1982 Legislative Session: 4th
Session, 32nd Parliament
following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
MONDAY, JUNE 28, 1982
[ Page 8467 ]
Rollback of taxes and user fees. Mr. Lea –– 8467
B.C. Tel layoffs. Mr. Mitchell –– 8467
Special employment programs in forest industry. Mr. King –– 8468
Shipping of resources. Mr. Lockstead –– 8468
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation and Highways estimates.
(Hon. Mr. Fraser)
On vote 76: minister's office (continued) — 8469
Appendix –– 8490
MONDAY, JUNE 28, 1982
The House met at 2 p.m.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today of introducing guests in the gallery from Australia. They are with the Trade Development Council survey mission to Canada and are looking at ways to cooperate in international trade between those two great countries. Leading the mission is Mr. Keith Bracken. He is here along with seven members: Mr. Roberts, Mr. McKechnie, Mr. Pak-Poy, Mr. Rayner, Mr. Davies, Mr. Connolly and Mr. Taylor. Also accompanying them is Mr. John MacFarlane, the Australian consul-general from Vancouver. I hope the House will make them warmly welcome.
ROLLBACK OF TAXES AND USER FEES
MR. LEA: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. The recession that we're currently going through in the province is brought about in part by the tax push effect of the current economic policies and taxation policies of this government. The tax and user-fee increases over the past two years have hit hard on the B.C. economy. Has the government decided to help restore investor confidence by assuring this House, and therefore the public, that B.C. will explore the possibility of rolling back taxes and fees, at least until the economy has recovered from the current recession?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Speaker, there was one word which I missed, but I think I have the essence of the question. It was made very clear at the time of the budget speech, which was introduced in this House on April 5, that we have made the conscious decision to hold tax increases to the absolute minimum. Indeed, that was effected by the budget, which was later approved by this assembly.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, it was also made clear — and it had been made clear some months before, in fact — that a number of user fees, and there are literally hundreds of them throughout government for a variety of purposes known to all hon. members, had not been touched for quite some time. If the question....
HON. MR. CURTIS: I hear an interjection. Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, a number of fees had not been altered for quite some time and the user portion of the user-fee principle had all but vanished in many instances.
If the question — I'm anticipating — is whether or not I intend to produce another budget, the answer at this time is no.
MR. LEA: The Minister of Lands, Parks and Housing (Mr. Chabot) has indicated to the House that almost 2,000 B.C. families face serious mortgage payment difficulties. The client intake of the consumer credit and debtors assistance branch of the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs increased more than 80 percent in March 1982 over March 1981. In view of the fact that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta all have interest-rate relief programs for small business and homeowners, has the minister and his government now decided on a program of interest-rate relief for British Columbians?
HON. MR. CURTIS: We have not decided on an interest rate reduction program in this province. If the question is asking about future policy, I would not want to leave members with the feeling that this is something which might occur in the very near future. But a number of ministries are very carefully monitoring our situation relative to similar problems found, in most instances to a greater magnitude, in other provinces in this country.
MR. LEA: As all the economic indicators have changed since the introduction of the budget the minister brought in, and it's obvious that we're in a far more serious recession or depression than we were when he brought in the budget, can the minister tell us why the government has not decided to bring in a new budget that would take into account the new economic indicators that are now available to us?
HON. MR. CURTIS: While it is true that a number of indicators have shown a worsening situation since the budget was finally prepared and made ready for presentation, I think it is apparent to all hon. members that our budget was predicated for the 1982-83 fiscal year on it being a quite difficult year. Therefore we were pessimistic in a number of areas with respect to revenues. I am not yet convinced, although it is occurring in Ottawa tonight, that there is a need for a new budget. As I have already indicated to a number of my colleagues in government, there is clearly a need for further expenditure restraint through the course of this fiscal year.
MR. BARRETT: On a supplementary, can the minister tell us roughly by what percentage the revenues have been off as related to his budget forecast?
HON. MR. CURTIS: No, I don't have that information readily available. The question is similar to one asked last week, not with respect to percentages but to the date of delivery of the quarterly report. We are now two days away from the end of the first quarter, and that information will be available on schedule at the end of July or within the first few days of August.
MR. BARRETT: I find it passing strange that the minister can't give a percentage, yet mentions that revenues are off. Could the minister inform the House by what percentage the revenues would have to be off before he would be on a critical path to consider a new budget?
HON. MR. CURTIS: I find that question hypothetical. I would have great difficulty answering in any way that would be of use to hon. members.
B.C. TEL LAYOFFS
MR. MITCHELL: My question is to the Minister of Labour. We all know that the problem we are now having in the employment picture is not one issue; it's the cumulative effect of many. Has the minister seen any of the financial data that B.C. Telephone is using to justify the layoff of 2,200 British Columbians?
HON. MR. HEINRICH: Mr. Speaker, it's really not my practice to request information about the internal management of either companies or trade unions. The answer to the
[ Page 8468 ]
question is, of course, that I have no knowledge or access to any such information.
MR. MITCHELL: As we all know, the loss of 2,200 jobs will jeopardize the employment of another 8,000 British Columbians, resulting in a direct loss to the economy of more than $15 million in purchasing power. Given the gravity of the situation, has the minister decided to insist on seeing the financial figures that B.C. Tel is using to justify the laying off of all these British Columbians?
HON. MR. HEINRICH: The answer is no. I suggest that any such question would probably be better directed to the federal government, under whose jurisdiction B.C. Tel comes, as the member well knows. I think that upon asking for such information, the appropriate answer would be given to me.
SPECIAL EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS
IN FOREST INDUSTRY
MR. KING: I have a question for the Minister of Forests. The International Woodworkers of America released figures this week showing that 37.8 percent of their members in British Columbia are now unemployed. Has the minister decided to mount a major spacing and thinning program in the forest sector which is labour-intensive and could employ thousands of laid-off forest workers?
HON. MR. WATERLAND: My ministry is carrying on with its planned forest management work in the forests of British Columbia, which is currently employing thousands of people who otherwise would not be employed, both in silvicultural management and reforestation work. Our program of employment-bridging assistance that was announced sometime ago is now underway, and will offer opportunities for literally thousands of employees to work in the forests doing stand-tending work.
MR. KING: I think the minister is aware that about 117 people have been hired under the bridging program in B.C. — that's hardly thousands — and that the high fire hazard has precluded many of the projects that were planned under the bridging program. I'm asking the minister whether or not he's considered any alternative employment program due to the high number of unemployed people in our province.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure whether the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke went outdoors last weekend or not, but if he did, I think he'd have found that there was quite a bit of precipitation taking place. The fire hazard in the southern part of the province is now low to moderate. As far as I know, the fire hazard has not precluded any such job from getting underway.
MR. KING: I think the fire hazard, low to moderate, matches the minister's ability, Mr. Speaker. The fact remains that there are 117 people employed under the bridging program. Does the minister think that that is satisfactory for this time in our province's history?
HON. MR. WATERLAND: The member well knows that the program is now getting underway. We have literally dozens and dozens of applications in place. Relative to the forest hazard, Mr. Speaker, I think the mentality expressed by that member would be similar to an extreme hazard to the people of British Columbia in the economy.
SHIPPING OF RESOURCES
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Mr. Speaker, I have a question to the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development. In what has been described as an international breakthrough by Lloyd's of London, it has been decided that two of eight ships carrying coal from New South Wales in Australia to Japan will be peopled by Australian crews and registered in Australia. What steps has the minister taken to ensure that Canadians will similarly be given the right to deliver their natural resources to market?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Speaker, the member should know that maritime policy is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Some of the members who sit on that side of the House as advisers to the NDP caucus have been in Ottawa, and while they were in Ottawa they didn't seem to have too much to say, except to support the Liberal government and the policies of the day. If you want the provincial governments to start taking over all the jurisdiction of the federal government.... Lord knows we do enough to support them now — one province in Canada that's able to at least show some leadership in this tough economic time. But, Mr. Speaker, I want to advise the members opposite that we don't want to take on all the responsibilities of Ottawa at this particular time.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Mr. Speaker, I might point out to that minister that the federal New Democratic members were the only effective members pushing for a merchant marine in the whole of this nation, and were opposed by the Liberal and Conservative governments. That policy has not changed.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, hon. member. I must stop you now. That reminder might be in order at some other time, but not in question period.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Mr. Speaker, I tried not to exceed the scope of the answer given to me by the minister.
Why did the same minister not make it a condition of the northeast coal deal to ensure that part of that raw resource was shipped on Canadian ships before he signed the contract, as other nations have done?
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I would like to advise the member that there would be no coal to ship anywhere and none of the jobs would be available if his party had its way, because that party would stop northeast coal.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: That's not true.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: If his leader keeps going around chastising our number two customer in the years ahead, we won't have any coal to ship in either Canadian or overseas bottoms. If the member for Coquitlam-Moody (Mr. Leggatt) keeps on supporting Ottawa in their ban of Japanese cars at port, we won't have to worry about shipping coal, because we'll lose all the markets and jobs. When you see the Teamsters, who have evidently broken ranks with the NDP in marching against what is happening in Vancouver....
[ Page 8469 ]
MR. SPEAKER: Order, Mr. Minister. Clearly, the answer went beyond the scope of the question.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Davidson in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 76: minister's office, $228,769.
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Chairman, I had some discussion with the minister in previous sessions. It needs reiterating, I believe, because nothing seems to have occurred in a favourable way with respect to it, I want to advance to him that we have had in British Columbia for some few years now what seems to be a policy of paying scant attention to what I would generally call back roads in rural areas. In other words, I'm speaking of roads other that the main arterial highways, roads serving smaller communities and farming communities. Most of these roads, certainly in Skeena, are gravel or dirt roads and have been that way for some period of time. I advance the proposition to the minister that we should have a formalized policy approach to dealing with back roads on a consistent, regular basis — initially with respect to upgrading them and then subsequently towards paving them — so that people who live in the communities that are served by dirt and gravel roads will have some hope that at some reasonable time in the future the roads to their communities will be adequately black topped as are our arterial highways and those highways serving main communities.
Another proposition I want to put forward to him is that the Canadian National Railway is upgrading the line through the northern part of the province on its Jasper to Prince Rupert section. It is increasing the weight of the steel and doing a lot of extra ballasting for the potential of carrying a greater amount of heavier freight traffic by unit trains or otherwise. The possibility exists that with increased rail traffic on that line, it will put highway traffic in a more dangerous position where there are grade level crossings than has been the case in the past.
In talking just about Skeena, there is the one that the minister and I have discussed before, namely the grade level crossing at Carnaby. It is probably the worst one in that area, both because of visibility and the sharp right-angle turns on and off it once you get over the crossing. A number of accidents have taken place there because of people not familiar with the road being unable to completely negotiate the turns that are necessary. If increased rail traffic is to come, there is a greater jeopardy facing those people.
In the community of Terrace, right in town, there are two grade level crossings that are used fairly extensively now. People use those rather than going uptown and going over the overpass that was built a few years back. They are in need of having some action taken with respect to them. Of course, between Terrace and Prince Rupert — not all of them entirely within the constituency of Skeena; one particular one at Tyee in the constituency of Prince Rupert — there are three or four grade level crossings along that section of the highway. They also need some work done to them so that there are overpasses or underpasses and the highway traffic is not placed in danger by the reason of the increased rail traffic.
I don't know if the minister wants to take up a great deal of time in replying to these matters. He may want to do it by correspondence with some of these items. These are urgent, necessary things to deal with. The minister should announce policy with respect to them and give the people in that area some hope for the future that at least as far as this minister is concerned, he has a policy position that is going to make the roads more passable and better developed for the smaller communities which they serve, as well as dealing with the grade level crossing problem all along that line.
HON. MR. FRASER: Just replying to the member for Skeena for a minute, I'll lay out the problems that will be generated by the increase in trains on the CN line from Prince Rupert to the B.C.-Alberta boundary. Yes, there's going to be an increase. I'll try to summarize what we're faced with there. The CNR are upgrading, and they will continue to upgrade for more economic operation and speed. Regarding the interaction of Highway 16, which is the highway involved with the CNR from the B.C.-Alberta boundary to Rupert, there are 13 grade crossings which have been identified for grade-separation structures — these are structures with capital-project expenditure by the Ministry of Transportation and Highways. Four of these are in urban areas — two are in Prince George, with one each in Vanderhoof and Burns Lake. Nine are rural highway crossings. The cost will total about $65 million. Two grade separations are currently under construction: the Ridley Island access and the Highway 27 bypass at Vanderhoof. The urban ones that I mentioned earlier are the Fraser River bridge and the proposed Foothills bridge in Prince George, Burrard Street in Vanderhoof and Highway 35 at Burns Lake. The rural ones are: Highway 16 at Tyee, Highway 16 at Kasiks, Highway 16 at Pollywog, Highway 16 at Exstew, Highway 37 at Kitwanga, Highway 16 at Carnaby — that one you mentioned — Highway 16 at Houston West,Hansard bridge and the Ridley Island access; I mentioned those in Vanderhoof earlier. So there is a big project there. We've got started, and that's all. We won't have them all done, that's for sure, by the time the coal trains are starting to roll. So we have some problems ahead of us; I hope they're not too drastic.
The upgrading of rural roads is what we're trying to do at all times. With the budget being just barely enough, we have achieved some success. Policy-wise, it seems that we still have to stick with the main roads in the case of that area — Highway 16 — to keep them up to a good standard. If you do that, you haven't a lot of money left. But we are conducting good maintenance winter and summer on the rural roads, and trying to upgrade them to paving on a permanent basis where there is a fair population. As an example in that area, I think we've done fairly well on Highway 37, which goes north from Kitwanga to Stewart. We got over half of that road paved, and it was almost impassable five years ago. But there is no end to what we can do, and of course, our ultimate goal is to upgrade these rural roads where people are living and try to get a permanent cap on them. But it's just a question of funding.
In the meantime the maintenance has been stepped up. I think our area foremen out of the district and rural areas in the province do an excellent job of maintenance in the summer, and I guess it shows up more in the wintertime with the
[ Page 8470 ]
snowploughing and so on that's done. We try to keep them up to a safe standard and try to get them improved on a permanent basis.
An example of another road is in the Skeena riding north of Smithers. We're pushing on that road and we have reconstructed part of that road to finally link it up to Granisle; but there is still a lot to do on that. We have spent a fair amount of money each year in the last three years on rebuilding what was originally just a forest access road — as an example of rural route improvements.
MR. BRUMMET: There are several items that I'd like to deal with in the minister's estimates, and I'll try to deal with them as briefly as possible. One that I am concerned about and would like to bring up again is the matter of spouses' travel on government planes. I think it's important to the rural areas of this province to have ministers visit and see for themselves — ministers and their staff. I think there is a greater possibility for those ministers to come to our areas, and they've been away from home for three or four weekends in a row, if they can bring their spouses with them. If there is room on the planes, I would hate to think that because of partisan tactics they are precluded from travelling with the ministers. So I would hope the minister doesn't yield to the pressures and, because of the criticisms, prevent that.
I know as a member from roughly 800 miles from this capital city, in my home town it's pretty important to obtain some equality with the bulk of the members who are situated closer to the capital. But in 1979 we made a decision that our spouses can on occasion travel to Victoria to visit us. It may not be important and it may not be significant to the members who are close to Victoria. The member for Atlin (Mr. Passarell) should be the last one to raise this issue about spouses travelling. He of all people should appreciate how much that can mean. I recognize that the spouse's travel is subtracted from any of the trips allotted to members, and we're quite willing to go along with that. But I think it's important that we too be allowed to visit our spouses periodically.
Speaking of the member for Atlin, I am somewhat astounded by his continual lobbying for more money on Highway 37. He seems to want more and more money spent in his area. Since we're both in the northern part of the province, let's make a slight comparison. People in our area are pro-development and would like to see our resources developed. They want to contribute to the economy of this province by that development, and they would expect something in return. That member seems to want all development moved out of his area, and then he wants the money coming from our pro-development people to go into his area to build roads to take the tourist traffic from our area into his area. I get a bit resentful of that, and I'd like the minister to consider.... I know it's difficult to make decisions about road-building on that basis, but certainly I think some of the rewards — some of the money — should go back into the areas where the people are in favour of producing that money, rather than into areas where they want no production of wealth but just want the services that the other taxpayers from other parts of the province pay for.
I'd like to get onto a topic that has come up periodically: the unfair advantage of some out-of-province firms, particularly Alberta firms, in areas like mine which are very close to the Alberta oil and gas fields. That's our bread and butter in the Peace River country. Some of these firms seem to have a definite advantage. Our people have to pay sales tax and they have to meet all the conditions of the ministry of transport for the vehicles and trucks etc. that they use in the oil and gas industry. Theoretically the same regulations apply to Alberta truckers, but I would like to point out one thing. I don't know if the minister is fully aware of the implications. The regulations to Alberta truckers do not apply off-highway, as I understand it; they are only governed by the ministry of transport regulations on the highway.
Let me give an example to illustrate this. A water truck working in the oil fields can come in and get a $35 permit to bring a load into British Columbia. That's legal. That truck can then deliver that load 50 miles or 150 miles out into the wilderness, and then stay there for months acting as a water truck on that oil lease. The only time he has to pay another amount is when he gets a permit to go back out of the province. In other words, he's got a tax-free vehicle and other concessions as well that give him a definite advantage. I know the regulations on highways are comparable back and forth between Alberta and British Columbia, but for any B.C. trucker that goes into Alberta the regulations apply on highway and off-highway as well. I think if we just closed that one loophole it would at least.... The free-enterprisers in my part of the country do not want to eliminate the competition, but they would like an equal opportunity. So the minister might consider whether those regulations to Alberta vehicles can apply on- and off-highway. As the minister is aware, we have places that would not be visited by any tax people over a whole year. For instance, in the wintertime there are roads that come into British Columbia, across the border, where they can come in there and work for a month and never be spotted by anyone. We have to keep in mind that the oil companies, unless there's a penalty to pay, are going to use the people that they're used to, because many of our oil and gas drilling rigs are from the Alberta side.
I know there's quite a problem about the number of people that work in our province for six months with Alberta licence plates. Again, I don't think we want to eliminate that, because many times we need those people, but it certainly seems to give them an unfair advantage over our own people, particularly with respect to the sales tax, if they can drive Alberta vehicles and work in our province on our resources.
One other point. I don't know how much the minister could do about this problem, but it's a serious one for people in the area; no one in the southern part of the province would even think about it. Many places along the Alaska Highway depend on light service, and that service is provided by Coachways, an affiliate of Greyhound. Here's where we get into the area of permitting — age plates, licences to operate and freedom for anyone to operate. It would be virtually impossible to have proper service maintained if anybody and everybody could do trucking, because no one could make a living at it. But the reverse is then true: when an outfit like Coachways has a monopoly, they seem to feel no obligation to provide service. Let me give you an example.
A tourist breaks down some 450 miles up the Alaska Highway, and all that's needed to get that tourist back on the road is a set of bearings at a service station. The person at that service station phones Dawson Creek or Fort St. John, where the parts are available, and even goes to the trouble to arrange, by taxi or some other way, to have that part delivered to the Coachway station so as to ensure it goes up the highway that day. Three, four or five days later, that part still isn't there.
[ Page 8471 ]
I have written the company and I'm negotiating to try to get them to give some service, and perhaps the minister might ask them whether someone else might give the service if they're not prepared to do so. You have a service station that can't give service and a tourist who's tied up for five to six days, if it happens to be over the weekend, for the sake of a bearing that could have been delivered in that one day if they were interested in giving service. I think it works against our tourist trade. It certainly works a great hardship on places along the Alaska Highway that are completely dependent on this one service. There is no such thing as saying: "If you don't like our service, go somewhere else." That's it. There is no other service, other than bringing it in by airplane, which, of course would be absolutely cost-prohibitive.
I'll leave the minister with that thought. I would certainly be willing to brief him on any of my correspondence and negotiations with those companies. I might add that when it comes from Vancouver, where they have to order an axle and it involves Greyhound to Prince George and Coachways from there, it can take a week; yet the way the buses travel, it really should take one or two days at most. That changeover seems to be a callous disregard for the needs of those people. I don't know how you can force people to give good service, other than to make it a condition of their licence perhaps.
I'd like to speak on one other topic. There's a lot of pressure to raise the driving age to 18, and I would plead with the minister to resist that pressure. We sometimes allow statistics to tell us warped stories. If one-quarter of the drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are poor drivers, we then tend to want to punish — or other people recommend that we punish — the whole group, rather than consider the other 75 percent and come down hard on the bad drivers. Many young people in this province are, at the age of 16, perfectly capable of driving vehicles, and in rural areas that's sometimes a basic need, not a luxury. In large farming areas, young people need to drive to help with the family farm and, if nothing else, to allow the parents to stay at their jobs while they drive themselves around.
As for this business of statistics, I think it's fairly well known that in British Columbia we have statistically the worst driving record in Canada. By deduction, then, you can say that the average driver in British Columbia is the worst in Canada. I use that example because that is not necessarily so; the average driver in British Columbia could be the best driver in Canada even though we have a high accident rate. It's that small percentage of bad drivers who are the worst in Canada, not necessarily the average driver. So I'd like the minister to resist the urge to raise that driving age and therefore punish an entire group for the sins of some.
Another point, one that has been raised in various ways, is capital spending for building and improving highways. The second member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson) cried about how little they are getting here on the Island. I fly over a lot of this province, as well as my own area, coming in over the lower mainland to Vancouver Island, and we'd like to have your problems here. On a clear day you can see that every back road is paved; even back alleys are paved. Over a period of years the emphasis has been on providing funding to the more heavily populated areas. What they seek in improvements would be basic necessities to us. So by comparison, the roads in the producing areas of this province are bad.
Could I just toss this suggestion at the minister? If you took the capital spending, building and improvement money for roads — never mind the maintenance; I know maintenance is necessary — for one year in this province and put it into the rural areas, how much worse off would Vancouver Island be in terms of roads? Let me tell you, it would make an immense difference to the rest of this province. Those millions and millions of dollars would probably upgrade our roads, and we'd be cheering rather than complaining. I think we have to consider that sometime. Far too often the population statistics are the determining factor in where the money is spent. I think we need to look at providing some services, in terms of roads, to the areas where the wealth of this province is produced.
One specific item I'd like to deal with is rural electrification, which in our area is an important need. B.C. Hydro pays into a rural electrification assistance fund, on a per-mile basis, to help projects that are not viable on their own in the area of this province where well over one-third of the electricity comes from. The REA fund is only credited where there is a public road. Therefore Hydro's contribution to rural electrification assistance has now gone up to $11,000 per mile, but only where roads are designated as public roads. For instance, in the upper Halfway, where we've been trying for three years to get a rural electrification program, there are about 12 miles of road which the people wouldn't even want improved. Down the road they certainly might, but at this point all they want is somebody to designate it as a public road. That 12 miles would add $132,000 to the Hydro rural electrification fund towards that electrification project. So far, the consumers have all agreed to contribute at least $3,500 each, plus the cost of their own hookup, which is a considerable amount. The Department of Indian Affairs has agreed to contribute to the Indian reserve; there is the school district, and various other organizations.
In other words, that $132,000 could get that 12-mile project underway this summer. I know it takes a lot of time, but I think that road could be designated as a class 4 or class X, if you like, as long as it's a public road so that the rural electrification program would apply. It would make the difference this summer. I've been working on it for three years; they've been working on it for ten or fifteen.
Another area I want to discuss briefly concerns day labour road construction; and I'd like to make a suggestion that might get more value. In the Peace River area, because of the mud they have to work with on occasion, they can only build roads under certain weather conditions. The day-labour program has done a great deal to help with some of this road construction, but to a large extent that program is governed by the number of Ministry of Highways' supervisors on the road construction project. When a number of projects are going on, some supervisors have to be pulled from areas of less expertise and put on projects of moving dirt or road construction. They then give the orders on those road construction projects. They are also limited in the number of hours they will work or they cost a lot in overtime. When the weather is good, these contractors have to make their pay with $200,000 pieces of equipment, and yet their hours are governed. I know that some steps have been taken to try to extend the hours. For instance, if it is raining all week and the weather happens to be good on the weekend, the contractors would be quite willing to work all weekend, but you can't do that unless you have a highway supervisor there.
I don't know what the percentage of cost is for that highway, supervisor, but I would like to suggest that these contractors could be given a small percentage extra in order
[ Page 8472 ]
to supervise their own construction. That may seem like letting the fox play with the chickens, but in that oilfield country, when an oil company gives a contract to one of the contractors to build a road, they do not put a supervisor on. It's up to that contractor to build the road properly and to set up the specifications. There is a check and balance. If that contractor does not build a proper road, he either fixes it or he doesn't get another contract, so it's very self-regulating.
It behooves these contractors to get expert supervisors that know how to move dirt, fill mudholes and how not to cover up a slough with some sluff that's going to fall in later, because if it falls in later they are held accountable. So there is accountability of these contractors. Their very living depends on doing a decent job. The ministry would also have engineers and people who are expert enough to see that that road is properly built. It's hard for me to come up with a figure, but if you added, say, 5 percent to the contract, it may be far less that what it requires for your own supervisors — inexpert, in many cases — and that 5 percent would put an expert supervisor on the job. I'd like the minister to seriously consider that suggestion as a possibility of gaining much more road for the same amount of money — much greater value for the money spent in our day-labour and road construction projects.
I'd like to conclude by saying that we need to give consideration to more expenditures on rural road building in our area. There are instances where for the lack of two miles of connecting road, farmers have to haul their grain 50 miles instead of 12 miles, and I can give specifics on that. In certain times of the year they can't get their children to school because of that lack of connecting road. I'd like to see the basic needs of the people in the rural areas considered ahead of grade 1mprovements or even landscaping of perfectly good highways elsewhere.
For the benefit of the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. King), who seems to feel that anyone other than himself speaks far too long, I will conclude.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I will quickly run down the good observations made by the member for North Peace River. First of all, there has been a fair amount of rural road work done in the north and south Peace River, but it's not enough to satisfy the MLAs in both areas. It's a question of funding. There are other problems, such as a shortage of gravel in some areas, lots of gumbo and so on, but we're getting there. I like the idea you had that for one year we shut down all the capital work on the main highways and put all that money into rural roads. Being a rural member myself, I'll second that motion, but I don't think we can get away with it.
Yes, we have had our problems with day labour under supervision where the machine operators want to work when the weather is good. We have had difficulty, and we've tried to iron those things out, but I think it's ongoing. Our people have worked longer hours to do this, but there's still friction — I don't know if that is the right word — but it is a little better than it was three or four years ago, and I hope it continues to improve.
The one that really interests me as an MLA.... I have the same problems with B.C. Hydro power extensions. I get a real kick out of the citizens in our province who are complaining about their hydro bill being too high in the heavily populated areas. I have a lot of citizens in Cariboo — and I know you have in North Peace River — who would love to be able to pay a hydro bill; they have no lights at all. The other irony of it is that the hydro main lines from the Peace River to the lower mainland go right through their property, but they're burning candles and lanterns in 1982; that's what's going on right today.
AN HON. MEMBER: Lone Prairie!
HON. MR. FRASER: Yes, we heard about that a few years ago. But it's going on in the Cariboo and it's going on in the Peace River, and it's regarding financing and so on with Hydro.
But I wanted to tell the member for North Peace River that I think we can help him with that one area problem. You are being told by Hydro, as I understand it, that because it isn't a public road you can't get the power extended. I'm sure that Highways can convince them that that power extension can go ahead. Highways would be glad to help. Maybe you have tried this, but I know that in my own riding, that has happened. Hydro says they won't put the power in because it's not a public road. We designate it and then it makes it proper, but we don't necessarily have to spend the money. A commitment by Highways is acceptable by Hydro. Whether we're dealing with a different situation here or not, I don't know, but I think you should immediately contact us if you haven't. There should be a solution to that problem regarding the road situation.
I appreciate your comments about the driving age. I guess you're not supposed to refer here, Mr. Chairman, to prior legislation, but it passed on the long Friday — Bill 4. The government is not going to increase the age for young drivers to 18. In that Bill 4, the amendments provide for less than a five-year driver's licence, and I think that's the way the superintendent of motor-vehicles will he moving. In his discretion, the younger people will probably get a two-year licence to start off with instead of five.
But you're absolutely right. The analysis on the 16- and 17-year-olds is that less than 5 percent of them are causing the trouble. So that means that 93 or 94 percent of them are just as good drivers as you are or as I am. We don't want to penalize that percentage, but that's the direction that that's going in, in response to raising the age limit to 18.
On the other item that you brought up regarding Greyhound Bus Lines, the observation I have there is that they have a motor-carrier plate under the Motor Carrier Commission. It sounds to me as if they're not living up to the conditions of their licence, and they should be reported. They can lose their licence for that, or certainly be reprimanded and corrected. That's the information that I have to pass on there: they are definitely licensed. It's a question of policing these things — inspections — and I might tell the committee that we are hiring seven or eight new inspectors for 1982 under the motor carrier branch to further tighten up on the abuse of the licences that they have. We're getting a lot of complaints of non-enforcement. I think this is another one here on the passenger express side.
Dealing with Alberta and whether they're not regulated off-highway, I'm not sure whether that's correct, but I assume it is. They are regulated on-highway, It came up in the committee on Friday, but I'd like to say further — I'm not Ottawa bashing, and I'm not Alberta-bashing either — that we intend to put a checkpoint at the Red River junction immediately to find out what is going on regarding licensing, coming into the Tumbler Ridge setup from Alberta. Again,
[ Page 8473 ]
more tightening up.... Some of these new inspectors will find their way to the Peace River, checking the licences.
I'd like to relate a story that's going on. I think we're away behind Alberta. I had a friend go into Alberta in the month of May with a dump truck with B.C. plates on, and they got him in 24 hours. They not only got him; they made him buy vehicle plates, and then he had to have an operating authority, and they wouldn't sell him an operating authority. Furthermore, they told him that he had to prove residency in Alberta for six months before they'd sell him an operating authority. How could he prove residency? He had to supply an Alberta medical card, and you can't get that unless you have resided there for six months. Maybe B.C. should be looking at some of these as countermeasures. But that has actually happened.
This friend of mine — and I have a few left — after having to pay $700, $800 or $900 for his motor-vehicle licence, turned around and drove home, because they wouldn't give him a carrier plate. And he had to wait six months to get a medical card. That's how they're administering their regulations. I guess a lot can be said in favour of that, to look after their own people, but it seems to me that in British Columbia we'd better start looking the same way. As I say, it's being considered to have the same rules of the game as they have; and yes, with some things that are going on, definitely Alberta has an advantage. They have no advantage on a public road, but as you say, a lot of tightening up has to take place to protect the British Columbia people. I hope we can get that in place in 1982.
I appreciate your remarks about the spouses on the planes. I think it's not a big issue; we've been public on that since 1979. When the plane is going and there is certainly room, it's better for all concerned.
I think that pretty well covers the observations of the member for North Peace River,
[Mr. Mussallem in the chair.]
MR. GABELMANN: Mr. Chairman, I'm going to be brief this afternoon. Let me say first of all that I agree with the minister and the member for North Peace River when they say that spouses should be able to go on the plane with the minister when the plane has a seat and they're going to do public business. There is no question about that; I don't think there is a member in this House who doesn't agree that we've been too uncivilized for far too long in respect of spouses' attendance — with cabinet members particularly, but with members in general. That's a good thing for the government to do, and I think that should be said from both sides of the House,
Mr. Chairman, I have five issues that I want to raise this afternoon. That is by no means an exhaustive list of issues in North Island; they are the five that I think require some further attention beyond dealing with the district engineer, the ministry staff or the minister himself, as I have done on a variety of issues. They are five that the public, I think, would expect me to make some mention of here in the estimates debates.
The first one has been a perennial issue for the member for Comox (Ms. Sanford) and me. And I am sure the minister expects me to talk about the Island Highway bypass.
I understand — as does everybody in the House and probably the whole population — that with the financial impediments that the government has in these bad economic times, we can't just demand expensive new highways here, there and everywhere. I acknowledge that and make clear that I wouldn't put highway construction or capital costs for highways ahead of a lot of other important government spending that needs to take place in the province. So I want to make it clear that I'm not demanding expenditures here that might better be spent in job-creation or some other activity such as funding hospital beds or whatever.
But it needs to be said that there will be some capital expenditures in the next fiscal year — as there is this year and will be in all the years to come — within the minister's responsibility, and I would argue that of all the priorities for large capital expenditures in highway construction in this province it would be hard to find a more pressing and urgent need than the bypass, particularly between Bowser and Middle Bay just north of Campbell River. That stretch is one of the most dangerous pieces of road in the province; the RCMP describe it as a death-trap. I'm terrified driving it myself, as I do two or three times a week at least, and I know that most of the people who drive that highway — particularly between Campbell River and Courtenay — find it to be a pretty terrifying piece of road and pretty heavily travelled, as I know the traffic counts indicate. I'm not arguing for new money that would come out of some other programs that are probably more important in these times, but I think the minister would have a hard time justifying another section of new road of comparable cost being more important. It's essential that that first stretch be completed between just north of Campbell River and Bowser. It's 90 kilometres, I believe, and apart from acquiring some land, I suspect it's relatively easy road building. There is a bit of a problem over the Campbell River, but in terms of site selection, both over that river and along the corridor to be chosen....
I think the minister should note that there has been relatively little, if any, criticism of any of the alternative proposals. What that tells me is that the public is aware of the desperate need for the road, and they are prepared to overlook some considerations in terms of the environment, or farmland, or other considerations that come into play. They are so desperately in need and in want of that road that they don't even complain about some of the site corridors that have been proposed. I think there's a clear consensus now up there as to which corridor could be developed pretty well the whole distance, and I suspect that the only impediment at the moment is money. To that, I would argue that this is one of the greater needs in the province, and I hope it could be considered in next year's budget, if not this one, obviously.
The second issue is the proposed Tahsis-Woss road. We're talking about an isolated west-coast logging community with two, soon to be three, sawmills and a fairly large logging operation. It is very much an isolated community — 44 miles of gravel to get to Gold River, and then a twisty, terrible paved road from there to Campbell River. The alternatives for them are to go directly via Woss Lake onto the Island Highway, which is a much shorter route. It would open up timber resources.
I have appealed in the past to the minister to proceed on this particular road as a public highway. I think perhaps now the minister might want to, perhaps at the ministerial level or at the staff level, have some discussions with Forests about whether or not it might be more appropriate as a section 88 road, for the time being, to open up some timber reserves in that particular direction. It may be that we can build a Forests road for about $5 million — $4.1 is the estimate — whereas when we're talking about Highway standards, it would be
[ Page 8474 ]
approximately $30 million to $35 million in last year's dollars. It might be that the solution is a Forests- standard road through to Woss.
If the minister rejects that and intends to continue upgrading the existing Tahsis-Gold River road, I implore that that road.... If there's going to be any paving done on that road, don't do that paving without some very major reconstruction. There are enough accidents on the road already, but if there's pavement with the way that road is aligned and constructed now, even with some of the straightening and rebuilding that will be taking place, the amount of black ice and treacherous driving in that part of the province in the winter will create real good business for the ambulance crews and the hospitals in Gold River, Tahsis and Campbell River. I suspect we'll keep a few of those government jets flying too, taking people to Vancouver, because that will be a real deathtrap.
So my appeal to the minister is that if he has rejected the idea of building a public highway from Tahsis to the Island Highway, then perhaps he might put all of those decisions on hold and have some discussions at the staff level with Forests to see whether or not an alternative can be found — the requests were made virtually unanimously in Tahsis — by developing a forestry road.
The third issue is the Quadra ferry — the ferry between Campbell River and Quadra Island. I understand the need for not proceeding as planned with the different ferry service, and I am not critical of that decision. I'm not standing here to ask the minister to speed up or reinstitution the earlier schedule of improvements; I recognize that that's not possible, and I'm not complaining or being critical about that. My request in respect to that ferry is a very simple one. The minister has indicated that the ferry service will terminate on September 11, because various ferries are going in for refit and moving around and that kind of thing.
It's absolutely essential that somehow the various refits or scheduling be done in a way to allow that second ferry on the Quadra run to stay on until the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm only talking about another month or so, and it's really very important. I think if that one alteration to the refit schedule was made, we wouldn't have to have files two and three inches thick on the Quadra ferry, as I have, as a result of the feelings of people on that island. I think they have moderated their demands. I certainly respect their views. I respect the position the minister is in, and I think the whole problem for this year can be solved very simply by extending that second ferry for one month.
The fourth issue relates to the early ferry in the Alert Bay-Malcolm Island-Port McNeill run. There are an increasing number of people who work — when there are jobs; there are not too many of them right now — in the forest industry who live at Sointula on Malcolm Island and at Alert Bay on Cormorant Island for a variety of reasons. The climate is slightly better, the housing prices are cheaper and on and on. There are quite a variety of reasons why people like to live on those islands. People who work in non-service, industrial jobs have to get to Vancouver Island by private boat, and in November and December that can be a pretty treacherous business on those waters. I know the minister rejected outright the request for an earlier ferry run on that particular route, but it's something that would serve a very needed purpose. Although it may not be possible in this year's budget — and I understand that — I would hope the minister would seriously consider it for inclusion in next year's budget.
The final question relates to the discussions that are going on between Transport Canada and the provincial government over the question of subsidies for some of the private ferry and marine transport services provided on the coast. I'm thinking particularly of the freight services on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The last thing I've learned about this from the minister is in a letter dated April 7, in which he tells me that the subsidies paid to the private operators have been extended by two months. That's more than two months ago. I gather that the negotiations with Ottawa are not yet complete. I'd appreciate knowing at what stage those negotiations are and whether or not the subsidies will continue to be paid while those negotiations continue, and also if the minister would tell us his view as to what that final arrangement with Ottawa should be in respect of these subsidies provided to marine freight services on the coast.
With those five questions, Mr. Chairman, I will sit down and wait for the minister's answers.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, to the member for North Island, I can answer most of your questions fairly speedily, I think. First of all, going from back to front, regarding your concern about the west coast operators, I don't think we really have any problem with Ottawa. I'm happy to tell you that all the contracts to continue the west coast operations have been awarded by the B.C. Ferry Corporation. They called tenders and the tenders have come in. There were some problems for a while, but I've just been advised by Mr. Baldwin that the new contracts have all been awarded for the west coast operations.
The early ferry for Alert Bay-Port McNeill. I've heard of that for a year or so, and we tried to get additional funding. It will cost about $115,000 to put that on, and that wasn't approved. We'll try again in the next budget round.
Some improvements have been made on the Quadra ferry. You made a reasonable request, and we'll took into extending it from September 11 to Thanksgiving. I don't know what is involved, but we'll certainly look at it and see if we can accommodate it.
The road from the community of Tahsis to Gold River is, as you know, a forest access road, and we helped them financially with it. It's never been brought properly into the highway system — right or wrong — and now the community of Tahsis wants another road built from Tahsis to Woss. Maybe they're correct, because the road from Gold River to Tahsis is being used for active logging and that's not a very good mix with cars and that going over it at the same time. We have a real problem there. We haven't any solutions at the moment, other than leave it the way it is. The observation that I've been given by senior staff is that forestry is not interested in building a road from Tahsis to Woss under section 88, their reasoning being that there is no timber involved. So I pass that on to you. Regarding your concern about paving, no, we wouldn't pave the existing road from Gold River to Tahsis until we get it sorted out properly.
The last item you had is the Courtenay-Campbell River bypass. Just for your information, that project doesn't cover quite all the area that you're talking about, but we have put out the submissions at a cost of $130,000. The final report has been distributed for review and comments by municipal government agencies and other interested groups. The report indicated three routes: inland, coast and a middle location. The weighing of all engineering, environmental, land-use,
[ Page 8475 ]
socio-economic and cost factors resulted in the middle location being the recommended corridor. That's what's out for comment. The project costs for construction in the optimal route would be $166 million in 1980 prices. I think that pretty well answers your questions.
MR. RICHMOND: I have just two or three comments and questions for the Minister of Transportation and Highways, and I'll be as brief as possible. First of all, I'd like to thank the minister and his able staff in both Kamloops and Victoria for the tremendous job they've done on the Mission Flats Summit Drive connector road, which was promised last year about this time and is now nearing completion. It will be a tremendous asset to the city of Kamloops in that it will provide a much quicker route for residents of the North Shore to get up to the new subdivision in Aberdeen, and will also get most of the heavy truck traffic out of the downtown area. It will be welcome. Mr. Minister, I'm sure that we'll be cutting a ribbon on that before too long.
Secondly, some upgrading is about to commence on the Yellowhead Highway between the weighscales and the CNR junction. It's a piece of road that has needed upgrading for a long time, and I'm pleased to report that work is progressing there with fencing and some gas line crossings. We should be moving some dirt there, Mr. Member, within the next week or so.
I have three questions for the minister, and I'm sure the people of the Kamloops constituency would like to hear it from him. The number one priority in the area, of course, is the Halston Bridge — the second crossing of the Thompson River. As we all know, this bridge has been promised by many MLAs for many years, but I'm pleased to report that as of 1981 — late '81 and early '82 — some progress is actually being made. I would appreciate it very much if the minister could bring us up to date on exactly where we stand on that bridge. I know it's a long, slow, tedious process, If it weren't, it would have been built a long time ago.
MR. COCKE: Why spoil a perfectly good promise by keeping it?
MR. RICHMOND: It's been promised by too many, I'm afraid, Mr. Member for New Westminster, both from your side of the House and our side of the House. We are making progress, and I would like to hear from the minister exactly where we stand on that.
Secondly, the minister mentioned the Coquihalla Highway in his opening remarks. I wonder if he could pin down a more precise date as to when he expects the Coquihalla Highway to reach fruition. It is very important to the people in the interior of this province, particularly in Kamloops and the Merritt area. The residents of the interior rely on the highways, I think, to a far greater extent than do the people in the lower mainland. I know that in these difficult times the minister is competing with 17 other ministries for what few dollars are available, and I wish him well in that competition. If he needs any help, just holler and I'm sure we'll be right behind him. The Coquihalla Highway is very important to our area, not only for pleasure driving but for the movement of freight to and from Kamloops. I wonder if he could pin down a closer date on that.
Thirdly, the fencing requirements on the highway system, especially in the North Thompson area, have been let go in recent years to a certain extent due to lack of funds. I wonder if the minister could address that problem. The ranchers in the North Thompson are facing tremendous problems with their livestock and the deterioration of fencing. I would ask the minister to address that.
In closing, I would like to commend the minister and his department for the recent changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. I think they are long overdue and a step in the right direction, and, coupled with the new ICBC rate schedule, will get most of our bad drivers off the road, I hope. Certainly it will go a long way towards that.
The one remaining thing I would certainly like to see, as I think most members in this House would, is vehicle inspection stations other than in the lower mainland. I realize the constraints of budget, but I would ask the minister and his people to keep that in mind because it's something that is sorely needed in the rural areas of the province.
HON. MR. FRASER: Answering the member for Kamloops back to front, being from the interior, I feel the same way as you do — that we should be getting on with more mechanical inspections. I don't think the government would supervise it, but I think we should be using the private sector. We're working on that now. I don't expect immediate action, but maybe within 12 months we can get the private sector to carry this out for a fee under the supervision of the motor vehicle branch. The provincial government doesn't have to worry about staff or the capital investment that would be required to build their own stations. There is no question in my mind that we need more mechanical inspection in other areas of British Columbia besides the lower mainland and one station on Vancouver Island.
Regarding the fencing requirements in the North Thompson, we'll certainly take a look at that, Mr. Member. The people on the North Thompson won't like this, but we will be fencing on the road in the Kamloops area. Where we have real problems is from Logan Lake to Kamloops and Logan Lake to Ashcroft. The cattle there are in the thousands and they all range right on the main road. I guess what I'm saying is that there is higher priority there than the North Thompson, but we will be getting to the North Thompson as well.
The Coquihalla from Hope to Merritt. The Coquihalla is a huge project. While they're working on it at the moment, it's going a little slower than expected. I don't believe you'll see the Hope to Merritt section until 1989. That doesn't include the Hope to Kamloops section, as we already have Highway 5 there, but if everything goes well we should have some traffic rolling over the brand new section by 1989. We are talking here of having a four-lane freeway from Hope to Merritt with limited access, which would shorten the distance from Kamloops to Vancouver by some 60 miles. We're just starting to get into the tough mountain country there now, and it's going to take a lot of money and a fair amount of time.
Regarding the Halston bridge, yes, I've heard about this project before, and so have several MLAs. I'm happy to tell you that we expect to conclude a deal with the Kamloops Indian band any day for the property that's required. This year we have allocated $0.8 million for this project to commence, so I think we're on the road. The ministry has a large structure to build there across the North Thompson River. I might say that I have personally dealt with the Kamloops Indian band on their access, and they're not as unreasonable as we would think. Thanks to a lot of people involved, including the MLA, I believe we almost have a deal and we
[ Page 8476 ]
can get started and hopefully call a tender for that large, badly needed structure.
I appreciate the remarks you made about Mission Flats. Yes, that road is just about completed, and it will take a lot of traffic out of downtown Kamloops, particularly the chip trucks that had to go through there to the pulp mill. I want to assure the city of Kamloops, Mr. Chairman, that I understand observations were made by some members of city council a short time ago that the Mission Flats road was too steep for the trucks to get up and down. I can only say to the people of Kamloops who made these observations to please give our efficient engineers a little more credit for brains than that. The road is another grade in the B.C. highway system, but it's certainly not insurmountable and will not cause difficulties. I guess the only thing they could say after this promise was carried out was that the road was too steep, but I'm sure the city of Kamloops will appreciate the fact that it will take the heavier traffic out of the city, particularly going to the pulp mill, and not through Columbia Street in downtown Kamloops. I think that answers the questions.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, I rather smiled when I heard about the second crossing of the Thompson River. I'm just wondering how many times we hear about crossings.
I would like to deal briefly with the third crossing of the Fraser River, as it's dubbed. I note in the minister's remarks the other day that this has in fact been rather delayed. If I understood what he had to say, it was something in the order of 1986 when we could expect something to really get going there.
Here comes the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland). He should go put out a few fires — that way he'd be useful.
My criticism of that potential crossing is the utilization of the Queensborough Bridge as part of the proposal. As many of you know, I have commuted back and forth to Victoria for some 13 years. During that period I have noted that there is now relatively heavy traffic on the Queensborough Bridge. The proposal is to further extend the traffic by using the Queensborough Bridge as part of the Annacis crossing.
For years New Westminster has borne the brunt of highways problems in the lower mainland. Until recently, there was no access whatsoever to provincial funding — not a nickel for any road in New Westminster, whether a connecting road or anything else. Nothing came from the provincial government. Finally, there was a little help: the Barnet overpass. Then there was an act of the Legislature which gives the province power to participate in our road situation.
I know government members spend very little time in New Westminster; they fly over it.
AN HON. MEMBER: I was there Friday.
MR. COCKE: Yes, I got your invitation. It was very nice of you. You make it nice and easy for yourself; you've got an airplane. I've got to use Alex's ferry; so I couldn't get to the sod-turning.
New Westminster sits at the hub of the lower mainland. The Pattullo Bridge was put through. The traffic from and to that bridge goes right through the heart of our town. The other end of our city is very much affected by the Port Mann freeway. Now they want to take the west end of our city and totally choke us to death. That is just a bit much.
Now that the minister has decided that some more time will be taken on this project, take a look at a better place to put the crossing — particularly not the utilization of the Queensborough Bridge as part of the crossing.
I would depart from that subject for just one second. The Minister of Industry and Small Business Development (Hon. Mr. Phillips) talks about the downtown area falling apart were it not for his contribution — which has yet to come to any kind of fruition. I would like to remind the minister that it's the roads and the fact that you stole ICBC headquarters out of the downtown area of New Westminster that have placed it in its present position of jeopardy. This government should forever hang its head in shame.
Just for a moment I would like to talk again about the ferries. I am a great supporter of the ferries in this province. I think it was one of the most significant moves made by Premier W.A.C. Bennett in his entire career.
MR. COCKE: I was not against it then, I've not been against it during, and I'm not against it now. The minister could well put his nose to the paper and do something about industrial development in this province, instead of sitting and harping while people are on breadlines.
Mr. Chairman, back to the ferries. A number of people I have talked to have, I believe, a major concern about the possibility and the problems of fire. I asked the minister a year or two ago for the reason that there was no foam equipment on the car decks. If gasoline were to ignite on the car decks, I think we would have a good deal of difficulty dealing with it. I recognize that there is foam in the engine-room, but I believe that there should be some way of dealing with fire, through foam, on the car decks. I believe that you can probably do it better now than you ever could before, by virtue of the fact that a new regulation of yours — and I applaud that regulation — is that passengers must not remain on the car decks during the time the ferries are plying the waters. That's a good idea, because we don't need any potential for trouble down there. But I do believe that a better ability to fight fire on that deck is necessary. We now have enough car decks.... The ferries are really becoming quite spectacular — they look like floating highrises.
MR. COCKE: You see, the minister still hasn't taken my advice. He's done nothing about unemployment; he just sits here in the House and heckles. That's the best contribution that minister can make.
MR. SKELLY: He should take Doug Heal's advice.
MR. COCKE: That's right.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
Mr. Chairman, I would also like to compliment the minister on the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act — which one should not compliment him on, because I noted that the member for Kamloops (Mr. Richmond) was reflecting on a vote taken in the House, and now I'm doing the exactly the same thing. But I just want to reiterate what I said then. As tough as we have become in this province, we are not tough
[ Page 8477 ]
enough. Every single day — and we've all read again this morning about the havoc wreaked by drunken drivers and irresponsible people behind the wheel.... Sooner or later in this country we're going to have to see to it that people answer for their negligence. I believe the courts are too soft, even with the laws that we have, and I think prosecutors are a bit chicken. I know that they've missed a few, and that makes them hesitate to pursue an indictment, but I think we must get a lot tougher than we are. I believe that the provincial government should lean on the federal government with respect to the whole question of a person having the right to withhold a blood test in order that blood alcohol may be checked.
So, Mr. Chairman, I will leave the minister with those happy thoughts: Queensborough Bridge is out of bounds for your crossing; 20th Street cannot be an arterial highway because it goes practically straight up and down; and how about some foam on the ferries and a little less foam for the drivers of automobiles.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, to the member for New Westminster, I'll go from front to back with yours because I haven't got a reply to you on one item — hopefully it will be here by the time we get there. Dealing with the Annacis crossing and the part the Queensborough Bridge will play, we have written the city and told them that we want and are going to use the Queensborough Bridge in the total concept. As a matter of fact, the city of New Westminster are tickled to death to give up their responsibility for looking after it.
HON. MR. FRASER: Yes, they said that. I'm not saying that they agree with the use we're putting it to, but they certainly agree that the burden will be taken off them when we take it over. That's the plan — rightly or wrongly — and we've advised them of that.
You're right regarding the Royal City. It seems to me they've sliced the Pattullo Bridge from the freeway, and now the Annacis. They have actually had nothing from the province but, as you mentioned, we've changed the funding setup in this Legislature and I have made them an offer this year that we're prepared to discuss and take over responsibility for some of the streets. And I think 60th — I'm not sure — is the one where we back the cars up from the Pattulla Bridge right back to Burnaby. But we are prepared to look at that; we've written them accordingly and are waiting for a reply. I think that they'll probably be treated a little better now than they were in the past regarding funding by the province for their street system, which we certainly use provincially.
I have a note here to the member regarding federal regulations about ferries and foam. Federal regulations specify water sprinklers instead of foam. We have sprinklers and we have sprinklers. Foam would be blown away from the open car decks. That's the reply I have to that. So what we're saying here is that federal regulations specify water sprinklers, and that's what we have. Our management feels that the foam would get blown away, in any case.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, this little exchange in committee wouldn't be necessary if the Minister of Highways would get down and do his job in Vancouver East with that Cassiar mess. The second member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) and I have been pressing the minister time and time again to get on with cleaning up that mess, and what does he do? He spends his time flying over there. I want to tell you this, Mr. Chairman: if the minister got stuck in that traffic a couple of nights in a row, he'd know what a situation it is over there, and he'd get busy and tell his staff to pick up their shovels and get to work over there. I don't blame his staff.
MR. BARRETT: Sure he spends more time in Exhibition Park; he's an exhibit — the Neanderthal minister.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. BARRETT: I didn't start that, Mr. Chairman. Broadway Bob knows what the best show in town is, and he said that the minister is out there at Exhibition Park.
MR. SKELLY: He's talking about horseflesh.
MR. BARRETT: No, he's not talking about horseflesh; he's talking about the results of a parade. That's what his promises are.
Look here, Mr. Chairman. The people in that area are getting absolutely fed up with the delays, the stalls, the studies and the excuses. It's a mess. One of them came up to me the other day and said: "If Cassiar Street was in downtown Quesnel, we might get some action." So I'm going to take a petition to Burnaby and Vancouver city councils and order them to annex Cassiar Street so we can have some results, based on patronage. If we can't get them on logic, let's have them on patronage, but let's get some results somehow.
Mr. Minister, I planned a four-hour analysis of the traffic patterns of that particular section, and I'm going to really let you have it unless you get up here — and I don't want to threaten you, I just want a promise — in this House and tell me that as soon as your estimates are through, the money necessary to clean up that situation will be passed through your department, and you'll get on with cleaning up that particular traffic problem. It's an easy one to solve. All it takes is money. We've got all the engineering done, all the traffic studies done and everything is done and ready to go. All you need to do is to tell the minister sitting next to you that instead of pumping money into Japan by subsidizing all that coal for the Japanese, so he can run for mayor of Tokyo, a little bit of the money's going to be spent here in British Columbia for British Columbians. What's wrong with that? Do you agree with that? I know you do. Just nod your head. There! He nodded his head. That means that the minister announced that the contracts are going to be let for the Cassiar Street bypass and tunnel.
Mr. Chairman, I want the minister to understand — and he understands — how serious that problem is. The people over there do get upset over the fact that every single day commuters are going through their tranquil suburban area looking for shortcuts to avoid that traffic. There must be something you can do. There must be some way that we can proceed to relieve that very serious problem in that area. Mr. Chairman, do you know what happens when people's tempers flare up? They got involved in that barrier dispute there, and then we set up this great planning committee. We had a great planning committee going. We had huge community meetings — it was terrific. Your department staff went over
[ Page 8478 ]
there and took nothing but abuse. Every time they got abuse I stood behind one of them — right behind him. But, Mr. Chairman, after all that excellent public relations work by those civil servants.... And let me tell you those civil servants in your ministry really did a terrific job. They should have got danger pay, because people were mad, and they still are mad.
My colleague for Burnaby, and my colleague for Vancouver East stood up and did a terrific job in this House pointing out the seriousness of the problem. I'm proud of those two MLAs. They've done everything possible. Where did it all stop? It stopped at the minister's desk. The minister is the living proof of Harry S. Truman's admonition that "the buck stops here." It sure did. We haven't seen a buck since it stopped there. Mr. Minister, all the work has been done by the MLAs. I want to thank the hon. former minister, Mrs. Dailly, for the terrific job she did. I want to thank my colleague, the hon. Alex Macdonald, for the job he did. I won't thank them formally because I can't mention their name in committee, but if I could I'd mention that.
AN HON. MEMBER: Where is he?
MR. BARRETT: He's out there trying to help that problem while you're sitting in here doing absolutely nothing. All you do is sit over there on the back bench and go "Where is he? Where is he?" Mr. Chairman, if that member's got nothing positive to offer to help solve the Cassiar Street problem, he should at least be quiet.
All the minister has to do is stand up this afternoon and say in this House that he wants to tell the member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly), and the two hard-working, brilliant. aggressive, thoughtful MLAs for Vancouver East — those two humble MLAs — that all of their work has been now brought to the point where he agrees and he's going to order the money spent to clean up that Cassiar Street mess. You don't have to make a long speech. I'll be the first person to go over there and say Alex Fraser is a wonderful guy. Don't vote for him, but he's a wonderful guy.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Perhaps the committee could be reminded that we are not to mention a member's name in the committee.
MR. BARRETT: Okay, Mr. Chairman, I will not go over and tell them what I think of Alex Fraser.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. BARRETT: I have to confess that I like the minister. If I go around telling everyone that I like the minister, he won't be in the cabinet anymore. I've taken all kinds of approaches working with the minister. I've even tried to use a little humour, but now I'm getting mad. Before I go any further I want to give the minister the opportunity right now — I'm giving him fair warning — to save himself a lot of trouble. Please get up and tell us when you're going to clean up that mess on Cassiar Street. I'll give you that chance right now.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the observations of the Leader of the Opposition and the MLA for Vancouver East. We're actively pursuing that terrific problem. I want to tell you that I do watch it very closely from Exhibition Park. I can see the corner, and I watch the vehicles there. It is the busiest corner in western Canada. I said that before in committee. We are involved with the city of Vancouver, as the members from that area know. Both the city and ourselves have acquired a lot of property so we can do something with Cassiar, and we have it outlined for better or for worse. Our engineers outlined a trench to widen Cassiar, and the city of Vancouver agreed with us, but the citizens of that area took exception to that. That's their right. They thought that we should examine a tunnel as an alternative, and that's what we're busy doing now. For the information of the members in the committee, our engineers don't feel that a tunnel will be functional and will not be able to be operated properly. But in any case, the city and ourselves are now going ahead with an independent study really to see whether these observations are correct; that is, that a tunnel wouldn't be operative.
I'm aware of the.... I like to call it "rat-running" through those residential streets wherever there's a really bad problem, and that's what happens when you haven't got an adequate artery to carry the heavy traffic between the end of the freeway and the Second Narrows Bridge. But, Mr. Chairman, regarding this very large problem, I would hope that we can decide what to do by the end of this calendar year. The last estimate I saw on the job was about $25 million, and I think that will have escalated now because of inflation; I think that was a 1980 figure. So that's really where we're at — that in six months' time we go tunnel or trench. I have some faith in our senior engineers. They say a tunnel won't work, and if a study shows that, then we're ready to go with the trench operation. The property is pretty well all acquired — the right-of-way and so on — and that's where we're at with that.
I can see that we have to get on and make some decision. I think the citizens who are concerned regarding the trench need to be told the same thing by independent people; and they will be told that. I think they'll accept it; that's what I hope.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I regret that I had to threaten the minister to get that much information, but it worked. Six months....
MR. BARRETT: You've been "actively pursuing this problem," were the words you used. How can you actively pursue it watching it from the race-track? You know, I think you've been counting all those cars and dividing them by the number of fingers on your hand and coming up with the number of the horse you want to bid on. I hope you've been winning, because we haven't been winning anything over there. What's taking so long for this study about a tunnel? I think you're under pressure from the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Curtis), and if you tell me that your engineers are already saying that the tunnel is no good, what do we need another six months for? Do you know what six months will do to the cost in terms of inflation? We've got people unemployed. If you're going to go cut and cover, say so, but what are we waiting for? You've made your mind up already: you don't want a tunnel; your staff doesn't want a tunnel, you've bought all of the land. I think a tunnel would be appropriate; I would have ordered a tunnel. I want that on the record: I would have ordered a tunnel.
[ Page 8479 ]
MR. BARRETT: A tunnel on Cassiar Street would have been more appropriate than two tunnels up at Tumbler Ridge to give our coal away to Japan, Mr. Minister. If you're going to subsidize all that coal to Japan, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. We should have jobs here in British Columbia. There it is: shut down our resources. People are unemployed who could be working there in Vancouver. But obviously the minister is not going to go for a tunnel — I regret that. If you're not going to go for a tunnel, if you're going to go cut and cover, you've acquired all the property, what do we need to wait another six months for? What's taking them so long with that independent study? Where are they doing it — in China? Who have you got working on it?
MR. SKELLY: Pat McGeer.
MR. BARRETT: That's a different tunnel. You know, we're not talking about the tunnel that the Minister of Science and Technology wants from Victoria to Tsawwassen or to the university so that he can get home a bit faster. You spent a million dollars on a tunnel study for Dr. Pat McGeer, the MLA for Point Grey — science's answer to real life, the minister of technology — spent a million dollars on a tunnel. You've got the most beautiful islands in the whole world to travel by on a ferry for an hour and 40 minutes, and it's a Social Credit answer: block out the reality scenery, go into a tunnel so you'll miss the Gulf Islands, Thank goodness the minister suppressed that. I know that the Minister of Highways suppressed Dr. No and his ideas.
But look, Mr. Minister, time is short for both of us. I want, through you, Mr. Chairman, your name to go down in Cassiar Street history. We'll call it the Fraser Tunnel, I can see it now; just imagine the opening. We could all be standing there and we could use the rented bands that have been used three times to announce tours in the stadium. Maybe we could get them on a leftover day and get twice the work out of them. Maybe we could get the only contribution that the member for Kamloops (Mr. Richmond) has given to this Legislature. We could get his rube band for half price and go over there. Can't you see it now? We could have the B.C. Spirit logo underground. There it is: the first underground B.C. Spirit logo. We could wave one of those $12,000 ads for the Vancouver Canucks — all those wise decisions you've made for spending money. We could find three empty bottles of Pouilly Fuisse, fill them with water, and crack them against the wall and fake it that it was a launching. The way you guys throw money away in this government we could have a heck of a good time — just with leftovers. But, Mr. Minister, while all these fellows are blowing this money on Broadway shows and high-class bottles of wine, I don't even know how to pronounce the wine — Pouilly Fuisse? I'll tell you what, I'll buy a $3 bottle of porch climber to celebrate the opening, grown and bottled in the Cariboo — gooseberries. If we just had a little bit of the money you guys waste over there in cabinet tours, overruns, high living, just a little bit of it for good old Hastings East.... I'll even pick up a $2 bet on a horse for you, if you want to watch the traffic go by.
MS. BROWN: I wouldn't trust them.
MR. BARRETT: You wouldn't trust them? I don't want anyone else to listen to this conversation. You and I understand each other, Mr. Minister. Never mind politics. This is above politics; this is votes.
All right. I accept that you're going to finish the study, but I don't understand why it's taking so long. If you've already made up your mind that cut and cover is the best way to go, why are we waiting? What I would like to hear from you now is to stand up and say: "Okay." Give me a deadline on when the report is coming in, and I’ve me a deadline on when you're going to let those contracts. That's all I want, and the $3 porch climber is yours.
HON. MR. FRASER: I appreciate the Leader of the Opposition's observations on several matters. Dealing with this project, I guess our engineers did prefer the trench; there's no question about that. Somebody mentioned a tunnel, but where we actually lost the time in studies and everything else was in trying to get along with the public that is concerned. As I said earlier, it's my understanding that the city council of Vancouver were in favour of what we were recommending until the citizens of that area came up and said: "No, we want to have a look at the tunnel concept." All I can say is that we're responding to them, and the studies should be finished by the end of the year and then we can get on with the job. It's a very high priority for us from the traffic standpoint alone, particularly that intersection of Hastings and Cassiar. I can't predict what will come out of the study, but there is one observation I will make: I understand from our engineers that if they support a tunnel we'll have a little different concept; I believe two and a half times the cost of the trench.
MRS. DAILLY: I was going to talk about the Cassiar intersection, but I doubt that I need to add too much to the words of the Leader of the Opposition, who has expressed far better than the rest of us could the frustration and the concerns. and the hopes that we have that something will finally be done about it. At least we have some statement from the minister, and we will continue of course to keep in touch with you on behalf of the citizens, to check on that progress.
I would like to express thanks to the minister for a letter I recently received from him. I wrote to him expressing concern on behalf of the citizens of North Burnaby about the traffic flow. I appreciate the fact that the letter was fairly detailed in answer to the questions that I posed to the minister. I’m sure he's had enough letters, petitions and expressions of concern from the citizens of Burnaby North who are becoming, increasingly concerned about the fact that Burnaby North has become a traffic corridor for surrounding municipalities. I realize there is no easy solution; I accept that. Burnaby is a beautiful municipality to live in, but the problem of the increasing traffic from other areas is somewhat diminishing its former beautiful liveability. I know the municipal council of Burnaby and the minister have been attempting to alleviate some of the problems. A major problem is that when you fix up one problem in the area, you may create another in a surrounding area,
I want to speak on behalf of the people in Burnaby North and, without being too parochial, say that we want to maintain the identity being a very liveable region. In answer to one of my questions, the minister mentioned that the Barnet Highway, Clark Drive to Cliff Avenue program will be proceeding. but that it's presently in the design phase. This will
[ Page 8480 ]
of course divert some of the traffic presently using the Lougheed Highway.
My specific question to the minister, which wasn't really addressed in the letter is: will it proceed on schedule? I know you stated that it is in the design stage. I just wondered if the plans are to have it frozen there, or will this one get the go ahead? It would certainly alleviate some of the problem.
I was disappointed that after studies by your engineers you decided to increase the Lougheed Highway part of Burnaby by an extra two lanes where we get all the problems at the Willingdon interchange. Most of us felt it was certainly time for that to be done. Apparently your engineers feel that it's going to create more problems at Grandview, 12th Avenue and 1st Avenue corridors, which you presume would have to absorb a further 1,200 vehicles. I can appreciate that problem.
I do want to ask the minister if he has been aware of the tremendous increase in the number of accidents — perhaps it's just general frustration — involving the people who live in the Lougheed Village at the northeastern end of the Lougheed Highway in Burnaby. That area has so many highrises now that it has almost become a little town on its own. The people who live in that area have great difficulty just getting out of their area before getting onto the Lougheed Highway. Of course that has created frustration, which increases accidents. I think that was one of the reasons — only one, of course — that the people of North Burnaby hoped something could be done about the Lougheed Highway. I want to ask the minister if his engineers have been able to give him any advice on what we can do about that terrible traffic problem for the people who live in the northeast part of Burnaby when trying to get on or off the highway.
I have one more question. Today I received — and I'm sure most MLAs receive them periodically — a letter from the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs, who states that a number of applications received under part 5 of the revenue sharing regulations have now been completed. He advises the Burnaby council that limitation of funds has prevented approval of certain projects. All those projects, of course, deal with the upgrading of roads in Burnaby. Some are in the south, in Edmonds. My colleagues from Burnaby-Edmonds, from Willingdon and from the north....
When a decision is made through Municipal Affairs that the money cannot be provided, what kind of consultation takes place between your staff and the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm). This is a considerable setback to the council. I hope you can give some rationale or explain to us how they make their decision to send these letters to the council with just a carbon copy to you when it's basically a highway problem, as well as finance.
MR. SKELLY: If the minister wishes to reply, I would be pleased to defer to him.
I have a number of Highway issues that I would like to bring to the minister's attention at this time. First, I would like to thank the minister and his ministry for completion of the project in Ucluelet — the Alberni-Tofino highway project — and the paving of Spring Cove Road, which has been a problem in that area for a number of years. Since about 1978 the minister has promised to deal with the Spring Cove road, as well as with some of the problems of the grade 1n the pavement on the western end of the Ucluelet-Tofino highway. I'm very pleased to say that that project now appears to be complete, and I would like to convey to the ministry the thanks of the people in that area for the work that was done.
It's interesting that I drove out to Ucluelet last week to congratulate the graduating class of 1982 from Ucluelet Secondary School, and the road had just been completed at that time. It was completed before, when I was teaching at that school in 1969, so the pavement and the grade at that end of the road seems to have lasted for about 10 years. I'm wondering if the minister has any plans to upgrade the construction of that road. Soon after the road was built the grade started to fall, and voids developed in the pavement. As the minister probably recalls, a whole section of the road slipped into Kennedy Lake at one time, and the ministry had numerous trucks there and got the work done in record time. I was wondering if the ministry had any plans to relocate the road from Port Alberni through to the west coast. There have been suggestions that it be relocated around the north end of Kennedy Lake, and there have been other suggestions as well. I wonder if that's considered to be the final alignment of that road, or if there are any other proposals in the ministry to relocate that highway.
Another problem that seems to develop in that area on a year-by-year basis is the problem of alignments of the road between the national park boundary and the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet. Those roads remain in about the same alignment as when they were the original logging roads or military roads a long time ago. There are some pretty dangerous curves and dips in those sections of the highway. Over the years the ministry has been spending roughly $25,000 a year to widen and shoulder the roads, but still the curves remain and the problems of the alignment remain. I'm wondering when the ministry is going to take some action to improve the alignments of those roads. At this point, well over 100,000 people — probably 200,000 to 250,000 people in a good year — come out annually to visit the Pacific Rim National Park. It's one of the major tourist attractions on the west coast of Canada. It's important for the safety of tourists, and to attract tourists to the area, that those roads be well constructed and in good condition. I would urge the minister to take a careful look at those sections of the highway to see what he can do as soon as possible to straighten up some of those sections and eliminate the dangerous curves and dips.
I would also like to thank the minister for the work he's done on the Hot Springs Cove trail. As the west coast of Vancouver Island and my constituency has opened up, tourists are now moving into the area north of Tofino. There are a number of attractions there, one of which is the hot springs at Refuge Cove. While the NDP was in government we managed to acquire that land as provincial parkland, but the trail into that park has degenerated pretty badly. A proposal was made by the Hesquiat Indian band, which is now relocating back at Hot Springs Cove. Their village was destroyed by the tidal wave of 1964, but a number of the families have now moved back. They have asked to establish a regular contract with the minister that would employ some of their band members to maintain that trail through to the park at Hot Springs Cove. I'm wondering what progress has been made on negotiations between the ministry and the Hesquiat Indian band at Hot Springs Cove.
I have been in touch with the minister fairly recently to convey to him a petition from the residents of Bamfield. As members of this Legislature will probably know, the community of Bamfield is divided by a waterway that's locally call Bamfield Creek or Bamfield Inlet. Many of the homes,
[ Page 8481 ]
businesses and also the school in Bamfield are located on what I suppose you would call the west side of Bamfield Inlet. There is no road access to the east side. People have to use boats or whatever marine transportation they're able to obtain at the time. The Indian villages located on the east side have no highway access to the school, even though they supply a good number of the students. It's extremely difficult for the Indian band to provide road transportation in the form of a school bus down to the public floats in Bamfield on the east side, then across to the west side, so that their children can have good access to the school, There has been some suggestion that a new school is going to be located on the east side of Bamfield to provide better access, but the same problem will remain. People will have to come across from the other side.
Why does a perfectly good school have to be relocated at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars, when it's possible that the school district and Ministry of Transportation and Highways could get together to provide a better form of access? I know how difficult it is for a local school district and a Ministry of Highways to come to some kind of agreement on to how to spend money; whether education dollars can best be spent providing access, or whether that's a legitimate expenditure of highways dollars. I urge the minister to take a careful look at the problem in Bamfield to see how he can improve access to the west side of the inlet so that those people can enjoy the same highway benefits as anyone else in the province.
In response to my requests and the petitions from Bamfield, the minister has suggested that this is very low on his list of priorities. Bamfield is a small community, but it's a community of growing importance as a result of the growth of the tourist industry, the opening of the phase 3 section of Pacific Rim Park, and the increasing respect in which the oceanography station at Bamfield is held in the academic and oceanographic studies community, not only in Canada but around the world. That centre is sponsored by five western universities in Alberta and British Columbia. Their research is at the forefront of marine technology and oceanography; and the work done at that station will have considerable economic benefits for the citizens of British Columbia in terms of developing our marine and fisheries resources, including marine plants. This community deserves a little more attention from the Ministry of Transportation and Highways than it has received in the past, because of the important role it will play in British Columbia in the future. I urge the minister to take another look at that problem in Bamfield, and attempt to improve access between the east side of Bamfield, which is provided with highway access to the rest of the province, and the west side of Bamfield.
Last year during the minister's estimates I talked about advance planning. The minister suggested that he would like to have a five-year budget of the kind we appropriated for the Ministry of Forests at that time. We see what's happened to the Ministry of Forests' five-year plan. I also pointed out to the minister what was done in Saskatchewan, where they put together a project array so that tourists and people throughout the province will be aware. They have a map showing highway development projects in that province for the coming year; and it's a tremendous advantage to tourists to know which areas and highways to avoid. It's also a tremendous benefit to the people who are working on those highways, because if tourists are aware that the highways are being worked on they'll take a little more care or avoid those roads entirely, which contributes to the safety of construction workers on Highways' projects. That's at least as important as making sure tourists are able to travel freely around the province.
I recommend this type of approach to the minister; and I've sent him a copy of the 1981 Saskatchewan highway construction array. The 1982 one will probably have a different minister's picture on it, but it's no less a good plan for that reason.
I would also like to ask the minister what happened to the Vancouver Island transportation project. Maybe the minister explained this to the House when I was absent on opposition business.
MR. SKELLY: It's interesting that a member can be absent from the House on government business, but not on opposition business. Isn't that strange. Maybe that's something we should look into by way of substantive motion, as you Clerks put it.
The Vancouver Island transportation project was proposed by the minister back in May of 1981. It was announced with some fanfare and press releases at the time. The minister suggested that he was intending to stimulate discussion about the proposed planning approach as part of a consultative process to be initiated from the outset of this project — whatever that means — and he outlined a number of objectives. I'm wondering what happened, looking at discussions of transportation problems on Vancouver Island over the last year. Since this document was presented I haven't seen any public meetings convened or the ministry really furthering this proposed plan.
In fact, the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) was recently travelling around Vancouver Island and through the Fraser Valley proposing to do away with one of the main transportation links on the Island, Pacific Coach Lines Ltd. and a number of people expressed concern about the difference between what that minister was advocating and what the Minister of Highways appeared to be advocating in his transportation document — more integration of the transportation modes on Vancouver Island and more public discussion of how those transportation facilities could be integrated and used to better advantage. It seemed that the people on Vancouver Island — at least, at the meeting I attended in Nanaimo with the minister — were concerned that something was going to be happening to Pacific Coach Lines prior to anything coming of the minister's Vancouver Island transportation project. If the minister could explain just what is happening with that project, when we may expect some kind of more intensive consultation with the public on Vancouver Island and some outcome to that....
I would also like to talk with the minister about airports in my constituency. Again, within the last few years, the ministry has been of some assistance in making sure that services continue to be provided at the airport in Tofino. But this year Port Alberni has sunk, into some fairly desperate economic circumstances. As a result of the decline in the markets in the forest industry and as a result of a number of problems relating to the operation of the single major company in the Port Alberni area, MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., we're in serious difficulties. Thousands of people are out of work in that area. During the summer 1,200 people are expected to go on welfare and they will, as a result of that, end up as a drain on the provincial economy. I'm talking about 1,200 people who
[ Page 8482 ]
formerly earned a base rate of $11.50 an hour or better now ending up on welfare along with their families. I don't have to tell the minister that circumstances are desperate for those people. They are concerned that work should be provided for them in the Port Alberni area.
One of the things that has been discussed in recent times is relocation of the airport in Port Alberni. I suspect that's one of the few airports in the province that the minister has not flown into, because of the difficulty of predicting weather and winds and because of the short length of the runway. I'm wondering what involvement the ministry has had with planning and with furthering the new airport project in Port Alberni. If the minister is not aware of it, I'm a supporter, as a private pilot, of a new airport for the area. I think it would add considerably to the economic development and diversification of Port Alberni, and I would urge the minister to take the initiative on this project. I know he's cut back in the funds for the airport assistance program, but I think that the way this government spends dollars can assist communities like Port Alberni which are desperate for jobs at this point. I think that it would be important if the minister initiated contacts with people in the Alberni Valley to try to advance that airport project so that we would have work available in the Alberni Valley as well as some diversification in the economy. So I would like some comments from the minister on that project as well.
Last year I brought to the minister's attention a positive suggestion for motor vehicle licensing. I suggested to the minister that people who had been in violation of the Motor Vehicle Act and who had an inordinate number of points on their driver records should be forced to display a licence plate on their cars which indicated that they were probationary drivers. I indicated to the minister that this had worked successfully in some areas, particularly in a few states in Australia, and I understand that the state of New South Wales still has this requirement. It's interesting to see a guy driving around in a Camaro — which is considered a macho car, a sports car — having to display a P plate, meaning he's a probationary driver or isn't as capable a driver as others. It's a real incentive for people to drive properly and to eliminate that probationary status.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
The minister rejected that proposal entirely, but I'd like to read from a column by Gorde Hunter in the Victoria Times-Colonist in which he said:
"The NDP representative from Alberni offered a new method of licence plate designation. He would make it mandatory for those convicted of impaired driving to carry special licence plates telling the world that he or she is something less than a good citizen and-or a good driver. Come on now, Robert, you know the government isn't going to institute something as sensible as that. You know drunk drivers and those who drive while under suspension rarely get more than a slap on the wrist. You surely know that these potential killers seem to have charmed lives insofar as the law is concerned.
" Skelly's suggestion is not only good, but long overdue from someone with a little legislative voice. He pointed out such licence identification has been used in Australia for some time. Good drivers have a capital M on their plates."
I didn't suggest this, but he suggests that the drunks carry a special plate, and maybe that's a good idea too.
I think one of the problems that we have in this province and in this country is that we tend to use negative reinforcements which don't work with many people and, in fact, often aren't very visible to the general public, and as a result they don't work. Everybody likes to retain a little status in the community and among his peers, especially where his car is concerned. It seems to be the one place where American drivers are concerned about preserving their status. If a driver were forced to display prominently on his car that he is less than a good citizen with respect to his driving ability or driving practices, I think it would have a tendency to reduce the number of unsafe drivers on the road.
While I'm talking about those kind of incentives, I'd like to mention something that appeared on television maybe within the last year where the cities of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and Mississauga, Ontario, instead of using the radar traps to catch people, put points on their licences. You have this endless cycle of being caught in radar traps, having additional points placed on your licence, paying additional ICBC premiums. It's really a process of entrapment and the kind of thing that I oppose. In Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, they display a sign in an area where they've had speeding problems. They point out that this area is patrolled by radar, and they also show prominently on the sign how the public has complied with the speed regulations in that area. For example, on one day they'd have 75 percent compliance; the next day they'd have 80 percent. They found out that the drivers got concerned about the positive reinforcement that these signs provided and were careful to drive slowly in those areas.
I think in areas where speed is a problem the ministry should consider, instead of having the traditional radar traps, which do nothing but frustrate drivers and create problems for the police, having a more positive incentive to drive safely where radar patrols are fairly regular and the signs show how the public complies with the law, and how well drivers are doing rather than how poorly. Again it puts the whole situation in public, it lets people know how safe drivers in a certain community are, and I think that it's a better way of reinforcing good driving practices than the negative way of constantly catching people in radar traps, issuing them points for speeding, frustrating them, and creating additional financial problems for them when there is a possibility of success using the other technique.
The last thing I'd like to bring to the minister's attention is the problem of motor vehicle inspection stations. Possibly he's dealt with this before as well. At the time that I represented the area which included Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the surrounding area, drivers and automobile owners from that area were required to take their vehicles to Nanaimo for motor vehicle safety checks. There's been a great deal of opposition from that area because it's close to Port Alberni, and drivers from Port Alberni are not required to have their cars safety-checked each year. As a result, the citizens of the Parksville, Qualicum and surrounding area feel that they are unfairly treated by the law. The law has to be fairly and equally applied around the province, or else not applied at all.
I would like to know what plans the ministry has for expanding the motor-vehicle inspection system. If vehicles are required to be safe in some sections of the country, they should be required to be safe in other sections. But right now it simply creates problems for those who live in areas that are
[ Page 8483 ]
adjacent to cities such as Port Alberni where those safety checks aren't required.
HON. MR. FRASER: I said earlier in the estimates that we'd like to use the private sector to expand motor-vehicle inspections. We're just starting to really took at that. Don't look for anything in a hurry, but I hope inside of 12 months we'll have a few going in certain areas.
I haven't considered special licence plates — I know the ministry has — since last year when you brought it up. I was aware of Mr. Hunter's column. I think it's a little early. We haven't done anything about it.
Regarding getting the airport assistance, we have had some contact with Tofino because of the scare that Transport Canada were going to pull out. We still feel that way, but they're saying that they'll continue using federal Parks people, I think it is, to help. Those are the notes I have. I don't think it will happen overnight. In the meantime, it's their airport,
Yes, I have landed on the Port Alberni strip. But we have no correspondence from them. Maybe that should he handled through the regional district. That's what most of them are. The notes I have here say that they haven't contacted us.
Regarding the Vancouver Island transportation study, part of that has taken place, but it's really only starting. It will go on for a while yet. A discussion paper was circulated to carriers, municipalities and regional districts in May 1981. We didn't have public meetings. The discussion paper stimulated discussion on a wide variety of issues, including the level of service provided by the current highway system on the island, requirements for additional highway capacity, level of service offered by B.C. Ferries and future alternates for the E&N Railway. The forecast of development on Vancouver Island was prepared by Garth Edge International, a Vancouver-based consultant. That study included interviews with representatives of a broad cross-section of the Island's business community, including forestry, mining, fisheries and tourism. My notes go on to say that this consultant forecasts that the population of the Island would increase from 475,000 in 1980 to 735,000 in 2001.
The study is continuing. Approval is being sought to initiate another phase of the Vancouver Island transportation project. This phase will produce forecasts of freight and passenger traffic over the next 20 years. This will be a six-month project. It will provide input for future policy development work to be accomplished in the fiscal year 1982-83. In addition, work on specific issues such as the E&N passenger service and Pacific Coach Lines will continue within the framework of the Vancouver Island transportation project.
I like the idea of the map from Saskatchewan you sent. Yes, I guess the minister's picture will change. One observation I have is that it's difficult for us to predict what we're going to do that far in advance. Saskatchewan seemed to be a little ahead. In other words, we don't get approval so early that we can get a map out and get it around. I see that one problem about it.
We're glad to cooperate with the school district or the Indian band to try to help solve the problem in Bamfield.
Regarding paving, improving and relocating roads, we haven't any real plans there. As you pointed out, we've just completed that paving project — if it is completed. I guess it is just about complete, so we're making a little progress.
The member for Burnaby North (Mrs. Dailly) mentioned the revenue-sharing. Revenue-sharing is a program done this year to a gross of $15 million. We assist the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in arriving at what qualifies in the different street systems in the municipalities; it's our advice they accept. Then we have to battle over the cutting up of the money. It's a new program, and in the last three years it has gone from $3 million, I believe, to $15 million. It's very Popular with the municipalities, and rightly so. In the case of Burnaby, I understand we have approved this year $3.2 million for the BNR grade separation. Because of that, we kicked out their other applications. They got a fair hunk for the one project. I'm aware of Burnaby's feelings about their traffic corridor: it just happens to be where they're geographically located. We enjoy working with Burnaby council. We get a lot of support and we try to help all we can when they're developing liveable regions. It certainly is a problem.
You wrote asking us to add lanes to the Lougheed Highway. The reply was that there is no point in adding lanes because the Vancouver street system cannot accept more traffic, therefore, Vancouver would need to designate more major streets. That's our reason for not doing anything with Lougheed.
I believe you mentioned something about the Barnet Highway, and would four-laning be delayed because of funds. The answer is that design work is proceeding, and when it is completed next year funds will hopefully be available. So we're saving we hope there won't be a delay, but there could well be if there's a delay in funds.
I think that pretty well clears up most of what of what I had for today.
MR. SKELLY: One supplementary question, a short one that I forgot to put in the first part, concerning Highway 4 between Parksville and Port Alberni. The last time I discussed this in the Legislature with the minister he suggested that work would begin on that section after completion of the Lantzville section of Highway 19. I note from the last annual report of the Ministry of Highway, which I think is 1980-81, that the survey work is 100 percent complete, design work about 80 percent complete. When is the ministry going to put that work to tender, and when will we see some work done on that section of the Alberni highway around Cameron Lake, given the minister's promise that it would be done after completion of the Lantzville section?
HON. MR. FRASER: I'm happy to say that I think we're going to see the end of the Lantzville section. We've had lots of problems in getting it done, but it's supposed to be complete in July or August. We want to go to the road you're talking about, subject to funds being available, and I can't predict that. I hope it will be next year, but I really can't say.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair]
I have three issues that I want to raise with the minister. The first
has to do with getting out of Burnaby in the mornings to Vancouver, or
to anywhere, for that matter. It's getting worse: it's almost
impossible. If one takes the cutoff, the traffic backs up from Canada
Way getting onto the freeway and the overpass. You can forget about
Kingsway; just write it off as a bad job. It's not possible to move an
inch on Kingsway. If one takes Canada Way and tries at the Boundary
Road cutoff to get onto 12th Avenue, the traffic backs Li again, If you
have to get to work by 8:30 or 9
[ Page 8484 ]
o'clock in the morning and you're coming from south Burnaby, you had better leave home by 5:30 a.m. at the very latest, because it's just not going to be possible to get out of Burnaby unless you do.
I want to ask the minister what's happening with Kingsway, certainly between Edmonds and 12th Avenue. It's an absolute nightmare all day, not just during the peak hours. I know I've raised this issue with the minister a number of times and have asked that something be done, either putting in another lane or wiping out all the parking on Kingsway or something. The traffic bottlenecks there have reached a stage now where they cannot continue much longer.
I want to raise a specific problem to do with one of my constituents who ran into one of the minister's potholes. I realize that it's not possible that the minister should be responsible for every pothole, but this was a particularly vicious pothole that attacked this gentleman on January 25. He said that on the evening of January 25 he was driving his vehicle along Kensington. He was observing the speed limit. The driving conditions weren't particularly good, because it gets dark quite early at that time of year and it was raining. He hit a large pothole just as he was getting onto the freeway and it blew the front right tire.
He contacted the RCMP, and they told him that this was the fourth, fifth or sixth tire that had come afoul of that particular pothole. He went and got it fixed and the bill came to $74.05. On the recommendation of the RCMP he sent the bill to ICBC, and they refused to pay the bill. So he wrote to the ministry and received a letter back saying that the minister was really very upset about the pothole and they sent a lot of regrets and things, but they were not prepared to pay the bill. You said: "Under certain circumstances some of the patches put in potholes do fail, and it's not possible to determine the rate of failure. There are instances such as this where holes do form and damage occurs to vehicles before employees of the ministry become aware of the hazard. It is unfortunate that these situations occur, but the refusal of your claim by Mr. Cavin is a statement of ministerial policy."
I wonder if the minister would elaborate on the policy. What size does a pothole have to be before the ministry takes responsibility for it? How long, for example, does a pothole exist before it is patched? What kind of protection do the drivers of Burnaby have against the potholes which occur when the patches disintegrate? Here it said: "The hole had been filled, but due to heavy precipitation the patch had disintegrated, and this was not known at the time your vehicle, tire and wheels were damaged." Whatever the reason, the end result of it is that this gentleman, through no fault of his own, got stuck with a bill for $74.05. What is the policy? I recognize that not everyone who runs into a pothole should have their bill honoured, but certainly there are some exceptions. If the minister would state what the regulations are, maybe I would be able to help poor Mr. Roger Whitehouse, because he still has this outstanding bill which hasn't been paid.
The other thing I want to raise is the issue I raise every opportunity I get with this minister. It has to do with seatbelts for children under the age of 4 in this province.
MS. BROWN: Yes. If young Prince Bill was driving in a car in British Columbia, he would not be safe. The future Crown head would be in jeopardy. We certainly can't be held responsible for what happens to the young prince in other provinces, but surely if the young prince were to come to British Columbia, we would like to be sure that he would he safe. That would not be possible, as a result of our lack of seatbelt legislation protection for children in this province.
Apparently the federal government did a study to measure the attitudes of people towards seatbelt legislation for children. They did this in January 1982. It turned out that for Canada as a whole, 69 percent approve of seatbelt restraints for children, but in British Columbia that figure went up to 80.5 percent. I don't think there is any question that the minister would have the overwhelming support of all British Columbians if he would....
AN HON. MEMBER: He might even get re-elected.
MS. BROWN: Yes, he might even get re-elected if he introduced such legislation.
AN HON. MEMBER: What about the kids?
MS. BROWN: They at least would live long enough to vote for or against him.
When I raised this issue earlier in June when we were debating a piece of legislation which I'm not going to reflect on, the minister responded that he was waiting for the federal government to come up with uniform standards. That's not good enough; that really isn't. Last year and again this year, I wanted to bring to the minister's attention that there isn't any reason why British Columbia cannot be in the forefront. There isn't any reason why we can't go ahead and use, recommend, suggest and introduce into law some of the restraints which presently do exist, with the understanding that if the federal government comes up with something better, we will amend our legislation or our regulations, as the case may be, so that the children of British Columbia — certainly the infants — would have more protection. But to have nothing while we are waiting for the federal government to come up with uniform standards is really not fair to the children of British Columbia.
On June 26 there was a letter to "Dear Abby" in the Times-Colonist, and it talked about the fact that the New York state Legislature has recently passed a law requiring all passengers four years of age and under to be strapped into approved safety seats. I was surprised. I'm wondering whether the minister has seen that piece of New York legislation and taken a look at the regulations and the recommendations in it. This woman went on to talk about this fact: "Six years ago I was driving my six-month-old daughter, unbelted, sitting in her carrier seat beside me. Five blocks from my home I was broad sided by a mail truck. My car flipped over twice and my precious baby girl was tossed around inside like a ping-pong ball. She died 72 hours later of massive head injuries. I was told it was a blessing, that she would have been a vegetable had she lived." This is just one story. Every year I talk to the minister about my own experience working in the Children's (Montreal) Hospital on the cerebral palsy ward with the kids with brain damage, and the statistics that they have in Quebec. There were more kids in there with brain damage resulting from being in cars than kids who were injured as a result of being hit outside of a car. Adults sitting in a car, even if they're not strapped in, have a better chance of survival than a child because it is true that whether it's a rear-end or a broadside, even if the car doesn't flip over — an
[ Page 8485 ]
infant is just thrown around in the inside of that car and is really injured seriously as a result of being battered against the support posts or the roof or the dashboard in front or whatever.
We just can't wait for the federal government to come up with standards. We have to pioneer in this field. We're not even pioneering, because in Saskatchewan there is legislation. I'm willing to give the minister my copy of the Saskatchewan legislation, as well as the regulations, which recommend the kind of car seats — whether it's the General Motors Infant Love Seat or the Ford Motor Infant Carrier or the Chrysler's infant safety carrier. There are a number of good restraints in the system right now. Anything would be better than what we have in British Columbia right now, which is absolutely nothing.
I am still appalled to find people driving in this day and age with children in their arms in the front of a car. They think they are being loving and caring. You see grandparents driving with an infant in their arms, and when you know what would happen to that child if that car had even the slightest accident.... How do you get this message across except by introducing legislation that says that any child under the age of 6 must be in the rear of the car — not in any of the front seats — and must be restrained in some kind of restraint, and then making recommendations as to what it should be?
I don't know what to do, Mr. Chairman. Every opportunity I get, the minister is warm, understanding, sympathetic and he agrees with me, but we still do not have the legislation that we must have if we are going to cut down on the kind of damage that children still experience in this province because their parents do not have the sense — the understanding, quite frankly — that is necessary to ensure that they're well restrained when they are travelling in the car. I don't think it's malice aforethought on the part of the parents. I don't think they're being evil, vicious or unkind. I really do believe that there are still people who don't think about it and don't realize that an unrestrained child in a car is like a missile or ping-pong ball. It really does get knocked around inside that vehicle.
The only way we can get that message across is by introducing legislation, regulations, by amending the existing act saying that everyone in this province, regardless of age, must be restrained. We have this marvellous legislation that says in British Columbia we buckle up. All the grownups have to buckle up. We take good care of ourselves, but we allow infants to float free and suffer the kind of damage that they do suffer. I'm raising it once again with the hope that this is the last time that I'm going to have to raise this issue with this minister. I'm really hoping that after now the message will have gotten through to him that we cannot wait for the federal government to come up with uniform standards. We have to make a move in this direction. This government has to introduce legislation, regulations or whatever. We've got to do something to ensure that infants in this province travelling in an automobile are restrained.
[Mr. Davidson in the chair.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall vote 76 pass?
MS. BROWN: No! I was waiting for the minister to respond.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Well, hon. member, the Chair can only recognize a member when he or she is standing. Apparently we are not yet ready to pass vote 76, unfortunately.
MS. BROWN: We certainly are not.
MR. MITCHELL: We have some major problems, especially in the Esquimalt–Port Renfrew riding. I feet this minister and the government he represents should be looking at these problems and giving some positive answers about what they are going to do in the future. I realize that all of us who live in rural areas don't have the benefit of a large tax base. We don't have the innovative ideas of municipal councils. We have to depend on my good friend the czar and the super mayor, who affects all the unorganized areas in the province. It is at his discretion that we must take the few crumbs he gives out to various ridings.
One question that I would like to ask the minister is: what is your major policy on the funding of secondary roads? From talking to people in his bureaucracy, I realize that every highway department has money for major highways and money for secondary roads, but there never seems to be enough money for either, especially secondary roads. A large amount of money goes to filling up potholes here and there, but there is no long-term program to develop areas within a community with black topping or permanency of development on the highway system for that large community who do live in the rural areas.
In my own area I have a number of particular areas that are developing. I'll mention one: the Highlands. It's an area that's rocky. It's anything but an area that you'd want to farm in. Housing has been encouraged in the Highlands. But still, any program of long-term black topping or straightening out of that area always seems to run short of funds. I feel that in all areas of the rural community there should be some program that you're going to do every year. As I've said before, I don't care if it's one-quarter of a mile or two miles, but there should be some program so that those living in that community will know that they have not been forgotten and that down the line there is a program to solve their particular problem.
Another one of the areas that seems to have gone into limbo — and it was quite interesting.... One of the members of your ministry read me a memo that went back to 1930, when they were serving what is known as the Port Renfrew road. He went out to a particular survey party and read this memo and they said: "What's new?" The memo said to hurry up, because they had to get this particular survey completed and the minister was looking ahead to get the road in. It turned out that this particular memo was dated 1930.
We have that seven miles in the centre of the Port Renfrew road from Jordan River to Port Renfrew that is just a series of switchbacks, bends and hills. Ever since the road was pushed through in the sixties, they have always been going to have a new location for that particular area, and they would not blacktop it until the new area was designated and surveyed. That seven miles has been left unrepaired and undeveloped, and every year parts of it wash out. The crew out there spends a lot of time filling up the holes or the washouts on the banks, and that particular area needs a new alignment. It is a major access into the Port Renfrew area and back from Port Renfrew into the Duncan area. I think there must have been a survey completed somewhere along the line since 1930. I know that the minister has only been there since 1975, but if he really
[ Page 8486 ]
looks hard he can come up with their plan for that particular section.
Last year I also spoke to the minister about upgrading the Sooke Road to four-lane status. At that time he said there was not sufficient traffic to justify four lanes. Since then I have been talking to members of the Capital Region and those in the Sooke Fire Department, who tell me that there is a plan which they are working on for renumbering and renaming streets, which gives a location of the Sooke Road running north of Sooke and crossing the Sooke River in an area north of the present location. Stories have also come out over the last year that somewhere along the line a plan had been made to relocate the Sooke Road to another location in an undeveloped area whereby they could put in a straighter road that could eliminate a lot of the bends that are tied in right now because of housing along the roads. Is there any program at present to relocate the Sooke Road? Are there any surveys that have been made that don't go back to 1930? If those programs have been made and are out, what is the opportunity for those who live in the Western Community to know what the future of the Sooke Road is?
I'd like to bring another issue to the minister's attention. It deals with his transportation jurisdiction and the moving of furniture and goods across the province and across Canada. I have a particular constituent who moved from Ottawa out to the good area, the Western Community, of the Esquimalt–Port Renfrew riding. When they approached one of the moving firms and got a contract, they requested containers to move their furniture and all their belongings. I myself looked at some of the very expensive goods they had moved. Much of it was antiques and quite valuable. At that time they requested containers to move their furniture, and I have a copy of the contract for their moving. When they left they were provided with two containers, a large one and a medium-sized one; both containers were loaded to capacity. They had to relocate or restack the furniture, but both of them were loaded to capacity, both of them were scaled in the presence of the owners of the goods, both of the seals were recorded on the contract that they were given. They moved out to Esquimalt, and one of the containers arrived. It was still sealed and all the goods were intact. Three days later they were still waiting for the second container. They started making inquiries. Eventually, about a week later, the furniture arrived in a truck. A lot of it was damaged, a lot of it was missing, and it turned out that somewhere along the line that particular container that had been sealed had been opened and it had been restacked in another container with some other furnishings or some goods from another source.
This couple has been to Consumer Affairs. I have a file here of letters written back and forth to the Allied Van companies in Ontario and to the federal Minister of Transport. A lot of work has been put into it by the provincial Consumer Affairs, but still no positive answer has come out of those in the trucking business that when a container is requested and purchased and when it is scaled, there is no guarantee that that seal will not be broken in transit by someone and that the goods will be protected. I feel that in your ministry there must be some rules and regulations that when a person is moving and is contracting to a moving firm and they do request that service, there should be some protection for him, and there should be some protection for the seals. Because if the seals don't mean anything, then all they are is a gimmick to lull the people into believing that they are getting something that they are paying for but that has no value at all. To have any strength, a seal must be honoured; a contract for a container that is paid for to protect your belongings must be upheld. And if the minister or someone in his ministry, in cooperation with the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and with the federal Minister of Transport, cannot give some assurance and can't guarantee what the people are paying for, then why do we have this gimmickry in the transportation field?
It is important to my particular constituents who have lost an awful lot of important documents, who have lost and had damaged a lot of antiques, that there has to be a better system than is in operation right now. After going through the files and the letters that came from Consumer Affairs, no one wants to admit that in effect the seal was broken. They just said that the container was restacked; they said that there was empty space in it. The two constituents were there, they witnessed it: It was full to capacity and it was scaled and it's on their waybill that there was a seal put on it. I would like the minister to make some comment on that.
The last question I would like to speak to the minister about is a follow-up from our discussion last year in estimates.
In 1975, and I'm going by 1975 because of a document I have.... It's not a stolen document; it's a factual document. On April 10, 1975, someone in your ministry, in a memorandum, states that the major north-south facility in this area — again talking about the Western Community — is a continuation of Millstream south from Meaford, around the western edge of Kelly Road, Kildew area, across Sooke Road, etc. Around that same time one of my constituents, Mr. Harvey Aikman, purchased 28 acres in the area between Meaford Road and Sooke Road. At that time that whole area — and I'd say it's less than three-quarters of a mile from the two roads — was undeveloped. There was one small cement plant at the north end of the area, but the rest of it was undeveloped. It was in the ALR lands; it was wild land. After purchasing the property in 1975 he made an application to build a house. On ALR lands you are allowed to build one home and you are allowed to participate in the agricultural business.
At that time the Highways department put a freeze on his building plans. They said that the major north-south extension of the Millstream Road was going to cross that particular parcel of land, but they weren't sure of its exact location. They wouldn't allow him to build, and there it sat. That situation went from 1975 until I was elected in 1979. In the meantime, he sat on this land; he made many payments and eventually he had to take a mortgage to make the payments on his first mortgage and got himself into a very extreme economic problem trying to pay for a piece of property that he had bought in good faith, but that he couldn't build on.
The ministry were very cooperative. After I met with them they purchased the property. The property was divided by the ministry into three sections; one section they identified as where the highway was to go. Mr. Aikman was told he could purchase either one or two of the other sections. He declined to purchase the middle section and kept the south end of that section. He was allowed to put in a small subdivision to try to recoup his losses, but since then that particular extension.... Your ministry started in 1975 to lay out the right-of-way for that particular extension of the Millstream Road. But whenever any of the citizens living around that area attempted to find out the location of the highway through
[ Page 8487 ]
this undeveloped land, the location kept switching from one area to another.
If you'll recall, Mr. Minister, last session on May 27, 1981, I brought this to your attention. I would like to read into the record, again, the answer when I requested some positive commitment from the government to those living in the Colwood, Langford and Glen Lake area, where this road was going to go, and what was going to happen. The minister said:
"Alternatively, I think what the MLA is saying is that the public doesn't know what's going on either. I think it's about time they were informed. I don't know just what vehicle to use, but we should be using the vehicle that the local elected people, the area directors.... If they want to call a public meeting on that, I'm sure that our ministry officials will have their ideas and put them to a public meeting. Maybe that's the avenue we've missed. We've been talking to elected people. They have their rights — whether they like something or whether they don't. They don't have to accept our ministry's ideas about transportation corridors and so on. That's where I think the breakdown has taken place, but I might be mistaken."
I believe the community and the many groups that have approached me were quite happy that they were going to have an opportunity to meet with the minister, officials and people from the ministry to decide where a particular extension of a road was going to take place. Originally it was going to go across undeveloped land, as I said before. But what happened? I contacted all the major community groups in the area and asked them if they would sponsor a joint public meeting. I contacted the minister's officials; I contacted all the regional directors. I was left with the impression that everyone was in agreement that we would have a public meeting and that the Highways ministry would attend that meeting to establish once and for all, publicly, where they felt the highway should go — something that would be in the best interests of everybody.
Approximately a week before the meeting was to take place — after the booking of the hall and after the advertising had gone out — I was informed that the ministry would not supply anyone from the Highways ministry to attend the public meeting. I believe that I was told that unless the members of the CRD planning commission were in attendance, or that it was requested by the CRD, they were not going to attend.
We did hold the meeting. The meeting was held in the summertime, and there was a large attendance. Still, the public who live in that area and who are going to be most affected by the major north-south Millstream extension want answers, because this particular road originally started to go through an undeveloped area, but it does have ALR land in it, it does have a flood plain, and it does have an ecological problem dealing with a small creek that goes through it.
When no one turned up from the ministry office. one of the residents' associations from that area wrote a letter to Mrs. Norma Sealey, chairperson of the Capital Regional District board. I would like to read into the record some of the letters that have travelled back and forth between local resident groups and the Capital Regional District. The letter goes on:
"Dear Mrs. Sealey:
"On July 13, 1981, a public meeting was held at the Juan de Fuca Recreational Centre. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss future highway and road alignments within the Western Community and its town centre.
"This meeting was sponsored by three local groups, namely the Colwood Lakes Estates Association, Langford Lake Planning Association and the Glen Lake Residents Association. It was the understanding of all three groups that representatives from the Ministry of Highways would be present to answer the questions and concerns of the residents of the Western Community concerning the future plans of this ministry.
"At the meeting we were informed by the MLA, Mr. Frank Mitchell, that the Ministry of Highways would not, in fact, send representatives from their department without the request and official presence of the Capital Regional District.
"It was resolved by all persons attending that the Capital Regional District request a public meeting with Ministry of Highways representatives to attend a public meeting to answer the concerns of this community regarding future highways and roads within our area. As chairman of he July 13 meeting, we write to ask your board to comply with this resolution. Your immediate attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Fredrick G. Kasper, President"
Copies of this were sent to the Highways ministers and to the regional directors — both Mr. Howard Drummond, who was chairman of the local planning and zoning committee of the Capital Regional District, and Mr. Ed Lubick, who was the regional director for the Langford area.
Since then, I have been informed by the two regional directors that that request was sent to the minister.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to read into the record....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your half-hour is almost up, hon. member.
MR. MITCHELL: Maybe I could step down, the minister could answer my questions, and then I could.... I'll read this one letter, and you won't watch the red light. This is a letter to Mr. Alex Fraser, Minister of Transportation, signed by Norma Sealey, chairman of the Capital Regional District board.
"Dear Mr. Minister:
"Re Millstream Road.
"I am writing to you to express the concern felt by my board, and especially by the newly elected regional directors for Colwood and Langford, regarding the present situation as it pertains to the proposed Millstream Road extension between Goldstream Avenue and Sooke Road. This proposed extension is one of the most important roads in the Western Community and has consumed a great deal of energy in the discussion and planning stages.
"I would like to recall a little of the background of this issue for your benefit:
" 1975 to 1977: a great deal of time and effort was put into determining the alignment of the Millstream Road extension. and the alignment arrived at was a joint product of your ministry, the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission and the Capital Regional District. The alignment chosen was incorporated into the
[ Page 8488 ]
Western Community Official
Settlement Plan and satisfied all parties that it: (1) preserved
Colwood Creek; (2) avoided ALR land; (3) gave good access to the creek
for adjacent residential
communities; and (4) was chosen as the least environmentally damaging route.
"1980: pressure from landlords adversely affected by the proposed alignment, especially Ridley Bros. and Sunridge Valley Estates, started to mount and was directed at your ministry and the CRD.
"1981 (May): the CRD requested your ministry to renew the alignment and come up with a solution to remove the objections. This review process was to include any affected bodies and agencies, including resident groups.
" 1981 (June): The CRD having reviewed an amended alignment proposed by your ministry, accepted it. However, the required communication with the residents' groups has never taken place.
"1981 (July): Upon the receipt of strenuous objections by residents affected by the proposed alignment, the CRD requested that a meeting be held with the public and your ministry to reconsider the whole matter.
"1981 (August): The CRD was in receipt of a letter from Mr. Elston, Executive Director (Engineering), to the effect that 'while work on environmental, social, etc. factors on the major street systems has been done, it is not in a form suitable for a public information program.... We have made arrangements to have this put together so that we may do a small public information program before the public meeting.'
"1981 (September, October, November): the CRD has asked your ministry for an update on the studies being presently done and on the arrangements for a public meeting, but no progress has been achieved to date.
" 1981 (November): your ministry gave preliminary layout approval to a Sunridge Valley Estates subdivision which in effect formalizes the Millstream Road alignment in the location most strenuously objected to by the community residents and in a situation which effectively destroys Colwood Creek."
I realize, Mr. Chairman, that my time is up, but I basically wanted to get across to the minister that this has been allowed to take place for six years, and the community would like some answers now.
HON. MR. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, to the member for Esquimalt–Port Renfrew, I just want to make this observation in dealing with the Millstream extension he talked about. We've worked with the regional district. We've now prepared an impact study, and we have sent this to the regional district. When the regional district has considered this, a public meeting can be held.
One thing you didn't say, Mr. Member, that I and my staff member want to bring in is that this is all politics at the local level. Two regional directors got defeated last year over this issue, and they're not going to suck my senior people into their local fighting. I want to guard against that; in fact, I resent it. You didn't mention that at all. I'm not saying there is party policy, but there is local politics, and two directors got defeated on this issue last year in that Capital Regional District. You got two new faces. So this time it isn't party politics; it's local politics. I don't know what it's all about, or what caused it all, but that really doesn't add a great deal to solving community problems. Maybe it will now — I don't know. I'm trying to say that there's been more difficulty than what we have created. I don't say that against you, but in the community itself that's what's been going on. I for one don't want to be a referee of this. I don't think you want to be either, as the MLA.
I'm quite surprised at the furniture damage. I used to have a carrier licence myself. The carrier is responsible, Mr. Member, and there should be recourse to that carrier. They receive those goods and accept them in good condition. They have to deliver them the same way and get a signature to that effect. You might be involved in a court case; I don't suggest that. Maybe you can get some help through the motor carrier branch. That should be reported to the motor carrier branch. They have affiliation with all the provinces across the country. I think you said that this carrier came from Ottawa. I think you can get some help in that direction. I'm not sure, but there's definitely an obligation on behalf of the carrier in the case of the damage, because they just can't be allowed to get away with that. You have me there. Your best avenue would be to lay your complaint with the motor carrier branch. I think they would be glad to help you and the citizen.
The plans the ministry has for the Sooke road are for the construction of two four-lane sections to allow passing. The sections are 2.5 kilometres beginning at Humpback Road, and 1.9 kilometres beginning at Kangaroo Road. The estimated cost is $2.2 million. That survey is in progress and 70 percent complete, but the work is not in this year's program.
The west coast road, Jordan River to Port Renfrew, is presently unpaved. There's an extremely winding alignment on a grade width of about 20 feet. Grades on the approach to six existing bridges are up to 16 percent. The bridges are in urgent need of renewal. A project which would involve widening to eight metres, improving grade, and replacing existing bridges is under design. The alignment will remain as it is, except at the crossing at Sombrio Creek — number four — where severe grades and a very tight curvature must be improved for safe operation at 50 kilometres per hour. The bridges at Lost Creek, Jack Elliott Creek, Sombrio — two, three and four — and Minute Creek need replacing. The bridge site plans for this purpose are being prepared. The cost of this project is estimated at $6.5 million, including new bridges. It's not required that all of this work be completed at once; it can be phased in during the remaining life of individual structures. Work on this project is not included in this year's program.
I want to answer the question from the member for Burnaby-Edmonds (Ms. Brown) concerning seatbelts. You mentioned Kingsway, Edmonds and 12th Avenue as being a very difficult problem. We are doing a lot of work on Marine Way in South Burnaby. I hope we are going to have something there this year, as a matter of fact. As you know, the new grade is built. Part of it is in use; a lot of the other part is built. It will be into New Westminster next year. We're dealing with Burnaby council: if we pave the new part of Marine Way that is built and they work with us on the connector road, we can have a lot more of that in the system in 1982. I think they will cooperate. In other words, it's their street and it's our Marine Way. We are taking steps there.
[ Page 8489 ]
Kingsway is a real bad situation; we're fully aware of that. Our engineers don't feel that there is any immediate relief in sight.
The only comment I have about the person who hit the pothole and had damage.... All I can say for the ministry is that we try to maintain the roads in the best possible.... As far as drivers are concerned, they have to drive according to the conditions of the road; that applies whether it's ice, snow, potholes or whatever. We couldn't accept all the claims in situations like these; it would break the treasury fairly fast. The onus is usually put on the driver, on the basis that they must drive according to the conditions of the road.
Regarding child restraints, I'll read a memo I have here that's very current:
"For your information, it's the intent of the federal government to establish standards for three classes of child restraints: automotive restraints for infants weighing less than 9 kilograms (20 lbs.) — infant restraints; automotive restraints for children weighing between 9 kilograms and 18 kilograms (20 to 40 lbs.) — child restraints; and booster cushions, which are designed to raise the height of the child to allow the use of and proper positioning of lap belts. Federal regulations covering the standards of all three types of automotive restraints will be in place by the fall of 1982.
"Saskatchewan" — as you mentioned — "presently has legislation requiring all occupants to use restraints, and Ontario has prepared a similar bill. As regulations concerning whether a child travelling in a motor vehicle must be secured in an appropriate infant-child restraint system are a provincial matter, the motor-vehicle department recommends consideration be given having the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council make a regulation requiring the use of child restraints...."
That's where that's at in British Columbia. I would be the minister involved recommending those regulations, and I don't see any reason why we can't do that this fall. So we are making progress, and hopefully we'll have something on the books for that on or by January 1, 1983.
MRS. WALLACE: I'm certainly pleased to hear the minister saying that he is going to bring in some legislation relative to seatbelts for children. My colleague from Burnaby-Edmonds (Ms. Brown) has worked hard and long to encourage him to do this, and I would hope, in fact, that we could see the legislation in place before we adjourn this time: it could be then proclaimed immediately upon those regulations coming into force. We don't know how many children's futures we may be talking about for every month that we delay, Mr. Minister.
Every time I get up in Highways estimates it seems as if I'm talking about exactly the same things as I talked about the year before, because the minister is full of fine promises, but we never get any action. The first thing that may be slightly different this year is the Lake Cowichan road. I understand it is presently before the courts to assess the responsibility of the ministry and the paving company. If that is the case, we will have to let it rest this year. I'd like the minister to tell me whether or not it is still before the courts and, if a decision has come down, what the decision is. I would also like a commitment from him that once the decision is down he will let me know, because at that time I would like to discuss with him, depending on the decision, how any recompense is going to be initiated as far as the citizens in that area are concerned.
The next item I want to discuss with the minister is an old and long-standing one: the Crofton road. Last May the minister brought in a sizeable report on the Crofton road, a report prepared by a consulting firm. At that time he sent letters to the regional board, the North Cowichan council, the chief of the Indian band concerned, and me, suggesting we look it over and, if we had any recommendations, to let him know. We did have a meeting of the various local people concerned. At that time the Indian band said they had been attempting to get a couple more copies of the report so that their people could review it and be in a position to discuss it, because they really couldn't work with just one copy. They contacted the minister; I contacted the minister. In fact, I have a letter from the minister saying that he was getting copies printed and that they would be ready in about two months.
The two months came and went. At that point I phoned the minister's office and was told that they weren't printing any more copies: it was too expensive, and the Indian band would have to get along with what they had. My secretary, on her own time and at her own expense, xeroxed two more copies of the report and sent them to the Indian band. I understand now that the ministry has been meeting with the Indian band, and in fact that the Indian band is awaiting further contact. It seems they are most agreeable to a solution that would be acceptable to the North Cowichan regional board and me, and to the Westholme Ratepayers Association, which is very concerned about the alternate proposed route, as it would have been pretty devastating for a lot of reasons.
I'd certainly like to hear from the ministry as to the status of this and when we can expect some work to get underway, because it is a heavily used road. It has all the pulpmill traffic, including the great big chip trucks, and the men that work there going in and out on shifts. It's hazardous and curving. We've had some pretty drastic accidents on that road, and it's high time that it was fixed. It's one of our major industrial roads, as well as serving a good-sized community at Crofton. It also services one of the minister's ferries — the Crofton–Vesuvius Bay ferry. So it really does need some attention, and it needs it now. I've been asking for this for the last six years, I think. We finally got a report last year, and I would like some assurance that this thing is going to go ahead, and at least that negotiations are active with the Indian band, because what I understand is that they're waiting....
MRS. WALLACE: We'll be lucky if it's six years, Mr. Member. I think it's going to be more like 16 with that minister there, if he's there that long.
The Indian band tell me that they're waiting for contact from the ministry, and I would hope that at least the negotiations can be completed and finalized.
Moving on from there we go to the Koksilah School overpass. We have the right-of-way there, and the railway has cleared the pass going over there. It's four lanes of highway and a railway to a school. It's a real safety hazard, and I hope that the minister will get up and tell me that that overpass is going to be constructed within this fiscal year.
The other overpass, of course, deals with the problem at Kilamalu or Sheppard further south. The courtesy busing that was provided by the school board there for the school children to cross a four-lane highway is in great jeopardy because
[ Page 8490 ]
of the problems with the school financing. It's even more critical now that that overpass go in. A great many school children are required to cross there for two schools — an elementary and a junior secondary. It's a much-needed overpass, and I would suggest to the minister that surely the top priority in a year of restraint has to be items that relate to safety, particularly to safety of children. Those two overpasses very much relate to the safety of children.
Another item that related to safety, of course, is the left-turn slot at Whippletree Junction. The minister and I have an ongoing correspondence about this. I just got a letter from him today, as a matter of fact. But you know, you just referred to your letter of June 3 and this one of June 18, Mr. Minister, and you didn't answer the question I'm asking. What I'm saying is: okay, you can't afford to do the rather extravagant engineering job and purchase of property that you've got on the books, but there's enough room on that road now, including the paved shoulders, that for very little money you could put in a temporary left-turn slot. That's all I'm asking now. It wouldn't even cost the $200 that the Crofton report cost, and surely we're not as chintzy as that. Even though you couldn't do those Crofton report recommendations, surely you can put in a temporary left-turn slot there. It's much more important now that Kidsworld is open, where we have a zoo as well, along with all the novelty shops that are in that particular area, plus two major auctions.
It's just a frightening area. Every weekend there's an accident in that area, and it would be so simple to put in a temporary left-turn slot: maybe a little bit of extra pavement on either side of the shoulders, and you could paint in a few yellow lines for very, very little, Mr. Minister, The safety precaution that that would provide would just be tremendous.
The other problem that I've dealt with before with no great success with this minister is the routing of the Kuper-Thetis ferry, so as to accommodate the school children there. The minister may have been in the House when I raised this with the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Smith) this year. I was somewhat heartened by the minister's response, because he said he hadn't heard about it, and he was sure it could be accommodated. So I wonder whether or not the Minister of Education has spoken to the Minister of Transportation and Highways about this and whether or not they have been able to come to any accommodation. As it is, those young children that attend the Chemainus school from Kuper Island have a long, long wait. The morning situation has been resolved by the school putting bus service on to pick them up and take them to school, so they're not late for their classes, but it's that wait at night where you have young, unsupervised children hanging around town for an hour or an hour and a half, waiting for the ferry. It's just not a good situation.
I was very pleased to hear the minister in response to the member for North Peace River (Mr. Brummet), when he was talking about rural extensions. As I heard the member, he said that all it took was to designate the road and that it didn't necessarily mean any extra monetary layout, because if you designated, the REA could go in and there wouldn't be that extra cost. Well, Mr. Minister, I've just been in touch with the regional manager for our area asking him to have a look at a road beyond B.C. Forest Products and Youbou.
There is a B.C. Forest Products forestry road that goes up there beyond Youbou, and there are some 60 residents on that road. They have been trying to get electricity in there, and they have an estimate from B.C. Hydro in the mount of $150,000. If that was a designated road, it could be done under an REA and it would cut the cost at least in half. So I'm hoping that you will look favourably on any recommendation that you get from Mr. Morris to designate that road. I'm sure that B.C. Forest Products would quite willingly carry on the maintenance, because they're the major users, and there wouldn't be any expense. It might also be very beneficial to them in the long run if they have some of that land in fee simple, if that were designated. So I don't anticipate any problem with B.C. Forest Products, and it would certainly be a tremendous help to those people.
That's the only new item I have, Mr. Minister. So I hope that next year when I came back I won't have to repeat all these old ones.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
35 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources the following questions:
With reference to the Columbia River Treaty, to date —
[ Page 8491 ]
The Hon. R.H. McClelland replied as follows:
"1. (a) Mica Creek dam project (includes storage, generation, transformation, transmission and microwave), $1,036,674,839; (b) High Arrow dam project (storage only), $197,710,194; and (c) Duncan dam project (storage only) $33,290,315. The above figures include corporate overhead and interest during construction.
"3. (a) Libby Reservoir (clearing the Canadian portion); (b) total expenditures by B.C. Hydro from July 1973 to April 30, 1982 are $2,838,068 (including overhead and interest); and (c) the estimate of the total amount required to complete the work is $264,711 by March 31, 1984. "
54 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources the following questions:
With reference to the Columbia River power development financing—
The Hon. R.H. McClelland replied as follows:
"1. Total expenditure on construction of storage projects to April 30, 1982 is $599,721,195.
"2. Total expenditures on generation, transformation and transmission facilities to April 30, 1982 are $670,515,520. "
55 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources the following questions:
The Hon. R.H. McClelland replied as follows:
" 1. 1981 — 30,000 and 1982 — not published.
"2. Regular employees; pensioners; investors; bond holders; investment dealers; banks; other financial institutions; other utilities; MLA's; MP's (in B.C.); news media throughout B.C.; trade journals; mayors and aldermen; federal ministries, commissions, boards, etc.; Provincial ministries, commissions, boards, etc.; senior civic staff; business leaders (including chambers of commerce, etc.); libraries — public and corporate; elementary schools; secondary schools; universities and colleges: education officials; trade associations; public action, environment and other special interest groups; and various individuals who have requested they be placed on the list. In addition, copies of the publication are available at all Hydro offices throughout the Province. They are publicized through Service Digest as part of Hydro's ongoing information service to the public.
"3. 1981: (a) $29,179.17, (b) $22,688 plus taxes for a total of $24,424.53 and (c) $5,882.16. Staff time is estimated as follows: publications section, 50 hours; editorial, 175 hours. 1982: (a) not applicable, (b) not applicable and (c) not applicable. Note: Staff time is indicated in hours rather than dollars since the many individuals involved are all paid at different rates.