1976 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 31st Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 1976
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Miscellaneous Statutes (Court Rules) Amendment Act, 1976 (Bill 69) Hon. Mr.
Introduction and first reading — 2455
Anti-Inflation Measures Act (Bill 16) .
Division on third reading — 2455
Provincial Home-owner Grant Amendment Act, 1976, (Bill 17) .
Third reading — 2455
Interpretation Amendment Act, 1976 (Bill 20) .
Third reading — 2455
Auditor General Act (Bill 45) .
Third reading — 2455
Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act (Bill 28) Second reading.
Mr. Wallace — 2455
Mrs. Wallace — 2459
Mr. Cocke — 2461
Mr. Lea — 2463
Mr. Bawlf — 2468
Mr. Barber — 2469
Mr. Hewitt — 2471
Mr. Barnes — 2471
Mr. Kerster — 2475
Ms. Brown — 2477
Hospital Services Collective Agreement Act (Bill 75) Hon. Mr. Williams.
Introduction and first reading — 2480
TUESDAY, JUNE 8, 1976
The House met at 8 p.m.
Introduction of bills.
MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES (COURT RULES)
AMENDMENT ACT, 1976
Hon. Mr. Gardom presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Miscellaneous Statutes (Court Rules) Amendment Act, 1976.
Bill 69 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm presents the second annual report of the Burns Lake Community Development Association.
Orders of the day.
HON. G.M. McCARTHY (Provincial Secretary): Mr. Speaker, I would like to call public bills and orders. Report on Bill 16.
ANTI-INFLATION MEASURES ACT
Bill 16 read a third time and passed on the following division:
YEAS — 29
NAYS — 14
|Wallace, B.B.||Wallace, G.S.|
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Report on Bill 17, Mr. Speaker.
GRANT AMENDMENT ACT, 1976
Bill 17 read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Report on Bill 20, Mr. Speaker.
INTERPRETATION AMENDMENT ACT, 1976
Bill 20 read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Report on Bill 45, Mr. Speaker.
AUDITOR GENERAL ACT
Bill 45 read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Adjourned debate on Bill 28.
INCOME FOR NEED ACT
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): Moving right along, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter.) Bill 28 starts off with good intentions to amalgamate...
MR. SPEAKER: Moving right along, Hon. Member! (Laughter.)
MR. WALLACE: ...existing pieces of legislation....
MR. WALLACE: It is obvious, Mr. Speaker, that it is a lot tougher to speak after supper than before supper. (Laughter.)
But it is a serious bill because it takes a new direction in that it asks this House to make some very serious decisions and to either approve or oppose a bill where the precise impact of the bill is actually going to be in the regulations, not in the bill before us. While the supper break has some disadvantages, it also has some advantages in that I can read the transcript of the minister's introduction of second reading. I understand that in the minister's introduction of second reading, he said that this legislation has an advantage over the former legislation in which much of the direction of the former legislation came from the regulations.
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I found that a very surprising statement, Mr. Speaker, because I took the trouble to review all of the 29 sections of this bill, and in 16 of the 29 sections the regulations are referred to as being the authority to implement the principle in each section. It seems to me not really very fair to the people who will be affected by this bill, and certainly to the members of the opposition parties, that so much of the direct impact of this bill will only be known when, in fact, we know what the regulations are.
In my view, it does not make a lot of sense to debate a bill in the very widest and general and diffuse way when, in point of fact, the real application and the real meaning and impact of the bill will only be known after we know what the regulations are. We've already had some experience of the impact of regulations in the circular which was brought forward by the minister in relation to the present provisions of Mincome for those under the age of 65.
It is very important, I think, that we should have some idea from the minister as to the contents of the regulations which he has in mind because in some respects — not all, but in some respects — in this bill, he is in fact asking us to vote for specific recommendations by his department which are not included in the bill but which are only defined in a most general way. And yet in that general definition, as I mentioned before supper, there is the widest power of interpretation under section 1, both in relation to the term "income assistance" and in regard to the term "social services."
I would like to quote, Mr. Speaker, one specific example of the general point I'm trying to make. In one of the subsections which interprets the definition of "social services," it refers to "participation in improving the social conditions of the community." I just can't think of a wider terminology to describe the breadth of meaning which could be attached to the words "social services."
I want to be fair, however, and state that there is much in this bill that attracts me and which I think is long overdue. I'm thinking particularly of sections such as 10, 11 and 12, where we're dealing with incentives, we're dealing with the plight of single-parent families and we're dealing with handicapped health benefits. I can't be stronger in my support of the minister's effort in that kind of direction where, in fact, in the past, we certainly have made it difficult for individuals to take low-paid jobs when, in point of fact, they lose their medicare coverage and other such medical benefits. Really the difference in income, in the net effect, is very small if they are employed.
So the general thrust of this bill, and I suppose the overriding thrust, is to encourage people not only to seek employment, but also to ensure that they will not suffer through temporary employment in an irregular way, or even in employment which might only last for one or two or three months of the year. So I think in trying to appraise this bill, and in trying to be objective, there is no doubt that many of the sections are moving very much in a positive direction as the minister has claimed.
On the other hand, I'm greatly concerned by the section which deals with the minister's authority to make certain judgments. Before supper I referred to the same kind of legislation in the mining Act and the Mineral Royalties Act which has been rescinded, or at least is before the House, and I've no wish to intrude upon that rule of the House. But the reaction of this government to the existing Mineral Royalties Act shows that it is sensitive and aware of legitimate arguments which can improve legislation by taking away or reducing ministerial discretion.
Mr. Speaker, there's one section of this bill which to me is absolutely frightening. It's certainly the image of big government in the worst way. To stay within the rules of the House, I've no wish to quote word for word any section or number of the bill, but this particular section, for example, relates to a person losing employment by reason of misconduct. And this kind of terminology....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the hon. members please accord their attention to the member who has the floor?
MR. WALLACE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker
I don't want to belabour this point unduly, because I realize that the minister does have to have some authority to make judgments. But the language in this particular part of the bill really is quite frightening. Because without suggesting that we indulge in semantics, the word "misconduct" is so prone to the widest possible interpretation by many different people that for someone to lose his job because of misconduct might simply be the way that the employee looks at the boss or the foreman, or because the foreman may have his own biases or prejudices and doesn't like somebody who doesn't cut his hair or happens to be a member of a certain association or affiliation.
If you really want to look at it seriously, Mr. Speaker, the word misconduct in the British context means sleeping with somebody else's wife.
MR. WALLACE: No, I'm being completely serious. If anybody reads the British press, he will find that that is the euphemistic word which is used in the British press in reporting extramarital conduct by an individual.
While that may be the extreme interpretation as far as Canadians are concerned, the word misconduct
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and the power of the minister to decide what an employee has done, which would qualify under this definition, I think is really interfering with the rights of an individual to perhaps take certain attitudes which he firmly believes in. He might be discharged from his employment for his conviction in certain beliefs, whether they be religious beliefs or union beliefs or management beliefs or a whole variety of other reasons which as an individual he has every right to believe. But these beliefs might not coincide with the beliefs of the employer. If he loses his job for that legitimate difference of opinion, is he to be considered as being discharged because of misconduct? It's just a frightening power vested in one single word, Mr. Speaker.
The same kind of qualification is also used in another subsection where it talks about the person receiving social services who fails to demonstrate that he is making reasonable efforts to secure employment. I just have to ask if it is safe in a democratic society that one man, a minister, no matter how well motivated he might be.... For however much we trust this minister, we have to look ahead and consider that there will be other ministers in the future holding this position and given this authority. Is it safe to leave any one individual on this side of the House or that side of the House to determine in the behaviour of an employee what amounts to misconduct or what amounts to reasonable efforts to secure employment?
I would like to ask the, minister, in winding up second reading of this bill, if he would also explain the particular purpose in section 22 of the bill which again gives the minister, in accordance with regulations, the right and the authority to determine rates relating to a variety of facilities such as private hospitals, personal-care homes, foster homes, day-care centres and so on.
The astonishing thing that I can't understand is why this power has been made retroactive to such a specific date as May 27, 1974, and that the order is retroactive to the extent necessary to give it full force as of the date of May 27, 1974. I would wonder what the intent of section 22 is in being retroactive in the first place and being retroactive to such a specific date as May 27, 1974. Mr. Speaker, I can't recall if that was a date on which rates were changed or put up or what has happened. I know that there's been enormous turmoil with certain municipalities trying to sue certain private hospitals.
With the amount of work involved in this job of being an MLA, I haven't had time to research the specifics, but I can well recall the deep dissension that has existed between private hospitals and municipalities about the rate that should be paid for patients in these facilities, and the fact that one case did go to court, and I believe that the court found in favour of the private hospitals.
Mr. Speaker, I won't belabour the point, because I haven't had time to research it myself, but I would like the minister to explain if, in fact, this part of the bill means that municipalities will be in a position to reclaim money which has been paid to private hospitals since May 27, 1974.
Beyond that point I would want to ask whether in fact this principle of the bill is an attempt to get around the court decision. Now I hope this is not the purpose of the bill because if we've got to the point in this House where we're going back two years with retroactive legislation to thwart the decision of a court, then indeed we are, in my view, at a very serious point of disrespecting the law of the land as decided by judges in our various courts.
I can't recall any bill ever, in the years I've been in this House, that makes legislation retroactive for more than two years. There are many reasons, and I know the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. Williams) for one has often talked in this House when he was on this side of the House about the very undesirable aspects of any kind of retroactive legislation. But here we have in this bill, Mr. Speaker, a section of the bill which applies retroactive authority for over two years — May, 1974.
I'm not sure if this is a first in this respect, but regardless of whether it is the longest term of retroactivity applied by a bill, I would like the minister, when he winds up second reading, to explain the intent of this section. Specifically, will certain private hospitals, who succeeded in court in obtaining payment from municipalities, be asked to pay back to the municipalities the amount that was awarded by the court? Because in my memory it wouldn't surprise me if in fact the court decision superseded May 27, 1974.
One of the other sections of the principles of the bill, Mr. Speaker, is the capacity for the minister's department to go back five years to see what assets the individual might have sold either at below market value or for a minimal value in order to determine if five years later these assets would have disqualified them from qualifying for social service benefits.
[Mr. Veitch in the chair.]
You know, Mr. Speaker, we've all complained that one of the unfortunate aspects of the present session of the Legislature is that the two sides of the House are still fighting the election, and I feel that that kind of sentiment is reflected in this principle of the bill which gives the minister the power to go back several years — as many as five years — to review what the financial status of the individual might be today depending upon what they might have done five years ago.
Really, Mr. Speaker, I thought this was a government that was looking at the future, that was
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saying that the future of British Columbians would be bright if they vested their trust in this particular party, that it was the party and the government with an eye to the future with the assurance that economic development would flourish, and that there would be revenue from resources which would make it possible to provide the widest range of benefits to people who are really in need.
If they would live up to that kind of promise and that kind of goal, then I would be one of the first to speak in the strongest terms in support of this government. But when I see this particular part of this particular bill wanting to go back five years to determine what some individual who is now in need did five years ago with their assets, I have to wonder if that really demonstrates a 1976 awareness of what society is all about, Mr. Speaker.
There are other elements in the bill that I really don't understand. I don't understand the reference to a Residence and Responsibility Act, which hasn't even been introduced before this House, as far as I know. Yet in section 24 of the bill there is a reference under a certain subsection about income assistance and social services to an individual who is in a local area defined in the Residence and Responsibility Act.
We've already had a bill in this House referring to another Act which doesn't exist — the Minister of Highways and Public Works (Hon. Mr. Fraser) is looking very interested.
HON. A.V. FRASER (Minister of Highways and Public Works): As of today!
MR. WALLACE: As of today. I stand corrected.
The other bill was introduced this evening.
But I'm talking, Mr. Speaker, about a bill now, Bill 28, in which a section of the bill refers to a non-existent Act entitled the Residence and Responsibility Act.
Mr. Chairman, again I have to say that one of the themes running
through this bill is authority to the minister, discretion and power to
the minister. This same government was elected on the claim that they
were freedom fighters. Yet under the appeal section of this bill, first
of all, the tribunal which will hear appeals is to be set up under
terms defined in the regulations. So here we are debating second
reading of the bill and we have no idea just what the terms will be
under which the appeals tribunal will be set up. In the same part of
the bill we read that the a tribunal decision "may be reviewed by the
It's very much a permissive aspect. It's up to the discretion of the minister; he may review what the tribunal decides.
Even more important, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the way in which the tribunal is established and conducts its business will be spelled out in regulations which we are not in a position to debate. That, of course, brings me to the whole question of the regulations section, which in my view is the key to the whole bill. The regulation section has subsections starting with the letter (a) and finishing with the letter (l), and anyone who has even the scantest respect for the English language would appreciate that, in the old vernacular, subsections (a) to (l) cover everything from soup to nuts. Subsection (l), Mr. Speaker, finished up by saying that "regulations may be made...generally respecting any other matter required for the administration of this Act and the regulations." If that isn't a complete 360-degree sweep of the language available to define just about any and every aspect that could be incorporated in regulations, then I don't know what it is.
The thrust of this bill has a great deal to recommend it. I wish I could support the bill in total but as so often happens, opposition members have to weigh up the overall advantages of a bill and look at the areas of disadvantage and the parts of the bill which cause some real concern.
I've also listened to the debate so far and the comments of the second member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi) about the fact that this bill does change a basic principle, namely that assets rather than income will be the test individuals will have to undergo in seeking to qualify for benefits. I think it was very well described by one of the press gallery, who said that an incomes test is very much less personal, whereas an assets test looks at everything which the individual owns.
To put this stress on ownership again seems to me something of a paradox from this particular government which, according to the theme in the last election, encourages ownership. It is a government which seeks to encourage the individual to acquire his or her own home and his or her own piece of land, and to be self-reliant by acquiring assets which give the individual some measure of self-reliance and security. Yet later in life, apparently, Mr. Speaker, his government feels that ownership and acquisition of assets, even if they're non-income-producing, should be a very basic reason or criterion on which an application for income assistance should be based.
Again, in the absence of the regulations I can only peculate that the thrust of this bill in relation to an assets test rather than an incomes test means that the regulations will dictate to an individual that he or she sell certain assets before they may qualify for income assistance. In some respects that might well be fair enough, but in other cases, depending on how far the regulations go, it might be very unfair. I can't think that this minister would be particularly rigid in defining assets in a very punitive and restrictive way, but the fact that we don't have the regulations and we do not know how assets will be defined and which assets the minister might require to be sold before income assistance will be provided leaves the
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opposition very much in the dark.
So the principle of the bill in many respects is, as the minister claims, progressive. It does, in fact, espouse a concern and a willingness to help various groups in society, such as the handicapped and the unemployable between the ages 55 and 59, and various other persons in need of help, and adds support from this government. But there are just so many questions that the bill creates and doesn't answer, not the least of which is the overriding importance of the regulations. It is because of this that I, with some regret, have to vote against this bill on second reading. Now that is my considered decision at this point in time. If the minister, in winding up second reading can allay some of my fears, I am certainly willing to reconsider my position in voting on this bill.
MRS. B.B. WALLACE (Cowichan-Malahat): Mr. Speaker, this bill certainly brings up the question of a lot of very basic principles, and it seems that the principles by which I am guided must be a bit different from the principles which are guiding the minister bringing in the bill. It was a lot of years ago when my mother used to teach me about things relative to British justice and people being considered innocent until they were proven guilty. Mr. Speaker, I have found that that has been a principle I have followed throughout my life, and I have found that it has paid off. It doesn't apply just in the courts of law, Mr. Speaker; it applies to all people in all walks of life.
If you consider a person to be honest and forthright and to be respectful, you usually get just what you expect; you get that kind of honesty and forthrightness and respect. But on the other hand, if and when you consider a person to be deceitful or shifty, you usually get just that. You know, I like that Minister of Human Resources, Mr. Speaker. He's a very nice young man with his rosy cheeks and his eagerness. He's a very nice, appealing young man. But somehow, Mr. Speaker, he has been badly misguided. He has had some bad advice somewhere, because he seems to think that everybody's out to do him. That bothers me that such a nice young man should have that attitude, Mr. Speaker.
I'm particularly concerned about this particular piece of legislation and what it's doing to the senior citizens of this province, because it is putting the senior citizens into a position of not receiving a pension as a right, but receiving only welfare. That's what it's doing. Whether the minister realizes it or not, Mr. Speaker, that's what this Act is doing. It's taking away that sense of right from pensioners, and it's not just me saying this, Mr. Speaker. I've had people in my riding who are going to be eligible for a pension very shortly, and they're saying: "Forget it, we're not going to go to that kind of means to apply for Mincome." Now maybe that's what the minister wants, I don't know, Mr. Speaker. Maybe that's how he's going to save some money for this government. But that's what people are doing. Rather than go through the processes they would have to go through to apply for much-needed extra funds, they are saying: "No, we are not going to bother. It's not right and it's not fair that we have to have this kind of an imposition put upon us."
Now, Mr. Speaker, I can remember back quite a lot of years, and I can remember when the pension used to be something like $70 a month. For that measly little pension, Mr. Speaker, we had the kind of things that this GAIN Act is reimposing. We had people coming around and snooping in the cupboards to see what you had on the shelf. We had that, Mr. Speaker, and this is a regressive step to go back that 40 years. We're going back to the point where we were before, where we had to declare assets five years — and even 10 years in some instances — back, and if you had any property it became forfeit to the state to repay any pension you had received. This is the direction in which this Act is taking us, and it makes me very sad for this province, Mr. Speaker, that we are going in this direction.
If a pensioner has made any gifts to his family in that five or 10 years, and that seems to be the direction this Act is taking, we're going right back to the point where those gifts will be considered as part of a debt against the estate and taken away from any heirs. It's just a very sad state, Mr. Speaker, that we're going in this direction.
I'd just like to go back a little bit in the history of this situation because, I think, as has been outlined by the two members of the other sections of the opposition here, this is a very wide-open sort of an Act. It relates so much to the regulations, and we don't know what those regulations are, so it becomes a case of attitude, Mr. Speaker.
What is the attitude? I think if we go back in this House to the history of what has gone on with pensions, we find that in the spring of 1972 when the opposition tried to bring in a bill to make a minimum income of $200, it was turned down by the then government.
Then they called an election. The New Democratic Party government won the election; within three months they had acted upon this. They had instituted the legislation that is now going to be wiped out guaranteeing a minimum income to all persons over 65 — that was reduced to 60 — and so on.
Then, Mr. Speaker, we had another election some three years later and we had a change of government again. But at the time of that election we had a lot of promises, promises that Mincome would not be changed, that it would be improved. But that has not happened. Mincome has been changed. Back in January of this year when the federal government
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passed on the cost-of-living bonus, this was passed on to those over 65 but the people on handicapped pensions and the people from 60 up did not receive this — there was no increase to them. So even then, Mr. Speaker, there was a move to do something towards changing Mincome — that in face of the fact that we had such glowing promises of maintaining Mincome and improving it and tying it to the cost-of-living bonus....
Mr. Speaker, I am not alone in my opinions about what this Act is going to do — or the whole intent of this Act. I think the last time Frances Russell was quoted in this House, she was quoted by one of the government members. But I would like to quote Frances Russell from the Sun, Wednesday, May 19, when she was commenting on Mincome. She says: "It is to become just another welfare programme, not a form of pension as it was originally conceived." She goes on to talk about the means test, "a humiliating and demeaning experience for most people, so humiliating that it dissuades not just the dishonest but the needy and proud from applying for assistance. Those who are willing to subject themselves to this experience often find they have to reduce themselves to real poverty in order to qualify."
I had a case come to my attention this morning, Mr. Speaker, a case where the Mincome forms had been filed the first of the year but because of changes and bureaucracy and red tape they had not been finalized until the rulings changed.
At that time of filing, the person involved was quite eligible but they had something like $6,000 in the bank so they were no longer eligible. If that person had taken a trip to Hawaii last January instead of sitting here in B.C. they would have been eligible. That's the kind of thing that this kind of legislation produces in people, Mr. Speaker. It's not about to provide the right of reasonable Mincome — a fair and just return for the work that pensioners have contributed to the welfare of this province. It's not about to bring about that kind of an approach towards providing some form of assistance for our senior citizens.
The minister, the man from Glad, as he has been called — the four-letter-word man, GAIN, PREP.... I have a better word, I think, another four-letter word about this Act. I say it's a mean Act; it's mean in a couple of ways, Mr. Speaker. It's mean in the small, petty sense of the word because it's so pokey; it's mean in the other sense of the word because it is punitive. Yes, it's a four-letter word. It describes this Act; it describes that Minister.
MR. G.R. LEA (Prince Rupert): Another four-letter word: disgraceful. (Laughter.)
MRS. WALLACE: The minister has had a lot of terminologies: he is the man from Glad, the Minister of Shovels and Tulip Bulbs and P-3 land zones.
AN HON. MEMBER: Land zones?
MRS. WALLACE: Yes, P-3 land zones. I'm not really digressing, Mr. Speaker, but I do feel that in an Act as open as this one is — as open-ended — the only way we can really judge how this Act is going to be interpreted is to review some of the things that have gone on with this minister and his attitudes in interpreting policy or questions that have come before him previously. I want to talk a little bit about P-3 land zones.
It seems that the council for the district of Surrey were approached by a church group to build a church. This was turned down, Mr. Speaker. It was turned down because the council had turned it down pending possible amendment to the bylaw. They were going to introduce a P-3 land zone. There were no P-3 land zones in Surrey, there never have been and there aren't yet, Mr. Speaker.
HON. W.N. VANDER ZALM (Minister of Human Resources): On a point of order, I don't know what any municipal matter like the P-3 land zone has to do with the GAIN legislation. For the member's information, I was with the citizens who objected to the zone.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Would the hon. member kindly confine her words to the principle of the bill?
MRS. WALLACE: Well, I'm relating this to the principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker. I believe that there is a principle involved here in interpretation of regulations. What I am proposing to point out is that with these kinds of P-3 regulations, the sort of thing that happened in Surrey could well happen in this particular bill. The building of a church was delayed. Six months after the P-3 land zone was declared, Mr. Speaker, the case came up before Mr. Justice Ruttan, a senior judge in the court of British Columbia, and a day and a half was devoted to the argument. The public hearing had the effect of allowing all the neighbours to decide whether or not a church shall go up. It opens the door to the discrimination in this instance.
This article goes on that Justice Ruttan ordered the district of Surrey to issue a building permit. But the Surrey district council took this to the court of appeal, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, I'm still waiting for you to relate your remarks to the principle.
MRS. WALLACE: It's coming.
[ Page 2461 ]
So it went to the court of appeal, Mr. Speaker, and the judge in that court brought in the ruling that said that there was no land in the P-3 zone when the council purported to say that the churches can only go in P-3 zones. Mr. Speaker, this went on. The Surrey council was ordered to issue a building permit. But then the mayor who was then mayor of Surrey, Mayor Vander Zalm, said: "I think we could set up a board of health." The mayor thus suggested that a self-appointed board of health could still thwart the building programme. There were some other aldermen that didn't really think they should do this, but the mayor went on to say: "I think we should form a council into a board of health. We could have a meeting two weeks from tonight to consider this." This in spite of the fact that the board of health had already approved the building of this church. It was a contempt of court.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, I'm still waiting patiently.
MRS. WALLACE: Very well, Mr. Speaker — I will move on. But the point I'm making is that there was a principle involved here. That principle was that that minister did not want that church built in Surrey. That was the principle. He was prepared to use any manner or means at his disposal to prevent that church being built there. The point I'm making, Mr. Speaker, is that in this wide open Act, with all these regulations, that minister is empowered to use that same kind of scope. He was prepared to move against and to withhold the rights from some group to build a church. Now we all have the right to our own beliefs. I have my beliefs. I'm sure you have yours, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure the minister has his. And we have a right to those beliefs. By the same token, I am suggesting that we should not have the opportunity for such an interpretation to be put into this particular Act which, as the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) has pointed out, could be related to the length of a person's hair, their religion, any particular thing....
MRS. WALLACE: That's right. The member from Oak Bay mentioned that as one of the things that an employer could dismiss the person for because he was not suitable in his own personal opinion. I'm suggesting that this also gives the same kind of power to this minister. He has proven by past experience that he is not above...well, I won't say that he's not above, but his whole attitude and direction takes him away from an open approach to all segments of society. He has demonstrated the fact that he has a narrow outlook, Mr. Speaker. I just feel that it is too much authority to put in the hands of one minister — this kind of right to judge whether or not an individual is eligible for certain claims under this bill.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, you will return to the principle of the bill, please, shortly.
MRS. WALLACE: I'm speaking about Bill 28. I'm speaking about whether or not the minister should have this scope of discretionary powers, as provided in the regulations in this bill. I'm suggesting that there is a certain principle involved in this thing that is relative to the principle I've just been speaking about in the case of Surrey.
I'm suggesting that we will be subject to this kind of regulation being used. And I would suggest that with this bottom-line government that's interested in only black ink, that minister over there, Mr. Speaker, is going to find that the needs of this province and the poor people in this province are probably much greater than he anticipated. I'm suggesting that he's going to find that he's a bit short of money in fulfilling the kind of requirement that is needed by the people of this province and he's going to be in a position of looking for P-3 regulations to make this narrower and narrower and narrower in order to keep within the bottom line.
I'm opposed to this kind of legislation that allows that kind of discretion. To me, people are more important than money, Mr. Speaker, and that is the thrust this should be taking, not the thrust that says we'll spend X number of dollars no matter what we have to do to curtail it.
MR. D.G. COCKE (New Westminster): Mr. Speaker, all too few words have been said tonight and this afternoon with respect to Bill 28. We see a society around us where it seems to me that if we wanted to put some kind of a test, an IQ test or some kind of a test, we would find that less and less people are being afforded the opportunities that many of us see around us.
We see also a computer world, one that demands more and more skills, one that says to the handicapped: "You're really not part of our society." Mr. Speaker, if you would care to roam with me for a second in all of the major office towers in areas like Vancouver and Victoria — I don't think there are too many in Columbia River — you would find that where there used to be people serving in the elevator service, for an example, taking us from one floor to another, they no longer can render that service.
Mr. Speaker, what this bill represents to the people of this province is an absolute neglect, total thoughtlessness toward two groups in our society. Those two groups, Mr. Speaker, are the aged and are the handicapped.
MR. G.H. KERSTER (Coquitlam): Nonsense!
[ Page 2462 ]
MR. COCKE: Not nonsense. You know, Mr. Speaker, no bill could have been more misappropriately named than this bill. They call it GAIN. You know, Mr. Speaker, this bill is a setback, a setback, a tremendous loss to the people who we care for most if we have any kind of sympathy, empathy or any kind of understanding of our fellow man in this society.
Mr. Speaker, this bill sets parameters. This bill sets constraints that I suggest to you we will all regret.
MR. COCKE: Yes, I regret the bill at this point, and I'm telling you, Mr. Speaker....
MR. KERSTER: Have you read it?
MR. COCKE: Yes, I've read every word of it.
MR. KERSTER: Every word?
MR. COCKE: Every word of it, Mr. Member for Hawaii. Would you like to get up on a point of order at this point?
Mr. Speaker, this bill is an anachronism, This bill is a kind of turnaround — face the past instead of face the future — that we've become used to in the last few short months in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, the pensioners and the handicapped have been stripped of some of their pride. This bill says to me that here's a government that recognizes only one thing, recognizes that there are people among us who have a great deal of talent and that talent must be tied to earnings, that talent must be tied to the ability to deliver here and now. But that talent isn't necessarily the talent to love or the talent to just be a human being, just be a first-class individual. No, around this province today we've got things that we never thought were possible in British Columbia.
We have people sleuthing on other people. One of the reasons that they're sleuthing, Mr. Speaker, is because we will not provide enough social workers in this province — cutbacks in that department.
MR. COCKE: Social workers who can go out and talk to people, find out their problems; no, instead of that, we're having people....
AN HON. MEMBER: We've got too many social workers now.
MR. COCKE: Oh? Well, social workers are people that are trained to understand others' needs, not trained to react like the redneck member for
Columbia River (Mr. Chabot).
AN HON. MEMBER: Order!
MR. COCKE: Oh, order, order! But that's precisely what I'm talking about, and I'm glad, Mr. Speaker, that he's drawn it to the attention of the House, so that I could sort of reinforce the understanding that we have as a result of all we heard from that side of the House with respect to this kind of situation.
Mr. Speaker, this bill takes us back beyond 1972. It takes us back to the old days of scurrying around, finding out that people may have some other way of achieving some kind of a pittance or a livelihood. I believe that that's quite unfair. I believe that there are those around who have made a tremendous contribution to our society in B.C. I believe that this legislation makes any number of people vulnerable, not the least of which are women. I believe that any time you have legislation that calls for people to make a contribution beyond their ability — and that's really what we're talking about here — or beyond the capacity, or beyond the climate to produce, it is unfair legislation. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is the kind of climate we have, and this is the kind of climate that makes women particularly vulnerable.
We are cutting off the great contributors. Yes, we're cutting them off, because I'll tell you what we're doing with them on this legislation, Bill 28. We're making all people who have the right today...we're making them welfare recipients. We're saying to people — pensioners in our midst — that they are now welfare recipients. I was proud of the former minister of Human Resources (Mr. Levi) for this one thing — and many other things, but this particular thing — that he said to people who have contributed over the years...
AN HON. MEMBER: $103 million.
MR. COCKE: $103 million, the member says.
AN HON. MEMBER: Pharmacare.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, listen to that bottom-line thinking. I'm proud of that minister because he said to people: "You have made a contribution, you pensioners, you senior citizens, and our society has made a contribution, and you have something coming to you." Now we're saying, Mr. Speaker, to those same people: "Contribution or not, you'd better prove you're right, and you'd better become a welfare recipient." That's what we're doing, and we're also cutting off disabled people who
[ Page 2463 ]
through no fault of themselves.... We are truly creating fear in our society.
AN HON. MEMBER: Be specific!
MR. COCKE: I'll give you a specific; I'll give you any number of specifics. Had you been around long enough, and when you ran for the community resource board in Houston, if you had taken enough care up there to understand what you were running for, you would have understood that there were people around you that needed the services of the community resource board.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. COCKE: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, cutting off these members in the way we have, we've impinged on their right to pride. There is no fault of a person — and let's face this in this House — who doesn't have the IQ of the Minister of Transport and Communication (Hon. Mr. Davis), or, for that matter, the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser), but is through no fault of his own unable to have enough attention span to keep a job. And it can be proven in so many cases that this is the case. What happens to that person? What happens to him now? He's driven to a situation where he can no longer function with any kind of pride at all, Mr. Speaker. I suggest Bill 28 does exactly that.
Look at the people, Mr. Speaker, over age 65, or, for that matter, over age 60. So many of the people in this province immigrated here. Many of them came from sister provinces; three that I can think of, very quickly, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
What happened to those people? They put the best part of their lives into building an agricultural industry within their family, and, Mr. Speaker, they got blown off the prairies in the dirty '30s. Blown right off the prairies, and the member from Hawaii wouldn't understand this. He was blown all the way over there from here, and it's an unfortunate wind that blew him back.
But, Mr. Speaker, let's think about those people. Let's think about those people, many of them between age 60 and age 75, who have little to offer us today, with respect to productivity, but have a lot to offer us with respect to our debt to them.
Mr. Speaker, some of them have managed to save up enough to buy a little bit of a house, have a few dollars, a few paltry dollars in the bank, to care for their emergent needs. Now, Mr. Speaker, we're saying with GAIN that they've got to cut it right down to the absolute minimum before they have it available.
Not so. Not so with the Mincome policy — but, oh, very much so with the policy of GAIN. Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you that that group I'm talking about lost their potential for savings during the Depression. Incidentally, at the rate we're going we're having another depression right here in B.C. as a result of the coalition party.
But, Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of people we're talking about when we're talking about this legislation. I have watched Socred and coalition policy over the years. I've watched it in my own family, Mr. Speaker. I watched a few years ago the kind of thoughtless foolishness when a hospital that was discussed in this House a short time ago, earlier this afternoon, Gorge Road, when it became an extended-care hospital. I watched a person in my own family, and I'll designate her, my mother-in-law, who no longer walks the face of the earth. I watched her moved out of that hospital because she didn't qualify because of the very, very narrow parameters — totally disabled, Mr. Speaker, sent home to a husband who couldn't care for her. Fortunately the kids could.
That's, I know, 10 years ago, but for heaven's sake let's not go back to 10 years ago. That's what we as a government tried to stop. We tried to change the direction of this province in the last three and a half years, and, Mr. Speaker, it's going to be a shame if the direction is turned the other way with the advent of this new government.
We have a lot to learn. We have a lot to learn about empathy, we have a lot to learn about understanding, and there must be understanding for the disabled, there must be understanding for the aged in our province.
More than that, there must be understanding that people, ordinary people like you and me, have to have pride, have to have ego, have to have some sense of worth — and, my heavenly days, security.
These people have every right to those senses, have every right to a sense of pride for what they've done. People who are disabled have every right to a feeling of "my, why wasn't I one of them?" — one of us sitting here, heaven forbid! But, Mr. Speaker, so much as been denied to the disabled that surely, as a Legislature, we shouldn't be party to denying more, and I believe that we are denying more with this legislation.
I fail to see how anybody in this House can support a piece of legislation that goes backward as opposed to going forward, and this legislation, Mr. Speaker, goes backwards; it does not go forward. In 1976 we should be looking ahead; we should not be looking backwards.
MR. G.R. LEA (Prince Rupert): Mr. Speaker, I don't know how anyone could support this bill, no matter what the bill was related to, because the bill doesn't say anything. You can explain the bill in the explanatory note. It says: "The purpose of this bill is to consolidate in one Act the income assistance and
[ Page 2464 ]
social services legislation." Other than that, it really says nothing. It says that anything else will be formed by regulations, and regulations, of course, are rules and regulations that Acts of this Legislature are administered on. Those regulations are formed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. In other words, the cabinet, outside of this Legislature, is really going to put together this Act and the regulations that are going to govern the kind of social services that people are going to be getting in this province for some time to come, or at least for another three or four years, and maybe longer.
You know, it was a theologian, when he was finally let out of a German concentration camp, Reinhold Neiber, who said: "You know, when they arrested the communists it didn't bother me. I didn't protest; I wasn't a communist. And they went to jail. Then," he said, "they went after the gipsies, and it didn't bother me. I wasn't a gipsy; I didn't protest." And he went on and on, and he said: "Then they got to me, and there was nobody to protest because we were all in the concentration camps, except those people that the German government at that time under Hitler decided were their friends."
That's the danger with this kind of open legislation. There are people out there who cannot defend themselves, who are going to be affected by this legislation, and there are so many people in our society who will stand by and say: "Well, I'm not on welfare; I won't protest because it doesn't bother me, " or "I'm not over 60; I'm not over 65; I won't protest because it doesn't bother me." In that way, injustices can be carried out by government. "I am not handicapped; I have both my legs, both my arms, my sight. I won't protest, because it doesn't bother me."
Mental health — well, I could say that there are a lot of people in this room who couldn't say that, because if they could they wouldn't bring in this kind of legislation. They would bring in legislation that is easily understood, not only by the members of the opposition, but by the members of the back bench and by the people of this province, so they know exactly what they are for and what they are against. This legislation doesn't tell you anything.
Mr. Speaker, what you have to do is go back to what the hon. member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace) said: because this legislation doesn't lay out in words what the people of this province who need assistance are going to get and in what form that assistance will take, we have to deal with the attitude of the government and of the minister. There is no other way for the opposition to try and deal with this piece of legislation, because it doesn't spell out what it is about.
Let's talk about the kind of attitude that that government has displayed — the political party that that government represents. Let's go back to just before the last election when that government, when they were still in the opposition — the Social Credit Party and all of those opportunists who attached themselves — were going around this province saying: "When we are elected, there are certain things we will do and certain things we won't do." They were elected on the basis of the rhetoric that they were going around the province spilling out during the election campaign.
The minister shakes his head; no, they weren't elected because of that.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: We were elected because of your performance!
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. LEA: You were elected because you said you were going to do certain things and not do others. You said you were not going to raise taxes. As a matter of fact, you said you were going to freeze taxes. You raised taxes. You said that Mincome was a good programme and that it would be improved. Now you've done away with it.
MR. KERSTER: Oh, nonsense!
MR. LEA: What are some of the other promises that you made on that campaign trail? In the heat of the campaign battle what happened is that you walked out into the community and people said: "Look, we're not too happy with the NDP, but we love Mincome." So they said: "Oh, in that case we won't do away with Mincome." They said: "Hey, we're not too happy with the NDP. We'll vote you in, but we're a little afraid of the taxes." They said: "Oh, then we won't raise the taxes." You would have said and done anything in order to form government.
AN HON. MEMBER: And they did!
MR. LEA: And they did do anything and say anything to form government, because there is no philosophical, ideological base to any one of you. You are doing things in this province that no Liberal government would do; you are doing things in this province that no Conservative government would do; you are doing things in this province no Social Credit government would do.
Only the extremists from three right-wing parties could bring in this kind of bill — only the extremists. You can smirk and you can laugh and you can go do anything you want, but that's what you are. If you are ashamed of being the right-wing element of three old-line parties, then stand up and say you're ashamed, or be proud of it.
MR. KERSTER: Ashamed?
[ Page 2465 ]
MR. LEA: Are you proud of it?
MR. KERSTER: Yes.
MR. LEA: You're proud of it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, kindly address the Chair.
MR. LEA: I am. Just because my back is to you, Mr. Speaker, I am still talking to you.
Once we have to talk about attitudes we find that this political party that that government represents will say anything; they don't care whether they live up to it or not. Whatever they say you can take with a grain of salt — anything they say — because quite frankly, when it comes down to it, they will change their mind. They will change their mind from day to day because there is no philosophical base; there is no ideological base. They are the highest form of opportunism that this province has even seen — that's what they are.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, it is Bill 28.
MR. LEA: That's what we're talking about — opportunism. We're talking about the political party that that government represents.
MR. LEA: This bill reminds me that the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf) ran for the resource board and lost. (Laughter.)
MR. J.J. KEMPF (Omineca): That's a lie.
MR. LEA: But we do have to talk about the attitude. We have to talk about the attitude of the minister who is going to be responsible for the administration of we don't know what, because the bill doesn't say anything. The bill just says that it is an Act to allow the minister to disburse social assistance in any way he sees fit and the regulations will come in later. As the member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace) said, even when there are regulations and even when there are laws, it hasn't bothered this particular minister, Mr. Speaker, before. When he was mayor, if the law or regulation didn't suit him he sought ways to get around it. The supreme court had to order him and some of the aldermen to obey the law.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, please relate your remarks to the bill at hand.
MR. LEA: I am relating them. I am talking about the attitude, Mr. Speaker, of the minister who is going to administer this piece of legislation. He is going to have a bunch of helpless people out there — handicapped people, people who can't help themselves. If he is going to take the same attitude in administering this piece of legislation that he took as he mayor of Surrey, then God help them! God help hem, because he squirmed and used everything he could do to stop the Jehovah's Witnesses from building a church in Surrey.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!
MR. LEA: He finally had to be ordered — he and other members of that council....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, he is not the Minister of Churches; he is the Minister of Human Resources. Would you kindly relate your remarks to Bill 28?
MR. LEA: I'll tell you, the way he administers it there will be no similarity between the church and social services. If they could win the next election after doing away with welfare, after doing away with any form of help for the handicapped, after doing away with any sort of supplementary aid for our senior citizens, they would cut them all out. The only reason that they allow them at all is because they know that the majority of people in this province have more compassion for their fellow people than that group over there.
Mr. Speaker, it is apparent in the kind of statements and it is apparent in the kind of legislation that this government has brought in that they have no regard for people who are in ordinary circumstances in this province. They brought in a sales tax that is going to hurt the ordinary person more than it is going to hurt the millionaires. In other words, it is going to hurt other people more than it is going to hurt themselves and their friends.
MR. LEA: They brought in legislation after legislation dealing with taxes that are going to hurt the ordinary people of this province but not hurt them. They brought in ferry rates....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, Bill 28.
MR. LEA: That's what we are talking about. We are talking about an attitude of a government; we are talking about an attitude of a coalition of political opportunists. That's what we're talking about.
When we have a minister bringing in a bill such as this, Mr. Speaker, who used every trick in the book when he was the mayor of one of the larger municipalities in this province to try and force a
[ Page 2466 ]
church group from building within that municipality, I say it's about time that we have to take a look, Mr. Speaker....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, you must relate your remarks to Bill 28.
MR. LEA: I am doing that.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: We don't care about the church at the present time.
MR. LEA: If you cannot understand it, then that is your problem. I am doing it.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the understanding is with you, Hon. Member. Would you kindly relate your remarks to the bill?
MR. LEA: The understanding with me, Mr. Speaker, is that because there are no facts in this legislation, because it doesn't say what the government is going to do or what the government is not going to do, because it is an open, blank-cheque piece of legislation that will allow the government to come in with any regulations that they want — after they get rid of us out of the Legislature....
MR. LEA: After the Legislature closes, after we prorogue, then they'll go to their council chamber, the executive council chamber, and they'll sit down there and they'll make sure that the handicapped aren't too well off. They'll make sure that the senior citizens in this province are going to suffer just a little more. They'll make sure of all of that. They'll do it all. But there is only one thing that is going to make sure that the people in this province who are handicapped, who are the elderly....
AN HON. MEMBER: Hypocrisy!
MR. LEA: Yes, it is hypocrisy. It's hypocrisy of this government to bring a bill into this House and not say what it's about. It says: here's an Act; would you pass the Act? — and then we'll fill it in later. That's what it says: they'll fill it in later, Mr. Speaker. Well, that's not good enough, and so we have to talk about the attitude of the minister who is sponsoring this bill, of the government to which he belongs and of the backbenchers who support with blind obedience, because they want to be in the cabinet.
MR. R.L. LOEWEN (Burnaby-Edmonds): Funny, funny.
MR. LEA: Oh, funny, funny. As I said earlier, there are some people in this world who've talked their way into cabinet. He's the first person I've met who talked himself out before he got in.
Mr. Speaker, would the minister, when he is concluding second reading on this bill, tell us what he is going to do? As the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) has said, what is he going to do? There isn't anything in here that tells us. I'm not a church group trying to get a permit to build a church in your municipality. I'm a person who was elected by the people to come in here and question what you're doing, and I won't sit down.
MR. LEA: That's right. You're a little annoyed, aren't you? You don't like things to come back and haunt you.
MR. KERSTER: Why didn't you question it when you were in government?
MR. LEA: That's right. It's not too nice when the opposition has long memories and can remember the action that you took when you were mayor. It's not too nice, Mr. Speaker, when another cabinet minister after he lost an election said: "Well, I guess the voters in this province don't want us to be honest with them. They want to be bribed and conned." That was the Minister of Environment. The statements he made....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member....
MR. LEA: Now they're asking us to trust them, Mr. Speaker, when they bring in a bill that says nothing, and they're going to make regulations that are going to affect the way of life and the standard of life of elderly people in this province, of the handicapped....
MR. LEA: Oh, they would abolish anything that stood in their political way. They would abolish anything. You know, when you look around this chamber and start talking about political opportunism and the kind of people who will attach themselves to any vessel....
MR. LEA: That's right. Then you see the looks of hate coming your way. Then you see it. Then they start chirping. Some sit there and glower, others chirp, but down deep in all of your guts you know you grabbed hold of the bandwagon of political
[ Page 2467 ]
opportunism and this is what comes from it. Broken promises, right down the line: "We will not change Mincome; we will only improve it." Then you do away with it. "We will not raise taxes; we will freeze taxes." Then you raise taxes. Everything you said in your election campaign cannot be believed.
The only reason we have an Auditor General Act and an Ombudsman Act is that probably the Liberal Attorney-General would have walked away from you if you hadn't brought it in. That's the only reason. I bet you hated every moment of it....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member....
MR. LEA: I bet you hated it all....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Member, as high a regard as we have for churches, zoning in Surrey and the auditor-general, would you kindly get back to the principles contained in Bill 28?
MR. LEA: Could you tell me what the principle of this bill is?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: You're doing the speaking, Hon. Member.
MR. LEA: But there is no principle to this bill, as there have been no principles to other bills. There isn't anything in this bill. How can the government bring in a bill which doesn't say what they're going to do and ask the Legislature to pass it? The only reason a government can bring in a bill that says nothing and ask the House to pass it is when they've got a bunch of sycophants down there who want to get into the cabinet. That's the only way they can do it. They'll vote for anything that group brings in until the cabinet's full. They'll vote for anything. Bring in the Lord's Prayer and amend it. They'll vote for it! They'll vote for anything. They'll vote for anything to get in that cabinet.
If they vote for this bill, then I dare them to walk directly out of here into the press gallery and call a conference and tell them what you voted for. If you vote against it, walk in there and tell them what you voted against. There isn't anything in the bill. Even some of the people who were originally in the Social Credit Party believe that they also have a monopoly on people who believe in God.
MR. KERSTER: Ask Charles Barber about that!
MR. LEA: I'll say one thing. They intend to look out for those people from birth to death. They've got one on every stage of the way — right? (Laughter.)
Mr. Speaker, it is absolute hypocrisy to bring a piece of legislation onto the floor of this assembly that says nothing, that says everything that will happen to the handicapped, to the elderly, to people on welfare will come later when cabinet, behind closed doors, sits down incestuously among themselves and says: "Here are the regulations. Now here's what you're going to get and here's what you're not going to get." That's what's going to happen.
AN HON. MEMBER: You're not going to make it, Graham.
MR. LEA: I'm not going to make it? I'll tell you something: I would rather stay on this side of the House and oppose this kind of blank-cheque piece of legislation than to sit over there, in sympathetic hope that I will get into the cabinet any day. I would rather be over here defending the kind of people this bill is going to hurt, as opposed to sitting over there for my own personal ambition and vote for this thing. And that's what you people are going to do. I bet you don't even read it; you just vote for it. The Premier says: clap, clap; they go: clap, clap. He says: stop; they stop. I wonder if it will remain the same after the cabinet is full. I wonder.
MR. LEA: That's what happens when government changes. It may not happen that way in the United States, but if you had stuck around here for a few years, you'd have found out that's where the British parliamentary system works.
AN HON. MEMBER: Order!
MR. LEA: Why is it, Mr. Speaker, that every time we heckle them when they're speaking, the House is called to order? Why is it? I wonder why that is. But, you know, I kind of like them talking up, because they are retarded. You know where they're retarded? They're retarded about 1933.
AN HON. MEMBER: Is that right?
MR. LEA: About 1933. Because it's their kind of politics that brought in this bill. It was their kind of politics that opposed Tommy Douglas in Saskatchewan when he brought in the first medicare programme in this country.
MR. LEA: It was their kind of politics that has opposed every progressive piece of social legislation hat has ever come down in this province, or no matter where in this world, because when it comes
[ Page 2468 ]
right down to it, all they care about are themselves right down the line.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. members, order, please.
MR. LEA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So now what are we going to do with this bill?
MR. LEA: I think what we should do with it is ask the minister to take it back to wherever he got it and ask him to fill in a few of the blank spots.
HON. J.A. NIELSEN (Minister of Environment): There's one between your ears.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
MR. LEA: Tell him to come back into this legislature.... Well, well, for the first time he's in an arena where he can't shut them up by shutting off the microphone. And I don't think you're going to do too well, you know that? I don't think you're going to do too well. People can't phone in any more; you can't give him smart aleck answers and shut 'em up, because now you're not going to have that old microphone to shut off, Mr. Minister. That's what you're not going to have. And you're not going to stand up because you don't have what it takes.
MR. LEA: That's why you're shutting up all the time; you haven't got it. You haven't got it, and I doubt whether you'll make it through the next rotation. You know, I doubt whether you'll make it.
I would just like to say that I would like to thank you people for paying such close attention and showing the respect I deserve, because I'm going to oppose this bill, and anyone who opposes this bill deserves a little respect. I bet if any one of you read it, you'd oppose it, too.
MS. BROWN: Hear, hear!
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, blarney!
MR. LEA: What's the number of it? What's the number of it?
MR. SPEAKER: The number of the bill, Hon. Member, is 28: Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act.
MR. LEA: Well, it worked. I was getting a little fed up with the kind of interference I was getting before you took the chair, but you're so honest and refreshing that I'm glad you're back, Mr. Speaker.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you on the wrong page?
MR. SPEAKER: Now let's return to the principle of the bill.
MR. LEA: Would you tell me what it is?
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, if you're not aware of the principle of the bill, I suggest you take your seat.
MR. LEA: I will, because there is no principle to the bill. There is none. It's a blank piece of paper that says that the government is going to make regulations. There isn't anything in here that says people are going to get anything or not get anything. It doesn't say anything.
MS. BROWN: Did you read it, Mr. Minister?
MR. LEA: Did you read it? I mean, did you read it? I know you didn't write it. But did you read it? Because there isn't anything in the bill. If you're going to come into this House, Mr. Speaker, and ask the Legislature to pass a piece of legislation that has nothing whatsoever in it, except what you choose as government to stick in after this House prorogues and you've got your own way with no opposition, then you better have another think coming because I don't believe that the people in this province have red necks, but I believe that the necks over there are bright scarlet, and your faces should be that colour for bringing in this kind of legislation that allows you nothing but arbitrary powers through the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to pass any kind of regulation you want, affecting handicapped, people on welfare and the elderly, so there won't be any opposition around to draw any attention to some of the, I'll say, evil things you want to do, because you were started in evil and you're going to end up that way.
MR. S. BAWLF (Victoria): Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to interrupt the steady stream of sort of factless invective that the opposition are indulging in here this evening to filibuster this very excellent legislation.
MR. BAWLF: I'd just like to call to the attention
[ Page 2469 ]
of the House, Mr. Speaker, a very major contradiction here in fact, versus what has been foisted on this House by the opposition. I refer to various comments from members opposite to the effect that people are going to be cut back and cut off their assistance in various forms in some dramatic way, and suddenly we're only going to find, as I think the second member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi) suggested, only 5 per cent of the people formerly on the rolls surviving with assistance.
I'd just call to the attention of the House that the increase in the budget for the Human Resources department, a major portion of which is allocated to the administration of this excellent legislation, the total increase in that budget was some $91 million, Mr. Speaker, an increase of 20.9 per cent — 20.9 per cent in one year — from $498 million last year, Mr. Speaker, to $589 million this year. If that sounds to the members opposite that the people of this province are somehow going to be cut back on social assistance, I'd suggest to you that that's consistent on their part, because their arithmetic has been just about as bad in government as it is in opposition,
As I say, Mr. Speaker, I'm reluctant to lend dignity to this mindless filibuster that they're attempting to foist on this House, and I certainly will not do so by taking any more time but to say that I heartily support this excellent legislation. I feel that time will prove that the minister is going to administer this legislation in a most progressive manner, and we are entering a new era for social assistance and related programmes in this province through the GAIN legislation, Bill 28. It will be a most enlightened era and a vast improvement over what we have seen in this province in recent years. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the bill, Mr. Speaker.
MR. C. BARBER (Victoria): What Scrooge wrote this Act?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh oh!
MR. BARBER: When you look at it, you begin to discover that there are three principal motivations behind its authorship, and I want to look at each one of them in turn. But I want to make a basic observation, Mr. Speaker, and it's this: any government that believes that GAIN is going to be accepted by seniors in this province as progressive must also believe that seniors are stupid, that they're blind, that they can't read and they can't comprehend. You must think the senior citizens of this province are stupid if you think you can convince them that this legislation is an improvement.
I would like to recount for the benefit of the House, Mr. Speaker, an incident that occurred in the recent campaign. In Victoria, all of us were in attendance at an all-candidates meeting at the Silver Threads centre where the subject of Mincome was brought up. The coalition candidates at that time, when asked whether or not they would maintain that programme, said, as my colleague for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) pointed out: "Yes, of course we'll continue it." To the considerable surprise and chagrin of the coalition candidates, they were hooted at; they were laughed at.
The 200 or 300 seniors standing there in the Silver Threads centre in Centennial Square in Victoria hooted, laughed, jeered and ridiculed those remarks. One man was so angry that he was moved to stand up and say: "Who do you think you're trying to kid? Do you think we're stupid? Do you think we were born yesterday?" You see, those senior citizens didn't believe that promise, Mr. Speaker. They didn't believe the promise that this coalition would keep Mincome and, sure enough, within the first six months of office, they've destroyed the name, they've destroyed the Act, and they've destroyed the principle.
We don't believe they were born yesterday. We don't believe they're going to buy it. We do believe they're going to examine this bill in the same way we have and come up with the three major observations I'd like to make now about the roots of it.
It's fairly clear that the first reason for the authorship of this bill is one of bureaucracy. It does consolidate under one legislative roof three previous ones. We have no particular objection to that. There are a number of reasons to do that with any numbers of pieces of legislation. The first reason, clearly though, is a bureaucratic one.
The second is monetary. It's clear to us, Mr. Speaker, as has been stated twice earlier tonight, that when British Columbia is in the throes of the worst unemployment since 1952, and possibly the worst since 1933, then we see that that minister doesn't have enough in his budget. He's not going to be able to afford to keep the people on assistance who are presently on it. He's not going to be able to afford to keep the people on Mincome who are presently on it. So the second reason is monetary, Mr. Speaker. He doesn't have enough money. He doesn't have it, and he's clearly embarrassed that he might have to come back to his Treasury Board and ask for additional funds in the event of an overrun.
There isn't enough money in there when we have 115,000 people out of work. The fiscal policies and the economic programmes of this coalition government have seen the worst unemployment rate in 25 years this month, so it's fairly clear that this legislation is designed to get that minister and that coalition off the hook. He doesn't have enough money to do his job.
The third reason is perhaps even more obvious and more pertinent. It's political. They've changed the name because the name stung them every time they heard it. Every time the word "Mincome" came up, it
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was a reminder of one of the most remarkable and successful programmes of the NDP. Every time that name came up, it was a slap in the face to them, so for their political purposes they have to get rid of the name, and they came up with this absurd acronym GAIN — Guaranteed Available Income for Need Act. It's preposterous; it's a joke. We laughed when we heard the name. It's crazy. However, it's in one word — GAIN — and they hope it'll catch on and perhaps it will.
The point is, Mr. Speaker, that this coalition government realizes that Mincome was outstandingly successful and outstandingly popular as a programme, and they realize as well that being continually reminded of it removes from their political base political support. I would predict, Mr. Speaker, that the next change we'll see is in the name Pharmacare. You watch — they'll do away with that one as quick as they can.
MS. BROWN: PAIN.
MR. BARBER: My colleague suggests it'll become PAIN.
MR. SPEAKER: Pharmacare, Hon. Member, is not part of the principle of this bill.
MR. BARBER: No, but the principle we're looking at, Mr. Speaker, is that represented by this coalition in its unceasing attempt to rewrite history can to erase the successful history of achievement in social services of the previous government. We have this bill before us called GAIN, because they don't like the word "Mincome." They don't like the fact that that was our name and our programme and our success. They want to wipe it out as soon as they can. The motivation is obvious, and it's political, Mr. Speaker.
Now I want to report about a problem that we have in Victoria, dealing with this legislation and the people it will affect, and I'm specifically referring to senior citizens. I would remind the minister that on our side of the House we don't believe they're stupid, we don't believe they're blind, and we know they weren't born yesterday. In a local newspaper, after receiving numerous complaints through the community service office which I operate in Victoria, we announced that we were going to be establishing a pension clinic. The purpose of that clinic would be to help senior citizens in Victoria sort out the mess caused by this government's change in the Mincome programme, and to sort out the mess caused by that government's refusal to pass through and match various federal increases.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I guess you'll be coming for a grant.
MR. BARBER: We're not coming for a grant. Our office is run by volunteers. We don't need a grant.
In our particular office, Mr. Speaker, we had, over a period of three days following our newspaper announcement, 85 senior citizens visit and phone. Every one of them had basically the same complaint: they didn't understand what that coalition was up to. They didn't understand what the new rules were going to be. They don't understand why, mysteriously and peculiarly and without explanation, their cheques are reduced or altered each month. They don't understand what's happening to them, and they want answers. In the space of three days following that particular presentation, senior citizens in Victoria came forward and said: "Help us out. We don't understand what these guys are up to. We don't understand why the changes and the cuts. We want to know what's going on."
They also want to know, Mr. Speaker, why this government has broken its promise and killed Mincome: the name, the principle, and the programme.
MR. KERSTER: What's in a name?
MR. BARBER: What's in a name, the member for Oahu says. What's in a name? A great deal's in a name because it stands for a commitment and a promise; it stands for a principle. It stands for something these senior citizens care about. In one of the first acts our government took, Mincome was created. The Victoria Times got it right: the name was destroyed, the programme was destroyed, and the principle has been abolished.
The principle of this coalition government, under this legislation, is that senior citizens are now on welfare. They have to take a means test, they have to pass a means test, and if they don't they get no assistance at all.
MS. BROWN: Shocking!
MR. BARBER: There are retroactive elements of this legislation that don't belong in any such legislation anywhere. The principle of that coalition is that a handout is a handout. They'll change the name, but as far as they're concerned it's all the same for young people, old people and handicapped. It's all a handout, and they'll put them all on welfare.
This is a welfare bill, Mr. Speaker. The principle of that coalition is that you should be ashamed to ask for help. Believe me, they're ashamed to have to offer it. That's the principle that that coalition takes. They have reduced Mincome to a welfare programme, and that's the principle that they support. The principle that Mincome was, Mr. Speaker, is that Mincome was not a gift from a social worker. It was not a gift from a social assistance Act; it was a right enshrined in
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legislation. Mincome was a pension and a right. There was no means test. It was not welfare, it was not social assistance, and there was no means test.
This trash, Mr. Speaker, is welfare. You are insulting the senior citizens of this province who have earned the right to the pension we called Mincome. They earned that right. They earned it through 40, 50 and 60 years of labour in the service of the people of this country. You have taken them from a pension and put them on welfare. There is no other way to look at it; what was called Mincome is now welfare. You have insulted, affronted, degraded and humiliated the senior citizens of this province.
When our government came into office they discovered that many senior citizens were more than hesitant to apply for Mincome because they thought maybe it was welfare, and they wanted to go to their graves and say they were never on welfare. For these people it was a point of pride and honour and dignity that they never received welfare in their lives. So our government took strenuous steps to ensure that they understood that Mincome was different — it was not administered by social workers like assistance was; it was a programme not the subject of social assistance regulations, and it was a programme not the subject of the Social Assistance Act. It was a special Act with special regulations because it served the special need.
Under our government, Mr. Speaker, Mincome was a pension and it was a right. No one had to ask for it. No one, certainly, had to beg for it. Here they are going to be begging for it, and you're going to be turning them down one after the other because you've got a means test in here as well.
You've insulted them. You've broken a promise, and you are breaking their hearts. You are forcing these people, on bended knee, to ask for welfare. This is a social assistance Act; Mincome was a pension and a right; now it's welfare and you've got a means test in there too.
We've read the bill, Mr. Speaker. We understand that they have put the senior citizens of this province on notice that what was formerly a right and a pension is now maybe a privilege, if they are lucky enough to get it, and welfare whenever they get it.
It's an insult, Mr. Speaker. The seniors of this province aren't stupid, they aren't blind, and they weren't born yesterday. They're going to see through it. For that obviously sound and perfectly reasonable principle, we can't support this stuff. It's nonsense. It's trash. It's junk legislation. It's a mess. It's an embarrassment. You shouldn't do it to the seniors; they didn't deserve it. Mincome was a right and a pension; keep it that way. It was a right and a pension. Don't make them beg for it; don't make them feel it's welfare; and don't send them back 20 years into the past. It was a right and a pension; keep it that way!
MR. J.J. HEWITT (Boundary-Similkameen): Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few comments concerning Bill 28. I can stand up here, I guess, like members of the opposition and go back in history and probably comment on the $102 million overrun the former Minister of Human Resources (Mr. Levi) had.
I could probably comment to the young member for Victoria, the second member for Victoria (Mr. Barber), that if it wasn't a means test, Hon. Member.... I don't know whether you are aware of it or not, but a lot of the people who drew Mincome converted a considerable amount of their savings into non-interest-bearing bank accounts to avoid the interest so they could qualify for Mincome, because if they didn't do that, Hon. Member, they wouldn't qualify for Mincome, you see. So there was some type of a means test even in Mincome. There was some type of a means test in Mincome itself, Hon. Member, and you may not be aware of that.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. second member for Victoria calls this trash legislation. I'd like to read a couple of items in regard to trash legislation this member is so strong against, that in order to help encourage single-parent families, in order to be able to encourage a mother to go out and find work because she wanted to get ahead, this minister is going to enable them to still maintain their coverage under the Medical Services Plan in order for them to have the courage to seek employment.
That member over there, who has conveniently left the assembly, calls this trash legislation. Mr. Speaker, I think that is somewhat shameful in the fact that the hon. member aims at one point of this legislation and then calls this whole bill trash when he knows full well that this Minister is trying to bring in legislation that will give the handicapped and the single-parent family some courage to got ahead and get off the rolls of assisted people in this province.
I find it rather shameful, Mr. Speaker, that the opposition can attack and attack, yet not fully understand the entirety of this bill. They pick at one point they feel they can make their issue on, make their point on, and yet they attack a bill that has more merit, more merit for the future of the people who are in need, and gives them courage. I think that if the opposition sat down and reread the bill in its entirety, and not pick on one aspect of the bill where they feel they can make their points, but told the public in the province of British Columbia the full impact of this bill, they would rise up and support it, Mr. Speaker, as I will.
MR. E.O. BARNES (Vancouver Centre): Mr. Speaker, if I could just make a few comments, further to some that I made yesterday and this afternoon.
There are a couple of headlines that I think, for the record, the minister should be cognizant of, one
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that appeared in the Colonist not too long ago, saying: "Only B.C.'s Deserving Will Gain Under GAIN." I suppose that indicates that there are some people who deserve social assistance and income assistance and social services and some who do not.
Another one says that the welfare legislation appears to be "Electoral Treachery" by another person writing for The Vancouver Sun. Now these are opinions that are expressed by people employed in reporting the news, and who try and be objective, and who usually are very cautious about drawing any conclusions about, you know, being editorial, or subjective about matters as serious as this. But I think the overwhelming evidence supporting cause to be alarmed is fairly extensive.
I'd also like to remind the minister, as I've been attempting to do all along, that there is some doubt as to his sincerity as the Minister of Human Resources, because he has consistently indicated a disregard for the rights of individuals in this society to very much. He talks mainly about the deserving, the destitute and the unfortunates in such a tone that those people who may be so designated are not likely to feel very encouraged as citizens in this province.
Last March the minister issued a directive designating some 175 communities throughout the province of British Columbia as being areas for non-welfare recipients and that, in my view, is a fairly serious position to take in a society that encourages, and has been quite proud over the scores of years of having, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom to religious beliefs and so forth. Now we have a minister who is suggesting that if you intend to receive social assistance, or any assistance whatsoever from the government, then you are duty bound to live in areas which we prescribe. It's sort of suggesting that maybe they should be on certain reserved areas — employable areas I think is probably the expression he was using, Mr. Speaker.
When you take a look, you know, at some of these areas.... I obviously won't have time to go through all 175. We only have about 45 minutes before adjournment, I presume. But, you know, how do you think those people living in the various areas such as the Okanagan and the Kootenays, Prince George, Cariboo region, Fraser Valley, Prince Rupert, Bulkley valley, Kamloops main line, Vancouver Island north of Malahat, Gulf Islands, Fraser North and the west coast, from Alta Lake to Squamish and more, many more...? You know, I don't know if you were overzealous in an attempt to try and pull your department together in just a few months or whether you were really just exemplifying an attitude of a new era that's coming into the province of British Columbia.
I recall your having made similar comments, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, when you were the mayor in Surrey, and you waged war on the people who were misusing the welfare funds and compiled extensive files on them and vowed to clean up those people who were pilfering the public coffers for their own personal gain and not having shown that they deserved to receive such services. So I'm going to ask, as we're moving through this bill, if you would talk about some interpretations of your concepts in respect to deserving people — you know, in detail, Mr. Speaker. The minister has gone a long way in suggesting that he is going to relieve poverty.
Under section 1(6) of this bill he says: "...generally any other form of aid that is necessary for the purpose of relieving poverty, neglect or suffering." But I am still looking for that minister to talk about alleviating poverty, eliminating poverty. He says "relieving poverty." He assumes that is impossible to eliminate it, I suppose. Perhaps it is a very difficult job but, you know, as minister you should be more confident and show more enthusiasm about trying to eliminate.
You go down a little further under subsection (i) and you state that "social services having as their object the lessening, removal, or prevention of the causes and effects of poverty, child neglect and suffering." You were making reference there to the things that this Act would attempt to support. But when you talk about the causes and effects of poverty, this is a fairly far-reaching concept, one which I fully support. But do you mean to tell me that under this legislation you intend to seriously attack the causes of poverty, that you, through you, Mr. Speaker, intend through this legislation to devise programmes that will, in effect, attack the causes of poverty? I really hope that you do.
As one of the members has said, we have been very critical of the legislation, but I would be the first to support the minister on any programme he had that is going to seriously eliminate the kind of injustices and difficulties that so many people have in trying to overcome the situation they find themselves in socially and economically, Mr. Speaker.
You also state under another section — I think that is section 8 — that you are in favour of services designed to encourage and assist residents of a community to participate or to continue to participate in improving the social conditions of their community. Now that sounds to me exactly like the kind of programmes you just eliminated — the community resource boards. They were committed to just that purpose, Mr. Speaker, to furthering the community, to participating, to encouraging the participation, to providing assistance as volunteers, in fact, Mr. Speaker. But you eliminated them. Then you come in with a bill.... Are you trying to use rhetoric to confuse people? Right away before the bill was in you eliminated everything that it should be trying to bring in. So naturally we are suspicious
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about the things that you have included in your bill. I am taking a little time to work up to some points that I want to ask you later but under section....
MR. BARNES: Okay. I've just had a member tell me that I shouldn't deal with all of these points. We will save it for committee. I think she is probably right. I will just generalize and say that you have a number of things such as confidentiality....
MR. SPEAKER: Could I suggest that was very good advice, Hon. Member?
MR. BARNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Don't get in the debate now. You are being cute. I just confessed. Now you shouldn't comment on my comments. You know that.
MR. SPEAKER: Only when they are out of order, Hon. Member.
MR. BARNES: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I respect you. It is nice to have some humour at about 10:20 in the evening.
The tenor of the bill leaves a great deal to be desired. Talking about places of residence, you say that there is no discrimination in the bill, that you are going to recognize the rights of the people who are deserving. Yet at the same time, as I pointed out to you, you have 175 communities that you say are not welfare areas. Then you turn around and under section 7 say that people will not be discriminated against who receive welfare. "In the administration of income assistance or social services there shall be no discrimination based on race, colour, creed or political affiliation."
MR. BARNES: But residence, that is different, as long as you live where we tell you to live. Don't you think an amendment would be in order, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, to include residence, to say that residence also is included under section 7 — "regardless of residence"? Maybe you'd better read that bill. I don't think you realize the seriousness of that, because this member....
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. Member, may I interrupt you just long enough to remind you of the rules of debate — and which you are aware of — that do not prevent you from moving any amendment that you so desire and placing it on the order paper if that is your intent?
Now I am prepared to allow you certain laxity in discussing the bill.
MR. BARNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: But let's remember that we're not discussing the bill section by section at this particular time; it's the principle of the bill that's involved at the moment. There will be ample time in debate on the sections. Certainly if you wish to move amendments, either in your own name or by suggesting to the minister that he should, that can be done when we get to that section of the bill.
MR. BARNES: Would you be in support of moving an amendment to include all residents, Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister? And would you, well, on a point of clarification...?
MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately, Hon. Member, we're not in a position at the moment in this debate to discuss amendments. Amendments will be moved if and when we get to the committee stage of the bill, which is some way beyond where we're at this evening.
MR. BARNES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. BARNES: No, no, no. Get out of here. (Laughter.) Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for that clarification.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member has the floor.
MR. BARNES: I thought you were indicating that I could make an amendment at this time.
MR. SPEAKER: I'm sorry if you took that impression from my words.
MR. BARNES: Thank you. I'm quite clear now, and I certainly hope that the minister will beat me to it, because I would prefer to cooperate with the government. If he were to move the amendment then I would be voting with him, and that would be nice for a change.
Mr. Speaker, I think what I would like to do now is just go back to this afternoon and recall a question that I asked the minister about the existence of an organization called the New Opportunities Handicap Programme. I wonder if the minister will recall me asking him about that organization. I've tried to get more information on the organization. This is the one that I indicated to the minister was located in the riding of Vancouver Centre, down at 444 Dunsmuir, and is presently employing handicapped persons to solicit by telephone persons interested in purchasing light bulbs that have been produced by the Philips Company in the United States.
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These light bulbs, apparently, have an extended life of many, many times that of conventional lights and are selling for something like $1.99 each — anywhere from 25- to 100-watt bulbs. The reason I raise this....
MR. BARNES: Well, Mr. Speaker, just for the edification of those people who are saying that I'm on the wrong bill, I'm going to have the minister take note of section 13 in this particular bill — the handicapped transportation allowance. Look under that section while I'm talking. The member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot) or one of those places up north, was indicating that I was on the wrong bill, but the point that I'm making is very much related to this bill.
My question concerns the fact that I have been advised that one of the community resource units of the Department of Human Resources has referred a handicapped person to this organization to assume his duties as a salesperson for this company. I'm told that these people are required, among other things, to say something to the effect that, "because we are handicapped, we can send these light bulbs postage free, at a saving to you." Now this is a script that the handicapped persons are required to read, and this is only a part of the quote. I don't have the rest of it, but I'm told that that is a direct excerpt from the script that they are required to read on the telephone spiel.
I've also been able to confirm, Mr. Speaker, that they are required to sell a minimum of seven light bulbs per hour in order to qualify for their commission; they're not receiving any remuneration for their services. Now that may or may not be true, but that, again, is what I hear. I'm sure the minister would be most anxious to investigate, to find out, because as you say under your section 13, Mr. Minister, and I would like to read this to clarify the purpose, Mr. Speaker, of what I'm trying to say:
"The minister may, in accordance with the regulations, authorize payment of a monthly transportation allowance for a handicapped individual participating in an organized programme of rehabilitation or training established for the handicapped."
I've been given the name of at least one person who has been told that should he go to this place — by the recommendation of a member from the Department of Human Resources — he would in fact receive a transportation allowance. I understand that the allowance could go anywhere from $3 to $8 for transportation — is that right? Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister will clarify that, but in any event, if you have handicapped people working for organizations such as this, and if your bill states that the organization must be set up to rehabilitate or provide training for handicapped, then that means that the person from the Department of Human Resources must have qualified this organization so that it has been accepted. If you said that you didn't know about it this afternoon, then maybe you should check with the department, because someone has already started to send handicapped persons to it.
I'm wondering how you could support an organization that is in fact exploiting these people in a most degrading and dehumanizing way....
MR. KEMPF: You don't even know it's happening.
MR. BARNES: This is happening. I'm prepared to table any facts that I have, and if you would like to follow through, if any of the members on the other side would like to look into this matter, I'll be more than glad to provide you with the information I have.
The thing that I'm asking the minister to do is ensure the House that if something like this has happened because of his inability to be on top of all of his staff and all of the departments, if there is any truth in this, he will forthwith give the House a report back. I would hope that he would want to do this immediately, because I've tried to find out if this firm was licensed, and I haven't been able to do so. I understand that they've only been in town two or three months.
This is another fact because I have names, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that the government will not ask that we bring in all the personalities. This is only a matter of clarification in terms of procedure. If you want to bring in names and personalities, that's fine with me, Mr. Speaker, but I do feel that you should take a very careful look at what's happening to the handicapped people, especially if they're being subjected to humiliation and being asked to read something that degrades them as human beings who are being exploited, who are providing cheap labour with no guarantee of any income whatsoever, if this fact is true — and let's hope that it isn't. Let's hope that someone is just playing a very cruel game. But I understand that if you were to follow through on this you'd find that there's been some things going on that the minister hasn't been able to find out about.
I certainly would hope that there is a system that will be far more scrutinizing — once this bill is passed — that deals with section 13 than the one that has permitted this to happen. If it is to be true, Mr. Speaker, then it seems to me as though anyone who says that they've got a job for the handicapped can exploit them, because the Department of Human Resources will rush to their aid and say: "Fine, we'll subsidize you and we'll provide you free transportation. If you take the handicapped person, we can get them off handicapped assistance and we
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are free." The person goes out and they're on some kind of a commission programme with no guarantee that they're going to get paid. In fact I understand that some of the people have been trying to get paid who have, in fact, sold several light bulbs, and they haven't received it.
AN HON. MEMBER: Light bulbs?
MR. BARNES: Light bulbs! Imagine that! They're not even Canadian-made! They're imported from Georgia by the Philips company. So, Mr. Minister, since you've been trying to keep me from getting into all the details of this bill, I'm quite willing and quite patient to permit the minister to close the debate at this time....
MR. BARNES: Oh, there are other people who are going to be speaking. Well, I'm going to wait and do my thing on committee, because there are lots of things I want to ask the minister. I'm not impatient, but I hope that the minister will answer some questions. Mr. Minister, I'll give you one example. You sat there you were very nice and very pleasant, and you didn't answer any questions when you were on your estimates.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! We are not on the estimates of this minister.
MR. BARNES: I know that, but the minister makes me wonder whether he's going to answer these questions.
MR. SPEAKER: We happen to be on second reading of the bill.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. You are very, very pleasant this evening. I appreciate that.
MR. SPEAKER: I'm trying my best, Hon. Member.
MR. BARNES: I've known you over the years and you have been known to have your days, but tonight isn't one.
MR. SPEAKER: Then I'm sure that you're not going to repeat the same arguments that I've listened to tonight when we debate section 13 of the bill.
MR. BARNES: That's right, Mr. Speaker. No, I wouldn't think of becoming repetitive, redundant, or any of those things that the House rules try to discourage.
MR. SPEAKER: I'm sure. I'll remind you of that.
MR. BARNES: But I will say, Mr. Speaker, that I would like an answer from the minister as to the real statistics on that PREP programme that he has.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, you're listening to the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk), who is trying to give me support on the side, but I want you to listen to me. I'm asking you about the PREP programme — you know, the provincial rehabilitation and employment programme that you've got. I want to know about the statistics on that. It's connected.
He says in the bill, Mr. Speaker, that we also want to encourage people to get jobs — to use the member for Columbia River's (Mr. Chabot's) expression: "Jobs!" I agree with the member; we want them to get jobs. And you said that you're going to do that. I hope you will give us some hard, fast statistics as to how you are going to achieve this. We hope that you won't use any complicated things, just be very straightforward, tell us whether these people are going to be given jobs that would relate to their abilities or whether you're going to say: "I don't care whether you have the ability or not: here is the mud, here is the shovel; now go to work."
You say also that you're concerned about people having jobs that relate to their abilities. Now if it relates to their abilities, you are going to have problems because that means you are going to have to be concerned about the human factor; you've got to be concerned about individual differences. That's going to complicate your job. So I don't know if you're just saying that to make it look this way and then you're going to shove a shovel in their hands and say: "If you don't want to work, no job. No workee, no job; no welfare."
AN HON. MEMBER: No tickee, no laundry.
MR. BARNES: I hope you will clarify that for us.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member for Coquitlam.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No, the member from Hawaii.
MR. KERSTER: Mr. Speaker, I continually have to remind those people that the very intelligent electorate in Coquitlam did make a choice — and keep reminding them. Nevertheless, they did make a choice and I am here because of that choice. Accept that, would you?
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MR. KERSTER: There he is, the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi), a perfect example of what happens when first cousins intermarry.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. KERSTER: Talking about shovels, as the hon. member was a moment ago, I'd like to remind you that when you start to talk the way you were talking just a moment ago...it's up to your knees now, and that's really deep. That's really, really deep.
I found the hon. second member for Victoria's (Mr. Barber's) speech both good and original. However, the parts that were good weren't original, and the parts that were original weren't any good. That overemotional second member for Victoria said that this legislation would make senior citizens afraid — and I repeat, afraid. You people have been running on fear tactics for years, and it's finally catching up with you. He said that it would make senior citizens afraid to send in the application forms. Well, let's look back. You people like to look back in the opposition, in the official opposition, only when it serves your party purposes. Nevertheless, let's look back to April 4, 1973.
During debate in this very House, quoting from Hansard, when the hon. member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan) was questioning the former Minister of Human waste and Resources....
MS. BROWN: Oh, oh!
MR. KERSTER: To quote the hon. member for North Okanagan:
I asked the minister some specific questions about Mincome. The first was in relation to the application form. The minister still hasn't answered this House in the oral question and answer period or under his estimates. I quote: "Your answers will in no way effect their eligibility."
Mr. Minister, do you stand by that statement? Is it not compulsory and will it not be compulsory for elderly citizens to answer this questionnaire if they choose not to? Will it in no way affect their receipts?
Well now, the former Minister of Human Resources (Mr. Levi), the $100-million man, responds: "Yes, I'm sorry." He's always sorry for clerical errors, for overruns, for running off at the mouth and so forth, but: "Votes and proceedings." Then he relates back to the question, which is unusual. He says:
In respect of the Mincome form, that's not an application form. It's needed for statistical purposes to comply with the federal regulations. I replied in the House the other day, I think, on about five different occasions that I am not going to say that people are going to be punished if they do not return the form up to now — and it's four weeks on Thursday that we sent it out. We have almost 75,000 forms back out of 108,000 forms that we had to send out. So we're in no way concerned.
Well, he showed very little concern during his term in that office, that was obvious.
The forms are coming back and we're prepared to wait two or three months anyway.
Well, the second member for Victoria (Mr. Barber), the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke), the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) and the second member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes) have taken nothing but a very negative, tunnel-visioned look at this bill, Bill 28. They know very well that it doesn't do away with Mincome and that it is an outright convolution of the facts, and they know it. The Handicapped Persons Income Assistance Act is not done away with, and the Social Assistance Act is not done away with.
MR. BARNES: It says so right in the bill.
MR. KERSTER: Why don't you put the teeth in your mouth in backwards, my friend, and bite yourself right in the back of the throat for saying something like that.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. KERSTER: I want to get a point across here.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! Will the hon. member, first of all, address the Chair? Secondly, top casting aspersions across the floor at other members who do not have possession of the floor at his particular time.
MR. KERSTER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the hon. members who do not have possession of the floor, I would request their lending an ear for once, instead of a mouth,
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!
MR. KERSTER: What I'm saying is that the second member for Victoria (Mr. Barber), the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke), the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) and the second member for Vancouver-Centre (Mr. Barnes) have taken nothing but tunnel-visioned looks at this bill. They know it doesn't do away with any of the Mincome, Handicapped Persons Income Assistance Act, or Social Assistance Act legislation. It's just another batch of thoughtless, politically motivated gobbledegook and twisting of the facts. It's the official opposition's attempt to confuse the people of
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this province again. They did it for three and a half years and I don't think the people of this province are going to accept this garbage any longer. And speaking for my own riding, Coquitlam....
AN HON. MEMBER: Where?
MR. KERSTER: You got that? These people are not to be confused by this twisting of the facts because.... Neither are the people of British Columbia. They don't buy this kind of garbage any more. This is a good piece of progressive legislation and I'm proud to be a part of a government that brought it forth.
MS. BROWN: Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker. And to all of my admirers on both sides of the House, thank you, thank you.
I think first of all I should clarify for the member for Coquitlam (Mr. Kerster) that the reason why he's referred to as the member for Hawaii is not because we're under the illusion that the people of Hawaii voted for him, but because he always seems to be out of it when it comes down to whatever legislation is being discussed, and we suspect he must be in Hawaii when it's happening. Now he just gave us a speech for, I think, about seven and a half minutes in which he assured us that the Social Assistance Act was not repealed, that the Handicapped Persons Income Assistance Act was not repealed. I would like to draw his attention to Bill 28, the bill which is under discussion, section 27, which reads as follows — and because I'm not quite sure of the member's ability to read I think I'll read it for him, with your permission, Mr. Speaker. It says: "The following Acts are repealed: (a) Social Assistance Act; (b) Guaranteed Minimum Assistance Act; (c) Handicapped Persons Income Assistance Act."
Now I realize that I was out of order by dealing with this specific section of the bill, Mr. Speaker, but I appreciate your allowing me the indulgence so I could bring this to the attention of the member for Hawaii.
MS. BROWN: Okay. What I really want to say, though, is that I think it is a disgrace, a disgraceful piece of legislation. It is a....
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member for Coquitlam on a point of order.
MR. KERSTER: Mr. Speaker, according to the standing orders of this House, 42(1), I know that I can't speak twice to the question except to correct a statement, a material part of the speech which has been misquoted and misunderstood...
MS. BROWN: That's not a point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'm waiting patiently for the point of order, which I've done for other hon. members on other occasions.
MS. BROWN: Okay.
MR. KERSTER: ...which may have been misquoted or misunderstood, but then not to introduce any new matter or new debate. So I would trust, Mr. Speaker, that this is a valid point of order. I would like to correct a statement on which the hon. member has misquoted me and....
MR. SPEAKER: If it's a matter of a misquotation or something that you disagree with or a difference of opinion, under standing order 42 you do that at the end of the hon. member's speech.
MR. KERSTER: Mr. Speaker, knowing the hon. member, I may not get a chance to correct that statement tonight. So I thought I might....
MR. SPEAKER: I have no knowledge of that, Hon. Member. It's a matter of the rules of the House.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I know that in this House on a number of occasions you have explained that rule to this House, that you do not interrupt a speaker who is on her feet, to correct a statement. You wait until she's finished. On her feet — or his.
MS. BROWN: On the rare occasion when men get on their feet in this House...but, of course, again, the member must have been in Hawaii when you were explaining this to the House, Mr. Speaker. But you will get an opportunity to correct me, Mr. Member — tomorrow sometime, I think, if that's okay with you.
But I really would like to deal specifically with Bill 28 — and I would appreciate it if the members would refrain from heckling me while I'm trying to deal with this very serious piece of legislation. The second member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes) stood in this House and spoke for 40 minutes and you could have heard a pin drop. They're scared of him, but a little old lady like me, I get on my feet and everyone over there...right? Pick on your own size next time, Mr. Member for Hawaii.
All of which is to say, Mr. Speaker, that this is a disgraceful piece of legislation, and of course it is not
[ Page 2478 ]
going to be possible for me to support it.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!
MS. BROWN: I'll tell you why I think it is so disgraceful. For the past five and a half days I know the members of this House have been wondering where I was.
AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, we have.
MS. BROWN: Okay. I was attending some of the sessions at the Habitat forum, and over and over....
AN HON. MEMBER: Without leave!
MS. BROWN: Without leave. Where's the dapper Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. Williams)? He's not here tonight.
MR. G.V. LAUK (Vancouver Centre): The man from Glad!
MS. BROWN: Yes. But, Mr. Speaker, over and over again the topic under discussion had to do with poor people and poor countries and human settlements. It wasn't once but many times that we were told: "But, of course, this does not apply to North America. This does not apply to Canada. You are a very wealthy country. You have no understanding of what poverty is all about." Over and over again we heard delegates from all over the world, Mr. Speaker....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard has the floor.
MS. BROWN: No respect for my grey hairs — nothing!
Mr. Speaker, over and over again we were told that these things did not apply to Canada because it was a wealthy country, and it is true. This is a very wealthy country and British Columbia is one of the wealthiest provinces in this very wealthy nation. Yet I know from my experience of having worked here, Mr. Speaker, for a number of years as a social worker that there is tremendous poverty in this province. I think that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves, quite frankly, as a people and as a nation, that that kind of poverty exists in this very wealthy province in this very wealthy nation of ours. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves that the Department of Human Resources has on its caseload as many people as it does, that in fact we have the level of unemployment in this province that we do, and that in fact it was necessary to bring down this kind of legislation.
We have a lot to be ashamed of, and I think that for the minister to introduce legislation at this time which does not, as the bill says, get to the root cause of the poverty, but tries to separate out the deserving poor from the other — and he has not given us his criteria for the deserving poor — adds to our shame. Certainly as far as the nations of the world are concerned, it forces us to hang our head in disgrace.
Mr. Speaker, this is not new legislation. In 1972 the previous Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Improvement, the former member for the constituency of Kamloops (Mr. Gaglardi), introduced this bill under a different number, but it was the same bill, Bill 49. I don't know how many members in this House remember that Bill 49. Precisely the same kinds of powers that were incorporated in that bill are presently in this bill, and the same kinds of punitive acts that were incorporated in that bill are presently in this bill. The only difference is that because the present minister is smoother and more suave in everything that he does, he introduces legislation that was more suave than that of the previous Minister of Rehabilitation.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's "swave"!
MS. BROWN: No, no, suave. You swave, Mr. Minister, I'll suave!
MS. BROWN: But it's the same bill. It's the same sweeping powers. It's the same kind of legislation that gives him the right, as it would have given the former minister the right, to designate who shall and who shall not be considered deserving poor in this country. It deals with the same kinds of means-testing that is now being dressed up in this new flowery language of the minister who grew up on tulip bulbs, which I guess explains the flowery nature of the language being used.
There isn't anything different about it, and in fact people fought against that legislation in Bill 49 in 1972. That was one of the pieces of legislation that brought about the downfall of that Minister of Human Resources, and I certainly hope, if you insist on forcing Bill 28 through this House, Mr. Minister, that it will be responsible for bringing about your downfall too.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Boundary-Similkameen (Mr. Hewitt), earlier in the House when he was speaking talked about the fact that you were in support of single-parent families. He made great issue of that fact. You obviously are in support of single-parent families, because this legislation is going to create a lot of single-parent families.
Now one of the things that I heard the minister discuss on the CBC one morning was the fact that he
[ Page 2479 ]
knew about the aid-to-dependent-children legislation in the United States and that he was going to ensure that any legislation introduced by him would not have those kinds of destructive effects, would not have that kind of destructive impact on the family as a unit. Yet lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, in this bill, Bill 28, under section 11 — and I'm not going to deal with the sections in detail now — he has introduced legislation which does precisely what the aid-to-dependent-children legislation does.
It makes it more profitable for a family with children to be a single-parent family if it is poor than for them to stay together. In fact, it says there are benefits which will accrue to you if you are a single-parent family and you are poor that you will not receive if you are married and you are poor. That is the kind of legislation.
He's a threat to the fabric of society. He's undermining the most crucial unit — the unit of the family, Mr. Member. That is what that minister is doing with this piece of legislation. When he starts to separate out the single-parent family poor from the poor of the family that has both parents, he's undermining the family as a unit. That's what he is doing. He is undermining the family as a unit and he should not be permitted to get away with that. Instead of introducing legislation that will strengthen the family as a unit, instead of introducing legislation that will try to hold the family that is poor together and knit them and make them stronger, he has separated them out. If you are a single-parent family and you are poor, you will get your medical services paid for, you will get your health services taken care of, et cetera, but if you are a poor family and there are two parents involved, you are not eligible. That is destructive legislation.
Surely even the members of the back bench can see that that is destructive legislation. How could you possibly, as members of families yourself, support this undermining of the family as a unit? How could you do that? It is bad enough that the minister has taken it upon himself to decide who shall be deserving poor and who is not deserving poor, but when the minister introduces legislation that threatens the fabric, that threatens the family as a unit, this time I think that minister has gone too far.
Even the member from Omineca (Mr. Kempf) is silent on this one. It's the first time he's been silent in the past five months. He's very silent because he understands. He ran for the resource board while he was mayor and member of the Legislature at the same time. He is running for everything. Run and run and run. That's what that member is doing — running for everything.
MR. A.B. MACDONALD (Vancouver East): Running for cabinet.
MS. BROWN: Running for cabinet, MLA, mayor and member of the resource board. There is absolutely nothing that's protected from that member. He's running for everything.
Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat what I said about section 11, because this section of this bill disturbs me. I heard that minister distinctly say on CBC Radio when he was being interviewed on "Good Morning Radio," that he had read the aid-to-dependent-children legislation in the United States and he would see to it that no legislation introduced by him in this House would be as destructive to the family as a unit as that piece of legislation is.
The statistics are there for anyone who wants to see them. The statistics are there for anyone who is interested. The aid-to-dependent-children legislation destroyed the families of poor people in the United States. It's insidious and destructive legislation, and this minister has now introduced legislation into this House to do the same kind of destructive thing to the families of poor people in this province that the aid-to-dependent-children legislation did to the families of poor people in the United States.
When a family is poor, Mr. Speaker, it is more necessary than ever that that family stays together. When people have no kind of financial or economic resources, the role played by the father and the mother is crucial to the children in that family. Surely the minister knows that.
MS. BROWN: Surely the minister knows that when a family is poor — and I'm repeating it because the minister has asked me to repeat it — the role played by both parents is more crucial than ever. They have to do a lot of things that a family with money doesn't have to do. You understand that, don't you, Mr. Minister? Then how can you explain introducing legislation that is going to destroy the families of people who are poor — that is going to make it more economical for a father to leave the home so that the mother can become eligible for the kinds of coverage that you allow under section 11 of this bill? How can you explain, Mr. Speaker, that the minister would introduce legislation that would make it more economical for the mother to leave the family as a unit so that the father could be eligible for the kinds of services introduced under section 11?
Mr. Speaker, I have a lot more to say on this destructive piece of legislation, so with your permission I would like to move adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.
HON. L.A. WILLIAMS (Minister of Labour): Mr.
[ Page 2480 ]
Speaker, I ask leave to file the report of His Honour, Judge McTaggart, special mediator in the matter of the dispute involving the Health Labour Relations Association of British Columbia and the Hospital Employees Union, local 180.
Introduction of bills.
COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Williams presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Hospital Services Collective Agreement Act.
Bill 75 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to file a statement of the accreditation of the Health Labour Relations Association of British Columbia with respect to those employers named in schedule A to that accreditation statement.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you and the members of the House that the bill which has just been introduced has not yet been printed but copies of it will be available very shortly for the members of the assembly.
MR. COCKE: When?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: In the next few moments, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mrs. McCarthy moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:04 p.m.