1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 1982
[ Page 6945 ]
Supply Act (No –– 1), 1982 (Bill 37). Hon. Mr. Curtis
Introduction and first reading –– 6948
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 6948
Mr. Stupich –– 6949
Mr. Barrett –– 6950
Hon. Mr. Phillips –– 6952
Mr. King –– 6952
Hon. Mr. Hewitt –– 6954
Mr. Hall –– 6954
Ms. Brown –– 6955
Mr. Lea –– 6956
Mrs. Wallace –– 6959
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 6959
Third reading –– 6961
Public Service Commission annual report, 1981.
Hon. Mr. Wolfe –– 6961
B.C. Milk Board annual report, December 31, 1981,
Hon. Mr. Hewitt –– 6961
Supply Act (No. 1), 1982 (Bill 37). Hon. Mr. Curtis.
Royal assent –– 6961
THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 1982
The House met at 10 a.m.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I have two introductions to make today, and I feel very honoured to make them. First of all, I'd like the House to welcome Lorna Kirkham, representing 30 students who are here in the precinct and in the House. They are here from Douglas College and are all on a career path which will help them in serving the people of British Columbia in social services. I'll ask the House to welcome each and every one of them.
I am really happy to welcome a well-known resident and citizen of the city of Vancouver, Mrs. Betsy McDonald, who is in the gallery today. Betsy served our Vancouver School Board for some years, but she is best known for the tremendous work she has done over the years in British Columbia in her initiating of career opportunities for women. She has lived a life of service for our community and our province. I'd like the House to welcome Mrs. Betsy McDonald, her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Davison, and her grandchildren, Galen and Karen.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I have the pleasure of introducing this morning from the Sunshine Coast area of my riding, Pender Harbour, the president of our New Democratic Party Constituency Association, Mr. Joe Harrison, and family, who are visiting with us today.
MS. SANFORD: I rise under the provisions of standing order 35 to seek leave to move adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the member briefly state the matter.
MS. SANFORD: In view of the latest unemployment figures released today showing the unemployment rate in British Columbia at 10.6 percent — the highest in over 20 years; in view of the fact that the region of Prince George reports the highest rate of unemployment west of the province of Quebec — a rate of 18.1 percent; in view of the fact that the city of Victoria now has the unhappy distinction of having the highest rate of unemployment of any city west of St. Catharines, Ontario, at 11.7 percent; in view of the fact that the hardest-hit unemployed group are those within the 15- to 24-year-old group, whose unemployment rate is a staggering 19.4 percent; and in view of the fact that this situation is of the gravest possible direct concern to over 200,000 unemployed citizens in British Columbia, I move that this House do now adjourn to debate the record number of unemployed in British Columbia, as announced by Statistics Canada this morning, and the failure of this government to stem the tide of rising unemployment.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, I will review the matter submitted by the hon. member. Having given it some deliberation, and without any prejudice to the member, I will bring a decision as quickly as possible. I would just caution the member, though, that in order for a matter to succeed under standing order 35, we must be certain that it is urgent enough to set aside all other business of the House and that there is not an opportunity at hand in which it can be debated. I would suggest that perhaps previous decisions on similar submissions have not been successful, particularly when we have been in a budget debate, which provides an opportunity. But I will review it and be absolutely certain on that.
MS. SANFORD: In view of the grave emergency that exists, I am wondering if we could have a brief recess for you to consider this so that we can come back and have an immediate debate on this serious problem.
MR. SPEAKER: Consideration can continue even while business is continuing in the House. It will be without prejudice to the hon. member.
MR. HOWARD: On a point of order, the urgency matter has been put very clearly to the House. Your Honour knows, I think, that any delay in dealing with this just aggravates the situation. If we later embark upon a debate on the next item — whatever that might be — then how is Your Honour going to come and interrupt a debate already in progress in order to put this motion? Let's have a ruling right now.
MR. SPEAKER: I think the member knows the procedures of the House.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, under what standing order is the House permitted to delay the hearing of a decision on an emergency debate? Either it's accepted or it's not accepted. But the nature of an emergency debate includes an immediate decision by the Chair. Otherwise the intent of standing orders is frustrated. In my opinion, the Chair should advise the House on a motion of this nature immediately. If it takes 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 15 minutes, the members should not be frustrated in their attempts to legitimately use the House as a basis for discussion. I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to make the decision now or take a recess and make it.
MR. SPEAKER: What needs to be understood is that the urgency in question here is not the urgency of the matter, which may or may not in the opinion of the House or in the opinion of the members be a most urgent matter. That's not what's under discussion. What is under discussion is whether or not the urgency of debate at this time is to be determined. Hon. members, I think that the House would be better served if a well-considered decision were brought to the House. Therefore the Chair will exercise its prerogative and reserve decision until such time as a well-considered decision can be brought.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I'm not asking the Chair to use a prerogative; I'm making a request on behalf of the official opposition that a decision be made now. If that request is refused, I'd like to know why. But it seems to me — in terms of the motion from the member — that the intent is to have a ruling from the Chair without any interference of prerogative.
If you so rule, that is something else again. But I think that the member deserves an immediate ruling on the validity of the motion itself. Any delay detracts from the historic intent of bringing emergency motions to the House.
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MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, matters under standing order 35 have been submitted to this House, in my memory, every session without exception. In every event the urgency that is purported may well be extremely urgent in the mind of the member submitting the matter. Nonetheless, if the ordinary business of the House is set aside and that very order of business of the House provides an opportunity to discuss the matter, then even to discuss whether or not an immediate decision should come from the Chair is to delay an opportunity to discuss the matter which the member considers as urgent.
So, hon. members, I think I will follow the precedent which has been established over the years in the House that a well-considered decision, written in proper form, will be delivered to the House as soon as it can be prepared.
MR. HOWARD: On a new point of order, which is a very simple one to follow. Your Honour has just indicated that he thinks he will take a certain course of action. I would ask Your Honour to put to the House the request for leave that the House now recess while you are able to examine this matter.
MR. SPEAKER: I do not see any necessity for the House…. In recessing the House it may well be that the opportunity to discuss the urgent matter is being delayed.
MR. HOWARD: I fail to see how Your Honour can consider this matter while the House is in progress, when Your Honour may be required to be in the chair during that period of time. The proper course, I think, would be to declare a recess, and I ask that you put that question to the House. With leave, I would move that the House go into recess.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. member. I think that the Chair will follow the precedents well established in the House.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, I think it is incumbent on the Chair to consider the fact that the House was not called back until after the end of the fiscal year, and that this matter could have been dealt with if the House had been normally brought back earlier. Thus the emergency value of the motion is heightened by the fact that the House was not called back until the fiscal year was over.
The member is seeking, in her sincere belief, relief by government action for the taxpayers and citizens in this province. Further delay by the Chair only supports a government decision not to call the House back until the end of the fiscal year, and it may be misinterpreted by the public and by certain members of this House that the Chair is delaying as well. Far be it from me to interpret that, Mr. Speaker, but I think that a clear-cut decision could be made in five or ten minutes by the Chair to satisfy the emergency nature of this debate.
MR. SPEAKER: I appreciate the opinion of the member.
MR. NICOLSON: On a point of order, a member has risen and asked for the opinion of the House to be expressed; that is, he has asked for leave. I cannot recall the Chair's refusing to put the question of leave to the House in order that the will of the House be known. If it is the unanimous will of the House — it must be unanimous, Mr. Speaker — then the Chair would comply with that request. But I have never, in my experience, experienced the Chair's refusing to ask for leave.
MR. SPEAKER: It is, after all, the decision of the Chair that is being sought in this matter. It is not the decision of the House that is being sought. Provisions are made under standing order 35.
MR. HOWARD: On a point of order, I am obliged, regretfully, to challenge your decision not to put that request for leave to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: The member rose on a point of order. On the same point, the House Leader.
HON. MR. GARDOM: The procedure that you have indicated....
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Speaker, I have issued a challenge to the Chair's ruling. I don't see how we can proceed on further points of order.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have recognized the House Leader on the same point of order.
MR. HOWARD: But I have challenged the ruling of the Chair, period. I don't see how he can have a point of order about my challenge.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chair has sought to follow the procedures which are long standing in this House and have been subscribed to by all of the members by virtue of their very membership in this House. Hon. members, to try to impose upon the Chair a measure which in itself is time-consuming, and to suggest that the House could not at the same time be conducting other, perhaps urgent, business — and the reason why we are assembled today is to discuss urgent business — is a real departure in the procedure of this House.
MR. HOWARD: Are you refusing to accept my challenge, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In order for there to be a challenge, there must be a ruling.
MR. HOWARD: You ruled that you would not put my request for leave to the House. I challenge that ruling.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member stood on a point of order, and I have decided to accept another opinion on that point of order. If there is indeed a challenge, I will put that challenge to the House after a ruling has been made.
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Speaker, I had asked leave of the House to move a motion for the House to recess while Your Honour consider the request of my colleague about an emergency debate. Your Honour failed to put that request for leave to the House. You ruled that I could not do that. I 'challenge your ruling. That's the challenge I'm making. I don't see how you can now deny that opportunity, Mr. Speaker. The Chair cannot continue to deny the desire of the House to express an opinion.
[ Page 6947 ]
MR. SPEAKER: That's right. On a point of order, the House Leader.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the procedures that you have indicated to the House are the procedures and customs of this House ever since I've been in it and before. You are following the precise terminology in standing order 35(3), which says: "He then hands a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed to Mr. Speaker, who, if he thinks it is in order and of urgent public importance, reads it out…."
You have indicated, Mr. Speaker, that you wish time to deliberate. As far as I know, that has been the custom of every Speaker in this House since it was established.
I would draw to the attention of the official opposition that they well know today is the day for interim supply. They wanted to know two days ago when interim supply would be held, and I suppose they want to create fewer jobs in the province by not making dollars available for the public servants to be properly paid. Without getting into debate, I would say that if they'd pass the budget, we'd have rosy times in B.C.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will accept a further opinion.
MR. NICOLSON: Standing order 9 says: "Mr. Speaker shall preserve order and decorum and shall decide questions of order subject to an appeal to the House without debate." The interpretation is that when leave is asked, the question is then put to the House whether the House's normal proceeding shall be put aside, and it must be unanimous.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, a request has been made by an hon. member of this House to ask leave that we move into a recess.
Leave not granted.
MR. SPEAKER: Therefore I will return to the House as quickly as is possible, with a proper, written decision on the matter under standing order 35. I trust that satisfies the House.
MR. KING: Yesterday evening I moved a motion of privilege respecting comments made by the member for North Okanagan (Hon. Mrs. Jordan). In light of the fact that the nature of that statement issued a slander against unnamed people in my riding, and that cloud of slander still hangs unspecified over unnamed people, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you have a ruling on that motion of privilege so that cloud of slanderous allegation can be dealt with immediately, without undue delay and embarrassment to residents of my constituency.
MR. SPEAKER: The Chair recognizes the concern of the member, and a decision will be brought just as quickly as it is prepared.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: On a point of order, I'd like it to be known that the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King) said to the House that he had moved a motion of privilege. That has not been done at this time.
MR. SPEAKER: The point is well taken.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply: Mr. Davidson in the chair.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move that from and out of the consolidated revenue fund there may be paid and applied in the manner and at the times the government may determine the sum of $2,143,337,786 towards defraying the charges and expenses of the public service of the province not otherwise provided for for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983 and being substantially one-quarter of the total amount of the votes of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, as laid before the Legislative Assembly at the present session; and secondly, the sum of $26,975,000, being substantially one-quarter of the total amount required for the purposes referred to in section B of schedule B of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports resolution and asks leave to sit again.
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the resolution as reported be considered?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the report of resolution from the Committee of Supply on April 8, 1982, be now taken as read and received.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the resolution be now read a second time.
MR. SPEAKER: The resolution is that from and out of the consolidated revenue fund there may be paid and applied in the manner and at the times the government may determine the sum of $2,143,337,786 towards defraying the charges and expenses of the public service of the province not otherwise provided for for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, and being substantially one-quarter of the total amount of the votes of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, as laid before the Legislative Assembly at the present session; and secondly, the sum of $26,975,000, being substantially one-quarter of the total amount required for the purposes referred to in section B of schedule B of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983.
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the committee sit again?
HON. MR. CURTIS: At the next sitting, Mr. Speaker.
I move that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee of Ways and Means.
[ Page 6948 ]
The House in Committee of Ways and Means; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move that from and out of the consolidated revenue fund there may be paid and applied in the manner and at the times the government may determine the sum of $2,143,337,786 towards defraying the charges and expenses of the public service of the province not otherwise provided for for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, and being substantially one-quarter of the total amount of the votes of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, as laid before the Legislative Assembly at the present session; and secondly, the sum of $26,975,000, being substantially one-quarter of the total amount required for the purposes referred to in section B of schedule B of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported a resolution, was granted leave to sit again.
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the resolution as reported be considered?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the report of the resolution from the Committee of Ways and Means on April 8, 1982, be now taken as read and received.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I move that the resolution be now read a second time.
MR. SPEAKER: From and out of the consolidated revenue fund there may be paid and applied in the manner and at the times the government may determine the sum of $2,143,337,786 towards defraying the charges and expenses of the public service of the province, not otherwise provided for for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, and being substantially one-quarter of the total amount of the votes of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983, as laid before the Legislative Assembly at the present session; and (b) the sum of $26,975,000, being substantially one-quarter of the total amount required for the purposes referred to in section B of schedule B of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1983.
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the committee meet again?
HON. MR. CURTIS: At the next sitting, Mr. Speaker.
SUPPLY ACT (NO. 1), 1982
HON. MR. CURTIS: I present Bill 37, intituled Supply Act (No. 1), 1982.
MR. SPEAKER: There will be a short recess while the bill is distributed so that all members might have it in hand.
The House took recess at 10:41 a.m.
The House resumed at 10:45 a.m.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill 37 be referred to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report recommending the introduction of the bill.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Speaker, the committee reports, recommending introduction of the bill.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the report be adopted.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be introduced and now read a first time.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a second time.
It would be appropriate at this point, Mr. Speaker, to observe to the Speaker and all honourable members that the passage of the new Financial Administration Act by the Legislative Assembly last year has resulted in a number of consequential changes to the wording of the supply bill which is presently before us in second reading.
In particular, the Financial Administration Act contains a number of sections which strengthen the financial accountability of the government to the Legislative Assembly. Among these is a section which now requires that all special warrants approved by the Lieutenant-Governor-In-Council be submitted to the Legislature as part of the next supply bill.
Mr. Speaker, I think that I can speak for all members of the government in saying that this is a degree of accountability which is certainly the best we have had in British Columbia and, indeed, is probably now the best in Canada. Therefore the bill contains schedules which list those special warrants approved in the 1981-82 fiscal year as well as the special warrants approved by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council on April 1, 1982, to meet those urgent and immediate expenditures of the government between April 1, 1982, and the passage of this bill. These changes resulting from the passage of the Financial Administration Act are, again, part of the overall desire of the government and the Ministry of Finance to improve the disclosure of financial information to the Legislative Assembly and to the taxpayers of the province.
It would not be inappropriate, I think, to observe that in the auditor-general's report which was tabled in this House
[ Page 6949 ]
late yesterday afternoon, there is in fact reference to the degree of accountability and reporting which now exists in this province of British Columbia and which I trust will remain in place for a long time to come. Similarly, the public accounts which were tabled at the beginning of this week also reflect the government's greatly expanded and improved financial reporting policies.
Mr. Speaker, other than incorporating the requirements of the new Financial Administration Act, this supply bill is in the general form of previous years' supply bills. Moreover, the proportion of the tabled estimates required in the bill — i. e. one-quarter of the full supply — is I think consistent with the most usual practice in past years. It has been as little as one-sixth, and I think on occasion it has been one-third. But we have opted for one-quarter of full supply.
This year the supply bill also requests one-fourth of the funding planned for the government's ongoing employment development programs, which members have in section B of schedule B of the estimates. Full supply for these programs, Mr. Speaker, will be requested through the employment development bill which is now at first-reading stage, Interim supply for these ongoing employment programs is required to provide for essential training and employment-creation programs, such as training grants to educational institutions.
Mr. Speaker, I trust those remarks are of some use to the members, with what is a slightly new procedure in the province of British Columbia, but one which affords far greater accountability, not only to this House, but to those who pay the bills.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly have no intention of holding up unduly interim supply, but it is different this year, and there will perhaps be more discussion than is normal.
Perhaps it was rather a sick joke on the part of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Hon. Mr. Gardom) when he said that we should proceed with the passing of the interim supply bill because this would supply jobs. Surely that's part of the budget debate itself.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's what he said. You just didn't hear him,
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Speaker, I've been reminded that I didn't hear what he said. What he was urging us was not to hold up the business of the House today, which is the interim supply bill, because if we proceeded with the business of the House we could get on with the provision of jobs. There will be no jobs provided for in the interim supply bill. I spoke at some length on Tuesday to say that there will be no jobs provided for in the budget itself. The passing of the budget will not provide new jobs in the province of British Columbia. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, daily we read reports in the paper of the effects of this budget, and the effects are to reduce the number of jobs available in the province of British Columbia.
There isn't a day that goes by but we read of one more school district closing more schools and losing teacher positions, and of municipalities cutting back on their payrolls, laying off staff and not hiring people to replace them. Every day we read stories where the effect of this budget with its cutbacks is to eliminate jobs rather than provide new jobs. For the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs to say, "Let's hurry up and pass the budget to provide new jobs," when he knows that the opposite will be the case, I think is rather a sick joke following on the heels of the motion that the member for Comox (Mrs. Sanford) wants to move.
I was also amused at that same minister's comment to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Barrett) that "this has happened the same way every year since you've been here, Dave." Well, Mr. Speaker, most of the time that the first member for Vancouver East has been in this House it has not been necessary to bring in an interim supply bill. This in itself is a departure. I was amused at the Premier, when he said the House would meet on April 5, saying that he was anxious that the members come together as quickly as possible, as though somebody else were holding it up. He's the one who delayed the opening of the House — he and the Minister of Finance, I expect, were changing the budget. I rather suspect they changed it some three times before we finally saw it on April 5. That's what delayed the opening of the House; they just couldn't make up their minds what kind of a budget they were going to bring in.
They say that we are delaying a budget that will provide new jobs, when the budget itself shows that it's going to cut back on jobs. They suggest that someone else has been delaying the opening of the House. It's perhaps not the latest time in history that it's ever opened, but I can't recall there ever being the necessity to pass special warrants in the month of April before the budget was even introduced in the House. This in itself is a departure. Why has the government been so late in calling the House together? Why was it necessary to pass those special warrants on April 1, knowing that the House would be meeting on April 5? What payments really had to be made as part of the 1982-83 fiscal periods? I know they're listed, but are they really 1982-83 fiscal-period expenditures, or are they more overruns from 1981-82?
The budget, as late as it was, did not then have the detail in it that was normally a part of the budget speeches that used to be presented in this Legislature in February, not in April, when the governments of the day knew what they were doing. For the first time we did not get the details on budget day. We had to wait two more days to get the kind of details that finally were made available to us. It was supposed to be more information, the same detail as has been available to members previously, and generally in February, not in April.
This government doesn't have any plans for jobs; this government has plans only on cutting back, for trying to save government funds in the province, hoping that something is going to happen that will help the economy of British Columbia from abroad, hoping that somebody else is going to do something to help us. Mr. Speaker, this is a debate that properly belongs, as far as I'm concerned, in the budget debate — and I did take part in that at great length. I know other of my colleagues will want to speak in the interim supply itself.
As I said, we're not going to hold it up, but we are distressed at the lateness of calling the House together in face of the dire need of the citizens of this province; we're distressed at the lateness of bringing in a budget; we're distressed at the change in format which we still suspect is a way of covering up expenditures that properly belong in a previous year and would have created a deficit that year; and we're distressed that the government is further trying to hide things, hoping and planning that they will get a further mandate from the people before the truth of this budget is known to the people of the province.
[ Page 6950 ]
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) is very polite and has a reputation in this House for being polite and giving the benefit of the doubt to the government, even if the benefit of the doubt isn't warranted. In my opinion the politeness of the member for Nanaimo, has also pointed out that we are being asked today in this bill through special warrant to cover up the deficit of at least $134 million of last year's budget.
Mr. Speaker, this government has run up dead-weight debt, even though they have capitalized anything that could move, including selling off every ferry that we have already paid for; even though they have put huge debt on corporations, doubling the debt on Crown corporations in five years, and found a magic way of making $45 million become the pea under the five-shell game — not three shells, but five shells.
Mr. Speaker, I point out to you that last year the House debated an appropriation of some $22.5 million for northeast coal. We were told that that would be all that was spent. We were promised by the Minister himself as quoted in Hansard that that would be the limit and he would not be asking for any more money that year. On March 25, Mr. Speaker, an order-in-council was passed that gave that minister another $45 million to throw up against the wall for helicopters and a few other things. He was given $45 million with no debate, contrary to the promise given by that minister in this House about the cost of northeast coal.
Then the budget was brought in, and I refer you to the estimates book, on page 156. Did we see the $45 million pea under the shell? No, Mr. Speaker, all we have in the estimates is a figure of $22,930,000 for last year, not an honest statement about the $45 million that appeared mysteriously for a week and then disappeared and has arrived again today under another shell. In the estimates we see no mention of that $45 million. We see a modest $12 million projected for this year for northeast coal.
But if you look at the schedule on this bill, lo and behold, we find the magic pea again, and it's under the shell of this bill. We look on the schedule on page 3 and an innocuous little line here that says: March 25, number of the warrant, number 11, supplement to vote number 132, northeast coal, $45 million. Mr. Speaker, $45 million overrun in northeast coal last year buried in a warrant becomes a deficit in last year's budget approved by a hurry-up warrant. A week before the House opens it disappears in this year's estimates as if it magically wasn't spent at all. But the day of reckoning comes within hours here in a supplementary bill, proving that there have been massive overruns in that project and massive debt piled on the people of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker, you can do a lot things in creative bookkeeping. You can move the pea through various shells. But sooner or later there has to be an accounting to this House. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have irrefutable proof that northeast coal sucked up $45 million last year in a warrant. It is not presented in this year's budget as an expenditure on northeast coal. It is a deliberate overrun against the very promise of the minister himself; against the very words of the minister himself. This is even more reason than Lord Carrington had to resign.
The Minister of Finance has been forced into a position of fudging the books. The Minister of Finance, whose reputation is always on the line, has been forced to reveal the fact that spending is out of control in northeast coal; that spending warranted another $45 million; that the $45 million was not put in the last fiscal year or in this fiscal year, but was intended to slip between the slide of March 31 and April Fool's Day. April Fool's Day was to be the day that this $45 million was to be a cruel joke on the people of British Columbia. The proof is right here in this bill we are debating now.
Mr. Speaker, where is this going to end? As I stand here, what this bill proves is that there will be an election before another Social Credit budget is presented to this House. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this kind of political irresponsibility in terms of accounting indicates that the government of British Columbia is broke. It has run a deficit into this year's budget. If you total up the quarterly amounts presented in here — a little over $2 billion — four times two is $8 billion and that's a lot more than the total figure presented by the minister for the budget. Why is that figure larger? Because it scoops up all the deficits and overruns of this year as of March 31, including the $45 million from northeast coal, and dumps it into this year's budget, with the anticipated overruns of this year already close to $8 billion.
The Minister of Finance is embarrassed. He's been told that the Premier's favorite cabinet minister, the man from the north who is threatened by the Western Separatists, can spend as much money as he wants on that dream of northeast coal and come up with this kind of creative financing. That's $45 million that we have been lied to about. This House was lied to. This House was told by that minister that there would never be another penny that year. This House was told by the minister in answer to a question in the House that the $22 million would be all for northeast coal this year. The House believed the minister, only to find that another $45 million is being attempted to be shoved through that midnight crack between March 31 and April 1, to show up as a deficit.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. member is not suggesting that an hon. member of the House lied. If he is, I must ask him to withdraw.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, no one else raised the point. There was no objection from the government or the minister.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I must ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the phrase that the minister lied.
MR. BARRETT: It is the documents that are lying.
MR. SPEAKER: Please proceed.
MR. BARRETT: Hansard is lying.
HON. MR. CURTIS: No!
MR. BARRETT: That's not good enough, huh? Well, have the courage to stand up and say so. That's $45 million down the tubes.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Sit down; let me tell you the facts.
MR. BARRETT: Are you on a point of order? No, I'm not going to give up my place. Is the minister rising on a point of order?
[ Page 6951 ]
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: You're all excited, my friend.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Let's hear the debate.
MR. BARRETT: I notice that the minister did not rise on a point of order and ask me to withdraw.
MR. SPEAKER: Would the second member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes) and the Minister of Industry and Small Business (Hon. Mr. Phillips) come to order.
MR. BARRETT: That minister solemnly stated in this House that the $22.9 million would be all that he would request for northeast coal. A warrant was passed on March 25, giving another $45 million to northeast coal. It does not show up on page 156 of this year's estimates. It does not show up as a last-year estimate. It does not show up as a this-year estimate. The only conclusion is that $45 million was an overrun that they're attempting to bury as a deficit in the last year.
It's taxpayers' money. It is this Social Credit government that ran around saying: "Not a dime without a debate. We want full accountability, and we'll never run a deficit." The very presence of this document says that there is a $134 million deficit from last year, and in that they're trying to bury the $45 million from northeast coal.
MR. HOWARD: There are ten more times to come.
MR. BARRETT: Yes, my friend the member for Skeena says it correctly. If we had any reason to doubt last year's figure of $22.9 million that mysteriously got another $45 million, then I must say that, in my opinion, the $12 million estimate for northeast coal this year is a fraudulent estimate, and the minister knows it. Don't kid us.
MR. MACDONALD: Four times two equals seven.
MR. BARRETT: It's new Social Credit mathematics: four times two equals seven and a bit. If there's any left over we can always announce another lottery. We can have a sweepstakes game and a lottery to figure out what the deficit will be this year. The closest figure to the deficit will not necessarily win, because we won't get that exact figure until another provincial election is well over and away.
As I stand here, if the NDP wins the next provincial election we will have a royal commission investigating every single one of the funds that have been expended in that northeast coal project. We will have a royal commission to lay bare all of the maneuvering and political mishandling of public funds in that project that allowed a $45 million warrant to be passed with no reference to this House and no explanation in this year's budget. You know what's going on, and I know what's going on. It's a little bit of politics, isn't it? We have a lot of little chit-chat about it. Sure, Mr. Speaker, but I noticed that he didn't jump on his feet and ask for the withdrawal of my reference to his statement.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: On a point of order, the Leader of the Opposition is chastising me for not standing on a point of order because he made certain references. I just have to take it where it comes from. I've heard statements like that from theLeader of the Opposition before. They just have to run off my back like water off a duck.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Was there a point of order that I missed? If we are using the forms of the House to gain the floor of the House in order to interrupt the person who has the floor, that is out of order.
MR. BARRETT: Some point, some water, some duck! That minister came to this House and said that he would not ask for another penny for northeast coal in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1981. He said $22,900,000 would be all.
AN HON. MEMBER: He didn't ask for it. He just took it.
MR. BARRETT: That is correct. He didn't ask for it, He just took it through a warrant. Forty-five million dollars was taken out of possible expenditures for schools, hospitals and highways, scooped up without any reference to this House and dumped into there. I wonder if they didn't think of pouring the money out of the helicopters while they were flying over. Just kick it out of the door of the helicopter and let it sprinkle down. I'll tell you, the people of British Columbia would have had a better chance of getting some of that money if they'd kicked it out of the helicopter doors. At least it would have stopped the contracts from going to Korea, to Belgium for the ships, the railcar contracts going to Quebec and Ontario and the stacker reclaimer going to the Japanese. Jobs for everybody in the world out of B.C. taxpayers' money but none for here in British Columbia.
I repeat, this bill admits $134 million of dead-weight debt out of general revenue; $45 million of it is northeast coal debt. I repeat, Mr. Speaker, that the people of British Columbia are being flim-flammed by this government in this attempt today with this bill. I repeat that the people of British Columbia will have a royal commission investigating every single step of the way. You can play funny games, Mr. member for wherever you are. You are never in your riding anyway. I am up there more than you are. They want to know who you are up there.
Social Credit today is admitting a deficit last year. Social Credit today is admitting that there will be no accounting in this year's debate of that $45 million overrun in northeast coal. More than anything else we need a royal commission to check every bit of accounting, creative and otherwise, that this government is now involved in through this bill.
HON. MRS. JORDAN: I had not wished to interrupt this debate with another matter, but unfortunately it is a matter of importance, not related directly to this debate. The time is limited, so I seek the opportunity to make a short statement and introduction.
MR. SPEAKER: If it is an introduction, leave will be required.
HON. MRS. JORDAN: Members of the House will recall that for the last two or three years British Columbia tourism has entered floats in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena. The purpose of this is to bring British Columbia more to the attention of the people of the United States as a tourism destination.
[ Page 6952 ]
HON. MRS. JORDAN: The reason we want tourists here, Mr. Member, is to create jobs, capital investment and to give our citizens the benefits for hospitals and schools. Of course, that wouldn't interest you.
The purpose of the entry into the parade is part of a marketing strategy and the entry itself gives us a type of publicity throughout North America at a minimum cost which could not be bought in any other way. Winning a prize in the contest is incidental. This year we were anxious to see that the parade entry had more significance to the people of British Columbia than ever before. The theme was "Children of a Common Mother." In that context we had, with the help of the Vancouver Sun and the Pasadena Star, a contest with students in Pasadena and students in British Columbia to write an essay depicting what, in Canada, the United States meant to them and, in the United States, what Canada and British Columbia meant to them.
The winners of these contests rode on the float in the parade. The winners — four students from Pasadena, U.S.A., and four students from around British Columbia — were the guests of Tourism British Columbia and the Pasadena Rose Bowl committee for the parade. They all worked on the British Columbia float and they all took part in it.
Part of the reward was to have the American students visit British Columbia during their spring break. Those four American students from Pasadena, winners of their contest with the Pasadena Star in conjunction with the Vancouver Sun, are here today in this Legislature and are the guests of the people of British Columbia for their short holiday. They are ambassadors of tourism not only for their own great state, but for our province as well. They are accompanied by our assistant deputy minister, Mr. John Plul, and I would ask all members in this House to join with me in extending a very warm welcome to these clever young people who won an essay and who contributed to British Columbia, winning a prize, as well as meeting our other objectives. Would you please stand and would the House give them a warm welcome. Their names are Richard Karpinski, Bob Rose, Yolanda Tate and Cynthia Fedors.
MR. SPEAKER: Now back to the debate on Bill 37.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak in this debate, and I wish the Leader of the Opposition, who just stood in his place on the floor of the House and laughed and made some wild charges, were here to hear the facts.
They talk about job creation, and they've tried to knock northeast coal every way possible. Now they're making these ridiculous statements. Again, I'm going to have to make the Leader of the Opposition eat his words, because there have been no overruns on northeast coal. As a matter of fact, to date the estimated cost of northeast coal is coming within one-and-a-half percent, and I think that's pretty fantastic. It shows that the project was well-engineered and well-planned — not like the opposition, who were going to bring on northeast coal in 1975 and didn't even have a study done.
For the record, the $45 million warrant, which has been the subject of some pretty severe charges by the Leader of the Opposition, was passed through my ministry and through the northeast coal vote to the British Columbia Railway. It's as simple as that. It was a pass-through vote. When the Leader of the Opposition stands in his place and starts talking about tremendous overruns, I want to tell you that most of the estimates — as a matter of fact, even the large tunnel contracts, which I was afraid of, came in right in the ballpark of what we had estimated on that $150 million contract....
This shows that we had our engineering worked out, that we had prepared ourselves well, that our estimates were right on target, and that northeast coal with the majority of the contracts let today will be well within budget. So they're ridiculous charges again. He makes them and they're printed, and I don't know how you counteract that. But everything he has said about northeast coal I've been able to prove wrong.
He talks about jobs. Mr. Speaker, I don't wish to get into a full-fledged debate on northeast coal, but they're over there screaming about jobs. There will be 5,800 people employed this summer on northeast coal. That's over 10 percent of the construction workforce in British Columbia. And yet they scream about jobs. We are creating jobs. There is no government or jurisdiction in North America that has done as much to stimulate its economy in its own jurisdiction as this government has.
Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to take up the House's time to debate them, but when my estimates arise I will certainly debate them. I'm proud of what this government has done, and if it hadn't been for the planning we have taken in the last six years, the province of British Columbia would be like most other provinces in Canada today — bankrupt.
When the Leader of the Opposition stands up here and talks and makes wild statements, I.... As I say, I've proven him wrong on everything he's said. Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the Leader of the Opposition stated unequivocally that if he were elected Premier of this province, the first thing he would do is close down northeast coal.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: He said he would close down northeast coal. Are you saying he denies it?
[Mr. Speaker rose.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The second member for Vancouver Centre is being disruptive and disorderly. This is the second notice.
[Mr. Speaker resumed his seat.]
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I'm happy to tell the House that there are no great overruns on northeast coal. It's the best planned project in the history of this province: on target, on date and within budget. I suppose that bothers the opposition. I don't want to get into a great debate on northeast coal — there will be lots of time for that — but I do want to explain to the House and to the members of the great press, who might misinterpret me and print some facts that are not really true.... I just want to say, unequivocally, that the $45 million warrant was passed through my vote. The money was given to the British Columbia Railway, and the railway construction is on schedule and on target.
MR. KING: The issue here is very clear. We have a special warrant issued in the amount of $45 million over and
[ Page 6953 ]
above that which was approved by the Legislature last year. Some $22 million was debated and approved for northeast coal last year by the Legislative Assembly. The minister did give the Legislature his word that that would be the total amount of expenditures last year for northeast coal. We now find, by the government's own documents, which are before the House and the public, for anyone to check, that indeed a special warrant was issued for $45 million before the end of the fiscal year on the last day of March, five days before the legislature convened this year. That $45 million calls into question the commitment that the minister gave to the House. The rules of this House preclude me categorizing it as it should be categorized, but certainly it was a broken commitment.
Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, I think the public of British Columbia is becoming increasingly concerned with large sums of public money being authorized in the secrecy of the cabinet room without reference or debate in this Legislature. There was no debate and no scrutiny, and then we had the pathetic attempt of the government coming forward and trying to hide that expenditure by simply carrying it forward into this year's budget.
Their shallow attempt also reveals that they don't even show that amount in this year's budget. It is money totally unaccounted for. It is the expenditure of $45 million without debate in the Legislature, commissioned in the secrecy of a cabinet room, with deliberate attempts being made by the government to hide that expenditure. That is unprecedented in the legislative history of British Columbia — that kind of patent duplicity in attempting to hide public expenditures. This is a major issue, Mr. Speaker. It is not some frivolous matter of accounting procedure; this is a deliberate attempt by the government to hide the expenditure, without debate, of $45 million of public funds in this province.
What makes the matter more serious is that the minister asks the Legislature and the people of the province of British Columbia to accept on faith, without scrutiny, his administration of northeast coal; he asks for an additional $45 million, sight unseen and unapproved by the Legislature. Yet, despite continued requests by the opposition, that minister has consistently refused to reveal the details of the northeast coal deal. The Legislature doesn't know whether there are in fact any signed contracts between the two mining companies involved, Teck and Denison, and the Japanese steel interests.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you against it? Would you close it down?
MR. KING: The minister asks if I'm against it. I'm against this kind of irresponsible expenditure of public funds without debate. Certainly I am. In order for anyone to make an intelligent appraisal as to whether northeast coal is a good, bad or indifferent deal, facts must be laid on the table. When it appears that over one billion dollars of public funds are committed to that project, certainly the least that the Legislature or any self-respecting government or any government that respects the people can be prepared to do would be to put forward the terms and conditions of the contracts, the sales arrangements or any subsidies that are inherent in that program with respect to the transportation of that coal.
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, the minister is bent on heckling me. He seems to dislike me, for some reason or other. I want you to know that I wouldn't harm a hair on that minister's head; I don't want to interfere with his rights in this House.
If the members over there who are so vocal would put facts on the table so the Legislature can function properly, then we would be able to debate on behalf of the people of British Columbia in a responsible way and there'd be no need for this surreptitious style of attempting to hide the expenditure of $45 million. This is a scandal of the first order and, quite frankly, under British parliamentary tradition, if a Minister of Finance was found to be hiding expenditures which have taken place and failing to account for them properly, as in the estimates of 1981-82 was also in the estimates of 1982-83, he would be obliged by British parliamentary tradition to resign the cabinet position he holds.
Talk about irresponsibility. Talk about shovelling money out of helicopters. The minister goes up there in M*A*S*H-like fashion, descends on northeast coal with seven helicopters at public expense, sets off a charge of dynamite and then expects the House, on the basis of that excursion into northeast coal, to entrust to him the expenditure of $45 million without debate or access to any of the details pertaining to that northeast coal development. Quite frankly, I have never encountered anything quite so irresponsible by this government or any other. I can just imagine the howls of indignation emanating from that side of the House by them and their supporters, their fellow travelers in the Conservative Party, if the federal government tried to do this kind of trip in the House of Commons. We have here not only contempt for the Legislature and the taxpayers who put up this $45 million and had it extracted painfully from their land taxes and school taxes by cuts in the human services that the people have a right to expect; we have here a classic example of tampering with the traditional and honest bookkeeping and accounting that this legislature should expect.
This is a deficit, pure and simple. The government has run a deficit in last year's spending, and now they attempt to hide that by passing special warrants without debate and then slipping those special warrants into this bill that's before the Legislature now and asking that it be approved without debate because interim supply is contained in the same bill.
The opposition is obliged — and it is our duty — to scrutinize and alert the public regarding every expenditure, certainly one of this magnitude. It's disgraceful for the Legislature of British Columbia. I'm sure the Minister of Finance is embarrassed. I note that both the Premier and the minister who is responsible for the taking of this $45 million without debate and accountability have left this House. This is complete disdain for the Legislature.
It would have been a different thing had $45 million been earmarked to generate employment for British Columbians, but as my colleague the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, it seems that the government is committed not to British Columbia employment, but to creating employment for foreign interests with respect to the contracts that have been let for the development of northeast coal. It is a shoddy day. It's an embarrassing day for a government that always tried to peddle the line that you pay as you go. They've been caught with their deficit down today. It's revealed for all to see, and they can't hide it by the most creative or imaginative bookkeeping that this province has ever seen. The facts are clear. The issue is beyond debate. What we have here is an attempt to hide a major deficit in the financing of this province's affairs.
[ Page 6954 ]
HON. MR. HEWITT: I did want to enter into this debate. There were statements made by the Leader of the Opposition concerning interim supply. I had the opportunity to look at an interim supply bill dated April 9, 1974, when they were government.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: When was the budget introduced?
HON. MR. HEWITT: The Leader of the Opposition talked about interim supply. He didn't talk about when the budget was introduced. He talked about interim supply: 1975, interim supply, March 26 — and June 9 was the second interim supply bill.
They talk about this administration, and I have to tell you that from 1952 to 1972 this province was administered very well, thank you, and left a sizeable balance in the accounts in 1972 when this party was defeated as government — then only to find that between that infamous day in 1972 and that great day of December 11, 1975, that party as government took this province to the verge of bankruptcy. From December 11, 1975, to date we have maintained balanced budgets in this province. Between those years when the Social Credit Party has been the government in this province, life has been pretty good. But in the years 1972 to 1975 it was pretty sad.
The Leader of the Opposition goes on to comment about giving away contracts and projects to Japanese and European companies. I don't think he's read the list of companies in British Columbia that have benefited by that northeast coal project. I mentioned in my budget speech the other day that two companies in my home town of Penticton received contracts from northeast coal. I went on to mention that companies from Prince George, Aldergrove, Kitimat and various other communities around this province have obtained contracts from northeast coal, contracts which benefited the economy of those small communities.
When you attack the interim supply bill that lists the special warrants, and you zero in on northeast coal, do you want to take a good run at the Ministry of Health? Do you want to say that because we shouldn't have put through interim supply or special warrants we should have denied $42 million for health services or we should deny direct community care services of $42 million? Would you want to deny those services to the people of the province? You're very selective in your attack. You go after northeast coal's $45 million, which is really funds going out to create the activity in northeast coal and to keep a project ongoing, without delays and the heavy costs that are incurred because of delays.
The attack that I have heard so far through the budget speech, and now in interim supply, is indicative, I guess, of the shortsightedness of the opposition. I would like to know one thing, because they've never really said it: is the opposition going to stand up someday in this House and say whether they're for or against northeast coal? You haven't got the intestinal fortitude to take a stand on that. You waffle, waffle, waffle. Let's hear from those on the opposition side of the House as to whether or not they're for or against northeast coal when they attack the $45 million expenditure.
MR. HALL: Mr. Speaker, the opposition is attempting to draw your attention to the fact that during the second reading debate on interim supply, for the first time in modern history in British Columbia, we're faced with a demand for supply from a government that idly twiddled its thumbs for three months before calling the House together after the new fiscal year commenced. That is the first point I wish to draw to your attention.
Quoting from the record books way back to the 1800s is really of no significance, What is happening here is that the government was not ready with its budget. I told you when I spoke in the budget debate that the budget was ready on Friday. I have been advised that I was incorrect; the budget was not ready last Friday. The Minister of Finance looks over to me in a puzzled way. The budget was not ready for distribution last Friday and, in fact, the Queen's Printer had to work overtime all weekend, at double time, printing that budget. That is the kind of planning we can expect from that government over there. Instead of being able to produce its documents on time, instead of planning its work properly, it is always in a rush, always at the last minute, always make-do and mend, putting things together, government by crisis, government by reaction, government by chaos.
That is the kind of thing we are drawing to your attention when, for the first time, we've now got in print the real value of the budget — not the $7.2 billion that the member for Saanich (Hon. Mr. Curtis) would have us believe but, in effect, $8.5 billion of expenditure. The whole tenor and thrust of his and of the Premier's remarks that they've been able to control expenditures to the predetermined level by the wit and wisdom of their cabinet colleagues and that therefore they are smart and brilliant all crumbles to ashes when we realize that we're not comparing last year's $6.6 billion with this year's $7.2 billion, and therefore they are smart; we are comparing last year's $6.6 billion with this year's $8.5 billion, so they're not so smart. I am very pleased to have this interim supply bill before us because we've now got, on a piece of paper produced by the Hon. Minister of Finance, that figure totalled up. Nowhere in any of the documents he presented on Monday in that beautifully modulated, articulated, enunciated speech did I ever hear "$8.5 billion."
I've been looking at the books. I notice, for instance, that when we looked at $6.6 billion last year we had rent to pay, we had Systems Corporation to pay. All of that was in the $6.6 billion. Mr. Speaker, would you expect to find the rent and computer charges to be paid this year out of the $7.2 billion? I would, but I don't think they are. I think they are in a separate schedule and not part of the total of $7.2 billion. It's another bit of creative camouflage, a little bit of magic by the member for Saanich.
Mr. Speaker, one of the ways you do it is to keep on changing the rules. Let's take tourism, which is, of course, part of the estimate that we're looking at. Last year the magazine Beautiful British Columbia had, let's say, rounding the figures out, $2 million of revenue and, let's say, $2.5 million expenditure attached to it. That is what it costs to get the magazine out. This year we have things called recoveries, net, so we do away with the $2 million on the lefthand side of the page, the income, we do away with the $2 million on the righthand side of the page and we net it out at, let's say, $500,000. That has an effect of reducing the total expenditure budget of the Minister of Tourism by $2 million. In real life it doesn't alter the budget at all, but she and he are able to go around saying, "Ah, I conformed to the Premier's request to control myself." I don't think the Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mrs. Jordan) has ever controlled herself at all, She has braced herself but never controlled herself. That kind of camouflage, that kind of creative bookkeeping, serves this minister ill, not well, because he's really more of a decent chap than that.
[ Page 6955 ]
AN HON. MEMBER: Hear, hear!
MR. HALL: You've got one supporter anyway, Mr. Member for Saanich.
When you realize that for the first time we've seen the figure.... I hope everybody in British Columbia realizes now that we're no longer debating $7.2 billion, we're debating $8.5 billion, and that these estimates are really a juggler's delight. This should appear on television along with all of those other people who make jet planes disappear and Bengal tigers and other weird and wonderful beings, because this minister would like to make deficits disappear. But he cannot make deficits disappear. As the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Barrett), my leader, has pointed out, that's been the purpose of the exercise.
Lastly, may I say, Mr. Speaker, that some good has come out of the debate so far this week — namely, we now have proof positive that we're talking about $8.5 billion. After two days of debate and two — I want to be respectful — abortive motions of privilege, we forced the Minister of Finance to reduce the real document in terms of standard objects of expenditure. So I think we've had a good week. I wish you well for the weekend, and we'll be supporting the general thrust of providing money to provide services for the people of British Columbia.
MR. RITCHIE: Mr. Speaker, may I have leave of the House to introduce some guests?
MR. RITCHIE: Mr. Speaker, we have with us today a group of British Columbians, many of whom were disappointed that they didn't catch the budget debate on television at home. However, I'm really delighted and honoured to welcome this group, to the House, and I would ask the members to extend a warm welcome to approximately 40 members of the Clearbrook Golden Age Society under the leadership of Mr. Peter Wiens.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to participate in this debate on the creative cookery of the Minister of Finance. I'm not going to attack the $52 million overrun in Human Resources, because I think the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) missed the point: it's not the overruns that we're attacking, it's the dishonest reporting. That's what I'm going to talk about, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: I must caution the hon. member to be certain that she's not attributing that kind of characteristic to any hon. member of this House.
MS. BROWN: No, not to any hon member, just to the process. It's the process, Mr. Speaker, that I use the word "dishonest" in relationship to, not the hon. member at all.
I don't know if you remember, Mr. Speaker, but certainly in August of last year, when the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) launched her assault on the infants of this province, I pointed out at that time that it had been brought to my attention that the Ministry of Human Resources was facing something in the neighbourhood of a $38 million overrun. Of course, the minister denied this and said that, no, the decision the minister made to force the single parents of infants over the age of six months to go to work had nothing to do with the fact that the mismanagement of her ministry and herself would indeed result in an overrun in that ministry. However, earlier this year we got from the Minister of Finance a statement saying that he was anticipating massive overruns, or "overruns of some consequence" from the Ministry of Human Resources. The deputy minister then said that, on the contrary, they would probably be around $25 million, but certainly no more than that.
MR. BARBER: Who said that?
MS. BROWN: The Deputy Minister of Human Resources, Mr. Noble, in the Province of February 10, anticipated a very minor overrun, something in the neighbourhood of $25 million — nothing more than that. However, lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, no overrun appeared, no overrun surfaced. In March there was a special warrant for something in the vicinity of $3,000,800 to cover the cost of some increases in Pharmacare, and that was all that we heard about.
On April 1, April Fool's Day, exactly four days before the opening of the House, Thursday, to be exact.... The House was going to be opening on Monday, so there would apparently be no business going on on Saturday or Sunday. Approximately three days before the opening of the House a special warrant in the amount of $48,400,000 went through to cover what we are told were the continuing activities of the Ministry of Human Resources. So, curious about this decision to have a special warrant three days before the opening of the House, which presumably would be passing interim supply, one of the members of the opposition research department telephoned the Ministry of Human Resources and spoke to someone in financial services. It was a very interesting conversation. What the gentleman said, Mr. Speaker, was indeed that $48,400,000 would have been an overrun were it not for the fact that the Ministry had changed its reporting procedure. That was his statement. "It would have been an overrun," he said, "if we were reporting the same way we used to report before."
He was asked to explain what the new accounting procedures were and he said only the minister would be able to give that kind of information. I'm going to ask the Minister to give some explanation of the new accounting procedures when the time comes for her estimates. In the meantime, what the Minister of Finance has done in tabling this interim supply is to reveal that the new accounting procedure is really just the old accounting procedure under a new name, and that's what we are opposed to, Mr. Speaker.
Rather than admitting that the Ministry, despite the violent attacks on the infants and other people of this province, has indeed experienced a $52 million overrun.... In fact, the real increase in the budget of the Minister of Human Resources is not the 18 percent that the minister bragged about, but is in fact only 11 percent. The truth is supposed to set us free and that truth would have set us free, Mr. Speaker.
Instead of giving us an honest reporting on what is going on in the Ministry of Human Resources, we were told first of all that there was no overrun, and secondly, that there was an 18 percent increase. When this interim supply bill was tabled we found that there was a $52 million overrun, and that the real increase is only 11 percent, not the 18 percent.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that the real people in this province who should be having interim supply are the day-care operators. I don't know whether you know, but the Ministry of Human Resources has, in terms of its creative
[ Page 6956 ]
bookkeeping, also been consistently running six weeks late in paying the cheques to the day-care centres, thus forcing them to go to the banks and borrow money at whatever the going interest rate is. That interest rate is not covered by the moneys which they get from the Ministry of Human Resources. They have to dip into their allotment to pay that interest rate.
The Minister received a letter from the day-care centre in Port Coquitlam about the fact that their cheques are consistently six weeks late. The Lower Mainland Association of Private Day-care Centres sent a letter to the minister on behalf of 18 of their members saying: "Please, we cannot afford these consistent overdrafts because the cheques are six weeks late."
My colleague has just pointed out to me that the Minister of Finance has brought in a new procedure which permits businesses to deduct the interest rates which they have to pay when their cheques are not in on time. However, we find that the Burquitlam, the Coquitlam and the Lower Mainland Association of Day-care Centres and the other private daycare centres are having to meet those interest rates themselves. They are not covered. The Minister of Human Resources has not extended the courtesy to them that the Minister of Finance has extended to business.
Mr. Speaker, in closing I just want to say that it is not the overrun that we are attacking. It's the dishonest reporting in the budget. It's the creative bookkeeping. It's the fact that we are being told that it's a $7 billion budget, when in fact it's an $8.5 billion budget.
MR. LEA: Mr. Speaker, I think the Minister of Finance must have some sympathy with the opposition at this point because of all of the new methods of accounting that have been put to us in the new Financial Administration Act and in other ways. It is disconcerting, and I think that the minister, if he had been doing his job properly, would have described a number of things — or maybe it was a false impression that I had. It seemed to me that over the years, since I've been in the House, one of the criteria that we had in bringing in interim supply was that the government could not get the necessary funds to pay for the ongoing services of government while waiting for the main budget to be passed. Now when I look at this, I look at Schedule 2 of Bill 37, and I notice that the government has passed a number of special warrants totalling almost $103 million, on this year's money, that has yet to be approved by the Legislature. I don't quite understand that. If, indeed, these nearly $103 million could have been approved by special warrant on funds that have yet to be approved by the Legislature in this year's budget, then why do we need interim supply? Why couldn't the government just have figured out what they would need to get themselves through a quarter of the year and pass special warrants to total that amount, as opposed to coming in here with this bill?
You know, something is really wrong. It is laid out in the preamble: "And whereas in accordance with the Financial Administration Act expenditures by special warrants of $134,788,358 in respect to the fiscal year ending March 3, 1982...." Now I don't see any particular problem with that. Before coming into the session, where they can't pass special warrants, the government decided that they were going to pass those special warrants on last year's money, which has already been approved by the Legislature. That's under Schedule 1. Under Schedule 2 the $102,978,415 was special warrants passed by cabinet on money that is yet to be approved by the Legislature. I wonder how the minister can explain to us how that can be done? I'd like to hear, because if indeed it's legal, I think we have to take a look at the act itself. To allow the government, by order-in-council in cabinet, to pass special warrants, spending money that has not been approved by the Legislature of British Columbia, seems to me to be a departure from all precedents for the government purse in handling the people's money.
I am not for one minute saying that this is comparable to some of the atrocities that Hitler performed, but everything that Hitler did was legal. It doesn't necessarily make it right.
MR. LEA: I said I am not comparing what the government's done, but it's true: governments that are dictatorial can do things that are legal but not necessarily morally correct.
You know, the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) must feel really worried about his own constituency and whether he is going to win. I have never seen him so exercised in a legislative session. He is almost to the point where he is acting silly.
Mr. Speaker, obviously something is really wrong here. If indeed it is legal now for the cabinet of British Columbia to pass special warrants for the expenditure of funds on money that has yet to be approved by the Legislature, then I suggest to you that there is something morally wrong with legislation that would allow that — if indeed there is legislation to allow that. I would hope that the minister would explain to us where he gained his legal sanction to go ahead and expend, by special warrant, money yet to be approved by the Legislature. I think there is something you can do constitutionally if an election is called. But constitutionally I would like to see the legalities that would allow the minister to do that. And if those provisions are there legally, then, Mr. Speaker, interim supply is a sham. We have no need for interim supply, because it could all have been done by special warrant previous to us coming into this budget debate.
I'd like to hear the minister's explanation of that, and I would also like to see the government go out to the people of this province and explain to them the morality of government being allowed by special warrant to expend funds that the Legislature has yet to approve. That's what's happened to almost $103 million of special warrants that the government's passed.
One other point that I'd like to bring up is the question that was put to us by the Minister of Agriculture on northeast coal. What the government would like us to do is to say whether we're for it or against it. I don't think we can be any more clear than we have been in the past, but if it's necessary to say it again, I guess we should. We are for....
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: You've been clear in the past, have you?
MR. LEA: Yes, very clear.
MR. LEA: They don't want to hear it, Mr. Speaker.... When we make our position clear on northeast coal they don't like it, because then they can't go out, and say we're against it. We are for....
[ Page 6957 ]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the hon. member just take his chair momentarily until we have order in the House.
MR. LEA: I don't know how many times we have to say it. We cannot say it any more clearly. The opposition believes that we have an abundance of both thermal coal and metallurgical coal. We believe that it would be wise for British Columbia to sell some of that coal in the export market. What we would like to do, though, is to sell it at a rate of return that is beneficial to the people of this province. I think that's clear.
Because the government has not made known the details of the transaction on northeast coal, through Teck and Denison to the Japanese market, we don't know whether we're for the deal or against the deal, in detail.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition is disruptive. Please come to order.
MR. LEA: What could be clearer than that? We are for the export of coal. We have an abundance of coal, and we believe that it would be to the benefit of British Columbians to sell that coal on the export market at a profit.
AN HON. MEMBER: Not at a loss.
MR. LEA: As my colleague says, not at a loss.
No one said that we close the deal down. We said that if we were to assume government through the election process, we would review the northeast coal details and see whether, in our opinion, it is a good deal for the people of this province. That's all we've said. We have always said that we are for northeast coal. As a matter of fact, as the minister himself admitted in the House earlier today, we were the ones that were the impetus in moving this coal out of this province while we were in government.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: What a laugh! You get funnier every day.
MR. LEA: So the minister withdraws his statement. It was the minister who stood in the House earlier today, as a matter of fact not more than an hour ago, and said: "They were going ahead with northeast coal without the benefit of a cost-benefit analysis." The minister said that when we were the government we were going ahead with the export of coal. He admits that it was our government that first started to put this deal together.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Without any sales contracts.
MR. LEA: That's right, without any sales contracts. We were very cautiously....
MR. SPEAKER: Would the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development please come to order. This is a second notice.
MR. LEA: He's very embarrassed. We were very cautiously taking a look at the exploitation of coal for the export market. We had made no deals. We admit that. We had no contracts signed. We were looking at the exportation of northeast coal.
I know that the government would like to put the NDP on record as being absolutely opposed to northeast coal. They can't do it.
MR. LEA: Do you see that, Mr. Speaker? We clearly state what our policy is, and the Minister of Transportation and Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser) says: "You are." That's why the minister went broke in three businesses that he started up. It's true. He put more trucks over the bank coming down through the Fraser Canyon than any other trucking contractor in the history of the province. That's why the Premier made him the Minister of Transportation and Highways. He knows what it's like to run off the road. He ran more International Harvesters off the road — he admitted it to me one day himself. He couldn't stop going broke for running off the road. So it's not impossible to believe that he doesn't understand what we're saying now.
I don't know how many times it's been said, but I think it's worth repeating again: the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, is in favour of selling coal into the international marketplace at a profit for the people of this province. I think it should be clearly stated, once again, that there is no way any citizen of this province knows whether the northeast coal deal is a good or a bad one. We don't have any of the figures in front of us. And the government grasps those figures in the cabinet room and peeks its head out and says: "Are you for it or against it? We're not going to give you any figures for you to make up your mind. We just want to know whether you're for it or against it."
I guess that's the way the Social Credit operates. It's the way the Minister of Highways ran his trucks off the road. He single-handedly in his own company kept International Harvester going for a four-year period. Most of the sales were going right into the Fraser River. I don't know whether the minister was driving them or not, but obviously he kept the same old drivers on year after year — those that managed to climb back up on the road and make another run at it.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) asked the question. We are stating on record in this Legislature again, as the Leader of the Opposition has done publicly outside of this Legislature, that we are in favour of northeast coal if it is a good deal for the people of British Columbia.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. LEA: Mr. Speaker, forgive them, for they are hearing something that they don't like to hear. They would like to go out into the province and categorically say that the NDP is against exporting coal. That's what they'd like to say. But when we won't say it, because it isn't our policy, it drives them almost frantic. There's an election issue slipping through their fingers, and they hate that. That's what they like to do.
[ Page 6958 ]
If we indeed have now, or are about to have — and I hope it's "about to have," because if we already have 6,000 people working in the Peace River on northeast coal and we still have an unemployed figure of 13.6 percent, then we're in real trouble.... I hope that the jobs to which the minister was referring are jobs that are coming on stream, not jobs that already are. If they're jobs that already are, we still have 13.6 percent of the people unemployed in the minister's own area.
What we're seeing is a political party, not a government, that is desperate. During the last major recession that we had in 1974-75 — not as deep as the international one we're having now — as we were sitting in government, the Minister of Finance, who was then a Conservative — and an honourable man, sitting over there as a Conservative — not only challenged what we were doing, but also challenged what Social Credit were doing and saying. You'll remember, Mr. Speaker, that at that time you were still partisan and you were sitting over here as a Social Credit member, and the Minister of Finance took exception to everything you said. Now he takes exception to us when we say: "We don't quite believe you sometimes." Funny how times change. As a matter of fact, I should have taken the time to look back in Hansard to find the Minister of Finance's comments about the kind of budget he just brought in. In those days the Minister of Finance was absolutely opposed to the kind of budget he just brought in and that he's so proud of. And the Minister of Finance knows it.
So was the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom). He was against this kind of budget when he was sitting over here as a Liberal. As a matter of fact, every year the Liberals used to come in with their own budget decrying the Social Credit method of overestimating the revenues and underestimating the expenditures. So did the Minister of Finance. But how times change.
I believe the Minister of Finance owes the people of this province an explanation as to why they are spending money through special warrant in the cabinet room before that money has been approved by the Legislature. And the document says that that was done. If that's true, then what's the urgency for interim supply? To the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) and the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips)....
MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Agriculture will come to order.
MR. LEA: You know, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to everyone's attention — including those in the gallery the Minister of Agriculture. Take a look at the man. We say we're for coal, and it's a good deal.
MR. SPEAKER: The member will continue to address the Chair.
MR. LEA: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am addressing the Chair; I'm just not looking at you.
I want everyone within the sound of my voice to look at the Minister of Agriculture and Food and the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development, because I want you to take a look at what they actually look like. That is the kind of look that puts forward the argument: "Are you for it or against it? We're not going to tell you, the people of British Columbia, what the terms of the deal are. We're not going to tell you how many subsidized dollars are going to go into northeast coal. What we want you to do is to approve it or not approve it, period." That is what they look like.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Hon. members, the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development and the second member for Vancouver Centre are continuing in a disruptive way. I think the House would be better served if both of them would withdraw from the chamber at this time. The Minister of Industry and Small Business Development and the second member for Vancouver Centre, please withdraw from the chamber at this time.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Sergeant-at-Arms.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, this comes as a surprise to me.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Sergeant-at-Arms, there are two members to be removed.
MR. BARNES: I just got in. I don't know what the reason is.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. HOWARD: On a point of order, which I couldn't raise earlier because Your Honour was insisting upon a certain course of action, with due respect to Your Honour, you may have chosen, with respect to the second member for Vancouver Centre, the wrong person. That is what I am advised, and that is, what I noticed myself. I draw that to Your Honour's attention. I believe an error has been made, not with respect to the minister but with respect to the second member for Vancouver Centre.
MR. SPEAKER: I appreciate the opinion, sir.
MR. HOWARD: It's more than on opinion, Mr. Speaker. I believe you have chosen the wrong member and I would ask you to inquire into that.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Skeena stands on his feet and makes a point of order under which standing order?
MR. HOWARD: The point of order, Mr. Speaker, is that according to my knowledge of what took place in the chamber a while ago, hearing the cross-conversation of the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development and Your Honour's response to that across-the-floor conversation, the second member for Vancouver Centre was not involved in that. Your Honour, I believe, has chosen incorrectly to expel the second member for Vancouver Centre. I would ask Your Honour to examine that, if you would. I am sure Your Honour would not want to be in the position of having made an error.
[ Page 6959 ]
MR. SPEAKER: Under standing orders 19 and 20, provision is made for the Speaker, after having repeatedly drawn members' attention to disorderly conduct to, if he deems it necessary, have those members withdraw from the chamber for the remainder of the sitting. It is under those standing orders that both members, having been duly warned on three occasions, were asked to withdraw.
MR. LEA: The events that have just happened point out, more than in any way that I could, that the NDP position on the export of coal.... That we'd like to see the facts before we sanction the specific northeast coal development speaks for itself, because our position so exercised the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development that he couldn't contain himself. The truth of our position was more than the minister could stand, and through that he exercised himself to the point where he had to be removed from the House. I think those facts should stand on their own.
MRS. WALLACE: I want to deal with one aspect of this bill that I think would be unwise to let go unmentioned during this debate on interim supply. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that during the last session of the Legislature, when we were discussing estimates, the New Democratic opposition moved a series of amendments which pointed to excessive increases in ministers' expenses, In fact, we identified through those amendments $82 million of excessive expenditures — padding — some increases in ministerial travel, furniture and those types of things, amounting anywhere from a 200 to a 400 percent increase over the previous year. All of those amendments were turned down, and those padded budgets were accepted by this Legislature, over the protests of the opposition.
It's very interesting to note that now, as we discuss interim supply — and we have listed in this Bill 37 a series of special warrants issued during the past year for overruns in various government expenditures — we find that some $300,000 of those overruns are related to ministerial offices, related to estimates that were already, in the opinion of the opposition and certainly by any statistical yardstick, well and even excessively endowed with funds. Yet we have in this list a series of overruns in ministerial offices, leading off, of course, with the Premier of the province with an overrun of $150,000. The Premier is now telling the people of this province that they must restrain themselves, that they must hold their increases to 8 percent, but he himself pays no attention to that guideline, as evidenced by this particular increase.
We go on to the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Hon. Mr. Hewitt), with a $30,000 overrun in his office, at the same time that the funds he was administering for the agricultural community in this province were reduced in actual fact. Yet he is prepared to come to this Legislature, or at least to sneak in behind the doors with a special warrant, to ask for another $30,000 for his office. The Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Williams), $8,500; the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman), $22,000; the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland), $10,000; the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing (Hon. Mr. Chabot), an overexpenditure of $11,000, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm), an overexpenditure of $25,000 — all overruns in government ministerial offices at a time when the general public are being asked to curtail and restrain themselves. That's just one small part of this entire budget, this interim supply with special warrants for last year, special warrants for the first three months of this year, thrown in over and above anything included in the estimates.
We heard the Minister of Universities, Science and Communications (Hon. Mr. McGeer) yesterday talking about their being a socially conscious party. They are not socially conscious, Mr. Speaker. This budget proves that if they are anything they are sly and conniving, because that's what this budget is: it's sly and conniving. And that's what this interim supply is, Mr. Speaker: it's sly and conniving. That's the whole thrust of this government: to attempt to juggle the books, cook the books, use the figures in any way they can to try to avoid telling the public of this province that they're in a deficit position. That's where they are, Mr. Speaker; that's what's happened as a result of their mismanagement of the affairs of this province.
While we must move on and pass this interim supply, we just cannot let it go by without indicating the general direction of the government that puts more and more dollars into the pockets of ministers and their offices, and fewer dollars into the pockets of the people of this province.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, we've had, I suppose, a foretaste of some points which will be made in the continuation of the budget debate and in individual estimates.
Interim supply is a curious activity which has occurred in this province, regardless of government, over a number of years, I don't think the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich), who is not in the House at this moment, intended to leave an incorrect impression. But as my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Food observed, if a suggestion was left with hon. members that interim supply did not occur during the years of the NDP administration, then I think it would be useful simply to be reminded of the fact that we had an interim supply bill dated April 9, 1974. That's one day later than today in the calendar.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, may I seek your assistance. I've sat quietly and listened to the debate today. I would like to carry on and make a few points in a quiet and rational manner.
AN HON. MEMBER: How about truthful.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I hope the member is not suggesting that these remarks are not truthful.
In 1975 we had two interim supply bills, the first occurring on March 26 and the second one occurring on June 9. So interim supply, regardless of the party in power, has been necessary for a number of years.
The second member for Surrey (Mr. Hall), who is here, spoke about the hurried completion of the budget. I want to assure the member, and all members, that the essential elements of the budget were in fact completed some days in advance of the delivery of the budget speech in this House. What occurred in the period of last Friday and I believe into Saturday, but not — if I recall the member observing — through the entire weekend was the actual printing of the budget speech. I think, again, that is not an unprecedented circumstance. I read with interest recently of the fluster of activity which occurred when the now Leader of the Opposi-
[ Page 6960 ]
tion and the then Premier and Minister of Finance was working at a last-minute and frenzied pace to change, I believe, not only the budget but also the budget speech during his short term, So our budget documents were essentially complete. The budget speech delivered to this House on Monday was in fact not in final proof form until the early evening of Friday last, and then it went to the printers for final printing.
Mr. Speaker, there has been reference to the schedules which are attached to the bill we are discussing in principle now, and schedule 1 has been discussed at length. Schedule 2, I will point out to the members, as they well know, and to those who are interested.... I wonder if you could bring the House to order, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members. Let's hear the member who has the floor.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Schedule 2 is the early allocation of $102,978,415 for the fiscal year 1982-83.
The member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) has questioned not only the legality but the legality and morality of that particular decision, and I will leave that to others to judge. I'm not in a position to give a legal opinion, but I am satisfied by my advisers that it is, in fact, a completely legal step under the Financial Administration Act. Now before the member interjects, Mr. Speaker, I will observe that I think he said we should perhaps take a look at the act. Well, I would like to speak about the Financial Administration Act in just a moment.
To any one of us, $102 million is a very large amount of money. However, we had no guarantee that interim supply would be passed today. When you are faced with the ongoing costs of government, you have no guarantee that interim supply will be passed on any particular day. It was reasonable to expect, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the Opposition, that it would, in fact, be passed not later than Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. But if you look at $102 million in terms of one week or more, perhaps ten days of government operation on a budget of several billion dollars, you would know that it was necessary and appropriate, in the absence of the House not convening until April 5, to ensure that certain activities of government were ongoing. They are listed clearly in schedule 2.
I think it was three years ago that my colleague, the present Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Wolfe), then Minister of Finance, was under considerable criticism because it appeared that the government was not in a position to pay its bills and that emergency funds to recipients through the Ministry of Human Resources, emergency payments to hospitals and a variety of other necessary payments could not be made until interim supply occurred. That is the reason for the second schedule, 1982-83 special warrant, which was passed on the first day of this new fiscal year.
Again I want to say that I am very proud to have been a part of the development of the Financial Administration Act which permitted the debate we've had today in interim supply. I'm very proud because I hope it is going to be in place for many years to come in British Columbia.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I'll return to the topic, if some members opposite are concerned. In order that there must be, with interim supply, the reporting of special warrants and that the debate may occur at the earliest possible moment rather than wait for estimates.... One member opposite said perhaps there is no need for interim supply, that the special warrant passed on April 1, the first day of this fiscal year, could have covered a month or two months of activity. This government would not do that. The members have difficulty understanding what occurred. I've explained carefully, but the members opposite apparently are not able to understand that we have bills to pay.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition is being disorderly. Second asking.
HON. MR. CURTIS: That was about the fourth warning, Mr. Speaker, but I won't argue with you.
In fact, one has to examine the very large sum of over $102 million in the context of the 52 weeks covered by this fiscal year. If there had been any suggestion that we seek for ministries other than those listed in schedule 2 on the back of Bill 37, or incorporate additional funds into that schedule therefore passed by special warrant on the first day of this fiscal year, I would have rejected such a request as Minister of Finance and chairman of Treasury Board. And so we selected the key essential ministries for the. ongoing operation: Attorney-General, Education, Health, Human Resources, Transportation and Highways, and Universities, Science and Communications.
Mr. Speaker, I was answering specifically the criticism directed with regard to a special warrant on the first day of this fiscal year, and I think that objective observers of the scene in British Columbia will recognize that that which was done was prudent and yet showed the restraint which I've spoken of before this week.
Back to the Financial Administration Act, which has certainly injected itself into the debate today. I stand by the Financial Administration Act. It is an act which will stand the test of time over a number of years to come. With governments changing 5, 15 and 25 years from now, I believe that that which has been required today is in the best interests not of the government, but the people in this province. I move second reading.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
Bill 37, Supply Act (No. 1), 1982, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
SUPPLY ACT (NO. 1), 1982
The House in committee on Bill 37; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Sections 1 and 2 approved.
Schedules 1 and 2 approved.
[ Page 6961 ]
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 37, Supply Act (No. 1), 1982, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. Mr. Wolfe tabled the sixty-third annual report of the Public Service Commission for the year 1981.
Hon. Mr. Hewitt tabled the annual report of the B.C. Milk Board for the year ended December 31, 1981.
MR. SPEAKER: I am advised, hon. members, that His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor is preparing to enter the chamber. Perhaps we could all remain in our seats until he arrives.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took his place in the chair.
CLERK-ASSISTANT: Supply Act (No. 1), 1982.
CLERK OF THE HOUSE: In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this bill.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, before we proceed this morning, the hon. member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) sought to move, pursuant to standing order 35, that the House be adjourned to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely the release of high unemployment figures by Statistics Canada. Standing order 35 provides a method by which the ordinary business slated for consideration by the House may be set aside so that an opportunity will be afforded to debate a matter where such opportunity would not otherwise arise. The orders of the day indicate that priority has been given at this time to the consideration of the debate on the budget speech. The scope of debate on the budget speech, particularly in regard to economic matters, is broad, thereby affording an immediate opportunity to discuss the matter complained of. As the opportunity is immediate, there is no necessity for setting aside the ordinary business of the House, and accordingly the matter would not come within standing order 35.
It should be noted that numerous Speakers of this House have ruled that consideration of the rate of unemployment involves an ongoing matter, thereby taking the question outside the scope of standing order 35. I would refer to the decision of Mr. Speaker Dowding on a similar application, to be found at page 285 of the Journals of this House, 1974.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12:43 p.m.