1979 Legislative Session: 1st
Session, 32nd Parliament
following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, JULY 24, 1979
[ Page 955 ]
Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1979 (Bill 31). Hon. Mr. Wolfe.
Introduction and first reading –– 955
ICBC policy. Mr. Cocke –– 955
Homeowner grants for Vancouver housing co-ops. Mr. Barber –– 955
B.C. greenhouse tomatoes. Mr. Stupich –– 956
Floorcraft Floor Covering Ltd. Mr. Levi –– 957
Granville Island Waterfront Theatre. Mr. Barnes –– 957
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing estimates.
On vote 162.
Mr. Hanson –– 958
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 958
Mr. Gabelmann –– 964
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 966
Ms. Sanford –– 967
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 967
Mr. Mitchell –– 967
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 968
Mr. Lockstead –– 968
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 968
Mr. Hall –– 969
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 969
Mr. Stupich –– 970
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 970
Mrs. Wallace –– 971
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 971
Mr. King –– 971
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 972
Mr. Skelly –– 972
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 973
Mr. Hanson –– 974
Hon. Mr. Chabot –– 974
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Municipal Affairs estimates.
On vote 169.
Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm –– 975
Mr. Barber –– 976
Mr. Lorimer –– 980
TUESDAY, JULY 24, 1979
The House met at 2 p.m.
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Speaker, with us in your gallery today are five individuals from that great northern constituency of Omineca. From the village of Fort St. James are Mayor Jim Togyi, Alderman Peter Rosin, Alex Mitchell, Al Jarvis and the clerk, Don Spink. I ask the House to make them very welcome.
HON. MR. CURTIS: In the members' gallery today are two constituents from that great constituency of Saanich and the Islands. I refer to Alderman John Lapham of the district of North Saanich, and Mr. William Powell. Would the House welcome them.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: I am very pleased to have with us in the members' gallery four representatives of the beef-producing industry in the beautiful desert country of the Nicola Valley. Will the House please welcome Guy Rose, Paul Chutter, Gerard Guichon and Yves Bajard.
MS. SANFORD: I would like to introduce to the House Reverend Ron Attwell and a delegation from the B.C. Conference of the United Church who met with our caucus today to discuss six important resolutions passed by the conference, as they related to provincial government jurisdiction and responsibility. I'd like the House to make them welcome.
MR. STRACHAN: I would like the House to welcome two friends of mine: one is Mrs. Jan Pooley from Prince George; and on behalf of myself and Joan McLatchey, I'd like the House to welcome Ron Rucette, president of the Prince George South Social Credit executive.
MR. SEGARTY: In the Speaker's gallery this afternoon are three young people from Ottawa: Mary Gleason, Laurie Smith and Marie Nugent. I would like the House to welcome them this afternoon.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, after consultation with both sides of the House, I have given permission today for still pictures to be taken. The newspapers only have pictures of the previous parliament, and we'd like to update them. I trust that meets with everyone's approval.
Introduction of Bills
AMENDMENT ACT, 1979
Hon. Mr. Wolfe presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1979.
HON. MR. WOLFE: I ask leave to move that the said message and the amendment accompanying the same be referred to Committee of the House having in charge Bill 31.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I have some difficulty deciding whom I should ask this question. I'll ask the Minister of Human Resources, who is in charge of ICBC: does the minister approve of the statement made yesterday by her colleague, the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm), with respect to the six points around ICBC?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I believe that question is clearly out of order.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I can't understand how the minister can say that question is out of order, other than because she is trying to avoid answering it. Was she aware that the Minister of Municipal Affairs was making statements with respect to the six points? Can the minister confirm the cabinet policy put forward by the Minister of Municipal Affairs yesterday around ICBC?
MR. COCKE: Obviously they had a cabinet meeting.
Mr. Speaker, is the minister still in charge of ICBC?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I cannot accept that question, because it is rhetorical. Further questions, please.
MR. KING: On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I appeal to you that question is not at all rhetorical. There could have been a bloodless coup during the night.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, hoping for a little more light in the darkness, I will ask the Minister of Municipal Affairs a question. Will he table the cabinet documents on the six points that he showed the press yesterday?
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a supplementary for the Premier. In view of the statement of the Minister of Municipal Affairs with respect to ICBC and the six points contained therein, I ask the Premier: is this the policy of the government?
HON. MR. BENNETT: That's out of order.
HOMEOWNER GRANTS FOR
VANCOUVER HOUSING CO-OPS
MR. BARBER: I'have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and sometimes ICBC. It's nice to see he's still walking, not talking. Look at that, he's got his hand over his mouth! That's a treat, isn't it?
HON. MR. MAIR: It's better than having your foot in your mouth!
[ Page 956 ]
MR. BARBER: I think that minister has some experience with that too, Rafe.
MR. SPEAKER: May we have the question, please?
MR. BARBER: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. It's on another topic — the minister will be relieved. It concerns the homeowner grant — now the Premier's relieved.
Some seven out of the nine registered housing cooperatives in the city of Vancouver have been cut off the homeowner grant. On May 1, and again on May 22, the city council of Vancouver wrote to the minister — and have yet to receive a reply — indicating that it is their interpretation of the homeowner grant that these particular cooperatives by some defect in the legislation or their memo of association, are no longer eligible to receive the homeowner grant.
My first question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and ICBC is: have you now replied to the letters from the Vancouver city council?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, I have not as yet received the inquiry.
MR. BARBER: Well, first of all, the letter was dated May 1 and was signed by the city treasurer. Having had no answer to that, Mr. Bowers, the city manager, wrote to you again on May 22. What the city of Vancouver is asking for is some clarification of the minister's policy regarding....
MR. SPEAKER: May we have the question, please?
MR. BARBER: Look, it's an important matter to these people. Have some patience for a moment.
Is it the minister's opinion that housing cooperatives are eligible for the homeowner grant?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, I have not as yet received the inquiry from the city of Vancouver. I have not received the details of their complaint or inquiry, and until I do I really can't comment.
MR. BARBER: Well, I have the correspondence and I'll send you my copy. I don't know why you didn't get yours, but I've got mine.
HON. MR. MAIR: Where did you steal it from, Charlie?
MR. BARBER: I got mine legitimately.
My final question to the Minister of Municipal Affairs on this question is: would the minister be prepared, by tomorrow evening, to inform, by telegram if necessary, both the city of Vancouver and the co-ops themselves whether or not they are eligible for the homeowner grant and, if so, how soon it may be reinstated? Tomorrow night they are having a meeting, having had no clarification whatever now for well over two months, as to whether or not the homeowner grant has been cut off quite unfairly and quite unreasonably, for hundreds of people.
MR. SPEAKER: The question asks for a future commitment of the minister's activities, and is not in order.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Speaker, the minister was on his feet. If he wants to answer, I will certainly defer.
MR. SPEAKER: With great respect, hon. member, whether a minister is on his feet does not have any bearing on whether or not a question is in order.
B.C. GREENHOUSE TOMATOES
MR. STUPICH: I have a question to the Minister of Agriculture, who yesterday got a great deal of advice from the Premier, so I hope the Premier is listening as well.
My question is about Vancouver Island tomatoes that are piling up in storage while California tomatoes continue to come into the country. The minister promised to look into it last week, but now there are further complaints. Coming on the heels of a $3 million study on B.C. agriculture and the minister's own hope that we would achieve 65 percent self-sufficiency in agriculture, I wonder what is happening to the surplus B.C. tomatoes while California tomatoes continue to be imported.
HON. MR. HEWITT: I would like to make an observation to the member for Nanaimo that we are moving toward the 65 percent self-sufficiency. We've had great moves in that direction.
In regard to the problem with the B.C. greenhouse tomatoes, I did have my staff research it. They advised me the problem is not severe and that it is brought up each spring. In effect, with the coordination of the Greenhouse Growers' Association and the retail outlets, the problem is not severe. The tomatoes usually move quite well.
MR. STUPICH: On a supplementary, Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the advice that it is not severe has come from the retailers or from the producers. According to producers and to the cooperative, it is severe. I wonder where the minister got the information that it is not a severe problem.
HON. MR. HEWITT: My staff was in touch with representatives of the Greenhouse Growers' Association. Mr. John Arnaud is the gentleman who has raised this issue almost on an annual basis. In checking with the association they found it was not as severe as Mr. Arnaud led the press to believe.
MR. NICOLSON: Is the minister aware — being Minister of Energy as well — that there is an energy crisis in the United States? Because of this, California producers cannot transport their produce to eastern markets, and this year it is not a usual problem but an extraordinary problem.
HON. MR. HEWITT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I was aware of that some weeks ago; and I contacted Ottawa in regard to the seasonal tariffs on imported fruits and vegetables. We did get a positive response in which they brought in either a percent seasonal tariff or a cent-per-pound seasonal tariff. Whichever is the greater will now apply. B.C. was the one that made the moves in that direction and got the matter resolved.
[ Page 957 ]
FLOORCRAFT FLOOR COVERING LTD.
MR. LEVI: I have a question for the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker. Floorcraft Floor Covering Ltd. is in bankruptcy. There is some $30,000 outstanding in wages. Among the preferred and secured creditors are the Workers' Compensation Board, Revenue Canada, B.C. Hydro and the commissioner of sales tax for British Columbia. The Workers' Compensation Board, Revenue Canada and B.C. Hydro have consented to relinquish their position and those payments so that the employees in this matter can be paid. Considering that the other agencies have relinquished their claims, would the minister, because he has discretion in this matter, be prepared to relinquish the claim of $15,000 in sales tax that is owed by the company in order that the people may at least have some contribution towards their wages?
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, this is the first I've heard of this matter, but I should advise the member that the Minister of Finance only has certain latitude within the sales tax legislation in terms of severe hardship and not in terms of any particular segment of society. But I'll be happy to look into the matter. I'm not able to commit myself as to what the results of that investigation might be.
MR. LEVI: I might advise the minister, Mr. Speaker, that the commissioner of sales tax collection has indicated that he would not authorize such payment. But the minister has discretion in this matter. Is he prepared to use it so that instead of collecting taxes we can assure these people that they will be able to get part of their wages, anyway, from the $15,000 that he might be prepared to relinquish?
HON. MR. WOLFE: I'll take that further question as notice, Mr. Speaker.
GRANVILLE ISLAND WATERFRONT THEATRE
MR. BARNES: My question is to the Provincial Secretary, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister tell the House his reasons for reneging on a commitment to pay one-third — I think it was $74,000 — to the Granville Island Waterfront Theatre? Why has that promise not been fulfilled?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, the member suggests from the floor of this House that the ministry has reneged on a promise, that a promise has not been kept. That is not correct.
MR. BARNES: Perhaps the minister would care to clarify what the situation is. Mr. Speaker, I'm making a representation on the basis of requests that have been made to me that this inquiry be put to the minister inasmuch as the groups involved — the New Play Centre, the West Coast Actors and the Carousel Theatre, which incidentally the minister has made grants to in the past — have cancelled their arrangements with the Vancouver East Cultural Centre for space and are now unaware of what they're going to be able to do in terms of their plays in the future, because they thought the minister was going to make a contribution.
MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have a question?
MR. BARNES: That's the question. I'd like to know why would they make those charges if they were incorrect. Could you clarify that?
HON. MR. CURTIS: One thing about that member, Mr. Speaker, when he asks, I listen, because he shook my hand in a friendly manner in the last parliament, and it's just now recovering.
Mr. Speaker, we have a situation in this particular instance where an organization which seeks provincial assistance moved ahead on certain assumptions. I've checked this very carefully because I've been similarly concerned and, indeed, there were press reports which indicated that suddenly the government had changed its mind. Organizations which seek provincial assistance through this fund or some other similar capital fund surely must understand that until they are told by the ministry concerned that a grant is approved, they should not move ahead on the basis that the grant may be approved.
I indicated two and a half weeks ago to this particular organization that they had assumed that money would be forthcoming. That's unfortunate, but I don't think the government should be faulted for a decision which has been made by the organization seeking the funds. Now that's the best clarification I can give.
We have not said no with respect to that grant, but because of press reports which are misleading, but not deliberately are misleading, I am not about to say: "Yes, here's your money." We have not yet reached a point where anyone associated with that theatre should assume provincial assistance is forthcoming.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, today we had a very unusual experience in this House. We had three ministers of the Crown refusing to answer questions. I recognize that is the prerogative of the Crown under very, very extenuating circumstances. However, the precedent set today could be very dangerous for this House....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members. I'm anticipating a point of order.
MR. COCKE: My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is whether there is a possibility you will take this concern, and the precedent that was set this afternoon, into advisement and advise the House as to how the Speaker feels with respect to that kind of behaviour.
MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps, out of hand, I could make an observation on the member's comment. The standing orders are silent on any authority given to the Chair to require an answer. As a matter of fact. I think I've said on many occasions in this House that we can ask questions, we can even anticipate answers, but we cannot insist on answers. If we wish to have that changed, I think the measure to be taken is a substantive motion to be passed by the House itself.
MR. MACDONALD: On a point of order, the question was very simple. We simply wanted to know whether the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) was
[ Page 958 ]
in the doghouse. We should have had an answer to such a simple question as that.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the member is trying to raise the question again.
HON. MR. HEWITT: Since the member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) had a comment to make, the interesting thing is that most of the questions were ruled out of order by the Speaker, so they weren't allowed anyway.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
Hon. Mr. Hewitt filed the 1978 annual report of the British Columbia Marketing Board.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Rogers in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
LANDS, PARKS AND HOUSING
On vote 162: minister's office, $148,408 — continued.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, there is some apprehension about this Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing being the person with the primary responsibility for parks in this province. Reading former Hansards and reading his earlier comments on parks would lead one to feel that the fox is in with the pigeons. He has been a Minister of Mines, and the issue of mining in parks and logging in parks is looming again in British Columbia.
I would like to remind the minister of a comment that the Premier made in October 1978. I would like the minister's attention on this, because after I've asked this particular question, I would like to sit down and hear his clear answer. Many people in British Columbia, within his own riding and within the Kootenay-Columbia area, are very interested in his answer to my question.
MR. HANSON: I realize I won't get one, but I'm going to try.
The Premier said that he would prohibit speculation on Crown land and he would ensure that B.C. citizens came before other citizens in the acquisition of Crown land in the new program for disposition of Crown land. In the Cranbrook newspaper of July 20 it's indicated that a large number of Albertans are already expressing great interest in acquiring the Crown land. Now the minister knows, because he represents that area, that there's a feeling that the British Columbian residents there are not able to compete for land with the Alberta dollars which flood into southeastern British Columbia.
I know that in the Lake Windermere area, for example, people are coming into the area and buying very large and expensive recreational properties without mortgages — cash on the barrelhead — and the local residents are paying attention to that and saying: "My god, I can't compete." He knows that the pressure from Alberta for recreational land in southeastern British Columbia is very high. So here we have a situation where Crown land will be disposed of and Albertans are lining up.
I'll sit down. I'd like to hear from the minister what guarantees will be given in the procedures for the disposition of Crown land that British Columbians will get first crack at acquiring this land.
HON. MR. CHABOT: First of all, contrary to the views expressed by members of the opposition, particularly the NDP — there's no other opposition; I was looking for a Liberal, and I couldn't find one over there — and contrary to the misconstruction, I guess, of statements that have been made by regional land managers, district land managers, and the minister himself, the program of Crown land allocation is designed to meet the housing needs of British Columbians. Housing. It's not to meet the speculative ambitions of Albertans or anybody else. The program is designed to make land available to people who want to build a residence. In order to achieve title, once Crown land has been acquired through a lottery system, it will be necessary for that individual to construct a home on it. So that, in effect, eliminates not necessarily entirely, but to a substantial degree any possibility of speculation on the allocation of Crown land for residential purposes.
As far as recreational lands are concerned, their release has heretofore been by lease and available to Canadians. And I might say that the issuance of residential land will be to Canadians only. Recreational land, heretofore, has been available to people from other provinces, other Canadians, but there will be a residency clause put into the availability of recreational lands. To qualify, an individual will have to have been a resident of British Columbia for a period of two years before he can get a recreational lot.
MR. HANSON: Well, with all due respect, I suggest that you advise those regional offices through your ministry so that they can instruct Albertans what the guarantees are going to be. With the sale of Crown land I can assure you that if your own constituents are going to be competing with Albertans, and the Albertan wins out, you're going to have some very, very unhappy British Columbians writing to you. Did you want to say something?
HON. MR. CHABOT: There won't be any competition for recreational lots between Albertans and British Columbians, because it will be available only to those who have been residents of British Columbia for a two-year period. So that, in effect, eliminates the competition.
I might say that the statements that are attributed to the district land manager of Nelson in a recent interview are erroneous as far as the report in the newspaper is concerned. Albertans had better not build up their hopes and expectations of qualifying for recreational land in British Columbia, unless they're prepared to live in this province and make a contribution for a period of two years prior to acquiring recreational land.
MR. HANSON: Well, I'm very pleased to have prompted those remarks out of the minister.
I'd like to move on to parks, because I know this is the minister's favourite.
[ Page 959 ]
HON. MR. CHABOT: This is the minister's what?
MR. HANSON: Favourite. You give great confidence to the staff within your ministry when they read over your old remarks: "Too many parks in my riding," and "There are more parks in British Columbia than anywhere in the western world." You did say those things — 1975 Hansard.
HON. MR. CHABOT: No, you'd better read that statement again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps, hon. members, I could get the member speaking to address the Chair and ask the minister to wait his turn to reply. Everyone will have an ample opportunity.
MR. HANSON: Okay. I'll be happy to send my sources over to you.
I would like to draw the minister's memory back to December 5, 1975, in the election campaign. The Premier, Bill Bennett, in a telegram dated December 5, said:
IN RESPONSE TO A QUESTION FROM A CALLER ON AN OPEN-LINE SHOW, MR. BENNETT AGREED THE FORMER SOCIAL CREDIT GOVERNMENT HAD PERMITTED MINING AND LOGGING IN PARKS, BUT A NEW SOCIAL CREDIT ADMINISTRATION WOULD IN CREASE PARKLAND WHEN NEEDED, AND WILL DEFINITELY NOT REDUCE THE SIZE OF ANY PARKS.
It's on the record. I just wanted to draw that to the minister's attention. I think it relates to my ensuing remarks.
I don't think we can really talk about parks without talking about forest management in the province and its impact on various scenarios that may impact upon parks. The old growth that the former sustained-yield concept was based on is not going to sustain the present level of logging in British Columbia. It's already appearing in some areas, certainly in the east Kootenays, and I'd be very surprised if the minister would contradict me on this. What is happening is that more and more foresters are looking covetously at the relatively small proportion of forest land within parks, 3 or 4 percent of good timber. They're looking at that, and seeing that the inevitable crunch, the reduction of old stands, is going to come about, they're going to be looking at both logging in parks and logging at higher elevations.
I think anyone who wants to understand the park management position in this province has to understand that logging and the management practices over the last couple of decades are going to have an impact and will raise the question of opening up boundaries and doing selective logging — taking out the so-called decadent timber and taking out the so-called bug-infested timber and so on in the parks. We're going to hear more and more of that. I think that if there are any people out there listening to me, or listening to my colleagues, or reading comments in the paper regarding the various parks in the province, they're going to be hearing this old argument: "We must do some selective logging. We can do it with balloons; we can do it with helicopters. We can do it without making a mess. We can do it because the bugs are going to get it anyway." We're going to hear that more and more. If you follow that back, what it leads into is that the forest-management practices in the province have to be looked at very carefully. They have been pointed out in both the Pearse report and also in smaller reports by Alan Chambers and various other people who have done studies on the forest reserves in the province.
So I would like to, at this particular session, alert British Columbians that they're going to have to be watching very carefully, because this minister, this fox among the pigeons, as I described him, as a former Minister of Mines is going to be suggesting that more and more access be got from the parks. I think there is a better way, and here is my proposal on this particular question.
I think some of the pressure that is exerted on our parks system, because it is seen as a recreational facility, could be diverted by opening up, in a very orderly, controlled and well-managed way, some of the forest licences of the province. I think the forest industry and the Forest Service could cooperate and do much more in opening up recreational areas in the province. I'm not talking about complicated, expensive facilities or complex camping and recreational facilities; what I'm talking about are managed, overnight-camping little holes-in-the-bush places where people can camp and do a bit of fishing. I think that would tend to relieve some of the pressure on our parks system.
At the same time, I'm not talking about backing down on the development of our parks system either, but much more along the American model could be done. The Forest Service in the United States takes a far greater role in offering recreational options to people in the forests, and I think this is something that really could be looked at very carefully. I realize a recreational forester has been hired recently, but that's really peanuts. The Forest Service spends very, very little money on recreational options in the forest. So I would like the minister to respond on that question as to what sort of leadership he's prepared to give in terms of getting the industry and the Forest Service together, in conjunction with Mr. Waterland, and opening things up for the people of the province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. When referring to members who are sitting in the House, one refers to them by the portfolio they hold or the constituency they represent rather than by their personal names.
MR. HANSON: The point is well taken, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Waterland is the Minister of Forests and I will not refer to his name.
MR. CHAIRMAN: If you wish to refer to him, refer to him as the Minister of Forests rather than by his name. It's in our standing orders and I'd just like to take this opportunity to point it out.
MR. HANSON: Thank you.
Now just to comment on parks, I think the minister mentioned in his opening remarks yesterday that some acquisitions have been made, and I understand that acquisitions have been made. But in general I think the parks budget — and I would be surprised if his deputies would disagree with me — has been more or less static for about the last two years. I don't think there has been much commitment there to really expand and really do some innovative and creative things in the parks system.
My first question is regarding Princess Louisa Inlet. Princess Louisa Inlet, which is just off of Knight Inlet, is one of the most scenic marine parks in the world, and it just so happens that MacMillan Bloedel has the tree-farm
[ Page 960 ]
licences adjacent to the park. More and more small boaters are going up to Princess Louisa, as it is a real gem of a marine park. It could be a real disaster if the logging is done in the wrong place, if at all. So I would like to know what the logging plan is for Princess Louisa Inlet and what steps are being taken to protect the scenic integrity of this particular beautiful park.
I will go on to one other park and then I will sit down and ask the minister to respond and then I'll go on to a couple of other parks, because I think we're seeing basically the same pressures exerted on the ministry to free up the regulations and free access onto the land to deal with some of the conflicting resource values within the parks.
I'd like to talk about Bowron Lakes. As many people know, Bowron Lakes Park, located east of Quesnel, is one of the finest examples of a semi-wilderness park. It's a canoeing park, with a linking of six lakes. I think three years ago there was an exceptionally high wind that resulted in a blowdown of some trees, covering about 1,000 acres. On the face of that, that sounds like a fairly large area, but in actual fact it's not 100 percent blowdown of the trees; it ranges between 35 and 50 percent blowdown of this old stand of timber. Now 5,000 acres were blown down immediately adjacent to the park, and that wood was turned over to various mills in the Quesnel area.
Once they logged that wood off, they started looking into the park again, at this 1,000-acre blowdown site. As I say, that particular area is not 100 percent fallen down; it's 25 to 50 percent blown down. Most of the wood on the ground is quickly losing its value, in terms of lumber. They're really looking at the trees still standing. This blowdown site is in a particularly scenic part of the park; it's called Devil's Club Mountain. As you come into the park, there are various tourist facilities.
The entire side of the mountain would be stripped away; obviously that would be a visual scar. The old argument is: "Let us get in there and cut that wood down, because it is a dangerous fire hazard." But the fire record in the area is non-existent. The argument that all that wood is going to become infested with bugs and that they will, in turn, infest the adjacent forest is nonsense. The federal entomologists — the people who study these kinds of things — have indicated that the level of infestation in the wood within the blowdown area is less than it is in the logged area nearby. The argument that "if we don't get it the bugs are going to get it" doesn't make any sense either.
Mr. Ahrens, the deputy, wrote a letter some time ago to the president of the Association of B.C. Professional Foresters, outlining very clearly all of the arguments about insect infestation, fire hazard, and so on. After weighing up all of these possibilities, it was Mr. Ahrens' conclusion that the Bowron Lakes blowdown should not be logged. I would like the minister to tell me about Princess Louisa Inlet, about the Bowron Lakes blowdown area and about what the plans are for those areas.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, the member has asked a great number of questions. He has even told me what my attitude is vis-à-vis parks. Of course, he's basing his information on some erroneous reports he's read in the newspaper. I come from an area that has more parks than any other area of British Columbia. There are three national parks: Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park and Kootenay National Park. There are three large Class A provincial parks: Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, Hamber Provincial Park and Bugaboo Provincial Park. To the south of us we have the Top of the World Provincial Park. Recently there has been large expansion to the Top of the World Provincial Park. In that great constituency, which is the most beautiful part of British Columbia, there have been an additional two provincial parks established since I've been minister. In addition to those parks I mentioned earlier, we have created a couple more: Whiteswan, a Class A provincial park, and Athalmer Beach Provincial Park. In the Columbia River constituency we have the largest wilderness conservancy in all of Canada.
For the member to say that the area is devoid of parks because of my attitude and because of statements attributed to me is false. He doesn't know what he's talking about.
MR. MACDONALD: What about the McNaughton Plan?
HON. MR. CHABOT: You backed it. This shows the inconsistency of that party. In 1963, when McNaughton was in full bloom as the head of the IJC, he was supporting the plan that would have put that valley — which is made up of parks today — 60 to 70 feet under water. The NDP were in full support of the McNaughton Plan to put that valley 60 to 70 feet under water. Oh, but they changed their minds in 1979 prior to May 10, when there was a little election: they wanted to preserve that valley; they were sensitive to the ecosystem and the economy and the environment of that area, and they wanted to preserve it. They had forgotten their position in 196 when they had wanted to bury that valley 60 to 70 feet under water. Oh, how they twist and turn! I've been around in politics long enough to remember the inconsistency of that party, of how they twist and turn and take different positions from day to day.
Now let's get back to the question. [Laughter.]
There is no concerted attack by the forest industry to log within our parks system in British Columbia. Since I've been minister they've never received an approach by any forest company or anyone interested in logging in British Columbia suggesting timber should be removed from class A parks of British Columbia. There is no reported shortage at this time of timber in British Columbia. The Ministry of Forests is carrying out an analysis of the various regions of the province to determine the timber supply. They have found there is a shortage of timber in Fort Nelson. Prince George has an additional 15 percent of timber availability, and as they press on we will come to some conclusion as to the status and availability of timber throughout British Columbia. So you may attempt to portray the forest industry as a villain waiting to pounce upon the parks for the timber within those parks. But that's not true. I have never received an approach. In fact, the forest companies of this province have made quite a contribution toward the construction and maintenance of trails within tree-farm licences and other Crown forests. They provide 997 campsites in British Columbia — more than does the parks branch. All are free to British Columbians, and visitors. So they are making a contribution to tourism, and to British Columbia.
The member talked about acquisitions. Last year, I might say, Mr. Chairman, was one of the most active years as far as the acquisition of private lands is concerned for the establishment of parks in British Columbia. In view of your
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interest in this subject matter, I'll just give you a list of some of the properties we have acquired, and some of the people who have helped us by making financial contributions to British Columbians in acquiring parkland.
First, near Kootenay Lake, we acquired 295 hectares — 13 hectares of waterfront. We acquired additional property in Tweedsmuir Park, and in Montague Harbour, Galiano Island; Ruckle property, Saltspring Island; Lenny's Bear Lake Resort, Prince George; Mount Seymour; Smith property, Adams River; Cabbage Island; Gulf Islands; Tribune Bay; Hornby Island; Surveyors Lake, East Kootenay; Winter Cove, Saturna Island; Monte Creek, Kamloops region; Cominco property at Adams River — it was a land exchange; the Flaument property at Adams River; Kitsumkalum Lake in the Terrace area — a land exchange with Can-Cel; F.H. Barber Estate, Fraser River — this was a donation; the Bergen property at Burns Lake; Isle-de-Lis Marine Park.
There were contributions in our acquisition program by organizations interested in the acquisition of parklands. We received from the Nature Conservancy of Canada — which we appreciate very much — $50,000 for the acquisition of Cabbage Island. The Devonian Foundation of Calgary contributed $413,837 toward the acquisition of property at Tribune Bay. In the acquisition of the property at Surveyors Lake in the East Kootenay they contributed $258,200. In the acquisition of property at Winter Cove they contributed $262,000. The Second Century Fund of British Columbia contributed $145,000 in the acquisition of property at Adams River. The British Columbia Heritage Trust made a contribution of $41,000 in the acquisition of land at Monte Creek. So we British Columbians should be grateful to these organizations for their financial contribution in acquiring private land to be preserved as parkland in British Columbia. That is along with contributions made by the province as well in one of the most active years of land acquisition ever recorded in British Columbia.
MR. HANSON: Well, the minister certainly demonstrated that he can read. But he didn't answer my question. My questions were: what is the logging plan of Princess Louisa Inlet, and what are you going to do about the blowdown area in Bowron Lakes Park?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Didn't you ask a series of other questions that I've just responded to, or did I miss some?
MR. HANSON: You listed a catalogue of acquisitions, but you didn't answer my questions. My questions relate to Princess Louisa Inlet and the Bowron Lakes blowdown. That is a question about logging in parks which is under advisement by your ministry, and I would like you to tell the House and tell the people of the province whether you're going to log in the park.
HON. MR. CHABOT: In all fairness, Mr. Chairman, I think that the member asked me a series of questions about my attitude towards parks. I've indicated to him that I come from an area of large parks, an abundance of parks, in the east Kootenays. I have advocated and have been instrumental in creating additional parks in the great riding of Columbia River. If that suggests that I have a negative attitude towards parks, well, the member had better start thinking a little straighter than he's been thinking. The acquisitions that we've made since I've been minister, and the expansion of existing parks as well, must be a clear indication of my attitude towards parks.
For the member to attempt to construe that I'm opposed to parks and parkland and the preservation of our heritage in British Columbia is merely cheap, socialist propaganda. That's all it is, Mr. Chairman. I never thought I'd see that new member come in here in his first session in the Legislature and start to play games, play cheap, political games. I expected more from you than that.
On the question of Princess Louisa Inlet, first of all you're talking about land on which the provincial government has no jurisdiction. You're talking about private land which is held by MacMillan Bloedel, I believe. You didn't mention their names, but you're talking about logging activity. There is a logging program which has been considered by MacMillan Bloedel. It is about 600 acres in the Princess Louisa Inlet, and the member has attempted to suggest that the area contemplated to be logged is in the vicinity of a provincial park. That is not correct; the only provincial park in Princess Louisa Inlet is the Chatterbox Falls Park. The area in which the logging program — I understand it's to take place over a four-year period over 600 acres — is to take place is not visible from Chatterbox Falls, and it is not visible from the Malibu Lodge either. The only part of that 600 acres that might be visible from the water would be approximately 40 acres of land. I have suggested to the Forest Service that they should consider selective logging, which is a difficult thing to contemplate, I presume, when you're dealing with a mature forest. I think that what should take place is that there should be an active and aggressive reforestation program forthwith, if the logging does take place, and it will take place over four years. Reforestation would ensure that the scar, which would be approximately 40 acres in size, would not last for any length of time. I might say that the log dump will not be in Princess Louisa Inlet; it will be on the other side of the hill. I don't know if you've been to Princess Louisa Inlet, but I believe the log dump would be in the Jervis Inlet. So it would create a minimum scar, and one which I have suggested, through an aggressive reforestation, would heal much quicker.
MR. HANSON: Perhaps the minister could put a note on his pad to include the Bowron Lakes one on the next one.
HON. MR. CHABOT: I will, yes.
MR. HANSON: I suggest that the minister do whatever he can, and he can do a great deal through his cabinet to ensure that the logging activity in Princess Louisa Inlet does not degrade the fine recreational values of that particular park.
HON. MR. CHABOT: It's high up.
MR. HANSON: It's high up, so no one will see it.
As you know, the order-in-council that was passed in 1974 defining the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy laid out, in the "whereases" of the OIC, very clearly what the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy would be. It's interesting that the minister issued a press release not too long ago — I think it was July 6 — indicating to the people in the province that a rumour was going around that the bound-
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aries may be changed. What in fact is happening is just a normal review of the potential resource conflicts, which means logging and mining, minerals and wood. There are not many trails other than trails that are established by people; it doesn't require much in the way of staffing. It's a conservancy. It's a recreational wilderness area to be maintained as a roadless tract in which both natural and ecological communities are preserved intact, and the progressions of the natural systems may proceed without alteration. No exploitation or development, except that necessary for preservation of natural processes, is permissible.
Use of recreation wilderness shall be limited to activities which do not detract from or disturb the wilderness experience sought by visitors to the area. These uses include hiking, camping, trail-riding, nature study, fishing and hunting. All forms of commercial activity, as well as the use of combustion engines for recreational purposes, are prohibited. Any improvement or development will be limited to that which is required to protect the environment and to ensure the safety of visitors.
That, in my judgment, Mr. Minister, is a wilderness conservancy. It is laid out in the order-in-council to be protected in perpetuity as a wilderness conservancy and not to have mineralization or timber values withdrawn from it. The intent of it is clear, and to alter it would be a betrayal of that conservancy. There is no need for it. There are other mineralized areas outside the conservancies that can be dealt with in a rational way.
So I would like you to tell me what exactly the plans are for the wilderness conservancy. I have a copy of a letter you wrote to a person who was concerned, and you said: "Please be assured that the government has no intention of allowing logging within the present boundaries of the conservancy." Does that mean you will change the boundaries? That's what I want to know. Is there going to be a road up Fry Creek to get into the Carney Creek wood or not? That's what I'd like to know. I know Carney Creek is not within the conservancy and I understand that the Carney Creek area has relatively low recreational values and high forest values. But I would like to know if plans are being made to get at that Carney Creek wood through Fry Creek.
I would like the minister to answer a question on South Moresby. I think that South Moresby, considering the high ecological and forest values that are there and the fragility of the soil, deserves a lot more examination than has gone into it. I would like the minister to tell me what steps he will take to ensure that more examination is done prior to any major decisions being made on boundaries and recreational development within that park.
I have another question about what is happening with Strathcona. I understand that there are trade-offs in the works, perhaps trading highly mineralized areas out of Strathcona Park in exchange for other lands that may come in. I would like to know whether there is an intention to add areas to Strathcona or just to scalp out the mineralized areas and reduce the overall size of the park.
I think much more could be done in marine park development. I think that is an area that requires much more attention in our province. I think the Desolation Sound park is an excellent park, but I think more could be done on it.
I also have comments on the expansion of private campsites, which I think are very good. They're offering more and more facilities that many people want, but I see no reason why the parks branch should reduce its own expansion program on primitive campsites just because the private campsites are undergoing considerable development. I would like to hear the minister's comments on the expansion of campsite programs.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, the member wants to know whether we're contemplating the expansion of our campsites. The answer is no. We're not contemplating any expansion at this time. If there's any expansion it will be to existing campsites, where the need might suggest expansion is required, and where the private sector is unwilling to establish campsites. We do get a lot of criticism from the private sector for being in competition in certain selected areas of the province. They feel that it should be in the private sector. But we're in the process of upgrading and improving our existing campsites in the province. Where the need arises for the expansion of an existing one that is not adjacent to an existing private one, we will do the necessary expansion there.
South Moresby Island. We're looking at the possibility of establishing some ecological reserves in that area. That matter hasn't been finalized yet, but is under current and active examination.
The next one is the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy in that great constituency of Columbia River. I don't know where these erroneous reports emanate from, Mr. Member, and I'd hate to even contemplate or imagine where they might come from, but what is taking place now is a periodic review of most parklands in British Columbia. We're looking at the various conflicts that are presently in place within the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. I'm expecting a report from officials of my ministry later on in the year. I believe it's October of this year they'll be giving me a report in which they'll outline what they view as a conflict with the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, as well as recommendations. I have some difficulty in trying to prejudge what that report might convey to me, so until such time as that report is in my hands, I can't tell you what the recommendations will be.
There are mineral claims already established within that wilderness conservancy, and that's one of the conflicts that they're examining. They're examining what I believe are pressures for crossing Fry Creek to get into the timber, and at Carney Creek there's a small part of that wilderness conservancy, or some kind of a reserve, that goes down to the Kootenay Lake along Fry Creek, which in effect denies access across to Carney Creek. I presume that's one; I'm not sure. I haven't had detailed discussions with officials in my ministry, but I presume that's one of the other conflicts they'll be examining and making recommendations on.
I'll be glad to further discuss the ramifications of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy once the recommendations have been submitted to me. If there are any substantial changes recommended to the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, I would certainly want to consult with the people in British Columbia through public meetings to have their views as to the recommendations that are made vis-à-vis the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. There is no logging taking place within the conservancy, and no mining, and neither are contemplated.
The Bowron Lakes Park blowdown that you talked about is a blowdown of about 1,200 acres in size. It's an area that has been devastated by blowdown, and it has been
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looked at. It has been examined with the view of rehabilitating that portion of the park that is impenetrable by man or beast at this time. The blowdown is very severe, and any rehabilitation that might take place would be done with a view to improving the environment in that particular small corner of Bowron Lakes Park. If it does take place — I'm not suggesting for a moment that it's going to take place — there would be an active reforestation program after the rehabilitation program, by the planting of non-commercial trees. So it has been contemplated, and there's a possibility that the rehabilitation progam will take place.
MR. HANSON: The blowdowns and infestations have occurred since time immemorial, and I don't see any reason why the park, which is visited by people from all over the world.... People come from France, from Australia, from all over the world, to travel that canoeing route. To log, even selectively, on Devils Club Mountain would certainly detract.... It would make us look like a pretty penny-pinching bunch to have logging within that park. I think that you have to draw the line; you have to decide at what point a park is a park. So that judgment is going to be yours. You're going to have to live with it politically.
I would just like for the sake of the record to.... The minister's smiling. He knows that I was going to retrieve some of the early Hansards about his comments on parks. I guess they have been brought to his attention before. But I would like everyone just to know what he said when the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy was established.
On June 2, 1975, he was talking to the former Minister of Lands. He's wondering whether the minister would say whether his policies of establishing and expanding provincial parks, and establishing wilderness conservancy areas, would have a detrimental effect on people living within the Rocky Mountain Trench.
I'm wondering if the minister is proud of the fact that he is destroying jobs within the area of the people I represent. What does he propose to do to ensure that these jobs continue to exist within the constituency? What does he propose to do to put replacement timber in the area which he has removed by expansion of Class A provincial parks and the superimposition of the wilderness conservancy in my area?
He goes on to list the parks in his constituency, and I'm not denying he does list a number of parks.
You do have parks there; but you're saying that the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy has exceeded the line — if I can paraphrase you. You say: "It's not a question of being against parks. I'm a great supporter. However, I'm a great I believer in drawing the line, and we've exceeded the line." So in your judgment the Purcell conservancy went beyond the line; it shouldn't have been in. And that's why we have to be vigilant with the fox; we have to watch very carefully what the fox is going to do. I just want to point that out for the record.
I have a couple of other questions. In relation to the Nitinat Triangle there have been negotiations with the federal government about the tree-farm licences that are to be incorporated into Pacific Rim Park. I would like an update on the status of those negotiations. The former minister indicated the federal government wasn't negotiating; I want to hear the straight goods on that.
There is another proposition looming — and I wonder if the minister is dealing with it — to log the international boundary 50 miles long and 50 feet wide in the area south of Manning Park. This is in the northern Cascades, and, I guess, in Seaton Park on the American side. I understand that the American government doesn't want to take the wood away; they just want to cut the wood and make a nice, clear international boundary so that it looks nice and neat on a satellite photograph or something. Do you know about that?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Where is that?
MR. HANSON: South of Manning Park, in the northern Cascades — 50 feet wide and 50 miles long. They're not going to take the timber; it has no commercial value whatsoever. It's just to make a nice, neat demarcation on the map. I'd like to know what your ministry is doing about that one.
If I get satisfactory answers after I sit down, I'll stay down; otherwise I'll stand up again. In concluding I would just like to advise the minister that the parks are not just recreational facilities; they are gene pools for the biota, and he is the custodian of them — as worrisome as that is to many people in British Columbia. You have a responsibility and I hope you're going to live up to it. I'll be watching you very closely.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Well, Mr. Chairman, I have always lived up to my responsibilities, and that's probably one of the reasons why I've been returned to this Legislature on six separate occasions.
That statement that you claim I made sometime in 1975 — which is in Hansard — is precisely what I said and precisely what I meant when I was talking about parks. There is the need sometimes for a balance between jobs and the establishment of park lands. You, of course, don't remember and are not aware of what took place in the constituency that I represent prior to the establishment of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, where the former Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources and czar of everything else arbitrarily added a large piece of forest land to Mount Assiniboine Park. This extracted a tremendous amount of timber land from the forest inventory within the area, which had a tremendous impact on the sawmills in that area being able to continue to cut timber at the previously established rate. The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy was another alienation of timber volumes.
What I was suggesting at that time was that there is room for a proper balance; we have to take into consideration that a valley can be all parks; but when there are people living within that valley, they have to have a means of livelihood. That was the point I was attempting to make when I talked about the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. But the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is now established, it's in place, and it has impacted on the ability of sawmills to continue to operate, because there is an overcutting taking place within my constituency as far as forestry is concerned. There is a need — in the not-too-distant future, really — to cut back on allowable cut, and this is attributable to a substantial degree to the expansion of Mount Assiniboine Park and the establishment of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. That doesn't mean that I'm suggesting for a moment that the boundaries of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy should be changed to improve the timber supply in the area. I'm just saying that these are the facts of life and these are the facts that should be considered when you're talking about establishing parks.
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We've had a variety of proposals in the area. The other valley, the other side of the Rocky Mountains: there's been a massive proposal for a wilderness conservancy there too. I think that these other factors should be closely considered, especially in an area that has the abundance of parks that my area has, to maintain a proper balance.
Now, Mr. Chairman, he asked one more question that had to do with Nitinat land exchange negotiations that are taking place. There has been consultation between various forest companies and my ministry regarding the exchange of forest land for other forest lands. We've reached the point that we will be negotiating in the not-too-distant future with authorities in the federal government for their cost-sharing in the acquisition of these lands for the expansion of that national park. The dollar figures are big and negotiations should be proceeding fairly quickly.
MR. GABELMANN: I don't believe we'll need to keep the minister very long this afternoon. I just have a few brief comments. Sometimes when the minister interrupts with his heckling, that has a tendency to make us less brief than we intended to be to begin with. However, I intend to be brief to begin with.
I want to talk about the three distinctive areas of responsibility of the ministry. First of all, dealing with the question of housing, I'm not really very clear, unfortunately, about the details of the agreement between the federal government and the provinces, I assume, relating to the division of responsibilities for housing, and the so-called third-sector housing, co-ops and public housing being a federal responsibility and the senior citizens' housing a provincial responsibility.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
It seems to me that when you're talking about public or cooperative housing in any way, there needs to be a great deal of provincial activity in terms of systems of land acquisition and systems of getting the projects off the ground when dealing with provincial authorities. I hope that the minister will make certain that cooperative housing is encouraged.
It does provide a significantly cheaper form of accommodation for a great many people who do chose to live in that type of housing, and I just want to say that I hope you will give every assistance and every encouragement to the growth and development of cooperative housing in British Columbia.
I want to raise some concerns about seniors' housing. I noticed, listening to the minister last night talking about a number of projects underway.... I reread the Blues a few minutes ago to just check that. I'm pleased about that. That's necessary. I'm concerned that seniors' housing has been neglected for some time.
Just out of curiosity, I checked the projected population.... I'm not sure what the words are, but I checked population "changes" as the years go by. We presently have in British Columbia approximately 10.1 percent of our population over 65. It's about 252,000 people; roughly 10 percent of our population is over 65 years of age.
That's projected to go up in the next ten years to 11.8 percent of our population; the projected figure is about 350,000 people over 65. It's further projected that 20 years from now the figure for over-65s will be 12.6 percent of our population, approximately something over 400,000 people. With the increasing number of people who come here to retire, and the number of years we're living increasing all the time — it has increased significantly over the last few years — and the curves in the birth rates, it suggests to me that there will be needed a very intensive government program over the next few years in seniors' housing. Not that the minister is not already aware of that change and the need for government responsibility in seniors' housing, but I just wanted to raise that specifically in these estimates so that the department in its planning can take that into account. We will be watching to make sure that they do.
Housing is, quite frankly, a difficult ministry to either be the minister for or the critic of. Housing is obviously one of those very basic human needs. It really doesn't matter whether governments are massively active or totally inactive; people will have shelter. In the Depression, people found shelter in a variety of ways, sometimes living in an old car, or sometimes living in the bush somewhere with makeshift roofs over their head, or sometimes under bridges. People find shelter. It's not one of those issues where you can say: "There is no housing." What we have to talk about is whether it's adequate, whether it's priced right and whether it suits people's needs.
But because it's such a difficult decision as to whether or not housing is adequate, a friend of mine reminded me of three lines from T.S. Eliot that I wanted to read into the record because I think they describe so well the housing situation. I know, Mr. Chairman, that poetry is frowned upon in this House. My colleague, the first member for Victoria (Mr. Barber), was dissuaded from reading some lovely poems from W.H. Auden. Nevertheless, these three lines from T.S. Eliot, I think, are very apt when it comes to describing the housing problem:
"And time yet for a hundred
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of toast and tea."
I think that very much describes the problem we all have — both sides of the House, whether we are government or opposition — in dealing with the housing situation. It is very difficult to define whether there is a problem, and it is very difficult to define the level at which government should get active. I want to say, through you, Mr. Chairman, to the minister, that I believe that we — you as government members — should be taking very serious recognition of the fact that there will be many, many more people among us over 65. Public assistance for housing for seniors is crucial. I think we should also take note of the desire on the part of many people for cooperative housing, and that should be assisted — despite the fact that I understand that the federal government is now taking greater responsibility. That is all I want to say about housing in general.
I wanted to raise a couple of specific problems that have been raised with me. One of these, I believe, will be partially solved by legislation in the omnibus bill, and that is the whole question of the home purchase assistance grant. Some people have become ineligible as a result of curious situations, which you are well aware of and which I discussed with your deputy just the other day. We will have to talk about this more specifically when the bill is in front of the House, but there are people who are left out. The legislation is not retroactive and there are probably several hundred people who might want to try to get hold of their
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$1,000 grant, but they are not eligible because of the way the laws have gone on. Perhaps it is more appropriate to deal with that in the legislation, but it is something for you to think about in terms of finding a way to assist those people who, because of the way the legislation was amended a year or two ago, have been left out in the cold in terms of the assistance grant.
I don't know that another problem has been solved, and let me just very quickly relate the details of this one. It relates to the New West housing development in the lower mainland, which was an AHOP program, and one purchaser in particular. I can't speak for any more; I only have the details from one. Let me just read my notes on this; it might be more effective. This person bought an AHOP home through Nu-West. The homes were so defective that after little more than a year's occupancy an arrangement was made by Nu-West to buy them out, supposedly at no loss to the home owners. However, this person has lost eligibility for a Ministry of Housing grant or a second mortgage. He has inquired about reinstatement, but, as the correspondence indicates, he is deemed ineligible. He was in the house longer than a year. He would be glad — I won't read all the notes on this — to pay the $200 back so that he could then be eligible for the $1,000, but he is not allowed to.
Do you understand the problem without me going into more details? Technically, I suspect, under the law he is ineligible, but that is the kind of situation that develops. Here is a person who took advantage of a scheme and, through no fault of his own, does not gain any benefit from the scheme. He would be very willing to pay the $200 back that he did gain, in effect, for the one year occupancy in the house, which was bought back by the developer because the house was no good. If you like I can go into more detail, but I don't really think we need to take the time of the House for this kind of thing.
Turning to the lands responsibility of the minister, I just want to say very quickly that I hope we can avoid the situation that we've had over the years when people band together to apply for rural subdivisions. It takes — in one case I'm thinking of — five years from the beginning to make an application for a rural subdivision. The one I'm talking about is in Port McNeill. There has been a five-year period between the application and the actual going ahead. I'm going to the opening this Saturday, in fact.
AN HON. MEMBER: Is that the Land Lovers Society?
MR. GABELMANN: That's right. It is the Port McNeill Land Lovers Society. We have some more landlovers up there too, as the member for Comox will attest to.
HON. MR. CHABOT: I know that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Please address the Chair. I realize there's some pleasant badinage going on....
The situation, Mr. Chairman, simply put, is that people cannot afford
to, or choose not to, purchase developed lots within the municipalities
in those areas. They choose to live out in the bush, as it were, in
one- or two-acre parcels. Perhaps some of them are more like five-acre
parcels, but more realistically they are one- or two-acre parcels out
in the bush in an area that's appropriate for power, all of the health
factors, access and whatever.
There is an incredibly long process that they have to go through. There is now a group in Port Hardy, the Port Hardy landlovers, who are attempting to acquire some land from the ministry. They've only been going a couple of years, so they feel that they've got three more years to wait before they'll get their land, if the past practice is any indication. I hope those procedures can be speeded up. I know that the minister talked about 120 days from initial application to completion of the process. I don't know whether that's sufficient time, quite frankly, when you consider all the problems that must be dealt with in the course of events. But if that's possible, then let's allow this to happen up there in Port Hardy as well.
If you let me, Mr. Chairman, I'll speak for the rest of the afternoon on parks. It's a favourite topic of mine, and, quite frankly, I'd love to be in my canoe right now with my hiking boots and camping gear, somewhere out in one of the beautiful spots of my riding.
MR. GABELMANN: I'm going to be very brief, so that I can get a chance to do some of that camping and hiking. I think that one of the things that I was always very supportive of in the former administration of W.A.C. Bennett was the parks program that was developed in those days. Let me be specific: the campsite aspect of the parks program. I thought the campsites in British Columbia ranked among the best in North America, and that program was excellent in many ways. I'm sure there were flaws and deficiencies, but nevertheless, the concept and the development of that style of campsite was really quite good. Oregon was the only place I can think of that might have been better, but ours were very good and the best in Canada, as far as I'm concerned.
We have changed since the 1950s and early '60s. Society has changed since that time. We no longer have the situation that we had then where the family would bundle into the family car and put the tent on the roof and go out camping. We still have a little bit of that, but what we have now — and there are variations in between — are people who get out into the wilderness and camp, either backpacking or canoeing or whatever else, and people who use recreational vehicles to go camping. I don't even consider that camping, but that's their choice. The campsite program we have is designed really for neither one of those categories. You can think of the campsites around this province, and none are really designed for recreational vehicles. They are more designed for tenting, but there's very little tenting in those campsites now. Tenters prefer to get away from these recreational vehicles with their television sets. What I think has happened with the very excellent program is that it's been allowed to continue simply because it's been there. It's been successful and highly used, obviously, but it doesn't really suit the needs.
The one point of disagreement I have with the minister is over the proportion of public campsites versus private campsites. I'm very much a believer in public campsites. I recognize the need in some cases for private campsites, but I would just as soon have the government actively involved in a campsite program. I think that's a very important role for government, and I applaud the W.A.C. Bennett government for its recognition of that principle. Perhaps
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there should be a different kind of site for recreational vehicles. They have different needs, obviously, and I won't go into all the details of that.
I have just a couple of specifics. I was in Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island this weekend. I might just mention that on this weekend the road was finally black all the way from Campbell River to Port Hardy. It's a pleasure to drive up on that new highway. The problem is that people are driving up on the new highway, and there are very few parks. The only parks in the area are forest company parks, and they are very few and far between. What the municipality of Port Hardy has had to do with campers, both in terms of the recreational vehicles and tenters, has been to put them up on some of the streets. There are people camping on the streets in Port Hardy, because there are no facilities. I think the ministry staff should be taking a very close look at the campsite and recreational vehicle campsite requirements on the north end of Vancouver Island now that the main road up there is complete. There is a very urgent requirement for greater campsite development up there.
One of the things that I think about every time that I drive over the Hope-Princeton Highway is whether it would be possible.... I would be interested if somebody in the ministry could perhaps have a look at this when they peruse the debate, as I'm sure they will. Every time I drive over the Hope-Princeton I think about the river that flows from the Hope Slide all the way down to where it joins the Skagit River. It is a beautiful little river that flows along the highway. It's full of snags and whatever, but it's a beautiful, canoeable river, I suspect. It's the kind of project that I think the ministry could and should get involved in. Clean up the river; make it an area where beginner river canoeists could start out. That kind of project would not be expensive, it would employ a few people every spring to make sure the river was free of some of the deadfalls and the snags that do exist in there. It's in an area that's very accessible to crews because it parallels the highway. For a great many British Columbians who are now getting into canoeing, unlike 10 years ago, it might be a very challenging little creek, a beginning river to teach kids how to handle a fairly stiff current in a relatively safe environment. That's a project I would encourage you to have a look at.
Marine parks. Last summer I did something that very few people do: I canoed around Desolation Sound. I put the canoe in the water at Lund, and paddled up past the Copeland Island park area, up through Refuge Cove and that area. My problem wasn't the natural elements; the problem was the big American cruisers coming by and creating four-foot wakes. Every time one came by, I had to turn into the wake. Nevertheless, canoeing was a bit risky in there but, I suspect, it's something that's going to become more frequent as time goes on.
The problem I found while camping on the beach in the Copeland Islands.... Those parks are very fragile. I would think that if two or three of us went camping each summer, within five years we would probably destroy the environment of those islands. I was very aware of that, in simply putting up a tent. It's a very dry area and it's very small.
In the servicing — if that's the right word — of the marine parks which we have, such as the Copeland Island park, I think that there should be some concern about those who might destroy those little islands. A large number of power boaters also tend to go ashore and set up camps. I'm not sure what the answer is, but it's something we need to think about as future government policy.
I would hope that you would look at all the northern straits, in terms of their acquisition for park development. For example, the Surge Narrows area, which is off Quadra Island, is a very beautiful spot; from the land, people can actually watch what looks like a major river pouring through that channel with the tide. It's a spectacular sight. I would be very, very disturbed if some of those sites were alienated to private use. It would be very useful if the ministry could acquire some of that land, or set it aside for future acquisition so that parks could be established.
It's the same thing throughout the whole northern end of the Straits of Georgia: there are a great many beautiful islands up there. We haven't yet had the same kind of development up there as we've had in the southern Gulf Islands. Let's get hold of the best potential parkland now while it's still available and while it's still relatively cheap, too, before those islands become as alienated as have so many of the southern Gulf Islands.
That's probably all I wanted to say at this point, unless I'm tempted to respond further to your answers.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Let's start with the marine parks. Last year we acquired lands for marine parks at Tribune Bay, Winter Cover and Cabbage Island, and we expanded another marine park in the southern part of the Island. At the moment, we're looking at couple of pieces of property at Furry Creek and Porteau Cove on Howe Sound as possible acquisitions for marine parks. We're prepared to look at the north Island, with a view to acquiring areas suitable for marine parks. I'm not going to suggest for a moment that we can get you any answers overnight; it's going to take some time. We couldn't possibly get an answer for at least a year; that would be the very earliest. Certainly I'll ask officials in the ministry to examine the need for marine parks in the northern part of Vancouver Island.
The ministry, in conjunction with the Environment and Land Use Committee secretariat, are looking at the question of recreational rivers in the province. I can't suggest for a moment that the river you mentioned, the unnamed river that flows into the Skagit River, would be one that might be considered as a suitable river for canoeing. One never knows; one has to look at the possibility of conflicts.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's the Coquihalla.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Is it the Coquihalla?
AN HON. MEMBER: No.
HON. MR. CHABOT: You're wrong, Mr. Member. We have to look at whether it's a steelhead river. We have to be careful of the environment when we start pulling up snags from rivers to facilitate canoeing. However, we're prepared to look at it — with no promises.
You mentioned the question of Crown land. Yes, it is the objective of the ministry to make Crown land available to British Columbians, on the basis of need, hopefully by means of an application to an adjudication within 120 days. I'm not going to suggest for a moment that we will achieve
[ Page 967 ]
that objective in each and every instance but, nevertheless, that is our objective. You have to take into consideration the variety of other reserves and other interests of other government agencies attached to that Crown land, be it fisheries or the Forest Service. In some instances people apply for land that is locked into a provincial forest. Before it can be released, that has to be a determination of the Forest Service of the province.
We have applications from the Land Lovers of Port Hardy and Port McNeill and it's under active consideration. The regional manager is negotiating with those people for the purpose of making Crown land available to them in the northern part of Vancouver Island.
You mentioned the recent agreement that we signed with the national government. In that agreement we became basically responsible for the provision of senior citizens' housing in British Columbia and the federal government took on other responsibilities which were joint in nature before. The high-impact grant in cooperatives and things of that nature are now the sole responsibility of the national government. The senior citizens' housing administration comes under the auspices of the provincial government. Of course, the reason for that is in the interests of economy. It's a question of cutting out the bureaucracy and the duplication and the cost of duplicating the programs that are in place. So we've agreed to split these responsibilities, hopefully with it being more efficient.
You mentioned the matter of senior citizens' housing in British Columbia. I think we have a very effective program in the provision of senior citizens' housing in British Columbia. In the last fiscal year ending March 31, 1979, we have completed 1,660 units; 120 units are under construction; 255 units are not yet started but have received approval in principle in the last fiscal year. That's a total of 2,035 senior citizens' housing units in this province.
I think that we're meeting the need. I might say that the need has diminished despite the fact that there are more seniors coming on stream in British Columbia. The reason the need has diminished is that we have introduced the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program in British Columbia. In the first year of that program we provided assistance to 16,000 senior citizens in rental accommodation. If there is a need and if there is an interest on the part of seniors to move into accommodations that we're prepared to put together, we'll put it together. I might say that we are meeting the need. There are ample dollars allocated to meet the need in British Columbia.
I think that pretty well answers the questions that were put to me. There's one about the Home Purchase Assistance Act which the member put to me. I don't want to start debating the amendments that are put in the bill. All I want to say is that in any law it's not possible to please everybody and to be able to satisfy every need. There are certain isolated circumstances that develop within the application of the law. We have an appeal system — a committee that looks at these appeals — and unfortunately some people, maybe through no fault of their own, aren't able to meet the specifications of the law. The committee looks at it and views the application. In some instances they do give consideration, but in some instances are unable to do so because of the way the law reads.
There is no appeal and no discretionary power on the part of the minister, so under those circumstances I have to conclude that we can't always satisfy every person who feels he's been wronged by the law. I think it would put a most unfair degree of pressure on the minister if he were to have absolute discretion in the allocation of these grants. So the Home Purchase Assistance Act, which is being amended, Mr. Chairman, is a positive step forward in making more money available to British Columbians in a more effective and meaningful way.
MS. SANFORD: The minister has been giving a geographic tour this afternoon of some parts of Vancouver Island and that general mid-northern part of Vancouver Island. I would like to provide him with a bit more information and to pose a question to him.
There's an island known as Mitlenatch Island, Mr. Chairman, and it's one of two nature parks on Canada's west coast. I don't know whether or not the staff will be familiar enough with this island that the minister will be able to answer my question this afternoon, but I'm hopeful that they will be able to.
The island is a naturalist's paradise. It has 126 varieties of birds. It's a seabird colony, really. It was an island that was obtained by the provincial government in 1963, after the federal government wanted to purchase the island in order to make it into a target range for bombing practice. Fortunately the provincial government obtained the island in 1963. It was set up as a nature park, it has all these varieties of birds on it, and, Mr. Chairman, up until last year there were always two naturalists on the island for the entire summer season. This year, unfortunately, there is only one naturalist, and he's there for a period of only five weeks.
Now the big concern of the naturalist is that next year there may not be a naturalist. I know most people talk about the unique quality of each of the Gulf Islands, and each island is unique in its own way. But in terms of the numbers and species of birds that are located on this island, the concern is that if there is no naturalist, people will arrive by private boat out of curiosity and will do untold damage to the nesting areas — unless there is a naturalist there to guide them and to inform them as to what kind of problems they might create by just trampling helter-skelter on Mitlenatch Island.
My only question, Mr. Chairman, is: could the minister please assure us that there will continue to be naturalists located on Mitlenatch Island?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, the answer is yes.
MS. SANFORD: Thank you.
MR. MITCHELL: Mr. Minister, I don't want to belabour your estimates any longer than necessary, but there is one problem that is developing in my riding that is affecting a lot of people, and that is the closing down of some of our trailer parks, especially the older trailer parks, and some of the first to be established. In these trailer parks we have a lot of older people, senior citizens, who have bought trailers or have been in the park for a number of years. Over the years this land has become more valuable if sold and redeveloped for townhouses.
The problem that now arises is that people get their notice to move, and being in an older trailer, they cannot get into some of the newer trailer or mobile-home lots,
[ Page 968 ]
especially those lots that are controlled by dealers in mobile homes. They have set up mobile-home parks on Indian land and on private land, which they are quite able to do. But when someone is forced to move, and they have invested $15,000 or $20,000 — that is their home and they can't find any place to put their trailer — it causes a lot of inconvenience and a lot of hardship to some of the older people. Granted there are certain trailer parks 20, 30 or 40 miles outside of the city, but the problem out there is that there are no bus lines and no way they can get out by public transit. This is a problem that is affecting a lot of them.
I am asking if the Ministry of Housing has any plans to develop any trailer parks in the greater Victoria areas. I have noticed the Ministry of Housing has applied to take 44 acres out of the land that they have in the Highlands area at the east end of Millstream Road and have it rezoned into single, city-sized lots. Has the Ministry of Housing any particular reason for having this land rezoned? What are the plans for it?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, I'm not familiar with the 44 acres that the member suggests is being rezoned on application by the ministry. I have no information on that, so it is difficult for me to comment.
I recognize the problem that some of the seniors are experiencing in some of the mobile-home parks, which they are attempting to strata, and the pressures they are putting upon them, and the financial difficulties which they experience. Unfortunately I have no jurisdiction as far as mobile-home parks are concerned. That comes under the Landlord and Tenant Act. Even though the problem has been brought to my attention in error, I have forwarded the correspondence to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Nielsen), who is responsible for the Landlord and Tenants Act.
MR. MITCHELL: I realize that there is a certain overlap in jurisdiction, but the problem arises in providing a pad for the trailer, and I feel that these pads do come under the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing. Are there any plans within the Housing ministry to make these services available? I imagine that if it's affecting people in my particular area, it's affecting people with trailers in other jurisdictions, and I was just wondering if there was any future under the Housing ministry for people with trailers.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, I understand that there is a supply of mobile-home pads in your area, in the Colwood-Langford region. The only problem appears to be with the quality of the pad and the area that they're on; or else the quality of the trailer that wants to move onto another mobile-home park of different quality appears to be the problem — the inability to match the mobile-home park with the trailer or the mobile home with the park. So it's a problem; but vacancies do exist and there appears to be no justification to consider the establishment of mobile-home parks at this time.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Mr. Chairman, I'll be very brief. But before I speak to the minister — through you, Mr. Chairman — about the matter I wish to bring to his attention, I want to take this opportunity to wish the minister every bit of luck; if he can possibly make Crown land available to people in 120 days, he'll certainly get my congratulations on that, because we've had people in my riding who have waited up to three years for an answer. The answer they usually get back, after three years of waiting for the yes or no on their applications, is usually no. And how you're going to get around Highways in terms of access and Health in terms of sewage and water and what not is beyond me, but lots of luck.
What I wish to bring to your attention, Mr. Minister, is something that you know a great deal about already; we've discussed it in private, and I'm not going to go into all the details. This is regarding Okeover Park. I know that you're meeting with members of the regional board next Sunday, and in private conversation you've indicated that particular problem will be resolved reasonably and to their satisfaction, and I'm happy — sort of.
What bothers me is one paragraph, that highlights the whole business, in correspondence addressed to you from the regional board, with a copy to me. I'll just quote you this one paragraph:
"The evidence is clear that no referrals
were received by the lands branch, Marine Resources or the regional
district concerning this new park. This inadequacy in your consultation
procedure has produced a very ominous situation. It is our business to
develop the regional development plans for the district."
As you know, Mr. Minister, the park that was designated arbitrarily by your ministry in that particular area does not conform to the regional plan, and was not desired by the people in the area. While that regional board has a lot of requests for areas to be set aside as park and potential park or park reserves, in this one particular area, where the main culture industry is at stake, I would like to have the assurance of the minister that in future his ministry will consult with Fisheries, with regional districts particularly, and with the other agencies involved.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, I have a great tendency to call that park Okie-over, but I guess I'd better call it Okeover.
Yes, the member and I had discussions about it, and to suggest that there were no referrals between various government agencies prior to the takeover.... It was not arbitrarily superimposed, as you attempt to convey, and it's not an ominous situation, as the newspaper attempts to portray it. It's just the transfer from one government agency to another of an existing campground. Because of the usage of the campground, the Forest Service came to the conclusion that it could be better administered under the parks branch. Because of the tremendous knowledge and understanding of campgrounds that they have in the parks branch, they felt that it was a logical progression for it to move to the parks branch, and that's exactly what took place. Referrals took place despite what.... What's the name of that newspaper?
HON. MR. LOCKSTEAD: The Powell River News.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Despite what the Powell River Town Crier or the News has to say, the matter was referred. It's a question of moving from the Forest Service to the parks branch, and it's one where we're not looking at the need for an expansion — it's a question of a campground being there.
[ Page 969 ]
We're very concerned about the possible conflict there might be with mariculture in that region, and we certainly do not want to impact on the potential of the harvest from the sea in that region. I'm having discussions with officials of the regional district very soon — early next week — at which time we'll have a full and open discussion about how to protect the potential of the mariculture in that region. If the regional district feels that they are more capable of managing this area, this small — I believe it's ten acres — campground, I'm certainly prepared to convey it to them as a regional park so that they can have effective local control if they think that is more beneficial. However, I'm not going to have the discussion with you, Mr. Member, and other members in the House here, when the discussion is going to be taking place fairly soon — 11:30 a.m. next Monday, in my office — as the member told me.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: What started out as a very small question turned out to be a flood of verbal information which we already knew. [Laughter.]
[Mr. Rogers in the chair.]
The point I was trying to make, Mr. Minister, was that the regional district was not consulted in this particular instance. I would hope that in future your branch will consult regional districts and their planners on these matters.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Yes, absolutely.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: The minister nods his head good. No, please don't answer. [Laughter.]
MR. HALL: The previous member mentioned regional districts, which actually fits in with a couple of questions that I have. The question is whether or not the minister would care to share with the House the latest developments, if there are any at all, with the Tynehead proposal in my riding. Having watched the development of that proposal since 1966, and now to see it, as it were, fall off the edge of the table with either a very attentive minister who watched it fall, or a very inattentive minister who just let it fall....
HON. MR. CHABOT: What is your point of view on it? Do you support it?
MR. HALL: I'll let you know my point of view as soon as you share with the House what you've been doing, Mr. Minister.
I would like the minister to bring us up to date on that, and the second thing I'd like him to tell us about is whether there are any developmental pressures that the minister feels in a similar area — namely Mud Bay and Boundary Bay, to the side of the new riding of Surrey which now, as you know, takes in White Rock.... That's the last of our warm-water beaches. It is owned, in part, by a Crown corporation. It is owned, of course, in terms of the low-to-high watermarks by ourselves, and there is some private land there. I would like to know if there are any developmental pressures which the minister might like to share with us on that.
The last question I have is that while we're all congratulating the minister and looking to great things from him, we do notice that he is starting off with a decrease of 10 percent in the money he has got. That is not a very auspicious beginning for a minister. I would like him to explain to us why we do have what appear to be cuts in three areas of endeavour which are very vital at this time. Housing is one of the things which is a pump-primer. It is the kind of thing which has a multiplying effect. It's the kind of activity that might, indeed, produce some of the jobs the minister is fond of talking about.
Also, in the terms of recreation, if indeed we are going to enter the decade of the eighties with any recreational strategy at all, you would think that this might be the time in which we could put some of our unemployed people to work, again doing some pump-priming work. There may be other votes, special funds or piggy banks that the minister knows of, which I know nothing about. I would like him to explain that apparent anomaly of a bright, new, shiny minister with a 10 percent reduction in his budget.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, we have hundreds of students employed in the parks branch on a temporary basis this summer.
The member talks about a 10 percent cut in my proposed expenditures. Well, I want to tell the member that there has been a movement of $4 million from the estimates into the home acquisition fund, so that would have quite an impact on the budget. The exact percentage would be — I can't tell you offhand — in the neighbourhood of 7 percent right there, I would think.
I am not familiar with the issue that the member raises regarding Boundary Bay and the recreational potential I believe he was talking about there. If the member wants to apprise me of that problem I would be glad to respond to him by letter.
Part of the Tynehead Regional Park is being promoted as a future zoo for the city of Vancouver and the lower mainland. I have had correspondence with the Greater Vancouver Regional District with respect to this proposal, and because of the need of the minister signing a lease on lands wherein the province has made a contribution for the establishment of parks, without the involvement of the province I've offered the Greater Vancouver Regional District an opportunity to acquire our interests within that portion of the land which they want to turn into a zoo. We would take that provincial contribution that we've made into that regional park and place it into some area of interest of the GVRD, and the GVRD could press on with their objectives to have a zoo in the city of Vancouver.
Well, I don't know what's happening with the GVRD. We've given them an opportunity to respond to the Tynehead Society, so that if they're genuinely interested in seeing established a world-scale zoo in Vancouver the GVRD now has the wherewithal to do so. That offer was made to them, Mr. Member, at the end of March.
MR. HALL: Thank you for bringing us up to date, Mr. Chairman. I've just got one further observation to make, and that is that the original proposal by the Tynehead Zoological Society for a major zoo dealt with two parts, namely the exhibition part of animals and the scientific and propagating part of that zoological endeavour, which we could call saving species. That was sent to the government of the day. That was transmitted to the biologists and the experts in the government' s employ. That technical material
[ Page 970 ]
which was provided by the Tynehead Zoological Society was examined and analysed by the government's own employees. That examination has never been discussed. I don't necessarily feel it should be published, but it's not been discussed in any detail. It certainly hasn't had a release about it. There's not been a response. I have seen the material on one occasion.
I would wonder if you could perhaps assure the House that as the continuing saga of the zoo goes on you might want to look into that technical material and indeed satisfy those people who believe that material and that analysis by the government's own employees was sort of a negative response, not on whether or not land should be deeded, not on whether or not it should be handed over to a private society, not as to whether that is the place for a zoo, but simply on the technical proposals on the feasibility of a zoo, period. I think we should all assist the minister in extricating everybody and using the large amount of public money that's been expended in the land assembly on behalf of the people of the province, including expropriation, to assemble that public land there, and I want to see some public good coming out of that expenditure of public money. At the moment we're stalled. I think that if a public idea is good it should be backed with the public purse. I was involved in a lot of ratepayers' meetings at the time, with a lot of people angry regarding expropriation. I think we need all the information we can get in order to look at this thing intelligently, and have some discussions.
I would urge the minister that perhaps for his own sake he might look at that material and release it to the members, or have a résumé made. Let's have a look at it.
MR. STUPICH: I listened to an interesting speech from the minister yesterday evening when he was telling us how important his responsibilities are. I couldn't help but think he was really talking to Treasury Board rather than to the members of the House. I note in looking at the expenditures that there are only three ministries where the amount of money allotted in estimates has been reduced. One of them is Environment, where the reduction is in the order of one-third of 1 percent. The other is in Agriculture, where the reduction is 22 percent — of course, we all know what little interest this government has in agriculture. But the third is Lands, Parks and Housing, where the reduction is 7 percent before the figure for recruitment saving, and after that it's a 10 percent reduction. It's the only one other than Agriculture, really, where there's any reduction in the amount of money.
Mr. Chairman, I hope the minister was successful in saying what he did to Treasury yesterday evening and hoping they will agree perhaps it is an important department, one that is worthy of more consideration and more attention from this government.
I would like to ask the minister a few questions. First, along with my colleague from Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead), I would like to wish the minister every success in dealing with the sale of Crown land, because a constituent of mine was trying to buy a lot in South Wellington. He started, I think, in 1973 and he still hasn't been able to buy that lot. I have approached the Ministry of Lands on different occasions and they have told me it's the regional district's fault. I've approached the regional district and they've admitted it is, but said they hadn't been able to straighten it out.
I think they were just getting to the point of being able to do something when the government started this policy of deregulation. Of course, that meant we had to start all over again. I'll approach the minister on that one in detail later on.
Newcastle Island was turned over to the provincial government by the city of Nanaimo when it bought it — not immediately but soon after. Very little has been done by the previous government, immediately preceding government, or this government. As a matter of fact, the facilities at Newcastle Island have steadily gone downhill ever since it became a provincial park.
I know some repair work has been done this year. I did make a point of finding that out from the ministry. But to the best of my knowledge there are no plans for any improvements or even to try to put back the improvements that were there when it became a government park. I wonder whether the minister has anything at all in mind for Newcastle Island in the future.
Coronation Mountain just recently became one of my problems with the redistribution. Again, it's one that has been asked, I think, every year — probably since the previous member for Cowichan-Malahat entered the Legislature in 1952. I expect this Coronation Mountain question has been asked, and never any satisfactory answer given. I wonder whether the minister has anything to say about his attitude towards developing Coronation Mountain as a family skiing development.
I am indebted to my colleague for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace) who told me the problems of dealing with Ladysmith Harbour come under this ministry. I'm not quite sure how Ladysmith Harbour gets into Lands, Parks and Housing, but if the minister could help me out on that, I'd appreciate it.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, first of all, talking about dollar allocations in the estimates, as I mentioned a little earlier, while you were out making a phone call to one of your constituents, I'm sure, we transferred $4 million from the estimates to the home acquisition fund. So there's $4 million here.
We've also transferred $1 million to the cost of staff of the administration of the home acquisition fund from the estimates to the fund. So a $5 million cutback from the estimates has been transferred to the front.
Also, our commitment for the allocation of dollars for parkland acquisition — that is, our relationship with the cost-sharing in Pacific Rim National Park — being down very substantially this year over last year, this makes quite a substantial difference in the estimates. So many of the shortfalls are attributable to the movement of funds from the estimates to a fund and the movement of funds from the need of the Pacific Rim contribution from the province.
Newcastle Island: there are no plans. Coronation Mountain: the project won't work. Thank you very much.
MR. STUPICH: How does Ladysmith Harbour come under the jurisdiction of your ministry? I just don't quite understand that.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Because of the responsibility of my ministry of administration of all the foreshore leases.
[ Page 971 ]
MRS. WALLACE: I would like to raise the matter of a campsite with the minister. This one is non-existent, Mr. Minister.
HON. MR. CHABOT: I've never found one.
MRS. WALLACE: Well, that's our problem in Cowichan-Malahat. That's our problem in the Cowichan Valley regional area. We have a campsite at Ivy Green and one at Bamberton, one to the north and one to the south. Both are extensively used. You have to be in site by four o'clock to get a spot. Apart from that, there are a few campsite areas in the Lake Cowichan area, and I'm not sure whether that's under this minister's jurisdiction or forestry. But in those you used to be able to get in there early Friday. Now you have to get there early Thursday if you're going to get a site in that area.
We have a lot of attractions. We have a lovely area. We have a lot of things tourists could well enjoy, but we have no place to put them. We really need a campsite in the Cowichan Valley. The minister has assured us his estimates have not been cut back, that he has ample money. He's told us he's very efficient, and that's going to make more money. So I'm sure he will get up and tell us he's going to give us a campsite in the Cowichan Valley.
HON. MR. CHABOT: We're certainly prepared to look at the concerns that have been expressed by the member this afternoon. This is the first time that I've become aware there is a pressing need for campsites in your riding. Mind you, I haven't been the minister very long — just a few months. However, if the member wants me to examine the needs I'll gladly do so and report back to the member as soon as my estimates are passed.
MRS. WALLACE: Just to refresh the minister's memory — perhaps he hasn't got round to reading his mail — I have here a letter dated March 10 from the Maple Bay Ratepayers' Association.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Was that from you?
MRS. WALLACE: I have a copy, but this is addressed to you, Mr. Minister.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Have I answered it?
MRS. WALLACE: Well, I have no knowledge of your answering it.
HON. MR. CHABOT: What did I say?
MRS. WALLACE: It says:
"In the Cowichan Valley we appreciate travellers no less than other western Canadians, and welcome them to this area. However, we often get bemused reactions from campers when we must tell them that the nearest park where they may legally pitch a tent or park a motor home is 15 miles south at Bamberton or 20 miles north at Ivy Green, and then, to be honest, tell them that they should be there by 4 o'clock in order to get a space."
Now you've had that letter, Mr. Minister, since March 10 and the executive of the Maple Bay Ratepayers' Association in this letter urged your government to take action on this matter and provide the tourists we are so eager to see with a place to camp in the Cowichan Valley. Mr. Minister, it really doesn't pay to send you a letter if this is the first you've heard of it when I raise it in the Legislature. This is not from one individual; this is from a ratepayers' association in the Cowichan Valley. I think it's rather offhand of the minister to just say that this is the first he's heard of this matter. It's certainly not the first time I've raised this matter in this House. I've raised it every year with every minister, but the ministers keep changing.
HON. MR. CHABOT: I apologize that I don't remember the letter. Did I answer the letter?
MRS. WALLACE: You didn't send me a copy.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Did I answer the letter?
MRS. WALLACE: Not that I know of.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Oh. I'm surprised, because I get thousands of letters a month and I can't keep track of absolutely every letter that comes to me. I responded to you a little earlier, and I'm sorry if this letter never reached me.
MR. KING: I just wanted to say to the minister it pays to wait until one's recognized, because each time the minister has got up the Chairman of the committee doesn't even recognize him before he starts to speak. Quite frankly, I think quite a few people in the province of British Columbia have had trouble recognizing the minister.
HON. MR. CHABOT: They keep sending him back here.
MR. KING: Well, that's what happens to damaged goods — we send them back, Mr. Chairman. [Laughter.] I just want to raise with the minister a problem that has been drawn to mv attention by a constituent with respect to be Mobile Home Act. I want to read this very brief letter for the minister's edification. The letter is to the Premier, and it says:
"I would question the Mobile Home Act, specifically section 13(l), as it appears from information supplied by the mobile home registry office that a widow who has been left a mobile home of value well under $5,000 in the will of her late husband must go to full probate to obtain a certified copy of the will and certificate of discharge, these being forms required for transfer of title. Cost of probate long-form for an estate under $5,000 value could be in excess of $250. This appears an injustice that has been recognized by the Department of Finance and the motor-vehicle branch in formulating probate short-form, which is adequate to obtain releases sufficient for transfer of an automobile of similar value to the mobile home in question.
"I suggest consideration be given to changing the mobile home registry Act to have its requirement documents to conform to those of the motor-vehicle branch in the case of estates under $5,000. I might add the above information is taken from the estate of a local widow who I have been assisting with probate."
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The gentleman has written me again in response to a letter of inquiry I transmitted to him, and I read this for the minister's attention. "I sent a copy of your letter directed to the Office of the Premier suggesting consideration towards changing the mobile home registry Act." The upshot of it was, Mr. Chairman, without reading all of this document, that the Premier transferred this request to Hon. Evan Wolfe, Minister of Finance. On July 4, Hon. Evan Wolfe responded, stating that he had referred the problem to Hon. James Roland Chabot, Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing, asking that he amend the regulation which resides under his jurisdiction in his ministry allowing for the type of change recommended by this individual. Mr. Chairman, this is the kind of bureaucratic change that costs a great deal of money to widows, in a completely unnecessary function, in my view.
I personally resent the high cost of settling estates, when according to the response by the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Wolfe), apparently all that is needed is a change in the regulations under the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing. I ask the minister, as sincerely and as forcefully as I can, to address himself to this problem at the earliest possible date. Two hundred and fifty dollars may not be a lot of money to the minister — he's a wealthy man, Mr. Chairman — but I want to tell him that it is a very significant sum in an estate left to a widow; in many respects, it can be a very significant sum. It's something that seems to be an anomaly, rather than any particular policy requirement that can be justified by the government. I would appreciate it if the minister would look into it.
HON. MR. CHABOT: In one instance in his talk, the member suggested that the problem is associated with a particular section of the Mobile Home Act; then he went on to say that the Minister of Finance suggested, in correspondence to me, that it has to do with regulations. We're looking at major revisions of the Mobile Home Act next year. If the case is as you've put it to me, and if it can be corrected by the regulations, we'll change the regulations.
MR. SKELLY: I'd like to bring up a number of matters in the minister's estimates. The one I discussed with him earlier was caves. I'd like to congratulate the minister for taking an interest in caves in the province of British Columbia, because previous governments and previous ministers have not taken an interest. I think that caves are one of the most attractive resources that this province could develop in the tourist industry. It's said that Vancouver Island has some of the most spectacular caves in the world, and some of the most spectacular elements which you find in caves, such as stalactites, moon milk, and all these things that apparently attract people who....
MR. BRUMMET: How does that fit into Housing?
MR. SKELLY: This is parks, my good friend, and it's involved with lands, as well. I'd expect a question like that from a newcomer, although perhaps he has just come from one.
HON. MR. CHABOT: We all come from caves.
MR. SKELLY: Speak for yourself, Mr. Minister.
In any case, caves are an attractive resource to tourists.They have been developed all over the world: in Australia, in New Zealand, Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. They are fabulous tourist attractions which have been developed throughout the world. We have here some of the most spectacular of all, but they are not developed.
So I'd like to congratulate the minister for setting up this policy steering committee to try to develop some policy to protect caves and to make them available to tourists throughout the province. The minister may not know it, but there are some problems with conflicts between groups who are represented on the committee and groups who are not represented on the committee, but who do represent a significant number of speleologists, let's say — people who are interested in caves throughout the province. In fact, some people feel that the only reason they have been asked to appear before the committee is because they have a number of surveys and inventories which have been done on caves on Vancouver Island, and that the province's main interest is not to get policy input from them but to get information and inventories as to those caves. The minister should give a little more input himself and show a little more interest in this type of development, in order to eliminate some of the conflicts going on that committee; I'd appreciate the minister's response to that.
In the Alberni Valley, a large number of complaints have been developing around the maintenance of parks in that area. I receive a large number of letters, which I pass along to the minister or to his staff, about the lack of maintenance. China Creek Park comes up time and time again, especially concerning the maintenance of roads in that area. Thanks to the Minister of Transportation, Communications and Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser), we finally obtained an agreement this year that they would maintain the road in the park; the parks branch was expressing no interest in that road. It's a major access to the China Creek marina for people from the Alberni Valley who have boats. Now one of the problems that's developing in the China Creek marina is the number of people who take campers down there, and there are not enough camping facilities provided by the Port Alberni Harbour Commission. I would like to see a little more interest taken by the parks branch in the development of China Creek Park and in campsites down in China Creek Park; I'd like to have the minister's response to that. Apparently he's spending very little, if any, money on maintenance and developments in the Alberni area of the Arrowsmith region.
There have also been complaints about Stamp Falls Park. The trails in that park have degenerated so much over the last few years that some of the trails that go up over a cliff overlooking the fish ladders in the Stamp River have sluffed over, and the fences have gone into the river. Children still use the trails, but they are becoming such a hazard to them that parents aren't allowing their kids to go to Stamp Falls Park anymore. The minister has agreed to spend more money down there, but we haven't really seen any firm developments in Stamp Falls Park. I'd like some assurance from the minister that he is going to take a little more interest in this area in the future, because of the hazard which it presents to children and because of the number of complaints that I am getting.
I also get a lot of complaints about the Sproat Lake launching ramp. People who launch their boats there end up tearing the bottoms off them, and it doesn't do much for the boating community. I suppose you could say it prevents the
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spread of Eurasian milfoil. Something should be done with the Sproat Lake launching ramp to protect boat owners who use the ramp through the parks branch facilities.
One of the problems seems to be that the minister isn't interested in spending money in an area of Vancouver Island that is used by a large number of tourists. As a result, Mr. Minister, a large number of people are using areas outside the park, and one of the areas is Toquart Bay, down near Ucluelet. They now have access to Toquart Bay through logging roads. There is no provision for the collection of garbage, nor is there provision for public toilets and that kind of thing, and the beach is becoming a mess. The minister should really take a look at the Toquart Bay area. It is quite an attraction to tourists, and we should look at improving it as a park, or else have some of the facilities in the Alberni area improved so that campers will be attracted to those facilities.
Another park north of Tofino which was purchased by the NDP is Hot Springs Cove.
AN HON. MEMBER: You sure have lots of parks up there.
MR. SKELLY: Not enough, Mr. Member, and they would be much more attractive to people if you did some work on them.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Is that NDP park you're talking about owned by the party itself?
MR. SKELLY: No, the party doesn't have any parks of its own.
HON. MR. CHABOT: You said it was purchased by the NDP.
MR. SKELLY: It was purchased by the NDP government.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Oh, I see.
MR. SKELLY: This year something like 700,000 tourists will visit the Pacific Rim Park area, and because of the crowding of campsites in that area a lot of people are interested in moving north along the Vancouver Island coastal strip and into such areas as Vargas Island and Hot Springs Cove. I'd like to see some investigation by the ministry of the Hot Springs Cove, or Maquinna Park as it is called, and possibly some provisions put in there for the boating community that uses that area quite extensively.
Also, the Hesquiaht Indian band is now developing a community across the harbour from Hot Springs Cove, and I'd like to see some involvement of that Indian band in the development of tourist facilities in the park out there.
I have a final question to the minister, and this concerns the negotiations in the phase 3 section of Pacific Rim National Park. I am wondering if the boundaries have yet been gazetted for phase 3. If so, what provisions have been made to adjust the boundaries in the Bamfield area? What provisions have been made to exchange timber rights in the phase 3 area of Pacific Rim National Park, and what provisions are being made this year? I notice you have something like $500,000 in the budget — $532,000 for land acquisition in Pacific Rim National Park — and I wonder what kind of provisions are being made this year to buy out inholdings in the phase 3 area of the park.
HON. MR. CHABOT: First of all, in the phase 3 acquisition for the Pacific Rim National Park, it wouldn't be possible to gazette the boundaries of this area until such time as negotiations have been finalized with the federal government on the acquisition and exchange of the additional forest land. Those negotiations should take place relatively soon. A dollar figure, within certain ranges, has been established for the purpose of negotiating with the federal government. We hope to proceed this year, and no doubt there will be allocations in our estimates next year — I hope — for the acquisition and exchange of these lands. It is a costly matter, but we've indicated our willingness to press on.
MR. SKELLY: Are you going to exchange lands or buy?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Yes, we're looking at exchanges. However, you can't always exchange equal timber volumes for equal timber volumes. The trading policy is one which has been established by officials within the outdoor recreation department of the parks branch, and we hope to have an opportunity to meet. This committee is not made up of any outside individuals; it is strictly officials within the outdoor recreation department of the parks branch, and we will be consulting with various interested groups on Vancouver Island, or anywhere else. We hope to have an open forum to discuss a policy this coming November.
I hope that means that we'll have a policy in place within the next seven or eight months on caving. The minister has received a great deal of correspondence on the subject matter. Unfortunately, it just came to me today. I haven't had an opportunity to read it. I've had communication from some people, but communication with the minister directly has been minimal. I certainly look forward to the recommendations that have been put to me and the opportunity of all those spelunkers out there to come in and have input into the caving policy.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye!
HON. MR. CHABOT: These members keep saying "aye." If I sit down they'll repeat the question again. I'm trying for the sake of time economy to respond forthwith.
Briefly, on China Creek we'll look and see. It's a great staging place for the canal. It's a great place to go down and do some fishing. We'll certainly look at it.
On the other areas that you've suggested to me, we have no plans for this year.
MR. SKELLY: Just one further question. The minister went up, I think, earlier this year to take a look at Spider Lake, which was considered a possible provincial park, and Parks has been taking a look at it for some time.
What happened? Did the minister manage to buy that area for a provincial park?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, the member over here likes to talk about Spider Lake and Illusion Lake. Certainly I've had a look. I had to go through some pretty
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deep water with my car, but I managed to get through that jungle up there.... I shouldn't call it a jungle. It's beautiful country, but it was a little boggy and a little messy early this spring when I was up there.
Yes, I've had a look. Most of the areas of interest for a provincial park in that area are privately held. We've looked at the possibility of the acquiring some land. Some people are interested in selling, others are not. Some are interested in land exchanges. We're looking at one specific area which has a little over 14,000 feet of shoreline on Spider Lake. Negotiations, I believe, are underway with the owners of that property. At this time I wouldn't want to venture a name of the company because I might be wrong, but we are negotiating.
MR. SKELLY: Scott Paper?
HON. MR. CHABOT: No, I don't think so. Anyway, we're looking at the acquiring of sufficient land to have a little over 14,000 feet of shoreline on Spider Lake for a park for that region.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I thought I had concluded my questions, but with the regularity that the government calls sessions it may be a year from now before I can get into position again, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to ask the things that arose since I was speaking last.
In the Akamina-Kishinena area 2,000 acres were supposed to be salvaged after the beetle infestation. I understand as a result of a meeting of Crows Nest Industries on July 18 that they estimate there are only 740 acres available and therefore it is no longer economically viable.
So here is the situation. They are going to be coming to you, perhaps, and asking for more acreage to make it economically viable. So here is the scenario that I was talking about earlier. First of all, are you aware of that? Are you aware of the upshot of that meeting — that there are only 740 acres to be salvaged, and it is not economically viable?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, it's my understanding that the land within the Akamina-Kishinena southeast comer of the province is within the provincial forest reserve. Under those circumstances, I have no jurisdiction. So any of the questions that you have raised about the economics of removing the bug-infested timber..... Whether there's only 700-odd acres to be harvested or 2,000 I'm not aware. It's a problem that has never been raised to me and properly the question should be put to the Minister of Forests because the provincial forest comes under Forests, not under me.
MR. HANSON: You should be as aware, as I am, that on November 22, 1977, the Kishinena-Akamina coordinated land-use plan set forth the conditions for salvage logging within the proposed park.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Yes, I'm aware of that. But there's no proposed park in there.
MR. HANSON: The proposal to have the Akamina-Kishinena linked up with Waterton and Glacier National Parks is a sound proposal and should be under your advisement. It shouldn't be left to the Minister of Forests, surely. That is a high-value park reserve.
HON. MR. CHABOT: It's not a park reserve.
MR. HANSON: All right, so it's not a park reserve. It's a high-value park proposal that makes sense for tourists coming in from the Waterton and Glacier Natioal Parks of southeastern B.C. So the question that's going to arise is: what does the Environment and Land Use Committee say about the uneconomic aspect of this proposal? Now is its chance to turn it around and look at an international triad of parks down in the southeast comer of the province, which makes a lot of sense. I would like to hear the minister's comments on that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'm not so sure that it comes under the jurisdiction of the minister.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Well, Mr. Chairman, I have some difficulty responding to something that has never been drawn to my attention before, something which is not under my administration. Essentially he's asking a hypothetical question, which I have great difficulty answering until such time as the matter which he claims to have information on has reached my desk. And rightfully so, because I have no jurisdiction. He's talking about park proposals. You know, to the south of the Akamina-Kishinena country there is Glacier National Park in the United States, and to the east there is Waterton Park of the federal government of Canada. This is a little triangle wedged in between those two large parks. Well, certainly there are people who have suggested it should be a park. But we get all kinds of suggestions for parks. We have suggestions for the establishment of more than seven million acres of additional parkland in British Columbia at this time by a variety of groups and individuals. So it's one of those situations where I'm not aware whether it's economic to log only 700 acres or 2,000 acres. It's a question which is under the administration of the Ministry of Forests. My job is to promote, enhance and preserve parkland in British Columbia. This area is not under my jurisdiction.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, the nub of the issue is that it could be a park, and I think that you should it take it under advisement. However, I will move on to another question.
I cannot find ecological reserves listed in your estimates. In fact the way broadbending and grouping of the estimates is presented now is, I think, very bad. As opposition, we cannot see how the staff priorities are being set up. Before, you could see seven park assistants, 12 planners, et cetera. Now it's lumped. We can't see it. It's hidden — and that's fine, from your point of view. However, I do not see ecological reserves. Has that budget been expended? Have they been increased by more than the two staff they've had since the NDP was in power? Surely, with more than one-third of a million square miles, you can give more staff to that kind of important vote. Can you give me a breakdown of that particular vote, please?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Yes. The staff found under the land management vote is three. They also have available
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auxiliary help from the land management branch. That's where the staff is — with land management.
Vote 162: minister's office, $148,408 — approved.
Vote 163: housing, $29,916,769 — approved.
Vote 164: land management, $8,032,646 — approved.
Vote 165: parks and outdoor recreation, $24,579,967 — approved.
Vote 166: financial and administration services, $1,532,061 — approved.
Vote 167: building occupancy charges, $1,964,000 approved.
Vote 168: computer and consulting charges, $1,073,670 approved.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
On vote 169: minister's office, $141,787.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Chairman, it's a pleasure to participate in this committee in the debate on estimates for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and to address any concerns members of the committee may wish to express.
Mr. Chairman, it is customary for the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs to attend in committee, and I see he is coming in now. I am particularly pleased, I might say right now as well, to have the benefit of the counsel of Mr. Bill Long, who is undoubtedly the most respected senior official in the province in the areas in which he has experience, including municipal administration, financing and planning.
I also have with me the assistant deputy, Mr. John Taylor. Of course, I am very pleased that he is here also to give his advice in the area of expertise which he practises very well on behalf of the ministry in the province regularly.
Mr. Long and his two assistant deputies, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Taylor, along with the directors and staff in the ministry, have competently provided expertise and support to all of the municipalities and regional districts throughout British Columbia.
Our ministry, Mr. Chairman, is noted for quality of staff as opposed to quantity. Ours is the fifth largest ministry in terms of budget estimates and it is one of the smallest ministries in terms of numbers of staff. Each of our offices is well known for the long hours of dedication and for outstanding ability.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to preface my introduction to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs estimates debate with some remarks about local taxes. In a number of jurisdictions throughout North America, it has been incumbent upon the affected citizens to protest the spiralling tax burdens. In British Columbia the provincial government has taken the initiative to ensure that it will never be necessary for local property owners to take the matter into their own hands.
We instituted a property tax increase control program in early 1979. We increased the provincial homeowner grant, increased revenue-sharing benefits and provided for the reduction of taxes for farms or property reserved for agricultural use in the agricultural land reserve.
Mr. Chairman, the provincial government announced on January 3, 1979, that we could not continue to underwrite excessive growth in local government expenditures, and that we were determined to take action to protect the local taxpayer. To control property tax increases levied by municipalities and regional districts, we announced a program of guidelines whereby 1979 municipal general purpose mill rates were not to be increased over 1978 levels, and no municipal or regional district budgets were to increase more than 5 percent. In addition, municipalities were required to treat their unexpended general revenue fund surpluses for the years 1977 and 1978, including the unexpended appropriated surpluses for those years, as revenue for 1979 budget purposes.
Mr. Chairman, the revenue-sharing program has also served to reduce the burden of local taxes upon higher taxpayers. Local governments have been the beneficiaries of substantial increases in assistance from the provincial government in the past three years. The new revenue-sharing program was introduced last year to give municipalities and regional districts a share in the more dynamic provincial revenues.
Under this program they received $138.3 million last year, an increase of more than $20 million over the allocation under previous programs. In the coming year, this will rise to $141.7 million.
In addition, the provincial government is now paying full municipal taxes on its properties. To assist municipalities in achieving the aims of the local government budgetary guidelines, the provincial government is contributing for this year only an extra $7.5 million to reduce the local share of social assistance costs. The province will collect only $1.06 per capita per month from municipalities rather than $1.40, which would normally be collected as the 10 percent share paid by municipalities with populations over 2,500. Thus welfare costs to municipalities will rise only 5 percent this year.
As a result of our local government restraints program and our increased revenue-sharing grants, the provincial government has helped to keep the lid on local property taxes. As a matter of fact, out of 140 municipalities in British Columbia, 74 reported a decrease in their 1979 general mill rate, excluding debt. In addition, 45 municipalities reported the same general mill rates, excluding debt, in 1979 as in 1978.
Therefore from 1978 to 1979, 119 out of 140 municipalities did not increase their general mill rates. As a matter of fact, a large number decreased. The 21 municipalities that did increase their general mill rates for 1979 did so because of extraordinary circumstances, and in most cases were approved by the inspector of municipalities.
In addition to these significant programs, which in a very concrete way have eased the burden of local property tax on our taxpayers, the provincial government has this year initiated a permanent increase of $100 in the annual homeowner grant for all homeowners in the province. This raises the basic grant to $380, and the grant for senior citizens and persons receiving the handicapped or war veterans' allowance to $580. Homeowners who are now
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receiving property tax bills all over this province should see a sizable reduction in the taxes they must pay as a result of this measure.
It is clear then, Mr. Chairman, that the initiatives of the provincial government in the areas of local budgetary guidelines and controls, increased revenue-sharing grants and increased homeowner grants have, through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, served to reduce the local tax burden upon the taxpayers. In addition, assessments on farm and agricultural reserve land will be reduced 50 percent on December 1, 1979, to reduce the burden of school tax.
In addition to acting in every way possible under provincial jurisdiction to limit the impact of local taxation upon the taxpayers, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs supervises municipal and regional district long-term borrowing for capital programs. For the year ended December 31, 1978, the inspector of municipalities authorized $135,942,253 total borrowing for a variety of projects. I am pleased to advise that the proportion of current revenue expended to serve long-term debenture debt is not considered excessive, and is well below the amount expended in other provinces.
The financial management division of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs continues to provide regulatory and advisory services to local government on all aspects of municipal financing, including current and long-term budgeting requirements, as well as capital financing.
Mr. Chairman, the administrative services division of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has completed the preparatory work for the first incorporation in British Columbia since 1975. This month the residents of Belcarra and Bedwell Bay voted 95 percent in favour of such incorporation, and the vote was characterized by a high turnout. The incorporation will be completed by August 1979. In addition, I am pleased to advise that the city of Chilliwack and the district of Chilliwhack will take advantage of our ministry's very generous restructuring grants to amalgamate this year, following a vote in which a substantial number of electors in both municipalities supported the amalgamation.
With the change in ministerial responsibilities that occurred in December 1978, the administration of some 300 improvement districts, previously under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment, was transferred to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
Administrative Services continues to assist local governments preparing bylaws and orders resolving administrative problems, reviewing applications for boundary extensions and regional district functions, and processing statutory appointments to regional districts and municipal boards of variance.
The planning services division continues to provide support for the community and regional planning process as it relates to local government, as well as provincial planning responsibilities. The division is also responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of provincial settlement policies and programs. Under revenue sharing, municipal planning grants for 1979-80 are estimated to total $793,360 and regional district planning grants will total $965,893, for a total of $1,759,253. The planning services division also serves as a lead agency for comprehensive reviews of proposed development projects, in terms of their implications for existing community and regional settlement patterns and for proposed new communities. For example, a proposal for a new coal mine near Elkford in the Kootenays necessitated a recent settlement study by the planning services division.
Mr. Chairman, I am particularly pleased to advise that this year the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is preparing proposals which would have the effect of rejuvenating the constitution of our province in terms of the role, structure and function of local governments which are not incorporated. I am referring to the proposals for addressing the problems which have arisen in the past number of years with respect to regional districts. I will be discussing our proposals with regional district boards, other local government representatives and other interested parties in the very near future.
I am equally pleased with the progress we have made in the preparation of a planning Act for British Columbia. British Columbia is the only province in Canada which does not enjoy the benefits of a planning Act. I believe that we should have a planning appeal mechanism, the provision of all statutory planning requirements and procedures in one piece of legislation, and residential servicing standards throughout the province.
We have embarked upon a substantial redrafting of the Provincial Homeowner Grant Act in order to remove all ambiguities, anachronistic provisions and inequities. The ministry is also studying the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Act, with a view to removing outdated provisions. The next major project which we have just initiated is the wholesale amendment of the Municipal Act. This major undertaking will involve the removal of outdated provisions in a global, cohesive approach to drafting.
I hope, Mr. Chairman, that we might receive a number of questions with respect to the budget, of course, and that I could provide the answers which the various members might seek as to the proposed programs, or our involvement with municipalities in British Columbia.
MR. BARBER: How often have those members in this House present since that member got elected seen him read a speech? It's a rare event. It's also contrary to the rules: members aren't supposed to do that. However, it's permitted from time to time. I wonder why it might be on this particular occasion, the first in the memory of the opposition, that this minister today restricts his remarks to those which someone obviously wrote for him, judging by his inability to pronounce certain of the words in the speech.
Do you think it has anything to do with the trouble this most unpopular member of cabinet is currently in? Do you think it has anything to do with the spectacular announcement he made yesterday?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. During discussion in Committee of Supply the administrative action of the ministry is open to debate.
MR. BARBER: And so is the conduct of the minister in handling that portfolio.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is with the latitude of the debate. Order, please. Please continue, first member for Victoria.
MR. BARBER: It's no wonder at all that the minister is sticking to a script today. It's obvious that the Premier
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doesn't trust him to speak off the top of his head. He did that yesterday to a reporter from the Times, and look what happened.
This minister is a veritable Roman candle. Like any other firecracker, he spins around madly and wildly, sending sparks, making other people's announcements for them, and going off — God knows where — on his own tangent. It's an amazing thing, the performance of this minister. He makes announcements for the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Hewitt), telling the province that a committee on agriculture has been set up. That was last year. This year he makes announcements for the minister responsible for ICBC. God knows what it will be next year. It's an amazing performance. He's the minister who announces everything.
The minister, in fact, seems to spend more time concentrating on the work of other ministries than he does on the work of his own. I have some very specific and very detailed and perfectly well-documented criticisms to make of the abject failure of this minister to be responsible for his own portfolio. While he's busy stealing speech notes from the minister responsible for ICBC, while he's busy pinching announcements from the Minister of Agriculture, he in fact, in a derelict and utterly unacceptable way, is ignoring the fundamental problems of local government in this province. He spends much too much time minding the business of other ministers, and much too little minding the business of his own portfolio. The Premier is obviously as unhappy with that as anyone else — witness today's amazing question period and the performance of the minister reading from a speech that presumably John Arnett cleared five minutes before he got up to read it.
There are some very significant problems with this minister's performance and with the policies of that ministry. The only thing the minister has got going for him is the fact that he works with a very capable department of public servants. He does have that, at least, going for him. I'd like, if I may as critic now for almost four years, to thank those who are here on the floor today — the deputy and assistant deputy — and others in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs who've been of very considerable assistance to me in providing the technical and detailed background and explicit information required year round, as well as during these debates, to come to some informed and well-grounded conclusions about alternative policies, programs and points of view that should be debated and considered from time to time. So I thank the public servants for doing that.
The problem with this minister is that he seems not yet to have understood or appreciated the fundamental role and value of local government in British Columbia. He seems not yet to have been able to have dealt with any other matter than the smallest and narrowest interpretation of what it is local government is supposed to do for the people. The problem is that he seems to have no grasp, no imagination, no broad view at all of what cities should look like as we move into the twenty-first century. He seems not to understand how they should be financed and what the limits of their current financing are. He seems to think that it is a wise and prudent thing to put a 5 percent ceiling on them and to think that thereby he has done the job of answering all of the questions about how cities shall finance themselves. It was a stupid policy then. It was stupid as it applied to hospitals; it's stupid as it applies to municipalities.
All that it means is that they shall inevitably have to put off certain capital expenditures until higher interest rates and a greater demand force them to do it five years from now. Had they been permitted to do these things today, at lower interest rates and lower cost, the final burden to the taxpayer would have been lower. But five years and ten years from now, as a result of the foolishness of the policies of this government, the people will be paying more for work they should have done now. They will be paying more because of inflation and interest. It is a stupid policy. It makes no sense, except in the smallest political way, that this minister and his Premier thought it would be good for a few cheap votes at election time. The same problems that local governments have, trying to deal with these artificial and foolish ceilings, are those that hospitals have across the province.
That debate has been well made already. The debate that has to be made here is about the utter, abject and hopeless failure of this minister to understand any of the long-range problems of financing, construction, administration and structure that local government faces in this province. He shows no grasp of that at all. None. If he did we would surely have heard about it by now. We've heard about everything else that he cares to talk about in all the other ministers' portfolios, but we haven't heard him say a word on these problems. We presume he says nothing because he thinks nothing about these problems. He remains preoccupied with making ICBC announcements instead.
There are some very specific problems as well that the minister should address himself to. I'd like, if I may, to refer to one of them right now. I discussed it in question period today, and I'd like to discuss it at greater length. It is a concern the minister should have for the problem of homeowners who live in cooperative dwellings in the province of British Columbia. It is a problem that was originally raised by the City of Vancouver. It has been the city's position that because of defects in the memorandum of association that establishes the corporation as a cooperative, and because of defects, apparently, in the homeowner grant, literally hundreds upon hundreds of our citizens are effectively disqualified from receiving the homeowner grant.
The payment of the homeowner grant to those citizens who own a cooperative dwelling is not a new principle. It was recognized more than a decade ago. It is a sound principle and it is one our party supports. However, in May of this year — I don't have the precise date — the City of Vancouver passed a resolution: "That the city seek from the provincial government an undertaking that legislation be amended retroactively to make cooperatives eligible for homeowner grants and upon receipt of this undertaking the council instruct its officials to accept applications for cooperatives from the homeowner grant."
As the result of the inquiries made by Peter Leckie, the city's director of finance, and Fritz Bowers, its manager, on May 1 and again on May 22 the City of Vancouver wrote and asked the minister for clarification. It is the opinion of that city's legal department that the legislation is defective. It is the opinion of that city's legal department that the memorandum of association which helps create that instrument in law known as a cooperative society is also defective. These may not be correct opinions, but they are the best legal opinions that the City of Vancouver has at the moment. Until they are corrected or qualified that opinion
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stands. Until that opinion is varied by law, the consequence is that hundreds of homeowners in Vancouver have now been disqualified from receiving the homeowner grant. The city has indicated that they are prepared to wait until September, if necessary. They are prepared to forgo any of the actions they would ordinarily be required to take, should that be required. That is a very good thing on the part of the City of Vancouver. It is not a very good thing that this minister, preoccupied with making ICBC announcements, has to admit in question period today that he thinks he didn't even get the letters from the City of Vancouver.
Well, let's assume he got the letters, and let's assume as well that he didn't know what was in them, or he gave them to someone else. May and June have passed, and July is passing, and the City of Vancouver has been waiting for three months for a competent answer from that less-than-competent minister. They have raised a question as to the legality of homeowner grant payments to the owners of cooperative housing in the City of Vancouver. Specifically they have ruled ineligible seven out of the nine housing cooperatives incorporated in that city.
The City of Vancouver has done the best it can to present legal opinion, and has done as much as it can to obtain from this minister a statement as to whether or not their opinion is correct. If it is not correct they will pay the homeowner grant, I would presume. If it is correct then legislation must be amended. That legislation requiring amendment may be the Cooperatives Act, it may be the Homeowner Grant Act, it may be both Acts. We don't know yet. All we know are the questions raised by the City of Vancouver. All we know, as well, is that this minister has been utterly neglectful in responding to legitimate criticisms and questions raised by the largest city in the province. On May 1 and again on May 22 they wrote, and they've heard nothing. The minister has done nothing. It is part of a pattern of neglect and maladministration with which that minister himself has become notoriously identified.
There are further problems, and again they relate to the homeowner grant. I raised this matter before under another bill. The bill is now law, so I am permitted to raise it now. It is the failure of this minister to honour a Social Credit Party promise to extend the homeowner grant to those persons who live in 99-year leaseholds.
I have a piece of correspondence from Mr. Louis Lafont, 409-964 Heywood Avenue, Victoria. The letter was written to the minister on July 16. I presume that if the minister replies to letters as quickly to citizens as he does to the City of Vancouver, he won't get a reply until October, so I raise it now, hoping for an earlier reply.
It is this minister's policy that homeowners in 99-year leaseholds who did not apply for or were not eligible for the homeowner grant prior to December 31, 1977, are now, and shall remain, ineligible.
Here is the position Mr. Lafont finds himself in. He lives in a building called Villa Royale, in the city of Victoria; it's a very fine, well-built and well-kept-up series of homes, right by Beacon Hill Park. Mr. Lafont purchased his home three years ago. For the last two years he has been receiving the homeowner grant. Last year Mr. Lafont moved from his home, and he is no longer eligible to receive the homeowner grant. Why is this? He moved from his home in Villa Royale to another suite in Villa Royale. He was formerly on the third floor; now he's on the fourth floor. Under this minister's incompetent policy, had he remained on the third floor, he would still today be eligible for the homeowner grant. But because he wanted a better view, one floor up, he moved to the fourth. What kind of a position is this? What kind of a policy does that represent? Precisely, it represents a stupid, narrow, ridiculous policy that cannot be defended. You don't need to take my word for it; you can ask the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Curtis), whose policy it was in the first place. It was then a good policy. The only flaw was this December 31, 1977, cutoff.
The problem with this minister's neglect of office and his deliberate unwillingness to consider decent and human policies is exemplified by poor Mr. Lafont. Last year he was eligible, but he made the mistake of moving to another suite in the same building, and now he's not eligible. Did this government tell him that? No. Did this government inform him that he was going to lose the homeowner grant because he decided to move to a better unit in the same building? No. Did this minister make any attempt whatever to explain the human consequences of this somewhat less than human policy? No. What are we supposed to do about that, Mr. Chairman? What are the residents of Orchard House and Villa Royale supposed to do? They are doing as much as they can right now. They are writing letters, but they are not getting replies. They are writing letters to the minister, to the Premier and to the newspapers. So they should.
This minister has created a policy which results in two classes of homeowners in British Columbia: those who are lucky enough to get the homeowner grant, because in 99-year leasholds they applied for it before December 31, 1977, and those unlucky enough not to have applied or to have purchased prior to that date. Two classes of homeowners have been established. They all pay taxes; they're all citizens; they're all equally obligated and duty-bound to do all of the things that every other citizen does. Some of them are in the position of my constituent, Mr. Lafont, who moved in the same building and is now ineligible.
It's a stupid, narrow policy that, if the minister has thought through, demonstrates the inadequacy of his thinking. If he has not thought it through, it demonstrates the inadequacy of his performance. Either way it confirms his inadequacy — pure and simple.
Now the minister has made a case as recently as in this evening's paper that it was never the intention of the government to accept 99-year leaseholds as the equivalent of owning a single-family dwelling in British Columbia. Well, unfortunately for the minister, he didn't bother to read the press release of March 24, 1977, issued by his own ministry, because that totally contradicts what the minister said this afternoon. It said:
"The Hon. Hugh Curtis, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, today announced that a regulation will be adopted under the Provincial Home-owner Grant Act, which will ensure that homeowner grant benefits are available to persons occupying apartments on a 99-year lease basis. Under the legislation, it has now been determined that it is not possible to obtain separate assessment notices and subsequent tax billings on individual apartment units held under lease. It is anticipated the necessary regulation to provide for the grant will be in force in the current tax year."
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I should point out for the record that it was subsequently determined that regulation alone was inadequate. It was subsequently and properly determined that legislation had to be introduced, because the power of order-in-council was not adequate to do the job of amending the homeowner grant. That's fine and that's fair. We didn't object.
The government's own statement of the day made it clear that they did then recognize 99-year lease ownership as the equivalent of home ownership — because it is. I doubt there is a single member in this Legislature who has or whose family has owned a home for 99 consecutive years. Homes are traded all the time. We don't put any limitation on the number of years that one must own a single-family home in order to qualify. Why should we put a limitation on the number of years that one must own a lease in order to qualify? For all practical purposes, a 99-year leasehold is home ownership. There is no distinction, and that fact was made clear by the ministry's own press release of March 24, 1977, announcing what was then, but is no longer, a good policy.
Among the many failures of this minister is his failure even to understand his predecessor's policy, his ministry's policy, and his government's policy. If he did understand it, he wouldn't have made the idiot comments he made in the paper tonight. They are contradicted by his predecessor, whose press release I just read out. I'll table the press release if the minister wishes to see it.
There are further failures of administration by this minister, one of which will be dealt with at some length by my colleague from Burnaby — that is his failure to introduce a financing policy for transit and a structure for transit policy that is adequate to the purpose. I simply wish to note in passing my own personal and grave concern at the apparent unwillingness of this minister to think originally about the problems of transit and to act originally to solve them. Instead, he continues to be tied to the myths, the practices and the structures of 20 years past. Twenty years ago they were inadequate. They are all the more so today. My colleague will be discussing these at greater length.
I want to mention two more things only at this point. You will remember that when the minister took this portfolio, he announced that regional districts had a less than 50-50 chance of survival. Now this was, of course, another of those Roman candle statements of this Juggernaut minister. It was a silly statement then. It was silly, thoughtless, pointless, and did no more than this: it further alienated regional government from the office of that minister. It further offended and insulted people in regional government who understand its value and its practical application. It further demonstrated that this minister has no grasp at all of the real, subtle problems that local government presents. He thought for a moment that regional government was unpopular, so he attacked it. He thought for a moment there were a few votes in knocking regional government and predicting its demise, so he predicted its demise.
Finally, this year, he begins to realize that once again he was talking through his hat. He had done no study, conducted no serious analysis, had no policy to back it up, and once again seems to have done another about-face. He has now decided that regional districts will be allowed to survive after all.
Now when he announced this, was it here in the House? Well, no, of course not. It was to the press. This minister doesn't like to make announcements here in the House because they might be challenged. He doesn't like talking in the House about these things because we might take the opportunity to read back to him his old speeches. In the old speeches, you find a total contradiction of the new speeches. So he'll do anything for a headline. He'll say anything for a 30-second clip on the radio. He'll say anything at all for 60 seconds on BCTV. He'll even pose for cartoons in the Victoria Times. But will he debate a serious policy problem in this House? Not on your life. He'll read from a script that John Arnett gave him. He wouldn't risk it. Risking it would betray the fact that this minister's knowledge of the problems of local government is utterly superficial, utterly unread, utterly unconsidered.
When he was talking a few months ago, Mr. Chairman, about county government, he was talking about.... This, perhaps, he thought would be the solution to all of the problems of regional local government: we would introduce a county system. We might even include school boards, he said; we might even include new forms of taxation. What did he hold out as his examples of successful country government? Oh, well, he found them in the United States. Did he appear to know that county government exists in Nova Scotia and Ontario? Did he indicate any Canadian precedent that might guide us? Did he indicate any knowledge at all of Canadian experience in the forms of county government that exist? No, he never mentioned it. There was no Canadian experience, no Canadian precedent, no Canadian interest whatever. He found American examples were presumably more glamorous to make his political point.
The point is, however, that once again he betrays his utterly superficial and uninformed background in local government. Anyone can be a mayor of a place like Surrey and not know anything about good government; anyone can end up with the planning problems that municipality has and not know anything about good government; anyone can bring on stream a series of horrible suburban developments like that minister, when he was mayor, was responsible for, and not know anything about local government. The fact that he was mayor — obviously, because of his so-called success — doesn't indicate he knew anything about good planning. Now he's minister and he indicates that he still knows nothing about good planning.
He appears to know something about ICBC policies; he knows about agriculture policies; he knows about aid to Vietnam policies. But what does he know about local government policies? Nothing. What does he care about them? Nothing, except this: if you can find a few votes by knocking local government, he'll find the votes. If you can find a few votes by imposing a stupid and artificial 5 percent ceiling and costing the taxpayers fortunes more down the road, he'll find those votes. If he can get on out of the blue and talk about monorails running down the 401, or wherever it is he proposes to run monorails, he'll do it for the sake of a few votes. The fact that he has not studied the matter; the fact that there exists no written documentation to support his views in British Columbia; the fact that the UTA had never heard a word about it; the fact that his own ministry, by his own admission, has no consultants whatever on staff who might have guided him in his statements about monorail indicates once more just this: his knowledge of that field as well is abysmally, embarrassingly superficial and ill-informed.
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I want to conclude with one more proposal. I've made it four years running; I make it again this year. There exists a requirement for a royal commission on local government in British Columbia. The minister has admitted — I'm glad to hear it — that the Municipal Act needs overhauling. His predecessor admitted it for three years in a row. Maybe the ministry will get around to doing it. Our Municipal Act is a mess; it's a chaotic, unregulated, difficult-to-deal-with, disorderly mess. It's hard to follow; it's hard to read. It's hard for local government, especially in the smaller areas, to get hold of and understand what their duties and responsibilities are. It is an Act that has never been overhauled in any serious way. It has never been examined for all of the problems it has in law, detail and structure. The Municipal Act is a mess. It requires a thorough overhaul.
What better project might be undertaken by a royal commission on local government than to draft a model Municipal Act? Such a commission could draft such an Act after consulting with the people around the province on the new forms that local government should take, as we move into the twenty-first century. Some would argue that in the great cities of British Columbia local government should also include forms of neighbourhood government and recognition of neighbourhood interests in a significant way.
Some would argue that municipal government as we see it now is obsolete, that its new forms would include a combination of neighbourhood and regional government, and that the former halfway house — halfway between — is simply not appropriate anymore. These are important planning and policy questions. They are being debated by planners and by enlightened municipal officials around the province. They are being debated everywhere except here, where they should be debated, because the province is finally responsible for the whole apparatus of policy and administration as it applies to local government.
A highly competent, respected royal commission on local government could do a great deal to consult with the citizens, to plan with the citizens and to prepare as a result a model Municipal Act which could guide all of us into the creation of more sensitive, more effective, efficient and human local government at the most local scale of them all. It would be an appropriate initiative for this or any other government to undertake. It would be an initiative that would be welcomed, I think, by most people in local government, and the consequence of which could be very positive and very profound in the development of local government in this province. It's an initiative which the loyal opposition most certainly welcomes.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Before the Chair recognizes the member for Burnaby-Willingdon, I would like to bring to all members' attention points from our standing orders that say when a member is speaking, no other member shall interrupt him. To the first member for Victoria, I would like to point out that once again the standing orders and Sir Erskine May, sixteenth edition, indicate that the administrative action of a ministry is open to debate under Committee of Supply but not the necessity for legislation.
I would ask the member to remember those remarks.
MR. LORIMER: I hope the people in this House will recognize the sage remarks that you made before I spoke. I want to point out that we have a new Minister of Municipal Affairs, and I wish him well in his new position. But I was somewhat disappointed in his opening remarks in that he did fail to mention transit. I'm just somewhat concerned and worried that maybe he's lost interest in transit already. Maybe he's taken up a new interest in ICBC and isn't interested any longer in the field of transit. Maybe he's made his remarks on monorails and so on and now wants to go into a new field.
I think the minister has done as much to date on transit as his predecessor did. The predecessor brought in a bill called the Urban Transit Authority to try to show the public that in actual fact he was interested in transit, and something was going to be done. Our new minister wasn't going to be outdone. He brought in one too: Metro Transit Operating Company. The "never" bill, as he says, will probably never come into force.
So they are tied. But I'm interested also in the budget for transit. The budget refers to some $37 million for transit. Now presumably that is to be used to pay the operating deficits of the Urban Transit Authority, if it ever gets off the ground. It seems to me that the sum of $37 million will just about cover 50 percent of the operating deficits of transit in the next year.
But I had hoped that the minister would come forth and set out a blueprint for transit in the eighties, so that we would be able to look forward to the answer to the severe problem of moving large numbers of people in the urban areas. But no, we have no suggestions, no proposals, nothing in the field of transit.
The new timetables and so on for vehicles have recently come out — I think it was earlier this month. I note there's been a substantial decline in services rendered in the bus systems in the Vancouver area. The Main route has been cut down by a total of four runs a day; the Robson route, five runs; Fourth Avenue has had an increase of one trip a day and so has the Oak Street run. But when we get to Davie, there's a loss of one; Kingsway route, a loss of one; Stanley Park, a loss of three; Powell Street, a loss of three; Nanaimo, a loss of one; Granville Street, a loss of four; Victoria Avenue, a loss of three; and there are six fewer vehicles handling the park-and-ride traffic in Vancouver. The Beach Avenue system has a loss of two services in the day; Knight Street, a loss of three; Macdonald Avenue, a loss of four runs a day and on MacDonald and Sixteenth there's another loss of four rides a day.
Now this is not the first cutback in the last three or four years. There's been a regular cutback — a movement of trips from 7 minutes to 10 minutes, from 10 minutes to 15 minutes and so on. There's been a substantial accumulation over the years of an indication that this government has no commitment whatever to a transit solution for moving people. The only other solution for movement of people, as I understand it, would be the building of wider streets, and more freeways criss-crossing the city. The government is going to have to come to grips with this severe problem in the urban areas. Something has to be done. I'm suggesting to the minister that the cheapest way, and the most efficient way, and the way for the improvement of the environment and so on, is the transit solution. It's much cheaper than building highways and freeways criss-crossing the cities.
There was a study done in the United States by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was published in November 1976, and it dealt with seven cities in the field of transit between the years 1971 and 1975. It turned out that
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Vancouver was one of the cities that they examined, due to the fact that there was a substantial amount of activity being taken in the transit field in Vancouver at that particular time. It noted that the increase in ridership in Vancouver during those days was an increase of 57 percent. Certainly, during that period, there was only the start of a transit system. I suggest that this government should have continued improving transit and kept up pace with those years, the years of the renaissance of transit in Vancouver and British Columbia, but they didn't do it. They stopped, and nothing further has been done in transit since those years.
Now you can't decide suddenly that you're going to create a good transit system and start in and have it ready tomorrow. There is a long period of time, for instance, in waiting on vehicles themselves. You're probably going to have to wait two years after you decide to do something in transit. You're going to wait a couple of years before the vehicles are going to arrive, even though you have your orders put in.
You know, I realize that I'm really talking to myself here, because I'm convinced that with the previous actions of this government there will be no activity in the transit field. I'm very sad about it because it's going to be a massive job now and it will be a much greater job in the years to come. If something was done each year, the job could be done over a period of years and at a much less painful cost.
I want to make one or two more proposals. The minister was talking earlier about a monorail system. Before he gets serious about the monorail system, I suggest he look into it first. I can advise him that the system has never been proven for an urban area. It's all right for a park plan, and so on. There are a number of reasons for this. Two of the major reasons are, of course, that it's an ugly system — I'm sure that the people in British Columbia don't want to see monorails hanging from the sides of buildings in the downtown areas of Victoria and Vancouver — and the other reason is that the technological problem of switching from one rail to another has never been solved. Your system is going to be in loops, rather than on the surface. Those are the problems with the monorail.
[Mr. Rogers in the chair.]
The other day I noticed an announcement that there were going to be some articulated vehicles purchased; I think it was the UTA that suggested they were going to buy some articulated transit vehicles for use in British Columbia. I wish them well, but I don't think that the share the government will pay on those vehicles will be forthcoming. It's certainly not listed here in the budget. I also advise the UTA that tenders for 20 articulated electric vehicles were on tap in 1975. But when this new government came along, those tenders were cancelled. So I don't think their interest in transit or in articulated vehicles is any greater than what can be produced on the TV cameras. I'm sure that nothing is going to happen in that line.
I don't think I'll say any more, because the time is getting close to dinner. So I'll leave it at that, Mr. Chairman.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Phillips moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.