, as Chairman of this House, obtain to the standing orders. There's no way that we can allow the imputation of improper motive to another hon. member. I must ask you to withdraw unconditionally the imputation of any improper motive.
[ Page 1615 ]
MR. W.S. KING (Leader of the Opposition): On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I think that the member's remarks categorized the policy as racist. The policy can be, and I don't think that necessarily imputes racist attitudes to a particular member of this House. It is customary in this Legislature, as in others, to categorize policy and government initiatives in a way that would not be allowed if attributing those things to a personal member of the House. I don't think it calls for a withdrawal.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your point is well taken, Hon. Leader of the Opposition, but I must ask the member if any imputation was directed towards the minister. If it was, I must ask her to withdraw. I just ask you to clarify.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I accept that you must do as you must do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I must do, in the interests of orderly conduct.
MS. BROWN: Yes, and I would appreciate it if you would accept that I must be what I must be.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes, Madam.
MS. BROWN: I am saying, Mr. Chairman, that I am willing to listen to an explanation from the minister as to which of the three criteria Mr. Byng Thom failed to meet. The minister made it quite clear that his act was not a political act; therefore Mr. Byng Thom was not removed from the board because of any political affiliation.
My argument is that Mr. Byng Thom met those three criteria. If there is one instance in which Mr. Byng Thom did not meet the criteria, it would be that he is not Caucasian. I would appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, if you would respect the fact that I am asking the minister to clarify his action. After he has done so, then the decision will be made on my part as to whether to withdraw, and an apology would be in order.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Member, my overriding responsibility, as Chairman of this House, is to obtain to the standing orders. I must ask you: did you or did you not impute any improper motive to the minister in your remarks?
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I imputed that the act of firing Mr. Byng Thom was improper if Mr. Byng Thom met all of the three criteria laid down by the minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Did you impute any improper motive?
MS. BROWN: The act of firing Mr. Byng Thom if Mr. Byng Thom met the three criteria laid down by the minister, was an improper act.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I understand all of those and they are all conditions of what I am asking you to do. I am asking whether or not improper motive was imputed. If improper motive was imputed, then I must ask you to withdraw.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, would you accept that I have no idea of what the motives of the hon. minister were?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Therefore you can't impute improper motives.
MS. BROWN: I only know what the act was. I have no idea what the motives were.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Therefore you cannot impute that they were improper.
MS. BROWN: I will be guided by you in this, Mr. Chairman, because you're obviously much more experienced at imputing motives than I am. I have no idea what his motives were; I only know what his act was. If Mr. Byng Thom was removed from the board, despite the fact that he met the three criteria laid down by the minister, then it was an improper act, regardless of what the motive may have been.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Member, I ask you again: did you impute any improper motive to the minister?
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the hon. first member for Vancouver-Burrard did mention in her remarks that racism can either be advertent or inadvertent. She left it open in that area to indicate that if there is an act that she may interpret as being racist, it could be inadvertent, and therefore no motive would be required. I would suggest that her remarks, of themselves, indicate that she did not necessarily impute any improper motive to the minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well taken. I need to hear that from the member. Was any improper motive imputed, Hon. Member?
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I am really having difficulty in getting my position across to you. We seem to be having some real problems tonight. The act was improper; the motive, consciously or unconsciously, I would not take any responsibility for. The minister would have to take responsibility for that.
I have no idea why the minister did what he did,
[ Page 1616 ]
but the act was improper if indeed Mr. Byng Thom did meet the three criteria laid down by the minister. I have asked the minister to indicate which of the three criteria Mr. Byng Thom failed to meet. I would appreciate it, Mr. Chairman, if you would allow the minister to outline that for the House, because I think it is very important. This may be — who knows? — a milestone, quite frankly, in the politics of this province, that for once and for all on the floor of this House we are openly discussing something which has been under the rug for too long.
If the minister would be allowed by you to take his place in this debate and explain his act, I think all of us would be the better for it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I think, Hon. Member, that the same kind of point of order was raised when the minister was on his feet. In the interest of orderly conduct, not only for this time but for the days that lie ahead, the minister was gracious enough to withdraw a remark which could have been categorized the same as this one. On the basis of the standing orders we cannot allow this to collapse; therefore, if improper motive was imputed, then I must ask the member to withdraw. If no improper motive was imputed, then the member is not required to withdraw. The whole thing hinges on what your motive was, not his.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, as the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) pointed out to me, the minister's motive or my motive or anyone's motive is not the issue really. The issue is that a gentleman of great ability and great talent, and who has contributed a great deal to the community of Vancouver and, indeed, to all of Canada through his talents, was summarily dismissed from the board of the University of British Columbia, despite the fact that he met the three criteria laid down by the hon. Minister of Education. That is the issue that is being discussed here tonight. Whether my statement imputed a proper motive or did not impute a proper motive is really quite incidental, isn't it, to the issue that is being discussed on the floor at this time?
Now if we get on with the business of examining the reasons for the dismissal of Mr. Byng Thom and Mrs. Rene Taylor, and the failure of this minister to recognize that there are other people in this province aside from Caucasians who have contributed to this province — the growth and development of this province.... If it is possible for the minister to recognize that despite its history this province did serve a service to people of other races in this world, that there are many cultures and many races living here — that is the issue which we are discussing on the floor of this House tonight...
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please!
MS. BROWN: ...not my motive or his motive.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Hon. member, the issue that is before the House just now has nothing to do with the debate. The issue before this House right now is: are we going to uphold the standing orders of this House, which require that the Chairman cannot allow the imputing of improper motives from one hon. member to another? Therefore that is the issue. The minister may well wish to clarify, but that must be subsequent to the decision before us just now. I ask the hon. member again: did you impute an improper motive to the minister?
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, out of a sense of profound respect for the democratic process, and this House in particular, I will withdraw my statement as long as it is quite clearly understood that the issue, which was raised on the floor of the House tonight, was one that needed to be aired....
MR. CHAIRMAN: It may well be, and I....
MS. BROWN: It was one that needed to be aired...
MR. CHAIRMAN: I appreciate that more than enough....
MS. BROWN: ...and one which I hope will, once and for all, be settled.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. That closes the matter.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I want to assure the member for Vancouver-Burrard that the replacement of people on the boards of governors of many of these institutions was done simply to find stronger people — more capable people, in our view — to fill those positions. Mr. Chairman, it was wrong, in my view, to have appointed Byng Thom or anyone on the basis of their racial background. It would have been wrong....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Ohhh!
HON. MR. McGEER: It would have been wrong, Mr. Chairman for us to retain that person or anyone else on the basis of their racial background. It only has to do, Mr. Chairman, with who we believe can do the most effective job for those institutions.
Now the member raised another individual, Rene Taylor, who was an appointee, as I understand it, to the North Island College. That person was replaced, when the term expired, by other individuals. I'm told that we've appointed two native Indians, Mr.
[ Page 1617 ]
Chairman — a Miss Jeffery to Northwest College, and a Miss Leon, Coqualeetza to Fraser Valley College — but I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that these people were appointed without my knowledge of their racial background, and I can assure you that they were not appointed to these positions because of their racial background. They were appointed because they were recommended to us as being strong individuals to fulfil these appointments.
MR. G.R. LEA (Prince Rupert): Who were they recommended by?
HON. MR. McGEER: They were recommended in many ways — sometimes from the community, sometimes from members of the opposition, sometimes from the members of the government. I invite you, Mr. Member, or anybody on the opposition side to recommend people to us as members for boards of governors of these institutions and we'll very seriously consider their appointments, but at the same time it was wrong, in my view, for anyone to harbour an impression that they held a position on the board of governors of an institution because of their racial background, their ethnic background, their labour background, or what have you.
I want to read a letter that I sent in reply to Mr. Jack Munro of the International Woodworkers of America. He complained very strongly to me that someone was not re-appointed to the universities council. He felt justified that such a person should be re-appointed because he was a representative of labour. Mr. Chairman, we disagree that anybody should belong as a representative of labour, as a representative of unions, or as a representative of any ethnic group. They're there to represent the general interest of education and nothing else.
MR. LAUK: And a lot of industry, too.
HON. MR. McGEER: I wrote to Mr. Munro, and I'd like to read the letter because I think it explains....
MR. LAUK: You're an elitist, and you're going to bring this government down, Pat.
HON. D.M. PHILLIPS (Minister of Agriculture): Why don't you just return the files and be quiet?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please! The Minister of Education has the floor, please.
HON. MR. McGEER: It says:
"It is not the policy of the government to appoint individuals because they represent any special-interest group or segment of society. Rather, it is to appoint individuals who fill the following qualifications:
"1. achievement in their own field of endeavour, whatever this might be;
"2. knowledge of and interest in education;
"3. a strong sense of fiscal responsibility.
"This latter qualification is particularly important at the present time when the ability of government to finance educational and other services to people is hampered by expenditures which are outstripping the ability of the tax system to support them."
I pointed this out, Madam Member, with respect to our policy with regard to the universities, because we cannot have the boards of governors of these institutions bargaining away next year's taxes. We did give a special warrant to the university to cover legal commitments that those boards of governors undertook in whatever their wisdom might have been...
MR. LAUK: Do you realize what you're saying?
HON. MR. McGEER: ...obligating the taxpayers of this province to expenditures going beyond the fiscal year.
MR. LAUK: Would you say that outside the House?
HON. MR. McGEER: We've said that we want these institutions to bargain within the amount of money that we have made available this year.
MR. LAUK: Do you know what you're saying?
HON, MR. McGEER: I want to go on, Mr. Chairman, with respect to the individual about whom the IWA had complained.
"I think it important to stress that he was not dismissed as suggested in your letter. His term had expired. It is our intention to rotate individuals who sit on the boards of various educational institutions in order to present fresh ideas. In unusual circumstances, we would reappoint people, but only if they made an outstanding contribution which resulted in pressure from many quarters that their reappointment take place.
"All order-in-council appointments are during pleasure. The fact that we are making changes has nothing to do with politics or the fact that at the present time these individuals were appointed by a former government.
"I will look forward to receiving your specific suggestions and will be pleased to discuss them with you. I know you will understand that I can make no ultimate
[ Page 1618 ]
commitments — appointments are the responsibility of the executive council."
That letter was written on March 8. I've received no reply and no suggestions, but I will be happy, Mr. Chairman, to receive from Mr. Jack Munro, from the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Gibson), the member for Vancouver-Burrard (Ms. Brown), or from any other member, individuals who might usefully represent the interests of education on these boards.
But, Mr. Chairman, do not recommend them on the basis of racial extraction; do not recommend them on the basis of representing labour, industry or any other special interest groups, because that should not be the consideration, and it is not one of our criteria.
MR. LAUK: What was wrong with Byng Thom was the question.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, I just want to say very briefly that I have listened to this debate very carefully since the member for Vancouver Centre raised the issue in the first instance. The minister has not in any way informed this House why that particular member of the board of governors was fired. He just read us a letter at some length and he lingered, if I may say, Mr. Chairman, over the phrase "a strong sense of fiscal responsibility."
MR. LAUK: It's libelous; absolutely libelous.
MR. GIBSON: I would ask if the minister's implication was that that member of the board exercised other than a sense of fiscal responsibility, and I would ask who controls the finances of the University of British Columbia. Is the minister suggesting that one member of the board of governors controls the finances of UBC? Of course he doesn't. The board as a totality doesn't. The government does, and the minister knows that. So I question his criteria very much indeed. I ask him again, or ask him for the first time of my own time of asking: will he tell this House why he fired that governor?
HON. MR. McGEER: We're attempting to find people in all these institutions who can strengthen them. In our view, the appointees that we put on that board had the effect of strengthening the total board of governors. That's why — not to say, as the member from Vancouver-Burrard (Ms. Brown) suggested, that they didn't fulfil the criteria, but that we could find people that, in our view, would be more effective. It's that simple.
MR. GIBSON: Just very briefly then, I would ask the minister, since he suggested that his new appointee strengthened the board, would he be kind enough to compare for this House the qualifications of the new member with the one that he dismissed?
HON. MR. McGEER: No, Mr. Chairman.
MS. BROWN: Because you can't. That's why you won't.
MR. LEA: Mr. Chairman, what we have heard here tonight isn't a new story with this minister in terms of the appointments and the firing of people from community colleges and from universities. Almost immediately upon taking office, the whole group of people who had been appointed by the previous government were fired from the Northwest Community College. Some of those people flew from the Queen Charlotte Islands to the mainland and then drove another 100 miles through snow to get to the meeting to find it was locked and to hear on the news that they were fired — another case.
MR. G.H. KERSTER (Coquitlam): We used to read yours in the paper.
MR. LEA: Now there are a few people who are quite upset about this in my community because, when the new appointments were made, there was not one person from Prince Rupert, one of the largest communities in the area and also a community that supplies a very major share of the funds that are collected at the local level. I wrote, by the way, after hearing from the Prince Rupert Chamber of Commerce, the Prince Rupert School Board, the Queen Charlotte Islands School Board, Mr. Ciccone, president of Local 4, Watson Island, the PPWC, from the Prince Rupert Labour Council, from the city council, and from the Northwest Community College itself, I wrote a letter to the Hon. Patrick McGeer, dated March 5, 1976, and I'd like to quote the letter:
"Dear Mr. McGeer:
"As I am sure you are aware, you have not appointed a government appointee from the city of Prince Rupert to the Northwest Community College.
"I am assuming that your decision in this matter was not governed by politics and that you have a reason. But I must say I have given this matter a great deal of thought and I can think of no reason that would stand up under examination that would leave Prince Rupert out.
"I am sure you know that Prince Rupert is one of the biggest financial contributors to this college and is also one of the bigger population areas. I strongly protest that no one has been appointed to the board from Prince Rupert by
[ Page 1619 ]
yourself, and await your explanation with a great deal of interest. Yours truly...."
Then a letter dated March 24, from the minister to me:
"Dear Mr. Lea:
"I would like to acknowledge your letter of March 5, 1976, concerning appointments to the Northwest Community College council.
"As you are no doubt aware, legislation provides for each of the participating school districts to appoint a councillor with the intention of getting full geographic representation and, secondly, provides for some appointments by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council.
"It has been my belief that the government appointees should be selected so as to make sure that the various social, economic and similar groups are represented and, further, that the individuals should be chosen on their basis of demonstrated achievement in their field of endeavour and interest in education and, in these times of fiscal restraint, concern for sound management of public funds.
"I am sorry that in looking at persons to sit on the council a person from Prince Rupert was not chosen. As you know, I have expressed the view that members of college councils should be rotated, and perhaps next year a resident of Prince Rupert could be recognized as a representative of one of the social interest groups.
Patrick L. McGeer."
That letter, I would suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, tells a different story than the one we've just heard from the minister who said he would not, under any circumstances, for the sole reason that people belong to a social interest group, appoint them to a college. Now we have to understand, Mr. Chairman, that he did have other criteria: people who should have good fiscal sense and responsibility, someone who has demonstrated achievement in the field of their endeavour and in their education. I should point out that after putting out that criterion, he says, "I'm sorry, no one from Prince Rupert," because in his opinion, I would suppose, no one from Prince Rupert could match that criterion. I suggest to you that it is because NDP won the seat in Prince Rupert, and that's why they got no one.
AN HON. MEMBER: You're right there.
MR. LEA: A pure political reason for no one from Prince Rupert being appointed to the board. And the other arrogance of the postscript, written in the minister's own handwriting: "P.S. Send along your suggestions — Roy Last?" Roy Last was the Social Credit candidate who ran against me in 1975.
HON. MR. McGEER: Very amusing.
MR. LEA: Very amusing, Mr. Minister — through you, Mr. Chairman. The reasons he gave are not the reasons that he put in this letter; he said it could not be political, then he suggests in this letter that the only person he would accept as my suggestion is the person who ran for the Social Credit in 1975. That's what it's all about.
So, if we cannot believe him on that, Mr. Chairman, how can we believe him on the one about the board of governors from the University of British Columbia?
AN HON. MEMBER: You can't.
MR. LEA: How can he ask us, as opposition, and how can he ask the people in this province, to believe it.
AN HON. MEMBER: He can't.
MR. LEA: He's proved, I believe, in his actions, and by his words, and by his own handwriting on this letter, what it's all about.
MR. LEA: That's what it's all about. So let's hear an explanation for this one, and while he's at it let's get back to the other one and hear a real explanation for that.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I'd be delighted, as I said in my letter, to consider anybody whom the member for Prince Rupert would like to suggest should serve on that Northwest College Council. The invitation is still open; we've not received any suggestion from the member, nor have we received a suggestion from him tonight. If the member is sincere in his indignation, then he could well redress his grievance this evening by sending forward the suggestions that he has for people from his area. And who would we consult more about geographical representation than the MLA for that area? No one.
MR. COCKE: Nonsense!
HON. MR. McGEER: I don't think, given the wide geographical area that each of these college councils represents.... Remember, there are many, many communities in British Columbia and there are only 14 of these colleges, so it would be impossible to have every single community represented at all times on
[ Page 1620 ]
the council of a given college. That's why we have school board representation on these college councils.
We may change the makeup of the governors of these college councils when we bring an Act in next year, but for the moment there is representation on the boards of governors from the school districts in each of these councils, some appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. We can't represent every geographical area, but we can make an effort, and we're prepared at any time to consider outstanding nominations put forward by anyone for these boards.
It's an onerous task; they don't get adequate recognition for the very time-consuming and valuable efforts that they put out. But we're going to try and be as fair as we possibly can in having geographical communities and the interests of the college itself represented on the board of governors.
Obviously, if there's a strong commitment at a given college for a vocational programme, we would want to have governors who are knowledgeable about the programmes that were particularly emphasized at that institution. I would have hoped that the member would have interpreted the remarks made in that letter with regard to the particular programmes that are being offered in the Northwest College Council. I would have thought that he'd recognize the very sincere effort we made to solicit suggestions from him, since he raised a legitimate complaint — I think a very legitimate one — that we weren't able to address ourselves to immediately, but which we would be quite prepared to do in the future.
All the member has to do is to submit the names as we suggested. If he would care to do that now we'll do our very best as soon as possible to see that the community of Prince Rupert is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council appointment.
I would hope that he would communicate to his constituency the fact that the Department of Education is not paying any attention in the recommendations that it made to the fact that an NDP member was returned. If any fault can be found, Mr. Chairman, it was the interpretation that the member for Prince Rupert made that it would be useless for him to put somebody forward because he was an opposition MLA. Quite the reverse.
I believe that had that member not wished to make that interpretation on what this government might do, he might long ago have put forward names from the city of Prince Rupert and we might have been able to pay some attention to his request by now. But in any event, I want to make it very clear that we would welcome any suggestions that he would care to make.
MS. K.E. SANFORD (Comox): Mr. Chairman, earlier this evening the name of Renée Taylor was raised with respect to the North Island College council. Rene Taylor was an appointee to the North Island College council and is a member of the Nimpkish band at Alert Bay. Rene Taylor was unable to continue in her position and that may have been the reason she was not appointed by the new minister to the North Island College. However, the Nimpkish band council wrote on January 22, 1976, just as the minister has asked, making a recommendation for a replacement of Rene Taylor to the North Island College council. The person whom they recommended was Gloria Cranmer Webster.
I would just like to say a couple of words about Gloria Webster. As I say, they recommended on January 22 to the minister that she be appointed to the North Island College council. Do you know, Mr. Chairman, that to this day they have not even had an acknowledgement of that letter, not a word from the minister with respect to their recommendation for an appointee to the North Island College council? They read in the paper last week that somebody else from the north end of the Island has been appointed, a representative from the Rayonier Co. at Port McNeill. But Gloria Cranmer Webster was an assistant curator at UBC working with Dr. Hawthorne. She is a social worker. She is a linguist who is a specialist in the Quabios language. She was on the advisory board to the First Citizens Council. She has been involved with the whole process of attempting to advance education at Alert Bay. They have done an excellent job. They have worked for months and months and months in that band council preparing material for educational opportunities for people in the north end of the Island. They have their own marine college at this stage.
They have been most disturbed, Mr. Chairman, to be left out of any of the discussions with respect to the future of the marine college in this province, because they have been operating one for some time. They have been offering upgrading courses of various kinds right at Alert Bay. Now, as I say, this letter was written on January 22. There was no response whatsoever from the minister. Gloria Cranmer Webster would be an excellent addition to the North Island College council and I think it is regrettable that the minister does not even respond to a request made by the Nimpkish band council.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to check the log in the Department of Education to see if we received such a letter. But the fact that no acknowledgement has gone out from the Department of Education makes me wonder if there might have been some slip-up in the mails. But we would be very happy to consider very seriously the nominee of the Nimpkish people, and, again, until we check into it I can't tell you whether such a letter ever arrived. I can tell you that I never saw such a letter.
[ Page 1621 ]
[Mr. Veitch in the chair.]
As far as the marine college is concerned, I think, Mr. Chairman, the member should know that the department has just appointed a committee to give advice about the future direction of marine training in British Columbia so there couldn't be a more opportune time for the Nimpkish to have input into marine training in British Columbia.
MS. SANFORD: They're not even consulted.
HON. MR. McGEER: Well, the whole point is that the committee is there as an advisory committee, and what I am suggesting to the member, Mr. Chairman, is that now is the appropriate time to be in touch with the committee because they will be investigating all aspects of marine training in British Columbia and making a report to the department. We would be absolutely delighted for the Nimpkish people to be in contact with our marine advisory committee. We'll make certain that committee gets in touch with them because policy is going to be formulated in the next year with regard to marine training in British Columbia. I can assure you that this will be looked into.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to note that the minister has said that he would welcome any input from the Nimpkish band council on discussions on the marine college. There was a good deal of publicity following your initial statements about the future of a marine college in the province and I know that in the major dailies — I think it was the Vancouver Sun, although I may be wrong on that — there was that coverage at the time in which the Nimpkish band expressed their dissatisfaction at not being consulted with respect to the future of the marine college, because they had been working on this.
AN HON. MEMBER: They were not saying that they were likely to cancel out.
MS. SANFORD: Yes, that's true. But you're saying that you would welcome their participation now. But surely the publicity which has surrounded your initial statements on the marine college and the response from the Nimpkish band council, again receiving press coverage, should have indicated to you that they were dissatisfied at the time, and it could have been followed up at that time.
HON. MR. McGEER: I don't understand, really, what the problem is.
MS. SANFORD: Well, the problem is that they have been operating a marine college in the north end of the island, at Alert Bay, for some time. When you mentioned that you were setting up an advisory council on this and mentioned several names of people who would be on the advisory council, no mention was made of anyone from the Nimpkish band council or from the marine college that had been operational up there.
They were disturbed at the time, and they made mention of this in the press, certainly within the riding, and also it was contained in the press in the major dailies. But you are saying at this time that you will contact them in order to seek their advice on this advisory council on the marine college.
If I can have just one more moment, the other thing that you might be interested in, Mr. Minister, is the copy of the letter which I have received today. A copy has gone to you, and it is a letter from the band manager of the Nimpkish band at Alert Bay. It's a letter addressed to the editor of the North Island Gazette. As I say, this arrived just today, but I will read it for you:
We read with interest the announcement of Keith Bicey's appointment to the North Island College council. On January 22, 1976, we wrote to Pat McGeer, Minister of Education, recommending the appointment of a Nimpkish band member to the North Island College council. We outlined several valid reasons to support our recommendation, including the Nimpkish band's long-range educational plans, particularly the extension of marine college programmes. To date we have not even had an acknowledgment from Dr. McGeer.
"The two communities, that is Alert Bay and Port Hardy, having North Island College co-ordinators, now have no representation on the college council, which seems a little strange to us. Perhaps the situation seems strange to other people as well, particularly those at Port Hardy.
"Social Credit Strikes again," ends the letter,
Pearl Alfred, Band Manager."
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, if the member would make available to me the original letter that was written, then I'd have the opportunity of seeing it — which I simply haven't seen. Now it could be the department's fault, that somehow the letter just slipped through and wasn't opened, or it could be that it didn't arrive. So until I determine that, I can't give a specific answer to this.
I can tell you that wherever possible... Just again, I repeat: in these spread-out college districts, we do everything we can to see that there's geographical representation. There is membership on these councils by the school boards, which helps to
[ Page 1622 ]
compensate for whatever we're unable to take off by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council appointment. As far as the marine college is concerned, the whole purpose of setting up an advisory committee was to go into questions of precisely this nature.
There is on the advisory committee a member of the native brotherhood — again, not appointed for that reason, but it just happens to be the case. So, again, there is a special opportunity to see that the interest of marine training of the Nimpkish people of the north island is well served.
MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Chairman, on the matter of the removal of Mr. Thom, I would just like to make the point that the NDP appointed Mr. Byng Thom to the UBC board of governors because of his proven competence. I think it can be proven that he had competence in the areas of the criteria which the minister has stated. So we have no conclusions, Mr. Chairman, to come to now, except the fact the minister obviously did not consider Mr. Thom competent to serve on the board of governors, which I think is a very sad thing to hear from the Minister of Education in reference to a man who has proven his competence in so many fields. Obviously it was a very subjective decision, or a very political decision — one or the other — but one which certainly could not be rationalized on the basis of Mr. Thom's competence.
The other point I wish to make is in reference to the criteria which the minister has repeated over and over again for his appointments. The most interesting thing about those criteria is that the way he applies them is, apparently, to get one sector of society. I want to back that up by just giving a few examples — and this is only referring to two colleges in our district. I can get further press releases, but I don't wish to bore the House by going through many more at this time. But we can start off with two college councils and the recent appointments made by the Minister of Education — and let's remember that he said there were three criteria.
I don't want to name the people, because there's no intention here to suggest these people are not competent; the point I'm trying to make is that it is very interesting that in the minister's opinion such competence only seems to rest in the managerial or the professional area. For example, recent ministerial appointments to North Island College include the manager of Rayonier Canada, Northern Division, and the president and general manager of CFCP Radio Ltd. To Northern Lights College was appointed a partner in a chartered accountant firm who is the president of the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce. Then we have in the Cranbrook area another appointment of a lawyer from a law firm in that area. Then we move on and we find the appointment of a surgeon....
AN HON. MEMBER: He was already on the board.
MRS. DAILY: He was on the board. I'm trying to show, though, that the additions that are made are all from one sector — managerial or professional — by this minister. Another appointment was a Texaco bulk agent; another was a branch accountant with Cominco.
I just want to reiterate, Mr. Chairman, that I am not here to cast any aspersions on the ability of those people. What I am very concerned about is that when the minister is seeking the criteria which he says he must have in his appointments, it's obvious that he considers there is only one sector of society — the managerial or the professional sector of our society — which has those abilities. What about all the other people in the area who pay taxes, who have an interest in education, who happen to have an understanding of fiscal responsibility and can meet the other requirements? They have contributed to their community, but unfortunately they don't happen to be in the managerial sector, they don't happen to have a professional degree, they don't happen to be lawyers, doctors, et cetera. Therefore I think it's a very sad day for British Columbia that many capable people in this province are never going to receive college appointments under the Social Credit government unless they happen to belong to a certain elitist group in our society. I think that is the point which we are trying to bring to the minister's attention.
All he has to do is look through the appointments that have been made since he came in. Yes, the minister can stand up and say, "Oh, no, I did put a labour one in here, a smattering here and there," but the majority of your appointments, Mr. Minister, have been dealing with only one sector of our society. When the New Democratic Party came in, it did not come in on the idea that the best council or board is to take a sector from here and sector from there. We too looked at competence, and attempted to look at it. We also looked at a wide sector when it comes to the whole group of taxpayers of this province, no matter if they belong to the managerial or the professional sector.
I am asking the minister to remember when appointments come up that there are many capable people in the communities who are willing to serve on these college boards who may not have a professional degree or a university degree, and may not have risen to the top in management, but who can indeed meet his criteria.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I must reject what the member has said as being not accurate in fact. I want to just cite some of the appointments that our government has made which really just
[ Page 1623 ]
completely demolish the arguments of the member. Just to give one example, a member that we appointed to the Northwest College council, one that the member for Prince George has complained about, is a labour man. We appointed him, and, Mr. Chairman, he's the first vice-president of the Terrace NDP....
MR. LEA: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the minister said that I complained about people or some particular person who had been appointed to the board. I have not complained about any appointment that the minister has made to Northwest Community College. I only complained that no one was appointed from Prince Rupert.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Member, that is not a correct point of order. You can make a correction when the minister....
MR. LEA: It is a point of order.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No, it isn't.
MR. LEA: Whether it is a point of order or not, I just wish the minister would correct it.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Chairman, I'm merely pointing out for the members opposite that you said in one college all we do is appoint management people. Well, to the Northwest College council, who was our appointment? — first vice-president of the NDP in Terrace and a member of the Terrace Labour Council. Is that management? Is that prejudice?
HON. MRS. DAILLY: One.
HON. MR. McGEER: One? All right, just last week I had occasion to write a letter to a member of the Victoria Labour Council, Mr. Larry Ryan, pleading with him to stay on as a member of the board of governors of the University of Victoria. That was an appointment that you made and it's an appointment that we would make, if we had the opportunity, because he's outstanding — not because he's a member of the Victoria Labour Council or a supporter of the NDP.
It so happens that we have appointed labour people to the board of governors of BCIT and to Selkirk College. I would have to bring the list of all the people up here, but I'd be happy to read off, if the member wishes, the names of labour people that we have appointed. It isn't an isolated circumstance, Madam Member. I am recalling certain specific names that I can recall now, but I think you will find that there are representatives of labour on nearly all of the educational boards in British Columbia.
I want to emphasize once more, Mr. Chairman, to you and all the members of the House that Mr. Hutchison was not appointed to the board of the Northwest College council because he was on the Terrace Labour Council or because he was the first vice-president of the NDP; he was appointed because he was a good man. These are the criteria that we take into consideration — not whether they are representatives of labour or any political party or anything except the criteria that I have listed. It is going to turn out, Mr. Chairman, that a reasonable representation of such people will come from management and they will come from labour. But there is no discrimination involved; I want to lay that myth to rest.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, all of the statements made by the hon. minister today have served really to confuse the issue of Mr. Byng Thom's competence. The hon. minister laid down three criteria for service on the board. It had to do with competence in the field of one's endeavour, a commitment to the educational process, and fiscal responsibility. Everything the minister has said to date would seem to leave the impression that in one of these three areas Mr. Byng Thom was found wanting....
AN HON. MEMBER: Or all of them.
MS. BROWN: Or in all of the three areas Mr. Byng Thom was found wanting. I think it's only fair to Mr. Thom that that issue be cleared up for once and for all.
Here is a man, Mr. Chairman, who is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, a graduate of whom the university is extremely proud because his record while at the university and after was very honourable. He is an outstanding architect, as I mentioned earlier. Some of the more beautiful buildings in this province — and, indeed, in other provinces throughout this country — were designed by Byng Thom. So there can't be any question about his ability in terms of his profession. Mr. Byng Thom is committed to the concept of a good educational structure. If there is any question about this, then the minister should say so. In his capacity as an architect he has had to operate within very clear lines of economic criteria and certainly has had to demonstrate his fiscal responsibility.
The minister has also said over and over again that the reason Mr. Thom was removed from the board had nothing to do with politics. In fact, the reason that Mr. Thom was placed on the board had nothing to do with politics; the reason that Mr. Thom was placed on the board, Mr. Chairman, had nothing to do with his race. It was because the previous minister felt that Mr. Thom met all of the three criteria laid down by the present minister and, indeed, additional criteria. I think that it is only fair to Mr. Thom that
[ Page 1624 ]
the minister should at this point clarify in which of the three areas Mr. Thom failed in his work on the board and the reason why his term of office was terminated. He did not serve out his term; it wasn't just a matter of his period not being renewed. A very serious criticism is being made by one of British Columbia's outstanding citizens. I think it is only fair that the minister should clarify his reasons for terminating Mr. Thom's service on the board at this time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall vote 39 pass?
MS. BROWN: No, vote 39 shall not pass.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, in the area of appointments and dealing with one or two of the minister's appointments in another area, I would just like to suggest that there are people other than industrialists and other than people largely involved in major business situations in the province who can make a contribution. Justifying his appointments to the board of ICBC, justifying the total dominance of that board with business people by indicating that this kind of complex business cannot be guided in any way by someone other than of that ilk, shows the kind of direction that the minister took in all of his endeavours.
Mr. Chairman, we heard the minister suggest that there were those people on the college councils and the university council and boards of governors who were other than industrialists. Check out their members. Who suggests that anything other than what the minister deems right should be in the majority? But it's such a vast majority.
Just for a second, go over the appointments to the board of directors of ICBC. Vice-president of MacMillan Bloedel....
AN HON. MEMBER: Order!
MR. COCKE: What do you mean order?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Proceed, Hon. Member.
MR. COCKE: ...Vice-president of MacMillan Bloedel; retired former chief executive officer of the Guardian Union Group of insurance companies, an actuary; president and chairman of the board of a major computer organization; formerly president and chief executive officer of PWA — Mr. Chairman, they're all good guys.
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
MR. COCKE: They're all good guys, but where do you hear the voice of the people from this group, Mr. Chairman? This particular group of individuals who are far removed...and you know, Mr. Chairman, you can suggest all you like that people who are involved in the day-to-day activities of the average person haven't the qualifications to advise on ICBC or other government activities. It's dead wrong. It's absolutely wrong and it's elitism at the very heart of this problem and it's also paying homage to those who one feels are very important friends. It's not good enough. It's certainly not good enough for our educational system. We heard a story tonight that makes one wince, particularly when one sees the tremendous amount of time involved. I listened to the member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot) talk about how the NDP made their appointments.
MR. J.R. CHABOT (Columbia River): When?
MR. COCKE: Just a little while ago from his seat — never standing, Mr. Chairman. It was interesting that in New Westminster, if the member would check out, he would find that the person who ran against me for the Socreds I appointed to the hospital board and reappointed because that particular individual is a hard worker in health care....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Vote 39.
MR. COCKE: Well, Mr. Chairman, that's an answer to that kind of questioning.
MR. CHABOT: What about it?
MR. COCKE: What about it?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, hon. members.
MR. COCKE: One person on a board that was so totally dominated...and you can be as red-faced — and you should be — because you're a part of that terrible establishment in Surrey that tried to dominate everything for the last number of years. I'd be hanging my head if I were you. What about Surrey? That's a good one to talk about. You and your value schools!
Mr. Chairman, I'll get right back to vote whatever we're talking about.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Vote 39.
MR. COCKE: That's a good number, Mr. Chairman, particularly at this hour of the night.
[ Page 1625 ]
MR. COCKE: I don't know what you're talking about. But, you know, that minister, whenever he's minister from time to time, keeps defending himself in this House, but he's going to have a hard time defending the situation out in Surrey because it's going from bad to worse. He left a real mess.
Now, Mr. Chairman, that's part of this whole elitism thing.
MR. COCKE: That's from a director of ICBC. Yes, Mr. Chairman, we're going to hear plenty about ICBC from both sides of this House before this vote goes down the tube. Oh, yes, Mr. Chairman.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, don't let.... The minister from Gellately Road is sitting there, pontificating. Don't you start giving me any of your lip over there, Mr. Premier. The fact of the matter is...
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members! Hon. members!
MR. COCKE: ...that I was asked by eight members of your party to resign.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members!
MR. COCKE: And you and all the rest of this creation couldn't get me to resign or shut up about ICBC. You'll be hearing about it for the next four years.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Member, vote 39.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. What I read to you earlier with respect to vote 39 was just another direction that we see in this new coalition party — taking away as much as you can from the people. Take it away from the people so these very lofty decisions can be made from those on high, or those considered to be on high, by the elitists in the coalition.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to discuss a few matters under the minister's responsibilities. First of all, I couldn't get up without responding en passant to the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) who talked about the BCTF supposed closed shop — he referred to it as a union. I hope that the minister takes a responsible attitude toward that suggestion. It is surprising — the member for Oak Bay, for whom I have a fair amount of respect, I think, was found maybe without all his homework done — because BCTF certainly is a professional organization, not a political organization. In fact, it was only forced to become a political organization because of activities which took place in government starting around 1970, or before, when the....
HON. W.R. BENNETT (Premier): You say its a political organization?
MR. NICOLSON: It's a professional organization.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Member, we are going to get to vote 39.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Chairman, are you saying that I am out of order when the Premier is trying to interrupt me and trying to intimidate me with that fantastic staccato rhetoric and...?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. Members, the member for Nelson-Creston has the floor.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that the British Columbia Teachers Federation has provided a service where for years and years and years the government of British Columbia failed to give the wherewithal to the Department of Education to respond. The BCTF led the way in terms of curriculum revision, and when it was finally allowed to go through, starting in the sciences and mathematics, it was more through the efforts of the BCTF, and also through the efforts of many teachers who gave of their time that, first of all, the curriculum was revised. Then having revised it, the teachers indulged in in-service training. I know of many teachers, Mr. Chairman, who paid money out of their own pockets and attended two-week workshops to upgrade themselves when the new programmes of physics, for example, were introduced into grades 11 and 12, starting back in the fall of 1964.
I find it rather ironic that a member of the medical profession would accuse the BCTF of being a political entity...
AN HON. MEMBER: Why don't you wait until he's through?
MR. NICOLSON: ...when in the medical profession the AMA not only indulged in politics in their own country, but they came across the border into Saskatchewan and opposed Tommy Douglas when he brought in the first medicare programme in Canada. That's what I call a political organization. I am not accusing the present members of the B.C.
[ Page 1626 ]
Medical Association for having their heads in that space, but I can only say that it's rather ironic that such an accusation should be made in this House.
But enough for defending the Minister of Education. Now I would like to....
MR. NICOLSON: Not for answering for the Minister of Education — it's something I don't think he responded to.
Now I would like to discuss a few other items, one of which the minister has said that he would like to see — a type of evaluation of our educational system, the testing, standardized achievement-testing of our curriculum objectives and so on.
I would like to know what the minister feels is the future of government exams at the high-school leaving — grade 12 government exams...what his feelings are on that. I would also like to know what the minister feels about scholarship exams and, indeed, about the semester system.
Speaking as an individual, I feel that following the introduction of much-needed curriculum revision, everyone felt that they had to get into the act, and the administrators were, perhaps, the last ones.
The panacea that seemed to come about, or the way in which they worked out their own creative and experimental compulsions, was to create the master system. I would submit to the minister that he should look at the semester system very carefully. I think that it's expensive, I think it's wasteful, and I think it's undermining the work ethic in our education system. I don't expect the minister to agree with me in my feelings about it, but I would say that it was really a way of administrators kind of doing their little bit of experimentation after the various curriculum revisions had taken place, from K to 12.
I, for one, having taught grade 12 for most of my teaching career and been subject to government exams, am not one who objects to being subjected to externally imposed government exams. I do feel that when economy measures were brought in in the late 1960s, and poorly researched multiple-choice items were brought in — items in which the validity of the test items had not been tested in prior usage, and so on — they were, I think, very poor, but perhaps subjective. Government exams were something that maybe did keep some teachers on their toes. I think that if they're not overdone, teachers can avoid just having to teach toward exams all year long. Teachers can still be creative and still have final government exams to look forward to at the end of grade 12.
I am more concerned about scholarship exams. There seems to be some uncertainty about the future of grade 12 scholarship exams. I'd also point out to the minister that there have been some changes made from time to time, and there was at the beginning of the introduction of scholarship exams, which started back about 1965 or something like that, a requirement that English be written. Then that was dropped as a requirement and people were allowed to write their best subjects and take the two best scores they scored. I think it's been reintroduced that English is a prerequisite, and I would tell the minister — and I hope I'm not misunderstood — that there's a cultural bias in requiring written fluency in English, which is a stumbling block to people who certainly are in economic need and people who are sometimes very brilliant but perhaps lacking in the cultural background which creates success in writing English exams and showing proficiency in English literature and in English grammar.
I taught in Nelson school district. There are many people of Russian origin — people would know them as Doukabors. A great number of the Doukhobour students do show proficiency in English, but others come from a background which is perhaps a little bit closer to speaking Russian at home, where Russian is still the major language at home. Here there are some difficulties in language. These students would excel in physics and chemistry and mathematics. They might even be fairly good in French. They might even excel in French and still have some difficulty in English. Students of Chinese and Japanese background whom I taught would often run into this, particularly if they were maybe a first-generation family or maybe didn't have as many years in Canada as others. In families which had emigrated maybe three generations ago it wasn't a factor.
In fact, I think that just on the basis of socio-economic background, on the basis of whether or not families have magazines in the home.... A lot of families do not subscribe to magazines such as Macleans and so on, which young people might tend to read. A lot of families do not have encyclopaedias, do not subscribe to the Time-Life series, and so on, and enrich the background at home.
This seems to manifest itself sometimes with difficulty in English and the need to maybe do even remedial English upon arriving at university. But I believe that people that can show some exceptional ability, whether the exceptional ability be in English and French or whether the exceptional ability be in mathematics, chemistry, physics or biology, should be given a chance and should be given financial incentives and financial assistance to go on into post-secondary education.
I'd also like to say a few things to the minister about Notre Dame University. As I said to the minister during the budget debate, I feel that the minister has put Notre Dame University in a needlessly difficult situation. There have been conflicting statements because of the official pose that everything must go through the universities council. Yet we had statements by the minister, by
[ Page 1627 ]
the deputy minister and by the president of the universities council which I believe still cannot be reconciled. The letter from Dr. Armstrong to the president of Notre Dame University, Mr. Hoole, used the expression: "I have been advised by the deputy minister that these matters must be resolved by" such-and-such a date. I had the file in here earlier and I don't intend to dwell upon that, but I just remind the minister that that statement I think placed a question mark over the head of yourself and these two persons who are responsible to you. You said that no interference was there, and so on.
Also, of course, Notre Dame University was told to comply with a certain number of requests of the universities council, I think by April 15. By April 8 they had taken all of these matters into account and I think they had resolved them. They were then told to resolve matters of faculty curtailment and matters with Selkirk College. Now I understand that matters of faculty curtailment are under negotiation and are almost finalized, and I am confident that they will meet the requirements which have been set, Mr. Minister.
The member who could be loosely associated with the Kootenays is bored by this discussion and I don't think that he should be. I'm not talking about the member for Kootenay (Mr. Haddad); I'm talking about the member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot). He seems to be bored, though, and it distresses me because he should be one who is concerned about post-secondary education in the East and West Kootenays.
Faculty is being curtailed, or will be, in compliance with the recommendations of the minister. The minister talks in terms of everything having to go through the universities council, but his deputy has been very useful in terms of these talks and very much involved in these talks. The president of the universities council isn't here, but a deputy minister who is with us here this evening is also very involved in this.
So there is an official position that everything must go through the universities council. Yet I think that the minister and his deputy are, perhaps as they very rightfully should be, very much involved in the day-to-day proceedings, because it just can't be done that simply without involvement, and shouldn't be done without involvement at the very highest level.
Mr. Chairman, the discussions are proceeding very fruitfully with Selkirk College about their involvement in offering first- and second-year programmes at Notre Dame. So I'm confident that you will have your request fulfilled about faculty curtailment and your request about involvement of Selkirk College for first- and second-year programmes. A community that has struggled since 1950 to provide post-secondary education somewhere else besides in the lower mainland area.... In fact, at the very least, Selkirk College is not the third university in British Columbia. Notre Dame would be considered the third, if not the second.
Mr. Chairman, a community that does things for itself should be rewarded for that type of initiative which it has shown, for the determination and the support that has been shown for Selkirk College. Because Selkirk College was founded and supported by a referendum because of support....
Oh, I was watching the lights and not the clock.
MR. NICOLSON: Okay. Well, I think you might have some answers, Mr. Minister. What I would like to say is this: because of all of these things that have been done, they can't be done just to buy just one more year. If these requirements are met, can you give some encouragement that the university will continue to exist beyond 1977? I think that is the most crucial important question to which you can address yourself, but I would be pleased to hear the minister's remarks.
HON. MR. McGEER: If I can deal very briefly with this latter subject raised by the member, I know he has a keen interest in post-secondary education in the Nelson area. I want to assure him and the people of Nelson that the government and the Department of Education also have a very keen interest in the programmes that can be offered of a post-secondary nature at Nelson. Now what we've done is we've said to a private institution that became utterly dependent in a very brief period of time on large government grants, completely beyond anything that was being financed by government in any of the 99 institutions that it is responsible for, that Notre Dame, if it were to be funded in the future, would have to be funded on the same basis and by the same criteria as our public universities. We said that the universities council, because it administers the funds for our existing public universities, should be the responsible body to determine precisely what these criteria are. There has been no conflicting point of view coming from the government or the Department of Education. We stated our policy very early and we've been consistent in that.
I want to commend the member and the former Minister of Education (Mrs. Dailly) for being thoroughly responsible in this matter. But there has been a continual series of approaches being made to the Department of Education, to the deputy minister, to the press, all trying to avoid what were the very simple criteria laid down by the Department of Education and a policy that was very obvious for anybody to interpret and act upon. We can only interpret all of this as a resistance on the part of Notre Dame University to accept the criteria that are
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established for our public universities.
Now if and when they are prepared to do that, the money which has been set aside to be administered by the universities council will be released for their future. But it has to be, Mr. Member, on the basis of meeting the criteria of the public universities. That is not an unreasonable request for the Department of Education to make. The other is that if there is to be a long-term commitment to post-secondary education in the Nelson area, then it has to be, in our view, by a public educational body.
If Notre Dame wishes to remain as a private university with self-governance, then, of course, it has to take responsibility — financial responsibility — for that independence. If it doesn't wish to be a totally independent, self-governing institution, then it has to meet public criteria and therefore be eventually absorbed in some form or other into the public educational system of British Columbia.
But on a long-term basis I see it has to be one of those two courses: completely independent, finance yourself; if you want a guarantee of long-term commitment on the part of this government and future governments, then meet the public criteria and be absorbed into the public system. The choice is up to Notre Dame.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Bennett moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:03 p.m.