1979 Legislative Session: ist Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, JULY 10, 1979
[ Page 627 ]
Lottery grant to Saltspring Golf Club. Mrs. Dailly –– 627
Proposed methanol plant. Mr. Howard –– 627
Televising of Summer and Winter Games. Mr. Barnes –– 628
Public access to Penticton leasehold. Mr. Macdonald –– 628
Hospital admission procedures for prison inmates. Ms. Brown –– 629
Closure of Highway 37. Mr. Passarell –– 629
Medical Amendment Act, 1979 (Bill 15). Second reading.
Hon. Mr. McClelland –– 629
Mr. Cocke –– 630
Hon. Mr. McClelland –– 632
New Westminster Development Act, 1979 (Bill 21). Second reading.
Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm –– 633
Mr. Cocke –– 633
Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm –– 634
Education Statutes Amendment Act, 1979 (Bill 18). Second reading.
Hon. Mr. McGeer –– 634
Mr. Lauk –– 634
Mr. Cocke –– 639
Ms. Sanford –– 640
Mr. Hyndman –– 641
Hon. Mr. McGeer –– 641
Division on second reading –– 643
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Environment estimates.
On vote 89.
Hon. Mr. Mair –– 644
Mr. Skelly –– 645
Hon. Mr. Mair –– 648
Special Committee of Selection, second report.
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 651
Appendix –– 652
TUESDAY, JULY 10, 1979
The House met at 2 p.m.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we have some very special visitors in the gallery today, and that means everyone who is in the gallery. But I would like you to recognize especially John and Katherine Emmerson of Vancouver East who are with us today. We are pleased to welcome them.
MR. KEMPF: It is my great pleasure to introduce several guests in the gallery this afternoon. Some are from my constituency of Omineca. With us this afternoon are Mr. Larry Hope and his daughters Yvonne, Anne and Dale. Larry and family hail from Burns Lake in my constituency. Also in the gallery is Miss Jackie Fox, her mother Kitty, and her aunt Elsie Redford. They are from England and Jackie lives in Fraser Lake in that great constituency of Omineca. Last but certainly not least, for the first time in the four years that I have sat in this House, with us in the gallery this afternoon are my son Brian and his wife, my daughter-in-law, Janet. They hail from Terrace in that great constituency of Skeena, and I would like the House to make all these people very welcome.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if that member for Omineca is trying to steal my thunder. His introductions are getting a little long.
I'd like to ask the House to join me in welcoming several members from the Amalgamated Transit Union executive: Harry Singh, Jim Davie and Bob Bedford.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today are two professional foresters who during the years 1977 and 1979 worked many thousands of hours helping the government to develop dual forest and range legislation. I would ask the House to please welcome Bob Wood, the former chairman of FPAC, as we called it, and Wes Cheston, a member of that committee.
MR. SEGARTY: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery this afternoon is the mayor of Fernie, His Worship Vern Uphill. Vern is the son of the legendary Tom Uphill, who served the constituency of Kootenay in this Legislature for 41 years. I'd like the House to welcome Mr. Uphill and the delegation from Fernie.
MR. BRUMMET: Today I'd like the House to welcome two constituents from my riding, Ed and Elsie Doyscher. Also with us today are Mayor Pat Walsh and Alderman Beth Todrick of that fastest-growing city in British Columbia, Fort St. John. I'd like the House to make them welcome.
MR. HYNDMAN: Mr. Speaker, it's often observed in this chamber that people from Ottawa just don't pay attention to what this chamber is doing. I'm happy today to advise the House that in the gallery are two genuine citizens of Ottawa, Ontario. Would you welcome Robert Hyndman and Bridie Hyndman?
LOTTERY GRANT TO
SALTSPRING GOLF CLUB
MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. Provincial Secretary. Were the members of the Saltspring Island Recreation Commission consulted before a $75,000 lottery grant was given to the Saltspring Island Golf and Country Club for an irrigation system?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe they were as an entity; individuals with the recreation commission may have been consulted.
MRS. DAILLY: I have a supplementary. As the recreation commission has indicated through the press that they were quite astounded when this money was apportioned to this golf club without their knowledge, and as they stated in the press that the money could much better have gone to a swimming pool which would benefit the majority of the citizens and not a few, I wonder if the minister would reconsider this grant.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, the answer is no. The problem is that we have heard from the recreation commission, or members thereof, only through the press and not directly.
MRS. DAILLY: I have a supplementary. Once again according to the press, I understand you will be hearing from them. I was wondering, as the minister seems to be ready to not change the appointment of this grant, if he could tell us if he was responsible for the decision.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, the question is really with respect to government policy, and as a member of the government, I was responsible for the decision.
MRS. DAILLY: I have a final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Is the minister then saying that he alone made the decision in this particular case?
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, I did not say that, Mr. Speaker.
PROPOSED METHANOL PLANT
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question — and I do so with a certain degree of respect — to the greatest Economic Development minister this province has ever had, certainly since I've been here.
I would like to ask the minister if he could tell the House whether or not he or his ministry has had any discussions with a company called Ocelot Industries Ltd., a company proposing to build a methanol plant somewhere in northern B.C. If he has had those discussions, could he give the House any indication of the results of them?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: The answer to the first part of the question from the member for Skeena is yes. In answer to the second part, no conclusions have been reached, as I told you during my estimates. Numerous proposals are coming in for economic development projects everywhere
[ Page 628 ]
in the province. The one on the methanol plant in Kitimat is only one of several I am expecting to receive in the near future on similar plants. That's just one of a number of proposals we will be looking at.
MR. HOWARD: I take it from the answer of the minister that the location is then in fact Kitimat.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: The answer is no. I should have said Kitimat or Prince Rupert.
MR. HOWARD: After that I'm tempted to withdraw my preliminary to the first question. I wonder if I could ask the minister whether he has had, or will have in the near future, any discussions with the municipal council of the municipality of Kitimat to discuss this question.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: The answer is yes.
MR. HOWARD: When?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I'll have to check my itinerary, but it seems to me it's on my itinerary. We're very busy during the House session, but it seems to me I told them they could come down, now that my estimates were over, and that I would — the same as I do for everybody who comes to Victoria to see me — make every effort possible to give them a good hearing.
TELEVISING OF SUMMER
AND WINTER GAMES
MR. BARNES: I would like to address a question to the Provincial Secretary and thank him for his cooperation in answering questions last week respecting the B.C. Summer and Winter Games. I would like the minister to tell the House which television company received a contract to cover the games in 1978.
HON. MR. CURTIS: That's a matter of public record which does not need to be asked in this House.
MR. BARNES: Is he suggesting that a question asked outside the House on public record cannot be asked again in the House? Is the question out of order?
MR. SPEAKER: The question, if it asks for material which is readily available to the public, is not really in order during question period.
MR. BARNES: In that event I just want to confirm the information that I had, because sometimes ministers say they have no knowledge of matters. Could I ask the minister if he would confirm that the television station is the BCTV network?
HON. MR. CURTIS: The hon. member asked questions on this topic last week. I think that it is not only a matter of public record, but a matter of Hansard record of previous question periods that would answer that question for him.
MR. BARNES: With respect, Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that there was any mention of the television company. We did discuss the principle of television company broadcasting without the inclusion of cable channels. However, I'm asking the minister now if he could indicate the specific company. I have suggested that if the public records are correct, it would be BCTV, but I would like him to confirm that because I've a further question I'd like to ask him.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I don't think it's my duty to this House or to that member to confirm what is a matter of public record.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, maybe I should offer a little guidance here. That which is public record is not a subject to question in this House. However, I must add that not every member may be aware what is public record. Therefore I think that common courtesies might be in order.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the extent or the duration of the contract is public record. Could the minister indicate the length of the contract?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I would have to take that as notice. I do not have it immediately available to me. I do not have immediately available the term of any contract which exists, but I will bring....
MR. NICOLSON: You should — it's a matter of record.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The question of the company is, I believe, a matter of public record and was uttered by the member who was asking the question. I want to be helpful to members on the opposite side, but I can't assist him with the precise term of the contract which is in existence. I will obtain that information and bring it back to the House.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, while he is taking this question as notice, could he also indicate whether the contract is an exclusive contract, and whether financial exchanges were made one way or the other between the government through the BCTV? What I'm trying to determine is the extent of the agreement, whatever it may have been. Could the minister also be good enough to table the document so that the House can scrutinize it? That, also, would become public record.
MR. SPEAKER: The minister has the question?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have the question. I will attempt to assist the member.
PUBLIC ACCESS TO
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing. I want to ask the minister why his ministry amended a lease from the government in favour of the Penticton Fish and Game and Gun Club, covering 244 acres on the West Bench outside of Penticton, to eliminate access to members of the public using the old wagon trail through that leasehold into the mountains after that club had unlawfully put up "No Trespassing" signs on a public road, put up an earth mound blocking that road — and that's confirmed in letters from
[ Page 629 ]
the ministry — and, as a matter of fact, shot one of the youngsters who was using the road with a trail bike in an instance not too long ago. The government then branded those youngsters as trespassers and changed the lease denying public access through those lands. Can the minister tell me why he would take the side of the gun club and shut down the road after they had already blocked off public access? Why did you do it?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Speaker, I'I take the question as notice.
HOSPITAL ADMISSION PROCEDURES
FOR PRISON INMATES
MS. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the Attorney-General for showing up today despite the fact that I alerted him to the fact that I would be asking him a question. I think he indicated that he's got an answer ready for me. My question has to do with the incident of a young girl in the Burnaby General Hospital who was assaulted by a patient who.... The administrator said the hospital was not alerted to the fact that this patient was a sex offender, and the Attorney-General has assured me that he has looked into it and he now has an answer.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, first of all I'd like to thank the lady member for drawing it to my attention yesterday. The information that I have received is this: this was a 17-year-old youth; he was serving an 18-month term for sexual assault. On July 1 he was stricken with stomach pains severe enough to impress the correction staff that it was an emergency situation. The procedure under the circumstances apparently is to first check with Oakalla to see if a doctor is available; if not, the patient would be taken to Burnaby General Hospital, and this was done. The boy was examined, his ailment was diagnosed as acute appendicitis and he was admitted.
The hospital did not ask about the boy's background; his escort was not aware of his background; and the staff member at New Haven who issued the medical absence certificate releasing him to Burnaby General didn't have his file readily available. The incident there has been investigated.
Procedures, hon. member, for sending inmates to hospital are to be changed so that everyone concerned will be aware of the nature of the offence of any inmate who is being sent to hospital. I understand charges have not been laid; that's still under consideration too.
MS. BROWN: I would like to thank the gentleman minister for his response. I'm pleased that the procedure is going to be speeded up. This boy was admitted on Sunday, and the offence didn't happen until Tuesday. Sunday to Tuesday is a long time, isn't it?
MR. LEVI: A supplementary to the Attorney-General. Is it not the practice to categorize offenders through the classification system, so that the staff would be alerted that the individual is a sex offender and that he is, presumably, a security risk?
HON. MR. GARDOM: I'I have to take that as notice. I don't wish to give you an imprecise answer; I could, but I don't choose to do that.
CLOSURE OF HIGHWAY 37
MR. PASSARELL: I have a question to address to the Minister of Labour. Last night Teamsters Local No. 31 went on strike and closed down Highway 37. Will the minister dispatch a mediator to Stewart to look into he situation before more people are affected in that area who need the highway open?
MR. SPEAKER: The question would be in order if it were phrased: "What has the minister done...?"
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. GARDOM: I ask leave to proceed to public bills and orders.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 15.
MEDICAL AMENDMENT ACT, 1979
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: The purpose of this bill is to make a number of very minor technical changes in the Medical Act, most of which have been asked for by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and which have been waiting for about three years to come before this House. The reasons for most of the changes are pretty self-evident or, at least, apparent from explanatory notes in the bill.
There are a couple of amendments, however, on quality control, and I should like to make a few comments about that. The authority for investigating the skills of a member is contained in the present section 48(a) of the Act. The wording is imprecise and somewhat impractical. The council of the college already has the power to investigate the skills and knowledge of a member. But the amendment that permits the appointment of an investigating committee for that purpose should prove to be a more practical and flexible arrangement. The amendment to that section should also overcome any delaying tactics on the part of a member under investigation by allowing the investigating committee to suspend the member if that member fails to appear before the committee when ordered to do so. Furthermore, if the findings of the investigating committee indicate the protection of the public is being jeopardized, the executive committee of the college is empowered to immediately suspend the member pending a hearing of the full council. A similar provision has been made in some other professional Acts in the past couple of sessions of the House.
Section 21 of the bill is also aimed at more adequate control. Under the present section of the Act a suspended member ceases to be a member of the college. This raises a bit of an anomaly since that member is then not subject to any further disciplinary action or competence investigation. The amendment would continue his status as a member, but prohibit that person from holding office or voting in college procedures. A new provision in section 21 of the bill limits suspension to two years, after which the member's name shall then be erased from the register. Thus an offending member must either take action within that period to overcome the reasons for his suspension or else cease to be a member.
[ Page 630 ]
Section 22 of the bill extends liability protection for the college and its staff. Again, a similar provision has been made available to many similar organizations in other bills. The liability protection, I must stress, relates only to the administration of this Act and in no way covers the practice of medicine. It is for that group of people only.
Section 23 of the bill tidies up and clarifies the lists of professions whose members, when pursuing their respective professions, are deemed not to be practising medicine and hence will not be in violation of the medical Act. Dental technicians and psychologists are added to this list since they have their own Act now and are changed slightly in their description under that section.
Section 25 deals with the penalties to be imposed against an unregistered person upon conviction of practising medicine. At the present time minimum penalties are not provided. The maximum penalty for the first offence was $500, and second $1,000. A third offence brings a mandatory jail sentence. This amendment brings the penalties into line with those imposed under the Summary Convictions Act, again bringing this bill in line with many other bills passed by the Legislature in the past few years. In effect, simply by that means, it increases the maximum fine to $2,000, with the possibility of a jail sentence. In addition, the amendment provides for a minimum fine of $300 for the first offence and $500 for a second offence. Other than those measures contained in this bill which are for the increased protection of the public, the rest of the amendments are quite technical and quite minor in housekeeping nature.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, a quick review of the bill would suggest it is a section-by-section amendment. I do not find it a single-principle bill and it is therefore a little difficult to debate in second reading. However, members may wish to attempt it.
MR. COCKE: I am amazed at your wealth of parliamentary knowledge! When a minister decides to introduce a bill that has a varying number of principles within that bill, that's what we're faced with. We can only decide to debate in principle those areas, as wide as they may be. So we really are stuck with that situation. I would very much like to suggest we deal with it section by section. If we did, then we might miss an opportunity to speak on the breadth of the basic Act that this is amending, that we could not otherwise do.
I am not terribly concerned about many aspects of this bill. I have had a roar of phone calls, wires, cards — as a matter of fact people were phoning long after bedtime last night, and very early this morning. Some people are very concerned about this bill. I am sure the minister has a great deal more protection from that kind of activity than I have. At the same time, I am sure he has been confronted by many people who are concerned about this Act. I would like to talk about some of those areas.
But before getting to that situation I agree with the minister that this Act mainly clarifies the wording, and updates the Medical Act. I would wonder about a portion of this, however, where the minister amends the present Act to the extent that we are no longer authorizing Commonwealth reciprocity. I realize there is concern about some of the minor Commonwealth countries in the teaching of medicine, et cetera. But it strikes me that in repealing section 9, we're also taking a look askance at the United Kingdom trained doctors. I'd like the minister to have another look at it, because if that's what the college wants, I'm sure that's what the college can have. It doesn't really affect people here, but it may affect some first-class doctors coming out to this country.
I also think that there are some areas of concern that sort of run counter to what the minister was talking about. He says that the appointment of an investigating committee stops the delaying tactics of the person being investigated. I would agree with that. The only problem is that it also gives the investigating committee an opportunity to deal unilaterally with a person who is being charged. It keeps that person away, possibly unfairly, from the practice of medicine. This is a two-way street. I recognize that the person must be given 14 days' notice of a report prior to his hearing, but it doesn't say how long he must be given in order to anticipate getting to that point. I am concerned about that.
I am very much in support of section 22, of course, which protects those people who work for the college — the registrar, deputy registrar, or whatever — and who serve on committees investigating a peer or another practitioner. The reason I support this protective provision is that it means they do not suffer personal liability. It gives them a right to write a report without the fear of being sued for having written that report. I think this is an excellent step forward, and I certainly support that aspect.
The big bone of contention, of course, is section 23. What we're really doing here is clarifying what is already in section 71 of the Act. I see very little change, but that is a very disappointing aspect as far as I'm concerned.
Mr. Speaker, let me give you an example of one group that I think by now should have been considered — acupuncturists. They're not the only group — I think there are others. In 1973 we set up a committee to study the whole question of acupuncture. That committee decided that we should set up some means of judging the practice or the art of acupuncture. There were pain clinics set up, because the one thing that was demonstrable in the practice of acupuncture was that it did kill pain. But I have seen nothing occur since, other than the continuation of the acupuncture pain clinics to some extent, but certainly no broadening of them. We should be at a point where we could accurately test the knowledge and ability of an acupuncturist.
One might say that talking in terms of acupuncture is like talking in terms of witchcraft or wizardry. I don't think that's the case. We've all seen what happened in areas where acupuncture has been recognized. There's been considerable support, and we certainly know that in China the practice goes on. Incidentally, I've been in hospitals in China where they show some tremendous examples of other than pain relief. Symptoms have been mitigated and illnesses have been modified by the use of acupuncture. I believe that we should pay serious attention to these other areas of therapy.
What we've done here is again provide the College of Physicians and Surgeons with their own Act. We are amending it and including another couple of groups, but we have provided them with the protection from other people in the health-care field. If that's the case, Mr. Speaker, I believe that we should demonstrate the reason why these people are excluded from the opportunity to diagnose or treat illnesses. The people that we permit to practise are
[ Page 631 ]
those people with their own Act plus the emergency services health group. Otherwise they're mostly people with their own act, and the psychologists are a good example. They've been included now; they were not included before. But, Mr. Speaker, it's because we ourselves lack interest in some of these other areas that they're being denied access.
We were looking for some time at a way to provide an opportunity for assessment of paramedical people — people who are not included in this Act — which would lead us to believe that they were competent to practise. An umbrella act in health care is one thing that we should be looking at now.
I want to give you an idea what this Act does. An acupuncturist who has been trained for years — and there are some very in-depth courses on acupuncture — may not practise in this province unless he or she practises down some back alley, or at least in a cloak and dagger way of doing business. On the other hand, a doctor may go and take four hours of lectures and become a practising acupuncturist. What absolute nonsense! Doctors all over this province now are practising the oriental art of acupuncture because they are clothed in the protection of their own Medical Act. They can pierce the skin...they can do all these adventuresome things. But, Mr. Speaker, a person with long training in acupuncture may not practise in this province and yet would be, in my view, much more proficient than a doctor — no matter how smart, no matter how intelligent — who went and listened to a four-hour lecture on acupuncture and began to practise the procedure.
So I don't think that the doctors are being fair, and I don't think that the Minister of Health is being fair when he permits groups like this to be overlooked entirely by an Act of the Legislature. What we're doing here is giving the doctors the right to say no to anybody other than those who are listed in this Act. That's a fairly elite group. There are others who are practising, or would like to be in a position to practise, who should be provided an opportunity to prove themselves. I'm not saying open the door to charlatans, for heaven's sake, any more than I would say open the doors to malpractice in business, malpractice in selling of cars, real estate or whatever. But I would suggest that there should be some access to a more flexible and more open system of health care.
Mr. Speaker, I think there's one other area that should be dealt with and that is this question of unprofessional prescription practice. What you're saying here is: "Don't push a drug on behalf of a drug house, don't permit your name to be used for a commercial venture and don't advertise your medical practice." Well, I think that this is another area in which I would go a little bit further. I would suggest that the doctors are in many cases not giving themselves enough time to study what's going on and are not keeping up with contemporary developments, and that they take the advice of drug pushers from these pharmaceutical companies. I really would like to see a little bit better handle on the doctors' own prescription practice. It's a proven fact in our society that there are far too many people on tranquilizers. It's the easiest thing to do to provide someone with a tranquilizer, and then at least, if he's not feeling well, he doesn't feel so badly about it. But I think that thalidomide should have taught us a lesson, and I think that the whole question of administration in terms of prescriptions should be looked at very carefully. I have been told, for example, that if I go to a drugstore or go to a doctor, I am going to be told the side effects of the prescription drugs that I'm to be given. Over the years I have on a number of occasions received prescriptions — including some in recent months — and I've yet to go to a drugstore and find out the side effects. Nor, for that matter, can I find out the conflicting situation within my body setup by two chemicals that don't mix. So I think there should be some hardening up in this area.
I recognize what this is about; it's about advertising. But I think we should go beyond that. We should ask the College of Physicians, when they're doing their peer group review, to look a lot more closely at this whole question of prescribing chemicals or prescription drugs.
As far as the minister was concerned, he suggested that not much has changed in section 84, which is section 25 under this bill. I agree. Mind you, we're talking about minimum fines now instead of maximum fines. For the first conviction, the old Act said "no more than $500." The new Act says "no less than $300." For the second conviction it used to be "no more than $1,000," and now it's "no less than $500." In other words, if I'm convicted a second time, I could be fined $20,000 or whatever. Summary convictions don't permit that.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: No, summary convictions restrict it to $2,000.
MR. COCKE: Okay. You're right — $3,000. It just escaped me for a second. The third offence is imprisonment. That was the same under the old Act. But, Mr. Speaker, we think in terms of someone who is providing a valid service, or could provide a valid service, such as an acupuncturist, and who faces a criminal conviction and jail for that practice. He can practise in Ontario, California and Washington. All around us he can be licensed. We can test people here.
True, compared to a medical doctor all he has to do is take a four-day, four-hour lecture and practise the art of acupuncture which, incidentally, could be very dangerous because there are some acupuncture procedures that can result in death. I know that's why the minister is nervous about it; that's why I was nervous about it at one time. But believe me, there are people who can be assessed in our society. In our province today there are people who could be assessed as highly capable and a credit to our health-care delivery system.
That's all I have to say on a bill which, as the minister describes it, is — generally speaking — housekeeping and bringing wording up to date. But I would like to have seen a little bit more adventure, a little more moving away from the orthodox, the traditional and getting out and seeing what we can do about providing a wider latitude. This is a minister, Mr. Speaker, who should know better than anyone that one should experiment from time to time. He's taken what everybody else failed with, the heroin treatment program, and he says that he's going to make it a winner. Well, if he's that adventuresome, I think that he could be a little bit more adventuresome on Bill 15.
Yes, we'll support Bill 15. Yes, I must support Bill 15. But I do wish that the minister could have just been a little bit more open-minded and accepted some other recommendations. I wish that the college and the medical profession would open up their particular eyes with respect to others
[ Page 632 ]
who could very well complement the health care system in this province.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, maybe the best of us can only handle one adventure at a time. I agree with the member's comments — and I won't comment on all of the things he said — about the suspension of a medical practitioner perhaps being unfair. That's true; all of these things have the potential of being unfair. You have to weigh that against the protection of the public and which is most important. I think in this instance the protection of the public outweighs the possibility of some unfair practice by the application of this section of the bill.
On the matter of prescriptions, I agree that this bill could have gone further, and there are lots of ways in which we could have moved. But these were a few housekeeping amendments that mainly were asked of us, and I felt rather than wait for something greater, we put these amendments in and clean the Act up. They don't deal with some of the things that the member for New Westminster commented upon. In the matter of prescription drugs, certainly we're concerned. We've been in active consultation with our Pharmacare people, the pharmacists themselves and the medical profession. There is at the present time negotiation going on between those two professions. They're talking about ways in which we can bring some greater responsibility and accountability to the prescribing of those kinds of drugs which are of concern to all of us in society. I have no doubt that we'I be coming back before this House before very long to ask for amendments to either this bill or another bill to deal with some of those serious problems. I accept that from the member.
We could have become more adventurous in terms of section 23, for which I got my share of protests in my office and on the phone as well, Mr. Member for New Westminster. I can understand the concern that people may have, but I do want to say, Mr. Speaker, that this bill makes no changes to what was here in the past.
MR. MACDONALD: Why do it, then?
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Well, this section makes no changes except to pick up two groups of people who need to be covered because of changes in their own professions. It's not fair to keep them shut out, so a minor amendment to the bill will look after that. It does not expand either the College's right to police its own profession or others, so in that regard there is no concern because that law is already before the people of British Columbia, and it is the law.
Now we were not ready to consider either a relaxation of that policing power the College of Physicians and Surgeons has, or an expansion of the groups who are associated with health provision in one way or another at this time.
I might say, Mr. Speaker, that the college itself is feeling increasingly uncomfortable about its role of dealing with others than their own profession. I think the time is ripe for us to enter into serious discussions with the college that would allow some other avenue for the protection of the public, to people who are not physicians and surgeons, and allow the College of Physicians and Surgeons to police their own practice.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, that the college agrees, in broad terms, with that concept today. It wasn't true a year ago or two years ago or ten years ago, but I believe that it is true today, and that the college is ready to look at a different role in that regard.
With respect to acupuncturists themselves, I know the member for New Westminster is sincere, because he is correct. While he was Minister of Health the two pain clinics and the assessment of acupuncture and its role in the delivery of health services got some impetus. We've continued that. Acupuncture now may be practised by a medical doctor.
I think it is overly simplistic, Mr. Speaker, to suggest that because a doctor takes a short course in acupuncture, the doctor is not prepared as well as he should be to practise the so-called profession of acupuncture. What we forget in that kind of simplistic approach is that the doctor has spent years and years and years in medical college learning how to diagnose disease, which is probably the most important aspect in the delivery of that kind of health care. It's the diagnosis that's important.
Mr. Speaker, what I am being asked to consider today is turning over that diagnostic procedure to a group that has been trained only in acupuncture. I'm not so sure that's a safe or responsible way for us to go in this province at this time. Yes, acupuncture has demonstrated very clearly that it is effective in the treatment of some kinds of pain for varying lengths of time. There is no doubt any more about that, no doubt whatsoever. That's why the two pain clinics that we have operating under the auspices of the government are so successful, and there are waiting lists for them. That's why medical doctors who have taken additional training in the practice of acupuncture are also busy providing that kind of service.
But, Mr. Speaker, if we turn over the essential element of medical treatment, diagnosis, to a group of people who may not be trained to give that diagnosis, then I think we may lay upon the public a very dangerous procedure. I am not prepared to do that at this time, nor is the government, but we are prepared to have a further look into what we should be doing in terms of this.
You know, there are times, Mr. Speaker, when you come almost to the point where you are ready to recommend that some innovation in providing this kind of service is accepted by the government. I would just like to relate one quick story to you about a meeting I had in my office with an acupuncturist about the same thing we are talking about today. That acupuncturist said to me that I should immediately recommend to government that freedom of choice be available to the citizens of British Columbia in terms of the way in which they could have access to that kind of diagnosis and treatment.
I asked one question, Mr. Speaker, and that question was this: "If someone came to you, with your training as a acupuncturist only, with no medical training of any kind in diagnostic procedures or in the delivery of traditional medicine, and said, 'I'm suffering from cancer and I'm worried about it,' what would you do with that patient?" The answer, unequivocally, was: "I would treat that patient." Mr. Speaker, that scared the hell out of me; it really did. So I want to be very careful about this.
I think there will come a time when there should be some expansion. I would like to do it, however, in consultation with the college in terms of their whole role in this nature. And, as I said at the opening of my closing remarks, I believe the college is ready to have a changing
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role in this regard, and I hope that we can move towards that very quickly.
With that, I move second reading.
Bill 15, Medical Amendment Act, 1979, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Second reading of Bill 21, Mr. Speaker.
DEVELOPMENT ACT, 1979
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to move second reading of Bill 21. I think it's a very innovative bill, a prototype for all redevelopment programs in cities wherever redevelopment is required.
The New Westminster Redevelopment Act can form the basis of revitalizing many centres, but in particular, of course, it is applicable in this particular case to the first capital city, the Royal City, a city which offers great potential but which, unfortunately, has been on the decline for some time and which we believe will be certainly receiving a great deal of attention with the special benefits provided through this bill.
The format for expediting vital development will provide, as I said earlier, a model in other areas. I know it will be watched from many quarters with great expectations.
As the New Westminster core is revitalized and becomes self-supporting with the help of government guidance and funding, the surrounding areas will begin to feel substantial spinoffs and market potential for office, retail and residential uses. However, redevelopment depends on the steady availability of land at the right time in the right places and at reasonable prices. Consequently the Act provides the means whereby the city can enter into an agreement with The First Capital City Development Company Limited for land assembly.
Finally, the Act provides for the amendment of the official community plan. The community development plan will reverse the negative trends which have plagued New Westminster for 20-odd years. According to the British Columbia Development Corporation, New Westminster will take on an image of a city where some of the largest, most innovative developments in Canada are taking place, and will lose its time-worn image as a place of slow growth.
I am advised that aggressive international promotion has already catalysed firm commitments on the part of the development industry. A great deal of interest is being expressed, and we certainly feel that through this mechanism it can become a reality for the city of New Westminster.
I move second reading of Bill 21.
MR. COCKE: It seems to be my lucky day, Mr. Speaker — two in a row.
I just would like to say that they brought it on themselves. I'm glad that that minister was the one who had to present this bill, because I suspect that if the decision hadn't made along about January 1976, when they decided not to put ICBC in downtown New Westminster, with all of the attendant development that would have occurred at that time, you wouldn't be in the problem or the situation that we're in now.
But, Mr. Speaker, it's the old adage. Once you can get the city establishment, the chamber of commerce and others drinking their own bathwater that everything is going to be okay on the morrow, then you get a situation in which delay after delay after delay occurs.
Now we come up with Bill 21, which will suddenly bring about the revitalization of our downtown core. It's a bill that is going to be used as a prototype for other areas. Well, you know, it might not be bad. It does provide one with a bit of concern because future councils are locked in with decisions that are made now. There's very, very little chance, unless a government decides at this level to make changes, that a new council will have that opportunity.
It gives a lot of shortcuts with respect to the rights to develop. Usually one has to go through a lot of red tape, and if this can cut some of that red tape, I guess it's good. But at the same time, oftentimes one has to be very careful, particularly when you're dealing with outside developers, in ascertaining just what problems they may be creating in their development.
[Mr. Rogers in the chair.]
The downtown core of New Westminster is a disaster. It's a disaster as the result of years and years of total neglect by all levels — and not only by government. The business community itself didn't realize that people hate walking up and down a hill with a slope that doesn't particularly lend itself to shopping, so that redevelopment has never been considered other than as a marketplace. I hope that when we look at redevelopment we are going to look at commercial redevelopment. I would like to see boutiques and some shopping, but basically that's an area that lends itself to commercial development.
That's why ICBC would have been such a boon. Instead of that, we are paying an enormous rent for the head office of ICBC at the Royal Centre, a decision made by that heady Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. McGeer), who forgot about his responsibility to save money. Instead, he would not permit the moving of ICBC's head office to where it rightfully belongs, in a nice area that was secured for it. Around ICBC a tremendous commercial development would have built up, and the downtown core would have been revitalized. Now we're doing it three or four years later by guess and by gosh.
What's the key to this one? The key to this development is, again, a tribute to that great Minister of Education. What are we going to have down there? Douglas College, of all things. That's sort of his trade-off. I wonder what that's going to do for the business of our downtown area. I'm concerned about it. I understand they've allocated 600 parking spots on that hill, underground and above ground, and that's all for Douglas College. If there are more, that's something very, very recent. Presently Douglas College is using about 2,000 to 2,500 parking spots where its campus is now located. Does this mean that the overflow is going all over the downtown area of New Westminster?
Whether we like it or not, we have lousy transit and, with the Socreds, it's becoming increasingly bad in the downtown area of New Westminster. We have no transit terminal, which we were going to have as part of the old
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ICBC presentation. No, we've got a level of transit which does not encourage people to use transit; it encourages them to use their cars. I worry about what's going to happen to our downtown area. If the minister can assure me that a good deal of thought is being given to this and to the other areas of concern being expressed from time to time, then, to some extent, I'm gratified and relieved. I do worry about that whole area, and I do worry that people are not really looking at the consequences of some of the actions taken. To date it's been a big PR job.
You can say: "Well, the courthouse is going in." The courthouse was going in. As a matter of fact, it was going to be slightly larger than the one we have going now. That's all we have to show for it, other than promises. Promises that come about four years later strike me as being something one should always be somewhat wary of. I'm somewhat wary of this whole proposition.
Basically I don't oppose the bill. I think it's probably a good prototype. As a matter of fact, we had legislation similar to this in the NDP days. That was wiped out, and now we're going back piece by piece, I don't really feel I can oppose this legislation. All I'm saying is that it's too bad it's taken us so long to get to this point.
Why is it that we're looking at this bill now when I understood we'd be looking at it a year ago? Did some problems develop? Douglas College has been put back and put back and put back so many times.... It is hoped they will get off the ground in September. They've been ready to break ground for some considerable time. Let's hope that the other development down there occurs. It is certainly a better vehicle than what we have at the present time.
City council supports the bill and most of the people involved in the downtown core support the bill. I wish them good luck with it. I want this on the record, Mr. Speaker: all through the time of the negotiations I have kept my counsel, despite the fact that I have wondered about all the PR and the lack of action. I am pleased to see that at long last something is happening. Let's hope something tangible happens pursuant to this bill being proclaimed.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, I am a little disappointed that the member for New Westminster is not receiving this particular bill with great enthusiasm. Certainly I concur with the member when he suggests that public facilities can often provide a great aid to assuring that the development, in fact, takes place. As he mentioned himself, we are certainly providing for this through the establishment of a major educational facility in the downtown core. Also, the courthouse was not approved until this government approved the courthouse. So to suggest that perhaps they had something bigger or better in mind, I think, is not too solid in that there were no plans prior to our approval of them.
The car parking was mentioned and, of course, I think it should be recognized that the existing Douglas College facility is on the outskirts of the New Westminster area near the hospital on Eighth Avenue. We're looking here at something right in the downtown core which we hope will see a lot of residential development immediately in the area as well, so there may not be need for cars such as there is on the outside.
We have a meeting coming up in several weeks to discuss high-density transit, and that certainly will include New Westminster.
Finally, we could not have brought it forth last year. This was not completed by the New Westminster city council until December 1978, and this is a New Westminster plan. This plan was developed by the city of New Westminster for New Westminster. It was finally nearly ready in December 1978 and we've expedited the process. We now have it before the House.
I move second reading.
Bill 21, New Westminster Redevelopment Act, 1979, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Second reading of Bill 18, Mr. Speaker.
AMENDMENT ACT, 1979
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to move second reading of Bill 18. It's one of these bills without principle. Therefore it's difficult for me to address a broad principle in the bill, except to say that we've got a new concept here which is, for legislative economy, not to open up every educational statute every year but to attempt to consolidate those essential housekeeping measures into one Statutes Amendment Act, and then at periodic intervals to open up the main bills — there are, I think, five of them — under the Ministry of Education for major rewriting. So all that we've done here is to combine those housekeeping measures that we considered to be of very high priority but of minor legislative import into this one small bill. If any of the members opposite have questions about particular sections, I can deal with those in summarizing the debate, and we'll have an opportunity to discuss them individually in committee.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, I regret very much that the minister, after stating that it's policy not to open up the education statutes every year, presents first of all this omnibus bill in its present form, and then speaks only for a few seconds without outlining, as should be his opportunity, some of the policy behind the proposed amendments, and further explaining to the province of British Columbia why he has not made further amendments as requested by various organizations over the years to the Public Schools Act.
I intend to deal with the principle of this bill. The minister indicates that there is no principle. One of the unfortunate ways in which governments avoid debate on the very important principles that arise from their ministries from time to time is to bring in an omnibus bill. This minister has been particularly culpable in doing just precisely that. He was the minister of omnibus bills in this chamber for the last parliament, and it seems he's starting again in this one.
The minister is aware that various groups have approached him for various amendments from time to time. The minister, I'm instructed, has stated to these persons: "Well, we're not going to open the bill this year, but your proposals will be taken into consideration when we do."
[ Page 635 ]
Not only has he not done so on this occasion in a substantive way, but he has failed to deal with the bills separately as they should be dealt with, particularly the Public Schools Act, which requires major revision.
For many, many reasons — and we have canvassed the proposed amendments carefully, Mr. Speaker — the opposition will oppose this bill in second reading. We feel that those proposals made by this bill, where they are needed, are inadequate and will do more harm than good, and where they are not needed to the various statutes, particularly the Public Schools Act and the Independent Schools Support Act, will do great mischief. It is a sloppily drafted bill, taken on its face. It solves nothing and it creates grave problems. To run it by the House as a housekeeping measure in the form of an omnibus bill is not a forthright and honest way to proceed.
Particularly, Mr. Speaker, the government has failed to make substantial changes as proposed by the teachers of this province with respect to those provisions which affect teachers and that do not, in any way, directly affect the Ministry of Education's direction of public education in the province. Some time ago, a very serious brief was presented to the minister by teachers dealing with section 129 of the Public Schools Act. Although this bill tinkers with some of the proposals made in that brief, it does not in any way take seriously the suggestions made by the teachers' federation. We must assume in this chamber, Mr. Speaker, that the federation speaks for most, if not all, teachers with respect to changes in the Public Schools Act.
The opposition believes that there must be a balance between the right of boards of school trustees to secure best deployment of staff and the right of teachers to fair personnel practice and effective due process for any such decisions by school boards. It is our view that such a balance no longer exists, and the proposed bill does nothing to solve that. The Public Schools Act has been used — by virtue of section 129, at least — in avoidance of more appropriate sections of the Act, to achieve apparently punitive, horizontal or vertical transfers of teaching personnel. It is inconsistent with the intent of the Public Schools Act and fair personnel practice, and avoids due process.
Specifically, there is no requirement that a board state the reasons for the transfer of a teacher. Secondly, there's a minimum of seven days' notice of a transfer, which is wholly inadequate. The limit of seven days in which to seek an interview with the board is also a hardship. The board may grant an interview at such short notice, or at times when it is not possible for the teacher to prepare or secure the attendance of an adviser or counsel. The interview provision leaves the impression of an appeal process, but there is none. The initial decision of the board to issue a transfer notice is on the basis of advice. There are no reasons and there is little likelihood that a board would later act contrary to that advice or reverse itself. There are many such examples of this injustice, but it is consistent with the philosophy and policy of this particular minister to sidestep already-existing rights that have existed for years for teachers, and treat them as second-class citizens.
The Public Schools Act was designed to protect their interests and their employment and their tenure, not particularly because of their individual rights — although that's important — but to protect the public education system from political interference, both at the provincial and the local level. When appeal procedures exist in the Public Schools Act to protect those rights and provide due process, to see the ministry allow both themselves and school boards to sidestep those rights by the transfer procedures in section 129 is reprehensible and a denial of natural justice.
These points were brought to the attention of the minister some time ago, yet no protection has been incorporated in this new bill for such teachers. The proposals by the Teachers' Federation were reasonable, and they were fair. They did not involve extra cost, although negligible bureaucratic costs always occur to the education budget. I conclude the minister has once again shown arrogance — and a disregard for individual rights.
I suppose he feels that the people of this province will side with him against teachers no matter what he does. But let me remind you. Mr. Speaker, and the minister that the people of this province believe in what is fair. They believe people should be provided those tenets of natural justice they wish for themselves. Evidently the minister does not. He has turned a blind eye to the suggestions made by the Teachers' Federation with respect to transfer provisions.
Let me recall for the minister some of the suggestions that were made. The current provisions of the Public Schools Act place the tenure of all teachers in unreasonable jeopardy with little, if any, hope of a fair hearing or redress. Transfer on seven days' notice, with no right of effective appeal, can cost a teacher additional travel costs, loss of present position, demotion, loss of salary and other benefits, reduction in pension, and can result in a totally unfair or inappropriate assignment.
The Public Schools Act may be used to avoid disciplinary provisions elsewhere in the Act, thereby preventing use of appeal provisions. That's exactly what has happened.
Essentially, the Public Schools Act places all teachers assigned to positions as principals. vice — principals, head teachers, and other supervisory personnel, in the unreasonable jeopardy of losing their positions on seven days' notice, without due process. That is hardly the kind of tenure to encourage strong and effective leadership in our high schools and elementary schools by supervisory staff, and it hardly provides that degree of protection necessary so that teachers and supervisory personnel will not be intimidated by the political exigencies of local school boards or the Ministry of Education.
It encourages the less straightforward ministers of the future and school boards. It encourages patronage and political interference in our high schools and public schools. It is a dictatorial and arbitrary use of power. The minister, again showing back-of-the-hand treatment to teachers in this particular case, shows, by that arrogance, contempt for the public education system in B.C.
It is consistent, I regret to say, with his entire history as Minister of Education. The minister seems bent on doing anything he can to undermine the morale and the integrity of the public education system. He has travelled the length and breadth of the province, announcing to taxpayers that the public education system is not worthy of their support, that teachers are not diligent, are greedy and selfish. He has gone throughout the length and breadth of the province....
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please. Hon. member, I have looked at several of the sections of this Act, and I find it difficult to fit the discussion you're currently conducting under second reading. It would seem to me that your line of
[ Page 636 ]
debate might be better placed in the estimates of the minister rather than in second reading of this bill.
MR. LAUK: I know, Mr. Speaker, that you've obviously considered the bill at length, as I have over several hours, and that you can make that judgment. However, I disagree with it.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, do you challenge the Chair?
MR. LAUK: I'm asking you a question.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, you have your rights; I have mine.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. LAUK: The Speaker is not entitled to intimidate a member while he's giving a speech on the principle of the bill.
[Deputy Speaker rose.]
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, you were asked to relate to the bill, and you chose to challenge the Chair. I would like to know on what grounds you wish to challenge the Chair, if indeed you do wish to challenge the Chair. If you do not wish to challenge the Chair, then I would suggest that you proceed with debate which is in order under this bill.
[Deputy Speaker resumed his seat.]
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker pointed out to me that he could not see how my line of debate was relevant to the principle of this bill. I'm without further explanation. The bill opens up the Public Schools Act for amendment; precisely it deals with tenure in terms of employment and contracts and finances — and that's precisely what I'm talking about.
DEPUTY SPEAKER. Hon. member, if you were to peruse the Blues when they come out, you would find that your line of discussion wasn't quite dealing with that; it was dealing with the activities of the minister as they pertain to school teachers, and I find no reference to that in this bill. We are in second reading, and you, hon. member, are very well aware of the rules. Under second reading the debate can be very wide-ranging; however, your line of debate would be much better conducted under the minister's estimates. If you wish to continue with debate in second reading — clause by clause or in general discussion of this bill — that's quite in order.
MR. LAUK: Perhaps I'm not able to express myself with that degree of clarity that would lead to Mr. Speaker's understanding of what I'm saying, and I apologize for that. But earlier in my speech I related the minister's role in undermining the public education system of this province to the provisions of this bill related to the Public Schools Act which undermine the role and the tenure of the teacher and the supervisory personnel of various schools in the province. I'm arguing in this chamber in second reading that the philosophy behind such a move has been consistent throughout the term of office — both in the last parliament and in this — of the current Minister of Education. If we can't discuss the policy or underlying philosophy with respect to the proposed amendments in second reading, then we can discuss nothing in second reading.
Mr. Speaker, the role of the minister has been quite clear: to centralize authority in Victoria on the one hand, and to place the cost burden of education at the local taxpayer level. He has consistently done that for two parliaments — or one, and starting this one. These amendments enhance that philosophy once again. The minister, as I have said, has clearly indicated to the various organizations interested in public education that by design the legislative process, either in this chamber or in cabinet, centralizes bureaucratic and complete and dictatorial control of public education in his office. Yet he avoids the financial consequence for the local taxpayers of his sometimes very ill-advised decisions. This bill is full of amendments, which he is trying to be sneak through this House, that will support that philosophy.
Mr. Speaker, what specifically has he done up to this point? He has allowed local school boards to use the transfer provisions of section 129 of the Public Schools Act to completely circumvent the appeal procedures of the Public Schools Act. But most school boards operate with a sense of natural justice and it's not a problem. Some school boards do not so operate and will, for their own political reasons and reasons of philosophy and policy in education, transfer teachers without appeal and without due process as a punitive measure. That, in fact, undermines the education system, in that teachers must look over their shoulders now at what the ministry wants them to do and what the school board wants them to do in terms of teaching in the classroom and in terms of being a principal or vice principal. They are subject to that control without a fair hearing.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
The Public Schools Act, as I say, may be used to force teachers currently assigned to positions to accept limited term contracts which automatically terminate.
It is interesting to note also that as recently as 1975, teachers appointed to positions as principals, vice principals, head teachers and other supervisory personnel enjoyed the same protection of tenure with respect to that appointment as all other teachers with respect to their appointments. The introduction of the section at that time retroactively destroyed that tenure, and now the provisions and applications of section 129 effectively eliminate any tenure for such positions. One must look at those amendments to consider intelligently the amendments that are now proposed — the so-called housekeeping or tidying-up bill — in order to understand the very sinister philosophy of this minister to undermine the morale and the integrity of the public education system.
Before leaving that point, I heard someone say what due process means and how it is now being encroached upon by the provisions of this bill. Every teacher, principal, vice-principal, headmaster, whoever, has the right to be informed in writing of allegations and grounds for any
[ Page 637 ]
transfer, dismissal or demotion or whatever. Everyone has the right to full access to the evidence in each and every case. Everyone has the right to defend himself and be defended by a representative of his choice. Adequate time must be given to the teacher for the preparation of his defence. He has the right to be informed in writing of the decisions reached and the reasons for them. There is the right to appeal to clearly designated competent authorities who are separate and apart from those who have brought the allegation. Those are basic human rights — basic natural rights and we protect them very dearly and carefully for the public service in Victoria. What's wrong with protecting those rights for teachers in the public education system? The tinkering of this bill does nothing to solve that serious problem because it is not consistent with the minister's philosophy that teachers have no rights.
With respect to the proposed amendments to the B.C. Educational Institutions Capital Financing Authority Act, what we see here is a very serious problem arising. When we debated the Independent Schools Support Act there was some discussion about capital financing of independent schools. This is a principle that has never been debated in this House and it is a principle that the opposition, up until this point, thought would never be before this House. No government has proposed to provide public money for capital cost financing of private schools. That has never been publicly proposed by this government or this minister. Yet these amendments will by law allow the possibility of this government, in the secrecy of the cabinet room, to provide public money for the capital-cost projects of private schools. Yet, Mr. Speaker, that principle has never been debated, and that policy has never been put forward by the government. If it is not their policy, then it should clearly say so in the bill, and appropriate amendments should be made to protect the public purse from further encroachments by this government for capital-cost expenditures on private schools.
I'I deal with it in committee in detail and show you how legally the cabinet can make that decision without bringing it before the House. They can designate independent schools as institutions entitled to have their capital-cost indebtedness guaranteed by this government and by the public purse. That is what the amendment calls for. The opposition is totally opposed to that principle, and it is another basic and very fundamental reason why we will oppose this bill on principle in second reading. Surely to goodness, Mr. Speaker, the minister's policy should be clearly announced before legislation is brought to the House. It should not be couched with a cloak of the omnibus bill, sneaked into the House and passed as an omnibus bill without discussing that important principle. The people of this province are not generally opposed to dealing fairly with families that send their children to independent schools. That's not a basic issue in the province. But what is a fundamental issue is that aid to independent schools should not undermine the public education system. It should not deplete the public purse at the expense of the public education system and those children who go to the public schools. But slowly and surely — in an almost Machiavellian way — these chess moves by a very intelligent minister are being brought before the House session after session enabling the cabinet to operate without debate in this chamber on principles that could go unforeseen.
To expand on that — and I know the phrase causes you great concern — the public financing authority Act for educational institutions was intended by this chamber to deal only with post-secondary education. That Act, as it stands, could be used only to provide guaranteeing of indebtedness to public secondary educational institutions. The Public Schools Act dealt with the financing of secondary and elementary public schools, together with its complementary statutes.
By the new arrival of aid to independent schools, and this new established relationship of the public purse with independent schools, the proposed amendment enables the government to designate private schools under that financial authority. When they do, the cabinet, without further debate by the Legislature, without any reference to the public whatsoever, can commit the public treasury to guarantee capital cost financing for private schools throughout the province.
It is not sufficient for the minister, in dealing with a statute, to say: "We don't intend that." He's not going to be here forever, or he may change his mind. But the law has to be clear, and it is not. It can only be assumed that a person as knowledgeable about legislation as the minister fully intends to have that power given up and delegated by this House to the cabinet. We are opposed to that.
Another point to support our opposition to this bill is that for some time now local school boards appointed and hired superintendents. The cost, depending upon what era we are talking about, was borne by both the ministry and the local school district. Now we see the cost of the payment for superintendents shifting away from the provincial ministry to the local taxpayer.
The amendments now proposed restrict the right school boards historically have had to appoint their own superintendents in many cases to a list provided to them from the Ministry of Education. This is totally consistent with this minister's philosophy. His philosophy in the last parliament, from 1975 until today, has been consistent. I've got to give him full marks for that. He has no interest in giving any power to local school boards and districts. He wishes to centralize that power of the public education system entirely at his desk. But he wishes to pay for nothing.
Costs of the superintendents are now entirely on the homeowner, but their appointment rests entirely with the minister. This cosmetic nonsense about providing an approved list to local school boards, from which they may appoint or hire a superintendent, is nothing more or less than cosmetic nonsense, and it no longer succeeds in disguising the minister's true intent of undermining school board integrity and decentralization of authority within the educational system.
This minister is moving against the tide, Mr. Speaker, and to do so he obviously finds a certain amount of subterfuge necessary. The tide is decentralization of the educational system. The opinion of educators throughout Canada and North America is that where major mistakes have been made in education it has been because of a monolithic central control over education that does not reflect the needs of the community and the aspirations of the community in the education of our young people. It is arbitrary; it is dictatorial; but, as I say, it is consistent with this minister's philosophy.
The third point is very troublesome indeed, That is the provision whereby the Independent Schools Support Act
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will be amended to allow an authority under that Act to transfer its accreditation to another authority. To explain that further, it was debated in this Legislature under the Independent Schools Act that no private school could apply for public funding unless it had operated as a private school for at least five years. That was one of the provisions allowing them to receive public funding.
Now we find an amendment that will allow an authority which has had accreditation for five years to sell that to some other authority. Wherever that situation has arisen in our economic system in British Columbia, it has led to the most outrageous economic speculation. I ask Mr. Speaker to consider this trading of accreditation in public schools, under the Independent Schools Support Act, as one would see the trading of taxi licences in the city of Vancouver. Do you know that it costs about $65,000 to buy a taxicab in the city of Vancouver? You're not paying for the car. I don't know of any car valued at $65,000, particularly one that would be used in the streets of the city of Vancouver. You're paying for the licence to operate a taxicab within the city of Vancouver. The five-year accreditation provision is a very important provision. If we allow the trading of that accreditation as a licence to be bought and sold by whatever authority sets itself up to do so, an economic value will be placed on that accreditation or licence and will be trading in an economic way the right to receive public funds for aid to independent schools. If the minister didn't intend that — he's had almost a year to consider these amendments — what on earth is he doing in his office? In the minister's office, what is the civil service doing? Don't they read these amendments? Don't they have legal advice? Don't they consider all the possibilities?
The minister's cavalier attitude towards the drafting of these amendments is repugnant to the opposition, particularly in the case I mentioned, which is a classic example of sloppy draftsmanship which has characterized his ministry since 1975. That amendment can't possibly go through. I'm well aware of the anomalous situation the minister is trying to correct, but he's done so in an ill-considered way and in a sloppy fashion. Again, because of that, we're opposed to this bill.
The other amendment that causes us great concern in substance — but we can see it as reasonable — opens up the whole question of financial aid to independent schools. The proposed amendment allows the minister, under that Act, to designate more up-to-date figures for calculating the grant that will go to a particular independent school. Prior to the passage of this bill.... The figures on which the ministry calculates its grant to independent schools are described as "those published" or "most recently published" by the ministry. Sometimes they are two years out of date. It is appropriate, then, to have those figures current, so that the grant to independent schools will reflect the current operating cost per pupil in the school district in question. If one accepts the Independent Schools Support Act, that is not reprehensible to us; that is fair. But it is an appropriate time to canvas what has happened.
We have had a full year to see the Independent Schools Support Act in operation. What has it done? Through the Independent Schools Support Act, the ministry has a provision whereby each pupil in an independent school will receive an amount equal to the operating cost per pupil in the public education system in the school district in which that independent school is situated. In other words, whatever the public education system provides in costs to a pupil, 25 percent of that will go to each pupil in the independent school system for those independent schools that qualify under the Act. What has that led to? Is it fair? Should we support this amendment?
I suggest to you that it is not fair, because the figures are calculated on the total cost per pupil in the public education system, including those costs provided by the taxpayer at the homeowner level. The provincial purse, which has a much broader base of taxation, provides a greater amount per pupil to the independent school student. In School District 39 in the city of Vancouver I think there are approximately 60,000 students in the public education system. They received $7,123,543 from the provincial government in the last operating year. In other words, that is the provincial contribution towards 60,000 students in the school district of Vancouver. Private school pupils number about 5,100. They receive $2,724,617. In other words, nine-tenths of the students in the city of Vancouver receive two-thirds of the provincial contribution towards education costs, and less than one-tenth of the students in that jurisdiction receive one-third of the total provincial contribution.
Now I ask you to consider that in the light of what everybody in this province should consider to be fair. We all pay taxes; we all have the same burdens. Whether I have children in school, whether I have somebody in the hospital, or whether I have had anybody use an ambulance, I pay my share of taxes. I do not expect because I do not have children in school to pay less than my neighbour who may have children in school, or to receive some special privilege that another citizen does not receive. The question of privilege is so much a part of the philosophy of this minister. The privilege of one-tenth of the students of the city of Vancouver to receive one-third of the provincial education budget for that school district is not fair. People know it's not fair. They know it's inequitable and it's discriminatory against those of us who do not have children in the independent schools system.
Now the minister may argue that those persons who have children in independent schools pay homeowner taxes too, and this is a way of getting some of that money out. That would only be an adequate and fair argument if some relief were given to the homeowner by further provincial contribution to the independent school system. What this does is create two serious problems. There's the dollar and cents problem — 60,000 students in the city of Vancouver are getting the short end of the stick. The second problem — and perhaps it's even the greater in the longer run — is an undermining again of the authority of the local community to create its own priorities for the expenditure of tax moneys for educational purposes. It is no decision of the local school board in the city of Vancouver to provide that unequal amount of money to the students involved. It was purely the decision of the Ministry of Education to use those figures based on the total taxation rather than only on the provincial contribution. It's created a very serious unfairness in the application of those funds available for education.
I have pleaded with this minister to provide provincial funds for almost 35,000 of those 60,000 students that have English as a second language. There's not a drop in the bucket, not a penny, not a token from the Minister of Education. Almost 35,000 students must learn English as a
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second language to achieve an education in the city of Vancouver. Is there any money from the province? No. Yet one-tenth of the students of that jurisdiction receive one-third of the money.
Let's not argue that it's the principle of aid to independent schools; that argument's over. I argue equity; I argue fairness. And it's not fair to take the elitist attitude that because someone has sent his child to a separate school, an independent school, they should receive more of a share of the provincial contribution towards education costs. It's simply not fair.
Mr. Speaker, there are many other provisions of this Act that I'm sure my colleagues wish to raise and point out to the chamber in the hopes that the minister will withdraw these offensive provisions, in the hope that the minister will take a closer look at those briefs that have been presented to him, painstakingly arrived at through research at the community level, and not just wave his hand or look up at the ceiling as he always does and not listen to debate in this chamber. Be a considerate minister, someone who'll be remembered as a person who was fully supportive of the public education system, and yet showed courage in providing aid to independent schools. But to show courage and independence in that sense, and back-of-the-hand treatment to the already existing public education system, makes his actions notorious and will make his memory infamous.
There are many people who do not have children in the public education system or do not have children in school at all who do not resent paying their taxes. And there are many people who have their children in the public education system who do not resent public aid to independent schools, but they are 100 percent opposed to a formula which prefers the privileged view over the many.
The other serious point that should be made.... For the time being, Mr. Speaker, I will put these figures on the record, because we've now had a year of aid to independent schools, and we now can see what's happened. Many parochial schools have received grants. Many schools of various denominations and philosophies have received grants consistent with the Act, but there are some schools that I think should be pointed out, and I don't think it's unfair for me to draw attention in this chamber to some of those schools.
St. George's School has 592 pupils. It's an all-boys school in the city of Vancouver. It is well known that it is not a school that espouses the principles of trade unionism or social democracy.
AN HON. MEMBER: What school is supposed to?
MR. LAUK: These remarks are being made, Mr. Minister, in a satirical way. I'm hoping you can apply Education 101, that you got a C-minus in, and try and grasp the satirical content.
With 592 students, the total provincial contribution to that school was $301,000. That school has recently purchased property from another private school for expansion at a capital cost expenditure of several hundred thousand dollars.
Shawnigan Lake has 160 students and $81,000. So as not to be accused of any sectarian division, let me mention Vancouver College — 786 students, $400,000.
These are schools which have primarily — apart from the exceptions that really prove the rule that are raised on the other side from time to time — as their occupants students whose families could well afford private education without welfare. It is an unreasonable argument to use as examples the independent elementary schools throughout the province to usher in aid to these schools for students whose families can well afford private education. Indeed, in the case of some of them are families which have received great benefit from the legislative program of the SocialCredit government, particularly in the form of taxation reform a la Socred.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's appropriate, and I've taken this much time to catalogue very carefully the various provisions of this statute that collectively have drawn this opposition together in opposing this bill in principle and second reading.
MR. COCKE: It's hard to resist following my fine colleague, who made a marvelous presentation. I want to deal with one particular area, and that's the area where one can purchase a right to immediate financial assistance by purchasing an authority. When the minister first introduced the bill on independent schools some time ago, there was some grave concern about proliferation, and I can sure see the opportunity for proliferation here.
What, for example, constitutes an independent school? You see, you can acquire an independent school from an authority. That doesn't necessarily mean that the authority gives up their independent school, in my view. If I am wrong, I would sure like to be assured.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, this gives a marvelous opportunity for proliferation. They could multiply like the amoeba. I can see, too, that some groups could come in, purchase a school from an authority, and before you know it, lo and behold, we have the Moonies operating an independent school in British Columbia. Why do I say that? Because there's no ministerial discretion here. It just says that section 5 is amended. There is nothing there that would indicate to me any safeguards whatsoever. Won't that minister be a surprised minister if suddenly he finds the Moonies have purchased St. George's School? They probably have the money. We know that St. George's is wealthy, and we know, incidentally, Mr. Member for Vancouver Centre, that they haven't reduced their rate. They still charge $5,000 per student per year.
Despite the minister's great help, what they've done actually is seen to it that they have an opportunity to get into an expanded real estate proposition. But I believe that this aspect of this Act is dangerous. It does what the minister possibly even planned to do in the first place — let proliferation reign.
So now they don't have to do their five-year stint to prove themselves. All they have to do is go out and purchase from an authority, an independent school. What might that be? Let's say we have a very large independent school with 200 or 300 students. A portion of that independent school could be an independent school with all the attendant good fortune in that school, and immediately receive financial aid.
The safeguard before was that any school going into business, such as the Moonies, would have to have at least five years to show that they were worthy of financial support. There would be that possibility. Now suddenly
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we're in a position where an authority can sell an independent school to whoever the taker might be.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver Centre says that we create, when we do this sort of thing, an opportunity to make money on these kinds of transactions. He says it's like selling a taxi licence or like selling an egg quota or a milk quota and all these other marvelous things by which governments over the years have managed to assist people in getting rich.
Aside from that, though — I'm getting a little more serious — I believe that this is the minister's way of assisting with the proliferation of independent schools. He rather hinted to us that he wanted to help all those poor folks out there who had, over the years, been supporting their children, paying the shot and also paying their taxes.
Now, Mr. Speaker, he's suggesting we're going to make it easy for people to get into the business. I really don't think that it's a good idea. As a matter of fact, I think that this subverts the whole question. I think we really have to do a lot of thinking in terms of independent schools, particularly with that rather weird finding of a human rights committee that met just the other day. I really think that that has some very serious consequences for this province if that is the kind of thing that is going to happen around the independent schools situation.
Mr. Speaker, why doesn't the minister get up and announce that he is going to take this aspect out of a rather bad bill? It's interesting that practically all the major departments of governments are now introducing their own omnibus bills. In the old days there used to be one statute law amendment Act. That was from the A-G and that included everybody's bits and pieces.
Now the major portfolios come along with their own statute law amendment Act. That's, of course, a description of a potpourri. What you can do in that kind of a bill is lose some very, very important changes and hope that people will overlook them. This, as far as I am concerned, is a major change and should have been a bill in its own right. If for no other reason, I can see no support for this bill because of that one statute amendment.
MS. SANFORD: The member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) is quite correct in mentioning the minister's constant moves towards the centralization of authority under his control here in Victoria. He is continually assuming all of these powers unto himself and yet at the same time he is attempting to give the impression that he is giving the local school districts more autonomy. At least he is attempting that in this particular statute that we have before us this afternoon.
The Minister of Education in the NDP administration, the member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly), led the way in permitting local school districts to appoint their own school superintendents. She started by allowing those school districts with 20,000 or more students to appoint their own superintendents — not from any lists that she provided but rather at the discretion of those particular school districts. Since that initial move was made by the former Minister of Education, there has been a great deal of pressure from school districts throughout the province to enable them to appoint their own district superintendents, even if they had fewer than 20,000 students within their school district. The minister here has indicated that school districts will be able to appoint — by regulation and if they have a given number of students within their school districts — their own school superintendents. But it is from his list. We have 75 school districts in the province and the number of people who are on the list will be somewhere around 80 to 85. How much choice will the school districts have if there are 75 school districts and only about 80 or 85 people from which to choose?
The school boards, I think, in a number of cases will say: "There is no way that we want to follow what the minister is providing us in this particular amendment to the legislation. We don't want to pay the full shot for hiring the superintendents. We don't want to pay for all of the benefits that are currently paid for by the provincial government, because we don't really have the choice after all. The minister is making the choice for us and is simply providing us a list." I would not be surprised if a number of school districts in the province indicated that this was not good enough, and that the Minister of Education still controls it from right here in Victoria.
The legislation provides for the appointment of superintendents according to the regulations that are set up by the Ministry of Education. I would like to ask the minister whether or not the specifications have been drawn up by order-in-council to indicate to the school districts what size school district will be permitted to appoint its own superintendents. The figure that has been bandied about is 4,000, and I'm not sure if that order-in-council has gone through yet, but I certainly would like the minister....
HON. MR McGEER: Last week.
MS. SANFORD: It went through last week? All right. That means that those with 4,000 students and more will be able to employ their own superintendents if they utilize the minister's list, and he makes the choice.
HON. MR. McGEER: No.
MS. SANFORD: Well, all right. I'd like to have the minister enlighten us on that. If, in fact, that is not the case, I would be very happy to hear about that. But, Mr. Speaker, I do feel that the minister has made an error in bringing in amendments to the Independent Schools Support Act under this particular statute. He does leave the option open for any group — no matter what cult, whether it's the Moonies or any other cult — to come into this province and purchase a private school from an existing authority, and automatically they can assume the five-year stipulation for funding purposes. There is nothing to prevent any group coming in from anywhere in the world, as far as I can see, Mr. Speaker, to purchase a private school and automatically be entitled to funding. If they make that purchase, they can then assume the term — according to the statute here — of the authority they are purchasing from. In other words, if a school has established that they have been in operation for five years and are now receiving the funding, they can sell that school to any other authority and that new authority will assume the five-year stipulation and automatically be entitled to funding through the Independent Schools Support Act.
I think it is very dangerous, Mr. Speaker, and the reference to the Moonies is very timely at this point. There is so much publicity within this province about the Moonies and their activities. But I would really like to hear from the
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minister how he's going to prevent a cult from coming in and purchasing a school and then automatically being entitled to funding under the Independent Schools Support Act.
MR. HYNDMAN: I just want to make a couple of remarks for the record about the topic of St. George's School, Mr. Speaker. The member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) raised the topic, and there were a couple of bald inaccuracies in what he had to say. I think this topic and this debate deserves at least accuracy in the facts involved. To many it is an emotional topic; it's a very important topic; and across the country over the years the question of financial aid to independent schools has provoked at times passionate and heated debate. It deserves at least contributions of accuracy.
Now the member for New Westminster, if I heard him correctly, had the following things to say in singling out St. George's School. He was, I believe, alleging that, in spite of the financial aid now provided to independent schools, fees at St. George's have not been reduced. He's wrong. The fact is that fees at St. George's School have been reduced as a result of that financial aid, and those reductions appear as a very clear credit when the regular fee-billing statements are received.
There is a more important aspect, though, to the snide suggestion by the member that the application of financial aid to independent schools had not produced financial benefit to the community. If the member had done a little of research, he would have found that in addition to fees being reduced as part of the result of financial aid, a much expanded scholarship program is being provided to enable students not otherwise able to consider attending a school like St. George's to consider it. So in those two very important respects the financial aid program introduced by the minister is producing very significant benefit to the community.
Additionally, and considering the member for New Westminster's oft-spoken concern about the plight of teachers and teachers' salaries and job opportunities, had he done a little more of research, he would have found that St. George's — and many other independent schools — are now able for the first time, as a result of the minister's policy, to offer salaries competitive with those in the public school system and, indeed, to offer more occupational opportunities and more teaching positions for our teachers in British Columbia.
In those several ways the program of the minister is producing very direct benefit to the community, and it's just regrettable, Mr. Speaker, that the member for New Westminster has never been near St. George's to take a look around at first hand, to observe what the facts are. If he'd do it, if he took the trouble to research the facts, it he took the trouble to go to St. George's School, which in his mind — unresearched — he views as some school for spoiled and rich kids, he would, I think, be surprised to watch those students and to observe the broad cross-section of young British Columbians from every walk of life, from every race, from every colour, from every creed. For any member of this House to stand and suggest that St. George's is any narrow preserve of the privileged or the rich is to do a great disservice to this debate and to fly in the face of fact. The debate, Mr. Speaker, deserves at least the truth of some research.
Before I sit down, may I just comment on one other aspect of this wonderful, unravelling position of the opposition on the question of financial aid to independent schools. It seems to me that the unfolding saga from the opposition caucus is something like this. In Act I, Scene 1 the socialist party comes out strongly against financial aid to independent schools; and in Scene 2 it in fact marches from this chamber and refuses to participate in the debate on the legislation. Act II has only one scene: the 1979 provincial election, in which the official opposition quietly and privately circulates a letter to the Federation of Independent School Association that says: "Well, quietly we really are for the policy, so you can vote for us." We've now, this afternoon, seen Act III of the policy. The election results are in, and now it appears that while they were at first against it, but then in a private letter for it, they are going to be for it only in the case of some independent schools, and others will be forgotten about. It's rather a case of selective amnesia, Mr. Speaker.
I think this debate deserves two things: some decent research, some truth and some facts from the opposition; and at least some attempt at consistency by the opposition, as a service to this chamber and the people of British Columbia.
In sitting down, Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate the minister for the policy he brought in, and the obvious merit of the policy seen in practice day by day.
MR. LAUK: Rising under standing order 42, Mr. Speaker, I wish to state on behalf of the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) that his remarks were correct as stated with respect to the reduction of fees to St. George's. He urges me to suggest to the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Hyndman) that he visit the school for himself.
Secondly, with respect to the reference that a letter was circulated during the election campaign, there was no letter circulated by me, Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign. That remark is totally inaccurate.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, hon. member.
Under standing order 42, it is my understanding that we can provide an opportunity for a member to make corrections in a speech that he himself made. However, I don't understand how you can make corrections in a speech that is made by another member in the House.
The hon. Minister of Education closes the debate.
HON. MR. McGEER: Mr. Speaker, as I undertook to do in moving second reading, I said I would answer questions that the members opposite might have with respect to individual sections of this omnibus bill.
Moving in reverse order, Mr. Speaker, of the points that were raised, the member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) has got it wrong with respect to changes that have been made to permit local employment of superintendents. It's going to achieve precisely the opposite of what she supposes.
As the system exists today, only provincial civil servants, with the exception of the seven districts that have local employment of superintendents, may be employed as superintendents, and therefore the Ministry of Education gives to the local area a short list from which they select.
This bill, and the regulations that have been passed by order-in-council, will permit a district to have a list as long as they desire, to make their own selection from anybody
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who has a teaching certificate in British Columbia, or is eligible for one, and meets minimum requirements that we have already established as guidelines. Their list can be as long as the teachers' list in British Columbia for those who have had a certain amount of administrative experience as principals, directors of instruction, or what-have-you. So it expands the opportunities.
Quite the opposite, Mr. Speaker, to what that unruly constituent of mine, the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk), suggested with respect to tenure, the amendments that we have brought in give tenure to teachers. They don't take away any guarantee, as he suggested. It provides a guarantee, so that if a superintendent is let go because the local district did not wish to reappoint the superintendent, we provide that that man is not turned out on the street, but is given a job as a teacher.
Now what these amendments to the Public Schools Act must do is to permit, because of declining enrolment, the reassignment of administrators whose schools have disappeared from under them to a teaching post in a district.
We have said — and this is nothing new that has been brought in through the back door — that we consider, in the Ministry of Education, as a philosophy if you like, that the teaching function is the important function for teachers, not the administrative function. While they may accept an assignment as a principal or as a superintendent for a period of time, we do not wish to guarantee, at the taxpayers' expense, an administrative job for life for such a teacher when there is no job, in fact, for that person to do. Now surely that's not an unreasonable position to take.
At the same time, we do guarantee tenure for that person on the presumption that if a person is a good enough teacher to move up into the administrative level, then he must have been a superior teacher in the first place and would be a credit to the classroom because of the original ability that that man demonstrated in order to get promotion, and because of the additional experience he has had as a superintendent in the system.
AN HON. MEMBER: A man or a woman.
HON. MR. McGEER: Man or woman. As the Attorney-General knows as a lawyer — and heaven preserve us from their interpretations — for legal purposes it can apply to either sex.
MR. MACDONALD: Very few women become administrators.
HON. MR. McGEER: Now several members....
HON. MR. McGEER: May I continue, Mr. Speaker? Several members have raised the subject of independent....
HON. MR. McGEER: There's chatter all the time. You mention lawyers, and you get this gabble in the background.
The question was raised about how independent school authorities will be traded like taxi licences. That's what a couple of members meant — somebody nods and agrees with that. Years ago a former colleague of mine who used to sit where the member for Atlin (Mr. Passarell) now sits — I sat right in the corner — described how he got the exclusive rights to whaling on the west coast of North America. It wasn't difficult for him to get those rights. It didn't cost him any money because, as he explained, he had an exclusive right to lose money. This is what somebody has if they take on an independent school; the right to lose money. As our legislation points out, the amount of money given to assist independent schools to keep their doors open is 30 percent of the cost of operating those schools. The person is invited to provide the other 70 percent by whatever means. With the cost of operating schools today running in the public school system in the order of $2,000 a year, that's an invitation to spend a considerable amount of money that's well beyond the capability of the citizens of our province to supply in tuition fees.
This amendment in here is to provide continuity of the schools. Not everybody can afford to continue losing money. Quite frankly, there are some situations where, if an opportunity were not given for another authority to take over the responsibility for losing money, the school would lose its continuity; its doors would be closed. The way the legislation is written today, there is no option in that regard.
Now if somebody were to do as the member suggested, the Moonies could come in to start their own cult. So they find a school they can buy, under another section of the Act; and the inspector of schools is permitted to lift the licence of that school. It isn't providing a continuity of the school, which is the reason for bringing this amendment in, to permit people to lose money and to keep our independent schools open. So it is again exactly the opposite of what the members who raised that question suggested in their line of argument.
It was even suggested by the member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) that another section of this Act, applying to the Educational Institutions Capital Financing Authority, was going to be used to provide capital for independent schools. Had the member done his research, he would have realized that under section 1 of this Act, where the educational authorities are designated by regulation, only those educational institutions which are under the Colleges and Provincial Institutes Act are eligible for this capital funding. The form it appears in your statutes today is because the Educational Institutions Capital Financing Authority Act was passed before our Colleges and Provincial Institutes Act. Since the time that financing authority Act was passed by this Legislature, we have created five new provincial institutes. But, by regulation, only they can receive assistance under the Educational Institutions Capital Financing Authority Act. That's the way it's going to remain.
MS. SANFORD: What about private schools?
HON. MR. McGEER: There's no provision under this Act for financing private schools.
MS. SANFORD: If they're designated?
HON. MR. McGEER: No, what's designated — the regulation is there. It's only those institutions that are under our Colleges and Provincial Institutes Act, which was passed the year after this Educational Institutions Capital Financing Authority Act, and where we were designating new institutions and we had to provide for their capital. Post-secondary institutions are designated under a different
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Act. The member could have found that out by reading the order-in-council.
I think that I've dealt with most of the substantive questions that were raised under individual sections of this Act, and it only falls to me now to refer in general to the principles that are involved here and to the responsibilities of the NDP in researching this Act before they entered into debate. Every single one of the points raised by the NDP is wrong. It's been an incorrect interpretation, and proper researching of the Act would have led them to the correct conclusions. Only in one instance — their references to the Independent Schools Act — have their true colours been revealed. As the second member for Vancouver South (Hyndman) has stated, again and again we have this double standard being provided by the NDP. On the one hand, with every single opportunity they have they speak against this Act and its principles. Yet every time it comes to vote or they go to the electors, they do precisely the opposite.
The member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) may have said he issued no letter to independent schools, but I'll tell you that somebody did. The canvassers that went around in the Vancouver–Point Grey riding certainly picked up that letter. It was given to them by the people who were canvassed, and it was signed by "Gary Lauk." Whoever the Gary Lauk was who signed that letter obviously wasn't the first member for Vancouver Centre, but it certainly stated that the Gary Lauk who signed the letter had the authority of the NDP caucus to assure the people living in that neighbourhood that their school would be funded. But now, when it comes to guaranteeing that sort of thing by vote in the Legislature, here is that member speaking against it and saying that he's going to vote against the particular amendments that would permit this funding to go on.
What happened between the time that letter was circulated by the unknown Gary Lauk and what we have in the manner of debate in this Legislature? Are there two Gary Lauks, or is there some inconsistency in that party? If it turned out that the schools that are represented in the area that my canvassers canvassed and the member for Kootenay (Mr. Segarty) canvassed are to be supported but other independent schools are not to be supported, then might we have from the real Gary Lauk and from the NDP caucus a list of those independent schools in the future that are to receive funding? Perhaps some that he mentioned today are going to be cut off the list. Have you got a list of schools whose licences you will take away, so they'll no longer get funding? When will you bring in changes to the Act that will include some schools and exclude others? In the next election will you circulate a letter under somebody else's signature saying: "We'll really fund these schools. Don't worry about the things that we say in the Legislature. They're really not true when it comes to votes."? Or for once will this be a party that will develop some principles and stick to them? You can ask the NDP to espouse their principles, to champion them, to speak about them in their conventions, but, Mr. Speaker, never, never ask the NDP to vote for their principles. That's asking too much.
I want to go through all the things that the NDP are opposing when they say they're against this particular bill. They're against the Crown guaranteeing the loans of all our public educational authorities. They don't want the universities, the colleges and the institutes to be able to borrow money with the guarantee of the Crown. They're against that because they're opposing this bill. They're against the recommendations that we get from our corporations that there should be at least seven members on the board of governors of these colleges and institutes. They're against that; they don't want us to put that recommendation through. They're against the requirement in this bill that there be program advisory committees in each of our educational institutions. This is something that the faculties of these colleges and institutes have been demanding. They're against that, Mr. Speaker.
They're against benefits being granted to the employees of these institutions, so that not just professionals, but all of the employees of our colleges and institutes who apply by the fair comparison method will be entitled to the benefits. They want to leave only the professionals with the benefits.
I don't want to take up the time of the Legislature, Mr. Member. When you are caucusing on the bill next time, and when you come to vote in committee, you can perhaps go over with that member some of his inconsistencies, so that at least he'll be able to display his true principles when it comes time to vote on this bill section by section. He's against the local employment of superintendents — and so is that NDP caucus, despite the fact that this has been a request of the B.C. School Trustees Association,
You're against giving tenure to people who are in all administrative posts in our public school system. That's what you're doing when you vote against this bill. You're against teachers who are in the administrative system and who are receiving the benefits of the Teachers' Pension Act. And I think we might as well put it on the record that the NDP is against any educational progress in British Columbia, because everything that is included in this bill represents progress in our educational system. They're against it all.
We had the member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) stating that he would vote against this bill on the amendments to the Independent Schools Support Act alone. He would use his power as a legislator to block all progress in education in British Columbia because of that alone, because he's so strongly prejudiced against the independent schools. Yet when it was time for that member and the others in this NDP caucus to stand up and be counted on the Independent Schools Support Act, they ran from the Legislature, including the member for New Westminster.
All I ask from that opposition over there.... They can be for statutes or they can be against statutes, but we just want them to for once state their principles clearly and distinctly, to vote for them, to stick with them, and not to give doubletalk to the people of British Columbia.
I move second reading of Bill 18.
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 30
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NAYS — 20
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
Bill 18, Education Statutes Amendment Act, 1979, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Rogers in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT
On vote 89: minister's office, $164,938.
HON. MR. MAIR: Before going into debate of these estimates I'd like to make one or two comments, if I may, about the ministry I took over on December 6, 1978. First of all, I'd like very much to pay tribute to one or two people who have helped and who continue to help me to understand this rather complex and very large ministry.
My Gaelic friend Ben Marr, the deputy minister, has been considerable help to me, including translating for me in Sweden. It seems to me that the Swedes understood Scottish as well as I did. He has brought his unique genius to play in reorganizing this ministry, and without him the government would be very much the poorer indeed.
Without running into the error of by praising some appearing to be derogatory of others, I would just like to refer to four other gentlemen who are assistant deputy ministers under the new reorganization: Mr. Geoff Simmons, who is the deputy minister responsible for water basin planning, water allocation, water supply, et cetera; Mr. Al Murray, who is the assistant deputy minister for wildlife, fisheries and marine resources, et cetera; Mr. Bill Venables, well known, I'm sure, to all members of this chamber as head of the pollution control branch, is assistant deputy minister with the added responsibility for pesticide control and air and waste management in the environmental laboratory in Vancouver; and Mr. Earl Anthony, who used to be the deputy comptroller of the water rights branch, is now the assistant deputy minister for regional operations and enforcement responsibilities within the ministry.
Mr. Chairman, by way of assistance to some members of the committee who may not be aware of what we're doing in the reorganization of this ministry, let me very briefly say that we are now in the process of reorganizing the ministry into eight separate regions. The principal reason for this is to try to decentralize the administration of the ministry and to bring its administration much closer to the places affected.
May I briefly run down the regions that will be involved, for the members' assistance. They are the Skeena region, with headquarters in Smithers; Omineca-Peace, with headquarters at Prince George; Thompson-Nicola, with headquarters at Kamloops; Cariboo, with temporary headquarters at Kamloops to go eventually to Williams Lake when the need arises and the volume is such that it becomes a full region operationally; Okanagan region, with headquarters at Penticton; Kootenay region, with headquarters at Nelson; Lower Mainland, with headquarters at New Westminster; and Vancouver Island, with headquarters at Nanaimo. As I say, Mr. Chairman, the purpose of that reorganization, of course, is to bring closer to the people affected the administration of the ministry.
There are one or two matters which I thought perhaps I should bring to the attention of the chamber in terms of the philosophy of the government towards the Ministry of Environment and the one or two basic things we're trying to accomplish.
First of all, not in terms of priority necessarily but very important to our ministry, is, I think, something that is long overdue — that is to upgrade the fish and wildlife branch to the position that they have long deserved in this province and to give them the feeling that they really are part of the government and a large and substantial ministry and not constantly buffeted around from one place to another. I think to a large degree, over the years, they have felt themselves very much ignored by the government. I think that we have gone a long way towards doing that already. That certainly is something that we wish to continue. We also wish to continue assisting the fish and wildlife branch in administering what I think is a very unique and innovative part of the years to come, and that is the fisheries, in all of its aspects, including the administration of marine resources.
The Salmonid Enhancement Program, Mr. Speaker, as you know, is dedicated to doubling the salmonid population in British Columbia over the next six or seven years. All of these things, I think, bring a new challenge to Fish and Wildlife, consistent with them being upgraded and put in a position where they are front and centre in our ministry.
I think probably the main challenge that any government is going to face through the Ministry of Environment, whether it be ourselves or any other party in the future, heaven forbid, is to try and chart the very difficult course through, if I may put it this way, the dangerous shoals of development, and at the same time preserve the environment.
I think we all recognize that to espouse a no-growth philosophy in British Columbia, even if one did wish to espouse it, simply does not make any sense. On the other hand, we have probably the last real frontier in the world and we have an environment and an out-of-doors which must be preserved. I think that this involves very difficult decisions which are going to often be unpopular, but decisions which must be made, and made promptly.
I am sure that the members opposite recognize the difficulty of the decisions that any government must make in this field. There is no decision that isn't a no-win situation. It doesn't matter what you deal with, there are very vocal and very often well-financed and very articulate groups expressing opinions on not just two sides of a question, but often three or four sides. This is always the situation in which a decision must be made. I think it is what makes the ministry so interesting and so challenging.
Mr. Chairman, before I sit down and field questions from the members opposite, I might mention that it has been
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brought to my attention by the hon. second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) that he may wish to discuss matters relative to my duties as chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Confederation. I would be very pleased to do so. I should think that it would probably logically follow under the travel expenses in the minister's office and I might say that I have associated with me for those questions the deputy minister, Mr. Mel Smith, who will come down at the appropriate time.
So, Mr. Chairman, with those few brief introductory remarks, I am very pleased to answer whatever questions the members opposite may have.
MR. SKELLY: As Environment debate leader for the NDP it is my responsibility to take the other side of the coin on this minister's estimates, and to examine some of the things that we approve of in what's been happening in the Environment ministry over the last few months and some of the things to which we would like to offer some constructive proposals for change.
First of all, there are some problems surrounding the organization of the ministry that we would like to discuss — of course, the minister has very little control over that. As I understand it, the Premier, when announcing the change in the cabinet, made certain proposals for changes in jurisdiction and reassigned certain branches of the government under other ministries.
But the problem appears to be that although the minister talked a little bit about philosophy and how he would like to put more emphasis on fish and wildlife and the enhancement of salmonids and that kind of thing, there seems to be no general statement of philosophy for the Ministry of Environment or for environmental matters in this province. We don't seem to see a general statement on the part of the government that people can look at, discuss and propose changes to; and that results in some confusion on the part of the citizens who view this government as strictly a development government which is very weak on environmental matters. I think that the minister would do well to develop an environmental policy statement that would guide his ministry and possibly be a guide to the government in their actions in managing this province. So one of the things I recommend to the minister is an all-encompassing statement of environmental philosophy. I would like to see something like that come out of this ministry and, because of the tremendous public interest in this ministry, be debated at some length about the province.
The minister has already done some things, such as move around the province himself — to the Okanagan area, the Prince George area, the Nanaimo area — to discuss the citizens' environmental concerns. Unfortunately that was cut short by the election. But I think you have moved in some directions to consult with citizens, and I believe that it is a good thing — as compared to the previous Minister of Environment — that you have gone out to the people and asked them what their concerns are.
I see the Ministry of Environment as a ministry that is concerned with life-sustaining resources, with protecting fresh air, fresh water and productive land. In general, over the years past these common-property resources have been freely available to people, or available at a very low cost. Companies have been allowed to degrade water and air, to reduce the life-sustaining value of these resources which are common-property resources. We've allowed people to move into productive land and destroy the productive value of that land at very low cost and without much in the way of limits imposed upon them by government. And it is only as these resources have become more scarce that clean, fresh air has become more scarce — it's the law of economics, the law of scarcity — that a higher price has been attached to them. Companies are now complaining that they are having to pay more to clean up the environment. They are being denied the right to pollute water with impunity, or to spread into productive lands without planning control. So one of the main thrusts of this ministry should be the protection and conservation of those three life-sustaining elements that we must have in order to survive: fresh air, clean water and productive land. As I say, as those elements become more scarce the cost is going to have to go up. One of the problems we see in the philosophy of the government, and in the lack of philosophy or all-encompassing policy on the part of this ministry, is that those increasing costs are not recognized and the value of clean air, clean water and productive land are not adequately recognized — and they should be.
Some of the changes that were made to the ministry make sense, and one was the change in the minister himself. We would like to congratulate the new minister on his appointment. But others, we feel, did not make sense, and in fact detracted from the ability of this ministry to manage its resources effectively. One is the removal of jurisdiction over lands from your ministry. We think that is a serious mistake that people in this province will be paying for for generations.
One of the reasons why we have enjoyed such a high standard of living in this province is that we've been able to obtain a return from resources to finance the services that we provide to our people here. If you check the revenues of provinces such as Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec, you'll find that they receive more returns from people taxes, from income taxes and property taxes, from taxes on industry, whereas we derive a large part of our revenue from taxes on natural resources. The reason why we are able to obtain these returns from resources, from common property resources, is that through some wise decision in the past the government of British Columbia — and the government of Canada, in the case of the prairie provinces — retained control over the natural resources, especially land as the most significant resource. The fact that the Crown has retained that control means that we have a better standard of living, we have a much cleaner environment than would otherwise be the case, and we have a little better management of resources than would have been the case had those lands been transferred or granted outright, as was the case in the eastern provinces. The western United States, of course, have the same benefit because their lands were granted to the state around the same time that ours were retained by the Crown. So I think it was a grave error to transfer the management of Crown lands to the present Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing, who is more concerned with the exploitation and the disposition of those lands than he is, or appears to be, with the careful management of them for the benefit of future generations.
I'm not saying that about the minister himself, but I am saying it about the type of ministry that the Crown lands have been placed under. It's a ministry which is concerned with exploitation of that land and disposition of that land.
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HON. MR. CHABOT: The parks branch.
MR. SKELLY: Parks, I think, was handed to you for some unknown reason. Maybe you'I be able to explain that during your estimates, because the people of this province certainly haven't figured it out yet.
HON. MR. MAIR: Hey! You stay out of my estimates and I'll stay out of yours! [Laughter.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: We were doing so well. Please address the Chair.
MR. SKELLY: Possibly during that minister's estimates we will move that his salary be reduced by the total expenditure of Crown lands, and that it be transferred to the Ministry of Environment.
But seriously, I think that the Ministry of Environment should be concerned and should have jurisdiction over those three important life-sustaining resources. The transfer of land management to the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing is a serious mistake and, as I say, we're going to be paying for it for future generations.
In fact, if I could recommend to the Premier, and if he was willing to listen to recommendations from this side of the House, I would have recommended that Lands remain with the present Ministry of Environment — and it would seem consistent to have Lands in the Environment ministry — but also that he transfer some jurisdiction over forestry to the Ministry of Environment, and that the Ministry of Forests be broken up into its industrial component and into its ecological management component, so that this minister could manage forests solely for their benefit and for their economic return to the province. He would have to obtain the raw material from a minister who was concerned with their enhancement and their preservation, so there would be some tension between those two ministers. I think that natural resources disputes are better resolved when there are tensions between two ministers: one who would stand for the conservation and the enhancement of the resource, and one who seeks to develop the resource and is an advocate of the industrial development of the resource.
I feel the same thing should apply to the fish and wildlife branch. When Hatter, for example, made his speech to the guides and outfitters, I don't think he was far wrong when he was talking about game management. There should be a separate game management authority within the provincial government that manages wildlife for those who wish to exploit it through hunting or fishing or whatever. But that aspect of wildlife management, I feel, should be separate from the actual management of the resource which seeks to conserve and to enhance the resource, so that there is always some tension, again, between those two separate desires: one to exploit the resource and one to improve and to enhance the resource. Unfortunately that's not done. You have almost sole jurisdiction over Fish and Wildlife, and you now have that conflict within your ministry. I think that should be separated on a departmental basis.
This is something that the minister can't be involved in, of course. It's a decision of the Premier how these departments are going to be divided up, but I believe it was a mistake to separate Lands from the ministry. I would like to see certain jurisdictions added to the ministry so that it could be more consistent in its approach to environmental matters.
One of the examples that your Gaelic friend and I discussed last year was in the water rights which were granted to the village of Elkford to build sewer lines or water lines beneath a river up in that area. The water rights branch people came up and took a look at the construction site where certain provisions of the water licence had been violated, and they said: "Well, that's okay. Just finish off the job and get out of here as quickly as possible and nobody will notice." But Fish and Wildlife then went in and decided that they would have to prosecute the contractor and the village of Elkford. There was a conflict between two branches of the same ministry: Fish and Wildlife, which is under your jurisdiction, and water rights, which is under your jurisdiction. Perhaps, again, there should have been some separation between those who seek to conserve and enhance the resource — and whose job it is to conserve and enhance the resource — and those who seek to exploit and develop it.
Unfortunately, there was some concern on the part of the Rod and Gun Club in Elkford that compromises would be made within the ministry, and there is that danger of compromises being made within the ministry. Fortunately, it didn't happen in this case, and I understand charges were laid and things were worked out in that way. If one had been a separate ministry from the other, it would have been much easier to work it out within the administrative system.
Another of the defects we see in the way this ministry is established, and one of the most serious deficiencies we see with this government — and this is not restricted to the Social Credit government, because it's almost a tradition in British Columbia — is the lack of opportunity for effective citizen input into government decisions. The areas where citizens are concerned in a most high-profile way seem to be, in this province, the areas of environment, wildlife management, water management — especially where B.C. Hydro is involved — the Land Commission, and that kind of thing. Uranium mining is another that's come to the fore in the last few years. There seems to be a serious lack of opportunity for effective citizen involvement. As I say, that's based more on the legislative tradition in this province.
As you go through the statute books and read the legislation we have, you find most of it is short stuff. It doesn't really outline the rights and opportunities of citizens very well. Basically, all the legislation says is what the legislation said at the time of George III. "The minister shall do such and such," and it lists his powers. He also has the right to make regulations; they then put a title on top of that and the Queen's Printer's name on the bottom, and that's the legislation. Then you send that out to the public; there's a great furor over it, and conflicts develop. In fact, in some sections of the statutes they say: "The minister, in his absolute discretion, may...." Those types of statutes should be taken off the books altogether. But when you compare legislation with Ontario and other provinces, there seems to be more citizens' rights and more citizens' approaches to the government built in in a legal way in those statutes than there are in this province.
One of the best examples is the Environment and Land Use Act, which, as far as environmental matters are concerned, appears to be the strongest piece of legislation in the world. But it's also the most discretionary. It gives total
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power to the minister, or to an environment and land use committee of the cabinet, but almost no power to the citizens. All power is spelled out as power of this cabinet committee.
Right now there appear to be only two routes to citizen involvement in the government. One is for people to make an approach to the minister. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone can afford either the time or the money to come to Victoria. It's often frustrating because, as we know, there are people who speak with louder voices; people who can fly to Victoria in corporate jets; people who can afford to telephone Victoria; and people who appear to have the ear of ministries in Victoria. They seem to be heard with louder voices, as Trudeau once said.
MR. SKELLY: Doesn't he live at Stornoway or someplace like that?
Fortunately this minister, as I said, has gone out — and I hope he'll continue the practice of travelling around the province, meeting with people, finding out their concerns and then taking action to resolve some of their concerns.
The other opportunity for citizen input is right here in this Legislative Assembly. This one is even more frustrating. As you go through the Minister of Education's estimates, or the previous Minister of Environment's estimates, I suggest you read Hansard for the past three years if you really want to punish yourself. It's almost a waste of time, depending on the minister, for somebody to stand up in this Legislative Assembly and ask for reasonable changes. That could have changed since the last election. Now that we're a little closer in strength we know some of the things we do, or refuse to do, might put us in the opposition benches. I hope that changed things a little bit, and that debate in the House can be a little more reasonable. When I look at the legislative session up to this point, I'm not sure that's happening.
Another route for citizen input is to bring things to the media. Of course there's no guarantee it will be covered or responded to in the way it's required. And that's a poor way for people to talk to the minister or the people responsible.
Other provinces — and this is what I would like to suggest and recommend to the minister — have citizen environmental advisory councils. They meet regularly to discuss environmental issues within these provinces. I have a series of reports here. I have a series of reports for the minister from the Saskatchewan Environmental Council. It's kind of refreshing to see this kind of citizen input into policy and some of the administrative decisions that have been taken by the government of Saskatchewan. Their criticism of the establishment of the Beta inquiry into uranium mining and milling and exploration in Saskatchewan is nothing short of scathing. It's refreshing that they make their report directly to the minister. It's published, so there is a citizen agency that is established by the government and that has as its duty the criticism of the government's agency. As I mentioned, their criticism of the uranium mining inquiry is scathing, and very much resembles the criticism of the uranium mining inquiry in British Columbia.
The minister would do well to read some of those annual reports, and possibly correct now the deficiencies which are appearing in the Bates inquiry. It's unfortunate that in British Columbia we don't have the same kind of civilian or citizen environmental advisory commission that is built into the Saskatchewan Department of the Environment Act of 1972 under section 8. Maybe I could pass this section over to the minister, so that he could take a look.
Also under the Pesticide Control Act, I would like to refer the minister to the report of our pesticide royal commission back in 1975. When they reported they recommended that this province establish a Pesticide Control Act very similar in its makeup to the Pesticide Control Act of Ontario. I'll read some quotes from the B.C. pesticide royal commission. It says on page 253, under section (e) ''Credibility and Public Access to Control Policy":
"This was expressed as a frustration on the part of citizens about being unable to have any input into the decision-making process on the use of pesticides. Citizens did not perceive of any mechanism through which they could be heard, except possibly by letters to their elected representatives. There is a lack of credibility of government departments in matters of pesticide control."
On page 254:
"They saw large pesticide users — private concerns or Crown corporations — as having an ability to manipulate the regulatory process. and to do it exactly as they pleased. The commission felt that the citizen's concerns for lack of communication and the lack of credibility of government agencies was important. The facts underlying these concerns were not well established, but the concerns were."
Then under section (f) on page 254 they recommended the establishment of an advisory board.
"For this reason the commission feels that it is vital that an advisory board be set up. The board should be composed largely of informed citizens. It should provide a link between technical personnel and government, Crown corporations and industry, and the private citizen. The form and function of this pesticide advisory and appeal board is detailed in the second interim report of the commission."
On page 257:
"Access of the public to the decision-making process in the use of pesticides was emphasized. There is an immediate need for a system which involves permitting and appealing the use of pesticides. It is the commission's view that this can be achieved through a board made up of informed citizens. A pesticide advisory and appeal board is specifically recommended. "
In the drafting of the Pesticide Control Act in this province the one important thing that was left out, but was highly recommended by the royal commission, was the mechanism that's built into the Ontario Legislation, and that is a citizen advisory board. It should be the right of people in the province of British Columbia to decide whether or not they should be sprayed or have applied to them what they consider poisonous substances, and which they fear to be poisonous substances. It should be the right of those citizens to say: "No, we don't want it applied to us."
Yet the former Minister of Environment neglected to put that section 1n the Pesticide Control Act, even though it's already in the Ontario Act, and even though it was
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recommended by the royal commission into pesticides which was established under the former NDP government.
Another area where people feel frustrated is the Forest Policy Advisory Committees, which have been established in various PSYUs or in areas where resource conflicts are developing — and one area is the proposed Big Bend forest management area. They are having difficulty getting the Ministry of Forests to even recognize that there's somebody in the Ministry of Forests that these advisory committees can relate to. Possibly the Minister of Environment should look into that aspect of it. These people are looking into citizen input into the management of forests as an ecological unit — something that you should be concerned about. Perhaps the Ministry of Environment should have some authority over establishing these Forest Policy Advisory Committees, because they're concerned not simply with the exploitation of the forest resource, but with the whole way that forests are managed as an ecological unit, and that should be a matter of your concern. I will be bringing this up in relation to the Big Ben proposals when the Minister of Forests' estimates come up. Other forest advisory committees throughout the province are very dissatisfied because they are not given adequate effective input into forest management decisions.
The thing that we substitute in this province for a citizens' environmental advisory committee is the Environment and Land Use Secretariat and that's a very unsatisfactory way of approaching the subject. Those people are civil servants; they are not citizens. They don't serve the same function. If they criticize the ministry, they can end up packing their bags and going down the road. I would like to see more effective citizen input into policy development by the ministry and a continuing critique of the actions of the ministry. I don't think this minister will suffer from criticism. In contrast to the previous minister, you're one who can absorb some of this material and incorporate it into the activities of the ministry and improve the ministry through criticism. Some ministers aren't as capable of either understanding or listening to criticism.
One of the major concerns that has developed in the province over the last two or three years centres around the pesticide....
MR. SKELLY: Possibly I'll deal with this subject then and allow the minister to respond to some of those concerns later.
HON. MR. MAIR: First of all, I have to heartily agree with the member for Alberni. I can't really comment too much on the organization of the ministry as I took it over.
On the question of the disposition of land, perhaps I'm in a more comfortable position in being able to exercise the powers that I have under the agricultural land reserve and other areas — you mentioned the Environment Land Use Act and some of those — and administer those without also having the responsibility for whatever disposition takes place. Perhaps that gives me the type of control over the situation that the member thinks the Minister of Environment should have. At least I think that's arguable.
I'm not going to ask too seriously the rhetorical question about why the member's party didn't do a lot of these things when they were government, because, I think, frankly we learn as we go along. As we develop we think of new ideas. That's fair enough.
It should be observed that it was this government that formed the Ministry of Environment in the first place. I think that's to its great credit. I think it's to the credit of the government that they have given a number of responsibilities to that ministry, and I include Fish and Wildlife. As I said earlier, that's long been the neglected orphan of administration in British Columbia, and it's wrong.
The member opposite also invited me to make some philosophical pronouncements. I don't know how I'm going to do that, Mr. Member, because I'm not a philosopher. I do feel very, very strongly, for example, that there's not much sense exploiting one resource at the expense of another. I feel very strongly that we should preserve our outdoors, our clean water, our clean air and our clean land. I feel very strongly that my children should have an even better opportunity of catching fish on a fly than I can. I feel very strongly about all of those things. If you would be so kind as to word those into a philosophy I could tie onto my other philosophies, I'd be very pleased to give it some consideration. Just the fact that we have a Ministry of Environment and that we are showing, in my judgment, a great deal of concern about the out-of-doors is philosophy enough.
The member opposite talked about citizen input. Without agreeing specifically with a number of the propositions you make — and I want to make that clear — I certainly agree in principle with what you say. I have felt for a long time that it's wrong to act in isolation from public opinion, or act upon what you perceive to be public opinion without giving the public a full chance to express themselves.
There are a couple of the things the member mentioned: the uranium study, with whatever flaws he perceives in it, and the wildlife management Act public hearings that have been going on. The hearings I have conducted personally and other hearings have shown that we do feel very strongly that the public must have a right to be heard and must be given that right at all opportunities.
I do take issue with the statement that the power of citizens ought to be exercised in that manner. I think the power — and I use that word very carefully — of citizens is exercised in this House and in another House in Ottawa; that's where the power is exercised. But I do agree that when we exercise that power on their behalf, we ought to know what they're thinking and we ought to take those thoughts into consideration.
Perhaps one thing I should mention also, Mr. Member, in dealing with the question of philosophy in matters of the environment — and I've said this on many occasions in speeches I've given around the province — is that I think the time is long overdue for us to start telling each other the truth. Over the years what has happened is that we've got into a situation where one statement is made by a person who wishes to exploit the environment, and it is so far out that it's naturally countered by an argument that is equally far out. It gets to the point where the general public who are trying to grasp what the truth of the situation is have difficulty in understanding the issues, because the only thing obvious to them is that neither side is really telling the whole story.
I have said this to many people who are in the business of exploiting natural resources in this province. When
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they're talking about hiring public relations people, they should not go back to lie school to get these people. They should get people who legitimately have a feeling for the out-of-doors and understand the problems and want the people to understand the problems. I might say that I have said the same thing to my friends in various environmental organizations, having met them over and over again since I took over the ministry and having met them very soon after I became minister. I think that's an important part of the philosophy I have, Mr. Member, if that's of any assistance to you.
You talked about advisory councils. I think that they make some sense in some areas, and we're starting to move in that area. But I would like, before we go too far down that road, to see how they are working out. We have an advisory council now on problem wildlife. It represents all spectrums. The meeting I went to two or three months ago contained perhaps more strong statements than one would hear in this chamber over the course of a year or so. Very strong views indeed are held by various disciplines and members of that council, and they provided us with a great deal of helpful input. I think that we should continue to proceed along that line.
I suspect that one of the issues that you raised, Mr. Member, concerned itself with such things as B.C. Hydro transmission lines and that sort of thing. I suppose the classic example is the Revelstoke Dam. I'm on record publicly as having said this so there's no earthly reason in the world why I wouldn't say it in here. I think to decide whether you're going to have a large power project such as a dam by the granting of a water licence is ridiculous. I have said it outside and I'I say it in here. We've got to find a better way of doing it.
To his great credit, Mr. DeBeck allowed debate on that issue far beyond the terms of reference that the Water Utilities Act granted him. It was only because of that judicious exercise of his power that the whole thing did get out. I think that the time is long overdue for us to have a proper forum for those matters to be debated. I don't concur with the view that all in favour say aye at one of those things is what governs the policy of the government. Far from it. It's our responsibility as government to bring to this Legislature those laws which we think are appropriate and to see that they are passed. We can't abdicate that responsibility in any way.
But I do think we have to have a better vehicle within which the general public of this province, but particularly those who are specifically affected by these things, can have their say and can make their opinions felt. To that degree, Mr. Member, not only can I say that I agree with you but I think that there has been evidence of that agreement with that point of view, whether it's yours or mine or anybody else's. It's a well-held point of view, and it's certainly one that I share.
I'm not sure that I have touched upon all of the things that you mentioned. However, if I didn't, I'm sure you will remind me in the moments that we have ahead.
MR. SKELLY: Mr. Chairman, one of the things the minister did mention is the fact that during the Revelstoke Dam hearings it was admitted, and the minister stated, that it was an inadequate forum to deal with the issues facing the people on the construction of the Revelstoke Dam. I'm grateful that those who attempted, through either cabinet appeals on the water licence or at the water licence hearing itself, to put all the issues before the two forums were satisfied on the opportunity to put those issues in front of that forum, but unfortunately they weren't the appropriate areas to deal with these subjects.
One of the things that the minister should consider — I believe one of my colleagues will be bringing this up during the debate on your estimates and possibly as a private member's bill in this House — is the establishment of complete environmental impact assessment legislation for the province. Almost every province in Canada now has that type of legislation. In the United States, on federal projects, they have that type of legislation. Manitoba has it; Saskatchewan recently adopted similar legislation. My colleague presented a bill in the federal House, as did Bob Wenman, a Conservative member in the federal House. There is a need in British Columbia to establish a proper forum. The minister has recognized that need, and what is the minister going to do about it?
Now I very much favour the citizen advisory group which has an established position in the province, and most provinces now have those. Alberta and Saskatchewan, our neighbouring provinces, have them. They operate as a gadfly on the ministry, as an ongoing reviewer and criticizer of what the ministry is doing and a mechanism by which policy is suggested through the ministry. They hold seminars throughout the various provinces. They themselves meet on an annual basis. The people who represent British Columbia are not a citizen advisory committee it's generally Brian Gates of the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat, who is a civil servant and an employee of the ministry.
It means that in those kinds of meetings across Canada we're the empty seat, because most of those committees are citizen committees and ours is a civil service committee. There should be more citizen involvement in British Columbia so that people across Canada can also get some kind of a citizens' point of view as to what is happening in British Columbia. I hope that the minister would consider that type of change.
As I suggested, I'll send a copy of Saskatchewan's Act over to you, and I'll send some of the annual reports that have come out. They are refreshing in the way they criticize the ministry in Saskatchewan. They haven't caused Allan Blakeney to run away and resign, but definitely he is sensitive to that kind of criticism. He has changed subsequent inquiries, such as the Churchill River inquiry and the Poplar Flats inquiry there, to incorporate the criticisms that were made by the environmental council on the Beta inquiry. It's groups like these that help to eliminate the far-out statements attacking far-out statements where people can never get together in any kind of a situation where they see each other's point of view and compromise towards each other's point of view. The lack of citizen input has been one of the reasons why those far-out statements have taken place.
Environmentalists today are far more sophisticated than they were in the era of the sixties where you had a great group of picketers protecting the habitat of the hoary marmot, and people like the then Minister of Labour making wild statements about these people just because they were packing picket signs. Now, as many people notice, environmentalists are packing computers. Environmentalists are now concerned about the availability and
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conservation of these life-sustaining resources and also the continuation of the standard of living in our society. There's been a total switch-around in the way things have taken place. Many of you over there don't recognize that; some do, but many of you don't. Now it's not uncommon to take a look at the structure of an environmental citizens' group and note engineers and economists....
AN HON. MEMBER: Spelunkers.
MR. SKELLY: And the odd spelunker, definitely, who is also a consulting biologist for a forest company operating on the north end of Vancouver Island. That's something to think about. He does have some skills.
Environmental groups are now represented by some fairly skilled people who can put forward some fairly scientifically documented arguments. That is happening now in the area of pesticide control.
I'd like to discuss some of the problems I perceive in the Pesticide Control Act. Here again it seems the problem is a lack of stated philosophy or policy, I should say, because if you're not a philosopher, you are a policy-maker and you should be establishing a policy in this area. What is your policy with respect to pesticides? Should we use pesticides as much as they are available to manage the environment, to simplify ecosystems....
AN HON. MEMBER: Kill everything.
MR. SKELLY: I'm not saying kill everything; I'm saying that as an integral part of managing ecosystems and simplifying ecosystems.... Or are you the kind of person who says that we should use the pesticide or poisonous chemical after every alternative has been tried and after all the costs and benefits have been analysed?
I think one of the most clearcut examples was the example of the intention of the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) to use orthene and Sevin-4 oil to spray spruce budworms in the Fraser Canyon. The minister obtained two studies from consultants which said that the benefits were probably outweighed by the costs in those cases. He used Nawitka Consultants from up there in Ladysmith and he also hired other consultants who indicated that all he would get out of that program was some indication of how effective budworms were in succumbing to orthene or Sevin-4 oil.
The expert opinion that came to him from environmental groups said that the spruce budworms have a nine-year life cycle — nine or ten years — that they had reached their peak at that point, and the best economic investment the minister could make would be to let the budworms die in the following year, which they proceeded to do, in spite of his opposition. So that was one of the most clearcut examples of the expert opinion being outside the government and delivering their opinion to the government in a constructive way and being ignored by the government and then being proven correct. Thank God that this government took the action to cancel the spraying program, over the opposition of that minister. Unfortunately it probably saved him his seat in that riding, but it also proved the point that there is a wide body of expert opinion out there that the government should take steps to consult. Now we have an opportunity under the Pesticide Control Act to do that with some changes to the Act. But again, the problem is a lack of a stated policy on the part of the ministry about the use of pesticides in British Columbia.
Also I would like to talk about the procedures used in granting a pesticide application permit, and the lack of public access to information on this procedure. When a company applies to the administrator to apply a pesticide, they do not have to inform the public that they are making an application, so no one out there who is to affected by this application of a pesticide is aware that it is going to be done. Also, no one knows, or very few people know, when the interministerial committee deliberates on whether or not that pesticide should or should not be used. Most people out there don't know whether a pesticide application permit has been granted or has not been granted, so the full range of activity on the part of the pesticide control branch is done in the total absence of public involvement or public information.
I would hope that the minister would take the suggestion that when an applicant applies for the use of a pesticide control permit, he must inform the public, either through a notice in the legal section of the newspaper, or the Gazette, or whatever means is most effective in reaching the public. That should be done at the outset of the situation. For example, when a person is applying for Crown land or when a person is doing a number of things that he must do when applying for some permit or benefit from the government, that should be done at the outset.
Unfortunately now, under the pesticide regulations, when a permit is granted the person who receives the permit must post the notice in some manner prescribed by the administrator three days before the permit is to become effective. One example was the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway case on the Island here, where the administrator ordered the permittee to post the notices in the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway stations between here and Port Alberni, and between Victoria and Courtenay. Well, most of the notices on the walls of the CPR stations talk about the age of steam. You know, they've been left there and are probably protected under the heritage Act or something, so very few people ever take a look at them. The problem is that very few people who are concerned about the pesticide application did have an opportunity to see those notices and, as a result, some problem developed about people who wished to appeal the permit but weren't even aware that the permit had been granted. Since you only have 15 days to appeal the permit, many people were not given status as appellants.
Again, I'd like to thank your deputy and you for allowing that to be changed, for instructing that the Esquimalt and Nanaimo steering committee and the United Native Nations be reinstated as appellants before the Pesticide Control Appeal Board. I think that very fact was instrumental in having the Pesticide Control Appeal Board quash the permit, and now the CPR is doing the right thing on the Esquimalt and Nanaimo route. They're using machinery to clean up the ballast and remove the vegetation they've allowed to grow up on the right-of-way, contrary to the Railway Act.
HON. MR. MAIR: Do you want me to answer some questions before we rise for dinner, and carry on afterwards?
MR. SKELLY: Okay, if you wish. I've got more to say on pesticide control.
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HON. MR. MAIR: Before we rise for dinner I wanted to deal with a point made by the member for Alberni concerning the public hearing process, particularly as it relates to B.C. Hydro matters and that type of thing. I'd like to tell him that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) and myself are working on a policy which we can bring to the government. It's not government policy yet. It's not even at the point where I can take it to the cabinet. But it is a high priority item, certainly, on my agenda, and on my colleagues, too.
The question of the pesticide control: you asked me what my philosophy is on that, and I guess I can only just state it as an individual. You use pesticides only where you have no other reasonable method. That begs a lot of questions and a lot of difficult questions. What standards do you use to determine all the reasonable methods? Do you wait until the thing to be controlled is totally consumed, the thing you're trying to save, while you're experimenting with various other things? Very difficult and hard decisions have to be made. I'm sure the member opposite would agree, too, that sometimes you have emergency situations where you may not have all the time you would like to try to satisfactorily answer those difficult questions.
My thoughts would be would to try very hard to determine all reasonable non-pesticide or herbicide methods of control before you start using them. Then you get to the position oftentimes where in your own mind you're satisfied there are none. There are always going to be a lot of people in the world that say you're crazy and you're wrong and that there are other methods. I think any minister or any government's got to reach that point where they say: "No, this is what I think." Then you've got to make a certain decision and you've got to live with it. I'd be the first one to admit, Mr. Member, that there is no certainty in this game, or any other game, and that you can make mistakes. That's probably what makes the job so darned difficult: when you do make mistakes it can be very serious indeed. As best I can, that sums up the approach I have to the pesticide problem.
As for the question of the procedures under the Pesticide Control Act, I think that you make a good point. You did indicate, of course, that there are rules for public notice and advice after the permit is granted, and I'm sure your point is that oftentimes it is too late or that the matter is too far down the road.
I think probably what we have to look for is some sort of discretionary ground, because I get back to the point I made a moment ago. There isn't very much sense in having the thing that you wish to save being consumed by whatever is consuming it while the process of deciding whether or not you should use that pesticide or herbicide is going on.
Maybe what we have to do is put discretion with the administrator so that he can, if he deems it appropriate under the circumstances, stay any use of the permit until such time as everybody has been heard or until such other time as he deems appropriate. I would at least go that far with you and say that I think that makes some sense and we will certainly look at it.
The last point that I would like to make before we rise for the dinner hour, Mr. Member, is in the E&N matter that you referred to. I think in all fairness to the administrator, I should point out that he did, among other things, insist that the permit give notice to the specific environmental group which he knew was interested in this particular matter.
The House resumed; Mr. Rogers in the chair,
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I have the honour to present the second report of the Special Committee of Selection. I move the report be read and received.
CLERK-ASSISTANT: Report No. 2, Legislative Committee Room Y5. 1979:
"Mr. Speaker. your special committee appointed on June 6 to prepare and report this to members who comprise the select standing committees of this House at the present session begs to report on its second meeting and recommend that the personnel of the select committee of the House, statute division, for the purpose of the revised statutes, be as follows: Mr. B.R.D. Smith, convener, Hon. K.R. Mair, Messrs. Heinrich, MacDonald and Lorimer.
Hugh A. Curtis,
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move the rules be suspended and the report be adopted.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
[ Page 652 ]
14 Mrs. Dailly asked the Hon. the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services the following questions:
1. Do the Directors of the British Columbia Buildings Corporation receive any form of remuneration and/or expenses or per diem rates?
2. If the answer to No. 1 is yes, (a) in what form and in what amount and (b) in the case of each director what is their name and the total amount paid them in 1976, 1977, and 1978?
The Hon. H. A. Curtis replied as follows:
"2. (a) The Chairman of the Board receives a quarterly remuneration of $1,000 plus $225 per diem for each day or part thereof devoted to Board or other Executive meetings of the company. The Directors receive a quarterly remuneration of $500 plus $200 per diem for each day or part thereof devoted to Board or other Executive meetings of the company, providing that no Director who is also a Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, or of the Public Service, or an employee of the Corporation shall receive such remuneration.
"(b) No payments were made to Directors in 1976 or 1977. The amounts paid to Directors in 1978 were:
|Chairman of the Board–||
|W. R. Badun||$3,000||$1,125||$424.24||$4,549.24|
|A. C. Ree||1,500||1,000||287.00||2,781.00|
|G. A. Rigsby||1,500||600||919.87||3,019.87|
|Dr. G. M. Shrum||1,500||1,000||286.05||2,786.05|
"These amounts were all for services rendered in 1978."