1981 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MAY 26, 1981
[ Page 5783 ]
Loffmark pension. Mr. Lauk –– 5783
Mr. Leggatt –– 5783
Mr. Macdonald –– 5784
Eckardt commission staff oaths. Mr. Macdonald –– 5784
Loffmark pension. Mr. Leggatt –– 5784
Eckardt commission staff oaths. Mr. Lauk –– 5785
Colenutt case. Mr. Macdonald –– 5785
Eckardt commission staff oaths. Mr. Barrett –– 5785
Colenutt case. Mr. Macdonald –– 5785
Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1981 (Bill 13). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
On section 33 –– 5785
Division on section 33
On section 47 as amended –– 5786
On section 50 –– 5786
On section 51 –– 5787
Mr. Levi, Mr. Nicolson, Mr. Hall
On section 55 as amended –– 5789
On section 58 –– 5789
On section 61 –– 5790
On section 62 5790
Report –– 5790
Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1981 (Bill 12). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
On section 3 –– 5790
Ms. Brown, Mr. Lockstead, Mr. Hall, Ms. Sanford
Third reading –– 5792
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation and Highways estimates. (Hon. Mr.
On vote 189: minister's office –– 5792
Mr. Skelly, Ms. Sanford, Mr. Hall, Ms. Brown, Mrs. Wallace, Mr. Stupich, Mr. Mitchell
Report on agricultural aid to developing countries, 1980-81.
Hon. Mr. Hewitt –– 5806
Appendix –– 5806
TUESDAY, MAY 26, 1981
The House met at 2 p.m.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the second member for Surrey (Mr. Hall) and myself, I would like to introduce to the House a group of visitors from the constituency of Surrey. We have a delegation from the Ted Kuhn highrise senior citizens' facility, a fine group of residents, and their leader, Mrs. May Herrett. I would ask all members to make them welcome today.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, we have a group of school children from a grade 8 class of Mount Prevost Junior Secondary School, together with their teachers and other representatives from the area, visiting the precincts and the gallery today. I would ask the House to join me in welcoming them.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, seated in your gallery today is a distinguished group of visitors. They are journalists and representatives of British Airways, who are visiting British Columbia. I would like to introduce, from Ulster, Peter Carver of Independent Television, David Kirk of the Belfast Newsletter, Bill Flackes of the BBC, Bill Graham of the Belfast Telegraph and Colin McAlpin of the Sunday News; with them also are Jim Howie, James Milliken and Keith Hayes of British Airways. Accompanying this group is Dick Lillico from B.C. House in London.
The group is here to enjoy beautiful British Columbia, but the journalists are also interested in our form of provincial government. I had the pleasure of meeting with them at noon, along with the Deputy Premier (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) and the member for Kootenay (Mr. Segarty). I had the pleasure of meeting with them at that time, and I'm sure they would welcome the opportunity of talking with other members during their stay in Victoria today and tomorrow. Will the House please bid them welcome?
MR. SEGARTY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to join with the Provincial Secretary in wishing the media delegation from Northern Ireland a hearty cead mile filte. My very best wishes to the representatives of British Airways in the opening of this new transportation corridor from western Canada to Britain.
MR. SPEAKER: I think Hansard will have fun with that one.
HON. MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Speaker, I'll take a shot at English for the moment. You'll be pleased to know, along with members of the House, I'm sure, that we have four distinguished guests in our gallery today. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Brannan of the Georgia Bankers Association, and Mr. and Mrs. Herm Chesney of Travel Planners International. They are accompanied by Mr. Dennis Holmes, of our ministry. Both couples are here not only to enjoy beautiful British Columbia and to meet many new friends, but also to view us as a possible site for their 1984 Georgia Bankers Association convention. That would be 900-odd delegates, and those are not Georgia peanuts. I would ask you to all join me in welcoming them and hoping they have a very good time while they're here, and that they come back in 1984.
MR. DAVIDSON: Visiting with us today are Professor Donald Balmer and his wife. Professor Balmer is with the department of political science at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. For the interest of all members, Professor Balmer and his wife have been visiting this Legislature for 20 years. I would ask the House to once again give them a very warm B.C. welcome.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members. from Chilliwack we have the grade 9 class of Timothy Christian School. Please make them welcome.
MR. LAUK: I have a question for the Attorney-General. I was thumbing through my copy of the ombudsman's report on the weekend — it makes good reading. Ralph Loffmark's pension was reduced as a result of a legal opinion provided by the Attorney-General's department. Who requested that legal opinion?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I thank the member for his question. I find it somewhat amazing that he was thumbing through his copy of the ombudsman's report last weekend when it wasn't tabled in this House until last evening. Perhaps he would like to explain how he has such prior knowledge.
At any rate, Mr. Speaker, the opinion from the solicitor in the ministry was requested by the then Provincial Secretary.
MR. LAUK: What ministerial official provided the opinion?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Harry Ferne, a barrister and solicitor, is a member of the civil side of the Attorney-General's ministry. One of his responsibilities was then and is today to provide advice to the Provincial Secretary's ministry.
MR. LAUK: To what official in the superannuation branch did Mr. Harry Ferne provide the opinion?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I am not knowledgeable at this moment of the answer to that question. I'd be very pleased to take it as notice.
MR. LEGGATT: Could the Attorney-General advise the House whether he had discussions with the Provincial Secretary prior to the opinion being requested by the superannuation department?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is no.
MR. LEGGATT: Could the Attorney-General advise the House why his official failed to cooperate with the ombudsman in providing the information that the ombudsman requested?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: In the course of the ombudsman's investigation of this matter, Mr. Speaker, he sought information from Mr. Ferne which fell within the area prescribed by section 11 of the ombudsman's statute.
[ Page 5784 ]
MR. LEGGATT: If you're looking at it as a solicitor-client relationship, I take it the client in this case would have been the Provincial Secretary and the solicitor would be a member of the Attorney-General's ministry. Would that be the kind of relationship that existed?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LEGGATT: Which ministry initiated the request for the opinion?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have already responded to that question. It was the Ministry of Provincial Secretary, under whose responsibility matters of superannuation fall.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Provincial Secretary. Did the Provincial Secretary take it upon himself to make a request for an opinion surrounding Mr. Loffmark's pension?
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'll take that question as notice.
MR. LEGGATT: On a further question to the same minister, did he have any discussions in cabinet concerning that particular pension? In particular, did he have any discussion with the Premier concerning Mr. Loffmark's pension before the request was made for an opinion?
MR. SPEAKER: Only the last part of the question is in order.
HON. MR. WOLFE: Mr. Speaker, for the member's information, I think the matter under question was dealt with under a previous minister, since it took place, I believe, in 1979.
MR. MACDONALD: My question is to the Attorney-General. In view of the fact that the Loffmark pension was abruptly and illegally reduced after the last election, does the Attorney-General consider that the ombudsman does not have the mandated authority to investigate as to whether there was improper external or political interference with the opinion rendered by the Attorney-General's ministry?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, the member is seeking a legal opinion, and he knows that that is not a proper subject for questioning in this period.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, suppose somebody brought political interference — successful or not — in terms of a judge sitting on the bench. Would the Attorney-General not consider that that was a legitimate subject of public concern that ought to be investigated, and would not the judge so consider?
All right, there's no use.
Everybody knows what happened: pure political vengeance against somebody who came out with a political position. It never happened to any other politician. No other pension was interfered with in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
ECKARDT COMMISSION STAFF OATHS
MR. MACDONALD: I ask the Attorney-General a new question. Last August the Attorney-General was asked to investigate whether the Eckardt commission staff were required to take backdated oaths, and the Attorney-General took that as notice. Now we're into May of the following year. Has the Attorney-General decided to reply?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, based upon the examination which was made following those questions, no evidence was disclosed that any member was asked to take a backdated oath and none has been discovered.
MR. MACDONALD: I ask the Attorney-General: has he got the oaths of secrecy that were taken by these staff people?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: No, Mr. Speaker. They are in deposit and are held by persons who took the oaths. In one case the oath was taken at the district registrar's office in the courthouse in Victoria. I believe it still must be there.
MR. MACDONALD: Has the Attorney-General seen those oaths to see whether they are backdated or not?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I have not seen them. I'm advised that they were not.
MR. MACDONALD: Has the Attorney-General got copies of those oaths?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: No, I do not.
MR. MACDONALD: I would like to ask the Attorney-General how he can reach these conclusions that everything is all right without having investigated the evidence.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I conclude that based upon competent advice given by qualified people.
MR. LEGGATT: My question is for the Attorney-General. One of the reasons that the Attorney-General gave to the ombudsman for refusing to cooperate around this particular case was the matter of solicitor-client privilege. As the Attorney-General knows, that privilege is the privilege of the client, not of the solicitor providing the opinion. Why doesn't the Attorney-General waive the solicitor-client privilege or request the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services (Hon. Mr. Wolfe) to waive the solicitor-client privilege so the ombudsman can get on with the job of finding the truth about the Loffmark pension?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: As the member has currently stated, the privilege is not mine to waive. This matter was dealt with at some length in a letter to the ombudsman in January, to which there was no response. We believed that the ombudsman was satisfied with the lengthy explanation he was given with regard to our interpretation of section 11. Therefore it comes somewhat as a surprise that this has been highlighted in his report.
[ Page 5785 ]
MR. LEGGATT: My question is for the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services. Will the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services waive his privilege with regard to the opinion he received so that the ombudsman has a chance to fully investigate the Loffmark pension?
MR. SPEAKER: Is the member inquiring into the future action of the minister?
MR. LEGGATT: Has he decided today to do so in view of the ombudsman request, as filed in this Legislature?
MR. SPEAKER: The question is in order.
HON. MR. WOLFE: I believe, related to this minister's responsibility on this matter, that I've already answered the question in taking it on notice. To answer the member's question, no decision has been made by ministry.
MR. LEGGATT: I think perhaps the Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services misunderstood the question. I'll repeat it.
The Provincial Secretary and Minister of Government Services has the right to protect the solicitor who provided the opinion, because perhaps he has a privilege surrounding some of that information. What I'm asking now is: given the reasons that the ombudsman has provided to this Legislature for failure to cooperate, based on an alleged solicitor-client privilege, will the Provincial Secretary now do his duty to this Legislature and waive that privilege so that all the facts can come out in the Loffmark case?
HON. MR. WOLFE: I believe the question the member asked is clearly out of order, in that it deals with policy yet to be determined in terms of a report that's just been submitted.
ECKARDT COMMISSION STAFF OATHS
MR. LAUK: I have one question for the Attorney-General re the backdated oaths. Has the ombudsman made any inquiries of the Attorney-General's department with respect to the backdated oaths in particular?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: None of which I'm aware, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MACDONALD: There was an allegation by one of the staff that they took the oath subsequent to the date that appears on the oaths of secrecy. How does the Attorney-General know whether or not that allegation is true? Does he know when the oath was taken, and if so, would he give the House the date? When were they presented with the paper and asked to swear that oath?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: With respect to that particular matter, I don't know the date upon which the oath was sworn nor anything with respect to the matter of dating. That particular document is not to be found.
MR. MACDONALD: To the Attorney-General on another of his state secrets: I asked some time ago about the John Colenutt case. He was arrested early in the morning, when he shouldn't have been. I asked who ordered him to have a psychiatric examination before he had seen a judge. Will the Attorney-General say who ordered that examination?
MR. SPEAKER: The last part of the question is in order.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: The member is misinformed. The gentleman in question was never subjected to a psychiatric examination.
ECKARDT COMMISSION STAFF OATHS
MR. BARRETT: On a supplementary, can the Attorney-General tell the House what date he was informed that the lost affidavit was indeed lost?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I'll have to take that question as notice, Mr. Speaker.
MR. BARRETT: Since such a sensitive affidavit was a matter of public concern — and he was notified it was lost — did it occur to the Attorney-General that it might be wise on his part to notify the House that it was missing?
MR. MACDONALD: Coming back to the other subject of Mr. Colenutt.... [Laughter.] When you don't get any information, you strike out with that particular government and especially with that ministry.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May we have the question?
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Colenutt said very clearly that before his appearance in court he was taken to see a doctor whose name, I think, was Dr. MacKenzie — and asked a lot of questions about his psychiatric condition. Does the Attorney-General say that that statement by John Colenutt is incorrect?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I simply said he was not subjected to a psychiatric examination. I might say that it may help the member to know that I'm waiting for one further bit of information with respect to that whole matter before making a determination as to what future course should be taken with regard to the Colenutt affair.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. GARDOM: I ask leave to proceed to public bills and orders, Mr. Speaker.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Committee on Bill 13, Mr. Speaker.
FINANCE STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 1981
The House in committee on Bill 13; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
On section 33 — continued.
MR. HOWARD: I have just a very brief comment before section 33 passes. Let's make it clear what's involved here. There's been no indication given by members of the opposition
[ Page 5786 ]
that they're opposed to progress and development. That's a mythical case made by the Minister of Universities, Science and Communications (Hon. Mr. McGeer) when he spoke earlier on this item.
It's important to note that when the minister rose to speak, he did not rise as the minister; he rose and identified himself as a member of the board of directors of B.C. Hydro — a cabinet minister. In the course of his remarks, even though he knew the information — because he is a member of the board of directors of B.C. Hydro, and was speaking in that capacity — about the reason for B.C. Hydro's desire to increase its borrowing limit by $800 million, at no time did he consider it worthwhile telling the committee what they wanted that $800 million for. It's very important to remember that. The minister had the information within his knowledge. He refused to give it to the House. Instead, he took off on some wild accusatory statement about subject matters which were completely fabricated.
Secondly, three government backbenchers have spoken on this particular item before us: the member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis), the member for North Peace River (Mr. Brummet) and the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf), each one of whom is also a member of the Committee on Crown Corporations. Not one of them, except the Chairman, sought to indicate that there was some rationale as to why he, the Chairman, had refused to call the committee to meet during the time the Legislature is meeting so that it could examine why B.C. Hydro wants this $800 million increase in borrowing capacity. It's important to remember that those who had the knowledge refused to give it to the committee, leaving the committee with, I think, no choice but to say that the committee is being stonewalled by members of the government, who know precisely why they want the money but refuse to tell the committee why they want this increased borrowing capacity.
I submit to you, Mr. Chairman, that perhaps the reason the Chairman of the Crown corporations committee stood in this House and asked that the House recess so that the Crown corporations committee could meet was that he and other Social Credit members of that committee know full well that if that committee meets during a recess of the House they pick up $50 a day for each time they attend a meeting. It's important to remember that too. They're out to line their own pockets and not to do the public's business.
Section 33 approved on the following division:
YEAS — 28
NAYS — ; 24
An hon. member requested that leave be asked to record the division in the Journals of the House.
Sections 34 to 46 inclusive approved.
On section 47.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper with respect to section 47. [See appendix.]
On section 47 as amended.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, the section we're dealing with deals with the School Act, particularly with respect to the assessment of machinery for school tax purposes. It strikes me that, unless I'm incorrect, consistency would have us amending in tandem the Municipal Act, so that the assessment for municipal tax purposes would be the same. For instance, not long ago I got a letter from a constituent indicating that he was assessed $1,300 for a Xerox machine. There was a great danger that he would be assessed a further amount in his little business.
I can understand assessing Mac-Blo, and so on, because they're mainly machines. But for small, secondary industry such as I'm outlining, I'm just wondering whether or not this situation is in line with my correspondent's need for school tax purposes. I'm wondering what plans, if any, the minister has with respect to the whole question. Obviously he's got something in the works.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, the amendment is required to correspond with the revised definition of improvements for school purposes. I think that's the key. I think the member has made an interesting point, but it is not entirely correct, as I understand it, because out of this amendment flows the instruction to the Assessment Authority. A companion amendment to the Municipal Act is not required in this instance.
MR. COCKE: Since the minister and I had words this morning, I would just like to be relatively consistent with respect to my position, and thank the minister. I think it's a progressive move, because this is necessary for small business.
Section 47 as amended approved.
Sections 48 and 49 approved.
On section 50.
MR. LEVI: If we're nice to the minister, we might have an opportunity to get some answers. As I understand it, this section is going to make it possible for the B.C. Systems Corporation to put up a building. I gather the decision has already been made, and that this building costing more than $30 million is going to go in Saanich. Perhaps the minister would tell us.... I hope he's listening; he's got his hand over his ear, Mr. Chairman. Oh, we've got his full attention. Can the minister tell us what kind of a building is going there and how much it's going to cost? Frankly, I think the cost in
[ Page 5787 ]
some way bears on something else we're going to be doing immediately after this. Perhaps the minister would give us some information on what kind of a building is going there, how much it's going to cost and, particularly, who is going to build it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, hon. member. The Chair is having some difficulty in relating the member's questions to the relevant section of the particular act, which simply substitutes "capital regional district" for "City of Victoria." If the member can somehow relate that to the Chair it would be appreciated.
MR. LEVI: Yes, I will. I'll relate it.
There's a very interesting explanatory note on the other side which says: "The amendment to section 4 of the System Act permits the head office of the corporation to be located anywhere in the capital regional district." That's what we're dealing with here, Mr. Chairman. When the act was brought in in 1977 the headquarters were going to be in the city of Victoria. We're talking about a building. We're talking about taking the headquarters of the Systems Corporation out of Victoria and putting it in Saanich. That's why we have to have the amendment. If we have to have the amendment, I think it's fair enough to ask the minister what he's got in mind. I know he's not always very anxious to tell us about the Systems Corporation, but I'd like to know what he has in mind here. At the moment they have a building which acts as the headquarters building on Fort Street in Wismer House. Perhaps the minister would tell us.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The first member for Victoria (Mr. Barber) corrected the member who posed the question, and that spoiled my fun. It blew his speech, but it spoiled my fun as well. While it is proposed that a new building is to be constructed in the capital region — hence the need for the amendment under section 50 — the site that has been selected is in the municipality of Saanich but not, curiously enough, in the constituency of Saanich and the Islands, which I have the honour to represent in this Legislature. That spoiled a good portion of the member's speech, but he'll make up for it on another occasion.
Perhaps the questions would be more appropriate under section 51. Clearly, as the System Act now reads, it would not permit the construction of a building other than in the "city of Victoria." That is why, in this section only, we are broadening the permissive aspect of where it can be located to "the capital regional district."
MR. LEVI: It will help the House if the minister would tell us just one thing. How much is proposed to be spent on the building? It has some relevance to something we're going to be doing in a minute. How much is it going to cost?
HON. MR. CURTIS: We do not yet know precisely. I think another question posed was: who is going to build it? We do not know that yet either, inasmuch as by proposal call we will be inviting submissions from the construction industry, notwithstanding some minor difficulties which I'm sure can be overcome. I can't tell you who's going to build it yet, because we do not know that.
Section 50 approved.
On section 51.
MR. LEVI: This section increases the borrowing power of the corporation from $25 million to $50 million. It's my understanding that the building will cost in excess of $30 million. You may have to come back to the House for another increase. You already have an extensive outstanding loan. That's why I asked the question in the beginning. In all likelihood you will not be able to pay for that building out of this capital cost unless you're going to do it some other way. For instance, is the corporation going to build the building? Oh, we're out of that now. We can't deal with that. I'll have to deal with it in estimates. If the building will cost in excess of $30 million — which I think it will — you obviously do not have enough money in the increase of $50 million that you're requesting. The capital costs on the building alone will be in excess of $30 million. The presumption is that you're going to come back again for it. Or is it that you're going to have somebody build the building and then you're going to lease it? In that case life is a lot easier for you.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, not all decisions have been reached with respect to this new headquarters building for the British Columbia Systems Corporation. The existing $25 million borrowing limit — the ceiling which is in place — has not been fully utilized. Ten million dollars has been advanced to the Systems Corporation to finance current activities, so it is not correct to assume that we have fully committed the existing ceiling which is now in the statute and is being amended by this proposal.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Chairman, I don't think such an increase in borrowing authority should pass without some comment. What used to be a pay-as-you-go proposition — that is, the government under the old Department of Public Works used to pay for construction of office space out of its current budget, and no debt was incurred — is now, of course, through this instrument, creating a debt instrument. In other words, if an accountant had to analyze budgets between 1972 and 1975 and compare them to budgets today, he would have to say, in all fairness, that between 1972 and 1975 — and certainly prior to that under the W.A.C. Bennett government — no debt was incurred in terms of providing office space for various government ministries; it was a pay-as-you-go proposition. In order to make a fair comparison now, you would have to say that this government is in debt and is prepared to go deeper into debt — $50 million in this one area alone.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
This particular philosophy is not altogether a bad philosophy, at least at the philosophical level of having a public works corporation or systems corporation or whatever — and they've taken a similar tack in both situations. But it's very obvious that when computers were bought before, these things were paid for as you went. This particular thing really would have been a function — I know it's the Systems Corporation and not the B.C. Buildings Corporation — of the old Public Works. What we are doing here — once again, just as we did in the B.C. Buildings Corporation — is creating debt. Things that would have been direct debt in an earlier system of bookkeeping, but because we've created these so-called Crown corporations which are not under the scrutiny
[ Page 5788 ]
of the Crown corporations reporting committee.... If the Crown corporations reporting committee were ever allowed to meet, it could not go and investigate what is going on in the Systems Corporation.
So, again, we're being asked to approve a very blank cheque, a great deal of which will be for the construction of buildings. I suppose the other will be to retire other types of debt capital which would be involved in system expansion. I would say this is direct evidence that the province is in an area of debt that was never incurred prior to 1975. At least from 1963, 1964 or 1965 — whenever W.A.C. Bennett came up with contingent liabilities and shot the arrow at the barge in Okanagan Lake — until 1975, this was one area in which the province did not incur direct debt. That's really what it is that we're voting for today. I won't allow the government to have it both ways: to get up in this House and say they're not incurring any debt when we know they're incurring debt here, in B.C. Buildings Corporation, B.C. Ferry Corporation and many other areas.
MR. HALL: Mr. Speaker, I don't find a great deal of difficulty in supporting the section, particularly given the argument put forward by my colleague from Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson), which deals with the new philosophy that the government has undertaken of abandoning the pay-as-you-go attitudes of previous governments and, in effect, running this thing now as a Crown corporation, amortizing the payments — or whatever expressions one wants to use in terms of handling its capital requirements over a period of time — and doing it in an ever-increasing number of avenues.
What is bothering me, however, is the kind of supervision that this Legislature is building at the same time we're faced with these pieces of legislation. That has been touched on by the member for Nelson-Creston. It is one which, I think, all legislatures are grappling with and one which is the subject of some reports. Recently I, along with the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Ree), was part of an advisory committee to the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation, dealing with the whole question of the quality as well as the quantity of information provided to legislators and the public regarding the accountability of government. What we're finding is that more and more money is really escaping our scrutiny.
Here we're asked to increase the borrowing authority to double it, in effect — and that's probably the last we'll see of it, except that somewhere down the road maybe one of these days a committee might be lucky enough to be called and stumble across a couple of vouchers. One of these days we might see some accountability for Curtis Court, that marvelous Babylonian edifice in Saanich that's being built for the B.C. Systems Corporation. I'm being jocular about it; I'm sure the minister will allow me to do that. I can think of a better name than Curtis Court, but it will do for the purposes of our debate this afternoon.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Hall Hall.
MR. HALL: Yes, Hall Hall will be quite fine, if you can find one.
The fact of the matter is, though, that we've now got buildings all over the place which the public accounts committee, for instance, can't find rental details of. The president of the B.C. Buildings Corporation, Mr. Dolezal, who may have something to do with this sooner or later, tells me that over 1,000 entries are required on the computer to just deal with rents, a stack of paper from a computer this high that the public accounts committee or any legislator would have to look at.
Comprehensive auditing is coming; value-for-money accountability is being required. The quality of information is suspect, in my view. I'm not suggesting for a second you shouldn't have the $25 million. The quality of information which will be forthcoming in the long run for the legislative purpose of accountability and scrutiny is what I'm talking about, as more and more of the $6.5 billion that this government is going to spend this year escapes from the Legislature. I don't argue with the principles behind the decisions to form Crown corporations. A quick total right now of our estimates book would show that over $3.5 billion goes out in straight transfer payments to other jurisdictions, for which we've got almost no accountability in the real sense that the minister and I understand that word — it was $3.7 billion last time I just ran a pencil quickly down the columns. That's what bothers me when we're simply asked for these one-line extensions to borrowing power.
I share this thought with the minister. One of these days and we keep on hearing about the statutes that are coming on financial administration, controls and so on and so forth, but we've not seen them yet — we're going to have to get down to it as responsible legislators and look not only at this simple — in fact, now almost useless — book which is given to us after we've listened to the Minister of Finance for some three hours on some Friday afternoon called budget day, which is now becoming less than the event it used to be.... I don't mean in that way to take away from the minister's performance at all. I'm talking about the event itself, as we're now overcome — indeed as the minister is now overcome — by the fact we're even borrowing another $25 million to house the B.C. Systems Corporation, which shows we're being overcome.
It's the quality as well as the quantity of information that is going to bedevil legislators, and I think what we should do as responsible legislators is pay much more attention to that, rather than simply voting yes and no on simple one-line amendments to borrowing powers. It's that which has got members like the member for Nelson-Creston and the member for Alberni (Mr. Skelly) worried about the quality of information, apart from ideological differences we may have about industrial development and so on. I again say, though lightheartedly, we will in some years come to see a beautiful building built and opened with full pageantry, but having escaped our perusal — that's what bothers me — unless we change some of the controls. That can only go back to the Ministry of Finance, Treasury Board and the way we conduct our financial business in this province.
Sections 51 to 54 inclusive approved.
On section 55.
HON. MR. CURTIS: With respect to section 55, I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
On section 55 as amended.
[ Page 5789 ]
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Once again I rise to speak in support of the smokers and drinkers in this province who are once again faced with a regressive tax imposed on most of us by this province.
Before I make my remarks, I want to say again to clarify for this House and Hansard that I don't condone the abuse of alcohol and tobacco. We can't discuss alcohol under this section, but the tax is essentially the same. We're all aware of the health hazards. What this tax really does is to tax the poor — the people on welfare, the working poor and the working people of this province — as heavily as it taxes those millionaires comfortably sitting over there. It doesn't make any difference to them that the price of a pack of cigarettes goes up 15 cents or 20 cents.
HON. MR. HEWITT: We quit.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: The Minister of Agriculture and Food is resigning. That's great. I just heard him say it.
It makes no difference to those people, Mr. Chairman. Let me give an example. In my riding there is a 54-year-old lady on welfare whose rent was increased to $280 a month. Her maximum income was $331 a month; it's been increased a bit lately, by the way. Her only enjoyment is to buy a tin of tobacco and roll a few cigarettes. She simply can't afford this regressive tax continually being placed on us by this government which has no compassion or feeling at all for the working, the working poor and those people on low incomes in this province.
What are they doing with the money? That's the thing. If they were putting it into the type of health facilities and social services required at this time it would be fair enough. But they're not doing that. They're building huge monuments to themselves such as B.C. Place. They're subsidizing Teck, Denison and the Japanese with northeast coal. That's where the dollars are going. I don't see why the working people and the poor people in this province have to be the first assailed by this type of regressive and — for the first time in the history of this province — indexed taxation. In my view, the same goes for liquor.
I wanted to get these remarks on record, because I think that somebody in this province should stand up for these people who can't be here to speak for themselves.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The argument would be telling if it were based on accurate information. We are in the very narrow confines now of a section of a miscellaneous bill, and I appreciate that I cannot stray very far beyond the rule which applies to that section. But earlier this House dealt with a tax measure designed to return more to the low-income earners — 75 percent of the elderly people in this province — as a result of a tax credit. If the member is speaking about the difficulties facing those who are not as well off as everyone in this chamber, I think to be fair he would at least have identified that other measure passed by a committee and this House quite recently, which is going into effect next year. So, Mr. Member, be fair and balanced in your remarks.
The member also spoke about the indexing of tobacco taxes. I'm returning here to the specific point which is before us. I wonder why other provinces have also found it necessary. The member knows why. Everyone in this chamber knows why, and most people in British Columbia know why we had to take a series of measures to increase revenues this year. It's because of the national energy revenue grab. They don't seem to want to admit it, but it's fact. Revenue projections for the provinces are down — the western provinces in particular — as a result of policies of late October 1980 and subsequent to that. The indexing of taxes now in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.... What are the taxes? What are we looking at for a package of 25 cigarettes as the base, if you will, for a fair comparison and much lower, Mr. Member, than in many other parts of the free world? The member knows that. In British Columbia it's now 34 cents tax for a package of 25; Alberta, 8 cents; Saskatchewan, 33 cents; Manitoba, 35 cents; Ontario, 36.5 cents; Quebec, 34 cents; New Brunswick, 34 cents; Nova Scotia, 25 cents; Prince Edward Island, 25 cents; and Newfoundland, 62.5 cents. In addition, I refer again to the indexing which is in place in three other provinces and which undoubtedly will be introduced in others as time goes by.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
Through this tax measure, as Minister of Finance, I don't comment on the health aspects of smoking loose tobacco and cigarettes and so on. That's not why I introduced the measure, and it's not why I speak to it today. It is for others in other portfolios and for other members of this House to speak as they see fit and as they read the material. I was attempting again — I've said it through all these measures and through others — to spread the unpalatable but the realistic tax burden over as many segments of the population as possible, rather than to hit one particular segment.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Normally I don't respond to this when we're dealing with this question to the minister, but he did make a lot of statements and did stray off the topic a bit. I'm a bit surprised that the minister suggested that this Legislature — the government particularly — is about to legislate morality in this province determining whether people should smoke or drink or not. Because some of them think it's a bad thing to do, let's tax the poor buggers. I want to tell you, Mr. Chairman, that isn't the way I view the problem at all.
The fact is that I'm standing across the floor looking at a government that has let certain industries off practically scot-free in terms of receiving a fair return on our natural resources where this portion of the tax budget, if the money is really required, could have been made up quite easily. But they preferred to let their friends off the hook and tax the poor people of this province as they've been doing for so many years now. The taxes are increasing, not decreasing. They'll be higher. A higher proportion of our incomes next year will go to taxes to the Social Credit government than this year or the year before. I don't want to hear all that stuff about "we're going to revise taxes," and "there's going to be a little bit down here." Any thinking person in this province knows that overall taxes next year are going to be a heavier and heavier burden on people whether it be property taxes or any other kind of taxes. I could go on for some time, but we are in a very narrow debate here. I think I'll leave it at that.
Sections 55 to 57 inclusive approved.
On section 58.
MR. NICOLSON: I wonder why these changes had to be made. Is there a particular municipal work being constructed which has raised a problem where it would be inequitable for
[ Page 5790 ]
the people of the endowment lands, who sort of ride on the back of greater Vancouver, I guess, not to provide the facilities? Are they that destitute that they can't afford it? What is the problem? Is there any specific municipal work that's been encountered that just wouldn't be fair to be borne by the people in that area?
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, there is no specific project or specific problem. The purpose of the amendment is to provide that where all the beneficiaries of major improvements, such as a new water or sewer line, cannot be easily identified, the improvements may be paid from the general revenue which exists in the University Endowment Lands administration account rather than being paid from the taxes assessed to the owners of other benefiting lands. In many circumstances — in the UEL and, I suppose, in a number of other local government units as well — all beneficiaries of major improvements can't be easily identified.
General tax revenue should be the funding source for such improvements. An example is in my own home municipality. While our property is not served with sanitary sewers, we contribute a certain amount through our property tax towards a sanitary sewer system because it is in the interests of an entire community. Specifically, it could be argued that the property occupied by my wife and me is not directly served. That's the intent of the amendment.
Sections 58 to 60 inclusive approved.
On section 61.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I would like to say I'm pleased that the section is going to make the Home Owner Grant Act retroactive to January of this year. But I think I would be remiss if I allow this section to go without expressing once again my disappointment that the homeowner grant is not going to be extended, as promised in the budget speech, to all disabled people in this province. In fact it is going to be curtailed, based on the criteria established in the regulations. A promise was made, and that promise is not being kept.
This is the last time I'm going to have an opportunity to ask the Minister of Finance to amend this section and the preceding one — I'm not reflecting on the vote — which stated that regulations would establish which of the disabled people would be eligible for the homeowner grant, rather than honouring the statement made in the budget speech. According to the budget speech, the grant was going to be extended to cover all disabled people in the province.
The other thing I would have hoped is that there would have been an amendment on the order paper by today dealing with the word "handicapped." That's not there, and I want to express my disappointment that the minister has failed to avail himself of the opportunity to introduce two amendments which would make this piece of legislation really work for disabled people in the province.
Section 61 approved.
On section 62.
MR. NICOLSON: Can the minister guarantee the members of this committee that section 62 includes all of the numbers from 1 to 61. Are you sure?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I am satisfied that the commencement section serves the purpose for which it is designed.
MR. NICOLSON: In order to reassure the minister, Mr. Chairman, I can assure him that it does.
Section 62 approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the Chair.
Division in committee ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
Bill 13, Finance Statutes Amendments Act, 1981, reported complete with amendments to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Committee on Bill 12, Mr. Speaker.
SOCIAL SERVICE TAX
AMENDMENT ACT, 1981
The House in committee on Bill 12; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the minister a question about this particular section. It deals with personal property being covered by the taxes if it's ever used even on a temporary basis as business premises. It's been brought to our attention that people in this province who are foster parents to children with special needs are now deemed to be small contractors, and they are given a contract which they have to fill out. One of the foster parents brought to my attention that she was advised that if she completes this contract her place of residence ceases to be the family home for the duration of the time that she has this particular child or has this contract with the Ministry of Human Resources, and her home becomes a business premise. I'm wondering whether in that event this particular section, in terms of taxes, would apply to that family home. This section says it applies if a business is carried on there, even temporarily. Did the minister discuss this with the Ministry of Human Resources or did the Ministry of Human Resources discuss this with the Ministry of Finance to find out about these special-needs foster parents in section 3 who sign a contract with the government?
For example, there is one particular foster parent who has been responsible for a special-needs child for a number of years. When the new policy came into effect she was presented
[ Page 5791 ]
with a contract which she had to work through with the social worker and sign. This woman was advised by an accountant — I don't know whether this is true or not — that if she signs this contract, for the duration of the time that the child is in the home and this contract with the Ministry of Human Resources exists her family home becomes a place of business. Was this worked though with the Ministry of Human Resources or is the family home, for the duration of that time, then covered by the tax in this particular section?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I've got a minor problem here in that I believe the hon. member has been speaking with respect to section 2 when I understood that we had moved to 3. If the rules are not seriously transgressed I can assure the member that the problem she has identified is not a problem under this section. Real personal property is not affected by this amendment. If I could assist the member at a time other than committee I would be happy to do so, and if she is still not satisfied then we could discuss it inasmuch as my estimates have not yet been presented. This is designed with respect to specific instances which have created problems for the tax collection branch and do not and could not relate to that, which the member has spoken of.
MS. BROWN: Maybe I could just check with the minister on section (h) again. Is that the section we're dealing with? Bill 12?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes.
MS. BROWN: Oh, I'm sorry. You're quite right. I was dealing with section 2(h). Mr. Chairman, if it will not violate the spirit I would specifically draw to the minister's attention (h)(3.2), where it talks about "...in section 1 includes the employment or utilization of tangible personal property by its owner or his employee in the course of carrying out work or performing services for another person." That's the particular subsection I was referring to, and he's quite quite right, it should have been under section 2. That was my mistake.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member's point about the spirit is well taken.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Since some latitude has been allowed to overcome the difficulty, I again assure the member that this relates to equipment in specific cases. If the member is not satisfied, there will be another opportunity to discuss this, although I'd be pleased to discuss it with her at any time.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I will be moving the amendment standing in my name on the order paper regarding this section. This once again deals with mobile homes and taxation. The reason I introduce this amendment is that I have a number of constituents who've had problems. We were led to believe by the ministry that when this measure came in it would be retroactive to 1979, but when the act actually did come in it was only retroactive to 1980. To utilize an example, I had a lady who is separated and has a couple of children, and lives in a trailer, who had the sheriff pound on her door to collect back taxes. When I actually became involved in the case, I misled the lady in telling her that this amendment would be retroactive to 1979. That was just one case; there were numerous other cases. So I'm now suggesting that the minister would be good enough to accept my amendment to have this section read "retroactive to 1979," and really save these mobile-home owners a great deal of money and a lot of problems.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The government cannot accept the amendment. The member is correct: it was dealt with last year. I think there was a debate at that time on what was then Bill 3, the Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1980. The cost implications are quite significant — that is one reason. In addition, we do not collect tax retroactively; therefore we do not find it possible to refund tax retroactively.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, the Chair is of the opinion that the amendment is out of order in that it affects Crown revenues. I'm sure the member appreciates the predicament of the Chair.
MR. HALL: Mr. Chairman, there's one thing we should always have in mind when we're looking at legislation this year: we've all been made aware of the fact that this is the Year of the Disabled. Medical oxygen is one thing which disabled people need very often. I am not certain — I'm going to make a proposal to the minister — but I think there's some difficulty regarding medical oxygen and the sales tax. I'm not going to belabour the point. I know it's going to be a little tricky if every member in the House gets up and lists a whole series of things he or she would like to see exempted from tax. Nevertheless, there appears to be some difficulty with medical oxygen. In fact, there appears to be some question of why one should pay sales tax on oxygen at all. Be that as it may, the question of medical oxygen should be looked at. I wonder if I could have the minister's assurance that he'll put that on his list of things to examine, i.e. the question of why we have to pay sales tax on medical oxygen if indeed I am correct.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Medical oxygen is exempt from the tax when prescribed by a physician. I'm inclined to agree with the member with respect to why oxygen should be taxed at all. There are some anomalies. There will continue to be anomalies with respect to exemptions. I invite all members of the committee — and I mean this most emphatically — in the course of each year to comment verbally or in writing with respect to those items which they believe should be exempt or — and it's not likely — those which should not be exempt. We very carefully monitor the suggestions which come forward, and where possible we attempt to accede to those requests.
I hope I've answered the question of the hon. second member for Surrey. Medical oxygen, prescribed by a doctor, is sales tax exempt.
MS. SANFORD: I would like to make a short reference to paragraph (z.6), which provides new exemptions from the sales tax: "yard good materials and clothing patterns sold to make clothes." As I understand from the budget speech given by the minister, he had a number of representations from women who wanted to have yard goods exempted so they could make clothing for their children without having to pay sales tax on the yard goods and patterns. Children's clothes are exempt from sales tax. They made a very legitimate point, I think, in suggesting that patterns and materials used for making children's clothing should be exempt. But of course it was impossible for the minister to exempt only materials used
[ Page 5792 ]
for children's clothing, because there is no way the minister would be able to determine how that material was going to be used, so he made a general exemption of material and patterns.
I'm afraid there aren't enough women in the Ministry of Finance. Any woman could have told the minister that you cannot make clothes of any kind, whether children's clothes or adult clothes, unless you have thread, buttons, zippers and all of these other materials required in order to make the clothes that the people were requesting this sales tax exemption for. So he's included materials and patterns, but I'm afraid that women who make clothes for their children in an attempt to save money and avoid the sales tax are still paying tax on some of the essential items they require to make those clothes. I'm hoping that he'll get some more female advice in that ministry to point out that other things are necessary if we're going to have this sort of thing exempt from sales tax.
One other point. A lot of people who knit clothes for their children say: "Why should materials alone be exempt?" I know the minister's going to say: "Oh, another exemption." But if he's going to be consistent, there are a lot of people in this province who knit sweaters for their children to be used at school or to be used at any time. These people find that they have to pay the full sales tax on this material. Undoubtedly they can save money by knitting their children's clothes, but the minister has somehow overlooked yarn goods as part of this exemption.
I would move an amendment, Mr. Chairman, but it would be out of order. So I'm just going to have to ask the minister — I know you're surprised — to please consider woollens, that is yarn goods, as well as the other materials needed in order to make clothes. I'd appreciate a comment from the minister.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I have probably caused a few gray hairs in the consumer taxation branch of the Ministry of Finance with the exemptions I've introduced in 1980 and 1981 since assuming the post of Minister of Finance. I'll cause some more gray hairs next year, because I believe that through careful examination of those items which are exempt from sales tax, we can assist a variety of individuals in our province.
With respect to findings — I've had sufficient advice from those who sew to know that findings and notions is the appropriate word, all the other things which go into it — we saw that that would be very complicated to monitor. It's a question not just of the ease and comfort of the officials in the consumer taxation branch, but of the reality with which various taxes can be levied and the additional cost. Having received the information, I consciously realized that, as the member has observed, to exempt only material for children's clothing would have been completely impractical.
I had two choices: to ignore the requests which had come in particularly over the last year and carry on with the taxation of that material, or expand it. I decided to expand it. Then we did discuss, in fact, notions, findings, buttons, zippers and all the other things which go into clothing made at home for the person doing it or for a child or whoever. I finally had to draw the line somewhere. It may be argued that that was not the place to draw the line, but in view of all the other decisions which were being made with respect to taxation measures and all the activities leading up to budget, I drew the line there.
Similarly, I drew the line with respect to yarn for the knitting of clothing. I can't tell the committee that we will offer further exemptions next year. But I've heard from a number of people who say: "What's the difference? What is the difference between material — manufactured cotton, corduroy or whatever it may be — and yarn which then ends up as a sweater?"
There is another point, getting back to the yard goods and the associated items which go into clothing. We also did not feel that it would be right to move into the area where drapery materials would be exempt from sales tax. I felt that way then and I feel that way now. What are you buying the needles for? Are you buying them to make clothing or are you buying them to make draperies? It's a very gray area. As I say, most of the gray is to be found in the heads of those who administer the tax, because this guy in the portfolio wants to increase the exemptions.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Chairman, I would like to bring to the attention of the minister that it is not just those people, for instance, who knit a lot who feel that they have been left out in this particular proposal; it's also the shop owners. When I go into a woollens shop, she complains about the shop which is just two doors down that sells yard goods which have been exempted from the sales tax. Yet all those who purchase wool in her shop have to pay the full additional 50 percent sales tax, and she objects to it.
Sections 3 to 7 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 12, Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1981, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 189: minister's office, $213,962.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for North...Alberni.
MR. SKELLY: North Alberni? I think that's the way the judge would have done it, if he'd had a chance.
Mr. Chairman, I have a number of issues I'd like to bring up with the Minister of Highways, and I'll do them briefly. First of all, I'd like to thank the minister for his efforts on the west coast of my riding, as well as the efforts of his staff to persuade the federal government to continue management of the Tofino airport and to continue the provision of emergency services at that airport. As the minister is aware, that airport
[ Page 5793 ]
is one of the key transportation facilities on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and thanks to the efforts of his staff and their contact with the federal department, we were able to keep the emergency services out there. The minister also promised to put some money into the airport at Tofino, Mr. Chairman, and possibly he can tell me what progress there is in the development of that airport.
As the minister will know, the number of tourists coming to the Long Beach area of the west coast of Vancouver Island is in the hundreds of thousands every year. We have a poor highway connection between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the west coast, and the minister promised to upgrade that connection last year to the tune of $30 million. It gets more as every year passes, and I would like to know what progress is being made on that section. I know that the minister is four-laning certain sections of the western end of the Tofino highway, and also that he has promised to repave the Spring Cove road. It's a bit of a disappointment to the citizens of my area that he promised that as far back as 1979, and as every year passes he promises it for the next year. In the last letter I have from the minister he is promising to pave that section in 1982.
I know what this government means when they talk about permanence, Mr. Chairman. We found that out in terms of the social services tax — to permanently reduce it means you're going to raise it within a few years. But I hope the minister's promise is a little more etched in stone than the Premier's promise that the tax will be reduced permanently. I'd like to find out from the minister just exactly when we're going to have that section of the Spring Cove road in Ucluelet paved and upgraded, because that was promised as a part of the boundary expansion for the municipality of Ucluelet, and they've been waiting for that now for three years. During the opening part of his estimates the minister made some statements on accidents, planning and that sort of thing. We're accused of not making positive suggestions to this government. The problem is that when you do, they're ignored and you get frustrated and negative. That is a bit of a problem. So I'd like to make an effort again.
Earlier today we were talking to people connected with the road construction industry in British Columbia. They would like to see some long-term planning done for highways in this province so that they know how much money is going to be spent over a period of years. This is done for the Ministry of Forests now that they have a five-year funding program and we know what kind of money will be going into the development of the forests of the province over a five-year period.
If we had that for the Ministry of Highways, then those involved in the construction industry would know exactly when to gear up on equipment spending and when to hire labour. They would know that certain projects would be done at certain times during the five-year plan. Those plans could be revised every year to encompass a new five-year period.
I'd like to pass these papers over to the minister to show him what's done in Saskatchewan. Every year, in advance of the highway construction season in Saskatchewan, they produce a map. The citizens of Saskatchewan will then know which roads are being reconstructed or rebuilt. Tourists can then avoid those sections if there's a problem, and commercial travelers who travel around the province on a regular basis can re-schedule their routes to avoid those areas.
They also publish what they call a "project array," which is a schedule of grading and paving so people will know exactly what's happening in the province. I think it's a good thing to do. The average politician could pick these up the first thing in the year and send them out to his constituents and say: "This is what the Minister of Highways is doing in my riding." It's not a political thing at all. It's something that happens on a regular basis and is scheduled according to a five-year plan.
In order to take some of the political heat out of highway development and perhaps the minister should consider this type of thing for the province of British Columbia. I'm passing these over to the minister as a positive suggestion for him in highway development in this province. I'd like to have the minister's response on that proposal. There's no charge. It's a gift of the government of Saskatchewan.
The minister also expressed his concern about the increasing number of highway accidents and the loss of life and property in the province of B.C., especially the fantastic increase over the last year that brought the death rate and property damage rate from accidents back up to the historic level they occupied back in 1972. That was just before the former Minister of Highways lowered speed limits on rural roads.
Everybody knows that highway deaths and accidents are a combination of speed and impairment, probably alcohol. So we took one of the elements out of that equation, and that was excessive speed. You'll be interested to know that in 1973 and 1974 we had traffic deaths totalling 833. After the speed limit was lowered in 1976 those deaths dropped to 635. In other words, we saved about 200 lives simply by lowering the speeds in the province of B.C.
When this government came to office, the rural highway speeds were increased again. At the same time, the traffic deaths have started to go back up. They're back up at historic levels: 722 in 1977 and 823 in 1980. I'd like to ask the minister if over his term in office he has examined the effect of increased speed limits on highway deaths in the province of B.C.
We congratulate the Social Credit government for bringing in seatbelt legislation.
We congratulate them for bringing in Counterattack. That's the way I think policing should go in this province. People should be examined as to their condition to drive, whether their cars are in good mechanical shape, whether they're wearing seatbelts and that type of thing. I wonder if the minister has separated out of these conditions the effect of his increasing speed limits throughout the province on increasing traffic deaths back to their historic levels.
At the same time the minister said he was going to get tough on people who consistently violate the law, people who were caught driving while impaired, and that type of thing. But I think the punitive approach is only one approach to the problem, and I would like to suggest an alternative. It was one I discovered when I went down to Queensland, Australia, a few years ago. In Queensland they live a richer life in their legislative assembly than we do here, Mr. Chairman. For example, you would have a chauffeur if you were the Speaker of the House in Queensland. One day when I was visiting the House in Queensland the Speaker gave me his driver, who took me out to some of the beaches north of Brisbane, and I asked him some questions about how they licensed their drivers and cars and how he managed to get a job as the driver for the Speaker of the Queensland National Assembly. He was a Labour Party member and the Speaker in the Queensland National Assembly, or whatever they call it,
[ Page 5794 ]
was a Liberal National Party member. He said that down there a probationary driver will have a P (for probation) placed on his licence plate so everybody knows who the guy is, and if he's been involved in a traffic infraction or had his licence lifted recently in a drinking and driving case they'll attach a letter to his licence plate so that everybody on the street knows they should avoid this guy like the plague because he doesn't have a very good driving record. It's also a bit of a punishment, because Australians like to feel themselves very competent physically. To have one of these things on your licence plate is very embarrassing, and you'll do whatever you can to get rid of it, including driving within the law.
On the other hand they reward excellent drivers. This is the part I'm trying to convey to the minister. On an excellent driver's car they have an M plate, which is master driver. This is a person who has a record of no accidents, hasn't violated the law, doesn't have speeding tickets and has probably taken defensive driver or professional driving courses. I would encourage the minister to also reward the good drivers, rather than using strictly the punitive approach to driving infractions and bad drivers. This is a way of encouraging people to do up their seatbelts, obey the law, keep their cars in good mechanical condition and not to drink and drive. I support the minister's efforts to use the punitive approach and take drivers who are consistent and flagrant violators off the road, but I would like to see the minister use the other approach as well — that excellent drivers who wish to have their reputation made known to other drivers should be rewarded. I would offer that as a positive suggestion to the minister so that he can't accuse me of always being negative.
I'm not concerned about being called negative by that minister, because he came up to my riding during the last election, accused me of being negative all over the block, and I got a higher vote than I've ever had. In other words, the people felt there was a lot to be negative about. I was doing what the people wanted me to do in that case. And they still do, because they think this government is a lot to be negative about.
For a little while I'd like to talk, and possibly make some positive suggestions, about highway planning and integrating highway planning with planning in the forest industry, the provision of energy and the distribution of energy throughout the province. One example of where the lack of coherent, integrated planning on the part of this government is causing serious transportation problems is on central Vancouver Island. Let me just outline the problem for the minister so that he can take some steps to clear it up. This is a short speech with many positive recommendations. Here's an example. Chips are being hauled all the way from the Quesnel area in the minister's riding down to the coast across the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait, over central Vancouver Island to Port Alberni and also up to Elk Falls. The reason these chips are directed that way is that they're bringing additional electrical energy to Vancouver Island over the Cheekye-Dunsmuir powerline. The resources are simply not on the Island. They have to be brought in to Vancouver Island, because at the present time we're using up virtually all the fibre resources we have. So we're now bringing the chips in from the interior. We're bringing the power in from Squamish and processing those chips in Port Alberni and Elk Falls on central Vancouver Island.
The result of this is that we have chip trucks going over the Alberni highway about once every 15 minutes all through the day and night. We also have the Pacific Rim National Park at the west coast end of the highway. During the summer we're going to have hundreds of thousands of tourists, as I pointed out to the minister before. Every one of those tourists will be hung up in a long line behind chip trucks hauling chips all the way from Quesnel and Williams Lake into Port Alberni.
To me it seems bad planning to have observed the availability of a pulp and paper complex in Port Alberni and Elk Falls and to have provided extra electrical energy to those complexes without any natural resources being available to them, except resources which could be hauled over the highway system of the province, thus causing congestion, frustration, increasing the risk of accidents and forcing the Minister of Highways to upgrade those highways to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars, which virtually amounts to a subsidy to the companies who are processing those chips — as is the electricity. As a result, you have a situation which doesn't make any economic sense either to the Minister of Highways or to the people of the province as a whole who have to provide the electricity and the chips.
I'm just wondering whether there's a system of integrated planning whereby the minister is made aware of what problems are going to be created on the transportation end of the equation when Hydro agrees to provide electricity to those large mills on Vancouver Island, when the Forest Service agrees that those chips can be provided to those large mills on Vancouver Island, and yet transportation over the public highway system is inadequate to handle those chips. It's not much of a problem in the wintertime, but during the summer, and what they call the shoulder season in the tourist industry, it's going to be a painful and frustrating problem. People are going to get frustrated, attempt to pass where it's illegal and put the whole area at risk for accidents and for loss of life and property. What is the planning involvement of the Ministry of Highways?
I'd like to ask the minister another question along the same lines. The minister is responsible for B.C. Rail and, at least in a policy way, for transportation in general throughout the province. We have a railway on Vancouver Island that's grossly underutilized — the Esquimalt to Nanaimo railway system. Does the minister have the power — if not the statutory power, at least the persuasive power — to talk to the forest and transportation companies involved about getting the chips off the highway system and onto that underutilized railway system? Here is an opportunity for us to get rid of that large industrial traffic on the highways, which in the summer are fully or over utilized, and get it onto a railway system which is underutilized. Has the minister investigated the problem? Does he have the power to order the chips off the highway and onto the railway system? We don't want the chips taken away from central Vancouver Island. The people at Elk Falls and the people at Port Alberni want to continue processing those chips into pulp and paper. We would like to have the transportation problem eliminated. We feel there is an underutilized system, in the form of the E&N Railway, to do it. We would like the minister to use his persuasive powers on the forest companies and on the CPR to try to remove that traffic from the highways.
The alternative is spending a tremendous amount of public money to expand the highway system, taking up a lot of farmland and residential land. It could become a serious problem in that area of central Vancouver Island. The best alternative appears to me to be the railroads.
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The other question I was going to ask the minister today has to do with the spraying program of the Ministry of Highways. I understand that spraying programs will take place along highway rights-of-way in a number of areas to remove certain types of vegetation. It was my impression that the minister would eliminate, as far as possible, the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides within his ministry. Has that been the case? Has the ministry cut out the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides? If so, what alternatives have been developed? Is he looking into vegetation control alternatives that don't involve the use of chemicals? I'd like the minister to outline his vegetation control program and answer the question of whether they are still using pesticides and herbicides.
This is the final part of my question with respect to rural roads in the Alberni valley. I've been at the minister a number of times over a number of years on this issue. During his introductory remarks on these estimates, I think he pointed out that about 90 percent of the roads in the Alberni district were paved; I don't think the percentage is that high. Unfortunately the percentage is distributed this way: even if 100 percent were paved, the 8 percent that isn't paved is included in spots along the roads that are paved. That becomes a problem. As I mentioned before, the minister is known as "Pot-hole Fraser" in some sections of my riding.
MR. LEA: Did you steal my name?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Lea, Lea. Pot-hole Lea. You've got the wrong name.
MR. SKELLY: I would love to have the wrong name. I would love to say no, Fraser doesn't have a single pot-hole in the province. Some of the pot-holes are as big as the Fraser. This minister is getting a bad name in my riding; I'd like him to improve it. The problem is those rural roads in the Alberni valley. I'll name them for him, but he probably knows them by heart: Beaver Creek road, Cherry Creek road, Sproat Lake road, McCoy Lake road — you can probably think of a few that I've missed. Those roads are covered with pot-holes.
The maintenance program on that road is inadequately funded; your staff in Alberni admits that there is inadequate funding. They say it would take an extra million dollars just to clean up the backlog and get the maintenance program working on a year-by-year basis. What plans does the ministry have to provide additional money to that area, in order to upgrade the road facilities so they can be maintained on a year-by-year basis? There is so little money expended in that area now that the roads are deteriorating more and more on a year-by-year basis. I'd like the minister to answer that question.
The last thing I'd like to ask about is the Alberni Cumberland road. The minister puts an average of about $50,000 a year into that road. It's helpful: it cleans off some of the corners that make it difficult for car travel; it removes some drainage problems by installing culverts here and there.
I'm wondering what plans the minister has this year for the Alberni-Cumberland road. As I've pointed out year after year to the minister — and I've pointed it out to you, Mr. Chairman; but I've never seen you on the road — this road is developing into part of a circle route. People are even commuting to work on this road from Cumberland to Port Alberni. They require annual upgrading of the road. I would like to know what plans the minister has for that section.
HON. MR. FRASER: With the consent of the committee, I would go back to the member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace); yesterday we adjourned abruptly during her list of questions. I'll speedily cover those. First of all, on hazardous cargo, which the member brought up, we are in negotiation with the government of Canada. As you know, they passed legislation, and we in this province have said that we would cooperate with it. We have not yet decided in which way we are going to cooperate. But the federal bill is in place, and we are now dealing with the government of Canada as to how we can support this legislation. whether it's concerning rail or road.
You're correct; nothing has happened. I might say, Mr. Chairman, I don't think anything will happen. In my opinion, at the rate that negotiations go on. I'm really now talking about the ten provinces, plus the government of Canada. I don't think that anything in the way of a law being in place, and which could be enforced, will happen for at least six months. That's my experience, but I'm taking a very minimum calculated guess at that.
Regarding the manufacturing of licence plates, this is a good question. I've looked at this since I've had this responsibility. We've tried to get them manufactured in our province in the quantities involved. Nobody seems to be interested. We have tried to get them established here and have used the Ministry of Industry and Small Business Development to help encourage it, but still with no luck.
The Deputy Premier and the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) asked us two years ago to look to the disabled having the project of making licence plates. They have been approached, but it's my understanding that they said they can't handle it. So what we do is go by tender call for licence plate requirements, personalized as well as ordinary, and the business goes to the low bidder. It has been in Montreal, but I believe that firm is looking at moving. We're now in discussion with a branch in Calgary and we're trying to convince them to come to British Columbia instead. So that is the issue regarding the manufacture of licence plates.
Apparently I owe you an apology regarding a letter I didn't answer. I had it here, and in fact the letter was answered. I might say that our office handles a thousand letters a month, and we reply to that many per month. I had the information here. The chamber of commerce were the people who wrote the letter. I believe you sent a copy up, and I believe they also wrote the letter to the Minister of Tourism. That ministry sent the letter to us for a reply and we did so in early August 1980. The apology you deserve is that you were not sent a copy of the reply. That's what I apologize for. That was a distinct oversight. The issue, of course, was the Crofton Saltspring Island run, and the reply was negative. We didn't intend to upgrade the service. They wanted longer hours on that ferry.
I haven't got an answer for you on the accountants. We'll call them about putting Powell River Bridge, French Creek Bridge and so on under your riding. I agree with you they shouldn't be there. I imagine the accountants have a reason for it, but I think we can find other places to put them. Maybe they can charge them all to the Cariboo, Mr. Chairman, since Cariboo is getting blamed for everything. As a matter of fact, when I looked at your observations I found there was a bridge under the Cariboo riding that was in Cowichan-Malahat as well.
[ Page 5796 ]
I have a note here about the Honeymoon Bay park and something about the relocation of the road. I just made a note about it. I haven't got all the replies to that. The Crofton road is still under study, and that's the reply to that. I don't know where to stop or start on the Lake Cowichan road, but I'll give my version of it. We wanted to put a seal coat on this road last year and proceeded to do so, but I think an error was made and a grinding process took place that ground off more material than it should have. From there on, we were in difficulty. Only now, after attempting the seal coat that failed, are we paving the road with hot-mix. In hindsight, I guess that's what should have happened in the first place. But I might say in defence of seal coat that we use hundreds of miles of it every year in the province. Seal coating is what the engineers use to get further life out of our pavement, and under really good weather conditions it's excellent and might add five to ten years to the pavement base by putting a proper asphalt and rock cover on it and sealing the water out. That's the point of it. But if we get into weather difficulties while applying it, we've got a real mess. The ministry is looking at cutting down seal coating to areas with drier weather where we won't get caught with weather changes, but it has been a successful program.
The job on the Lake Cowichan road is one that definitely failed. I guess by the time we're finished — from start to finish — we're looking at a cost of $2.5 million. We started to put the seal coat down and are now going to permanent hotmix for the pavement on that road. I'm not so sure whether they're paving it or not, but they should be — that is, with hot-mix. I might say, when I mention the cost, Mr. Chairman, that that hasn't anything to do with the cost of the claims that ensued from the failed seal-coat job. I don't know whether anybody has got a handle on the exact costs or not, because we're still dealing with them.
HON. MR. FRASER: I have that information here somewhere, but I just can't find the note regarding the claims for vehicles. You're asking when it will be resolved. I've got the answer here somewhere, but I've got too many papers here. I'll come back to it.
To the member for Burnaby-Willingdon (Mr. Lorimer) regarding relocation of our facility in his area: we're still looking for an alternative. Our landlord is the B.C. Buildings Corporation, and they are pursuing a, site. He's right that we want to move out of there in Burnaby-Willingdon, and BCBC is involved to provide the land and buildings for the alternative facility. We're also dealing with the District of Burnaby regarding the relocation of that maintenance yard. We found an alternative, I might say, and the District of Burnaby turned us down on it; they didn't want us to go to the alternative. So we're still pursuing another site.
Dealing with the member for Alberni (Mr. Skelly), I haven't got the information here yet on Tofino airport, but I appreciate your remarks. You know, we did do quite a bit of work to stop the government of Canada from closing the Tofino airport.
I always enjoy the planning side of things, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate that we have a planning division and everything, but our plans all seem to go out the window when we start to tie the planning to dollars. Our government doesn't give us a fixed five-year budget. It's pretty difficult, and you can't plan around a general principle. But when you're talking five years, you might not attain your objectives. I agree that planning is certainly necessary, but whether that will be backed up by reality when you get into the financial side is another thing.
MR. SKELLY: What about in forestry? They do it there.
HON. MR. FRASER: Yes, they've done it in forestry. I realize that the government has laid that on a five-year program, but we certainly haven't done it in Highways. We do it in theory, but then we can't deliver if there is a shortage of funds.
Regarding accidents, I'd like to hear from all members of the House regarding what's going on in their highways system regarding accidents, but I don't subscribe to your theory that accidents have increased because of the increased speed limits that we've brought in. I might say that where we have increased the speed limits in the province, it's only where we've improved the roads first. I particularly refer to passing lanes and so on that we've been putting in. On our arterial two-lane roads we have 80 kilometres per hour where our engineers think it's safe. We also have sections posted at 90 kilometres per hour; that's really the only change we've made in speed limits, on two-lane arterials where the engineers consider the sections safe, and this is probably after a repaving job or in an area that hasn't shown any previous accidents. I don't think the two are intertwined at all.
Yes, it is correct that in my opening remarks I said we were bringing in legislation to toughen up — as you say, "punitive." I guess that is to some degree. I might make this observation. I think we've been nice guys for quite a while. We've gone through that process, and there are some motorists who have responded and some who haven't. You'll also find in the new legislation provision for a provisional licence for new drivers and drivers who have been suspended. They're not going to get their licences back. Depending on the severity of their penalties, they're going to get a provisional licence. I guess I would say that the good drivers get rewarded by not having to bother with court or anything else. They also get rewarded through ICBC. That's the observation I have there. They get a consideration there with their better driving record.
MR. SKELLY: They go up but they don't go up as much. Some reward!
HON. MR. FRASER: That's correct.
You hit on another subject which hasn't come up in debate, and that's chip trucks. I'm glad my colleague the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) is here. I'm not alarmed, but I'm concerned about the number of chip trucks. I like to see them because of the jobs they create, but for the life of me I can't understand, as you say, why they're hauling chips from Quesnel or Williams Lake in the Cariboo to Port Alberni by truck. Not only, as you say, do we have a railroad on Vancouver Island under capacity, the E&N, but we have our own railroad, the BCR, from Quesnel and Williams Lake to tidewater at Squamish and North Vancouver. These chip trucks are running parallel to them for about 600 miles. I can't understand it. That's my answer. I've asked the industry. By the way, we have no way of ruling them off the road. They buy the licence and adhere to the laws of the country, and there's nothing wrong with that. But on the economics of it I can't understand how they can compete with the railroads
[ Page 5797 ]
that have chip cars and all the rest of it. Apparently they can or they wouldn't be doing it.
I think the other thing is that in a lot of cases where chips are picked up by truck, once they've got it loaded they figure it doesn't cost much more to keep going and take it to where the chips are eventually going to be consumed — in other words, rather than load it at the chip pile, then haul it to the railroad siding and have the railroad take it, and then have to offload it again. That's an answer I got from the industry.
It's all over our province. They're also hauling chips from Kitimat to Prince George and Prince George to Kitimat, I believe. I guess it's nice, it creates jobs and that, but I don't know how the market stands it. When one of the big units has a problem and rolls over — we've had that during this last winter — it closes our highway completely for a period of time. Generally speaking they do a good job, but because of weather changes and so on.... It doesn't matter how good anybody is, with the elements against them they're going to get into difficulties. That's my observation. We have no way of.... I suppose we could — again, you use and I use the word "punitive" — increase their fees, but we have no intention of doing that.
We were into spraying programs earlier. You asked about certain chemicals. I'm not sure of that, Mr. Member, but I am sure we don't spray anywhere in the province if we haven't got a permit from the pesticide control board. Just like you or me, Highways has to get clearance from them. They're the bosses who control that. A note has just been handed me saying that under noxious weed control one permit has been received this year for the application of 22 pounds of Tordon 22K and 176 pounds of Round-up to control Canadian thistle and knapweed between Parksville and Duncan. The right-of-way area involved is approximately 20 acres.
We are doing some paving on Highway 4 in the Kennedy Lake area. We're calling the tender in July. We do keep going on your roads. You didn't give us any credit for the guardrail we put up. That was a safety measure on your road. I know your people there appreciated that. But you want to remember that in Highways there's always something to do. We don't ever get all caught up.
The last-but-not-least item is the famous Alberni-Cumberland road. I've never heard of a road that's more important to communities than that one. Of course the members know that this road is through tree-farm licences — it's not a public road. In cooperation with the Forest Service and the company we are getting a little done each year, but I was very disappointed to find everything we did last year was flooded out in December 1980. So we have to start all over again, but we intend to spend about another $50,000 there this year. We want to keep up with it, but there's this conflict with the TFL that the companies are not too happy about. We intend to pave the Spring Cove road later. I don't know what "later" means, though.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Chairman, I know the government is looking for positive suggestions from the opposition, so I'm going to give the minister a number of positive suggestions affecting the constituency of Comox. He's going to have such a list of positive suggestions, I think it's going to take him a number of weeks to even sort them out.
I think the minister knows that the most congested section of highway on the entire Island right now is in the Courtenay area. There is only one bridge that crosses the Courtenay River. My colleague the member for North Island (Mr. Gabelmann) mentioned the other day the length of time it takes him to get home now because of that hour's wait he has to endure trying to get through the Courtenay area.
The second bridge is under construction, and we're very pleased about that, particularly since this summer the 1981 Summer Games are going to be held in Courtenay. There's some feeling of desperation among the games committee members. I would like assurance from the minister this afternoon that that bridge and the approaches will be ready by the end of August so that when we have an additional 3,000 or 4,000 people suddenly arriving in Courtenay, we're not going to have two-hour lineups, rather than the one-hour lineups we now face.
I would also like to make a few comments about the study that came out the other day with respect to the inland route from Mud Bay through to Menzies Bay. I generally concur with the remarks made by the member for North Island. There's just no way that that highway between Courtenay and Campbell River can accommodate the kind of traffic that's predicted in the study. They're talking about an increase of 50 percent in the next five years and 100 percent in ten years.
The minister himself has admitted to me in various speeches — I make a speech on this road every year and the minister has indicated it to me — that this section of highway is one of the most dangerous in the province. Every year, we get an increase in the volume of traffic on that road between Courtenay and Campbell River. Five years from now, it will be a 50 percent increase. There is no way we can accommodate that kind of increase on that road, even though at the moment they're putting on a new coat of paving. I think they have taken out a couple of the worst of the corners. But the minister knows that, and I would like very much for the minister to assure us this afternoon that he is not talking about ten years for the completion of that inland route but four to five years at the outside. Can the minister indicate this afternoon when he will make a decision on the route selection? I think that the middle route selection as outlined in the study itself is the one that I would tend to prefer, as my colleague from North Island has also indicated.
It seems to be the one that has the least impact on the environment, in terms of the agricultural land. It seems to me it also would not have the same impact on the current population in the area, because if you're going to build it right next to the one that's already there, you're going to have great difficulties in terms of acquiring property. When can we anticipate that the route will be selected and the road will be finished? I'm hoping that the minister can give us some assurance at this point that he's not talking about ten years down the road, as he has on a number of occasions when he's been in the constituency of Comox.
It's a pleasure to have two MLAs fighting for this road now. With the redistribution, my colleague for North Island and I will continue to raise this issue with the minister and hopefully get the kind of action that is urgently required in order to put in that inland route.
On a new subject, I was really quite pleased to note that this year in their contract proposals the ferry workers are negotiating for improvements for the passengers who ride on those ferries. This year the contract proposals for the ferry workers includes improvements in food services on the ferries and in accommodations for those people who are waiting for ferries in these long lineups. This is rather a novel approach. I'm really hopeful that those ferry workers will be successful in negotiating what we as MLAs on this side of the
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House have been calling for year after year since this government took over the operation of the ferry system again in 1976.
I have the same number of pot-holes that the MLA for Alberni (Mr. Skelly), the MLA for North Island and the others have been raising. A positive suggestion is to increase the amount of money that goes to maintenance now so that we can cut down on the number of complaints that are coming in with respect to those unpaved roads.
Related to unpaved roads, the other complaint that I get a lot is that the number of times that the crews are out oiling the dusty roads is reduced year after year. I appreciate that the cost of oil is escalating at a horrendous rate. Unfortunately the budget for maintenance, which includes oiling, is not increasing at the same rate as the increase in the costs of maintenance. As a result, the poor crews in the various constituencies of the province are forced to cut back on the amount of maintenance work. That's why we're here today raising the question of improvements in terms of the roads that are not paved.
I'm wondering if the minister or the ministry has undertaken to do any research which might cut down on the dust on these unpaved roads by using some other product other than oil. We all know what's happening to the price of oil. We can all see very easily that that, price is going to continue to increase at a tremendous rate. I'm wondering if any research is being done to find some alternative product that might be utilized to keep down the dust on the roads.
AN HON. MEMBER: What about blacktop?
MS. SANFORD: Well, blacktop would be the best answer, of course. A positive suggestion I made earlier was that they increase the number of roads that are being paved and put in new inland routes, etc.
The other brief question I would like to raise relates to the Nanoose section which is now under construction. They're four-laning the section, and I fall to understand why it is taking those crews so long to get that four-laning done. It seems to me that it's been going on for at least two years. I know it's a big job to change the route and four-lane, but they just get one section done and then they have to undo it again, because they forgot to put culverts in or some other problem. I'm sure that this particular section is taking more time than most sections of construction in the province. I'm wondering if the minister might have any comments as to why it is taking so long to four-lane the section at Nanoose.
HON. MR. FRASER: I have a few quick answers some good news and some bad. First of all, Madam Member, you can phone home and tell them that the bridge will be open by July 31, 1981.
MS. SANFORD: What about the approaches?
HON. MR. FRASER: Everything will be ready — the bridge and the approaches — by July 31, 1981. Please tell them that it would have been open a year ago if we hadn't had so much public controversy over it. I'm happy to report to you that this large project will be completed. Give the credit to the contractors. We had two excellent contractors for the approach as well as the bridge. While they've had some problems with floods and so on, they're still ahead of schedule and intend to have it all cleaned up by the end of July 1981.
The inland road. I can't say that it will not be ten years but only five. The route selection and so on.... The consultant's report is out there now for discussion. I go back to the discussion we had about the Courtenay Bridge. The discussion took a lot longer than building it, after we got it settled. I don't want to get caught in that. The member for North Island and you have stated your position. That's great. I hope that happens at the other elected levels: locally, Courtenay, Campbell River and the regional district. Then I think we could get on and be able to give some definitive answers.
Regarding pot-holes and the maintenance fund increase: there is an increase in maintenance funds this year which is probably about equivalent to inflation. I'm looking at the global picture for the province, and I believe we're up $15 million or $17 million. We now have almost $200 million for maintenance in the province. That's gone up substantially since we've been government. I would also say that one problem we have is the terrific escalation of oil that you're talking about. We have not increased the funds to look after the cost of that particular product. It's 10 percent or 12 percent across the board. The price of oil has gone up more than that, and it's going to continue to. Research goes on continuously to find something different. Of course, we don't use oil in all cases. We use calcium chloride, as well, for a dust retardant. Of course, the answer we all want to see is permanent paving.
Regarding the last job, Mr. Chairman, the member was a bit out of her riding. You're referring to four-laning north of Nanaimo to Nanoose.
MS. SANFORD: It's my riding.
HON. MR. FRASER: Oh, is it? Pardon me.
That's a very large contract of about $5 million. I understand that that job should be wound up by the end of July. I question that, because that contract has been tied up with weather and there are other contractors in there twinning bridges. I only hope that it's all complete and buttoned up by the end of July. I think at least that the new road will be paved.
That contract fooled everybody. When they started off they opened the whole country up — right now, overnight, within 60 days — and everything seems to be slow since then. But they're still within time of their contract.
MR. HALL: There's some mumbling over there. Mr. Chairman, there are 50 ridings in the House and there are probably going to be 49 speeches, so a lot of people should settle down, listen and learn about what's going on.
MR. HALL: You never listen to anything, anyway, so what difference does it make?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'll ask all members to come to order.
MR. HALL: The word "ignorant" comes to mind. Mr. Chairman, I'm going to have a little conversation with the minister on my own. That's probably the best way to handle this whole affair, having waited patiently since 2 o'clock.
I want to congratulate the minister for the improvements in the traffic congestion around the Massey Tunnel and the approaches on either side which affect the southern part of
[ Page 5799 ]
my riding. Being one of the few members whose families travel through the tunnel early in the morning, when the three northern lane procedures are in operation, I want to tell him that it has certainly been quite successful to date. I have a couple of questions about it, though.
It has been my observation and the observation of people I talk to that since the unfortunate accident six or seven weeks after it was started — certainly the accident wasn't attributable to the fact that there are three northbound lanes in operation; perhaps the accident was made more severe by the fact that one of the two vehicles slewed into what was then an oncoming lane — there has been a reduction in traffic that selects the third lane coming from White Rock and south Surrey. That's just a feeling. I can't back it up because I don't have access to those little black boxes that you may or may not use in that area. There must be a choice to make because commercial vehicles aren't allowed to go through the west side of the tunnel — the side of the tunnel that will have the opposing lane in operation. You can't simply confine all the White Rock and south Surrey traffic into that lane; there must be a choice. I think most people are making the choice to come onto what they consider to be the safer side or the safer choice. I wonder if the minister would look into that.
The second point is that the backup of the southbound traffic in what is now a single lane is stretching about threequarters of the way to the Westminster Highway. It's now almost to Blundell, as my memory serves me. I'm wondering how long it's going to be and what predetermination the ministry may have made as to when it's going to be sufficiently tough and the pressure is going to be on to have to reverse your field altogether. The staff of the ministry is now moving in as efficiently and quickly as they can in the mornings to cease the operation of the third lane. They're now getting into operation perhaps as soon as 8:05 or 8:10. I'm wondering what the parameters of that were.
The reason I ask is that I thought the minister told me — he may have misled me in a not-very-private conversation in a ferry car-park not too long ago — he was thinking of changing the routing of the Queen of Alberni from Tsawwassen to Departure Bay instead of to Swartz Bay. If we follow this through and that truck ferry is going to go from Tsawwassen to Departure Bay, what the minister is really saying is that he wants commercial traffic to come from Vancouver to Tsawwassen instead of going from Vancouver over the Lions Gate to West Vancouver. That means that commercial traffic is going to be increased in the early hours of the morning. If that's the case, I suggest — and I'm no traffic engineer or planner — the backup going through the tunnel is going to be heavier on the southbound side than it is at the moment. So I'm just suggesting to him that he's got to race against time in that way. I just want to point out that while that success is there now, it's getting thicker and thicker on the southbound side and it's only a matter of time, I think, before the pressure is going to be on. That third lane isn't going to work much longer.
Changing the subject completely to the Pattullo Bridge, there's a handrail on both sides of that bridge. If an accident happens — only a minor accident — a piece of the railing of the bridge can easily be knocked out and fall from the bridge. A great expanse of that railing on both sides of the river is over roadway, over pedestrians and over other travel portions of roads and highways. Only a small portion of that bridge is actually over the river. That constitutes a danger for the traffic underneath. Obviously we can't do much about the tragic event of a whole vehicle careening through that side fencing of a bridge — I don't think that has happened yet. But we can certainly do something about portions of the guard-rail falling following an accident. I'm suggesting to the minister that he examine the possibility of running a cable through that topmost part of the fence. That would at least keep the broken part of the fence on the Pattullo Bridge and not on top of somebody or somebody's car.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
Next question: when is there going to be a testing station in Surrey other than the one in Cloverdale? I've got correspondence going back three years. I can't get the dimensions of my riding through to somebody in the ministry. I went the whole circuit with the minister, who then told me that improvements would be made to serve the good people of Surrey — and they were going to be made in Cloverdale. Most people in Surrey don't even consider that Cloverdale is in Surrey. I'm sorry. I hope that won't get out of this chamber, but it's true. They don't really believe it's in Surrey. Certainly the 20,000 people who live within a one-mile radius of Guildford don't think that Cloverdale's in Surrey. Whalley doesn't believe that Cloverdale is in Surrey. Even the people in Newton don't think that Cloverdale's in Surrey. If somebody can give me a badge, I think I can speak on behalf of the member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) today. There's nobody in North Delta or Sunshine Hills who believes that Cloverdale is serving them either. So, Mr. Minister, we've got to get something to do with testing vehicles north of the flats, north of 62nd Avenue, north of 72nd Avenue, north of 88th Avenue. I really want it in North Surrey, and I'm sure that the member for Delta may even put his seat on the line again and decide he wants it in North Delta. I don't really care whether it's there or not, as long as it's north of 72nd Avenue.
The next thing is that I appreciate the straightforwardness of the minister yesterday, the day before and again today — a hint of forthcoming legislation. But he really is teasing us a little. I don't want to remonstrate with him at all, but he's opening up a whole bag of something or other by some of those remarks he made about forthcoming legislation. I don't know how to deal with it, because some of the things he's mentioned have really got some very draconian measures in them that I'm tempted to respond to, but I'd be out of order, and I don't want to delay the estimates going through. But I hope the minister will allow us, and will respond to us in a private way by correspondence. I don't know whether legislation is coming in this session or not. If it is.... He's nodding his head and saying, yes, it is. In that case, we can await the legislation coming in.
Mr. Minister, I would suggest that we'd best leave that one alone and let's deal with it when it does come in. He's raised it three times and I commend him for his interest in and his anxiety about some of the problems. But it raises almost as many questions when you do it this way. I would like to say to him that impounding the vehicles of offenders and talking about probationary licences at the moment is a bit frustrating for the people on this side of the House. They can't get back at the minister by asking questions, particularly when certain members on this side of the House have spent a lot of time — sometimes longer than this member's been in the House — talking about safety and things they believe in just as sincerely as the minister.
[ Page 5800 ]
I might also say that I'm impressed with the minister's record in matters to do with safety and trucking in this province. I'm one of the members who have read the history of the Fraser family in this regard. I've seen pictures of the minister and his brother and his family in the trucking industry, and pictures of the minister as a young man beside 1940, 1930 and 1920 vehicles.
HON. MR. HEINRICH: Not that far back!
MR. HALL: Oh, they were antique vehicles that he was showing off. I know that the minister knows all the tricks there are in the trucking industry. That's why I feel compelled to say to the minister that he's got to do more than he's doing now — because he does know some of the games that are played. For two years he's milked the announcements about unsafe loads, and about how horrified he is to see the state of some of those trucks.
I was making speeches when Mr. Bonner was the member for Cariboo. Not many members here even know that Mr. Bonner was the member for Cariboo. I was making speeches about truck safety when there was a Minister of Commercial Transport in this province. But I'll tell you that truck safety is no better now than it was then, and it may be worse. I think I share that view with the minister.
I want to know what the minister is doing about it. Is he going to arm his staff with short penknives that cut through an air hose and tell them to say to the driver of an unsafe vehicle: "You're not going to go any further. Enough is enough. Get off to the side of the road and don't go any further." That's what the FCC does in the States, and I think their legislation is getting softer. I agree with some of the remarks of the minister about that.
I think we've now got to really deal with inspection of commercial vehicles. I said before and will say again that the establishment of specific inspection areas on a day-to-day basis in five points in this province would get 95 percent of the commercial vehicles — using our weigh scales, with competent people to do it. Where is our ministry, where is the Motor Carrier Commission, where is ICBC encouraging the industry to set up programs of preventive maintenance that would make sure there is a reward for preventive maintenance, a reward for slowing down, and a reward for making sure those vehicles go five miles per hour slower? That means efficiency, savings and safety. I think those are some of the things the minister's got to tackle on truck safety.
I'm as appalled and horrified as he is about some of the figures he's released. We should all be as appalled as the minister has been in his statements, and know that this has been going around for a long time. It's just simply getting worse, and the myth that somehow the truck driver is the knight of the road and the safest person around has got to be finished. He's not the same man that shared all those long night drives with the Minister of Transportation and Highways 30 years ago. The whole industry has changed. I was the member that got into trouble in here when I pointed out that truck drivers were taking amphetamines to keep up with the arduous schedules that were being foisted on them by employers. That's what's happening in the province today, and I think we should get after that. Enough of this public relations attack on truck safety. Let's get some legislation.
Two more points, Mr. Chairman. The statistics the minister produces were of particular interest to you and I, living in the two most dangerous areas to drive a motor vehicle in British Columbia, possibly in Canada. I would like those statistics somehow broken down by municipality, or at least by electoral district. Those of us who are interested in what is happening about accidents and road safety in our districts need that kind of information. We write to our districts and police people, and we're not getting the kind of information that's available quickly through the ministry if the statistics are kept correctly. I do urge the minister to provide, if he can — so we can all take part in the campaign about safety — those statistics presented on a municipal or electoral basis. Those figures we've got in your report received the other day need to be broken down even further.
One of the most dangerous places in my riding is the corner of 104th and King George Highway. There are more traffic lights there than there are Christmas lights on most people's Christmas trees, but we're still killing each other at the corner of 104th and King George Highway. There are still more uncontrolled intersections in Surrey than there should be. I have a simple question to the minister about that. With regard to B.C. Railway and the B.C. Hydro railway, are there any unsignalized railway intersections — intersections that are not controlled by an electrically operated warning signal remaining in the lower mainland?
Now my two final questions. I'm becoming increasingly, perhaps irritated is the best word, by the assumption made by commercial companies that they can park or leave commercial vehicles on the side of highways any time they like and just leave them for days on end. They leave them at the ferries. At the totem pole area at the end of the Tsawwassen causeway, trailers belonging to commercial vehicles frequently are left there for days on end. I'm all in favour of trade and commerce, but that carries a responsibility and charge for it. Just as I wouldn't like a heavy goods vehicle parked outside my house — there are bylaws preventing that — I think there should be provincial bylaws to prevent vehicles like that being parked at the ends of causeways where we've erected information booths and where tourists come and fishermen come to launch their boats. Recently a new development has been happening. As we come off the ferries at Swartz Bay, on the right-hand side of the road as we come round the corner, just a mile away from Swartz Bay coming towards the city of Victoria, these very wide mobile homes, usually half a unit, are being left at the side of the road for up to two and three days at a time waiting for somebody to come back and pick them up. Again, that's complete ignorance, in my view, of what should happen. Those people should be told to get those things to a commercial establishment and pay some rent. There are lots of places along there that would be glad of the business. They shouldn't just be allowed to park on the sides of the highway.
Lastly, in terms of highway beautification generally, would the minister have a look at the possibility of cleaning up the Cloverdale works yard.... I'm not suggesting for a moment that it is a mess, I'm saying could we use some of the seedlings we grow at Green Timbers, further north in my riding, and plant some trees around the Cloverdale works yard to cover up what is a most unattractive view around that works yard. Just have some trees planted around the outside perimeter. Thank you very much.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, to the second member for Surrey. I have a few questions to reply to here. I appreciate a lot of his observations. Regarding a testing station in the Surrey area. It's my understanding that plans for
[ Page 5801 ]
that were cancelled some time ago, and there is no plan to put a testing station in the Surrey area. There was, at one time, I think, before my time, but that was cancelled, and they're going to concentrate on roadside inspections. That's the information I have there.
Regarding truck safety, Mr. Chairman, we can get press where it shows the horror stories where 50 percent of the commercial vehicles don't pass these mechanical inspections, but what are we going to do about it? We're going first of all to expand outside the inspection areas. It's generally been happening now in Vancouver and here on the Island. We'll put out motor-vehicle inspectors in other parts of the province that are mobile, so it won't only be confined there. In other words, we're trying to expand this. The other thing that we've done, in cooperation with the industry and the union, is to set up a committee to discuss where we are going with this. Apparently it includes the unions that represent the drivers — and I believe a great many are Teamsters — and the industry itself. We've been dealing with the B.C. Motor Transport Association, which represent a great majority of the commercial people in the province. We've set up a committee with them to come up with a solution — incentives or whatever — to what's going on, as you mentioned. A lot of this, Mr. Chairman, is neglect of maintenance, and we just have to get a better handle on that. So we're trying a total approach to that. I hope that before the end of the year there is some permanent solution, but in the meantime the inspections will continue.
I can't answer your question about whether we have any uncontrolled crossings of B.C. Rail and B.C. Hydro in the lower mainland. They must be minimal, from my observations, but I'm not too sure that there aren't still some uncontrolled level crossings in the busy lower mainland area.
Commercial vehicles parking. Well, Mr. Chairman, on that I agree with the member there. They shouldn't be parking if it's illegal. We just have to enforce it. You're particularly talking about ferry terminals. We've got all the enforcement in the world there, so I guess somebody is not doing their job — I refer to the highway patrol that is on all the terminals. I guess their jurisdiction is probably only within the terminal, but I think it could be expanded slightly to get out. We shouldn't be cluttering up the entrance letting people park, as you say, one, two or three days. We'll certainly look into that right away. I think everything is in place. We don't have to say we have to hire inspectors or anything. We'll look into it and expand that to not let that happen. I've seen the same thing myself in the last 30 days.
Mr. Chairman, a motor licensing office is planned for an area in north Surrey. BCBC are looking for a location, apparently preferring Newton Road.
The other item I have here is to clean up Cloverdale. I don't think that's a big problem. Your suggestion is well taken, although if you plant shrubbery there, when I drive by I won't be able to see how many new trucks are sitting there and how many used ones. I like always to take inventory, and it would obstruct the view. It's a big distribution area for all our equipment — new and used.
Yes, I listen every morning to Vancouver radio monitoring the traffic, and you mentioned that you're concerned about the third lane. Our engineers should be given credit for speeding up the northbound traffic; that has really worked out quite well. They were aware that there might be some problems in the southbound lane. I don't think they're too concerned yet, but if it's going to cause another problem I guess we have to look at more crossings; and of course that is happening.
One other thing that I missed was the guard-rail on the Pattullo Bridge. Your observation is good. I understand from the senior engineers that some of the guard-rail has cable now, but not all of it. We'll certainly look into cabling others.
I think that pretty well covers your observations.
MS. BROWN: I'm not going to be very long. I hope that the minister will just answer yes to the requests which I'm about to make. He's probably the only person who knows that there are approximately four or five major highways racing through Burnaby. Unlike the rural highways, they're all old. They're tired, overworked, worn, cluttered, crowded, ageing, decrepit and falling apart. So I just want some commitment from the minister that he's going to do something about them, specifically Kingsway. Nobody even knows that Kingsway is a highway any more. It's so totally covered by automobiles and people from one end to the other, 24 hours a day, that it disappears from view. No one even knows it's still there. It's an incredible traffic hazard. There's a light at every intersection, pedestrians at every other intersection and accidents at every three intersections. It’s totally inadequate. I want the minister to tell me his plans for Kingsway, when he's going to implement these plans and what sort of budget he's had put aside for that.
The 401 is almost as bad as Kingsway during the peak hours. Anyone who thinks he is travelling on a freeway is dreaming. You can walk faster than the cars move on that thing during the peak hours. Actually, you can sleep and get awake and walk and sleep and get awake and walk and still get where you're going faster than the cars can. I would like to know what the minister is going to do about that. Burnaby didn't ask for these freeways, and Burnaby is really being destroyed by all of these transportation corridors running through it, especially when the traffic is travelling at a snail's pace. The same questions apply to that one and to the Lougheed. I know that when the member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly) gets up to speak on this, she'll point out that Hastings is in even worse shape than the ones that I've pointed out.
Maybe they shouldn't be called highways any more. Maybe they shouldn't even be under this ministry any more. I don't know. I just know that they're disgraceful. They're not moving the traffic. The traffic is just dying, and the neighbourhoods they run through are suffering as a result.
MS. BROWN: I'm sure it's going to get worse if Delta gets his way. As I said last year and I'll say again, if I have an option between losing my colleague the member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) and having the Annacis crossing not built, I would very reluctantly have to say goodbye to my colleague from Delta. But the Annacis is really going to make a bad situation even worse if it goes through, so it doesn't have my support.
The second thing I'd like to do is to quote from a CP report out of Victoria which says: "Highways minister Alex Fraser says that B.C. will not make automobile seat restraints for children mandatory until adequate standards are in place." I hope that that's a misquotation, because while we're waiting for standards to be in place children are dying and being injured in automobile accidents. I'm tired of standing
[ Page 5802 ]
on the floor of this House and giving the same speech over and over again every year about my experience while working in the cerebral palsy ward of the Children's Hospital in Montreal, where 90 percent of the kids were the victims of traffic accidents. Most of them had brain injury, not from being thrown outside the car but from being battered around inside the car.
I'm beginning to think that even an inadequate restraint is better than no restraint at all. It doesn't make any sense that we will make it compulsory that adults — great big heavy creatures — have to be buckled into their seats, and children are left to float free inside the car. In the event of an accident what happens, of course, is that the adult who has obeyed the law and is buckled in is secure, and the child — because it's not compulsory that the child be restrained — flies around inside the car. Invariably what happens is brain damage, if the child survives. For a long time we've been told that the birth rate is down. Maybe the minister thinks that there's not that many kids involved. The statistic I got when I asked my research people to look into it is that there are still something in the order of 3,200 babies born every year in British Columbia. That's a lot of children who are in danger and at risk while the minister is waiting for the federal government to test all these seats and come up with adequate restraints. That's not good enough. If we have a choice between who should be compelled to wear seatbelts, it should be the children, not the adults. It doesn't make sense to me that we are more concerned about ourselves and our own safety than we are about our children. I'm sure that this was a mistake. I can't believe that the Minister of Transportation and Highways, great lover of children that he is, would have made such a statement.
I'm asking him to assure the House, in response to my very brief comment, that this is not so and that he is, in fact, going to amend the existing legislation to ensure that children have to be restrained when they're travelling in an automobile. If he doesn't want to recommend any particular carseat or form of restraint he should encourage the consumers to use the restraint of their choice while this research is being done at the federal and provincial levels. I'm totally opposed and completely appalled by a government that would say that it is not going to make this kind of legislation compulsory while research is being done. I think children's lives are too important to be jeopardized in this way. I'm sure the minister will agree with me on that point.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, while some latitude is generally allowed, we must again remind ourselves that the necessity for legislation and matters involving legislation cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply.
HON. MR. FRASER: Regarding the observations that the member has brought to committee, you're quite correct that there are lots of highways in Burnaby. I guess that's because of their geographical location. As far as I know, you have to get through Burnaby to get to the waterfront and the great city of Vancouver, when you use land transportation. They definitely have lots of traffic corridors there.
MR. COCKE: It's a suburb of New Westminster.
HON. MR. FRASER: Of course, New Westminster has some of the same problems. You have roads on both sides of New Westminster, which bottles up some of its major roads.
Kingsway is an arterial in Highways. Some of it is in the city of Vancouver, but a lot of it is ours. We keep on putting signals up and so on. I believe we're trying to signal two intersections a year on Kingsway. It is definitely our responsibility. The plan we have is to upgrade the safety side of it. We have no plans to close it or to widen its lanes any more.
What you said about Highway 401 is right. When you come out in the Burnaby area now — I see it in the evening, but it also happens in the morning — the traffic is down. As the railroads say, we haven't got a transportation system, we've got a storage system. That is what's happened to our freeways. The planners that built the 401 didn't plan it to be that way. I'm told by the engineers that we should have more internal road systems in places like Burnaby. They wouldn't have to use the freeway then and we wouldn't have them parked up and jammed like they are. We need more internal road systems to help the freeway. We have no immediate plans to improve the freeway, but I think that one of these days we have to look at it. We've got rights-of-way in there, as I understand it. There's no more land required to six-lane the freeways we were talking about. The big thing there is the overpasses. They all have to be either rebuilt or changed to accommodate six lanes.
What you didn't mention is that roads in Burnaby — and I think a lot of this road is in Burnaby.... We've made a lot of progress on Boundary Road in cooperation with Burnaby. Boundary Road from Marine Way through to Kingsway is to be brought up to the standard that part of it has been brought to now. That will help the movement of vehicles.
MS. BROWN: Lougheed.
HON. MR. FRASER: We have lots of plans for Lougheed, and we're working on it. How it relates to Burnaby I'm not too sure, but the whole Lougheed road system is going to be....
MS. BROWN: Lougheed runs right through Burnaby.
HON. MR. FRASER: That's right, but it also goes a lot further than that, and we're upgrading Lougheed wherever it is a main artery.
Dealing with seatbelts for children, Mr. Chairman, the member said she hoped I was misquoted. I just want to advise her that I wasn't misquoted. I was quoted correctly; I would never accuse the press of misquoting me. In that case, the position of the ministry and the government is that we can't make restraints for children compulsory unless we have the proper device, and the proper device has not yet been designed. It's being worked on by the federal government as well as by the provinces, and we hope they'll have one soon. I agree that we should have something, but it has to be designed properly.
I went through one argument over this, and I learned the hard way. That was with motorcycle helmets, when they weren't the proper design, and the legislation wasn't right. It couldn't be enforced anyway, and last year we had to amend the legislation. So I think we should do it right.
In the meantime, there are programs to educate the public to protect the children. Everything doesn't have to be compulsory. I think most adults will do what they can to protect their children and they can do it in their own way without being compelled to do so. In closing, I don't think it will be very long before seatbelt devices for children will be acceptable
[ Page 5803 ]
to the authorities and then they will be put into regulation.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, I'm not discussing legislation; I just want to bring a piece of information to the minister. I want to suggest that he look at Saskatchewan, which last summer made the use of seatbelts for children under the age of 6 mandatory. It was very well received by everyone there, and apparently they have been able to find restraints which are successful, useful and able to do the job. I would like to suggest that the minister take a look at Saskatchewan and see what they're using, and also to once again disagree with him in terms of it not being compulsory. I cannot understand why it's compulsory for adults. Adults are not expected to take responsibility for themselves, yet they're expected to take responsibility for children. We found adults needed it to be compulsory in order for them to use it. It doesn't make sense to say it's not necessary for it to be compulsory for children because the adults will take care of the kids. If they don't take care of themselves, they're not going to take care of the kids. If we care anything at all about children it should be compulsory.
MRS. WALLACE: Before we get too far away from the problem of the Lake Cowichan Road and the claims there, I'd like to remind the minister that he couldn't find an answer to give me. I'd also remind him that he didn't tell me when he's going to start four-laning Highway 1 south of Duncan, and the problem relative to the children's overpass.
HON. MR. FRASER: I apologize to the member. I had misplaced the note on Highway 18, the Lake Cowichan Road, regarding the damage going on there. We have paid the deductibles on glass as a matter of grace as we do in respect of all seal coating. We deny claims for paint damage. ICBC has paid the balance of the glass. We are insured against loss or damage by the contractor, and our actions to date in paying claims for glass may have prejudiced the contractors' rights. The adjuster for the liability insurers is investigating and will complete his report shortly. I think that's what you wanted to know, and that's where that item is at.
I know the four-laning project has been going on for some time, and I agree it should be cleaned up. I think it's been going on for two years or maybe longer.
MRS. WALLACE: It's always starting next week.
HON. MR. FRASER: It's still tied up with an argument over the overpass. Until that's resolved, we're not prepared.... The engineers want the overhead done first, and we haven't got that resolved. Hopefully it will get cleared up, but I can't give you anything definite.
MRS. WALLACE: The railway overpass?
HON. MR. FRASER: Yes.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I've got a number of things here. A letter from Budget Rent a Car came in very recently, and I haven't had an opportunity to check the information. First, they're complaining about Econo-Car getting exclusive rights at B.C. Ferries terminals. As I read the letter from B.C. Ferry Corporation dated March 13, 1981, Econo-Car doesn't have an exclusive right; anybody else who fulfils the conditions set out in the notice to car rental companies has an opportunity to go in there. I note that in granting Econo-Car the right to provide cars at the ferry terminals, included in the conditions is one that there be telephone service.
In the letter that I got from Budget Rent a Car is the following information: they tried the telephone numbers that Econo-Car advertises or that are advertised on the B.C. Ferries schedule. The Swartz Bay number was indeed in service. The Nanaimo number advertised by B.C. Ferries was not in service. The Langdale number, 886-2261, was responded to by a recording machine. The Horseshoe Bay number, 921-8717, and the Tsawwassen number, 943-0277, had no answer at all. If indeed these numbers are being advertised by B.C. Ferries on their schedule, and if Econo-Car is being given this advertising and not meeting the terms, I would ask the minister to look into it.
I got a couple of letters very recently from two constituents complaining about the revised ferry schedule: the first morning sailing from Departure Bay being changed from 6:30 to 7 a.m. I don't know the reason for that, and I don't know whether it's supposed to last for any length of time. Two people who live in Nanaimo and work in Vancouver use the 6:30 a.m. ferry. From all I've heard, the 6:30 a.m. ferry is very well used; it's filled up more often than not. I wonder why it has to be changed to 7 a.m. Apparently it is going to be something less than accommodating to the people who are working in Vancouver.
Again on the question of the Strait of Georgia crossing, I've met a couple of times with Mr. William E. Halliwell; the minister has corresponded with him. Mr. Halliwell put an idea to the minister that there be a bridge crossing to Seymour Narrows. In the most recent letter that the minister wrote to Mr. Halliwell on January 29, 1981, he said that he was "referring the letter to senior engineers of my ministry for information." I wonder if the minister has any further comment on that.
On the question of parking of vehicles at the Gabriola end of the Nanaimo-Gabriola ferry, I had a letter from the corresponding secretary of the Gabriola Ratepayers and Residents Association. I wrote to them, saying that I know that more parking is being provided at the Nanaimo end and I assumed that in time more would be provided at Gabriola. I wonder if the minister has responded to such requests, and whether indeed he has anything in mind.
To come back to something I raised on previous occasions — and I guess I will continue to raise it — that is, the cost of running the Gabriola ferry, I think the minister said earlier in these estimates that the cost of operating all of the ferries which are under the Ministry of Transportation and Highways is about $22 million and that the revenue is about $2 million — a total loss of about $20 million. Certainly the Gabriola ferry is one of those offenders; it's currently costing the ministry about $1 million a year. Even with the increase in fares, I would think that would go up rather than down. Again, I wonder what it would cost to put in the roads and bridges that would be required. Quite apart from the question of crossing the Strait of Georgia, do you have any idea at all as to the cost of a physical link to Gabriola Island?
Carrying that one step further, the member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis) raised the question of using Gabriola for a crossing of the Strait of Georgia. I say again, as I've been saying since 1963, that if Gabriola is used, it should be one of three routes rather than a replacement for the second
[ Page 5804 ]
route. The member for North Vancouver–Seymour talked about all the traffic that comes into Departure Bay and then has to go south through Nanaimo. But having the terminal on the southern end of Nanaimo would mean that the traffic going north — there must be a lot more going north of Nanaimo than south — would all have to go through Nanaimo. I think it will be a long time before there's an alternate route around Nanaimo. I see the Departure Bay–Horseshoe Bay route reaching its capacity very soon. The minister did say that probably within 12 or 24 months they're going to have to come up with some kind of an answer. I would suggest to him to strongly consider the use of Gabriola Island as one terminal of a third crossing, rather than one of two. It's separate from the question of what it's costing to service Gabriola.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
I think a year ago Ladysmith was promised an underpass when the highway widening was done there from Transfer Beach to the city. I believe that's still in the works. I'd like confirmation that it's still there. I did ask a year ago about Diamond Bridge and what plans there were for widening that. I was told that nothing was planned in the year ahead but maybe further down the road. I wonder if the minister has any information on that.
Nanaimo arterial highways. I was kind of amused when the minister's estimates first came before the House and he made a point of introducing the members of his staff who were with him. I think if there are any civil servants who don't need introducing to the members in the House, it's the people in the Ministry of Highways. We all get to know them. I'm sure we're all pleased with the reception we get when we do discuss our problems with them. I did discuss with the minister's staff the question of arterial highways in Nanaimo. I got the impression that the ministry was not prepared to move until Nanaimo got its act together and agreed on what it wanted by way of the main highway — coming in from south Nicol Street, whether or not Haliburton will be used, the highway going north and the arterial route to the west of town. I believe that the council is now ready to seriously discuss with the minister the solutions to all of these problems and would be ready to move. I wonder whether the minister can tell me anything about what's happening there.
The other thing that's always been a plea is for midnight sailings on the Departure Bay–Horseshoe Bay route. The latest sailing now is 10:15. I don't know what the plans are for the summer and whether there will be any later sailings available than 10:15. But really, it just isn't late enough. I would strongly urge the minister to do something about making the day longer.
HON. MR. FRASER: To the member for Nanaimo regarding Econo-Car, this is a new venture, I might say, to have rental cars available for people who want them. We're on a new venture here, and Econo-Car, as I understand it, has submitted the best proposition as far as the public is concerned. We had a lot of people quoting on the business — including Budget, the one you referred to, Mr. Member — but Econo-Car fitted the criteria we had better. That was because they had accommodation for vehicles right near the ferry terminals, which the other people didn't have. We didn't want them all parking around in the ferry terminals, but they had to be handy. As I understand it, Econo-Car will have to look into the problem of telephones. I might say that the general manager has advised me that that isn't all I sorted out yet because of the B.C. Telephone problems they've had. They're going to catch up now, and I think that will get sorted out. So I hope that answers that part.
Maybe you can't win in Nanaimo, Mr. Chairman, but the reason we have moved from a 6:30 a.m. sailing to a 7 a.m. sailing — and I guess you haven't heard this before — is that we are going to institute an 11 p.m. sailing. I believe that's happening right away in June 1981. It helps, but maybe we've created another problem by pushing ahead an hour in the morning. But I know it's a long-standing wish of the people of Nanaimo — particularly when they want to go to sports events and so on on the lower mainland, and make the 10:15 p.m. sailing they have to leave in the middle of them. This way we don't go all the way they want. They really wanted 11:30 p. m., but we pushed from 10:15 p. m. to 11 p.m. They can leave a sports event in Vancouver, as an example, I guess, right up till 10:30 p.m. and still catch the ferry, and that might give them time enough to see most of it.
MR. STUPICH: I think that 7 a.m. is permanent.
HON. MR. FRASER: That will be changed to accommodate the 11 p.m. sailing, Mr. Member. If it causes problems, we'll have to look at it again. This is all to do with scheduling crews and so on, which is difficult at times.
You mentioned Mr. Halliwell. I'm pleased that you said we'd get back to him. You read the letter that we would get back to him. We'll make a note of that and will get back to him.
Yes, we have problems with parking on Gabriola Island. I think our ministry is looking into that. I expect that they want to expand it, but I'm not sure just what they've done about it.
I was a little surprised, but I appreciated observations by the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) regarding a ferry to Gabriola. It would be a third route. All these things should be looked at. I want to clarify what I said earlier in my estimates. I feel that the B.C. Ferry Corporation has to make the decision as to what they're going to do with it in 12 months. That is: are they going to Iona-Gabriola, or what? As I see it, once that decision is made, it's going to be a minimum of five years before anything is in place to relieve it. In the interval we have traffic advancing by at least 10 percent per year. Pretty soon we're going to have the ocean full of boats. My colleagues' tunnel might come to reality as there are boats from one end to the other in the water.
AN HON. MEMBER: Halliwell's bridge.
HON. MR. FRASER: That's right.
I think some decisions have to be made at policy level. We go to the Iona-Gabriola or wherever within 12 months. There are a lot of studies, as the member for Nanaimo will know. They're all aware. We don't have to have another study. They have to be dusted off.
I recall the Ladysmith overpass quite well. The underpass was included in the project, designed with four-laning. It has been reviewed with local people. The drawings for four-laning are now being completed, so it appears that there's going to be a major job there. Hopefully we can get on with that in 1982. That includes the underpass.
I've mentioned the arterial in Nanaimo several times throughout the province. There are horrendous problems
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there, I agree with you. We have the Vancouver Island transportation study going on, which certainly includes this as one of the big problems to solve. There seem to be different opinions in the city now. I think we can get on and resolve it among ourselves so that we know what we're going to do. We were really spinning our wheels before, but there seems to be a different atmosphere now, and everybody agrees we've got to do something and do it fairly quickly.
With regard to the Diamond overhead, the widening of the bridge will be included in the four-laning project north of Ladysmith.
MR. STUPICH: What year?
HON. MR. FRASER: I hope we can get it in the 1982 program.
MR. MITCHELL: I find it very interesting when I hear the discussion on causes of accidents and the various simplistic ideas that come forth when we get down to a major problem that is facing not only B.C. but all of Canada. I remember when we were studying accidents from a police point of view we always had what we called the three Es: education, enforcement and engineering. I believe there is a certain education program under your ministry and the Ministry of the Attorney-General. I know the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Williams) is working on the enforcement. One of the major causes of accidents is the lack of engineering. I think my particular riding, especially the Western Community, is facing that problem in a large way.
The Capital Regional District did a study of accidents in greater Victoria, and they found that the largest percentage of accidents for one area was in the Western Community. If you study the Western Community and the highway system that has developed over the years without the upgrading of an engineering program, it is one of the major indications of what's causing a lot of these accidents. I know a lot of people say the way you get good highways built in your riding is if the riding is represented by a government member. But outside the short period I was the MLA back in the fifties and this last period, in the last 40 years the Esquimalt riding has been represented by government members. Over those years there has not been a major highway development in that area except for the Trans-Canada Highway. We still have highways that were part of the original settlers' trails. There are areas that still have the original bend that was put in when the stagecoach went out to Sooke 70 years ago. The same rock that the horses used to lean against is on the side of the road. I'm saying to the minister that over the years they have put a lot of blacktop on some of these bends, but in many cases we have an 80 kph highway and we still have a 30 kph bend. I guess it's because of a lack of a proper housing program that more and more subdivisions are opening up farther and farther out of town. Where at one time you could drive from Sooke into Victoria in 40 minutes with no problem at all — providing the radar wasn't out — now it takes from one hour at the very minimum to an hour and a half, because it's now bumper-to-bumper traffic on a narrow, twisting road.
There has to be a major improvement of that Sooke road. It has to come up to a four-lane highway and it has to be straightened out now. Every year we have more houses built along it. The cost to buy property along the highway is going to be enormous. I imagine engineering studies have been done on that particular highway. An engineering study must be completed and some progress made towards purchasing the property for a four-lane highway into Sooke, because that is becoming the bedroom community of greater Victoria. Subdivisions are opening up. Apartments are being built. Every day new permits come out. But we still have that crooked, narrow, twisting road with another coat of blacktop prior to an election. I say study the report that is made by the capital region, study the reports that have been submitted by the RCMP, area after area, bend after bend, where people have been killed each year. Each year there have been reports on certain bends and intersections. It's only because of very poor engineering. We must start laying down some groundwork for that road, and I would like some commitment from the minister as to when we are going to get a four-lane highway out to Sooke. What programs does he have in line?
Another one I would like to discuss again, because of the position that the Minister of Highways is in, is the Western Community. As I've said before, it is one of the fastest growing areas, one of the highest-density populations in an unorganized area. This makes the Minister of Highways the super mayor in council, the czar of all planning — everything that develops out there rests on his shoulders. The czar of the Western Communities is the Minister of Highways. There's not a subdivision that goes in, there's not a road put through that doesn't go across his desk. This is one of the big problems we're having out there. Because of the lack of action of 27 years of Social Credit government, we haven't got any program of highway development in this area that is growing day after day.
One of the questions that I know the minister has been working on is commonly known as the Millstream extension. They have been talking about it, studying it, making plans for the Millstream extension since 1976, I know definitely. The minister may be privy to information that goes back before that. But this is the problem. This discussion is going around in the community. People say the Millstream extension is going to go this way and that way. No one seems to pin it own to the type of development it will be or when it is going to get off the ground. Because of this lack of information and the lack of going into the community and consulting with the community — being honest and up-front to the people in the community — the planners in the capital region and citizens who are developing property are still not positively sure where the Millsteam extension is going to go.
I've heard rumours that anyone who represents that area or anyone who lives in that area.... In fact, I was given a plan from a real estate salesman, and it has a lot of dotted lines. I've been told that this is the Millstream extension. It also has other dotted lines that are going to be other east-west crossroads. This is the problem. The rumours that large tracts of land have been bought adjoining some of these dotted lines are becoming quite strong. A lot of residents who have lived in the community for years have found that they have sold their land at the price of undeveloped land, and all of a sudden now they find that that land is being transversed by a dotted line that will give somebody a windfall profit.
Because the minister is the czar of this area and of the development, he has all this information. I feel that this information should be brought out to the community so that if there is any land that is going to be opened up by Highways and be far more valuable once the highway goes through it, then the residents in that community should know. There should be a freeze on the land through this particular area
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until such time as these roads are confirmed and the public can start planning ahead. This has been going on since 1976. Again, nobody can seem to get an answer.
I have a series of questions to the minister that I can't discuss. They're on the order paper. There's something on the location of the east-west road. Again, this particular road is going to go right through a subdivision where people have bought and feel they are off the beaten track. Now they're being told that the main highway is going to go right through that particular area. To put it through this twisting little subdivision will be expensive. It's unwanted and unneeded. If you're going to open up undeveloped land, going through this particular subdivision is not the method to do it.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
Again, I feel, Mr. Chairman — if you have any power over the minister — that we should have some openness with the communities. If the particular plans that certain real estate people seem to be bandying around in the community are, in fact, the proposals of the ministry, then it should be opened up and there should be some open knowledge within the community. There should be something so that when you go to the town planners they can say: "Yes, that's going to be a highway. If you're looking ahead in the future, that particular property will be opened up over a number of years." What I've been trying to get out through the minister and various departments is some openness and honesty so the general public will know what's happening in that area.
I had a few other particular problems I was going to bring up. I might bring them up later on in your estimates. There is one particular item I would like to discuss with the minister while I have him here. It's a promise he made me last year in the House. We'll say it was a commitment. I'm going to go over it, just for the records of Hansard. It is the problem of Marler Drive. Marler Drive is a particular subdivision that should never have been passed, but it was passed by the Minister of Highways back in 1969, with the help of a cabinet order. They subdivided a large field. Part of that field became seven lots beside Craigflower Creek. If not every year at least every second year Craigflower Creek floods and the basements of the seven homes are flooded. The minister said last year that it was a mistake made by his department. It was a commitment that he was going to look at it and do something about it. The residents of that particular subdivision took the minister at his word. They got together, brought in contractors and people in the house-moving business, and made the recommendation I have forwarded to you two or three times that these seven houses be lifted, the low land filled, and the problem solved once and for ever.
Every year or every second year the emergency service is paying out public funds for the damage caused by the flooding. The costs for the recreational vehicles and equipment damaged are not covered by the emergency service, and this is a continuing loss to those people who live there. Granted it's not the same people, because once spring comes along they clean up their house and sell it, and next winter we have another group of people living there. Out of the seven original owners I believe there is only one left who still has faith that this particular government will correct the situation.
I know the ministry has made many studies, had engineers down and made proposals such as putting dykes in and everything else. I feel any further money expended on studies or to put in a dyke would be a waste of the area. It would actually destroy the particular area and ruin the effect of the creek. But if they do lift the houses, spend what money they have committed for it and sit down with the seven families and say, "Fine, we'll put up X number of dollars if you'll match it," they will fix the problem once and for all. I know it can be done. To put a dyke in would be a waste of money, and to have any more studies would be a waste of money. I know, Mr. Minister, that as the czar of that community you can sit down and say: "Look, we're going to settle it. We're going to lift the houses and fill in the low spot." Then the people can sit down to doing a good job. Are you supporting it? In that particular flooding.... One of the problems of this Western Community that the minister is quite happy to look after....
MR. MITCHELL: Obviously my assistant whip wants us to rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Hewitt tabled the 1980-81 report on agricultural aid to developing countries.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
AMENDMENTS TO BILLS
13 The Hon. H. A. Curtis to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 13) intituled Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1981 to amend as follows:
Section 47, by deleting section 47 and substituting the following:
"47. Section 208 is repealed and the following substituted:
"Exemption of machinery and equipment
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"208. (1) All improvements referred to in paragraph (b) of the Assessment Act definition of 'improvements' for purposes other than for general municipal and Provincial taxation purposes, are exempt from taxation to the extent that the tax levied in accordance with this Act shall be levied on the assessed value less an amount prescribed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
"(2) Where a parcel is occupied by more than one commercial or industrial undertaking, business or public utility enterprise, the same exemption from taxation applies in respect of each of them."
In the proposed section 2 (1.4) by adding ", for each 0.5 oz. or portion thereof of tobacco purchased," after "Her Majesty in right of the Province".
In the proposed section 2 (1.6) by adding ", for each 25 — or portion thereof of tobacco purchased," after "Her Majesty in right of the Province".