1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1982
[ Page 8321 ]
Northeast coal. Mr. Leggatt –– 8321
Industrial and commercial property taxes for schools. Mr. Lauk –– 8322
Expenses of Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Mr. King –– 8322
Committee on Crown Corporations. Mr. Kempf replies –– 8323
Ministerial statement re forest fire hazard.
Hon. Mr. Waterland –– 8323
Mr. King –– 8324
Land Amendment Act (Bill 54). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Chabot)
On section 3 –– 8324
On section 4 –– 8325
On section 5 –– 8325
Hon. Mr. Waterland
On section 7 –– 8330
Hon. Mr. Williams
On section 12 –– 8331
Third reading –– 8331
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Attorney-General estimates. (Hon. Mr. Williams)
On vote 10: minister's office –– 8331
Hon. Mr. Williams
Motion expressing congratulations to the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Hon. Mr. Gardom –– 8345
Vancouver Stock Exchange amendment act.
Mr. Ree –– 8345
Seaboard Assurance Company Act, 1953, Amendment Act, 1982 (Bill PR401) Mr. Ree
Introduction and first reading –– 8345
Appendix –– 8345
MONDAY, JUNE 21, 1982
The House met at 2 p.m.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like the House to welcome two guests today. One is Mrs. Isabel Rhodes, the wife of a very good friend of mine. Accompanying Mrs. Rhodes is a visitor from Aberdeen, Scotland, Ms. Martha Watson. I'd ask the House to welcome them.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Finance in the absence of the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips). Japanese steel mills that will take delivery of coal from the Quintette Mine have demanded effective management control over the project despite the fact that the majority equity position is held by Denison Mines. Will the minister give his personal assurance to the House that the Quintette project will not be allowed to fall under the control of the minority Japanese shareholders, who would be able to determine decisions, for example, on revenue coming to this province if they had control over price?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the question is whether the decision has already been made, then it is in order.
MR. LEGGATT: Yes.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development is absent from the city and from this House for a very short time, I'll take the question as notice.
MR. LEGGATT: Given the fact that he's taken the question as notice, I wonder if the minister could advise the House whether he is aware of the most recent development in northeast coal concerning the attempt by the Japanese steel industry to obtain control in regard to price?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, I'm aware of news reports which deal with that subject.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, I have another question for the Minister of Finance. The Japanese steel mills have further demanded that they will not be responsible for the expected overruns in the Quintette project and that the base sale price will not be allowed to increase. Would the minister explain to the House how British Columbians will be able to obtain a fair price for their resources if that price is controlled by foreign customers?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, there is a premise in the question which may or may not be correct. I indicated that the minister responsible for northeast coal will be here in a matter of a day or two. I therefore take that question as notice.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Premier. With respect to the northeast coal development, has the Premier been advised of the conditions that are now being stipulated by the Japanese customers? Has he been advised whether those conditions are acceptable to Denision Mines?
HON. MR. BENNETT: No.
MR. LEGGATT: Mr. Speaker, I'll try the Premier again. I am sure one of the two of you must know something about this. Can the Premier give his assurance that the government of British Columbia will not countenance changes in the coal deal that will penalize future generations of British Columbians by locking them into a losing proposition with the Japanese buyers controlling the price of the B.C. resource? In other words, if the proposal presently before Denison Mines goes through, we will have Japanese ownership at both ends dictating the price. The Japanese buyers will be telling you, Mr. Premier, what the price of B.C. resources is going to be.
HON. MR. BENNETT: No, they won't.
MR. LEGGATT: Will the Premier give his assurance that the government will not countenance these changes in a coal deal?
MR. SPEAKER: The member is asking for a future action of the government. If the question is, "Has the decision been made?" the question is in order.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, the government has already guaranteed that the people of British Columbia are better protected on the development of the northern transportation system and the northeast development than at any other time on any major industrial expansion. The member has only to see that the government of British Columbia.... Instead of just the single coal royalty that applied when the New Democratic Party was government, we now have that original royalty, we have a 20 percent mining tax on profits, we have two special royalties on every tonne of coal out of the northeast — one deals with recovery on the rail line and the other with infrastructure. This has never been done before, neither in the expansion of the railway nor in the recovery of costs not normally recovered from consolidated revenue, such as highway costs. All of those charges added onto northeast coal are substantially greater, as anyone can see, than the charges against southeast coal when the New Democratic Party was government.
MR. LEGGATT: At no time do I recall the previous government agreeing that someone who only holds 30 percent in a project would have 50 percent rights in that project. That's the proposition the Premier has to face.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. member. This is question period, not debate period.
MR. LEGGATT: The question is this: does the Premier approve of a proposal wherein Japanese interests, which control only 30 percent in the Quintette project, will now be given the rights of majority shareholders in that project? Does he approve of that proposition?
[ Page 8322 ]
HON. MR. BENNETT: First of all, I don't have that information. There are newspaper reports. As I said in response to your first question, the answer was no. The coal companies are private capital. If the NDP were government, I'm sure they would try to make it a public enterprise. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, if they were, in government and continued as they did between 1972 and 1975, not only would we not have that project but we would not have had many other job-creating projects that have taken place in this province during the past few years.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I didn't shout from my seat, as the member for Coquitlam-Moody is doing. Perhaps that is customary practice he brought from Ottawa, but here in the sedate B.C. Legislature we don't conduct ourselves in that manner.
MR. SPEAKER: May we have order, please. We have two questioners on their feet. The Leader of the Opposition.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I'd ask the Premier to please explain to the people of British Columbia the government's policy, as stated when the CPR made a bid to buy MacMillan Bloedel, that British Columbia is not for sale. Can he explain why that admonition does not apply to Tokyo or the Japanese?
HON. MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to explain to the Leader of the Opposition and the New Democratic Party exactly what is so sensitive about the forest industry. We can see that trees, allowable cut, our major industry, is so important to British Columbia that we couldn't have it consolidated into just a few hands. There were no guidelines, no policy, until we became government.
MR. BARRETT: There's still no policy.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, hon. members. Let's hear the answer.
HON. MR. BENNETT: The reason the New Democratic Party didn't need any policy guidance is that when they were government nobody wanted to come to British Columbia. Many didn't want to stay, and left.
INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL
PROPERTY TAXES FOR SCHOOLS
MR. LAUK: Let's start from the beginning: did you have your seatbelts on?
To the Minister of Education, this year the provincial government, through legislation and secret cabinet orders, has confiscated industrial and commercial property taxes for schools. The industrial and commercial taxpayers now are asked to pay huge increases all over the lower mainland and elsewhere. This particularly affects small businesses and is becoming apparent in the municipalities. Has the minister decided on any form of emergency reduction or rollback of these provincial taxes on industrial and commercial property?
HON. MR. SMITH: As the member opposite knows, the provincial mill rate this year for non-residential taxpayers was reduced, in a number of school districts, to a mean of 55 mills. That was a very substantial reduction in places like Surrey, where the mill rate had risen over 60 mills. In the case of all other school districts, where the mill rate had previously been below 55 mills, the non-residential mill rate was frozen. So there was a considerable measure of relief built into the program. Where increases had been felt this year because of increased assessments, there is also the pledge of the government to make further mill-rate reductions next year to bring about relief on school taxes.
MR. LAUK: Mr. Speaker, we must be living in a different world. I'll put this question again to the Minister of Education. All over British Columbia ordinary small businessmen and merchants are having up to 600 and 800 percent tax increases. Is the Minister of Education blind or is he just stupid? Do you know what's happening to these ordinary people?
MR. SPEAKER: As in debate, inflammatory language is not recommended in question period. Please proceed.
MR. LAUK: Okay, I'll withdraw that, Mr. Speaker. I'll ask the Minister of Education: are these people imagining that they're paying 600 percent increases on their industrial and commercial property taxes? Or is the minister deliberately, with the government, trying to hoodwink these people — as they have?
MR. SPEAKER: "Deliberately hoodwinking" is dangerously close to unparliamentary language, and I would recommend that we avoid that phrase if at all possible.
HON. MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the moderate, non-rhetorical followup question. Surely the member knows that the responsibility for property taxation is a mixed responsibility — that is, a responsibility that rests with local government as well as with the provincial government. Also, surely the member knows that many people in this province appealed property tax assessments. I doubt that the figure he cites of 600 percent increases can be sustained. In many school districts I have heard from there have been taxation reductions. There have also been increases because of assessments, but the government is committed to gradually lowering the mill rate for commercial assessments for school purposes, and that is the course that we have embarked on.
EXPENSES OF MINISTER OF
CONSUMER AND CORPORATE AFFAIRS
MR. KING: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. In the ongoing saga of the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman) show, "Guess Who Came to Dinner," can the minister advise the House when he became aware he had been claimed as a guest at a dinner, which he did not attend, with the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, and when did he notify his colleague that he had not attended that dinner with him?
HON. MR. HEINRICH: Mr. Speaker, I heard around noon that that particular subject was, I thought, adequately
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canvassed at the Public Accounts meeting this morning. I thought that all the information which the member was asking for was given to him.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, matters which take place in committees, of course, the House is not aware of, unless they report it through the Chairman of that committee.
MR. KING: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I did not refer to the public accounts committee. I hope Mr. Speaker was not inferring that the question was out of order in any way. If the minister chooses not to answer, that's on his conscience.
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to respond to a question taken on notice.
COMMITTEE ON CROWN CORPORATIONS
MR. KEMPF: On Thursday last the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (Hon. Mr. McClelland) asked a question that I took on notice. I rise to respond to that question.
On perusing the minutes of the Crown corporations committee meetings, I find that three evening working dinner meetings were held since May 1979: two at the Laurel Point Inn and one at the Empress Hotel. On each of these occasions, wine was served prior to the meal with approval of the members. Another such meeting will be held tomorrow night at the Harbour Towers, and again I will poll the members of the committee to see if it is their wish to have wine served. I would hope that that response would be positive. I hope that members of the Committee on Crown Corporations, when working late and long hours, particularly after dinner, as politicians often do on behalf of their constituents, would feel that we are no different than anyone else in society and that our business should be conducted in the same manner as that of our citizens.
I feel that there is nothing wrong with serving wine at dinner, whether paid for by the taxpayers or not. If that is done within the scope of our responsibility as elected representatives, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. I believe that as politicians, particularly in this chamber, we tend often to fall on our own swords. I, for one, will not.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Hon. member, I think that the scope of the question has been....
MR. KEMPF: I intend to conclude by saying that wine was served at working-dinner meetings of the Committee on Crown Corporations, with consent of the members, and as far as I'm concerned that will continue.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I sincerely hope, hon. members, that those matters which occur in committee will remain in committee.
MR. BARRETT: I ask leave to make an introduction.
MR. BARRETT: I would like to introduce to the House the good news that the Prince and Princess of Wales have been delivered of a son today, and I would hope that the House — and particularly Reverend Jim Robertson, whose prayers were answered immediately — would express its appreciation and good wishes.
HON. MR. BENNETT: I, too, would like to join in the good wishes that the Assembly, I hope, will send to the Prince and Princess Diana. They have our continuing good wishes and the loyalty of the people of British Columbia.
FOREST FIRE HAZARD
HON. MR. WATERLAND: I'd like to make a ministerial statement, please.
I'd just like to bring to the attention of all British Columbians the seriousness of the forest fire threat that now faces this province as a result of the continuing hot and dry weather.
Since the current fire season began, over 40,000 hectares of forest land have been burned over; in the last five days, 33,000 hectares have caught fire. At this time last year only 600 hectares had been burned; as of yesterday 920 fires had been reported in the province, compared to 233 at the same point last year. The fire danger stands at high to extreme over most parts of the province. Yesterday there were 328 fires burning in the province, and more than one-third of them were in the Prince George forest region. There were 18 fires burning, uncontained, in the following regions: Prince George, Prince Rupert, Cariboo and Vancouver. The largest fire, more than 20,000 hectares, is near the Yukon border.
Our fire suppression costs are currently running over $500,000 a day. It seems to be shaping up for a long, hot summer in the forests of British Columbia. It's great weather perhaps for tourists, but bad weather for those who have a responsibility to protect our most valuable resource. Therefore I am appealing to everyone in this province to act responsibly when travelling through the forest areas in the summer. I ask every British Columbian and every visitor to be super-careful, to follow strictly all fire regulations and to help us keep watch over the forest.
My most serious concern, and the reason for my making this statement, is that it is not only the hot, dry weather that is causing problems. I regret that I must report a dramatic increase in the number of fires that are deliberately set. Every forest fire season brings a small scattering of incendiary fires. At last count we had 147 such fires this year, and the summer has barely begun. This is far more than normal and a very worrisome situation. The reason for the increase in incendiary fires is not altogether clear: some are perhaps being set to provide employment, and some appear to be set maliciously. Whatever the reason I am determined that it will be stopped; arson is a crime, whether it occurs in the city or in the forest. I have instructed my Ministry of Forests personnel to step up their vigilance, and to work very closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in cases where there is evidence on incendiarism. Anyone who burns a forest is deliberately destroying a part of the future of this province. There are jobs as well as trees going up in flames, and this must be stopped.
While I am on my feet, I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks, and I'm sure the thanks of everyone in this House, for the splendid work being done by fire-suppression crews around the province. Protecting the forests can be a dirty and, at times, dangerous job. In recent
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years we have greatly refined our methods of spotting and fighting fires, but in the final analysis we rely on the men and women on the fire lines. They stand as our first line of defence for British Columbia's forests, and I would like to pay tribute to all those involved in the annual battle to save our forests from fire, but most particularly to those who wield the shovels and carry their backpacks and hoses. To them from me, and I'm sure from all of us, thank you for your courage, your dedication, and your hard work.
MR. KING: Certainly I and my colleagues wish to identify with the remarks the minister has made with respect to any criminal intention to involve people in incendiary fires. That certainly is unacceptable. I suppose there is a sad commentary inherent in what the minister says, harkening back to the dark depression days when intentional fires were set to generate employment. The practice was not very sensible then and it is not very sensible now; indeed, it's a criminal offence. Nevertheless, it could be a measure of the desperation that thousands of unemployed people are feeling in the province of British Columbia. I would urge the minister to turn his attention not only to combatting the wildfires in the province, but to generating some programs to put people to work in a positive way rather than a destructive way.
Finally, I suggest to the minister a note of concern with respect to the cost of fighting wildfires, and appeal to him not to utilize the budgetary allocation for silvicultural treatment, for intensive management of our forests, in fighting fires. I suggest that this has happened in the past. In addition to fighting the fires and containing them, it's important to maintain the budgetary allocations for growing new forests and ensuring that new crops are coming on stream so that there will be a supply of timber for the future.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. GARDOM: I ask leave to proceed to public bills and orders.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Committee on Bill 54, Mr. Speaker.
LAND AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
The House in committee on Bill 54; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
Sections 1 and 2 approved.
On section 3.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to direct a couple of questions towards the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing. The explanatory note to section 3 of the bill states that this section "clarifies that the Crown is not obliged to accept an application for Crown land." Can he please explain to the House why he needs this section changed?
HON. MR. CHABOT: I could say briefly that I guess it is because of changing times. First of all, we have regional districts with zoning authority, and from time to time we do get applications for small parcels of land within an area that has a larger acreage zoning than would be permitted under the application. Under those circumstances, we find it difficult to allocate or make available a parcel of land of, say, five acres, when the minimum zoning by regional district is 20 acres. There are other instances where, because of biological circumstances.... For instance, applications might be made for recreational purposes along a lake where the number of cottages is such that it poses a health problem, and an additional allocation of land in that particular area wouldn't be in the public interest. Those are two of the reasons why this amendment is required. There are circumstances where an individual applies for agricultural land that is of marginal agricultural value and that might have been examined previously by officials of various regions of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing. We feel it would be redundant to accept an application on an area previously examined and found wanting as far as capability for agriculture is concerned. Those are three of the reasons why this amendment is required and why "may" is required instead of "shall."
MR. HANSON: The existing language of the section that this new amendment is going to alter is in section 7(3). Under that section, "Application for Crown land," it states: "The minister may disallow an application if it does not comply with this act and regulations or if, in his opinion, a disposition of the Crown land applied for is not in the public interest." Under that existing section the minister is empowered to do the kinds of things he just stood up and explained. What he is not pointing out to the House is that what this amendment is going to do is seek a change in the act which will allow the minister to disallow an application without even advising the applicant.
Let me read the interpretation of the section being sought in this bill. It "clarifies that the Crown is not obliged to accept an application for Crown land." The language of the section itself says: "Section 7(2) and (3) " — which I've just read — "is repealed and the following substituted: (2) Nothing in this act obliges the Crown to consider an application for Crown land or to dispose of Crown land pursuant to an application." In other words, the Crown has no obligation at all to advise the applicant that he's seeking land that has been set aside as not for disposal, or that he's asking for land that is already under the authority of another piece of legislation, or that in his judgment the minister chooses not to allow disposition of that land at this time.
In other words, people can submit an application for Crown land, but they will never hear back on what the Crown is going to do with that application. That seems to me like a totally irresponsible position on the part of the minister. The public, if they're going to apply for Crown land, should first of all know what Crown land is going to be made available — that should be publicly identified. After proper hearing processes and management practices in terms of integrated use of that land, applications should be then posted, be received, and if a person makes application, he should be at least entitled to get some kind of response to his application. Under this section there will be no response whatsoever.
I would like to ask the minister a question on this same section. Why do you feel that you must have absolute secrecy in terms of the receipt of applications? Why is the applicant not entitled to any kind of response?
HON. MR. CHABOT: I previously outlined some of the reasons for "may" instead of "shall" being put in the act.
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One other reason is that it seems to be necessary to go in the direction of preplanned dispositions of Crown land. For instance, in the Prince George special-sales area most of the dispositions of agricultural land will be on the basis of predisposition. There is a schedule for these lands to be disposed by, rather than by the random handling of individual applications. Because of deferred planning areas coming on stream, we found it necessary to go to preplanned dispositions. Also, in most instances — I would say about 95 percent or so of the cases — all recreational lands are made available on the basis of preplanned dispositions.
There's no intention whatsoever that secrecy be involved in this particular section on the right of individuals to apply. When an individual applies for land and his application is unacceptable, I want to assure you that people in the regional offices must give a justifiable reason for not accepting that application. It's not a question of secrecy. There must be a reason given. They can't just reject an application out of hand. As long as I'm the minister, they're going to give people a reason why it's been turned down.
Section 3 approved.
On section 4.
MR. HANSON: Under section 4 the explanatory note states: "Provides that orders under this section are not regulations under the Regulation Act requiring publication, and that a reservation does not affect the operation of section 10." Under the existing legislation, section 11 states: "The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may for any purpose that he considers advisable in the public interest, by notice signed by the minister and published in the Gazette, reserve Crown land from disposition under this act, and may by similar method amend or cancel in whole or in part a reserve established under this act or a former act."
Mr. Chairman, this section is going to be repealed. The language that is going to replace this section is not going to require gazetting. In other words, there will be no published notice of land that is set aside or will not be disposed of. This is extremely unusual language in a bill of this type. Here we have a process by which the minister has all the authority in the world; however, he is obliged under the existing law to gazette that and publish the areas that are set aside not to be disposed of. He is seeking in this amendment to remove that so that the public will not know through the gazetting process what areas are going to be withheld from disposition. Can the minister please explain to this House why he needs this section.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Essentially, the reason for the repeal of the previous section 11 and the inclusion of this particular section 11 is for the purpose of clarifying the temporary allocation and occupation of land that is set aside as a reserve under section 10. It's not necessary that it be published in the Gazette; it's a regulation but not a regulation under the Regulation Act. It was deemed not to be necessary. The reserve is set aside by order- in-council, which is a public-information document. It's felt that that's sufficient. The reasons for the changes here are that it clarifies and makes uniform these kinds of regulations that aren't covered under the Regulation Act. The purpose for its change was to clarify the temporary occupation of land that is under reserve and included in section 10.
MR. HANSON: Under the existing legislation and the legislation proposed there are essentially identical powers with the exception of the fact that the government does not have to publish in the Gazette the identified Crown lands that are going to be either withheld from disposition or made available through some process — auctioning, lottery, ballot draw or whatever it happens to be. We're talking about 90 percent of the province, although most of that is committed in TFLs and so forth.
The tradition in this province has been that through the gazetting process the public would be advised of the lands that would be set aside or the lands that would be made available. The minister seems to think that it's irrelevant whether the public is advised, but we don't; we think there should be an open process and that the allocation of Crown lands should be very much aboveboard. That's where we part company with this government, because the provisions that they're seeking to change in this bill have a common theme, Mr. Chairman. The government does not have to respond in the handling of applications. They don't have to indicate that they're formally accepting an application, and they don't even have to formally notify a successful applicant that the final decision has been made.
Secondly, the lands that are to be made available don't have to be published in the Gazette anymore. They're not regulations under the Regulation Act. The minister is not obliged to serve notice in the Gazette. Now that seems to me an absolutely backward step. We're moving towards open government — and I don't mean under this present administration. In terms of all governments there's a great desire for more openness, confiding in the public and having more access to information on which to make rational decisions. Under the amendments to this bill, you're going in the opposite direction: you don't have to let them know when they've applied; you don't have to gazette the lands that you're withholding from disposition; and, later on in the same bill, you're changing the method for payment, which selectively puts those with a lot of capital and equity in a better position to acquire Crown land. It's totally the wrong way to go.
Within the existing section 11 you are empowered to administer Crown land in this province, providing you follow one pro forma act — that is, to properly list the land in the Gazette.
We oppose this section. It moves towards greater secrecy and less candour on the part of the government with respect to providing information to the public regarding what lands are available.
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
MR. HANSON: This amendment changes the method of payment for Crown land. As I stated under the previous section, when application is made the government has the power to refuse to acknowledge that application. The government will not list in the Gazette the lands available or withheld, whatever the case may be.
In section 5, the method of payment.... Section 21 is repealed by the new section 5. Let me explain the implications of this section. It will allow the minister to issue a Crown grant to a person who has received Crown land prior to the payment in full for that land. The rationale of the
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minister is that this will allow people to go to the bank and get financing in order to take a Crown grant and then develop the property.
The explanation section of the bill states that this will: "Allow the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing to issue a Crown grant before the full purchase price has been paid where the purchase price has been secured." That means that if that person has sufficient collateral or equity he can use the Crown grant to get mortgage money from the bank to either develop the property or pay the remainder of the price, and then he could sell the property. What we have here is a financing arrangement enshrined in legislation which will favour the rich.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Imagination!
MR. HANSON: If you on the other side of the House disagree with me, let me outline an identical case that is happening in Prince George. After extensive planning, 250,000 hectares of land have come under a management plan in areas adjacent to Prince George; 65,000 hectares of agricultural land that is presently timbered is being sold in a series of auctions. One auction has been held in its entirety; the second auction was cancelled after half an hour. This particular auction process, as presently structured under the guidance of this minister, is opposed by loggers as well as by agriculturalists in the Prince George area.
The value of the standing timber far exceeds the price being asked — the upset price and the bonus price of the previous auctions. What we have here under this present change in the act is the opportunity for a logging company, for example, with sufficient equity and collateral to go to an auction and make a bid. Within three days they've satisfied the bonus bid, and they're given a certain amount of time to handle the rest of the payments. If they can satisfy the minister that they have adequate security and collateral to obtain the full Crown grant — to obtain the full title to the land without paying for it — they can then get the Crown grant, go to the bank, and get sufficient mortgage money to pay off the full purchase price and then dispose of the land. That is different than the tradition of this province.
What has been asked for by both the forestry people and the agriculturalists in the Prince George area is a two-tiered auction. They are suggesting that the timber should be auctioned separately for fair market price to ensure that the people of the province get a fair price for that existing timber. That money could go in two directions. First, it could be put in a trust fund to be used to develop that land to reach its full agricultural potential. In a second auction the agricultural land could be auctioned and a draw on the assets, the equity, and the return on the standing timber could be used to develop that land. Secondly, that money received from the standing timber at a free auction could then go to other enhanced programs for the disposition of Crown land for residential purposes.
At the moment the agriculturalists cannot compete with the logging companies to acquire the land to put it into farm production. The logging companies can then secure a Crown grant, or they can outbid the agriculturalists at the auction. It's happening, and that's why they opposed it in the last auction. The agriculturalists cannot compete with the logging companies for the land that has been zoned for agricultural purposes. The loggers have openly stated that if they bid for that land and acquire it they have no intention of developing it for agriculture. It's on public record in the newspapers in Prince George.
MR. KEMPF: How much timber was on that land?
MR. HANSON: There are sufficient cunits on some of that land that the timber is valued at $300,000. The value of the bonus price and the upset price puts the price of a cunit at about $3.40. On a small business auction the timber is worth $6 or $7. So it's a fire-sale price for the logger, and the agriculturalist can't get in.
MR. HANSON: You should read the Prince George papers.
MR. KEMPF: Is that how you get all your information?
MR. HANSON: Not at all; I talk to the people in Prince George.
Mr. Chairman, section 5 alters the method of payment for Crown land. Perhaps the explanation of the minister would be fine and dandy if they were allowing the ordinary people of the province to acquire Crown land and then use this method of receiving the Crown grant to facilitate financing and the development of the property. That's not happening out in the field, Mr. Chairman. What's happening is that those who can afford to pay almost market price for this Crown land, or who can bid competitively with a logging company, can acquire the Crown land, and not the ordinary individuals who want to farm this land that is set aside, for example, in the Prince George area.
What is stated in the bill and what is practised in the actual administration of disposition of Crown land — the method of payment being proposed, where at the minister's own discretion he will decide whether there is sufficient security to issue the Crown grant prior to the full payment — gives total ministerial discretion. It doesn't make the opportunities available for the ordinary people of this province to acquire this land.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Chairman, the argument as to whether or not loggers are permitted to acquire Crown land under agricultural sale seems to be somewhat off the topic of this section. But since it has been so extensively dealt with, I'd like to perhaps pose a question or two to the minister as well. I happen to know of some of the people who acquired land in the recent sales; some of them are logging contractors.
I wonder if the minister could advise me if somehow we must have two classes of citizens in this province. Why those who happen to be involved in the forest industry somehow cannot also be involved in ranching and other agricultural endeavours, and attempt to acquire agricultural land.... I know of a couple of the people who are in the logging business — logging contractors — who are also substantially in the ranching business and were successful in bidding on these sales in Prince George. Perhaps the minister could provide me with some information. Are there many people in that part of British Columbia who are involved in agriculture and who also work in the forest industry, either as employees or as entrepreneurs in that sector? I know of very few myself who aren't involved in both industries. I see no reason why
[ Page 8327 ]
we should discriminate against those people who happen to be involved in our number one industry and are also being involved in our number three industry.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, there are certainly a lot of logger-farmers in the Prince George area, and many of those are in the business of logging for the purpose of getting into agriculture. The way in which they can do it is by making a few bucks logging until they can put a farm into production, which costs a lot of money and takes a long time as well. This is how they do it. I know from my discussions with farmers in British Columbia.... On numerous occasions they've indicated to me that they need the timber on that particular parcel of land for the purpose of helping to defray the costs of fencing, putting land under cultivation and buying some cattle — if there is any money left over. I think that's a good procedure and there is nothing wrong with it. I'm not going to discriminate against anyone who wants to take a particular avenue to get into agriculture.
That member from the sidewalks and the asphalt jungle of Victoria has a very vivid imagination. He talks about the change here in our certificates of purchase, which are documents. They're not registrable — they merely give a receipt for moneys paid — and we've come to the conclusion that that particular document is no longer a functional document in this ministry. We believe that we have the authority and the right to secure — to protect, I should say — the public interest on Crown land by a first mortgage, which is a far more substantial and more meaningful way of proceeding than through the certificate of purchase.
Now he either has a vivid imagination or he isn't very knowledgeable about the land disposition policies in this province, because this kind of situation, Mr. Chairman, would be applicable in most instances — virtually all instances — to making available residential land in British Columbia, because residential land is allocated in most instances by a lot-draw system, the fairest way in which to make residential land available to people. Not only is it the fairest way; it's the way in which this government is able to keep down the cost of residential land for people in this province. So instead of giving him a certificate of purchase, we then are able to convey to him a Crown grant along with a first mortgage, with the encumbrance to ensure that that commitment that he has made to us will be abided by — in other words, that commitment to build a home within a specified time on that piece of land. So that's essentially what it applies to.
This minor change in the act doesn't apply to agricultural land at all, because agricultural land is released on the basis of lease, develop and purchase. You first lease. You don't buy agricultural land; you enter into a lease-purchase agreement with the Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing, and then you have a commitment either to put so much of that land under cultivation or to seek that condition before you can acquire the title. So it's not a question of an individual getting a certificate of purchase or getting the title with an encumbrance on it this time. No, he doesn't get that title until such time as he has performed. In other words, he goes through the lease-develop-purchase procedure rather than the ability to acquire land through a Crown grant with an encumbrance on the title. So that's where you're confused, Mr. Member for Victoria. It has no application whatsoever to the availability and disposal of agricultural land in this province.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, last week there was an auction held in Prince George. It was stopped. Here's a report from a rancher-logger who opposes the method employed by this minister to dispose of this land. Chris Winther strongly opposes the government's system for auctioning. However, he held his nose and went to the auction and bought land. He said he couldn't resist the opportunity. He paid $124,000. He outbid the local farmers and agriculturalists there. Part of that $124,000 was an upset price.
HON. MR. CHABOT: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, this section deals with certificates of purchase, the elimination of certificates of purchase and the conversion of those to the issuance of a Crown grant with an encumbrance. It has nothing to do with the lease-develop-purchase option of agricultural land. It has nothing to do with the auctions and what people pay, or whether or not there's timber on the land. It's just the advisability of moving to the question of making available a Crown grant with an encumbrance on the title retained by first mortgage.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, we seem to be straying a little bit from the section before us. There will be an opportunity, of course, in the ministerial estimates, which will be before us and which will give ample opportunity to canvass the points the member is now referring to. But we must specifically deal with the relevancy of the section.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, under the existing act the section we're dealing with is the method by which people in this province pay for Crown land. The section is called "Method of payment." I am referring....
HON. MR. CHABOT: How they purchase Crown land, not how they acquire it. It's not leased.
MR. HANSON: Okay. It's purchased in Prince George by auction.
HON. MR. CHABOT: That's not a purchase; that's a lease.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, the minister spoke on this issue and I'm just going to speak briefly on this particular case. Mr. Winther in Prince George paid $124,000 for a piece of land that is now worth $279,000.
HON. MR. CHABOT: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I tried through an interjection to outline to the member just what this particular section of the act says. It talks about the purchase of Crown land; it does not associate itself with the leasing of Crown land. There is a big difference. What you're trying to do is make a case on the issue of making agricultural land available in Prince George. That's a lease disposition, not a purchase. So I wish you'd get off the lease aspect, because this particular section is applicable only to purchase.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, I believe the matter has been very well canvassed and I would ask the member to return at this time to the specifics of section 5 before us, again reminding him that he will have ample opportunity in the ministerial estimates to canvass the point he is now referring to.
[ Page 8328 ]
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, with all due respect to the Chair, when we had second reading debate on this bill, the minister offered no information. We now have come to committee stage and he gave us his word that he would discuss it in detail in committee stage. Now he's running interference and doesn't want to answer questions in committee stage. The section of the bill is called."Method of payment" in both the existing section and the section being brought into the House. Whether it be lease or purchase, it is a method by which people pay the Crown for Crown land.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, hon. member. For the member's guidance, let me just refer to the first few words of section 5(21), which states "...where an applicant purchases Crown land." So, hon. member, we are bound by the rules of the House to canvass only those matters specific to the section. Otherwise, we could conceivably enter into either second reading or ministerial estimates each time we review any specific section. They're not my rules, hon. member. They're the rules that guide us, and I must ask at this time that the member confine his remarks to the specifics of the section — that is, as it states, the purchase of Crown land.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, the lease that the minister refers to is just a longer period in time. The purchase can occur five years later. It's still a purchase. Let me outline how it occurs. At the auction there is an upset price determined by the Crown. There is a bonus price, whereby the people attending the auction bid on those other values such as timber, etc. The method of payment is that within three days the bonus price must be paid. Each year 1 percent of the total upset price must be paid. After five years the person can purchase that land.
HON. MR. CHABOT: It's not a purchase in the initial instance.
MR. HANSON: It is a purchase. Whether it is a lease or an auction or a buy, the people are going to acquire Crown land in fee simple at some time. Your argument does not necessarily move us off the logic of my argument on this section.
I am trying to explain to the minister that that method by which he is extracting revenue from that Crown land for the benefit of the Crown is unduly favouring large logging operations and people that have large security or collateral that can outbid the local farming interest.
I was citing a case in Prince George where a person who happens to have both ranching and logging in his vocation and who opposes the method by which this Crown land is being disposed of said that he held his nose and went to the auction because he couldn't resist it. It was just too good a deal. The reason that it was too good a deal was because he acquired for $124,000, and there was sufficient timber on it, 31,000 cunits at $9 a cunit, which was $300,000. So he got $175,000 in his pocket for nothing. The ranchers are angry, the agriculturalists are angry, everyone is furious.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, hon. members. Again I can appreciate the member's brief referral. Now if we could delve back into section 5....
MR. HANSON: What I was attempting to do by pointing out the Prince George example is that the method of payment as outlined in the new amendment allows the minister the opportunity to issue a Crown grant before the full purchase price is paid. Now that may be a wonderful thing for someone who is able to acquire the land, go to the bank with the Crown grant, take the money, develop the property, etc. But when we see the practice carried out by the minister, actually how he disposes of land — how these auctions and allocations are made — the language in the new amendment will favour even more....
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for Dewdney rises on a point of order.
MR. MUSSALLEM: I've been listening very patiently here to this debate, and this is strictly a debate on the principle of this bill and not on this section whatsoever. Merely section 2 is referred to: "The chief of branch may issue a geophysical licence on receipt of an application and a payment of a fee of $25." It only says here....
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Wrong bill, George.
MR. MUSSALLEM: No, it's not the wrong bill. Mr. Chairman, there's a debate going here on principle. This merely refers to the fee of $25. Now I won't debate the fee, whether it should be a different fee or that fee, and that's all hat the debate is concerned with, nothing else. I'll go along with it, but you can't go along with any of.... This is ridiculous.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Basically, the fact has again been brought to the attention of the Chair that we are beginning to stray from section 5. The leader in the straying seems to be the second member for Victoria. I would ask again if he could possibly at this time, having canvassed other areas, conclude his remarks on section 5.
On the point of order, the member for New Westminster.
MR. COCKE: I think probably what we're suffering now is the fact that the minister insisted the other day, when second reading was up, that the bill would be more comprehensively and better debated in committee. At that time we suggested that it would not, that the latitude in committee is not sufficient to properly canvass this bill. Mr. Chairman, when a bill is debated in second reading, in principle when you open up an act, actually the whole act is at that point debatable. That's a long parliamentary principle, a precedent established long before either you or I or even the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland), who is so articulate, was here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's an interesting concept. Certainly if it was an undertaking from the House to the committee, then the arguments by the member have some validity. Nonetheless, we are still obliged somewhat to constrain our remarks, Hon. member, or we would be canvassing much more than is before us. The remarks by the member for New Westminster, which have on occasion been...
HON. MR. CHABOT: Haywire.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No. ...which on occasion have, hon. members, been brought to the Chair's attention before, and most aptly and appropriately bear some consideration on
[ Page 8329 ]
the fact.... I believe the second member for Victoria was on his feet at that time.
HON. MR. CHABOT: On a point of order, he yields to me. I appreciate the point of order raised by the member for New Westminster.
First of all, yes, I did say at the time of second reading that it was a bill that should be more appropriately discussed or debated during the committee stage, because there are many unrelated sections in this particular bill — this minor housekeeping amendment. There are many unrelated sections. Therefore I can't see how you can have an intelligent and meaningful debate during second reading with all these various sections, because I'll tell you what happens. The member stands up and goes from section to section, so what you have then is essentially a duplication of debate in the second reading and the committee stage. That's why I was brief. And I've said that I would be prepared to discuss it to the fullest extent possible with the members, and to explain to them where they're wrong sometimes and what the act and the amendments essentially do. That's what I'm trying to do.
But I want you to know that this young member over here, the second member for Victoria, is way off when he's making a point on section 5, because that's one that relates to the certificate of purchase and that talks about the purchase of Crown land. It does not talk about the lease of Crown land. The disposition of agricultural land, in 99 percent of the cases, is done through the lease mechanism, not through the purchase mechanism. What you're essentially talking about in the change is residential land, not agricultural land.
MR. HANSON: It doesn't say that.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Why don't you read one of our policy statements on the availability of agricultural land? You show me anywhere where it mentions the purchase of agricultural land, and I'll eat that manual. You show me anywhere.
It's on a lease basis, and the member is wrong when he talks about acquiring a Crown grant with an encumbrance, with a first mortgage held by the Crown to protect its assets in the public interest — when he associates it with agriculture. I suggest that the member doesn't know what he is talking about if he's going to persist that way.
MR. HANSON: The minister is attempting to obfuscate this whole thing. The method of payment in the legislation is in the act before us. We're interested in the law, which is what we're debating here, not some brochure that's up in Fort Street or some other office in this province — something that could be changed any moment. What he is doing is moving the disposition of Crown land, and the way it is administered, out of the public view. This is what we are opposed to. The method of payment will favour those with sufficient security, in getting the ear of the minister to obtain a Crown grant. That is what we are opposing here.
MR. HOWARD: I have just a very few brief remarks. I'm inclined to believe, in listening to the minister, that no matter what valid points are raised by the second member for Victoria — and he raised many of them — the minister would find some way of squeezing out from under and not wanting to deal with him. But that's all right. That's the way the minister functions.
There's a lot of bad feeling out there. There's a lot of disappointment.
MR. KEMPF: Especially in your constituency.
MR. HOWARD: That's mostly because the member for Omineca visits Smithers occasionally; that's why there is bad feeling. Stay off the wine for a while, Jack, and you'll be able to get up to date on things.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Hon. member, I must ask....
MR. HOWARD: I had no imputations or accusations of motivation in that. I was only responding to the inane interruptions from the member for Omineca.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, hon. member. The remark is withdrawn.
MR. HOWARD: I was talking with the minister, and there is a lot of dissatisfaction. People have a lot of difficulty in trying to get hold of a small piece of land on which to build a house. I could relate instances that date back over quite a number of years where the rules are changed: the lands branch says one thing one day, the person tries to comply with it and a couple of months later they find the rules have been changed and they can't comply with them because they've moved the goal-posts. There are quite a number of instances of that nature among people who apply for Crown land.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
The frustration that they feel is usually visited upon the land managers, the local officials of the ministry. They're the people in the front line, the ones who get the abuse and have the visits from those citizens who want to acquire a piece of land. But that's not where their anger should be visited. It should be visited upon the minister; because all the land managers, the regional people and the district people are doing is carrying out policy.
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Chairman, I rise on standing order 43 to ask what relevancy this kind of debate has to this particular section.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The point of order is well taken. The committee is advised once again that we are on section 5. Perhaps we could be specific, as our standing orders require us to do. Be relevant and specific to section 5 with respect to full purchase price and what's carried there.
MR. HOWARD: That was exactly the section that I was dealing with — the one that talks about an applicant purchasing Crown land and so on. I'm talking about leases and about the difficulties that people have had in making applications to purchase Crown land and the difficulties that they have because of the policies of this minister, not because of the policies of people in the local offices, who are just carrying out the orders of the minister. Even municipalities have difficulty. The town of Smithers passed a motion a while ago asking if the minister would provide Crown land at half price, I believe it was, so that they could service it and develop it. That was the theory of it, as I understood it, and the whole
[ Page 8330 ]
council went along with that. The minister said: "No way. You're not going to get that kind of deal. He had reasons for doing it. The reasons that he advanced....
HON. MR. CHABOT: On a point of order, we're not dealing with the Smithers council and the problems associated with getting Crown land. We're dealing here with a change, and the change is very minor. The change is moving from giving a certificate of purchase as a receipt for the purchase of Crown land to the minister taking out a first mortgage and issuing the Crown grant with an encumbrance. It has nothing to do with the attitude of a few socialists on the Smithers council or anything like that. So it's very narrow, and I hope that you would just read that little section.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your point of order is, once again, well taken. I'm sure all members are aware of the implications of the specific section before us. The committee would be well served if we could be relevant to that section.
MR. HOWARD: The minister mentioned something about being very narrow. The only thing is his narrow attitude towards the acquisition of Crown land. The record should show, and it probably will be disclosed to those people who are interested in this subject matter out there, that the minister hid behind some minor technicality to refuse to deal with a very valid question — namely, the opportunity of people to acquire Crown land upon which they can build residential homes. That's what we're dealing with. It's the purchases here as well that we're talking about. The minister is putting and has put every possible obstacle in the way of the average citizen trying to get his hands on a little piece of land to build a home at a reasonable price. That's what we're faced with. Narrow? You bet, Mr. Chairman. As narrow-minded as it is possible for a cabinet minister to get about this subject matter that's what is applicable to this minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll remind the committee that we cannot deal in any debate in the committee or in the House with personal allusions. I'm sure all members are aware of that. The minister has indicated the specific narrowness of this section before us. I believe that the members are now entering debate which would be much more appropriately dealt with in the ministerial estimates.
HON. MR. CHABOT: The member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) mentioned that the minister is hiding behind this narrow and small change to the Land Act and suggested that I'm not prepared to answer questions about land and its disposition in this province. He'll have ample opportunity to ask all the questions he wants. He'll get all the answers, too.
Sections 5 and 6 approved.
On section 7.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of further questions for the minister. This is a very intriguing section. In past practice, when Crown land was disposed of or transferred to the federal government or anyone else, section 47 of the existing act ensured that the subsurface mineral rights.... Let me just read this section. It's under exceptions and reservations.
"(1) A disposition of Crown land under this or another act (a) excepts and reserves the following interests, rights and privileges, (i) a right in the Crown, or any person acting for it....
It talks about any construction of roads, canals, bridges, etc. Then it goes on:
"(ii) a right in the Crown, or any person acting for it or under its authority, to enter any part of the land and to raise and get out of it any minerals, precious or base, including coal, petroleum and any gas or gases which may be found in, on or under the land, and to use and enjoy any and every part of the land, and of its easements....
"(iii) a right in any person authorized by the Crown to take and occupy water privileges and to have and enjoy the rights of carrying of water over, through or under any part of the land granted....
"(iv) a right in any person authorized by the Crown to take from any part of the land granted, without compensation, gravel sand, stone, lime, timber or other material...."
The interesting part of this bill is that this amendment excludes this section from the transfers to the federal government. In other words, these subsurface resources — water and all these things — that his government says should belong to Ontario are now subject to exemption. In other words, the province could transfer the subsurface rights — the water rights, etc. — to the federal government. Would you explain in detail what this means?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased to explain to the member just what is contained in this minor change in the Land Act. Essentially it gives officials of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing more flexibility in dealing with dispositions of Crown land to the federal Crown. In many instances we deal with small sites — be they coast guard stations, parcels of land that the national government wants to acquire for salmonid enhancement programs or small parcels of land for marine stations. Under these circumstances there are exceptions raised about all these restrictions, and some of them are really not applicable. I agree with the need for the protection of the provincial Crown by some of these exceptions that are noted under section 47 of the Land Act. In many instances they're irrelevant as far as the disposition of some of these sites to the federal government from time to time. What it really does is give the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing a little more flexibility in conveying land to the federal Crown. That's essentially what it does. It's a good little amendment.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, perhaps it will help the second member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson) if I also advise that in order for us to proceed with the settlements of the cutoff lands with respect to the 21 bands still remaining outstanding, we must be in the position to transfer those lands presently in the name of the Crown provincial to the Crown land of the federal government, because those lands will go back and form part of those Indian reserves. We therefore must free ourselves from the mandatory conditions that are spelled out in section 47, because when the reserves were established in the first place, they were not subject to any of those conditions. When we transfer the cutoff lands back we want them to be in exactly the same condition, and we can't do it without getting away from section 47. As you will note,
[ Page 8331 ]
this section still leaves to the minister the right to stipulate in the particular grant those conditions to which the grant must remain entitled in other circumstances. In concluding those Indian land settlements we must be able to transfer them free to the Crown land of Canada.
MR. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank the Attorney-General for his response. I had canvassed that subject at an earlier time, and the answer I got was that the cutoff lands were not applicable, and this legislation was not entertaining that idea.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Where did you canvass that?
MR. HANSON: I canvassed that with you.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Where?
MR. HANSON: Right out of this hall. The Attorney-General realizes that it's very important for us to anticipate what may be on this minister's mind, because he certainly doesn't state it in this House.
As the Attorney-General stated, under section 47(4), the authority of the minister is not limited in terms of exceptions and reservations. You can negotiate with the federal government under the existing statute. It says: "A disposition of Crown land may, by express words, except or reserve to the Crown rights and privileges more extensive than those referred to in subsection (1)," which contains all of those — subsurface and above-surface. This seems like a redundant section. That's why we're always suspicious of this minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is unparliamentary, hon. member. Please, to the section.
MR. HANSON: In the resolution of the cutoff lands, I can understand why the subsurface, the other rights, benefits and privileges of that land, would have to be secured in one package. Why the Coast Guard sites would feel they had to have value from that land other than just the right to occupy its surface is something that perhaps the minister could clarify. Why would a marine station or a site for a salmon-enhancement program need the subsurface rights and other status of ownership? Can't they just get some rights of usage? In those cases, why do you have to transfer ownership to the federal government?
Sections 7 to 11 inclusive approved.
On section 12.
MR. HANSON: I have a question on section 12, prohibition of use of Crown land in designated areas. The change is for the authority to prohibit a specific use of Crown land in a designated area. How does this section affect, for example, a designated ecological reserve, or some land designation under another act? Under this section you don't have to post it in the Gazette; there's no public notice.
What about the question of public access to Crown land in general in this section? Specifically, how does this section relate to ecological reserves? How does it relate to public access to Crown land?
HON. MR. CHABOT: There is a very minor change to this section. All it does essentially is bring it under the Regulation Act. As the explanatory note points out, it requires publication, which means that any reserves established would appear in the B.C. Gazette. I don't see where there's any change of a substantial nature; just the publishing of them.
Section 12 approved.
HON. MR. CHABOT: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 54, Land Amendment Act, 1982, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ATTORNEY-GENERAL
On vote 10: minister's office, $149,981.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, to assist members in their consideration of the expenditure estimates for the ministry, I would like to detail several of the major features of our estimates this year. At the outset, I should observe that the estimates for the current fiscal year of $314.9 million have been increased by $48.7 million, or 18 percent, over fiscal 1981-82. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in the approved establishment of the ministry by 181 persons over the previous fiscal year.
Members will observe from their consideration of the estimates that the major increase is recorded in the police services vote. The increase of approximately $17 million reflects the negotiations which went on through 1981 with the federal government for the renewal of the RCMP contract. That contract provided for an increase to provinces in the cost-sharing formula and a redefinition of the cost base, and adjusted the basis for contract billings for the current fiscal year. Those factors, in combination, resulted in the increase which is reflected by these estimates.
In the administration and support services vote the increase of $4.5 million reflects increased building occupancy charges associated in the main with major new facilities which have been or will be occupied by the ministry during this fiscal year. Among those facilities is the Vancouver pre-trial services centre, which should be operational in January 1983. Additionally a number of new court facilities are also included in the expanding building occupancy base for the ministry.
As I previously noted, there has been a significant increase in staff resources this fiscal year. Of the 181 positions, 49 represent the conversion of long-standing auxiliary positions to full-time positions in the ministry. Approximately 60 positions were provided to court services to meet the requirements of new court facilities and to assist in the development of a trial coordination program in the provincial court. That
[ Page 8332 ]
program will lead to a significant improvement of the use of current facilities and resources in lower mainland provincial courts. Additional staff has also been provided to the office of the public trustee and the land titles program to assist in the implementation of computer-based management systems.
I must bring to the attention of members, however, my concern not only with the details of the estimates of the ministry, but with the continued growth in demand for service throughout the justice system in the province. We are witnessing an exceptional pressure on that system because of continuing growth and demand for service. We have recorded steadily increasing pressure on policing resources throughout the province and a corresponding increase through the courts and the correctional system.
I am particularly concerned at this time with the pressure which is being exerted on the correctional system. Where the province has recorded a relatively stable corrections population over the past decade, there are indications of some growth in the past 12 months. There has been a continuous growth in the adult inmate population and an equivalent pressure is exerted on the juvenile programs and facilities in the province. With the prospect of the proclamation and implementation of the Young Offenders Act in the spring of next year, we can expect those pressures to rise significantly.
Over the past year the average number of sentence omissions has increased by 24 percent; provincial correctional facilities are severely taxed, and we have during the year operated at emergency capacity levels in a number of our institutions. While our primary objective must be to develop in our society behaviour which avoids contact with the criminal justice system, we must nevertheless be prepared to deal with those who come in conflict with the law and to do this in the most effective way. This demand for service must be met, in large measure, through improved programming; at the same time, however, correctional facilities in the province must be improved to meet the demand we are presently confronting,
As a priority the ministry has identified the need to redevelop and replace existing correctional facilities throughout the province. For decades correctional facility development in the province has been neglected, with the result that a capital replacement program remains one of the highest priorities of the ministry. Further capital development is also planned for court facilities. In the fiscal year just completed, new or expanded court facilities were provided in Terrace, Sidney, Campbell River, Houston and Invermere. In the current fiscal year the ministry will continue to completion new facilities in Ashcroft, Kamloops Kitimat, North Vancouver, Port Alberni and Vanderhoof. These facilities, representing approximately $42 million in capital projects, will provide significant employment in the various regions of the province where those facilities will be located.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to advise members that the ministry has enjoyed a particularly successful year in dealing with a wide range of responsibilities. That achievement, in the most part, is a reflection of the dedication and professional commitment of the staff of this ministry.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I hope we're dealing with a changed man holding the office of Attorney-General. That big 60 should make some difference, should it not?
HON. MR. GARDOM: What did it do to you?
MR. MACDONALD: I can't remember. There are three ways to tell when you're kind of getting hilly like that; one of them is that you begin to lose your memory, and the other two I can't remember.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps even in moments of levity, the committee could be reminded that personal allusions are not really appropriate in Committee of Supply. Please proceed.
MR. MACDONALD: I'm talking about myself. I went to the doctor and he checked me all over and said: 'Alex, you're fine; you'll live to be 60." I said: "Doctor, I passed that some time ago."
However, I'm going to deal with a number of subjects, and I'm going to start by chiding the Attorney-General very much in terms of being open. He still has too much of a tendency to secrecy and to nurturing things, even with his cabinet colleagues.
This is my only reference to the case of Olson — one of the greatest tragedies that's ever happened in this province in terms of those children. It's my contention, however, that the Attorney-General should have had an open public inquest. I realize that the inquiry carried on by the coroner was quite thorough, but surely you can't satisfy the public on a thing of that importance that the procedures have been correct, that everything possible was done, unless you have a public inquiry. Yet the Attorney-General wrote to his colleague the hon. Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) on May 14, 1982 — it's an example of what I call hiding the acorns and not being candid with his colleagues or with the public — saying: "With respect to the matter of a public inquest, this is a decision which rests solely with the chief coroner. I have no authority to direct him to hold an inquest, and it would be entirely inappropriate for me to interfere with him in the exercise of his quasi-judicial responsibilities."
Now of course that is pure nonsense; the Attorney-General has the authority to direct an inquest. He has the authority, and I'll read the section, because — and I'm sure the Attorney-General knows it — under section 24 of the Coroners Act it states that "the Attorney-General may order an inquest...where he is satisfied that a coroner refuses or neglects to hold an inquest which ought to be held." Now you can be very legalistic about that, but to write to a colleague and say, "I have no authority to direct that an inquest be held in a case where it should be held," is ridiculous. It's really telling that colleague and the public — presumably this is the message — something that isn't in accordance with the law or the facts of the situation.
Once the Attorney-General knew that an inquiry was going to be held and not an inquest, that was a case where the coroner had neglected to hold an inquest. For the Attorney-General to say, "I have no authority to direct this inquest," is simply ridiculous and misleading one of his own cabinet colleagues. That's the kind of secretiveness we don't need in this ministry. We get far too much of it.
I want to raise two or three subjects with the Attorney-General, and to discuss a case that the ombudsman brought before the Attorney-General. The inquiry was ordered by the former Attorney-General, now the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom). In March 1979, that minister announced he had started a complete review of the horse-racing industry in the province of British Columbia, and briefs were received. In referring to it a year later, the
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present Attorney-General said it would be made public. I cannot possibly imagine why it should not be made public anyway. I think this government's habit of hiding and burying reports and inquiries that have been paid for with taxpayer money is highly reprehensible. For that Attorney-General, who comes into this House or before the public and says, "I maybe introducing freedom-of-information legislation," to bury this report is totally unjustifiable.
The ombudsman, whose job was created by statute, ran into stonewalling, obstruction and delay and various explanations as to why this public report should not be available to the public — or to the cabinet for its decision-making; there's no harm in that. The cabinet did make its decision. The report was prepared, filed and received. As a result, the laws were changed, and B.C. breeders received a higher percentage of the parimutuel take. Some of them were not satisfied with it. The explanation that the Attorney-General finally gave to the ombudsman and to the people of the province of British Columbia for suppressing that report by way of a certificate under section 17 of the act was on the basis that it might be involved in cabinet deliberations, could apply to any report prepared for government. In other words, you stonewalled the ombudsman, contrary to your own commitment that it be made public, and on the most technical, flimsy and invalid grounds.
The section which the ombudsman reports that the Attorney-General relies on says: "if the document or thing might result in or involve the disclosure of deliberations of the executive council." Why should a public report involve the disclosure of the deliberations of the cabinet? I've never in my life heard of anything more nonsensical, illogical and invalid in terms of reasoning. So the public asks why the Attorney-General of British Columbia, who pretends to believe in freedom of information, is hiding this report." Some people say it's because it involves the brother of the Premier, R.J. Bennett, who is one of the biggest breeders of horses in the province.
MR. MACDONALD: You say that's being very unfair; that's not the real reason. But the reasons that the Attorney-General gave are totally unjustifiable — absolutely unjustifiable. It's legal chop logic that doesn't mean a thing. If that's the way you, Mr. Attorney-General, interpret the Ombudsman Act, then you've stymied the ombudsman on any case you want. You'll say: "Oh, this might come before cabinet; it might involve disclosure of deliberations of the executive council." How that could happen is totally beyond me. It's the kind of secretiveness that has characterized the Attorney-General's ministry, rather than open justice. It's the kind of thing that would not for a moment be tolerated in a court of law. That's the kind of thing we object to.
I also object to the way the regional prosecutor, Mr. Hoem, was handled. I know his case is before the courts, and I suspect the Attorney-General is going to lose the case because he made a judgment call. I won't discuss the case itself, but I would remind the Attorney-General that following the firing of Mr. Al Hoem, he made....
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I shouldn't have to remind the second member for Vancouver East. He is aware that there are proceedings in the courts in this province, and the matter he's discussing therefore is sub judice.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The point is well taken. The committee is advised of the rule of sub judice, and we cannot offend it. I would ask the hon. second member for Vancouver East and all other members to bear that in mind, because this is something that could happen during these particular estimates.
MR. MACDONALD: I do not intend to discuss that case any more than I have done already. At the time the Attorney-General was asked about that, he went on and said these words. "The Attorney- General said that he can't say whether other persons are being disciplined, but that's a possibility." That was totally unjustifiable coming from the Attorney-General of British Columbia. That's a message going out to other Crown prosecutors, who I would assume are doing their duty, and giving them the intimation — which in my opinion is a threat — that if they offend the Attorney-General or government because they're zealous in the conduct of their office, they too will receive the treatment that Hoem received. That's the only plain meaning of the words. If somebody has to be discharged from the public service and it is properly done and there were proper grounds for that discharge, fine. But you don't throw a general threat over all the rest of them out there embarked on their duties. Maybe the Attorney-General will stand up and say that I misquoted. What I have quoted is from the newspapers, and if the Attorney-General assures me that he was misquoted I'll be glad to take his word. But if he was not misquoted about the possibility of other Crown counsel being discharged....
This has nothing to do with the Hoem case, Mr. Chairman. I see you are in a very pensive mood and listening closely. I'm talking about the others and this veiled threat from the Attorney-General that they might go down the road. "That's a possibility." You don't make that kind of remark, especially to people who are fulfilling a quasi-judicial function as a prosecutor has to do. I can't talk about the main discharge that took place, but I can say that those remarks should never have been made by the Attorney-General of British Columbia,
I will see if the Attorney-General responds and then bring up one or two other matters.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: In reverse order, if the member will consider very carefully the question posed to me and the answer given, I think that he will see that level of frankness that he says is missing from the discharge of my responsibility. Maybe I could clarify the matter for the member by simply saying that there were other members of the criminal justice division involved in the circumstances of the case associated with Mr. Hoem. The question was asked at a particular time in our consideration of those matters and the answer was given accordingly. It was frank and fair. I can assure the member and you, Mr. Chairman, that that investigation has been complete and that no other Crown counsel are being disciplined.
With respect to the ombudsman's report, the special report which deals with the matter of horse-racing, I continue to be amazed at the inability of members of the Legislature to read the ombudsman's report and to do so with understanding. The horse-race report was the result of extensive inquiry made by officials of the Ministry of the Attorney-General, the
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Ministry of Finance and the then Ministry of Economic Development, now Industry and Small Business Development. This was started under my predecessor and completed just about the time that I became the Attorney-General.
I read the report, and I admit that I was asked in the corridor by a member of the press if it would be public and I said: Yes, it would. However, on subsequent examination of the report it was clear that matters dealt with by the horse-race study task force or committee covered not only matters of taxation but also matters which had implications for the Criminal Code and were then the subject of continuing discussions between this province and the federal government, both the Department of Agriculture in the federal government and the Department of Justice, and as well as by other provinces. It was the subject of discussion among the provincial Attorneys-General at the meeting in Newfoundland last fall. Some of the matters dealt with in that report have not yet been completed. As a consequence, when a demand was made for production of the report, I considered that it was inappropriate on that occasion to make the report public. I know this has created concern in the minds of some people that there are aspects of the report which are being denied to them. May I hasten to say that to the extent that they are, they are matters which still remain under consideration by this and other governments. All the other aspects of the report which were dealt with have indeed been translated into legislation that has passed in this House.
The ombudsman embarked upon his study and the difficulty arose only when he demanded not only to see the report as part of his investigation but also to see all of the files of the ministry associated therewith. Those files dealt with matters which extended far beyond the ambit of the report itself. Those files contained cabinet submissions which were made by me with respect to horse racing matters and taxation matters following discussions with the Minister of Finance. To that extent I was unable to make available to the ombudsman the material that he requested without interfering with the matters which were the subject of deliberations before the executive council, and I so informed him. To my surprise the ombudsman then offered me the opportunity of selectively making available to him parts of the file. I considered that that would be a most inappropriate step for me to take because it would place the ombudsman in, I thought, a very embarrassing position. As a consequence his continued insistence that he have the material in order that he could complete his inquiry of the matter necessitated that I issue a certificate that the statute provides in those circumstances.
With respect to the matter of the powers of the Attorney-General and the coroner, the member has read the section. He therefore knows perfectly well that it is the right of the Attorney-General to order an inquest if any particular matter arises only when the coroner refuses or neglects to hold an inquest. There was no refusal on the part of the coroner; that was his choice. There certainly was no neglect on his part. The second member for Vancouver-East (Mr. MacDonald), as the former Attorney-General, knows better than anyone in this House that the coroner and his service are there to answer five questions: who, when, where, how and by what means a person came to his or her death. He also knows that in capital criminal cases that have proceeded to the courts and resulted in a conviction and a sentence, the answers to those five questions are implicit in the material which is available in the court either as evidence — or, as in the case of Olson, in the statements that were made during the concluding hours of those proceedings. It is strictly in accordance with the policy of the coroner service in those cases that there be no inquiry. Hence there was neither a refusal to hold one nor was the coroner negligent. The opportunity for the exercise of my power did not arise.
Under the present chief coroner, however, the practice of holding an inquiry has been instituted, because in previous years when files were open with respect to the death of a person by criminal conduct, there was never any formality taken with respect to the closing of that file. On this occasion the chief coroner instructed Dr. Aske, one of his regional coroners, to hold an inquiry, and by reason of the circumstances it was an extensive and thorough inquiry and, in that method, the case was thoroughly reviewed. Dr. Askey has made his report and has made it public. Therefore the inquiry and the responsibilities of the Coroners Act have, in that respect, been fully discharged.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I'm glad that what the Attorney-General has said now on the matter of the Crown prosecutors has been cleared up. I don't think that he should have used the words he did in the first place, but we can leave that. I'm taking the two points in the order in which he brought them up.
The ombudsman. The Attorney-General now says, about a report that was prepared on horse-racing and betting, that there are ongoing discussions after the legislation was introduced into this House — and the Legislature of B.C. and the people of B.C. had no opportunity to see the report — with the Minister of Agriculture, and that the government of British Columbia may take a position with respect to amendments to the Criminal Code. Why the devil shouldn't the people of B.C. have a right to know that and know what position we're taking? What has to be secret about that? Nothing. Under most ministers and under this minister, in terms of the police negotiations.... We heard from the Attorney-General from time to time about his negotiations with Ottawa. Why should that be held in secret? What's secret about that — seeking an amendment to the Criminal Code, and the position you're taking with the Minister of Agriculture?
In any case, it's got nothing whatsoever to do with the wording of section 17 of the Ombudsman Act, under which the Attorney-General has suppressed the report. That says that if the report should result in or involve the disclosure of deliberations of the executive council.... The report doesn't do that; the report can't do that. If it did report deliberations of the council — which, I presume, means what this minister and that minister had to think about it and what kind of debate there was in cabinet — it wouldn't be in the report. If it were, as the ombudsman said: "Well, we take that part out and release the rest." I think it's pure nonsense to say that this report involved disclosure of the deliberations of cabinet. Nevertheless, that's what the Attorney-General is saying. And I say it's secrecy, secrecy, secrecy — hiding away from the public things they have a right to know, asking the public to support your amendments to the parimutuel act and not letting them see the reports, so they can see whether or not you're making sense and carrying out the recommendations of the report, and if not, for what reason.
This is a secretive government and it's just a joke that this Attorney-General now says he's thinking about bringing in freedom-of-information legislation. I'd hate to think what it will be if this kind of an exception can be made. The minister
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says that the ombudsman wanted to see the files of the ministry and there were cabinet submissions in there. Well, if they reveal how people deliberated in cabinet under the meaning of that section, take them out and show them the rest — open your files. I think it's a very reprehensible case of secrecy in government, the very opposite of open government, being practised by the Attorney-General.
In terms of the inquest, the Attorney-General is taking the position on the Olson thing that he had, as he said in his letter.... He didn't point out anything more than saying: "I have no authority to direct an inquest." All that section says is that the Attorney-General may order an inquest where a coroner refuses or neglects to hold an inquest which ought to be held. This isn't a court of law, and it's the Attorney-General rather than me, I think, who's getting very technical about these things. What that section says is that where the Attorney-General thinks there should be an inquest into a death, he has the authority to order it, because the coroner service isn't doing it. And if you can have an inquiry, you can have an inquest. The criminal trial and proceedings were all over, the appeal procedure had been exhausted, as far as I know, and it should have been an open inquest.
To hide behind a very technical interpretation of that section is, I think, again an example of very secretive government. I think that we the people of British Columbia were entitled, in that very tragic Olson thing, to an open inquest, which happens in the case of ordinary deaths. In these very exceptional and tragic circumstances the public had a right to an open hearing. There may have been certain things that could not be adduced before a public inquest in the Olson matter — things that were adduced to a private inquiry and could not be to a public inquest. It's possible. I can't imagine what they might be, because I think that when you investigate a series of deaths of that kind everything should be made available. Whether they are statements of the accused relating to what has happened or not, they should be made available once the criminal procedures are over. Except out some things if you will, and argue in an open inquest that they should not be revealed, but for goodness' sake, don't say that you have no authority to order an inquest, when in my opinion — and in the plain wording of that section — the Attorney-General has that authority where in his opinion an inquest ought to be held — where in his discretion it's not going to be held and he thinks it should be.
I'd like to say something very briefly about my old friend Les Bewley. In saying that I don't know how you can treat some of these things that former Judge Bewley.... I suppose he's still entitled to the name judge, by all means. I might say very briefly in opening this subject that I was given all kinds of dire intimations when I came to this session that people were going to criticize me for what I had said about the deputy Attorney-General. It hasn't happened, and if it does I'll be glad to be the guest. I've always taken the position — and I did in that case — that we have a good public service in the province, and when things go wrong in a ministry, it's the minister who should step in. I still think that. I still think that in the Rigg and Moran case the Attorney-General should have ordered an investigation. I could lay out the facts, but they' re already in Hansard. That's still my opinion because I think that something went very wrong. I have stronger criticism of the Rigg case than in a private lawsuit where the matter is not being investigated — stronger criticism than was expressed by the supreme court judge who heard a private case. He criticized it. The Moran case was extracted from his review, because it wasn't relevant at that stage in the private lawsuit. There should have been a public inquiry into both of those cases, and the Attorney-General sat on that public inquiry and prevented it from taking place. He said: "Oh, there will be a private lawsuit and that will be the public investigation."
Getting back to Judge Bewley, he is speaking to the public of British Columbia today as an authentic "bring back the rope, throw the key away" hard-liner in the justice system. I think it's kind of strange to read what he really did in terms of adjudicating in the Rigg case. I think it should be read into the record. At a later stage he said that he couldn't recall the details, but that it was a petty case of its kind — barely worth taking the time of a busy court. Yet that was a case of a young boy of 17 who was accused of impaired driving. The breathalyser said so. In the course of the decision itself, the judge at the time said that the young man had been punished enough just by being brought to court. He said: "...because if I convicted him I'd only give him an absolute discharge anyway." Upon learning that Rigg had a defence lawyer named John McAlpine retained privately, he continued: "So you're going to have to pay the fees, oh? I hope it's a substantial one. Okay, that will be his penalty." I find it very amusing that Les Bewley goes through the province of British Columbia as a hard-liner, when in one of the most dangerous offences as far as the public are concerned, which is drunk driving, he handled the case in that particular way.
I also want to ask the Attorney-General these questions. As the Attorney-General and everybody knows, we've had problems relating to the expenses of ministers of the Crown and perhaps other people. When you get into that kind of thing — and, quite frankly, I'm talking about the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman) and the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Neilson), in particular — and you're the Attorney-General of the province, the matter of the extravagance of expenses that are charged to the taxpayer is not a legal matter; it’s a political matter. The Attorney-General may, and I think should, say to himself: "Being a kind of trustee for public ethics in the province, I should be concerned about that aspect too." If somebody really did pay $440 for a hotel room in Montreal, I would think that is part of the obligations and concern of the Attorney-General. But it's not a legal matter.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, we must relate our remarks to the administrative actions of the department whose estimates are before us. I'm sure the member is well aware of the provisions and limitation of debate in Committee of Supply.
MR. MACDONALD: I certainly am, and I'm also aware that the Attorney-General has a role to play in that kind of extravagance which I've referred to, and an even more significant role in terms of expenses which may not be legitimate. In these matters you have that twofold situation: some you may say are extravagant but legally accountable, while others appear to be not legitimate expenses. Here the Attorney-General has a very definite role, and I'm going to ask him a number of questions.
I'll give three examples. In the case of the Clark Davey dinner, which the Attorney-General and everybody else know all about, an account was submitted to the government and paid and, after it all came out, repaid. That Clark Davey was the guest justified the public nature of the dinner, so that the amount — I think it was $61 — could be paid out.
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MR. CHAIRMAN: Once again, hon. member, the Chair is having trouble relating this to the administrative actions of the Attorney-General, the minister whose estimate is before us. The committee will be well served if we relate our remarks to Committee of Supply.
MR. MACDONALD: I'll certainly relate it to you, Mr. Chairman. I'm asking whether this isn't a proper matter for investigation by the Attorney-General, and what he's done about it. If the enforcement of the laws of British Columbia and a reasonable investigation to see what should be done is not a part of his responsibility, whose is it? Is it yours, Mr. Chairman? No, it's the Attorney-General's. I think I'm perfectly in order.
In the case of that dinner, a very serious question is raised as to the validity, the legitimacy, of the charge against the public purse. In the case of the dinner at Prince George, where the Minister of Health sat down with others and wine was ordered, with food — and again this is well known to the Attorney-General — we have a question of the legitimacy of the expense; not the extravagance, but the legitimacy of it. The story is well known: there you have a bill that was changed by the hotel at the behest of government because the Finance authorities said that liquor could not be paid for. The bill then submitted was, on its face, a false bill. It said that the dinners, which had been $6.15 or something, were now $10 for each of the guests. That's not true. The bill was a false one. So a false bill comes into the government of British Columbia and is paid. That raises a serious question of the legitimacy of that kind of transaction,
A third example would be the Arizona trip of the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hyndman). Again, its extravagance is a political question, but the legitimacy of the expense claim is one that an Attorney-General cannot ignore. The public is entitled to say that this Attorney-General, in terms of his role, has made some investigation of these matters. I simply ask what the Attorney-General has done.
The transcripts of the public accounts committee — what has already been stated before the public — raise a question. That kind of question was very quickly resolved by the government in the case of the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis). I have to make that comparison.
In view of these three cases, which raise serious questions as to the legitimacy of the expense, I'm asking the Attorney-General.... And if it were not legitimate — say the Arizona trip had been arranged well ahead of time, perhaps when the minister was a private MLA, as a holiday, and later converted into a business thing, but not legitimately, so that the taxpayers should not be asked to pay $1,506 — has the Attorney-General inquired or taken any steps to see that what happened in these three cases is not the kind of thing that warranted a very thorough investigation in the terms of the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour? So I'm asking him those questions.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: With respect to the matter of ministerial expenses, the answer is very clear. Allegations of extravagance are a matter properly within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Finance in his capacity as chairman of the Treasury Board, and I'm certain that he is discharging his responsibility in that respect.
With regard to any allegations that any particular expense may not be legitimate, that raises the question as to whether or not fraud is in place. The second member for Vancouver East and the former Attorney-General of this province will be aware of that.
The member attempts to compare the situation with that in which the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour found himself. At the moment there is no fair comparison that can be made, except one. In the case involving the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour, a complaint was made to the authorities in that regard by a citizen who became aware of certain circumstances. I find it passing strange that the information with respect to expenses of the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs came specifically to the attention of one of the members of the opposition, who was formerly a police officer, but what did they do? Did they go to the authorities and say: "We have something that's very strange, and perhaps you should investigate"? No, they sat on it and used it for political purposes until, finally, they leaked it to a newspaper. You see, Mr. Member, the comparison between the cases involving the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour and the hon. Minister for Consumer and Corporate Affairs falls apart in that respect. It falls apart because of the failure on the part of your members, and perhaps you, sir, to discharge your responsibility, if indeed there is any basis for such concern.
Specifically you asked me whether the Attorney-General is investigating the matter. I said at the outset, and I say again today, that it has been referred to the criminal justice division of this ministry, and every step appropriate to the circumstances is being taken.
MR. MACDONALD: The Attorney-General has answered the question in part. I'm not going to get into an argument about how the information came to light. It's a very good thing it did come to light. It's very much in the public interest, and sometimes members of the opposition need bigger investigative services that are not available — as they can be with a paper. But that's a separate argument. Mr. Attorney-General, you ought to be darned thankful that a thorough investigation was made, and you ought to be very surprised that one of your own cabinet colleagues for a long time has taken the fifth amendment on these things and refused to give an explanation to the public. You, as the guardian of public morality in the province, should be very surprised at that kind of conduct.
You say that the distinction with the case of the member for North Vancouver–Seymour is that a complaint was made. That's not a distinction. The Attorney-General is the chief law enforcement officer of the Crown and of the people of the province of B.C. If something comes to his attention, he's bound to initiate inquiries whether or not a private citizen has made a complaint to him. If it's under your nose, look at it. Now you've said that you are looking at it, that you are treating the thing seriously. All I can say is that it's rather surprising that to this date we have not heard a report as a result of that investigation. I would hope that the ministers concerned would be forthcoming with you, in terms of that investigation, as they have not been — I'm talking about the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs — with the people who put up the money: the people of the province of British Columbia. If that inquiry and investigation is proceeding, so be it. I hope that at a proper stage the Attorney-General will make a statement and that, in terms of fairness,
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we'll have some kind of statement which will be sufficiently detailed, that if there is a distinction between these cases and that of the hon. member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis), in the interests of his peace of mind and the public's right to know we'll be able to know what that distinction is.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
MR. LEVI: I want to ask the Attorney-General some questions, and perhaps we can get some assurances from him in respect to certain parts of the Olson case. I don't want to go into that. What I would like the Attorney-General to tell us is: what is now in place, or will be in place, to assure the public that some of the truly unfortunate events that took place in respect to that case cannot be repeated. I fully realize that what the Attorney-General has to deal with in this matter is two bureaucracies, a federal one and a provincial one.
I'm thinking now of the penitentiary system, which is a federally operated system, and his own administrative duties as the chief law enforcement officer in the province. It's always been a great tragedy, not only in this province but in all provinces, that over the last 30 years, to my certain knowledge, we have had some very unfortunate occurrences because there continue to be inadequate safeguards in respect to dangerous offenders. It's true that there has been legislation which is supposed or bring people who are dangerous offenders to the bar of justice. I was a little surprised at Coroner Askey's report, in which he asked for what I think he referred to as the return or re-implementation of habitual criminal proceedings. Actually, he's probably a little bit out of date. We do have dangerous sexual offender legislation on the books. Not three months ago there was an individual who was found to be a dangerous offender.
I can recall that in the early sixties there were a number of cases not too dissimilar to the recent Olson case in respect to the deaths of children. As a result of that, the then Attorney-General of the province and the federal people looked at the possibility of doing something about offenders who were being discharged from the penitentiary and who were considered dangerous, as estimated by psychiatric and classification studies, the general feelings of the police, and information that came out as a result of field reports for parole applications — people knew that this particular individual who was going to be released at the end of his sentence was a time-bomb. At that particular time in the early sixties, there was a procedure by which offenders were picked up at the gate of the penitentiary and taken over to Riverview. There was a provision which they were able to use. I think, if I remember rightly, that it was a provision of the Mental Health Act — a section which says that if the individual is liable to be a danger to himself or the public, you can move....Unfortunately, that was done in about a dozen cases. In at least three or four of the cases.... The one I certainly remember was so prophetic that the individual was subsequently convicted of another offence and committed as what was then called a criminal sexual psychopath. They changed the name shortly after that.
The difficulty I think we have has been a difficulty that I've always felt it's high time this country got itself out of. I personally do not favour a continuation of two distinct jurisdictions in respect to looking after inmates of institutions. I think it's wrong and it's a duplication. I think we have to find some way that the provincial governments will be responsible for the prisoners they have in their provinces, because the prisoners who come out of jail tend to stay in the province. I can recall many years ago when they brought in the Matsqui drug institution. All of a sudden we found ourselves in the most ridiculous situation of having inmates flown from all over Canada to that institution because it was a drug institution. Afterwards, many of these people were released here with all of the disabilities that offenders have, one on top of the other. Some had a language barrier because there were many who came from Quebec and did not, at that time, speak English. They had no family — nothing. So there was a whole new problem put in the hands of parole people and post-release agencies like the one I worked for.
The difficulty in having two jurisdictions is that it's not always easy to share the information. If we did share the information, and we'd got to the stage where that information was shared, then it may be that we would have been able to look at a case like Olson's and say: "This is a dangerous offender. What can we do to protect the public?" I don't like to say this, but I'm going to say it. I must say that the public, in respect to very dangerous offenders, is completely without protection in some cases. It's very tragic, but that is the case. We need to introduce some procedures which are going to help us at the very first indication we have that a dangerous offender is going to be released into the community. We have to make a judgment, not because he's finished his sentence, but rather whether the protection of the public is going to be served. That's the great tragedy. It is important that the public have a better understanding and a greater degree of confidence so we can have this kind of protection. In trying to obtain this protection I know there's always the question of whether in fact you can literally scoop somebody off the street because you believe that he's a danger. We don't want a second or third example of the recent Olson case. There is a case that I won't refer to in any detail, and it is one that took place in the north Island recently.
We have a very serious gap in the exchange of information and real understanding on the part of the parole board, the federal people and the provincial people in respect to the continuing protection of the public. You have two federal bodies who sit with all of the information that's possible. In the files that they have we know that there's lots of information dealing with an individual's record — his behaviour and the prognosis. It doesn't necessarily have to be the psychiatric prognosis. Some of it is observations by guards and classification officers who have worked with the individual, and from time to time we get to the psychiatrists. So sitting out there in the penitentiary system, where a lot of them are, is an enormous amount of information that somehow has to find its way to the attention of some part of the Attorney-General's department, so they can be alerted to the fact that we've got another walking time-bomb about to come out. He's coming out because he's completed the legal part of his sentence or whatever that process is. The public needs to be assured of this.
I'm not dealing with the facts arising from the beginning of the Olson case. I'm dealing with what happened afterwards, when we examine what took place. Somehow we have to look seriously at how we deal with dangerous offenders, in such a way that dangerous offenders are not just dealt with out there in that island which is referred to as the penitentiary. If there was ever an island in this province, it's the federal penitentiary system. It operates out there on its own, completely responsible to Ottawa.
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I'd like the Attorney-General, when he makes some observations about the safeguards — which is what I asked him at the beginning of my remarks — about what kind of procedures exist, what warning signals exist on behalf of the penitentiary system in which they notify police authorities in this province that so and so is coming out and he's very dangerous.... This information is there, but it is not necessarily always forthcoming. It's not always sent.
The Attorney-General made some remarks some weeks ago with respect to the RCMP. He was wanting to look at the operation of the criminal investigation branch. Okay, let him look at that, but there are other things that have to be looked at too. Where are the warning signals? Who gets advised? Who really knows? Today, in this day and age of computers and information retrieval, it should not be difficult for us know what is coming down the pike in terms of people coming out of the penitentiary. We know that in the penitentiary system there are a lot of people who are dangerous. In the provincial system we are only at the stage in some respects of early identification. There have got to be some warning signals. If there aren't then we will get a repeat of the two very tragic cases we've had — at least two, and there are more if one goes back three or four years.
So I ask the Attorney-General: what kind of guarantees does the public have in respect to dangerous offenders, and what can we use in terms of existing law to get them off the street if a number of people are convinced that these people are dangerous and are likely to murder, rape or do somebody harm? Those are the kinds of things I think the public needs to know. If there aren't those procedures in place, then in this House we had better discuss the desirability and how we will do it. I know that the civil liberties people are sitting out there watching for some kind of big hammer that might be used. If that's the case, because the issue of dangerous offenders is very much before us, perhaps we should put it in front of a standing committee of the House. It needs to be discussed. The public have to have an understanding about it. I think that the great sadness in all of this is that in many cases dealing with dangerous people who are inside, we really don't know what to do, and people find it very difficult to admit that there sometimes are not solutions to people.
The final thing I want to say to the minister is this. If one views a longitudinal study of a number of records of dangerous offenders, he will find what, in my opinion, is one of the greatest gaps in our judicial system: the inability of the judiciary to understand the sentencing process in such a way that it will protect the public. My colleague from Vancouver East made some reference to Judge Bewley. Judge Bewley and I once had at it on a panel, in which I recommended that because the judges know so little about it, it's high time we had sentencing panels rather than judges trying to understand the whole sentencing process.
Frankly, if you examine Olson's record........ Go back 20 years and look at all the offences. I am absolutely confounded that this fellow wasn't somehow put in the bag as either a criminal sexual psychopath.... No, that's not true. He couldn't be made a criminal sexual psychopath as he had not been convicted of those offences. But as a habitual criminal — as the legislation changed it, a dangerous offender — somewhere along the line.... You see, that whole process came into some disrepute 20 years ago. Unfortunately it became a big gun, and it was used in such a way that even an individual who's now a judge admitted in a recent interview that they were catching the people who were burned out. We need legislation that catches the people that are just setting the world on fire. But if one examines the sentencing process.... Many times when you examine the sentences that are given, particularly to dangerous offenders.... I, personally, sometimes scratch my head.
I saw one just a week ago. I don't know if it would be out of line, but I'm not going to mention the guy's name. We just got through a trial that may wind up costing the taxpayers over $10 million. I was absolutely amazed that at least two people got sentences of less than five years. There were 180 days of evidence put before them, and it was an enormous conspiracy. All of this, and somebody gets three years. What did we go through the exercise for? So he can go in and do 24 months if he wants to do his whole time, and then come out and leave us stuck with the bill, and what else? That's what I'm talking about in terms of the inability of the judiciary sometimes to understand that kind of sentencing process.
I can recall offenders who've committed serious crimes and who get ten years. They get out and then commit another crime in six months and they wind up with 18 months. I've never understood that process at all, but frankly, neither do the judiciary. We do need a change in that kind of thing. The guarantees don't just come because an individual is going to come out of jail. What are we going to do with him if we know he's dangerous? We've got to do something. We have to make the laws, and we'd better make them.
But there's also the business of what he is going in there to serve, and what kind of sentence. There's something wrong with the sentencing process. In many cases it does not seem logical to me, and in the profiles of criminal records that I've gone through, I find it the most inconsistent process. So it's not just the business of when they come out; it's how you deal with them when they go in. There need to be a lot of safeguards in respect to this. Everybody has got to contribute to that kind of process. That's what's important, because I have a feeling — and I'm very sure, in some respects, about the feeling of this — that many people out there feel that because there are two jurisdictions here, the federal and the provincial, and there's the Attorney-General in the middle getting ground up because he doesn't really have any administrative handle on the thing.... It's not part of his duties, but he's on the firing line when the trouble starts, and Lord knows he's been on the firing line enough in the last year in relation to this very serious case.
Mr. Chairman, the question to the Attorney-General is what, after all this time — pretty close to eight months — can the Attorney-General tell the House and the people in the province about whether there are safeguards in place or whether there is going to be a development of such safeguards. What ideas does he have about this? That's what I'd like to hear the Attorney-General talk about.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, I think the member raises matters which are very appropriate for debate at this particular time. In fact, they have been appropriate for debate for some number of years. I would like to deal with the matter of the judicial system and the problem of sentencing. I engage in this debate recognizing the sensitivity of treading into areas where you may touch upon the necessary independence of the judiciary in the discharge of that responsibility. While I do think that it is appropriate for members in this House to express their views in order that there might be some continuing discussion of the problems associated with sentencing, it is the responsibility of the judge who has before
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him a particular person and presumably has before him that person's record of convictions.
Society should be making it clear what they expect of the judicial process at that level. We have gone through a period, I believe, when the pendulum has swung very significantly in one direction, and there are some signs that the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward stiffer sentences for a variety of offences. But I think it would be unwise to make one's decisions based upon outstanding cases that attract the attention of the news-reporting services, like Olson's or the very lengthy and expensive trial that we've just concluded on a narcotics matter.
Let's take that one for example. Yes, it was expensive; yes, it was long; yes, the evidence consumed volumes of transcript; and some of them were sentenced to seemingly insignificant sentences. But if you consider, as I have, the nature of the offences with which they were charged, one wonders about our ability in the criminal justice system to deal with the substantive offences and to avoid the conspiracies — it's the conspiracy that takes so long to prove. The substantive offence itself may not be that serious. Therefore you get a situation where a couple out of nine will be found guilty of the substantive offence and therefore subject to a smaller sentence — that may be the case — but society has gone to this tremendous expense, and this great labour on the part of judge and jury, and produced very little in the way of penalty for people who have engaged in this kind of activity.
MR. MACDONALD: The Privacy Act doesn't help.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: No, it doesn't. The second member for Vancouver East interjects about the Privacy Act. The rules with respect to the Privacy Act — and the member for Coquitlam-Moody (Mr. Leggatt) will know about the debate that took place in Ottawa, when they moved in that particular direction to permit wiretapping under court order and to provide for the safeguards.... The results are that one wonders whether or not it really is of any value at all, in the long run, to have the opportunity to tap wires. You're so hedged in with problems of proof and the necessity for notice and the time that is consumed to get that kind of proof before the court that there might be other detection methods which would be more productive. However, as in a recent case just completed in Victoria, it's quite clear that they would probably never have got the conviction at all if it hadn't been for wiretap evidence. Of course, the startling thing with that case was that what they got on the wiretap was not the damning evidence of the crime, but the damning evidence that somebody was playing around with somebody else's girl- or boyfriend, and that resulted in somebody spilling the beans. So I suppose evidence comes in a variety of ways.
Sentencing is a matter of very great concern to the Crown, because Crown counsel — and the police — are daily placed in the situation of taking a criminal through the system and getting a conviction, and then when the sentence comes down, wondering precisely what it is they can do, because here is a crime that has been well proved and they're expecting a penalty of some severity, which doesn't come. So then you have to consider an appeal, and you have to look at the rules that guide the court of appeal, determining whether or not they want to interfere with the sentence of the court below, which has had that man or woman before it and has considered all the evidence — very difficult tests.
Recently the chief justice of British Columbia commented with respect to sentencing in sexual cases. I was not amazed, not startled, but pleased, as a matter of fact, to see how quickly the message seems to have got down to other levels. When the court of appeal indicates that it is going to treat these things very seriously, it has a ripple effect through the whole system. That's why I say the pendulum is beginning to swing. But it's not very effective and satisfactory for the citizen to have his judicial system work on that basis. I suppose what we are doing in 1982 is slowly emerging from some of the attitudes prevalent two decades ago, which resulted in certain attitudes toward the criminal justice system: the way in which people were handled, the nature of the charges brought against some people — sometimes highly questionable — and the way they were dealt with by the courts. I think we're just emerging from that.
We are emerging in this province by the increasing use of the dangerous-offender provision of the Criminal Code, as the member pointed out in his remarks. Dr. Askey suggested in his inquiry report that we return to the habitual-criminal concept. Well, I disagree with that. The habitual-criminal concept requires the identification of a life of crime, a number of successive convictions — perhaps none of them very serious. But if you accumulated enough it would, at one time, support a charge of habitual criminal. The courts got more difficult in recent years, and it proved to be an ineffective and inappropriate provision of the Code.
A dangerous offender, however, doesn't need that long succession of convictions. One may be enough. But what must be brought together with the dangerous-offender provision is an accumulation of information available to the Crown which can lead them to the conclusion.... Having convicted a person of a serious crime, before they proceed to sentencing that person the Crown moves, with the consent of the Attorney-General, to proceed under the DO section for an indeterminate sentence. This then brings the person back in three years for successive reviews.
You ask: "Has anything been learned from the Olson case?" One of the things that's been learned from the Olson case is that we have to and we are — I'm pleased to announce today — improving the information that we're able to place in the hands of Crown counsel in these circumstances. We have three special projects underway, by which we are tracking the careers of criminals. We are in a position in some areas now not only to deal with the information that comes over CPIC with regard to convictions, but to draw together pending charges and charges which have been stayed, and we could even get down to charges under investigation. Crown counsel can therefore formulate a picture of an individual to determine whether or not these last couple of crimes really indicate a pattern of behaviour such that we should go for a dangerous offender.
You mentioned one we had about three months ago; I'm not sure it's the same one that comes to my mind. But we had a man who for years went through a succession of breaking and entering and some minor crimes — one involved the possession of a offensive weapon. He was a second-storey man; he broke into houses. We found out during the course of investigation of this individual that he'd become very proficient as a locksmith. Then, strangely enough, in the last year or 14 months his activities began to change to sexual assaults. Lo and behold, we found, when we were able to examine his total pattern of behaviour and the cases in which he'd been
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involved, that he had in fact broken into and entered apartments in the city of Vancouver, got away, and had come back again. When he came back the second time he was about to prey on the persons in those apartments; in both instances they were women. So this pattern of behaviour began to develop. As soon as that happened, and he was convicted of one case of rape, we were able to lay out before the court what was occurring in this man's criminal pattern and move with a dangerous-offender application.
So it is being used; it has been used three times in the past couple of years, and with the information that we're now able to accumulate with regard to offenders through the trafficking process, I hope we can begin to identify more people who needed to be treated in this particular way — incarceration with indefinite sentences, subject to review.
Now "subject to review" brings me to your first point about the parole system. Do we get any early warning? No. Except for those people in the parole service who recognize the nature of a particular inmate who has come to the stage where he's going to serve his street time, the good time, we don't get the kind of advance warning that we need. We do provide reports to the police, for entry into CPIC, on offenders who either were sentenced to jail as dangerous offenders or who had behaved in a dangerous fashion during the term of their sentence. That is becoming a standard operational procedure.
But the duality of our system also interferes with its effective operation. It's generally thought that the inmates in federal institutions are the tough guys, the really mean, nasty people; however, they get into our provincial institutions too because occasionally they will be sentenced to two years less a day. The B.C. Parole Board is working with the federal parole system to see if we cannot work more effectively in the discharge of responsibilities within this province. Discussions are going on between the National Parole Board and the B.C. Parole Board with respect to what work they want to undertake. We hope we are moving towards the day when the B.C. Parole Board will deal with all offenders within this province, whether they come from federal or provincial institutions. Persons convicted of certain offences may still remain under the wing of the National Parole Board — the more serious cases. The justification for that is not clear, but they seem to want to retain that responsibility. Greater integration of the two systems would enable us, I believe, with knowledge of who's coming out, to be concerned with how they are handled when they get out.
The question that always remains, however, is how to handle them. As the member pointed out, back in the sixties they could whistle them off to Riverview under the Mental Health Act, take some appropriate steps under those circumstances, but we can't do that any more. Now, you can't get a person into a mental institution unless you get the proper certification that the person is mentally ill. If we were to take somebody from the steps of the institution and whistle him down to Riverview and right on through for tests, serious questions would be raised as to whether they were being assaulted by the doctors, or whether we had the power to either put them through tests, or, if found necessary, even to give them treatment. The member will recall that just last year we amended the Mental Health Act so that we could provide treatment for these people in the forensic psychiatric institute. There was some question as to whether we had the authority to provide treatment. Well, now we can. That concern has been removed from those doctors.
I suppose it comes down to this: society has to find some other way. I suppose that means that Attorneys-General in all the provinces and federally must find another way of dealing effectively with these people, who aren't mentally ill in either the medical or legal sense, but who are social cripples — sociopaths, psychopaths, whatever the case may be. It doesn't matter whether you sentence them for three years and they get out in two, or whether you sentence them for six years and they get out in four; when they are back on the street they have the propensity to do the same thing again. How do we treat them? Is it possible to treat them? It is certainly not possible to treat them in our institutions as we know them today. I think the opportunities for treatment in that environment are certainly minimal, unless we provide ourselves with special institutions for the treatment of people of that kind, which is a personality-changing approach. It is a major problem, and one of which our society is becoming increasingly conscious.
We tended to ignore this for too long. I think one of the good things today, in spite of all the tragedies, is that there is now some public discussion and debate. I know that we have made representations to the Solicitor-General of Canada with regard to changes in federal legislation on the matter of mandatory supervision and his 12-year program which is not working very well. It is not his, but it was established 12 years ago. We are sending him some points of view which we would like him to take into account in the changes he has been promising to make later this year.
I would hope that through our discussions on this matter today or tomorrow we could indicate to him — indeed, send to him a copy of our Hansard — that this was debated in the Legislature and that these are some of the views of people who have been associated with these areas in this province.
MR. LEVI: I have two short observations to make. One is in relation to the use of the dangerous-offender proceeding. Personally I have never been in favour of that kind of process. It was ironic that the time we brought in the habitual criminal procedure in Canada in 1947 it was just being taken out of use in England. The main thing is that there's a great difficulty in differentiating offenders. You put them into an in-between world of indeterminate centres. I think it also challenges the sentencing process.
I happen to believe that what you really need for sentencing.... The judge has a tough enough time just sitting through the trial. If he hasn't got a jury, he's got to arrive at a decision. The sentencing can be an entirely different matter. It's worked successfully in the states of Washington and California through a sentencing board process. All the judge does down there is set the maximum. They then set — when you get a sentence like 15 to life.... The main thing you want to do is to take out of the hands of the judge, in respect to sentencing, his inability to know all of the factors of what goes on in institutions. If he doesn't know that, how can he really bring forward an intelligent decision about sentencing?
I think there is some merit in examining the possibility of using a sentencing board. I know it's anathema to the British justice system, because judges have always held very closely that they will sentence after they've found guilt. But the point is that it's worth looking at. Even today in this province, there are judges sitting on the bench at all levels who are involved in sentencing offenders, and they haven't got a clue what's going on in institutions. They've never been in an institution. We don't have to make it mandatory that they go there. I once
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was on a tour with a number of judges who found it very uncomfortable to be there. The point is that there's a possibility that if you had sentencing boards you could obviate the need to look at this dangerous-offender type of legislation, because what we really need is a consistent sentencing process. It becomes inconsistent when you use stuff like the dangerous-offender or, as they used to use before, the habitual-criminal. That's a problem.
The second one is that surely it's high time, after all the years that we've had the M'Naghten rules in our judicial system, that we have enough bright lawyers and medical people who could define a behavioural description for us which involved people who are not psychotic. We have a lot of people out there who can never be committed because they're psychotic, but they're socially crippled. That's a phrase that the Attorney-General used. In some way, there should be a psychiatric definition.
I want to give the Attorney-General an example. I don't know whether you know how they got around to describing what a dangerous sexual offender was. Mr. Justice McRuer, many years ago, sat on a commission and they looked at how we were going to deal with these guys. Somebody said: "Why don't we call them criminal sexual psychopaths?" How did they get around to that? They got a couple of lawyers from the Attorney-General's department and they said: "Let's go talk to a psychiatrist, and he'll tell us what the psychiatric phenomenon is. We'll look at the legal phenomenon and draw up an act."
I don't know whether you know, Mr. Attorney-General, what the definition was of a criminal sexual psychopath, but I'm going to tell you. I remember it, because I spent a lot of time dealing with this problem many years ago. It is a person who is unable to control his sexual impulses and is liable to commit hurt, harm or other evil. That's right in the act. When I read that, I thought: my God, you put a psychiatrist and a lawyer together, and that's what you get as a definition of a criminal sexual psychopath. You've got to call on the medieval word "evil." It doesn't describe anything. I think the time has come for us to challenge certain of our forensic people, psychiatrists and lawyers to meet on some common ground and to see whether we can't come up with some kind of worthwhile definition. We have to leave the psychotic at the moment — the inability to know the quality and the nature of your act because you are psychotic. What about the people who don't qualify for that but are equally dangerous? We're not in 1842 anymore; it's 1982. Surely there has to be some consideration given to another definition — leave the one and look at the other one. We can't continue to leave out grossly neurotic people who are probably more aptly described as social cripples. They are as dangerous as anybody else, and yet you can't bring them in and you can't commit them.
Mind you, the psychiatric profession has always had a rough time when things like this happen, because they can't say "we know" with any certitude. We've got to get away from the one definition, because it's not adequate enough. All sorts of people fall through the net so I suggest to you, Mr. Attorney-General, that in your deliberations with your colleagues in Ottawa, you look at the possibility of a sentencing board and also at the possibility of defining that socially crippled behaviour that is grossly neurotic but doesn't fall within the psychotic definition, which is what people are committed under now.
MS. BROWN: I have a number of questions that I would like to ask the Attorney General. While I am talking, I wonder if he would prepare for me a final and definitive statement on exactly what he intends to do with the Oakalla lands, because the people of Burnaby would be really interested in hearing that.
To carry on with what my colleague for Coquitlam was talking about, I want to ask the Attorney-General some questions about rape and the funding for rape relief centres. I don't want to give the impression that I think rape is an act which is the prerogative of the sexual deviant or the sexual psychopath as my colleague mentioned, because we all know that perfectly normal, well-adjusted people rape as well as the sexual deviant or the sexual psychopath. We also know that some of the rapes which are occurring are becoming more bizarre, if anything. One of the really frightening things happening in British Columbia and across Canada is that sexual crimes and sexual assault are taking on really unusual and strange dimensions. Certainly the incidence of serious violence, in many cases ending with death, seems to be on the increase. So this is of particular and great concern to everyone. No one seems to be protected from rape in terms of their age. We are having incidents in British Columbia of everyone from infants right through to — the last case I heard was of someone 89 years of age who was raped.
The February 19 issue of the Province carried a statement from the Attorney-General saying that once funding was terminated to the Coalition of British Columbia Rape Centres, it was simply going to be "a temporary interruption in service until a new agency was found to give the funding to." I think the amount of money involved was $151,000.
It went on to say, that the break in service could last at least a month, since the coalition funding was going to be cut off by the end of February and a new agency wouldn't be able to start getting funding until April 1. So notice was given in January and funding was terminated on February 26. Can the Attorney-General can tell me whether funding has already begun for any new rape relief centres? If not, what we have is a period of four months that will have passed four days from today, during which there has been no funding — except that one centre in Duncan which gives very limited service — to any rape relief centre in the province at a time when the statistics coming out of the minister's own ministry show that rape has been on the increase. As I said when I began earlier, in many instances it's taking on a more dangerous and more bizarre form. We are beginning to hear of more and more instances where there is mutilation involved. It seems to me that the victims of rape need the service and the counselling more than ever which they get from rape relief centres.
The other statistic I got from the ministry was that last year there were 22,000 instances of rape reported in British Columbia, which would average out at about 2,000 rapes reported per month, if we can accept those figures. What that means is that within the last four months something in the neighbourhood of at least 8,000 that could have occurred. As I said, there is no funding for any rape relief centres unless the minister has actually begun the funding and hasn't informed us about it. The representative from his ministry also told us that as far as she knew only 10 percent of rapes were ever reported. I find that a very disconcerting figure, because if that's the case we're really looking at 220,000 rapes which occurred last year, and that's pretty frightening too. The rape relief centres use the figure of one rape in every 17 minutes, which is also pretty frightening.
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So even though the minister has promised, in a statement made on May 27, that there is going to be a significant increase in funding for rape crisis centres, I don't think that's good enough. We've reached a stage now where it doesn't matter if the minister says there is going to be a billion dollars coming down the pipe somewhere. The problem is that four months have gone by, and I don't believe we can wait very much longer. In February the minister said it would be a month; in May he said it would be a week before a decision would be made. Here we are in June, after nearly four months, and still there has been no announcement made in terms of funding for rape crisis centres around the province. I know I can't table documents in estimates, but I have 1,260 signatures on petitions in support of funding for rape crisis centres which I would like to pass on to the minister afterwards.
In the same light, I just want to say that last night I watched with horror a television documentary on missing children, and discovered — if one may trust the kinds of information coming out of this documentary on BCTV — that there really isn't any hard and fast system whereby we track down missing children. They quoted the case in British Columbia where it wasn't until bodies started showing up and confessions started being made that some of the children who were missing were taken seriously and some genuine search was being made for them. The police system seems to take the attitude that most of the children who are missing are runaways. The studies seem to indicate that this is not necessarily true. I'm wondering, since the minister talked about the increase in the police services vote that he referred to in his opening remarks as a major increase, if he would tell me whether any of that has been earmarked to beef up the kinds of services that would deal with missing children. I think the figure quoted on the program last night was something in the neighbourhood of 9,000 children who have just disappeared from view. No one knows where they are or what's happened to them.
Again dealing with young people, I want to tell the minister that I have visited the juvenile detention centre in Victoria. I want to raise with him a couple of concerns I have as a result of having visited the detention centre. I was told they really needed three things. They needed psychological services at the detention centre. They used to have the services of a psychologist who would come in, I think, three times a week to deal the emotionally disturbed kids and to do psychological work on them. Dr. Ridley came in three times a week for three hours at a time before they went on to the courts. This has now been cut back to once a week. Apparently that is totally inadequate.
The second thing they mentioned is that they really need the services of a social worker in that detention centre to coordinate and pull together all the services which the children need. Part of the problem they're finding is that because the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Human Resources have not carried through in their responsibilities in terms of providing good mental-health facilities or care for a number of the children from the northern interior, they're thrown into the justice system. The detention home, in fact, is being used to house children who really have no business being in the justice system at all. They're children who should be on the sixth floor of Eric Martin, except that service has been cut out as a result of cutbacks in the Ministry of Health, or children who should be in the closed system at The Maples, except that resource isn't open. It's not even slated to be open until the beginning of the fall. So what we have is children from Prince George and the interior whose crimes are really misdemeanours, the direct result of some mental-health problem they're having, but who can't be allowed to run free and can't be put in a regular foster home because they keep running away — they won't stay there. So we end up with 13-year-olds being put in the detention home simply because there's nowhere else to put them.
The end result of this is that there really aren't the resources to work with these kids. I was quite depressed, quite frankly, by that home. Even though I understand it's been renovated and repainted and that all kinds of wonderful things have been done to it and money has been spent on it, it's still a pretty depressing place, and there certainly are not enough resources. I spoke to one of the teachers there, and he certainly reiterated that they needed more resources for the kids. They needed to be able to spend more time with them. It was also suggested that what we need are more remand homes and less detention space. There are a number of kids who would be in remand homes if they were available, but for the entire greater Victoria area there's only one such home. Of course there is a limit to how many children that home can support.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
The other thing that came out was that there are no camp facilities for girls who fall into the system. When I inquired about this as an alternative, I was told that there weren't enough girls but that there were sufficient boys that they could have camp facilities for them. It seems kind of strange that in order for girls to have the kind of resources they need, we have to go and get more girls into the justice system. That doesn't make any sense. Maybe the Attorney-General could look into whether even for the limited number of female children who are in detention homes, they could develop some alternative education system and certainly some alternatives like the kinds of farms which work so well for the boys.
The whole business of delivery of services to emotionally disturbed children is one that the Attorney-General, I think, has to take a serious look at. Some petitioning of the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Nielsen), for example, has to be done to ensure that that sixth floor of the Eric Martin Pavilion is open once again. It's the only facility in the lower mainland and Vancouver Island that dealt with those really seriously disturbed children who are in the justice system, and now that has been shut down. These kids are being referred to private psychiatrists, or the Royal Jubilee Hospital will see them for a few minutes here or there, but it's totally inadequate and certainly not meeting their needs.
While I'm talking about children, Mr. Chairman, I want to raise again the issue which I've raised a number of times before, and that has to do with the advocates which the kids just must have when they appear in court. The memo which was circulated by the Attorney-General which withholds legal counsel or legal advocates to children over the age of 12 is doing a very serious disservice to those children. Now I finally figured out why the magic age of 12. I gather that that is the age which the federal government is using in the Young Offenders Act, and suddenly at age 12 these children are supposed to be able to make mature decisions on their own and to be able to defend themselves in court, but it doesn't happen.
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I sat in on the family court here in Victoria also, because I wanted to see for myself what happens, because I remember that when I used to go to court as a social worker, I used to be intimidated by the system. But I realize that a lot of things have changed since then, and the young people coming up today are much more sophisticated than I was even as an adult at that time. But I discovered this wasn't true at all, that in fact the children are still intimidated by that system, and in particular the children who are in the courts in the instance of sexual abuse by an adult, by a parent. Now what the people working in Human Resources have told me is that it is usually over the age of 12 that young women will begin to talk about the fact that they have been sexually abused by their father, their uncle or by some other adult male in the family. At that point, Mr. Chairman, what happens is that the adult male involved hires himself a lawyer to defend his reputation. So we have the victim showing up in court without any legal advocate and we have the adult parent or adult relative in court with a lawyer.
When I spoke to some of the advocates they explained to me that really in many of these instances they turned out to be the only confidants, the only friend that that young girl would have. The family would be so disrupted and upset about the accusation that in some instances she would find her mother and the other members of the family really quite upset about the fact that she was laying this charge against her father or her uncle or grandfather, as the case may be, and she would be isolated by the family. So the only person that she had in terms of a friend, a confidant or a counsellor would be the family advocate. If this memo which the Attorney-General has circulated is in fact implemented — as it was supposed to have been on May I or in June, as the case may be — we're going to find more and more of these young women showing up in court without a family advocate.
Whether it has to do with a child or an adult, in the case of rape, we find that the psychological damage of special abuse is, in many instances, much worse than the physical damage. That's what the child advocate used to be: someone to help modify the kind of psychological damage which would result from this child having to accuse the parent and then having to stand up in court and say: "Yes, this is my father and, in fact, he did sexually assault me for a number of years." We are finding that the psychological damage from that kind of that thing never goes away in many instances. We're running into all kinds of adults who are unable to lead normal, well-adjusted lives today and whom you find, when you look back into their experiences, were the victims of sexual abuse when they were children. We're also finding that a large number of the adolescents involved in prostitution were themselves children who had been sexually abused by an adult in their family circle.
So the psychological damage that happens as a result of this is, I think, too far-reaching for us to play games with it. That's why I think the kinds of service that the family advocate gives to a child over the age of 12 in these kinds of circumstances, as well as the kind of service that the child and the courts can get from a psychological workup being done on the child in terms of preparing recommendations for the courts, are so important that the minister should seriously consider withdrawing the memo outlining those kinds of cuts.
Another interesting thing as a result of that memo affects the adult women who are going through the system. I met and spoke with some of the family counsellors involved in the unified family court. As a matter of fact, I'm trying to sit in on the Richmond family court. I have been told that in some instances the women show up totally unprepared, no longer having legal access. They appear before the judge without any sense at all of how to deal with their case; and one particular judge just throws the whole thing out. He absolutely cannot deal with the fact that there are people standing in front of his bench who are totally unprepared. They don't know how to ask for maintenance; they don't know how to question their husbands, they don't know how to handle themselves in the court. He just says: "I'm going to throw this whole thing out." So no maintenance orders are being made against the males on behalf of the women in those instances, and that's happened a number of times.
At this time I'm trying to get permission to sit in a couple of times on this judge's court. I also spoke to some of the women, who assured me they were totally intimidated by the inability to have eye contact with the judge. The whole way in which the courtroom is set up, with the judge on the pedestal and themselves down below, means there is no possibility for eye-to-eye contact. They can't really talk freely about it. The husband is sitting there with his high-priced lawyer, or with his legal-aid lawyer, because as the respondent, or whatever the technical term is, he has access to a lawyer, but as the one who's bringing charges against him, she doesn't. She is supposed to cross-examine this man. She is supposed to ask him all the important questions which will reveal to the court that he is not meeting his maintenance obligations to his family or to her, as the case may be, and she just can't do it.
I don't think there is any question that justice isn't being done; the family counsellor said this as well as the family advocate, and some of the women I spoke to. For one thing, if the judge is sympathetic and understanding, like the judge in the Victoria court I sat in on, he finds himself taking on the role of her lawyer. He finds himself questioning the husband on her behalf instead of sitting back and being impartial and listening to two sides of the story. Here is her husband with this really smooth, articulate, well-prepared lawyer who knows his way around the system, just cutting her to shreds. She's sitting there, asking all the most irrelevant questions because she doesn't know what she's doing, doesn't know how to defend herself; and the judge, instead of being able to sit back and be impartial, ends up being her lawyer. You see that the system doesn't work for anybody. It puts the judge in a compromising situation, and it certainly makes the woman defenceless under those circumstances.
Now, I understand that the Attorney-General did this because he wanted to monitor the use of the judicial system, and that it's not a hard and fast rule. He is open to ideas. This is only reason I have been meeting and speaking with these different groups: so that I can get their message back to the Attorney-General. Children over the age of 12 really do need that family advocate; there isn't any question about it. Certainly women coming before the justice system without any experience or training in law are absolutely at a disadvantage. Justice is just not being done unless they too have access to legal counsel in defending themselves.
The lawyers said to me that they wondered about the family counsellors now being called upon to do legal tasks. That was one of their concerns, and you can respond to that as you see fit.
Mr. Chairman, I want to deal with the other points that I wanted to raise before the Attorney-General gets up to respond to me. The Family Relations Act is under attack. There
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are full-page stories in the newspapers saying how unfair this is because it does not penalize the member who has been unfaithful, etc.; no-fault divorce is not a good idea, and we should go back to the bad old days where you had to hire a lawyer and really fight through the courts for everything, and if you were lucky you ended up with support and if you were lucky that person would or would not pay support, as the case may be, whereas the new system takes into account the contribution that both spouses make to the marriage and divides by 50 percent the assets accrued after marriage. The lawyers are beginning to say it's not fair. I just want to go on record as saying I disagree with them.
I recognize that the Family Relations Act is not perfect. Certainly I know of instances where the women ended up having to give up 50 percent of their assets to the spouse who said: "To heck with this. If you're going to divorce me I'm not going to work any more. You give me 50 percent of your assets." That has happened. I also know of instances where under normal circumstances a lawyer would have gone after the family home on behalf of the woman and probably got it. Now, as a result of the Family Relations Act, since the house was really the only asset they had accrued in the marriage, aside from each of them having a beat-up car, the family home had to be sold so that she could get 50 percent and he could get 50 percent. So it's not perfect; there's no question about it. But all things considered, it's a lot better than the old system. If there is any way you can improve it, improve it. I am really issuing a plea for you not to go back to the system we had before this act was introduced. Despite what all the high-priced divorce lawyers may say about it, I'm appealing to you not to go back to the old days.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, on this last issue, where does the province now stand in the continuing debate about jurisdiction over divorce — the thing that started with the constitutional debate about whether divorce should be under the jurisdiction of the federal or provincial government. Prior to your responding, I want to repeat what I said under your estimates last year and the year before. The concept of giving divorce to the provinces is the balkanization of divorce. It is going to be unfair. We're going to have people shopping around from province to province; we're going to have Reno and all those other kinds of things happening here. When we have divorce as the responsibility of the federal government, then it doesn't matter what province you live in; the law applies to you equally as to everybody else in every other province. I don't think that's something that we should lose. I know what your position was last year. I'm hoping that your position on that issue has changed and that now, Mr. Chairman, you have come to see that having the federal government responsible for a divorce is in the best interest of everyone else. As for the new maintenance enforcement, which was introduced under the Family Relations Act and which we debated, I want to say that I think it's a good idea. I support it.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Perhaps in the few moments remaining I could respond to many of the matters raised by the member for Burnaby-Edmonds.
Starting in reverse order: divorce. There's been no change in my position with respect to the constitutional issues of divorce. However, the member will know these matters were part of the discussions which took place in 1981, when the continuing ministers on the constitution were having their meetings across the country and we were considering a range of subjects which would be involved in constitutional renewal for this nation. We now have had what passed for renewal and patriation, and we're not down to important things like jurisdiction, divorce, the Supreme Court of Canada and a range of other matters. Frankly, when I consider the large issues that do face this nation and the difficulty in achieving constitutional reform or amendment, I would think that it will be a long, long time before we consider the matter of divorce — so you're safe. But I still think that our position on this, as far as British Columbia is concerned, is the correct one. Yes, there could be abuses, but the proposition which we put forward in those discussions was acceptable to the member.
Family Relations Act. I agree with you that the Family Relations Act in this province, for the purpose of ordering the relationships between spouses when they get into disputes so serious that the marriage breaks up.... The consequence of that is miles ahead of the old matrimonial law, when a woman was the chattel of the man and he owned everything and her chances to get anything came through the route of alimony or maintenance, and other than that there wasn't very much. The Family Relations Act has provided an orderly way of better adjusting the equities between spouses in such circumstances. However, while it's far better than it was before, I think there is still a long way to go before we will achieve anything which is truly fair. Those instances where there is still unfairness stand out so glaringly, when you consider all those that are properly adjusted, that those that can't be adjusted under the system then become the exception, and it's cruel.
Let me give you two examples. A woman who has worked and saved, had a good job, bought her own house, furnished it and so on, then meets a gentleman and they take up and live together for a couple of years. She becomes pregnant, they get married, the child is born, and when the kid is only five weeks old, he says: "I'm sorry, I wasn't made for this. I'm leaving." So the marriage breaks up, and there is this woman with a five-week-old child who's suddenly deserted. After she gets over that hurt, she decides that she will make an approach to this fellow. "Well, what about some kind of settlement? Who's going to help me raise this child?" So they're talking, and then the lawyers get into the act. Everything is going along fine, and suddenly you find that the husband's lawyer is saying: "Oh, I think maybe my client is entitled to a share in the family property." So this woman, whose child is now about three-and-a-half months old, suddenly sees that the husband who deserted her.... She was talking about maybe providing some money to help support the child — not her; she would go back to work. Now his lawyer says he wants a piece of the house, and, of course, she is terrified. So she runs to a lawyer and says: "What do I do about this?" And the lawyer says: "Oh, you'd better be careful, because under the Family Relations Act maybe he's got some claim." So she's now facing this new jeopardy. Well, frankly, I don't think that he would get anything.
What concerns me is that by the time this is sorted out, either in or out of court, it will have cost both these parties so much money that she's going to lose anyway. I'm concerned that the Family Relations Act, as it presently is in this regard, can be used for the purpose of harassment, and I just think this is continuing unfair. It happens the other way too, you know. It can be used by the wife as a form as harassment.
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Then, of course, when you've got the family that breaks up, and some children are involved who are 12 or 13 years of age, and the mother doesn't want to lose those children, and the children don't want to leave the mother, and the father says: "I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll give you 60 percent of the house...." But this occurred at a time when mortgage rates were going up, so just how is she going to get a mortgage to enable her to buy out his 40 percent? So he's being fair, giving her 60 percent of a house that she can't afford to finance. This is going on, and in the meantime the kids are involved and you get this kind of cruelty. So I think we've got to do something to streamline the system and prevent this game-playing that can go on, because there's still a lot of game-playing and harassment, and that is not the purpose of the Family Relations Act. I think it can be used for that purpose.
There are three other matters that the member has raised. I wonder if I could deal with them tomorrow morning. Will the member be here tomorrow morning?
MS. BROWN: The member is always here, Mr. Chairman.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I then move 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.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave of the House to move a motion seconded by the hon. member for Skeena (Mr. Howard).
HON. MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, the motion is that on this, the occasion of the birth of an heir apparent to our throne, this House expresses heartiest congratulations and the greatest of joy to their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
MR. REE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present a petition.
MR. REE: I present the petition of the Vancouver Stock Exchange praying for the passing of an act intituled An Act to Amend the Vancouver Stock Exchange Act. I move that the rules be suspended and the petition of the Vancouver Stock Exchange be received.
Introduction of Bills
SEABOARD ASSURANCE COMPANY ACT, 1953,
AMENDMENT ACT, 1982
On a motion by, Mr. Ree, Bill PR401, Seaboard Assurance Company Act, 1953, Amendment Act, 1982, introduced, read a first time and referred to the Select Standing Committee on Standing Orders and Private Bills.
Ms. Brown tabled a document referred to in committee.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
23 Mr. Passarell asked the Hon. the Minister of Forests the following question:
Have any logs, to date, been exported from the Province of British Columbia by Silver Grizzly Timber Company and, if so, how many?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows:
"Yes, a total volume of 1 320 724.9 m³ has been exported from Crown lands under awarded timber sales."
24 Mr. Passarell asked the Hon. the Minister of Forests the following question:
Have any logs, to date, been sold by Silver Grizzly Timber Company to timber processing facilities within British Columbia and, if so, what quantity?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows..
"Yes, a total volume of 121 907.8 m³ of pulp logs have been sold to MacMillan Bloedel."
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25 Mr. Passarell asked the Hon. the Minister of Forests the following question:
How much revenue has been paid to the Government of British Columbia by Silver Grizzly Timber Company, including stumpage fees and other logging taxes?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows:
"A total of $3,994,497.21 has been billed to Silver Grizzly Timber Company. This includes stumpage, scaling charges, and fee in lieu of manufacture. Silver Grizzly presently has a credit of $127,252.40."
26 Mr. Passarell asked the Hon. the Minister of Forests the following question:
Have any applications been received from other companies for timber logged by Silver Grizzly Timber Company in northwest British Columbia and, if so, what other companies?
The Hon. T. M. Waterland replied as follows:
"No. Export was authorized under section 136 (1) (b) of the Act and there was no requirement to offer the timber to domestic firms after it had been cut and prior to export."