1982 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 32nd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1982
[ Page 9609 ]
Hospital funding. Mr. Cocke –– 9611
B.C. Hydro revenue. Mr. D'Arcy –– 9612
British Columbia Railway subsidy. Mr. Stupich –– 9613
Workers Compensation Board surcharges. Ms. Sanford –– 9613
ICBC surcharges. Ms. Sanford –– 9613
Organized crime. Mr. Levi –– 9613
Fish-packing industry. Mr. Lorimer 9613
Government advertising budget. Mr. Hall –– 9614
Ministry of Tourism annual report, March 31, 1982.
Hon. Mr. Richmond –– 9614
Financial Administration Amendment Act (No –– 2), 1982 (Bill 86). Committee stage.
(Hon. Mr. Curtis)
On section 1 –– 9615
On section 2 –– 9615
Division on third reading –– 9618
Rate Increase Restraint Act (Bill 81). Report. (Hon. Mr. Curtis).
Third reading –– 9618
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No –– 3), 1982 (Bill 88). Report.
(Hon. Mr. Williams)
Third reading –– 9619
School Services (Interim) Act (Bill 89). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm)
On section 2 — 9619
Hon. Mr. Phillips
Hon. Mr. Schroeder
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 1982
The House met at 2 p.m.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, with us today are a large group of teachers visiting from various districts across the province. I also had the opportunity of meeting with those involved in the profession at noon today and discussed with them the various problems that we as a government face. Similarly, I have received from them the concerns that teachers hold in their various districts. I am sure that it's a very worthwhile exchange. I appreciate the opportunity and wish only that we could meet more on a one-to-one basis with all of the people involved in the educational system. I would ask that all of us here extend a hearty welcome to all teachers visiting the Legislature today.
MR. LAUK: In replying to the ministerial statement, Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the presidents of all the teachers' associations of the various school districts who are here to express their concern over government policy with respect to the education system, and the negative effect it's having on programs for children throughout the province.
HON. MR. FRASER: I would like to add a welcome, and ask the members to join me in welcoming the president of the Quesnel District Teachers Association, Janet Reinsdorf, who is here today and with whom I met. I'd also like to welcome Mr. Quintin Robertson, the president of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers Association from Williams Lake. I'd also like to welcome some friends who are not teachers — Mr. and Mrs. Cliff Simmonds and Mr. and Mrs. Orville Fletcher from Williams Lake. I'd like the House to give them a good welcome.
MR. KING: I would like the House to join in welcoming four constituents from the riding of Shuswap-Revelstoke — Mr. Elmer Rorstad of Revelstoke, Mr. John Stewart of Armstrong, Mr. Bob Megale of Enderby and Mr. Val Heckrodt of Salmon Arm. These constituents are British Columbia citizens and also teachers. I would ask the House to welcome them to Victoria.
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: I also wish to record a welcome to Heather Walker of the West Vancouver Teachers Association and Mr. Herb Johnston of the Howe Sound Teachers Association.
MR. HOWARD: There are three school districts either wholly or partly within the constituency of Skeena, and I had the pleasure of meeting with four representatives of the teaching profession from that area: Mr. Steve Cardwell, Mr. Harald Jordan, Mr. Glenn Grieve and Mr. Doug McLeod. I'm sure the House is pleased to welcome them as well.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Also here from that great Columbia River constituency is Mr. Don Creamer, president of the Kimberley and District Teachers Association, and Miss Carolyn Fawcett, president of the North Columbia Teachers Association. I would like the members to welcome them.
MS. BROWN: Darcy Bader, president of the Burnaby Teachers Association, and Ivan Johnson are also in gallery. I hope the House will join me in bidding them welcome.
MR. KEMPF: This must be teachers' day in the gallery, because with the teachers' delegation in the gallery this afternoon are three constituents of mine: a former mayor of Burns Lake, Doreen Woodall; Caroline Du Mont from Vanderhoof; and Mr. Harald Jordan, the president of the Struthers District Teachers Association, who is actually a constituent of mine from the community of Telkwa. I would ask the House to make all three of them very welcome.
MR. BARRETT: On this "Love thy Teacher Day, " I would like to welcome the teachers from my constituency and urge that they show up every day and get this kind of praise from the government the rest of the year, instead of being kicked around, as they have been.
HON. MR. GARDOM: I'm sure all members would like to pay their respect and homage to a magnificent Canadian accomplishment, and that was the first scaling of Mount Everest by a Canadian team. On behalf of both sides of the House, we'd like to extend to them our sincere congratulations and best wishes for a great and, indeed, tremendous effort. At the same time we have to express our regret about the loss of life and extend our sorrow and our condolence to those four members who made the ultimate sacrifice: North Vancouver cameraman Mr. Blair Griffiths and three Nepalese guides. Perhaps those remarks could be conveyed to their next-of-kin.
MR. STUPICH: I'd also ask the House to welcome Mr. Jim Howden, who is here not just as president of the Nanaimo District Teachers Association, and certainly not as a representative of the BCTF executive, but rather representing the teachers from the Nanaimo district.
MR. STRACHAN: On behalf of the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Heinrich) and me, I would like all members to welcome, from School District 57 in Prince George, Jim Caldwell. who is the president of the Prince George District Teachers Association; Doug Smart, who is an officer of the BCTF and also a well-known Prince George teacher; Mr. Dan Hughes from McBride; and Mr. Don Van Der Meer from Mackenzie. Would the House please welcome these visitors.
MR. MITCHELL: I, too, would like the House to join me in welcoming two teachers from my riding who are here to represent the standard of education that the parents feel they are losing. I would like you to welcome John Bergbusch, who is the president of the Sooke Teachers Association, and Neil Robb, who is the lower Island agreement coordinator. They are the forerunners of 50 other teachers who will be here after 4 o'clock when school is out.
HON. MR. CHABOT: Along with the congratulations extended by the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, I want to add my congratulations to the half of the team who come from Columbia River constituency, Mr. Patrick Morrow from Kimberley, Dwayne Congdon from Invermere and Gordon Smith from Golden.
[ Page 9610 ]
MR. SKELLY: I'd like the House to welcome school trustee Rosemarie Buchanan from School District 70, who is here along with Paul Richardson, president of the Alberni District Teachers Association. Also, on behalf of Alderman John Mika, I would ask the House to welcome Mike Hayes from the Gulf Islands Teachers Association and Barbara Davis of the Saanich Teachers Association.
MR. BRUMMET: Because the teacher representatives from my area have probably come the greatest distance to meet with me to discuss their concerns, I would like the House to welcome Mr. Bruce Cummings and Mr. Don Lewis, who respectively are presidents of the teachers' associations of district 60 and 81 in northeastern British Columbia.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I too would like the House to join me in welcoming Miss Joan Robb, who represents School District 46 and all the teachers contained therein.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: There are representatives here today from the five school districts that make up my constituency. Would the House please welcome Anthony Smith from Ashcroft in the South Cariboo School District, Jeff Young from Merritt, Don Walmsley from Boston Bar, Mike Kennedy from Lillooet and Dena Campbell from Princeton.
MR. NICOLSON: Also in the House today is Mr. Frank Burden from the Nelson District Teachers Association and Mr. John Chisamore. In addition to being past president of the Creston Valley Teachers Association, Mr. Chisamore has been called to that noblest of callings; he is a physics teacher.
HON. MR. NIELSEN: I would like to ask the House to welcome Mr. Amrit Manak, who, as president of the Richmond Teachers Associations, represents 1,000 teachers.
MS. SANFORD: I'd like to introduce to the Legislature Walter Bergmann, the president of the teachers' association in School District 69, and Bob Edwards, the president of the teachers' association in School District 71. They are here with Jean Kotcher and Gwyn Reilly of School District 71.
MR. MUSSALLEM: One would almost assume that there are a considerable number of teachers here today. I have the honour, on the other hand, to introduce a group of students. Today in the gallery we have 17 students from the Maple Ridge Christian Academy of Maple Ridge with their teacher Robert Low. I request the House make them welcome.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, I hope you'll permit me to mention that we have three excellent educators from my constituency, from Maple Ridge and Mission, in the gallery today: Karen Chong, John Perry and Sandra Howes.
MRS. WALLACE: In this, the longest introduction period in history, I would like to add the name of David Denyer, who is the president of the Cowichan District Teachers Association.
MR. HYNDMAN: The best often comes toward the end. From the great metropolis of Vancouver and the Vancouver elementary school administrators' association, would members welcome Mr. Bob King and Ms. Joyce Anderson, the president.
MR. GABELMANN: I'd like to have the House welcome from Vancouver Island West School District, Mr. Dick Jellema, from Campbell River School District, Mr. George Gardner, and from Vancouver Island North School District, Mr. Norm Prince and Mr. Ian McLaughlin.,
MR. REE: On behalf of my colleague the member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis) and myself, I'd like to introduce two educators in the gallery. I ask the House to welcome Bill Friesen, the president of the North Vancouver Teachers Association, and Mr. Ian De Groot, a mathematics teacher at Sutherland Junior Secondary School.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I had the pleasure of meeting with three fine educators from Kamloops this morning. They are Ken Smith, the principal of South Sahali Elementary School; Mr. Gordon Moffat, the principal of Dallas Elementary School and president of the B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association; and Mr. Rod Andrew, president of the Kamloops District Teachers Association. I ask the House to welcome them, please.
Also, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of yourself from the constituency of Delta, I would ask the House to welcome Mr. Gordon Gibb of the Delta Teachers Association.
MR. COCKE: From the Royal City, Mr. Speaker, Tom Westwater, the president of the New Westminster Teachers Association.
MR. SEGARTY: It's a great pleasure for me to welcome this afternoon Mr. Bill Fife, president of the Fernie District Teachers Association, and Mr. Rowan Hartley, president of the Cranbrook Teachers Association. I'd like the House to join with me in welcoming them this afternoon.
MR. LEA: Along with welcoming Ed Thornitt from the Prince Rupert District Teachers Association, I think the teachers would welcome it if the House Leader for the government were to call.... There are only two bills left on the order paper to deal with, as I understand it: one on education, Bill 89, and the borrowing bill, Bill 86. I'm sure that the government will call Bill 89 so the teachers can see their legislators in action today.
MR. RITCHIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have the members extend a warm welcome to those teachers who may have been missed.
MR. D’ARCY: Mr. Speaker, would the House join me in welcoming Bill Lunn from Castlegar, District 9, and Floyd Smith from Trail, District 11. They're both here on behalf of the children of their areas. Also in the gallery today, returning after a long absence, is a former member of the fourth estate, Mr. Les Storey. He tells me that he hasn't missed a thing.
HON. MR. HEWITT: I had the pleasure of having a frank discussion with four teachers in my office this morning. I believe only one is in the gallery at this time. I'd ask the House to welcome a lady from the sunshine valley, the Grand
[ Page 9611 ]
Forks area, Maxine Ruzicka, who is the president of the Grand Forks Teachers Association.
MR. LEVI: I was going to introduce the candidate for the western separatists from Fraser Valley West, but I can't see him in the gallery. However, I would like the House to welcome Mr. Gordon Wickerson of the teachers' association in Coquitlam, on behalf of myself and my colleague from Coquitlam-Moody (Mr. Leggatt).
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: From the great South Peace River area, the area that the Leader of the Opposition would like to see wiped off the electoral map, I'd like to have the House welcome Rick Guenther, the president of the Peace River South Teachers Association, and Marc Lane from the Chetwynd Secondary School. I hope the House will give these visitors from the great Peace River area a very warm welcome indeed.
MRS. JORDAN: Mr. Speaker, I believe last, but by no means least, from that great academic centre of British Columbia, Okanagan North, Mr. Ken Robinson, who is vice president of our teachers' association. He represents those fine teachers who are in the classroom and could not join us today. It's quite a distance, and I know he'll enjoy the proceedings.
I would also ask the House to welcome Mr. Stewart Ladyman, the inspector for the Nakusp School District, who is here on other matters; I hope everyone will give him a most warm welcome.
HON. MR. GARDOM: According to time-honoured tradition, and in the unlikely event that there is anyone in the gallery who has not yet been welcomed, we would like to welcome him or her.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members. yesterday at the conclusion of the sitting certain matters occurred affecting the procedure and dignity of this House, upon which the Chair feels obliged to comment lest uncertainty remain in the minds of any hon. members. I have had the opportunity to examine the Blues and the parliamentary authorities which bear on the proceedings in question.
In relation to the procedural matters, it seems to the Chair that the essence of the problem was that the House Leader moved a motion to adjourn before the Minister of Finance had moved the motion to refer Bill 86 to the Committee of the Whole for consideration at the next sitting after the day upon which the said bill received second reading. Hon. members have from time to time urged the Chair to intervene immediately should the Chair perceive any irregularity in proceedings. I refer to the Speaker's decision made as recently as September 22, 1982 in this House, which states in part as follows: "However, there is no question that the Speaker, when of the opinion that any proceeding is contrary to the rules and practices of the House, should draw the attention of the House to that fact."
In the proceedings which arose yesterday, there is no doubt the Speaker did not give the Minister of Finance the opportunity of moving the normal motion prior to recognizing the House Leader. Perhaps the Chair might be permitted to say in its defence that the government House Leader moved the adjournment motion in a rather peremptory fashion; in any event, it is undoubtedly the Chair's responsibility to intervene when he perceives a motion being offered to the House, of any nature and from any source, which might be considered an abuse. Standing order 44 expressly empowers the Speaker to refuse to put such a motion. However, in the heat of the moment the Chair undoubtedly fell into error by prematurely recognizing the hon. House Leader, and it was only after hearing the points of order raised by the Minister of Finance, to the effect that he had believed that leave to commit Bill 86 forthwith had not been refused, that the Chair was fully cognizant of the problem.
It was the Chair's opinion at this point that the Minister of Finance should be permitted the opportunity to move the normal committal motion, leave having been refused to commit the bill forthwith. To suggest that any hon. member could properly interrupt pro forma proceedings relating to the progress of a bill with a motion to adjourn is not in accordance with the Chair's understanding of accepted parliamentary practice, A further examination of the Blues leaves the Chair with the impression that some hon. members were of the opinion that, had the adjournment motion been voted upon and either passed or defeated, the bill in question could not have proceeded further. This is, of course, not in keeping with the authorities, and I refer all hon. members to the eighteenth edition of Sir Erskine May, page 353, which clearly states that a motion for committal may be received at any time after second reading.
I will now touch briefly on a further matter, which, in the Chair's opinion, seriously affects the dignity of this House. To differ with the Speaker's ruling is the undoubted right of every member of every parliamentary body in the Commonwealth, but how that disagreement is expressed is a matter which has been the subject of comment over many hundreds of years of British parliamentary history. In this jurisdiction any member who disagrees with the ruling of the Chair may, of course, appeal such a decision to the House under the existing rules. If a member of the House feels aggrieved by a decision or a series of decisions which he perceives to be inappropriate or unfair, he may move a substantive motion by giving notice of such motion in the usual way. He may not under any circumstances stand in this chamber and use the language that was used at the close of proceedings yesterday.
It has been held time and again that an accusation of partiality in the discharge of the Speaker's duty is a breach of privilege or contempt of the House, and I refer all hon. members to Sir Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, eighteenth edition, page 148. Let me conclude by saying again that every member has the undoubted right to disagree with the ruling of the Chair, but this right does not carry with it a licence to express that disagreement in terms that amount to contempt of the Legislature.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. Can the minister confirm that a recent announcement of $5 million for the Children's Hospital has yet to be provided to open up the much needed beds for services to children'?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: There has been no such announcement. It was press speculation.
[ Page 9612 ]
MR. COCKE: Will the minister confirm now that the money has been robbed from the system earlier this year, and is now being held back so he could make the announcement using the children as part of an election campaign?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: No, I can't confirm that.
MR. COCKE: He has an out. Now that the election appears to be off, has the minister decided to provide the funding for the Children's Hospital that's so badly needed?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: The people of the Children's Hospital and representatives of the ministry have been in constant consultation since the hospital opened its doors, along with an independent audit team who have conducted a survey at that hospital. As recently as last week, representatives of the hospital, myself and members of the ministry were again discussing the situation at Children's Hospital. I believe they are continuing to discuss the budgetary requirements of that facility. If there are to be announcements made, they would be made at the appropriate time at the conclusion of their discussions.
MR. COCKE: That's very interesting. The report the minister received, I believe, was dated September 6.
The pressure on all hospitals continues to grow. We're informed that beds are still closed, operations are being cancelled and waiting lists are growing. Has the minister decided to restore a level of budgeting which will provide an end to the chaos and pandemonium caused by the earlier decisions of this government? We're in constant touch with about 16 major hospitals, and we're finding it to be exactly the same.
HON. MR. NIELSEN: The chaos and pandemonium the member spoke of perhaps may be confined to their own caucus, but we have not been advised of that in the hospitals. We are in constant communication with the hospitals, along with a task force from the B.C. Health Association. If the member would like to send over the information on the 16 specific hospitals, I'd be pleased to respond specifically.
MR. COCKE: I'll give him a couple of examples. Prince George had to cancel 20 surgical cases during September and five days of surgery. Prince George is now in a position where their waiting list has grown to 1,080 people. Has the minister decided, in view of that, that he will look more carefully at the hospitals and restore funding as quickly as possible?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: We have said many times that we will be reviewing each hospital. We have teams who are visiting most hospitals in the province to review their precise situation. Members within the Ministry of Health are in constant contact with the hospitals, and I am sure that they have been in contact with the Prince George hospital. I have not heard from the Prince George hospital in the immediate past as to any difficulties they may have, but, Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to have one of the officials within the ministry make contact with the Prince George hospital because I am not prepared to accept the word of that member for New Westminster as to accuracy.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Speaker, I'll ask him also to look into Lions Gate Hospital; I noticed the member for the area said that's one — Lions Gate, with a waiting list of 1,700 for elective surgery. I'll also ask him to look at the Royal Jubilee, which also cancelled surgery for two days during the month of September. There are 118 acute-care beds closed at that hospital. Mr. Speaker, we can go on — UBC hospital has also suffered. Will the minister look into those hospitals?
HON. MR. NIELSEN: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, each hospital is to be reviewed by an audit team, along with representatives from the B.C. Health Facilities Association, who have been in contact with representatives from the Ministry of Health. This has been going on for some time....
MR. NICOLSON: It's been going on for some time, and it's getting worse.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
HON. MR. NIELSEN: The member for Nelson-Creston is apparently responding to something that I suppose was whispered to him by his seatmate, and I don't quite understand what he is saying.
Mr. Speaker, each hospital is subject to review by a review team made up of various experts in the field of hospital administration, medicine, nursing and others from the ministry itself. The cooperation we are receiving from the B.C. Health Facilities Association, from the administration of hospitals, and from the trustees of the hospital boards has led us to believe that any problems which will be identified will probably be resolved with minimum difficulty.
B.C. HYDRO REVENUE
MR. D'ARCY: To the hon. member for Oak Bay, in his Energy capacity. Yesterday under cross-examination under oath, the Utilities Commission asked B.C. Hydro to justify a rate increase. B.C. Hydro revealed that they in fact had $150 million in revenue in this recession year that had not been known about before. Mr. Speaker, this amounts to fully 11 percent of the total projected revenue of B.C. Hydro for this year.
My question to the minister is this: since this has come out in sworn testimony before the commission, why is the minister, through his energy arm, B.C. Hydro, concealing $150 million in order to justify an unnecessary rate increase?
HON. MR. SMITH: I'm pleased that the member brought this suppressed information to the attention of the House; it was already brought to everyone's attention in the Province this morning. I can assure the member that it's a matter we'll be looking into very directly with a great deal of interest.
[ Page 9613 ]
MR. D'ARCY: The point the minister doesn't understand is that the only reason this information came out was a cross-examination, under oath, by the Utilities Commission.
BRITISH COLUMBIA RAILWAY SUBSIDY
MR. STUPICH: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. Yesterday I asked him a question about transfers from consolidated revenue to BCR with respect to the northeast coal development. I would like to ask a slightly different question today. I wonder whether he has yet been able to establish whether there have been any transfers from consolidated revenue to the BCR in connection with northeast coal development in addition to the $67 million that were previously made public as having been paid before March 31. Incidentally, the $67 million is very close to the latest cutback in education budgets.
HON. MR. CURTIS: If I'm permitted the same latitude, the figure just mentioned by the member in the conclusion of his question is a figure that is applied against virtually every account the government carries in one way or another. Mr. Speaker, in order to ensure accuracy, I will take the member's question as notice.
WORKERS COMPENSATION BOARD SURCHARGES
MS. SANFORD: I have a question for the Minister of Labour. On April 1, 1982, the government applied a 35 percent surcharge to the Workers Compensation Board for hospital costs, even though the WCB already pays the full hospital and medical costs for injured workers. Since the unfunded liability of the WCB has now reached over half a billion dollars, has the minister decided to eliminate the hospital surcharge?
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: No.
MS. SANFORD: Since Bill 81, the Rate Increase Restraint Act, limits the WCB assessment increases to 6 percent, will the minister now advise the House that the surcharge will also be limited to 6 percent?
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: No.
MS. SANFORD: I have a supplementary. I would like to address this one to the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, who is responsible for ICBC. Can the minister confirm that ICBC has also been levied a 35 percent surcharge on hospital costs, adding to that corporation's operating costs?
HON. MR. HEWITT: Mr. Speaker. I'll take that question as notice.
Now that the Attorney-General has placed the province in a crime
prevention mode as a result of last week's action with respect to the
Solicitor-General, can he tell the House whether he has decided to
repudiate his predecessor's policy, a soft policy on organized crime...
HON. MR. GARDOM: Humbug!
MR. LEVI: Humbug, my foot! You're the one who said it.
...and institute an inquiry into organized crime and all of the dirty money that is available in this province, explained quite specifically in the report the minister had done about the business of crime, about which we have heard nothing? Would the minister inform the House what he intends to do about this?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I don't accept any of the premise upon which the question was asked, but I can assure the member that so far as initiatives taken by this ministry with regard to those who engage in the business of crime, that is currently being assessed by the federal Minister of Justice and all of the Attorneys across Canada for the purposes of considering the extent to which the Criminal Code should be amended to deal specifically with the recommendations contained in our report.
MR. LEVI: Perhaps the minister would inform us if he is suggesting or indicating that they have decided to do something about the so-called RICO type of legislation in the United States, which enables the government to get its hands on most of the illegal earnings of organized crime. Is that specifically what he's talking about'?
HON. MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LORIMER: I have a question to the Minister of Environment regarding the permanent layoff of a further 100 B.C. Packers employees at Prince Rupert. Has the minister met with B.C. Packers regarding the latest job losses from the fish-processing industries in Prince Rupert?
HON. MR. ROGERS: No, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LORIMER: Has the minister done anything about the job losses throughout the province, and has he determined whether these layoffs are from management decisions in B.C. Packers, resulting in the consolidation of operations throughout British Columbia?
HON. MR. ROGERS: Two questions: the first answer is yes; the second answer is no.
MR. LORIMER: Has the minister completed the study of the groundfish industry which was promised during the spring session? Can he advise when the study will be made public?
HON. MR. ROGERS: No and no, are the answers to those two questions. You might recall that there has been a change in the federal cabinet, and the new federal Minister of Fisheries and I have not yet had a chance to meet.
MR. LORIMER: Has the minister made any representations at all to the federal government that foreign fleets fishing within the 200-mile limit should be required to process at least part of their catch in British Columbia processing plants? Has he done anything in regard to the processing of those fish?
[ Page 9614 ]
HON. MR. ROGERS: By provincial government policy, only those fish which cannot be processed by onshore plants may be processed in factory ships. We have an ongoing dialogue with federal Fisheries and Oceans on this matter.
GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING BUDGET
MR. HALL: I have a question for the Provincial Secretary. In view of the fact that the federal government has announced a $30 million cut in advertising and publications expenditure as a restraint measure, can the minister advise what cuts he has decided to make in the B.C. government's $22 million advertising budget this year?
HON. MR. CHABOT: There will be cuts made in the B.C. government advertising budget. I don't have the specific numbers with me, but in view of the member's curiosity, I'll be glad to get that information and bring it back to the House for the member, and for all other members who might be interested in getting this information.
Hon. Mr. Richmond tabled the annual report of the Ministry of Tourism for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1982.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, we have not yet had complete instructions from the Chair as to the response from ministers to questions taken as notice. For example, a very important question was asked of the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Curtis) as to the exact amount of money that has gone to northeast coal out of general revenue.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, points of order must be valid points of order. While the member's concern is certainly of importance to him, unfortunately it does not fall within the purview of the Chair to rule on the promptness or otherwise of responses to questions on the order paper, which I'm sure the member understands clearly.
MR. BARRETT: Could the Chair instruct the House, if it would be permissible, for time, by leave, if ministers wish to answer some of the questions they're running away from?
MR. SPEAKER: The member is aware of the rules of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn to debate the serious
failure of the government to act in the public interest to prevent....
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. MACDONALD: Under 35.
MR. SPEAKER: This is under standing order 35?
MR. MACDONALD: Yes, under standing order 35.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, hon. member. It helps if the Chair is aware of that.
MR. MACDONALD:....to prevent the capture of Inland Natural Gas Co. Ltd., until recently a widely held B.C. company....
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the practice in this House has been very clearly laid down by you and other Speakers in the past: if a member rises under standing order 35, he first establishes whether or not it is a matter of urgent public importance and he does not read his motion. That motion is put when the urgency has been established.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, the point made by the minister is a valid one. Nonetheless, the Chair must hear the argument, without hearing the actual motion.
MR. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm stating the matter by referring to the motion. I'm not moving the motion now, and I don't need any pettifogging interruptions from this minister, who is responsible for allowing Anderson and Ben Macdonald to take control of that company. Now it's being taken over by international oil, knowingly.
I rise and say that the matter falls under the provisions of standing order 35. The statement is as follows. In the past 48 hours, Trans Mountain Pipe Lines, a company owned and controlled by major multinational oil companies, has taken steps to exercise options, which if completed would place them in control of Inland Natural Gas Co. Ltd. As a result of this action, the major supplier of natural gas in the interior of British Columbia will, because of a complete failure of government to secure the public interest, fall into the hands of big oil. This is a major new foothold for big oil in our province, and has potentially disastrous consequences for consumers of gas in British Columbia.
The interests of big oil, and more recently their allies in the Bronfman dynasty, have achieved control of a major public utility in B.C. without regulatory approval and without firing a shot. The Assembly must hold a debate and resolve to take action, because the government refuses to do its duty. The government is not simply asleep; it has been lulled into inaction by its friends, Jim Anderson and Ben Macdonald, who acted as front men with the strings held by the big oil interests. Now that the front men are being bought out and big oil is pulling on its strings, the government is unable to act. The government sold its soul to Anderson and Macdonald, and big oil has now come to collect.
MR. SPEAKER: The member has made his point. The Chair has allowed the member considerable latitude in explaining the basic premise of his 35. We'll consider the matter and bring forward a ruling.
MR. MACDONALD: I just want to add that the matter in my submission is urgent and important.
MR. SPEAKER: That's an integral part of the 35. The Chair will undertake review of the matter, and bring a decision to the House a little later.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. GARDOM: Committee on Bill 86, Mr. Speaker.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Bill 89 will follow.
[ Page 9615 ]
MR. HOWARD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the government is taking deliberate steps, both now and through something on the order paper which I'll draw to Your Honour's attention, to subvert the hope of this House to get to deal with the educational problems in this province. I draw to Your Honour's attention that on today's order paper....
MR. HOWARD: Yes, indeed, there does exist, under committee stage, Bill 86, intituled Financial Administration, etc. Yesterday's Votes and Proceedings does not show that that bill was ordered to appear on the order paper today for committee stage. Votes and Proceedings shows clearly.... Let me read it to Your Honour. This was after the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Curtis) had sought leave to proceed to committee forthwith. That leave was not granted. After the intrusion of the government House Leader (Hon. Mr. Gardom) in that foolish move he made yesterday, it says at the bottom of the page: "The Hon. H.A. Curtis (Minister of Finance) moved that Bill No. 86 be referred to a Committee of the whole House to be considered at the next sitting after today." You will notice, Your Honour, if you look further into yesterday's Votes and Proceedings with respect to another bill, namely Bill 89, which is the bill that we hope we can get to today, the appropriate entry in Votes and Proceedings is that it be ordered to be placed on orders of the day. Votes and Proceedings shows that Bill 86 was not ordered to be placed on the order paper today for committee stage. I suggest Your Honour should cancel it — wipe it off the order paper — so that we can get to Bill 89 immediately.
MR. SPEAKER: The point of order by the member for Skeena is well taken, and the fact of the matter is that there will have to be a change in the journal entry. Nonetheless, hon. members, the records at the table clearly indicate that it was the will of the House that that bill be put over to today, and on that basis, hon. members, the bill will proceed.
MR. HOWARD: Are you saying there was an error, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: There was apparently an omission in the printing, but not in the actual commitment of this body.
MR. HOWARD: How could that be? Is it possible that the government House Leader has tampered with the printing of the official record in order to prevent us coming to this?
HON. MR. GARDOM: Why be scurrilous!
MR. BARRETT: What's the explanation?
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, the day that we all exhibit perfection is, I would suggest, one that very few in this chamber will be here to see.
MR. BARRETT: We follow rules because we don't have perfection, but when you tamper with the rules then we've got problems. Shame!
HON. MR. GARDOM: Nobody's tampering.
AMENDMENT ACT (NO. 2) 1982
The House in committee on Bill 86; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
On section 1.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I just want to be sure in my own mind that it is this section which allows the minister or the government to roll over debts that have been incurred for operating expenditures. The legislation previously did not allow debts incurred for operating expenditures to be rolled over. They had to be paid off. This amendment would mean that money borrowed, to use the Premier's words, "to buy groceries" could be paid off by reborrowing, and reborrowing again and again. Is my understanding correct?
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, that is correct, The amendment in section 1, which in fact amends section 42 of the Financial Administration Act, is required so that maturing treasury bills, which were previously issued under section 43 of the FAA, can be refinanced or, to use his words, rolled over.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, in this instance it's quite clear that it simply means that the money may be borrowed for an indefinite period, rather than, under the previous limitation that was in effect, for 365 days. If I could sum up then, the changes in total, including this section 2, would mean that the government could borrow money for any purpose, including operating expenditures or any other purpose. It could borrow it for any length of time, in any amount, with no specific provision as to payback and no need to inform the public until.... I've forgotten the figure, but I think it's 60 days after March 31, or at the end of the fiscal period. I just want to make sure that I understand the effect of this section.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The amendment is required in order that a treasury bill operation can be maintained for a period which is in excess of 365 days. I dealt with that briefly in closing second reading of debate yesterday. However, I think the member strays a little further than the legislation permits, Mr. Chairman, in his assumption that this would not be reported. I made it very clear, and it has been made clear repeatedly, that first of all the moneys which would be dealt with by this amending act would be those voted by the Legislature, The reporting period is much shorter than 60 days after the end of the fiscal year — I think it's 15 days. I'll just check my notes. Again, the Legislature will vote the money, and then the treasury bill mechanism, if required, will come into play.
MR. STUPICH: If I could just deal with that one point, the minister said: "The Legislature will vote the money." The Legislature votes money in two ways. It votes in advance: for example. sometime between budget day on April 5 and the end of July we voted money for education. The government has run short. In this legislation it has the authority to borrow to meet those commitments. The subject of whether or not it
[ Page 9616 ]
will meet those commitments is another bill. But in addition to that kind of voting, the Legislature also votes after the fact when we do approve expenditure overruns that have been made, so not always is the voting ahead of time. The government may, in its wisdom, when the House is not sitting, pass warrants to spend money, and then may have that approved sometime afterwards.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The member is correct. It is a matter of magnitude, I suppose. Certainly the bulk of the public money which is spent by the government of the day is voted in advance, but that is not to deny that over the years special warrants have been issued and then approved after the fact.
MR. STUPICH: One more comment, Mr. Chairman. It has been practice that the bulk of the money is voted ahead of time, but practices are changing in strange ways these days. We've never before had a government — at least not in the last 30 years have we had a government — in the province of British Columbia come and ask for the authority to borrow money in the way this administration is doing. So it's quite conceivable that there's nothing in that legislation, which will come into effect very soon, that would stop the government from spending even more money than was voted by the Legislature when it deals with the estimates in the first place. As someone said, it's really a wide-open credit card, an open cheque-book. I'm not suggesting that this minister would use it unwisely, but what I am saying is that it could be done and would not be improper in terms of the legislation.
HON. MR. CURTIS: I think other aspects of the Financial Administration Act would come into play, and I appreciate the member's observation. Certainly it would not be my intention, and I respect his comment in that regard.
But we do have, Mr. Chairman, the final safeguard to which I referred yesterday, and that is the auditor-general, who passes right past the government, directly to this House and the people of British Columbia. I think that a Minister of Finance in future would do that which the member has described at his or her own peril. Admittedly, it would occur for the first time, but the auditor-general would issue a scathing denunciation of that practice, I'm sure.
MS. BROWN: I was interested in that comment about the auditor-general, because as the Minister of Finance knows, whether he has himself, certainly the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) has never paid any attention to any of the recommendations laid down by the auditor-general. So if that's the only safeguard we have, then we have no safeguard at all.
I want to have the record show that this is a section that allows the government to saddle not just our generation but our children's generation with debt. That's all this section does. Debt! It is something that this government said it would never do. This section now gives them the right to saddle not just our generation but other generations with debt.
MR. HALL: I would also like to take some issue with the minister's comments.
We've seen in the last six months an auditor-general sitting in Ottawa, armed with exactly the same powers as our auditor-general, watching our debt in Ottawa go $5 billion further into the hole.
MR. HALL: Naturally there are comments about it; nevertheless, the debt, which we will have to pay back, is there. In other words, the auditor-general does not stop debt, has no power whatsoever to stop debt. He can only comment on it after it has happened. So to place one's faith in the strength of the office of the auditor-general, with respect to the minister, is, I think, really misplacing the onus on control. This, as we said in second reading, is open-ended, unlimited and timeless. Had it been in effect, let us say, since 1980, we could have seen the situation where this government, operating deficit financing as it has done since March 31, 1980, had actually — if you look at the bookkeeping figures — gone into debt about $3 billion. It has spent $1.6 billion reserves and has incurred something like whatever the current guesstimates are — close to $3 billion in three years. That's what could have happened. We could have been facing a $3 billion ticket had this legislation been operating and we hadn't had those first reserves.
I say the minister should not try to divert our attention to an office which essentially is an external audit after the fact. What is required is disclosure when it happens, which I think is partially in place. I think the act itself says 15 days after the commencement of the session. I would like to have seen disclosure sometime after the borrowings take place. I'm sure the minister will, before this debate is over or before he's very much older, tell us that he will place the full extent of our borrowings in the quarterly report. After all, that's the full disclosure that he's been talking about for years and years and years. I will be quite content if he will stand up now and tell us that he's quite prepared to put the full disclosure of all his borrowings in the quarterly report. I will be quiet from now on about this bill today.
MR. BARBER: This bill and this section allows that government to borrow any amount for any purpose for any period of time. It is the biggest credit card that any debtor has ever applied for. The debt-ridden government of Social Credit is today applying for the biggest credit card of them all. Mr. Chairman, when you and I apply for a credit card, the people we go to — Visa, Master Charge, American Express or whomever — put a limit on it. You have a Visa card. I have a Visa card. We have limits on that. There's some built-in guarantee; there's a ceiling, a maximum, a level of accountability and restraint implicit in the contract between the two parties, the lender and the borrower.
Social Credit apparently is asking for an open-ended credit card — no limit — in order to borrow any amount for any purpose forever. I ask the minister, what is the limit on his credit card? How much does he expect to borrow within the first 90 days upon application of this law?
HON. MR. CURTIS: It is not possible to give a definitive answer to the member at this time.
MR. BARBER: Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I don't believe the minister. I think it is possible. I'm not asking for a nickel and dime precision; I am asking, though, for a dollar precision. Other provinces do it. Other states in the American union do it. It is possible in other jurisdictions. It is, I think, already known to the minister what he proposes to borrow in the first 90 days. I am so advised.
[ Page 9617 ]
When the Legislature authorizes borrowing for Crown corporations, we do so with a ceiling. Every year that ceiling is advanced and increased. Every year the government comes in with a borrowing bill for B.C. Hydro. We have an opportunity to debate and to consent. Most years they come in with a borrowing bill for B.C. Rail. Once again we have an opportunity to put a cap on it. Once again we have an opportunity to determine in advance what the credit limit shall be. If the government knows in advance how much B.C. Hydro needs to borrow for these and those purposes, the same mechanism that grants that knowledge grants the knowledge that I ask for and that we ask for today.
I frankly cannot believe the response of the minister, who says he doesn't know what he's going to need to borrow in the first 90 days of application of this law.
We've accused the government of being incompetent on many occasions. The record is obvious enough in that regard, but in this particular regard I don't believe that he is not competent, not informed or not aware of the amounts of money he will be required to borrow. I think he does know. I think the reason he won't say is that he's worried about the further political damage that will be done to his government. This bill has harmed them enough to begin with. The spectre of Social Credit creating permanent debt for the people of British Columbia has damaged the coalition a great deal to begin with. I think the minister wishes to avoid further damage by avoiding giving a plain answer — one I believe he already has — to a plain and simple question.
Let me put it again and ask him to reconsider and give the reply I believe his officials have already given him. How much do you expect to have to borrow under the provisions of this section and bill upon proclamation in the first 90 days of its effect? That's very simple. I don't expect you to be nickel-and-dime precise. I want a general dollar figure.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The first member for Victoria is badly ill advised at this particular point, if in fact he has, as he indicated, been advised contrary....
MS. BROWN: That means "well advised." "Badly ill advised" is a double negative.
HON. MR. CURTIS: No interjections, please. I don't interject. Mr. Chairman, order, please.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The point made by the member who has just taken his place overlooks the fact that on the basis of quarterly reports this government is obliged to report on its financial situation. In the case of the second quarter which ended September 30, 1982, I tell the committee today that I expect that report will be available on or about November 8. That is, I think, earlier than has been the case in some previous years. It's about on average. In developing his theme just a moment ago, the member knew that quarterly reports were introduced by this government. He knows that the quarterly report will more accurately reflect the situation than I can today in terms of his request to me.
What he is asking is for me to give today, in committee on section 2 of this bill, a reasonably accurate forecast of revenue and expenditure projections for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1982. On the production of each quarterly report we do show revised forecasts. They are revised upward or downward. Indeed, the last few have been downward revisions, as we all know and as the people of the province know. We show the movement from the original budget forecast for revenue and expenditure.
Mr. Member, I cannot answer your question. It is not that I choose not to. I heard you say that you don't wish to know to the last nickel and dime. I cannot predict, with any accuracy that would be useful to this committee or House, the production of revenue up to the end of March 1982. I'm sure the member appreciates that. It may not serve his purpose in debate, but I think he must understand that. My officials understand that, I clearly understand that and the government clearly understands that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'll ask all hon. members to come to order. The member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) will come to order. No interjections, please.
Before recognizing the hon. first member for Victoria I must observe that we are in Committee of the Whole. We are on section 2. Of course, our standing orders advise us that in Committee of the Whole we must be specific to the clause under debate. Section 2 is quite specific and clear. It strikes out a term of 365 days. I think we could canvass many subjects during this debate in committee that would have been better canvassed during second reading. I'll advise the hon. first member for Victoria and the Minister of Finance that we must be specific.
MR. BARBER: I agree entirely. We both know that committee, rather than second reading, is the means whereby we can ask questions and further questions upon receiving the first answers. We can't do that in second reading. On that basis, the questions I'm posing now could not possibly have been raised then, because you would have ruled them out of order.
I'm asking now whether or not the minister is aware that in other Canadian provinces where legislation of this order exists there are, in fact, ceilings, limits and stated lending and borrowing procedures by way of limit that assist the Legislature in dealing with the requests of government to spend more money than it has earned.
This government has put this Legislature in a very difficult position. We are being asked to grant the government a credit card with no limit at today's interest rates. That is a very expensive proposition for the people. It is a very difficult proposition for legislators. It is the burden of permanent debt, without any ceiling, that concerns us the most. I ask the minister whether or not he is aware of those ceiling procedures in other provinces and whether or not we might be advised of any relative ceiling that the minister proposes to endorse or announce here. We are not prepared. as legislators on this side of the House, to allow money to be borrowed for any purpose for any period of time in any amount without knowing at least what the ceiling is.
The minister says he doesn't know. Well, maybe he doesn't know literally and technically, but, again, I was advised that figures have been generated that give him a pretty darned good picture — sufficiently good, it should be said, to justify bringing this bill in in the first place.
The government and the minister obviously have received advice that they have to borrow in order to meet operating costs: that much is self-evident. Were that not the
[ Page 9618 ]
case, this bill wouldn't be here today. It is upon the basis of those figures and those predictions that we can only anticipate that the government must have some idea of how much it is they propose to borrow. I name 90 days because that is, of course, a quarter, and because I'm well aware that that's the system upon which the minister operates.
Again, the government has put this Legislature and all of the people in a very difficult position. It has asked us to allow any amount for any period for any purpose. It's a very difficult position to put us in, if we are to canvass in any competent way what it is the government proposes to do. I remind the minister that when Hydro and B.C. Rail borrow, we come in here and we debate a ceiling, and we advance or diminish it accordingly — and that's a reasonable check. That's an appropriate means of accounting to the people.
What we see here in this section is an extension of the date to any period, be it a year and a half or forever. What we know as well is that it's for any purpose and any amount. The combination of these three factors together produces a diabolically difficult position for the people of B.C. and for this Legislature.
I ask the minister if he's aware of what is done in other provinces with regard to ceilings, and whether or not he is prepared to announce or commit himself to the announcement of any ceiling in this instance for British Columbia.
HON. MR. CURTIS: The ceiling would be set by this Legislature. In my response to the member, I do not want to indicate concurrence with all that he has said. The Legislature will, estimate by estimate, page by page, decide that which is to be granted to Her Majesty for the purpose of the ensuing fiscal year. I therefore have some difficulty with the phrase, "any amount for any purpose for any length of time" — I believe I correctly quote the member. It is for those purposes which are debated and approved by this Legislature in Committee of Supply and in budget debate generally, and for the shortfall which occurs between revenue and that expenditure limit which has been approved, line by line, by this Legislature.
MR. BARBER: They do have ceilings and provisions in other provinces. Let me offer one illustration, and conclude with it. This government is perfectly capable, through warrant, of spending money that we never appropriated or debated in the first place. Let me illustrate: when this Premier decided to announce a stadium in Vancouver, with what legislative authority did he do so? Precisely this, Mr. Chairman — none. We had never debated any estimate for a stadium in Vancouver. It had never been produced in any budget book. He made an announcement, started to spend money, and did so entirely in the absence of legislative spending authority.
The minister says that it's not really true — they're not asking us to give them any amount for any purpose. My reply is that, frankly, that's rubbish. We have a perfectly good illustration — there are many others, but that one will serve to make the point. The Premier committed this province to a lot of money for a particular purpose without any spending authority at all. He did it all retroactively. It is the combination of that practice and of the well-known fact of Social Credit overruns that leads us to be concerned about the maximum that we will be called upon to guarantee by way of public debt.
It's not just as simple as saying that you appropriate a budget and we make up the difference between that appropriation and this revenue. There are, in fact, two other elements that come into play: first of all, the new programs for which the government has no current authority — the Vancouver stadium is a good example — and, secondly, the whole area of overruns, costs well and above those which we appropriated, but which the government goes out and spends anyway. Today it goes out and spends it without having the money in the bank to do so. It's in those two areas that we have a particular concern for the policy statement that the minister has made.
Section 2 approved.
HON. MR. CURTIS: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 86, Financial Administration Amendment Act (No. 2), 1982, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed on the following division:
YEAS — 29
NAYS — 24
Division ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
HON. MR. GARDOM: I call report on Bill 81, Mr. Speaker.
RATE INCREASE RESTRAINT ACT
Bill 81 read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Report on Bill 88, Mr. Speaker.
[ Page 9619 ]
AMENDMENT ACT (NO. 3), 1982
Bill 88 read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. GARDOM: Committee on Bill 89, Mr. Speaker.
SCHOOL SERVICES (INTERIM) ACT
The House in committee on Bill 89; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. BARRETT: I wish to address a few remarks under this section to the Minister of Education. I wish to be strictly relevant to the section, in accordance with the rules of this chamber. I want to refer to section 2(l), the wording and intent of which we are debating in committee stage. Section 2 reads:
"In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services in the province and to preserve jobs of employees, where there is a conflict between this act and a provision of a contract, this act prevails.
"(2) This act applies to all boards and employees.
"(3) This act and regulations made under this act prevail over the School Act and regulations made under that act."
There are two things I wish to comment on briefly, Mr. Chairman. First, under section 2(2), this government has decided to say, not only to teachers and employees of school boards but in a warning to every other person in this province, that regardless of any contracts you sign freely in a free society, if they feel like it they will bring in legislation and break those contracts with the use of the heavy hand of government.
Subsection (3): I think it should be perfectly clear to every tax-paying citizen, every law-abiding citizen in this province, that under this section the government has decided to centralize power and take unto itself the authority in legislation to make up its mind, through order-in-council, to change any contract that they deem they wish to interfere with. That direction can only come from the Premier of the province and the cabinet as a whole. The Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) deserves criticism in the community — fair enough — for his remarks; but in terms of the intent of subsection (2), for the government to use the heavy hand and interfere in contracts means that the Premier and the cabinet themselves have decided to take this power within that cabinet room for whatever purpose.
So let it be clearly pointed out that when we debate this bill, the attack is not so much on the Minister of Education, although he deserves attack and will receive criticism. The fact is, under this section this is the fine hand of the Premier of British Columbia, who wrote this bill and put it in the minister's hands to deliver as a page-boy. We are dealing with a page-boy's bill. He was instructed by the Premier to bring this bill in. That same page-boy who once attacked his cabinet colleagues as gutless has taken complete instruction to interfere in contracts in a free society.
I recall — my good friend from Vancouver East will remember too — those infamous speeches made by the former Social Credit opposition when they talked about the great freedoms they were protecting in British Columbia. Those great freedom fighters ran around this province talking about the sanctity of contracts. Let it be clearly spelled out today that sheer hypocrisy motivated those speeches. There has never been such an obvious, clear, overwhelming grab in terms of power to give dictatorial orders to people who are in public employment. or an indication of anywhere else if this government so deems.
Subsection (3) deals with school boards. That will be a matter of public debate throughout the province, Mr. Chairman, but let it be said to those school trustees that a significant number of people in this province understand the struggle they're having with this government, and respect the integrity of school trustees who have stood up to this government and said they're not about to be pushed around in a free society after having been democratically elected to sign contracts.
Mr. Chairman, since there is limited time to discuss this in estimates, let my remarks suffice on the basis of the teachers and their contracts with school boards, and in terms of my opinion on the interference with school boards themselves. Now let me address my remaining time to the real dangers of this bill, beyond those two groups that must and will fight for themselves in the community. I deal specifically here with the wording of subsection (2) in this section 2 and I repeat the sentence that concerns me: "In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services in the province and to preserve jobs of employees, where there is a conflict between this act and a provision of a contract, this act prevails." Mr. Chairman, the damage done by that minister and this government to the good will in education alone is more than can be repaired even if he restored full funding for the existing budget. That damage has been compounded by the wording and intent of this bill that says: "We don't trust teachers; we don't trust school boards; we don't care what they think about education, we will impose our will." The will is an extension, we thought, of a philosophy of this government. The dangerous thing is that there is no education philosophy in this government. There is no clear-cut defined statement of what education means to this government.
What has brought this all about, Mr. Chairman, has been a decision by the government to seek out a scapegoat in the community for its massive blunderings in northeast coal and other investments throughout the province. And who will the scapegoats be?
MR. COCKE: Vander Zalm and the kids.
MR. BARRETT: No, don't blame it on that minister. That minister caved in weeks ago to the orders of the minister.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I'm wondering if you could perhaps advise the hon. Leader of the Opposition that we are in fact not in second reading, but in committee. If we're going to be discussing northeast coal and all other things, which were discussed in second reading yesterday, when the leader was obviously not present — again — then I should have the latitude to respond in like manner.
[ Page 9620 ]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The minister has risen to point out standing order 61(2), which asks us to be relevant in clause-by-clause debate. The point is well taken, although I have not heard anything yet which would lead me to believe that the hon. Leader of the Opposition has strayed from relevant debate, given the wording of the section.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your ruling. I would have been upset had another cabinet minister interrupted in committee, but that minister has never made an effort to even understand the mechanics of this Legislature and how a debate functions on a section.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To the section, please.
MR. BARRETT: Yes, Mr. Chairman, and I don't intend to be distracted by the guilt-interruptions of that minister. My remarks are in reference to subsection (1), which I clearly confined my remarks to, and I repeated that subsection enough to indicate the thrust of my argument.
To continue, I'm pointing out that this government, in this section, reveals that it has no basic educational philosophy. It resents the fact that money has to be spent. It would be so much better from their point of view if all teachers would volunteer their whole lives freely, and if school boards would volunteer everything they've got freely, to give education, so that the cost could be removed by government.
There is no unifying philosophy that holds that government together. They came together as a group in this kind of legislation, revealing that their primary purpose as government is to cling to power. This kind of legislation proves exactly the absence of philosophy in terms of the use of power in education. I have yet to hear that minister speak of education on behalf of his government relative to this section, to "quality" and "diversity, " with any sense of understanding of philosophy. It's just a repetition of rhetoric, jingoism and jargon.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: You're never here.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I find that an interesting comment. The fact is that we're debating two of the most important bills of this so-called session this afternoon. One is putting us into debt and the other one is destroying education, and the Premier isn't even here this afternoon for the debate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To the section, please.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, this section is an assault on what all governments up to this time have assumed to be a primary responsibility — providing education in this province. During the 1930s there was a debate on a similar section on education in this province, led by people during that early time of the Depression who wanted serious cutbacks in public education through legislation similar to this. There was a Liberal administration at the time. There was a Mr. Weir and there was a Mr. Pearson: two outstanding members of this Legislature, who took a principled position with the government at that time that if there were to be serious cutbacks in education, both of them would leave the cabinet. It was Mr. Weir and Mr. Pearson in this very chamber who, as representatives of the party the minister once aspired to be leader of, the Liberal Party, took a position that was supported by the early socialists in this House, some of whom have gone down in history as being the strongest supporters of public education in this province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: At this point I must advise the hon. Leader of the Opposition that we are straying from the specific principle of this section.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, it was those two words "quality" and "diversity" — quality and diversity in the public education system — which are part of this subsection, that were the essence of the debate in that depression time. Those two Liberals stood in this chamber with the support of the then official opposition, the CCF, and beat back their own government's attempts to cut back in public school education. I find it ironic that some 50 years later another Liberal, who wanted to be leader of that party, is now the person leading the fight to cut back in public education, contrary to the great traditions of those early members of this House who supported both quality and diversity.
When the minister says he will leave it to regulation to determine what should be quality and what should be diversity, what comfort is that for the parents of a handicapped child? To have that child go into a kindergarten classroom of 24 other pupils and expect a young teacher to cope with 25 five-year-olds, two of whom in that class are handicapped.... The young teacher cannot even call upon a teaching aide. The parents concerned cannot have the confidence that the public tax dollar is providing an opportunity for diversity of education for their child. When you translate the tragedy of that minister's actions into the reality of personal stories out there, the minister himself would become concerned, because he is a man with heart, and occasionally shows it. But when the minister attacks and defends this particular area in education, he always attacks teachers or school boards or unnamed bureaucrats. What a great defence! The minister stands up in defending and says unnamed bureaucrats are misleading the school board. But when you strip it away and come down to the words of this section, who is it that is really being attacked? The children of this province are being attacked by the reckless statements and the reckless policies of that minister and that government.
Where are the guarantees in this section? What statement do we have from this minister or the government that can be believable, considering its performance, that the diversity and the quality of education that we've come to expect in this province will be maintained? Would the government have us believe, under this section, that they are to be trusted, that behind closed doors in cabinet they will ensure the best possible education for children? Would the government want us to leave this chamber feeling comfortable that their word could be trusted, when they have broken their word on policy and deed over the last seven years in an unparalleled record of wreckage throughout social services and education? Would you have us believe, at this late hour, that after all of the public relations work done by the former Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Smith), it was just a sham to impose this minister to bring in the government's real policy? I believe that, Mr. Chairman. I believe that this minister is an instrument of a deliberate cabinet decision, as evidenced by this section in this bill, to destroy confidence in public education in British Columbia by casting aspersions both on the teachers and on the school boards.
But who speaks for the children of this province? Who is it that will stand up on legislative guarantees and say that
[ Page 9621 ]
every child has an unalienable right in this province — a quality, a quantity, and a diversity of education that they've come to expect up to this point? Of course it costs money. But up until today — up until this bill — money has always been prioritized for education over the giveaway of natural resources or foolish programs evidenced by any government. Up until this moment, we have always had governments, whether they were Liberal, Tory, coalition, Socred or NDP, that have squarely been on record that education was a number one priority. Today, in October 1982, we are now having a bill declaring in this section that education becomes second-rate, because of a minister who will make all the regulations and interfere in all the contracts.
The teachers and the school trustees of this province have prided themselves on the delivery of a professional service. The teachers of this province have had an internal debate in their own organization as to whether or not they are a trade union or a professional group. They've decided they're a professional group. The trustees have moved clearly and deliberately to cooperate with the professional teachers' group to provide a stable level of qualitative, highly skilled education opportunity for the pupils of this province. Within a matter of six weeks, since that man became minister — revealing the true intent of this government's policy in this section — you have destroyed that confidence.
Mr. Chairman, I ask the minister to take a few questions down. Do you truly believe in public school education? Do you truly believe in decentralized, democratic decision-making by duly elected public officials? Do you truly believe that any government should have the right, as provided by this section, to interfere and overturn democratically elected boards' decisions at the local level as to the quality, quantity and "diversity" of education? I know you write slowly. I hope you write good.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To the section.
MR. BARRETT: What justification does the minister have to support his intent under this bill to directly interfere with decisions made by local school boards? Does he have confidence in teachers' professional ability to determine part of their own working practices without his interference? Does he understand how difficult it is to have large classrooms with handicapped children in them, and function without teacher's aides? Does he understand the impact on morale of the moves he's made against educators and education in British Columbia? Does he truly believe that these cutbacks in funding will serve the purpose of education? Does he believe that he has all of the abstract knowledge necessary to make the arbitrary cuts he's making? Would the minister please give us a detailed philosophical statement on his view of the role of public education from the public purse? Would the minister stand up, go beyond jargon and rhetoric, and tell this chamber and the people of British Columbia what he thinks the role of public education is?
I have just a few more comments, Mr. Chairman. I ask the minister to consider explaining to this House and to the people of British Columbia, under this section, the differences of opinion and statements made for the record by other cabinet ministers about education and his own performance. I refer specifically to the Minister of Universities, Science and Communications (Hon. Mr. McGeer), who has clearly said throughout this province that the greatest hope — if I may paraphrase him — for our young people in the workforce is to have a maximum number of opportunities of educational experience — using the words "quality and diversity of education" — in the public school system. That minister has warned everyone who's willing to listen to him that any attempt to withhold the best and most wide-ranging educational opportunity from any youngster in this province means that we are denying that child the full possible potential for developing its skills and abilities for meeting a very complex world out there in terms of job opportunity and other areas. It will be interesting, as my colleague says. to see how the Minister of Universities, Science and Communications votes on this. He'll vote with the government. He'll vote with the flock. They say one thing in one area, but they do something else in another area.
The last comment I wish to
make at this particular point is in terms of the intent of this
particular section. I am deeply concerned that we are going to go back
to some Dan Campbellisms in education in this province. I sat in this
chamber when there was a similar, although not as well organized,
assault on education. teachers and educators, when Dan Campbell was a
member of this chamber. He got up and said: "We've got to do away with
music, art and all that airy-fairy stuff." There were, at that time, a
number of cabinet ministers who dissociated themselves from the
minister. We felt a bit better. What is the first victim of cuts from
this government in terms of diversity and quality? The first victim of
cuts is the humanities, The first victims of cuts are those civilizing
experiences that our young children can have in an open, bright
educational opportunity to hear a poem for the first time, to become
acquainted with the richness of English literature, to be aware of the
importance of art, to understand music and those finer developments
within society that have made us a little bit better as a civilization
within the Commonwealth. One of the things that ties us together in the
British Commonwealth and one of the reasons why education is a priority
in the Commonwealth is a commitment to the humanities.
I have yet to hear the Minister of Education clearly state his attitude towards the humanities. His concern for art confined itself before he became minister to running around Surrey trying to cover up nudes. Do you recall that? We had a demonstration of that minister's understanding of art. When I talk about maintaining quality and diversity, that minister's history was that he went around with sack-cloth covering up nudes in Surrey as his approach.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Perhaps we could return to the bill, the 1982 bill.
MR. BARRETT: Yes. Mr. Chairman, I confess I'm straying. But I did have to recall that minister's limited view of the world....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order. please. I'll call all hon. members to order and remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition that standing order 61(2) does commend to us that we be specific to the clause under discussion.
MR. BARRETT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Your criticism is well founded. I was straying. But the emotion of the moment of remembering that minister's record was the cause of the straying. I will stick strictly to the bill.
[ Page 9622 ]
Does the minister understand that the wholeness of education includes more than just an appreciation of language skills and mathematical skills? Does the minister understand that every single parent out there expects that when his child goes to school the child will be given the opportunity to be exposed to everything that is possibly enriching and ennobling and building character? That includes an understanding of music, of art, of literature and, above all, of philosophy, and an open mind. I say to you, Mr. Chairman, that when it comes to voting against this bill, nothing could be stronger in terms of our opposition than the understated intent here to destroy an accepted, broadly based philosophy of a liberal education in British Columbia by this section.
There has never been a difference of opinion. There has been a difference of style, a difference of approach and a difference of funding around education, but this is the first time we have had a clear-cut difference of opinion where a government wishes to define quality and diversity. We have never expected diversity to be defined; it has been left to the school boards. Quality is to be left to the school boards. Ultimately it is to be left to the parents to determine with the school boards through their voting rights at the local level.
I say to you, Mr. Chairman, that this minister has caved in to the Premier. This minister who once bragged about his colleagues being gutless has now been relegated to messenger-boy in this section. This government has decided for political purposes to assault the educational system of this province. I, for one, will at least go on record clearly as being opposed to the first recorded time in the history of this chamber, since this building opened in 1897, of a bill that demanded so much sweeping power and was so negative to what we've always believed to be our inherent right in this province: a decent, proper, open and understanding public school system.
I'm ashamed of you, Mr. Minister. Not only are you a messenger-boy, but you're bringing a very bad message.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: There are many things that I obviously must provide answers for, since the Leader of the Opposition covered, in the last 30 minutes or so, possibly more than what has been said by the whole of the opposition during all of the debate on this bill. It's the first time that we've heard from the Leader of the Opposition on the bill, so I can appreciate perhaps why he wants to cover so many subjects or so many topics and relate them to section 2.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. There are many unparliamentary words being expressed right now from members opposite. They are unparliamentary, and the Chair will have to intervene.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Chairman, the point was made....
MR. MITCHELL: On a point of order, the minister clearly caused disrespect for this side of the House and us members who spoke on the statement that he made. I feel that that is completely unparliamentary and that you should have ruled that out of order. You were here.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's not a point of order, hon. member.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Chairman, if it helps the hon. member from the opposition, I was not showing any disrespect for what had been said by the opposition. Instead, I think I was complimenting the Leader of the Opposition for having said more than the whole of the opposition.
The statement was made that the minister has a limited view of the world. I'll confess that my views are obviously a whole lot more conservative with respect to values, that I differ considerably from the socialist view where anything goes. I don't hold that view, and I really don't apologize for that.
When we talk about education and what has happened in British Columbia over the last number of years.... For 30 years, with the exception of three, Social Credit has provided all of the programs and all of the necessary resources to bring about whatever change in education those who spoke earlier referred to.
Let's look very carefully at section 2. As I said yesterday, when unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition was not present, given the choice, certainly I would have preferred staying away from legislation, staying away from a restraint program, and staying away from asking so many people in our society to help in some way to ensure that restraint would help us to economic recovery; I would have preferred to carry on as we were able to in the past.
Take a look at what's happening in Alberta, where they are laying off teachers and cutting educational programs. Take a look at what's happening in all the provinces in Canada. Take a look at what's happening to our good neighbours across the line in Washington state, where they're having to cut school programs, to lay off teachers and to close whole schools. Take a look at what's happening everywhere in North America, and then see the alternative that we're providing in this legislation. As spelled out in the application of section 2, we are attempting not only to preserve programs and a good educational system for British Columbia; we're saying to the teachers: "We respect you. We know you're doing a job. We want to see you continue to be employed in British Columbia. Here's how we propose to keep you employed and give you the security we would like you to have."
I've heard from many people in various sectors. We know that those involved in the health sector have made various concessions in respect of restraint. Similarly, we know that those other public servants who are working for the province have recognized the need for restraint. When you compare the sorts of contracts that have been negotiated by the public sector — the concessions that they have been prepared to make now — you can appreciate that they too recognize that they must be a part of the restraint program if our economy is to survive and recover. I appreciate that, and I'm sure all British Columbians appreciate it.
I would tell the hon. Leader of the Opposition that I believe that by far the majority of the good and wonderful teachers in British Columbia also agree that they as well have a part to play in restraint and economic recovery; and I believe they would willingly do so.
The Leader of the Opposition said that somehow this was all contrived by the Premier, that I as the minister was the messenger-boy. Well, let me say this, Mr. Chairman: I am proud that our leader, the Premier, did take a leadership role, that he did call for a meeting of the trustees and the members of the BCTF executive, to address the problem of the checkerboard effect that was a result of our having requested school boards to take on this task in such a way that they could retain
[ Page 9623 ]
as much autonomy as possible. The meeting was held. At that meeting it was certainly the impression — of the majority, I believe, if not of all who were there — that both the BCTF executive and the BCSTA agreed that some legislative changes were required. Obviously they could not agree on what all the legislative changes ought to be, but they agreed that legislative changes were required. Following the meeting, we took the initiative required to bring about legislation that affords the protection which, I believe, the teachers, the children and the taxpayers in British Columbia deserve.
For a moment, I'd like to also comment on what the Leader of the Opposition said about the contract. Certainly I feel badly that a great many feel very strongly about a contract's having been broken. I can certainly appreciate that those teachers who have to give up, in one way or another, a part of their salary, feel — although I'm sure for the most part supportive of the need for restraint — not that keen on making that contribution directly. That was not a pun.
I can appreciate those concerns, but I think the teachers would agree, and I hope the members of the opposition would understand, that all those contracts have another partner still: that is, the taxpayers of British Columbia, the citizens of B.C. It's fine to talk about maintaining all of the programs as they were, maintaining all of the teachers in their various jobs, with the pay provided them through the various contracts they were able to negotiate. I can understand that argument, but the taxpayers cannot be called upon for more money still. There's just no way that the unemployed logger, the guy at the mill working three or four days instead of five, the person with an engineering or architectural firm who sees his business down by a third or more, can be asked to pay more still.
How much can we demand of the taxpayers in British Columbia? We've reached the point where we cannot go back and ask for more still. I know the Leader of the Opposition argues that somehow we should drop northeast coal, that somehow ALRT and B.C. Place are the sorts of things that can be drawn into this debate, because he feels, as he mentioned, that this is possibly where the funds could be obtained. But the people employed in those projects, which will be paid for over 20 years, are very happy to have jobs today. I would not deny them that opportunity, nor would the majority of teachers in British Columbia. Shame on the opposition!
I hope there are many more questions I might answer with respect to this and other sections, but since the Leader of the Opposition asked me a number of questions, I would also ask some questions of the Leader of the Opposition. He's gone now, but possibly someone on the other side could provide the answers.
I would ask this of anyone in the opposition: do you believe that teachers would prefer layoffs as opposed to a formula or a means which would ensure job protection like no other sector in British Columbia's economy can possibly receive? Members of the opposition, do you believe that teachers anywhere in British Columbia would for a moment prefer a cut in programs and the loss of the advances we've made in special education since 1975, to the tune of 50 percent more now than it was then, to this program that we have introduced for restraint, assuring them instead of the protection of those programs in legislation? Does the opposition believe that the teachers or taxpayers would not prefer us to take a leadership role where obviously, unfortunately, and possibly for good reason, the school boards could not follow through on what they had hoped to bring about for answers initially? Again to the members of the opposition: do you believe that the taxpayers have a bottomless well and that we can continue always, as a government, to keep digging and asking for more?
We should not lose sight of the fact that in the private sector — and those of us who are constantly involved with government should understand this very well — when the money isn't there and the industry isn't able to sell its goods, there is a loss of jobs: people have to work-share and do all sorts of things in order to try to keep the business running. But in the public sector, unfortunately there are those who still believe —the socialists are certainly among those — that somehow, whenever there's a need for more money, you can keep digging deeper and deeper into the taxpayer's pocket, even though the money isn't there.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I will be brief. I'll limit my remarks to the wide-ranging comments of the minister. I had expected that the minister would confine his remarks to this section as required by standing orders, and deal with the two questions about quality and diversity. I understand the nervousness of the new cabinet minister who was formerly a teacher. He has difficulty in stating the education philosophy of his government. But I would expect the same kind of silence that one would expect from some form of embarrassment, rather than noise to cover up the lack of argument.
The minister gets up and gives us what he thinks the taxpayers want in terms of priority, He wants me to answer those questions. First of all, we just finished voting against a bill that would allow this government reckless debt spending, without any reference back to this chamber whatsoever.
The minister refers to the private sector.
HON. MR. BRUMMET: Stick to the section.
MR. BARRETT: I'll stick to the section debate that the minister raised in terms of the question. If you want the answer to the question of what I think the taxpayers prefer, then I suggest that you put your position to the taxpayers, I'll put our position, and call an election and let the taxpayers decide what they prefer — right now!
You're going on the crossroads of a whole school year. I'll bet you don't even have the courage to call an election right now, before that whole school year is destroyed by this legislation. Let's go now. That timid, weak-kneed, frightened group clinging to power wouldn't dare call an election right now.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! The section is very broad, hon. members, but I think we've strayed a little too far on this point.
MR. BARRETT: Thank you for bringing me to order. Yes, Mr. Chairman. we have strayed, but let's now deal with the points raised by the minister as a smokescreen.
Do we think that the taxpayers have a bottomless pit of money? No, we don't. The only place in the world where that is believed is in Tokyo, where you're spending taxpayers' money to subsidize coal, leaving British Columbia without any accountability here in this province. Do I believe that the taxpayers want their money spent on that basis? The answer is no. If you want to show restraint, show restraint in the giveaway of the resources that are the treasure which should be paying for education in this province. Mr. Chairman, I
[ Page 9624 ]
welcome the opportunity from the government to declare what my options are. I believe that the Japanese can take care of themselves without welfare from this government and that money should be spent here for the education of our own citizens rather than subsidizing them.
Do I believe in restraint? Well, my dear friend, what they probably will propose is that all those children who can't go to class can stand around and have an official tour of the stadium. Yes, all the children can be taken through the stadium with $125 million — another place for the Vancouver Lions to lose — and can be shown: "This is the popcorn stand that the government couldn't run, this is the peanut stand that the government couldn't run, but please come here and see the stadium because we believe the stadium is more important than your future." You want options'? Then have the guts to stand up and demand cuts in that giveaway of northeast coal, cuts in the stadium and put the money into education if you really believe what you're saying. But no, he's making out as if there's no money for anything; as if there is not even enough money for the minister to take his salary home, or to get on that jet and put his comfortable derriere in that comfortable seat; to fly all over the province and make pronouncements from the jet windows, saying: " I wish there was room for you peasants in this plane."
MR. CHAIRMAN: I will advise the member that there's a lot of latitude here, but we are now straying substantially from the principle of the section before us. Will the member please return to the section.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, there's no question we're straying. I'm returning to the minister's definition. He says that the taxpayers don't have a bottomless pit. I agree, and Pouilly-Fuissé wine is not part of the bottomless pit. Travelling all over the world is not part of the bottomless pit. Luxurious offices, rented space and furniture is not part of it. Oh, this is the most comfortable cabinet that was ever installed in office in the history of British Columbia. They ride high, they eat well, and they say they haven't any money for poor school kids: "What would the opposition want us to do? Would they actually want us to cut down on our expenses? Oh, naughty, naughty! Give up our little sandwich for those kids? After all, we have to sacrifice."
MR. BARRETT: What are the options? Hiring experts from Ontario to tell you how to behave, and not even getting your money's worth — that's an option? Can every one of that Ontario mafia that's down in the Premier's office, and turn that money over to education. That's a good start. You've hired more image-makers and Hollywood experts and they still haven't helped you. Fourteen thousand dollars was spent to tell the Minister of Industry (Hon. Mr. Phillips) not to go on television. I could have told him that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, at this point the Chair will once again have to intervene. We are straying broadly from the section. To the section, please.
MR. BARRETT: If the government truly believes that its priorities are more important, as the minister says, and that the taxpayers don't have a bottomless pit, then let him stand up publicly and say that subsidizing coal to Japan has a higher priority for our taxpayers' money than education and that subsidizing a downtown stadium has more priority than education. You've not shown a single penny of restraint in that coal deal or in B.C. Place, but all the cuts have taken place in education and in health. Forty million dollars was taken out in the last week of March for general revenue — unexplained, unaccounted for, and handed over to B.C. Rail to buy down loans for the massive debt in northeast coal.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Once again, I'll ask the hon. Leader of the Opposition to return to section 2. There's an awful lot of scope in section 2 but we are going past that scope, and I'm sure the hon. member is aware of it.
MR. BARRETT: I appreciate your guidance, Mr. Chairman. It is wisely given, but it's about 15 minutes late. It was the minister who got up and started giving the jingoism about the taxpayers' bottomless line. I'm only responding to the minister, who was out of order in this section.
I'm saying, in conclusion — and that being, Mr. Chairman, so as to satisfy your ruling — that if the minister wants to give people options of where money should be spent, then he should call an election. It's not as if there isn't money. The argument is that the money is being spent to subsidize Japanese interests and a stadium, while education suffers.
There isn't a single person in this province who would argue against saying that we can't spend money we don't have. The argument is not about spending money we don't have; it is about where all the money has gone, particularly the $553 million in special funds that has been squandered by this government. This is a rich jurisdiction. Who is it that always tells us that? It's the Socreds. "Oh, look at us, look at how we've saved money here and money there." You've blown the whole kitty, you've got the wrong priorities and you're attacking education as a means of justifying your inadequate policies. You wouldn't call an election — not one whit would you. You know why you won't call an election? Because you'd lose, that's why.
If you really believed in your education policies....
MRS. JORDAN: You'd get wiped!
MR. BARRETT: Oh, Mr. Chairman, do I hear some bleating from them? Do I hear the voice of nervous concern? If you really believe in what you're espousing in this bill, if you believe that people really support it, then go call an election on it. They're struck by dumb silence.
I'll tell you this: we were called back here to set up an election atmosphere. They thought this bill would be great to whup teachers, whup school boards, whup education, and get elected. They've brought in the bill but they haven't brought in the writ. You know you're wrong. You know your priorities are wrong, and you don't even have the courage to defend them out there publicly.
AN HON. MEMBER: Ah, sit down!
HON. MR. HEWITT: Go back to Vancouver East!
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. BARRETT: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the intelligent debate coming from the new cabinet ministers. In another two weeks they'll have their black jackets and the silk
[ Page 9625 ]
ties, and the role will follow them. There's an aura that comes when they get in the cabinet. Did you notice it when the minister answered? He said: "My boss called a meeting." Remember that? He said: "We called them in the room" — referring to this section. And we said: "Now that you're in the room, this is what we want you to do." And they said: "Golly gee, last week it was something else, and we were already doing that because the minister wanted that done." There was a complete reversal of policy. What you said couldn't be done before all of a sudden not only could be done but was ordered to be done.
I want to tell you my own experience in that regard, related to this section. For four months the school teachers in Kelowna wanted to meet the Premier. He wasn't available. Busy. Talking to the minister, holding his hand. Twenty-four hours before I was to go up into Kelowna, the teachers contacted me and said: "Would you meet with us?" I said: "Certainly." Six hours after I said that I'd meet with them, the Premier said that he'd meet with them, too. Then what happened, after all the rules the minister had laid out, saying: "No, this can't be the solution." All of a sudden, Kelowna was made an exception. Why was Kelowna made an exception? I know why, but I don't want this word to get out of this room. The Premier was worried that the teachers wouldn't vote for him in Kelowna, so he ordered a deal for them, but not for anyone else.
MR. CHAIRMAN: We're really straying now, hon. member.
MR. BARRETT: Well, Mr. Chairman, certainly we're straying. I'm responding to the minister's description of what went on in the Premier's office.
The minister is absolutely harmless when he talks about his past, and when he stands, looks in the mirror and thinks about his future leadership options. The minister is absolutely harmless when he describes to this chamber how he loves his boss. He's not believable, but harmless. But the minister becomes harmful when he's abandoned his own course and has been relegated to the role of taking this message from the government to destroy education under the guise of restraint.
It's not as if there wasn't any money there. It's not as if there weren't any surplus funds. The surplus has gone and the present money is being blown elsewhere. You ask the parents of children in this province where they want their money spent. If that's going to be your argument and rhetoric, and you say that there has to be a bottom line for the taxpayers, then you let the taxpayers decide what the bottom line is. Is it subsidizing coal to Japan to the tune of a billion and a half dollars? Is it building a stadium in downtown Vancouver' Or is it guaranteeing the next generation a fair chance in life through a decent education? I'll tell you what the people will answer, and that's what you're afraid of.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, before recognizing the next speaker, who will be the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development, I should like to point out to the committee that this section does allow a tremendous amount of scope, because of the fact that it contains a preamble; nevertheless, it's in the section. An awful lot of scope has been allowed because it talks about the quality and diversity of educational services. But I would remind all hon. members that while we can speak about the quality and diversity of educational services with, I'm sure, a great degree of latitude, straying into subjects that are not within the Ministry of Education and the purview of the minister whose name is on this bill would be irrelevant and unparliamentary. Some latitude has been allowed. I'm sure that all members will now return to the specific clauses of the section now before us.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your admonition. As this section does deal with financing, I'll try to relate my comments to the section. I'm rather disappointed, though, that the Leader of the Opposition has seen fit to leave the chamber, because every time I get up and try to straighten him out on a few facts, he leaves the chamber. He stands in this chamber, pontificates with great changes in his voice, great shaking of his hands and great waving of his arms, and then when somebody gets up to set him straight, he runs. He's done this time after time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I will call the hon. minister to order. We have had quite enough latitude during the debate on the section.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I wouldn't suppose, Mr. Chairman, that now that the Leader of the Opposition has had all the latitude to wander all over the place, and now that someone wants to get up and straighten out the Legislature on some of the misinformation that he has cast on this Legislature, I'm not going to be allowed to do so. I know the Chairman would not want to do that.
What we're really talking about is a philosophy of long-term funding of education in this particular section. It's interesting to note that the federal government, which was funding a lot of social services, has cut back over $700 million to the province of British Columbia this year. I say that maybe it's time the province of British Columbia called on Ottawa to give back some of the money that we have sent to Ottawa. This should be a priority in the province of British Columbia right now, because the money we have sent to Ottawa is now being used to carry out a socialist philosophy which is supported by the socialists opposite. To do what? To buy up service stations and oil companies.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, it's no different for me to talk about this than it was for the Leader of the Opposition to talk just a moment ago about northeast coal, which is a project which will provide taxes for ongoing education in this province.
[Mr. Chairman rose.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. As I've said earlier, there was quite a bit of latitude allowed the Minister of Education and the Leader of the Opposition. I feel that we should now return to the specific clause before us. It does allow an awful lot of latitude because of its wording, and I'm sure all members are aware of that. It speaks of the quality and diversity of education. If we would follow that section, and look at what the section says, then we could probably debate the section 1n order.
[Mr. Chairman resumed his seat.]
[ Page 9626 ]
HON. MR. PHILLIPS: I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if I'm not going to be allowed the latitude to answer the Leader of the Opposition in this Legislature, I'll find another forum in which to do so.
MR. LAUK: The minister raised a number of points in debate on section 2. All of them are wrong, according to the facts which come from his own ministry and from other sources. I want to deal with them as best I can right now.
I really do resent that the minister is so badly advised, or misinformed, in this chamber that he comes and gives inadvertent misrepresentations about the facts concerning the effect of this bill, the costs of this bill and the long-term effects of this bill in the school districts of this province. I commend to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the minister that he inform himself. It is not just a political question anymore, now that the Premier has backed off an election; it's a question of the education system. He is the Minister of Education. He cannot possibly go around as a one-man band in this province, changing policy on every hotline show....
MR. LAUK: This is the answer that I get from the minister. I'm calling him to question about the facts he gave in debate on section 2, and he says: "Tell us about the banks." The financial pages are full of information about the Dome bailout and the banks; he can read that himself.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Why don't we just return to the section. I'm sure all the hon. members know the scope that's allowed.
MR. LAUK: He said, "Tell us about the banks, " Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That's irrelevant. Please proceed on section 2.
MR. LAUK: The Minister of Education has been going around the province, or wherever he's been the last few days when he hasn't been in the House.... He said on section 2 today, and he said in debate on this bill, that we've had the highest contribution per pupil in Canada to the public education system. That's not a true statement. I'll name just a few provinces that we have comparisons for in Canada, and we haven't done them all yet.
HON. MR. WATERLAND: Tell the truth, Gary.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. LAUK: I thank the Minister of Forests for advising me to tell the truth. I certainly will. I'm about to do so, as I always do.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let's be careful, hon. members. The word is unparliamentary.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: "Truth" is unparliamentary?
MR. CHAIRMAN: The imputation is unparliamentary, and that applies to all members, including the Minister of Forests and the member now speaking.
MR. LAUK: Those that we've looked at so far are all higher in their contribution per pupil to the public education system: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Alberta is substantially higher. But I'll tell you what the real story about the funding of public education is in the province of British Columbia. It's the niggardly, mean-minded way in which this administration has not contributed to the funding of public education, but has put it squarely on the shoulders of the homeowner. They have forced municipalities and school boards, through their own finance formula, to raise homeowner taxation to an extent where it's the highest residential taxation in Canada.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I'll remind the hon. member that he is now straying from the principle of section 2.
MR. LAUK: He said that there's no tax money. He said that vis-à-vis section 2. He said: "Taxpayers of B.C. are not to be asked to pay still more." Those were approximately his words.
In British Columbia the total contribution of the provincial government per pupil is a little over $1,000. The rest, $2,200, is on the shoulders of the local taxpayer. In Alberta the provincial contribution is $2,400; the local taxpayer in Alberta pays only $1,500. Nowhere in any of the provinces I have mentioned is the local taxpayer paying more than $1,600 per pupil. In British Columbia, the local taxpayer is paying $2,200 per pupil. Under section 2 and under this act, they will be paying almost $2,800 per pupil in 1983, and higher still.
HON. MR. SMITH: Nonsense!
MR. LAUK: They say: "Nonsense." Will you resign your seat if that's not the case?
HON. MR. SMITH: Your figures are always wrong.
MR. LAUK: They're your figures. They're from the Ministry of Education.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. members, all members will be allowed to participate.
MR. LAUK: I invite the hon. former Minister of Education, who travelled the length and breadth of the province, promising all kinds of pie-in-the-sky.... He said that it would take him two years to come out with the 12 commandments or new stone tablets on education, and just before he announced the changes, he resigned.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, we are now straying quite substantially from section 2.
MR. LEA: I'm not sure he resigned.
MS. BROWN: He was fired.
MR. LAUK: I think it was R and R, on his own request.
The Minister of Education said: "Ask the teachers: would you rather have a job under this bill or would you rather have layoffs?" I do confess that I haven't asked the teachers. I assume that they'd rather have a job; I don't have to ask them that. But I have asked the trustees. They tell me, district by
[ Page 9627 ]
district — except for a handful — that under this bill, by the end of June 1983, they will either have to have layoffs or substantial program cuts. They are saying that they're going to have layoffs anyway. To the Leader of the Opposition and members of the opposition the minister said: "What do you want to do? Are you going to tell the teachers that they're going to have layoffs?" I'm going to ask the minister if he can answer a serious question. I wonder if he could pay attention, Mr. Chairman. After this bill passes into law, if there are any teacher layoffs in any school district, will the minister resign? He'd have to resign his seat because of the way he put it in the chamber. Will the minister stand in his seat and give that undertaking? Will the minister answer this question: after this bill passes into law, if there are any cutbacks in special education programs, either created by the district already or under the regulations, will he resign his seat? If, after this bill passes into law, will the minister resign his seat if there's no increase in the school tax portion of homeowner taxes in school districts across the province?
We've had six weeks of the doubletalk and doublespeak programs and policy changes by the Minister of Education. The problem is that he can't be trusted.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. That will have to be withdrawn. I'm sorry, I find it unparliamentary. The member is well aware that it imputes a dishonourable motive to another member.
MR. LAUK: I'm not saying that he's dishonourable.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair finds it dishonourable. Will the member please withdraw?
MR. LAUK: I withdraw the word.
I'll ask the chamber these questions. Can we trust a person who says one thing on a Monday, another thing on a Tuesday and a totally different thing on a Thursday, all contradictory? Can we trust a government that brings in a bill which creates a situation for school boards across the province which is totally catch-22? They are not allowed to lay off without the permission of the minister. They don't have enough money to maintain their programs, and they can't raise the money for their programs. What do they do? Do they resign? Does the minister place a trustee in their place? The fact is that it's a catch-22 bill.
We're dealing with section 2, which has a preamble in it, as the Chairman pointed out. It's the only bill I've seen in ten years of being in the Legislature that has a preamble in one of its sections. Why, in September 1982, when they're about to call an election and are trying to create an issue, do you think there was a preamble put in section 2?
MR. LEA: Gee, I don't know.
MR. LAUK: I wonder why. Could you tell me, Mr. Chairman?
MR. LEA: He doesn't know.
MR. LAUK: Gee whillickers, let's ask Mr. Science. Where's Mr. Science? Gee whillickers, Mr. Science, why is there a preamble in section 2? Who's kidding who, Mr. Chairman? We know what this bill is. It's a political ploy. It's taking kids — a whole generation of students — and making them into a political football. It's the new minister's idea of increasing recreation in the schools: make the whole system into a political football. It's called Vander Zalm's P.E. Program.
I don't want to create a controversy. I don't want to suggest to teachers throughout this province that they have nothing to fear from the new minister. I don't want to suggest that they do, either. But I will suggest that they and the people of this province look at the record: a government that changes its policy on the run. A government that will use a whole generation of kids for political purposes is a government that cannot be trusted.
Section 2 says: "...protect the diversity and quality of education in this province." What I think it should say is: "...protect education from the minister and kids in the education system from this government."
The minister says that even after 74 school districts had filed plans to meet restraint programs imposed by the government.... The Premier of this province grandstands and pulls in the executives of the BCSTA and the Teachers Federation and says: "Okay, you want legislation? I'll give you legislation." It's not the legislation that either organization asked for — not in any particular.... Nevertheless, he figured that if they wanted legislation, he'd give them legislation, any legislation — "Let's make it up as we go along." And this is what it is: it's designed for political purposes. When the minister says they're worried about a checkerboard effect.... They weren't worried about any checkerboard effect, because they brought in a bill that's going to create a checkerboard effect. There are school districts that have money in the bank — few, but some. There are some that have the J fund — it's called the non-shareable capital section. They've got money in those sections. There are a lot of school districts that don't. So these school districts that have money in the J fund are going to use it and others are not. That's not a checkerboard? Who's the minister kidding, Mr. Chairman? The trouble is, he's either badly advised or he doesn't know what his ministry is all about, or he wouldn't be making such statements. ''Where's the money going to come from?" says the Minister of Education. The minister's not listening, Mr. Chairman, but I know you are. You were here as Chairman of the committee when we were in estimates for two sessions while the New Democratic Party moved motions to cut back on ministerial travel, on advertising in departments, on office space. We didn't....
MR. LAUK: I think that the Minister of Highways (Hon. Mr. Fraser) has had too much porcupine pie today, Mr. Chairman. He's got a little bit of reflux.
MR. CHAIRMAN: To the section, please, and the member is reminded that we can't reflect on a previous vote.
MR. LAUK: We cannot reflux on a previous vote.
MR. LAUK: It's called what?
HON. MR. SCHROEDER: I'll see you in the hall.
MR. LAUK: I can't believe it.
[ Page 9628 ]
We moved in two sessions a total of, I think, $192 million. We didn't say cut whole programs out. We didn't say cut all the advertising out — although, after seeing that new, glossy $100,000 pamphlet, I think we should have. That came to $192 million. Those were just the overages from 1981. All we're asking is to cut back to that amount. Have they done so? No. They're now bludgeoning the education system for a smaller amount. I can't believe it. And the minister has the temerity to stand up in debate on section 2 and ask: "Where's the money going to come from?"
Mr. Chairman, section 2 of this bill is a travesty. I wonder if the minister can listen for a moment. I know he's lolligagging with his colleagues. I wish he'd spend more time listening and reflecting upon what he's doing. Under this act and under this section, I understand that bureaucrats — that is, the civil servants in the ministry — have been informing secretary-treasurers of school boards around the province not to worry about the 1983 calculations. I wonder if the minister can confirm that. This presupposes more legislation. I'd like to know what that legislation is. When we're talking about trust.... He's saying: "Just give us this little bitty bill. It's for restraint, you know. Restraint is motherhood. We're going to ask the teachers, the parents and the trustees to cooperate in restraint; that's all we're asking. It's just little old me from Surrey. You can trust me." But already his bureaucrats are indicating that there's more legislation down the tube. Are we going to be called back in November, December or January for another $60 million in cuts? — saying: "Oh, I was only fooling. I was just kidding you. Now we want about $60 million more in cuts for 1983. We're going to let you lay off as many people as you want, because we've passed the hump now. We had our debate in the fall. We quieted down the people out there. Now we're going to shaft in another $60 million worth of cuts."
You can't trust a government that's going to change its mind every week, that won't hold to its word. You can't trust a government that will set aside contracts, saying they're not worth a darn. You can't trust a government that will attack the education system and single it out for cutbacks but give increases to other areas of government. You just can't trust a government that will deal with education on such an unfair basis. You can't trust a government that will attack the public education system, yet continue funding to the private education system. You just can't trust them.
HON. MR. SCHROEDER: How do you maintain the quality and diversity of educational services when there have been changes in the middle of a fiscal year which were not anticipated at the beginning of the year, over which neither the opposition nor government has direct control but for which you must make adjustments in mid-stream in order to cope with them? We have to explode the myth that says the money is there — a myth which the opposition stubbornly refuses to see. The longer I listen to the debate the more I'm convinced that they are incapable of seeing it. A shortfall is there and it is real. It is not a matter of saying that we have a government that is tight-fisted, and that, for some political reason, it wishes to restrain payments that had been anticipated by certain segments of society, and rob them of the legitimately negotiated benefits on which they had set their sights.
Mr. Chairman, when that very same opposition was in government they couldn't recognize a deficit when it was in place. When there was a deficit in excess of $130 million in one account alone, do you think they could recognize it? No. When it came to the end of the regime over which they reigned, within the last three months of that government, do you recall that there were hiring freezes? Do you recall that there were 15 percent rollbacks?
HON. MR. SCHROEDER: I'm sorry that some of us have long memories.
I want you to know that they looked into a revenue pot, believed that it was endless, and suggested that you could negotiate whatever dollars you wanted out of that revenue pot and be able to carry it out, devil take the hindmost. They asked: "What kind of a government is it that you can't trust?" I would purport to you, sir, you cannot trust a government that doesn't know when it's behind.
The bucks are not there; it's as simple as that. At the beginning of the fiscal year we anticipated $7.2 billion in revenue would be generated by the tax structure in place.
MR. COCKE: Nonsense!
HON. MR. SCHROEDER: The fellow who has sold insurance all his life knows good and well that what I'm saying is the truth: $7.2 billion was anticipated. I don't have to tell the world, because the whole world knows revenues are down. There are a few blind people.
AN HON. MEMBER: Over there.
HON. MR. SCHROEDER: Oh, no, don't point at them; they are my friends. There are a few blind people who refuse to learn that there is a shortfall. That shortfall is real and anticipated to be.... You've heard our friends in the other estates say that it could be a billion, it could be a billion and a half. The fact is that there is a shortfall in actual revenue. The choice is simply this: you can take all of that shortfall and pin it to one program and eliminate it completely, which in the case of agriculture would wipe us out completely.... I'd love to see the Leader of the Opposition say: "Well, I'll just give up all my food for the next 12 months." In any event, we could either take all the shortfall, pin in it to one program and wipe it out completely, or do the sensible thing, and that is that each segment of the economy pick up a share of the shortfall and make the ship float till the end of the fiscal year. That's one choice.
[Mr. Mussallem in the chair.]
I heard the Leader of the Opposition say: "We have got our priorities wrong." We have taken money that should have gone to dead-end expenditures.... We should have taken that money out of projects which are regenerative things, such as things like northeast coal, like B.C. Place, and like other job-creating projects in which money is put into circulation and tax strength is created from which we draw the revenue to pay for those kinds of services which do not generate revenue. You think that's too heavy? I can see right now, Mr. Chairman, that it's too heavy for some of them. The fact is that that is one of the choices. I think we should hear the opposition and consider what they have to say. They say we should shut down northeast coal, shut down all those jobs, put away the revenue that is produced by those revenue
[ Page 9629 ]
producing projects and put this province even deeper in debt; take those dollars and spend them on segments which have already stated that they would like to be a part of the recovery program in this province, and put us so far in debt that the same thing would happen to an existing government as happened to that government when they were in a deficit position, wouldn't recognize it, steadfastly held to it and were frightened to death. They ran to the people, and by golly, the people were smart enough to realize that they didn't know when they were behind. I say you cannot trust a government that doesn't know when it's behind. If the revenues are not there, you can borrow to replace them. But in borrowing to replace them you simply are stating that in some future year you expect to do so much better that in that year you can cover expenses for that year and pick up what you couldn't possibly do this year and pay interest on it. That's what you're saying. It's a risky business. That's one option, though.
The other option is for each one to recognize the problem, admit that it's there, and say: "Let's do what we can to make sure that the restraint which we have to exercise for a short term will put us in a good fiscal position when the recovery has taken place." Mr. Chairman, I don't know when that will be. It might be one year, or it might be two years. I wish it were six months. I wish it were not at all. I wish that we could honour, for the sake of education, for the sake of health and for the sake of every other segment, the dreams that we had at the beginning of the fiscal year. It's not possible.
I stand in front of you bare-faced and say that what we anticipated is not happening. I think it's a responsible government that will look at the facts in the middle of a fiscal year and say: "It's not happening and let's make our adjustments now, lest at the end the same things happen to us as to Sodom and Gomorrah." Why wait that long? Why not make the adjustment now? Why not do the responsible thing? Why not do the reasonable thing? Why not do the embarrassing thing and say: "Hey, gang, the bucks are not there. We're going to have to do with a few fewer. How many of you would like to share in the program?"
Guess what? The professionals have all said they will share. No one is happy about it. I'm not happy about it. The members in this House are not happy about it. Each one of them said: "We will share." They didn't complain, but they shared. Given an opportunity and encouragement by this Legislature, by all members from both sides, professionals who are reasonable will say: "Let us share as well."
Sure, we negotiated a contract that was 17 percent and they should have it. They need it, they deserve it, they worked for it, they earn it, and by golly, I wish they could have it. The fact is, the dollars are not there and we are saying to them: "Would you accept a few dollars less so that the entire program can be maintained?" I think their answer is yes, Mr. Chairman. I think your answer is yes, Mr. Chairman. I think the answer to section 2 is yes.
MR. LEGGATT: The minister has made essentially two points that I think should really be addressed. The first point is that the cuts we're faced with were unforeseen; that we are in the middle of a fiscal year and we have to take emergency measures to solve that crisis generally, not merely in education but everywhere. I think it is a point that has to be addressed. I reject that the present fiscal condition was unforeseen. It was foreseen by the opposition a year ago when they moved for cuts in the budget of $80 million. It was foreseen this spring when this government brought in its budget and we asked them to cut $80 million of fat. You wouldn't touch it.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Irresponsible stuff!
MR. LEGGATT: That is responsible.
You want to talk about sharing. Every one of those ministers was asked to share this spring. When their budgets came up we asked them to share: cut down your advertising; cut down your furniture.
MR. LEGGATT: No. they, are not sharing. I reject the argument that the member for Chilliwack (Hon. Mr. Schroeder), so eloquently, makes. It is not sharing when the ministers' departments wouldn't accept any cuts in their advertising, furniture, travel, or cuts just to last year's level. They had to go another 20 percent this year. That is not unforeseen. That was foreseen.
Let's take the next thing about unforeseen. This government brought in a budget that said forest revenues would be up 23 percent this year. That's what they based their plan on. They brought in a budget that said personal income tax would increase this year. That was their planning and organization. Almost every member on this side, when we spoke on the budget, told them they were wrong. We said they had overestimated revenues and underestimated expenses, and they were going to get into a mess in mid-year. Now we have the member for Chilliwack standing on his feet, telling us all that this was unforeseen. It was foreseen. It was there. It is the chaos and lack of planning that creates the crisis we have right now.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
The second point he makes — I think it must be addressed, because it's been made many times — is that we have to cut education because the other areas are job-creating. In other words, the $45 million or $67 million that's gone into northeast coal can't be cut back because it's creating jobs in the resource sector. Therefore we have to go back and cut out health-care workers. teachers and so on — cut in those areas. Education is one of the most job-creating things we have in the country. It is one of the most job-creating things we've ever had, because education is what creates employment.
HON. MR. FRASER: Read the bill.
MR. LEGGATT: I have read the bill. I want to deal with this particular section specifically because it has some very interesting things in it. We've recognized this problem for two years. It's this government that refused to recognize it and got themselves into the chaos they're now in.
Let's look at the section. Section 2(l) says: "In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services in the province and to preserve jobs of employees, where there is a conflict between this act and a provision of a contract, this act prevails." That section has no meaning; it's in total conflict with itself. It says that to preserve the quality and diversity of education we ought to break our contracts with the teachers and the school trustees. That's what it says.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No, no.
[ Page 9630 ]
MR. LEGGATT: How can you come to any other conclusion in reading this section? I'll read it again. Maybe the minister will think carefully about it: "In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services in the province and to preserve the jobs of employees, where there is a conflict between this act and a provision of a contract, this act prevails." It's at war with itself. It is not protecting the quality and diversity of education; it is destroying the quality and diversity of education.
A good deal was said by my colleague about the question of trust; and a good deal was said by the member for Chilliwack about the question of trust. But I'm old-fashioned about this. I think a deal is a deal. I think there is a bit of honour about making contracts. But the real contract, the most important contract that was made, was not with the teachers, although that's an important contract. It was not with the school trustees, although that's an important contract. The most important contract was with the people who pay educational taxes on their property in this province. When those people paid their taxes this year, they asked to receive a certain level of education for their children. This government has broken that contract with those taxpayers. There is no question at all. A deal is a deal, Mr. Minister. I paid my educational taxes this year and now you're reneging on your part of the deal. You're backing out on your share of the deal. You're destroying the capacity of the system to deliver those educational services.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: It's another pocket, but the same taxpayers. What are you talking about?
MR. LEGGATT: I'm talking about property taxes.
Mr. Chairman, the minister really is new to his portfolio. I don't think he quite understands yet where the homeowner tax revenues come from. The homeowner taxpayer on the property side who did not have his tax confiscated by this government — they only confiscated the commercial side — made a deal this year when he got his notice. He said, "Oh, damn it, my taxes are up. I guess I'll have to pay them. I'm not happy about it; but at least we've got a good public educational system in this province. I want that public educational system to be supported by this government. I don't want them to renege on their half of the deal, their part of the deal." In fact, it's a very small part of the deal, and it keeps getting smaller and smaller; but it's still a significant part of the deal — 32 percent. For the 68 percent that the taxpayer puts up, he expects to get that other 32 percent, and this minister has broken his honour by not making that commitment.
MR. LEGGATT: In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services.
A good number of people in this province.... I don't suppose it's said often enough that we do have a fine public educational system. That minister has been fond of kicking that public educational system around, before he was minister and after. There are thousands of children in this province whose best experience is in the public educational system, Sometimes it's better than their experience at home. Sometimes the best experience they have is to meet teachers and talk to them and have their horizons expanded in the schoolroom. This minister doesn't believe that, because he does not like public education. The Premier of this province deliberately put an enemy of public education into the education portfolio. The record speaks for itself. This is the public education wrecking crew.
The quality and diversity of education, which is what we're talking about, will never be maintained by this government and this minister. What is the value to a young person to have a bus trip to see the symphony for the first time in his life? How do you put a value on that? How many tonnes of coal is that, Mr. Minister of Industry and Small Business Development? It's very hard to measure. That's the measure which is the difference between the parties in this room. That is the measure of the difference between the government and the opposition. That is what the quality of education is all about: the chance for our young people to expand their horizons.
MR. LEGGATT: Yes, to take a bus to an athletic contest.
MR. LEGGATT: I'll tell you what will happen if he can't pay for it. If the parents can't pay for it, they'll be too embarrassed to have their son ask for them. Do you know that? If you cut that out, that son will not be interested in athletics, and you're on the way to producing a failure in our society.
That's why this bill is so dangerous. If you take away the kinds of things that we all received in our lifetime in the educational services.... We're very selfish in this chamber. We who have had a public education have all been well treated, I might say, by W.A.C. Bennett and past governments. They understood what public education was all about. W.A. C. Bennett did. He was a great proponent and defender of public education in this province — to his great credit. I'm sorry to see it being dismantled by his son. I think it is a tragedy for the one institution in this province that gives us a chance to be equal, gives us a chance to go to school and be successful in this society.... But the minister's heart is in the private educational system, not in the public educational system. He sees that as the solution to our educational problems, not the diversity of public education which allows anyone — regardless of means or ability — to achieve within that system. We can maintain the quality and diversity by breaking our contract with the teachers, with the school boards and, yes, with the taxpayers of the province of British Columbia. What a disgrace!
There's been a good deal of debate, pro and con, about this. But there was a letter in the Vancouver Sun the other day from a lady called Heather Ward, and that summed up what this minister is doing. It says this:
"While Bill Vander Zalm goes on shooting straight from the hip, picking off teachers and education programs like bottles off a fence, he is blissfully unaware that one of his stray bullets has hit my son. Bill is eight and had been struggling hopelessly for three and a half years to function in a normal classroom. He has certain learning and behavioural difficulties that require special attention that he was unable to get. He disrupted the class in his efforts to be noticed. He was constantly reprimanded, sent out of class or sent home. He ended each school day feeling
[ Page 9631 ]
like a misfit and a failure. The school couldn't cope with him. I eventually had to take him out of the school system and teach him at home, a job I have neither the qualifications nor the resources to do well. I don't blame the school. The efforts of the staff were sincere, but they did not have the facilities to deal with Bill's needs.
"Then last month my son was accepted in a special program at the Port Kells School, along with a number of children with problems similar to his. Through the care, diligence and dedication of his teacher, Bill has been transformed. He's excited about school, proud of his accomplishments and encouraged to work hard. And he's learning to behave acceptedly in a social setting. He's a joy to live with. It tortures me now to look at him and know that on October 21 his hopes will be dashed.
"I learned at a meeting at Port Kells School that one of the 93 teachers given their termination notice is Bill's teacher. No one knows what will be done with Bill and his classmates. I do know that any other classroom they may be sent to will be continually disrupted by them. Other children in those classrooms will suffer, especially with the number of split classes made necessary by Bill Vander Zalm's decrees. Bill will once again come home each day full of shame, bitterness and frustration.
"This little boy will be crushed before he ever had a chance to live a normal, happy life. I'm afraid for his future. His one opportunity to succeed will have been taken from him without so much as a second thought. I'm outraged and I cannot allow this to happen. I know there are many parents who feel as I do. We must act."
The minister is going to say that the bill covers that. He's going to say: "Well, I've got a thing in here. You can't fire them without my permission. Secondly, it says that a board won't reduce services on special education without my permission."
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: That program at Port Kells was instituted by this government.
MR. LEGGATT: Congratulations. It's a good program. And it's to be discontinued on the 21st, if the minister gives his consent. I'm happy to see that the minister won't give his consent.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: The Surrey School Board may be largely NDP, but they're not that stupid.
MR. LEGGATT: That is a part of the program that they had to institute under the minister's direction to put in cuts. Those were the second-stage cuts. Now we're on the third- or fourth-stage cuts.
The point I want to make is that in my own School District 43 they must lay off 43 teachers this year on the basis of the cuts. Next year it's 110. Now the bill says, "Oh, but you can't fire teachers now without my consent, " or, "You can't cut special programs without my consent." The plain facts are that the minister has to find that $67 million. The real cut is that there's no money for education from this government. The taxpayers put up their share, and all they ask is that it be matched. Yes, Bill, you might have to borrow it, but to come halfway through the year and throw chaos into the school system is hurting teachers, children and everyone else in the system. It is administrative stupidity, economic insanity, and it's simply planning chaos.
MR. CHAIRMAN: All members will come to order, and I'll advise the hon. member for Coquitlam-Moody that he's speaking on another section.
MR. LEGGATT: I'll come back right now to the section, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your direction.
The section itself is meaningless. In fact, the section really should be defeated on the simple grounds that you cannot have the first section work and the second section pass. In other words, you can't maintain the quality and diversity of educational services by breaking your contracts with the people of the province.
MR. COCKE: I expected the hon. minister to take his place and answer a few questions from time to time. The first question, of course, that I would like him to answer is: who drafted this piece of legislation? Who in the world would ever put a preamble in a piece of legislation They all coloured! Every one of the lawyers over there.... I asked the question. "Would you put those words in a piece of legislation?" and they blushed red as can be.
HON. MR. HEWITT: You're red.
MR. COCKE: If that's the opposite of you, then that's what I want to be, believe me. You are the worst wrecking crew that this province has ever seen. "In order to maintain the quality and diversity of educational services in the province and to preserve jobs of employees" — and then you go on to tell us how it's impossible under those circumstances.
But in any event, we have been contacting school boards, school districts and teachers, and there is no hope that this act will have any positive effect whatsoever — none. To begin with, a few of the boards, particularly those in the far-flung areas of the province, thought that maybe there was something here to provide some solution. However, having read the bill and having been advised by professionals and people who have an understanding of what this means.... They are now terrified because they know full well that this bill takes us closer and closer to absolute chaos. We started earlier this year by creating a crisis in education. The cutbacks began, and now we're moving into further cutbacks, and what we have is crisis upon crisis upon crisis. What does that say about the quality and diversity? What does that really say?
Mr. Chairman, my school district — New Westminster — tells me that as of today. they will have a budget that will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's impossible to live by this bill. So what are they talking about? Conserving jobs, preserving education, diversity, indeed. The fact of the matter is that this piece of legislation was window-dressing for a government that is desperate for some sort of an issue, desperate to go out to the people and try to get re-elected on the backs of.... Guess who. Teachers. All that whole group over there could talk about under second reading was the teachers' union, But you know who they're really bashing? They're
[ Page 9632 ]
bashing our children in this province. We're darn well not going to put up with it. We will continue to fight this kind of extortion and this type of stupid legislation that's only put forward to try to get a government that is absolutely beyond hope back on course for an election. But, Mr. Chairman, the people in our province don't have that kind of a stupid attitude that will permit this government to impair the quality of education in this province.
MR. COCKE: Mr. Chairman, I will not ask that member for a withdrawal. He can continue with his rude remarks.
MR. CHAIRMAN: One moment, please. I will ask the hon. member for Central Fraser Valley (Mr. Ritchie) to come to order. I haven't heard anything.
MR. COCKE: Fine. It's just as well.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I presume that you're not offended. The member for Central Fraser Valley will come to order.
MR. COCKE: What follows this to determine the future quality of education? Did we all hear what the minister said yesterday? He said: "This is only the beginning." For crying out loud, if this is only the beginning, where do we go next?
I talked to a school district today, Mr. Chairman, and what did they tell me? They have a number of alternatives. This district is out of town; you have a member over there who represents this district of Kamloops. What did they say? They could terminate 92 teachers out of 995, or they could roll back 11 percent, or they could take 20 more days out of the school year. These are the kinds of alternatives provided with this situation. It is an utter disaster. When we talk of quality and diversity, we should be talking about improving our educational system. Here we are in tough times, and the government says....
MR. COCKE: Oh, yes, the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Schroeder) said it best. With his great pulpit delivery, he said that northeast coal and all those jobs being provided will enrich the economy. When? When we're laying off people in such job-intensive areas as health care and education, what are we doing? It's totally counterproductive. Which comes first? Subsidizing the Japanese coal and steel industries doesn't come first with me. Looking after the future of our children in this province comes first with me. The most important resource in our province is children. The most important resource we have is being neglected by this government. It is being further impaired by this disastrous piece of legislation, commonly known as Bill 89. This section is the biggest joke — if it weren't so serious — ever played on the people of B.C. In order to maintain quality and diversity, indeed! Crisis upon crisis.
When we tell teachers, the way the minister did earlier when he answered the Leader of the Opposition, that here is security for them, all they have to do is look down the road a very short way; not only are their jobs in jeopardy, but so are the programs for our children in this province. That's all.
The Minister of Agriculture said: "Can you trust a government which doesn't recognize it's behind?" Let me just deal with that for a moment. When the budget was introduced in April of this year, the government were told that their estimates for revenues were out of whack, and not only by the opposition. The forest industry laughed their heads off when they said that there was an anticipated increase in revenues from the forest industry. They knew, Mr. Chairman, that our budget under our system would not provide for education in this province.
They've ducked, they've dodged, but they've placed their priorities in the wrong place in order to provide that quality and diversity. They've done it, and they did it knowingly. Now they're at this juncture. Do we call an election, or don't we call an election? If we call an election, whose backs shall we ride on? I hope desperately that you call that election, and we'll see. But in any event....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order! To the section, please.
MR. COCKE: What will you do in New Westminster? Mr. Chairman, I invite that minister to come to New Westminster. I keep hearing that, ever since 1969, and it just doesn't seem to work. I would be delighted if he would come, and we'll test our political skills.
Mr. Chairman, we're putting the school system in jeopardy. We will not vote for this or any other section of this bill. It's a bill that has created chaos beyond belief. It was a political mistake made by this government.
I was in the riding of the member for Dewdney (Mr. Mussallem) last weekend. Person after person came up to me and said: "What are they doing down there? Are they trying to wreck the school system?" I, of course, said encouragingly: "We'll try to get rid of this government in order to protect the school system for the children in our province."
What this bill does, or what it anticipates doing, is creating a division between school trustees and their teachers — create a war, if possible — to divert attention from a totally inept government and possibly win an election on the back of that issue. It's not going to work. The bill, the section.... The whole thing is an utter disaster. Why doesn't the minister do what has been suggested, and pull the bill, and get rid of it and this section? Or did his boss the Premier — in whose office it was written, incidentally — say: "You hang in there or you'll lose your cabinet position altogether." This minister who was dumped out of Human Resources, then out of Municipal Affairs and is now in Education has only one move to make now; that's in the back bench. Mr. Chairman, let the minister stand up and indicate that he's going to stand up to the Premier and pull this bill.
MS. BROWN: I can't believe that the Minister of Education is not participating in this debate. I think it gives us a pretty good indication of just how important education is to that minister and that government in particular. Really, what we have here in this bill, under this section, is a perfect example of the so-called Socred spirit. You know the signs that go around saying "this is the B.C. spirit"? This bill is the Socred spirit. It is a calculated, integrated, well-designed assault on the children of this province. That's all it is. It's not accidental.
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MS. BROWN: The minister is saying he thought I was intelligent.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I'll the ask the members to come to order.
MS. BROWN: The Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Waterland) says he was wrong. I want Hansard to have all of these very brilliant comments on record, Mr. Chairman, so that when the Hansards go out there and people read them, they'll have some kind of understanding of the quality of government that they've been putting up with in this province since 1976. Here we're debating an assault on the educational system in the province and we have the Minister of Forests not in his seat and the minister — I'm not even sure what he's responsible for now because the Premier keeps changing him in the hope of finding him a job that he can do effectively — making comments about my level of intelligence.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order. You make a very good point, hon. member...
MS. BROWN: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN:...which is not to be construed as participating in debate. Perhaps if the Minister of Forests would return to his seat and not interrupt, if the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Hon. Mr. Hewitt) also would not interject, and if the member would speak to the bill, we could proceed.
MS. BROWN: We have, as was stated later, a section which says that it wants to maintain the quality and diversity of the educational services in the province. It then goes on to say that it is prepared to break any contract which has hitherto been entered into by any school board and its teachers. As my colleague from Coquitlam pointed out, this particular section 2 contradicts itself. It's in conflict with itself. It's not possible to maintain quality and diversity, Mr. Chairman, if at the same time you're breaking contracts which have been entered into through a collective agreement between the school trustees and the teachers themselves.
After the bill was introduced a Telex was sent out to all of the superintendents and secretary-treasurers of the school boards trying to explain in more detail what the bill was supposed to be doing. The essential provisions are that teachers and other non-union employees are affected by this legislation. It defines non-instructional days, it defines working days, and it goes on to say that the act overrides the School Act and all contracts between boards and its teachers and its non-union employees. That's what we're dealing with here.
This Telex which went out to the chairmen, superintendents and secretary-treasurers of school boards. Now when in return the School Trustees Association sent a telegram in response to the minister's office protesting against this arbitrary centralization of control in his hand, the minister sent a Telex back to them suggesting that if they didn't shape up they would, and I'm quoting, "run the risk of endangering their autonomy." That's what the minister said. In exchange, the school trustees had no option but to send to the minister a telegram in response, in which is said: "Your sweeping generalizations leave many boards with no choice but to create wholesale unemployment." Now the minister tells us that this section protects jobs. The school trustees are telling us that if they comply with this section they're going to have to create wholesale unemployment. The dilemma that faces us is to decide who is telling the truth. Can we believe the statements made by the minister or those made by the school trustees?
The minister says there are not going to be any layoffs of teachers. Well, like the minister and other members of this House, I was visited today, as were the two other members from Burnaby, by some of our teachers. They pointed out to us that in Burnaby alone there are over 100 temporary and substitute teachers. These are teachers that are not covered by contractual agreements. When their temporary time comes to an end, they're just not going to be rehired. The job which they're doing in the schools will not be done. Presently in Burnaby they don't hire substitute teachers. They can't afford to hire them. There are instances of teachers showing up to teach when they are too ill to teach and shouldn't be teaching; but because there is no provision in the budget any more for substitutes, these teachers have to show up at school. They have to try and do the job.
Who suffers when a teacher is not there to do the job that has to be done? Who suffers when these temporary teachers have completed their term of office and they are not renewed, and the job that they used to do isn't being done" Who suffers when a teacher is ill and there isn't a substitute teacher there to take that teacher's place? The children in the classroom suffer. That's what makes a mockery of this section which talks about "the quality and diversity of educational services" at the same time as the actions of the government, through this piece of legislation. are forcing the school boards, as they say themselves, to create wholesale unemployment and not to be able to renew those temporary positions and to not be able to put substitute teachers into those classrooms when substitute teachers are necessary.
The first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lauk), the critic for education, just pointed out to me that Statistics Canada shows that Canadian teachers have fewer sick days away from work than any other category of worker. Part of that has to do, I think, with their dedication: if it is at all humanly possible, they make it their business to get to the classroom every day, because they are committed to the quality of educational services and the diversity of educational services. But it is not possible for them to do the job which they have to do under this piece of legislation.
What in fact happens as a result of this piece of legislation is that the underfunding which the school districts are suffering from still exists. That's not going to change. There isn't going to be one cent added to the school budgets to deal with the crisis they're now experiencing as a result of underfunding in education. Jobs, as I pointed out to you. are still going to be lost — those temporary, substitute and non-union jobs — as the minister pointed out in his Telex to the school trustees. Some of the non-instructional jobs being done by the CUPE workers in the school are going to be lost. Clerical jobs, teaching assistant jobs and jobs for aides who work with teachers in the learning-assistance classes are still going to be lost, because there isn't going to be one cent more added to the education budget to deal with the underfunding which the school districts are now experiencing.
This bill isn't going to address itself to that. This section doesn't address itself to that. There is presently a crisis in the
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educational system. This piece of legislation, which the minister told us came as a result of the Premier and himself meeting with the school trustees and the teachers, does not address itself to that fact. The low morale which must result, not only among the teachers but certainly among the parents of the children in the schools as well, is not going to be addressed by this job.
When the minister stood up to talk on this section, he said: "Look at what's happening in other parts of the world. Look at Alberta, where they're shutting down classes and firing teachers. Look at Washington, where they're closing schools and laying off teachers. Look at the rest of Canada." We've looked at those places, Mr. Chairman, and we know that it wasn't necessary that that happen here in British Columbia. What we are suffering from in British Columbia is a government's decision to divert funds away from education into other areas. We're not in the same position as Washington. We're not in the same position as Alberta and other provinces. We have the resources here and we have the funds, but those funds were diverted. As the Leader of the Opposition said, $1.5 billion went into northeast coal. Those funds were diverted into servicing some of the bad debts which this government accumulated during its term of office. When we say that section 2 cannot deliver in quality and diversity, we know it can't deliver not because the money wasn't there but because the money that was there was diverted into other services.
The critic on education, the member for Vancouver Centre, pointed out that money was diverted simply because education is not now, nor has it ever been, a priority of this government. That's why we have the ludicrous situation of the middle of a bill having a preamble. If that doesn't display what a lack of education does to a system, I don't know what does. Educated people put their preamble at the beginning, not in the middle. The fact that we have a government that didn't get around to figuring out where the preamble should have been in the first place is an indication of the kind of trouble that our educational system is in. It's a midamble, not a preamble.
The other comment the minister kept making was about the taxpayers. I don't know whether or not the minister knows it, but teachers are taxpayers too; so when the minister talks about the taxpayers not being able to meet these bills, I think he should take that into account too. The parents of those children are taxpayers who have paid. As I pointed out in second reading of this bill, the taxes in Burnaby were increased in order to meet the increases in educational costs. The taxpayers in Burnaby, including those teachers who live there and are taxpayers, paid those increased taxes. I am a taxpayer in Burnaby and I paid those increased taxes. It upsets me, as it does the other taxpayers in Burnaby, that our children are being shortchanged for an educational service for which we've already paid. We've already paid for that service. Now we're being told that our children aren't going to get that service because the government has seen fit to divert those sums of money into other places. The government has seen fit not to make education one of its priorities.
Section 2(3) of this legislation says the act applies to all boards and employees, and where it comes into conflict the act shall prevail. As I pointed out earlier, we have to look at other collective agreements, not necessarily those made with school trustees; again, I'm talking about the non-teaching people in the school system — clerical workers, janitors, maintenance workers — who as a result of this are also going to be penalized. They are a part of the decisions that are being made as a result of section 2 of this piece of legislation; they are going to be affected too.
MR. LAUK: Pull the bill, Garde.
MS. BROWN: Again, another message from our critic, after a discussion with Bill Marshall of West Vancouver. Something in the neighbourhood of 52 non-teaching staff are going to be laid off effective tomorrow, as a direct result of this government's policies.
There isn't any question that the opposition would have supported this bill if it had done a number of things: if it had addressed itself in a positive way to the underfunding which the educational districts now have to deal with; if it had addressed itself to restoring that funding and to really delivering quality and diversity as outlined in the preamble and section 2. If it had really protected the jobs of those taxpayers who happen to be teachers, aides and other people in the system and had put an end to those layoffs, the opposition would have had no difficulty whatsoever in supporting this section of this piece of legislation. But it doesn't do that.
The priority of the opposition is the educational system and the children. We recognize that if you don't pay now, you pay later. If you shortchange the kids now, you certainly pay for it later. It's really shortsighted, when you look at it, to make a decision to shortchange children in our system. They may grow up to be like members of the government. That is reason enough for us to be concerned about the educational system.
I'm getting a signal from the House Leader, Mr. Chairman, which I interpret as a request to move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.