1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 1982
[ Page 7997 ]
Waste Management Act (Bill 52). Hon. Mr. Rogers
Introduction and first reading –– 7997
Provincial Debt Refinancing Act, 1982 (Bill 35). Hon. Mr. Curtis
Introduction and first reading –– 7997
Orders of the Day
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Education estimates. (Hon. Mr. Smith)
On vote 22: minister's office –– 7997
Hon. Mr. Gardom
Forest Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 42). (Hon. Mr. Waterland)
Third reading –– 7998
Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 30). Second reading. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 7998
Mr. Stupich –– 7998
Mr. Levi –– 7999
Mr. Mitchell –– 7999
Hon. Mr. Curtis –– 8000
Special Appropriations Act (Bill 11). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Curtis)
On section 1 –– 8001
On section 2 –– 8001
On section 3 –– 8001
On the amendment to section 10 –– 8002
On section 10 as amended –– 8003
Hon. Mr. Waterland
On section 13 –– 8008
On the amendment to section 17 –– 8008
On section 18 –– 8009
On section 24 –– 8009
On section 41 — 8010
Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill 4). Second reading. (Hon. Mr. Fraser)
Mr. Lorimer –– 8011
Mr. Levi –– 8011
Ammendments to Bills –– 8015
FRIDAY, JUNE 4, 1982
The House met at 10 a.m.
MS. BROWN: A group of parents and children is visiting the Legislature today agitating — I shouldn't use the word I agitating," but demonstrating — on behalf of the need for more child-care facilities. Would the House recognize their presence, please.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, before we proceed, last Wednesday the hon. member for Cowichan-Malahat sought to move adjournment of the House pursuant to standing order 35 to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely the request of a public group for a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) in response to a letter from him dated May 7, 1982. The matter must be urgent, that is, of recent occurrence, and raised without delay. On page 370 of the sixteenth edition of Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, this rule is further qualified:
"The fact that a grievance is continuing is not sufficient if it is not a recent occurrence. The fact that new information is received regarding a matter that has been continuing for some time does not in itself make the matter one of urgency. If the facts have only been recently revealed, that does not make the occurrence recent."
In the case at hand, this application lacks the essential degree of urgency for debate at this time.
MR. HOWARD: I rise on a point of privilege with respect to a question of privilege raised by my colleague for Alberni one week and one day ago on May 27, a question of privilege of great importance. I submit to Your Honour that the continued delay in Your Honour's bringing back a ruling on that particular question of privilege continues to hold a cloud over the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland), I would urge on Your Honour, with all respect to the Chair and the office, that justice delayed is justice denied.
MR. SPEAKER: I know that the matter is of great concern to members of the House, and I know that the gravity of the matter occurs to members because of the merits of the case. The Chair in its ruling cannot take into consideration the matters of the case, but must consider the technical aspects of the question, which in this case are rather complex. I think if the hon. members would refer to the Blues at the time the matter was raised, it would occur even to the members that a delay in this was not planned but inevitable. However, hon. members, the decision will be to the House as quickly as possible, and I trust that there will be no reflection upon the lateness of the decision, attributing that lateness as some device — may the saints preserve us! — of the Chair. So I would like to give the House that undertaking, which is of course always the case with the Chair.
Introduction of Bills
WASTE MANAGEMENT ACT
Hon. Mr. Rogers presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Waste Management Act.
Bill 52 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.
PROVINCIAL DEBT REFINANCING ACT, 1982
Hon. Mr. Curtis presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Provincial Debt Refinancing Act, 1982.
Bill 35 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.
MS. SANFORD: Mr. Speaker, I rise under the provisions of standing order 35 to seek leave to move adjournment of the House to debate a matter of urgent public importance.
For the third month in a row the unemployment rate in this province is at a crisis level — a post-depression era record. The figures released today show that 220,000 persons in British Columbia are without work today. That situation is of the gravest possible concern to myself and my colleagues, and we are not satisfied with the do-nothing attitude of this government on this issue. With an unemployment rate that is triple that of a year ago in some areas of this province — for example, the Prince George region has a rate of 19.6 percent compared to 6.9 percent a year ago — it is imperative that the Legislature address the failure of this government to put British Columbians back to work. The anguish and the despair created in our populace by the high unemployment levels require that the regular business of this House be set aside so that we can debate this urgent problem, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. member submits the matter and the proposed motion.
The Chair will take the matter under advisement and return a decision at the earliest possible time.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
On vote 22: minister's office, $299,040.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
[ Page 7998 ]
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, I would move to public bills and orders. I call report on Bill 42.
FOREST AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
Bill 42 read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, second reading of Bill 30.
SOCIAL SERVICE TAX AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
HON. MR. CURTIS: As the House will know, Bill 30, Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1982, was introduced at the time of the budget, just about two months ago. It includes a number of amendments and, as the House will note, is comprised of 14 sections dealing with a variety of matters that were spoken of at some length in the budget. Several amendments are necessary as a result of actions in which the Ministry of Finance has become involved in the past year. In speaking to the principle of a bill such as this at any time, it is appropriate to point out that it is essential the government maintain the revenue base of the Social Service Tax Act in order to provide the many services which residents of British Columbia have become accustomed to. Accordingly, it has been necessary to make several technical amendments to ensure that the tax revenue through the Social Service Tax Act is maintained.
There are other matters within the bill dealing with long-term lease agreements. Where those are broken, in accordance with the terms of those agreements, the whole of the remaining payments become due and payable to the lessor. When a lessor must sue for payment, he technically sues for damages for breach of contract instead of for the actual remaining unpaid lease payments, even though the amount of the damages is based on those payments. In the current wording of the act, the tax is imposed on the lease price, and damages are not legally the same as lease price. As a result, the amendment imposes a tax on the damages attributable to the unpaid lease payments. The amendment provides that where the lessor is able to obtain only a fraction of the total of the lease payments owing, the tax is payable on only that fraction. Also, where damages are received in excess of the unpaid lease payments, no tax is payable on the excess.
Elsewhere in the bill, the act will be amended upon passage in this House by adding a paragraph to deem that trust moneys collected by vendors are separate and apart from their own money. Without this provision, the government would be forced to physically trace its tax moneys in the accounts of the vendors. I think members will agree that this is probably an almost impossible task once these moneys are mixed with the vendor's own funds, whether it be on a small basis or a very large basis. This provision is similar to those in the Canada Pension Plan and the Unemployment Insurance Act, which the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld. So we seek a separation, a distinction, of those moneys from the actual cash flow of the firm under discussion.
Further, we are amending the previous exemption of tangible personal property purchased by farmers solely for the needs of their farm. I might pause for a moment here to say that I think it is a constantly changing topic in terms of the specific items that should be exempt from tax when purchased and used by bona fide farmers.
MRS. WALLACE: It's very slow.
HON. MR. CURTIS: One member interjects that it's very slow. It's a very long list, and I would like to speak about that in just a moment.
The amendment will allow a detailed list of material and equipment to be prescribed by regulation in order to provide greater clarity and certainty of exemptions for farmers. This new list will also provide farmers with the additional exemptions announced in the budget speech, effective April 6, 1982. Some of the major new items now to be included are: auxiliary generating equipment; silos; front-end loaders; ventilation and air-conditioning equipment, except for residential use; milk storage tanks; and others.
Those members who are particularly interested in the farming community will know, as I indicated a few moments ago, that we have a very long list of exemptions, and some of them are perhaps a little out of date. I would refer interested members to such things as turkey saddles; in British Columbia they would be western. The member knows that the list, which has existed for a number of years, is constantly undergoing change. We have had meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. We have also had meetings with the representatives of the British Columbia Federation of Agriculture. I think the list can be further improved in the next year or two or three. It can undergo constant change, with the deletion of those items which are no longer used by even the small farmer — even a farmer in a relatively remote and isolated situation.
It is our goal in the consumer taxation branch, and certainly it is my goal in this respect, to have a list that is as up to date and useful as possible to the agricultural community in the province of British Columbia. So we're taking some steps this year in that regard. These exemptions are being established to provide additional financial assistance to farmers, in order to recognize the rising costs of farm operations.
Other specifics are dealt with in Bill 30. Perhaps the chief critic for the official opposition expected me to simply say that it could all be dealt with in committee. We have a series of changes here, as is the case in most years. I'm pleased to observe that one matter which is not in this bill — and I trust that I am in order in making this observation — is a general sales tax increase this year in the province of British Columbia. That has occurred in a number of provinces, to the alarm and concern of the residents of those provinces.
Perhaps in second reading this bill may be considered for what it is: minor changes. But it also avoids the necessity for a general sales tax increase in the province of British Columbia in the 1982-83 fiscal year. I am particularly pleased about that absence.
I move second reading of Bill 30.
MR. STUPICH: Since the minister has raised the subject of a general increase in the sales tax rate, I'd like to comment just briefly on it. We would have had every right to be surprised had their been a general increase in this particular tax, because it's just three years and one month ago that this administration was re-elected on a promise that it would never again increase the sales tax. Of course, as you'll recall, Mr. Speaker, just one year and two months ago the government did impose a 50 percent increase in the rate of tax. Had they broken their promise two years in a row, one would have been somewhat surprised. Also, I think when they drew up this budget they were expecting an election to be called in the
[ Page 7999 ]
near future and they were expecting to be re-elected and bring in the general increase next year. Having said what he did, I'd like the minister to go on record now and tell us that he will not introduce an increase in the sales tax rate in next year's budget. I'd like him to make that forecast.
MR. STUPICH: The Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom) is laughing. I would remind him that he was one member of the cabinet who issued that promise in the election campaign in 1979 as part of the budget of 1979. I knew it was a joke and the people of British Columbia found out it was a joke. And the minister is now laughing at the ridiculous suggestion that his group should make that promise today rather than in the heat of an election campaign. It's good that he does laugh now, because he knows he wouldn't make that kind of promise except during an election campaign.
As the minister suggested, most of the discussion with respect to this legislation should be section by section.
When the minister started he said that it protects government revenue. When a Minister of Finance tells us that the bill is designed to protect government revenue, one takes that as a euphemistic way of saying it's increasing revenue. To some extent this bill does that, but it does a lot of other things as well. We have no intention of unduly holding up the bill in second reading. In the committee stage, there will be support of some sections; there will be questions asked about other sections; and there will be opposition to some sections.
The minister did make some reference to the agricultural part of this — and perhaps some of my colleagues will want to comment — but I would point out to him that it is still a prescribed list. So it's not a case of saying that everything used in agriculture is going to be exempt; I'm not suggesting it should be that way. There really isn't that much change. It does add to the list and I might even be inclined to argue against having any list at all for agriculture, but knowing that the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) seems to be embarking on a path of getting rid of the farm income assurance program, I think farmers need the kind of protection that the Minister of Finance can offer them.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Are you suggesting no exemptions?
MR. STUPICH: I said I might be inclined toward that if the farm income assurance program were working properly. Since the government's intention, through the Minister of Agriculture, is to get rid of that program, certainly we need exemptions; we need more of them. I'd be interested in seeing the list again sometime. I have seen it in the past, and there is a new list coming. I remember one of the anomalies on that list was that a pitchfork, which I can't imagine being used by anyone other than a farmer, was taxed, whereas a shovel, which is used by any backyard gardener, was one of the items that wasn't to be taxed. I'm not sure of the situation right now. Was the minister suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that turkey saddles are going to be removed from the prescribed list? I just can't imagine….
HON. MR. GARDOM: What is a turkey saddle? Barbara doesn't know either!
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom) is asking what a turkey saddle is. If the minister ever had the opportunity to see a couple of turkeys mating, then he would know which one wears the saddle and why. If he saw the claws on the feet of the male turkey, he would know why the saddle is….
HON. MR. CURTIS: Please, you're upsetting Hansard.
MR. STUPICH: Well, perhaps. But at least I'm answering the question.
In any case, Mr. Speaker, we will support the bill in second reading, but other colleagues of mine may have a comment or two to make.
MR. LEVI: I just want to raise with the minister…. I don't want to ask him a question; I just want to point something out to him so that in the committee stage he can come back and tell us what he has decided to do. I want to give him an example of one of the things that is missing from this piece of legislation. I recently visited the Princeton Hotel, which is in Vancouver, and they have a standard process around the bar in which they have an old streetcar collection box. They collect money in it from the patrons — they can put it in, because they always have a project going.
They had a project going recently in which they wanted to raise some $9,000 for a piece of equipment for the Children's Hospital. They raised it. They bought the equipment, and they presented it to the hospital. However, they were quite surprised — and a little upset — that they had to pay the sales tax on it. I did get in touch with your director of sales tax about this, and because of the definition that you have in your act, because they purchased it and they had possession of it, they must pay that tax.
I would ask the minister to give some consideration between now and when we get into the committee stage to the fact that, if we are encouraging people — and it's a good thing that people raise money for these things — we don't suddenly come back on them and say that they have to pay the tax, because that's the way the act reads. It would seem to me that it does become a little discouraging. After all, everyone contributing to this fund is a taxpayer anyway, but the last thing I think they expect is to be taxed on such an activity and such an essential piece of equipment. I would ask the minister if he would look at that when we get to the committee stage, and look at bringing in an amendment which redefines that section of the act so that those worthwhile charitable arrangements do not have to be taxed. I think it's a very worthwhile thing.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, may I have leave to make an introduction?
MR. LEGGATT: I'd like the House to welcome in the gallery an old friend of both Norman Levi, the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam, and I: Mr. John Kosowick. He is one of the reasons that Norman and I have the privilege of being in this place. I'd like you to welcome Mr. Kosowick to the precincts.
MR. MITCHELL: I have to admit that I don't have the largest farming community in my area, but there is one thing
[ Page 8000 ]
that I would like to bring to the attention of the minister. I realize that he has changed the farming list. It's not so much what is on the farming list, but that his particular ministry can twist — and I say that very loosely — the bureaucratic interpretation of what a certain section of the act or the regulations is supposed to mean. Again, I bring to the attention of the minister the interpretation that they brought in on the Bobcats.
The minister and everyone in the agriculture community knows that the Bobcat was designed as a farm implement. It was originally developed by a turkey farmer. It's used extensively both in construction and in the farming industry. The interpretation of the Bobcat, because it didn't have two large wheels on the back, was that it was not a farm implement. I'm happy to see that the minister has now amended it so that it's going to be a piece of equipment with a front-end loader. The Bobcat is not always equipped with a front-end loader, but it is still used as a small vehicle that can get in and around the buildings in a turkey, chicken, or pig farm. It is used in the farming community. I ask the minister, when there are appeals for reduction in the sales tax on equipment used in the farm community, that they do not use this bureaucratic interpretation.
I think I phoned nearly three-quarters of your staff in finding out: what is the description of a farm vehicle? The only intelligent answer I got was that it had to have two large wheels at the back and was not a skid-steerer. As I was talking to the person on the phone, I looked out my window and there was a vehicle that fitted the description of a farm vehicle: it had two large wheels at the back, and it was used to mow the lawns of the parliament buildings. Because it was not on a farm it would not qualify for an exemption. It was a vehicle that was used just like the Bobcat in other construction, other industries and other businesses, but it didn't have the farm status that a piece of equipment like the Bobcat did have.
It is used in the farm community, and it is used very effectively. I hope that they don't get tied up again in that they have to have a front-end loader. It's a farm vehicle, it's a tractor in the general sense, and it is being used by bona fide farmers.
I would ask the minister to have a little compassion, bend his regulations if he feels he must bend them, but make them flexible enough in the interpretation, and not get locked into a simple legalistic wording. I know we have to have legal definitions, but I believe the community and the society should be able to work within these regulations. I ask the minister not to drag it through the courts as he has done with the Bobcat industry and the Bobcat community. You just don't drag everything into the courts unless you're a lawyer. The majority of us in this House are not lawyers, and I think we should still fight it out.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the several members who have made comments in second reading of Bill 30.
To the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich): yes, we will obviously want to discuss a number of matters in committee stage. I cannot answer his question with respect to tax changes of any kind for the next fiscal year in the next budget, as the member well knows, having served as Minister of Finance in the province of British Columbia. I could if the member could indicate, in the corridor or over a cup of coffee at some point, where the economy in North America will be. That would assist me greatly; then I could start my budget work much earlier, if he could tell me what the prime rate will be in the United States and in Canada. If he could indicate the housing starts which will occur in the United States, particularly, then that would be of great assistance. Then I could in fact answer him in this House in question period. I don't think we will be in a position to comment on the 1983-84 budget until we are closer to it.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I deal only with budgets, Mr. Member.
The member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Levi) has raised an interesting point which I will examine. It might be appropriate if, again, we discuss that specific, and I would be happy to do that. I note that I don't have his full attention at the moment, Mr. Speaker, but I'm interested in the comment that he made. I would like a little more information, and perhaps we can resolve that difficulty within the next few days if we might have discussion.
The member for Esquimalt–Port Renfrew (Mr. Mitchell) asked for, if I may paraphrase, less rigidity in the list of items which are exempt from sales tax. Mr. Speaker, I don't offer this as an exhibit, but rather as a document which is available to everyone in British Columbia. It isn't necessary to table it but, sir, as you can see in very small type, these were the exemptions as of April 5 for the farming community alone. It is necessary to describe the items which are to be exempted in relatively specific terms. I am not a lawyer, and the member understands that. He says: "Let's try not to be so legalistic." If there is not a specific identification of that which is to be exempt or which is, by absence, not exempt, then it would be very difficult for those in the consumer taxation branch of the Ministry of Finance to grant an exemption. We can't run a long list of exemptions, whether in industry, in commerce, in the agricultural community, for consumers or wherever…. We can't run a long list of exemptions unless we describe them quite specifically. In the case of the agricultural community, I don't propose to read from A to Z — the list doesn't reach any item under Z:
"Aerators; agricultural lime; animal life of a kind the products of which ordinarily constitute food for human consumption; automatic travelling sprinklers for greenhouses; automatic trough feeders and fenceline feeders; auxiliary generating equipment; bail ejectors; bail loaders; bail tyers and ties and wire; bail wagons; self-propelled barn cleaners; bam hay-drying equipment. For fur farmers: drinking cups; feeding dishes; food grinders; mixers; slicers; wire mesh for cages; any other item listed as exempt for farmers…gate handles; gopher-baiting furrow machines; grain augers or elevators; grain grinders; grain treaters; grain testers; granaries, steel; grape stakes; grape ties; halters and harnesses for horses; hammer mills; hardware for harnesses; harrow carts; hormone sprays; horse-drawn vehicles; horseshoes; horses; working farmhorses; breeding horses, where not used for any other purposes; incubators and parts; insecticide applicators; livestock protectors; manure aerating system above-ground; manure separators; manure spreaders; mattocks; metal nests; metal wire or netting…."
I will stop there.
[ Page 8001 ]
HON. MR. CURTIS: Perhaps I should carry on, then: "rakes, raspberry picks, rock pickers…." I will not test the Chair's patience. It is not a document which needs to be tabled. It is available to anyone at any time.
The point is that in British Columbia we now have such a very long list of exemptions that I do not think we can simply leave this to the discretion of whoever occupies the position of director of consumer taxation at the moment. To do that would be to invite chaos. What we are doing — what I think predecessors have done over the years with the exemption list on sales tax…. As we receive recommendations or observations that a particular item is ludicrous to have been left off or ludicrous to have been left on, in some instances, we do work on that on a regular basis. This leads to the kind of change that is occurring as a result of Bill 30. The alternative — I seek absolutely no misunderstanding — is that which occurred in Ontario just a few days ago, where the exemption list for social service tax was virtually eliminated on many items, much to the annoyance of many residents and consumers in the province of Ontario.
I have to say to the member for Esquimalt–Port Renfrew that so long as you have an exemption list you are going to have something which is not quite in the list or not quite out of it. Inevitably there will be these kinds of requests. Bobcat, as I understand it, is a brand name for a particular kind of front-end loader. There were requests for exemption of Bobcats. It's not good enough for us to simply exempt Bobcats but rather to go to front-end loaders.
Because of the complexity of the exemption list, we may find that there is some item which is similar to a front-end loader which is not exempt. That is the nature of the problems created when you have a comprehensive exemption list. I invite all members not just to call the consumer taxation branch when they are contacted by a constituent with respect to equipment for bona fide farmers or exemptions in the retail trade, but to please contact me as well. Identify the problem for my information in order that the two of us together may pursue it, and then consider the possibility of an exemption, addition or clarification at the next tax opportunity.
There will obviously be further discussion on sections during committee stage. I thank members, and move second reading of Bill 30.
Motion approved unanimously on a division.
Bill 30, Social Service Tax Amendment Act, 1982, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to make an introduction.
HON. MR. CURTIS: In the gallery today are students from Marigold Elementary School. I wonder if the House would make them welcome.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Committee on Bill 11, Mr. Speaker.
SPECIAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT
The House in committee on Bill 11: Mr. Strachan in the chair.
On section 1.
MR. STUPICH: Section 1(l) reads: "Payments may be made" — for certain purposes. I'm not reading the purposes, but the section identifies the purposes. My question is whether or not that list is complete. I want to be reassured, if that is the case, that payments may not be made out of the consolidated revenue fund and charged against this account for any purpose other than the ones listed in section 1.
HON. MR. CURTIS: That is correct.
MR. STUPICH: We had other legislation before the House that gave the government the authority to levy an administration fee against a host of enterprises, funds and everything else. I take it, from the minister's response, that no administration fee would be charged against this particular fund.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The assumption the member has made is also correct.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. STUPICH: The very same question; that is, the purposes are outlined and no administration fee will be charged?
HON. MR. CURTIS: The answer again is yes, that is correct.
MR. STUPICH: I would anticipate that this amount could be drawn down fairly quickly, depending on the applications and on whether or not these applications are supported by government. Once that fund is drawn down to a nil balance it's the end of the program unless something happens to bring in a new program. So the fund will go out of existence when the last dollar is spent, unless something else happens.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes, for the instruction of the committee, we are looking at downtown revitalization in section 2. I don't know that it is correct to assume that the fund will be drawn to a zero balance. It does depend, as the member observed, on the number of applications received. Any number of factors could come into play with respect to this fund.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
MR. STUPICH: I'd like to ask similar questions about section 3. First, will it be charged an administration fee? Secondly, this fund has been in the category of perpetual funds, which means the principal balance is not spent; only the interest earnings are spent annually. Will interest earnings
[ Page 8002 ]
be credited to the balance in this fund from here on, or will there be no such credits unless it's government policy, at some day in the future, to add some more money to this fund?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Without offending the committee's section-by-section study, I think I can offer the assurance that the member has put with respect to the funds already discussed: there is no administration fee in any of those dealt with here. If I find an exception, I will so notify the committee.
With respect to interests being credited to this fund, the answer is no.
MR. STUPICH: To this point it has been a perpetual fund, so this is quite a departure. We are now saying it is no longer a perpetual fund and moneys will be spent out of the principal balance, since there is no balance other than the principal balance. It foretells the end of this particular fund at least, not necessarily what is being done.
I also am concerned that while it does provide for education purposes, it also provides for money to be spent on rehabilitation from the effects of using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. That could be quite a wide loop. This fund could be exhausted in the current fiscal period. Certainly there are a lot of health problems, a lot of people are hospitalized, and all kinds of other situations exist whereby this fund could easily be exhausted in one fiscal period. I'd invite the minister's comment.
HON. MR. CURTIS: On this particular section, the member is correct in assuming that the fund could be exhausted in this fiscal year; that is not only a likelihood but almost a certainty. In this case we really speak to the heart of the fiscal problem in which the province, along with other jurisdictions, finds itself. We also speak to the fact that while many of these funds were established for specific purposes, the alternative to not taking the route outlined in this section and in others would be a deficit budget. The activities undertaken under the Drug, Alcohol and Cigarette Education, Prevention and Rehabilitation Fund will be in the estimates of the Ministry of Health and will continue, while the fund will without much doubt, be fully depleted by the end of this fiscal year. That really speaks to the heart of the approach taken in the Ministry of Finance in preparing this year's budget.
Sections 3 to 9 inclusive approved.
On section 10.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
On the amendment.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, you caught me short. I didn't realize there was an amendment. Is the Habitat Conservation Fund removed from the list? My apologies for not being…. But then you were a little slow in the beginning, so we're even.
In any case, I let the other sections go, because the minister had assured me that if, indeed, there was an administration fee to be charged against any of them, he would have remarked on it. I would have asked the same questions, but of every fund; it would have been the only way I could have found out.
I have to oppose this section — not in total, but the only way to do it, of course, is in one section. I am concerned about several of these funds going out of business. They were set up for a good purpose. In setting up the funds, the government announced its support of certain activities. I pick, for example, the Barkerville Historic Park Development Fund; the Drug, Alcohol and Cigarette Education, Prevention and Rehabilitation Fund; and the Energy Development Fund.
I think I need not say anything about Barkerville; I think everyone would support the idea of people being aware regularly that the government had set money aside for the development of Barkerville. I think it was a worthy object. I think the money should be left aside for that project, and I'm sorry to see that one go out of existence. From what the minister has said, these funds are going to go out of existence, and it will depend upon a particular minister as to whether or not he will do anything at all in that area in a particular year. I have no confidence that once we do away with the fund, with the pressure of financial constrictions this year and probably next year, anything will be done. I'm sorry to see that go.
With respect to drug, alcohol and cigarette education, again, I think it was important that people realized that the government was particularly concerned about the educational problems. Certainly when people get into hospitals…. Some of them will be able to get in, although with this year's policy of closing down hospital beds, it's going to be harder to get into hospitals. Nevertheless, certainly a large number of people are going to get into hospitals and some of them will be there because of problems related to these particular abuses to one's body.
But I fear that the educational part of it will suffer. In spite of the minister telling us that the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Nielsen) will have this in his budget, I have no confidence that, under this particular administration and with that particular Minister of Health, education will get very much consideration. Mr. Chairman, I believe it will get very short shrift. Even if we had a minister who was dedicated to the idea of education with respect to these particular abuses, I still think it's good to remind the people in the province that it is necessary that we do something educationally, that we have a fund that is there as a constant reminder, and that there is a perpetual fund, the interest of which would be available for that kind of a program. So I'm opposed to wiping out that fund.
I'm opposed to wiping out the Energy Development Fund. That was set up just two years ago. It was supposed to be used to encourage people to look for energy conservation and alternative forms of developing energy. That was a good program. It hasn't been used. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland) has done a little — but very little — along the lines of this fund, and yet it's something that's going to become increasingly important. By wiping out the fund, I think we're going to lose opportunities to look at what that fund might have been doing. I'm upset to see it being wiped out as well.
Mr. Chairman, in short, I'm opposed to this particular section.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I wish to offer an amendment from the floor. This is perhaps not directly in line
[ Page 8003 ]
with the comments made by the member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich), but it may assist the member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mrs. Wallace). The further amendment to section 10, which is before us, if accepted, would delete paragraph (h). Whereas the order paper shows the deletion of (m) and (q), (h) removes the Dairy Producers Protection Fund from the thrust of this bill. The amendments on the order paper, of course, dealt with the Farm Income Assurance Fund and Habitat Conservation Fund.
If I may speak on this amendment, Mr. Chairman, on examination, these particular funds are unlike a number of others on the list. I think that the Habitat Conservation Fund is of particular interest because, essentially, it receives a variety of money from interested and supportive individuals; it isn't specifically and exclusively a government fund. On the basis of representations made by my colleague the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Rogers), it was quite possible for us to examine that; hence the need for this amendment. There are the three now before us, if that is acceptable.
MRS. WALLACE: I'm a little confused at this point. I guess the amendment that we're discussing is simply the removal of the Dairy Producers Protection Fund, and the amendment on the order paper is for farm income assurance and habitat protection. Which amendment are we discussing? To the best of my knowledge, the question on the first amendment has not yet been placed.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We now have all the amendments before us on this one amendment vote. That's the Chair's understanding.
MRS. WALLACE: This is an amendment to the amendment. So the amendment on the order paper now covers the Dairy Producers Protection Fund, the Farm Income Assurance Fund and the Habitat Conservation Fund.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You're right, hon. member. It's the Chair's understanding that it's (h), (m) and (q).
MRS. WALLACE: All three are under discussion at this point.
I'm very pleased that the Minister of Finance took my advice and at least removed the farm income assurance plan from this particular dissolution of funds. I had raised the matter with him on previous occasions, indicating the situation that we would be in had it remained. One time he said there would be an amendment; the next time he said there wouldn't be. Now I see that we have one. I'm really pleased to see that he has included farm income assurance.
I will certainly support the amendment to delete these from this section. Perhaps we should do that first, before I continue my remarks on the section itself. Would that be the proper procedure, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The amendment is voted on first, and discussions regarding items (h), (m) and (q) are now relevant in debate on the amendment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. member for Cowichan-Malahat on section 10 as amended.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to vote against it now after voting for it a second ago? Is that consistency?
MRS. WALLACE: Yes, that's consistent. We had advised that there were sections of the bill we were opposed to.
I am concerned that the minister has removed certain sections, two of which relate to the agricultural industry. It is interesting to note in the original presentation of this particular section that of the proposed 25 funds being recovered, seven related to the agricultural industry. Now he's removed two of those. So five are related to the agricultural industry: the Agricultural Credit Fund, the Agricultural Land Development Fund, the Crop Insurance Stabilization Fund, the Domestic Animal Protection Fund, the Farm Products Industry Improvement Fund, and, of course, the range portion of the Forest and Range Resource Fund. Those funds were put in place for a reason. They were put in place to indicate the government's commitment to agriculture in those various facets.
Agriculture is a high-capital industry. It has to plan far ahead. People have made financial commitments based on the strength of those funds and on that funding being available and those programs being in place. It's no solace when you add a few things to the exemption list, which we were discussing in the previous bill, and then remove these other funds — wipe them out of existence. That's one reason why I oppose this particular section.
I oppose the section for another but similar reason, but it relates more generally…. When the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) introduced the Forest and Range Resource Fund, he stood in this House and said: "This indicates this government's commitment that we're setting this money aside. It's going to be used for that, and that indicates the commitment." Now the fund is being removed.
In fact, many of these funds were set up under special purpose funds appropriation acts. That act included section 29, which was supposed to indicate the government's intentions. That section read: "Notwithstanding any other enactment, all money paid into the fund shall remain there until the money has been expended in the manner authorized by this Act." That was a pretty strong commitment in that section, and people believed it.
AN HON. MEMBER: We didn't.
MRS. WALLACE: Well, the general public believed it. Maybe we have some questions because we've learned through experience that this government doesn't always mean what it says. Certainly this is ample proof that they didn't mean what they said when they brought in that special appropriations bill. At that time they would have had us believe that no matter what other acts were passed, those funds would stay in place. They would be there, and those funds would be used for that purpose. Now, of course, in this section we have those funds being wiped right out. In a later section, which I can't discuss at this time, that particular piece of legislation is repealed. That indicates to me that the government doesn't follow through.
I believe that when something is passed in this Legislature, it represents a commitment to the people of the province of British Columbia. and no future legislature has the right to reverse that decision. That's what's happening in this section, and that's why I am opposed to it.
[ Page 8004 ]
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Chairman, the Forest and Range Resource Fund was indeed set up to assure us that funds would be available, especially during difficult revenue times for the government, so that we could carry on the much enhanced forest and range management work initiated here a few years ago. I believe that the fact that we are using those funds this year during difficult revenue times, for the purpose for which they are intended, indicates a very sincere commitment to carry on with those programs of forest and range management. Contrary to what the member says — that it indicates an abandonment of those commitments — it indicates an even further commitment, because we are willing to spend what we must in order to carry on with those very worthwhile programs.
I really can't follow the logic of the member, who seems to think that if we leave that money sitting in an account somewhere we are somehow enhancing the forest and range resource of this province. By spending the money for what it was intended we are indeed following through with our long-term commitment.
MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I didn't really intend to speak on this, but once the Minister of Forests has risen, I feel obliged to make a few comments, and perhaps help to explain to him my colleagues' concern, my own concern, and indeed the concern that has been directed to the minister, to the Premier, and to the government generally from the Professional Foresters Association and from various parts of the industry. I have copies of many of the letters the minister has received; I intend to deal with them mainly under the minister's estimates.
The concern regarding the elimination of the Forest and Range Resource Fund is that the fund, which was set up by the Legislature as a five-year commitment to intensive forest management, has now been eliminated and placed in general revenue. While a portion of the funds allocated will in fact be utilized this year through the ministry budget, the five-year commitment is gone, and that's what concerns the professional foresters, the industry and the opposition, because it's the withdrawal of a long-term commitment. The minister well knows that intensive forest management cannot be turned on and off each year. It has to be a long-term commitment. You don't start nursery plantations this year and then withdraw the funding next year. It requires a long-term commitment. The minister says: "It's not turned off; we'll provide money next year." That is up to the whim of the Minister of Finance; that is up to the economic situation that prevails next year, which may in fact force the Minister of Finance to consolidate all the revenue and to withdraw the funding and the priorization of any of the special-purpose funds.
No, this is a setback for intensive forest management in the province of British Columbia — no question about it. The Minister of Forests is not fooling anyone when he suggests that nothing has happened. It was he himself who touted the great new age of forestry in British Columbia when the Forest and Range Resource Fund was set up just a few years ago. It lasted two years, and it's now eliminated, and he says nothing has happened. Mr. Chairman, he's not even being consistent with what he's been saying in the past.
It's a very dangerous step, because 50 percent of the revenue generated in this province flows from the forest industry. The minister has shown, and he's predicted himself, that there will be a 26 percent loss of the forest land base. His ministry has indicated that there will be a falldown in timber supply. Now, at the very moment when we should be investing more in increasing our wood supply, he has withdrawn the funding from it on a long-term basis. We are losing two years of commitment to the intensive management program. It's a shame, and this government will be held accountable.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I would ask members of the committee to examine the comments which were made in second reading and at the time when the bill was introduced. In many instances the activities for which the funds have been established will remain over time as activities drawing on the accounts which are being created with the passage of this legislation.
I don't intend to respond in full on behalf of my colleague the Minister of Forests to the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke regarding his last comments, because I think that can be dealt with by those hon. members at some other time or later today. The fact is that this government has a continuing and, in fact, a heightened commitment to activity in forestry. That has been made clear in a number of ways with respect to employment initiatives and several activities. The point that was made in second reading, and which is very appropriate in discussing the actual list of funds in this section, is that the circumstances and conditions worldwide are such that we need the ability, through this legislation, to draw on these funds as and when appropriate. I do not want any member of the committee to assume that all the activities described in the alphabetical listing under section 10 will come to a grinding halt upon royal assent of this bill. That is not the case. I think the members understand that.
MR. LORIMER: I want to mention the disappointment I have with the disappearance of these 25 funds that are wiped out by this section. When those funds were established, they created a headline in the newspaper. They were going to do this and they were going to do that. We had the money to back it up and so on. Now they are being wiped out.
I want to speak about the Urban Transit Fund. I realize that that is really not the responsibility of the minister whom we're addressing these remarks to, but it was a $55 million fund that was set up for transit. It was basically a political bill to get the publicity indicating that something was actually being done about rapid transit and urban transit. I knew at the time that the money would not be spent or required for transit services by this government, because I know the history of the Social Credit Party when it comes to transit operations, their dedication to urban transit and their lack of commitment to the urban transit problems.
HON. MR. GARDOM: What do you think Vander Zalm is doing?
MR. LORIMER: I'm trying to find out what he is doing, because very little has been done.
HON. MR. FRASER: We have to fix those old used buses you bought from Winnipeg; they're all worn out.
MR. LORIMER: Those buses weren't bought by me; they were bought by people long before my time. That is the one thing that my friends across the way bring up because it is
[ Page 8005 ]
the only thing that they've done in seven years on transit. They've replaced 200 old buses with some new ones, and that's very good. I commend them for it. But I don't think that's a record to be proud of over a seven-year period. They've got a few test holes drilled in some areas in downtown Vancouver. They've got a big discussion going on….
HON. MR. GARDOM: Will you stake your seat on whether it goes ahead or not?
MR. LORIMER: It will go ahead around that little loop from B.C. Place to the convention centre. I've always said. It will be a long time before I see that in Burnaby. It will be a longer time before my friend for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) sees it and it'll be even a longer time before the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Nielsen) welcomes it into Richmond.
HON. MR. CURTIS: We're going to put it in McGeer's tunnel.
MR. LORIMER: He hasn't been very active since they took away his Meccano set, so we don't hear much about the tunnel anymore.
I want to point out that most of these bills were political bills. They created headlines for the week, and now they've disappeared down the tube under one section and abide quietly under one act. I'm sorry to see this fund going because I thought the money might be there when there was a new government, and that it could be put to some use in creating transit for the province of British Columbia.
MR. DAVIS: The member for Burnaby-Willingdon (Mr. Lorimer) made a few comments about light rapid transit, really inferring that it wasn't proceeding or wouldn't proceed very far. In the past 12 months, in the fiscal year ending March 31, 1982, $39 million was spent on the prepayments for 114 cars for the system. Two of those cars will be delivered shortly. They'll be at the PNE, for example, for everyone to see. There has been a good deal of physical work, including drilling, as the hon. member said, of locations for the bases for the columns for the elevated guideway. There was, within the last few days, a contract let in the amount of $11 million for approximately one kilometre of line, the construction of which has begun near the CNR station and along Terminal Ave. The guideway will be completed by September or October, and will be complete with rails and cars and operating this time next year as a demonstration line. So physically it's proceeding; financially, we're perhaps S50 million into what eventually, at least in current dollar terms, will be a $400 million or $500 million expenditure.
Virtually all of the right-of-way has been decided and agreed upon by the municipalities directly involved. There is only one four-block section on Commercial Drive in Vancouver East which is still not approved by the city of Vancouver, but otherwise all of the 12 miles of right-of-way has been cleared by the municipalities and their planners. The utilities are in the process of being moved. B.C. Hydro is now in the process of moving parts of its rail-line so the columns and guideway can be constructed.
We're perhaps a third of the way into a program that will take, overall, some four and a half years to complete. As of now, we're both on budget and on time. There's every indication that the system will begin running, at least from the south end of SeaBus in downtown Vancouver to downtown New Westminster, by mid-1985, and will be in revenue service by January 1, 1986.
First. because of the investment that has already been made, second, because of the $350 million contract with Metro-Canada. an Ontario Crown corporation, which is binding both on our provincial authorities and Ontario and finally. because of the commitments made by the municipalities and contracts let with the private sector, we have to proceed. There's really no turning back. I doubt very much whether any other government at any other time would turn the clock back. All that's really in question now is when we cross the Fraser River to Surrey. That is the kind of issue which still has to be finally decided upon, not whether we're going to proceed with the construction and completion of the first 12 miles of the rapid transit system.
MR. LORIMER: I don't want to be critical about the member who just sat down. I think he's sincerely trying to do what he can for transit. However, although he may be believing that things are going to proceed as he suggests, I want to warn him that to get the funds from the cabinet is another question. I've watched this cabinet for seven years, and the top priority isn't transit.
MR. KEMPF: I remember you in cabinet. You didn't do anything.
MR. LORIMER: You don't remember me in cabinet because you weren't around here then. As a matter of fact, chances are you won't be around long enough to get your pension.
MR. LORIMER: You'll come close to a pension, but you won't quite make it.
This member has said that the thing was on budget and on time. Well. what's the budget and what's the time? It's been seven years now. How much more time do they want? A proper rail system would have been in by 1980 at the latest if the program that we had commenced had proceeded at the same rate. Now we're talking about this fund, which I presumed when it was brought in was at least going to assist in starting the steps for a sophisticated system in Vancouver.
I'll be speaking further on this at a later date. I do want to mention that although I appreciate the keenness of the member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis), I hope that he will have more sway with the treasury benches than other people in the party who have tried to do something about transit.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I listened to the two interjections by the member who has just taken his seat, but I would particularly like to endorse and confirm what has been stated by the member for North Vancouver–Seymour. In fact the $55 million. which is the subject of section 10(y), has been paid over to the Urban Transit Authority. It's not a question of it being used for other purposes: it has gone for the purpose for which the fund was established. It is as simple as that.
[ Page 8006 ]
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, on the question of the ALRT, the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour referred to a very serious local issue in the constituency of Vancouver East and partly in Vancouver Centre. It's a matter of about four blocks and whether the ALRT….
HON. MR. CURTIS: Order, Alex. We're talking about a special fund.
MR. MACDONALD: I know we're talking about the ALRT.
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, we're not talking about ALRT; we're talking about the money for it.
MR. MACDONALD: Yes, I think for that period to save…. We made that position clear formally and informally now over the past two years.
MR. MACDONALD: The member for Omineca (Mr. Kempf) says: "How much will it cost?" The whole purpose of rapid transit is to prevent the destruction of residential neighbourhoods by traffic congestion and the pollution of exhaust fumes, which is assuming tremendous proportions in many areas in the lower mainland like Vancouver and Burnaby.
For the sake of the additional cost of burying the line….
AN HON. MEMBER: How much?
MR. MACDONALD: Possibly $9 million. When you consider the costs of what is now proposed in the east lane beside Commercial and the costs of burying that line, the difference is not astronomical compared to what this government is spending on B.C. Place and the massive $1 billion subsidy for the export of cheap coal to the steel mills of Japan from our northeast.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: Where are the priorities of this government?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: I want to make it plain, Mr. Chairman, that I intend to press this issue.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: What's the point of order? I'd like to listen to that.
[Mr. Chairman rose.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, by no stretch of the imagination can we get into an in-depth discussion like the member is now beginning to engage in. The discussion would be much more appropriately debated…. I believe the member is on section 10(y), and we're talking in this particular area on something a lot broader in scope than the very narrow range the member is now canvassing. I would ask the member again to bear in mind that we must be extremely relevant to the section before us and that the debate the member is currently engaged in would be much more appropriately covered in another area of committee.
[Mr. Chairman resumed his seat.]
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I'll conclude my remarks. I didn't realize I was in a state of disorder. I thought I was fine when I came in here this morning. We are talking about the $55 million and it's not enough. That is what I am saying. We are talking about this special fund and we should be prepared to put the necessary resources into necessary public services. The people of Vancouver East, unlike some of the more chauvinistic parts of the city of Vancouver — in Point Grey or Shaughnessy, they oppose a Ronald MacDonald home for the parents of crippled children — recognize the need for good public transit. They are not being dog in the manger and saying: "No way can it pass through our riding." They know it is necessary to save neighbourhoods, but for heaven's sakes put the financial resources behind it so that it doesn't result in the destruction of neighbourhoods. Bury the dammed thing.
MR. STUPICH: I appreciate the minister's remarks. I recognize that it is a desperate ploy to get at the funds set aside by the administration headed by W.A.C. Bennett for twenty years and by Dave Barrett for over three years. I believe some of them were even set up by the present administration. However, this year they need all the money sitting in those funds so as to balance the budget, and this is their way of getting it out. The minister told us, with respect to one of them — I suspect it is the same with most of them — that the funds will be drawn down to nil this year. That is in part what they are there for, but in part some of these funds were set up for special purposes. While I can agree with wiping out most of them, I did identify three, from the point of view of education — and I'm not thinking now about classroom education — I thought should have been saved as funds. It is not that I am opposed to the whole list but I am very much opposed to having three of the funds in there, apart from those the minister has already moved by amendment. For that reason I am opposed to this section.
MR. DAVIS: Very briefly, on refunding the urban transit system, as the Minister of Finance says, $55 million has been turned over to the urban transit authority for rapid transit. In addition, the federal government has paid another $60 million directly to the transit authority which is earning interest. So $60 million over and above the $55 million is committed to this project. Some of that will be earning interest. Perhaps $120 million is already committed to the construction of a system which, when it is completed through the first 12 miles, would cost four times that amount in current dollars.
Finally, the second member for Vancouver East made reference to the cost of tunnelling Commercial Drive. We are only talking about some four blocks. The additional cost is not only that of a tunnel over and above an elevated above ground line, it is also the cost of a delay. The entire system could not now be completed by January 1, 1986. It might take another 12 months. When $400 million or $500 million has already been invested and the system cannot operate for another 12 months, you are not talking a few million dollars;
[ Page 8007 ]
you are talking $50 million or $100 million additional interest costs. Today, that is really the issue. Can the province, the lower mainland, indeed can Vancouver, afford the delay of digging a four-storey deep hole in the ground and filling it in again? Instead of doing that we can save the money and have the system on budget and on time. That money could buy 75 or 100 additional beds in the Vancouver General forever, so let's keep our priorities right.
MR. LAUK: It is interesting about priorities. I have followed the career of the member for North Vancouver–Seymour with great scrutiny, detail and admiration throughout the years, and the thing that strikes me most is that he is astounding when it comes to the cost-efficiency of matters and hopeless when it comes to the cost-effectiveness of matters. His definition of effectiveness is totally different from that of the second member for Vancouver East, or from mine. We believe that society exists for the benefit of its people, not for a project, no matter who it hurts or how many houses come down because of it; not for some concept of transportation that will destroy a neighbourhood; not for some monument like B.C. Place that will effectively destroy neighbouring…. B.C. Place is in this section, Mr. Chairman.
Talk about priorities. Without the blink of an eye, B.C. Place officials are talking about a $4 million to $6 million scoreboard for the stadium. Here we're talking about a whole neighbourhood for $9, $10 or $12 million — whatever it is — and somehow, we've got to become more cost-efficient about that. But a scoreboard for $6 million is okay. That's another example. Talk about the hypocrisy of this government!
MR. LAUK: The Motor Vehicle Act bill is going to come up a little later; I'll talk about that later. Do you want to hear about that now?
The questions raised by the second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) are extremely important. The people of that constituency are very concerned. It reminds me of a time some years ago — and the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis) should remember this with great clarity — when the Strathcona Property Owners Association was formed to stop a freeway system through the Columbia connector going through Chinatown and through the east end of the city of Vancouver. At the same time, the Spadina group got together and stopped the Spadina expressway. He's a nice fellow, but if there's a focal point for that kind of organization and rallying around again, the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour fits the bill. I know it's not true, but he gives the impression that he could not care less about ordinary, little people, and the idea is the important thing — the concept. The project is the important thing, but the little folks out there don't mean a damn. That's the kind of guy we should have in charge of a project like this if we want to organize the neighbourhoods, because he makes a good bogeyman.
It is unfortunate, Mr. Chairman. This whole bill is unfortunate. It's a tragic admission on the part of an inept Minister of Finance that he couldn't balance his budget. He has to raid all of these ancient and honourable special funds that were created for so many specific purposes. He's bankrupt in his imagination. He's inept as a Minister of Finance.
MR. LAUK: Perhaps the deputy minister would like to enter the debate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. LAUK: I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman. I can read lips, Mr. Minister.
It's unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is so inept and so incapable of balancing the budget without raiding the special funds, that he's had to go into this deficit. He has been the only minister since the war who has created a deficit in the province of British Columbia. He's raided these funds, and he will go down in history as the minister responsible for putting British Columbia into debt in terms of government expenditures.
MR. SEGARTY: That was Barrett.
MR. LAUK: We're talking about something you won't be able to understand, I say to the member for Kootenay. We're talking about facts and figures.
Mr. Chairman, I would think that section 10 is the broad sword-stroke cutting these special funds off. I think that it's regrettable that the government has seen fit to force its narrow, inflexible view of what the rapid transit system should be in the city of Vancouver. I join my colleague from Vancouver East in condemning the government's approach in this regard.
Section 10 as amended approved on the following division:
YEAS — 27
NAYS — 17
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Who's on the point of order? I have three members standing, hon. members.
HON. MR. CURTIS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it may already have been conveyed to you, but when the committee reports, I wonder if leave could be asked to record the division in the Journals of the House.
[ Page 8008 ]
MR. LAUK: On a point of order, do the division bells ring in the Douglas tunnel, Mr. Chairman?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: On a point of order, would you like to inquire from the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk) if they also ring under red lights.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: On a point of order, I wish you would inquire as to whether the division bells are working in the opposition offices or not.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Does anyone have a real point of order?
MR. LAUK: What does he mean by "red light"?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: So that there's no doubt in the mind of the member — I can understand why there might be — I was thinking of traffic lights.
Sections 11 and 12 approved.
On section 13.
MR. STUPICH: I want to clear up what section 13 means on page 4, the appropriation section. The cash balance of the Agricultural Land Development Fund will all be transferred into consolidated revenue. That I can understand, but subsection (b) "…money received after March 31, 1982 under…the Agricultural Land Development Act…." Does that mean everything received under the Agricultural Land Development Act by this legislation is being transferred into consolidated revenue?
HON. MR. CURTIS: This particular subsection deals with repayments.
MR. STUPICH: I'm aware of that. What I'm wondering is: does that mean that all the repayments on contracts that have been in existence for, perhaps in some cases, decades will now go directly into consolidated revenue?
HON. MR. CURTIS: The payments will be held in the account. I think that's a point the committee could be reminded of from time to time in this debate, because while we are dealing with funds here, we are setting up accounts. I would draw the member's attention…. He has spoken of subsection (3)(b). Under subsection (1), that money will be held in the account and repaid, to be spent without further appropriation.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
MR. STUPICH: I guess the next part of my question is whether it is that easy to get money out of the Agriculture Land Development Act program. Do we not need some kind of amendment in the Agriculture Land Development Act? I see there is an amendment to it, but it doesn't seem to cover this.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I'm advised that this provides the authority unnecessary. In the absence of this we would have the authority to hold, funds, but we would not have the authority to spend for the purpose described in this section.
MR. STUPICH: The only other question I have on this, Mr. Chairman, is that in every other instance where we have had funds that have had interest coming in, the interest is now going to go directly to consolidated revenue; it will now be accredited to the purpose of the fund. I gather in this one it's different in that the interest portion of the payments that are being received will be credited to the balance of the fund.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes, the member is correct. The interest may be appropriated without any further authority. The interest flows directly to this account under discussion.
MRS. WALLACE: I, too, have some questions about this fund. I was listening very carefully to what my colleague was asking, but am I not correct in assuming that this is a joint federal-provincial fund? Are we not on section 13?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Yes.
MRS. WALLACE: That's the agricultural credit amendment.
AN HON. MEMBER. It's provincial.
MRS. WALLACE: That's strictly provincial. Okay, that answers that question.
Money required for the purpose of this act "may" be paid out. I'm worried about the "may," because it doesn't really indicate that if those money are required they will be made available. That bothers me somewhat because there are commitments made, and this just says that they may be paid. There's not really any commitment that the money will be available.
HON. MR. CURTIS: There are contractual agreements and legal commitments in place. I hear what the member for Cowichan-Malahat is saying. I'm not sure that "shall" as opposed to "may" would strengthen this section in this context, because we are committed to making the payments. I know that on a number of occasions there has been discussion about the words "shall" do something or "may" do something, but the legal agreements in force cover any weakness that the member might be identifying in this section. They may be paid out of consolidated revenue. They have to come from somewhere. They are coming from consolidated revenue. I think that the agreements would allay any fears which might be expressed. The Minister of Agriculture and Food (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) and I have discussed this, and obviously the money comes from CRE. This is simply the authority to make those payments which are required by agreement.
Sections 13 through 16 inclusive approved.
On section 17.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper [See appendix.]
On the amendment.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I'm opposed to this amendment. The original appropriation section of the bill didn't place any limits. Now we have limits placed on the amount of funding available for the farm income assurance
[ Page 8009 ]
program. It's falling right in line with the subject which I tried to raise earlier in this House under a different venue. We are seeing this government striking down the farm income assurance program. Here's ample proof of it, in my mind. We have an amendment brought in that sets limits on the amount of money available and also says that that money must be paid back. Arrangements must be made to pay that money back into consolidated revenue. I'm opposed to that. I think the Minister of Finance is being used as a ploy by the Minister of Agriculture to help him strike down the farm income assurance program, because now he's going to be able to say: "Look, we can't give you these programs because there's a limit on the amount of money that's available." It doesn't matter how bad the year is, how bad the crop conditions are, what the prices are, the money isn't going to be available because the legislation puts a limit on the amount of funds available. I am definitely opposed to this amendment.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I think it is instructive to realize that the amendment says in part, and I'm looking under section 6: "In addition to money appropriated under any other act, the Minister of Finance may authorize money to be paid out of the general fund of the consolidated revenue fund to the fund established under subsection 2(a), to a maximum of $30 million during any fiscal year." In my view, and I'm quite sure that I speak for the Minister of Agriculture and Food, that does not limit the amount of money which is paid in a period of difficulty under the activity carried out, because that rolls from year to year. This simply says no more than $30 million in one year. It might be paid in the very last weeks of a preceding year, or in the early weeks of a following year. The maximum, I'm satisfied, is correct for any given year when viewed as an entity — as a 12-month period.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I join with my colleague for Cowichan-Malahat in opposing this particular limit. If the Minister of Finance were to tell us that there is a commitment to put anything into this fund on an annual basis, I'd feel differently about it. There is no such commitment. It's quite conceivable that in any one particular year the only money coming into this fund would be premiums paid by producers. It's possible in any one year that it might be there are no drawdowns from that fund, because of excellent agriculture conditions in the agricultural industry — that's entirely possible. Yet there's no commitment that the minister will pay his portion of the premiums into the fund that year, because the government is obligated to match premiums. All that we're faced with is that in any one year there will be a maximum payment into that fund. That's a pretty one-sided agreement. I'm opposed to it.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, the $30 million maximum described here is only for unfunded premiums. In the kind of situation which the two members who participated in the debate have described…. It is identified here for the year when things are in anything but ideal conditions. I assure the committee that this is the amount within a particular year, when one might say in one or more commodity groups a very serious situation develops, but it does not prevent the government from undertaking certain activities prior to the start of the year in question, or immediately following the year in question.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I think the wording of the act and the wording of the amendment very succinctly state the difference in the philosophies of the two parties in this Legislature relative to farm income assurance. I would just like to read the amendment: "The Minister of Finance may authorize money to be paid out of the general fund of the consolidated revenue fund to the fund established under subsection 2(a), to a maximum of $30 million during any fiscal year, to be repaid on terms and conditions required by the Treasury Board." The original act reads: "The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may authorize the Minister of Finance to set aside out of the consolidated revenue fund the amount the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council considers necessary to establish, carry out and administer the farm income assurance plan." One shows a real commitment to the agricultural industry, the other one doesn't.
Section 17 as amended approved.
On section 18.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I haven't really been asking my questions about interest up to this point, but this is another instance where loans have actually been granted. I'm wondering whether the interest comes into the fund balance.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I do not have the answer to that question. We could take the time of the committee, but I undertake to give that information. Members of my staff are listening, and I know that they will make a note. I undertake to give that information to the member for Nanaimo next week at the earliest opportunity.
Sections 18 to 20 inclusive approved.
On section 21.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendments standing under my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
Section 21 as amended approved.
Sections 22 and 23 approved.
On section 24.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I asked earlier about administration fees, and the minister said that he would pick them up. Previously the legislation did provide for an administration fee to be charged. I think it's eliminating that, and I'm just so surprised that the government would give up that opportunity of getting some money out of one of these funds. I wonder whether it actually is eliminated. I'm puzzled.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, we don't need separate authority in this context in this particular matter.
MR. STUPICH: So you will be collecting administration fees?
[ Page 8010 ]
HON. MR. CURTIS: Yes, probably.
Section 24 approved.
On section 25.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
Section 25 as amended approved.
Sections 26 to 32 inclusive approved.
On section 33.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the amendment standing under my name on the order paper. [See appendix.]
Section 33 as amended approved.
Sections 34 to 38 inclusive approved.
On section 39.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, it will be apparent to the committee that earlier in Orders of the Day the deletion of section 39 appeared. Within recent days, for reasons not known to me, it did not appear. I therefore offer an amendment which deletes section 39. It is consequential to that which occurred elsewhere in the bill. This removes the Wildlife Act amendment from this bill.
Section 39 as amended approved.
Sections 40 and 41 approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
MRS. WALLACE: On a point of order, I didn't hear us deal with section 42, Mr. Chairman.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I made this same inquiry. It isn't section 42, it is part of section 41.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is the member for Cowichan-Malahat satisfied?
MRS. WALLACE: As I read it, section 41 deals with the Special Funds Act, which is repealed — the act which said it was going to stay in force regardless of any other enactment. Then we have the commencement…which, it would seem, is another subject. It has nothing to do with the repeal of the Special Funds Act.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's a good point. One moment, please.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, it is commencement of the Special Funds Act. I gave incorrect information to the House, I think. I look for guidance from the Chair in this respect. It is section 41, as I understand it, in discussions with legislative counsel.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair is advised that there is no section 42, but because of the printing style the Chair will allow the member to discuss section 41, if the member wishes to debate section 41.
On section 41.
MRS. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I didn't particularly want to debate that section, but it does seem to me that the commencement portion deals with the entire bill, which is in fact the Special Appropriations Act. The Special Funds Act covers some of those special appropriations — not all of them. I don't think it's going to be earth- shattering if we don't pass section 42. But from a legal point of view it certainly appears to me that the commencement is much wider-ranging than the Special Funds Act.
Section 41 approved.
On section 42.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, in an effort to be absolutely certain, I would request the Chair to consider this as section 42. That's probably an abundance of caution.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The minister has put section 42 before the committee. Shall section 42 pass?
Section 42 approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 11, Special Appropriations Act, reported complete with amendments to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.
Division in committee ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, adjourned debate on second reading of Bill 4.
[ Page 8011 ]
MOTOR VEHICLE AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
MR. SPEAKER: The member for Burnaby-Willingdon (Mr. Lorimer) adjourned the debate on behalf of the member for North Island (Mr. Gabelmann).
MR. LORIMER: I will speak on behalf of the member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead).
MR. SPEAKER: I will just make sure that that is a possibility.
MR. LORIMER: I'll speak on my own behalf, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The member defers to himself. Please proceed.
MR. LORIMER: Certainly in principle the official opposition will support this bill. I'm sure every member in the House is very concerned about the carnage on the highways and the problems that have arisen over the years with injuries, death, damages and so on to the travelling public and pedestrians in British Columbia. This is basically a very technical bill, and I note that some three pages of amendments were tabled by the government in the House today. We would like to see presented the very best bill possible. I understand there are certain problems within the government caucus with reference to this bill. I would say it covers a wide territory….
MR. RICHMOND: Who's been telling you those things?
MR. LORIMER: You've got a leaky sieve over there.
I would like to see the government bring in more amendments in order to produce the very best bill possible. We will be bringing in amendments ourselves, but it would be far better if the government took another look and did a little fine-tuning on some of the sections so that the intent which is obviously there will come about within the meaning of the bill.
One of the principles of the bill appears to be the giving of a very wide discretion to the superintendent of motor vehicles, with a reduced amount of discretion to the judges of our courts. It may possibly lead to uneven justice when such wide discretionary powers are in the hands of one individual, no matter how capable that individual may be. He may be bent by pressures from a number of people, including MLAs, to assist an individual or to reduce whatever discretion he is dealing with. Those who have no one speaking on their behalf will get the normal penalties. I think the penalty sections — not with reference to impaired, drunken or reckless driving…. I am not concerned with those, but with those that deal with points, because three points can be picked up not only through those areas but by failing to stop at a stop sign. Maybe there are no automobiles coming along; maybe it is 4 in the morning and an infraction takes place. Two of those would bring this person, under the present sections, liable to a possibility of a maximum $5,000 fine, six months in jail or both.
I would guess that a large proportion of the people sitting in this House have more than three points, not including me. There are a number of people — maybe they're not in this House — who have more than three points on their driving record. They are subject to a maximum penalty of $5,000, six months in prison or both. That seems to me an unreasonable penalty for those people who have accumulated those points through small offences that are not in any way risking life or limb. I would like to see the minister take a look at some of these things. We want to see a fine bill come through, but I think there are some areas here that do need some looking at.
The other matter that is of some concern is the fact that the bill — to some extent in some of the sections — makes the superintendent a collection agency for ICBC. Whether that is a valid purpose or aim of the superintendent of motor vehicles is, I think, somewhat doubtful. There are areas in which licences can be suspended. Both vehicle licence and the driver's licence can be suspended if some of the payments owing to ICBC for their premiums or whatever are in default.
Another principle of this bill refers to making private roads part of the public highway. I'm not sure this should be the case. I can see little harm in people who are capable of driving, if they're drivers in their working hours, driving on private roads and not driving on public roads. The difficulty is that if a person makes his living from driving, the penalty here not only prevents him from driving on the roads, but also prevents him from making his livelihood. Not only does he or she suffer from these sections, but in addition, the whole family suffers. If the person is a truck driver, driving logging truck on a private logging-truck road, I'm not convinced that this should be classed in the same way as a public highway.
We will be dealing in much more detail with this bill during committee stage. I make those few points in the hope that the minister will take another look at the bill, and see if he can bring in a bill that we can all be proud of, one which will do the job that it's intended to do, so we can make the province of British Columbia a more reasonable and safer place to drive in.
MR. LEVI: The minister has had pretty close to 14 months to bring this bill in. In fact, last May when he told everybody he was going to bring it in, he made what was a very interesting statement to the press: "Things are so bad in British Columbia that I wouldn't go out driving on a Friday night in British Columbia." I think he is right. I have a little trouble going out Friday night. In fact, I have a little trouble going out any night, sometimes.
I think the great sadness about this legislation is that the minister, in the great rush to get it in now, has really bypassed a couple of groups that are looking right at this moment at traffic safety. I think one of the great mistakes the government has made is that they've found no way the public can get involved in deliberations about the problem of traffic safety. That is very unfortunate. At the moment the subcommittee of the Crown corporations reporting committee on ICBC is looking at it. They've had a number of hearings and it is a very interesting process. I've been fortunate enough to sit on that. They have not brought forward their report yet.
There is also an interministerial committee headed by the ubiquitous Mr. Bourne that is doing something about looking into ICBC. On the Crown corporations reporting committee we have brought in people with very special interests and expertise, but the public haven't had this opportunity. What the government should be doing is finding a mechanism for having a public hearing on this. There are a lot of people out there who have a great deal to say. The bill itself, from the government's position, does not have a near high enough
[ Page 8012 ]
profile in the public for the people to really think the government is serious about doing anything about it. What we have in this bill is a large number of amendments which deal with the points. We will discuss it in more detail in the committee section, but there are very serious problems in looking at remedial measures. Frankly, I don't think they necessarily lie in looking at the point system.
For instance, in one hearing under ICBC we were told by the president of ICBC that there are some 25,000 people in this province who are banned from driving. Yet the police estimate that about 40 percent of them are driving anyway. We have a very serious problem with that. What has come out of the discussions I have been involved in, and we haven't had any with the general public, is that most people are convinced that what we have to get at, in the whole question of motor vehicle safety, is attitude: the attitude of people today in terms of how they drive. The Vancouver City Police told us this in some detail, as they are concerned about that.
The other thing that I think the minister should address is an area of his responsibility. Many MLAs and others have complained many times about the state of the roads and, in some respects, the design of roads, when there is a continuing number of accidents in the same place. For instance, there is an increasing number of accidents at First and Clark in Vancouver. It's a very dangerous comer. Accidents have been taking place there for years. Reports have been sent to the engineering department, to the motor vehicle department, and no change has ever been made.
The important thing is that in dealing with this whole issue of traffic safety, it really isn't good enough for the minister to tip the bill into the House and say we're going to have a go at people because of the point system. Many more things than this have to be looked at. But we can't really look at it just in the confines of this Legislature. We do have an adequate standing committee, one which has not met for years in this Legislature. The justice and labour committee deals with such matters and should be meeting and holding public hearings on this very serious subject.
The economy and unemployment are our two most serious problems, and this is the third most serious problem in British Columbia. We realize this. We know from ICBC hearings that we insure the most dangerous drivers in the country. It's a great tragedy, but that's the reality of it. A great number of people in this province are involved in various safety activities — some 75 of them: 75 different legislators all having a go at safety, and there's no integration, no coordination. I don't believe very much in this coordination. There's no integration of this kind of thing.
The former attorney-general is giving me a quizzical took. If he put his glasses on, his frowns would disappear. Ah, that's better. I'm sure that now I've prompted him to get up and debate, but he'll have to do it on Monday.
The important thing is that we simply cannot deal with this bill in the usual routine manner; the issue is far too serious. Every second day five people are killed in this province. Two out of the five are killed as a direct result of impaired drivers. There are a large number of children being killed in this province, yet there has not been a serious attack mounted by the government in terms of what it is going to do about not only taking the public into its confidence but consulting the public on what they think about it. We have one group at the moment that is very visible: Mothers Against Dangerous Drivers.
Can we have a little quiet in here, Mr. Speaker? Those guys are mumbling. They don't care very much about this subject.
MR. SPEAKER: Order in the chamber, please.
MR. LEVI: Why don't you ask the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) to go have some lunch? I'll pay for it just to get him the heck out of here.
MR. SKELLY: You'd probably pay for it anyway.
MR. LEVI: Yes, hand me the bill; I'll pay for it. There is no Pouilly-Fuisse down there so I don't worry.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Oh, I'm not going down there!
MR. LEVI: Aha! On your way!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. members. May we continue with Bill 4?
MR. LEVI: Right. Thank you very much.
I would hope that the members on the other side would get up and talk on this issue as well, along the lines that we've got to involve the public. We simply can't pass legislation and not bring the public into what we are doing and into the confidence that we have in the legislation we've passed. Basically, eventually we're going to have to get around to the whole question of how we instil attitude in people. That is the key thing that apparently we have to change in some way; otherwise we are heading for incredible disasters.
The horror story in Canada is that in the past five years over 35,000 people have been killed on the roads. In the two wars that Canada was involved with — from 1939 to 1945 and the Korean War — there were some 13,000 men and women killed in action. Here we have another kind of war. There have been three times as many deaths in almost the same amount of time. The toll is mounting every year.
We have to grapple with the very serious problem not only of attitude but of what we do with a drunk driver in a remedial fashion. There is a great deal of criticism that can be levelled at a number of departments. It is all very well for us to have the apprehension process. The BATmobile and the roadblocks are very good. That is the kind of thing with which you gather in offenders. The question is what you do after you've gathered in the offender. What do you do with the offender? Our jails are becoming full of drunk drivers.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I know what you'd do with them.
MR. LEVI: I know what I would do with them, but I don't want to tell you. I want you to get up and tell me.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member who has the floor will address the Chair, and there will be no interruptions. Please proceed.
MR. LEVI: I need some protection from that guy; he's baiting me. Never mind making jokes about this; this is what we have to address. From the last public forum I had in my riding a month ago, I know what people would want to do about it. Yes, they're talking in a very hard fashion about life suspensions and putting people in jail. One of the things that
[ Page 8013 ]
has concerned me is the gradual drift away from the earlier ideas they used to operate with in this province. In terms of death and people being killed, there was a time that a manslaughter charge used to follow. All of that's completely gone now.
When are we going to get really serious about this — more serious than the minister of small business, small economics and small coal mines? He's not serious about it; he thinks it's a big joke. It's not a big joke; it's a very serious matter.
MR. SPEAKER: Order!
MR. LEVI: And if you go down to the dining room, I'll buy your lunch too. Come on, take off!
AN HON. MEMBER: You can't buy me.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hon. minister is not in his seat. He is constantly interrupting. I will ask him to come to order.
MR. LEVI: Mr. Chairman, through you to the Minister of Highways, when he closes the debate, would he indicate to us whether his ministry has really looked at the very serious problem of road and highway design with respect to this particular problem. It is a serious problem when you have a number of accidents at the same spot and there is no change in the design; it simply goes on. This kind of thing has to be worked out very much within the terms of the insurance company that is paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs for injuries — physical and vehicle damage. Surely the cost subsidization would work the other way if it were possible to do something about the state of a highway with respect to the particular areas where there are continual accidents.
Those are very realistic and economic questions that could be dealt with, but the minister did not indicate that in his opening remarks. Surely he's not suggesting to us that changing the point system and giving a great deal of discretionary power to the superintendent of motor vehicles is somehow going to meet the problem here. There are other aspects to the problem as well.
We can all be sure that once this legislation passes, we're going to go back to the old system where we were constantly being called by people who had lost their licences and wanted to get an earlier dispensation in respect to the sanctions imposed on them. We're going to get all of that again. I actually preferred the system whereby the superintendent of motor vehicles did not have that discretionary power. People knew exactly where they stood in terms of the act, and that was it. You don't have to go back to a system where there will be a great deal of lobbying. It's not a desirable kind of system.
In terms of the enforcement, if there had been a public hearing with respect to this whole problem, we would have heard from the police, as we did in the subcommittee of the Crown corporations, that there is a manpower problem. It's all very well for us pass laws, but we then get into the whole question of enforcement. We talk about manpower, and that's not something this provincial Legislature deals with, except perhaps in respect to the RCMP. The municipalities have their own police force.
What we've done here is a start, a beginning, albeit an unfortunate beginning, in the sense that much more information could have been available to this assembly had the minister taken the trouble to find out what's going on in terms of studies being done, information being gathered. We could have had that tabled in the House, particularly the report that will eventually come down from the Crown corporations, and also from the interministerial committee. There's a great deal of material on this. I get the impression, from the way the minister presents the bill, that he's not too aware of what's going on. This is just a very small part of what's taking place.
So I address the minister: if this is the first stage in terms of war on the carnage on the road, then, subject to some suggestions from this side in terms of changes to some aspects of the sections, we can support it. The main thing is, what else have they in mind? What are they going to do about keeping the public informed on where we are going in terms of preventing this problem? This province, certainly on the west coast, if it was to follow what is going on in the United States…. In the state of Washington they're involved in a most aggressive campaign against drunk drivers, the most aggressive campaign of any of the states on the west coast, and all of them are involved in it. I would ask the minister to give some thought to the possibility of having in this province an habitual driving offender classification, which they have in the state of Oregon. That offender is on a long-term probation, and is carefully watched.
That's something that we have to look at here, because we can't have 25,000 to 30,000 people who are suspended from driving, when the police inform us that 40 percent of them are driving anyway. We have to get much more graphic about the kind of sanctions that we're prepared to get involved in in this question. This one is really an administrative one, but it creates a serious problem in terms of enforcement, and that's where I think that the minister has kind of started at the wrong end. It's not something that you can take to the public and that they would have confidence in: somehow it's got to have some inroads into lessening it. What you've done here is to get involved in some administrative solutions. But they don't mean very much out there on the battlefield, where people are getting killed all the time.
So we have to have much more dramatic approaches to the problem than what we have contained in this bill. That is the difficulty with this bill: it's more administrative than a hard-nosed approach to the most serious social question that we have. And, of course, it has implications economically too. With the number of people that have injuries — there are 40,000 — that drain on our scarce resources, in terms of what other areas we could be putting the money towards….
'We have to put it towards what's characterized in the insurance industry as the flesh in the tin. That's a rather grim way of putting it, but that's the reality of it. The main thing is that the premium money seems to go more to the repairing of the cars than it does to the repairing of human beings. There is a completely misplaced focus in terms of where we should be going in that area; also, it's misplaced in terms of where we should be going here.
I would ask the minister to consider this and to talk to his colleagues about whether in fact we can take this problem in a very real way to the public. If you have to have a commission, then have a commission. Give the public an opportunity, give the police an opportunity, and give the medical profession an opportunity — give all of these people an opportunity. We've had some opportunity in the subcommittee to hear them, but
[ Page 8014 ]
it's not a public kind of forum. We need a public forum on this thing. We don't need interministerial task forces, which are not public and which would eventually come out with a report. We need to have continuing visibility on this kind of thing. If we don't have it, then all we've done is make an administrative change, and we haven't really achieved the thing that we set out to do in the first place. No doubt, later on we'll be discussing all the questions relating to young people.
I want to give the minister one example of what happened to me a couple of weeks ago. A constituent of mine came in, very upset at the behaviour of his son who was driving. His son was almost 18 years old. I asked: "What do you want us to do?" He said: "I don't want him to drive." I said: "Go down to the office where you signed the permission in the first place and withdraw it. You gave him permission. If you're unhappy with the way he's behaving, go down and withdraw it."
A lot of parents forget that they do have some control over young people. They give them permission to drive. If they're unhappy with the way they're behaving, let them take the permission away. Don't wait for the state to do it, because if the state does it, everybody says: "Oh, that's the heavy hand of the state." Parents do have some obligations. All of us here who are parents have some obligations. We all know. We have children and teenagers, and when they hit that 16-year-old bell they want a licence. We're the ones who give it to them. We should be the ones who take it away from them.
AN HON. MEMBER: What if they're six feet tall?
MR. LEVI: If they're six feet tall, bring in Emery Barnes. He's the guy who's the convincer on this side.
This thing is serious in terms of the parents understanding exactly what it is they do when they sign permission for young persons to drive. The one aspect and feature of the bill which we're going to be dealing with is the whole notion of provisional licensing. I think that's an excellent notion. You don't get a licence at age 16 for five years and somehow think that's all there is to it. I would be very happy to see a provisional licence of one year for new drivers. There's nothing wrong with that at all. We have to build an attitude — something that we can build in at that age — whereby they get to understand that the licence isn't for five years then and "We'll see you when you're 21. How are you doing?" We have to go in that direction.
The parents also have to remember that many times they are closer to the situation than the police are. The police can't do everything. The parents can. When this parent spoke to me, I said: "Well, the onus is on you now. I don't know.
There may be a lot of trouble. You have to sit down with your kid and say, 'I had your licence taken away because I withdrew my permission!" I said: "Don't just do it that way. Tell him what you're going to do. Tell him, 'I have the power to go down, and if you don't straighten up your act, that's what I'm going to do.'" More of that should be done by the public, because the public forgets — particularly the parents. There's a notice here for them to do that.
That's one notion. We're talking about parental involvement. We're talking about the notion that the provisional licence is something worthwhile. But the key question in this whole process that we're dealing with is: what do we really do — effectively — with the dangerous driver and the drinking driver? That is the kind of problem that constantly confounds us. One of the major criticisms is that there are simply not enough places where treatment is available. That is quite true. In this province we have not developed the treatment resources that can be dealt with. The question is: what kind of treatment do we use when we have the resources? That treatment technique is not easily developed. We often think and we worry — about keeping people off the highways.
It may well be that we will have to look further south, to the California notions. Let's deal with what they do down there. They have placed an incredible burden on tavern and hotel operators who serve liquor. If somebody goes out of your place and gets into an accident and somebody is killed, we are going to come back and find out exactly what you did in terms of your responsibility as a dispenser of liquor that you would allow a person to leave your establishment and get into an accident where somebody gets killed. They have a process. They have had people come into court almost in a co-defendant role. Persons have lost their tavern licences because they've been irresponsible in terms of dealing with their customers.
There are a range of options we can use in a very persuasive way, but it has to be very public and people have got to understand what is going on. If they don't understand, then it becomes very difficult.
In view of the hour — and I am getting thirstier — I think I will move adjournment of this debate until the next sitting of the House.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
[ Page 8015 ]
AMENDMENTS TO BILLS
11 The Hon. H.A. Curtis to move, in Committee of the Whole on Bill (No. 11) intituled Special Appropriations Act to amend as follows:
SECTION 10, by deleting paragraphs (m) and (q).
SECTION 17, by deleting section 17 and substituting the following:
"17 Section 6 of the Farm Income Insurance Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 123, is repealed and the following substituted:
"6 In addition to money appropriated under any other Act. the Minister of Finance may authorize money to be paid out of the general fund of the consolidated revenue fund to the fund established under section 2 (a) to a maximum of $30 million during any fiscal year, to be repaid on terms and conditions required by Treasury Board."
SECTION 21, by deleting section 21 and substituting the following:
" 21 Section 2 of the Funds Control Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 146, is repealed and the following substituted:
"2. The Farm Income Assurance Fund, established in the Provincial treasury,
SECTION 21.1, by adding the following section:
"21.1 Sections 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 are repealed."
SECTION 25, by adding the following paragraph to the proposed section 1(4):
interest, at a rate and calculated in the manner and at the times
determined by the Minister of Finance, on the amount of money available
for appropriation under subsection (3)."
SECTION 33, by deleting section 33.