1979 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, JULY 26, 1979
[ Page 1029 ]
Shaffer report on proposed transmission line. Mr. Skelly –– 1029
Price Waterhouse tax study. Hon. Mr. Wolfe replies –– 1029
Floorcraft Floor Covering Ltd. Hon. Mr. Wolfe replies –– 1030
Appointment of Ed Gould. Ms. Brown –– 1030
Amendments to liquor licence regulations. Mr. Levi –– 1030
Inquiry into Delta police. Mr. Macdonald –– 1031
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Provincial Secretary and Government Services estimates.
On vote 177.
Mr. King –– 1031
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1032
Mrs. Dailly –– 1032
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1032
Mr. Howard –– 1033
Mr. Hall –– 1034
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1035
Mr. Hanson –– 1035
Mr. Mitchell –– 1035
Mr. Barber –– 1036
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1037
Mr. Hanson –– 1039
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1039
Mr. King –– 1040
Mr. Nicolson –– 1040
Mr. Barnes –– 1040
On vote 178.
Mr. Macdonald –– 1041
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1041
On vote 179.
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1041
Mr. Nicolson –– 1041
On vote 194.
Mrs. Dailly –– 1042
On vote 195.
Mr. Levi –– 1042
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1042
On vote 203.
Mr. Levi –– 1042
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1042
On vote 204.
Mr. Levi –– 1042
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 1042
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Highways estimates.
On vote 211.
Hon. Mr. Fraser –– 1043
Mr. Lockstead –– 1043
Mr. Mussallem –– 1049
Mr. Barnes –– 1049
Mr. King –– 1050
Hon. Mr. Fraser –– 1052
British Columbia Assessment Authority annual report as at December 31, 1978.
Hon. Mr. Wolfe –– 1054
THURSDAY, JULY 26, 1979
The House met at 2 p.m.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, visiting with us today — and I'm very honoured and proud to have them here — are two gentleman who were almost neighbours to me in Holland, and they now serve in California. They're brothers and priests: Father De Groot and Monsignor De Groot. I would ask the House to bid them welcome.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Speaker, visiting us today from my constituency is a very good friend, the editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, one of the more successful weekly newspapers in British Columbia. Would the House please welcome Ida Makaro.
MR. HALL: I'd like the House to make welcome two young ladies on a visit to Victoria, finding out about the capital city, and on summer holidays, Miss Jacqueline Harris and Miss Tracey Hall.
MS. BROWN: One of the pleasures of living or visiting in Victoria is the opportunity to listen to the beautiful singing voice of Louise Rose. Louise is visiting with us today. I wonder if the House would join with me in saying welcome to her.
Also in the gallery are some visitors from Stockholm, Sweden. We have Miss Sylven, Mr. Hans Lindstron and Mr. Anders Ferlund. Anders Ferland is a very young man who is involved in politics; he's going to be running in the next provincial election. They were brought to visit the House by Kelly Hill, a resident of New Westminster, and by our very able past and future representative from Delta, Mr. Carl Liden.
MR. MUSSALLEM: May I have the honour to inform the House that a very special member of the constituency of Dewdney is here. She is the head of the crisis centre, and she is doing a remarkable job in Maple Ridge to help all the people when they need it. I sometimes suggest to her that she could do a great deal here. May I ask you to welcome Mrs. Molly O'Dell.
SHAFFER REPORT ON
PROPOSED TRANSMISSION LINE
MR. SKELLY: My question is to the Minister of Environment. Yesterday the minister said that although he hadn't seen the Shaffer report, he had an overwhelming curiousity about it. Has the minister had an opportunity to satisfy that overwhelming curiosity and read the report?
HON. MR. MAIR: Well, I've got it half done. It arrived on my desk at about a quarter to nine this morning. I have not yet had an opportunity to read it, but I have scanned it, and I have indeed talked to Professor Shaffer. I can now assure the member that both the report and the professor exist.
MR. SKELLY: On a supplementary question, I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, that the minister has found out something that the rest of the people in the province knew all the time. [Laughter.]
In view of the minister's statement yesterday that the Shaffer report was commissioned on the initiative of the secretariat without the approval of the government, will the minister acknowledge that the secretariat has the right to release the report to the public on its own initiative?
HON. MR. MAIR: I may be slow, but I'm usually sure. The answer is no. They have not got the right to do that, Mr. Member. The secretariat, as I tried to explain to your colleague for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) yesterday, does certainly have the right to do things on their own initiative. Contrary to the slightly erroneous press reports.... While I did not personally see that this specific report was paid for out of the budget for Environment, it is paid by the government. Of course it is. It is a government report and the only person who can authorize its release is myself, or the government.
MR. SKELLY: Now that the minister has half read the report, will he confirm that the report indicates that the Cheekye-Dunsmuir 500-kilovolt line is not needed until 1985, which gives the government an additional two years to study alternative sources of supply for Vancouver Island?
HON. MR. MAIR: Mr. Speaker, with due respect, I heard a number of questions down the line. The first one I heard was: will I confirm? The answer to that is no, I will not confirm. I have not read the report, as I indicated to the members. I'm not in a position to confirm anything in it.
MR. SKELLY: At a meeting in the minister's office last week, Mr. Speaker, the minister offered to a group of residents from Sechelt and Vancouver Island that he would take a question to the Environment and Land Use Committee of cabinet. I believe he did that yesterday, and the question was whether they would be willing to release the information which went into their decision to allow the 500-kilovolt line to proceed. Does the minister have a report back to us from that ELUC meeting?
HON. MR. MAIR: Mr. Speaker, I will remember this. It's a very interesting way of asking a question about future government policy; it's very carefully framed. But I'll answer the question because I think this will perhaps satisfy the member. I'm going to read the report, and I'm going to read it in the light of what I've said to you across this House many times, Mr. Member — that I don't think reports should be kept secret except in most the extenuating circumstances. I'll find that out. I see you weren't at your minstrel show today; you've got a new jacket on. [Laughter.] You're still as yappy as you usually are.
I don't think there will be any reason, but I'm going to look at the report. If that report is as I suspect from the background material for the memorandum I received, that we know about, then I will give every consideration to releasing it in very short order.
PRICE WATERHOUSE TAX STUDY
HON. MR. WOLFE: I recently took a question on notice from the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich), and I
[ Page 1030 ]
would like to respond to that question now. He asked me about a study that had been commissioned from Price Waterhouse on the taxation in British Columbia. The answer to the question is that no study has been received. What we have asked for and received is the terms of reference for such a study on the impact of taxation in British Columbia and in other regimes. So no decision has thus far been made to proceed with such a study.
FLOORCRAFT FLOOR COVERING LTD.
Secondly, I would like to respond to a question from the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Levi). He asked about sales tax in reference to Floorcraft and their situation in terms of bankruptcy. The member asked whether we could waive the collection of this sales tax, which is held in trust by the company as a liability, in favour of other creditors, particularly the employees. I am advised that there is no authority for the Minister of Finance to waive or forgive the payment of social services taxes which have already been collected by a company. In other words, the only authority that I might have under the Revenue Act would be in terms of the taxpayer, and remitting to him. But where a firm has collected the sales taxes, and is in fact holding them in trust, I have no such authority under the Act to permit waiving of the collection of those.
MR. LEVI: On a supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister mentioned the matter of hardship. Now in the final analysis the minister does have a discretion which in many cases, I think, goes past the law. He has a discretion which he can exercise. What we have here really, if it stays this way, is the government collecting taxes over the business of making it possible for the payment of wages. Can the minister exercise the discretion in respect to a hardship matter, which this is?
HON. MR. WOLFE: No, Mr. Speaker, this would not be possible in terms of funds collected in trust. What I think the member might be referring to is a section in the Revenue Act which would permit a decision on the basis of taxpayer hardship. But we're talking now about third parties — funds collected from taxpayers, but waived in terms of third parties. I am advised that we cannot waive these. Those funds are, of course, remitted by other taxpayers for the benefit of the social services — hospitals and schools — that we set them aside for. I don't think I can avail myself of those hardship clauses in the Revenue Act.
MR. LEVI: Mr. Speaker, in respect to this matter, three other government agencies waived: the Workers' Compensation Board, Revenue Canada and B.C. Hydro, which is a Crown agent. I understood that the final ministerial discretion was always there to exercise, regardless of the amendment to the Act last year. Is the minister saying that he has no discretion in this matter at all?
HON. MR. WOLFE: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
APPOINTMENT OF ED GOULD
MS. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the Provincial Secretary, although I really would prefer to find out from the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Mair) about this minstrel show that he keeps telling us about.
It has to do with the appointment of Mr. Ed Gould, who was first hired to be a writer — whatever that is, Mr. Speaker. We have not been able to turn up an order-in-council or any public service competition for this job. Mr. Gould reappears in Human Resources as a press secretary and, again, we haven't been able to find either an order-in-council or a competition for this. I wonder whether the minister would tell me whether Mr. Gould is still employed or not.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question, in which there were really about three parts. I would like to make sure that my answer is complete and correct, and I'll take it as notice.
MS. BROWN: Maybe the Minister of Human Resources would be better able to answer whether or not Mr. Gould is still employed in her ministry as a press secretary.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, the answer is no.
LIQUOR LICENCE REGULATIONS
MR. LEVI: Could the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs tell me, Mr. Speaker, if his decision in respect to Paulson Investments Ltd. — this is in respect to a neighbourhood pub — that they are restricted to a seating capacity of 60, means that there is a change in the D licence category under the liquor Act. The minister ruled that it had to be 60. The D licence in the regulation is set at 100. Could the minister tell us whether there has been a change made to that regulation?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: Mr. Speaker, I think I would prefer to look at that specific licence, because there are discretionary powers as to conditions of licence, and sometimes these affect seating. The original concept was that the licence be for up to a certain number of seats. There have been some legal discussions, by way of an appeal to the commission, as to what precisely that might mean. But I'd have to look at that specific case. If the member would let me have some basic details as to which neighbourhood pub that is, I could respond to him. But there is some discretionary authority for the general manager, or, if it's appealed, for the minister to set terms and conditions of any such licence — and that could have to do with seating capacity.
MR. LEVI: I'll make the relevant material available to the minister.
But what I want to ask is: is it not the practice, when amending a regulation, that it be done in exactly that way? In this particular case the minister has amended the regulation and gone by the general manager completely.
MR. LEVI: I know, Mr. Speaker, that the former Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr.
[ Page 1031 ]
Mair) would love to get in on this. He knows far more about booze than he does about gas.
MR. LEVI: Well, that's the Premier; but we'll leave that out of it.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May we have the question, please?
MR. LEVI: Could the minister tell me if it is the practice of the ministry to award the licensing regulations by ministerial fiat? This is what we have in this case.
HON. MR. NIELSEN: Mr. Speaker, if there are to be general changes in regulations, they should be done by amendments to those regulations, rather than by practice in individual cases. If it is to be a universal regulation or rule, the regulation should certainly be amended to show that.
MR. LEVI: I have one more question. The minister wrote to this particular company, Mr. Speaker, and he said as follows: "After many complaints to the liquor and licensing branch, I have revised the maximum seating requirements to allow 60 patrons and 15 stand-ups. This policy has resulted in far fewer complaints of traffic noise and inconvenience to the community." You have now established a policy. When I asked my first question, I wanted to know whether or not you've amended the regulation to make this policy of yours fit with the regulations. Or is this ministerial fiat?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: Mr. Speaker, again, I would have to look into this specific case to see what conditions were considered in relation to seating capacity. But terms and conditions may be established in the issuing of a licence for a neighbourhood pub. Those terms and conditions may have to do with seating capacity, as they could have to do with other conditions.
INQUIRY INTO DELTA POLICE
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is an investigation by the Police Commission into the activities of the Delta police. I have available to me, and tendered to me, affidavits relating to the so-called riot at the Tsawwassen Beach in which the Delta police were alleged to have used excessive force. Is that question within the ambit of the inquiry of the Police Commission?
HON. MR. GARDOM: Would you repeat the question?
MR. MACDONALD: Is the question of the Tsawwassen beach disturbance or riot — call it what you will — something that is within the terms of reference of the inquiry which you have directed into the Delta police?
HON. MR. GARDOM: In response to the hon. member, it's a general reference and if you have some specific information, sir, I would appreciate it if you would mail that to the commissioner, Judge McQueen.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Rogers in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF PROVINCIAL
SECRETARY AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
On vote 177: minister's office, $182,096 — continued.
MR. KING: The people on that side of the House seem to have a problem with recognition. I think that problem is becoming more acute as the years go by.
When we adjourned this debate some days ago, I raised a problem with the Provincial Secretary that I had encountered in my new, inherited riding with respect to the rather unorthodox use of a ballot box. I want to apprise the minister of it, and explain to him what I believe the problem to be. I have a letter, of which I would be prepared to send a copy to the minister so that he can understand the problem better.
During the May 10 election a floating ballot box was established for the hospital vote in the city of Armstrong. That same ballot box, I understand, was dispatched to a senior citizens' home as well to accommodate the people in that institution. I think this is great. I have no objection to that whatsoever. But the problem arose thereafter.
Up to that point, as I understand it, there had been a scrutineer accompanying that ballot box from at least two — perhaps three, I'm not sure — of the political parties. When the ballot was completed at the senior citizens' residence, there was only one remaining scrutineer available. At that point, the ballot box was returned to the Social Credit Party campaign headquarters in the city of Armstrong, and dispatched therefrom to a private residence to accommodate the vote of someone on the voters list, who perhaps was indigent or an invalid.
But, of course, the implications of that kind of conduct are very evident to everyone. Certainly no one, as I understand it, is entitled to enjoy a ballot box being dispatched to their home to accommodate the exercise of their franchise. The real abuse was the fact that it had been dispatched on the basis of a directive, under these circumstances, from the Social Credit Party committee rooms. It's completely inappropriate and in violation of the Act, I believe, that any political party be involved in that kind of direction.
I don't believe it was the intent to do anything wrong. I do not believe it was the intent to manipulate the vote or to violate the Act or to provide one party with undue advantage. I believe that this kind of occurrence is born out of ignorance at the local level of how to administer the machinery provided under the Elections Act of British Columbia. There are a number of reasons for that. Once the election is announced, there is usually a short period for the selection of personnel.
Basically my appeal to the minister is this: for goodness' sake, try and do something about a more appropriate and extensive training course for all of the personnel involved in the conduct of provincial elections. I believe that's what is needed.
In that kind of case it could be the grounds for a challenge to the validity of that election. In this particular
[ Page 1032 ]
circumstance the margin wasn't that tight, and there was no great point in doing so. But it is unfortunate when this kind of thing occurs. It creates some bitterness at the local level. People have very intense feelings at election time. I would like to see the system be above reproach, and I know that the minister would also. So I appeal to him to have a look at that situation.
Those are the facts as related to me in writing; I'll provide the minister with a copy. What is basically needed is more education, and perhaps a fresher look at the returning officers who are appointed in each constituency. Make sure they have the administrative ability to organize, advise and instruct their staff adequately. I think that is where the problem flows from.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I thank the member for elaborating on the remarks he commenced on Tuesday night when we last met in Committee of Supply. I think that all of us would share the comments he made with respect to the fact that the electoral process must be above reproach, and it must be seen to be above reproach. I'm pleased he made it clear that in his view nothing was done with the intent to violate the law. Indeed, perhaps he knows better than I that there are provisions for action in the elections Act, depending on the date when this information reached the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke. I think it's 21 days, but certainly there are a given number of days. The democratic process in this province is precious; it's very good; it can always be improved. I take the member's remarks, and we'll follow them up.
I wanted to observe the other night, Mr. Chairman, that I think it's important in debate on estimates that some time relatively soon following the debate, we have available to us our own notes, as well as Hansard, in order to mark off those points which are raised in an attempt to enable a ministry to perform more effectively. So I thank him for his remarks. They are taken in the spirit with which they were offered.
MRS. DAILLY: The Provincial Secretary, Mr. Chairman, has been quite cooperative in answering our questions. However, there is one question which I posed to him when we were last in these estimates, and it was with reference to the abuse or misuse of the Queen's Printer by this government. As the minister is responsible for the Queen's Printer and for what emanates from the Queen's Printer, I would like to hear from him specifically how he can possibly rationalize or accept the fact that the British Columbia Government News was sent over and sent out from Vancouver just several hours before the last provincial election, and even extra staff were hired, which entailed a cost to the taxpayer for Social Credit propaganda literature.
I simply would like the minister to comment, and give us some idea of what his philosophy is in this job, in reference to the Queen's Printer.
The second question for the minister is this. It may be difficult to get at this time, and it probably should be a question on the order paper, but I notice that in the estimates the amount estimated for the Captain Cook Bicentennial celebrations is $1 million. We witnessed the considerable amount of publicity and extreme amount of literature which went out for what, I gather, was not the most lucrative centennial type of program we've put on in this province, under the auspices of the former Provincial Secretary (Hon.Mrs. McCarthy). A report in Victoria pointed out that the Princess Marguerite has done much more for the tourism industry. I want again to remind the House that it was first conceived and brought into existence and run by the NDP government.
I would like to know, as the Captain Cook Bicentennial was not really a great success.... The member for Victoria behind me here just said it was a flop. I wasn't going to be that unkind. We are not here to belabour something that is gone. But I do think that the Provincial Secretary should give us an idea of how much of the taxpayers' money was expended on this program which, I know, was initiated by the former Provincial Secretary, so we can't hold you responsible. It says $1 million here. Mr. Chairman, I really think that more than $1 million was spent on this, but I'm ready to listen to the Provincial Secretary.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to respond with a different point of view with respect to the success of the Captain Cook Bicentennial, because I don't agree with the member in her observations. However, I look to the Chair.
I have some difficulty, as there is no budgetary item in this year's estimates for Captain Cook. The member is nodding. There was an item last year. I think perhaps the best, Mr. Chairman, is that it be a question on the order paper and an effort would be made to answer the question. I believe I've answered all questions but one on the order paper. But it's a nil dollar amount for the estimates which are under debate at this time.
MRS. DAILLY: The Queen's Printer?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Notwithstanding the member's interjection, it is a nil item in these estimates, Mr. Chairman.
With respect to the British Columbia Government News, I recall that the budget issue of British Columbia Government News is distributed very quickly after the budget is brought down. That was the case this year, it was the case in 1978 and, as I recall, it was the case in 1977. We may be able, in fact, to find that it was the case in years previous to that.
The preparation went ahead, therefore, on the British Columbia Government News issue, and the member will recall that happened in previous years. I did not know if an election was about to be called. I don't think that anyone who was involved with the preparation of British Columbia Government News knew that an election was about to be called, because that decision — as you knew when you were in government — is made by the Premier. But it was, indeed, precisely the same process and the same form as in the year 1978 when there was no election, and the year 1977 when there was no election.
Incidentally, speaking of the Queen's Printer — and I realize the member will have other questions — he's not in the House at the moment, but he occupies a very special seat in this House. I think he left because I indicated that I was going to make some reference to him. Mr. Ken MacDonald retires as Queen's Printer at the end of this session, whenever that may be. He has served the people of British Columbia and this House for 44 years, and I would not want my estimates to come to a conclusion, inasmuch as I have responsibility for the Queen's Printer, without
[ Page 1033 ]
acknowledging his service. I am only sorry that he appears to have ducked out. I don't think we can summon him back. Nevertheless, his retirement is well deserved, and the government will certainly recognize him in other ways as well.
MRS. DAILLY: I know the former Provincial Secretary (Mr. Hall) in the NDP government will want to make some comments about the Queen's Printer, and I know he will be doing that following me.
I want to point out to the Provincial Secretary that the misuse of the Queen's Printer when it comes to government propaganda simply does not wash. I think the comments the Provincial Secretary made were a valiant attempt. And perhaps you had nothing to do with it; I'm sure the Premier of this province is entirely responsible for the issuance of that. May I say that it was done in a most unseemly manner, and with most unseemly haste, which we have never before seen happen here. I can assure you that the taxpayers of British Columbia do not appreciate it. As a matter of fact, I think that, if anything, it lost you votes when it arrived on their doorsteps. For the sake of honesty in politics, Mr. Chairman, I would hope the Provincial Secretary can assure us that he will try to stand up to the Premier of this province so that will not happen again.
MR. HOWARD: I understand, although I didn't have the opportunity to hear the minister say so the other evening, that the government is currently working on a revision to the Provincial Elections Act. I want to express, if I could, in a very gentle and polite way....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Discussion of legislation is out of order in estimates; we are on the administrative responsibilities of the minister.
MR. HOWARD: I'm sure I'm in order, Mr. Chairman. I don't really know what it is you're calling me to order about.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The discussion of legislation in Committee of Supply is out of order.
MR. HOWARD: Well, I'm responding, Mr. Chairman, to what I understand was a statement that the minister made the other night to the effect that he and his government are currently examining the Provincial Elections Act with a view to revising it. What I want to raise by way of objection — through you, of course, sir — is that I think that is not a very appropriate way to approach that particular piece of legislation. If there is a piece of legislation in this province that belongs to the public, it's that particular document. The elections Act is the foundation of our democratic process. It provides and guarantees the opportunity for people to vote by secret ballot and elect members to come to this chamber. It sets up the rules and the mechanisms and the procedures to afford the residents and the citizens in this province the opportunity and the right to vote. Taking that into account, I don't think it's appropriate to have one particular element in this Legislature which belongs to a particular political party have the initial determination as to what should go into that particular piece of legislation.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. When the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King) was discussing the administrative responsibility of the Provincial Secretary, and specifically the difficulties incurred in his riding in the last election, that was appropriate for discussion in committee because it involves the administrative responsibility of the minister as it pertains to the elections Act. But the necessity for a new Act, or the legislation required in a new Act, would be out of order in committee. What the member must do is either put it forward in terms of a motion, or a private member's bill, or at a time when an Act is before the House. I caution the member.
MR. HOWARD: Contrary to your advice, Mr. Chairman, I can't put it forward by way of a private bill, because it's not a private bill. It's a public bill; it's a matter of public concern. It's for this Legislature to concern itself with proposed alterations to that particular statute.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The matter could be discussed as a private member's bill. It's a matter of getting the appropriate time in this committee, or the House itself, to discuss this matter. The appropriate time is not during the administrative estimates of the Provincial Secretary.
MR. HOWARD: We are being asked now to vote sums of money, on behalf of the taxpayers, to be dealt with by the Provincial Secretary. Some of that money, which is being considered and voted today under the other items here, by the minister's own statement will be used to examine the Provincial Elections Act and prepare draft changes for it. Are we not entitled to examine that particular question? I submit that we are. I think you should examine that a bit more closely, Mr. Chairman. You should not deny the full examination of the democratic process in this province. I think, with respect, Mr. Chairman, to persist in the direction in which you would have me go, is a denial of a fundamental democratic right in this province.
MR, CHAIRMAN: Well, hon. member, I will proceed to read from Sir Erskine May, which is the rulebook we use to determine what is admissible in this House, the sixteenth edition, page 739.
"General Restrictions on Debate in Committee of Supply.
" The administrative action of the department is open to debate, but the necessity for legislation and matters involving legislation cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply, nor can the actions of those high public servants whose conduct can only be criticized upon substantive motions."
That I find quite clear. If the member has a quarrel with that.... As I expected, the first member for Vancouver Centre.
MR. LAUK: You expected? Mr. Chairman, the general restriction on debate in Committee of Supply has numerous exceptions, and if you will read on in Sir Erskine May, one of them is not to discuss the necessity of legislation but the adequacy of the role of the minister with respect to a particular statute or responsibility within his ministry. In so doing reference can be made to the existing statutes and their inadequacies. Those exceptions are clearly set out in Sir Erskine May.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I ask the member to cite his reference of Sir Erskine May for those remarks.
[ Page 1034 ]
MR. LAUK: I think the Chair has all the copies. [Laughter.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The library just down the hall has several copies.
MR. KING: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to make this point. It is my understanding that the minister has indicated he may be preparing legislation, and with respect I submit that what my colleague for Skeena (Mr. Howard) is discussing is the administrative manner in which the minister should proceed with that role of his ministry. That is not really a debate regarding the need for legislation; rather, it falls, in my view, within the parameters of this debate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chairman has some difficulty, because the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke understands why what the member for Skeena is saying is out of order.
If sometime you could explain to him what is and what is not in order, it would be much easier for the Chair.
I must caution you that the Acts which are under the administration of the minister are quite in order, but the necessity for new legislation, as I read to you from the Journals, is not in order.
MR. HOWARD: I don't know that it's a question as to whether there is a necessity for new legislation. The question is that the money being appropriated here, according to the statement of the minister the other night, is being used to develop alterations to an existing law. What I am putting forward is not whether there is a necessity for new legislation, but that the procedures being advanced by the minister to get to that end are not appropriate. We are being asked to spend money toward that particular end. Whether there is necessity for new legislation, I think, is completely beside the point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I might just take this opportunity to remind you that there are two sides to that sentence. It says, "...but the necessity for legislation and matters involving legislation," and the member can take that at its word. Please proceed.
MR. HOWARD: If that is the case, Mr. Chairman, then why was the minister permitted to make this statement the other evening? I submit that once a minister of the Crown is permitted to proceed in a certain direction, with respect to the rules, especially rules which are as vague as the ones indicated here, then certainly fair comment in response should be permitted. Otherwise it falls in the category of dealing in two different ways with the same set of rules, and I don't think the Chair would want to do that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You are quite right; the Chair would not want to do that. The Chair also takes objections from either side of the House as to when too much latitude is extended to either member, and I have on many occasions brought ministers to order for having transgressed the bounds of what is discussed in Committee of Supply. I think the matter has been well canvassed; perhaps you can proceed.
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Chairman, I think the procedure and the money being spent, whether under this vote or another, as advanced by the minister to be followed in examining something, is not an appropriate way to do it. Because it gives one political group within this House the sole initial authority to have input into a piece of legislation that so intimately affects our whole democratic system and our whole democratic processes. That's what I'm objecting to.
I don't think the minister should have that opportunity. If we are to deal with a piece of legislation which is the foundation of our democratic system, in which every member of this Legislature has an equal interest, in which every voter in the province has an equal interest and is going to be affected thereby in an equal way, then it should be a piece of legislation drafted by a composite group representing all sides in the House, and all political opinions and views in the House. That is what I am objecting to.
I think it's most unwise. I don't know when the last change was made to the Provincial Elections Act — 1953, or somewhere in that period of time. It was some years ago, in any event. I think it is most wrong and incorrect to have the determination made about a piece of legislation of this nature, which is British Columbia's legislation, which is this Legislature's legislation, distinct from government legislation.... It should not be proceeded with in the fashion it is being proceeded with — namely, to have it become a political document reflecting the political views of the particular government that happens to be in office.
Far better to abandon that course completely and refer, as is done in other jurisdictions, where there is probably a greater respect for democracy than exists in the government today here, in the next session, because I gather this one is coming to a conclusion fairly shortly, by the looks of what's on the order paper, in any event.... Far better to look at a subsequent session of the Legislature and set up a committee of members of this House and refer to that committee the general subject matter of the Provincial Elections Act and let everybody in on the act and in on the development of that particular piece of legislation.
Otherwise, to continue on this course, we are seeking to turn a piece of legislation, so fundamental to democracy in this province, into a political document representing the particular views of the government in office. That is what I object to.
MR. HALL: I wanted to respond a little bit to what the Provincial Secretary had to say about the imminent retirement of the Queen's Printer and to congratulate the Provincial Secretary that he's been Provincial Secretary during the career of Mr. MacDonald, and has enjoyed the support and the services of Mr. MacDonald. That's a lucky thing for any Provincial Secretary to have.
We all wish him well, and I hope we'll be seeing him next week, and continually printing, until his retirement. I hope at the same time to say to the Provincial Secretary that I wasn't able to join other members of the House in wishing another old colleague and friend good wishes on his retirement from public service. He is Mr. L.J. Wallace whom, I also hope, is still in good spirits and good health in the U.K. I certainly want to send along my good wishes to him and to say that the Provincial Secretary's ministry has been well served for many years by those two gentlemen.
I want to go over two points with the minister, if I may, very, very briefly. One is that I was not able to catch in the minister's responses to me a couple of days ago whether or
[ Page 1035 ]
not he is going to table the full information on grants, special services and events from last year in the amount of $3.1 million, as has been the practice heretofore. That is the only way in which most of us can observe what has happened in that interesting ministry. I wonder if the minister might respond to that question.
The second one is to apologize to the minister. I must have confused him regarding the presence and absence of the Indian Advisory Act. I wasn't asking the minister to comment on whether the New Democratic Party administration should or should not be returned to do away with the Indian Advisory Act — as he chose to answer — but, rather, to ask him these questions.
Does the presence of the Indian Advisory Act on the statutes of British Columbia make one scrap of difference to the welfare of our native people in this province? Does it make one iota of difference to the administration of the First Citizens Fund? Does it make one particle of difference to any of the things that go on through the public purse for us to have a piece of paper in the statute books entitled the Indian Advisory Act?
It may make a difference to those people who draw salaries by virtue of that Act. But that's not the end of the world. That can be looked into and looked after. My questions to the minister were: does this Act actually do anything to help the first citizens of this province, and isn't it time we faced up to it, did away with it and got on with the job of looking after people in the best ways we can? I think in view of what the Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. Williams), who has special interest in first citizens, had to say the other day, I would imagine your responses might be the same as the responses I found from my colleagues in 1975 — that this may indeed be a redundant piece of legislation.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, with respect to the Indian Advisory Act, I have had not had an opportunity in the relatively brief interval since Tuesday evening to discuss with any of my colleagues their views with respect to the Act and what should happen to it, if anything, in the future. I take the suggestion as one which is given in a helpful fashion. I believe he was in the House a few moments ago when I said that my practice with estimates is in the weeks following to review each point that is made. I don't necessarily agree with every point that's made, but I review them with senior staff and determine those on which we can act.
Now the hon. second member for Surrey (Mr. Hall) has spoken twice about the summary, a list which he indicated would be quite lengthy, of special grants. He was the Provincial Secretary under the former administration, so I would be happy to be guided by precisely what he did when he occupied this position in government. I don't know what that was. I don't know what practice he followed. He indicated that it has been done in the past. But I'll be very happy to follow his example precisely.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I have a request to make of the hon. Provincial Secretary. I would like him to table in the House the spring schedule of theGood Times Express, the museum train. Perhaps I could just outline briefly for you my concerns about that.
There is a rumour around the city of Victoria, and I'm sure there is no substance to it, that the Good Times Express was scheduled to go on an international tour in the United States in the summertime, and the fact that it was quickly rescheduled and retooled up for a spring tour of British Columbia had something to do with a coming provincial election. In fact, the government employees felt that there was, with absolute certainty, going to be a provincial election when the Good Times Express hit the rails this spring.
Now the fact that it happened to be in Kelowna on the Premier's birthday, and was in Terrace or Smithers for the Social Credit rally there, and was, in Vancouver and the lower mainland during the wind-up rally in Vancouver for Social Credit, I am sure.... I want to tell all government employees that the Good Times Express was not used for political purposes. As a representative of my constituents here, I want to allay their fears that the Social Credit Party would use, the museum train, the Good Times Express, for political purposes.
So if he could provide us with the schedule, then we could just perhaps overlay that with the major events on the Social Credit side and quickly dissipate any anxiety that may exist as a result of this.
MR. MITCHELL: Mr. Chairman, I'm a little scared that when I do stand up you're going to rule me out of order, because I've looked all through the estimates of the Provincial Secretary, and I can't find what I'm looking for. It is the Provincial Capital Commission, and I believe it is under his department now.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes, it is.
MR. MITCHELL: Then I can carry on speaking. I didn't want to get ruled out of order as I got halfway through.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Member, if it discusses the administrative actions, you're quite in order. Please carry on.
MR. MITCHELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Prior to the May 10 election, there was a meeting held in Esquimalt with two cabinet ministers and one ex-MLA, or MLA at that time, and they met with the Victoria Arts and Crafts Association. The meeting was held at the old Lampson Street School. At this time, the Victoria Arts and Crafts Association are attempting to get funding to restore the Lampson Street School as an arts and crafts centre for the greater Victoria area. At that time, I believe one of the cabinet ministers did state that there was money available from some fund by which they could do a feasibility study of the building. I've attempted, with the help of the Minister of Finance, to locate that fund — without success.
I was wondering if, under the provincial capital fund, we could pry loose some money to do a feasibility study of the building, to have it become a part of the Victoria arts and crafts cultural association. Could I have some indication of what is available to do feasibility studies?
MR. BARBER: I'd be happy to yield to the minister if he cares to answer my colleague at this time. Or would you prefer to do it in a moment?
[ Page 1036 ]
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, I'll take them in groups. Go ahead. I'll answer in due course.
MR. BARBER: I would like to raise three matters. The first is in regard to the elections Act. I wonder if the minister could indicate whether or not a Mr. R.A. Patterson is still employed in the office of the chief electoral officer. If so, could the minister indicate precisely what position Mr. Patterson holds? Could he tell us, as well, what Mr. Patterson's qualifications are? I understand he used to work as a postal clerk. After the minister has given me some information on that, I have some other questions. That's the first body of questions. I realize you may not have it immediately at hand.
My second question is in regard to the cultural policy of the province of British Columbia — or the lack of it. The minister will be aware that during the term of our administration the then Provincial Secretary initiated, for the first time ever, a comprehensive examination of what a contemporary and effective cultural policy might be for the province of British Columbia. He initiated a program called Arts Access. He initiated a number of important surveys. He was able to introduce a program whereby one-half of 1 percent of the capital cost of all new provincial buildings would be devoted to art that would decorate and beautify and enhance the architectural value of those structures. That program, unfortunately, has since been abandoned by Social Credit.
However, then, as now, there was in place no genuinely able, genuinely respected and genuinely and generally effective arts and cultural policy in British Columbia. I'm aware that a year and a half or two years ago a major survey was undertaken by the cultural services branch. I saw the survey in its first form, and I saw the results. What I should like to know now is whether or not the minister is prepared today, or at sometime in the future, to identify a cultural policy for the province of British Columbia? It doesn't exist right now. The people responsible for the branch are extremely frustrated by the lack of such a policy. So are many people I know, particularly in the performing arts, who find it very difficult to understand precisely what the ground rules are.
What does the province wish to support? What does the province wish to pay respect to, financially and programatically? What kinds of programs — in the performing arts, in the visual arts, in the plastic arts, in the teaching arts — are considered, legitimately, to be part of the cultural enterprise of the people of British Columbia?
In all the fields of native arts, in which the native people of British Columbia have fantastic talent, how, too, shall those talents, and that level of artistic expression, be honoured and recognized?
We don't have a cultural policy now. We didn't have one when we were in government. Again, I recognize it is extremely difficult to develop such a policy. Some people's view of all the performing arts would be country and western music. They would like to see us support and sponsor country and western music. That may be legitimate. I don't question it at all. A lot of people think that is important. There may be other people whose sole interest in arts is in being able to obtain reduced-price tickets to the Vancouver opera. They, as well, may think that's all the arts world consists of. That may be legitimate, too. But each of those interests is rather narrow and specific. It doesn't help us to determine, in a bright or sensitive way, what the whole of an arts cultural policy for British Columbia should be.
I'd like to urge on the minister that one important aspect of that policy must be — if I may restate it — that particular attention be paid to the role of native artists in British Columbia: native sculptors, native painters, native lithographers. Native Indians have an astonishing range of talent and an astonishing tradition. They deserve every encouragement and opportunity of expression.
Secondly, I would like to encourage the minister to recognize that a major burden of a good cultural and arts policy should be directed toward children. Young people, especially, should be encouraged to express every gift they have within them. They should be encouraged to do so through schools. They should be encouraged to do so through special interest groups that help them learn the best things they want to learn in any of the artistic fields. In my own judgment, if I had to choose among age groups, as a matter of public investment in the arts and cultural fields, I would favour investing in the very youngest people in the province. They deserve a special high regard as far as any intended arts policy should go in British Columbia.
So I'd like to ask, as the second matter, whether the Provincial Secretary, at some time in the near future, is going to be able to announce a comprehensive arts and cultural policy for British Columbia. I hope he does. I hope it's a good one. I hope it's one that will earn the respect of all the people — volunteers and professionals — in the dramatic, the visual, the performing, the plastic, and all the other arts in British Columbia. They are very important,
The west coast of Canada has an extremely lively and active artistic and cultural community. We're very lucky to have them here. They exist here and they flourish here disproportionately to their numbers in relation to the rest of the population, particularly, I think, because of the west coast influence; particularly, of course, because of the fact that we're an hour and a half away from California, which is an enormous centre of innovative artistic expression.
We should recognize as well unique opportunities in British Columbia to further a western Canadian artistic and cultural identity. A good comprehensive arts and cultural policy on behalf of the province would help us do that.
The third and final matter I would like to raise with the minister relates to the convention centre in Victoria. I'd like to ask the minister whether or not he is prepared to announce any policy toward the subsidy of the operating losses which inevitably will accrue in the first few years, if not all the years, of the convention centre in Victoria. I appreciate as well that the same policy would have to apply to the convention centre in Vancouver. It may well apply, say, to the Peach Bowl; it may well apply to other facilities. I would like to ask whether or not the government has considered at all that in the first few years — that period of start-up operation of any new convention centre — there exist some very special problems which will result in some very considerable losses.
The convention centre committee in Victoria hopes to be able to keep those losses at less than $300,000 a year for the first five years, and hopes, beyond that, anticipating the likely revenues that will result, to finally manage to break even. The province has contributed, I think very generously and appropriately, to the capital costs of the construction of the Victoria convention centre. I wonder if the minister has
[ Page 1037 ]
given any thought to participating at least in that start-up period where the revenues will be down, where they're just getting going and just attracting convention and other interests and other programs to the building. Has he given any thought to a provincial share in making good certain of the operating losses of the facilities?
Those are the three areas on which I have questions for the minister.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, the second member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson) spoke about the Good Times Express, the Good Times tour in the spring of this year. Sir, I have to report that is not within the estimates which are being debated here. It is correct that this ministry supplied three museum cars. The rest of the train, including the locomotive, all the staff and other items required, were provided by the Ministry of Tourism. We have the responsibility, as the member knows, for the Museum Train during the months of July and August. Therefore I am unable to assist him, inasmuch as that is not within the parameters of these estimates or these votes.
The member for Esquimalt (Mr. Mitchell) spoke about the Provincial Capital Commission and a particular building, Lampson Street School, in Esquimalt township. I would be very happy to examine that. I'm not sure that the Provincial Capital Commission is the appropriate agency for assistance there, but there are other mechanisms which are available, and I undertake.... I think the member, and others who have spoken about the Provincial Capital Commission, would realize that assignment was given to me in June, rather than at the time of the re-election of this government. It came just a little later. I have had good briefings, good start-up meetings with individuals responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission but, frankly, it just happened — if you will pardon the pun; there's no pun intended, Mr. Member — last month. If the capital commission is not appropriate — and I have very real doubts about its appropriateness — we'll examine others.
If you wish to provide me with any other information, inasmuch as I was not present at a meeting which occurred, as you've indicated, I believe, prior to the provincial general election, anything you wish to provide to assist me in that respect I would be happy to receive.
The first member for Victoria (Mr. Barber) spoke about three matters. The one which seemed to occupy his attention and his interest to the greatest extent was that of a cultural and arts policy. I wouldn't want, and I'm sure the member opposite wouldn't want, to leave the impression that this government is not supportive of culture and is not supportive of the arts. In fact, I think that the record is really quite a good one. I think it can be made better, and I intend, as I become more comfortable in this particular portfolio, to make it better.
The member suggests that there is frustration within the cultural services branch of the ministry. I try to operate a very open ministry. I think that there are members in this House who know that. I believe there has to be a two-way communication between senior staff and minister. I don't like morning parades with the senior staff standing there saying: "Yes, sir; no, sir; anything you say, sir." I think that it's vital — and it's style, but more than style; it's substance in terms of operating a ministry — that one makes oneself available to senior staff so they can say: "We are unhappy about this. We feel we should be doing more about that." Those meetings occur in my ministry regularly. I have weekly staff meetings, and not just with my agenda, Mr. Member, but with those items which members of staff wish to bring forward.
Now I wouldn't want to suggest that I meet with every branch head every week because, frankly, that would start to become very cumbersome, and we would just have a succession of meetings throughout the working week. But any member of any branch — any branch head particularly — who wants to come to me and say, "Minister, we're not happy about this or the lack of that," knows that he's welcome to do so.
MR. BARBER: But it's the arts community generally that wants the policy.
HON. MR. CURTIS: You're speaking of the community rather than the branch? I understood you to say that the branch was unhappy.
I think we would get into a philosophical discussion. It's early in the afternoon; we could take some time. I'm not sure that government should attempt to develop a cultural policy. Now the argument immediately invited by that statement is: "Well, then you're just going to ad hoc your way all over the place." I think we have to find something in between. If you have a provincial government cultural policy, that suggests that it's going to be imposed from above; it's going to be laid on the arts community. That's just a short step or two from saying: "Well, we like that kind of play, but we don't like that one. We like this type of painting, but we don't like that one. We think that's good music but this is bad music."
MR. BARBER: What about the Ontario Arts Council?
HON. MR. CURTIS: The member is interjecting. I'd like to complete my remarks, and then I'm sure he will be on his feet again.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes. Order, please, hon. members. The minister has the floor now. We'll have lots of opportunity for debate.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I think that the government which attempts to say that this is the policy and this is the approach to culture and the arts runs the risk of making it so cut and dried, so inflexible, that the moment some new suggestion comes along it has to say: "No, no, it doesn't fit within the policy. That's not the policy. Government policy is this and, sorry, you're outside it."
I want a lot of flexibility in terms of cultural assistance. I think the member really, if he were to think about it — and think about it overnight, if he wishes — will understand how I feel. It's very, very dangerous, in my view, for any government to so build its policy in this type of ministry. It's a little different in a straight service ministry where there is a product, as in Transportation, Communications and Highways. In some other activities, fair enough; but not in the arts. I think there's the grave danger of the minister or his senior staff or the government as a whole starting to impose and to review the parameters all the time and say: "Oh, oh, that's out of it." We have the tent across the way in the Inner Harbour right now, not because government said, "Well, part of our policy is that we want a tent
[ Page 1038 ]
theatre," but because Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions came to us and said: "Hey, we want to do some theatre in a tent this summer." It was a great idea, and it was not up to this ministry to think of that. The community brings that to us and we say: "Great idea. We'd like to help you." We don't guarantee in advance we're going to help every group with every suggestion, because that's a carte blanche. But I don't think the member really wants a cultural policy in the sense that he has described it this afternoon.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. R.A. Patterson is the deputy registrar of voters for Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich and Oak Bay. He was a member of the postal branch staff in the provincial government before winning a competition for this position. Prior to that work, he had gained what was considered to be appropriate experience working in the elections branch. His appointment to his present position was subject to a public service competition adjudicated by the Public Service Commission.
MR. BARBER: Is Mr. Patterson also the son-in-law of Mr. Morton, the chief electoral officer?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I am informed that he is.
MR. BARBER: Was that known at the time the competition determined to hire Mr. Patterson?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Not by me, Mr. Chairman.
MR. BARBER: To the best of your knowledge, did the members of the panel who interviewed him for this position know that he was Mr. Morton's son-in-law?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I can't assist the member in that respect. I do not know.
MR. BARBER: I'd like to reply very briefly, if I may, to the minister's comments about a cultural policy. Having had some experience myself in the performing arts, not always very successfully, I share your....
AN HON. MEMBER: Division!
MR. BARBER: Not among my audience. There was no division there — they all walked out. No, I'm joking.
But having had some personal experience there, and dealing particularly in the musical performing arts, I too would resist and resent any government that indicated, in the form of an arts or cultural policy, that it was appropriate to play Chopin but not appropriate to play Weber. Obviously no one wants that; I don't want that either.
You have, I think, four principal options in the development of a cultural policy. One, of course, is to have none at all. Another is to deal, as I understand you are presently dealing, essentially by ad hockery, and essentially at the decision of a cultural services branch, which, in my opinion, is a good one — I have great respect for those people — or by the personal approval of a minister who may or may not have sensitivity to the arts. I also happen to think that the current minister has such sensitivity, and I am pleased with that. I also happen to think that his predecessor did not, and I was less than pleased. So the second policy option you have is the ad hoc basis on which decisions are made right now. If the branch decides it's okay, it happens to be run by good people; if the minister decides it's okay, and it happens to be a good person sensitive to these things, then you get a good decision. But by my standards that's much too disorganized. It is much too reliant on happenstance and good fortune.
There are two other options you have. One is to go all the way with that extreme policy you have described and which I also would resist and resent and oppose, which is the narrowest and most literal interpretation of a policy that says you may do all of these things but none of the rest. That's foolish. That undermines the whole innovative expression of art. That contradicts the whole purpose of new original expression, of human skill, talent and sensitivity. I don't agree with that either.
There is a fourth option, and it is the one that is being explored in Ontario, and now in Quebec, with some success. In Ontario I think particularly of the very effective work of the Ontario Arts Council. This is a group assigned with considerable advisory responsibilities, so much so that they, for all practical purposes, I'm told, make the decisions, but at arm's length from government, and armed with a budget and a policy in advance, which basically and apolitically says: "Within the ambit of Ontario interests in the arts we're prepared to support this kind of work. We may have some misgivings about that kind of work but we'll take a look at it if you come to us." What they seem to have achieved for some years now in Ontario, and fairly recently in Quebec, is some broadly agreed upon statement of what the arts should be encouraged to do, but not restricted from doing, in that particular province.
Ontario has a particular artistic identity — obviously centred around Toronto, and obviously centred around certain of the arts, particularly the theatrical and the performing arts. Quebec, of course, has a very different body of interest and a very different kind of cultural renaissance underway right now. The Quebec equivalent of the Ontario Arts Council, in a very aggressive and brave way, at arm's length from government, removed from the political interests that any party occupying the government benches from time to time may have, is able, I think, to meet the interests of the minister in not being so narrow or literal or specific that the arts become cut and dried and finally unimportant.
There are four options. Of the four of them, I think the minister might at least want to consider some study of the Ontario and Quebec models. They appear to succeed, by and large. They appear to have obtained, by and large, general respect in the arts and cultural communities in those provinces. There are, of course, criticisms from time to time. There are criticisms made of their policies as there are, of course, of the policies of the Canada Council. But at least in those provinces people in the arts community have some broad idea of what the province is willing to consider from time to time. It is not exclusive, I think, at least by the terms of reference that I've read. It's not so narrow that it forbids artists from coming forward with bright new stuff which was never supported before. It is not so austere and insensitive in aspect that it denies really innovative new work. I think somewhere else in Canada, maybe in Ontario or Quebec, they've got something to teach us about how to develop an arts policy that meets the fears of the minister and the requirements of those in the arts community who talk to me about these things. I quite agree that we don't want something narrow and restrictive — that's dumb. But I
[ Page 1039 ]
also think that at the moment we are lucky to have in place decision makers who appear, by and large, to be sensitive. In times past we haven't been so lucky, and luck isn't good enough. Luck is not an adequate policy or an adequate statement of government response to the arts community or any other community. I think that stuff is important.
I wonder if the minister could as well, if he cares to comment any more about that, answer my earlier questions about the convention centre and the question of whether or not, specifically, the government would be willing, at this or any other time, to entertain a subsidy during the start-up period of the Vancouver and Victoria convention centres.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to add a couple of remarks to those of my colleague for Victoria (Mr. Barber). I think, as the minister is aware — and I know that Mr. Turner, the deputy, is aware — that the term "culture," as defined in anthropology — and I'm not trying to be too arcane here — refers to the totality of values and beliefs, the glue that holds society together and makes things meaningful. This Legislature and the parliamentary process are an element of culture.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Why are you telling Turner? Don't you think I understand that?
MR. HANSON: Oh, I know you understand. I'm going to make a proposal, though. There are a number of givens that we all accept. One is that Canada is a multicultural country, and British Columbia is a multicultural province. Under this minister's estimates is the most appropriate place to raise this subject. It is a multicultural province, yet each day in this Legislature we get a message which is a part of the belief system of only one of the component parts of our culture. We have an Indo-Canadian community in British Columbia; we have Asian communities; we have communities from other parts of the world. In fact, I think in Victoria the Intercultural Association represents 36 different affiliated organizations. Some of them would be broad-banded into the same belief system, but others would not.
Coming out of Folkfest, coming out of an agreement that we have multiculturalism, I think it would be appropriate if we could, in our daily prayer period, have a representative of a different culture who would give a daily message to this Legislature. I think that would do a number of things. Firstly, it would make all members aware at all times that the members of this Legislature do represent a multicultural society. Also, I think it would be enlightening to hear the daily word from another culture. You're nodding your head? Would you lend support to that proposal to the Speaker? We're in agreement on the Maritime Museum; we might as well be in agreement on this subject. We could jointly submit a proposal to the Speaker to request....
We have contacts with the Intercultural Association, both provincially and here in Victoria. At the Folkfest on the Sunday we had a prayer period that was given by a number of cultural groups. It can be done; it should he done. I would like to hear the minister's comments on it.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I am sometimes misunderstood in this House because I nod my head as I listen, and I'm sorry. Sometimes it's mistaken for complete agreement. What's happening is that I'm listening. I should see a doctor about that sometime.
The suggestion is a very good one, and the second member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson) has alluded to the fact that this should be presented to the Speaker. I would not presume to indicate for the Speaker that this should happen, but it seems like a good suggestion and it can be carried forward. For all we know, indeed, the Speaker may already be aware of the suggestion.
In the debate of these estimates, we should not overlook the leadership which has been given by the Premier in terms of multiculturalism. It has been outstanding leadership, I think. He has encouraged it; he has participated in a number of multicultural events, and that is particularly helpful in this ministry. We sponsored a multicultural conference in Vancouver, and Mr. Fielding of this ministry has undertaken, in addition to his heavy load already, specific assignments related to multiculturalism. They've gone very, very well. He's to be congratulated for them.
I wanted to get back to the point made by the first member for Victoria (Mr. Barber). First of all, there is a meeting of ministers who have responsibility for culture, arts, recreation — it varies from province to province, as all members of the committee know. I'm looking forward to attending that interprovincial meeting in New Brunswick in September. Will the House have adjourned by September? If it hasn't, I still want to go to that meeting because it will be two or three days which should be very helpful to me. I can examine the Ontario model, the Quebec model, indeed the models in the other provinces as well.
In dealing with that question the member should not overlook the fact that there is a British Columbia Arts Board, chaired by Dr. Peter Smith of the University of Victoria. It has good, province-wide representation. I won't take the committee's time to read the names — they're available and they're known. We have representation from Prince George, Trail, Kelowna, Vancouver, Terrace, Dawson Creek, Port Alberni and the University of British Columbia.
I've just received an excellent letter from Dr. Smith which summarizes in four great pages his views as to how the Arts Board is functioning and how it can be improved. I have not met with him as a result of that letter, but it's assurance to me — and I can pass on that assurance to this committee — that the Arts Board is functioning very, very effectively. Dr. Smith is just now completing his first year as chairman of that board. Grants are awarded annually from the Cultural Fund, and the member would know that they are evaluated, adjudicated on and recommended by that consultative body, the British Columbia Arts Board. There are 15 members in all. It does represent all regions of the province and, I think, a good cross-section of cultural interests. So we're partway there in terms of arm's length, and that's working quite well. I've heard what the member has said, and I will take it under consideration.
With respect to the conference centre — so that he doesn't have to ask again — it's premature, quite frankly, for me to outline for the committee the precise form in which the government would assist with operating subsidies. I have not yet had an opportunity to consider all of the ramifications of that. But clearly it's a major project. I don't want to reflect on a bill which has passed, but the money has been awarded to the project, allocated from the people of British Columbia for the project, and I don't think we'll be in a position to — nor would we want to — just turn our backs and walk away from the facility once it is
[ Page 1040 ]
completed. What form, what extent our involvement will be, I don't know. I'm not witholding information from the committee. At this moment I do not know. But there will have to be some very serious consideration given to it.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, the small community of Silver Creek in my riding has a tiny library. At the moment they operate it one day a week out of an eight-by-eight room. The regional library is at Kelowna, which, of course, is many miles away. They have a circulation of about 13,000 books a year and they're seeking to expand their service to two days a week, and are interested in finding out what type of assistance might be forthcoming from the provincial government, particularly in finding a more appropriate facility, whether it be connected with the school or whatever. The eight-by-eight facility requires manhandling large boxes of books and so on, and is very, very difficult to operate.
I would appreciate it if the minister could take a moment and apprise me of what procedure might be used by the library group in this small community to make application to the minister's ministry for assistance and guidance with respect to providing a very useful and a very basic service to that rural area.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, it might be eligible under RFAP, the Recreation Facilities Assistance Program; but it certainly could and should be referred to the library services division of the ministry. We'd be quite happy to examine the proposal and assist if at all possible.
MR. NICOLSON: I was going to wait for vote 179; but since this subject of libraries has come up.... There appears to have been a change in policy last year in terms of granting. I believe that for small community libraries, such as the Salmo library and others in my riding, there were two grants. One was a book grant and the other was an operational grant.
I'm informed that the Salmo library is now to get along with just a book grant, and that operational grants are no longer in effect. When this was presented to me, I told them that I didn't really see the government doing this consciously; it didn't seem to be a very good area to cut back in. I just wonder if somehow this came about by some mistake. But if it is a change in policy, I'm sure that many members would be very concerned about this, and I think that most rural members would be looking for some kind of reassurance that maybe this was a directive that went out in error or something. Can this type of library service be restored?
For several years after the Broom report was brought down, people were making great plans in anticipation of implementing some of thoe recommendations. Although we've been in a holding pattern for about four years, it's really disheartening to these groups. The Salmo library is run from permanent premises, and it's open about 12 hours a day. The recent guidelines for small libraries came out and suggested that they should be open 20 hours a day. That's a provincial government recommendation to them, but the funding was cut.
I see the minister is checking with his staff, and maybe he can shed some light on this.
MR. BARNES: I have just a few very brief comments — a five-minute comment — in response to the minister's very kind cooperation in tabling those letters related to the B.C. Games' contractual arrangements.
I had an opportunity to review those letters that were tabled last night at 6 o'clock, and there were nine in total. I just wanted to make sure that these are recorded, and I've paraphrased them. I'm not going to read them in detail, but it's obvious that there is a commitment of some sort. Rather than pursue the question further, I'm quite prepared to let events take their course over a period of time. Before I read these paraphrased notes from the letter, I want to wish the minister well in the upcoming games starting on August 2. You'll be there, I'm sure, officiating, and so will I, but not officiating. Maybe I will be in a few cases, I hope. In any event, we don't want to have anyone upset at the games. We want to have a good time and have everybody participate with a lot of enthusiasm.
Letter No. 1 is to Mr. J.R. Peters of the Western Broadcasting Co.: "I am prepared to grant BCTV exclusive rights to telecasting of the 1978 B.C. Summer Games. I am sure you will mutually enjoy working on this vigorous, top-level provincial program." This is signed by Mr. R.J. Butlin November 18, 1977. However, I didn't note him making reference in that letter to having to consult with his board, with his advisory council or with the minister. It would appear as though that arrangement was strictly between the managing director of the games and the broadcasting company.
No. 2 is to Mr. Butlin:
"We would be very pleased to accept the rights to telecasting the games in Penticton. It is understood these exclusive rights, subject to keeping you advised on promotion and publicity, and your approval of specific coverage.... The cooperation you received from our sister station in Calgary, CFCN, is going to be more than met."
That's Mr. Peters, November 25, 1977.
No. 3 is to Mr. Peters: "I am pleased to extend exclusive rights...to cover 1979 Winter Games held in Kamloops first week in March, 1979." It's signed by Mr. Butlin, February 20, 1978. Again, Mr. Chairman, there was no reference to the managing director referring to a board of any sort or to the minister. It would appear as though he gave express approval on his own behalf.
No. 4 is a letter to Mr. Butlin: "...confirm acceptance of exclusive rights to telecast 1979 Winter Games in Kamloops. Thank you very much for this cooperation." That's Mr. Peters, March 22, 1978.
No. 5 is to Mr. Peters: "I am prepared to grant exclusive rights for the 1979 Summer Games in Richmond and the 1980 Winter and Summer Games. We are extremely grateful for your support." It's signed by Mr. Butlin, September 21, 1978. Again, there is no reference to an advisory board or to your ministry, which indicates that the managing director made that decision solely on his own.
No. 6 is a letter to Mr. Butlin: "I accept your very kind offer of exclusive rights to telecast the Richmond games in 1979 and both games in 1980. We look forward to the next two years." It's signed by Mr. Peters.
No. 7 is a letter to a Mr. Curtis, which, I note here from the letters you submitted, appears to be the first time there's been any communication between your ministry and the managing director. It is a tentative agreement, I suppose, as a result of him meeting with somebody from BCTV — I'm not sure who was there — and the president of the Cable
[ Page 1041 ]
Programmers Association. There were four conditions tentatively agreed upon. This is a letter to your office from Mr. Butlin, July 5, 1979: "(1) A one-week delay of all telecasts; (2) BCTV has first vantage position as far as cameras are concerned; (3) Advance work by cable on some playoffs and zones is a requirement." I'm not sure who's giving directions to whom, but apparently the cable companies are required to do the advance coverage of the playdowns. "(4) Cable not restricted in doing in-depth telecasting."
No. 8 is a letter to the chairman of the B.C. Cable Programmers Association, Miss Vianne Lyman. This is from Mr. Peters, July 5, 1979. He states: "We should experiment in Richmond to work out a plan whereby cable and BCTV can together achieve maximum coverage." These are his suggestions: "(1) That Mr. Butlin, the chairman, approve all arrangements; (2) BCTV be assured of one-week telecast delay by cable; (3) because BCTV will feed the entire province, it maintains first camera positions; (4) Cable to form one equipment pool to serve all cable crews" — this being suggested as a convenient way of avoiding people getting in each other's way when they are broadcasting.
The final letter is from the chairman of the Cable Programmers Association. As I suggested, it looks like a fait accompli, so I'm not arguing. It simply states:
"We agree with arrangements as discussed. Since receiving the letter, I have made a few attempts to contact people in the province to ensure that everyone concurred with the agreement. In closing, I will just say that there does seem to be some dissatisfaction. However, there seems to be some doubt as to whether they can successfully negotiate any other conditions at this late date. With that, I'll leave this matter for the time being. With respect, and good luck to you and the gang."
Vote 177 approved.
On vote 178: general administration, $849,071.
MR. MACDONALD: I have a very short question under administration. I wrote the minister way back in January about Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, which didn't receive a recreational grant. Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House in Vancouver East didn't receive a recreational grant, even though a similar recreational centre in Vancouver South, which had been evaluated by Vancouver city council as being totally on a par with Frog Hollow, did receive a recreational grant. I want to ask the minister whether he considers that the substantial difference in quality between the members for Vancouver South and those in Vancouver East meant that Vancouver South and not Vancouver East should get this grant. Will he at least look at the matter?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I'm happy to inform the member that Frog Hollow's request has been approved. I didn't want the member to croak when he heard the news. I'm not sure that the letter will have been received as yet. We watched that one. It looks like a very good project.
Vote 178 approved.
On vote 179: heritage, cultural, recreation, sports and fitness programs, $20,832,844.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, in response to the member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson), the library policy was changed and announced in May 1978. It is a per capita grant for the purchase of books. There was a lengthy announcement at that particular time, and it included this comment: "These grants will apply to the supply of books for libraries. The costs of operating library premises and staffing them will be the responsibility of the local library boards. where the greatest financial control can be exercised."
In a ministry as diverse as this, and with some parts coming home — because library services have returned home to the Provincial Secretary, if that's a fair statement to make.... In my few months so far I've undertaken a number of meetings with trustees and professional librarians. There was one conference which I was to attend, but other matters intervened — I believe I was ill as well, and could not get to their meeting in Kelowna. But I see a lot of work required in library matters generally in British Columbia, and we're going to be addressing ourselves to that. The member would perhaps now recall the announcement in May 1978 — it was quite widely distributed at that time — when the responsibility rested within the Ministry of Recreation and Conservation.
MR. NICOLSON: I certainly recall the announcement being made. In fact, last year, when I talked about other matters dealing with libraries, I think I was promised that an announcement would be made. I don't want to belabour the thing, but I think it was an error and probably an oversight. I would hope that the minister would look at that change in policy very carefully, because what people are largely looking for is an improvement.
In a case like Salmo, the village does provide part of the budget. It's not that government even provides the lion's share of the budget for operation. But if those operating grants could be restored to libraries of that size across the province, I don't think it would amount to a prohibitive cost. It was done in the past, and what people in these small communities really see is a withdrawal of government service, or a withdrawal of government funding.
I didn't try to make a political issue of it during the election, because I think it was part of an oversight which arose when library services got shunted through a few different ministries — and they have come back, perhaps, where they belong. I would hope that the minister would look at this very carefully — and I'll send him a memorandum with some specifics — and I hope that some policy change could be made.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I thank the member for his comments. Mr. Cross, the deputy minister, and Mr. Turner, assistant deputy responsible for this particular part of the ministry's activities, already know of my desire to examine and clarify all of our services to libraries. I think they can be made better.
Vote 179 approved.
Vote 180: central microfilm bureau, $1,129,632 — approved.
[ Page 1042 ]
Vote 181: grants, special services, and events, $2,260,225 — approved.
Vote 182: public information and publications, $507,651 — approved.
Vote 183: Indian Advisory Act, $83,459 — approved.
Vote 184: Government House, $176,299 — approved.
Vote 185: agent-general's office and British Columbia House, $607,095 — approved.
Vote 186: legislative library, $753,822 — approved.
Vote 187: postal branch, $7,130,263 — approved.
Vote 188: Queen's Printer, $10 — approved.
Vote 189: British Columbia lottery branch, $10 — approved.
Vote 190: unemployment insurance and workers' compensation, $14,500,000 — approved.
Vote 191: Public Inquiries Act, $10 — approved.
Vote 192: Provincial Elections Act, $633,945 — approved.
Vote 193: Government Employee Relations Bureau, $8,842,709 — approved.
On vote 194: Public Service Commission administration, $3,051,300.
MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Chairman, on June 15 the Provincial Secretary very kindly answered a question I had placed on the order paper. It was with reference to the number of public servants employed by the present Social Credit government as of June 15. According to the figures that were tabled here, as of June 15 there were 45,026 public servants under the Social Credit government. If we go back and look at December 1975, under the NDP government — that government that was known to have over-hired, so Social Credit said — there were 39,498. According to these figures there has been an increase of 5,528 public servants under the Social Credit government.
I can recall, Mr. Chairman, campaigning in 1975 and listening to the Social Credit candidates all over this province saying that the NDP were wasteful, and that when they came in they were going to cut down on the public servants of this province. I just thought that we shouldn't let this afternoon go by without getting on the record that the Social Credit government has increased the public servants of this province by over 5,000 members.
Vote 194 approved.
On vote 195: salaries and benefits — sundry employees, $1,080,000.
MR. LEVI: Last year the allocation was $4 million. Has the minister any idea how much was spent? What does this cover, actually?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, with respect to vote 195, this applies to employees who are not within the British Columbia Buildings Corporation. They are Public Works personnel, and we are building a good team. These are those left out of the Public Works transfer to B.C. Buildings Corporation.
Vote 195 approved.
Vote 196: Public Service Adjudication Board, $396,596 — approved.
Vote 197: superannuation branch administration, $1,606,162 — approved.
Vote 198: public service superannuation and retirement benefits, $70,455,000 — approved.
Vote 199: Members of the Legislative Assembly Superannuation Act, $135,000 — approved.
Vote 200: employee benefits, $33,164,063 — approved.
Vote 201: parliament buildings restoration, $1,200,000 — approved.
Vote 202: Queen Elizabeth II British Columbia Centennial Scholarship Act, $24,000 — approved.
On vote 203: building occupancy charges, $9,416,000.
MR. LEVI: There is a reduction of about $1.5 million here. Have they let go some buildings, or have they got cheaper rates? Could the minister give us the reasons for the reduction?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, it relates to the reorganization of the ministry which took place in December of last year, with components coming from Recreation, Conservation, Highways and so on.
Vote 203 approved.
On vote 204: computer and consulting charges, $1,435,000.
MR. LEVI: Could the minister tell us what the need is in his ministry for the computer services? What takes up the lion's share of the amount?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Certainly the most important function is superannuation, Mr. Chairman, inasmuch as this ministry is responsible for the Public Service Superannuation Act, several other superannuation Acts out of the public sector, and the legislative library as well. Of that, $749,000 is attributable specifically to superannuation and $160,000 is attributable to the Government Employees Relations Bureau. The other items are relatively small.
Vote 204 approved.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION,
COMMUNICATIONS AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 211: minister's office, $168,872.
[ Page 1043 ]
HON. MR. FRASER: I would like to make the one comment that the best is saved to the last.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I might remind the minister that the last is vote 1.
HON. MR. FRASER: This portfolio was reorganized in December 1978 from the Ministry of Energy, Transport and Communications, and Highways and Public Works. They were joined to become the Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Highways.
The B.C. Ferries Corporation and the Motor Carrier Commission were also added to the ministry's responsibilities. The Public Works section was eliminated, becoming part of Government Services, an addition to the Ministry of the Provincial Secretary. By joining Transport, Communications and Highways together, the government felt that such a move would enable it to respond more effectively to the major transportation problems facing.British Columbia.
The transportation element of the ministry has six branches: motor vehicle, engineering, motor carrier, weigh scale, air services and transportation policy analysis. The engineering branch is located in Vancouver, as is the Motor Carrier Commission and the motor carrier branch.
Communications has two branches: telecommunications and systems development and regulations branch.
Highways has four divisions: engineering, construction, operational and administration.
Under the first three there are ten branches: design and surveys, traffic engineering, geotechnical and materials testing, bridge engineering, highway safety, planning, construction, paving, maintenance and equipment. In administration there are three main branches: personnel, financial services and property services.
The ministry operates 42,000 kilometres of provincial highway system, weigh scale stations, highway ferries, motor vehicle branch offices, government telephone services and the government aircraft services. The ministry administers the Highway Act, Commercial Transport Act, Motor Vehicle Act, Motor Carrier Act, Highways (Scenic Improvement) Act, Controlled Access Highways Act, Ferries Act, Pipe-lines Act, Railway Act, Motor Vehicle Transportation Act, Telecommunications Utilities Act and the Industrial Transportation Act.
A few projects were completed in the prior year, and I think the one that is foremost — people have waited over one hundred years for it — is the completion of Highway 19 to the north end of Vancouver Island. I might say to the committee, Mr. Chairman, that I am happy to say that the reporters don't have to worry about dust on their cars to go on this highway now, as they mentioned in a front-page article a short time ago. They were all upset because they got some dust on their car. The road is all black now, right to the north end of Vancouver Island — Port Hardy. The road is not quite finished but the blacktop is on and there is no gravel left on this long-awaited road.
A few other items in this area — widening of the Trans-Canada Highway out of Victoria, and the Blanshard Street extension. I've been here for a while, but the Blanshard Street extension, I think, was talked about for 25 years before it was finally completed.
On the lower mainland, a few large projects have started there of a vital nature — the four-laning of the King George Highway, the Mary Hill bypass, Marine Way in Burnaby, to name a few.
Another one that took a long time was finally completed in the Kootenays. I refer to the Castlegar-Salmo section of Highway 3, which was completed late last fall.
In other parts of the province, work continues on reconstruction of Highway 97, better known as the Hart Highway, north of Prince George to the Peace River. Reconstruction of that is going on and will continue to go for some time. We have quite a bit of it completed, and even completed part of the rebuilding of the section of the Pine Pass.
Highway 16 — Terrace to Prince Rupert — a lot of work has been going on there, with a lot more to go yet. But we can now see when it probably will end — everybody being willing and funds being available. Highway 37 and 37A, to Atlin: that's a long piece of road — 500 miles of it — and we're working on different sections of that, have been for some time and intend to continue.
As well as building quite a few passing lanes all over the province, more paved shoulders, more rest areas, and undertaking extensive guardrail replacement programs, we're in the third year of an extensive pavement replacement program.
Last, but probably not least in this section, we've also made a start, contrary to some remarks, on the Coquihalla, the third route to the Pacific coast. Contractors are at work on that.
In the transportation branch, I would think one project that was new last year, and was very popular throughout the province, is the airport assistance program, upgrading some remote strips and some not so remote, so that citizens in outlying areas will have better transportation available.
We are developing an overall transportation policy for the province and we're considering all the basic elements of that.
There's another thing that I think is popular with a segment of our community: in the transportation section we've introduced the personalized licence plates. Application forms, I believe, were available July 1. There is a great response coming from the public. We've gone to cyclical billing on licence plates, and now our citizens — I think it will take five years for the program to be fully covered — won't have to line up for licence places every March. It will be spread out over different times of the year.
The communications branch is working with communities to assist in improving communications systems such as telephone and television. The communication branch is also spearheading discussions between the provinces and the federal government regarding several items of significance in the communication field.
Those are just a few opening remarks, Mr. Chairman, to members of the committee. I certainly look forward to the debate on these estimates. we'll try to get you most of the answers to your quetions.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I appreciate the opening remarks of the minister. It's always fun to debate with this minister. We always have straightforward and good answers from this minister. I also don't intend to take too long in these opening remarks, Mr. Chairman. All the members in the House are extremely interested in highways and transportation, but during the course of my remarks, Mr. Minister — through you, Mr. Chairman — I'm going to discuss a few
[ Page 1044 ]
overall highway and ministry policies, a couple of major highway problems and some water transportation problems in regards to the coast.
I wanted to start off my remarks, Mr. Chairman, by saying that in spite of this minister — a good minister — in spite of his very quiet approach to highways, that ministry, in my view, has become one of the most political ministries in the government of today. I'd like to take a few minutes to give a couple of examples.
For the years 1977-1978 the ministry had overruns of $91,316,000, and for the years 1978-1979 it had overruns of $89,940,000. These are the months leading up to an election, and if that's not political, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to know what is. While we still have major problems financing our hospitals and keeping up health care and other items, here we have a ministry that has overruns in this last fiscal year of over $89 million.
But what's more astounding, Mr. Chairman, is the amount of day-labour projects that have taken place within the last couple of years. I think everyone in the House knows that day-labour funding comes under the direct control of the ministry, and it leads to a great deal of speculation. In the year 1977-78 we have $82.9 million in day-labour projects alone. These aren't necessarily contracts that are let, but these are day-labour projects. What's even more astounding is that for the same year in the minister's riding of Cariboo $20.6 million was spent in day-labour projects alone. I have the figures here, Mr. Minister, and you can correct me if I'm wrong. That's by far the highest figure for any constituency in the province. Still more astounding is that in the riding of Cariboo — and anybody who's living in Cariboo is interested only in highways — $39,817,000-plus was spent for the fiscal year of 1978. Perhaps the minister would care to comment.
I have a couple of other examples, but I want to say that the difference between this minister and Flying Phil Gaglardi is that Phil Gaglardi used to talk a lot and put his foot in his mouth, and this minister is very quiet. But these things are happening today in the province of British Columbia.
Another political aspect of the ministry which I don't care very much for, Mr. Chairman, is the fact that in government ridings government MLAs, for some reason or other, have the opportunity to make announcements about new highway projects in their ridings; in opposition ridings we have a difficult time even getting the information out of the ministry. Now I'm not knocking the ministry; they've been very good on many aspects of little local projects. But on major projects I'm often told by ministry officials: "I can't give you that information. You'll have to get it from the minister." Then the minister says: "Get it from somebody in my ministry." So there you are. We in the opposition often don't hear about these projects until they're in progress.
Not too long ago — about a year and a half ago or so — the Premier, by order-in-council, was apparently allowed to talk with people in his riding about highway projects and contracts. I'd like to know from the minister if that is still going on. Is the Premier still signing contracts or talking with people about highway projects in his riding? I notice from an old press clipping here that Graham Lea, the member for Prince Rupert, asked for a special deal too, but he didn't get any special deal as far as I know. I'd like to know if any contracts were actually signed while the Premier was in charge of highways in his own riding of Kelowna.
I have one further item along this line, Mr. Chairman. On March 21 of this year I wrote to the minister and asked about a supplementary vessel to serve Route 7, between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay-Powell River, as the present Powell River Queen had been stretched, and I knew that the Ferry Corporation will very often take a supplementary vessel off after they stretch a ferry. As it turned out, this was the case.
So I asked the minister, knowing that there were going to be problems this summer, to make sure that there was a supplementary vessel on Route 7 this summer. I didn't receive a reply from the minister, and in the meantime we were put into an election campaign. Lo and behold, about two-thirds of the way through the campaign, the Social Credit candidate in my riding made an announcement about a supplementary vessel being placed on that particular route, and everybody in Powell River was very happy about it. But that is not so bad. I can understand that he perhaps had access to information from somebody in the ministry, and the minister was busy with his own campaign and didn't have time to write and let me know, even though I was still the MLA for the area.
What bothers me a bit is that Mr. K. Sorko is on the board of directors of the B.C. Ferry Corporation. I haven't got my copy of the thing here, but Mr. K. Sorko was, during the election, the campaign manager for the Social Credit Party candidate in my riding. Did that candidate receive that information from you or Mr. Sorko? Where did he get that information? I didn't get that information until May 29, when the ferry was practically in service and everybody in town knew about it anyway. If that's not political, I'd like to know what is. I'm a bit disturbed that a director of the B.C. Ferry Corporation, who was a campaign manager for a Social Credit Party candidate, would possibly make that information available to that candidate at that time.
I have a couple of questions on the Coquihalla highway, Mr. Minister. I would like to know what the completion date for that particular highway is. What is the anticipated total cost of that highway? The first section of highway, 4.5 kilometres, is to be constructed from Nicolum Creek to Pearse Creek, and the cost for that section — I think the bids came in — is around $950,000 per kilometre. Extrapolating from this, that would mean that for the total length of the highway, which is 112.6 kilometres, the cost would be about $1.07 billion. This doesn't include the cost of bridges and the cost of moving the pipelines and other things that have to go on and have to happen for the construction of the....
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Why don't you check yourself out for a change? Pay your bills.
In any event, Mr. Minister, if you would be good enough to explain this project and the anticipated cost, I would appreciate that very much.
While we're on highways, I'll just take a couple of minutes of the time of this House. I know every member wants to get up and talk about highways in their own riding. Before I move on to discussing the B.C. Ferry Corporation and other matters, I'd like to discuss a few problems taking place in my own riding. I wonder if the minister could tell
[ Page 1045 ]
me about the continued reconstruction of Highway 101, which hasn't been happening in the last while. I know there was a bit of work done prior to the election; in fact, they are finishing off that particular little project now. But that is not the continued reconstruction of Highway 101. It's taking a few bends out of the highway. It doesn't even link up with that portion of the highway that was completed north of Half Moon Bay a couple of years ago. I would like some assurances from the minister that this project, the reconstruction of Highway 101, will proceed.
The Langdale-Gibsons bypass has been kicking around for years, but could the minister let me know what's happening in regard to that particular project? I hope, of course, the minister will not proceed on that project until he's consulted with the municipality and the regional district. A great deal of controversy surrounds that particular proposal. Recently the ratepayers in the area sent you a letter in this regard. They have come out in favour of a bypass, providing the municipality, the regional district and the ratepayers in the area can be satisfied that the highway is in the right place.
Not a great deal of work has been done on Highway 101 through Powell River. I know that you've been up there, and you looked at the areas that are falling into the ocean. I hope that you are continuing to meet with the municipality with a view to repairing that section of the highway or perhaps even changing the highway completely — a different route through the area. The traffic is getting heavier and heavier all the time.
Of course, there are many major side-roads that need upgrading and blacktop. But almost every riding in the province, except for Vancouver Centre, requires this kind of work, so I won't go into the many hundreds of roads that we have in my riding.
But I have been getting a series of letters of complaint from Ocean Falls. In fact, I am going up there on Saturday to have a look at the situation. I've been getting a series of letters of complaint from that small community in the last while, and perhaps someone in your ministry could tell me what your intentions are in regard to highway repair in that small community.
I have one last item in terms of local areas. For the whole length of Highway 101, from Langdale through Gibsons through Powell River up to Lund, there is not one rest area. I would hope, Mr. Minister, that you could have Highways people look at some of these. There are a number of areas along the way over that 80- or 90-mile section of highway that would be ideal locations for rest areas, tables and toilets. I hear more and more complaints about this every year. So perhaps you could have one of your ministry look into that matter.
I'd like to change the track of these opening remarks, and once again get onto the topic of problems in coastal transportation. You know, Mr. Minister, as well as I do that the transportation on this coast is about as bad as it has been in 30 years. I'm told the transportation system has improved, and the people in your ministry know that very well. I've discussed it many, many times with various people in the B.C. Ferry Corporation and in your own ministry.
The fact is that the province made a very bad deal a while ago, when Northland ceased its service in the province after requesting a subsidy of $3.5 million some — two and a half or three years ago. The province undertook to take full responsibility for coast transportation in this province. As a result, Northland pulled out, and the service has been terrible.
Mr. Minister, I do thank you for tabling answers to my questions on the order paper the other day, but I must take a small exception to one of the answers that you gave me, in terms of answering those questions, where you say that the $8 million the ministry received was used in order to fulfil the province's commitment in respect to the federal-provincial agreement. Mr. Minister, I can't agree with you. I don't think you have fulfilled those agreements that were made at that time when that agreement was signed. I do have a copy of that agreement, but the fact is that in many areas of this coast — the Queen Charlottes, Bella Coola, and many other areas — water transportation is either non-existent or very poor. We are still receiving a great deal of correspondence from people up and down the coast. I'll give you a more recent example of what's happening here in Tasu in the Queen Charlotte Islands. I won't read this whole thing — it's a petition and everything else — but just to give you an idea of what's happening right now in 1979, this is a copy of a letter to the Premier. Copies went to a lot of other people and to yourself as well. They say this:
"In terms of food supplies, there are undated eggs with
blood spots — stale and rotten at times. The local gastro-intestinal illness
is unusually high for a small community. Many cases are not even reported. Poor
quality of food is believed to be a cause of this complaint, and the poor quality
of food is because sometimes six weeks elapse before anything will reach these
areas and by the time it gets through the stores and into the hands of the people.
Luncheon meat, dated six months ago and frozen, when thawed turns green within
two or three days...assorted meats, rancid and sour bacon...."
These could be charges and allegations made by people living in the community, but what's interesting about this particular piece of correspondence is that I have a similar letter from the Queen Charlotte Islands from a doctor who says the very same thing. He claims:
"A possible cause could be that we are not receiving supplies, especially meat, that is in good condition when it leaves Vancouver. Our supplies come in by barge every six weeks, which makes it more important that supplies should be as fresh as possible to start with."
So what I'm saying, Mr. Minister, is that the transportation to many parts of our coast is still in very poor condition. I was hoping the minister could explain to this House and to the people of this province what your plans are for the future for areas like the Queen Charlottes, Bella Coola and Bella Bella.
Please, Mr. Minister, when you answer about the $8-million-a-year subsidy from the federal government, and we talk about that, don't give me that very funny formula that you worked out over some mythical stretch of highway about the $8 million being equal. Whatever that is, I don't want to hear it again, but I want to hear from you how you intend to improve the transportation.
I'll refer to a piece of correspondence by a Mr. David Vink. I think that Mr. Gallagher, general manager of the corporation, is familiar with this case. I had a call again
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from the fellow who is attempting to bring fresh supplies into the community of Ocean Falls. The fact is that he cannot get a reservation on the Queen of Prince Rupert. In discussion with some of your people in the corporation, Mr. Minister, I thought I was told that he would get preferred treatment. He got stuck in Ocean Falls for nine days. He couldn't get on the Queen of Prince Rupert on his regular stop in that community. This means that people up there don't receive fresh food and vegetables. This fellow is slowly going broke. I would like some assurance from the minister that at least this one particular guy, who is trying to make a living and providing a service to that community and that part of the coast, will get some preferred treatment on the Queen of Prince Rupert. I think that is the least that can be done for Mr. David Vink.
Some time ago the ministry commissioned a so-called report to look at the various problems of the vessels being operated on the coast and on the lakes of British Columbia. Will the minister table that report? You've had it in your possession now for a year and a half or so. I know that members in this Legislature have asked for the tabling of that report on previous occasions. Why won't you table it? What's wrong with it? Is there something in there that we shouldn't see? It's paid for by public moneys. In 1977 you were good enough to send me the terms of reference for the committee, so we know what they were supposed to look at. In fact it was easier to tell what they were not supposed to look at. The only thing they weren't supposed to pay any attention to was complaints by employees; other than that, they pretty well had wide-open terms of reference to look at all aspects of inland ferries and saltwater ferries operated by the Ministry of Highways. I wish the minister would be good enough to tell us today that he's going to table that report. Let's look at it. Let's see if they recommend putting tolls on those inland ferries and how they intend to improve the transportation system in these areas.
As well, I'd like the minister to consider this. We know that on the route between Powell River and Comox there is a vessel called Sechelt Queen, which operates quite efficiently. However, it is getting old and apparently has to be replaced shortly. I would like to know if the minister is considering building, or at least planning for, a new vessel for that particular route. I hope you are planning something along the lines of a vessel capable of carrying about 100 vehicles and possibly, with some modifications, 130 vehicles. Not only that, but once he had a plan, a vessel like that could be utilized on other routes on the Gulf Islands and along the central coast and north coast areas of this province. Would the minister tell me if such plans are underway by the ministry for the construction of such vessels? I know that there are some jumbo-size ferries now under construction; perhaps he'd tell us about those too.
While we're discussing that particular route from Powell River to Comox, there was an order-in-council passed some time ago concerning the vessel on this route, operated by the Ministry of Highways, which said that this route was similar to routes 1 and 2 between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay and between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, and that the same toll rate should apply. If that is so, Mr. Minister, I'd like to know why you will not honour resident commuter cards on that route. As you know, people on theSun shine Coast and in Powell River have resident commuter cards which are honoured by the B.C. Ferry Corporation on the various routes from Powell River down through theSunshine Coast and across to Horseshoe Bay, but not on that particular route. I'd like to know why not.
I hope, as well, that you will consider these proposals at least. I don't see why people who are chronically ill, who have a doctor's certificate, couldn't utilize the B.C. highways and the B.C. ferries free of charge. I think that these vessels on the coast are our highways; that's what they are.
I see no reason why youth groups travelling between Powell River and Comox, if you will, or any other part — Denman and Hornby to Vancouver Island — shouldn't be allowed to travel free. Soccer teams, baseball teams, Guides and Brownies, you name it. Why not? During the seven or eight months of the year those vessels, through most hours, are only half-utilized anyway, and it wouldn't cost the government a great dal of money. We do have a lot of free ferries in British Columbia now. I don't see why we couldn't have free service for the handicapped and the seniors on these vessels.
One more quick item, Mr. Minister. What we have here is a proposed airport at Bella Bella. I have correspondence here from John Morton, the chairman of the regional district, who says in part: "We have recently been advised by Jack Pearsall" — who was then the MP for the area but was defeated — "that approval for an expenditure of approximately $4.5 million was made over a year ago and that the British Columbia government was requested to make a site decision." I would like to know if that information is correct, if money was allocated for a proposed airport at Bella Bella, $4.5 million, and if it is correct that the provincial government has to make a site decision. It was my understanding that it was a federal government responsibility. But we'd like to know. In fact, I'm going to be up there in a couple of days, so if you can answer while I'm here, that would be great. With that I'll give the minister a chance to answer, Mr. Chairman.
HON. MR. FRASER: Well, the member for Mackenzie gave me a few questions here, and we will try and clean them up. I'll go from the first, instead of the last to the first. I haven't got all the answers but....
You referred to overruns in Highways. Yes, that's right. That is public knowledge. We had overruns, and we don't deny those. It was government policy to create work and also to effect a highway catch-up program, and that is why that happened.
Regarding the day-labour part of it, yes, day labour was heavy, and day labour gives the local people work, the ones who own machinery as well as the individuals. We didn't reduce the contract work, I might say. We have let more contracts to our major contractors in the last two or three years than were let in the last five. They're all busy on road work for the first time in a long time, and they also have had grading contracts, bridge contracts and paving contracts. This has all gone, with day labour, to assist in upgrading our highways system and building new ones that I remarked on earlier.
Regarding the overruns, there was one difference with this government and the prior government. We had overruns, but on the global budget basis we balanced the budget. We didn't end up in the red ink.
Regarding the Cariboo riding, I'm not a bit afraid to defend the work there. I'm amazed that you would pick on
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that, Mr. Member, because parts of your riding were the beneficiaries of the work done in the Cariboo riding. For the first time in the history of this province we've got a decent road from Williams Lake, which is in my riding, to Bella Coola, which is in your riding — Highway 20, a distance of 300 miles. It was three years ago that it took 18 hours and maybe you got from Bella Coola to Williams Lake. Now you make it in six hours, I would remind you. I am amazed that you would pick on the Cariboo expenditure.
I might tell you also, Mr. Chairman, that the Cariboo riding has the largest inventory of road mileage in the province of British Columbia by electoral districts, and why shouldn't it have the largest expenditure, in view of that alone?
I am amazed, Mr. Chairman, that he'd pick on that, because I know he doesn't go to Bella Coola very often. But he should do and hear the people talk about the transportation improvements in that community that allow them to get out to civilization.
Regarding Mr. Sorko, yes, I'm proud to say he is a director of the B.C. Ferries Corporation from the Sunshine Coast. I don't know what activity he had during the election campaign, but I'm glad to hear he was active in the campaign — on the right side.
You were talking about getting a supplementary vessel. The one thing you didn't say was that you did get the supplementary vessel, so I think your observations there weren't too much.
As I go along the Coquihalla route, really, you got that up to $1 billion. I don't know who's doing your arithmetic, sir, but....
HON. MR. FRASER: No, that doesn't go through my riding. But there have been a lot of figures bandied around about the estimated cost of the Coquihalla, which is roughly 70 miles from Hope to Merritt. It goes through real tough country. The first contract has been awarded, and on the basis of that, it appears that we might.... There's inflation to be concerned about and so on.
The government said in the throne speech of 1977 that we'd build the Coquihalla and it would take eight to ten years to complete it. There's been no change in that strategy, but the figures will certainly change from an inflation standpoint alone. Still, we're not looking at more than $150 million as the gross cost of that total highway. This is based partly on the one existing contract that has been awarded in tough country, but there's a lot of tough country to go through yet. But it is nothing like the $1 billion that you mentioned. I think you had better go back to your computer or whatever and find out how you're wrong there, Mr. Member.
Regarding Highway 101 in your riding, there have apparently been a couple of miles of road done there. The work is going to continue until, I believe, there is an eight-mile section, of which this is two. All that should be kept going, and it will if funds are available. But there have been two miles done this year, as I understand it. I think you're correct. I don't think we can tie that two miles into it now. We have to do more work before we can tie in this two-mile section. But the work will go on.
You mentioned the Gibsons bypass. As I gather from the ministry, it is not a high-priority item. We'll take your advice and make sure we deal with the communities, but that's what we try to do in all cases.
You mentioned Ocean Falls. I don't know what you're hearing from Ocean Falls, but we have just completed paving 4.2 kilometres in Ocean Falls. I haven't got the exact locations, but that, as you know, is very difficult when you have to bring the material in by boat. But the work has been done this year.
We'll certainly take note of your remarks regarding the rest areas. I wasn't aware that there weren't any rest areas, and I don't think that's correct. I think we should be able to do something about that.
I have just a few remarks to make about coast transportation in general. You referred to the agreement that the province has with the government of Canada. I wasn't part of that, but I have some of the details. I think the province was in a bad position from day one. The private sector backed out because they couldn't get subsidized by the government of Canada, and I can't say enough about the attitude of the government of Canada at that time. Hopefully things will change now, but the province got caught.
We negotiated the first subsidy agreement ever, I might say, for the B.C. ferry system. We have tried to get service to the coast of British Columbia, and I'll just read part of the agreement. I know the reason I concentrate on this. The provincial election was fought on it on the north coast. That wasn't enough, so the federal election was fought around it on May 22. The agreement was signed between the province and Transport Canada in July 1977:
"The federal government will pay British Columbia $8 million annually, with increase or decrease annually by percentage increase or decrease in the consumer price index for Vancouver. For this, British Columbia shall assume sole responsibility for the subsidization as may be required of ferry and coastal freight and passenger service in the waters of British Columbia, and assume all residual subsidies from the cancellation of the Northland shipping subsidy, the interim subsidy to Coast Ferries, the subsidy to Nootka Sound Service, the subsidy to Kyuquot Freight Services, the subsidy to Ahousat Freight Services."
The province agreed to assure reasonable and adequate service. Where required, the province agreed to place appropriate passenger vessels in service as soon as reasonably possible on the coast between communities and principal water and air service. The province of British Columbia really didn't get any bargain for $8 million, I can assure you of that.
I guess I should outline to you a few things that happened. This happened prior to my assuming the responsibilities. They continue to try to upgrade the coastal services. You didn't mention what happened in 1978. Ocean Falls has got the large boat calling in there. Bella Bella has the large Queen of Prince Rupert calling in there.
The other thing that has happened is that a heavily subsidized tug and barge service has been put in from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlotte Islands. They have also put in a subsidized run to Port Simpson from Prince Rupert. So as time goes on, we aren't standing still; there are things taking place.
I can assure you there is lots to do. I am concerned about the Queen Charlotte Islands, and as far as I'm concerned,
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I'd like to see these people get service who haven't got any at all before we concentrate too much on the others. However, as you know, on the heavy routes we are placing contracts for two large class C vessels, which are under construction now. We have placed contracts, and I believe two out of three vessels in service have been stretched from 50- to 70-car capacity for runs to the lower mainland.
On the Comox–Powell River run, which is a Highways ferry, there has been no decision about replacing that vessel. It appears that the vessel is going to have to be replaced, but it hasn't got to the point where we're ready to call for tenders or anything like that, as I understand it.
I'm a little confused, quite frankly, about the member's request that resident commuter cards apply to the Comox–Powell River ferry. You're really comparing it with B.C. Ferries, as I understand it.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: It was your order-in-council that said the routes were similar.
HON. MR. FRASER: We will probably have further discussion on that. I know it is an issue with you.
Regarding youth groups, Mr. Chairman, I might say that I would like to see us give some consideration to the member's request regarding some help to youth groups going for athletic events, social events, or whatever. I think that maybe we can take a better look at that.
The Bella Bella airport. Yes, there were a lot of statements made by the ex-MP for Coast-Chilcotin, the one and only Mr. Jack Pearsall. Maybe that's why he's an ex-MP. As far as the province is concerned, we were never aware of the funds referred to by Mr. Pearsall. I saw that in print. I didn't hear Mr. Pearsall say it, but apparently he said the government of Canada had set aside $4.5 million, or something like that, for an airport. Well, of course, we weren't aware of that. The government of British Columbia was never told that. From what I hear, with the new government taking over in Ottawa, I don't imagine $4.5 million was set aside, because I understand they are trying to find billions. I think that was just talk, and it was never actually available for the airport at all.
I might say that the need for an airport to serve the central coast area has been recognized for some time by almost all people. In 1977 Transport Canada identified two possible sites, one on Campbell Island, which is a native community, and one on the Shearwater side of Dunny Island. The federal government has refused to proceed with construction on the grounds that the province should choose the site. B.C. maintains that the project is a federal responsibility, that the Hon. Otto Lang was committed to it, and that they should get on with construction. We feel that Otto Lang made a commitment on that. As a matter of fact, I think we have correspondence to that effect. Then they got it turned around about the province having to choose a site, but that's not our version of it at all.
I know I haven't answered all your questions, but let some other members try.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Mr. Chairman, I know there are a lot of members who want to speak on this particular minister's estimates. I'll have more remarks later on. But I first want to thank the minister for his replies; some of them were good, some of them were not.
I'd like to say that I hope that Mr. Sorko is a better director for the B.C. Ferry Corporation than he is a campaign manager for your party, because he didn't do too well, I can tell you.
In any event, I wanted to ask a couple of questions about coast transportation, primarily about your plans for the Queen of Surrey and the Queen of Prince Rupert on the northern route.
Mr. Minister, it's quite important to people living in those areas. I know they would appreciate some type of answer, if you could take a minute to do that before we get carried off to another tack on this particular ministry.
HON. MR. FRASER: What are our plans for the Queen of Surrey? As you know, it's not in use. But the ferry board directors have passed a resolution at the end of May. I might say it happened at Port Hardy when we opened the new terminal there for the sailing for the Queen of Prince Rupert, which is now on the run to Port Hardy, Ocean Falls, Bella Bella and Prince Rupert.
You mentioned in your opening remarks, Mr. Chairman, regarding people — I think you were talking freight.... But I would like to tell the committee that the Queen of Prince Rupert is fully booked all the time. At the present time, I think it's booked three months ahead. It's a dandy vessel, but it has not got the capacity of the Queen of Surrey. With this in the background, the board of directors passed a motion to spend $5 million on the Queen of Surrey to get it ready to take over the run from the Queen of Prince Rupert sometime in 1980.
It has about double the capacity, passenger-wise and vehicle-wise. That is what we have in mind for the Queen of Surrey. I think, as usual, we will have a lot of comment. But it is planned at the moment, with no definite decision made, that the Queen of Prince Rupert would then be relieved of the very heavy responsibility it has on these runs. We'd use it as an intermediate vessel to service the Queen Charlotte Islands.
I know there has been criticism of that. Why use a large vessel like that? But I want to tell the committee the Hecate Strait is the toughest water in the western world. We can't send a bathtub across from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlotte Islands. We would use that only on an intermediate basis until we got a specially built vessel. That's the thinking now, but no orders have been placed. We would use the Queen of Prince Rupert to finally get better service to the Queen Charlotte Islands until we could get a dedicated vessel to go on the run.
If that happens, if that comes to place that we use the Queen of Prince Rupert from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlottes, we have to build a dock. One thing I found out from being a landlubber, when I became involved with highway ferries and B.C. ferries.... It's all well and good to talk about shifting boats around and putting them into places where they have never run before, but you must have a dock for them to tie up at, and the cheapest dock we can build is about $1.5 million up to $3.5 million. If I could comment again, the government of Canada, I believe, have a responsibility here. They've had in the past, and they have certainly abrogated that. The dock situation on the coast is not in good shape, which you would know better than I do.
So again back to the Queen of Prince Rupert. We have to use it to get to the Charlottes. We're going to have to build a dock for it. That decision hasn't been made, but I
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understand the B.C. Ferry Corporation management do not want the Queen of Prince Rupert — a vessel of that size — to go into Masset, where the Masset people, of course, want it to go. They say that because of water it has to go into Skidegate. That decision has not been made, but something has to be made before we can run any vessel to dock it on the other side.
I'll sit down again. I want to apologize to the committee. The senior staff are all here and I will take this opportunity to introduce the Deputy Minister of Transportation, Communications and Highways, Mr. Harvey; Mr. Tom Johnson, the assistant deputy minister; Mr. Gallagher, the general manager and chief executive officer of B.C. Ferry Corporation; and Mr. Fraser MacLean, Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation, Communications and Highways.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Very briefly, Mr. Chairman, I want to remind the minister, and I won't make my speech about coast transportation.... I've made it many times in this Legislature. Many of the small communities where it's too expensive to build proper ferry docking facilities and I know the expense does involve numerous landings in my riding....
But the people in those small communities.... All they are requesting is some type of self-propelled vessel capable of carrying freight, with passenger service, and lift-on, lift-off capability. That would solve many of these problems on existing wharfs and facilities that were utilized in the past by Coast Ferries in our northland.
I had one more question. You didn't answer my question, Mr. Minister — through you, Mr. Chairman — about the so-called Miard report on Highways-operated ferries. What did you do with it? We'd certainly like to have a look at it. Could you table that report in this House? Why should it be secret? Just flip it out here on the table, and give it to the Clerks and we can all have a look at it. I don't see any problem with that. Mr. Minister, tell me about the Miard report.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I trust the member appreciates that we cannot table documents in Committee of Supply.
MR. MUSSALLEM: Mr. Chairman, the minister has talked a great deal about ferries this afternoon, and I want to compliment him on the complete turnaround in the last three years of the ferry system as we know it. I've never seen more courtesy on any ship. Certainly the attitude is totally appreciated by the public. Even the ticket officers, who used to throw tickets back at you, now smile, and the staff is magnificent. Mr. Minister, I just want you to pass the word on to whomever is responsible for that work. Probably you are, but whoever it is, it's a beautiful job well done. The dining room upstairs is magnificent. It's really a credit to our government. It's a total turnaround and good work. It's the same with the highways. I told him he was the best minister in the House, and I think that's true — with all respect, mind you. But he's done a great job, and more power to him.
Now in saying all this, I want a bridge at Albion, Mr. Minister. I think the Albion ferry is excellent, but I think the minister should be considering, some day in the near future, a bridge to join Maple Ridge with Langley, which is not that far away. It's a very heavy arterial area, and there should be some consideration given to a bridge at that point. I'm not pressing it at this time. I know these things take a lot of designing, a lot of planning and a lot of consideration, and that should be the next bridge across the Fraser River whenever that time comes.
In 1969 the government promised a four-lane highway to Mission. I have talked to the ministry, and talked to you several times, but I'd like to go on record now as bringing it up in the House again and saying it is long past due. It should be a government priority to complete the road that was promised then. If you look at the record of the traffic, it compares in traffic with the Trans-Canada Highway at the same point. We get so much traffic in this area that it deserves special attention. There is just too much traffic to be handled in two lanes, so I urge the minister to give this his consideration.
I would compliment him and thank him for the Pitt River bridge. It's not all on our side of the river — half of it is in Coquitlam and half is on our side — but it does join up the area. Development has taken place, but not quickly enough for the north side of the river. The north side of the river is sort of forgotten, and I would urge you to consider immediately the completion of that highway. It already goes to Maple Ridge, but it should go on to Mission. The completion of the Mission bridge that you promised would complete the full job. I think it would be a great pleasure to the people of the area, and it's necessary for the travelling public that use the highways. I say again the traffic on that road is equal to if not in excess of the traffic on Highway 1.
MR. BARNES: I just want to tell the minister that he's very fortunate that I'm no longer the critic of this ministry, because I'm sure he will recall those vicious attacks. I only stand to suggest to the minister that he check out one little problem that I've noticed in riding the ferry between Sidney and Tsawwassen. This is probably an oversight, but perhaps the minister has had some complaints from some of the tourists, particularly the American tourists who are driving their cars from across the border, coming up through Blaine. The signs state: ''Ferry to Victoria." You probably know those signs. That's misleading, because if you were to park your car, trying to save the cost of paying for your car, and you got on that ferry, you wouldn't get to Victoria; you would get to Sidney.
MR. BARNES: Don't make jokes about it, Mr. Chairman, because this is something I'm passing on to the minister to cooperate with his ministry. I don't want to have our tourists trying to come up to the Butchart Gardens, thinking they're going to end up in Victoria by leaving their car and getting on the ferry as a foot passenger, and then getting off in Sidney and not knowing how to get to Victoria. That's all I'm saying, because I think you should look into that. There have been a number of people stranded. I happened to overhear some people complain. A fellow had his family — there were about six or seven of them — and they were on their way to Butchart Gardens. They were asking the attendant what bus to get, and he said: "Well, you've had it unless you can hitch a ride; you're stuck." They said: "Well, we should have brought our car." They thought the sign said they were going to go to Victoria, but the sign is misleading. It should say, "Ferry to
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Sidney," with some kind of explanation that you can carry on to Victoria. It is a misleading sign. That's the only point I'd like to make, Mr. Chairman. Maybe the minister would look into that.
MR. KING: Before I bring reason and light to this vicious debate I want to give the minister a chance to respond to the issue that he knows I'm going to raise, and that is the issue of the Ministry of Highways engineering branch indiscriminately, in some instances, I believe, designating land as subject to avalanche and various other slippages and so on, and freezing it from any development whatsoever, whether it be commercial, industrial or residential land. I have had correspondence with the minister over the past two years. I have brought to his attention a number of cases, and before I go into my four-hour dissertation on the need to remedy the injustice that the Ministry of Highways, under the stewardship of this tender-hearted minister, is inflicting on the people of British Columbia, I want to ask him if he has made a policy decision regarding this issue as yet and, if so, if he would share that policy decision with the Legislature, because if that is the case, then obviously it would be redundant to go into an explanation of the tremendous hardship that has been imposed on people by the freezing of their property from any and all development.
I have a major submission to make in this regard, Mr. Chairman, in all seriousness, and I would ask the minister at the outset if he could give me an indication as to whether or not the cabinet policy decision which he promised a year and a half ago has now been taken. If so, what is the nature of that policy decision?
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, just to answer the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke, no policy decision has been made.
MR. KING: Well, Mr. Chairman, I certainly regret that. In light of that statement by the minister I do wish to present to the Legislature and to the people of British Columbia a precise explanation of what is happening to what I suspect are hundreds of private property owners throughout the length and breadth of British Columbia. I can best do that, I think, by quoting extensively from a submission which I made on behalf of one such property owner in the city of Revelstoke to the Assessment Appeal Board. I think in order to put forward the arguments, Mr. Chairman, and explain the dilemma to the Legislature, I shall quote from this submission that was made, I believe, early this year. I was presenting a submission that all taxes should be eliminated on the property, pending a final decision by the Minister of Transportation, Communications and Highways regarding the status of the property.
"A brief history of events surrounding this property is essential to understanding the unique dilemma in which the owners have been placed. For this purpose appended documents have been attached for reference to corroborate the history.
"The owners purchased the property in 1963 and had considered various development options until the year 1976. In early spring of 1976 Mr. F.W. Nobbs, an agent for Mid-Mountain Realty Ltd., with whom the property was listed, requested an access permit on behalf of a client who was interested in purchasing. This application was denied by the local Highways department, and verbal notice given that the property had been designated by the department's engineering branch as subject to potential avalanche. Accordingly no access, subdivision or development would be approved by the Highways department.
"Subsequent to this information, which came to the owners through Mid-Mountain Realty's agent, letters were directed to the Department of Highways seeking clarification of the avalanche designation. Mr. F.W. Nobbs' letter of August 24, 1976, is self-explanatory, and it was simply a letter asking for clarification of the designation.
"The district highways manager, Mr. John Lay, responded to that query on October 27, 1976, indicating that the department was not prepared to approve extension of the existing development nor conversion to another use.
"On October 28, 1976, Mr. Nobbs applied on behalf of the owners to subdivide the property. It would appear that his application and the local Highways superintendent's letter crossed in the mail.
"On November 3, 1976, the owner of the property directed a letter to Hon. A.V. Fraser, Minister of Highways, seeking a solution to the problem created by the ministry's avalanche designation. This letter was replied to on November 18, 1976, by one M.G. Elston, senior planning engineer in the ministry's Victoria office. The minister never did respond to the gentleman's letter.
"A further letter, dated February 1, 1977, relative to this matter, over the signature of the same M.G. Elston, was received by the owner, and a further letter, dated August 9, 1977, pertaining to the property, signed by D.L. South, senior approving officer, also was received by the owners.
"A number of facts should be noted at this point. It is clear that the owners purchased the property in 1963, unencumbered by restrictive covenants. After enjoying full rights of ownership for several years, an arbitrary designation of 'avalanche hazard' was placed on the property, having the effect of freezing any development and destroying normal ownership right to full use and enjoyment. It is equally clear that this designation, imposed by the Minister of Highways, was not transmitted to the owners, either verbally or in writing. Indeed, the owners only learned of the restriction in a second-hand fashion from Mid-Mountain Realty Limited, who had been acting on behalf of another client. There followed a long period of waiting by the owners for a full explanation from the Highways ministry. The owner's letter to the minister, which I have here in my possession, together with other letters I've referred to — copies of which are attached to this submission — all demonstrate an acknowledgement by the Ministry of Highways of the dilemma, and of a vague promise of further action and consideration. The owners lived with this vague promise from August of 1977 until approximately one year later, when their local MLA was contacted for assistance.
"As MLA for the riding, I contacted the deputy, Mr. R.G. Harvey, sometime in mid-summer of
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1978. Mr. Harvey acknowledged the problem, and indicated that the matter required a policy decision by the government and, accordingly, he could not predict a date for resolution. Some months later this conversation was followed by a letter to the minister's executive assistant, dated December 15, 1978. There has been no response to that letter up to this time."
The foregoing incontrovertible facts have indeed created an untenable dilemma for the owners. They have been caught in a squeeze play, awaiting a definitive government policy decision. This is a classic Catch-22 situation, where the government will not clearly enunciate the status of the land in question, nor give a policy decision on final settlement with the owners.
In the meantime, by withholding any access or subdivision authority, the government continues to immobilize the property, and must buy time to indulge their own indecisiveness.
The exhibits which are attached reveal that the owners have made every reasonable effort to find a solution to the problem.
The consequences of this unfair and unnecessary intrusion and frustration of ownership right have been severe. Market opportunity has been completely destroyed since the spring of 1976. The loss of potential sale and development opportunities in this period can only be guessed at. There is no doubt that land for commercial, industrial and residential use has been at a premium in the Revelstoke area since the advent of the Revelstoke Dam. Intangible financial loss through these circumstances, while difficult to assess, has, however, been recognized and calculated in litigation. Perhaps the most patently unfair fact accompanying this whole chain of events is the tax burden borne by the owners in the years 1976, 1977 and 1978. I have in my possession statements of property tax for the years 1975 through 1978. Those tax notices reveal an accelerating assessment on that property throughout the period that the property was immobilized.
In the three taxation years since the land was frozen, the taxes have increased from $687.10 to $1,136.91 in 1978. This is an increase of over 65 percent. It would have been punitive to continue the 1977 level of taxation on land frozen by government dictum. It is scandalous to increase the taxation by virtually 66 percent in such a period.
Assessment notices have been made available, and I can provide them to the minister to verify the allegations that are contained in this submission. I feel confident that the circumstances of the case have been adequately outlined, at least for the minister's understanding. I referred to that presentation mainly because it was the case that was made before the assessment appeal authority this year. I will say that the assessment appeal authority did respond with a reduction in taxation.
But the point I want to make, Mr. Chairman, is that this problem has been a problem for about three years now. I have no basic argument with the authority of the Highways ministry to designate any area that may be potentially hazardous to the public or to private citizens. That is not the point of objection.
The point of objection is that if, indeed, any agency of government feels impelled to intrude into private-ownership rights to that extent as a means of protecting the public interest, then they have the concomitant obligation, in my view, to either compensate the individual landowner, to purchase the property outright or at least to sit down and negotiate some equitable and fair solution. To simply use their authority as the Crown to freeze and immobilize the land by denying any access or any development is a shrewd and cowardly way to treat taxpayers in the province of British Columbia.
That is the kind of conduct one would expect from an unscrupulous land developer, certainly not from the Crown. Mr. Chairman, I use this one case simply to demonstrate the need for a policy decision by the minister. I use this one case to try to make the public aware of what is going on. The unfortunate fact is that I have to report that there are literally hundreds of people suffering in this way around the province, and the scandalous part of it is that many of them have not even been notified by the Ministry of Highways that their land is immobilized through an arbitrary designation placed on it by the Ministry of Highways' engineering branch. The have not even extended the courtesy of notifying them that: "Look, your land is subject to landslide or to avalanche, and therefore we find it essential in the public interest to freeze all development plans on that land." Many of them are sitting there paying accelerating taxes each year on the property, but they are not free to develop in any way, they are not free to even sell, and their ownership rights are completely destroyed.
I say that is absolutely scandalous. In my view, it borders on criminal conduct by the government. Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that if anyone in the private sector tried to impose this kind of restriction on a resident of the province, there would be laws to prevent that, and there would unquestionably be laws giving that citizen recourse. But the government, through its pervasive powers, is able to sit back smugly and say: "Well, we're considering a policy decision in this area and we have been doing so for the past three years."
I have written to the regional highway engineer in Salmon Ann, and I've asked for a list of properties where the ministry has arbitrarily decided not to allow accesses, subdivisions and so on, which are necessary for development, whether residential or commercial. Mr. Chairman, I have a list here that is absolutely staggering, in my view. There are no less than 20 such properties in the Salmon Arm highway district, and when that is multiplied on a provincial level, one can easily see that we are talking about literally hundreds of properties in the province of British Columbia that have been frozen in this fashion, while that minister sits back and indulges his indecisiveness, and his inability to be up-front and to recognize the injustice that's being done to these people, and does not sit down and negotiate a reasonable solution with them.
Now I put the proposition to the minister some time ago and said: "Look, if you don't want to buy the land outright, then consider a trade of Crown land for the land that you have found necessary to freeze, or consider compensation on some other basis." I can't for the life of me understand why the minister is so hesitant to pursue a policy which to me seems very obvious, which to me seems very honest, and which to me seems like an obligation for a minister of the Crown to undertake. What is the problem? Why is the minister sitting back and refusing to give attention to this very vexatious problem? Why has he sat back and immobilized himself for three years, and why has he been content to hide behind his desk and let the taxpayers of
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British Columbia see their right of property ownership destroyed and be gouged by ever-increasing taxation in the process?
There can be no justification for this kind of conduct by the minister. Mr. Chairman, I want to advise the minister that he had better come up with some intelligent arguments, either to justify his reticence in dealing with the problem or to assure this House that a policy decision is imminent. He can share with us the direction that he intends to go. If that is not forthcoming, I think that minister is going to be some time justifying his estimates in his session before I will agree that he has earned his salary for the current year. I would like to hear from the minister.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I don't know whether that member considered that a threat or not. I don't particularly like the language used, but I guess we have to accept that.
The member knows that this is a very vexing problem. It involves public policy and people's private land. I could mention other areas where it was considered, but I would tell you that this is one. You have some others, sure. We have more than that in the province. We have to develop a public policy on it.
It is shortly going to a cabinet committee and then cabinet. The policy will concern what we are going to do about a natural hazards policy. Your case happens to be avalanche. We've got slide areas and so on.
In the interim I might say: "Buyer, beware." You didn't mention where they buy these properties. They should have a look at actually what exists there at that time. I think buyers should be aware. It's just like buying a used car or whatever. They should be aware that they're not getting into a property in a hazard area.
I think the government has to be very careful about individual rights and public safety, and also the public purse. You're suggesting that we buy them out. I'm not so sure, Mr. Chairman, that we would have an obligation there, but this is what we want to get settled once and for all in a government policy. I might say that I understand there has never been a policy on it in the province. Is it right for the public purse to come in and buy these people out? That I don't know.
Dealing with the individual case at Revelstoke, I don't think you mentioned any names, but I assume that you are referring to the place outside Revelstoke which is an old helicopter-pad site. If you were, that property has changed hands — and I don't know how far back this goes — since the initial application for access and consideration of the avalanche hazard. I believe a local construction company now owns it and wishes to develop it. Because the ministry won't give access, they are, of course, frustrated; but we are dealing with.... I don't want to be critical of the property owners — I don't know who they are — but maybe they should have investigated further, because I would assume the avalanche threat has been there for a long time.
We have to be very careful of a lot of things here, and, as I say, we're probably talking of up to 100 parcels that we know of in the province. You mentioned 20; I understand from the ministry there are probably 100 parcels — whether they have been notified or not, I'm not sure. But the engineers are aware of these areas, and we definitely have to come up with a government policy. We intend to do that, hopefully in the next three or four months.
MR. KING: I am surprised that the minister took my remarks as threatening and improper in some way when I suggested he was going to be here some time justifying his salary. I don't think there is anything inopportune in terms of that kind of statement. Surely we are here to consider the minster's administrative responsibility, and I certainly feel my obligation is to try to gain justice for the people that I represent in this province. What should be twisted is perhaps the minister's neck, Mr. Chairman. We'll leave that for someone else.
Mr. Chairman, the minister has dodged the issues, you know. The minister is quite wrong when he suggests there has been a change in ownership and that the purchaser should have been aware. He wasn't listening to my dissertation. I pointed out that this property was acquired in 1963, years before the Ministry of Highways placed any restrictive designation on it.
It was purchased without restrictive covenant pertaining in any way to that land. So don't try to hide behind that. This new policy which I don't argue with — it may be necessary to go around the province and designate — that's not the issue. In fact, I commend that in terms of protecting the public safety. Fair enough.
But if you're going to use those arbitrary powers to go around and play God in this respect, then at least have the courtesy to apprise the local landowner that we have tampered with ownership rights. We have restricted your right to the use and enjoyment of this property.
Obviously the minister has that obligation. For him to stand up and say, "Well, I don't know whether they've been notified or not," is absolutely unacceptable. It's highly irresponsible, in my view.
The other thing the minister says is: "Well, we don't know what we should do. We don't know whether we should purchase it or not."
I don't care what you do, Mr. Minister. I don't care what your policy is, but when you say, "We hope to have a policy decision in a couple of weeks," that is unacceptable. Mr. Chairman, here's a letter dated November 18, 1976, to the property owners from M.G. Elston, senior planning engineer, and it concludes with this sentence: "I am afraid I cannot forecast how long the study and policy adoption will take, but I hope it will be within the next few weeks." That was in November, 1976.
Now, Mr. Chairman, these people have had to sit on an unproductive piece of land. They have had to forgo the benefits of the market. They have had to face an accelerating tax burden on that property as though it were free and unencumbered. I just don't know how the minister, in the name of sweet reason, can sit there placidly and say, "Well, I'm still considering policy," three years later. That's completely irresponsible.
I want to say, Mr. Chairman, that I'm not pleading this case on behalf of an developers. This case is symptomatic of the problems being foisted on individual landowners who want to build a home. In this particular case, it is development that is being advocated. There is nothing wrong with that. They're local British Columbians; they're business people; they are responsible people. This government went around this province saying: "We believe in free enterprise." They even fought an election on the basis of individual freedom.
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MR. KING: Sure you won, and now you're turning around and reneging on your commitment to the people to whom you made that promise. If you're proud of that; I say shame on you.
Mr. Chairman, it's an absolutely scandalous kind of thing for the minister to do. I want to ask the minister to be more specific. What is the nature of your problem in arriving at a policy decision? If you don't want to buy them out and take the land into the public domain and maintain the public safety through that initiative, why not at least sit down with the principals involved and say: "Well, what kind of satisfactory agreement can we come to?" The minister hasn't even answered their mail personally. Is the minister willing to sit down and negotiate with the principals involved? I'd be happy to sit in. I'd be happy to arrange the meeting. Will the minister consider going to an arbitration tribunal and letting them tell the government what is the fair thing to do?
Surely that doesn't jeopardize the government interest unduly? If you have any commitment to the property ownership rights that you say you do, if you have any commitment to basic fair play, then obviously that is the route you will go.
The minister talks vaguely about some problems in considering a policy in this area. What is the nature of those unique and very vexatious problems that have occupied the mind of the minister for three years? I'd be very interested in hearing that.
Once again, Mr. Chairman, I say to the minister that I expect him to come up with something better than he has come forward with so far in this discussion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, hon. member. Maybe to all hon. members on both sides of the House, the Chair would like to remind you that the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King) had the floor, and there appears to be an awful lot of conversation going on. As I recognize the next speaker, all members might be reminded that the person who has the floor should be listened to.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I would ask the minister, in all good conscience, to give me some more detailed answer in terms of what his problems are, to answer my question with respect to will he consider arbitration, will he consider a meeting with the people involved so that we can discuss together the problems he has in developing a policy decision which certainly has profound implications to these people who have their property frozen. Will he consider any of those things, or is he going to sit in secrecy in his office?
HON. MR. FRASER: Certainly I'll be glad to meet them anytime.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, that's almost a facetious answer from the minister. Would the minister be willing to consider a process of arbitration, which is provided for under the Department of Highways Act for similar disputes pertaining to the value of property expropriated by the department? A system of arbitration is provided there. Would the minister be willing to consider putting the dispute to arbitration in the event that the property owners are unable to negotiate an agreement with him?
First of all, is the minister willing to negotiate in a meeting? That's the key.
HON. MR. FRASER: I answered the member. I said I would be pleased to meet the people any time.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, are we not rotating our speakers?
MR. KING: It's pretty hard to miss that member, Mr. Chairman.
MRS. JORDAN: Oh, you are such a gentleman, aren't you? You're an absolute fraud and you know it. Get a little booze under your belt and the real you comes out.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. KING: I think I would ask the member to withdraw the word "fraud," Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the member for North Okanagan withdraw that remark please?
MRS. JORDAN: Not out of respect, but I withdraw it.
MR. KING: I thank the member for her graciousness, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, the minister has said he will meet the people, and of course that's no answer. I'm not going to bring constituents of mine and expose them to the expense of travelling to Victoria to have a social téte-a-téte with the minister. He may have a very pleasing personality, but that's not the nature of their needs at the moment. What I require from the minister, on behalf of the consituents in my area who are very adversely affected, is a commitment that he will meet and sit down and negotiate in good faith some method of resolving what is a highly unjust action by his ministry which is imposing an unacceptable burden on property owners in the province of British Columbia. Now surely that shouldn't be too difficult for the minister to agree to. If the minister has other problems that he feels he has to keep secret, if there's some reason why he wants to punish these people, then share those reasons with the House.
MR. KING: No, I certainly won't accept that kind of answer. There's absolutely no point in bringing people down to Victoria to have a social visit with the minister. I want to be assured that the minister will come to that meeting prepared to reach some conclusions, and prepared to negotiate with the people involved. That's what I'm asking him, and I'm asking him that in good faith. I believe that if the minister will give a commitment that he's prepared to sit down....
MR. KING: Oh, Mr. Chairman, we've had some idiots in this House over the years, but the member for North Peace River reigns supreme. I wonder where Ed Smith is now when we need him.
MR. BRUMMETT: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I object to being called an idiot by that gentleman. I wonder if he would withdraw it.
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MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke withdraw the remark?
MR. KING: Well, Mr. Chairman, I didn't call the gentleman an idiot in the first instance. I regret that he drew that implication from my comments.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair finds the phrase offensive. Would you please withdraw?
MR. KING: I didn't call him an idiot. I said he wore the mantle of an idiot. And he wears it extremely well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Will you withdraw the remark, please?
MR. KING: Fine. I withdraw.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for Shuswap-Revelstoke continues on Vote 211. And to all members of the House, please could we have order?
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I want a commitment from the minister with respect to sitting down with the people involved, and assuring us he has the authority, and is willing to use that authority, to achieve a negotiated settlement; or, secondarily, that he is willing to submit the dispute to a system of arbitration in the absence of an ability to conclude a satisfactory agreement. I can't think of anything more reasonable and fair than to ask that from the minister. If there is a particular reason why the minister is reluctant to agree, I have to conclude that for some reason or other he is out to punish people in the province of British Columbia, that he has no commitment to private property ownership. That's what's being destroyed here. That's the issue. Surely the minister is not going to be so stubborn as to sit there — after doing precisely that for three years — promising a policy decision might be coming down the tube at some vague point in the future. That's absolutely unacceptable. Mr. Chairman, under the circumstances — I have known the minister to be a reasonable man over the years — I hope in good faith he will consider this over the dinner hour. I therefore move, Mr. Chairman, that the committee rise, report resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Wolfe tabled the annual report of the British Columbia Assessment Authority for the year ended December 31, 1978.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain that this is a preliminary copy of this report, and the final printed copy will be available within the next two weeks.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.