1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1982
[ Page 7845 ]
Home Purchase Assistance Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 46). Hon. Mr. Chabot
Introduction and first reading –– 7845
Traffic Victims Indemnity Fund Repeal Act (Bill 47). Committee stage.
(Hon. Mr. Hewitt)
On section 2 –– 7845
Third reading –– 7846
Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 36). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
On section 9 –– 7846
On section 14 –– 7846
On section 19 –– 7846
On section 25 –– 7847
On section 27 –– 7847
Assessment Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 6). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
Third reading –– 7847
Family Relations Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 14). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Williams)
On section 2 –– 7847
Ms. Brown, Mr. Barber, Mr. Levi, Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm
On section 3 –– 7854
On section 10 –– 7855
On Section I I –– 7855
Third reading –– 7856
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Agriculture and Food estimates (Hon. Mr. Hewitt)
On vote 5: minister's office (continued) –– 7856
Mrs. Wallace, Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Kempf
Appendix –– 7863
FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1982
The House met at 10 a.m.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
MR. LEGGATT: I rise at the first available opportunity to raise a question of privilege for your consideration. If you find a prima facie case is made, I have a motion to present to the House. The matter of privilege arises from statements made in this House on May 27 by the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips). In answer to a question, the minister stated as follows, and I'm quoting from Hansard: "I'd like to state that of the $440 million worth of contracts that have been let on northeast coal so far, approximately 85 percent have been let in British Columbia."
Mr. Speaker, we have double-checked ministerial publications and publications by the Northeast Coal Development News, and we found the following: a $20 million contract with Mitsubishi of Japan for the stacker reclaimer; a $94 million contract with Atkinson-Commonwealth of San Francisco, which is over budget and still rising; North Star of Edson, Alberta, has a $7.6 million contract; Soychuk Contracting of Alberta has a $2.3 million and a $2 million contract. Those contracts total $123 million. By anybody's calculation, at least 28 percent of the contracts let are now outside the province.
My motion is that the members of this House are entitled not to be misled and not to be given incorrect information. We have a right, our constituents have a right, and the people we represent have a right to receive accurate information from the ministers of the Crown. By every measurement — the ministerial publications and the stage two reports — 85 percent is a false figure, Mr. Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, the Chair will take under consideration the matter raised by the member and return a decision without prejudice to the member, as far as the time-frame is concerned, at the earliest opportunity.
MS. SANFORD: In the precincts this morning is a group of students from Parksville Middle School, accompanied by their teacher, Mrs. Boyd. I would ask all members to make them welcome.
MRS. WALLACE: In the gallery later today I'm expecting seven students from the Lake Cowichan Senior Secondary School who are very interested in the political process. They will be in the gallery from 11 to 1, along with their teacher Val Colleberg. They are also going to join me for lunch later. They are keenly interested in what goes on here, so I hope we give them a good impression.
Introduction of Bills
HOME PURCHASE ASSISTANCE
AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
Hon. Mr. Chabot presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Home Purchase Assistance Amendment Act, 1982.
Bill 46 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: I ask leave to proceed to public bills and orders.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Committee on Bill 47.
TRAFFIC VICTIMS INDEMNITY
FUND REPEAL ACT
The House in committee on Bill 47; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. HALL: The minister in charge of the bill assured us that he'd have some information for us in joint committee stage regarding the numbers of claims against uninsured motorists at the present time. I hope the minister wasn't letting this slide through.
HON. MR. HEWITT: No, Mr. Chairman, I assured the member that I would attempt to get that information as quickly as possible. We contacted ICBC management late last night and I hope to have that material, although I haven't received a response to it as yet. The member wished to know what sort of numbers were involved in uninsured motorists and claims against the corporation. I may have that information momentarily, but if not I don't think that issue would do anything to change the intent of this piece of legislation, which is to repeal the Traffic Victims Indemnity Fund Act. As the member is aware, since 1974 ICBC has had the responsibility to provide coverage for the victims of uninsured motorists. I hope it will be here momentarily.
MR. HALL: Sir, are you going to wait momentarily for that information? Perhaps you would guide the second member for Surrey.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The committee has to continue, hon. member. Although debate is allowed, we must proceed.
HON. MR. HEWITT: Mr. Chairman, I'm sure the member appreciates that it was late yesterday. It should not change the intent of repealing this piece of legislation. If I cannot get that material here, I'm sure we could canvass it under my estimates as minister responsible for ICBC, if the member would accept that.
MR. HALL: I think it's satisfactory, Mr. Chairman, to get that information from the minister during discussion on his estimates — when and if we get to his estimates.
However, this fund — and we're supporting this bill clearly places this responsibility squarely on the shoulders of ICBC now, and does away with the old statute. I think it would be good for us all to demonstrate publicly our faith in the corporation by supporting this section 2. I'm joining with the minister in agreeing with him that ICBC is here to stay; and I'm citing his comments yesterday afternoon. I know that he'll have that information for us during his estimates, and
[ Page 7846 ]
that the fund is in good shape; ICBC is in good shape. It received a little money in 1976 — sent it back straight away the same day, showing it didn't need it. It's not quite the story the minister gave us on second reading. Nevertheless we support this section, Mr. Chairman.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
Section 2 approved unanimously on a division.
Mr. Howard requested that leave be asked to record the division in the Journals of the House.
Sections 3 to 6 inclusive approved.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
HON. MR. HEWITT: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Division in committee ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
Bill 47, Traffic Victims Indemnity Fund Repeal Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Committee on Bill 36.
FINANCE STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
The House in committee on Bill 36; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Sections 1 to 8 inclusive approved.
On section 9.
MRS. WALLACE: I have a question here, Mr. Chairman. It seems that the amendment is going to take the cost of operation of the Racing Commission out of the parimutuel betting, as I read it. How was that commission funded previously?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, previously it was in the estimates of the hon. Attorney-General. The purpose of this section is simply to amend the purpose of the tax levied to improve horse racing in the province, to include the operation of the B.C. Racing Commission. It is effective April 1, 1982, so it is not as far-reaching as the member might otherwise think.
MRS. WALLACE: The minister asked me to repeat my question. I'm going to ask him to repeat his answer. I didn't quite get that.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, this simply amends the purpose of the tax levied to improve horse racing in the province, to include the operation of the B.C. Racing Commission. It is effective as of April 1, 1982. That is section 9 in its entirety.
MRS. WALLACE: I rather thought that's what was said. Does that mean there will be fewer dollars for the improvement of the horse-racing industry, or are the total dollars increased?
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, it deals only with the purpose of the tax levied. The question of more money or less money is not dealt with in this section. It's not relevant to the section.
Sections 9 to 13 inclusive approved.
On section 14.
MR. LEVI: What kind of problems is the minister's department having in respect to hotel owners and the remitting of the tax? We have a very large section here on the penalties. What's going on there? Is he not able to get the money, or has the system broken down? Perhaps he could be a little more specific. Some of the penalties are pretty onerous. Has there been a breakdown in this system?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, the member is speaking of section 14, but there are other sections that deal with this.
MR. LEVI: Yes, I'm sorry, it's later. It's section 19.
Sections 14 to 18 inclusive approved.
On section 19.
MR. LEVI: There are some rather high penalties here. What is actually happening that has caused this to be brought in? Is there a loss of revenue, a breakdown in this system?
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, I don't think it would be correct to say that the system has broken down. We have had debate on other occasions in committee and in second reading, in tact, on another bill or two that are examples of the same thing. We are attempting to have a similarity in fines and penalties in a number of tax statutes and that is what is occurring here. I think it reflects more correctly the fact that while most tax collectors in the private sector file on time and follow the rules, some do not. So in a number of statutes, as the member and the committee would know, we have increased the fines or penalties, and this is simply another example of that.
MR. LEVI: If a company is fined, is the fine included as a cost of doing business? If it is written off as a cost of doing business, what is really the effectiveness of improving the fines? I know I'm seeking information he may not have. If in fact you can charge off this kind of payment, which is a fine, as a cost of doing business, what is really the effect of increasing the fines?
HON. MR. CURTIS: The member observed that he's seeking information I cannot give, or he assumed that, and that is indeed the case. I cannot answer that question. Certainly in this case and in a number of others we are increasing
[ Page 7847 ]
the fines. I am afraid I cannot help on what happens after that in terms of the cost of doing business. Nonetheless, we looked in very general terms at a number of fines and penalties which had been left untouched over a good number of years. That is why, on a number of occasions, they are being seen in this House this session.
Sections 19 to 24 inclusive approved.
On section 25.
MRS. WALLACE: I would just like to ask the minister for the thinking behind changing the word "encumbrance" to "lien" relative to land tax permits. What is the purpose of this amendment?
HON. MR. CURTIS: In reference to section 25, the amendment deletes the reference to an encumbrance and substitutes the more specific definition of a lien. This removes the danger of the loss of the province's security on a property on which taxes have been deferred, when that property is sold at a tax sale and the encumbrance is therefore lost. A lien would not be cancelled by tax sale. That is a refinement which would be called into play on very few occasions, but the public, having advanced the money, should be able to recover it.
Sections 25 and 26 approved.
On section 27.
MRS. WALLACE: I just have a quick question to the minister on the second part of this contravention of section 14. Why is there no minimum fine in this instance? The minister seems to be prone to minimum fines and there is no minimum in this.
HON. MR. CURTIS: It appears that this is one we missed in terms of minimum fines. However, we can look forward to catching it next year.
Sections 27 to 31 inclusive approved.
On section 32.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper with respect to this section. [See appendix.]
Section 32 as amended approved.
Section 33 approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Bill 36, Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1982, reported complete with amendment to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Committee on Bill 6.
ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
The House in committee on Bill 6; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Bill 6, Assessment Amendment Act, 1982, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Committee on Bill 14, Mr. Speaker.
FAMILY RELATIONS AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
The House in committee on Bill 14; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MS. BROWN: I have a question to the Attorney-General on section 2(l)(b). Where the person involved is a child, and that child is over the age of 12, what happens then in terms of their legal counsel?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: In all circumstances where it is essential that the child be represented, necessary steps will be taken by the Attorney-General's ministry to ensure that that is the case.
MR. BARBER: I wonder if the Attorney-General could advise us what he considers essential, and what mechanism exists in order to ascertain whether those steps should be taken.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: That is the responsibility of the family law division of the ministry. I know the questions which have been posed in this respect arise from a guideline memorandum which has been sent out. It should be clearly understood that the reason was that reference to the family law division with respect to such matters had not previously been made.
MR. BARBER: I don't have the guidelines at hand, and I wonder if the minister could summarize what is considered to be an essential issue that would require the family law division to step in, offer, and in fact provide legal counsel.
[ Page 7848 ]
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: The guidelines do not set those out, but the director of the family law division and his staff will be in a position to assess the need for counsel in any particular case.
MR. BARBER: How is it actually drawn to their attention that there might be such need? Who advises them, on the basis of which criteria, and through which particular system of administration does that occur?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: When a request is made, either through a family counsellor or by the court with respect to the need for counsel in the particular case.
MR. BARBER: If the child himself or herself should feel the need for legal representation, would such a request be considered? Would it be considered seriously? And if so, how would said request be handled by the ministry?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: That would depend upon the individual circumstances, and all requests will be dealt with seriously.
MS. BROWN: That was an interesting response to the member's question. I want to follow it up with an example. It has to do with the case of a child who was born in 1977, so we're dealing with someone under the age of 12 in a contested custody case in supreme court.
The child has been in an extremely precarious position, because she was born with fetal alcohol syndrome to two very immature parents. After a lengthy custody report was prepared by the family court counsellor, the recommendation was made that the child be placed under the Ministry of Human Resources. This matter went before the justice of the supreme court, and he made a consent order giving custody to the father. One week later, the child was apprehended by Human Resources because the child had been sexually abused by the father. At this point, the provincial court decided to appoint an advocate to speak in support of the child when the matter came before provincial court. The request for an advocate was refused by the family law section, who said that the Attorney-General's ministry is no longer appointing advocates under a family and children's services matter. Presumably they did not rule that the sexual abuse of a child five years of age was an important or essential enough matter to appoint a family advocate on that child's behalf.
We need to know what the guidelines are. How was the decision made that the sexual abuse of a five-year-old child by her father was not essential in terms of having an advocate to represent her in family court?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: The member is speaking on matters which are not covered by this particular section of the bill.
MS. BROWN: The first member for Victoria (Mr. Barber) raised the question of the guidelines as to what is essential. I'm merely giving an example of what, certainly in our opinion, was essential, but which the family law section decided wasn't essential. I'm just asking the Attorney-General to give us some guidance in terms of what is considered essential and what isn't.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I'm not able to assist the member in this regard, because the decisions with respect to that matter depend on a particular case and the circumstances surrounding that case. Those decisions are made by qualified lawyers in the family law division of the ministry.
MS. BROWN: I would like to make a very humble suggestion to the Attorney-General. It would probably help the family law section if there were some direction coming from the Attorney-General's ministry. If he does take that humble recommendation and decides to act on it, would he keep in mind a case such as the one that I've just outlined to him of a five-year-old child who is going to have to go through the provincial court procedure without a family advocate as a result of the decision being made that this was not an essential case, and that therefore this child was not entitled to someone to speak on her behalf before the provincial court.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I wish to assure the member that cases of this kind — the ones she raised yesterday — have been referred to the family law division for their careful examination. I have instructed that a copy of the member's remarks appearing in the Hansard Blues be sent to the family law division in order that they might be guided by the concerns the member has expressed.
MR. LEVI: I want to make reference to this section in respect to the great deal of befuddlement that has gone on in this area for quite some time. The Attorney-General isn't any different from his predecessor. I remind him that if he paid some attention to the attempt of a previous government to do something about this total matter.... I have in mind the Berger commission on family and children's law. If attention had been paid to that very lengthy study, which involved literally thousands of people, we wouldn't be in the kind of mess we're in today.
In the minister's discussions with his federal colleagues, have they ever raised again the question of the desirability of getting out of the nonsense of trying to enforce maintenance orders in this way, and going to the income tax system? I can recall raising this years ago at a federal-provincial conference, and saying that the logical way to collect maintenance — because you're only going to collect the maintenance from people who are working.... If the spouse isn't working, you're not going to get the money anyway. We looked very seriously at seeing about having the thing come off income tax in that way. It would save a great deal of bureaucratic apparatus, which is always set up.
After all, the government has been here for some six and a half years and has just started to address the question. There is no way, in my opinion, that you're going to have any success in doing this hunt-and-chase process, regardless of how much you change the law for collecting maintenance, in an inexpensive way. We do not want to be spending $2 to collect $1. My experience in looking into this thing is that it's a terrible tragedy the way we spend taxpayers' money trying to get money. Certainly we have to get the money back. After all, if a person responsible for maintenance is working, that person should pay.
The main thing is that there has to be an entirely different mechanism. The logical mechanism is the income tax system. Let's try to get together with the Minister of Finance in Ottawa and say: "Look, let's change the income tax system in
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a small way so we can use it as a tax and get the money back." This business of building an enormous apparatus, which is not always very successful.... Mind you, we're presumably collecting 70 or 80 percent of maintenance orders now. Perhaps the minister would comment on that. For instance, there was a project in Surrey which did extremely well at maintenance orders. It was a kind of one-man show that was very effective. I would ask the Attorney-General whether they shouldn't look much more strongly at utilizing the income tax system as a mechanism for collection. We go through this process quite often. We try to change the bureaucracy, change the organization, but we still have the problem. Perhaps the minister would like to comment about the income tax system.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: The issue raised by the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam is an appropriate one for consideration. It is being considered by the Ministry of the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Human Resources, with respect to this whole question of maintenance. As a matter of fact, the proposition put this morning by that member and the proposition put yesterday by the member for Burnaby-Edmonds (Ms. Brown) clearly identify the two approaches to this problem. The member for Burnaby-Edmonds quoted from the United Way report, in which they took a particular direction, and the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam has taken the other alternative. The issue is: which of the two is appropriate?
The member for Maillardville-Coquitlam says that you can only collect maintenance from people who are working. Well, you only collect income tax from people who are working too — on taxable income. As it is developing in this province, the difficulty of maintenance enforcement is with the single parent, with or without a child, who is without means by reason of the refusal of the spouse to make appropriate contribution and who is thrust on the social assistance program in order to maintain himself or herself. Therefore the government's income tax and other revenue sources become utilized for that purpose. It's a matter of one's philosophy, whether or not you are going to insist that a spouse who is able to contribute and should contribute to the maintenance and support of the other partner to the marriage and any children of the marriage should be obliged to do so. With all of this, you have to take into account how far one should go in developing an organization of lawyers and enforcement agents and the like to go around and try to collect this money. This is one of the problems which has been given a great deal of attention. It will continue to receive a great deal of attention.
It isn't only the problems associated with the collection process. When orders need to be varied, the whole process of going back to the courts — the time it takes, the amount of moneys.... It costs about $500 a day to run a courtroom; it doesn't matter who's there or what the issue is. The rising cost of these proceedings is something that we are taking into account in building upon the program in Surrey, to which the member made reference.
As I mentioned yesterday, we've had pilot projects going on the concept of automatically enforcing maintenance orders. We are still developing.... This year we hope to be able to announce a program which will function provincewide in this regard. But it's very expensive, because you get into computer technology with regard to the monitoring of these orders and all the problems associated with not only enforcement but also the variation of orders from time to time.
My concern and that of my colleague the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) is that during all this process the wife — and it's generally a wife — and her children are the ones who suffer, because they're waiting for something to come out of the bottom of the system, and it's not happening.
We are very concerned about the drain on our finances in attempting to make the existing system work, and we are trying to develop one which will accommodate the two poles of opinion which have been expressed here. In some respects I support the position taken by the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam; some of my colleagues would support the position taken by the United Way in their report. Somehow or other, we've got to meld these two ideas to make sure that efficient uses of resources are ensured so that the person in need is the one who is the beneficiary.
MR. LEVI: I would suggest to the minister that in the whole system of government, particularly with respect to where Human Resources and law enforcement meet, we badly need a kind of triage system whereby we decide — and they're not easy decisions — what we're going to spend on the hunt-and-chase to pick up money — and it's usually $2 to get $1 — versus the other problems that exist within, say, Human Resources. The trouble is that as you build the systems you build incredible vested interests. You build computers. There are computer operators who have systems they want to design, lawyers who have their end of the thing, family advocates an social workers. The problem is that having viewed the field.... I think that is where the triage system has to come in. It has to be a hard-nosed ministerial statement in which somebody says "enough." We have to say to the public: "It is not practical." It doesn't matter what the opinion out there is. When somebody says, "Nobody should get away without supporting their former spouse or their children," that is very nice, if we can say that.
Unfortunately, we have people in our society who are completely without any sense of social responsibility. In the past we have spent enormous sums of money trying to make them do something that has never happened. What perpetuates this are the kinds of systems that we move into. This kind of thing is implicit in this bill. It really is a terrible waste of money. Some years ago my successor as Minister of Human Resources made a great to-do about how he was going to chase the husbands and wives who weren't paying the maintenance. He thought he'd discovered America. We all went through that, and we know how futile it is. It makes good press copy, but it doesn't accomplish a darned thing.
Ministers have to look at what is being foisted on them by the people who work in the system. Then we have to put before us what is called presenting the problem in relation to the case. I don't know how we can justify.... As the minister just said. It costs $500 to operate a court for a day. It may be that some of the cases might be involving a shoplifting case in which somebody took $25 worth of food. It is going to cost us $500 to deal with $25 worth of food and then we have to look at the individual involved. There is something very wrong with a lot of that system. In this one I see us getting deeper into the mire. This is not an ultimate solution. That is why I raised the issue of the income tax. We are strongly in the grip of these incredible systems that people.... I don't suggest they dreamed them up. They are
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trained, and they've developed this kind of thing. It used to shatter me when people came in. I didn't understand half of what they were saying. It is very costly and does not produce the end product. The sad part about it is that the money would have been far better off directed to the children affected, and to heck with the business of trying to chase an errant, irresponsible spouse. We have to make those decisions sometimes. The fact that we keep altering penalties doesn't necessarily make it work.
We are not making any changes here that are really going to be any better than what exists today. That is the sad part about this legislation.
MS. BROWN: Just to continue with that, I disagree with the Attorney-General that there is any contradiction between the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam and myself. These two recommendations are not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, they are completely interrelated with each other.
The United Way recommendation was for automatic monitoring. You must have the automatic monitoring in order to pick up the people who are employed and paying income tax and also to find out when those people lose their jobs or cease to work and are no longer paying income tax. Most people don't remain unemployed for the duration of their lifetime, and a large number of people who work go through periods of unemployment. The only way you can really be sure of what is happening to a person is through the whole business of automatic monitoring. I wouldn't want to leave the Attorney-General with the impression that you can't have the one without the other. I think that you certainly need them both.
There is one other thing I should have done earlier. Yesterday, in closing the debate, the minister mentioned that during the period from 1972-1975 the New Democratic Party government erased all the enforcement procedures involved in terms of enforcing maintenance orders. Of course, he had the last word, so it was impossible to respond to it at that time. I just want to say that that was a pretty bizarre statement. There were a lot of discussions going on in terms of the ideas which were just mentioned by the member for Maillardville about going to the income tax system, but the machinery was never dismantled. As a matter of fact, the Berger commission heard a number of briefs and brought recommendations on the family, the court and the community into place on June 15, 1974, with three pilot projects dealing with the unified family court concept — one in Richmond, one in Delta and one in Surrey. Based on what came out of those pilot projects were 66 recommendations.
One of the recommendations which is being dismantled now had to do with the institution of family advocates — that it was a very useful concept and should continue. The other was that the superintendent of child welfare should continue to have the right to appoint counsel under the Family and Child Service Act, or the Protection of Children Act, as it was known at that particular time; and that has now been dismantled. But I think that the statement made by the minister, that the enforcement machinery for maintenance was dismantled, was incorrect and should be challenged and certainly should be corrected, because there was a lot of discussion going on, but the enforcement machinery was still there, and the pilot projects to try to make things better proved to be quite successful. Our concern is that some of the results of those pilot projects are being eroded or dismantled at this time.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, I don't want to leave any false impression with respect to my remarks concerning the positions taken by the member for Burnaby Edmonds (Ms. Brown) and the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam, (Mr. Levi). I'm not saying that they are in conflict; I'm simply saying that they are approaching the problem from the two positions which everyone has identified. But the member must recognize that the position she takes with regard to monitoring, which is part of the automatic enforcement process, recognizes the existence of an enforcement process. And the position taken by the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam is: stop that altogether; don't go out and try to chase individuals, because you'll waste money which you could better direct to the needs of the people who should be the beneficiaries of the system.
So there are the two sides. You haven't recognized that for us to go ahead and to institute an effective monitoring process — and I mentioned this yesterday — you are today talking about a very expensive, computerized process so that we know every order that is made. We currently do not. We insist that every person who is entitled to an order get an order; that is not the case today. We have immediate notice every time there is a default by someone, and then you go out and try to make them pay. Now that's the system; if you don't have the system, you don't need monitoring. You have to understand — and I say this to the hon. member for Burnaby Edmonds — that you don't need to monitor orders if you're not going to have to enforce the orders. The order means nothing unless you want to make it purely voluntary, and if it's voluntary you don't need monitoring either. The only reason you have to monitor an order is so you can know that Mr. X has been obliged by the court to pay so much money per month to his wife for her support and that of the child, and to ensure that he does it every month. That's all you monitor for, unless you just want to keep statistics because it would be exciting. No, it's part of the enforcement process.
As Attorney-General I am very concerned about what the present system costs us, and whether we cannot better direct the money in some other way. Well, it's the argument that goes on; automatic enforcement is shown as one route. Using gross statistics — the number of maintenance orders, average amount awarded, amount which is not being paid.... If you can collect it all, you can produce figures of millions of dollars that we're losing — provided first of all that you can collect the money that isn't being paid, and secondly that the costs of collection are not greater than the amount you recover. If the latter is the case, the exercise is useless, and all that we're doing is supporting a system of lawyers, court clerks, enforcement officers, collection agents and the like — and they all get paid — but the woman with the child who is the intended beneficiary of the program gets nothing out of it. That's not very productive, and the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam makes that point. If you want to have us monitor, please sit down with your colleague and say you also have to have enforcement, or why waste the money monitoring?
MS. BROWN: How do you kick the income tax system into place without monitoring? How do you do that? Everyone files income tax. How do you kick it into place in terms of support unless you know that there is an order out for support, Mr. Chairman? You can go through the monitoring thing, and when you look at the person's income tax you'll find they do not pay taxes, because either their income is so
[ Page 7851 ]
low that they do not pay taxes, or they're unemployed. And so the enforcement step doesn't come into play. But a person can file income taxes and unless there is some registration that there is an order against that person, how do you know to make the deductions? They're not mutually exclusive; they work together.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Well, Mr. Chairman, the income tax is only one source of revenue which is available to the Crown. There are many others. You don't have to use the income tax; the money comes from consolidated revenue. Unless, of course, you're arguing for a process whereby a husband who pays maintenance to his wife is entitled to deduct that as an expense, you don't need to monitor it for income tax purposes.
MS. BROWN: That happens now anyway.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: What the member is saying is that income tax is one way in which you can gain revenue. If you're suggesting that that person who has a maintenance order and doesn't pay should pay a different rate of tax than somebody else, then maybe you could use monitoring, but I'm afraid that we would then build up another complex structure with regard to income tax collection which would make our present enforcement efforts pale into insignificance.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Chairman, I have just a few brief comments. The member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Levi) referred to my point of view with respect to this particular section. I support it, and I think it is long overdue. I can recall, in response again to the remarks made by the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam, when he mentioned that I was very keen on this when I was the Minister of Human Resources.... I can assure you that it is in part because of the attitude that he expressed in his comments a little earlier and the attitude which was very prevalent during the time that he was Minister of Human Resources. The approach in practically each and every office throughout the province was that somehow — because I'm sure they were directed by the minister — you simply paid out the welfare; you didn't attempt to collect from the errant spouse. He used this example in support of his argument: why should we spend $500 to collect $20...
MS. BROWN: Why are you bringing politics into this? We're debating a serious issue.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: ...why should we spend $500 to collect for a $25 shoplifting charge? Well, frankly, I suppose if we took the attitude, Mr. Chairman, that we shouldn't spend money to bring people to task for breaking the law, be it for shoplifting or whatever, pretty soon we would have a country that is totally lawless. We cannot proceed, as the NDP is continually suggesting, to ignore these sorts of things and to allow people to carry on, forgetting about family, child and mother, because somehow the state will provide.
Mr. Chairman, I'm personally aware of many instances where people simply have fought going onto welfare. They didn't want welfare, even though perhaps it was available to them because they were a deserted mother with one, two or more children. The opportunity for welfare was there, but they didn't want to go on welfare. They resisted it because it was not the thing that they wanted for their family or that they had ever thought would occur to them. They had otherwise led a life which provided reasonably well, because perhaps a wife and husband worked together at it. If the husband, as was the case in the example that I have been most involved with, leaves and does not provide any assistance or support whatsoever for the mother and the child, or children, then I think there is an obligation for us in society to do whatever we can to assure that assistance is given by the person responsible for the mother and the children.
In one particular instance, a friend of ours — a person that I've given some support to — has been to court 18 times to try and collect from her errant husband, who worked for the government at a salary well in excess of $25,000 and refused to pay his wife and child, after 14 or 15 years of marriage, $300 per month. She went to court 18 times because she didn't want to go on welfare. This sort of provision in law would have been a tremendous help to her, because for over two years this great lady and her child suffered tremendous mental anguish in attempting to keep off welfare and to bring her husband to carry out his responsibility to wife and family. That member for Maillardville-Coquitlam says that she should not have been in court, or the provision oughtn't be there to assist this particular woman through the method proposed in law by the Attorney-General, because somehow welfare would, or should, provide.
This lady did not want welfare; she fought it. Without anything at all, she fought it for two or three years. Today it still hasn't been settled. I guess it's two years now. She has taken in a couple of elderly people and is providing for them in her home. She has still resisted welfare. I say that that guy working for government at well in excess of $25,000 per year should be made to pay that $300 at least, and that we should do whatever we can to assure that those payments are made regularly, promptly, even if it means deducting it right at the source when he gets his paycheque from government.
I've received letters from other people. One lady in particular is using her babysitting moneys to try to fight, with the assistance of legal aid, the fact that her husband is refusing to give maintenance. A lot of people, particularly women, are going through this; and the courts are not much help. Unless you have an excellent lawyer who is prepared to forgo the collection of fees, you're really stuck, really stymied. Hundreds and thousands of women out there need some help, and I'm very disappointed that the NDP would not come out in full support of this attempt, particularly the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Levi), who was himself Minister of Human Resources and should be well aware that thousands in British Columbia, especially women, suffer because there isn't an automatic enforcement process.
I strongly urge all members to reconsider and to support this particular section — including the NDP. Think of all those women, children and families out there that need this help.
MR. BARBER: We voted for the bill.
MS. BROWN: Mr. Chairman, that minister is misleading the House. We spoke and voted in support of the legislation. You are deliberately misleading the House.
[ Page 7852 ]
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is unparliamentary. I'll have to ask the hon. member for Burnaby-Edmonds to withdraw "deliberately misleading."
MS. BROWN: Yes, I withdraw it, despite the fact that that's what he was doing.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Will the member please give an unqualified withdrawal.
MS. BROWN: It is unqualified, despite the fact....
MR. LEVI: We just heard from the uninformed intellectual wing of the Social Credit Party. First of all, he doesn't even know what's going on in here. Nobody is opposed to the bill. We're attempting to have a reasoned discussion about what could work better than what's in here. That's what we were doing until he got up and threw that big shovel of whatever he usually carries on it into the debate. They were ludicrous statements. He was minister for three or four years; he made great braggadocio about what he would do, and he did nothing. What's he talking about?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I heard you.
MR. LEVI: No, you don't listen. That's the trouble with you. You've got something between your ears to stop you from listening.
We're trying to examine the effectiveness of the expenditure of public dollars. The minister cites the example of a public servant earning $25,000 who wouldn't pay his wife. He knew about that case. I knew about cases like that. We don't have the rack. We don't practise auto-da-fe here. I once spoke to the legal officials about obligations of debts, in that the first thing that should be paid is not the bank loans, but the maintenance orders. I cited the Al Ferry case in this House. We cited the Baker case, in which there were 79 court appearances. I pleaded with the previous Attorney-General to try another system. I even suggested to him that the thing be arbitrated because they practically wiped out the unified family court philosophy.
What the previous speaker doesn't seem to understand is this. He thinks he can make a virtue out of saying that as long as the public know we're chasing somebody who won't do anything, we look good. But what you don't look good at, and what we're saying in this debate, is when you build a complex, costly system and it doesn't deliver the goods. That's what we're offering in terms of criticism in this section. He comes here with his right-wing, stupid ideas about how he might apply. He was minister for four years and didn't apply anything. Maximize the expenditure of public money; that's what we're saying here. We voted for the bill; anything to move towards a resolution.
What we're pointing out here is that we're building a tougher, more expensive system that will not get the money, which we could be putting somewhere else. It will go to lawyers. There's no virtue in that, as far as I'm concerned, in the human resources area. There's no virtue in putting it in computers. People want it in their mouths and hands. That was my approach. I wasn't going to spend, as the previous minister did, a million dollars to go and hunt some fraud people. They were no more successful than we were, and we didn't spend a million dollars. So what's he talking about?
Understand that what we're getting into here is a very costly system that will not deliver at the end. And the people we're supposed to be trying to help, children and spouses, will not have the assistance because the money goes into another system.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: It won't cost anywhere near his $100 million overrun, I can assure you.
MR. LEVI: That's what we didn't need to hear from that minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Will the member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf), the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) and the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Ms. Levi) please come to order.
MR. BARBER: I'd like to return to a topic that we were on when this particular debate began. It's the question of guidelines. It's the question of whether the family law division and its agents and representatives in the field are in fact going to be well, adequately and currently enough informed to administer the law, and specifically the provision of adequate services.
As the Attorney-General might be aware, I
worked for five years on a project in Victoria called Cool Aid. It is a
project that still exists, and it helps a lot of disturbed kids. A
great many of them we had some success with; with a few we had none at
all. I worked with a lot of kids in the project itself. It won
recognition and prizes from the government of Canada and from the
British Commonwealth. It was a very successful youth project. One of
the issues that came to us again and again was the sometime inability
of the system, based on a kind of sub-system of human discretion alone,
to exercise discretion in a fair-minded way. I don't think good
intentions are enough. The minister clearly has good intentions and has
said, by way of illustration of that, that he would, for instance, be
sending a copy of my colleague from Burnaby Edmonds' (Ms. Brown's)
remarks to persons in the family law division.
When I asked him before whether or not there were guidelines as to what constituted an essential need for legal representation for those children over the age of 12 and asked him to quote from the guidelines, the Attorney-General said he couldn't because they didn't exist. If I misheard, please correct me, but I took notes, and I believe that's what he said. Again, I don't think good intentions are adequate for good public policy. The minister will not be here forever, nor will the individuals who are shortly going to be reading the comments by the member for Burnaby-Edmonds.
The problem of good intentions is the problem of human change and human attitude. I'm one of those who thinks a more nearly ideal system is that which would combine the written expression of policy in a way that is instantly comprehensible to people who read it; in a way that can be changed, clearly and credibly, when change is required; and, at the same time, in a way that allows human discretion to be exercised in favour of individual human beings who have need. That's the kind of discretion and the sort of human judgment that helps. To rely exclusively on human discretion, I think, is a mistake. Some people have better days than others. They wake up with headaches. They wake up with bad memories of the night before, or whatever. I had a lot of uncomfortable and unpleasant dealings with public servants
[ Page 7853 ]
— occasionally — who were simply not in a mood to exercise fair-minded and humane discretion in the issue that we would present to them when I worked at Cool Aid in Victoria.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
The minister has said that there are no guidelines, and I wonder if he would be prepared to reconsider. I wonder if he would be prepared to put guidelines in writing, in such a form (a) that is amendable upon experience and the changes that experience inevitably would produce in those guidelines; and (b) that still allows flexibility in favour of the individual kid when that flexibility can clearly be justified.
I don't like public policy that relies basically on word of mouth; I don't like public policy that relies on good intentions alone. I can't support public policy that can be as undefined and potentially ill-administered as is one that has no written expression. In a sense, if it is not written, it doesn't exist. In a sense, if it's not in writing, it can't be used. The people in Victoria, the people who read this debate, the people who may still be around six months from now and remember this debate, might well be in a position to act on the impulse of it and to do so in a fair-minded way. That's good, but it's not good enough. Because in the field a year or two years from now — or in the field tomorrow, for people who don't read about any of these discussions and who don't understand the particular sensibility of approach that the Attorney-General has brought to bear — people will not be informed enough to administer this policy.
We've expressed on other occasions our concern about the general and rather arbitrary cutoff of 12 years of age, which is no magic age for any human being. Some are or are not mature at that point, and everyone knows that. Obviously, if you're going to name any figure, I suppose that's as good as any other. Maybe no figure should have been named in the first place; rather, guidelines that relate to human need should be the expression of policy.
However, the government has said that 12 years is the cutoff, and beyond that, a level of discretion will be exercised on the question of, as he put it, "what constitutes an essential need for representation." I wonder if the Attorney-General would be prepared to consider whether both guidelines in writing for the clear administration of policy and for the further option for individual discretion in the case of, and in favour of, the human need actually at stake might not be a better policy.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I'd like the first member for Victoria to know that I am in accord with his position concerning statements of public policy. When I responded earlier to his contribution to this debate, I prefaced my remarks by saying that we were dealing — I and the member for Burnaby-Edmonds — with matters associated with certain guideline statements from the ministry, which don't apply to this section.
This section applies to adults, in the sense of a spouse or the person involved — or, if the child's maintenance is involved, the person or parent having custody of the child. So there is always an adult involved in this particular proceeding. I was talking about a matter that the member for Burnaby-Edmonds had raised yesterday. I was probably at that moment out of order, but now I'm back in order.
Let me say this to the first member for Victoria with regard to the desirability of guidelines: I can't produce the guidelines, because they don't exist. The reason they don't exist today is that up until very recently — the past few weeks — we have functioned on the system that family advocacy lawyers are available on demand, with no questions asked. If you need a lawyer, you get one. We are trying to bring that system under some better management than has heretofore existed. If we don't, the alarming rate of increase in the cost of that system may burden it to such an extent that it begins to collapse. If it begins to collapse there are a number of options available to us. One of them is to stop using the private bar in family law and build another bureaucracy of lawyers into the ministry. I am not in favour of that kind of move, so we have established these guidelines that the member of Burnaby-Edmonds is expressing concern about. I understand her concern. It never happened before. Out of those will come, at my request, the kind of public policy statement that the first member for Victoria referred to in his remarks. I think it is very essential. I also think it is very essential, as he has said — it would be a necessary part of it — that in spite of how specific you may be there must still be an area for responsible discretion. That has to be the case with regard to any activity involving government and the citizen. It is impossible to design the words to fit every conceivable case, and therefore someone with wisdom and good judgment has got to be able to exercise the discretion. You can always quarrel as to whether that is done. That is why we have people like the ombudsman who goes in and says: "You weren't very wise in the way in which you exercised the discretion you were given." We have these countervailing protective units.
What we are doing in this ministry with regard to this particular problem is, for the first time, being able to develop the kind of policy guidelines that the member has referred to. While that doesn't deal with this particular section of this bill, I just want the members not to be under any doubts that that is where we are headed with regard to this matter. I expect the guidelines will be produced as soon as we have some weeks of experience. If we find that what has already been issued fails in some respects and therefore must be modified, out of that will come — by a process of distillation, I guess — what can be sort of a long-range statement itself, always subject to modification and amendment.
I don't think you can develop guidelines in an area of this kind in any other way. I wouldn't want to sit down and write them. I don't think any individual would, and I wouldn't want to hire anybody to do it because you always leave something out. In an area of this kind, with changing social problems coming to bear upon this aspect, those guidelines must be modified, from time to time, based on experience.
MS. BROWN: When I raised the issue of the guidelines yesterday I was totally and completely in order, because the guidelines specifically state that legal representation is not permitted in cases of enforcement of maintenance orders, which is what this bill is about.
I was puzzled by the contradiction of a bill based on improving the enforcement of maintenance orders and at the same time the Attorney-General's ministry saying that legal counsel was not going to be made available to the spouse — usually the woman, in this instance — who had to go into the courts to deal with this enforcement.
The whole issue of the guidelines, as it affects children over the age of 12, was totally in order at that time, and I think it is still in order now. I appreciate that the Attorney-General is monitoring the system. I hope he won't take too long with
[ Page 7854 ]
his monitoring, because in the meantime there are going to be women who are going to show up in court to deal with the enforcement of maintenance orders who are not going to have legal counsel there to assist them in terms of dealing with the complexities of showing up in family court. Every day I am getting examples of young children — usually girls over the age of 12 — who have been sexually abused by one member of their family or another — a father, an uncle or whatever — who are now being denied the services of a child advocate, a lawyer, to counsel them, advise them and speak on their behalf in the courts. While the monitoring is going on these people are left unprotected. All I am saying to the Attorney-General is that I hope he will move with great speed, or even take a second look at the decision about the age of 12. I've never been able to understand — and I've asked him a number of times — why the age of 12, and I haven't got an answer to that.
Section 2 approved.
On Section 3.
MS. BROWN: We'll now deal with the section we've been debating all along. I just want to ask some questions. Section 3 says that the Crown may accept an assignment in writing of the rights of a person respecting an order. There are, of course, going to be some instances where a woman may decide she doesn't want to give the Crown this responsibility. What happens to the woman in that case, if the spouse does not keep up his maintenance payments and it becomes necessary to have an order of enforcement and this woman does not have the financial backing to hire a lawyer of her own?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Yesterday I said that the Ministry of Human Resources and the Ministry of the Attorney-General were in the process of designing an enforcement mechanism. It would be available for that woman as well, whether or not she had assigned her rights to the Crown.
MS. BROWN: Is the signing over of an order going to be a prerequisite which is demanded of a woman in the event that she has to apply for income assistance, for welfare, in the interim while she is waiting for the back payments to get caught up and that kind of thing? When she goes to apply for welfare, is it going to be demanded of her that she sign this order?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: It's not a question of the order; it's assignment of the right to maintenance. Mr. Chairman, I can't respond to that question because it would be within the knowledge of the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy). I'm not aware that it's going to be mandatory that anybody give an assignment of their rights. That's why the section is drawn in the permissive way — that the Crown may accept an assignment. We know of instances where women have no objection to an order being made against their husbands; they just don't want to get involved in the trouble of going to court. So the Crown says: "Fine. If you would like to assign your rights to maintenance, then we will go and get the orders, and we will tend to variations and enforcement." That, I understand, would be acceptable. But I'm not aware that it is going to be a mandatory requirement of Human Resources that before you can get social assistance you will in fact have to give an assignment. They may attempt to encourage that in a case where they believe that some recovery can be made in the circumstances, but that's all I can say.
MS. BROWN: The Attorney-General is quite correct. I should have put that question to the Minister of Human Resources; but this is not her bill, and that's the reason I didn't.
In the event a person has signed over the right to the Crown, and the settlement is higher than what that person would receive from income assistance.... For example, if the person on income assistance were eligible for $600 a month and the settlement was $700 a month.... When the spouse falls into arrears, does the ministry guarantee to maintain the order as it is, or does the section which says, "Vary the order," then come into effect, and does the family find that it's getting the straight income assistance rate? I'm worried about this section about varying the order during the term of the assignment.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: May I assure the member that her concern is unnecessary. When we take an assignment of the right, it's the total right — if they want to give it. The Crown, on behalf of the individual, may apply for a maintenance order. If enforcement is required, the Crown could enforce it. If the Crown learns, as sometimes happens, that the circumstances of the person who pays have changed so that he or she can in effect pay more, then the Crown has the right to institute proceedings to vary the order so that the amount required to be paid is in keeping with the income of the person who is doing the paying, in exactly the same way as the woman herself would. If the woman applied for a maintenance order and received $200 a month because that was what the court determined was all the husband could afford to pay, and his circumstances changed so that he could pay more, then the woman could go and ask for a variation of the order — or if there were changes in her circumstances which necessitated further consideration. So the Crown is only taking those same rights that the woman would have. It's not for the purpose of making sure that she is kept to the level of income of social assistance payments, in any respect. It's just so we have all the rights that they do.
Of course, the proceedings to vary also come from the other side. It may be that the paying husband goes to court and says, "I want it varied because I can't afford it," or, "My wife is now in receipt of income at a higher level than was the case before, and therefore I shouldn't have to pay as much." We have to be in the position where we can, if we have an assignment, appear in those proceedings and contest the position taken by the husband.
MS. BROWN: The problem is that as the system presently exists, because a woman in receipt of income assistance with dependants is only allowed to earn an additional $100 and then there are deductions from her income assistance, the court has fallen into the habit of gearing maintenance payments to this reality. In other words, they'll say, if you're on income assistance: "Let's just make the payments $100 a month, because anything over that will put you in the same boat anyway." The result of this is that there are women who are reluctant to sign over their rights to the Crown because they're afraid that they're going to find it's much easier for the system to just hang in there at the income assistance level, rather than going after as much money as is possible for them
[ Page 7855 ]
to get. That's the background for the question I asked. I'm hoping that when the Attorney-General and Human Resources work it out, they will take this into account, because there is going to be reluctance on the part of those families that can get an order that will pay a bit more than income assistance to sign over those rights to the Crown.
My final question on this section has to do with older women who are childless wives. A number of legal counsel have indicated that this group is the most difficult group to get any kind of maintenance payments for. In some instances it could be simply that the kids have grown up and left home. Suddenly the woman finds herself at the age of 49 or 50, but not yet 65 and eligible for the old-age pension, with none of the skills demanded by the job market at this time and desperately needing maintenance. If she goes on income assistance, she is designated as employable, in which case her income assistance is lower than it would otherwise be. I want to get an assurance from the Attorney-General that if this particular group of women — it is a large segment; I think that somewhere in the neighbourhood of over 5,000 women fit into this category — do sign their rights over to the Crown, there will not be this tendency to just hang in at the income assistance level.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I can assure the member that the Ministry of Human Resources is anxious to see the fullest enforcement of maintenance responsibilities. I am aware, from talking with the minister and her deputy, that with assignments taken under this provision, it is their intention that the person who has the responsibility to pay pays all that that person can possibly be obliged to pay under law.
I am aware of the matter of the $100 order. This is one of the problems with which my ministry and Human Resources are currently wrestling. As the member know, in some other jurisdictions they put in some minimums in order to avoid this particular problem. We hope to be able to avoid that, and to be able to make representations to the judges who make these orders that they should not be influenced in any way by what the social assistance program may be, that there should be a true order made based upon the condition of the parties before the court.
Sections 3 to 9 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Chairman, with leave of the House, I would like to make an introduction.
HON. MR. GARDOM: We are very honoured today in having extremely distinguished visitors to our province: Lord Cockfield, who is the Secretary of State for Britain, and Lady Cockfield. I'd like all members to bid them an especially warm welcome. Joined with them are Consul Rogan and Mrs. Rogan from Vancouver and Mr. Rees, private secretary to Lord Cockfield. This is the start of Lord Cockfield's visit to our country. He's going to be here for about a week. I'm very happy to welcome them all to the Pacific Northwest and this great weather we're having in Victoria.
MR. LORIMER: I would likewise ask leave to make an introduction.
MR. LORIMER: We have in the precincts grade 4 students from Maywood School in Burnaby. I would ask the assembly to bid them welcome. Unfortunately they were an hour late due to the delays in the ferries today.
MRS. WALLACE: While we're into introductions, I wonder if I also might have leave to make an introduction.
MRS. WALLACE: Numbered among the fourth estate we have an exceptional visitor to the precincts today watching these proceedings. I would like the House to welcome a reporter from the Cowichan Leader, Judith Belton.
On section 10.
MS. BROWN: I think that this section deals with striking out sections 8 and 16 of the GAIN legislation. No, I am sorry. It is section 11 that I need.
Section 10 approved.
On section 11.
MS. BROWN: I think this deals with striking out sections 8 and 16 of the GAIN legislation and substituting section 8 of the GAIN act. Is that correct?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Yes.
MS. BROWN: Section 8 of the GAIN Act is the one dealing with the COLA clause. It is going to index benefits. It is a section which was introduced in 1979 as a proclamation section and was never proclaimed. I understand that in this bill now the income assistance which people receive for basic food, clothing and shelter is going to be tied to the consumer price index and is going to be indexed every year. If it is correct that we are having a COLA clause then I want to speak in favour of this section because we have been fighting for the proclamation of this section for a long time. Not being a legal beagle. I m not sure whether I've read the thing correctly or not, so before saying anything nice about it I just want to check.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: You want to check what? I think the hon. member for Burnaby-Edmonds should always be nice.
Section 11 of this bill is consequential upon the previous section. The GAIN act dealt with a variety of sections. Section 10 of this bill repealed section 16. We are simply taking the numbers 8 and 16 out of section 28 and putting 8 back, which is a legislative counsel style. Section 8 of the GAIN act — unproclaimed today — will remain in the GAIN act, following the passage of this legislation, unproclaimed until such time as the Lieutenant-Governor determines to make that proclamation. I can't assist the hon. member because the GAIN legislation does not fall under my ministry. We had to make this change in this particular bill because of the earlier section which we have now brought back into the Family Relations Act, which is my responsibility.
[ Page 7856 ]
MS. BROWN: I would just like to express my profound disappointment that section 8 of the GAIN act is not going to be proclaimed.
Sections 11 and 12 approved.
MR. CHAIRMAN: There is a schedule, I believe.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: No, it is not a schedule. The convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction is printed as part of the bill for the assistance of the members. It is referred to in section 1.
I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Bill 14, Family Relations Amendment Act, 1982, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD
On vote 5: minister's office, $164,608.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, no way shall vote 5 pass. We have a minister here who day by day becomes less and less credible. The latest story, of course, which hit the press just this morning, concerns his inability to maintain in the agricultural land reserve some 5,800 hectares of land in the Golden area. I've been following this for some time, Mr. Chairman, and I've talked with the people involved. Do you know that the majority of people who own that property don't want it out of the reserve? The Land Commission made some very strong and thorough recommendations relative to that piece of property, and here we have a minister.... This is the man who should be standing up for the agricultural land reserve; certainly that's his responsibility. But what happens, Mr. Chairman? He sits back and lets the rest of the cabinet overrule him, or else he goes along with them. No one ever knows which way it is, because that minister and those meetings of ELUC and the cabinet are secret meetings held without notice. Nobody knows when they are. Unless one manages to ferret it out through some inadvertent remark from someone, they're done without any public input. Nobody knows who the witnesses are and who listens to them.
In that particular instance a strong representation was made by local people who were opposed to its coming out, but there was also a very strong lobby by developers. As a matter of fact, most of the people who were in favour of the exclusion didn't have land in the reserve in that area, but there was a strong move to have that land taken out; there was a lobby on the regional board. The regional board brought the appeal, and behind closed doors the people who own that land, who have farmed it for years and years and years were excluded. One of the family farms in that area goes back to 1913, Mr. Chairman, and now, without their consent, this minister has allowed the reversal of that decision by the and Commission to retain the land in the reserve.
He has no sense of commitment to the land reserve or to the agricultural community that wants that land maintained. It is some of the best agricultural land in that area, according to the studies done by the Land Commission. They identified that of the total 5,800 hectares, 3,345 hectares should remain in that reserve because it was being farmed. They said some could come out — the rockier areas, the steeper areas. So there was an opportunity for the regional board to have the development it wanted, but that wasn't good enough for that minister. He was prepared to go along with this deal and take it all out, to override the Land Commission once more.
We're getting a little fed up on this side of the House, and the people of this province are getting a little fed up, with these continual removals of land, the complete undermining of the Land Commission. What's the point in having a Land Commission if you're going to overrule it all the time? You might as well do away with it. It's completely ridiculous.
I have a petition here signed by about 25 or 30 people who are owners of property in that Blaeberry area and who wanted it to stay in the land reserve. What are they going to do? Will they now have to apply to have it reinstated in the land reserve? They don't want to do anything but farm it, but you, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, have decided they can't farm it; we're going to take it out of the reserve. How can you farm land in the middle of a trailer park, a camper site, with dogs, kids from Calgary? That's what it's going to be. Those lands are going to go to Albertans. Big oil money will come in there, buy that property, bring in their mobile trailers, set up their camps, build their cabins, and it's going to be impossible. They're going to ask for sewers and water and all sorts of facilities. Those farmers who want to stay there and farm in that area are going to be forced off their land through the taxes and the cost. How can they afford to pay the taxes to provide sewers and water? The member for North Peace River (Mr. Brummet) says they don't have to sell. They're going to be forced to sell through the economic pressure that will be put on them, and their taxes will also probably go up. Economic pressure will force them out.
But it's not just economic. I wonder if the member for North Peace River has ever tried to farm among a bunch of trailers and kids and dogs and horses and people running over the property destroying the crops. I've been in that position, Mr. Chairman, and I know what it's like. That's the situation that's going to develop up there. That's what this minister is doing. That's one of the main reasons why we believe that he is utterly irresponsible and uncommitted to the land reserve.
There's another case coming up in the Vernon area. The Land Commission has ruled absolutely and positively that that land should stay in the reserve. And it's being appealed. Is that the next one we're going to see? How do we know? When will it happen? Secretly, behind closed doors. Nobody knows that it's out until we see the order-in-council. That's what's going to happen.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I ask the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) and the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) to come to order.
[ Page 7857 ]
MRS. WALLACE: At least the member for Vancouver East is saying some words that make sense. I don't know what the member for Yale-Lillooet (Hon. Mr. Waterland) is uttering over there; some kind of crackpot noises.
MRS. WALLACE: The Thorlakson property at Okanagan Landing. I have a thick file on it, with copies of letters to the minister, urging him not to go along with the appeal. But what assurance is there that he won't? This is fine agricultural land. Again, the Land Commission has said: okay, we'll take part of it out, the part that would be a buffer zone, but this other is good agricultural land. Not good enough; they want to appeal it. And what will happen? Will there be any forewarning? Will there be any chance for the multitude of people who are opposed to this to have their say before ELUC? Not likely. It will be done secretly, behind closed doors with no timetable, and a week later we'll find an order-in-council saying it's been removed.
That's the history of this government. That's how it operates. It's a shame and a disgrace. There is no way that this minister is going to get his vote until he gives us a firm commitment that there are going to be no more of these secret removals from the land reserve, no more of this secret stuff — whether it be a payoff for political friends under the new section of the act, or whether it be....
MR. CHAIRMAN: All members of the committee are reminded that any imputation of dishonourable motives to another member is unparliamentary.
MRS. WALLACE: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman, I get a bit carried away when I talk about this agricultural land reserve, because it's an area of highly emotional concern to me. It's the future for our kids. It's the future of British Columbia. We have to retain the capability of feeding ourselves in the future. We can't just sell out our heritage for a mess of pottage. That appears to be what's happening, and I'm emotionally concerned. There are many, many instances, and I and other members of this caucus shall be outlining them in the course of this debate.
If the minister has any response to this, any remarks that he wants to make, let him make them now, so we can understand what his position is.
HON. MR. HEWITT: With regard to the application made by the regional district of Columbia-Shuswap, in the area known as Blaeberry, the application dealt with by the cabinet was for approximately 3,500 hectares, not 5,800. I wanted to correct the member's comments.
Out of that plus or minus 3,500 hectares, approximately 1,000 hectares are Crown land. The balance is owned by various individuals. The member paints a picture of taking prime farm land out of the reserve and says that we have done this terrible deed.
First of all, I want to say that public hearings were held in the regional district. After hearing from some of the people in the area who farm, they amended the area requested for exclusion by the regional district by some 400 hectares. After hearing the comments made at the public hearings, they adjusted their map and said, "Well, if the person is, in effect, farming at the present time and expresses concern that in the block application their land will come out, we will amend our request," and that's what they did.
[Mr. Richmond in the chair.]
Mr. Chairman, the member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace) makes mention of the emotional aspect of the agricultural land reserve, and she's dead right. It is a very emotional issue, because government has placed a further restriction on the freedom of the individual. We have placed another regulation on the individual who owns property in fee simple.
HON. MR. HEWITT: I will, Mr. Chairman, allow the opposition to have their comments across the floor. I will not ask for withdrawals or anything else, because I consider the source from which they come.
Mr. Chairman, I want to indicate that not only is it emotional, because of the people who own the land, but it is also very political. As minister responsible for the agricultural land reserve, I've seen in the past few years a constant attack, the constant inference that it's political payoff. I'm getting a little tired of it. I figure it's about time that we identified this agricultural land reserve for what it was originally intended to be, which was a socialist move to control land in the province of British Columbia. I want to say that the news media coverage — and particularly that of an individual by the name of Malcolm Turnbull, whom I have no particular affection for — tends to play with agriculture. He seems to hold himself out as a spokesperson for that industry in the news media. I had a discussion with the gentleman yesterday when he called me, and I gave him what I thought was factual information, only to read in the newspaper the comments today, about which I am further exercised. Responsible reporting is sort of overlooked, and it gets to be a "political" issue in the news media.
Mr. Chairman, I want to point out a few things, and then of course will carry on debating this issue for as long as the opposition wants.
It is the determination of the people who own the land whether they wish to farm it or not, the same as they did prior to the agricultural land reserves coming into existence. The member for Cowichan-Malahat mentioned somebody having farmed there since 1913. I want to tell you that the agricultural land reserves haven't been around since 1913, and that person's family, the former owners, or the persons who are there at the present time have made a decision to farm. Isn't it nice in the free country that we live in that you can make the decision to farm or not to farm. When you look at some of the classifications — and I will not be drawn into a deep debate on classifications.... The vast percentage of this land ranges, on the Canada Land Inventory, from class 5 to class 7. You don't grow carrots, etc., on that type of land. The majority of it is used either for pasture, forage or grazing a few cattle.
Mr. Chairman, in regard to the application itself, it is not made by whom the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) would like to imply. The application is not made by a developer. The application is made by a government duly elected by the people of the area, and don't you forget it. You want to imply that this is a developer that is getting to the regional district. Therefore, in my opinion, you attack the regional district directors in that area and say they've been bought. That's what you re saying. This is a government that
[ Page 7858 ]
has come forward to a senior government requesting an exclusion.
As I said earlier, before the land reserves were in place it was a commitment of the property-owner to determine what he would do with it. With this exclusion of those lands which are held in fee simple by individuals, it would continue to be their personal commitment as to whether or not they wish to farm it. They own the land; they have title to it. In a free democracy when you have title to land you can determine what you wish to do with it. If you wish to farm you may farm. If the opposition were government they would attempt, more and more as time went on, to control the land base of this province and the ownership of land in the long run. I would only say that the people involved in farming in that area — most of it was to do with grazing and forage — can continue to do so. The regional district deleted those who expressed concern from their application for exclusion, taking into consideration the comments those persons made at the hearings.
The member for Cowichan-Malahat talks about the impact of trailers, dogs and kids on agricultural activity. I have been in two places that I can refer to, one being China, which happens to have the third-largest land base in the world with the largest population in the world. Canada has the second largest land base in the world, with 26 million or 27 million people. There is a tremendous amount of agricultural activity in places like China. I could refer you to places like Holland, where industry, residential properties and agricultural endeavours exist side by side. They live in harmony. Don't hide behind the argument that the kids, dogs, cars, etc. are going to have an impact on grazing lands in that particular area.
I am going to say to this committee, as I said when I started, that I am getting a little exercised regarding this political attack — I am looking for a better word — or political use of the legislation on agricultural land reserves by the opposition, who, as I said at the beginning of my estimates, in their time released class 1 and class 2 land and put it into an industrial park. I gave them specific references. Don't stand up shiny-bright clean and say that you would never do this. You did it, and you brought in the legislation. We just inherited it. If you felt that strongly — those of you who were in office between 1972 and 1975 — you would have resigned over this issue because it would have offended you so strongly.
As minister responsible for this agricultural land reserve and this legislation, I think that the time has come to seriously address just where we are going with this legislation. I have attempted, since I have been the minister responsible, to seriously address the question by "fine-tuning," only to be attacked from time to time for the lack of fine-tuning and for the opposition over exclusions that have been taken out. These attacks have all been politically motivated. I think it is time for me, as the minister responsible, to take a look at what is truly agricultural land in this province. I believe we should preserve that true agricultural land, but I will not get hung up on keeping in gravel pits, class 5, 6 and 7 land, because of the political abuse, in my opinion, that the opposition makes over this legislation. That is my commitment here today. If the member for Cowichan-Malahat wants a commitment, there it is, because I am going to take a long, hard look at this legislation and bring forward changes that will better reflect agricultural land in this province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair would just like to remind members that occasional interjections can be tolerated if a member is sitting in his own seat.
MR. MACDONALD: I keep being amazed when this minister stands up. I have to pinch myself to remind me that he is the Minister of Agriculture. He is not the minister of housing and land development; he is not the minister of industry. The man who is talking about these vast tracts coming out of our agricultural land reserve over the wishes of the Land Commission is the minister of agriculture. I find it absolutely unbelievable. Instead of fighting so that the people of this province will not be dependent upon non-existent Mexican or Californian exports in 20 or 30 years' time — they're going to run out — the Minister of Agriculture is giving away land out of the farm reserve that the Land Commission has judged to be good farmland. I can't understand how anybody in this province can believe that this man is for farming. He is against farming. He is against agriculture.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair]
The minister is all over the lot when he comes to the Gloucester estates, where a Chilean consortium is making out of the hide of the people of British Columbia heaven knows how many hundreds of millions of dollars. When it comes to them, he's got a bunch of reasons why he overruled the Land Commission. When he comes to Spetifore, he has other reasons. And yet, every once in a while, this minister who is all over the lot in the debate, says that soil capability is the decision and judgment of the Agricultural Land Commission. He doesn't observe that. Now he comes into this Legislature and says, "Oh, they didn't understand this. Some of it was five and six. Some of it was pasturage up near Golden. What's wrong with pasturage? Are you Minister of Agriculture or not? Are you Minister of Industry? Are you Minister of Housing? Are you Minister of Tourism and Ski-lifts? Just what are we talking about in this province in terms of preserving the land?
His speech today indicates right where he is: philosophically, he's a Genghis Khan as far as the Agricultural Land Commission is concerned. He doesn't like it. He doesn't respect it. He says it was a socialist plan to take over all the land of the province, or some claptrap like that. He pays lipservice to it while with his other hand he's giving it away, shovelling the land out. Time after time, it turns up that it's a wealthy Socred developer who has contributed to the Socred campaign funds who goes off with the loot. I say that without fear of contradiction.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Will the committee please come to order.
MR. MACDONALD: He complains about some of the things we say in this Legislature. Why don't you sue the Vancouver Province? Because he wanted to get out and make a real mint on them, he allowed the Spetifore lands to fall into disarray as agricultural lands. He stopped farming them. When they come out on January 16, 1981, theVancouver Province talked about "the farmland — in that case 523 acres, including optioned land — "owned by George
[ Page 7859 ]
Spetifore, Socred supporter, who helped finance Deputy Speaker Walter Davidson's 1975 and 1979 election campaigns."
That's the Province talking about an accumulating conflict of interest where the member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) is in thick with Jim Anderson as a partner in terms of Sun Mask Petroleum, in thick in terms of the takeover of Inland Natural Gas, in thick in terms of getting the Spetifore land out of the agricultural land reserve, and we sit here with that conflict of interest, and we say: Bandage our eyes, and don't believe what we see. Don't believe what we hear. Don't believe what we know." How can we? What in the heck is going on in this province of British Columbia?
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll ask the committee to please come to order. I'll ask the hon. member now speaking to be relevant. We are discussing the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture and Food. Debate in Committee of Supply must concern itself primarily with the administrative actions of the minister. Please proceed.
MR. MACDONALD: All right. I'll come back to that, and I'll ask the minister what he knows about the intervention of the hon. member for Delta in terms of getting Spetifore lands out of the reserve. Nothing?
Mr. Chairman, let me say this. One November 24, 1977, it was reported in the Province that Spetifore and Sons — and to the Minister of Agriculture this is a big joke — had this potato chip business, and they did get a $250,000 forgivable loan for it, and so forth. But they couldn't make a go of that. The Minister of Agriculture said that Spetifore should apply to have his land withdrawn from the agricultural land reserve. Here's a man who is responsible for protection of the farmland of the province of British Columbia. At a later stage, he is also going to be judge, under the Agricultural Land Commission Act, Socred-amended to allow those loopholes of appeal.
Don't forget that. He mentioned the legislation earlier. We were proud of the original legislation; we’re not proud of how you amended it; we're not proud of what you're doing with it — not in the slightest. I opposed those amendments. We all opposed those amendments. You politicized the act to allow your friends to find loopholes and get their land out of the agricultural land reserve. It was done behind closed doors, without anybody opposed to the application being allowed to know when it was going to come up. You won't even produce transcripts of the ELUC meetings. One leaked out in the Gloucester case, when the Minister of Energy (Hon. Mr. McClelland) made that fiery speech supporting the exclusion, with Ainslie Loretto active in the campaign; then when it came to the vote, he refused.... That was a leaked transcript. Mostly, it's darkness and night; and that's where corruption lies. You can't blame people for being suspicious when, time after time, land which has been declared to be agricultural in its soil capability is being taken out of the reserve by hundreds of acres; and every time it turns out to be some Socred developer.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are there any NDP developers?
MR. MACDONALD: Yes, there are.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Will the committee please come to order. The hon. second member for Vancouver East is taking his place in debate and will not be interrupted.
MR. MACDONALD: I don't mind the odd interruption, Mr. Chairman. I must admit that I feel quite strongly on this issue. I helped draft the original legislation. I agree that we bombed out. Then we worked very hard over about three weeks to redraft the legislation. It was good, and it was nonpolitical.
MR. MACDONALD: Yes, it was. There had to be a very limited appeal.
Now you have this incredible situation where a disappointed developer, like Gloucester, comes to the Minister of Agriculture arid says: "May I have leave to appeal against the unanimous decision of the Land Commission that my land has soil capability for agriculture?" And the minister of Agriculture signs that little paper and gives him leave to appeal; not the minister of industry or tourism or housing, but the Minister of Agriculture. I think he should resign. I think that man should not be holding that job. I don't think he's for agriculture in this province, I think it's a joke.
MR. SEGARTY: That's what you said about Vogel.
MR. MACDONALD: I will defend everything I said, at another time. Let's leave that for another debate. I take nothing back.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'll ask the member for Kootenay (Mr. Segarty) and the member for North Peace River (Mr. Brummet) to please come to order.
MR. MACDONALD: You have the amazing situation of the Minister of Agriculture telling George Spetifore in November 1977: "Why don't you apply to get these acres out of the agricultural land reserve?" The Minister of Agriculture, when sitting on the ELUC committee — which he did in 1981 on the same application — was a judge who had the verdict in favour of his political friends in his pocket before the application was even made. In fact. he suggested that the application be made. And you think we can have confidence in that man as Minister of Agriculture in the province of B.C.? Impossible!
When the Spetifore thing.... You know, we're not talking about small change. I know Jim Anderson said before the Utilities Commission that the projected housing development would reap $400 million from this farming property. Those figures are puffed a little bit, I know that his profit was $190 million. He is puffing it, because he's a part of taking over Inland Natural Gas without putting up a nickel of his own — not one red cent — and he's going to get the whole thing. It's incredible, but he'll get it, because he has already bypassed several important departments of government unless he's stopped.
Anyway, before that.... Let me tell you what happened when ELUC met. On July 15, 1980, at the Laurel Point
[ Page 7860 ]
Inn, as the second member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson) has pointed out with some of the details, the people who were going to appear before ELUC on behalf of the Spetifore property had a huddle in the Laurel Point Inn. The meeting was arranged. It was a Delta application.
MR. MACDONALD: Don't tell me I don't know that, Mr. Minister. I do, and it was the Socreds on the Delta council.
HON. MR. HEWITT: You're against everybody.
MR. MACDONALD: I'm against political councils dismantling the Land Commission. That's what the land thing was for: to prevent these municipal politicians from wheeling and dealing with land and getting it out until we had no farmland left in the province of British Columbia. Why is the act there? To prevent precisely what I'm talking about.
So they met on July 15. It was arranged through the secretary of the hon. member for Delta (Mr. Davidson). It was called so that there wouldn't be anybody prowling around the Laurel Point Inn. It said: "No announcement. Closed meeting." Don't put on the bulletin board that Delta council has a semi-official meeting in terms of legitimate public business. They had some of their real estate guys from Delta there who are not on the Delta city council — guys like Bill Sullivan, for example, who got a neighbourhood pub by the same closed door appeal procedure that the Socreds favour so much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. We are on the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture.
MR. MACDONALD: All right. Bill Sullivan was there. Why was he there? Tell us that, Mr. Minister. Tell us you didn't know anything about that meeting with Boyd Ferris, their lawyer, in the chair, behind closed doors. They rehearsed the lines they would present to the minister in the ELUC committee the next day. They went over their lines like trained seals. "How long will you take? Should we tell him this or tell him that? Should we keep this under the rug?" None of the people who objected to the land coming out of the reserve had any reason to know there was going to be an ELUC meeting the next day; but the developers, the Socred friends, knew. The Socred friends gathered behind closed doors, and then when the thing happened they sent the bill to the legislative building, to the member for Delta's (Mr. Davidson's) office. The next day the member for Delta didn't appear before ELUC because it was too obvious. But he had written to the chairman of the ELUC committee at that time — who was the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Rogers) — on behalf of Spetifore. Did the public know that? No, they did not. Did the public know ELUC was going to meet? No, they did not. Did ELUC give any reasons as to why they released all this money into private hands? No, they did not. Closed kangaroo justice on behalf of friends is what we are talking about, Mr. Minister of Agriculture. I say that that procedure is absolutely unthinkable.
HON. MR. HEWITT: Step outside the door and state the case and the amount — who got paid. Stand the flak. You don't dare do it. You're a disgrace to the law profession.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I will ask the Minister of Agriculture and Food........
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: Listen to this carefully, Mr. Minister of Agriculture. "This farm, owned by George Spitifore, a Socred supporter who helped finance Deputy Speaker Walter Davidson's 1975 and 1979 campaigns...." Go and sue the Province. Everybody knows there is a conflict of interest. When a member of this Legislature quietly supports an exclusion that is going to result in hundreds of millions of dollars of profit to somebody — behind closed doors, without anybody knowing about it — and is involved in business with one of the people, Jim Anderson, who ends up with the land, that is not right. That is a conflict-of-interest situation, and I have no hesitation in saying it.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members of the committee, I must remind the committee that we are under the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture. We discuss and debate the administrative actions of that ministry and not other members of this committee or of this Legislative Assembly. Relevancy must be maintained. The Ministry of Agriculture's estimates, vote 5.
MR. MACDONALD: Let the Minister of Agriculture and Food stand up and tell us that he didn't know about this huddle in the Laurel Point Inn before they came to get the boys with all their lines. You were had by that group, or you knew all about it. When the ELUC meeting took place the next day, it lasted....
Let's say who was there on ELUC for the Spetifore lands, July 16, 1980. The Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing (Hon. Mr. Chabot) and the Minister of Transportation and Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser), who incidentally walked out of the meeting after six or seven minutes.
MR. MACDONALD: He did. Was he disgusted with what was going on? The Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Rogers) was in the chair. The Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips), the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm), and so forth. There were two or three other ministers as well. The meeting lasted from 8:15 to 8:40 a.m. I make that 25 minutes to take 500-odd acres of agricultural land assessed at, so far as the public's taxation is concerned, $800,000, and to convert it into land out of the reserve, which the developers say is now worth, in terms of housing, a gross of $400 million.
This was done in 25 minutes behind closed doors. Of course there were objectors, but they didn't know about the meeting. There was one little guy from the Agricultural Land Commission — Jay Simon, I think his name is. He was intimidated by all these big guys. What was Bill Sullivan doing in all this? Who is Bill Sullivan? Why should he be at the meeting in Laurel Point Inn and why should he be in the meeting of ELUC? He's just a big real estate guy. He got a neighbourhood pub — I think it's theSundowner — from this
[ Page 7861 ]
government by the same kind of closed-door appeal procedure that I'm talking about. The Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman) knows all about that.
MR. MACDONALD: Under the Socreds in 1976.
So what are these Socred real estate developers doing before ELUC, when the general public doesn't even know the meeting's taking place? Tell us that, Mr. Minister of Agriculture. You remember he was there. You were there. This procedure is simply incredible where you have this kind of justice involving so much money. I happen to believe — and I'm not Social Credit; I don't think money grows on trees.... To use an analogy — the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing (Hon. Mr. Chabot) will know what I'm talking about — our economy is a little bit like a poker game. If the Gloucester boys make $300 million or $400 million.... Is that too high an estimate? I don't think it is, when you really think about it. And if Anderson and Spetifore make a couple of hundred million in terms of the Spetifore land, that comes out of the economy. Around the poker table — which is all of the people of British Columbia — when somebody wins that kind of money, other people lose it.
MR. MACDONALD: You think it's funny, eh, to have this kind of ripoff going on in the province of British Columbia. I've never seen such a man. And this guy, the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland), he just hoots like an owl. Hoot, hoot, hoot. Sure. You all know what's going on in this province. But you try to pass it off and you joke about it and so forth.
Look, when some people make that kind of money, other people lose it. And the people who lose it are the ordinary people of the province of British Columbia.
The member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace), our agriculture critic, has expressed lack of confidence in this minister. I certainly join in that. When you get up I want you to answer specifically why you would give a hint to George Spetifore in 1977 that he should apply to have his land taken out of the reserve. Then you were the judge who let it out a few years later. Why? As Minister of Agriculture, why did you do that? Will you give us the transcript? Will you see that we get the transcript of the Spetifore thing? It was leaked in the Gloucester case, but the public don't know what went on — except what I've given you. I know some of it that went on. Will you stop this business about meetings behind closed doors where nobody knows they're even going to take place, when you're dealing with public rights worth hundreds of millions of dollars? Will you stop that kind of nonsense? As Minister of Agriculture, will you try to protect the land instead of giving it away? What are you trying to do, make your job lighter, so there'll be no agricultural land and we'll be dependent on foreign foodstuffs? That foreign food is giving out.
So I say that this minister should not be Minister of Agriculture. He's the minister against agriculture. We need somebody in there who will stand up for the Agricultural Land Reserve Act, which is good legislation. Take the politics out of it, and put a minister in charge who believes in the preservation of farmland in British Columbia.
HON. MR. HEWITT: I am the Minister of Agriculture, and the Minister of Agriculture deals with those people who are involved in farming. Your legislation, if you had had your way in the beginning, was to involve state ownership of land and state control of land — that's where you come from. I'll stack my record as Minister of Agriculture against your government's record in regard to the growth of the agricultural industry in this province. What other province has an agricultural land reserve, Mr. Member? The only one that comes close is Quebec, and at least they have done something that you people wouldn't even think of when you brought the legislation in. They only identify those parts of Quebec which are prime agricultural land. They do not drop the blanket, as I said the other day, over the whole province, including classes 5, 6 and 7.
You talk about hints: "What hint did you give Mr. Spetifore?" I can only tell you that if I did mention anything to Spetifore, it was as minister responsible, that one of the processes you go through is an appeal process. What's wrong with that? You're a lawyer. You of all people would deny the right of appeal to people involved with agricultural land. You should be the one member opposite who would stand up and fully support the concept of the right of appeal. When you talk about ELUC and opening the hearings to the public, you know as well as I do that when the application is heard, the parties involved are all represented there, and they can bring people they have with them — their agrologists, etc. — to comment on the agricultural capability or lack of capability.
Mr. Chairman, I'm just going to touch on a few things. As the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) likes to imply Social Credit involvement in regard to decisions.... What about the Gloucester Properties issue, when the local NDP constituency organization president, an alderman, voted in favour of the exclusion? If you are as sincere as you would like us to believe, I would assume that the president of the NDP in British Columbia would immediately ask that woman to resign, because you couldn't live with that type of compromise. You made such an eloquent statement in your argument. I’m just saying, perform! Don't come in here and give us all these great statements about how righteous you are, when your own people are for an exclusion from time to time.
I could go back and give the history of Mr. Spetifore, who was approached by the NDP and who donated to the NDP. Then the NDP executive in Delta hopped from one foot to the other for two weeks and finally said: "Oh, oh. We might get caught. Let's give him back his cheque." I can remember those comments that were made.
To speak of the Spetifore land.... I should call it what it really is — the Delta application. The Greater Vancouver Regional District did a tour. There was a committee which reported the following:
"This application from the Delta council is for the exclusion of 523 acres in south Delta for urban uses and for redesignation."
The committee also notes:
"Three hundred and three acres east of Boundary Bay Road are also applied for redesignation to park, and some 230 acres of the foreshore are being dedicated to the regional district for regional park. This dedication would be subject to the release of the ALR lands and approval of the planned designation for urban development on 610 acres of Boundary Bay."
[ Page 7862 ]
The committee formed the opinion, following the bus tour, that the subject property is marginal farmland and recommended approval of the ALR exclusion. That is a committee of the GVRD. If you look back in history, you'll find that the GVRD supported the application for exclusion. The land was excluded and then the GVRD changed its mind, and the land still sits zoned as agricultural under the GVRD. Mr. Chairman, the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) has referred to the member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) in regard to his involvement. Never mind that an MLA has a responsibility to represent his constituents. He works for his constituents and, I guess, as an MLA he gets contributions to his campaign funds the same way Mr. Spetifore donated to the NDP — approached by the NDP and he responded. So I don't think, Mr. Second Member for Vancouver East, that your argument holds water. You imply a lot of things, but you never state the actual facts. You know as well as I do that NDP supporters contribute to campaign funds for their candidates, and they do so if they're Social Credit supporters as well. So don't try to imply something that isn't there.
On top of that, I have a copy of a letter which mentioned that Mr. Boyd Ferris — and this is from the corporation of Delta — was requested by the corporation of Delta to act as spokesman at the hearing. So why was he there? He was requested to be there by the corporation of the city of Delta. As a lawyer, I'm sure if you were requested — and I don't know if you would charge a fee or not — you would appear.
Let me give you one last thing, because you talked about the Social Credit supporters and what they're going to get. I can recall a lawyer — a former mayor of a northern community who is now an NDP candidate — who acted on behalf of a native band with regard to a claim against the government and charged $5 million, only to have it cut back to $3 million. Is that a small contribution, a small payment? Tremendous! Represents the natives, charges $5 million, if I recall my facts — and I stand to be corrected — and settles for $3 million. Don't be so pious, Mr. Member.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I advise the minister that we're straying from vote 5.
The hon. member for Omineca on vote 5.
MR. KEMPF: Sit down. You've had your say.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'll ask the hon. member for Omineca to be courteous.
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Chairman, it's interesting to hear about those millionaire socialists. I know it's late in the day as far as our time here in the House is concerned, and I wish to change the subject. But before I do so, it's interesting to listen to the debate that's going on here this morning in regard to the agricultural land reserve and the Land Commission. I was amused when the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) talked about taking the politics out of the issue. I want no one in this province to think the agricultural land reserve was brought in by the NDP for any other reason. It was purely, and without question, a political move. It was a move to control land in the province of British Columbia, and let no one disbelieve that. That's been proven to me time and time again since I've been a member of this House, and before I became a member of this House.
I was happy to hear some of the remarks made by the minister today. At this point I would like to suggest, to make the story just a little shorter, that I'm firmly on record in this House as supporting good agricultural land in this province. I think it should be in a reserve for the future production of food in this province. Yes, I believe that. Don't think the idea came from the NDP. It didn't come from them at all. You only need to go back in the record to find that. The minister said it's up to the individual to farm or not to farm. I would suggest that this is not true. There are literally thousands of hectares of land within the agricultural land reserve of this province that will never make a farm, never be farmed, never grow anything, and that's an absolute shame.
It's interesting to listen to the slick, city lawyers as to what they think they know about land. That second member for Vancouver East has never so much as hit a cabbage in his life. The only head of cabbage he knows is the one he sees in the mirror.
The agricultural land reserve was brought in as a tool to control land in this province. I am sorry that the members on this side of the House have not had the guts in the last six-plus years to do something about it; it is long overdue. We talk about fine-tuning....
MR. BARBER: Do what?
MR. KEMPF: Take land out of the land reserve that shouldn't have been put in there in the first place. Have you ever been north of Cache Creek?
MR. BARBER: Many times. Which classes of land do you want removed?
MR. KEMPF: You wouldn't know what is in the bulk of this province and the problems that people face because of that reserve. We talk about Indian land claims. The NDP brought in the agricultural land reserve, with no thought whatsoever to making sure the true agricultural land was in a reserve. They used the Canada land inventory map to just blanket the whole province and because of that we have a problem with white land claims in this province. Pioneers out there put their life's savings in a piece of land, hoping it would be of benefit to them when they grew old, only to find that it's behind the boundaries of an agricultural land reserve. It doesn't matter whether it will ever grow anything. That is beside the point. It is behind the boundaries of an agricultural land reserve, frozen for eternity, and that is wrong. Every time this subject comes up in this House I intend to get up and say that it's wrong, because it is wrong.
We talk about fine-tuning. I would ask the minister when it's going to start. We certainly need fine-tuning. We certainly need to take out of the land reserve those thousands of hectares that will never make farms. There is no doubt about that. There is a definite need for fine-tuning.
About two years ago I started asking the Agricultural Land Commission to take a very close look at an area just out of my home town of Houston — along highway 16, north and east of Houston. It's an area where homes proliferate. It's an area with soil that will never grow so much as a blade of grass.
MRS. WALLACE: Are you sure?
MR. KEMPF: Yes, I am sure, Madam Member.
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It's an area bounded by gravel pits. I ask that that area be looked at very seriously, because there are people locked within that area. The land is within the agricultural land reserve, and it couldn't support a cow or anything as far as agriculture is concerned. Take a look at taking that particular area out. We talk about fine-tuning, Mr. Minister, but we're not practising what we're preaching, because there never has been a look taken at that area in two years. Those people are still having problems because of that land being locked within an agricultural land reserve where it should not be.
But that's not what I was going to talk about this morning. I have some brief questions for the minister in regard to another very serious situation facing agriculturalists, particularly cattlemen, throughout the north and north central part of this province. It's the problem of wolf predation. It's a very serious problem, one that three consecutive governments in this province have been unwilling to face. It's a problem with many ranchers, not only in my constituency. It's a problem that must be addressed. I'm sorry the member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) isn't here today, because I'd like to know what his feelings are in regard to the problem of wolf predation which many ranchers face in his constituency.
There have been many losses to the cattlemen in the north and north-central part of this province. Regardless of what wildlife biologists have said, thousands of dollars....
MR. HANSON: Fuzzy-wuzzies.
MR. KEMPF: You wouldn't know, Mr. Member, because you're still wet behind the ears, and have never been off the rock! That member wouldn't know. Tell him to go and pile his bones! What does he know about what goes on in the rural parts of this province? He sits in this House and claims that he knows something about land. He knows nothing!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. No personal allusions, please. Please address the chair and the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture and Food.
MR. KEMPF: They laugh about wolf predation. I'll tell you, there is one rancher in the Kispiox Valley — he is in the constituency of the member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) — who, in the last year, has lost $85,000 worth of cattle to wolves. It has put him out of business.
MR. BARBER: Another NDP plot!
MR. KEMPF: I never said that, Mr. First Member for Victoria, not at all. You wouldn't know a wolf if it bit you in the leg, and you talk about wolves. We have experts on everything sitting here on the rock, gazing out into the Pacific.
With $85,000 worth of losses in a year, that man had to sell the remainder of his herd.
I don't know whether the minister wants to cut my throat or whether he wants me to stop. I know the hour is late. I would like to go on all afternoon, but we've got rules and we can't do that.
Just before closing I want to show, in living colour, some of the problems that the cattlemen have in my constituency.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No exhibits, please. Order, please.
MR. KEMPF: Sorry. I won't exhibit any of the problems that the agriculturalists and the cattlemen face in my constituency because of wolf predation.
The time is short. I haven't got enough time today so I'm going to move the committee rise, report great progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. McClelland moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 12:57 p.m.
AMENDMENTS TO BILLS
36 The Hon. H. A. Curtis to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 36) intituled Finance Statutes Amendment Act, 1982 to amend as follows:
SECTION 32 (1), by striking out "section 13" and substituting "section 121".