1986 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 33rd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 1986
[ Page 8553 ]
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 1986 (Bill 36). Hon. Mr. Smith.
Introduction and first reading –– 8553
Law Reform Amendment Act, 1986 (Bill 34). Hon. Mr. Smith.
Introduction and first reading –– 8553
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation and Highways estimates.
(Hon. A. Fraser)
On vote 72: minister's office –– 8553
THURSDAY, JUNE 5, 1986
The House met at 10:04 a.m.
Introduction of Bills
AMENDMENT ACT (No. 2), 1986
Hon. Mr. Smith presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 1986.
HON. MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is one of the miscellaneous bills, a grab-bag bill that we introduce in the session each year, and in this case we have a number of amendments that include amendments to the Architects Act which will increase their powers of discipline and will allow them to deal with their own rights to recover and proceed against people who violate their act. There are changes to the Chiropractors Act which allow greater rule-making powers for that body as well and allow a new procedure for penalties. There are some changes to the interim education finance act dealing with adjustments in grants of taxation on non-residential land. There are some reforms to the Estate Administration Act and the Land Title Act. There is also the matter in this bill dealing with the filing of powers of attorney in the land title office which was raised by the member for Coquitlam-Moody (Mr. Rose). There will be some changes to the Offence Act and the Optometrists Act as well, which will allow different rule-making powers by that body. The private investigators security act is also being changed so that the definition of a locksmith will now ensure that persons who practise that business are licensed under the act.
MR. LAUK: Our new firm.
HON. MR. SMITH: Lauk-Smith. Well, you may run too.
There will be a change also to the Provincial Court Act to meet the requirements of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that the Legislature will be the body that sets judicial salaries, with a committee of laymen to recommend on a statutory basis regularly to the Legislative Assembly, That, I think, will meet the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and will remove any argument that these are being fixed by the chief law enforcement officer of the Crown; which was an old provision and one that I did not like.
Mr. Speaker, I move first reading.
Bill 36, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
LAW REFORM AMENDMENT ACT, 1986
Hon. Mr. Smith presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Law Reform Amendment Act, 1986.
HON. MR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, these are the annual legislative changes recommended by the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia.
One of the changes in this very short bill will update the law of guardianship, so that the authority of a guardian of a child's person will parallel that of a parent, and the authority of guardian of a child's estate will be the same as that of a trustee.
There will also be a recommendation in here to provide for changes in the law of commercial contracts. The current law provides that where an obligation of a contractor is disputed during a contract, he may be forced to either abandon the entire contract and sue, or perform the matter in dispute without compensation. That will be changed so that a contractor will now be able to carry out the work without losing his right to make a claim and be awarded compensation. That will correct a decision in a 1960s case entitled Peter Kiewitsons.
The bill will also amend the Power of Attorney Act regarding statutory authority for the form and content of a general short form of power of attorney.
That very attractive electoral package is the one that I commend to you as I move first reading of the bill.
Bill 34 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 72: minister's office, $226,849
MR. LOCKSTEAD: The short period we had last night as we started debate of the spending estimates of the Minister of Transportation and Highways was a relatively parochial type of debate, basically to eat up the clock because we didn't want to start on some of the more serious issues that we're going to presumably debate this morning. I'd like to start this morning's proceedings with an overview of the activities of that ministry, and I think I can start by suggesting to the minister — and I look forward to his reply to some of the items that I'm about to bring to the attention of the House.... We have done our research, and we have done quite a comprehensive study of ministry activities over the past several years.
One of the things that has become quite obvious.... Pardon me, Mr. Chairman, we have other people, but the minister will introduce them. Welcome to the House, gentlemen — assistants to the minister.
One of the things that has become very apparent to all of us on this side of the House, and I am sure to many members of the Social Credit caucus, is that this province over the past ten years has, in fact, not developed a comprehensive transportation plan. I think transportation strategies need to be developed in British Columbia — an overall strategy in terms of transportation of every kind. In my view, that simply has not been done. I think that local and regional governments
[ Page 8554 ]
should have the primary input into such a transportation strategy, to develop an integrated plan along with the Ministry of Highways and other modes of transportation.
The government and the ministry yesterday made the statement that the NDP had accused the government of being a blacktop government, and in fact that is correct. I think that is entirely correct. I think for political purposes moneys have been spent in a manner over the years which is not consistent and in the best interests of all the people in all the regions of British Columbia.
I have a document here that documents every riding in the province, going back to 1976, and how much money was spent by that ministry every year from 1976 to 1985, the last year that we have figures for. I am not going to go through this document riding by riding, area by area. We could spend the rest of the morning here if we did that, and it wouldn't prove that much. So I will start with 1984-85, which is our current and the last year that we have figures for.
It is quite shocking when you read the bottom-line figures. You will find, for example, that the average spent in total over that one-year period, 1984-85, on highways, in one form or another, was $157,168,476, whereas for that same period of time the total spent in Social Credit ridings was $571,486,605. That's a vast, vast difference when you consider the distribution of seats in the House and how the money was spent. On an average, approximately $8 million was spent per NDP riding over that 10-year period of time, and an average of $13-plus million was spent over that same period of time in Social Credit ridings.
But here are some other figures that may astound you. Over that same period of time, $312 million has been spent in the Cariboo riding. That happens to be the riding the minister represents; $312 million in that one riding alone. The average spent per riding throughout the whole province amounts to $83 million. That's quite a disparity there, Mr. Chairman, you have to admit.
Now we could say a lot of things about these figures — porkbarrelling, politicking, vote gathering. Cow trails turned into two-lane highways in some areas of the Cariboo riding, and the list goes on and on. I'm not accusing the minister of any wrongdoing, maybe a little bit of porkbarrelling, but the fact is....
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Oh, is that not a parliamentary term? I withdraw.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. It's an unparliamentary reference to another hon. member.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Oh. Well, I said I was not accusing him of porkbarrelling. It's not that I was accusing him of porkbarrelling; I am not accusing him.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Nonetheless, Mr. Chairman, the figures do speak for themselves. So I'm suggesting to this House and to the minister that highway funding, in my view, should be spent on an equitable basis throughout the whole province, not only in terms of what would be fair, but when you spend money in some of these communities on highway reconstruction, improvements or new construction and you hire local contractors and put local people to work, it greatly aids the employment situation, in this province. The Coquihalla project, which I'm going to get to here in a few minutes, is the type of project where in the short term at least.... I have your figures, Mr. Minister, about the number of man-hours created and so on. We can argue about that for a while too, if you wish, but we'll get to that in a short while.
I'll just use my riding as an example, although from this list I could pick out any riding to support my argument. In my riding over the '84-85 fiscal year $7,501,980 was spent. In Cariboo riding over that same period of time $19,519,641 was spent. So what I'm telling this House is that there seems to be a very undue discrepancy between some of these Social Credit ridings and New Democratic Party ridings. I know this is a two-edged sword, but the fact is.... I'm pledging to the people of this province right now that when the people elect a New Democratic government — and hopefully that will be soon — there will be equal distribution and fairness in the way these funds are allocated throughout the province.
As I said, I won't bother reading this whole list. The minister may have a copy of this if he wishes. I have no objection to that. These figures have been well researched, but I'm sure the minister is very familiar with these figures in any event.
I want to turn my attention now, Mr. Chairman, to the matter of the Coquihalla Highway. The minister mentioned this project yesterday in his opening statement. We have some very real concerns over that project. I wish to make it clear, Mr. Chairman, that this party, this caucus, has never opposed the construction of that highway. I’m just going from memory here, but I think it was in 1962 that the then member for Yale-Lillooet, who was an NDP member, called for the construction of that highway. We called for the construction of that highway as early as 1962. I know that in 1974 or '75 — somewhere in that time-frame — our NDP government was seriously looking at and considering construction of the highway.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh!
MR. LOCKSTEAD: That's true. At that time.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: We'll get to the Annacis bridge, my friend.
Anyway, the point I'm attempting to make here, Mr. Chairman....
MR. LOCKSTEAD: That's okay. Let them laugh. Let them go. You sound like a bunch of jackals to me.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. This is no time for levity. The member is on a serious matter.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: That's right.
What I'm telling you is that our party has never opposed the construction of that highway. You must remember that the Premier of this province in 1977 announced the construction
[ Page 8555 ]
of that highway. That was a Social Credit Premier, Mr. Chairman. He announced the construction of the highway, but of course it didn't proceed. Then I believe in 1982 the Minister of Transportation or the Premier once again announced the construction of that highway, constructed some 18 kilometres and quit. I think the reason cited was restraint. So when the recession got worse under the Social Credit government, why did the government in 1984 decide to proceed with that highway — when education was suffering, health budgets were suffering, social services were being reduced, people were being laid off throughout the government services, often reducing services of every type. Yet a $375 million piece of legislation was passed in this Legislature for the construction of that highway.
What was the reason? Well, we know what the reason was: strictly political. Moneys were siphoned off that should have perhaps been used on other projects throughout the province which are much more needed at this time. Yet those moneys were siphoned off for the construction of the Coquihalla Highway. That highway could have been constructed earlier, when times were reasonably good in this province as a result of a former NDP government, or after the recession had eased. But why at this time? It wasn't for Expo. It was for strictly political reasons so the current sitting member representing Yale-Lillooet might have an outside chance of being re-elected, which I doubt, but that was part of the reason for the construction of that highway.
Furthermore, the government has placed a toll on that highway, $8 per vehicle and $40 for commercial vehicles. We haven't had a highway toll in this province since, I believe, 1920. I think W.A.C. Bennett, former Premier of this province, removed the last toll on the Lions Gate Bridge some 20 years ago or so.
I want to tell this House right now, Mr. Chairman, that when the New Democratic Party is elected government in this province, we will once again remove the tolls from that highway. The income from the tolls on that particular highway will not even pay the interest on the $375 million that the bill allowed for for construction of that highway. The expected tolls to be collected won't even pay the interest, I believe, never mind pay for the highway. So we make that commitment to the people of this province this morning. I have the approval of our caucus on this, and our leader, of course, will let people in the province know that those tolls, the first tolls on a highway since 1920, I believe, will be removed when we become the government.
I would like as well to ask the minister what effect this highway is having on communities like Cache Creek, which I believe is in the minister's riding, and Penticton. I understand that the convention business in Penticton has been reduced by about 50 percent as a result of this highway. That may or may not be correct, I don't know. But I was given this figure verbally from a business person in Penticton. So I look forward to the minister's response to that.
Last but not least, I would be very interested to know what it cost the government or the Ministry of Highways for advertising the opening of that highway. We know that it costs $23,000 for a full-page ad in the Vancouver Sun; I don't know what it costs in the Province and all the other many local community newspapers throughout the province. But the cost must have been horrendous. The cost of taking all of these people up to Merritt, up the highway from Hope.... It was a very large political event — TV commercials; it can't be described as any other thing — and I would like to know how much that whole effort cost. Was it $25,000? Well, we know it's more than that. Was it $100,000? Was it $200,000, just the advertising for that one day two-hour press extravaganza so the Premier could get on television for a quick shot, three or four minutes of the Premier driving in an open convertible through a piece of paper and officially opening the highway? How much was the cost of that type of advertising on the highway?
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
I wish to point out, on the construction of this highway, two other items to the minister. We have reason to believe that the final cost of the construction of that particular highway will be in excess of $375 million. The minister has stated that the highway was on time and on budget. Well, we have reason to believe that the highway in the long run will cost more than the $375 million allocated for that construction by this Legislature — as much as $100 million more, possibly.
Furthermore, I would like the minister to respond to the allegations that while this highway was constructed in the wintertime, the roadbeds had not settled, part of the construction and roadbed and paving was in fact paved over snow in the winter conditions, and in fact the highway will require reconstruction in some parts, repaving in two or three years. So the minister may wish to answer that allegation in terms of that particular highway at this time.
I will take my place, Mr. Chairman. I have a number of other items relating to Transportation and Highways which I would like to bring to the minister's attention, but I don't want to confuse the last two issues I have raised with other in my view — serious issues.
HON. A. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, good morning. I'd like to introduce some more of the senior people who work hard for all of us: George Baldwin, general manager of B.C. Ferries, is with us on the floor this morning; Mr. Phillips from the motor vehicle branch is with us; and Ray White, an assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways.
I'm interested in the member for Mackenzie's (Mr. Lockstead's) observations. I'll start where you start regarding transport policy. We have, Mr. Chairman, a transport policy section in the ministry, headed up by a competent assistant deputy minister, Dr. Kasianchuk, who has a doctorate in transportation. He does a lot of transportation policy development work. As an example, at the present time the national government has a bill out on freedom to move, and he's our representative on that. That's a national bill that's coming to a head; it will probably be in the House of Commons by July 1986.
We have a lot of concerns, we British Columbians, issues that we're watching through the transport policy section. Deregulation of interprovincial trucking is one; changes to the Railway Act, to make for more competitive rates; changes in airport administration; deregulation of airlines. This is all work we do under the transport policy division of our ministry. We try to keep up.
Transportation of dangerous goods: we're fully involved with that at all times. Actually we've passed legislation here in British Columbia to support the national policies on that item. There's the motor carrier branch provincial trucking regulations on strictly B.C. transportation policies.
[ Page 8556 ]
We've had studies: a port study for Vancouver Island; a transportation study for Vancouver Island. We work with the National Harbours Board on the Vancouver harbour, and we work with the local communities on airport policies for community airports, as well as on the air ambulance program. Under this transport policy we also have safety inspections of ski lifts, provincial railways and pipelines.
One thing, I think, that is of great help to our ministry and our government is that we're a member of WESTAC. The four western provinces belong to WESTAC; not only that, the private sector belongs to it, and the unions. We sit down at least twice a year and go over transport policies, whether it be for air, land or water. Saskatchewan comes forward with their ideas; Manitoba does the same, and Alberta, as well as us. The CPR, the CNR and the BCR are there, and we get a great overview. I might say that the unions are all represented there, unions representing transportation people in the transportation field.
I think it's an excellent forum to develop not only provincial policy, but semi-national policy: the four western provinces, and then the information from that is taken by the ministers to deal with Ottawa. Of course, when we deal with Ottawa we deal with the Minister of Transport in Ottawa, and try to convince them how we can upgrade the overall transportation system in western Canada, which includes our own province. So we have a transportation policy division and it is very active, with competent people.
Now I have to depart from policy and inject some politics into the discussion. I remember that the Premier of British Columbia said you weren't allowed to talk politics in this Legislature. The member for Mackenzie did, so I have to reply accordingly. I might be just slightly political. First of all, on the expenditures that he mentioned, I'll use my stock answer that the figures he used were the usual socialist arithmetic which never balances on anything, and not the figures that we have regarding expenditures.
One thing that has been missed out of the discussions quite conveniently by the member, dealing with highway expenditures — and I'm going to send you a copy of this.... Surely the inventory of mileage in each riding that the Highways ministry has to look after should have some bearing on highway expenditures riding by riding. I'm not going to give you them all, but I'll send you a list of them all so that you will know. In your riding of Mackenzie, the roads under our jurisdiction total 910 kilometres. As you wanted to make light of Cariboo, I'll give you the comparison, and maybe that will put a different light on your thinking. The riding of Cariboo has 7,384 kilometres of public roads. About 30 percent of them are paved, another 30 percent of them are in good gravel condition, and the other 30 percent or so are gravel, car parts and mudholes. I think we should be fair in this.
The member for New Westminster (Mr. Cocke) said he wanted the road mileage in his riding. It's tremendous –– 10.7 kilometres. Now we move into the observations the member made regarding employment on highways and so on. In New Westminster, as an example, we spent $138 million on those 10 kilometres. So I think we apportioned it fairly well. The allocation of funds always makes for a good discussion, but I think we should tell the whole story, not just half the story.
In closing on roads, I'm going to tell the people in your riding what you said, because Bella Coola is in your riding. We rebuilt that road and paved it, and I think you're going to lose the next election over that. When I tell them that you badmouthed the paving of the road to Bella Coola, I don't think they'll be very happy.
Regarding employment on highways, you went on about the Coquihalla and so on. That's correct, we made the policy decision in 1984 to get the Coquihalla going. Of course, we achieved that, and I want to go on record as saying that you people were opposed to it. You've been opposed to everything, no matter what the project was, and you're pretty slick at how you do your opposition. When you see things going well, you turn around, as you did this morning, and say you think it's a good idea. Well, you know, that doubletalk doesn't go down very well with the voter out there. The voter will look to see what was actually accomplished. We provided a lot of employment, and that's one of the reasons the government decided to go ahead in 1984. We provided all kinds of employment for the people who actually did the job out there when things were slack. We got excellent bidding, and we got an excellent job done. As a matter of fact, they are still working because we've completed phase 1, which is Hope to Merritt....
AN HON. MEMBER: Did you get a letter of thanks from Getty?
HON. A. FRASER: No, as a matter of fact, he's one contractor who didn't get very much in the way of bids and work.
The Hope-to-Merritt section — phase 1, as we call it — is completed and was open to traffic on May 16. I would say to this House that it's the finest piece of highway in Canada, not just in British Columbia. The design and the engineering is second to none, and we put everything in there that we could, thinking of safety in really tough country. As an example, any grade over 2 percent on the Coquihalla hasn't got four lanes — it's six lanes.
You should take a drive there sometime — you've got a pass; you can't complain about the cost — and have a look at it. It's all well sign-posted so you won't get lost when you go there.
On phase 2, as I said, the work is still going on. Phase 2 is Merritt to Kamloops. I said yesterday in my opening remarks that phase 2 will be completed, a four-lane freeway to Kamloops, or specifically to Afton Mines, where it joins with the Trans-Canada and we will then have a six-lane road from there into Kamloops city.
On phase 3, and I did say this yesterday, the first contract's awarded. It's awarded coming out of Peachland, coming west. We haven't put a date on when that section will be finished.
So what I'm saying is we're going to continue to supply jobs in the Highways ministry for these projects and other projects in the existing system. I know that it makes good talk to say to a lot of people, the media and that, that we neglected and forgot the present highway system. That is the farthest thing from the truth. We have the Trans-Canada. Naturally, no sensible, reasonable person would forget it. We're upgrading it all the time. As a matter of fact, we just got finished repaving practically the whole Trans-Canada through the Fraser Canyon. We're working constantly on the Hope-Princeton, upgrading it and supplying, I might say, a lot of jobs to local people as well as contractors in that type of work.
[ Page 8557 ]
You asked what effect does it have on places like Cache Creek and Penticton. It's a little early to tell, but I would say that the amount of traffic that's going over the Coquihalla definitely is going to have some impact. But one thing, it's going to make the Trans-Canada from Hope to Spences Bridge a safer road with less density of traffic. It was getting pretty full of traffic, particularly in the summer months. It'll be a little safer. It'll build back up again, according to the engineers. We'll be right back into build-up conditions in another five to ten years. That's why the Coquihalla was built in the first place, to relieve the traffic on our two main arteries, the Hope-Princeton and the Trans-Canada. So maybe it was built at just about the right time. That's what we hope, that as traffic keeps increasing, we'll be able to accommodate it on safe roads.
You mentioned the tolls. Yes, that's a toll road. But one thing you should remember is that even with the toll you're going to save a lot of money if you're driving, looking at the cost of your vehicle, from Vancouver to Kamloops. Even today, without phase 2 done it'll be a saving.
The toll is installed under government policy to help pay for the carrying charges for the step-up in the construction of the Coquihalla. It was never put on there to pay for the road itself. I'm happy to tell the committee this morning that the toll was put on at midnight, May 16, and for the first two weeks we have taken in $550,000. If you parlay those figures into a yearly basis, you're looking at something between $12 million and $15 million per annum. Again for the media, where they've now got the revenue from tolls up to $40 million — I hope they're listening — we estimated $20 million, and I would say that we'll probably hit $20 million a couple years from now. But what we're looking at right now is revenue of $12 million a year based on the first two weeks. It might go higher; it depends on traffic patterns. As an example, freightliners are only finding out now how much they can save going that way. The freightliners have increased substantially in the second week of operation of the Coquihalla Highway.
You mentioned Cache Creek. But Penticton — I haven't heard that regarding Penticton. They have a good road, the Hope-Princeton, but it depends where a person is going, and it might have that effect. In any case, we're going to correct that, but they're going to have to wait — and I refer to the connector phase 3 from Peachland to Merritt, on which the construction has started.
I think I'm just about finished, but regarding the cost of advertising of the opening of the Coquihalla, I'll have to refer you to my colleague, the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy) ; all those funds are provided from the government information service of the branch of the Provincial Secretary.
I think the last thing you said was that the Coquihalla was.... I know one of your colleagues just to make the government look bad said that we built the Coquihalla on glaciers. Well, really, Mr. Chairman, I'd have more respect for our senior engineers than to make statements like that. You came pretty close to trying this morning. We have very capable engineers and contractors, and you can't build a road on frost and if you do you lose the road. We haven't done that and we don't anticipate any more trouble with the Coquihalla than with any other new road we build. But you know full well, the same as I do, that any new road, regardless of where it is, has settlement for four or five years and you have to correct those things. We're doing that all the time. Wherever a new road is rebuilt and paved there is all the compaction in the world put into it by machinery and so on, but you still get settlement. Those are ordinary maintenance problems that we look after, and there is nothing different about the Coquihalla than there would have been on the Trans-Canada when they built it, or the Hope-Princeton, or Highway 20 from Williams Lake to Bella Coola that goes through your riding, Mr. Member. I just really feel a bit upset when the statements are made — I guess, to be fair, mostly by the media — that some reporter who has been out there for ten minutes decides that the road isn't up to specs. First of all they don't know what they're talking about, and secondly very responsible senior engineers put the specifications in there and see that they're carried out.
So I appreciate your questions and look forward to more.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I could see the member there was anxious to get to his feet, but I'll be very short on this one. I have a number of other items for the minister, Mr. Chairman, and I was going to change the subject, but I just want to get back to this Coquihalla thing for a moment. First of all let me correct one of the minister's statements. He made the statement that in fact the New Democratic Party in caucus opposed construction of that highway at some point, and I want to tell you, Mr. Chairman, that that is totally incorrect. If that statement was ever made by any member of our caucus in this House I would like the minister or his staff to produce that document. We have never opposed the construction. We questioned the timing of the construction of that highway in a time of restraint, and many of the jobs on the construction of that highway — and contractors — were in fact held by people from outside the province.
I don't want to dwell on the matter, and I'll correct the minister in another statement. I hope he does go into my riding and to Bella Coola. I wish he would come to my riding at some time — any time. He's more than welcome. I'd like to take him down some of the highways and byways in my riding that literally haven't been touched in some years — in ten years in some areas. But getting back to Bella Coola, the expenditure on that part of the highway that the minister is referring to is in fact in the minister's riding, not in my riding. My riding, in terms of the eastward boundary, ends at the boundary of Tweedsmuir Park, which is in the riding of the minister. So Mr. Minister, don't tell the House that you're spending that money in my riding, when in fact that money is being spent in your riding. I just want to have that on the record and have that very clear.
I want to correct something else. You implied that I was denigrating the engineering department and the people within your ministry. I am not. I think the construction of that particular highway was a tremendous feat. The highway is there, the construction took place, and I think it was a marvellous feat. Considering the terrain, and the ministry and the people working for you and advising you, and the engineering aspect particularly in that kind of area, I think it was a tremendous job. It would have been a credit to any engineering staff anywhere in the world. I have no quarrel with that, and I have never, never suggested to you that the staff in your ministry, many of whom I know and work with, have not done a tremendous job in that regard. That is not the question here at all on that particular highway. I don't want to spend all morning on one highway, but I want you at least to have the facts straight and not leave the impression....
[ Page 8558 ]
In terms of the revenue spent on the advertising, sure, it's not a major item. I don't know what it cost. You don't either, apparently. I did not know that the money did not come from your ministry. All right, so it came from government information services. That's even worse. My colleague here, the first member for Victoria (Mr. Hanson), went through that chapter and verse — how those taxpayers' funds are literally being spent for the purpose of promoting the Social Credit Party and government and not the highway. They are taxpayers' funds that should have and could have been used for other purposes. One day when you have an hour, spend a Friday morning on a food-line in Vancouver or Gibsons or Powell River or wherever, and think about spending $150,000 for blatant government advertising, whatever the cost was. It must have been tremendous.
Mr. Chairman, I want to switch to another topic, one that has caused concern: the Annacis Island bridge. I presume that that bridge is almost completed and due to go into service. I don't recall the exact date, although I saw the minister on television, and he did give us a date. I just don't recall it, but I know it is soon. My concern on that bridge is based somewhat on media reports. I haven't had the personal opportunity of visiting that bridge.
It is my understanding that the cable contracts went to an English firm and not a local firm, even though the British product was $3 million above a bid from the Delta firm. The provincial government has said this is because the cables from the British firm were prefabricated and more easily installed. With the current unemployment rate in British Columbia, that is not a good enough reason, in my view. B.C. firms and then Canadian firms should be given some kind of priority in this province. Our people need those jobs too, you know.
Well, because of the recent cable.... I want to make it clear when I am talking about this: this is not a scare tactic. I am not going to put out a press release. I am not going to go to the media and advise people not to use that bridge, because I do have confidence in the Ministry of Transportation and Highways in this regard. But there were some serious problems, and I am going to send the minister some photographs in a few minutes for him to examine.
First of all, I want to say that because of the recent cable anchorage problem, we need assurances from the minister that tests are being performed on all of the cable anchorages. We want assurances that the bridge will not open until it is 100 percent safe. I would tell you at this point again, I am sure the ministry would not allow any such structure to be open unless it were 100 percent safe. But we want that minister on record, and we want those assurances in this House today.
It is my understanding that the bad anchorages are being replaced with others of the same design. That is the subject of these photographs I am holding in my hand right now. What happens if in a year from now others become defective? If the anchorages are replaced with better anchorages now, the company would still be responsible. Or would the company be responsible? That is the question. Would it be the taxpayers' responsibility to replace those anchorages a year or two years from now? I'll show you the reason why I am asking those questions in a minute.
I am also informed that the British firm that supplied these anchorages does have other anchorages that are considered better. So are these the kind that are being reinstalled to replace the defective anchorages?
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
Mr. Chairman, I have photographs of these anchorages. These photographs were taken by a reputable engineering firm. My question to the minister is: why was that British firm chosen over a Canadian firm? Mr. Minister, I am going to send over these photographs for you to examine, and I would appreciate having them back. I don't have a duplicate copy. But I would like you to look at these photographs so you can see what the actual problem is in that regard.
It could be a serious matter. I did see your statement, I think in the press or on television or something, where you assured the public that the problem was being resolved. But how is it being resolved? By replacing the anchorages and those cables with the same kind of anchorages that were defective before? So we'd like some answers to those questions as well.
There has been some concern, of course. Prior to construction of that bridge we had delegations here in Victoria. I'm sure the minister and people within the ministry have met with these residents of the area. But the bridge is there — it's a simple as that. It may be a good alternative route for the increasing population of that portion of the lower mainland. I really have no quarrel with that. The only concern I have is for the residents directly affected, those in line with that structure. Once again, I've raised a very separate item. I will take my place and give the minister an opportunity to respond, because I don't want to get into six or seven items and then go through the whole thing again.
MR. MICHAEL: First, to the minister, I would like to pay him a sincere compliment for the excellent service that I as the MLA for Shuswap-Revelstoke have received from his staff at all levels. I have to say, in all seriousness, that the Minister of Transportation and Highways answers letters and inquiries very promptly. His staff are certainly top-notch and among the very best in this government, and I say that in all sincerity.
Mr. Chairman, I have quite a few points I would like to cover, and I will not take much time in covering them. The first one is the four-laning in Salmon Arm. I think that this is a priority that must be followed through on. I know the minister has given a commitment to proceed with the four-laning in 1987, but I would like to put on record the importance of this to that particular community. I think that the ministry should look at not just the downtown area of Salmon Arm but also at extending the four-laning right through from the Larch Hills junction on the east to the Gleneden Road intersection on the west — a total of approximately seven or eight miles. It would really do wonders for the community of Salmon Arm to have that four-laning done through that entire area. It would deliver the traffic on the west right through the Highway 97 junction, and would certainly improve the flow through of traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in that region of our province.
The next thing is the situation on the outskirts of Salmon Arm, having to do with the tremendous growth of cross-country skiing in my constituency. The cross-country skiing at Larch Hills is taking off. It's one of the very best cross-
[ Page 8559 ]
country skiing facilities in the entire province of British Columbia. Tourists are starting to recognize this. We're getting a lot of people visiting the community of Salmon Arm and skiing in the Larch Hills. I would ask the minister to please consider making further improvements to Grandview Bench Road and Edgar Road, which would deliver the traffic right to the base of the ski hill, and would make that area more attractive as a destination winter resort for the constituency of Shuswap-Revelstoke.
Next, in the Revelstoke area, I believe that the paving and improving of Camozzi Road is a high priority. It's a feeder road leading to the ski facilities in Revelstoke, and an important development to deliver the traffic safely to the base of that ski hill.
Then there are a few miscellaneous items I believe the minister should consider. This has to do with signs. Perhaps I should put this in the form of a letter, but I'm sure the record in Hansard will be sufficient for the minister to check on a few miscellaneous points. The first one concerns the new overpass to the airport, going into Vancouver. I believe the overpass sign just indicates "South Terminal." Why the ministry doesn't have the words "Richmond Centre" on that sign as well is strange to me, because one has to go quite a distance if one misses that particular turnoff. I believe that you should consider putting the words "Richmond Centre" on that particular sign, the only sign now being "South Terminal."
The next thing — again for the record — is that going down the Trans-Canada Highway from the interior, heading into Vancouver, one sees only one directional sign indicating a turnoff to the B.C. Ferries terminal for Victoria. Why there are not similar signs on 176th Street and 200th Street I don't know. But 176th delivers the traffic faster than the road marked for B.C. Ferries to Victoria. Perhaps the minister could have his staff look into that, and we could have some improvement of signs in those three areas.
The next thing is regarding the Coquihalla. It is certainly something in which all of us who have traveled on it have expressed a great deal of pride. The only thing is, I think there could be some improvements made to the toll booths. As an example, my last trip coming from the east — I should say coming from the north traveling south on the Coquihalla — going through the toll booth I noticed two booths open in each direction, four employees, a very, very long lineup of traffic coming from the Kamloops end and no lineup at all coming from the Hope end. It would seem to me that it would be a very elementary thing to shift one of the employees from the booth looking after people going north and put him over into the booth for people going south.
I made an inquiry of the staff as I went through after waiting ten minutes as to why this didn't happen, and they said they couldn't do it because of their change problem and they were in charge of their cash. I don't accept that as an excuse. I think the minister should look at that as it would be a very simple matter to organize to improve the flow through that area. It's a crime when you can make such excellent time on that highway and then be delayed ten minutes because you're waiting in a lineup to pay your fee.
As the minister knows, I have been disturbed for some time regarding the B.C. Ferries and the fact that the chicken strips that are served on the B.C. Ferries are manufactured and purchased from outside the province of B.C. As a matter of fact, they come from a firm in Ontario. I wish to thank the minister as well as the Minister of Finance for making available to me some of the staff to discuss this problem.
It's not a small problem, Mr. Minister. I consider it a very serious matter when we in the province of British Columbia are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an agricultural product from outside our own province. However, I had a very good meeting with some of the senior staff in purchasing and I will let the matter rest for now, as I've been assured that there will be communications with the local manufacturers of chicken strips to see whether or not they can't resolve the problem by examining the qualities that the ferries are looking for and the type of chicken strip they're looking for, so that indeed people in British Columbia will be able to meet the needs of the B.C. Ferry system the next time that particular item is tendered. So as I say, I'm happy to leave the matter at that for now.
The only other thing I'm not happy with on the B.C. Ferries, and I think it should be reviewed, has to do with the displaying of brochures on the ferries. I very innocently accepted a couple of hundred brochures from a tourist operator in my constituency, very innocently accepted them, and he requested me to put them on the B.C. Ferries. I didn't realize I was breaking any rule or it was wrong or you had to have permission; I just assumed that those racks were open to everybody. So I took his couple of hundred brochures and put them on the ferry, and lo and behold, within 24 hours of their being on display, he got a very strong message from one of the bureaucrats that this is a no-no and it's got to go through the proper channels and what have you. That does not make sense to me.
What does make sense to me is that in view of the fact that there is adequate room for all kinds of brochure racks on that ferry, there's lots of space, why not let anybody who wants to display their tourist brochures throughout the entire province of British Columbia do so? They should have free access to put as many brochures on that ferry as they want, and I don't see why there should be any kind of a selection procedure or anything else. Just let it go, open it up and get rid of the red tape and the bureaucratic hindrances standing in the way of the private sector advertising their facilities to attract people to their premises.
The last thing, Mr. Minister, is that I have been listening in this House for many years now to debates on the Island Highway and the inequities of the Island Highway. Just a few months ago I took a trip up that Island Highway all the way up to the Comox area, and I must say that in my view there are some areas of that highway that could certainly stand some passing lanes and some double laning. There are some sections where in my view it would not cost that much money. But to be stuck in heavy traffic flow going through that highway, being unable to pass because of all the campers and RVs and what have you, I would think for not too heavy a capital investment we could put in some additional adequate passing lanes to improve the access to the end of the Island.
Now I'm not particularly looking for any response on these items. As I said at the very beginning, I'm very happy with the attention that Shuswap-Revelstoke has been given. I'm very pleased with the service of the staff. However, there are these few matters that I would like to see highlighted in 1987, and those suggestions that I would ask the minister to review to improve the signage in certain areas where the traffic is heavy and tourists are looking for direction.
[ Page 8560 ]
HON. A. FRASER: I'll go back to the member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) and try to answer his queries. First of all, you said, Mr. Member, that the NDP were in favour of the Coquihalla, but you're against the timing. You know, Mr. Chairman, I know now the government's in trouble when those people support us on something. That presents a real problem, I'll tell you.
Anyway, getting into the Annacis Island bridge, I might say that during the 1983 election your candidate said that if you got elected he'd stop it right now. So don't stand here today and say you're in favour of the Annacis Island bridge.
The bridge is pretty well built to solve the lower mainland traffic problem. We estimated $375 million, and I think we're going to maybe even be under budget, but certainly on budget. Where's it at right now? Unfortunately it's been behind picket lines or a lockout for about four weeks. What I can tell you is that if we can get that little exercise out of the way — and I have no idea when that will be — from that day till we'll be ready to open the bridge will be five weeks. We have five weeks of work left on roads to do, and then we'll be able to open the Annacis bridge.
Regarding the cables, as you know, that's a cable suspension bridge with 194 massive cables suspended. There have been some problems with a very few cables. Dealing first with the cables and the cost, the cost to the ministry for the cables was based on material plus labour to install. Based on these overall costs, the contractor proposed British Ropes as the lowest. That is how the contract went to the British firm. The contractor on that job is a large contractor, PCL Construction. Naturally our ministry approved that, and that's why they went that way.
Now dealing with cable repairs, testing of every socket is 75 percent complete. I want to assure Mr. Chairman and this House that that fine structure will not open till we're completely satisfied that everything is safe and proper. The replacements that are going on are of similar design. Most of the originals were fully satisfactory.
Regarding the photos which you sent over, which I appreciate, the notes I have here are that they do not show the socket problem. They only show some minor damage to plastic covers which was caused during shipping. The last question we have is: is the member sure this has come from a B.C. professional engineering firm?
I just say in closing on the Annacis that it appears we're not far away from opening that fine structure. What we in our ministry anticipate it will achieve is to reduce the traffic congestion on the George Massey Tunnel and the Pattullo Bridge by 25 percent. It's very acute on these two structures and getting worse by the hour, so the sooner we can get the use of the Annacis, the better for everyone using the highway system.
The member for Shuswap-Revelstoke.... I made a note of his observations. The first item he brought up was four-laning the Trans-Canada at Salmon Arm. Basically, we agree to it in principle but we're looking at the engineering of it now. That is east and west of the community of Salmon Arm. Regarding the Larch Hills ski area, which is important to that community for their economy, we have allocated $100,000 in this year's budget to upgrade those minor roads. On the road in Revelstoke which you brought up, I can't give you much information on that but we'll look into it.
Regarding the signing to the Vancouver Airport, I get a lot of criticism of signing, and Vancouver Airport is one area specifically. We're trying to improve it. I might say, coming from the Interior — I hope the ministry is listening — that I agree with you about only one sign to turn off to get to the ferry when you're coming from the Interior. I have a few friends left — not too many — and at least half of them miss that sign and end up in Vancouver instead of over for the ferry. So I think we could improve on that.
You mentioned the toll booth lineup at the summit on the Coquihalla. I appreciate your bringing it up, but I think our ministry is already on top of that and getting it sorted out. It's a new operation. The other day I think I signed a letter to the treasury branch that business is so good we need four more cash registers as well as people. That's one finance letter the Finance ministry will probably agree to — cash registers for the tollbooth. We are in the shaking-down process. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, but I have an idea it's already looked after. If not, it is in hand.
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
The other one you brought up is a great one. Write a book about that — the chicken on B.C. ferries. There has been terrific correspondence on this. Not only this member brought it up, but a lot of other people. I might say, on behalf of the government, that I guess we're buying it outside of the province. But I would remind the committee that all of these purchases go through the Purchasing Commission of government, and we apparently cannot get the local producer to supply what we want at a price that's.... They're still working on trying to get that business back into British Columbia.
HON. A. FRASER: Well, I don't know about that, but it is an ongoing problem that we are trying to solve. My version.... the last I heard was that they didn't want to do business with us at the prices and so on. There's a big testing effort goes on and all that, quality. I know I've never been asked to taste any of it.
The last item that the member brought up was B.C. Ferries brochures. As an MLA, Mr. Member, I found out the same thing. Sure, there might be room for them on the rack and so on, but it costs money to put them on the rack. B.C. Ferries, right or wrong, charges for brochure displays on the ferries; it's a fact of life. That is used as a revenue source, and that's about all I can say about it. I think as a member I would like to see maybe a reduction in the charges or whatever, but the way it is right now, I found out myself that there's a fair charge for putting them on. What I found on the ferry system was that there are hardly any brochures there other than from Vancouver Island or the lower mainland.
AN HON. MEMBER: Will they charge for the Socred leadership candidates?
HON. A. FRASER: Well, I think the Socred leadership candidates will probably be able to get some funds and then they'll have to pay to put them on the B.C. Ferries.
HON. A. FRASER: No, we won't allow any of that.
[ Page 8561 ]
I think I've covered everything, Mr. Chairman, except the leadership campaign. If you'd give me another ten minutes, I'd like to talk about that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. member for Prince George South seeks leave to make an introduction.
MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, on behalf of myself and co-incidentally the Minister of Transportation and Highways, I'd like to ask the House to welcome to our Legislative Assembly this morning some 23 grade 6 and 7 students from Hixson, British Columbia. They're accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Friesen, and chaperones Bill Haviland, Sirkka Harper, Joanne Richlack and Brenda Gagnon. Will the House please welcome these visitors from the great central interior.
MR. MICHAEL: Mr. Chairman, I certainly don't want to prolong the chicken debate, and I think it's very interesting to see the attitude of the NDP members regarding chicken strips on B.C. Ferries. They seem to think it's a bit of a laughing matter. I want to tell them very clearly that the agricultural community in the province of British Columbia doesn't think it's a laughing matter. It's a very serious matter.
There are hundreds of thousands of dollars every year going to the province of Ontario that should be spent in British Columbia. To the minister, Mr. Chairman, let me point out very clearly that there are producers of chicken strips in British Columbia. They were lower bidders than the firm from Ontario, and if you want to talk quality, I suggest any member of this House who wants to talk quality have a ride on the B.C. Ferries and order some chicken strips. As far as the quality is concerned, it could stand a great deal of improvement. If the B.C. people can't put a better quality on the platter than that stuff coming out of Ontario, then there's something the matter, because it is certainly no laughing matter. It's very, very amusing to look at the members opposite in the NDP ridicule this particular thing, because I'm sure that the agricultural community people in their constituencies don't think it's a laughing matter.
It's very interesting, the critic for Highways talking about the Coquihalla Highway and how this was an NDP idea. Well, you talk about hypocrisy! That is the height of hypocrisy. The next thing they're going to be coming out and saying is that Expo was the idea of the NDP, when we all know the famous telegram sent by Mayor Harcourt back on June 6, 1980. "Please stop the plans for Transpo 86 on the north side of False Creek and downtown Vancouver," it reads. "Most Vancouver citizens do not want Transpo 86 to proceed on this site." That's the hypocrisy from that side of the House, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Hon. member, we are on the Minister of Transportation and Highways' estimates.
MR. MICHAEL: Well, if you want to stay with Transportation and Highways, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest to you that that is the theme of Expo 86.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for Rossland-Trail on a point of order.
MR. D'ARCY: Mr. Chairman, I think that the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke should return to his chicken-strip debate. I think it was a lot more relevant to these discussions than discussing the mayor of Vancouver.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The member for Shuswap-Revelstoke on the minister's estimates.
MR. MICHAEL: I guess the truth hurts sometimes. But if you want to get back to hypocrisy and dealing with the Minister of Transportation and Highways, let's go back to the vehicle testing station question. You talk about hypocrisy. I recollect the first member for Surrey (Mrs. Johnston), back in 1983, going out in the parking lot and checking NDP members' vehicles for testing stickers. Mr. Chairman, the record will show that the first member for Surrey was only to find one single label with an up-to-date sticker on an NDP windshield. There's another example of hypocrisy from the other side of the House.
I'm sure that the agricultural community in the province of British Columbia will be very interested to learn of the view of the members opposite regarding the chicken strips on B.C. Ferries.
HON. A. FRASER: Let me for a minute clarify the subject of chicken on B.C. Ferries. In the notes I have on it, both the Purchasing Commission and the B.C. Ferry Corporation continue to be quite sensitive to the need to maximize B.C. content of chicken strips and are working cooperatively on it. They're going to encourage and assist the B.C. processors to meet standards in time for the next contract. The contract that we have now expires October 31, 1986. The other avenue they're using is to have the Ontario processors encourage them to use B.C. processed chickens if and when available.
MRS. DAILLY: Sorry to leave the chicken and get back to something as mundane as cars and car testing, but I know the minister would be upset if I didn't bring this up; it's been an annual debate with the minister and myself and others in the NDP caucus ever since the government ruthlessly, thoughtlessly and without compassion destroyed not only the concept but unfortunately rid this province of mandatory auto testing. I'm sure that when I'm no longer here.... Let's hope that if this government has not seen fit by the time I've left this House, that another government will be here. I can assure you, the first thing the NDP will do is to restore mandatory testing. And why? Because we're concerned about the lives and the safety of people of this province.
MR. REID: Provincewide?
MRS. DAILLY: Definitely. There has to be a form of provincewide testing. I find it absolutely ludicrous that one of the reasons used by the Socred government to remove mandatory auto testing was because it didn't cover the whole province. Can you believe that? Everyone was going to have to suffer because of that kind of nonsensical reasoning. Yes, the people in the other parts of the province were denied it, but surely that was no reason to abolish testing where half the population is. I certainly agree with the member for Surrey
[ Page 8562 ]
who interjected that it must be covered so that the rest of the province, in one fashion or another, whatever suits that area, can have it.
I recall that the minister has said over and over again: "Let's get government off the backs of the people." It is interesting, that statement. "Let's not keep the government involved. It is not up to the state to get involved in matters of forcing people to have their cars tested." But a car that is on the highway with mechanical defects is a lethal weapon that can kill. It is a lethal weapon that can kill.
Surely a government is highly irresponsible if it does not take unto itself the responsibility of seeing that that kind of lethal weapon is not on the highway. Therefore any government which abrogates its responsibility in this area I consider hardly fit to govern. Unfortunately, we can't seem to get enough of the Socred caucus members or cabinet ministers to try to convince the Minister of Highways, who is such a reasonable man in every other matter. We can't seem to get him, or I can't, the NDP can't — I don't know if the back bench of the Socreds have tried — to change this dogmatic, foolish policy of no testing.
Now the minister knows, and I have read into this record year after year, the statistics which point out that mechanical defects are responsible for many accidents. I am so pleased that we have the motor vehicle branch representative here. I accept the fact, of course, that he doesn't make policy, but I would hope that anything that I am able to pose here today he would at least be able to make notes of, which I am sure he will, and perhaps in time be prepared when the minister asks for discussions on it.
I wish this minister would just have an open mind on this matter. He has restored in kind of a strange way, I feel, testing of commercial vehicles. But even in the manner in which that was done, I think there are three options. But none of them really have anything about them that is truly mandatory. You can have options where it's up to the trucking firm itself, for example, to show to the government or to whatever branch is involved that it has a regular system of maintenance. I know there are a couple of other things involved, which don't come to my mind at this moment, but I still feel that it is a half-baked way of going about proper testing. It's better than what we had, but it is still not good enough. I'm asking the minister again to restore complete mandatory testing of commercial vehicles and, of course, of the cars driven by the people in our province.
Many people today — particularly the young — are unemployed, driving around in cars that are lethal weapons. Not only young people — people of all ages. As long as they know that there's no mandatory test and they don't have to go and have that car checked, they are playing with death on the highways and on our roads. I know that the statistics have been read to the minister before. I know he will stand up and say: "Well, we don't really agree that the mechanical defects are a major part." Well, even if they're not a major part — and I don't happen to agree with the minister on that — it's still your responsibility to ensure that those cars are properly tested.
I know the minister is quite aware of the Minit-Tune statistics, which I read into Hansard during a question period. We know that the Minit-Tune International Corp. franchise in Vancouver did a two-week testing and were actually shocked at the figures that came out. I point out again that there were 743 vehicles tested in a two-week period.
The number of vehicles which would have passed if we had had the motor vehicle testing was only 257 out of that 743; 486 of those vehicles which were tested would have failed. Yet those cars are still out on the highway along with thousands of other cars, because there is no way at this time except for the police on spot checks to get them off the highway. The people driving these cars know that. They know that there is no way, that perhaps they can drive for months as long as that car will hold up.
I know that I have talked to garage owners who are absolutely sick when they see cars come into their garage just to get gas, and they can see the tailpipes hanging off. They know the brakes are faulty. They can see so many things wrong with those cars, and yet they have to see those cars drive out on the highway and know that there is no way they can do anything about it. I frankly can't understand how any government could continue to hold their head up in this province when they know that their policies are responsible for deaths and for accidents, by not bringing back mandatory testing.
I don't want to get emotional about this issue. It is hard not to, but I simply cannot understand the pig-headedness of the government on this issue. I simply want to say to the minister: would you please answer this basic question. Why will you not restore mandatory auto testing?
HON. A. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, to the persistent member for Burnaby North, I appreciate your remarks and observations.
MR. COCKE: Well, what are you going to do about it?
HON. A. FRASER: Be quiet a minute. I am having trouble projecting my voice. I'll tell you what we are going to do about it.
First of all, we've already done something the member agrees with. We have put in commercial vehicle inspection effective May 1, and there is quite a different twist there. Rather than the government running it, we are depending on the private sector. We will license shops, garages, in the private sector to do commercial vehicle testing: buses, taxis, trucks, and so on and so forth. That is in effect. That's certainly a step along the road. The reason we did the commercial area is because of the stepped-up road blocks we've had in the last two years. We found an amazing inventory of commercial vehicles on the road that, in a lot of cases, had no business on the road at all.
How do you enforce it, Madam Member? I'll tell you how we're going to enforce it: if they haven't got a safety sticker, they won't get a licence plate. I can assure you that when a fleet operator with, say, 500 vehicles finds out that he can't get his licence plate, he'll make sure that he gets the inspection done, whether by his own fleet supervisor, which we will mandate, as well as the private sector.... They have to pass our guidelines to get the authority to do these inspections. But it will be quite simple. The vehicle will not be licensed; and that licence is not only the vehicle plate but, probably more important to a commercial carrier, his carrier plate as well. That comes under the same jurisdiction and they'll both be lifted; they'll certainly pay attention to that, I am sure.
Regarding cars, the government policy is that there will be no inspection of cars. As you know, and I've repeated it
[ Page 8563 ]
before in the Legislature, it is now the law of the land that every vehicle owner must have his vehicle in mechanical condition; if people haven't, of course they're breaking the law. I've done something about that since we've spoken last in the House. I had an interview with the superintendent of motor vehicles and the chief law enforcement officer of the RCMP for British Columbia. We've asked them to back down on giving traffic tickets to people in Burnaby driving over 30 miles an hour to work at 6 o'clock in the morning, and maybe concentrate on going after the more.... I'm particularly talking of the RCMP, the provincial force, because they have not, over the last seven or eight years done much, if anything, in the way of enforcing the mechanical side of the Motor Vehicle Act. I think it's an education process, and it is now started. So rather than ticketing the factory worker going to work at 6 o'clock in the morning, their efforts are going to be turned around gradually to concentrate on this.
In closing on that, I think the committee should know that over the last seven years the records that we keep in the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles about accidents caused by mechanical failures.... Everything is recorded. Mechanical failure accidents comprise 1 percent of all accidents, and in the last seven years that 1 percent has been constant. The records show us that the fact that we haven't got inspection stations on the lower mainland and Vancouver Island — they were withdrawn by our government in 1983 — has had no effect whatsoever. The 1 percent figure is constant right up to the present time.
MRS. DAILLY: I'm pleased that there is a mandatory aspect, then, to the commercial testing. That's good. I think that relieves people to some degree. However, as far as the matter of testing cars, I'm extremely disappointed. The minister says that in Burnaby, for example, the RCMP are to do less ticketing on what he considers minor offences — that might be speeding — and concentrate on doing some checking for safety and mechanical defects. That may, in his opinion, be a progressive step; in my opinion it's a regressive step.
For one thing, the RCMP in Burnaby, like police forces all over the province, are already short staffed, already have increased major crimes to deal with. You mean to say we're going to take them off some of their major work to do something which should not be handled primarily by them? It should be handled by a government safety testing station. So I don't think that's the answer. You start pulling the RCMP off to do that and something else is definitely going to suffer. It's not just the person going over 30 miles, as the minister sort of simplistically placed before us.
Then he made an interesting statement that his figures show that only 1 percent of all accidents are due to mechanical defects. I'd like to ask the minister how they get those reports. When there is an accident, are the police required to make sure that their report includes what they consider was a mechanical defect? I mean, where do you get those figures? It would be very interesting to know.
HON. A. FRASER: I'm sure disappointed that my answer didn't satisfy the member. But I'm not surprised.
I was saying that the emphasis of the RCMP is going to change within the traffic division of the RCMP. They're going to put more emphasis on.... But I don't think that means that things are going to be worse. The idea is we hope they're better. But involved in that — and this is the last part I have to say — is that the RCMP do all the accident investigation and that's where we get our figures from. We consider them to be very accurate figures. We get those through the RCMP investigation and through the superintendent of motor vehicles.
Just in closing, I would say that while we haven't satisfied the member, I'm sorry to say that maybe you won't be here the next time, and I wish you well.
MR. MICHAEL: One final point to the minister, and it's quite a serious matter concerning an individual. I'm going to cover it very quickly and send the correspondence over to the minister. It has to do with the case of Mr. and Mrs. Erickson in Salmon Arm, who have been attempting to get a settlement on their property resulting from the four-laning through Salmon Arm, which is expected to take place in 1987.
Mr. Chairman, I've got a lot of correspondence here that's piled up over the last few months, and if the minister will recall, I did make a statement in one of my letters to him that till this date it is the only parcel that I could identify where it could be said that the word "desperate" or "critical" could be applied, and I consider that to be a fact. In view of all the things that are happening on the Trans-Canada Highway, this is the only case that is desperate or critical.
Now we've had a phone call as recently as this morning, giving us the message that Watson Engineering were on the premises last week and they clearly said that the sidewalk would be coming right through this particular building. A Mr. Smith from the Highways department said their property is a buy-out right away.
Now, Mr. Chairman, to the Minister, the particular owners of these premises have lost tenants. The Mohawk gas station is gone, the building is literally vacated because of the lack of tenure, and they're in desperate condition. I would ask the minister to please have an immediate look and a reexamination of this particular case to see whether or not a settlement could not be reached at a very early date to satisfy the concerns of these people. The taxes apparently are due now on July 3 and they're in a very desperate situation. I'm going to be forwarding this over, Mr. Chairman, to the minister, and I would ask: please give this your immediate attention.
HON. A. FRASER: A short comment. We're aware of this in the ministry, and agree with the member that the property is required, and we'll get on with it and try to conclude the buy-out as soon as possible. Whether that is before July or not I don't know, Mr. Member, but it's obviously a buy-out and we'll deal with it as fast as possible.
The House resumed; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Nielsen moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:55 a.m.