1978 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 31st Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 1978
[ Page 221 ]
Throne speech debate
Hon. Mr. Bennett 221
Mr. Barber 229
Mrs. Jordan 237
Mr. Lauk 242
Hon. Mr. McGeer 245
Division on the motion 247
The House met at 10 a.m.
HON. MR. FRASER: In the gallery this morning are constituents from the Cariboo riding, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred King, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin King, and Mr. and Mrs. Kelly King. I'd like to tell the House that Mrs. Alf King is the president of the Cariboo Social Credit ladies' auxiliary. I'd like to you join me in welcoming them.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, there being no other members standing for introductions, I would like the members to be aware that George Edwin Hills passed away April 3. George Edwin Hills was a member of this Legislature. He was elected in 1952 and sat in 1953. He became the mayor of Prince Rupert from 1954 through 1957. He was the manager of Kaien Consumers Co-op for 10 years, and after he retired he was the civil defence co-coordinator. He moved to Nanaimo 10 years ago. He is survived by his wife, Clara, his two sons and one daughter. I give this message to you belatedly because I received it belatedly, but none the less I think if the House agrees I would extend the sympathies of the House to the survivors.
Orders of the day.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, in taking my place today let me advise the members that the member from Prince George had to be away from Victoria today to attend a funeral, and as such is not able to take his place in debate, if that's satisfactory with the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) .
Mr. Speaker, in rising to support the Speech from the Throne, before I do let me join with the many others in this Legislature in extending to you my personal congratulations on your ascension to the difficult and somewhat trying, but important, role of Speaker in this assembly. Let me wish you well, and let me assure you that I will try to curb myself and try to be a part of the exemplary House which you wish to preside over.
MR. SPEAKER: I'll try to assist you, hon. sir. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. BENNETT: Thank you. I'm sure you will.
Let me also extend my congratulations to the first member for Vancouver South (Mr. Rogers) for taking on the role of Deputy Speaker and Chairman, again a difficult task. To that member, my congratulations.
Let me welcome to this Legislature, although he's not sitting this morning, the new member for Oak Bay (Mr. Stephens) and extend my congratulations to him on his election to this assembly, welcome him as a colleague in the assembly, but perhaps an opponent in thought in how we should lead this province. Let me offer to that member, then, my best wishes for the type of contribution I know he can make to this Legislative Assembly.
In rising to support this throne speech and in speaking to it, let me say that this speech, in broad brush strokes, outlines the thrust and the aim of this government in this third step of our government during our present mandate. It follows actions that have had to be taken and actions pointing ahead that we have taken during the past two years, and it is complementary to it. It recognizes the position of British Columbia but it also takes a look at the future and what we want do as a government to help our people attain those goals which we have set out and which they have set out for themselves.
As such, Mr. Speaker, this throne speech clearly identifies this government's philosophical commitment but it also identifies our commitment to meeting the aspirations or the people of British Columbia in their desire to work, their desire to be able to afford to live in this province in this country, and a desire for certain standards and services and benefits that can only flow from the function of government.
But tempering that and tempering the role that government has achieved in this country, we have also clearly identified that government may - in fact government has -become a part of the problem in Canada. That isn't just my sentiment or those of this government; those aren't just the sentiments of just one political leader. Those are the sentiments of all 11 First Ministers of this country, covering a spectrum of politics between left and right; those are the sentiments of concerned leaders who recognize that they have presided at a time when government has somehow become a part of the problem.
At the recent First Ministers' Conference, all 11 First Ministers endorsed the proposal that their concern was with the growth of big government. And they also endorsed the principle that this country could only build
[ Page 222 ]
and grow by its commitment to the private sector. Again, we were unanimous in that endorsation. Let the record at the First Ministers' Conference show that in those respects, this country is united among all 11 governments as to where we see this country growing, how it will grow, and our commitment to try and make government more responsive and less oppressive to the people that we set out to serve.
Mr. Speaker, the throne speech leads us into the year 1978, following a year in which British Columbia has made substantial progress; not the type of progress that this government would have wished, for we have set standards that we have not attained; not the type of progress, perhaps, that every individual citizen would have wished, for they too have aspirations that go beyond what we have been able to attain. But given the difficulties that face this country and this province, given the difficulties that face North America, given the difficulties that face the western trading world, our record in 1977, because of policies introduced in 1976 and last year, has been a record that is a bright spot in Canada and a bright spot in comparing all of the factors with other areas that are parts of the free-trading world.
Last year we had a number of indicators that gave us cause for hope and optimism in this province: an increase in corporations, showing the willingness of our people to form companies, to engage in business and to provide the type of economic activity that will make this province grow; an increase in business-expansion loans from the chartered banks, with more money going out in business loans to these new companies and old companies to be harnessed, to create employment, to create the value of economic production, to build our economy and to build a better life; an increase in the number of people working in this province to the highest level in our history - not, Mr. Speaker, working in temporary jobs of short duration created by the government as a short-term solution. These jobs have taken place in the private sector; these jobs have been created in an area where the employment could be considered permanent; these jobs have been part of the slow and steady growth rate of job opportunity in this province.
In February we had working in British Columbia 1,062, 000 of our people with permanent jobs. As I say, the largest number ever. Last year, at the same time that we had more people working, we had a marginal decrease in the number of unemployed. That marginal decrease was not enough - I'll be the first to admit it and so will our government. But we will not rest nor will we be happy until every man and woman, young or old, who wishes to work, will have the opportunity to work in British Columbia.
Let me further say that that employment took place, as I say, in the private sector, and it's significant that the growth has been in a number of areas of our economy. The growth in people working has been in agriculture and in primary industries, with a substantial increase of people working in manufacturing. There is an increase in the people working in personal service, community, business and transportation, but, Mr. Speaker, a decrease in those involved in public administration, and that is in the government of British Columbia.
We're not out on a reckless path to destroy job opportunities for our hard-working public servants, but we are committed to bringing an efficiency to government so that their talents can be utilized and provide job opportunities in the private sector, where the productivity and economy can build to afford this governmental structure that has grown in British Columbia. We are trying to find, in effect, a balance between government and the private sector that will better serve our people.
Last year amongst the other increases was an increase in investment and manufacturing in this province, an increase in the exploration for oil and natural gas, and along with that, an increase in the proven energy reserves that will be there for the benefit of the people of the province - an asset discovered and identified for the people of this province. With those increases, we also have the fastest-growing retail store sales in Canada in department stores, a new statistic that shows the growth that is taking place in British Columbia.
Along with those increases we've had some decreases, but these decreases I support. We've had, as I say, a marginal decrease in unemployment, a substantial decrease in the man-days lost due to strikes, lockouts or labour disputes, and a marginal decrease in the inflationary growth. Vancouver, once the most inflationary of all the major cities in Canada, has been reported recently to now be the slowest in cost-price rise in Canada amongst the major cities. This is our measurement for British Columbia. Having had the record for the worst inflation, it is now pleasing to me and to our citizens that inflation, while not being curbed quickly enough, at least has slowed to a greater extent where it impacts upon the incomes of
[ Page 223 ]
the people of British Columbia.
For we have these twin enemies in our country, the twin enemies of unemployment and inflation. Both bring great harm to our people. Unemployment is identifiable by those who cannot find work or are unable to work. But inflation picks the pockets of us all and rides most heavily on those who can least afford it. Inflation is a cruel tax upon our people, especially those with low incomes or modest incomes, who have no opportunity to fight it. Many of them have no opportunity to bargain for higher incomes in the marketplace, and are caught and feel the greater penalty when inflation attacks their incomes. That is why I say inflation must remain one of the targets, along with building the economy. For if in building and rekindling the economy, we trigger off another round of inflation, our people will be poorer off, not better off. This is a responsibility not only of this government, but all governments in Canada. We cannot afford the type of inflation that has brought our country to the very serious economic situation it is in today.
I'd like to say also that part of our strategy has been to get our government finances in balance. In the two years we've been government, Mr. Speaker, our Minister of Finance, the Hon. Evan Wolfe, has indeed done a remarkable job in trying to provide money to meet services for people and in the collection of those moneys from the public.
We have been able to achieve a lowering of the cost of provincial government as part of the gross provincial product only by having the economy expand. But, Mr. Speaker, as I've said before, it is our long-term goal to go the extra steps, in the future, when the economy can afford it, and in a direct way deal with what we can do to lessen the cost of government in a more definitive way through the tax regimes of this government and of this province.
Those fiscal measures taken by the Minister of Finance have proven wise indeed. Tough, perhaps extreme-but the tough action in 1976 allows us today, in what is a more difficult time for Canada, it will allow us to harness that surplus $76 million from 1976, add it to the tax collections of this year and not go into debt, but have that extra money to provide services, job opportunities, and encouragement for the people to work - without saddling them with the burden of dead-weight debt.
We have a responsibility, not only to our current generation and its aspirations, but we have a responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to future generations. Any excesses, any mismanagement, any waste in government that causes excessive borrowings in the marketplace will be left as a burden for them, not only to pay back in capital and in interest, but to the detriment of services that they may want for themselves in those days.
This minister, then, will be able to harness the surplus of his sound, financial management. I look forward to that minister's budget. I look forward to that budget, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that in step three of his part in the economic plan, the economic blueprint for this province, we will see the results of sound, financial management and they will contrast quite clearly so that all the people of this province can identify how they want their government run.
But not only that, we have accepted, as a province, a position in trying to determine the best economic path for our country. We not only want to go to these conferences and speak about financial responsibility and management; we want to be able to show them, and do as we say, and to provide the type of leadership by actions - not by words. Many people lose confidence in governments who talk one way and act another.
In this third year of our mandate, Mr. Speaker, we are following through with the commitments we have made, and will be able to follow through because the course we have chosen has been a wise course. The growth has taken place in the private sector in this province. We have curbed the runaway growth of government. We. will be able, in a moderate and proper way, to continue that path, not abruptly but in a course we have chosen to give us the long-term, steady growth that will serve our people well.
This isn't a time for financial gimmicks, and i 1 isn't a time for promises and expectations raised that cannot be met. It's a time for plain talk; it's a time for action. I said that we were not miracle workers. We're just workers, and we're working hard for the people of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, on opening day, this government brought in a throne speech I feel will, as I have said, lead British Columbia on an even better growth pattern and a better provision of services than last year. It is with some sadness that I mark the demonstration that was here on opening day, because 1 do not consider organized labour my enemy. 1 do not consider those who work in the union movement my enemies. I consider them a very, very important part of our society, one of the parts that has had a lot to do with the growth and development of this province. I look to them, along with us and along with business -
[ Page 224 ]
which I also do not consider my enemy. Big or small, business also plays an important part in the building and the growth of our province. I look to them, and our government looks to them, because, while they represent their groups in society, we. as government, and we, as legislators, must consider our responsibility to all the people of this province. We cannot meet that responsibility if we end up in conflict with one group or the other. The problems of today need the co-operation of all groups and government must be the catalyst that brings those groups together.
Mr. Speaker, during the last number of months I have tried, as the First Minister of this province, to carry out that function by meeting privately with business and labour representatives, in a series of meetings - not for press coverage or for public consumption -to try and provide a discussion and a meeting place, where we can mutually discuss how we can build a better British Columbia.
Let me now compliment those who have already participated in such meetings. Let me say that their willingness to provide constructive suggestions and the concern and the responsibility they have shown are an indication to me that the optimism that I have in this province is not unfounded, because, while we have unlimited resources in the ground and above the ground, ultimately our greatest resource will be the people who harness these resources for our government.
I consider then - and all members of this Legislature must remember - that we are responsible to all parts of society. We are not here just to create new jobs. Yes, we have an obligation, during these difficult times, to try and save jobs.
One of the best examples I have of the co-operation I talk about took place when there was the indicated closure of the Van Ply mill. That would have placed 500 workers out of work in this province - trained, skilled workers - at a difficult time. It would have lost markets for this province, markets that we already have. It would have given us a loss in the value of our economy and created a cost that would have not been acceptable to the people or this government. We brought together management and labour, and I must say the climate that surrounded those discussions was positive. Nobody was there to play politics; nobody was there with any other reason but to try and resolve the difficult problems. As you know, Mr. Speaker, that problem was resolved. Those people are working. That facility is continuing. And the agreement reached provides the rest of the forest industry with an opportunity to study the plywood market, to build more modern facilities, knowing that we have a pool of skilled workers who may be available in two or three years, rather than have an abrupt disruption of the market. That's why I was pleased to receive this one of a number of letters from IWA people, who have complimented the government on the role it played.
This letter I read from today happens to be written by Jack Munro. There are others, from Syd Thompson and others. But the letters I really cherish are those that came from individual workers at Van Ply who phoned and wrote, expressing the way the government played a role in bringing the sides together so that the confrontation that could have developed, the heated exchange to the media that could have developed, did not develop. Indeed, we worked towards resolution, rather than rhetoric.
This letter from Jack Munro says:
"I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and that of the IWA for your assistance in saving the jobs of 500 Van Ply workers. We believe that your meeting with us on such short notice, and especially your public statement, set a tone for subsequent meetings which contributed significantly to the final agreement. "The Hon. Tom Waterland, Minister of Forests, also deserves a thank you from us. Chairing meetings between the forest industry and ourselves is never an easy task, but those chaired by the minister were particularly difficult. The positive results of those meetings is a credit to him also."
Mr. Speaker, these are the types of attitude we have tried to develop in this province. These are the types of attitude that we believe have led to the record that we had last year of fewer man-days lost because of industrial disputes. These are the types of attitude that will help us to provide a stable, growing economy in the future without the tensions, without the confrontation and without the destruction that have taken place in the past, when we should have been working together to build this province. In the past, from time to time, I'm sorry to say, British Columbians have been their own worst enemies.
But now we have a level of co-operation; and I for my part, and our government for its part, will work to make sure that that co-operation is maintained and that those attitudes will be expanded. For we have a common goal and a common commitment, and that is to a British Columbia that is growing, a
[ Page 225 ]
British Columbia that is expanding, but a British Columbia, above all, that will serve the people of this province. We are committed - labour, business and government - to that goal.
Mr. Speaker, this throne speech outlines a number of ways in which this government will work to create employment this year. Not create it directly, but create the confidence and create the opportunity - and that's the word, opportunity - for the individuals and the small businesses to create those jobs in the private sector. We will have a number of programmes that will be unfolding in the session, I am sure, Mr. Minister of Finance, that will help the private sector to carry out that function.
Our commitment is to help the one area that has been under attack, not only in this province and in this country, but in all the industrialized world. It has been identified that big labour can look after itself; it has the muscle. And big business, somehow, through the weight of its financial resources, can look after itself. But those who have suffered, whether it is in West Germany or the United States or Great Britain or in Canada, have been those in small business.
Mr. Speaker, we have a concern for small business and individuals who would show enterprise. They are the backbone of our economy. They, indeed, are really the engine that will drive the economy forward in this province. I come from a small-business background. I know the difficulties of financing, of trying to struggle through when there are difficult times, because it hasn't been straight uphill in Canada and in British Columbia. There have been dips before - not as difficult as the one we're in - and I know that they need all the encouragement and all the opportunity they can get. They're not asking for a handout, they're not asking for something for nothing - all they want is an opportunity. They want to see government as being on their side - encouraging them, not discouraging them.
There has been a thought abroad and in this country that business, small or large, was something to be milked and that the milk was unlimited. Governments have placed a heavy toll on small business and haven't left them the reserves to fight off the difficult recession that the western world has been in. We must see that we never again do this to our small business. We're going to set out this year to give them the confidence and the opportunity to get going again. And one of the ways, Mr. Speaker, is very, very noticeable, because sometimes you can deal with the numbers on a balance sheet and sometimes you can deal with taxation, but who among our citizens - individual or corporate - has ever felt that they could get through the maze of bureaucratic regulations and government legislation, when they wanted to do something in this province and this country?
Over the years, government after government have moved into areas of more control, more legislation, more regulation, more Crown corporations, more boards and more commissions, to the utter frustration and disillusionment of our people. They don't wan't to run anywhere else, because somehow in this crazy world there is nowhere left to run where an ordinary person can do something anymore. We want to say that in British Columbia we , re going to create that opportunity again. This government has embarked.... In fact, every ministry has the mandate to look at the Crown corporations, the boards, the commissions and the regulations, the legislation, and where it is oppressive and where it hurts people and prevents them from carrying out the opportunities that they should be allowed in this country, they will be eliminated.
I understand the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Curtis) just this morning started with his first.
AN HON. MEMBER: Sure, get rid of public housing.
HON. MR. BENNETT: He got rid of the B.C. Housing Corporation - which used to be called Dunhill - which is a function that could be provided in the private sector. I will not listen to your silly statements that that is a denial of public housing. This government has , done more to encourage people in housing than your government ever did.
The shelter aid for elderly renters is a programme that is our brightest jewel. That minister brought in a programme that every other government in Canada is studying as a more equitable way to maintain our seniors in their homes.
Mr. Speaker, that first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) has been frivolous in debate during this whole legislation. That move by that minister this morning is the first in a series of steps to show the public that we mean business in cutting out those areas into which government has intruded and in which it no longer serves the public interest, but may be against the public interest.
Mr. Speaker, more will be happening in the days to come, and much of it has already
[ Page 226 ]
happened in a positive nature. Last year we created the legislation to create the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation.
MR. MACDONALD: Selling off NDP assets.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Let me clearly state, Mr. Speaker, that the first member for Vancouver East said: "NDP assets." I would like to advise him, as I would advise all members of this House, that there are no such things as NDP assets or Socred assets. People's, not yours!
MR. MACDONALD: Created by the NDP.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, if the first member for Vancouver East can curb himself, we can continue. What we have said is that the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation was a vehicle that will harness the savings in equity capital of the people of this province - the build-up of savings, because of a lack of opportunity and confidence in where to invest and how to invest. This corporation will give those people a chance, a chance to make a voluntary investment in the future of this province. It gives them a chance to be a part of a major public corporation in the private sector that will belong to the people of British Columbia voluntarily. It will be their company that will be a measure against which all the other multinational corporations or Canadian corporations or British Columbia corporations will have to measure their performance and their investment and their opportunities. It will not be encumbered with the heavy hand of government; it will be allowed to operate in the private sector where companies can freely explore their....
MR. BARBER: They already own it.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Hon. members, the Chair must intervene. Order, please. Will the hon. first member for Vancouver Centre come to order? By not coming to order he indicates that he does not wish to remain in the chambers. Interjections have been allowed, and interjections are even acceptable except when the Chair calls for order. Please proceed.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation will provide the people of British Columbia with a tremendous investment opportunity, a voluntary investment opportunity to participate in a company that will be British Columbian and Canadian, because the legislation provides that. It will provide them with this opportunity, and I look forward to the day which will come soon in which they will have that opportunity to make such an investment.
The people that I have talked to and listened to as I have gone around this province indicated they are excited and looking eagerly to that type of investment. They don't want and they never wanted the government to have the power to make investments on behalf of them in which they had no opportunity to make a choice. They didn't want to leave to the gambling instincts of a reckless Premier or a reckless Minister of Finance the chance to buy chicken companies, potato companies or others. They want the opportunity and in fact they think they're bright enough to make their own investment rather than to leave it to others.
Those who are smug enough to say that only they as government can invest on behalf of the people, that only they are wise enough to create the corporations and make the investment, let them explain to the people and tell the people that they're not bright enough to manage their own money and their own investments. Make that choice if you will, but explain to the people what you really think of them when you carry attitudes like that into your party and into government and into this province. I have confidence in the people of this province, my fine friend; I have confidence in them and I have confidence in them collectively and individually that they can make their own investments. And given the opportunity they will. I have the confidence in them that they do not want any ham-handed, fumbling government investing their money, saying: "We know what corporations to buy; we know what businesses to set up. You're not bright enough to do it." I have confidence that they don't want that type of government ever again - they've made that choice.
Let the second member for Victoria (Mr. Barber) go out and tell the people that that's the way he thinks, that they're not competent to make their own investment. Well, I tell them that by the action of setting up the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation, by our actions in giving more opportunity to the private sector, we're saying to the average British Columbian: "This is your province; you have rights; you have opportunities; you have every opportunity to make your own investments."
[ Page 227 ]
We will only provide those governmental services that cannot be provided individually. We will be here as government to create opportunity. We will be here to provide a measure of social programmes to end in equality, but never, ever will we interfere in your right to invest and to develop and to grow. Let the socialists stay with their commitment to collective disaster. We'll stay with individual opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to move on because we have canvassed in the throne speech a number of areas in which the government is moving, and the way we'll be co-ordinating those expenditures of government to help in the creation of employment in this province. We will continue the acceleration in road construction to make up for the lack of maintenance and construction in the early '70s. This will provide needed transportation links and will also provide employment.
Our positive road program~ in last year's budget did not appear to be sufficient, and this government made the decision after that budget had been struck that we needed to amend the road programme, to increase it. We needed to expand it. We announced to the people, not after the fact, but before the fact, that we were supplementing our make-work programme, we were supplementing our government commitment to upgrading our transportation. We were trying to pick up areas of men and machinery that were not working in certain areas by accelerating contracts. We made that as part of an announcement of government.
I'd do it again and will do it again any time this government needs to do something to help the people of this province. We're not bound by any document that needs amendment to meet the needs of people. The needs of people come first. We have the responsibility to govern and that responsibility was met by the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser) . He did it in a way that said: "We care about the people of this province. We're able to react, and react quickly." And so he did, and we will react again.
MR. LAUK: You're not bound by any law.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, let not the minister for Vancouver Centre.... I mispronounced "monster." Let him not attribute to me that we do not respect.... We respect the law; we respect also our responsibility. Budgets were made to be amended.
MR. NICOLSON: Not bound by any documents.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I have just said that is not what I meant, and if you attribute that to me, I tell you you're making a misinterpretation.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: That's easy for him.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I'm telling you exactly what I said. Let the member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson) clearly understand what I'm saying. Do not be simplistic or simple.
AN HON. MEMBER: He can't help it.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Now, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to go on. B.C. has come a long way in these last two years. There's more to do, much more to do. But all of the measurements indicate that British Columbia indeed is the bright spot in Canada. That gives us pride, but we also must share the concerns of our country, for British Columbia's not an island unto itself. British Columbia is part of Canada. As such, we are Canadians and we must be concerned about the Canadian economy. We must be concerned because for all of the measures we take, for all of the proposals we make, we must have a sound Canadian economy within which to work and trade f rom if we are really to meet the aspirations of our people. It's with that in mind that I went on your behalf to the First Ministers' Conference.
Our country has economic difficulties that have grown these last few years. We have a declining Canadian dollar, which is proof of that. We have had a lack of productivity, a lack of ability to compete, a lack of share of world markets in the manufacturing area. There are a number of factors that make up the Canadian problem, the major one being that we still have an economic policy that was developed almost 100 years ago, that of high protective tariffs brought in by Sir John A. Macdonald.
The expansion of Canada, while noble, was also carried out for the benefit of securing markets for central Canada manufacturing. The high tariff and protectionist policy of that day was to hold those markets for central Canada manufacturing. That policy has not been amended substantially in the last 99 years. As such, Canada has not been able to interject itself into the international market. Canada, with its resources, and with its great reserves of energy, has not taken the opportunity to have an economic policy that would allow all parts of this country equal opportunity to compete and manufacture. We have denied, with this type of policy, markets to ourselves that have kept us from competing and becoming a part of the international
Canada had a very good opportunity following the Second World War. We were not ravaged by war; we had every opportunity. Other countries, destroyed - with a more open market policy, with a concern to reconstruction and reassessing their position and how they mu t build provided we developed a more modern economic policy....
We have seen the success of Japan and West Germany and other countries and we've seen Canada steadily losing its position in world trade during that period. It's time then, Mr. Speaker, that we develop a modern economic policy for this country that will not only work f or the country as a whole, but will, in large measure, work towards making more equal the various parts of the country, giving the opportunity that is denied different regions to develop and grow. We do not need handouts. What we need is opportunity.
We, in British Columbia, can compete in world markets, given an opportunity. But high protective tariffs have closed some of the largest markets open to us: 200 million people immediately to the south, millions of people in Europe and other countries which retaliate with high tariffs. And yet we've protected a small market of under 25 million people. We have everything to gain. We have an advantage of resources and energy supply - certain energy supply, varied energy supply. We have the people; we'll have the capability.
Such a policy cannot be developed without a number of other things taking place at the same time. And Mr. Speaker, we suggested at that conference that you could not attack Canada's economic policy with piecemeal programmes. There has to be a major, comprehensive economic policy that covers a number of areas in order to help this country meet its aspirations and its goals. We believe that the proposals we put forward would bring Canada into the modern world-trading pattern and do a lot to end the inequities that also lie within the country. We recognize the difficult transition period and we recommend, in those policies, ways in which to target on individuals and corporations while we make the necessary adjustment to being competitive in the international marketplace.
These decisions must be faced by a Canadian people who are willing to be realistic and do not always seek the most golden promise of the moment. For Canada was not built by people who went for something for nothing. The people of Canada have proven they can rally in any fight in which they can see a worthwhile goal, whether it's in the type of combat they had in wartime or whether it's the type of economic combat they will have to undertake today. I believe that, given a goal and given a plan, given a chart to achieve that goal, the Canadian people will rally and do what is necessary to gain a victory and resolve many of the economic problems that plague our country. British Columbia will do its part.
I am encouraged, Mr. Speaker, because at these conferences there is a feeling of co-operation among First Ministers and governments that, as I said before, covers the political spectrum. We do not bring political differences to those conferences; we bring a positive spirit of co-operation.
I am encouraged by the increase in the number of meetings and by the permanent structures that are being formed out of the Premiers' meetings, which will encourage and continue this type of co-operation. This can only build a better country.
Mr. Speaker, it was with pride that we took this economic strategy to Ottawa, to the First Ministers' conference. I would like, at this time, to take the opportunity to say a special thank you to the staff, and the public servants in this province, who worked many long hours on their own time - weekends, research, travel - in an attempt to do more than present a British Columbia position, but to try and bring a rational approach to the problems that face Canada. The acclaim that these research papers and this strategy received belongs to them. Numerous members of the Finance, Economic Development and other ministries worked on these papers and this submission. I think this Legislature should express their appreciation to those people for the work they did on behalf of not only British Columbia, but of Canada, in preparing these papers.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to deal with another important topic in the throne debate. While we deal with an economy, while we're dealing with the necessary area of unemployment, there is a problem facing British Columbia and Canada today; and that is the problem of unity, of the country itself being maintained.
There is a threat of separation by one of the provinces, by the government that leads the province of Quebec today. I do not share their view; I disagree with their aspirations, and I do not believe that they have the endorsement of the people of Quebec. I feel that we are at an important time in our history, Mr. Speaker, a time when Canadians from all of the five regions have an opportunity, in the debate that surrounds this threat to our country, to resolve many of the regional differences, many of the regional
[ Page 229 ]
inequalities and many of the concerns that face the people of our country. It will provide us with the opportunity to modernize the structure of government in Canada. All of us must recognize that there is nothing which cannot be improved.
Our country is a unique country: large in area, small in population. We must have a government structure, then, that recognizes these factors, that recognizes that we have distinct and unique regions, each that needs its own way of being developed, each with its own special problems, each with its own unique conditions. In some areas it might be culture and language; in other areas it is a matter of economic factors, such as British Columbia. But I believe in the federal system we have. We have the basis for developing and modernizing the structure that will make this country work and will allow it to work.
We have advanced a number of proposals, Mr. Speaker, in our presentation to the Task Force on Canadian Unity. We have looked at the problems that face Canada. We have done the type of study, both as a government and with those outside government advising us, as to how we can best participate in making this country work. Our Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Mair) , who heads the internal cabinet committee on Confederation and on the constitution, has studied a number of countries, a number of federal systems, looking for ways in which we can improve our structure.
We have made representations in a number of areas, both on representation and on structure, as to how this country could be better served by government. It's not a matter of changing constitutions with radical changes; it's a matter of modernizing the government structure. It's a matter of allowing the regions to have more input at the centre, not decentralization to fragment the country and vulcanize the country, but to allow the regions and the provinces to have the ability to be part of the consultative process on those boards and the Bank of Canada, and the CRTC and the CTC and those areas that impact on Canadian policies. For what we have now is not national policy; what we have is federal policy. National policy would involve the input and advice of all of the governments. What we have in its place is arbitrary federal policy which in fact does not always impact equally in all parts of the country.
I believe that with those adjustments, with those types of mechanisms, with a more responsive Senate recognizing the provinces and their aspirations, we could in fact develop the type of communication and consultation that would provide a more efficient and certainly a more responsible government in this country.
Mr. Speaker, we in British Columbia, we in this government are prepared to accept our challenge: the challenge to build the economy; the challenge to create the opportunity for jobs for the unemployed; the challenge to build the economy so that better benefits will flow to all our people; the challenge to make sure that a measure of equality is struck between not only all British Columbians but all Canadians. We must provide in this day, along with government, a greater opportunity for our people for more self-determination so that they can seize their own opportunities.
We will accept that challenge, not only as a party and as a government but as people who are concerned about our fellow citizens and their aspirations.
Mr. Speaker, this throne speech goes a long way to meeting those goals, followed by a budget which I'm sure will clearly outline many of the programmes that have been suggested in this throne speech. They are part of a one-two punch in this third year of our mandate that is leading British Columbia to a greater economic and more prosperous future. Mr. Speaker, I support this budget.
Mr. Speaker, before I sit down I would like to welcome, on behalf of the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Gardom) , a number of young ladies, students from Little Flower Academy in Vancouver, which is from the constituency of Point Grey. Would all members of the House join me in making them welcome.
Let me also assure them that regardless of the proceedings in here, all members of this House have as their first concern our country and the people. While there are divisions on how we are going to achieve those goals, I believe that all members are committed to a goal of raising and meeting the expectations of the people of our country. It is only how we achieve those goals where we differ.
MR. BARBER: This morning the only noise more stunning than that of the government has been that of the government's hypocrisy in attempting to defend its stupid economic policies in the last two years.
I suppose one of the reasons why the Premier, particularly, has been so noisy is the fact that he's reeling from the government's errors and devastating mistakes in the last 10 days. These errors are a matter of increasingly embarrassing public record for that government. By an incredible twist of fate, it appears now to be turning out that
[ Page 230 ]
one of the parties to one of these particular disputes ends up looking like a martyr and the other party ends up looking like a bungler. It is, I suppose, with good reason that the Premier has been so noisy this morning. But again, Mr. Speaker, the only thing more stunning than the noise of the government is its hypocrisy in trying to defend and excuse what it has done, particularly to small business - Most certainly on Vancouver Island - in the two and a half years of its regime.
Before one gets to that, I should like to observe the formality, Mr. Speaker, and congratulate yourself, the deputy (Mr. Rogers) and the member for Oak Bay (Mr. Stephens) on taking their places in this assembly. I very much hope that if you do as well as you wish to do, we will enjoy, probably, one of the best sessions this House has ever seen.
[Mr. Rogers in the chair.]
Part of the hypocrisy of the Premier's speech this morning was summed up in his own words when he said: "In Canada the government has become part of the problem." What he omitted to tell us is what we all know to be the case, which is that in British Columbia this government has caused part of that problem.
In British Columbia the people are overtaxed, overcharged and underemployed. That, too, is a matter of devastating public record.
Partway through his speech, the Premier said: "Never again should these things be done to small business." He was presumably referring to what other governments and the federal government have done to small business and what past governments have done to small business: binding them up in red tape.
Consistent with the hypocrisy of this government, in attempting to defend its stupid fiscal and economic policies, he forgets to tell us that what has also happened to small business in this province is an increase of 40 per cent in the sales tax. Strangely, Mr. Speaker, we didn't hear that this morning as being one of the things that has been done to small business that should not have been done.
He forgot to tell us of the devastating impact of ferry rate increases on Vancouver Island and on other parts of this province, with which we are all most familiar and which cost one cabinet member that part of his portfolio.
He tells us, Mr. Speaker, that he wishes these bad things had not happened to small business and would never happen again, forgetting to tell us who did these bad things in the province of British Columbia.
The hypocrisy of this government reeks from floor to ceiling. They are the ones who, more cruelly and stupidly than any other political regime in this country, have done more damage to small business than anything we have seen before.
It's also a matter of public record that under Social Credit this government has suffered the worst overruns in the history of British Columbia. Almost a quarter of a billion dollars in budgetary overruns have been recorded in the fiscal year just ended. If that too is not hypocrisy, Mr. Speaker, I ask you what hypocrisy is.
It's a matter, again, of public record that these people campaigned on a promise that never, ever, under any circumstances - once or twice; never ever - would they permit overruns of any kind. We now witness the worst series of out-of-control overruns in the history of this province. Again, it is almost a quarter of a billion dollars.
The people of British Columbia are overtaxed, overcharged and underemployed. No wonder small business is in such trouble. A quarter of a billion dollar overrun, indeed!
We have the highest business bankruptcy rate in Canada right here in British Columbia under Social Credit. They moan and groan and twist their well-manicured hands and tell us how dreadful it is that these things should be happening to small business. The truth and the fact is, Mr. Speaker, that they themselves are more than the greatest part of that problem and more than the greatest root of the cause that has led to such a devastating impact on small- and medium-sized businesses in this province.
There are, I suppose, at least three fundamental points of issue between ourselves and the government, revealed, no doubt, in the throne speech and revealed again in the Premier's remarks, to which I wish to address myself right now. They deal very much with the differences in philosophy and attitudes that our party and theirs have towards the question of public finance, public enterprise and the public economy, for which a government on behalf of all of the people is responsible.
In my judgment, Mr. Speaker, the first problem this coalition has - the first failing of their analysis of the proper role and responsibility of government in directing the economy - is that they don't understand the principle of indirect benefit. The principle of indirect benefit simply indicates that it is sometimes advisable and beneficial that the government itself assume a marginal or small loss in a given economic sector in order that
[ Page 231 ]
the rest of the sectors shall flourish. I suppose the best illustration we might find is here in the capital city; that illustration is called the Princess Marguerite.
The principle of indirect benefit, which that group appears not to understand, but which businessmen in my own community most certainly understand, is highlighted by that particular public enterprise. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that it is advisable for the government, on behalf of all of the people, to accept a marginal loss in the operations of that particular enterprise called the Marguerite, than that the whole tourist economy of Vancouver Island should suffer a loss, were that service to be abandoned, of some $14 million to $16 million a year, as has been calculated by the government itself.
MR. BARBER: "Tea at the Empress"? Well, what better proof do we need, I suppose, than that idiot comment by the Minister of Labour about tea at the Empress being somehow the only contribution made by the Marguerite?
Mr. Speaker, business on the island, and most certainly in the capital, is amply persuaded, and indeed presumably the government is. They have kept the Marguerite, although momentarily they tried to sell it in February, 1976. But we caught them and they had to draw back. The Marguerite is an important public asset that illustrates that principle of indirect benefit in which it seems to us the government has an important role to play. It is surely better to accept the loss of $100,000 or $200,000 a year in the public purse, shared by all of the people, than have the whole economy of Vancouver Island suffer that loss of an estimated $14 million to $16 million a year, were that service to be unavailable to them.
Now I have heard the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) herself make those same arguments with people in the tourist industry. I understand that she fought for the retention of the Marguerite and I think that's good, because they don't want it to go, and you know it. Business doesn't want it to be abandoned, and you know it. It illustrates, however, again, Mr. Speaker, that that principle of indirect benefit which that group fails to understand and which we comprehend, upon which many of our own actions, when in government, were based, is one which, at least in the business community here, is coming to be increasingly accepted. There are, I suppose, other illustrations as well and these are illustrations which take us into areas of proper and justifiable debate.
Let me highlight one of them: the B.C. ferry system.
It is clearly better that the whole people of British Columbia absorb certain losses on the B.C. ferry system than that the people served by the system suffer even greater losses, were the system itself to be charged at such a level that it made no loss at all. It is surely better that the whole people subsidize the B.C. ferry system than that the whole of the people suffer as a result of the system being so costly, in individual terms, fare terms, and tariff terms, that it would in fact be unusable for a great majority of its present users.
The question here, clearly, is one of levels. How far do you go, how much can you afford, what's right and proper and fair and justifiable? Now in this case, that principle of indirect benefit was not established by this government or ours. In this particular illustration of it, it was established by the former Premier - the former government, Mr. Bennett, the present Mr. Bennett's fattier - in 1960 when the system was put together. Now he understood that principle. This government, in that particular case, is beginning to fail to understand it.
The argument, again, that we make, is that surely it is better. The debate centres around the level of the subsidy, to accept certain losses on that system than to accept far more grave and devastating losses in the area served by the system, were the system itself to run at such a tariff rate that no one could afford to use it. No one in this House knows better than representatives of greater Victoria the cost that was paid by the economy of Vancouver Island during that period when the government, abandoning that important commitment to this principle of indirect benefit, attempted foolishly and stupidly overnight to double the rates and fares, and had to back down - was compelled to back down - because of the failure of that policy, in the view of the people of British Columbia.
MR. BARBER: That's a perfectly reasonable question.
MR. BARBER: In this debate? None at all. I'm talking about the principle and it would be ruled out of order were one to start talking about specific levels for B.C. ferry subsidies. However, I most certainly will be
[ Page 232 ]
debating it during the estimates of the Minister of Recreation and Conservation (Hon. Mr. Bawlf) , if he's still responsible for B.C. ferries at the time they come up.
What we need, very clearly, is an understanding from the whole people, and most specifically from that government, about the justifiable extent to which that particular economic principle shall be observed. No one, certainly not myself, proposes that the B.C. Ferries or B.C. Hydro transit system should be free. Other principles come into effect at that point and clearly we cannot afford that.
But it's the view of our group, Mr. Speaker, and it's long been the view of this group, that there are certain kinds of public enterprise - hospitals and schools are the very best example - whose very nature compels us to employ that particular principle, again known as indirect benefit, which sees all of the people absorbing certain losses in order that much more devastating losses not be suffered by those directly affected by the impact of those systems, be they health, education, ferries, transport or transit. It's sensible; it makes good practical sense; and its something that the government here has not observed at all.
Now in fact this House should be reminded they did attempt to sell the Princess Marguerite. You are well aware that the former Minister of Energy, Transport and Communications (Mr. Davis) was formerly responsible for the Princess Marguerite. He shifted portfolios but the Princess Marguerite shifted ministers.
He did attempt in a series of meetings with private business to sell the Marguerite, but fortunately he was knocked down. Presumably that foolish attempt won't occur again. However, he did succeed in selling three of the ferries themselves, and my colleague the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) has repeatedly demonstrated the extraordinary costs that will have to be borne by the people in the future, through a leaseback procedure, so we'll end up paying twice for the ferries that we already own.
There's a level of sensitivity and planning, there's a comprehension of the role of benefit, be it of private or public origin, that this government, it would seem, does not comprehend at all. I suppose one of the reasons, Mr. Speaker - it gets boring, I suppose, to remind people of it - is that it's not a party at all that's governing British Columbia, but a coalition, and the forthcoming federal election will, no doubt, as much as the last 10 days have, cause considerable dispute and problems within the ranks of that coalition. The Liberals will go their way, the Conservatives theirs, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (Hon. Mr. Curtis) will go whichever way he chooses this session.
It's most important, therefore, to recognize that among the origins of this government 0 s failure to agree on that form of economic consensus, that decision about the proper levels of subsidy and that question of indirect benefit, that the people understand and recognize there is no guiding economic philosophy that commands this group. That leads to very serious problems in the administration of the public's affairs.
That's the first major dispute, as reflected in the throne speech and in our own response to it, between this opposition and that coalition - the principle of indirect benefit simply not being comprehended by them. The second major problem is that this group appears not to understand the value, strategic use or instrumentality of public enterprise. Just this morning, by timely coincidence, the Minister of Housing - such as he remains -informed not the House but the press that he intends to dispose of the Housing Corporation of British Columbia. This is a particularly stupid move, in our judgment, -Mr. Speaker, and it's stupid on a number of accounts.
By abandoning the Housing Corporation of British Columbia, this government abandons land worth millions, buildings worth millions and expertise, records, documents and a point of view worth incalculably greater amounts. The House should be reminded, Mr. Speaker, that last year the government cut the budget for seniors' housing construction from $10 million to $4 million. One anticipates this year that they will cut it altogether. I would predict that it will, at the very greatest, be $1 million or less in the budget we will see on Monday at 2 o'clock. Mr. Speaker, this government over and over again in a cruel and stupid way has abandoned its duty to the people of British Columbia - particularly seniors, most certainly low-income people - to provide decent, humane and civilized housing at a level that they can afford. Last year, seniors'housing was cut from $10 million to $4 million; this year it will be cut further. This morning we hear that they propose to sell off the Housing Corporation of British Columbia. When they sell off the Housing Corp., they're selling off an agency which cost, I understand, to purchase - not Casa Loma, as the Colonist erroneously reported this morning, but in fact, Dunhill - some $5.7 million.
[ Page 233 ]
HON. MR. CHABOT: That was a scandal!
MR. BARBER: On that basis, Mr. Speaker, the record is clear that the profits made by the Housing Corporation of British Columbia, since its purchase by the previous administration, have annually equalled almost 40 per cent of the original purchase price. Let me repeat it as the Minister of Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. Chabot) , throwing what he usually throws, probably did not hear it. The purchase price was, I'm told, $5.7 million. When you look at the profit picture, you discover that this particular corporation has made annually, in profit, 40 per cent or more - never less - of its original purchase price. That's an extraordinarily successful record for any public enterprise, more than extraordinarily successful for any private enterprise. This government in a stupid and self-defeating move proposes to sell this highly successful enterprise.
Let me remind you, Mr. Speaker, they're not just selling title; they're selling land and buildings, they are selling and abandoning expertise which this government must have if it is to understand and help move the housing market and systems of this province to serve those people who are presently not served by it, the seniors and the poor. In particular, this government is in neglect, dangerously so, if it intends to pursue the sale of the Housing Corporation of British Columbia, because it will end up selling one of the most important land banks in greater Vancouver, and that's Burke Mountain.
Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, if this government is foolish enough to sell the Housing Corp. and its assets - and that includes Burke Mountain - the people of greater Vancouver will be cursing the day when it happened. Burke Mountain is the most significant land bank in the lower mainland, and if they propose to sell that - the future, the promise, the planning and the asset called Burke Mountain - they are fools indeed, because we'll never get it back. We'll never be able to afford to get it back. Once we've lost that we have lost one of the linchpins in an overall strategy for the sensitive and sensible use of land to control and make more appropriate development in the greater Vancouver area.
They sell the Housing Corporation, they're selling buildings, they're selling expertise and they're selling Burke Mountain. What could be more criminally stupid than to sell - no doubt at bargain-basement prices - to private enterprise one of the most important public assets that the people of British Columbia enjoy, upon which generations from now they would have been counting in order that with said sensitivity, planning and foresight, development in that area can be controlled and maintained? Burke Mountain is required for future development by the people; it is required for future growth by the people; it is only required by private enterprise for the profit.
I promise this House this morning, Mr. Speaker, that if this government attempts to sell Burke Mountain to private enterprise, there will be a greater firestorm created by this opposition around that issue than any other created around the whole mishandling of that minister's Housing portfolio since the day he took of f ice. It would be a tragedy beyond repair if that asset were abandoned because of this government's absurd and stupid commitment to an ideology that went out the door in the 19th century. We cannot restore the loss ever; it will simply not be affordable if it goes into private hands for private profit. They sell the Housing Corporation; they're selling that as well.
Today, I'm told, there are more than 1,000 units of housing in the real and immediate planning stages - and in some cases the construction stage - by the Housing Corporation of British Columbia. There are more than a dozen locations where this housing is now going ahead. These locations are in North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, Delta, Surrey and Cloverdale. A thousand units are getting ready to go; they're in 12 important and strategic and sensitive locations. Are these also to be turned over for private gain and private profit? The people have developed them to this level, Mr. Speaker; the people have the right to benefit from that development; they have every right to. I promise you again that if this government is so foolish as to turn over these 1,000 units, which will be ready to go within the next 12 and 18 months, to private development for private profit, this opposition again will fight tooth and nail to stop that foolishness from ever passing. We cannot afford to abandon it.
It illustrates again the failure of this government to understand the value, the instrumentality of a planning vehicle called in this case the Housing Corporation of British Columbia, in private hands for the purposes of their bizarre and backward ideology. This coalition proposes to give it away at fire-sale prices to its friends in the private development field. It is an instrument that the people must command instead, Mr. Speaker. It led to profit: 40 per cent of its
[ Page 234 ]
purchase price or more made every year. It led to expertise, knowledge, comprehension and a point of view about the way the housing industry operated that the bureaucracy previously never had. It led to sharing that information and that expertise to the creation of a housing policy that succeeded on behalf of people of age or of low income during the previous administration. That too is being abandoned. They're not just selling a title called the Housing Corporation; they're selling an asset. They're selling a heritage that would and should have been passed to our children for years to come. They're selling information that is itself invaluable. We cannot afford that sale; we cannot afford that giveaway. This government is surely on record that we intend to fight that all the way.
The third and final point that I wish to raise this morning has again to do with the difference between that coalition and our own party in the view to be taken of the public sector, of public enterprise and specifically of public employment. I want to talk about the historic nature of capital cities. I want to talk about the failure of this government to understand the particularly sensitive and delicate place in which this capital city in our province has been put. I want to make some historical comparisons, if I may.
In North America, as a people we have made some very abnormal choices about the siting, the placement, the financing, the construction of capital cities as institutions of the people. The illustrations are obvious and straightforward. The capital of New York state is not New York City, it's Albany. The capital of California is neither Los Angeles nor San Francisco, it's Sacramento. The capital of Washington state is not Seattle; it's Olympia. The capital of the United States of America itself is neither New York nor Philadelphia nor Boston nor any of the other likely places; it was a created, artificial capital called Washington.
The capital of Canada was also created artificially. It was of course Bytown and it was a compromise choice....
MR. BARBER: That's right, and the argument that I propose to make, Mr. Attorney-General -if you'll hold me through - is that we're now paying for decisions taken in the last century to create essentially artificial capitals in many of the jurisdictions of North America, including our own here in British Columbia. It's f rom that argument - if you accept the premise, and I'm glad you do - that I wish to draw certain conclusions. Let me continue though to make the point further.
HON. MR. GARDOM: I may accept your premise, but not necessarily you.
MR. BARBER: I gather. The capital of Quebec in our own country is of course not Montreal but Quebec City. Bytown, now known as Ottawa, was chosen by Queen Victoria when she pressed her finger to the map.
In Europe, the tradition has always been very different. The great capital cities of Europe have always occurred almost spontaneously at the crossroads of great culture and commerce, great learning and great transport. Clearly, London, Paris, Rome and, up until the Second World War, Berlin were great illustrations of that historical trend in Europe. The idea of an artificial capital of, say, a Brasilia hacked out of the jungle by the strategic will of a people is unknown in Europe. Typically in Europe, capital cities therefore have always had a vitality, a life, a future, a hope and a promise of their own, quite independent from their role as a capital, because they grew from other roots, they serve other purposes.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: What's the capital of Holland?
MR. BARBER: I don't know.
MR. BARBER: Well, I'm sure it doesn't universally hold true, but I'm sure just as strongly that typically in Europe...
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Perhaps if we address the Chair.
MR. BARBER: ... capitals have always resulted more spontaneously and naturally from centres of commerce and culture, transport and learning than have ours typically in North America. There are obviously exceptions. I accept that. Okay?
Now in British Columbia, we too are saddled at the moment with the creation of a fundamentally artificial capital. Only in the 19th century, with the development and the perfection of telegraphy, of the postal service and of the rapid transport provided by steam did it become technologically possible to consider the idea of creating an artificial capital that did not itself derive from culture and commerce and transport.
This is an extremely important distinction,
[ Page 235 ]
and, predictably, most of these artificially created capitals are found in the western hemisphere where that technology came into play more cleanly and clearly and sometimes more early than in other of the centres of Europe.
Victoria itself, as the capital of British Columbia, illustrates this principle. Only as the result of political union of the Crown colony, Vancouver Island, and what has since become the rest of British Columbia did it make sense to put the capital in Victoria.
MR. BARBER: That's right. Well, personally, looking at this question academically, that's absolutely correct. Victoria is an artificial choice.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: One moment, please.
MR. BARBER: Not at all; I'm fighting to defend a decision, and the results of it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please! Hansard cannot possibly record the remarks made by the members of the House and the remarks made from you. So if you'd address the Chair, then it will make my job a little easier and make their job infinitely easier. Please proceed.
MR. BARBER: What I'm arguing, Mr. Speaker, is simply this: the people of British Columbia made a choice as the result of political union and political compromise in the 19th century to place the capital of this province on an island in a city that is not naturally the centre of great commerce or transport. Because of that, we are now saddled in this century with a very considerable debt. Were the capital in Langley or New Westminster or Vancouver where more spontaneously it might have been placed, then that particular debt need not be paid. We, in fact, are now required to pay a staggering price for the technology and the political decisions and compromises made in the 19th century. That price is simply this: precisely because the economy of Victoria is so artificially based, it must therefore be artificially maintained.
It's a service economy that derives in the original fact from the choice we made to put the capital here and not where more naturally or spontaneously it would belong, which is on the Island, If you create an artificial or what the Attorney-General prefers to call a service economy, then it must be maintained in an artificial, service-oriented way. If it's not maintained that way, if that debt is not paid, the economy of this capital goes down the tube.
If we choose a capital that is not spontaneously or naturally the centre of great trade, of great art and learning, or a national and commercial crossroads, then that capital city requires the endless transfusion of a civil-service payroll or the services of an undertaker. You can't have it both ways.
The economy of Victoria has had some very difficult times in the past two years because this government has not understood the fundamentally artificial nature and structure of the economy of this capital. We're on an island. Of all the strange places for a capital, you put it on an island 40, 50, 60 miles offshore. Of all the strange places for a capital, we put it at the very bottom of the island and not in the middle. Of all the strange places for a capital, we separate it fundamentally from more than half the population located on the mainland just 60 miles away by air. Clearly, we have to pay a price for having made that decision in the 19th century.
Now in September of 1976, the artificial economy of Victoria relied on the presence of 22,000 civil servants. These are the latest figures that are comprehensively available. Let me repeat that: the artificial economy of this chosen, capital city relied in September of 1976 on the presence of 22,000 civil servants and public employees. Of these 22,000, 9, 00C were employed by the federal government; 2,000 worked for local government, municipal and district; and 11,000 worked for the provincial government, its agencies and Crown corporations. Now, of the 11,000 provincial civil servants here in the capital city, in fact only 7,000 were in the employ of the Public Service Commission. Only 7,000 out of 11,000 were directly employed under the Public Service Act. The remaining 4,000 were employed by such Crown corporations as B.C. Hydro, B.C. Ferries and B.C. Steamships. In that month alone, September of 1976, in the artificial economy of Victoria, the value of that federal payroll was $10,107, 000 and, of the provincial, $14 million. The approximate annual values were $120 million federally and $168 million provincially. Again, this is September of 1976, the last period for which we have comprehensive figures.
To our great benefit, Victoria itself as a capital has enjoyed the twin benefits of being both the seat of Pacific Maritime Command for the people of Canada and the capital of British Columbia. What would happen, however,
[ Page 236 ]
Mr. Speaker, if some of these 22,000 supports were kicked out from underneath us? Well, the answer is dangerously clear because that's precisely what has been happening for the last two years. The poor performance of the economy of greater Victoria cannot be blamed exclusively on the ferry rates or, as a local joke, on the Government Street mall either. The poor performance of our economy to a considerable extent results from the economic decisions of this government, the failure to understand the use of public instruments like the Housing Corporation, the failure to understand the principle of indirect benefit, and the third, failure to realize that in an artificially created capital like Victoria, that artificial economy must be maintained by the whole public whose capital this is.
In July of 1978, 32 employees of the Ministry of the Environment will be transferred out of Victoria. They will not be replaced at all. In July of 1978, according to the minister himself, 37 positions in the provincial Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs will be transferred to Vancouver. Twelve positions will be transferred from the mainland to the capital.
MR. BARBER: That's what you told me two months ago, Rafe.
MR. BARBER: Well, maybe you've been listening, and that's good. I'm glad to hear it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. members, once again if we address the Chair....
MR. BARBER: As of January 31 of this year, Mr. Speaker, 732 people were chopped from the payroll of the Department of Public Works. None of those positions will be replaced -none. Most of these jobs were located in the capital city once.
By December 30,1977,450 jobs were eliminated from the B.C. Ferries roster. Many of these jobs were based in Victoria. None of the 450 will be replaced. By August, 1978, the provincial capital Will have lost, conservatively estimated, in the last two years, over 900 civil service positions. Over 900 civil service positions will have been kicked out from underneath the artificial economy of Victoria.
Once again I argue that because of a decision taken for political purposes in the 19th century when the economy was placed here on an island, at the bottom of that island, we are required, as a people paying the debt, to maintain the economy or else betray a trust that was made to the people of greater Victoria at that time and this.
By August, 1978, we will have lost a payroll, conservatively estimated, of $16 million a year, by the loss of these positions.
Now according to classical economists whom I consulted at the university, the ordinary rollover factor that would be applied to that loss is f five to one. Those dollars and this economy here would be turned over f five times. The whole measure of that loss puts it at $80 million. If you add to that loss the value of the income of other family members when these civil servants are required, if they wish to remain within the public service, to take positions outside of the capital, typically on the mainland.... When the head of the household moves, and his family moves, and those jobs, that income and those assets are also lost, the loss, in fact, becomes incalculable. It is no wonder that the economy of greater Victoria has taken such a beating in the last two years.
Now in regard to the question of whether or not this government is deliberately undermining the economy of greater Victoria by moving public servants out of it, let me read to this House an advertisement placed in the last by election in Oak Bay. I saw it in the Colonist on page 3 on March 12,1978, and I'll table it if anyone questions it: "Proven public service. Here when you need him. Frank Carson, your Social Credit candidate in the Oak Bay riding." Under the headline "Jobs" in paragraph two - the first refers to the Economic Development Commission, for which Mr. Carson deserves a lot of credit - he says: "If elected, Frank Carson intends to fight to reverse the trend towards moving public service people and government offices away from the greater Victoria district. On March 20, elect Frank Carson." Let me repeat: "If elected, Frank Carson intends to fight to reverse the . trend towards moving public service people and government offices away from the greater Victoria district."
I am happy to conclude by reading to the government the published and paid remarks of its own candidate but one month ago. This government is condemned by the people of Victoria for its removal of 900 public service positions from the payroll of this capital. This government is condemned not just by this opposition party; this government stands condemned by one of its own supporters, its
[ Page 237 ]
own candidate in Oak Bay, who has well condemned them for this very trend.
The throne speech is a disappointment. The throne speech is a bore. The throne speech fails to deal with these three specific areas: firstly, public enterprise and the instrumentality of it, particularly personified and illustrated by the Housing Corporation of British Columbia, which no doubt the minister will tell us we're not losing, as we said we were; secondly, the failure of this government to understand with sensitivity the nature of the economy of a fundamentally artificial capital city; thirdly, the devastating impact this government's own policies have had on small business. For those and a lot of other reasons that come to mind, Mr. Speaker, I shall not be supporting the throne speech.
HON. MR. CURTIS: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to participate in this debate at this time, but rather, as is, I believe, the rule of the House, under the first opportunity available to me, to correct a statement made by the last speaker, the second member for Victoria - to correct what can only be described as a gross inaccuracy in his thesis with respect to the proposed sale of the Housing Corporation of British Columbia.
I know he would not want to leave the impression abroad - certainly I would not -that Burke Mountain, the land to which he referred in his remarks, is part of the Housing Corporation of British Columbia portfolio now, or, indeed, would be offered for sale as part of that transaction should it take place. Rather, the Burke Mountain property rests within the ministry in the Crown provincial's name. I'm sure he would like to be informed of that correction.
MR. BARBER: Do you guarantee it will not be sold?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Check your research,
MRS. JORDAN: I really almost feel I should duck, and warn everyone else to duck, because if you listened to the former speaker you would think the sky was falling, the world was coining to an end, and there's no one who would be happier than that member.
Mr. Speaker, I have never, never, heard two such contrasting speeches, presentations and philosophies in my life as we have heard this morning. We first heard the Premier, who was calm, factual, dealt with the problems, offered solutions and made it realistic in that we have to be part of those solutions.
Oh, don't leave, Mr. Member. There are some things you should know.
MR. BARBER: I think I would rather see you in my office than here.
MRS. JORDAN: The first member for Victoria, the former speaker, was hysterical. He suggested that there were no solutions except giveaways. He took an approach of spreading fear, of trying to make people lose their confidence. He proposed a budget in 10 minutes, all for one part of the province, which would have spent half the total provincial income.
Mr. Speaker, that member talked about the city of Victoria, and I listened, and I couldn't decide whether he wants to move the capital or he wants to bury it. He said that it needed the services of an undertaker and I would suggest possibly, on that philosophy, the member might need the services of a psychiatrist. But I would like to correct some of the misconceptions that that member was spreading.
He talked about the Marguerite and what an exciting prospect it was under the NDP. Mr. Speaker, I would remind him that that's what the boarding passengers said about the Titanic - and I relate that to the Marguerite under the NDP It was an interesting concept, but, under NDP management, let us not forget the astronomical losses that were incurred to run one attractive boat from the United States to Victoria.
Under this government and the former Minister of Energy, Transport and Communications (Mr. Davis) , we were able to turn around the accelerating pace of those losses; and that minister, through diligence, hard work, positive thinking and planning, was able to increase the efficiency and the service of that ship and to reduce the losses considerably. It now rests, as you will be interested to know, Mr. Speaker, in the portfolio of the hon. Provincial Secretary and Minister of Travel Industry (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) . I would like to suggest to you that she will do with the Marguerite what she has done with the Royal Hudson. It will become a national interest; it will become a revenue-producing interest.
I wish to say to everyone in this room, and in this province, that this government and this minister have absolutely no intention of selling the Marguerite. The second member for Victoria (Mr. Barber) should be condemned, when he knows that the government has no
[ Page 238 ]
intention of doing this, for using this as means to try and foster his party's political successes in the greater Victoria area by using scare tactics, irresponsible statements and a fiscal philosophy which sounds very much like a LIP grant on the walk.
Mr. Speaker, the people of Victoria, the hard-working people of Victoria, won't accept his statement and they won't succumb to the efforts of that party to destroy the confidence of the people of Victoria. They are hard-working; they are responsible; and they intend, with the rest of us, to build a positive British Columbia. For the record, I would like to suggest that Victoria is enjoying one of the greatest tourist industry growths in its history. There are more people coming to Victoria today than ever before, to the point that they are wondering what they are going to do with them. I'm sure that they have lots of ideas and that they will capitalize on those ideas.
Mr. Speaker, delegations come to this city f rom all parts of the province every day of the year - taxpayers of this province bringing their dollars and spending them in Victoria, to meet with their government. They don't give those dollars to the government directly; they put them in the hotels, the motels, the restaurants. They make a part of British Columbia dollars support Victoria through their business with their government, on an enterprise in a positive way. That's the way it should be done.
Mr. Speaker, I, as a member f rom the outer reaches, wouldn't begrudge our capital city anything; but I have to point out - on the basis of that member's speech and his fiscal philosophy - that, under the NDP, Hydro Transit - which is subsidized, if the government picks up the deficit, by all the taxpayers in the province - went f rom a mere balancing position to an astronomical loss position, on the basis of political interference from that party when that party was government. Phone calls from the Premier's office said: serve this area. It didn't matter whether there were only seven passengers to be served in that area; it didn't matter that that area didn't contribute anything for that service, to make them aware of its existence. So we, today, face a loss in Hydro Transit of nearly $62 million. The people of the province may or may not pick that up, depending on what the budget has to say.
I would just remind the member, when he wants to make free transportation in the Victoria- Vancouver area, that people from the province are already subsidizing this. Natural gas: those living closest to the source of natural gas don't get a reduced rate. We have a postage stamp rate for Hydro power in this province; so everyone in the province pays the same.
The ferries can be made the most exciting and attractive development to the tourist industry and to Victoria if we approach it positively. I would remind the hon. member that people from around the province do subsidize the B.C. ferries - gladly. But I would also remind him that it was that government, of which he is a member of the party now, that induced that corporation into a loss position. B.C. Ferries used to run at a profit, and had excellent service, excellent morale. Under their direction, it turned into a losing entity, morale dropped and the service stopped. And it's a very difficult job to try and build it back to its former stature, but I have confidence that we will..
I would like to refer now to the former speech made this morning by the Premier. He left such a positive note with this House, he left such a positive and confident note for the people of British Columbia - which they feel - that I was very proud to follow him. He mentioned how proud he was to take the positive philosophy of Canadian unity of the people of British Columbia to Ottawa, to the First Minister conference. He said how proud he was to present an economic strategy for Canada's economy. And I would like to say to him how proud we were to have him there, and how proud we were of the presentation that he made. And perhaps he'd like to know - if he doesn't - that the word I have from those who were there is that his calm, his logical and his almost warm and radiant approach to national unity was infectious, and gave other people at that conference the same type of positive feeling towards unity of Canada. And that, Mr. Speaker, is a great talent.
I'd like to wish you the traditional compliments, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and also to the Speaker. The Speaker's and your respect for the British parliamentary system are well known; and, for this member's part, I shall endeavour to follow that tradition - with few exceptions. I would also like to extend the best wishes of the people of the North Okanagan to the new member for Oak Bay.
I would like to report, Mr. Speaker, that the people of the North Okanagan are pleased with the throne speech. They're now anxiously awaiting the budget and the legislation that will define the programmes and policies to which His Honour referred. The people are greatly encouraged by the multiple efforts of the government to combat what His Honour called the twin enemies of the people of this
[ Page 239 ]
province: unemployment and inflation. I along with others wish to make it absolutely clear, not only to the public - but they already know, it's a fact they know - but to the members of that side, that the individual members of this government, including this member, are just as concerned about the number of unemployed in this province as any member of this House, or the public.
AN HON. MEMBER: Then resign.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Speaker, with the number of unemployed, particularly those recent graduates of our school system and those in the mid-age group, there is hardly any one in this province who is not affected, directly or indirectly, by Canada's employment problem, and who does not realize the seriousness of the situation. They're fully aware of the very real concern of the government and the absolute priority that it is giving to the area of job creation.
The people of the North Okanagan are encouraged when they consider what we have been able to achieve over the last few months and the positive, progressive attitude that has resulted in the stabilizing the up turning of our economy in this province. The creation of new jobs, the expansion of exports, the revitalization of resource industries, the stimulation and creation of new jobs in exciting new areas relate to the new lifestyle we want to live in the areas of recreation, tourism and culture. Their confidence is building when they see that, in a time when Canada's unemployment rate has risen dramatically and new jobs across this nation are at a premium, the British Columbia rate has declined and we saw 30,000 new jobs created last year, almost totally in the private sector. That is confidence, Mr. Speaker, and, while we have only 11 per cent of the total Canadian economy, these new jobs account for 15 per cent of the total new jobs created in Canada.
The North Okanagan has benefited significantly from this government direction. The major highway programmes, the intermediate-care facility and the senior-citizen housing complex are all underway. The increased municipal cost-sharing and the new-housing grants to stimulate housing construction and job creation are all evident in our area and are all having their beneficial effect.
The aids to small business through the Ministry of Economic Development mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, are already having an impact in the North Okanagan. Only this week, some $40,000 was granted to the regional district to assist with the establishment of the office of a regional industrial development co-ordinator. The birth of two new manufacturing industries took place in the last two weeks in the North Okanagan, because of the assistance of incentive grants through the B.C. Development Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, there is much more to be done, and we're not satisfied; but in the North Okanagan we believe that, with the stability of the government and the confidence that the government gives us in ourselves, we can do it, and the province will do it. More than 1,062, 000 people are employed in this province today. This is an all-time high, Mr. Speaker....
MRS. JORDAN: Well, someone nearly lost their job over there this morning.
This is an all-time high and I believe the benefits are showing. I believe that the new forestry Act will, while not performing miracles, add strength and stability of the forest industry, which is a major part of the North Okanagan basic economy. The present and future health of this important resource must be nurtured. It is imperative that the system of sustained yield be carefully monitored and closely adhered to.
We must also be very careful not to alienate productive, renewable, job-creating forest land to other single uses. I believe that with sound management of our resources, with co-operation and responsible planning between the different users of our forestry land, we can have the best of both worlds. We can have a successful system of multi-land use, a practical system that incorporates sound management and responsible planning for wildlife, for appropriate use by people, and a viable forestry industry.
I must, though, Mr. Speaker, express great concern for the right of the small, efficient operator in the forest industry and within the North Okanagan, as well. This is the small entrepreneur who makes his living or supplements a small agricultural income or perhaps operates a shake mill or a fencing mill, often from the residue of larger logging operations. I must express hope that the new Forestry Act addresses itself to the needs of these people and that the Minister of Finance will also have made the required changes, as we see them, to the Logging Tax Act.
The people of the North Okanagan are
[ Page 240 ]
welcoming the determination of this government to deal with the problems of small business. The simplifying of the maze of red tape and paperwork that is suffocating the small business through consumption of time and money, and uncertainty, should do more to revitalize the economic climate and to encourage small business to develop in this province.
The programmes that the Ministry of Economic Development has initiated - almost free programmes - to learn business management, business analysis, free consulting advice in terms of managing your own business even, if you are a two-person or a one-person operation, have done much In this province and certainly in the North Okanagan to help our business people learn where they may have fallen into routines which are expensive, where they may not be purchasing properly, and enabling them to run their businesses more efficiently and to offer greater services to the consumer.
One could not wonder, with this Speech from the Throne and the result that it indicates, that the motion of non-confidence of the opposition died a rapid death. It was perhaps the weakest motion we have seen in this House in years. Only four people spoke to it, they had so little confidence in it themselves. No wonder. Because the NDP members know, many of the labour leaders of this province know, and the majority of business people know that the direction that they and the government are taking is sound, is working, and that with good judgment and effort from all of us -labour, business, government, and the people -we will achieve the desired results.
Just to support this, I'd like to quote a statement from the Employers Council of British Columbia, that just arrived on my desk this morning. In speaking of the Speech from the Throne, they say: "We are pleased to see that the government is acknowledging that one of the most important contributions that can be made by government is to provide the climate" - provide the climate - "in which the private sector can better respond to the challenge of providing jobs and opportunities for our people. It is a statement that bears repeating..." I am still quoting from this article. "...as is 'Government must become less of a burden and more of a servant.' These are sentiments which we support."
Those words come from people in this province who have frequently started with nothing but their hands, their drive, their imagination and talent. They are the people who have built many of the businesses in this province that provide the jobs for themselves and for other people. If we want a strong economy, we must have more of these people. Their words bear a great deal of weight in the North Okanagan.
I would now like to refer to agriculture, which was stressed strongly in the throne speech debate, and to say that I was delighted by the emphasis that was placed on agriculture. For the first time, we saw mention not only of food production but strong emphasis upon the important contribution that agriculture and agricultural lands make to our environment. This is a very difficult portfolio, Mr. Speaker, and it's a very complex subject.
I want to congratulate the minister. I recognize - and he knows I recognize - the problems that are happening in income assurance, but that this has clouded many of the other programmes that he has brought to pass and which have been of benefit to the producers of this province.
We have to, if we are going to discuss this subject - and I really want to relate it today from the consumer's point of view - recall that f or years Canada has not had a real food or agricultural policy. This fact and the lack of information have made it difficult for any province to develop a sound food strategy or a sound overall agricultural programme. We, as citizens, have come to believe that this nation is self-sufficient in its food production. After all, look at the rolling prairies, look at the beautiful orchards and look at the rolling fields.
The Canadian truth is that food imports are growing relative to our domestic production. Already, Canada is a net importer of agricultural products, once you remove grains and oil seeds. It appears inevitable that conditions will deteriorate even more unless consumers - the people in the press gallery, those of us sitting in this House, the people in this province and in this country - become involved, understand the issues and the alternatives, and come to some definite conclusions and are prepared as consumers to support those conclusions.
It appears inevitable, Mr. Speaker, that conditions will deteriorate even more unless consumers - the people in the press gallery, we sitting in this House, the people in this province and this country - become involved, understand the issues, come to the alternatives, come to some definite conclusions and are prepared, as consumers, to support those conclusions. We must, Mr. Speaker, have a food strategy in Canada and in British Columbia. To do this, we must ask ourselves such questions as: Should lowest possible
[ Page 241 ]
consumer prices be our objective in the short term or in the long term? Does agriculture need or should it have tariff or nontariff protection? When we know the results of both of those questions, are we prepared, as consumers, to make those decisions and to support them? Should efficiency be the prime criterion of our assessment of agriculture or should we concentrate on other priorities such as guaranteed long-term domestic food supply? Is regional balance in food production important? If so, what are the implications for this goal in terms of prices, provincial agricultural policies and financial aids for marketing?
Mr. Speaker, in its simplest term, the debate centres around one basic question: should Canada strive for increased food self-sufficiency or should we adopt a strategy which involves importing foodstuffs f rom cheaper foreign sources? The agricultural industry has its answer and, frankly, it's been carrying that decision as a personal financial burden. Well, the majority of Canadians have had many benefits from a buoyant economy which they have not enjoyed.
I am convinced that people today are startled by the impact of food costs. I believe that as consumers we are confused as to what is happening, that we are confused as to what is causing this to happen and that in our own minds we want an all-Canada food production policy and a B.C. food production policy. We want to preserve agricultural lands but we don't know what is happening and we don't know how we can do it. It's important, when we talk about agriculture in British Columbia, that we as consumers again, each and every one of us, ask how we can learn and what the issues and the options are. Are we prepared to make decisions and are we prepared to support those decisions?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to address myself to a confusion that I feel does exist, as a consumer. I would like to exemplify it because I believe one of the confusions we have and one which we will be able to answer after the agricultural committee's report comes in is what actually are our food costs when we come out of the supermarket. Most of us tend to equate our food costs with the bill we get from the cash register and the amount of money we put out and the number of bags we take home. But we often don't analyze the content of those bags in relation to our food costs. I did an informal survey and had some help from other people in the province. I would like to tell you the results, but I would also like to show you what we do have in our consumer bag. Often there's milk, cereal and butter - I would say B.C. butter but frequently our butter is imported. Lettuce is 55 cents today, imported. I had to pay 88 cents in January in Vernon for a lettuce and I wondered at the time why as a consumer I will pay 88 cents for an imported lettuce in January but when the B.C. lettuce come on stream I want them three for a quarter. Perhaps that's a question we have to ask ourselves.
Mr. Speaker, there are other staples, such as salt, bread and sugar, but what else was in my shopping bag and what else was in the other shopping bags? Toothpaste, Playboy - oh, Reader's Digest - cigarettes, stockings, soap and floor polish. There were a lot of non-food products. The result that we found was that approximately 13 per cent of the foods were British Columbia products, approximately 21 per cent were Canadian products and 44 per cent appear to be imports. Twenty per cent of the total bill were non-food products.
My point here, Mr. Speaker, is that we have this confusion in our own minds, and it's also being fostered inadvertently by the media and by other thinking. There is an excellent article in the Times of April 3,1978, when they talked about the cost of key foods rising 1. 6 per cent in the city. I don't wish to be critical about the article but I do wish to point out that while they did an excellent job in analyzing the price of beef and bread and canned peaches; and they did relate the expenses involved in the rising prices in coffee and they asked why the price of coffee - an import - hadn't come down when the price of coffee beans had, they also included in this discussions on paper towels and other non-food products, so the subliminal effect is to have the reader, and us as consumers, again be confused in our minds that paper towels and floor polish and cigarettes and other non-food products are part of our grocery bill.
Mr. Speaker, I feel, in bringing this up, that we must be prepared to face this fact of our own confusion and try and answer these questions and that we will be able to do this when the agricultural committee report and the food committee report comes in. I hope that they prove these figures wrong and I don't want to claim that these are ironclad figures, but they are what we found on an informal survey.
Mr. Speaker, for the first time we will have an idea, I hope, of where the costs are in food production, where the profits are, and who gets those profits, not only from production to gate, as we have now, but from gate to the retail area. We should be able to have an opportunity to know what the population growth projections are; where the
[ Page 242 ]
migration is likely to take place; what food consumption we will need to feed those people; where and what land we have in British Columbia that is capable, soilwise as well as weatherwise, to produce the type of food that we're going to need.
I don't want to transgress on the report of the committee, but I did want to make it clear that for the first time in Canada a government will have answers to some of the questions that we need to ask as consumers when we talk about the cost of food, when we talk about our own food strategy for British Columbia and when we talk about the use of land. We will know the options, Mr. Speaker, if we decide for an all-Canadian food strategy and how much that option will cost us in the long term. We will know, hopefully, that if we choose for a mixed option - some Canadian produce, some import - what the long-term ramifications of that would be in terms of cost and in terms of insecurity of food production in the future; or, if we choose to go an absolute low-cost rate by import from foreign countries where wages are much lower and the cost of production is much lower, now what the long-term impact on that would be in terms of our security for food production in the future. Perhaps we are in a position today, when we still have the opportunity to develop a food strategy and we have the petroleum crisis, to know that this could happen in Canada in food production.
Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal more I would like to say in addressing the Speech f rom the Throne. I'd like to talk about the management of lands in the agricultural land reserve, but there are other members who would like to speak, and this is the final day.
There is a problem which we created inadvertently, I believe, in terms of our assessment of lands in the agricultural land reserve. In bringing in the new Assessment Act, the government was endeavouring to smooth out the inequalities that existed in a system that was once described as a spaghetti manufacturers' delight.
I would. with your leave, Mr. Speaker defer my comments on this until the budget debate, as I see the hon. member who would like to take his place in the debate has returned to the House. I would just thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the privilege of speaking in this debate. From the people of the North Okanagan. I would like to thank the government and the Premier for the responsible and stable policies we're developing. I would also like to thank the people from the North Okanagan for affording me the privilege of representing them in this Legislature.
MR. LAUK: My compliments to the Whips, Mr. Speaker, and my thanks to the hon. member for Coquitlam for allowing an opposition spokesperson at this stage in the debate.
HON. MR. MAIR: What?
MR. LAUK: Spokesperson. I'd like to remind the hon. members of the House that it's customary during a maiden speech not to make cross-comments or attack the honourable person who is speaking.
Mr. Speaker, before entering the debate and raising a few points that I intended to raise, I wanted to comment on the Premier's speech this morning. The Premier, I'm afraid, took about one hour and 10 minutes and said little, if anything at all, and would not require a great deal of comment from the opposition, except that he's becoming famous across this country for his empty speeches. I think it's important that British Columbians should have a First Minister who measures carefully the need for him to rise in debate - both in this Legislature or statements he's making outside this Legislature. He represents the government of the province. An hour and 10 minutes - 1 defy anyone to tell me the substance of his speech.
We heard cliché after cliché - empty words -filling the length and breadth of the hour and ten minutes. Phrases like . . . "inflation is a cruel tax." Brilliant! Resolution rather than rhetoric. My favourite, Mr. Speaker, is this phrase, which I have just gleaned from the Hansard office: 'Ve want a B.C. that is growing. a B.C. that is expanding, but, above all, a British Columbia serving the people of British Columbia." That's fantastic. A very powerful speech, indeed.
He said that the Minister of Finance is doing a remarkable Job of collecting taxes. That's what he said this morning. I looked up in Webster's dictionary what "remarkable" meant, and it says "extraordinary." 1 have to agree, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Finance is doing an extraordinary Job in collecting taxes. 1 think that if there is one thing this government has done and done very well, it's collect taxes. I have to agree with the Premier when he says that, and support him wholeheartedly in that description of this Government.
I suppose the second substantial Part of his remarks is that he was going to reduce red tape in the civil service and he waved his hand in the characteristic manner and he said: "They will be eliminated." The backbenchers dutifully thumped their desks. The way he eliminated the member for North Vancouver-
[ Page 243 ]
Seymour (Mr. Davis) ; the way he trains his dogs, all the rest of it; the way he moves civil servants out; the way he fires an entire Department of Public Works - they will be eliminated. Well. I certainly hope that it is only red tape that is being eliminated and not people - human beings and good programmes.
Most of the Premier's remarks on the Resources Investment Corporation were just pure flim-flam. On the one hand the Premier said: "We're going to allow individuals in British Columbia to make their own decisions about what they are going to invest in." Somehow, through a peculiar logic, distorted and crippled as it is, he says that we're doing this by creating this resources investment corporation.
Another phrase he used, Mr. Speaker, and it's difficult to thread a theme through his speech, was that he is not bound by any document that needs amendment. He is saving he's not bound. He was referring to a budget but he says he's referring to any document. He's not bound by any law passed in this chamber; he's not bound by anything said in this chamber that is Passed by a majority of the House. He is showing- utter and complete contempt for this Legislative Assembly, and it is characteristic of this Premier's actions in government; the very shabby way in which he has dealt with one of his own cabinet members. He said he was not bound by any document which is a statute, any document Passed in this chamber that he said needs amendment. In other words, if he personally decides that a document needs amendment, he's not bound by it. What classic arrogance! It's typical of the First Minister of this province and it's shocking. indeed. It should be condemned by every right-thinking British Columbian.
Mr. Speaker, B.C. has a runaway government and a runaway Premier. He's never here; he's constantly running away whenever there is a crisis. In the last three or four months he's spent a great deal of his time, if not most of his time, in Palm Springs. During the Christmas vacation, I noticed that the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) in charge of tourism made an announcement that she hopes all British Columbians stay home and spend their money in B.C., just as the Premier was hopping on the plane to Palm Springs. A runaway Premier, Mr. Speaker. Several occasions when those of us in the opposition and. I'm sure. members of the government, side were trying to get a hold of the Premier to discuss important matters of state, he was out of the province. So I therefore suggest, Mr. Speaker, with the unanimous consent of the entire Legislature, that we move the capital to Palm Springs, in the sincere hope that we will be able to get some work done, create some jobs and employment and turn the economy around in this province.
He never faces a public meeting. Always friendly chamber of commerce meetings, you know, private as they are, invitation only, black tie and jogging outfit. Oh, the odd time he will jog around the block with some school children. as lone as they don't ask him any embarrassing questions.
He never faces the public, Mr. Speaker, because he knows he can't handle them. The glance of the public upon the Premier's face is something he can't withstand, because it is the glance of truth. He runs away from the press; he's only available for well-rehearsed, pancake-made-up and staged press conferences -at great public expense, I might add.
He completely duped the two TV networks into some free time for a non-speech. This non-Premier is going around to non-meetings. creating non-news conferences. He calls it the State of the Province speech - a work of fiction, empty words. Well, I must confess I said something harsh about him at that time, Mr. Speaker, and I was properly called for it. I called him....
MR. LAUK: You know, our friend, the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. William-) . spent a great deal of time in sober reflection - staved awake all night - thinking of what he was going to say this afternoon when I was winding up the opposition side of the debate. He's a very spontaneous person. As a matter of fact, one of the attendants passed his office this morning, and lie was looking in the mirror, and he was saying: "You're safe, Dave. No, that's not it. You are safe, Dave. No, that's not it." Very good. And this is only the third time this year he's used it. We hope he'll keep it under a dozen for that particular joke, as he did last year.
Mr. Speaker, I described the Premier, at a public meeting of New Democrats in my riding, as a cliche-ridden national windbag. Now. I was properly telephoned the next day -situation. I'm not saying that I would say that in this chamber; I said that in a public meeting - someone phoned me up and said: "You have a nerve, calling the Premier of this province a cliché-ridden, national windbag." I said: "Well, let's discuss it." He said: "I'm not discussing anything with you.
I'm a member of the Social Credit Party." I said: "Well, take a moment and we'll discuss it. I have recorded most of what the Premier
[ Page 244 ]
said on television." We took 10 or 15 minutes, and I read it as rapidly as I could back to this very, very bright person, who said: "Well, there's not much to it, but there are no clichés that I can recognize." And then we exchanged pleasantries, he asked for some material on the New Democratic Party and we hung up.
HON. MR. MAIR: What was his name?
MR. LEA: Arthur Weeks.
MR. LAUK: I'm sorry I can't recall the gentleman's name, but....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members. Please proceed.
MR. LAUK: I know that there isn't much time in this debate but I felt that the Premier's offering this morning was pathetic. I think that the First Minister must research something and get up and say something, even if it's 10 or 15 minutes. But an hour and 10 minutes of sheer emptiness was an insult to the Legislature and an insult to the people of the province of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker. briefly I want to talk about the story of the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) . This is a classic story of the Peter Principle: a person who was a remarkable service-station attendant from Peace River, a man who built a small business from nothing into a thriving small business. (Laughter.) I don't wish to ridicule small business. When the Premier says he comes from a small-business background, so do 1. There are a lot of people in this community who come from small-business backgrounds; it's the story of the province. I have great respect for the hon. Minister of Economic Development, but his role in office is a story of missed opportunities. Sloppy planning and lack of courage.
Let me explain what I mean. Missed opportunities related to the steel mill and the pipeline that is about to be built. Let's talk about The Vancouver Sun article yesterday on the business page B9. Paul Raueust talks about George Clayton - who, by the way, seems to be a fine fellow and I'm sure is very sincere. You can see a picture of him pointing to the map and the caption says: "This is British Columbia." (Laughter.) He's, by the way, been appointed by the good minister to find purchasing opportunities for the construction of the pipeline. I received a letter from Mr. Clayton and I'll be dealing with it in the minister's minutes. You can send your executive assistants to check out what the letter says; you'll have plenty of notice to deal with Mr. Clayton's good political judgment when we deal with your estimates.
The paragraph says: "Alberta" - little Alberta, our poor cousins for years - "will likely garner the major construction contracts as it has eight pipeline contractors with considerable experience, such as Banister Pipelines, Majestic Wiley..." and names a whole bunch of other companies - "...and steel plants of the Hamilton-based Steel Company of Canada Ltd. (STELCO) , and the Edmonton and Regina plants of the Interprovincial Pipe and Steel Company Ltd." of Saskatchewan.
Unfortunately, however, most of the major opportunities will be lost by default to Alberta by B.C. companies. The province has no major pipeline contractors or steel mills capable of producing large diameter pipe, the two most costly aspects of the project. It's lost opportunity. Mr. Speaker. The man went to Japan, wowed them with his expertise. lost coal contracts and the opportunity for a steel mill, and we won't talk about the other.
The northeast coal project, Mr. Speaker, is an area of sloppy planning. The economic impact of the proposed steel mill.... The experts said on page 77 of their report in October, 1975, that most of the underground miners in the northeast project would have to be recruited in other countries, a method of manning that is not without problems and which raises questions about the usefulness of such developments to the province. Well, if that isn't bad enough, we find that the development in the Kootenays is going down the tube. Poor old EdQar Kaiser is having to lower the prices of the coal he's selling to Japan from the Kootenays, the southeastern part of British Columbia. I really feel that is sloppy planning on the part of the Ministry of Economic Development. Certainly you've seen the latest news coverage with respect to China and Japan making coal contracts for the supply of metallurgical coal to Japan.
Lack of courage was shown in the Fort Nelson line and the fact that they can't make these decisions themselves. that they have to appoint royal commissions to make these decisions.
I'll just wind up, Mr. Speaker, by quoting the Minister of Economic Development in the Blues, April 5. Wednesday afternoon. in his speech:
"Confidence makes the difference. The people of this province have confidence
[ Page 245 ]
in our great fiscal policies. They have confidence in the policies of our Labour minister. They have confidence in the policies of our Forests minister. They have confidence in our resource policies and they have confidence in our great leader, Premier Bennett."
I have looked very carefully at the Blues, Mr. Speaker, and I have looked at other speakers on the government side, and I have not seen anything other than the words: "Confidence in us - the business community should have confidence in the Social Credit government." Nowhere have I seen, either by word or deed. demonstrated by their policies any confidence in the people of British Columbia.
MR. KING: Shame on them.
MR. LAUK: They have asked for confidence from the people of British Columbia, but they have not had any confidence in the people of this province - none. It was not the people of British Columbia who said that only an American with doubtful capability could head the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia at $80,000, a year when there is runaway inflation and 115,000 people unemployed in the province of British Columbia. Where is their confidence in the people of the province?
What about the member for Dewdney (Mr. Mussallem) , Mr. Speaker, who says: "No one in British Columbia, no one in Canada can do these jobs; only Americans can do these jobs."? We are the poor second cousins; we are the hewers of wood, the drawers of water, the poor peasants of this province.
No. I say that confidence in te workers at Railwest would have been justified, confidence in the working people in small businesses would have been justified - confidence in the great potential of this province and the people of this province to turn the economy around. What is needed is not confidence in the government, Mr. Speaker, but confidence of the government in the people of this province.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to dispense with all formalities because in a few minutes it's going to be a time of great decision here in British Columbia. That decision will be whether this province is to go ahead in the future or go back to the kind of power dive that the NDP put us into in that short and disastrous time they were in office. That's the decision we have to make. I want you to know right now that I'm for progress and therefore I'll be voting for this motion. What we have to know, Mr. Speaker, is decide whether we're going to go on Monday to the greatest budget in the history of the province or whether we're going to go back to backsliding.
Contrast, Mr. Speaker, the situation in Canada now and the situation in British Columbia, with those dark days of December, 1975, when this government was obliged to take over and straighten out the mess that had been created by three years of NDP rule. It was known at that time that British Columbia was one of the problem areas of Canada. And what is it today, by common admission? The bright spot in all of Canada. Why, Mr. Speaker? Because of the great policies of this Social Credit government.
I want to tell you what the record of management of that party over there, which speaks so much in favour of business in this throne debate, was in 1975. Perhaps they've discovered what business is all about- Mr. Speaker: but I'll tell you they didn't know in 1975. ICBC losing $147 million; B.C. Rail losing $46 million; B.C. Ferries losing $50 million; B.C. Hydro losing $31 million - all in a single year, Mr. Speaker. Do you want that kind of government in British Columbia ever again?
AN HON. MEMBER: No.
HON. MR. McGEER: Oh yes, Mr. Speaker, 109,000 unemployed in British Columbia. Yes. we have unemployed in British Columbia today and, no doubt, we'll have them in the future; but what counts in this province is the people who are employed, and what they're doing. I want to tell you, with the economy in the now in the power dive that it was in 1975 - mining exploration finished in this this province, petroleum exploration finished in this province, and all our Grown corporations going down; that's what we faced....
Mr. Speaker, it's 12:45 and I wonder....
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, is it the wish of the House that I should carry on for two or three more minutes?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members! I must refer all members to Standing Order 45A, (3) , which says that, at this precise hour, the Speaker must interrupt debate and put all questions. The only way we can divert from that procedure is if we have unanimous leave of the House.
[ Page 246 ]
The Hon. Minister of Education asks leave.
HON. MR. MCGEER: I don't see any white flags waving over there, Mr. Speaker. But I can tell you that the public of British Columbia is behind this government; and they'll be behind a positive vote to thank the Lieutenant-Governor for this good message that he brought to the people of the province.
Mr. Speaker, I can tell you there were a lot of messengers who received a few slings and arrows cleaning up the mess that the NDP left behind; and I think I may have been one of those people. But I don't regret the job that's been done. because the results have been worth it.
We had three - if you can believe it - non confidence motions from that little opposition group over there, and I'm surprised that any of them was seconded. First of all, we had the motion from the Leader of the Opposition who complained that there was no economic thrust in this province. I can tell you: if there's any place in Canada today where there's economic thrust, it's here in British Columbia; and it's -just beginning.
Yes. they talked about officers of Crown corporations who are Americans. Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that we had a policy right away of correcting some of this right in the Premier's office. We didn't need an American financial adviser here in British Columbia, the kind that got that party and the province of British Columbia into the kind of economic difficulties that forced the Premier to leave the office of the Ministry of Finance. We don't need that kind of help. Nor did we need the sort of think tank we had at the University of Victoria where the leader of that, who is helping us to decide what our policies should be in British Columbia with respect to natural resources, said that the NDP wanted someone to sprinkle holy water on their foregone conclusions. (Laughter.) We didn't need a think tank, Mr. Speaker; we need a Premier and a government that would lead British Columbia out of its slough.
Then later on, Mr. Speaker, we had another non-confidence motion from the member for Vancouver-Burrard and the member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace) shot down, Mr. Speaker, by the Minister of Labour Mon. Mr. Williams) , they claiming that there were no opportunities for women and he showing that with this government and the policies, it was the women who were the beneficiaries because that's where the greatest i n (-. r P~ in employment was. I want to tell you that between that member for Burrard and the one from Vancouver Centre, I've got some unruly constituents, Mr. Speaker, in this House, and I'm just hoping that they'll get a little education from what's happening with this government over here.
MR. LAUK: When can I see my MIA when I want to? You're never there!
HON. MR. McGEER: And, Mr. Speaker. we had yet a third non-confidence motion, this coming from the second member for Vancouver-Burrard (Mr. Levi) who, if you please, Mr. Speaker, talked about all the bankruptcies in British Columbia, and they're applauding. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, would you put somebody in charge of a business, somebody who is capable of a $103 million clerical error? (Laughter.)
HON. MR. McGEER: He's the one. Mr. Speaker. who's worrying about bankruptcies. Well, I can tell you this: never again will the people of British Columbia put him in charge of a business or any position of responsibility at all.
MR. LEA: What are you going to do?
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, we've got a whole realm of policies moving here in British Columbia in the educational sphere. Do you want me to Po on?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. McGEER Let me start Mr Speaker with the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) , who stood up in this House and told you his troubles going around Canada and the world persuading people that it was safe to come back and invest here in British Columbia. They lost contracts all over the world which that minister and the government is trying to revive again for this province. Their worry isn't just the problems that were created by the NDP that were in office . . . it.'s the fact that they're still here as opposition. One day they might come back again. Would you invest $400 million in a province where you thought that was going to happen?
SOME HON- MEMBER: No!
[ Page 247 ]
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, that's why it is important that this motion be sustained and that we bring in this budget. The greatest budget in the history of British Columbia will be brought by that Minister of Finance on Monday.
Mr. Speaker, we have a Premier in this province who is not famous for 'his wit, but famous for his actions.
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, I will not have the First Minister of this province described as witless. (Laughter.) 1 ask the minister to withdraw the remark.
MR. SPEAKER: That's not a point of order. hon. member.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: He meant the former Minister of Economic Development!
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, our province is just beginning to move ahead again, with the pace and force and confidence that can only come from those who will build this province and make it great. They understand that they are going to have commonsense, responsible policies, things that will allow the private sector to do what only the private sector can do. It was a disastrous setback for British Columbia ever to have the socialists in power in this province. and the worst thing that could happen to us any time in the future would be to return to the damaging, hopeless kind of policies that the NDP put into operation during their three years of government that led to the financial disaster that we're just recovering from at the present time.
This budget, Mr. Speaker, that will be brought down on Monday, will make it clear that the recovery is finally underway. All we need is leadership, and sound and commonsense policies. They are in that throne speech. They'll be in the budget. They'll be in the legislation. Mr. Speaker, that's why I intend to support this motion.
MR. SPEAKER: The question is that the following address be presented to the Lieutenant-Governor:
"We, her Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, in session assembled, beg leave to thank Your Honour for the gracious speech which Your Honour has addressed to us at the opening of this present session."
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS - 26
NAYS - 15
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MR. WOLFE: I move that this House will, at its next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the supply to be granted to Her Majesty, and that this order have precedence over all other business, except interim supply and introduction of bills, until disposed of.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I move that this House will, at its next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the ways and means for raising the supply to be granted to Her Majesty.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moves adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 1:02 p.m.