1981 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1981
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Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. McClelland –– 6733
Ms. Sanford –– 6735
Hon. Mr. Smith –– 6738
Mr. Lorimer –– 6741
Hon. Mr. Waterland –– 6744
Ministry of Forests annual report, March 31, 1981.
Hon. Mr. Waterland –– 6745
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1981
The House met at 9:30 a.m.
Orders of the Day
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, sometime during this throne debate I thought that I wouldn't take my place in the debate, because what had gone on in the past, from the opposition's side at least, could hardly be called debate, One of the responsibilities of an opposition, at least in my opinion, is not only to criticize government policies, which is a legitimate role, but to put forward alternative policies or suggestions. I've listened most carefully throughout the few days of this debate, and I've honestly searched through Hansard, and I can find no instances in which even one small alternative proposal was put forward.
It reminds me — and I won't go back into the days when that opposition was in government — to some degree of the three and a half years in which that opposition had the chance to do things for this province and absolutely abdicated any responsibility, not only as they have in opposition but when they were in government as well. And I remember in the dying days of the New Democratic Party government when things were going sourer — if there is such a word — and day by day the economy of this province collapsed more and more, and that government, instead of taking swift action, action which was at their command, panicked. They did not put forward opportunities for the people of British Columbia; rather, they ran away. They stopped doing anything, and for six months, or maybe even a year, problems piled up in this province which that government was afraid to deal with. It was an ostrich government: they stuck their heads in the sand and refused to act.
Unfortunately, the same thing is happening with this group across the road as an opposition. They are afraid to put forward proposals, because they know that those proposals will be found wanting in the same way they were found wanting when they were in government. So instead of putting forward alternatives, proposals and suggestions, that opposition sits and attempts to criticize without the opportunity to bring forward even their philosophy. Perhaps one of the saddest things of all is that that group over there has even dropped the idea that it has a philosophy, and today it's an aimless group of people. Their leader even refuses to take part in a motion that their group put forward in non-confidence of this government. Their leader goes to Cranbrook, Mr. Speaker, or goes anywhere but in this chamber.
HON. MR. BENNETT: New Zealand.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: He goes to New Zealand; he refuses to take part in the honest responsibilities of this chamber.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I won't dwell on the other side of the House any longer, but I would like to make a few comments, particularly about the throne speech itself. If I may, I'd like to go through some of the areas in which I believe the throne speech addresses itself to the economic problems of this province and the opportunities for us to provide jobs, a buoyant and stimulated economy and so make possible the opportunities to provide the social services which are so important and so necessary for the citizens of British Columbia.
I was looking through Hansard at some of the comments made by the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea). One of the things he said in those comments the other day was that there was, in his words, "a complete lack of planning evident in the Speech from the Throne." Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to just take the opposite tack and mention that, in my opinion, I haven't seen a throne speech in my time in this House that was so important in terms of the planning of what's going to happen in our provincial economy.
I'd like to comment briefly on one of the first items mentioned in the throne speech, and that is that earlier this year, in September — and I take great pride in the opportunity I had to be even a small part of this — we signed a new energy agreement with the government of Canada. After 18 months of hard negotiation we were able to convince the government of Canada that it should abandon its proposal to put an export tax on the sale of natural gas from British Columbia. That will save the people of British Columbia in the neighbourhood of $600 million in the next five years, well over $100 million a year. That's in contrast to the stated objective of the Leader of the Opposition, who has said time and time again that given the opportunity to be government he would not only abandon the opposition to attacks on the exports of our natural resources but he would give those natural resources away from this province. He would turn them over to the national government in exchange for the nationalization of the resource industries of this province.
We've taken a more objective and responsible role in developing the use and benefits to be derived from the use of our natural resources. As well as bargaining out the export tax on our natural gas with the federal government, we were also able, contrary to the agreement which was signed by the government of Alberta and the government of Canada, to bargain into our agreement that the federal government would pay the petroleum incentive taxes to those companies which will explore for natural resources in British Columbia. While perhaps that's not an item which is well known to the public of British Columbia, I must say that that too will save the government of British Columbia in the neighbourhood of $500 million over the term of the five-year agreement.
In addition, we were also able to put into our agreement with the national government a clause which insists that there be an early resolution to the constitutional questions and jurisdictional questions relating to the offshore exploration for natural resources in this province. So we would hope that early in 1982 we would have an agreement with the federal government which would see British Columbia able to take advantage of this new and exciting potential for natural resource development in British Columbia. I also want to mention the tremendous work done by our Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom), and others in his ministry and in the Premier's office. I'd particularly like to commend the Premier of British Columbia for the work he did in reaching constitutional accord with the government of Canada and the other provinces.
Mr. Speaker, many people in British Columbia — in fact I believe the majority of British Columbians — will remember the work that our Premier did to ensure that there was no unilateral action taken with regard to the constitution and the work that our Premier did to bring the other provinces and the
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government of Canada to the negotiating table to make sure that a constitutional accord was reached and made in Canada. Mr. Speaker, the people of British Columbia will thank our Premier for that for many years to come.
I was surprised when I read in Hansard some of the comments from many of the members of the opposition, and particularly the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea), who moved a motion of non-confidence following his debate on this throne speech. I won't talk about that, because I don't want to reflect on a vote which has already been taken. He made comments about lack of planning, particularly in the resource sector. Mr. Speaker, at this time — as a matter of fact December 1 is the deadline — we have a program underway which will see for the very first time in the history of this province a planned, carefully orchestrated method by which we can choose the best, benefiting industries for this province for the use of our natural resources.
I agree, Mr. Speaker, that there may have been times in the past when it looked as though development took place in this province on an ad hoc basis. Perhaps that has happened to some degree in the past, but this government has committed that that won't happen any longer. This government will guide, assist and do everything within its power to make sure that the development of our industrial resources and our industrial opportunities in this province are not only planned, but will be done so that the people of British Columbia achieve the greatest benefit from the use of our depleting natural resources. We will be able to build a diversified, sound economic base that will allow us to carry on with the kinds of programs that benefit our citizens in terms of health, human resources, education, job training and job creation that have been the hallmark of this government for the past six years.
We have had more success than any government in Canada in terms of job creation. We have, I guess, around 10 percent of the population of Canada. Consistently over the past six years we have created as many as 15 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent of all the new jobs created in this country. Those kinds of things don't just happen; they come with planning, they come with responsibility, they come with fiscal management and they come with good sound industrial policies which make sure that they happen. They're not done by accident. They're done because we have a commitment in this government to make sure that they happen and that they continue to happen over the years.
Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of comments about planning and the way this government has addressed this situation. I don't think there is any doubt in anybody's mind that there are some economic difficulties around North America right now. A person would have to be like I described the opposition — like an ostrich with their head in the sand — not to understand that things are not as great as they have been in the past few years. One of the beauties of living in British Columbia under the kind of planned economy and planned development that we have managed to achieve over the past few years is that we will not feel the brunt of the recession as badly as other areas of North America, That's not just something that was made up by us in government. It's recognized now by many economists and other people involved in the economy around North America. They are saying that because of the kinds of planning that we've done and the solid footing that we've established as a government, we will not be hurt as badly in the recessionary times as other governments will. Sure, we're going to have difficult times, we're going to have to tighten our belts and we're going to have to practise perhaps even more prudent physical management. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, the kinds of projects that we've put in place.... We have the Ocelot Industries, where 500 people are now working in Kitimat developing the first of what will be a burgeoning, I believe, petrochemical industry in British Columbia. We have new mines which have opened in British Columbia — five or six major new mines opened last year providing for thousands of new jobs and several more to come. We have the energy developments and British Columbia Place, which gets criticism from the opposite side of the House.
I must say that I am extremely happy that the opposition has finally showed its true colours and admitted that it is against B.C. Place — the greatest downtown redevelopment that will ever be known in the history of this continent. I'm glad they've told the people of Vancouver that they're against that development. I'm glad they've told the people of Vancouver, as the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King) did yesterday, that they are against the development of a new major sports, recreational and trade complex in the multipurpose stadium which is being built in Vancouver. I'm glad they have finally come out and said that they are against northeast coal development, because that puts it squarely on the people of British Columbia to let them make up their minds and decide what they wish to have for British Columbia. Do they wish jobs or do they wish depression? Do they want economic development or do they want depression? Do they want to be able to have the resources to provide the social services that this province needs and demands, or do they want depression? I think that the people of British Columbia will make up their own minds that that's the new depression party sitting over there. They don't understand that in times of difficulty you work even harder to make sure you can weather those difficulties. That new depression party is against northeast coal.
I think that people who have much more knowledge of economics than I have will agree that without northeast coal in this province we might not have been able to survive these recessionary times. Northeast coal not only opens a new window on some of the export markets of the world; it opens a new window on economic development for British Columbia as well. I bow to the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips), who will, I'm sure, talk about northeast coal in more detail. Contrary to northeast coal being a subsidized operation, I just want to say that for the first time ever — at least in any reading I have done — a major development of this nature, which will open up vast new areas of British Columbia to development and open up opportunities for thousands of new jobs in the eighties and nineties, is not being subsidized; rather, it is the first time that a development like that will pay for itself
Tell me, Mr. Speaker, if you can, the last time in the history of North America that a new railroad development was put in place which paid for itself by the resources which that railroad hauled. If you look at the CPR, when it developed its rail link to bring Canada together, it didn't do it for nothing; it did it with the opportunity to gain millions of acres of prime land across this country. What is the northeast coal development doing in the development of the BCR and the spur line that is going to serve that area? Why, it's paying all that money back through a special surcharge. I put to you that that has never happened before in the history of railroad development.
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What's happening in the town of Tumbler Ridge in terms of the infrastructure development that's necessary to make that town go? Special surcharges on the price of coal to make sure that those initial payments by the people of British Columbia are paid back. I ask you when that was ever done before. Never.
Northeast coal is perhaps the best example of sound planning, sound economic development, and sound building of a foundation for the future that will allow this province to survive even the worst kind of recessionary periods. Those jobs that are beginning now will carry British Columbia through some of the bad times into the mid 1980s and 1990s, when the people of British Columbia will reap huge benefits from northeast coal and other developments planned by this government.
The member for Atlin (Mr. Passarell) was perhaps most explicit, and maybe more explicit than many of the other members of this House, in his comments about what that party would do should they become government. He said they would scrap all the megaprojects. What are megaprojects? It's a fancy word that we have these days. They're big projects, but they are projects which stimulate the economy and provide economic development for our province. Most importantly, they provide jobs which are necessary in a growing economy, in a province which attracts many people from many parts of the world, particularly from other parts of Canada where things aren't quite so good.
One of the aspects of the constitutional discussion was the opportunity that will be written into our constitution for people to move from one part of Canada to another, to look for economic opportunities and jobs. It becomes our responsibility in this province to ensure that for people who move to our province from other parts of Canada because they perceive some benefits here which they perhaps didn't see in their home areas, those jobs are here for them when they come.
No other government in Canada has done such a good job of ensuring that that responsibility is fulfilled. I might say that it's fortunate that those people who depend most on jobs in this province don't agree with the member for Atlin, don't agree with the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King), don't agree with the speakers on the opposite side of the House.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom) says that they don't agree with the Leader of the Opposition either. I don't know about that, because the Leader of the Opposition doesn't have the courage of his convictions to stand up and support the resolutions which his own party put forward. So I don't know what he thinks, nor do many of the people of this province. But I do know what some of the members opposite have said about megaprojects and job creation. They don't want it. As I said before, Mr. Speaker, it's fortunate that others don't share that opinion, and I particularly include those people who are dependent upon the kinds of development that this government has planned for the opportunity to work and continue to work in the future.
Just in case the member for Atlin and others haven't had the opportunity of seeing this telegram, I'd really like to read it to you. It was sent to Hon. Grace McCarthy, Deputy Premier of the province of British Columbia. It only relates to one megaproject, but I think you can transpose the feelings in this telegram to all of the projects — which I don't believe in calling megaprojects; I just believe in calling them job-creating projects. This telegram was sent to the Hon. Pierre Trudeau, Senator Jack Austin and Senator Ray Perrault, with a copy to Hon. Grace McCarthy, and it says:
WITH THE CURRENT ECONOMIC TURNDOWN, UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE CONSTRUCTION AND RELATED INDUSTRIES IN BRITISH COLUMBIA WILL BE SEVERE IN THE COMING MONTHS. ON BEHALF OF THE MEMBERS OF THE LABOURERS INTERNATIONAL UNION OF NORTH AMERICA, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO COULD BE AMONGST THE UNEMPLOYED, IF THIS PROJECT IS FURTHER DELAYED OR CANCELLED
They're talking about Pier B-C and the trade and convention centre.
I URGE YOUR GOVERNMENT TO COMMIT THE ADDITIONAL MONEYS NECESSARY FOR THE FACILITIES THAT WILL GUARANTEE THE IMMEDIATE CONSTRUCTION OF PIER B-C AND THE TRADE AND CONVENTION CENTRE.
I'll just read the last line, too.
NOT ONLY WILL THIS PROVIDE THOUSANDS OF MANHOURS OF EMPLOYMENT DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, BUT IT WILL BE A SOURCE OF CONTINUING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA IN THE FUTURE. IN INDUSTRIES UNRELATED TO CONSTRUCTION THE NEED IS NOW, TODAY. NEXT WEEK MAY BE TOO LATE.
That was sent by the Labourers International Union of North America. It's fortunate for us in British Columbia that the labour unions of this province, which that party opposite says it represents, understand that without jobs there will be no unions, without opportunity there will be no unions, without economic development there will be no unions. The unions understand that. It's too bad that the members opposite don't.
I'm proud to stand and support this Speech from the Throne. It provides us in British Columbia with the necessary opportunities to meet what will be difficult times over the short term. It will provide us with the basis on which we can plan to meet the needs of the future, to meet the needs of our citizens, not only in terms of the jobs and opportunities it will provide for them, but also with the means by which we can build again that foundation upon which we draw the necessary revenues to provide the schools, hospitals and human resources requirements that our less fortunate citizens require.
In closing, once again, because I haven't had the opportunity to do this in public very often, I'd like to thank the Premier of our province and those who worked over the last 18 months — and perhaps even for the last four or five years — behind the scenes, those who have reached what will go down in history as a momentous mark in Canada's development, and who came to accord on the constitutional difficulties which are facing this province. We can now get down to the business of moving Canada out of the difficult economic times that she finds herself in.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure for me to take my place in this debate. I'm rather interested to notice that all of the members on the government side seem obliged to talk about the Premier's performance with respect to the constitution. I don't think they've been reading some of the press reports, because from all accounts coming out of Ottawa the Premier was really shunted aside in most of these negotiations, at least towards the end. I don't know that he
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played the important role that the members on the government side would like to have us believe.
We had a demonstration out on the lawn last week. This represents about one-quarter.... That's why they were there, because they were part of the one-quarter of the workforce in our largest industry that is currently out of work. Many of those people came into the House that day. Unfortunately, their emotions ran away with them. Their anger welled up, their sense of despair welled up, and we heard an outcry from them from up in the galleries. Mr. Speaker, I think it's unfortunate that they did not control their anger while they were in the chamber. You had to point out the rules of this Legislature and ask that they not interrupt the proceedings.
Those people sitting on the back bench who suggested that we encouraged that kind of display must be admonished at this point. I think that the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King), who, in spite of their outburst, continued with his questioning, indicating to them in a loud voice that they were not to interrupt the proceedings of this House, indicating by the way in which he spoke — and, Mr. Speaker, by the way in which you spoke to them.... I think that demonstrates that those people are angry. They are full of despair, and it welled up and overflowed in this Legislature. I have never seen it happen before, and I think it's very understandable that those people are feeling the way they do. I think that most of the people on the government benches particularly have no concept of what it is like for a family to be without an income, to be without hope of getting that job back again, when mills close down and the forest industry is in the state that it is in today.
Mr. Speaker, it's a tragedy for them; they feel despair. They are the ones who must continue to provide for a family, and they must continue to pay the high interest rates and the outrageous mortgage rates that are imposed upon them. They are trying to keep up with the increases in the cost of living, trying to keep up with the increases that have been imposed by that government in sales tax, and now we hear about increased ICBC rates and, you know, all of the increases that have been placed upon them. They see stories in the newspaper about the kind of profits that banks are making, the fact that the eight chartered banks realized an operating profit after taxes approaching $450 million for an increase of no less than 55 percent during the last three-month period — that's an annual rate of $1.7 billion in profit. They see and understand that, and at the same time they are thrown out of work and faced with the responsibilities of family.
I don't think that the government benches recognize the anguish that is caused those families, or we would have had a throne speech that provided for them. We would not have had to wait for a demonstration on the lawns and for an outburst in the galleries before the Premier would sit down with them and come up with, little though it is, a task force to look into their problems. Why was that not included in the throne speech initially? Why did this government not recognize the problems that existed out there? Why is there nothing in this throne speech that provides for them, and why is it that they have to demonstrate on the lawns to even get the attention of this government? As an afterthought — a very quick decision — they've set up this task force. Mr. Speaker, it's not good enough. The planning is not there; the concern is not there, and as a result we see a last-minute task force being established to look into their problems.
Mr. Speaker, we've had during this past week one government member after another, including the backbenchers, getting up and talking in glowing terms about the economy in British Columbia. We've all heard them. The Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) gets up and does his usual arm-waving and shouting into the microphone in the Legislature, but the planning is not there; the provision was not there. That's why we had those people out on the lawns the other day.
It's not as though it's something new. Just look at the unemployment figures produced by their own government in the Ministry of Labour. In October of '81 for those people who are between the ages of 15 and 19 years old there is an unemployment rate of 17.6 percent. I have not heard one government member get up and talk about that — 17.6 percent for those young people! Between the ages of 15 and 24 it's 12.7 percent. Where is the hope for them? It's a pretty thin throne speech as far as they're concerned, Mr. Speaker, because it does not provide for them. And those rates are going to climb. At the same time we have the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) requiring young mothers to get out and look for non-existent jobs.
Here we have a 12.7 percent unemployment rate in the month of October for those people between the ages of 15 and 24. It's going to go up. Everybody knows that, and yet they are required at this time to somehow get out and find a job that's not there.
Mr. Speaker, I was impressed by some comments made the other day by the member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson). He too expressed his concern about the economy, but at the same time he pointed out that we must all recognize the kind of inflation and economic problems that result throughout the world because of the madness of the arms race.
The member for Nelson-Creston raised that the other day and I wanted to reiterate it, because there is no doubt that because of the folly of mankind at this point, where we are spending $600 billion a year on armaments.... Six hundred billion dollars on armaments, Mr. Speaker! How stupid can humanity be? We can now destroy every person on earth a minimum of 20 times over and yet we are pouring more and more funds into armaments.
If we had just one-tenth of what is now being spent on so-called defence in the world, we would be able to bring all of those people in the Third World up to subsistence level in terms of housing, food and education.
We now have 1.5 million Hiroshimas. That's how much nuclear power exists at the moment. I think that we must all recognize the difficulties that that $600 billion yearly world expenditure is causing all of us. Aside from the lack of planning, action and concern expressed by this provincial government, it's something that affects all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I notice that in the throne speech we had an announcement that there's going to be a new deputy minister responsible for women under the Ministry of Labour's office. It made me smile because what we see with this announcement is the provincial government being pulled, kicking and screaming, not into the 80s, but into the 60s, because under the Ministry of Labour we used to have what was called the Women's Bureau.
The present Minister of Labour (Hon. Mr. Heinrich) did not realize that that bureau existed when he took office, but it was there. He didn't realize that there had ever been anybody under the Minister of Labour responsible for women in the
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workforce, nor did he know that his predecessor in that portfolio had allowed the Women's Bureau to disappear. So what they're giving us is old news. They're now going to establish this deputy minister — well, isn't that interesting — after having done away with the Women's Bureau, which the present Minister of Labour didn't even know existed when he took that portfolio.
That's to say nothing of the work that was done by the now Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) in doing away with the women's office that existed at the time. As I recall, she made some comment like, "Oh well, if there's any need to do anything about women's issues sometime in the future, we will re-establish that office." Now we have the government running and hurrying and scurrying in all directions trying to avoid commenting on the issue of equal pay for work of equal value. That is the issue of the 80s, but all we've got out of this government is a recognition that the 60s have arrived in terms of women's issues.
One of the things that's missing from the throne speech is any recognition of the problems that exist at the Workers' Compensation Board. There is no call in this throne speech for a full royal commission into the operation and function of the Workers' Compensation Board. There have been so many complaints coming to us about the fact that people are not getting justice at that board, about the fact that it is not operating as it should be, about the fact that it is not taking the interests of the workers of this province into its heart, about the fact that time and time again we find examples of decreases in inspections, increases in the length of time that people have to wait in order to have their cases heard before a board of review in that appeal procedure, the situation is so bad, Mr. Speaker, that we decided, as the official opposition, to give all those people who are so concerned about the present functioning and operation of the Workers' Compensation Board a chance to come before us to air their concerns in public. For two days in Vancouver we held public hearings, at which time we had a list of people and a list of organizations come in order to tell us about the problems that exist with that board. Mr. Speaker, this is part of the file that I have established as a result of the briefs presented to us at those hearings. This is the volume of concern that exists about the operation of that board.
For over two years we have been calling for a royal commission and for over two years the Minister of Labour has ignored that call, and he continues to ignore the call for a royal commission into the operation of the Workers' Compensation Board. They are not concerned about what is happening with respect to the injured workers of this province. Everyone who has had anything to do with the Workers' Compensation Board is calling these days for a royal commission. Will that government not listen? Is the Minister of Labour so indecisive that he cannot take a decision to call a royal commission? Can he not recognize the problems that exist there? He has allowed the problems of the Workers' Compensation Board to go from bad to worse to worse. We've had firings, we've had layoffs, we've had people who are dissatisfied and who quit, we've had chaos at that Workers' Compensation Board, and still the minister refuses to take any action or accept his responsibility to do something about taking some leadership and rectifying some of the problems that exist at the Workers' Compensation Board.
We now have a new chairman and a new commissioner, but there is no way, that we can expect those two people to correct all of the problems that currently exist at the Workers' Compensation Board. There is just no way that we can expect them to deal with those problems. If the Minister of Labour expects them to solve all of those problems, then I think he is going to be very dissatisfied with the performance of those new commissioners. They can't do it. The job is much too big.
As a result of the tragic Bentall accident, in which there were four deaths, there have been hearings into industrial health and safety as it applies to the construction industry.
Just last week we had one of the people who used to work for the Workers' Compensation Board — in fact, this particular person, a professional engineer, was the director of inspections at the WCB until May of this year — say — and I'm quoting from a press report — that the Minister of Labour should be urged to appoint a royal commission to study the Workers' Compensation Board. That's what he told the safety inquiry just last week. He says that the call has been made so many times that it "sounds like a broken record." Everybody, except this government, is concerned about the WCB.
The professional engineer's name is Rick Knowlan. He now works as an independent consultant. He said that the administrative structure of the WCB has not changed since 1917; that its organizational design makes it slow to respond to social attitudes and changes in industry; that the board structure and design make it inept. Surely the Minister of Labour can recognize some of the problems. All he has to do is read some of the comments now being made to these hearings. Mr. Knowlan says that administrative decisions are made by an executive committee, but then they must also go to the politically appointed board of commissioners. It takes months, even years, to make decisions, he said; the staff of the board is not likely to tell the commissioners how things should be done, or they'll be looking elsewhere for a job. Mr. Knowlan said that the WCB fails to take advantage of the information it gathers on injuries and to direct operations in areas where it could do the most to cut down the accident rate. He said the statistics could be used to direct WCB inspectors into target firms where improvements are needed.
It's not being done. As a result, in this province we have an increasing number of injuries and deaths every year. The inspection rate is dropping, not rising. In British Columbia 200 people a year die in the workplace. How many more are seriously injured? That's not even including the number of workers whose health is destroyed through the use of various chemicals and products which they must handle.
Knowlan said that in 1977 there were a large number of penalties small enough that companies paid them out of petty cash; they didn't even bother to appeal them. What kind of deterrent is that for the major companies of this province, who insist that work be done quickly to maximize their profits? The penalties imposed by the WCB are so low that the companies are paying them out of petty cash, he is saying. He warned the committee that they were not to rely too much on the deterrent value of penalties assessed by the WCB on companies that are not following the regulations laid down by the Workers' Compensation Board.
A study was done for the Economic Council of Canada on workers' compensation boards across the country. There was one comment in there; surely it will wake up this government to the action required at the WCB. In talking about British Columbia, the three people who did the study said: "We can only conclude that since the penalty assessments are the major instrument available to the division, enforcement
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efforts have actually been relaxed in the safety area." Where is the concern for the workers of this province, when the Workers' Compensation Board, which was established to protect the workers of this province, is actually relaxing its enforcement — where the penalties are so low that the companies are paying them out of petty cash?
During that public hearing we had before us a young man who wished to speak to the panel. He sat there, minus two fingers, and said that the only safety instruction he had when he arrived on the job was: "Here is the on-button and here is the off-button. Watch your fingers." That's the extent of the safety training taking place in 1981 in the province of British Columbia. We have two examples of that kind of instruction — "Here's the on-button. Here's the off-button. Watch your fingers" — that's the total amount of instruction that was made available to them.
People on the worksite are not trained properly in safety procedures. The apprenticeship programs are not providing sufficient safety instruction. I was listening to one person who was involved in the electrical training area. He pointed out that at the apprenticeship training program, when they were required to attend school, there was a small building set up with the words on it: "High Voltage, Danger, Keep Out." Presumably that was so the students would come to respect that this was a dangerous area — they must recognize this; they must stay away from it. Mr. Speaker, do you know what? In that particular building that said: "Danger, High Voltage, Keep Out, " they stored their lunch kits every day when they arrived. That's how much interest was taken in trying to promote a consciousness about safety in that particular training program. Recently there was the death of a young apprentice who was not properly instructed in the operation of a particular machine.
As a matter of fact, the section in the Workers Compensation Act that says every employer shall ensure the adequate direction and instruction of workers in the safe performance of their duties is one of the sections of the act that is most often violated. There were 296 different inspection reports, and this particular section that requires that safety instruction be given is the one that is most violated. It appears in the top ten of those that are violated.
Mr. Speaker, we heard from the injured and disabled workers, who said that there is no provision for them whereby they must be given the opportunity to work again. That's why so many of them end up on the welfare rolls of this province. There is no provision in the act that requires that these people be retrained and provided for. They claim that they must be retrained, be given the opportunity for another job, and that it should be mandatory, in the act. If not, they should be given full pension benefits and not required to go on Human Resources assistance.
We've had some very questionable decisions come out of that Workers' Compensation Board as well. When penalties are assessed against a company like Cominco for air standard violations, they're given their money back — 80 percent of the fines assessed against Cominco were given back. Now what sort of incentive is that for those inspectors to write decisions requiring companies to live up to the regulations, when the commissioners turn around and give back 80 percent of the penalties that have been paid in, even before the problem is resolved, even before the air standard regulations have been met?
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
We had the questionable decision about opening the files to employers. The court decision that was brought down allowed a worker who is appealing a decision to see his files. He has access to his files. That's the first time that's happened in the province of British Columbia. Then the commissioners decided they would grant equal opportunity to the employers to see those files. What they are saying, Mr. Speaker, is that companies like Cominco or Mac and Blo are in the same position as a lowly worker who has been injured on the job. It is the worker who must have access to those files. It is the worker who is appealing a decision that has been made. It is the worker's health that is being discussed in those files. Those files must be open to the worker, but the companies, in my view, have no right to access to those files. For the commissioners to decide that they must have equal opportunity to see the files is a very unfair decision, and it is against the workers of this province.
Penalties are too low. Work-site inspections are down. Injuries are up. Deaths are up. Workers must wait four to six months to even have a date set if they wish to appeal a decision; there is too much delay. There is a deficit of $385 million. There is inadequate safety training for workers on the job. There is too little work done in terms of testing chemicals and products that are put on the market. There is a myriad of problems that exist at the Workers' Compensation Board.
This government has refused to recognize the problems that exist there, and this government has refused a response to the call that has been made by almost everyone who is involved in any way, shape or form in dealing with the Workers' Compensation Board — a call for a complete, full royal commission into the occupational health and safety aspects as well as the operation and function of the Workers' Compensation Board. I wish the minister had been present for the two days when we were hearing these submissions. Perhaps then he would have been convinced that it is time that he show some leadership and call for that royal commission that's being asked for all over this province.
HON. MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today to speak in favour of this progressive Speech from the Throne. I want to congratulate the member for Central Fraser Valley (Mr. Ritchie), who moved the address, and also the member for Kootenay (Mr. Segarty), who seconded the motion, for their good speeches, as well as the member for Kamloops (Mr. Richmond), who made his major maiden speech in this House, and an excellent speech it was.
I've listened with interest to comments from the other side on the Speech from the Throne and the economy. I'm surprised to hear them say, as they so often do, that they believe that the government has to show restraint. When certain estimates were placed before the Legislature they voted regular and major reductions to those estimates, but at the same time I hear members in this House asking for more and more spending on various government programs.
I'm also alarmed when I hear a recurring theme from the members opposite when they're debating the Speech from the Throne. That is that they appear to be opposed to any kind of progress or development. They are really the latter-day Luddites of this province. They speak constantly on the hustings and in this House about projects such as B.C. Place and northeast coal. The speech that was given a little while ago by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland) dealt with that issue very
[ Page 6739 ]
well, and placed before the Legislature the importance that all those projects have in the continued economy of this province. The Speech from the Throne dealt with the economic climate very realistically, I thought.
A third theme that runs through most of their speeches is that their solutions to social problems are state solutions, just the way their solutions to economic problems are the solutions of the state. Housing, for instance, can only be cured and stimulated by the state. No incentives are to be provided. We simply crank up the old B.C. Housing Corporation, and they will go around and build social housing, totally subsidized and directed by the state. I can remember when they were in office during that interval and proposed social housing throughout this area. I never met anyone who wanted any of their social housing within ten miles of them.
Another part of their solution, and the solution of the Leader of the Opposition, was that the government would make available low-interest loans, subsidized-interest loans at a lower rate of interest, and would do so through a credit bureau vehicle. Every member of this House prays for lower interest rates. Interest rates are coming down, but if the government becomes the only lender in this province, if the government provides the low-interest rates for housing in this province, I think it's a pretty obvious result that there will be no other lenders. There will be no mortgage corporations; there will be no individuals lending money. There will only be one lender in this province, just the same as there would only be one landlord, and that is the state.
Those are their solutions for the economic and social difficulties that face this province. It comes from an opposition who, during their brief tenure in office, managed to enjoy a period in North America of almost unheralded prosperity. During that period in office, they managed to destroy the mining industry, drive away capital from this province by enacting succession duty legislation, and overburden and bankrupt most of the Crown corporations.
AN HON. MEMBER: You sound like the rest of those guys.
HON. MR. SMITH: Do I? Well, I earn my bread.
The present economic period we're going through is described realistically in the Speech from the Throne, and in that speech it says that the government is meeting this cyclical downturn with "realism, compassion, and profound optimism about our medium-term economic prospects." Another major portion of the Speech from the Throne which I would emphasize is: "My government believes that now is not the time to retrench into pessimism. We are a strong and vigorous province. I would ask you to reflect upon the fact that at this time, across North America and indeed the western world, there are major reductions in social service spending — not just slowdowns in the increase of the cost of social services, but actual reductions in the amount of money being spent on social services in countries like Britain. In Washington state we see actual reductions in dollars spent on important fields like education, by as much as 10 percent.
In this province it's quite the contrary. We've managed to balance the budget and to have a very healthy increase in the growth of social services, and at the same time to increase services to people by instituting a denticare program in this province. In other parts of North America, social services are being starved. I think the government's approach to the major social service expenditures of human resources, health and education has been a very progressive and healthy one.
It is also true, Mr. Speaker, that we're entering a temporary period in which government revenues in this province have not been expanding at the rate that was expected. There is a shortfall in revenues, which is caused, as we know, by the fact that our forest products are not selling on world markets and also by the fact that our natural gas is not selling. That shortfall will probably continue during the budget year ahead. It must be remembered that the government has taken vigorous steps to develop the economy, and that the northeast coal project, which I really challenge members opposite to clearly oppose in this House, instead of opposing it around on the hustings.... They should clearly oppose this if they're against it. That project will stimulate the entire economy of the northern part of the province and will provide us with a major port which will give a day's faster exporting to the Asian markets and will provide us with a major transportation network, which will allow for the development of additional resources beyond coal. All of those are progressive steps, and all of those augur well for the medium term and, indeed, for the long term.
Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if did not refer to the constitutional accord which was achieved in Ottawa on November 5 and which, in final resolution form, will be passed in the House of Commons at 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. I had the opportunity to attend the conference in Ottawa on November 5 and also to participate during the past several years as part of a cabinet committee that was dealing with this subject. It was not an easy two years, and certainly the past year was not an easy year. But the efforts that were made during the past year by British Columbians who were charged with the responsibility of dealing with the constitution — that is, by the Premier and by the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom) — were unparalleled.
I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you cast your mind back to a year ago, last October, when there were introduced in the Canadian Parliament the resolutions that dominated far too much of the time of Parliament during the ensuing 12 months. Those resolutions called for a unilateral solution to many years of constitutional discussion and set out an amending formula, which was later changed after committee hearings in the House of Commons. The final amending formula that was proposed to be taken to London would have left British Columbia, in future constitutional change, at the hands of a veto on the part of either Ontario or Quebec and would also have left British Columbia and Alberta isolated in the west, so that constitutional changes could have taken place against the interests of British Columbia on the votes of Saskatchewan and Manitoba or any two western provinces, and we would have been in a very, very perilous position, particularly on subjects like resources and provincial proprietary powers. That amending formula was not in the interests of any British Columbian.
Mr. Speaker, a number of federal members of the party of the members opposite were very distressed with that amending formula and spoke against it, but I can recall hearing nothing but silence and lack of interest from the ladies and gentlemen opposite. Apparently they felt that it was a matter of no concern or interest, or maybe they were in support of the old amending formula.
What an improvement was achieved on November 5, because under the new formula British Columbia is equal to other provinces, and it does not rest its future on decisions of two of its sister western provinces. The constitutional change
[ Page 6740 ]
that might benefit British Columbia cannot be vetoed by Ontario or Quebec, and British Columbia now has the right to opt out of certain constitutional changes which would affect our proprietary rights. Also, general constitutional changes can only be brought about by the votes of two-thirds of the provinces. But I never heard the official opposition, Mr. Speaker, raise a single voice of objection about a constitutional formula that would have been inimical to the needs, desires and future aspirations of this province.
Another feature of the government of Canada resolutions of last October was that if the government of Canada wanted to change the constitution and not go by provincial consent, by a modified version of the Victoria formula, they could change the constitution by simply putting a national referendum, and if it carried in each region, then the constitutional change would take effect. The opposition were strangely silent about that provision as well, although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Barrett) is an often avowed and sincere spokesman in favour of parliamentary responsibility, and he believes in the rights of the Legislature in Parliament and makes many speeches about that. Apparently he did not find the referendum provisions for amending a constitution worthy of discussion or comment. I think that's disappointing, because he could have offered some constructive criticism on that.
Another feature of the constitutional resolutions of last October, Mr. Speaker, was that there was a full-flung charter of rights that were to be entrenched in the constitution, in which there would be absolutely no recourse by parliament or the legislatures to make any changes as a result of court decisions — court decisions which could over the years not only erode the rights of the provinces or the rights of Parliament but could bring about social decisions in a particular region in Canada which were totally unacceptable to the people of that region, because it was the will of the Supreme Court of Canada or of a major judicial decision elsewhere.
It might well be that under the freedom-of-expression provision of the Charter of Rights a court would rule in this country that members of the Ku Klux Klan were entitled and indeed had a legal constitutional right to promote hatred and contempt in public speeches. That would be the ruling of the court and the constitutional law of the land, and there would be absolutely no safeguard, no way that the Legislature of British Columbia could redress that problem. Now, as a result of the constitutional accord which was signed on November 5, 1981, and agreed to among all the provinces but one and the federal government, the Legislature of this province and every other province would have the right to pass legislation in a very serious and drastic set of circumstances and override the effect of that kind of court decision. In my view, that is a major step forward, because it protects the sovereignty and the particular rights of particular regions of this province so that their legislature can respond to local desires.
In this province we took the position that the notion of a charter of rights being entrenched in the constitution was not the best way to protect civil rights, liberties and freedoms, that there were better ways under the common law of doing that, and that once you started to spell out particular rights in a constitution everyone would have the feeling that if they weren't included in that list, somehow they didn't have rights. So, of course, we had many groups that went to Ottawa and made submissions, because they wished to appear in the list of rights.
We've also seen during the last several weeks the effect of those kinds of arguments. People do wish to be included in the list; they feel that if they're in the list their rights are protected. But there are many groups in this country that are not in the so-called list in the Charter or Rights who have their rights protected in other ways, subject to the will of parliament and the legislatures.
I did not hear any major statements on the Charter of Rights from the gentlemen opposite, either in this House or elsewhere, although their federal members were very active on that subject. Mostly, with the exception of the member for Atlin (Mr. Passarell), they have also been silent on the subject of native rights except to say in latter days that section 34 should have been restored to the Constitution, which was the position the government took as well.
One would only wish, Mr. Speaker, that they would have been as vocal on the subject of native rights when they held office in this province between 1972 and 1975 as they have been latterly in opposition, because I recall very well during those years that they did not address the question of native rights and did not address real treaty problems involving bands like the Fort Nelson band. Those problems were dealt with and were settled and solved amicably by this government after it took office in 1976. So their performance on the question of native rights is verbiage when in opposition and non-action when in office.
I should also tell you that the constitutional accord that was achieved on November 5 in Ottawa at that historic conference would never have come to pass had it not been for the efforts of the Premier of this province and the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom).
I know that in the waning days of that conference there were other Premiers who walked out on centre stage. That is the way, of course, it had to be. But I ask you to recall which Premier and which province it was that, after the constitutional resolutions were introduced into parliament in October of last year, toured this country in the early part of this year and visited every provincial capital and brought about the signing of an accord in April 1981, which committed in writing eight Premiers to an amending formula. That's something that had never been done before in the history of the country, and it was that accord and that amending formula which, almost word for word, was adopted by the conference in November. That was put together by the Premier and the Minister of Intergovernment Relations of this province.
I'd also remind you that the turning point in the federal government's attitude that they were going to press ahead, push their resolutions through parliament, go off to London and hand the resolutions and the package to the British parliament and ask the British parliamentarians to put clothes pegs on their noses and pass the proposals.... The turning point and what stopped that was the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in September, which held that although the resolutions were legal, they were unconstitutional in their approach and it was not the Canadian way of bringing about constitutional change. It was the British Columbia government that launched the first brief to the British House of Commons at the beginning of the year, and British Columbia was in the forefront of leading those arguments before the courts that were heard in three courts of appeal across Canada and ultimately went to the Supreme Court.
When the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada came down in September, you'll remember that it was our Premier who was in Ottawa — then the spokesman for the ten Pre-
[ Page 6741 ]
miers as well as the spokesman for the eight Premiers who had opposed the constitutional unilateral resolution. It was our Premier who then met with the Prime Minister and who arranged the constitutional summit meeting of November.
I could not say more about two public servants in this province who took part in the constitutional deliberations — particularly the deputy minister of constitutional affairs, Mr. Mel Smith, who I think has attended every constitutional meeting and conference in Canada during the past 20 years and probably has a better working knowledge on that subject than most Canadians alive. Mel was one of the draftsmen of the accord of April of this year, which is now the amending formula in the new Canadian constitution. Mel also played a very prominent role in the meetings that took place in Ottawa on November 5.
I also should acknowledge the role played by Jim Matkin, who is the Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, and who has a very creative and imaginative approach to these matters and who was an extremely positive influence in bringing about meetings and accommodation and changes between various provinces.
Mr. Speaker, British Columbia did not go to the constitutional conference in November with a fixed rigid position. It went down with a position of good will, a positive position, a willingness to compromise for the good of the country and a desire to have the constitutional solutions decided in Canada and not in London.
Our Premier's position was to hold together the eight Premiers who had signed the constitutional accord and to provide a basis for a final settlement, which would hopefully include the province of Quebec. It was important that his role be that of a bridge, which he was. At the same time he was acting as a bridge to hold together the eight provinces and to try and accommodate the great province of Quebec, which almost came aboard on the final proposal, but not quite.
In addition to that, this province played major roles in having discussions with the ministers of other provinces as to ways that the deadlock could be broken and ways in which a limited Charter of Rights could be accepted by a majority of provinces in return for Ottawa changing its mind on the amending formula.
British Columbia went down with well-developed position papers and held constructive meetings in eastern Canada prior to that constitutional meeting and played a major role. I also know from people that I've spoken to in all three of the national parties in Parliament, and also leaders in the other provinces, that they believe that British Columbia's role was absolutely central and crucial to the result that was brought about on November 5.
By tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, we will have laid the constitutional debate to rest for the time being. The resolutions will go to the Senate and then will go to Imperial Parliament where, no doubt, they will be passed with some debate, but little opposition, sometime in February. But that will not be the end of the need to address constitutional reform in this country and to deal with questions such as native rights and to deal also with questions that were never before the conferences of recent days — and that is to change some of the rules in the constitution so that British Columbia and western Canada are better represented in the institutions and government of Canada, instead of having a minority representation voice when we are a major economic and social bloc in Canada, growing in importance, population and economic might. We should be much more strongly represented, in my view, both in the House of Commons and Senate and in the major federal decision-making bodies of the country. Those questions, and questions like Senate reform, all have to be addressed in this country and are not going to go away. Let us hope that in the years ahead they will be addressed and it will not be another 20 or 50 years before there is some progress in constitutional reform.
I would like to thank all members of my party who were so constructive and helpful during the constitutional crisis period, and particularly to acknowledge the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, who must have travelled this country 16 or 17 times last year in trying to get agreement, harmony and accord. His very sunny disposition melted the stony hearts of attorneys-general of other provinces and often made the difference. The difference in getting that kind of agreement was often brought about by people who knew people and liked people and trusted each other. That's really how it happened.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could take this opportunity to welcome one of our fellow British Columbians who takes on the responsibility of municipal government. In the gallery today we have Mayor Jim Tonn of Coquitlam. I'd ask the House to welcome him.
MR. LORIMER: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to refer too much to the speech of the last speaker, except to say that he's critical of the great housing program that our little government put into place between 1972 and 1975, creating a great amount of housing. Probably towards the end of 1975 it took part in 15 to 20 percent of the housing starts in this province. The Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Smith) says that the housing was built but no one would use it, which of course is absolutely ridiculous. This is their answer to the housing problems. They have no program whatever; they have no idea of the problem and they don't know how to resolve it. Immediately they came to power they undid the work that was done by the previous government. They did away with the housing authority; they killed it. They killed the housing projects.
You were talking about the lack of assistance to the native people during our administration. There were more initiatives and more programs for native people in that period than ever before or since. The natives know this, even though the minister doesn't.
Here's a minister who came into the House some two years ago, fresh as a daisy. He had some abilities, but within two years he sounds just like the rest of them over there — the same old gang. It doesn't take long. I'm going to be interested in seeing how long our new member for Kamloops (Mr. Richmond) remains an individual and doesn't also sound like the same old gang of knockers.
In any event, I want to say that I'm pleased that the members of government have survived the Social Credit convention. They had another convention a few weeks ago, and I understand there were a number of interesting subjects brought up and a number of interesting resolutions debated. I understand also there was a person running around biting people — a very active convention.
AN HON. MEMBER: Yours was very dull.
MR. LORIMER: Yes, we won't argue that one.
[ Page 6742 ]
The Premier announced to the women's auxiliary, because he thought it was the thing to do, that he stood foursquare for women's rights, that he was a defender of the women and would do what he could to make sure that they were equal. But it came to pass shortly afterward that he suggested that, well, he wasn't that sure any more. He wasn't talking to the women's auxiliary, and they thought that maybe equal pay for work of equal value may be going a little far. He's still in the same position that the rest of his party are in, that the party throughout history has been in. They feel men are somewhat more equal than women.
I am pleased to see that even the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf) escaped Jaws at the convention and wasn't bitten by some irate party member — the party member that didn't believe what the Premier was saying. She knew that he didn't believe in women's rights. I understand someone there said it was one small bite for a woman, but a giant bite for women's rights. In any event, I am glad to see that the convention wasn't fatal to anyone from this House. I'm sure that you're all pleased to get back to Victoria, where you can sit with your friends.
I want to thank the Speaker for the telegram he sent me. It says:
TAKE NOTICE THAT PURSUANT TO RESOLUTION OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, APPROVED JULY 7, 1981, I AM SATISFIED THAT, AFTER CONSULTATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, PUBLIC INTEREST REQUIRES THAT THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY SHALL MEET IN VICTORIA.
I agree with that. The public interest certainly did require it.
MR. LORIMER: Yes, the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Curtis) has no money, and the government cannot afford to send these telegrams.
In any event, the Speaker recognized the fact that the province was in such a shambles that the public interest did indeed require that we meet in Victoria. With unemployment at a near-record high, interest rates at a ridiculously high level, shortages of housing, no shelter, no programs to indicate that any shelter would be coming on stream in the next few months or years, with the closure of our industrial plants, closure of retail outlets, with bankruptcies, and no sign of any solution to our economic problems, the Speaker said that the interest of this province requires that we meet. And he was right.
I came here, and I was sure that there would be a great amount of activity, that there would be a number of proposals presented by the government, a lot of initiatives brought forward by the government to resolve, or at least to deal with or to try to face up to, the economic problems that face this province. I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, you thought that too. You expected to hear a great amount from the government side indicating that they had the matter in hand, that they were going to resolve or at least reduce a great number of the problems that exist today.
But like myself, Mr. Speaker, you're disappointed. You're disappointed with the activities of this government. Nothing has happened; nothing is going to happen. We're here marking time, wasting time and money, and not accomplishing anything for the benefit of the province of British Columbia. There is nothing in the throne speech that indicates any effort on the part of this government to try to deal with some of the problems. Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that you are surprised and disappointed, as I am.
The Speaker said that he got a copy of the speech. He wanted to make sure that we had a copy. He knew that if we didn't have a copy, it would be forgotten within a day, because there is nothing in it. So he has a copy of the speech. I want to refer to that speech, if it's not out of order, Mr. Speaker. I was going to mention that the speeches of the mover and seconder of the motion to deal with the Speech from the Throne appeared to be written by the same individual. They sounded the same. The only difference was that the Speech from the Throne had an English accent, the mover had a Scottish accent, and the seconder had an Irish accent. But who is the author of all three?
Now the speech says: "Prudent fiscal management, privatization of select government activities, wage restraint and greater efficiencies are required and will form the central underpinnings of the budgetary measures you will be asked to approve." Let's take this from the top: "Prudent fiscal management." What's the history of this government? Overtaxation, waste, big-project operations without any kind of planning, junketeering, world cruising. Motion after motion was presented during the estimates last year to reduce the big spending of government, and that side voted against every one of them. That may be hard for you to believe, Mr. Speaker, but I think you were here and you noticed that they voted against all efforts to cut back on this wild spending government that we have across the way.
What about the climbing debt? The debt is up probably over $8 billion at the present time. It has climbed from some $3.5 billion to $8 billion in five years. A great record of prudent fiscal management. They're incompetent wastrels. What does the interest on this kind of debt amount to? Probably about $500 per man, woman and child per year on interest payments alone. There is some $4,000 per individual, per man, woman and child in this province of capital debt hanging over their heads.
MR. MUSSALLEM: You know you're wrong.
MR. LORIMER: Yesterday the member here that's chirping from Dewdney, my friend here, stated that there is no debt. I don't know whether he believes it or whether it's part of the whole thing that just pours out. I'm not sure what it is.
So far it's been able to survive because the economy has been good. They can waste and overtax, and nothing very serious happens. Things are a little different now. The economy throughout the world is shrinking and the effects are being felt here. They're paying for their errors of the past years.
The speech goes on to talk of "privatization." What does this mean? Does that mean another BCRIC? Is the government going to lay a BCRIC?
MR. COCKE: Hospitals.
MR. LORIMER: My colleague says it's going to be hospitals. Or is it going to be similar to the government sale of our bus lines to foreign investors? Or does it mean another Panco Poultry? There's the minister of Cargill. The minister of Cargill was told, as I understand it, and shockingly so, at the Federation of Agriculture that his services may not be required and should be done away with. You won't find much argument here against that proposition.
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How many mistakes does this government have to make before it learns? More privatization may mean the sale of parts of ICBC. Maybe they are considering the sale of the collision aspects of ICBC, or general insurance. Maybe that will be privatized. Maybe Hydro — maybe the bus lines. Then it goes on to talk about wage restraint, but there's no mention of profit restraint, price restraint or interest rate restraint. You won't have wage restraint without the others. So it's a feasible proposition if you're going to restrain all aspects, and it may be a worthwhile project, but to talk about wage restraints without reference to anything else is meaningless.
Further in the speech, it says: "We have programs in place to weather our temporary economic difficulties." What place? What programs? What have they got? They certainly have announced nothing here. We have seen nothing that would assist in any way with the economic difficulties that we're facing. It goes on and mentions development of our vast coal resources. That's true, the coal resources will be developed in time. But the difficulty here is that the matter was not planned, was not researched and the amount of waste in that program of development of northeast coal far outweighs any benefits that this province is going to receive from that project in the next great number of years.
We knew back in '73 or '74 that the northeast coal project was feasible in time if properly planned. But certainly there has been no proper planning, no guarantees of any contracts or any guarantees of sales and no performance bonds. Nothing — complete boondoggle.
I agree that it was essential or should have been essential to call this Legislature together to deal with the problems that face us.
As I mentioned earlier, I don't know who wrote this particular speech, but there have been some changes that will have to be made. For instance, there are a number of paragraphs dealing with the new view of the rights of women. Two or three days later the Premier admitted that this wasn't quite the way he anticipated the equal rights for women. And then again it goes on to talk about the construction of highways, the Coquihalla Highway, the bridge at Annacis Island, that we were going to go ahead; and a day later the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser) said: "Well, that's not really right; we're not going to go ahead with that road and that bridge at this stage." So there is another paragraph or two that has to be deleted from the speech.
Then there are a number of paragraphs dealing with this housing initiative, which now has turned out to be nothing and will not proceed. It took the minister from Ottawa to come out to speak to our own little minister here to tell him that actually what he had in mind was not what would happen. So you might say, as Mr. Kinsella would probably say, that half the speech is now inoperative and changed.
I want to speak a little bit on another part of this speech dealing with transit, in which he says: "During the same period, the number of public transit buses in operation, purchased with the assistance of my government, has increased by more than 30 percent." Well, I want to explain that the 30 percent is the ordering of trolley coaches, which will not increase the size of the fleet but are replacement vehicles for the present system. So in fact the number of vehicles being used to transport people will not be increased at all with that particular purchase. Over the last five years there have been very few purchases of any vehicles whatever in the transit field. Some buses were purchased for the Island, and some others are on order and will not arrive here for a great number of months.
The speech also talks about safe, adequate and efficient transportation. Well, there are two problems in safety in the transit area at the present time. One is with the trolley coaches that are being replaced, in which near serious accidents occurred last year during the snowstorm. The buses are shorting, and part of the 600-volt direct current used to operate the vehicles is being transported throughout the metal parts of the vehicle. As a result, on one occasion last year there was one lady who was thrown off the bus and into a storefront across the sidewalk by electric shock, and two or three other accidents of that kind last year in the snow. And I would urge the government to make sure that in the event of a further snowfall this year, before any of those trolleys are put on the road, they be thoroughly checked, as I understand some 30 to 40 percent of the trolley vehicles were hot last year during that snow. There are bare wires under the carriages, and with the impact of snow the resulting transfer of electricity throughout the vehicle is pretty obvious.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
The other unsafe aspect of the transit vehicles is the fact that the schedules have been tightened up and operators cannot meet the scheduled runs on time without speeding or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the passengers. Those things should be looked at. They're simple matters. They've been like that for some two years now. It's time that the government took some steps to make those schedules reasonable so that the operators can proceed safely.
I want to deal for a few minutes with the question of the Oakalla correctional institute in Burnaby. I've been in communication regularly with the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Williams) with reference to his plan or proposal to build a new, maximum-security jail at Oakalla. For years now both the Social Credit government and the New Democratic Party government have been basically in agreement that this facility would be phased out. It was back in 1962, I believe, that the then Attorney-General Robert Bonner promised the people of Burnaby that the jail would be phased out and the maximum-security prison would be removed from the centre of the urban area. It's still going to be phased out. During our administration we removed the farmlands from the Oakalla site and transferred them to the municipality for a hundred year lease. In the meantime the belief was that the present Social Credit government was also in favour of phasing out this facility.
Now we find out that the Attorney-General plans to create new buildings with 289 beds in the facility, 140 beds for convicted men and 127 beds for remanded and sentenced females. This doesn't sound like a phasing-out program to me.
The problem here is that we're not after a reduction in the number of beds at Oakalla. What the people in Burnaby want is a complete removal of the high-security jail from the centre of this urban area. There is no rhyme or reason for having that facility there or for building a new facility there, with the exception that the land is owned by the government. That's the only reason. However, the government owns a lot of other land in more remote areas. It may be feasible for those who are on remand to be close to the urban areas for their appearances in court and so on. But for those already convicted and serving sentences, I say that it is not the right place to
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have them — in the centre of a community — when you consider the dangers that are inherent with the number of people that escape from the facility and are mixed in with the homes and so on in that community.
The question is not whether or not the jail should be reduced. I don't believe for one minute that the population would be reduced. Once the new facility was built — if it ever is built — they would fill that and they would keep the present facilities as well. However, we're not concerned about that aspect of it.
What we're concerned about is that we want the facility phased out. We don't want a smaller jail, we don't want a larger jail, we don't want any jail of that magnitude. I want to tell the Attorney-General that the people of Burnaby are not at all happy with his proposal and are very concerned and will not accept the new additions of further facilities for these inmates.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak very briefly in support of the throne speech. I couldn't help but notice that the previous speaker, as he closed, told us once again another thing that he was against. That seems to be the general thrust of the debate we're getting from the opposition. They're against everything. We've heard of so many things in the last few days that they're against, and really nothing that they're for.
I remember a few days ago the member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson) was speaking about how difficult times are in his constituency: "The worst times that we've ever had there." I would ask that member to talk to the mining people in his riding and reflect back on the years of 1974 and 1975 when things were actually very difficult amidst a boom in the rest of the world, particularly....
HON. MR. CURTIS: They don't like to hear about that.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: No, they don't want to hear about things.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Have you got your gold mine today?
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Yes, we have gold mines, we've got copper mines and we've got moly mines.
Things aren't bad in B.C. relative to the rest of North America and the world. We have many many things happening in this province that are creating jobs and employment and opportunities for the people of this province. I need only to look at my constituency, where things are booming. Things are happening all over the great constituency of Yale Lillooet. In that constituency people have not felt these very serious economic times that are pervading most of the western world. For example, in the small community of Hope there is a motion picture being filmed now, another promotion of the Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mrs. Jordan), which is creating many, many jobs in that small town. It's also creating opportunities for the small business people there who are involved in the tourist industry.
We have a new gold mine starting production. The mine closed down there a few years ago, and a new gold mine is going into production and has already created jobs for the miners and opportunities for the small business community in the entire portion of Hope and in the Upper Fraser Valley.
Over in Princeton we have a diversified economy; we have all of our major resource industries working there. We have a viable ranching community with currently depressed prices, but carrying on nevertheless. We have a major mining operation. It's operated by one of these terrible, big companies, of course, but providing jobs, employment and cash flow in the community. We have a Weyerhaeuser sawmill there — another terrible, nasty, multinational company that's continuing even through difficult markets to employ all of their employees and creating again cash flows for the small business community in that area.
Up in the Merritt area, very close to the Highland Valley, as is the case in Ashcroft and in Logan Lake, we have new mines recently onstream. They include the Highmont mine, large expansions to the Lornex mine, and I'm sure in the not too-distant future other mining development will come along in the Highland Valley, creating not only jobs and opportunities for the employees but also opportunities for the small-business program.
Mr. Speaker, in these times where it is difficult for young people to get into a home, all these companies are providing incentives in the form of forgivable loans and forgivable second mortgages so that young families involved in these basic resource industries can get involved in housing and have steady, permanent employment as well. But, of course, those things are never recognized by the opposition — all the positive things that are happening in this province. Those things they can see they're, of course, against.
The people in Ashcroft and Cache Creek are anticipating the application by B.C. Hydro for an energy certificate for the Hat Creek thermoelectric project, another thing that, if approved, will provide tremendous benefits for the people of my constituency, power for industry in the province, and, again, many jobs and opportunities such as we have continually provided for the people of B.C.
I go over to the village of Lillooet, where we have a brand-new industrial airport which will provide opportunities for small business in that community. The Bridge River country is an old gold-mining area which is rapidly being revitalized. A lot of exploration and development is going on in the old mines that shut down a few years ago. People are grasping the opportunities that exist because of the climate created by this government which allows the private sector to make things happen.
The member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King) was recently credited with keeping the lid on the IWA members who provided a brief outburst in the galleries. That member is saying: "What are you doing? Why aren't you doing something in forest management to provide jobs for the people who are unemployed in the forest industry?" Mr. Member, we don't wait until there is a downturn in the forest economy before we begin to put money and effort and jobs into managing the forests of British Columbia. We've been doing that in a very aggressive manner for the last several years as a result of the very progressive forest legislation passed by this House a few years ago — voted against by the members opposite, of course, because once again those members are against progressive things.
Last fiscal year, for example, in our silvicultural program we spent about $72 million creating thousands and thousands of man-days of work in management of our forests. This year that number is even higher. The work is going on now and has been all year. We don't wait until a market slump in the forest industry before we begin to take very seriously our responsibilities
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in forest management, things such as spacing, thinning, fertilization, stand-tending work and increased planting. Last year for the first time ever we achieved the long-sought goal of planting 75 million seedlings in a year. This year — one year later — we'll be planting in excess of 90 million seedlings in our forest lands, because we recognize the fact that an inadequate job has been done over the years that we've been developing our forest industry.
In his speech the member for North Island (Mr. Gabelmann) cast such a cloud of doom and gloom that I really couldn't believe that I was here in British Columbia. Whole towns are out of work, he was saying. Whole towns of children, whole schools of kids with no lunch, nothing to eat, starving to death. Goodness gracious, member, your credibility slips somewhat when you make such statements.
Mr. Speaker, these members opposite grab on to the trouble that we are having in British Columbia and throughout Canada and North America because of high interest rates. They are saying to the government of British Columbia: you come in with policies that will offset the policies of another level of government. You spend British Columbia taxpayers' dollars to offset a conscious and direct policy of another level of government — offset those high interest rates. Well, I say if we're going to continue to reduce interest rates, we have to deal with the problem itself, and that is with the federal government and their economic policies which are causing the problems.
A few moments ago the member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) was speaking about the fact that there has been no change in WCB regulations since, I think she said, 1917. I don't know if that's a correct statement or not, but if she is so sure that changes should be made and should have been made in the past, I ask her: when they were government — when that party had their brief fling at trying to destroy the economy of B.C. — why didn't they bring in changes to the WCB act and the workers' regulations? I guess they just never got around to it, as they never got around to so many other things.
She went on to talk about Cominco being refunded the fine money because they were unable to meet air quality standards as established by the WCB and the Ministry of Environment. She never mentioned the fact that technology does not exist to achieve these levels of air quality. It does not exist in the world. That fact was finally recognized and acknowledged by the WCB.
She mentioned Cominco, MacMillan Bloedel and several other large companies, always implying that we don't need these big companies, and they're bad and somehow evil. At the same time, she is not recognizing that it's these large companies together with the small companies and the entrepreneurs and self-employed people in British Columbia that make things happen and provide the employment we have and keep our economy going. Somehow we can get along without the employers and yet we still want employment for the people of British Columbia. I don't follow that logic in thinking, Mr. Speaker. When I took around British Columbia I see a very dynamic economy — in spite of the fact that we're having depressed times in our forest industry. All you have to do is go out there and look and see to understand what's happening.
This morning the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland) referred to the northeast coal. We have an area there of about ten thousand square miles, as large as some European countries. It hasn't been tapped as far as its many resources are concerned. We, as a government, have been doing study after study for the last six years in order to find ways of encouraging that development to take place, of tapping those resources for the benefit of the people of British Columbia in jobs and in revenue for government. This is another megaproject the opposition is against. They say "Why the megaprojects — why don't you do something for the small-business people?" A development of that size, in the northeast, will benefit more small-business people than any other development this province has ever seen. It's all the many needs that go into that place, provided by the small-business community that gives the suppliers of services and equipment, the contractors, the opportunity to prosper in this province.
MR. SPEAKER: On a point of order, the first member for Vancouver Centre.
MR. LAUK: I wonder if we can call a quorum under standing order 6. I'd hate to listen to the rest of this scintillating speech alone, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: My attention is drawn to the lack of quorum. Hon. members, the two minutes has not yet expired, but we already seem to have a quorum. Shall we proceed?
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I hope the record will show that just prior to the first member for Vancouver Centre calling for a quorum there was a little huddle and several of the opposition members vacated the chamber, leaving a grand total of one of them there to defend the opposition's position on this great throne speech that we're debating today. It's typical of the attitude they took towards their work when they were in government — never getting around to those things they should have done.
Mr. Speaker, I was speaking briefly about northeast coal and all the many things that will flow from it: opportunities for the small business sector, for the people of British Columbia; the construction of a new rail line into a presently untapped part of British Columbia; the upgrading of a major port in Prince Rupert to not only provide port facilities for the people of British Columbia, but for all of Canada; the many opportunities to own homes in the new town of Tumbler Ridge, for the people of British Columbia; and the business opportunities there for the small business sector and the large business sector.
Northeast coal is another project the opposition are against, just as they are against the development of a thermoelectric plant at Hat Creek, just as they were against the development of Columbia River power. In fact, I think it has been shown on the record many times that Columbia River power would not be required until 1986 — at least, the Mica power would not.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, conversations that are carried on in the chamber while a member is speaking might perhaps best be carried out in whispers.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a very great lack of interest in what I'm saying here today, and in the proceedings of the House generally, so I would move adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.
Hon. Mr. Waterland tabled the annual report of the Ministry of Forests for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1981.
Hon. Mr. McClelland moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:46 a.m.