1981 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1981
[ Page 5603 ]
Private sector competition with BCSC. Mr. Levi –– 5603
Exeter Estates real estate practices. Mr. Mussallem –– 5604
Mr. Leggatt –– 5604
Hospital construction. Mr. Leggatt –– 5604
Hospital bed shortage. Hon. Mr. Nielsen replies –– 5605
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Education estimates. (Hon. Mr. Smith)
On vote 54: minister's office –– 5608
Hon. Mr. Bennett
The House met at 2 p.m.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, I'm very honoured today to introduce a very special guest in the members' gallery. When I was a young student at St. Peter's parochial school, a teacher who had a very profound effect on my education — and I'm not going to blame her for everything — was a sister of St. Ann, Sister Mary Carmina, who is now principal of St. Anthony's parochial school. Would the House please make her welcome.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, in case you haven't noticed, this week in the constituency of Surrey we are all wearing western attire. This weekend we'll be celebrating — I believe for the thirty-seventh time — the annual rodeo in Cloverdale. It is the second largest rodeo in Canada. I take this opportunity to welcome all members and any other British Columbian to travel to Surrey if they have the time this weekend and take in the greatest rodeo anywhere.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, it sounds like a commercial.
HON. MR. HEWITT: There are guests in the House today who probably shuddered a bit when the first member for Surrey got up and made those comments. They haven't seen a Dutch cowboy before. I refer to the directors of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association: president Tim Bayliff, Harold Allison, Frank Dangel, Grant Huffman and Larry Campbell, along with their secretary, Mr. Henry Blazowski. I'd ask the House to welcome them.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to join the Minister of Agriculture in welcoming the executive of the B.C. Cattlemen, who are in the precincts today to meet with our caucus. As a matter of fact, we met for some two hours this morning with the resource committee.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, this afternoon in the gallery is a very old and good friend of mine with whom I was associated in the retail florist industry some years ago. He is in Victoria to make it his home. I would like to ask the House to join me in welcoming Joe Whitmore.
MR. D'ARCY: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today we have four people all the way from Rossland, along with the fifth member of the family, who is in the precinct somewhere. I would like the House to welcome Angie, Ron, Bill Jr. and Desiree Profili. Mr. Bill Profili Sr. is in the precincts going about his duties as mayor of Rossland.
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked under standing orders that the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) table a document which he cited when giving answers to questions with respect to the flight of Social Credit members on government aircraft into and out of Kamloops during the current election. The minister failed to file such documents with the table. I wish to refer Mr. Speaker to Sir Erkine May, nineteenth edition, page 431, the section titled "Citing Documents not Before the House":
rule or principle of debate may be here added. A minister of the Crown
is not at liberty to read or quote from a dispatch or other state paper
not before the House, unless he be prepared to lay it upon the table.
This restraint is similar to the rule of evidence in courts of law,
which prevents counsel from citing documents which have not been
produced in evidence. The principle is so reasonable that it has not
been contested; and when the objection has been made in time, it has
been generally acquiesced in. It has also been admitted that a document
which has been cited ought to be laid on the table of the House, if it
can be done without injury to the public interest. A minister who
summarizes a correspondence...."
Well, that's a different rule. But "a document cited ought to be laid on the table." I also refer to the fifth edition of Beauchesne, page 115, where almost the same wording in support of the contention that this is a rule of the House occurs. I would therefore argue that the minister is, in good honour, duty-bound to lay upon the table the document to which he referred when he gave answers in question period.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, hon. member. If the member had read just a little further in his citation, it says: "A minister who summarizes a correspondence, but does not actually quote from it, is not bound to lay it upon the table. The rule for the laying of cited documents cannot be held to apply to private letters or memoranda." There are some exceptions, and for this reason it is left to the discretion of the minister. However, I would remind the minister that if, indeed, he did quote from a public document which can be laid upon the table without doing injury to the public interest, then it would be wise for him to do so.
PRIVATE SECTOR COMPETITION WITH BCSC
MR. LEVI: I have a question for the Minister of Finance, who's responsible for the Systems Corporation — I'm looking forward to a reply today. In 1977 the minister's predecessor gave an undertaking to the private sector of the computer industry that after two years the industry would have an opportunity to compete for work with the Systems Corporation. I asked the minister the same question last April as to what the policy was in respect to the private sector competing. Unfortunately he didn't come back to the House. Can the minister tell the House what the B.C. Systems Corporation policy is in allowing the private sector to compete?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the hon. member for Maillardville-Coquitlam, I think that with the odd exception there is a good relationship between the B.C. Systems Corporation and the private sector now. There is certainly an involvement by the private sector in a number of pieces of work which are, if you will, farmed out. Perhaps that is not the best phrase with respect to the Systems Corporation; but quite clearly, quite a bit of work is turned over to the private sector, depending on the workload at the corporation itself.
MR. LEVI: Last Thursday night the president of the B.C. Systems Corporation spoke to the conference which is
[ Page 5604 ]
known as CIPS, the conference of information processors. He was asked a question at that time: "When are we going to be allowed to compete with the Systems Corporation?" He replied: "The Treasury Board has now made a decision that no competition will be allowed." That's what he told some 200 people last, Thursday. Can the minister tell us: does this represent a change of policy?
MR. BARNES: They have a monopoly.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, the interjection notwithstanding, I indicated in my answer to the hon. member that I think there is a very good relationship, with the odd exception, between the Systems Corporation and the private sector of that particular activity.
MR. LEVI: My God, he answered the question worse than his seatmate did.
I said to the minister, Mr. Speaker, with respect, that the president of the corporation said last week that the Treasury Board has announced that there will be no competition — it will not be allowed — for the private sector. I'll go one step further. They also asked him why. He said that until the ministries have got more technical expertise to deal with the data corporations, they will not be allowed to do it. My question to the minister is — and I hoped he would answer the other one — if they're going to allow the ministries to deal with the corporations directly, what do they need the Systems Corporation for, which is costing us about $50 million a year?
HON. MR. CURTIS: With respect to the question of competition, I think that can be dealt with more effectively and at greater length — indeed, at almost unlimited length — in my estimates. I invite the member to be present for the estimates this year. He was unable to be present last year, and he's made that point. He was "out of town on government business."
One of the very satisfactory developments which has taken place at the B.C. Systems Corporation in its relative infancy is the establishment of a users' committee. In answering an earlier series of questions posed by the hon. member, we've had a series of very good meetings between the representatives of user ministries, and particularly I refer to the larger ministries who on a regular basis meet with senior management of the Systems Corporation and are able to define problems, to identify problems as they arise and to seek, with the Systems Corporation, the resolution of those problems. Quite clearly the Systems Corporation is working very well, it can improve and, as I indicated — I think this is the third time this afternoon — there is an involvement with the private sector as far as data processing for the province of British Columbia and its agencies are concerned.
MR. LEVI: With respect, the minister hasn't answered any questions. He knows less about the operation of the Systems Corporation than his predecessor. He knows absolutely nothing.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Maillardville-Coquitlam was recognized on the premise that he did have a question.
MR. LEVI: I'm too annoyed to ask it.
EXETER ESTATES REAL ESTATE PRACTICES
MR. MUSSALLEM: I have a question for the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Is the minister aware of an issue that is becoming quite widespread, in which real estate companies are trying to buy land from unwary citizens for prices very far below their true value? I have in my hand a form letter sent to one of my constituents indicating the description of land and offering $21,300 — I'll make this letter available to the minister — when the property is actually worth over $200,000. Some unwary person who is not in possession of the facts might be tempted to get involved. Is the minister aware of this?
HON. MR. HYNDMAN: The member for Dewdney is the first of various members in this House who have mentioned this matter to me privately to raise it in here, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the problem.
HON. MR. HYNDMAN: Some members may laugh, but it happens to be a very serious problem affecting a lot of senior citizens in this province.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the member for Dewdney is referring to what appears to be a form of mass mailing on the letterhead of Exeter Estates Ltd. to property owners in various parts of the province. The mailing is not in the form of an offer to list property for sale, but rather is basically an offer to purchase the property. Our view is that there is nothing in law prohibiting a company from making such a mass mailing of offerings. However, the concern is that particularly senior citizens who are not conversant with rapidly rising land values may look at the figures quoted, find them attractive and enter into an agreement to sell their property, only then realizing it's to their detriment. Therefore our advice to all members is to advise the public to be certain to get a current, independent appraisal as to their property value if they're interested by these letters.
More particularly for any members who have complaints from constituents, particularly senior citizens, who have signed such acceptances, please forward the particulars to us. We're looking at the validity of the offer and the question as to whether or not people who've signed the acceptances are, in fact, bound by them.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, on the same subject, the minister has had notice of this problem from several members in this assembly for at least three months. Has the minister investigated the law on this subject? Is he now telling the House that he can do nothing, in terms of the law, to protect these innocent victims of speculators?
HON. MR. HYNDMAN: With the greatest of respect, Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Coquitlam-Moody has his issues mixed. I suspect he's referring in his question to the general issue of flipping, by licensed real estate people or otherwise. The Exeter Estates issue has come to our attention only in the last week.
MR., LEGGATT: My question is to the Minister of Finance in his capacity as chairman of Treasury Board. On January 20 of this year all the final plans and specifications for a 250-bed acute-care hospital in Port Moody, known as Eagle Ridge Hospital, were completed by that hospital. The Minister of Health authorized construction to begin on that hospital in April of this year, but it was subject to Treasury Board approval. On an inflation basis this Treasury Board delay is costing the taxpayers $10,000 each day the con-
[ Page 5605 ]
struction of that hospital is delayed. Would the minister advise the House why Treasury Board has refused to approve the commencement of construction of this hospital, particularly in view of the emergency in acute-care beds in this province and also in view of the fantastic waste these delays cost the taxpayers of British Columbia?
HON. MR. CURTIS: In answering the hon. member, I want to make it very clear that I do not necessarily accept the statements he used in his preamble. The Treasury Board of the province of British Columbia is processing an exceedingly large volume of requests with respect to capital construction in three ministries — Health, Education and the Ministry of the Attorney-General. I'm proud to be a member of a government which is embarked upon the largest capital construction program in hospitals in the history of this province.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. CURTIS: With respect, Mr. Speaker, I listened to the questions in silence; perhaps the answer could be listened to in silence.
This government will not rush into a variety of capital programs without understanding the financial impact of those programs.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members.
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, they don't like it, Mr. Speaker.
[Mr. Speaker rose.]
MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps we could continue question period in silence. If members can show the Chair under what standing order they can interrupt those who have possession of the floor, I'd be happy to entertain the thought.
[Mr. Speaker resumed his seat.]
HON. MR. CURTIS: Without taking too much of the time available to us in question period, I simply want to point out that the Treasury Board process — not just the ministerial review but the staff review — exists now to a very finely tuned point. It did not in the period 1972-75. We have a series of Ministry of Health requests at various stages of the approval process. I assure the member that they will be given approval at the earliest possible time. I would not want any member of this House to think that these requests are stalled somewhere; they are being very actively processed.
MR. LEGGATT: I'd like to point out to the minister that that fine-tuning on this particular project is costing $1 million of the taxpayers' money every four months.
In this particular project, as a result of decisions by the ministry, the plans that have had to be scrapped totalled $2 million. There has been $2 million worth of waste on this project because of ministerial decisions. My question is: given the acute-care emergency in British Columbia, would the minister put his priorities where his mouth is and approve these hospital beds, instead of spending all his time on the other giant projects like B.C. Place, etc.?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I don't think the member really bothered listening to the answer which I gave. The approval process is proceeding at a very good rate. Indeed, the Minister of Health and his senior officials will be meeting with the Treasury Board on Tuesday morning next. That meeting was arranged in view of the very large number of approvals which have been processed and are ready for ministerial review by the Treasury Board. I think we're making very good progress.
MP. HOWARD: My point of order relates to an event which took place during question period. I raise it not because I want to interfere with what is obviously a very important subject: I refer to the question asked by the member for Dewdney (Mr. Mussallem) and the response given by the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman), who said himself that it was a very urgent question and had been brought to his attention on many occasions. I do not think that question period should be used as a disguise to give a minister an opportunity to make a ministerial statement, which he should do on his own initiative, and which he should have done some days ago.
MR. SPEAKER: The point is well taken. But, hon. members, every member in the House has an opportunity to stand in his place to ask a question.
HOSPITAL BED SHORTAGE
HON. MR. NIELSEN: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to respond to a question I took as notice yesterday. The member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) asked about a Richmond resident who is apparently suffering from cancer of the brain. The member asked if I was willing to explain to this patient and to the House the circumstances surrounding this Richmond resident's experience on Saturday, May 9.
The member for New Westminster said that this man was struck by a seizure the morning of May 9, and that when the ambulance arrived at his home at approximately 1:30 they took this man to the Richmond General Hospital as an emergency patient. The member for New Westminster said the resident was advised upon arrival at Richmond General Hospital that there were no vacant beds, so the ambulance crew had to try elsewhere. The member for New Westminster said the patient was then taken to the Vancouver General Hospital, which could not admit the patient in its emergency ward either. The member then advised the House that finally, four hours later, at 5:30 a.m., the patient was admitted to the Shaughnessy Hospital.
Mr. Speaker, I've asked members of the Ministry of Health staff to investigate this incident, and have been provided with the following information. The patient's wife called the family physician on the morning of Saturday, May 9, when she found her husband in bed staring at the ceiling and not responding to any stimulus. The doctor called the ambulance at 1:43 p.m. When the ambulance crew arrived, they found the patient to be conscious, lucid and talking. The family advised they would like to have the patient admitted to a private room in the Richmond General Hospital.
There are four private rooms at that hospital, and rarely would one be open at any time for an emergency admittance. The ambulance crew spoke with the duty officer at the Richmond General Hospital, who later, spoke with the family physician. A decision was made at that time that if the patient was comfortable he should be allowed to remain at home. The ambulance crew stayed with the family to see if there would be a recurrence of what may have been a seizure. When things seemed to be in order, the crew departed.
[ Page 5606 ]
At 4:10 that morning, the crew was again called by the patient's wife, and when they arrived at the home the patient's wife, her daughter and her son-in-law advised the crew that there had been no recurrence of a seizure, but the family felt they were not able to manage the patient, and requested he be transferred to a hospital.
The crew attempted to contact the family physician, but he was not immediately available. The ambulance crew then contacted the duty officer at the Richmond General Hospital and were advised that there was no private bed available at that time. The duty officer then contacted the Vancouver General Hospital — all of this by telephone — who advised they would accept the patient in the emergency ward that night, but they did not have a permanent bed available at that time.
Arrangements were then made with the doctor on the Shaughnessy Hospital staff to have the patient admitted. The patient was found not to have been eating and drinking well, and he was dehydrated. The patient is now reported resting comfortably, and will be moved from the Shaughnessy Hospital to the Richmond Hospital today.
Mr. Speaker, the information provided to the member for New Westminster — from a citizen, I believe — was apparently incorrect, in that the patient was not driven to the Richmond General Hospital to be denied admittance, then to the Vancouver General Hospital to be denied admittance and then to the Shaughnessy Hospital. The patient was transported only once — from, his home directly to the Shaughnessy Hospital in a non-emergency situation.
Mr. Speaker, it's important that complaints or concerns be responded to quickly by responsible members of the Ministry of Health — as they have been in this case. There is no doubt that responsible officials of the hospitals and the ambulance service, as well as the doctors, responded with the most professional efficiency in dealing with this specific matter.
Finally, the member for New Westminster stated yesterday that two emergency wards in Vancouver were closed down that night. I am advised that that statement is incorrect.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to reply.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members.
The procedure in the House is that if a question is taken as notice and responded to in question period, supplementary questions are then allowed. If the minister giving an answer determines that the answer is too long to be given in question period, he decides to give the answer following question period, which procedure was followed in this instance, and I recommend this procedure. No supplementary questions are then allowed. The only way the member for New Westminster would now be able to proceed would be by unanimous consent of the House. That is what the member has requested, and I ask: shall leave be granted?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.
MR. SPEAKER: I hear some noes.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Hon. members, can we proceed?
MR. LEA: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the point of order raised by the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) in regard to the tabling of documents in the House when they've been referred to by a Crown minister.
MR. SPEAKER: I think, hon. member, we dealt with that point of order.
MR. LEA: I don't think we have, and I'd like to raise it again.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have dealt with the matter.
MR. LEA: I would like to raise another point.
MR. SPEAKER: A new point of order?
MR. LEA: No, the same point of order on the same subject.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, we have dealt with that point of order.
MR. LEA: I would like to raise something differently, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: If it's a new point of order I can recognize the member.
MR. LEA: Call it what you want.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Does the member have a new point of order?
MR. LEA: Yes, I do, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that all of the criteria laid out by Mr. Speaker in regard to this point of order have been met. Everything you said that would require the minister to table the document is in place, and yet the minister hasn't done so. My point of order is: when all the requirements have been met, as they seem to have been, does Mr. Speaker have any authority to make the minister do it?
MR. SPEAKER: With great respect, the matter lies at the discretion of the minister, because the Speaker cannot determine from this vantage point whether the document was quoted from or merely referred to. It is for the minister to decide, and I'll remind hon. members that the minister has not spoken. Therefore we do not know whether or not the document was quoted or whether it was merely referred to or summarized.
MR. LEA: It's obvious that the document was....
[ Page 5607 ]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We could clear the matter entirely if the minister involved would assist the House in this matter.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I'm always glad to be of assistance, Mr. Speaker. If you read the Blues, I think I said: "Information supplied by the dispatch office." I don't remember quoting from....
MR. LEA: You had it in your hand.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS:
I wish the members over there would calm down. I think I was very
careful not to quote from any particular document. Every hon. member in
this House is responsible for what he says, and the documents by
statute or order will be tabled in due course, the members will have
the information. What I said yesterday, Mr. Speaker, is in the record,
and it stands. If they can prove at a future date that I was misleading
the House, then certainly I'll apologize to the House...
MR. LAUK: Will you resign?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS:...because I happen to be an honourable member — unlike you, my friend.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We now have the minister's undertaking. I think that concludes the matter.
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, the hon. minister said, "every honourable member, unlike you, " pointing at me, Mr. Speaker. I ask for his unconditional withdrawal of that remark.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the minister would be happy to withdraw that.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Yes, I would, Mr. Speaker; I certainly would not want to....
MR. SPEAKER: The minister withdraws. Thank you, hon. member, that's sufficient. Order, please.
MR. LEA: A point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: On a, new point of order?
MR. LEA: On the same point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: The matter is concluded, hon. member.
MR. LEA: It may be to your mind, Mr. Speaker, but it is not on mine.
MR., SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the member undertaking to lecture the Chair?
MR. LEA: Are you undertaking to lecture me?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member will take his seat.
MR. LEA: Okay, but I'll be back up. A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: On a new point of order?
MR. LEA: No, on the same point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: We have concluded the matter.
MR. LEA: I have not.
MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is very willing to recognize the hon. member if he has a new point of order.
MR. LEA: I have the same point of order.
MR. SPEAKER: That matter has been concluded.
MR. LEA: Not in my mind, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the hon. member....
MR. LEA: My point of order is this....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the member please take his seat.
I would remind the member of the provisions of standing orders 19 and 20, and perhaps on reflecting for a few moments the member would be of a mind to accept the decision of the Chair in this instance. Standing order 19 says:
"Whenever any member shall have
been named by Mr. Speaker, or by the Chairman of a Committee of the
Whole House, immediately after the commission of the offence of
disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the rules of the
House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the
House, or otherwise, then, if the offence has been committed by such
member in the House, Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on a
motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed...."
I speak this only to remind the hon. member that if a House is to carry on business in an orderly fashion, we must have a Speaker, we must an authority vested in that Speaker, and the rules must be observed. I'm sure the hon. member would acquiesce, as he did when he made his opening oath.
MR. LEA: I have a new point of order. I think it leaves us in a bit of a quandary, Mr. Speaker, when you come down with a ruling that was obviously fair and just, and one that I believe by the rules of this House can be enforced by Mr. Speaker, and it is not being enforced by Mr. Speaker. I believe that everyone in this House knows that. If that is allowed to continue, it will be an unruly House and one that we cannot live with. I believe that it goes two ways in this House, Mr. Speaker — not only us, but your high office. I believe that the minister is only playing games with this House in regard to this matter. Everybody here knows it, including Mr. Speaker, and I ask you to enforce your own ruling, which I think was fair, and which has not been done.
MR. SPEAKER: The member has reflected again on a matter that had been concluded.
[ Page 5608 ]
MR. HOWARD: I rise on a point of order. I want to draw to Your Honour's attention what took place yesterday. Once Your Honour has made that decision about the tabling of documents, it should not then be left to the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) — the particular minister in this case — to determine whether or not he should table the particular document which he waved in his hand yesterday, looked at and quoted from without actually saying that it was a quote therefrom. The Blues clearly show that to be the case.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the member is reflecting again on a matter that has already been concluded.
MR. HOWARD: No, Your Honour, I'm not. I'm raising this new point of order about the events of yesterday, and the minister and what he did yesterday in waving that particular dispatch document in his hand, looking at it, saying something, obviously quoting therefrom. After Your Honour's ruling earlier, the minister should not then have been permitted to stand up and say, "Oh, no, I did not quote from it, " when in full view of Your Honour yesterday Your Honour saw that he had.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, we have concluded on this particular subject. However, may I make just this one further observation: the Chair cannot possibly insist upon the tabling of a document unless the Chair has before it a document and the record of the words spoken in this House. Those documents are not before me at this time, and therefore both the member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) and the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) are insisting on something which the Chair is powerless to do at this juncture. The Chair must then accept the word of an hon. member who said he did not quote verbatim from a document. I have to accept that, hon. members. And I have to say that the matter must be concluded.
MR. HOWARD: On a point of order....
MR. SPEAKER: On a new point of order?
MR. HOWARD: Yes, indeed. As an hon. member standing in my place, I say that I saw that minister read from and quote from that dispatch document yesterday.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The matter is concluded.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, prior to recognizing the House Leader and before we commence proceedings today, I wish to make certain observations which I trust will be of assistance to all committee members. It has been my impression that some hon. members on both sides of the House have been transgressing the rules of this House during committee in the following ways:
1. Interrupting speeches with spurious points of order.
2. Indulging in personal allusions.
3. Failing to come to order when requested to do so by the Chair.
4. Failing to resume their seats when the Chair is explaining a point of order.
5. Debating the Chair's rulings.
6. General disorder during divisions.
7. Not adhering to the relevancy rules during the course of debate.
These offences are fully described in all the parliamentary authorities. If any hon. member requires an exact citation to substantiate the rules of order quoted, the Chair will be pleased to oblige. Members using unparliamentary expressions are required to withdraw such expressions immediately upon being requested to do so, but it is the Chair's view that repeated use of unparliamentary expressions, even followed by a withdrawal, amounts to an abuse of the rules. Many of the offences mentioned amount to what is commonly known as an abuse of the forms of the House. While such abuses may not in some instances amount to disorderly conduct, they clearly amount to contempt of the House and the offending member may be named. The Chair is therefore asking all hon. members to consider carefully the rules of debate. Both sides of the House are advised that the Chair must and will use its authority to preserve order in debate.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
On vote 54: minister's office, $225,957.
MR. LAUK: I indicated to the minister and the committee that I would like very much to deal with the school financing formula. It would be nice if the Premier stayed and listened to this, because I don't think that he quite understands the school financing formula.
MR. LAUK: He said, "better than you." Well, we'll see. I'll be providing everybody with a quiz later on.
One of the problems with this misunderstanding has given rise to the political opening that the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Smith) has used, together with the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm), to issue a very scurrilous press release. It's not based on fact. It's attacking school boards for overspending and not paring back their budgets.
MR. LAUK: The Minister of Municipal Affairs says "agreed." All right. To the Minister of Municipal Affairs and he Minister of Education, this is for you then. This is a little lesson in what goes on in school financing. Maybe if you listened instead of talked, you'd learned something.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I'll choose my own teacher.
MR. LAUK: Obviously you haven't chosen very well, Mr. Member, because you don't know anything about school financing.
School district budgets are prepared each year by the school board of the local districts and submitted to the Minister of Education for approval. The budget is divided into three main sections: operating, non-operating and capital. These three main sections have a number of accounts attached to them, running through A to J. Under operating, which is the
[ Page 5609 ]
significant portion of it to be discussed today, there are several account numbers: administration; instruction, including teachers' salaries; operation budget; repair and maintenance budget; conveyance of pupils, and so on. Non-operative and capital include debt services, current and non-shareable capital. That's generally the way in which the ministry's finances are divided.
The education finance formula is legislated by the School Act. It is really three formulas in one, depending on which section of the budget is being funded — operating, nonoperating or capital. The significant portion of the budget section is "operating funding." It's based on foundation-level funding. This means that a basic level of funding is provided for each school district, depending on the number of pupils and the number of schools in the district. This foundation level of funding is referred to as the basic education program.
I hope everybody is listening because this morning the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf) had absolutely no idea what that meant. I must confess that I don't think members of the public, reading the local press, could understand what that means either — from the information they're gathering.
The basic education program is under the operating budget of the ministry. It is a basic foundation-level funding program. The basic education program is paid for in two ways. First, each school district is required to charge a basic mill rate to property owners. This basic mill rate is set by the provincial government and is the same for all school districts. In most districts the basic mill rate will pay for only a portion of the basic education program, so the remainder is paid for by a provincial grant which comes from general revenue. This is raised by sales taxes, income taxes and so on. In some districts with high assessed property values per pupil, the basic mill rate raises more than is needed to pay for the basic education program. In these cases the excess goes into general revenue in the province.
[Mr. Skelly in the chair.]
Mr. Chairman has taken on more substantial proportions. It is important to remember that all school districts find it necessary to spend more than the basic education program provides for. All amounts in excess of the dollars raised by the BEP must be raised through local property taxation. The non-operating funding portion of budgeting must be raised locally by the school district. The capital funding can come in one of two ways, depending on whether the expenditure is shareable.
Shareable capital expenditures are those which have been approved by the Ministry of Education. These expenditures are shared between the school district and the province on a present percentage basis and are itemized in the so-called H account, which is debt services. The amount of debt services is converted to a mill rate required by the school district to raise the necessary amount. Non-shareable capital expenditures are those which have not been approved by the provincial government and are itemized in another account. The local school district raises the entire amount from local taxation.
I've given this background because that basic understanding of the financing formula in this province is not understood by the government members sitting in the House. This morning the member for Omineca very embarrassingly got up and began to attack the opposition for being against equalization of school funding, completely and totally misunderstanding the criticism that the opposition is making. We're criticizing the Ministry of Education for not providing a sufficient amount of money to increase the provincial share of contribution to local school districts. That share has dropped.
I'll just canvass that history for the committee. The New Democratic Party pledged in 1972 in its administration that the burden of school property tax would be removed from the backs of property owners. In 1974 the Premier of the day announced a five-year program to give effect to that promise. The Legislature passed enabling legislation and in the first two years put $42 million from surplus into the School Tax Removal Fund, or about $40 per year per homeowner. The plan was to keep increasing the provincial contribution to a total of $200 per year by 1980. This $200, coupled with the $200 homeowner grant — in 1974 dollars — would have relieved property owners of all school tax liability by 1980, if the projection made in 1974 had been accurate. In retrospect, the costs of the scheme were considerably understated, but adjustments could easily have been made each year when the revenue surplus appropriation amendment bills were brought in.
Also, during this time, the Minister of Education in 1974 held the basic mill rate steady — in 1972 it was 24.7 mills; in 1975 it was just 26.5 mills — and increased the value and number of the instructional units available to each school district, and increased the provincial support of the basic education program from 46 percent in 1972 to 48 percent in 1975 — less than two and a half to three years, Mr. Chairman. In 1975-1976 the McMath commission recommended that school costs be shared 75 percent provincial and 25 percent on the local property taxation base. In essence, McMath argued that if the whole portion was paid for by Victoria, central control in Victoria would be increased and the role of the locally elected school board undermined. This view was accepted by the B.C. School Trustees Association on behalf of the province's 75 school districts, the B.C. Teachers Federation and the New Democratic Party.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
When the Social Credit government was elected they eliminated the School Tax Removal Fund in 1976 and abandoned the NDP plan to remove school property-tax burdens from the homeowner. They followed a policy of increased basic mill rates. The rate went up from 26.5 mills to 41.8 mills in 1981, and they decreased contributions to the basic education program. Where it was 47 percent provincial in 1976, it is now 37 percent in 1981. They have only increased the homeowner grant twice in that interim period, and there has been no increase since then for homeowners under 65. The homeowner grants are highly visible forms of assistance, and this may have done much to deflect the blame from the Ministry of Education onto local boards of school trustees, many of whom are new politicians in their first term of office.
When he was an Oak Bay municipal politician, the present Minister of Education accepted the position put forward by the McMath commission. He said that was a good idea. In the late 1970s, as property values began to increase very rapidly, the government responded by reducing the proportion of property value for assessment purposes. In 1980 the proportion was 14 percent; in 1981 they fixed it at 11 percent. Property values increase in many areas, but especially in the lower mainland, and this reduction in the proportion of assessed value was not nearly enough to stop the school prop-
[ Page 5610 ]
erty-tax bill for homeowners going up over 100 percent in 1981 compared to 1980. The school trustees' warning to this effect in December 1980 was ignored.
What are this ministry's policy objectives for education finance? The NDP, the school teachers, the school trustees and even the minister, when he was an Oak Bay municipal politician, accepted the McMath recommendation that 75 percent be provincial and 25 percent be local. While it was in government, the NDP established a five-year plan to remove the burden of school property taxes from homeowners and began to carry it out, until they were defeated and this government abandoned it. The Social Credit government have reduced the proportion of provincial support for the basic education program from 47 percent when it was elected to 37 percent in 1981. The Social Credit government have not stated a firm objective about what they consider an appropriate percentage for the province to contribute to the basic education program. At the present rate of decline they will be paying nothing in 1995. I'll repeat that for the minister's edification. At the present rate of decline of the share of the provincial contribution, the provincial government will be paying nothing to school districts by 1995.
The alternatives available to the provincial government, if they wanted to ease the burden to homeowners — which they obviously will not — are, first, to reduce the basic mill rate; they could also reduce the proportion of assessed value for school tax purposes. That requires legislation. Bill 11 presently before the House covers this point, so there will be an opportunity to debate that whole question on second reading. They could also increase the homeowner grant, which would require an amendment to the Home Owner Grant Act, and that's not before the House. Basically then, the issue here is: which taxes are used to pay for school costs in the district? The opposition favours increased funding from general revenue and less from local property taxpayers. However, the government controls the process, in that the minister approves each school district budget and announces the basic mill rate. The Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) is responsible for the homeowner grant legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: You're reading your speech.
MR. LAUK: I'm reading from copious notes, Mr. Chairman.
Let's just examine the process by which these budgets are determined. On November 10, 1980, school districts forwarded their enrolment information so that the ministry could calculate the number of instructional units to which each school district is entitled. On November 15, 1980, the school districts submitted their provisional budgets of planned operating expenses for 1981 to the ministry. The ministry totalled these estimates, consulted with Treasury Board and then, by December 1, 1980, provided the school boards with an estimate of what basic provincial grants would be available, and as local property taxes must cover the balance of the budgets, an estimate of what the basic property tax rate would be. The school boards then have until February 14, 1981, to revise and resubmit their expenditures. During this period there may be changes in the board with new trustees taking office on December 1 and an arbitration award for teachers' salaries also occurring in the interim.
Between February 15 and May 1, 1981, the ministry decided to review the district's operating budget with the school board, which is required by the regulations. Expenditure items may be reallocated and the budget reduced.
By April 20, the minister advises each board what provincial grants it will receive, what the basic mill rate is and the amount to be raised by local property taxes. That's by April 20, Mr. Chairman. And by May 1 the boards must have approved by a bylaw their expenditure and revenue for the calendar year 1981.
You'll have noticed that by May 1, when the operating budget is finally approved, 40 percent of the time that schools are open, that financial year has already passed. About 40 percent of the budget, we assume, has been spent. Consequently it is difficult for a board to adjust school operations to reflect the requirements of the final budget. It's a catch-22 for school boards, as Mr. Chairman knows full well.
I hope that by canvassing some of these things I have made some of the terms clearer to the members still left in the chamber. The misrepresentation constantly flowing forth about what the basic education program is in relation to the contribution of the provincial treasury to education and so on can be clarified in the public's mind. Then we won't have the pathetic example of the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf) rising today and talking about equalization without knowing at all what the school trustees have been criticizing the ministry for, what I have been criticizing the ministry for or what anybody else has been saying about school financing.
I hope the remarks of the member for Omineca don't reach the school trustees in Omineca, because it would be very embarrassing for him indeed. Recapping just for the moment, the basic education program is a sum of money calculated each year by the ministry which provides each school district with the primary funding for its operating budget. The board must then decide what revenue it needs over and above that basic program to meet the district's total operating expenditures. This additional operating expenditure is paid solely from local property taxes.
I've described already what an instructional unit is, but I wanted to deal carefully with the expression "provincial grants," because I notice in the press there is a great deal of confusion about the provincial grants from the ministry. A grant paid by the province on the basic education program is calculated as follows. You take the total cost of the basic education program, less the amount that the basic mill rate raises in property taxes, and that becomes the provincial grant. If, as in many cases, the basic mill rate raises more in the district than the basic program costs, this surplus is turned over to the provincial general revenue. That case has occurred most notably in the city of Vancouver's district.
The other expression is "supplementary basic grants." They are those authorized by section 181(5) of the School Act to a district in which, because of exceptional circumstances, costs have increased more rapidly than in districts across the province as a whole. That is what the member for Omineca was talking about — the supplementary basic grants.
The special aid grants, under section 187 of the School Act, provides for these to be authorized by cabinet, where the minister recommends that extra funding from provincial revenues is justified, "taking into consideration the position and circumstances of the district." The grants may be for a variety of purposes, such as the so-called "McGeer program of incentive grants for excellent budget performance" in 1979. You know what your school district got for your excellent budget performance, Mr. Chairman, and I know what my school district got — zilch! And they went beyond the call of
[ Page 5611 ]
duty in paring back their budgets. They thought it would be an incentive, but it was just another piece of icing on the cake.
It's delightful to have a former school board chairman sitting as chairman of the committee. He knows full well what I'm talking about — perhaps.
This section is the section on special aid grants, and it's broadly enough phrased that it could be used to provide aid to districts that are being hurt by rocketing property values. The reduction in the percentage of assessed value really doesn't help. This section is a catch-all, and if the formula produces unacceptable results, the cabinet has power to act to bring relief.
Dealing with the special aid grants, I want to make a charge against this minister in his allocation under section 187 — the special aid grants. I am charging that those special aid grants are made out of political partisan motivation and are not pursuant to the School Act and what it was designed to do. And I make that charge on the following basis. Section 187 reads:
"The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may, on receipt of a report from the minister regarding the granting of special aid to a school district and, on taking into consideration the position and circumstances of the district, grant to the board of the district an additional amount he deems necessary."
The data shows that districts — excluding the Vancouver districts — with Social Credit MLAs received 61 percent of the grants. Districts with NDP MLAs received only 39 percent. This is with a difference of only four members in the Legislature. That's about $3.7 million to the Social Credit constituencies and about $2.25 million to the NDP. When analyzed by size, using the school trustees' analysis of school district budget grouping, a strong correlation is found between enrolment changes and the special aid given, but the grants are not consistent in terms of dollars per capita, percentage change in enrolment or even between districts of similar size.
In developing a line of questions for the minister, I was hard-pressed to find out the formula he was using. I'll make two comments to the minister. First of all, I contend that the provincial support of school districts is inadequate, but what support is going out should be fairly and equitably distributed. It's not. It's being distributed on a partisan basis. The government has refused to say what criteria they used. The ADM ministry finances, Mr. Fleming, is not returning my calls of inquiry. The ministry's executive assistant told one of my researchers yesterday that the minister's view was that the issues could be raised in Education estimates. That's what I'm doing.
Excluding Vancouver, I would like the minister to answer the following questions: can the minister explain to the committee how it was that special aid grants under section 187 of the School Act were allocated 61 percent to districts with Socred MLAs and 39 percent to districts with NDP MLAs? While he's at it, could the minister explain why Abbotsford School District in the riding of Central Fraser Valley received over half a million dollars in special aid, with its enrolment up 5 percent and its assessment up 8 percent, while Nanaimo School District only received $200,000 when its assessment was up 19 percent and its enrolment up almost 3 percent?
Could the minister please explain how the Vernon School District in the Minister of Tourism's (Hon. Mrs. Jordan's) constituency qualified for $173,000 in special aid, when its assessment went down and its enrolment went up by only 1-point-something percent, while the Cowichan School District, with increased assessments of 10 percent and no change in enrolment, qualified for no special aid at all? We don't know whether it's based on assessments or enrolment. The only consistent thing is the political stripe of the MLA representing the constituency.
While he's at it, could the minister please explain why the North Thompson School District in the Socred riding of Kamloops failed to qualify for special aid when its assessments went up 17 1/2 percent and its enrolment dropped less than 1 percent, while the Grand Forks School District in the riding of Boundary-Similkameen qualified for $30,000 despite a 1 1/2 percent drop in assessments and a 2 1/2 percent drop in enrolments? Could the minister explain how he decided to recommend the South Okanagan School District for $34,500 of special aid with its 1 1/2 percent increase in assessments and its 4 percent drop in enrolments, while the Castlegzr School District in our constituency of Trail faces a 6 1/2 percent rise in assessments and a one-tenth of 1 percent drop in enrolment, and qualified for no special aid at all?
Could the minister explain what made him recommend the Central Okanagan School District in the Premier's constituency for $139,000 in special aid when assessments were up by 9 percent and enrolment was down one-tenth of a percent, while the Coquitlam School District, with a 12 1/2 percent increase in assessments and a 1/4 percent drop in enrolments, qualified for no special aid at all? Why did the minister decide to recommend the Chilliwack School District for $200,000 in special aid when its assessments were up by only 1 1/4 percent and its enrolment was down by 2 percent, while the Sooke School District in Esquimalt had its assessments raised by 8 percent and its enrolment went down slightly, and it got no special aid at all? The Nechako School District received $25,000 in special aid on a 10 percent increase in assessments and a 0.5 percent increase in full-time enrolment, while Vancouver Island North School District received only $29,400 in special aid, despite a 19 1/2 percent increase in assessments and an increase in enrolment nearly three times the one recorded in Nechako. Could the minister explain what happened there? Could the minister explain why the Keremeos School District in the Social Credit constituency of Boundary-Similkameen was somehow eligible for $50,000 in special aid when its assessments rose less than 1 percent and its enrolment dropped over 6 percent, while in Gulf Islands-Lake Cowichan School District they experienced a 31 percent increase in assessments and received not a dime in special aid?
The allocation of these special grants is made, on the face of it, on the basis of political stripe and on no other formula known to anybody in the ministry. It is little wonder that the deputy minister in charge of finance in the Ministry of Education refuses our phone calls. He refused to answer no fewer than seven. The minister's executive assistant has said: "Better deal with it in estimates.".
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The first member for Vancouver Centre has the floor. He will speak uninterrupted.
MR. LAUK: Well, the Minister of Municipal Affairs says that I'm a bit of a bore. Well, I'll tell you, the school trustees, the parents and the teachers of these school districts that are suffering because of high taxation and no support from the
[ Page 5612 ]
Ministry of Education don't think it's boring. They think your government's boring and they're going to get rid of you.
I think I've asked a series of questions. I would really appreciate it if the minister would respond and give us some formula by which he calculates these special aid grants.
HON. MR. SMITH: It was a good speech, Mr. Chairman. That's all it was.
Unfortunately, the figures that the member was using are the total amount of special aid given to districts, which includes aid that is given for English as a second language, the Cadre program and, as well, some special aid which is given on a set of principles which I can tell the member are not political and have nothing to do with the stripe of the riding.
MR. LAUK: Well, tell us.
HON. MR. SMITH: Yes, I'm going to. What I will do is give you a breakdown of the figures that were not aid dealing with FSL or aid dealing with Cadre, but were just aid under that section of special funding.
The principles that were used were basically these: urgent building maintenance program and a low ability to pay, based on assessments. There was one district that had a fire.
MR. LAUK: Which one had the fire?
HON. MR. SMITH: It was a district that one of your members represents.
MR. LAUK: Well, give it to me.
HON. MR. SMITH: Yes, I'm going to. Just be patient. You're usually very patient in your lugubrious loquaciousness.
Creston-Kaslo had a fire loss of $350,000. The high school burned down. The additional operating costs associated with that fire loss were $350,000, or 5.4 mills. If that fire hadn't occurred, the mill rate would have been about 65, and not 77.6. What we did was provide special aid to that district — occupied by one of your members — in the amount of $350,000. The charge of partisanship is exactly the reverse. That's one example. I'll give you some others.
Another principle that was applied was: districts that had rapid increases in enrolments. Districts that got grants on that basis were — the ones that come immediately to mind — Surrey, Qualicum and Maple Ridge. I think you'll find that those districts are split evenly between members on both sides. No discretion was used in the giving of grants for English as a second language or Cadre de Français. Those are given entirely on the basis of the number of qualifying pupils.
Another example is Arrow Lakes. This district had a very urgently needed program of building maintenance, and its budget increased by 26.6 percent. Because of its low tax base it received a one mill aid of $30,000. That was one example. Another example is Grand Forks-Kettle Valley School District. It has suffered a reduction of almost 2 percent in net taxable value under the formula, and a moderate increase in budget of course reflected very heavily on the mill rate of that district, so that aid was given to that district in the amount of $30,000 or one mill. I'll give you some more examples.
MR. LAUK: Why don't you answer my questions instead of giving me examples? What about the examples I gave you?
HON. MR. SMITH: I'm at least polite when you're on your feet, however difficult it may be.
MR. LAUK: We're not here to be polite.
HON. MR. SMITH: You're here occasionally to open your ears and listen, though, instead of your mouth.
Nechako was given aid of $25,000 because of heavy maintenance costs in several older rural schools. They received a small amount — $25,000 — and so did Fort Nelson, which received a grant of $50,000. It was a district that had certain additional expenses and it had a problem particular to that district, and we gave a small grant there.
There were some needy districts as well that received grants under this aid category. One was Keremeos, where the mill rate jumped from 47 to 66 mills, and there was a very slight change in the net taxable value — less than 1 percent — and the effects of that on this small district would have been very severe, and they were given a grant of $50,000. Another school district that received aid under this category was Armstrong-Spallumcheen, which had an enrolment increase of 3.8 percent and a budget increase of 17 percent, but no increase in the net taxable value, so the base didn't go up. We gave aid there of $35,000. Similarly for Surrey and Qualicum, because of increased enrolment. The district of Stikine, which had high start-up costs, had a very enormous hike in its mill rate from 61 percent to 88 percent, and it was necessary to give a grant to that district, or the spread of that mill rate would have been horrendous.
So the principles upon which this very limited special aid — I could call it discretionary special aid; there was only $1.2 million of it in that category — was given were rapid increases in enrolments, special needs for a new district such as Stikine or Fort Nelson and the problems there, emergency situation, fire loss in Creston-Kaslo, and the impact that assessments had on areas with a low assessment base and rapid increase in other costs. I described some of those districts like Grand Forks, Keremeos and Armstrong. The ability to pay, high costs and low assessment base — those were the only principles used.
When you break down the $1.2 million out of those figures my friend used, I think you'll find that they were not given on the basis of political complexion. I couldn't even tell you when I approved the grants what ridings they were in. They were given entirely on the basis of need, and no consideration was given to doing it on the basis of trying to adjust the assessment formula around the province to put moneys into districts in the lower mainland or urban areas, because we didn't have that kind of money to do that with, and that would have been a piecemeal solution to a much more major problem. But I will be happy to give the member the breakdown of each of those districts that got the $1.2 million in aid. The rest of that aid that he has referred to and which he has analyzed out — unfortunately perhaps he didn't know — contained moneys that are already earmarked for ESL programs and Cadre French programs and also direct funding for severely disabled children. So they had absolutely nothing to do with discretion; the rest of that money had totally to do with numbers.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, may I have leave to make an introduction?
[ Page 5613 ]
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, visiting us in the gallery today are a group of grade 11 and grade 12 students from south Burnaby, accompanied by their teachers Mr. Peter Barrett and Miss Jeannie Ferguson. With these students, who have just returned from spending a week in Quebec, are some students from Quebec on an exchange. They're accompanied by their teachers, Ms. Barbara Macteau and Miss Gemma Chabot, who I do not think is any relative of the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing — at least I hope she isn't. However, would the House join me in making these students and their visitors very welcome.
MR. LAUK: I thank the minister for giving me the examples, but I wonder if he would direct his mind to the questions I was asking him with respect to the districts I was outlining. Certainly I appreciate that no ESL money is involved. They didn't discuss the district of Vancouver. The refugee ESL money is in the district of Vancouver. If it's elsewhere, let me know.
MR. LAUK: But I'm talking about district by district. You're not going to give $35,000 to Vernon for ESL programs, are you? I'm asking the minister: would he deal with the constituencies that I asked him about? If the minister says he didn't make a political decision, what is the rationalization for these examples? How does the public know that the grants have been equitably distributed? We have some classic ironies here, even based on the criteria the minister has just suggested. In the Burnaby school district the mill rate went up 8 percent, and they got no special aid; in North Vancouver it was up 6.2 percent, and they qualified for $71,000 in special aid. What happened in North Vancouver? How about that one?
I'll just give you two or three more examples. The minister has undertaken to give me this breakdown of information. I'm not going to delay the committee any further, if he will do so before his estimates expire.
HON. MR. SMITH: That would be better. I will give it to you in detail, so you can have a rationale for each of those items.
MR. LAUK: Today?
HON. MR. SMITH: I don't know whether it will be today.
MR. LAUK: We'd like to get through you today.
MR. SKELLY: I have a very short and specific question for that minister. It relates to a problem that was directed to my attention by two constituents, both of whom have children attending Trinity Western College. The problem has to do with discrimination on the part of the government between public institutions and universities and private colleges and universities when awarding grants under the B.C. student aid program. Apparently the students at Trinity Western College and other private colleges and universities qualify for the loan portion of student aid, but they don't qualify for the grant portion.
I called the ministry in January, and they said the ministry had been examining this discrimination between students in public institutions and private institutions, and that they were considering expanding the program to include students in private institutions. Since the government has done that all along the line, from K to 12 for private schools, they felt it was unfair that it shouldn't be continued into private colleges and universities. I called the ministry on January 15 this year, and they said that the matter was being discussed. I talked to Rick McCandless in Dr. Newberry's office. He said the matter was still being discussed, that policy was still being developed, and that it would be placed on the minister's desk later that month. I called again in April, and he said the policy was still being worked on: he couldn't provide me with the recommendations that were being made to the minister or tell me at what level the policy was finally going to be decided. But he did say it was tied up with the problem of not only Trinity Western College being involved, but also other private institutions, including private trade schools, being involved, and that that was part of the problem.
Just a few days ago, on May 12, I received a letter from the Ministry of Labour saying, yes, there now is money in the budget of the Ministry of Labour — $100,000 — to provide grants for students in private trade schools in the province; that although that money had been limited this year to $100,000 they were looking at expanding it over the years if necessary. Has the decision been made by the ministry with respect to granting funds under the B.C. student aid program to students of private colleges and universities? If so, what funds are available? Where are they in the budget? Can the minister give us some details of that program?
HON. MR. SMITH: I thank the member, because that's a timely subject and one that interests me. He's correct that the Canada student loan program does provide funding to students in private as well as public institutions, and the policy for the provincial grant portion of that student funding has always been that it's only been available to students in public institutions. There are really three categories of institutions that we have to look to: the career vocational trade schools that are licensed and operated under the Ministry of Labour and are under the Trade-schools Regulation Act; a number of religious institutions which offer programs leading to divinity degrees and ordination; and the privately operated non-profit universities, such as Trinity Western College, which have privileges under an act of this Legislature, have the power to grant general arts degrees and also enjoy transfer credit relationships with public-supported universities. Quite frankly, hon. member, I am trying to rationalize a policy so that we can be consistent. If we are going to be consistent, we will at least be able to treat all these categories alike. I think a good argument can be made to consider applying aid to students at Trinity Western College. That has to be done with some rationale and fairness so that others in the same category are treated the same way. That is the very issue that we're looking at right now, and I hope we'll be able to make some kind of announcement. I thank you for raising it.
MR. SKELLY: I thank the minister for his response, but it doesn't give much hope to students beginning semesters at that university in a few months' time. When can these students expect an announcement? I've been calling the ministry since January 1, 1981, and the policy has been shuffled around within the ministry. I'm not saying that it shouldn't be well discussed and well examined before a decision is made, but I'm wondering when these students — who are feeling
[ Page 5614 ]
the financial pinch, as are students in public universities and institutions all over the province — can expect some kind of a decision and the money to start flowing.
HON. MR. SMITH: I take it from the remarks of the member that he is supportive of the principle of extending provincial grant aid to students at private universities. Is that correct, hon. member?
MR. SKELLY: I'm inquiring on behalf of two of my constituents who do support that.
HON. MR. SMITH: That isn't quite the answer I was looking for. I would certainly be grateful if I knew that the gentlemen opposite were in favour of that principle. That might enhance the speed at which the decision would be made.
MR. SKELLY: So it's strictly a political decision?
HON. MR. SMITH: No. I can assure you that a decision will be made in ample time for students who are enrolling in September to avail themselves in the event that aid is going to be granted. It's a principle and dollar decision.
MR. HOWARD. I'd like to raise a subject with the minister in this formal way during his estimates. I'm sure he is somewhat familiar with it, because it has created quite a bit of publicity not only in Terrace within School District 88 but in the lower mainland print media as well.
A while ago the school board or the superintendent — or both together, as I understand it — took steps under section 120 of the act to transfer two principals from two separate schools to a position of teacher. In effect they demoted them. That was the action that was taken. I use the word "transfer" because that's the relevant word in that section. I read the section as carefully as I could, tried to get some understanding of what some of the implications are and spoke with people in Terrace — both those directly affected and others. It appears that because section 120 is worded the way it is and because one of the provisions therein says that transfers are not subject to the usual appeal or review proceedings of the act — it is silent on reasons which might exist for action taken to transfer — the two individuals affected by the decision to transfer them or demote them were not given reasons. As far as the students and general public are aware, there were no reasons given or advanced as to why these two individuals were sought to be transferred. In any event, I think the section is deficient in not actually requiring that when their board makes such a decision they be obligated by law to give the reason to the person who is being transferred.
Were it to say that, there would be no question of doubt. The board would be obliged by law upon a transfer to say "here is the reason why you are being transferred" — or demoted, as is the situation in this case. At least with that the person aggrieved would have some foundation upon which to launch his request for a hearing or a re-hearing of the situation before the board or committee of the board or the superintendent. Because the minister is the final arbiter in this situation, if it gets to his desk, the aggrieved person would have some foundation upon which he could launch his arguments with the minister.
That decision by the board to transfer those two principals has created a tremendous amount of concern in Terrace.
At one point, a school board meeting had been scheduled to be held in the school board offices where these meetings are held and somewhere between 200 and 300 parents showed up. They had to transfer the location of that meeting from the school board offices to the R.E.M. Lee Theatre in Terrace to accommodate the concerned parents who wanted to find out what was happening both with respect to the principals, who were highly regarded and respected, and also to their children who were in attendance at those schools.
One account which was related to me, which I also read about in the Terrace Daily Herald following that meeting, was that the parents went away not very satisfied with the response that they received — or lack of it from their point of view — I understand that there has been an interview — as it's called in the act — between the two principals and the board. At this point I am not aware of any decision which has been made by the board as a result of that interview, which was held just two days ago. The board may have made a decision by now and communicated it. I understand they were supposed to do that in writing to the two principals. At this point in time I am not sure whether or not that has taken place.
This resulted in the unusual event of fairly solid support by the teaching staff in Terrace for the two principals concerned, to the point that they held a one-day study session in Terrace, which resulted in the schools being closed for that day. The purpose of the study session engaged in by teachers in Terrace was to inform the general public and those who were interested in either coming to those study sessions or in reading about them afterwards that they supported the principals in their position of not being demoted and to acquaint the public with the turmoil that exists in that community.
It has resulted in the teaching staff committing itself to a so-called work-to-rule program. That, as I understand it, means that a large number of the functions which teachers normally engage in out of their commitment in school, such as supervision, bus loading, lunchtime interviews and that sort of thing, which teachers do out of their commitment to the profession of teaching and assisting the students, have now been put to one side, the result being that some of the things which normally occur in the educational process in schools are not now available. Admittedly, that has caused some considerable concern — and naturally so — among the parents of children going to those schools. They have come to expect that in addition to the curricula being taught these other activities would be available to their children, while they were in that particular school, as a normal part of the daily activity of a student. These services are not available now, and that departure from what has normally been the activity of teachers has caused concern on the part of parents.
The education of the children in those schools gets placed in a tenuous position if there is an interference with the counselling, guidance and supervision factor. As well, there is a tension which exists within the schools that interferes with the normal attentiveness students would bring with them and apply in a classroom to learn what the teacher is seeking to teach them. The common thread of conversation among the students is not what's going on in the classroom — "what's this teacher trying to tell us?" and discussion around that sort of thing — but their attention is diverted to what's going on at the teacher-school board-community level throughout the day, and that ' t interferes with the normal process of education. It is not a good situation at all.
[ Page 5615 ]
I understand there is another meeting of the school board scheduled which will engage the general public. Maybe that's to be held this evening — it's very imminent, in any event.
The way I see it, the minister has a responsibility under the act. In fact, I think he is specifically charged with the administration and management of the schools. The way I read the act, there's some doubt in my mind about it, but the minister, considering the transfer.... In one subsection of the act it says: "it may be reviewed by the minister, whose decision shall then be final and binding." In the following one it contemplates that perhaps the teacher who wishes a review should request the minister to have that review. There are two sections in there — one presumably applying to a teacher who is not a principal. Subsection (6), as I read it, applying to a teacher so defined in the act who is a principal — there's a cross-reference to another section of the act — leaves the possibility that the minister may, on his own initiative, without the request of the teacher, step into the picture and review the situation. That may not be politic in terms of the relationship with the ministry and school boards.
Whether or not this section of the act permits the minister to do that sort of thing, I think what he needs to do, and what I would seriously and earnestly urge him to do, is to look at the general overall responsibility of the minister for the subject matter of education in the province and recognize that some actions are taking place and some activities being engaged in in School District 88 which I submit to you would not have taken place if the school board had not taken the decision in the first place to transfer or demote two principals who are very highly regarded in the community. If that first step had not been taken, or if it had been taken and rationale or reasons given to the aggrieved parties so they would have some understanding of what is in the mind of the school board, perhaps the situation which exists today would not exist.
But that's only supposition, because the situation does exist. There's difficulty and tension in the community, hard feelings are going to develop, education is being interfered with and parents are vitally concerned about it, because for one thing we are getting close to the end of the school term, and for another they are concerned about the general question of how their children are going to fare in an educational system that's functioning and operating in an area where that sort of tension exists.
I think it behooves the minister to take some steps either directly or through some authority in the ministry to go to Terrace and discuss with the school board, the teachers and their parents the whole subject matter that's boiling up in that community, and — by the good services, good offices and good intentions throughout the ministry, whether at the minister's level or the administrative level — try to find some equitable solution to what is taking place there. If something like that does not happen fairly soon, all those feelings that are now difficult tentatively may become more tense. As the minister knows, if the tension continues between groups for any length of time, positions become more hardened, more precise and more difficult to move away from, in terms of finding a solution. I really would like the minister to enunciate today, if he could, what his intentions are in this regard, or to give some indication of what the potential is within his authority to resolve this matter very quickly, and not let it elevate into something that becomes unmanageable.
HON. MR. SMITH: I'll be happy to do so, hon. member. First of all. the specifics of the Terrace case, as I understand it: two principals were transferred back to regular classrooms, effective September 1. That decision was protested by the two teachers, who requested and received a meeting with the local board. A number of meetings took place as well with groups from the teachers' association in Terrace, the board and the two principals concerned. An interview was held under section 120. I'm informed that the board decided on May 13 to uphold the transfer decision. In other words, they didn't change their mind. As you indicated, under the act they can now request of me a transfer review. When those reviews are requested, I allow a review to take place if there is an apparent loss of station or salary involved; there would be in this case. So you can draw your own conclusions.
I don't review them by going and hearing evidence myself: I set up a three-man tribunal. with representatives from both sides and a chairman, and then I receive their recommendation. That is the process. We don't inject ourselves into these matters at this stage. I appreciate the invitation to do so. I don't know how that fits in with the philosophy that your critic espoused to me: he didn't want me to be a centralizing paternalist. Nobody seems to want me to be a centralizing paternalist unless there's some trouble in their own backyard. Then, of course, everybody would like the centralizing paternalist to come in and just give a little bit of help. I know it's a dilemma. I'm not saying that critically of you. It's a dilemma in the system. You respect the right of a local board to deal with a management matter, and you don't want to interfere in that, but at the same time you have overriding responsibilities for education across the whole province, and you try to balance those two things, I'm informed as to what's going on up there; I'm aware of that. I've followed it closely. I would hope also that the teachers who are concerned about this in Terrace would not take the opportunity to use work-to-rule tactics. There is a process under the act for a review, which can be requested. It's a proper process, which I will put into force.
I do not think it appropriate that work-to-rule campaigns should proceed when there is a process. All that really does is jeopardize the learning and the educational activities of students. If there wasn't a process they might feel more compelled to do that, but there is a process. That process will proceed swiftly if the two principals involved request a right of appeal. It may be that the process set out in that section of the act. hon. member, is not an ideal one. I've explained to you how I interpret that process; I try and interpret it by setting up a fair and impartial tribunal to advise me. I thank you very much for bringing the specific and the broader question to my attention. I think that section of the act obviously needs some attention.
MR. HOWARD: Let me say at the outset that I fully agree that ministers should not interfere with local school boards and 11 m pleased to see the minister back off from the direction in which his remarks were proceeding. However, there are at times extraordinary situations which demand that one depart from a position of being aloof. That is the case in Terrace. The tension, hard feelings and potential injury to students need some extraordinary consideration.
The minister may not like the so-called work-to-rule activity but it exists. The minister may not like the fact that 200 to 300 parents attend school board meetings, but they do so because they are concerned. If the two principals who are
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aggrieved proceed to have the minister review their situation, I hope he does so speedily and fairly because every day's delay will merely add to the tension and cause further hard feelings.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Chairman, I would like to raise some issues with the minister as they relate to the constituency of Comox. I would appreciate it if the minister would let me know what's happened in these various issues. First of all, I should remind the committee that the provincial government decided to purchase some very valuable and beautiful land on Hornby Island which included the Hornby Island lodge. Subsequent to that purchase, the government decided that they would try to remove the lodge itself and the cabins surrounding the lodge from the Crown land in order to attempt to sell the lodge and cabins to be operated as a resort, even though the board of school trustees had appealed to the minister to retain the lodge for educational purposes for School District 71. It was determined that if the land was in fact removed, sold and was no longer Crown land, then whoever purchased that land would not be able to operate the facility as a lodge at all, because it would be in conflict with the bylaws that have been established for Hornby Island. I think it became quite clear that the people of Hornby Island were not about to alter their bylaws in order to accommodate someone who wished to purchase the lodge and operate it as a resort.
The minister wrote to the school district and has also written to the Islands Trust representative — I guess you would call her the trustee — with respect to the future of that lodge; but he has never made any commitment, even though it has been a long time now since those initial proposals were made from the Courtenay-Comox-Hornby Island area with respect to the future of that lodge. The school board has indicated to me that they would very much welcome the opportunity much of at least ' discussing the issue with the minister. They have never been invited to discuss it with the minister and would welcome that opportunity. I'm appealing to the minister today to at least proceed with discussions with the board of school trustees with respect to the future of that particular lodge. I know that the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing (Hon. Mr. Chabot) is the one who's directly responsible for that land. But obviously, according to the correspondence, that I have, the Minister of Education has been in consultation with him for at least six months, and we still don't have any decision, we don't know what's going to happen to that land and the school board is still waiting. They would welcome that opportunity, so I would like the minister to tell me what's happening there and whether or not he will in fact accept the invitation, offered today by the MLA for the area, to meet with the school board in order to discuss the future of the lodge on Hornby Island.
Another question that I have relates to an application that has been made by the Courtenay youth music camp to the Ministry of Education for financial assistance in order to hire students this summer. In the past, the Courtenay youth music camp has received $82,000 through the youth employment program. Because of the changes made in that program, they are unable to come up with that $82,000, which represents a fifth of their total budget. That is a significant portion, as you can appreciate, Mr. Chairman. The directors all volunteers in the Courtenay Youth Music Centre have spent enough time already trying to raise sufficient funds to keep that excellent program operating. Last year they hired 50 students from various parts of the province. It's not just the Courtenay area that benefits from any funds that might come from the ministry in order to assist the directors of that society. They have asked for $27,700 from the Ministry of Education as a non-statutory grant, and I would like the minister to indicate to me whether or not any decision has been made with respect to that particular application.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I think the minister is probably aware that there have been a number of problems over the years at North Island College. I know that the previous Minister of Education had special meetings set up between members of his ministry and the board of the North Island College. I think that there were some problems ironed out at that long meeting — I understand it was a four-hour meeting that took place — but I think that the minister still must keep a very close eye on what's happening at the North Island College. I understand that there is concern within the ministry — and I suppose this applies to other colleges as well — with respect to the number of students who are actually enrolled and whether or not the figures presented to government with respect to enrolment are as accurate as they might be. There is also concern about the fact that so many of the students who enroled initially in a college like North Island College fail to complete the course.
I understand also, Mr. Chairman, that there has been a consortium of colleges established on Vancouver Island. In other words the three major colleges on the Island are conducting some kind of an investigation into some of the issues that I have raised with respect to enrolment, funding and also completion of courses. I'm wondering if the minister can give me some information about that particular project that I think has been undertaken and is now underway within the ministry.
The last question that I have for the minister relates to the particular fair-comparison method which was adopted by the faculty at North Island College with respect to their negotiations. They are the only college in the province who elected fair comparison as provided under the College and Institute Act. I'm wondering if the minister could advise me how the faculty can change from the fair-comparison method and get out of that particular situation if they so wish. Is there any provision now in the statute? I have not been able to find it. I'm wondering, Mr. Chairman, if there is any way that the people who have elected that particular method can change midstream, if you like, and adopt another method for negotiating their salaries and working conditions. I would like the minister to comment on that as well.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Chairman, I just have a few items I'd like to bring up under the minister's vote. They deal with the principles of education and some of the areas in which members in this House should reinforce their commitment to certain new aspects of education in this province. One of those areas is aid to independent schools. It was a major change in philosophy for this province that was introduced by our government. I think that we should clarify for the people where the members on both the government side and those in the opposition stand on this issue. Certainly demands for adjustment to that formula for sharing for the K to 12 grades will be made, but also additional requests will probably be made for post-secondary education.
I think we should quite properly be entertaining these requests in advance — if they have not come forward already — and considering where members of this House stand on
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their commitment to independent schools. Should we consider any additional support? Would it be endangered or threatened by a change of government? If so, those embarking upon broadening their educational programs on the independent side should be cautioned in advance and know in advance that they will no longer receive this funding should there be a change in government. The continuity of the education that they provide requires a clear understanding of what will happen to them. They must not be left with uncertainty. They know that the opposition did not support the principle of aid to independent schools when our government passed it. It was a heated debate when they finally came back to the House. Obviously, if there are going to be enrichments or improvements, they would be impossible if we knew, as a government, and if the public knew — and particularly those providing the independent alternative — that that funding would be lost, and their education would no longer have that opportunity and would be threatened should there be a change in government. It's very important, then, in the Education minister's estimates, that we find out clearly if there's going to be a growing alternative to the public education system.
Another area I was interested in this morning was when the member for Dewdney (Mr. Mussallem) was speaking on equipping our children to cope with today's society; that is to say society the way it is in the enterprise system. He wasn't selling philosophy, as the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) said. It's merely that despite the wish of the socialists, or those who would have a different economic system, we are in a private enterprise system, and as such these students should be equipped to be able to cope and to utilize that system in the best possible way.
It wouldn't be teaching politics or political philosophy, as he said — teaching or private enterprise. It would be equipping our citizens, whether as consumers, investors or owners, to deal with the right to own property, the opportunities and how this is achieved. It seems to me that it is not political, but there is an inadequacy within our school system, and somehow they have been fearful in teaching students how to solve problems and in other areas which equip them for the type of society we are.
When it was brought up by the member for Dewdney I was reminded that his predecessor, Peter Rolston, was a fair-minded person in this House, a member of the NDP, and he would probably support that. I can remember quite well that Dewdney has always sent a keen and interesting type of member who is interested in education. I remember Peter Rolston was interested in education, and I think most of us remember him in this House as a member of high ethical conduct, someone who, we felt, had provided among those members good standards for them to aspire to. I think Peter Rolston taught those members a lot. He was a United Church minister and certainly one of the members who I felt raised the standards among the NDP when he was here.
I say to the present member for Dewdney that I was interested in your remarks today because I think you hit the nail on the head. It's equipping them to get out into what would be called in glamourous terms the "modern-day jungle, " and to understand the ability to invest, the ability to own. Are they equipped to understand the opportunities'? I think more people would have opportunity for access to a broader base of ownership if they understood in advance the rules and the opportunities by which they play in the game of life. I don't think we give them that training.
The member for Dewdney mentioned consumerism, but that's only one part of it. The other part is how do they get to become homeowners. What are the benefits of property ownership? What can home and property ownership mean in the way of real assets? How can they guard against continuing inflation?
MRS. WALLACE: How can they afford it?
HON. MR. BENNETT: I heard the member for Cowichan-Malahat say: "How can they afford it?" I agree. I worry about the high interest rate policy of the present federal government. I do know, that their only ally in the House on most issues seems to be the NDP — all the time on the constitutional issues. I would rather they go through some tough periods from time to time, and still have the opportunity to own. I can remember being in this House when I was in opposition and when the government members of the day said one of the worst things in the world was property ownership. I remember them saying it was terrible. I remember them talking about leasing rather than owing — leasing land to the people. I would rather they have the opportunity to own. But they'll lose confidence if they don't know how. They might fall for that hogwash that they must be tenants of the state with those leases that the member for Cowichan-Malahat's party talks about.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, I would remind the Premier that we are discussing the Ministry of Education, vote 54.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I did get sidetracked, Mr. Chairman, and I apologize. Anyhow, those are a couple of important areas that I think must be discussed today. I'll just repeat them, because I think it's important if we're going to have any continuity in the independent school system.
The member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly) is here now. I know she wants to get up and speak on this issue right after me. I've got to say that we've got to clearly and unequivocally state where we stand on independent education systems. If it's going to be threatened by changes or possible changes of government in elections, they cannot plan properly he type of substantial education program that's compatible with the public school program, that competes with the public school program, that puts the public school program on its toes, that can help the public school program be better because it's got something to compare with, and that gives our parents a right of choice on the type of education their children have.
I think it's only fair not to dodge the issue politically but to state your policy clearly, because that system cannot plan for the future. It cannot provide the type of education that it's capable of doing if it's under the threat that it's going to be cancelled. If it is going to be cancelled, we need to know, because we will be getting requests to enrich the aid to those schools, to broaden the educational content. Perhaps we're going to be asked to consider aid to post-secondary education in the independent school status. The member for Burnaby North, the former Education minister in the New Democratic Party government, has been an eloquent spokesman against this type of aid in the past. I would like her to speak today and give her position to let this important part of our education system know once and for all what sort of future it has in British Columbia.
[ Page 5618 ]
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
MR. STUPICH: Would the Minister of Education like to respond to the questions put to him by the member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) and also perhaps to the questions put to him by the Premier, when he was suggesting that there might be some change in funding for independent schools? It's my understanding that the Minister of Education has been telling the independent schools that if there is to be any change in their financing, then of course they would lose some of their independence. I thought perhaps the Minister of Education might want to respond to the Premier's questions with respect to that.
HON. MR. SMITH: I'd like to deal with the points that the member for Comox raised about the proposal for Tribune Bay Lodge property on Hornby Island, which I'm well aware of, as she is. There have been a number of proposals over the past couple of years. One proposal was made by the school board some time ago that they would use it as a camp for children for day outings and use the buildings as a shelter. That ideas, along with some other ideas that it might become a community arts resource, have been ones that have come to me from the island's trustees, and I'm sure they have to you. The land use of that property was always another issue apart from the educational use. I guess it had to be decided by another minister as to whether the use of that property would be along these lines or whether in the future it might be put back into use as a lodge, which it was for many years.
I heard briefs on this when I was up-Island on my education tour and then again when I was there on the cabinet tour. Through my officials, I have recently suggested that the school board should give me a more detailed proposal for the use of that facility. What I had in the past was really pretty general. If I had something that was detailed, costed out and workable, I would certainly consider that. I'd be happy to meet with them on that. I've already discussed it with school board trustees when I've been up there and also with members of the Islands Trust. I'm well aware of the property and the problem. We've never had a really sort of firm and detailed proposal from the school board. Just the idea was thrown out. What I said to them through officials recently was that we would like a more detailed proposal. I have a letter going to Carol Martin on my desk that says virtually what I'm saying to you now.
On the question of the music school, which is an excellent music school — I have known a number of students who have been there during the summer program — they have applied for a grant from my ministry. They will certainly get every consideration from the limited budget that I have for that purpose. I think their request is very worthy of consideration. I wish I could be more specific, but I will definitely look at that in considering those grants.
The other matter that you raised was North Island College. There is, I'm told, a cooperative venture on between the three colleges on the Island. They're utilizing a single computer service to try and determine enrolment more accurately. I'd be pleased to give you more information about that if you wished. .
I don't think, hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich), that the invitation of the Premier was for me to respond on the subject of independent schools, but perhaps for you and members on the other side to reiterate your own position. My position on independent schools has always been supportive.
I'm supportive of the operating grants that we give to these schools. There is no plan this year to increase their operating grants. It is certainly a matter of debate as to whether or not, if the operating grants were to go higher, the schools would lose their independence. I think the invitation was for your spokesman to reiterate your position.
MS. SANFORD: With respect to that Courtenay youth music camp grant application, I'm very pleased that the minister's considering it and that he feels it's worthy. Can you give a time when a decision will be made? As you can appreciate, summer is rapidly approaching and the society is really keen to have that information, because it will make a difference in terms of the operations of the Courtenay youth music camp this year.
I would like more information with respect to student enrolments. I think that whole area is in a colossal mess at the moment, and that's why the three colleges got together. I think that large sums of money are being wasted through the community colleges of the province as a result of inaccurate figures that are being obtained with respect to enrolment, completion of various courses and, of course, crediting. I would like the minister to make some comments with respect to the difficulties that the ministry now has as far as those enrolments are concerned.
MR. RITCHIE: I think it's only proper that 1, the member representing Central Fraser Valley, say a few words about the independent school system. Before doing so, I'd like to tell you, Mr. Chairman, and the House, that in spite of that, I'm also very supportive of our public system and am very proud indeed of the job that is being carried out in my school district. We have a very excellent line of communication and I want to congratulate our minister on some of the excellent work that he has done. I certainly want to give all the encouragement I can towards this program of teaching our students some of the fundamentals of getting into the area of purchasing homes, etc.
I think the Premier said it very well as far as the private school system is concerned, but I wish to go on record as being very supportive of the independent schools. I periodically have the question put to me: "When will our government be looking at increased funding for the schools?" I don't hesitate to tell those constituents that we must be careful that we do not reach the point of funding where they cannot then be considered independent. I do want to put my weight behind the remarks of the Premier and give the minister the message that I would like some consideration given next year. I'd also like to say to the minister that I would hope that students in the independent schools will be given the same privileges as those in the public school systems with respect to certain benefits such as loans, etc.
There is one area of confusion out there. This confusion started back before the last election. It concerns the position of the opposition party with respect to independent schools. I know that I, and certainly my constituents out there, would be very pleased indeed — and it would certainly remove a lot of uncertainty in their minds — if the opposition Education critic would get on his feet and tell us exactly what the party policy is. We were in receipt of a letter that did state on behalf of the party that he would be supporting the independent school system if re-elected at that time. I would certainly like o have them go on record with their position. Do they or don't they support the independent school system?
[ Page 5619 ]
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, the Premier and the member for Central Fraser Valley seem to be on a different vote from what I thought we were on. I thought at this particular point in time we were discussing the minister's office vote. It has been suggested that the Premier was asking the opposition what its position on something was. If the Premier were indeed doing that, he would have been out of order and I'm certain that the Chairman would have called him to order. So I can't believe for one moment that the Premier was actually asking the opposition for its position. He was putting some kind of a question to the Minister of Education. He must have been, because otherwise he would have been out of order. But it's a question that he didn't really understand, and apparently the Minister of Education didn't understand it either.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Yes or no.
MR. STUPICH: Yes or no what? I'm not the Minister of Education. Is that not what we're discussing now? If some of the members opposite want to know our position with respect to any matter at all, they have simply to bring before us an estimate or a bill or — and this is the best alternative of all — call, an election, and then they'll find out our position.
MR. STUPICH: There are opportunities for these people who are making all these interjections to get our answers on everything, but at this point in time we are trying to get answers from the Minister of Education and we've been getting along not too badly until all these people started interrupting.
I want to ask the minister about Brannan Lake. I attended a meeting in Chase River on Friday, March 13. It was not a large meeting. It was sponsored by the concerned citizens for better uses for Brannan Lake. The only representation from government at that meeting was some members of the Attorney-General's staff. They said at that meeting that all of the appropriate ministers of cabinet were invited to bring to the social services committee of cabinet proposals for the use of Brannan Lake, since the government had made their decision to phase it out as a heroin and alcohol treatment centre. The only minister who had responded, at that point in time, was the Attorney-General. Two of his staff were there. They mentioned that other ministers might well be responding later on.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) on several occasions has reassured the people of Nanaimo that they need not worry; the committee would be looking at various proposals and other ministers would be bringing forward other proposals. The Attorney-General went to some length to reassure the publisher of the Nanaimo Times that nothing would be imposed upon the citizens of Nanaimo, unless it was some use that would be supported by the people in that area.
Certainly the city council has gone on record as being opposed to its use as a correctional facility. The regional district has gone on record. Of course the committee has gone on record. The school board has gone on record. The hospital board has gone on record as wanting it for another purpose. So everybody who could has gone on record saying they don't want it used as a correctional facility. The school board made a proposal.
My question to the minister is whether or not he has made any kind of proposal to the social services committee of cabinet for a use of the Brannan Lake facility from an educational point of view.
HON. MR. SMITH: No, at this time I haven't made any such recommendation or decision as to how some or all of that property might be utilized. I know that there is local interest in having some of it, in any event, in educational use. I'm open to considering that. I haven't made any recommendation one way or another.
MR. STUPICH: Just following up on that same question, has there been any discussion between the ministry and the school board of Nanaimo with respect to some possible use of all or a part of the Brannan Lake facility?
HON. MR. SMITH: No, I don't think there has.
MR. STUPICH: This is almost getting into a cross-examination situation. Isn't it?
I'm aware, mainly from newspaper reports, that the Nanaimo school board has discussed and has passed motions in favour of using it for educational purposes — or part of it. I'm a bit surprised that they haven't communicated this to the ministry. From the minister's answer there is apparently no knowledge in his ministry of any such communication.
HON. MR. SMITH: I'm speaking from personal knowledge, but I can't remember having had a direct communication on it. I've seen things in the newspaper, as the member has, and I know there is that interest; but I haven't talked directly to the chairman or any of the trustees about it. I can't remember having anything. I'll certainly look into it.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I thank the minister for his answers. I believe he was a member of a cabinet group that toured the Island and that at the meeting in Nanaimo representations were made about alternative uses. I believe he's a member of the social services committee of cabinet, and I'm wondering whether the matter is still open. Has it been decided by that committee that it's going to be used for correctional purposes partially, or totally? Can he give us anything about that kind of thing? Maybe this isn't the appropriate time to ask, but certainly I'll be asking other ministers. I'd like some kind of assurance that he was at the meeting in Nanaimo, and that the citizens there did make known their opinions with respect to Brannan Lake — if you can tell me anything about the specific status of the Brannan Lake facility insofar as discussions being held within the social services committee of cabinet are concerned.
HON. MR. SMITH: Well, Mr. Chairman, I wasn't at that public meeting. I was at the meetings at the north end of the Island, but not at the one in Nanaimo. I think I've probably said all I can about the deliberations of the cabinet committee. I certainly haven't made any recommendation one way or another, and I will certainly take into account what you've said to me and look at the specific proposal, if there is one, from the Nanaimo School District. I'm only aware of one in the most general way from the press.
MR. STUPICH: I'm not sure whether the minister is aware of the kind of facility they have at Brannan Lake. It is
[ Page 5620 ]
almost a quarter-section of excellent land. It does have lake frontage and was used in some way as an educational facility, in that the school board actually took over the education of the clients — if I can call them that — who were there for some period of time. I believe that the school board worked in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Resources at that time. So using it for educational purposes wouldn't be all that different from what it was, although the school board is hoping for some extension of that.
When Brannan Lake was first developed, of course, it wasn't even in town. It was outside the city, in the outskirts, in a rural area. It was developed for a particular purpose. Since the town expanded its boundaries, that area has now become part of the city. Not only is it part of the city, but housing and shopping area developments in that area have gone ahead at a tremendous rate. While it might have been appropriate to use it for corrections at one time, now it would be something like saying: "Let's bring back Oakalla." We haven't got rid of it yet, but I've heard Attorneys-General since 1963 promise to get rid of it.
HON. MR. GARDOM: You have to have the jails somewhere.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, there's an interjection that you have to have the jails somewhere. I appreciate that, but the point is that we don't want them in the middle of a city. Brannan Lake is becoming more and more part of the middle of the city. The reason for getting Oakalla out of its location was in part the way the city had grown up around Oakalla. The reason for getting rid of the Pen at New Westminster was in part the way the city had grown. Everyone who attended the meeting in Nanaimo on March 13 agreed that there had to be that kind of a facility somewhere. We're not opposed to it being in central Vancouver Island — between Nanaimo and Chemainus, even that close. They weren't opposed to that and they recognize the need for it, and the general area was suitable. It made some sense. Although the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) isn't here right now, if we have to have jails somewhere, I can think of a whole abandoned town with schools and hospitals and recreational facilities — everything. If he were here, I wouldn't dare name Ocean Falls. But if you have to have jails somewhere, why not make use of a whole town that's sitting there empty. But I don't know that that's appropriate either. That's not my field. All I'm saying is that we have to have jails somewhere, and certainly the move has been to get these jails out of the urban areas and to put them into more rural areas. It was originally, but not now.
I know the Minister of Education is the one before us now, and he's the one I'm talking to. I'm hoping that one or two other members of the cabinet are hearing me, and I'm urging that the social service committee of cabinet seriously consider the feelings of the community, as the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Williams) has promised they would, and took at some alternative uses for Brannan Lake that would be acceptable in that particular part of Nanaimo.
MR. LEVI: I'm all for a jail in Point Grey, right next to where the former Attorney-General lives.
MR. LEVI: There are two points I want to raise, if we can throw that guy out of here. He's making so much noise.
Just to add to what my colleague from Nanaimo said, I can recall that when we had Brannan Lake — when it was still a place for juveniles — we did have some extensive talks and cooperation with the school board to the extent where children were coming in from the school board. It was used, I suppose, to some extent as a kind of alternate school situation. I think one of the great tragedies of turning Brannan Lake over to the Health department was that they removed what was a diagnostic centre that had been set up and functioned very well. That, unfortunately, was destroyed when that somewhat idiotic plan about heroin maintenance was introduced. There was good cooperation there with the school board. The facilities are really rather unique, if not for the regular school system, certainly for the broadening of the concept of alternate schools. That's, of course, what took place there.
What I want to ask the minister is regarding a letter that I got earlier this year. I think the minister has the letter. It deals with section 164 of the School Act — formerly section 167 of the Public Schools Act. It comes from Mrs. Valerie Asmoucha, who is the chairperson of a subcommittee to the Queen Mary Parents Advisory Committee. They were requesting the deletion of section 167 of the Public Schools Act. They wrote to me. I was in touch with her. They have been in touch with people in the department. It says:
'As you may know, our committee presented the enclosed brief to the Minister of Education, the Hon. Brian Smith, at a public forum held in Vancouver, December 1, 1980. I'm also enclosing for your information copies of all the correspondence we've had with the Ministry of Education to date. We have received no further communication from Mr. Canty after November 1979. The last time we wrote to Mr. Canty was November 1979."
I'm not up to date past the middle of March on this.
Would the minister tell us — if he hasn't already done so; I haven't been in the House for a couple of hours — whether they intend to take any action with respect to looking at the deletion of section 164, and whether it's something that could be done in terms of the school boards, rather than leaving it clearly in the department?
For those people in the House who are not familiar with it, section 164 reads as follows:
"All public schools shall be opened by the reading, without explanation or comment, of a passage of scripture to be selected from the readings prescribed or approved by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. The reading of the passage of scripture shall be followed by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, but otherwise the school shall be conducted on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles. The highest morality shall be inculcated, but no religious dogma or creed shall be taught."
Has a decision been made with respect to the Queen Mary people's brief?
HON. MR. SMITH: I've had quite a lot of briefs both ways. I guess it's about even on the scales. I haven't announced any changes at all or made any releases on it. It's something that I'm going to deal with in my report. The notion of local option is, of course, one route that could be followed. I've never held out that I was going to change the section but I must say that I did hear a number of submissions on it, and still I do. I will certainly deal with it in the report. I
[ Page 5621 ]
will review those briefs and the brief you referred to, but I have made no announcement on it.
MR. LEVI: As the minister says, there are briefs for and against. There was a very specific brief from the civil liberties people in which they characterize it as being discriminatory. I personally think there's nothing wrong with giving this jurisdiction over to the school boards. We had an example, I think last year, of a piece of legislation which, in fact, enabled the government to remove itself from a particular area in terms of Sunday shopping and vest the power in the municipalities, if that's the way a government wants to go.
I want to ask the minister another question in respect to handicapped children in the schools. Can the minister tell me whether the ministry has ever conducted a survey among school children in the schools about their reactions to the mainstreaming of handicapped children in the schools? The reason I raise this question is because I had discussions with some high-school students in respect to this particular situation. When it first came out there was a lot of excitement and fascination, but since then some young people have had reservations. One of the things they remarked to me was that they had never really been asked what they think about this. There were some examples given to me of situations where it had become rather frustrating. What has the ministry in mind in respect to hearing the opinions of the companions of the handicapped children who are being mainstreamed? Is this something that the minister has ever considered? Is it something the ministry is looking at? I think that the views of the students would be of inestimable value in evaluating the program of mainstreaming. Is that something that has ever been considered?
HON. MR. SMITH: When I introduced my estimates, I think I said that when I was on this tour, I was in about 70 schools. I had sessions with the entire student body in 20 of those schools, in which I asked them to raise issues. If I had had the benefit of your comments, I would have put that one to them quite directly. It is a fair question, but nobody raised it. I had forums in schools where there were some integrated handicapped children, but it wasn't an issue that was raised with me. I went around into classrooms where handicapped students were integrated. Also, I went into schools that had special classrooms and I talked to some of the students about their attitude towards the students in the special classes — these were severely mentally retarded children in the special classrooms. It was very positive — that was a school in Richmond. From that, I don't suggest that I have done any kind of survey, or that there isn't some backlash out there that we haven't even tried to measure. I would have thought that some of it would have surfaced at these open sessions with the entire student body. They sure told me everything else they thought was wrong with the place. I don't think they would have held back if they didn't like handicapped students being present. I think it's a good idea to ask students a lot more about what they think is going on than we, at all levels of education, tend to do. I tried to do that recently and will try to do it in the future.
MR. LEVI: I think we've hit on one particular subject which students might be very loath to raise in a public forum. Actually, it was raised with me by people who were visiting my home. It came up when I actually asked the young student: "What do you think about it? Is it going okay?"
Once they got past their initial reactions to students coming in and getting used to them being there — and everything was going fine — then they had some interesting comments about the time it took to deal with one student versus another and that kind of thing. I don't think it's the kind of thing that a student, because of peer pressure — not peer pressure, but some general pressure that would exist, because it's a very sensitive subject....
If we're going to look at the students, then I suppose we should look at the the United States experiment in respect to staff. I suppose there is a whole range of things that you have to look at. It's a question of finding out, before some real crunch comes. For instance, one study in the United States found that there is a burn-out situation in respect to teachers. You have a kind of overload. There are more things to do, if you are integrating handicapped students. It's more work and responsibility. In a study in Boston there was the phenomenon of teacher overload and teacher burn-out. Of course, in some of the United States it's a different issue, because the law requires that things must be done. They've had class actions which, frankly, really don't lend much to making everything possible — just because you have a class action. Mind you, that doesn't mean to say that there haven't been attempts at class actions here. As I understand it, one or two attempts at class action have been enough to get some response from a particular area. However, it's always been a concern of mine, when we talk about the rights of children, just how we enter that field in the first place. There's no question that every child has to have access to everything every other child has. Having said that, it's very nice and you may feel very nice about it, but how do you enter into doing it? If you're entering into doing it, there are so many different elements involved. I'm thinking of the human elements: teachers, students and, of course, parents. There's a whole area that has to be looked at. Sometimes you get pitchforked into these issues, and before you know where you are you've turned around and you've got all of the problems that you might well have anticipated if you'd been a little bit slower about things. However. you're into it. The program is going and, thankfully, it's going extremely well. Obviously down the road there must be some signposts that there can be some troubles.
I got up initially to make my pitch about seeing if we can et the students to respond in some way. It's not going to be easy. Certainly I've had some interesting reactions from these people. That's basically the concern that I have in respect to this.
MRS. WALLACE: I have a variety of items that I wish to raise with the minister. One follows somewhat in line with what my colleague for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Levi) was dealing with. It relates to the mainstreaming of children within the school system. I think that the minister should be aware — and I'm sure he is aware, because I know there have been a great many representations made to that minister relative to the additional cost that is placed upon the local school board in an attempt to try to deal with this solution — as the minister has decreed — to put these children into the mainstream.... I'm not arguing with that concept. What I'm suggesting to the minister is that if he is making this mandatory — and he has — then certainly he has to put his money where his mouth is, and he hasn't. He has spoken about increased dollars for capital costs in the budget in relation to dealing with the disabled in the school system. but
[ Page 5622 ]
he hasn't provided any funding for additional operating costs. If the minister cares to look at the figures in his budget, he will find that, in fact, the increase in vote 56 for the public school system has increased in total 10 percent, which in real dollars is a 3 percent decrease, if you consider inflation.
The situation is a very real one in my particular constituency. We have in that area The Cedars, which is a school for disabled young people. Those young people are coming out of that lodge and, in many instances, into the junior high school system. It is creating a very great hardship on both the school board that's trying to finance an adequate service and on the teachers and the counsellors who are trying to deal with these severely handicapped young people who are being mainstreamed at junior high level. I know the minister has had communication from the Cowichan Valley Association for Children with Learning Disabilities to this effect. I have a copy of a letter that was sent to him in January of this year raising the points, concerns and difficulties that they're facing because of this situation. One of the counsellors at one of the junior schools has sent a very detailed brief to the minister pointing out the problems. He indicates that he finds himself in a catch-22 position, because as long as he's dealing with the crisis-type situation and the crisis-type student who is unable to function within the regular system, he is unable to reach the point in time that he may provide preventive counselling or any kind of counselling that will benefit all students.
The problem is two-fold. Because of the lack of time and funding, to provide the additional assistance that's required, we find that the counsellor is overloaded. He's trying to cope. He gives a case example here from an observational point of view of a young student who, as it happens, is not the most severely disadvantaged student in the school where he works, because she's very withdrawn. This girl entered the school in September at the age of 15. She'd spent seven years at the nearby neurological foundation which I've indicated. This student was unable to find her way from room to room and frequently became lost. The student's functions were around the grade 2 and 3 level, although on the Gates-MacGinitie reading tests in the first week of school, the results showed no score. This student does not have friends and cannot safely take part in activities in the home economics room or the industrial education areas, yet these practical areas should be the sole areas to gain those life skills that may aid her to function in the everyday world. When the student reaches the age of 18 there's aid available from other institutions, but in the meantime the teaching staff, the counselling staff and the school board are stuck with the problem of trying to stretch those dollars to provide assistance.
Yesterday the minister spoke at some length about the increased and enriched program he's going to have for these people, but when I look at the budget for the public school system and see that in fact there is a nil increase in today's dollars in that budget I ask the minister where the money is coming from. It's not in the budget. All those fine words about taking these kinds of steps to aid these students are meaningless unless there are dollars behind them. If you don't do that, it puts the school board in the position of having to find those dollars from the local taxpayer. In one instance in the Lake Cowichan area, because of the changes there, they're in a position of having to go to the inspector to ask for an increase in the tax level over and above what is allowed. It's putting too heavy a load on the local taxpayer. For the minister to stand in this House and give us all those pious words about the great things he was going to do for the disabled students in the school system, and then put no dollars in the budget to back it up, leaves me feeling a little bit discouraged, to put it very mildly.
In his tours of this province the minister was in the Cowichan Valley, and this problem was raised by many sectors of society in the area, including the school board, teachers and parents, who expressed this same concern. But instead of doing something about it, it seems the minister is only prepared to come into this House and offer pious words with no dollars to back it up, no funding to aid these counsellors who are facing the kind of situation that is being faced by that particular junior high school counsellor. If the minister would recall, when he was in the Cowichan Valley on his little tour.... I won't go into the details of that tour, which certainly caused considerable hassle among the people who were trying to meet him, because he was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. His schedule was being changed constantly when he was coming into that area. But be that as it may, he did eventually....
MRS. WALLACE: I don't know if it was lunch or not, but there were some real problems with that.
During the course of the presentations the president of the Cowichan District Teachers Association made a presentation to that minister, and in the course of her presentation she indicated that in Cowichan there is excellent cooperation between the trustees and the teachers. The problems that are occurring are a clash between local and ministry dictates. She maintained that the ministry has simply not done its homework; it's not sharing its fair share of the resource burden; and referring to this minister's predecessor, she said he had promised all kinds of resources to assist in this business of streamlining but they just haven't materialized.
The particular point I wanted to raise with the minister, which the president of the teachers' association in Cowichan raised, was relative to counselling. She said — and I have no reason to doubt her word — that a secondary counsellor sees 250 students, but she happens to be an elementary teacher, and she says that an elementary counsellor has 4,400 students. That's an impossible load. Certainly the ministry has some responsibility to ensure that our educational needs can be met. It's fine to make policies and to set objectives, but if you don't provide the funding they simply cannot be met.
While we're speaking of the disabled, I would quote briefly from the minister's speech yesterday afternoon. He's talking about the rights of the disabled to an appropriate education, and certainly nobody will argue with that. In fact, he says it should be guaranteed in law. He's talking about guidelines for an appeal procedure and he says: "This procedure will permit, and indeed encourage, parents of handicapped children to take part in decisions that are made as to the assessment and placement of their children, and which will allow for an avenue of appeal to some lay authority in their region against a placement decision which may be deemed by those parents to be inappropriate." I'm concerned about the words "lay authority." What does the minister really mean by that?
AN HON. MEMBER: No lawyers.
[ Page 5623 ]
MRS. WALLACE: No lawyers. Well, a layman to me, Mr. Chairman, would indicate a non-professional in any field. I'm certainly somewhat concerned if a layperson is going to be asked to make a decision about the placement of a disabled child — mentally or physically handicapped — on the request of the parents involved. I have a great deal of concern for parents of disabled children; they have a double concern in the raising of their children and trying to do the right thing. But let us recognize that sometimes a parent may be misguided through love or affection, blinded to the real need of that child — be it disabled or not, and certainly perhaps more so in the case of a disabled child. I think we would really have to see something far more explicit in this proposal to have a layperson make that decision than anything that was contained in the minister's remarks yesterday. I would certainly ask for some very definite clarification on that point, because that does cause me a great deal of concern.
One of the items that I wanted to raise with the minister is an item that is of particular concern in the Cowichan Valley, where we have a very large native population. This is a concern that was expressed to the minister, when he visited the Cowichan Valley, by both the chief of the Cowichans and by the school district personnel who presented it to him. The dropout rate, of course, is very high and we certainly have to accept some responsibility in the field of education to try and move to prevent that. If we are going to deal with the native population in our general school system, if that's the objective that we are moving toward — and I'm not quarrelling with that objective — we certainly have to ensure that the programs offered are the kind of programs that will be of interest and presented in a manner that the native child can absorb. That's not happening.
I've spoken in this House before on that particular subject, to a different Minister of Education. I think we must recognize that the native culture is quite different from the non-native culture. We find that the bright child, as we non-natives see a bright child, is one that's very talkative, very active and outgoing. Those are the characteristics of the non-native child that indicate a bright and keen child, in our perception — one that's very curious and full of talk and conversation. That is not the cultural background or heritage that a native child has. Their culture is very quiet; there are very few spoken words. It is an entirely different background. A child isn't encouraged to be that effervescent kind of young person that we think of as being a bright and keen child. The native child coming into the school system at a young age and mixing with non-native children sits and listens and says very little and becomes perceived by teacher and student as being slow and hesitant. That's a major thing that has to be overcome in the educational system, Mr. Chairman. That's a major step, because unless we can accomplish that, unless we can somehow resolve that difference and be able to accept the difference and build on its strength rather than push the native child into the background because of what we perceive to be weaknesses, then we are never going to accomplish our ultimate aim. Certainly we need to look at the curriculum; we need to offer some alternatives, like the native language thing, which the minister has indicated would be quite acceptable. That is something we need to move into. Make that native language available to Indians and non-Indians. I think it would be great if we could get non-Indian students studying the native language. These should be available options to those native students coming into our school system.
I was unfortunately out of the House this morning, and I'm not sure whether the question of the teen-age pregnancy has been raised yet. There have been some very startling statistics presented on this, and I can only point to the statistics raised when this minister met with the educators and parents and other interested parties in the Cowichan Valley. His statistics indicated that 45 percent of teens are sexually active, and 85 percent of that 45 percent do not use contraceptives. It's apparently statistically factual that one in three teen-aged girls will become pregnant at least once in the next three years. Now that's a frightful statistic. Certainly it's all well and good to take a pious, pie-in-the-sky attitude and say it's a parental responsibility or it's something that's beyond the scope of education. It's not happening, Mr. Minister.
The young teenagers who need that kind of counselling and advice are not getting it, because your educational system is not providing it. You have a responsibility. Some children will receive it because some homes are different than others, but that doesn't excuse you and your ministry from taking steps to give assistance to those young people who are not getting that kind of help in their homes.
I want to deal with another subject and that has to do with career preparation. I note again in your remarks as you were closing yesterday afternoon that you spoke of the critical skill shortages which are acute in this province and are being addressed by the provision of additional training. Under post-secondary education: "We also increased the amount of money available for student aid." I note a 19 percent increase in the college budget.
I wonder whether or not the minister in this program has listened, considered and included any of the recommendations made to him by combined lobbies from industry and the the trade union movement. They have indicated that the job training for these skills we are lacking needs to be undertaken on a broader basis than just within the confines of the classroom.
I would like the minister to give us a more expanded outline of just how this is going to work. Is this to be an on-the-job-training program, supplemented by education in the classroom? How is it going to operate? How are you best going to make sure that the jobs you are training the young people for are the jobs industry requires? How are you going to assure that the training they receive is adequate, complete, and the kind of training they really require to go into that job? Are you going to confine it simply to the four walls of the schoolroom and turn out a product that is still not able to fulfill the needs of industry? That's the question we must have an answer to.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
Then, very specifically, the last thing I want to raise deals with Malaspina College. Two items have come to my attention. You talk about increased student aid to try and encourage this program. One of the problems facing the Malaspina College is a reduction in funding, resulting in a really tight budget. One of the cases which came to my attention recently is the program called modular English, which is a program in which the student moves at his own speed to try and pick up his English in order to go to university, get into vocational school, BCIT, and so on. That program was offered until the end of the last semester at Malaspina College. There were 45 students who applied to take that program at the summer
[ Page 5624 ]
semester. They were students who wanted to go into university, were accepted at vocational schools or at BCIT, but were required — it was either mandatory or certainly desirable — to have completed that English course before they got in there. It appears the English course may be cancelled. I did have assurance that it will be made available, after I pressured the local government somewhat — the Malaspina board and some of the staff. It is going to be available, probably on a student-pay basis. That's fine for people who can afford to pay, but among these 45 students I'm sure there will be some who simply cannot afford to pay for that English course and still go on and take their training at UBC or wherever. That seems to me to be quite contrary to what the minister was telling us yesterday afternoon.
The other thing that I would like to point out is that when the community colleges were first introduced the provincial government funded the vocational courses 100 percent, but the academic and technical courses were funded 60 percent provincially and 40 percent locally.
What I'm saying is that in the original instance there was 100 percent funding for vocational from the provincial government and a shared funding from the local government for the academic. That has been changed, of course, and the full funding is now provincial. There was a program, because the shared portion of the academic courses was partially paid for through property tax, that those areas that were not really close to the campus got a living allowance. A student in Lake Cowichan would get a living allowance to stay in Nanaimo to attend the course, because he was paying the same kind of land-based tax as was the person who lived in Nanaimo. That program was applicable only for academics, not for the vocational. Now that all programs are being entirely funded by the province, the whole thing is eventually being phased out. In the meantime, it has caused a real fish-and-fowl sort of situation, where vocational students do not get any living allowance if they come from a far-flung part of the regional college district, but an academic student does. What I would ask the minister to do — seeing that he is talking about aid, and he has extra money in this particular budget — is to ensure that in regional college districts that particular living allowance is provided across the board, regardless of the course the student is taking, that for the student who comes from an outlying area and has to spend extra dollars to stay at that campus or near the campus there is some assistance paid by the provincial government to take the place of that program that was in place for academic students prior to the provincial funding being taken over completely by the government. I think the minister probably understands that question. I don't know if anybody else in the House does, because it's a bit complicated. That ends my questions. I would like to ask the minister to respond.
HON. MR. SMITH: On your last point about living allowances, I may be wrong, but I don't think that any of the colleges are directly in that, except those few exceptions where there are residences. As you know, Malaspina is looking at residences now and has a plan in which they hope to lease land to a private developer. While a college board could get into this field of living allowances, it's not something that's common across the system or something that we now fund across the system.
The program you mentioned modularized English — I gather has been restored. While the college budgets were up across the province, of course, they vary in that three councils allocate money for three different purposes. In some cases one council may allocate a 20 percent increase under its category, and then another may allocate only a 10 percent or 11 percent increase. The overall lift, as I said, was 19 percent. I don't consider it to be that that is standing still or is no real increase. I certainly don't consider that when you look at the funding for post-secondary institutions this year in other parts of North America and the world. These are real increases. We have to bear in mind, I think, that one of the college mandates is that the system will change and will be flexible, perhaps more so than some of the other post-secondary institutions in that they will adjust and meet new needs. This may mean in the process that some programs that have low enrolments or are not deemed to be high priorities will go and other ones will take their places. It was never conceived that the entire program composition of the year before would exist forever or become the base forever. The colleges have to change and be flexible.
On your comments on native programs, I agree with you that they are needed. We have directly granted money to school districts for native language and culture programs and the development of curriculum, and would continue to do so. The opportunity is there, hon. member, to have assistance for curriculum and development of native language programs. That does go on. The most notable one that I can think of is the Nishga program where they're in the process of infusing the Nishga language right through the core curriculum, which I happen to think is a very exciting development. I'm delighted to support it. Only this week a class from the New Aiyansh School came down and had an exchange with Stelly's Secondary School in Saanich school district, which also has some native students. I fostered and promoted that exchange, hoping that some of the things that the Nishga were doing in their school district might be taken up down here. I don't know whether it will be productive or not.
I thought you made some very good remarks on the issue of special education. I commend you on them, because there is absolutely no doubt that there aren't easy answers or panaceas just by providing appeal procedures. Appeal procedures have to be very carefully thought out. I'm not rushing into print with a type of appeal tribunal. My conception of an appeal is that it would be an appeal from a placement decision only. It would be an appeal heard by a tribunal that was regional, because it might not always be possible to have a local tribunal, particularly with a small district with a scattered population. I was conceiving a forum which would not be legal or court-oriented. I think it would be a great mistake — and I agree with David Vickers in this regard — if we open up this whole field to affirmative action applications which are going to do nothing but make my profession affluent and tie up all sorts of decision-making that teachers and school board supervisors and coordinators have do. They have to make these decisions based on professional evaluations and their best judgment, but they also have to make them in consultation with parents.
They may not be able to do everything that parents want them to do, but parents have to be involved and take responsibility. If a placement is made that a parent wants to appeal and there is no avenue to appeal, if no system is set up, then what I'm afraid will happen is the regular courts will be cluttered with affirmative action applications. To avoid that I would like to set up an exclusive procedure which is fair and formal and can take into account professional opinions certainly, but one which is not structured through the courts, and
[ Page 5625 ]
that's what I'm trying to arrive at. I'd be quite delighted to have any of your suggestions as to the final forum, because the final forum is not cast in stone.
I also appreciate your remarks about the funding for special education and the need to put money into it. The amount of money that was under that vote which was earmarked last year for special approvals for this field was about $74 million. This year it will be over $86 million. That's shareable money, of course, but there is an addition to that. The direct funding that will be going into special education is provincial money only. I'll have to give you that figure in a few minutes.
The special aid grants for the severely handicapped children in provincial programs have increased this year from about $1 million to just under $3 million. It would be my expectation that that would be markedly increased again next year, so that there would be continuation of direct provincial funding for the severely handicapped. I think your point is that these burdens do fall locally, and that if you're going to have provincial initiatives and provincial rules you have to bear in mind that there has to be some provincial funding responsibility. I take those comments as good ones. Thank you for your good speech.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I want to comment on two issues, basically. Much has been made of the minister's tour around the province to consult with school trustees, teachers, pupils and the public regarding the direction of education for the province. I think the minister has received some positive feedback from his hearings. However, at an earlier date I drew the minister's attention to some of the deficiencies in his tour. Apparently he stood up some of the pupils in the Okanagan because of — I guess I should describe it as — the sophistication of his palate. He didn't find the school cafeterias appropriate for his tastes. It wasn’t all sweetness and light. Apparently there were other rather negative notes respecting that tour.
Perhaps it's appropriate that I advise the House and the minister that the organization of his tour might have been improved upon. I refer to a letter dated December 10, 1980, addressed to the minister from the Revelstoke Teachers Association. I think it appropriate that the members of the House hear this.
"Dear Mr. Smith:
"The Revelstoke Teachers' Association would like to express its displeasure at the manner in which the minister's forum in Kamloops was conducted. Not only were the Revelstoke teachers and board treated rudely, but also the organization of the forum was such that all persons making presentations were either rushed or negated. Lack of time, however, was not the only shortcoming. Your manner of receiving these presentations, which you had time to hear, was inattentive and often abrupt. The fact that you chose to chat with Mr. Carter and others during some speeches was totally unacceptable.
"We grant, sir, that the forums must have been very difficult to organize and very tiring for yourself and your entourage. We also grant that the concept of the forums was a good one. We feel compelled to point out, however, that we also spent considerable time and effort in the organization and preparation of our presentations, and that this effort during a very busy time of year for teachers deserved commensurate recognition. Revelstoke teachers travelled several hundred miles in order to inform you of their concerns regarding education in their community and in British Columbia. A polite reception was the very least they deserved."
A copy of this letter was directed to my office. I did not receive a copy of any reply from the minister, so I don't know whether he responded or not. If he failed to respond, that was simply another expression of discourtesy by his office, and certainly insensitive.
Basically what these teachers are saying is that the minister was rude, arrogant and insensitive on that occasion. Other than that, he's not a bad minister. He certainly acted in a very insensitive fashion. In my view, he ruined the beneficial result that could have been gained from the hearings around the province — at least, in one part of it. The fact that I received no response, when I was copied on that letter, indicates to me that the minister perhaps destroyed the positive results, at least in that one area, that could have flowed from the hearings. I regret that.
The other matter I want to raise with the minister has been discussed with him privately before. This refers to children who are handicapped in some way or who need some special education. They are not all created equally in the province of British Columbia. I think the minister has had correspondence with Mrs. Diane Garant of Revelstoke, who works with the handicapped association in that city. Perhaps to put the matter most cogently to the minister I should just read her last letter to me, respecting the specific problem she and others are having in the area. It says:
"It has been brought to my attention the fact that visually- and hearing-impaired children are given up to $306 per month for boarding allowance when they must go out of the school district for special education. As there are no educational options in Revelstoke for the mentally handicapped aged 13 to 18, my child must go to Overlander Secondary School in Kamloops, as this is the resource school for the interior. Revelstoke School District allows $150 boarding allowance per month, plus the tuition and bus fare travelling allowance to and from Kamloops on weekends and holidays.
"I think that all children that must leave their home school district for special education should be entitled to the $300 boarding allowance. I understand this will be implemented in September, but I would like to see this happen immediately. I would also like to inquire as to who is responsible for finding boarding homes for these children. There are six children from other school districts needing a boarding home. Individual homes are impossible to find. We would like to see a residence in Kamloops for the children attending Overlander Secondary School. As this is a resource school, there is an ongoing need for this facility."
There are two points here that I want to re-emphasize to the minister. One is the need for equitable treatment between the visually- and hearing- impaired children and other types of mental retardation — or whatever one wishes to refer to the handicap as — and the need for equity in terms of financial support when these students go out of their own school district for special classes. That seems obvious and it was never clear to me why we must wait until the following September to have this particular problem resolved.
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In any event, I would like from the minister — if he is listening — an indication of the status of the $300 boarding home support being extended and when that's going to apply and so on.
The other side of this problem is the lack of facilities and boarding homes. In that general area there are a number of students in Revelstoke who would be candidates for the Overlander School if only they could find a place to live. The parents are quite prepared to look for private accommodation; but quite frankly, there's just none available. Many of them have spent weekends, written letters and advertised in newspapers seeking accommodation for their handicapped children to no avail. It seems discriminatory that people from the district are foreclosed from participation in that educational agency simply because they haven't a place to stay.
I'm not sure what the answer is. Apparently there is a facility at the old Tranquille site that might be converted, at least to a temporary boarding home, until such time as the private sector is able to yield in some way the kind of facilities that are necessary. In this respect, it might be appropriate for Education and Human Resources to get together with an inventory of homes in the area that would accommodate out-of-district and out-of-town students at that facility.
MR. KING: I would trust that perhaps this minister is a more capable administrator than his colleague the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) — and a more responsible one. I believe he is.
MR. KING: I don't know what I'm supposed to conclude from that, Mr. Chairman. The Minister of Transportation and Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser) is apparently saying that the Minister of Education is just as bad as the Minister of Agriculture. I would have thought he might have protected and defended the poor minister. But I guess they're equally poor in this respect. I don't know.
This is a matter of real concern in my area. I might point out to the minister that it's not just Revelstoke. There is Salmon Arm, the Enderby area, some of the North Okanagan represented by the Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mrs. Jordan), and there are areas in the Kamloops district up the North Thompson–Clearwater area that have had the same problem. They couldn't get their children into the special educational class because there was simply nowhere to stay.
So eliminate the financial discrimination in terms of the boarding allowance, and recognize that the housing market is such that there's no available space or people are not willing, at least at this point, to provide facilities for them, and please look at developing at least some temporary boarding facility that will accommodate the kids from these very broad regions.
HON. MR. SMITH: As I understand it, the boarding allowances are going up on September 1 to $300, as you've said. But the whole question of the province looking after the access necessary to get students into regional programs like this is one we have to develop a clearer policy on. I quite agree. With the limited supply of housing and the need of students to be moved to another centre.... You can't reinvent these facilities all over the province. You have a good one in Kamloops, and for the time being that is probably where these students you're speaking of will be going. We will try to develop a clearer policy in that regard.
You also mentioned the forum meeting in Kamloops and the Revelstoke teachers' concerns. That's one criticism of the tour I do accept. I think the others were more facetious and not inaccurate, but we had a very heavily used forum there — the professional forum. We had teachers that came from quite some distance, and some of the delegations had four and five teachers on them, all of whom wished to speak or give component parts of their submissions. Because we had a public forum again in the evening we ran out of time in the afternoon.
MR. KING: Did you answer their letter?
HON. MR. SMITH: I would hope so. I'll check into it. I can remember talking with some of the Revelstoke teachers. There were a few delegations we didn't get a chance to hear, and we invited them to stay and come to the public forum in the evening. We heard some of them there. Whether Revelstoke stayed or not I don't remember. I remember hearing a brief from the chairman of the Revelstoke board on a school that's near and dear to your heart, and I certainly heard submissions from Revelstoke, but I think there were a handful of teachers that didn't get on, and that was certainly a justifiable criticism. None of these tours are perfect; we had really very few of these. Quite often we went on till midnight or 1 a.m. If it was an evening meeting, but an afternoon meeting was kind of tough.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:48 p.m.