1987 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 34th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 1987
[ Page 243 ]
Health care charges. Ms. A. Hagen –– 243
Poaching of elk. Mr. Bruce –– 244
Property taxes for seniors Mr. Blencoe –– 244
Moneys for reforestation. Mr. Williams –– 245
Supply Act (No. 1), 1987 (Bill 18). Hon. Mr. Couvelier
Introduction and first reading –– 245
Second reading –– 245
Committee stage –– 248
Third reading –– 255
Mr. Harcourt –– 256
Hon. L. Hanson –– 257
Mr. Clark –– 258
Royal assent to bill –– 262
Mr. Weisgerber –– 262
Mr. Jones –– 264
Tabling Documents –– 268
The House met at 2:06 p.m.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker and hon. members, it gives me great pleasure to introduce, on behalf of our Speaker, Simma Holt, who was Member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway.
MR. BLENCOE: Victoria has the highest number per capita of senior citizens in the country. Many of our seniors are very active in promoting the well-being of senior citizens not only in Victoria but in British Columbia. Today in our gallery we have a very distinguished senior citizen who lives in Victoria in my constituency, who does many things in the community and works on behalf of the elderly. Would the House please welcome Mrs. Clare McAllister.
HON. MR. VEITCH: I don't know how many members of this assembly have been awakened early in the morning by someone saying "This is Radio Canada" or "CBC radio." In the gallery we have Gail Hulnick of CBC radio's "Early Edition." Without benefit of any commercial or anything — because the CBC would never go for that — she's broadcasting from Victoria now on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
MR. ROSE: I would like the House to welcome some old friends of mine from Chilliwack, Art and Kelly Weber. Art and Kelly have been longtime workers for the New Democratic Party. As a matter of fact, Kelly ran for us. They live in, of all places, not Chilliwack but Yarrow, B.C., the centre of the Fraser Valley. Would the House please welcome them.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I would hope that the House would be particularly thoughtful and judicious in its deliberations this afternoon not only because my material is the subject under examination but also because we have in the gallery this afternoon two young students from St. Margaret's School who have decided to take advantage of the spring break to understand a little bit better the governmental process. Would the House please welcome with me my guests, Danielle Trottier and Donna Dangerfield.
MR. PARKER: In the galleries today I'd like to introduce to the House Mayor Jack Talstra, Alderman Bob Jackman and the administrator, Bob Hallsor, all from the fine city of Terrace.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: In the gallery this afternoon, if you look up, you'll see 35 fine-looking students. They're here visiting from the Newton community of Surrey along with their, I guess, chaperon, Marvin Hunt, from Bible Fellowship Academy. I would ask you to please give them a warm welcome.
MR. WEISGERBER: I'd like to ask this House to recognize and make welcome my wife of 25 years, Judy.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: In the gallery today is Mr. Charles Traynor, our guest from Vancouver–Little Mountain and the city of Victoria, and I would like to ask the House to welcome him.
MR. R. FRASER: In the gallery today we have John Leech who is the executive director of the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia. John has been a tireless worker on behalf of his 4,000 to 5,000 members. On behalf of them and the province would the House kindly make him welcome.
HON. S. HAGEN: I have an announcement and also an introduction. The announcement first is that the Comox Valley has produced another winner, a hockey team sponsored by Happy's Sporting Goods. The Happy's Midget Chiefs won the provincial championships last weekend at Osoyoos. Would you please congratulate them.
I also have the pleasure of welcoming to the House Jeannie Lundine, who is the past president of the parents' advisory council at Kwalikum Secondary School. Would you please make her welcome.
HEALTH CARE CHARGES
MS. A. HAGEN: My question is to the Minister of Finance. In answer to my questions, the Health minister stated yesterday that 20 percent of the population will not be charged the new user fees for supplementary health care services, and the budget speech makes no mention of any exemptions for user fees. Would the Minister of Finance please confirm that citizens who receive premium assistance under the Medical Services Plan will be exempt from these user fees?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Yes, the whispered conversation, Mr. Speaker, was whether the minister himself wished to deal with that detailed question, and I'm quite happy to defer to him in his official capacity as the line ministry in charge. But let me make just one point before I do vacate the floor. This budget contains more safety nets to protect the concerns and welfare of the disadvantaged in our society than any previous budget I've ever read.
MR. SPEAKER: Before the hon. member is recognized, I might caution both sides to look at their standing orders 47A(a) and (b). Questions and answers are to be brief, precise and without argument or opinion. That's for questions and answers.
MS. A. HAGEN: Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance. I would like to redirect that question to the Minister of Health, and then further question the Minister of Finance, if the Minister of Health would be prepared to answer the question as the Minister of Finance said he might do.
MR. SPEAKER: Repeat the question.
MS. A. HAGEN: The question is: will the Minister of Health confirm that citizens who are in receipt of premium assistance under the Medical Services Plan will be exempt from fees for services such as podiatry, physiotherapy and chiropractic services?
[ Page 244 ]
HON. MR. DUECK: That is my understanding. Mr. Speaker, I would like to add to that that I believe yesterday there was a — perhaps my fault — misunderstanding, in that as far as Pharmacare is concerned, everyone is to pay the dispensing fee, other than they will be receiving the extra $125 from GAIN. So if someone uses $50 worth of dispensing, they will then save the balance for themselves, but they are all liable to pay that particular dispensing fee. I may not have made that clear yesterday.
MS. A. HAGEN: I have acknowledged the minister's comments and would again note that those who have, as single people, incomes of $1,000 or less per year from any source will have that assistance of $125.
I would like to direct this question to the Minister of Health, since it appears that the Minister of Finance is not familiar with the administration of his budget. Can the Minister of Health confirm that those exempt because they are already short of cash will have to pay the fees directly out of pocket and then apply for reimbursement to the Medical Services Plan.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask under which.... Is it the Pharmacare or the supplementary you are referring to?
MS. A. HAGEN: The supplementary services.
HON. MR. DUECK: The supplementary services. Whatever the charge will be — if the rate is $15, the particular service-provider will collect the $5 and the balance will be billed to the province.
MS. A. HAGEN: Mr. Minister, you have just noted that there will be people who are exempt from paying that fee, and I am pursuing how those people in fact are to be exempt. Will they have to pay that fee directly and then be reimbursed, or is there some means by which their medical services cards are to have "premium" on them — something that says they are some different kind of citizen and therefore exempt? How is this going to be administered, Mr. Minister?
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that someone on social welfare has a card that identifies his particular situation, and also someone who is on security under the income of less than $3,500 taxable income. I may be vague on this; I may have to take it as notice and give you the exact explanation at another time. But the technical part.... They will be identified. They will not have to pay it in advance. But exactly how that will work — I can give you that back in a day or so.
POACHING OF ELK
MR. BRUCE: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Parks. In my area of Cowichan-Malahat we have a very substantial herd of Roosevelt elk. In the Shaw Creek area in the last little while we've had a wanton slaughter of several of these animals. I was wondering whether the minister could tell this House what steps are being taken to try to rectify the situation and to bring to conclusion who or what is causing this particular incident in the Cowichan-Malahat area.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, the ministry is aware of the recent kills at Shaw Creek and other previous kills. We are also aware of the illegal selling of meat. We are investigating the poaching and the selling of the meat from the poaching. However, for the purposes of an effective investigation it would be imprudent for me to say anything further at this point.
PROPERTY TAXES FOR SENIORS
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston) some questions about property tax increases for seniors. The minister refused to answer. So I'll ask the Minister of Finance today. I'm sure he's prepared for the question.
Very simply, Mr. Speaker, what explanation does the minister have for increasing the tax for senior citizens from $1 to $100 in terms of minimum real property tax? What justification can he give this House?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, the details, of course, will be debated during the budget, but I can't help pointing out what should be an obvious fact to all members of the House and indeed all members of the B.C. public. For those individuals fortunate enough to own their own home, to be required to pay what amounts to $8 per month in property taxes.... It strikes me as being a rather innocuous amount.
MR. BLENCOE: Well, Mr. Speaker, when you compound it with all the other increases for seniors, it is not innocuous, and we won't accept the deficit reduction on the backs of senior citizens in this province.
How does the minister justify raising taxes for senior citizens when the same budget removes the surcharge for high income? How does he justify that removal?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: We seem to be getting into the budget debate early, but I am quite happy to make what should be an equally obvious response. I have heard comments in this House dealing with the very serious problem we have in this province of our best people being forced to relocate elsewhere by virtue of greater opportunities or rewards. I would think that it is important that we always at all times recognize the importance of retaining as much skills and talents in this province as we possibly can. If the hon. members were to look at comparisons between income taxes paid at various levels of income across the country, they would be able to see quickly that we are competitive with other jurisdictions in terms of our taxation levels.
It should also be noted that the so-called brain drain that we have all deplored arises as a consequence of our talented British Columbians seeking opportunities, particularly south of the border. When you recognize the challenges that the province faces, when you recognize the opportunities before us all, when you think about our abundance of natural resources and the tremendous exhibited skills and talent in our schools and in our advanced education institutions, when you think about the tremendous opportunity we have in the Pacific Rim and when you think about the concerns that have been expressed by so many people in this House before and currently.... I think that if there is a genuine desire to indeed invest in our people and ensure that our young people get the kind of education and training they want, we've got to ensure
[ Page 245 ]
— we must ensure — that those talented, gifted people who presently decide to live in our province....
[Mr. Speaker rose.]
MR. SPEAKER: Order! I might mention before the second member for Victoria gets up that I've allowed a little leeway in questioning. I think you see when the hon. member asks a question that really fits more into debate, he leaves it wide open for the minister to give the same kind of answer. If the member has an urgent question.... Your standing orders ask that questions be urgent and important, not debate that is taking place right now, which is the budget debate, in which the member has a chance to join in. I think we've seen that both sides take abuse of the privilege.
[Mr. Speaker resumed his seat.]
MR. WILLIAMS: The Minister of Finance has now advised us that the super-rich should be left alone. Can he advise us then what feasibility studies he carried out that indicated that there was disposable income in the hands of seniors to meet the kinds of charges he's levying by this budget?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that we did indeed look at a variety of options when we put together our budget package. I think it's important that everyone in the House recognize that what you have before you is a package — all pieces fit together. If you're going to examine any one in detail or attempt to dissect it in any detail or in any way, you must also then have the wit to understand that in order to maintain the credibility of the entire package, other aspects might also have to be examined. But I stand before the House not the least bit ashamed of the budget package and the way we've provided support services for those who truly need help and at the same time ensured that those who are able to pay will pay.
MR. WILLIAMS: Will the minister then table the studies that indicated that seniors had this disposable income in their hands?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I'll take that question under advisement, Mr. Speaker.
MONEYS FOR REFORESTATION
MR. WILLIAMS: It certainly does not exist.
A further question to the Minister of Finance. He said that it would be a physical impossibility to spend $350 million on silviculture. We have three million hectares of not satisfactorily restocked land in British Columbia. Can the minister explain why it would be a physical impossibility to spend those kinds of funds employing 20,000 people?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I'm willing to concede in front of all and sundry here this afternoon that it would not be impossible for the hon. opposition to spend $350 million on that exercise in one year. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this side of the House will never be wasteful of taxpayers' money, and it will ensure that money spent receives value for money spent. We are not prepared to throw money down some bottomless pit for the purpose of meeting some sort of lip-service desire to ensure that reforestation is done in this province. There is adequate funding in the Forests ministry budget to increase silviculture expenditures this year by 28 percent, and at the same time ensure that we will plant 200 million seedlings this year, more than we've done in previous years. Mr. Speaker, how much is enough?
MR. WILLIAMS: Maybe the minister could consult with Prof. Reed, policy chairman of forestry at UBC, who has argued for several years now for at least $300 million on silviculture. He is the expert in British Columbia on the subject. But the minister said that this added employment would be a monumental blurp in our steady economic progress. Can the minister explain why employing 20,000 people and reducing our unemployment levels would be a monumental blurp in our economy?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Delighted to. Mr. Speaker, the funding that this budget indicates in terms of job creation increases the jobs created in this province next year from 12,000 to 17,000; and further, the funding in this budget provides for an increase in training and retraining from 10,000 British Columbians to 20,000 British Columbians— that's a 100 percent increase.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, again, my thanks to the opposition for putting up with our little problem this morning. I believe the Minister of Finance has a message.
Introduction of Bills
SUPPLY ACT (No. 1), 1987
Hon. Mr. Couvelier presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Supply Act (No. 1), 1987.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, this bill is introduced in order to provide supply for the continuation of government programs until the government's estimates for 1987-88 have been debated and voted upon in this assembly.
It is my belief that passage of this bill today would qualify under standing order 81, especially considering the schedule of the House this week. However, I will not make formal application that standing order 81 be applied, in view of the agreement between the House Leaders that royal assent will be asked for later today.
I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
The House recessed at 2:30 p.m.
The House resumed at 2:35 p.m.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be now read a second time.
This supply bill is in the general form of previous supply bills. The first section requests one-quarter of the tabled
[ Page 246 ]
estimates to provide for the general programs of the government. The second section requests one-quarter of the disbursement amount required for the government's fully recoverable ministry-related financing transactions which appear in schedule D in the estimates. The third section requests an amount of $28 million for the Purchasing Commission working capital account. This increase in the statutory authority reflects an increase in the delivery of goods and services provided through this account.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I point out the requirement for early passage of the supply bill in order to provide for the ongoing expenditures of the government for the 1987-88 fiscal year.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Speaker, the opposition will support this bill and will not hold it up unduly. Some of my colleagues will want to make some specific comments, but I'd like to talk just a little bit about the process right now.
I've been here long enough to talk about the old days — I won't say "good old days," because there are some things about them that weren't very good. But I can recall that the first time I ever had to go through this interim supply was I think in 1969. It was after being here six years. Always before that the budget had been introduced, and the budget had been passed, and then we had gone through all of the estimates, and there was no need for interim supply because we had approved every spending vote by vote. In that one year we were a little later than usual. It was just before the middle of April, and if interim supply had not been granted at that time, it would not have been possible to issue payroll cheques at the middle of April.
This year we are dealing with a situation where in effect we are saying it is okay to go ahead and spend one-quarter of the budget. We haven't even approved the budget speech yet. We were still dealing with that; as a matter of fact, we've barely started on it, and now we're being asked to approve one-quarter without having had any opportunity at all to talk to any of the ministers, to discuss with them what they intend to do with this money that we're giving them permission to spend.
Now we know we can't increase the spending in the many areas where many of us would like to see it spent. But we like to at least maintain the principle, the theory, whatever, that it is possible for the Legislature to reduce any vote. If we all agree on the reduction of any one vote, that authority is ours as members of the Legislature.
But here we're saying, go ahead and spend a quarter of the budget, $2.5 billion — I don't have the exact figure, but it is a quarter of the budget, I understand — with no opportunity to debate. We know we're going to do it later, and with 46 members on one side and 22 on the other and you in the middle, we know that in all likelihood it is going to pass the way the government wants it to pass. But we depart totally from the idea that the cabinet members, the government, should be accountable to the people through their elected representatives when we say at this point in the stage of debate, with the budget having come down just three working days earlier than today, that yes, we approve in principle everything you are doing. We are giving you that approval by today saying that it is okay to go a quarter of the way. We're going to spend some time later on talking about the details of it, but eventually, having agreed to go a quarter of the way, it is going to be awfully hard to come back and say: "We've changed our mind. You shouldn't have done it in the first place."
As I said, Mr. Speaker, we're not going to oppose the principle. We know that the government has to continue. We don't quite know why it has to be this much earlier than usual, but that doesn't matter. We are certainly going to have to do it in any case before we get very far with the estimates. We are sorry that the government can't get its act together. After all, the election was in October, and we would have appreciated it if the government had been able to get its act together and called us together earlier to deal with the serious problems that the ordinary people in British Columbia have.
We have made the argument and we will continue to make the argument that the budget is not fair to the average British Columbian, not fair to the working people in the province. That argument will be made over and over and over again. But when it comes right down to it, the government services must be maintained and we appreciate that, and we appreciate that there is a need to get through this, and we want to get back to the general budget debate as well. So apart from some comments that some of my colleagues will want to make specifically with respect to the spending priorities or lack of priorities on the part of the government, the opposition will support interim supply.
MR. WILLIAMS: I can't get over this minister going out and giving a speech to the Island municipal association just this last weekend, and saying that it would be a physical impossibility to adequately spend the $350 million, or the bulk of the export money that we got from the Americans who are doing our homework for us in terms of our inadequate stumpage fees in British Columbia. He says it's a physical impossibility to put 20,000 people to work in British Columbia. If you think that's a physical impossibility, you should move over and let those who believe it isn't a physical impossibility do the job.
Nobody less than Prof. Reed at UBC, who has a special chair of forestry policy funded both by the trade unions and the private sector — the forest corporations in this province — has been arguing for about three years now for at least $300 million a year in silviculture. What kind of expert does this minister purport to be? If you can't do what the real experts have been saying should be done, then it tells us something about the adequacy of the other department, the Ministry of Forests and Lands. If they are unable to properly, cost-effectively spend $350 million, they should be sacked, pure and simple.
We have the worst unemployment problem in this province since the 1930s. You should be thinking in terms of fitting these things together. We have three million hectares of not satisfactorily restocked land in British Columbia. That's the equivalent of driving from Vancouver to Penticton and seeing weeds on either side of you for 25 miles –– 50 miles wide, 200 miles long in weeds, productive land that should be producing new trees for the future of this province. And you say, Mr. Minister, the analyst, the architect of this budget, that it would be a physical impossibility to begin grappling with that problem.
I would refer you to the northern countries, the Norscan countries. The Swedes, the Finns, the Norwegians have been doing this kind of work all of this century. We are now generations behind them in the kind of work they do in the forests. They see it as a moral obligation, not as an economic question, not your kind of lightweight, right-wing economics. They see it as a moral question in terms of replacing what they take from this planet; it's as simple as that. The first
[ Page 247 ]
charge against the trees harvested should be the cost of replanting — a pure, simple, moral question.
Then you marry that moral question with the immorality of having 15 percent of our people and 27 percent of our young men under 25 out of work, and you have a major moral question in terms of this province of British Columbia, and you fail to address it. Nobody put it forth more clearly than the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Cashore) this morning, despite the kind of speeches we've had from that ragtag crew in your back bench.
MR. WILLIAMS: Indeed it was. We still have 27 percent unemployment in young people, and you're not doing anything about it.
Now the same minister . . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the member to address the Chair.
MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, Mr. Speaker. The same minister said that reducing our unemployment levels from, say, 15 percent to 14 percent — because that's all the 20, 000 jobs would do — would be, to quote from the Times-Colonist, a very reliable paper, "a monumental blurp" in our steady economic progress. Well, the unemployment rates have been going up, up, up. I guess that's what the minister calls our steady economic progress, and you don't want that graph to change. By going down from 15 to 14 percent, good heavens, I mean, it might actually produce new revenues in terms of those working people, new sales tax and all the spinoff benefits that come from employment.
What kind of mindset? Why, you might even sell more clothing in the retail sector — who knows? — and the 5 percent or 6 percent tax as well. But you know, it's a mind-set to call it a monumental blurp to employ 20,000 people when we have this 27 percent figure with young people. It's tragic in terms of the narrow kind of material we're getting from you. Then the classic was that our continuing expert on forestry, the member from suburban Saanich, says what would we possibly do with all of those trees that would all mature at the same time, 80 or 85 years from now? Well, what a terrible problem. Imagine! They might actually grow.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, if they plant them the way we plant them now, 40 percent of them die, Mr. Minister, because we don't look after them — 40 percent of the seedlings we plant now. So that solves half your problem. Just keep on doing it the way you do, and you'll solve half that terrible, monumental problem that you saw out there of all those trees rushing up to the skies and creating problems for us.
Imagine! One year's planting, 20,000 people put to work, would create monumental problems for us down the road in terms of harvesting. They're not like tomatoes, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, that go rotten in the eighty-first year or the eighty-second year; they keep growing. We wouldn't have to cut them down at the eightieth year after all. You have the nerve to say this at a meeting in Cowichan Valley, one of the great forest valleys of British Columbia. I'm amazed they didn't hoot you out of the hall. If the loggers had been there from Youbou or some of the Lake Cowichan areas, oh, boy, would you have been hooted out of that hall! You really would have been.
Just look at all of the work done by people all over the province: the government employees' union just in the last week came out with their own report on why we had to be doing more. I have a copy of a memo on my desk from the Prince George forest district right now, out of the Forests office in Prince George, that tells all of the various people in the region, their employees and the companies what an impossible job they have to work within this budget you've given them; that they can't possibly do the job properly.
That's the staff of the Forests ministry right now saying that you're putting them in an impossible bind in terms of the work they want to do this year, in terms of the seedlings they were turning out this year. The memo talks about how many of the seedlings we will dump, jump, throw away simply because they're not getting the budget they had anticipated and thought was necessary and important.
Then you have the nerve to say a few minutes ago again that we have to compete against the most right-wing provinces in the land so that we don't tax the super-rich. What kind of mindset is this that is delivering this budget before us right now, that says we have to have the lowest marginal tax rate in Canada? Because that is where you're headed. That doesn't make any sense at all. The whole idea of the income tax is as a progressive tax aimed at getting greater income from those who are more able to pay.
At the same time, the same minister, when he's asked about the impact on seniors, can't give us the kind of detailed answer he gave us with respect to the super-rich. He analyzes the modest, minor problems of the super-rich but does not analyze the problems of the seniors who are getting a real bite and kick in this budget. There's a prospect, then, of seniors with taxable incomes of over $3,500 a year who are going to get hurt in this budget. When the minister is asked for the report with respect to the analysis of their income and their disposable income, all of a sudden it's "they," and he's saying he's got to take it as notice and he'll have to report back. That suggests to me, Mr. Speaker, that there are indeed no studies whatsoever; there are simply no studies.
So you have the studies about the super-rich; you don't have the studies about the marginal poor, the seniors who are barely getting by in this system of ours. It doesn't make any sense, and at the same time you go out to the Cowichan Valley purporting to be an expert on forestry and say that we can't possibly employ 20,000 people in silviculture.
I really think you should reflect on those statements, Mr. Minister. I think you should reflect on the idea that reducing the unemployment rate in British Columbia from 15 percent to 14 percent would be a monumental blurp in our economy. It's a time for reconsideration, and now that we're considering this interim supply budget, maybe that's the right time. It's very clear that you were given a few ideas from our traveling Premier and had the job of then trying to patch this thing together in terms of his erratic view of the economy. In doing so, we've got this patched-up mess that we currently have that will not do the work that's necessary or help the seniors, and won't begin to deal with the monumental mess in our forests.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I don't want to drag the afternoon out, but there's just so much I wanted to say. I've been characterized as being the instant logging expert from the
[ Page 248 ]
suburban capital of Saanich. I can't help but make comment that it's the member for Vancouver East, that well-known logging industry area, who makes the comment. I also couldn't help but notice, the Hon. member called it "Youboo." When I was in the woods — and I worked in the woods for, I guess, about 12-odd years, and I know a little bit about the game — the name was pronounced "Youbou." Those people who live in the community might feel a little bit slighted by the misrepresentation by someone who purports to be the critic, the expert.
In any event, back to the main point which is, I think, the question of the comment that I made in an address I gave to municipal leaders in Duncan over the weekend. The comment I made was that it would be a physical impossibility to spend $350 million responsibly in one year in the area of forestry.
I'm quite willing to concede that anybody can spend any amount they want — I suppose, without limit. But we happen to believe that the profligate spending that serves no useful purpose or doesn't contribute to an overall goal is not something that should be endorsed or entertained for a moment. I would only ask the members across the aisle where they would expect the money to come from for some of the other things incorporated in the budget. One would imagine that the opposition members are against the reduction in the sales tax. One might think that they are against elimination of the restaurant tax. One might wonder how they feel about the increases we've provided for social spending and a variety of other programs incorporated in that budget.
I think that those details can come out in the fullness of the debate. I certainly look forward to that opportunity. But in the meantime I do believe that it's time to go on with the afternoon's business. I move second reading.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration forthwith.
Bill 18, Supply Act (No. 1), 1987, referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
SUPPLY ACT (NO. 1), 1987
The House in committee on Bill 18; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
On the schedule.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, I was looking for the Attorney-General. I just wondered if we could have some elaboration of warrant No. 1. What is the purpose of this?
HON. MR. VEITCH: Warrant No. 1 is the $15.15 million. It is constituted of the following items, Mr. Chairman: $4.5 million for ship modifications, terminal modifications, etc., for the Vancouver Island Princess; secondly, $8.7 million for vessel acquisition costs from the B.C. Ferry Corporation; thirdly, $1.95 million outstanding debt to the B.C. Ferry Corporation.
MR. STUPICH: Mr. Chairman, just following up on the vessel acquisition, was that $8 million? Can you tell me something about vessel acquisition?
HON. MR. VEITCH: Yes, Mr. Chairman. The vessel was acquired by the B.C. Steamship Company for $8,700,000 from the B.C. Ferry Corporation, another Crown corporation.
MR. G. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the Provincial Secretary if some of this warrant was for outfitting the casino ships with roulette tables, casino rooms, one-armed bandits, the kinds of things that are anticipated which this side, of course, opposes.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Mr. Chairman, the government is committed to improving transportation linkages for economic and tourism development purposes between Vancouver Island and the mainland, including Washington state. Washington, as you know, is a gateway for tourist traffic to British Columbia, and an extension of services to Washington will, hopefully, provide a significant economic stimulus to Vancouver Island's tourist economy. I'm sure the Hon. member would welcome that.
The Princess Marguerite annually transports approximately 250,000 travelers between Seattle and Victoria. The capacity of that ship is limited due to its restricted capacity for carrying motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, buses and the like. Over the past five years there's been a gradual but persistent decline in the shift in tourist traffic carried on the Princess Marguerite. There's been a gradual increase in the number of passengers who are seeking to travel to Victoria and Vancouver Island for more than one day. As a consequence, close to 50 percent of the trade now involves overnight or longer trips. The Princess Marguerite's vehicle capacity is limited to 50 vehicles, and it's generally sold out at each sailing.
The major demand for service arises in the recreational vehicle, motor vehicle and charter bus/tour bus trade. The Vancouver Island Princess has the capacity to carry 140 vehicles, including over heights and recreational vehicles. There is a significant opportunity to expand the tour bus trade to Vancouver Island. As an example, tour operators from Spokane to Portland will be in a position to offer same-day access to the vessel to bring tour groups to Vancouver Island. The tour bus and private vehicle market offers the greatest market potential, and it will be the target, I'm told, for British Columbia Steamships marketing.
MR. G. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, I listened very carefully to the Provincial Secretary's response. My question is: was some of this warrant money used to outfit the vessels named for the extension of casino gambling aboard these ships? To the Provincial Secretary, this side of the House is very, very supportive of the Princess Marguerite, because it was this side of the House that purchased the Marguerite for this province and this city. So we're well aware of the benefits to our community, and we certainly want those to continue. Where we do have concern is where the government seems to
[ Page 249 ]
have adopted the approach that significant benefits will accrue to the community by entering into casino-type gambling aboard our publicly owned vessels. That is my question: were some of those funds used for outfitting these vessels with casino rooms, roulette wheels, gambling casinos, etc. We are not supportive; we think there are better things that could be done with those tax dollars than spend the money on those warrants.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Chairman, I might be able to help here. The vessel acquisition amount is $8.7 million. Is that the issue being raised here? Or is it the whole $15 million?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would the Provincial Secretary like to respond?
HON. MR. VEITCH: Yes. Are you talking about the $8.7 million, hon. member? Is that the number you're questioning?
MR. G. HANSON: Mr. Chairman, the liner notes in the schedule of the bill say: "To provide for a grant to the B.C. Steamship Company to cover costs associated with the acquisition of a second vessel." We have had conflicting comments: one from the Attorney-General that said there would be gambling between Vancouver and Victoria; other comments that there would be gambling between Victoria and Seattle; and of course the Washington state officials indicate that there won't be gambling in American waters. What I'm trying to ascertain here is: of the $15 million, are there some dollars in that warrant that were used to outfit the casino gambling aboard these vessels?
HON. MR. VEITCH: Yes, Mr. Chairman, the Attorney-General has indicated that there is an intention of having casino rooms on these vessels.
MR. G. HANSON: I'm trying to establish.... Within this bill we are being asked to vote in favour of warrants that money already expended . . . . Warrant No. 1 is dated February 5, 1987, and the amount of the warrant is $15,150,000. As the Minister of Finance has indicated, $8 million was to cover costs associated with the acquisition of a second vessel. In the remaining six-odd million dollars, were some of those dollars expended in the acquisition of gambling equipment, outfitting casino rooms aboard those vessels, to make a floating crap game somewhere between here and Seattle or here and Victoria or here and San Francisco? Because if it is, we oppose it on this side of the House.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: The total we're discussing is the $15,150,000, as I understand it. That figure is made up . . . .
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Well, the original question, with respect, dealt with the $8.7 million. That was the first question put, I believe, if you check the records.
In any event, now we're back to the total. The total is made up of ship and terminal modifications of $4.5 million, the vessel acquisition of $8.7 million, and payment of outstanding debt to B.C. Ferries for previous use of the Queen of Prince Rupert of $1.95 million. Those figures add up to the $15.15 mentioned. The ship and terminal modifications of $4.5 million consist of a ramp and terminal facilities at Ogden Point and Victoria both. They consist of ramp modifications at Pier 69 in Seattle; dry-docking and engine overhaul; ship modifications; lounge renovations; professional fees and other expenses.
MR. G. HANSON: I appear to be getting more detail from the Minister of Finance as we go. Is the minister then saying that this warrant did not cover any renovations that involved rigging the ships for casinos and for gambling and so on? Is he saying no?
HON. MR. VEITCH: The casino lounge renovations are estimated to amount to $400,000.
MR. G. HANSON: As I indicated before, the $400,000 that we're being asked to approve today could be better expended for seniors that need help; for students that need help; for jobs that are required. We do not agree with the gambling and the extending of casino-type, Las Vegas-type gambling aboard these ships, and we are resentful that taxes of $400,000 are being expended for these purposes.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Mr. Chairman, I'm usually calm, and I'm usually collected, and I want to tell the hon. member that he can't have it both ways. If you're going to have tourist activity on Vancouver Island, if you're going to have people coming from other parts of the world, if you're going to offer them extra services, you're going to have to realize that this is a ship and it is going to produce economic benefit for the people in Vancouver Island who pay the taxes that you're talking about, who buy the clothing that you're talking about, who pay the sales taxes, who look after those very same senior citizens that you're talking about. That's the way it operates in a private enterprise economy. Maybe you don't understand that.
MR. G. HANSON: I certainly wish this minister had taken us into his confidence when they were hatching this proposal. In all my time in Victoria and as an MLA, when tourists come up to me they generally ask: where is the Provincial Museum, what a beautiful city this is, what is this Parliament Building, who owns it and what is it for? They have never asked me: where's the roulette wheel, where's the crap station, where's the mobile game in town, where's the one-armed bandit? Never!
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Chairman, on the same topic, in terms of the $400,000 for the Princess Marguerite, it's our belief that this is just a start; that Victoria is going to become a sort of testing ground for this government's move into private sector casinos in the province. We on this side of the House are absolutely opposed to such a move. No private sector for-profit gambling. But we know what's happened: the fix is in. Those in the private sector have been promised private sector licences, and Victoria is to become the experiment. This beautiful city, which does not want casinos, is to become the experiment. We're to become the experiment. I'd like to know whether this $400,000 includes security. Does it include policing? Does it include watching of organized crime?
[ Page 250 ]
That's what you're bringing to the province of British Columbia. That's what you're starting. There's no question that the Premier of this province has promised that we will have these kinds of casinos in the province. I want to ask the question to both the ministers: what provisions do you have in this budget for the Princess Marguerite for security and extra policing?
HON. MR. VEITCH: You realize that this proposed casino operation will be carried on in one of Her Majesty's Crown corporations, namely the B.C. Steamship Company. It will be carried on by the government of British Columbia. I don't want you to suggest for one moment, hon. member, that the government of British Columbia, this government or any other government in this country, would condone organized crime. I'm sure you don't mean that. It will be protected by all the forces of law that we have available to us. As a matter of fact, if you would read up on some of your federal statutes, hon. member, you would realize that no one could conduct this type of operation unless it was a Crown corporation at this point in time, given the legislation that we have available to us. So as far as Victoria becoming a sin bin, or some place where you can go out and roll that wheel, or whatever it is you want to do, it's the furthest thing from our mind, hon. member. It's a vehicle whereby we can bring increased tourism to British Columbia; hopefully increased prosperity to British Columbia that will provide revenues, that will provide employment. If the opposition is against that, then I suggest you vote against this warrant.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Chairman, it seems that the only job creation we're going to have in this province is rows of slot machines. Is that economic development? Is that your kind of prosperity — the new start for the province of British Columbia? Is that your new start — organized casinos on ships, and then move into the private sector? Is that the start? Can the minister tell us today how many slot machines they are purchasing? How many roulette wheels? Exactly how many? Have the purchase orders not gone out?
HON. MR. VEITCH: Mr. Chairman, if the hon. member really wants to find out, he can go on and pay his fare on the steamship and roll the wheel, or whatever there is available to do. But I can assure you that this operation is a Crown corporation. It will be controlled. It will receive all the protection of law. And there will be no involvement of any kind from any untoward characters of any kind.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Chairman, we cannot accept this start into organized gambling in the province of British Columbia for the private sector. We can't accept it. So I'm going to move an amendment that $400,000 be deleted from this section of Supply Act (No. 1), 1987.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The amendment is in order.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Please be so kind as to read the amendment.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The second member for Victoria moves that the amount of Bill 18, Supply Act 1, Schedule 1, Warrant 1, be reduced by $400,000.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Chairman, I will be brief. I think the reason is clear. We have clearly stated on this side of the House that we oppose any move to introduce casino gambling for other than non-profit purposes. We are concerned that this government is going down a path to expand gambling and casinos in the province of British Columbia. In our belief, we must stop this move today, and that's why we introduced the amendment.
We do not want to see this kind of practice continue, and I know in my riding in this beautiful Victoria, as the first member for Victoria says, people don't come here for these kinds of activities, and we don't want to see this continue.
So, Mr. Chairman, we move in good conscience to reduce this part of the supply bill by $400,000, and now take the position, once and for all, that we don't want casino gambling in the province of British Columbia other than for the nonprofit.
We are sending a message to the citizens of British Columbia that the province of British Columbia is a family province, is a wholesome province, that we don't need the other attributes or the other kind of things that come with this kind of activity, that every single jurisdiction that has moved in this direction has come to great grief. The evidence is there. The statistics are there. The financial rewards that are achieved by moving in this direction are not there, and the evidence is there.
British Columbians are proud of the kind of environment we have in this province, and if you move in this direction, it is a major shift in the sociological impact on this great province. Today we are saying we want to stop this move by this government into major organized gambling and casinos in the province of British Columbia. I move that amendment, Mr. Chairman.
HON. MR. VEITCH: If the other member wants to speak for a moment, the member for Vancouver East . . . .
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, maybe the minister could advise us what arrangements have been made in terms of these slot machines and whether you have checked out who you are buying them from. I wonder if CLEU has been asked to review all of those arrangements as well, seriously. I guess you got this material from Nevada, and that is an area that has serious problems, as the second member for Victoria suggests.
In addition, I think it is clear that the studies have not been carried out by this administration around this area of gambling. We have spent tens and tens of millions of dollars advertising supernatural British Columbia, and we spent tens and tens of millions of dollars last year advertising Expo.
I don't think there has been any attempt to look at the marketing that you are doing in this regard, in terms of violating what we've spent on tourism for so long in British Columbia to date, in terms of the natural features and natural amenities that the member for Victoria suggests.
The next stage, as I understood it, in terms of our tourism marketing activity was going to be on cultural British Columbia and heritage British Columbia, which again fits in with the tradition in the city of Victoria. But slot machines and casinos fly right in the face of all of this strategy that has now been going on for some time and has been handled professionally.
So you guys are taking a wrecking bar to the tens of millions that have been spent on promoting the real features of British Columbia that all of us admire and would be happy
[ Page 251 ]
to have tourists share. This kind of activity in terms of throwing in the carny casino activities on ships like the Marguerite fly in the face of that strategy that has been sound and is beginning to pay off. I don't think the thinking has been done, that the homework has been done, in terms of what potential problems you're creating here.
MR. G. HANSON: My colleague, the second member for Victoria, indicated very clearly that the people of our community, of our riding . . . . We're speaking on their behalf today. We are delegated to speak on their behalf; that's the nature of this House, and the House Leader should know.
Mr. Chairman, the people of our community have registered their concerns on this issue. They do not want Victoria to be a Las Vegas of British Columbia. This is a beautiful capital. We have environmental attributes, we have heritage attributes, we have cultural attributes. We have so much going for us. All we need is a government in power provincially that has the political will to do the job that is required to make this a flourishing community.
I should have known, I guess, when I watched the Whistler leadership convention; it seemed the only issue on the floor was gambling. One of the things that happens to an MLA in this House as you are around for a few years is that you remember what has been said. When I saw the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke a few years ago stand in his place here and say there should be one-armed bandits on the B.C. ferries, I thought he was the fringe. But in a few short years he is now in the mainstream of economic policy-making here in the province of British Columbia. What we have is resorting in a recession . . . . People in desperation are buying lottery tickets like they're going out of style, and the provincial government is grabbing those proceeds and pushing them as quickly as possible on to Expo debt.
What I'm saying, Mr. Chairman, is that there are so many other options available to us. You're taking us down a road that the people really don't want. The people in this province do not want Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Reno-type operations in this province. They may occasionally want to get on a bus and go for a flutter down to Nevada, etc.; but the implications of all the studies indicate — all the studies that looked at Atlantic City, Reno, Las Vegas, as my colleague has pointed out very clearly — that it does draw the underworld, and we don't need it. We've had the police chief in Vancouver, last year I believe it was, registering his concerns about the extension of casino gambling in the province of British Columbia. I rise in my place along with my colleagues to support this amendment, because we do not approve of that $400,000 that was spent on the casino operations on these ferries.
MR. BLENCOE: Gentlemen, I have just received what I think is a very interesting quote from a working paper which I want to give to this House today on this amendment. I think it's very useful information. The working paper prepared in 1983 for the Ministry of the Solicitor-General of Canada by senior research officers in the police research section of that ministry, Margaret Beare and Howard Hampton, has an interesting statement right at the beginning, which I think is why we on this side want to call a halt to this action today:
"Wherever casinos are found, they are inseparable from organized criminal activities. Virtually every study undertaken in the United States, Britain, Australia and elsewhere points out that casino gaming, whether illegal or legal, encourages organized criminal activity. A former prosecutor in the New Jersey Attorney-General's department has noted that organized crime must always be recognized as an interest group with respect to legal gaming. If a jurisdiction is not willing to accept this involvement, then it should not get involved in legalized gaming."
Mr. Chairman, that why, on this side of the House today, we are taking the action we are. It's very important that the province and the people of British Columbia and this government recognize that what this government is starting by its actions on the Princess Marguerite has the impact of changing this province dramatically. All evidence shows that if you move on that course you are going to reap incredible problems. We ask you to not go down that course.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Methinks the hon. member protesteth too much. He mentioned non-profit organizations, and I guess if he counts the government as being a non-profit organization that's where the revenues will go to. I don't know if that's the way it was planned, but that's the way it turned out.
The first member for Vancouver East asked about machine arrangements. Actually, machine purchase and lease is not included in this warrant. This is included for the building of the room and the refurbishing and so forth. It's for casino lounge renovations in the amount of $400,000.
However, 150 legal, checked-out slot machines have been leased that will be divided between both ships as the demand requires, hon. member. It's all legal, all completely straight up.
We talked about the Expo deficit. You're worried about the money from lottos that was going into Expo. I suppose you're worried also, hon. member, about the over $7 million that went to Victoria by way of Expo legacy funds. Did you object to that when it came your way? You can't have it both ways, hon. member.
We reject this amendment.
MR. HARCOURT: Mr. Chairman, in the debate this morning, you'll recall, I was speaking on the "Love Boat" economic development strategy that this government has, wandering around in their lifeboats with one oar. It seems that that's now shifted to the vice boat — we have the vice boat economic strategy in the afternoon.
I think it's important that you realize that when I was chairman of the Vancouver Police Board, I received material from across the world, I received advice from our chief constable, that it was a no-no, a no-go. I received advice from our tourism industry that people come to British Columbia because it's safe, it's clean, it's beautiful, it's green, and it's a family atmosphere. That's why they come. They come to hear the loon. You see, we share our tourism. We have them come to hear the beautiful sounds of songbirds here in Victoria, and then on the ferry up north and into our neighbours to the north where the loon is. They don't come here to hear the crank of slot machines. So I would like to know how we got from the "Love Boat" economic strategy in the morning to the vice boat economic strategy in the afternoon.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Well, hon. member, I don't know where you go to hear your loons, but I can assure you that it's
[ Page 252 ]
the government's desire to keep British Columbia safe, clean, beautiful and green.
MR. SIHOTA: We heard a lot about loons, and I'm hearing a lot of loony tunes on the other side of the House.
Look, it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever to introduce any form of legalized gambling into this province, whether it's on boats or on land. What the government is doing here is simply inviting crime. Let me share a few statistics with the members opposite. In Atlantic City, in the first four years they had legalized gambling in that jurisdiction, crime rates increased by 191 percent. Think about that for a second. Do you know what type of crime it was? It was street crime, purse-snatching, holding up local grocery stores. Do we want that type of crime in this area? I say no.
Someone says, okay, fine, we will run it — the government will run it. We will run the ferries; we will run the casinos. Well, do you really think that the criminal community makes a distinction as to whether or not the casino is run by the private sector or by the public sector? They don't care. Las Vegas has the highest per capita crime rate in the United States. Do we want to invite those types of statistics here to the west coast? Victoria already has an incredibly high crime rate because, of course, of the relatively impoverished economic climate around here — which the government can take some credit for. But do we want to invite more crime to Victoria? If we do, who is going to pay for it? You know, it's easy to spend $400,000 on roulette wheels and rooms in ships, but what about the social costs? What about the policing costs? Who is going to pay that? The taxpayer is. But you don't care.
Someone said that one of the members here protests too much. Protests too much? We are inviting . . . .
HON. MR. VEITCH: Protesteth.
MR. SIHOTA: Well, okay, maybe your Shakespeare is a little bit better than mine.
MR. SIHOTA: It's obviously not.
The point is that we are standing at this time to stop casino gambling before it makes an impact on this province. It's not protesting too much. We're trying to drive a little bit of sanity, a little bit of sense, a little bit of logic into the minds of the people making some of the decisions on the other side of this House. We're saying: look at the studies; examine what other people have said; calculate out in your own mind whether or not it makes sense to move into legalized casino operations.
A recent study done by the University of Florida, which I will recommend to the Provincial Secretary, talks in rather lengthy terms about legalized casino operations. It reviews every study ever done on the matter in the United States. It concludes that all you do at the end of the day is invite more crime, and when you start looking at the costs associated with legalized gambling, the infrastructure costs, the airports, the roads and all that kind of stuff that you build, it loses money for the jurisdictions.
want the Provincial Secretary to take a look at the studies in New
England, in Massachusetts in particular, where two communities looked
at the whole question of legalized gambling. There was a six-month
study in New
England, and the conclusion was at the end of the day — and of course this would be of interest to a government that relies on polls — that 60 percent of the population in that portion of the world was opposed to legalized gambling. When they did their cost-benefit analysis, it didn't make sense for those communities.
Three years' study appointed by the Congress of the United States of America took a look at the matter of organized gambling, and it was a no-win situation for the state. Keep those kinds of studies in mind when you are considering whether or not you want to introduce this type of activity to British Columbia. All of the academic literature, all of the practical experience, suggests that you don't do it. The member for Vancouver Centre has already talked about what the police have to say. Talk to the police in these communities, spend some time talking to the chief of the Victoria police and ask them if in their minds it makes sense to introduce legalized gambling. The answer will be no, over and over again.
The other argument that ought to be considered is this whole matter of tourism. I won't repeat the arguments I made earlier on, because it is true that it doesn't make sense on one hand to promote British Columbia as supernatural British Columbia, and then on the other hand introduce this type of casino operation. Families come to British Columbia. Families don't go to Las Vegas when they're off on their holidays. Think of what we are offering in this province and ask yourself if it is logically consistent then to introduce legalized casino operations in this province.
And then there are some of you who will say: "Well, look at all the money that flows down to Reno and Las Vegas. If we were able to capture some of that money, it would help the local economies." Don't forget, Mr. Provincial Secretary, through you, Mr. Chairman, that Winnipeg and Edmonton have tried to do exactly that, and still today Canadian Pacific and PWA haven't cancelled their charters to Reno and Las Vegas. People still go down there because of some of the things that are provided there. You don't recapture the money that is going down south. It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense on land, and it doesn't make any sense on boats.
Now I have tried to raise the argument for you from the point of view of the taxpayer, the argument in terms of what makes sense from a cost-benefit point of view, both in terms of social cost, policing, etc., and with respect to the costs that we could be losing from a tourism point of view. I haven't raised yet the ethical question, the moral question of whether or not we want to introduce this type of activity.
Now there are some members in the caucus opposite who take some pride in their moral or ethical positions. I would ask the Provincial Secretary to consult with them as to whether it is in their opinion a viable thing to move into from an ethical or moral point of view. I think even your own members would say no.
I have received in my office, since the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) floated the trial balloon, somewhere in excess of 100 letters on this matter. Not one has been in favour of legalized casino operations in this province. Listen to the people. Listen to the experts. Consider what they have to say.
I am in favour of this amendment. It makes no sense — $400, 000. Someone asked earlier on today for alternatives; I see the member is here in the House today. I made this point yesterday. In my riding they are closing down a school
[ Page 253 ]
because they don't have $40,000. It seems to me 10 percent of that money would be better spent on that type of activity instead of on roulette wheels and one-armed bandits.
MS. EDWARDS: I have been listening to this, of course, mainly on the basis that somebody seems to think that this gambling is going to be contained on a little boat, a little capsule that floats between Victoria and Vancouver. Now there are some things that we in the interior wish you would keep to yourselves between Vancouver and Victoria, but we happen to know that this is not one of the things that is going to stay there, because the government has said that it is simply an experiment. It has been suggested that it go into the interior. It is going to go into the interior of British Columbia. This is to go into an area where the tourist industry is being operated in general.
There isn't a place in this province where the tourist industry can't do well. However, for some reason or another the government seems to think that it needs to be improved with gambling. I don't quite understand this, because the tourism industry is increasing at such a rate that nobody quite knows whether it's the second most successful or the third most successful in the province. Nevertheless we are all of a sudden going to have gambling, I guess, in at least two or three spots in the interior. Now these are in areas where people come, as you say, to boat on the lakes, camp at the camping spots, to hunt and fish and climb and lie on the beaches and so on and so forth. The promotion that the province has put forward . . . . Of course the next warrant that we're going to talk on might deal with this too. The kind of money that's being put out to promote British Columbia as a destination place for families — and of course it is families that come to British Columbia — has been huge.
The interior of British Columbia already has policing problems. Talk to any municipal government person, whether they're the mayor or the aldermen or whatever. They have problems paying for the police that they have, and they don't have enough police. The whole thing is a problem already in the interior of the province. There is no possible way that they want something else that's going to create another policing problem.
Whether or not the government thinks they have a mandate to put gambling into British Columbia, they have not yet spoken to the people across this province and listened to what they have to say about it. Until the government is willing to stand up and say what kind of gambling they want to have, where they want to put it, what it's going to cost and what the implications are that go with it, they have no business even suggesting that they spend money on a gambling facility.
So, Mr. Chairman, on the basis of the harm that this could do to the tourist industry and the fact that the people of British Columbia have not yet said that they approve of this kind of action, I would certainly support the amendment.
MR. MILLER: Mr. Chairman, I too rise in support of the amendment. I want to deal fairly briefly with the ethical question.
First of all, I'm a bit disappointed that we haven't heard from the moral minority on the other side of the House. There's been a fair amount of debate in this House in the last few days about purity and monopolies on virtuous positions, and I've also listened to a fair number of speeches that talk about what's wrong in terms of the influences on the family unit: the constant impact of television on the family unit and how that undermines the moral integrity of our society. And of course we have the Premier, who is never reluctant to impose his moral views on legislative matters.
I'm concerned about the proliferation. You know, the government says: "We're starting small. We're just going to have this little gambling outfit on the ferries. We'll keep it small." But let me tell you, like everything else that starts small, it grows. And if it's a source of cash, you'll tap it over and over again, regardless of the moral position.
We've got a couple of firsts around here, and maybe we'll have some more. We've got a prayer room. Instead of praying Wednesday it will be Winsday.
I really have a deep feeling about this, because I think essentially these kinds of things take money out of the pockets of people who can least afford to pay. I'll just touch briefly on my belief about the impact of lotteries. Lotteries have grown from a relatively small operation in this country to a huge operation. I note the huge increase that the government took in last year: I believe it was another $75 million in lottery money. And the advertising! There should be truth in advertising on this stuff as well, and no doubt when the gambling gets going we'll see the advertising there as well, trying to lure people on there to get rid of their hard-earned money — just stick your money in the slot machine. Maybe you'll advertise that the odds are better than the lottery, and maybe they will be. Talk about morally offensive! I ride around and I see ads on the buses for the mortgage-burner lottery, when I know the working people in this province are struggling to make ends meet paying their mortgage, and they're lined up gambling in hopes they can get out of that burden of debt.
So I'm disappointed. You're right, Mr. Provincial Secretary: no side can have it both ways. But that's exactly what you're trying.
I wonder about the courage and integrity of a back bench that made such fine speeches when it comes to ethical questions remaining completely silent on this issue. And just before I sit down, for your edification I'll let you know that there used to be a member on your side who was not reluctant to stand up and state his opinion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, you're getting a little beyond the bounds of this debate when you start casting aspersions against the back-benchers on the opposite side.
MR. MILLER: My apologies, Mr. Chairman. I'll withdraw any remarks that are deemed to be offensive. But I do feel quite passionate about this, and just before I sit down I will mention the name of a member who used to be here and who spoke out quite strongly against the proliferation of this kind of activity. His name was George Mussallem, and perhaps I recommend the speeches he made in this House to those members opposite.
HON. MR. VEITCH: It's been interesting, Mr. Chairman. Of course, the debate has gone beyond the scope of the amendment, but that's all right.
It might be interesting to point out, by the way, to the hon. member for Esquimalt–Port Renfrew (Mr. Sihota) that all the money that'll be spent on this vessel was spent in his riding and provided jobs there. I thought he might be interested in knowing that. I wish he was here; I understand that people do have to leave this place from time to time. I remember back in the days.... I'm sure the hon. member for Vancouver East
[ Page 254 ]
(Mr. Williams) will remember this, in 1972-1973 when you were in a different position, holding forth somewhere else, or fifth maybe. At any rate, I remember the Premier of the day, David Barrett, saying that he was going to come on with a little lottery. He said: "It won't hurt anybody very much and we're going to have a lot of fun with it." And I remember the howls then, and maybe I was one of the ones who was howling at that time: "There's going to be crime; there's going to be police; they're going to be snatching purses on the streets — you watch it!"
AN HON. MEMBER: You weren't in the House in those days.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Oh, I used to listen to it out there; don't worry about it, hon. member.
It didn't happen. And I was one of the detractors then. I'm telling you I was wrong; I'm telling you lotteries have done a lot of good for British Columbia. So I can understand why for the hon. member for Esquimalt–Port Renfrew it offends his sensitivity somewhat. I will point out, now that he's back, that all of the money on that ship is going to be spent in your riding, so I think you'll be thankful for that — for small blessings, at any rate.
It's not Atlantic City, hon. members, not even a floating Atlantic City. But I do assure you that if there's any rash of purse-snatching on the Princess Marguerite, we'll get the Canadian Navy out or someone who will surround the thing and make sure it doesn't happen. If all these people are there and if the mafia takes over the ship, well, we'll do something about that too. I'm sure we have some way of protecting that. This is a pilot project. It has nothing to do with Victoria becoming any gambling capital, any more than Nanaimo is with a Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society and its bingos, or anything else.
The hon. member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards) was talking about tourism and the tourism that we're selling, "Beautiful British Columbia" and all of that. And we are, but also you'll be interested to know — and I've talked with the hon. Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mr. Reid) and the previous Minister of Tourism — that tourism research shows that the people in other parts of the world who come here are asking for other things. They're asking for entertainment. What this is is a pilot project. I believe that if it doesn't work out, there's no great harm done; it can be reversed. I think it's going to work out all right. I think we're going to get some of that money now that might be spent in other areas, and it's going to be controlled by the government of British Columbia, not some bunch of people from wherever you might think they might come from. It's the government of British Columbia, and yes, you're right, the revenues that flow from this will go back into revenues, and yes, you're right, they'll help the people you were talking about, hon. first member for Victoria (Mr. G. Hanson), and your riding. They'll help the people over there in Esquimalt–Port Renfrew, and even though there'll be no gambling by way of this ship, unless somebody can find a way of getting it up there, there won't be any in the Kootenays and it'll help the people out there too.
I reject the amendment out of hand.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 22
NAYS — 36
On warrant No. 1.
MR. MILLER: With regard to warrant No. 1 and the terminal renovations, could the Provincial Secretary advise whether or not those terminal renovations will be available for use by private vessels other than B.C. Steamship vessels?
HON. MR. VEITCH: To the hon. member, I don't believe so. These are equipped for side-loading vessels, and the configuration must be developed for the Vancouver Island Princess. I doubt very much if it would be suitable for any other vessel unless it was a really big vessel.
Warrant No. 1 approved.
On warrant No. 2.
MR. CLARK: Given that we just had the first warrant, which dealt with the fact that we now have gambling in British Columbia and 150 slot machines, I’m just wondering if the minister can advise us whether any of these tourism marketing initiatives deal specifically with gambling.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The answer is no, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CLARK: Given that we have 150 slot machines and $400,000 was spent on refitting...
MR. CHAIRMAN: You're reflecting on something that's already been dealt with, hon. member.
MR.CLARK: ... it would seem logical that some of this money would be spent for promoting gambling, if that's the view of the House.
[ Page 255 ]
MS. EDWARDS: I wonder if I could ask a more general question. Could the minister describe what's in the warrant?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I'd be happy to. The additional funds were expended on Expo 86-related activities. For example, the guest house campaign to ensure ample accommodation was available in July and August specifically to supplement the hotels; the occupancy rate was over 97 percent. The regional destination campaign was also financed to attract additional visitors to destinations outside of Vancouver. A good deal of the money was spent in the interior, the Kootenays and in the north to make sure that Expo visitors left the lower mainland. We also had increased demands last year for extra road maps, travel guides, accommodation directories. There was a 25 percent increase in the number of out-of-province visitors to British Columbia, so the printing costs were considerably up, and we retained some visitor information centres originally intended to be transferred to the private sector, but because of Expo activity we decided to keep them.
These projects that I’ve just mentioned were identified by the ministry after the 1986-87 budget cycle was complete. The ministry believed that it was critical to the success of Expo 86 that an ample supply of information and accommodation be available during the fair. I should add for the record that the total tourism revenue increased by over $1 billion, or 50 percent over the 1985 levels.
MS. EDWARDS: I wonder if the minister could give some figures for the expenditures as well as the revenue.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The only figure I have is the amount requested by the warrant: $1.74 million. I don't have a breakdown. I could get that information, but I don't have it.
Warrant Nos. 2 and 3 approved.
On warrant No. 4.
MR. ROSE: Sorry, the member for Surrey–Guildford Whalley (Ms. Smallwood) wants to be recognized, but I'm afraid that your peripheral vision, or the giant Clerk sitting beside you, prevented you from seeing our friend stand up.
MR. CHAIRMAN: She is about to be recognized, yes. The member for Surrey-Guildford-Whalley.
MS. SMALLWOOD: Mr. Chairman, my question is to the Minister of Health. I'd like some more information on the amount here. When it talks about money for wages and for funding agency employees, is the $2 million that was allocated for alternatives to abortions included in this amount? If so, can the minister explain to us exactly what that program entails?
HON. MR. DUECK: This special warrant is for wage settlements. I can give you the whole list and the dollars involved: B.C. nurses, $36.308 million; Hospital Employees' Union, $26.980 million; Health Sciences Association, $6.038 million; B.C. Government Employees' Union, $1.884 million; other unions and associations, $2.602 million; hospital non-union, $1.551 million; employee benefits, $6.137 million. In addition, $20 million in funding was authorized to meet the retroactive and annual ongoing costs of the HEU broad banding settlement. Broad banding refers to the establishment of a comprehensive classification system for the members of the HEU for the purposes of achieving comparability with the hospital and allied services component of the BCGEU in accordance with the 1978 arbitration award of H.A. Hope. That makes a total of $101.5 million.
MR. GABELMANN: To the minister. In respect of the moneys made available for retroactive wage settlements for nurses in hospitals in particular, when was that money received by British Columbia hospitals?
HON. MR. DUECK: I'm not sure at this point in time when it was received by the hospitals. I believe it was to be out before the end of March and I think it's in the hands of the hospitals now.
MR. GABELMANN: Can the minister then explain why certain hospitals in British Columbia are saying to their employees that they're unable to pass on the retroactive wage settlements because the money has not yet been received from the government?
HON. MR. DUECK: I understand that it has been sent to the hospitals and they've made a commitment it'll be paid before the end of March.
MR. ROSE: I'd like to direct a question to the Minister of Health. It's come to my attention — and I know to his attention because he received the correspondence — that there's something like, and I don't have the documents before me, a $3,000 difference in the year's pay between social workers doing the same job — essentially the same job description — at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, Fraser-Burrard hospital district, and those social workers employed at St. Paul's Hospital. Is he aware of this difference in the awards? Has he made any decision about what he might do to address this problem?
HON. MR. DUECK: There is an inequity or difference in pay between various groups. Some are even negotiated by different unions. The whole area of inequity is being looked at and there will be some adjustment made in various areas in the coming months.
Warrant No. 4 approved.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 18, Supply Act (No. 1), 1987, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
[ Page 256 ]
A division in committee ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
ON THE BUDGET
MR. HARCOURT: Mr. Speaker, you will recall that this morning I was discussing the "Love Boat" economic strategy of this government, and somehow or other this afternoon it changed into the "Vice Boat" economic strategy. This morning I was speaking about the anticipation that the people of British Columbia had that there would be a fresh start, and the disappointment that they've found with the highlight economic strategy of the October election campaign being the "Love Boat" economic strategy, and that that has started to disintegrate and that the captain and crew have deserted the leaking love boat and are now on a rowboat, rowing with one oar in circles, trying to discover a vision and an economic strategy for this province. What we have are some jilted lovers — the people of the province of British Columbia — who want some courage, want some vision in this province. I am now going to help lead those jilted lovers off of this leaky love boat and back to the solid earth of a New Democrat vision of the economy of British Columbia.
Hope is at hand. We are optimistic, positive people. We're not negative, doubting people like some of the members on the other side. We have a very exciting vision of this great province of ours. We feel that the people of British Columbia don't need any more disappointments. They need a clear, straightforward recovery program so that B.C. can become the prosperous and stable province that it should be.
[Mrs. Gran in the chair.]
We believe that that can be done through cooperation of the public and private sectors, instead of saying that the public sector is in the way, the public sector is the problem, get out of the way of the private sector. That is not cooperation. That is not a fresh start. That is a continuation of conflict, confrontation, of the kind of restraint and conflict that we had for three years. That is not a fresh start, Mr. Speaker. We believe that there has to be cooperation between management and labour, where that can be done, as the B.C. Business Council and the B.C. Federation of Labour are starting to do right now; and that should be encouraged rather than set back.
We believe that we need to enlarge our development infrastructure in this province, so that we can get British Columbia going again. As New Democrats, we feel that that can be done by targeting the development of particular industries. You have heard the past Forests minister, the hon. first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Williams), talk about what needs to be done so that we can be the greatest tree farmers in the world, to restore the integrity of our forest and put 20,000 new people back to work. We believe that that is possible; that part of that $350 million that is coming back to this province . . . . Not all of it; we have never said all of it. We've said a substantial portion of it should be going back into the forests of this province. That is the number one industry; that is the number one job creator in this province. That is where the investment should take place. We have targeted that as the backbone of the B.C. economy throughout this province.
We should get on with identifying the lands that should be stocked first, the kind of intense silviculture that should take place, in terms of weeding, in terms of thinning and in terms of proper protection from infestation and forest fire. We should then invest also in research and development, not just cut down logs and ship them out, but build furniture and build fine computer paper; not ship jobs out of this province, but have aggressive marketing strategies, particularly the new markets in the Asia Pacific. That is a very significant area of activity that has not been addressed in this particular budget.
We have said that the Asia Pacific area is one where there is tremendous potential, particularly in the burgeoning urban centres. We have here a tremendous skill of cities, of helping the cities of the developing countries of southeast Asia, in India and other areas. We should be targeting those as specific job creation opportunities for our engineers, for our planners, for our architects, for the business community that builds the sewer and water systems that make this a great province.
We have said, furthermore, that tourism has great potential, not for slot machines, not for gambling. And we say entertainment. What sort of entertainment do you mean? I have a constituency that presently is plagued by some street entertainment that I don't think we want to see in the rest of this province. I don't think that that is why people come to British Columbia. I think people come to British Columbia because of the beauty, because it's a safe . . . . It's a clean family place to come. We should have tourism strategies that stress that in each region of this province. You'll be hearing more about these strategies and in more detail. We use the Canada Harbour Place trade and conference centre to bring 5,000 Texas ophthalmologists here, and then for the other week that people are here in British Columbia, 500 of them could go to Vancouver Island or to the Kootenays or to the Okanagan. This could be done in well-marketed tourism strategies so that it was a package arrangement when they left Austin, Texas, and came here to visit all of British Columbia. That should be being talked about. Of the million Californians who were here last year visiting, three-quarters of them were here for the first time. There should be follow-up on that great tourism potential. We have not seen a detailed tourism strategy. We want that detailed tourism strategy to put people back to work.
We have talked about new manufacturing opportunities in this province of ours, and I'll give you one: medical services. We have in British Columbia some of the finest research practitioners, medical people, anywhere in the world. There is a great opportunity, to the Asia Pacific in particular, and China, to sell our products. We're starting to do that now. I started, as the mayor of Vancouver, to lead trade missions to Guangzhou, to Shanghai, to other areas of China. Medical people were prominent, selling new technology and new pharmaceutical processes developed here in British Columbia. There is a great market there. So we have indeed, Madam Speaker, a number of targeted industrial and service areas where we think the jobs can be created.
We think also that we can use the unemployment insurance and welfare schemes to keep workers in jobs. Use that to help people keep working, as we have had with Art Phillips in the critical industries. Keep industries going; that's as big a struggle as starting new industries.
We have said that there should be customized training programs in communities throughout this province, and they should be part of regional economic development strategies.
[ Page 257 ]
There should be, furthermore, specific venture capital developments. The entrepreneurial skills of our citizens need to be sharpened in our mixed economy, where there is cooperation between the public and the private sector, not the belittlement of the public sector for the private sector. Business development centres, venture finance corporations such as VanCity, started by two of my colleagues here — the hon. members for Vancouver–Point Grey and Vancouver East . . . . A venture capital program, using the people of British Columbia's capital . . . . Union pension funds have billions of dollars that could be used to create jobs for small-and medium-sized businesses. We started that with B.C. Savings and Trust, and that act was never proclaimed. There was an opportunity a decade ago to use B.C. capital to help B.C. business people and entrepreneurs to form new enterprises.
Look at community development corporations. The hon. member for Vancouver East set up a wonderful experiment in Burns Lake of community cooperation between the community at large and our native people, established a fine activity in Bums Lake, one that involved the municipality. Community or worker co-ops. I've just returned from the Kettle Valley, where they have some food processing co-ops that are just starting to get off the ground and have filled a void in that area. So, Madam Speaker, there are lots of very specific possibilities for the very creative and energetic people of British Columbia in this cooperative program that New Democrats would like to see happening.
Another example is municipal infrastructure, our city services. As some of the hon. members here who helped develop the program for municipal infrastructure upgrading and who come from a municipal background know, there's at least a billion dollars of work to be done to bring our municipalities up to scratch. There's no mention of that in this budget. That could create 5,000 new jobs a year for the next five years, Madam Speaker.
So for some of those members who say, "What would you offer as an alternative?" we offer a great many very practical alternatives for a clear, courageous vision of the kind of prosperous and stable British Columbia we would like to see — and the people of British Columbia would like to see once they get off the leaky love boat and back onto the firm ground of a New Democratic economic strategy for this province.
Some other elements that would be involved, Madam Speaker — and we will be touching on this more as we get into the debates on estimates — are: restoration of the integrity of the education system so that our young people have a future; women having an equal role in our society and pay equity; proper child care; programs specifically designed for women to gain entrepreneurial skills and start their own enterprises; and improving labour-management relations and not just talking about labour problems. It's a very clear difference of attitude that New Democrats have with the government. We don't regard it as labour problems; we regard it as a way of increasing labour-management cooperation and bringing about a stable, more healthy economy. Finally, we think that as people we have got to come to grips with the lack of will so far to settle outstanding land claims with our native people, and the other issues that native people have been crying our for to have settled. There has to be a political solution. The courts are saying: "Please don't throw it back on us. Please don't play ostrich. Correct this injustice so that we can bring stability to people in British Columbia."
So we say that there are alternatives. We are offering alternatives. And I hope that that young person, whom I talked to, who hitchhikes up and down the highway from Houston to Burns Lake, totally demoralized and depressed, who lost his wife and two children and his own sense of wellbeing, doesn't have to hitchhike up and down the highways of this province to find some dignity and justice for himself and his family; and that that young cab-driver, whom I met in Vernon, who has taken three retraining courses to empty jobs, can use those God-given skills to have a dignified way of life in this province. In conclusion, we New Democrats say that there is a future for our great province. Let's get on with it.
HON. L. HANSON: It is indeed a great honour for me to rise in my place and address this House for the first time, and to express my support for the innovative, honest and straightforward provisions of the 1987 provincial budget. As this is my first speech in this chamber, I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate both the Speaker and his deputies on their appointments and wish them well that they may guide this august body through the months and years ahead. I would be remiss if I did also not congratulate the Premier, my fellow government members, as well as the members on the opposite side, on their election as Members of the Legislative Assembly of this most fair of Canada's provinces.
I'd like to take a few minutes to introduce myself, my riding and my ministry to the hon. members. Although I am relatively new to provincial politics, I am not new to politics in general. Having served in many different roles in civic and municipal government, I do not have to elaborate on politicians to this assembly. Instead, I will defer to Oscar Wilde, a famous English writer and poet, who once stated: "A politician is an animal who can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground."
I would like to tell you a little of my riding, the beautiful Okanagan North. It's also known as the top of the Okanagan where, as everyone knows, we grow apples that are larger than the Premier's tomatoes. Aside from the food industry, we also have a strong forestry and agricultural sector. Between North Okanagan and my sister riding of Shuswap-Revelstoke, we grow over 90 percent of British Columbia's asparagus. In addition, in the city of Vernon we host the annual Vernon Winter Carnival. The success and popularity of this event is a testament to the hospitality and community spirit of the people in Okanagan North. That carnival is the largest in the country next to Quebec's.
The budget allocation of $15 million for a Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Culture marketing program will help our province expand on the tremendous success of Expo 86. This marketing program will further enhance the tourism industry in the Okanagan, and the Pacific Rim Institute of Tourism will help ensure the long-term potential of our province.
No winter visit to Okanagan North would be complete without taking advantage of the recreational facilities and natural year-round beauty of Silver Star mountain, one of the finest family-oriented ski areas in this great province and therefore in Canada. Over the past few years, Silver Star has blossomed and grown from a regional ski area to a major destination resort, and has become a preferred year-round training area for several of our country's finest teams and
[ Page 258 ]
athletes. However, lest the hon. members think that the people from Okanagan North are softened by living in a year-round playground, they should be warned that we are a very determined people. I ask you to remember such people as Steve Fonyo and the members of the Canadian ski team, the crazy Canucks Dave Irwin and Rob Boyd.
Vernon is also the location of the Kalamalka campus of Okanagan College, arguably one of the most beautiful locations of its kind, with a breathtaking view of one of nature's most beautiful gifts to the Okanagan. I refer to Kalamalka Lake, an Indian word meaning lake of many colours, which transforms hues from deep royal blue to an iridescent aquamarine with the passing of the day. This college campus serves the constituents of North Okanagan with a wide selection of post-secondary educational opportunities, including full-time university transfer courses and numerous continuing education courses.
The increase of base funding for advanced education will ensure that all British Columbians continue to have access to effective and accessible programs that enhance individual initiatives and potentials. This year the colleges, institutes and universities will receive an additional $38 million to base funding, a 5.8 percent increase. A further $27 million will help fund new advanced education initiatives in areas such as teaching techniques and the expanded use of technology to make advanced education even more accessible, as we have new student assistance programs being developed to further ensure that every individual has access to higher education.
Hon. members, back to Okanagan North. Heading south from Vernon along Highway 97 you come to Kalamalka Lake lookout, which attracts thousands of tourists each year and is reported to be one of the ten most photographed points in the world. Continuing along Highway 97, you come to the orchards of Oyama and Winfield, and in fact Winfield is the home of one of the most modernized fruit-packing facilities built and operated by the Vernon Fruit Union.
Madam Speaker, if you have the opportunity to travel east from Vernon, you would encounter Lumby, where forestry and agriculture form the base of the economy. Crown Forest, Riverside Forest Products and Bell Pole all play an active role as prominent corporate citizens in this community.
In this budget the government is increasing silviculture expenditures by almost 28 percent, an actual $54 million increase. In fact, in the past five years the annual expenditures on silviculture have increased from $88 million to $249 million annually, ensuring the continued viability of our province's greatest renewable resource. Next year we will plant 200 million seedlings and fulfil the other silvicultural targets in the five-year forest and range resource program to ensure that our forest industry remains strong and viable and that we protect and enhance our forest heritage for the future.
Further along Highway 6, the Monashee highway, is Cherryville, which epitomizes the essence of all that is good in small towns. Here the sense of community is strong and the active Cherryville community association is the focus of many community activities. At the present time the association, with much appreciated assistance from the provincial Expo's legacy fund, is pressing on with the construction of a new community hall to replace their previous facility, which was destroyed by fire.
Continuing along the scenic Monashee, we encounter Edgewood, where a short ferry ride transports you over the Arrow Lakes to Fauquier and Burton. These communities all lie in close proximity to the Arrow Lakes and exemplify the best of rural living in British Columbia.
Hon. members, I could continue indefinitely to describe the many physical and cultural characteristics that make Okanagan North one of the most desirable places to live in British Columbia. I know all members recognize that this budget will improve the quality of life in B.C. as a province, and in the Okanagan as the jewel in Her Majesty's provincial crown.
However, as the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services, Madam Speaker, I would like to give the hon. members a brief overview of my ministry and how its constituent parts work together to provide an important service to the people of British Columbia.
I look at labour and consumer services as two sides of the same coin. My colleague, the Minister of Finance, has identified in the budget the fact that potential investors and trade partners characterize British Columbia as a troubled industrial relations climate. Work stoppages reduce consumer spending. They cripple the multiplier effect of our base industries' earnings and force the extraction of tax dollars from other areas to ensure the maintenance of our social programs.
These damaging work stoppages cannot be allowed to continue. The labour side of my portfolio seeks to ensure the integrity of the workplace, and the consumer services side seeks to ensure the integrity of the marketplace. When British Columbians are on the job, my ministry makes certain minimum standards of employment are met, whether there is a collective agreement in place or not. Workers in this province have a right to a safe and healthy workplace and to certain minimum conditions of employment.
One of the first actions I undertook as the new Minister of Labour was to raise the minimum wage to $4 per hour. But, Madam Speaker, my ministry also has a great responsibility to the employers of this province. Therefore, my employment standards branch is considering ways and means of helping small employers to understand and comply with the act and regulations.
The budget expands on this government's belief in the private sector and individual initiative and that the best way to ensure new and lasting private investment is through competitive tax structures that establish a high level of business confidence in our province.
This government will ensure that business investors know and adhere to the rules of our workplace and that they are aware of our province as an attractive, stable, safe work and investment environment.
On the consumer services side of the coin, my ministry protects the rights of consumer in the marketplace. As a former small businessman myself, I know how easily a few unscrupulous operators can taint an entire business sector. So let me reassure the hon. members that consumer services will be an integral part of this ministry, not merely an appended responsibility.
Owing to the reduction of the social services tax from 7 to 6 percent and the coming reduction to 5 percent, consumers in this province will have more money to spend, businesses will sell more products, producers will increase production, and the economic machinery of this province will run a little smoother and therefore a lot stronger. We are a people oriented and a service-oriented ministry. We have a clear sense of purpose and direction: to serve British Columbians
[ Page 259 ]
in the workplace and in the marketplace by making sure everyone is playing by the same set of fair and equitable rules. We recognize that rules help make the workplace and marketplace a better place for British Columbians to do business.
But we also realize that there is a strangulation effect that deadens creativity and entrepreneurial imagination when there are too many rules to play by. This budget has assisted us by easing the bookkeeping burden on many small businesses through such measures as the repeal of the restaurant tax, which was often difficult to calculate and robbed the small businessman of valuable time that could be spent generating more business.
Above all, Madam Speaker, my ministry realizes that its main responsibility to the people of British Columbia lies in stable, long-term labour relations. We can play a vital role in getting our economy moving again, and doing so to enhance the $10 million diversification allocation that the Ministry of Economic Development will use to direct and unleash the tremendous abilities and creativity of our business research and academic sectors through the B.C. enterprise centre.
Hon. members, once again it has become clear that even though most collective agreements in this province are settled without work stoppage, we cannot afford long and costly strikes that effectively bring the economy of our province to its knees. For example, one of the major economic sectors in my riding of Okanagan North is forestry, and disruptions like last summer's forest industry strike are devastating to innocent third parties, who need to be protected. Individuals and small business alike suffer from these prolonged disputes, and I know that neither the employees nor the employers really benefit from a work stoppage.
This government, through this budget, hopes to encourage employee investment in the employer's firm through an equity participation program. The employee participation program will provide a provisional tax credit for investment in the employer's firm. In the long term this initiative will help illustrate the mutually dependent relationship of employers and employees, and give both a vested interest in the success of the firm. In the meantime we will make changes, legislative and other, to ensure that British Columbia's reputation as a place in which to invest is not further damaged.
Last year Expo 86 focused the attention of the world on British Columbia, and now that the eyes of the world are upon us we must show the world that B.C. is a viable place for industry and investment. Let there be no mistake: British Columbia's credibility is at stake here. My ministry — indeed this government — is doing and will continue to do everything in its power to assist B.C. industry in its efforts to deliver a quality product on time and at a competitive price, and that means finding new solutions to the old problems that have hampered us throughout the years.
This government, Madam Speaker, has made the fresh start we've all heard so much about. The Premier promised the people of British Columbia an open, accessible style of government, and that is exactly what this budget and the Ministry of Labour and Consumer Services is giving them. When we wanted to know what British Columbians thought about the labour relations atmosphere, we went to them and asked; we asked them how our industrial relations could be improved. As many of the hon. members know, we held meetings in nine communities, from Dawson Creek to Courtenay. I personally read over 700 submissions from citizens.
Those citizens were concerned enough about the state of affairs in this province to sit down and tell us what they thought could be done to improve things. That, Madam Speaker, is government at the grassroots level. In the next few weeks, we will present the recommendations arising from the submissions, and we will put into action creative new solutions that will bring about not only long-term labour peace but will also help foster economic prosperity. Because of the overwhelming response we received during the labour legislation tour, we are going to continue the practice of asking British Columbians to take an active role in the government of the province.
My ministry and the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Relations will be going to the people to find out how British Columbians want us to deal with liquor policy. A great deal has happened since the Liquor Control and Licensing Act was last revised in 1970. The time has come to decide whether a new direction in liquor policy is necessary and, if so, what direction we should take. The House will also be pleased to note the increased role in this process for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services, the hon. member for Chilliwack (Mr. Jansen), who will chair the panel as it travels across the province visiting 11 communities.
We recognize that liquor policy, like labour legislation, is a sensitive area. There are many diametrically opposed interests, and we will work diligently to find the common ground among these groups so that we can plan a provincial liquor policy that is economically viable and socially acceptable. As you can see, we are openly and honestly seeking answers to some of the questions British Columbians have asked from time to time, and the broad answer to those questions is economic renewal. This budget and the minister responsible should be acknowledged for innovative measures conceived to ensure that the people of this province have access to necessary social programs, while keeping in mind that we must collect revenues to pay for those programs.
We cannot continue to mortgage future generations with a legacy of debt while we live beyond our means. My ministry, like others in this government, is moving towards a framework of economic renewal in its areas of responsibilities. If we in this House, both as members of the government and the loyal opposition, all work towards this goal of economic renewal, I have no doubt in my mind that there will be an increased prosperity for all British Columbians.
However, hon. members, I want to remind you that a wise old man, probably a retired politician, once described prosperity as "an economic condition the businessman creates and the politicians take credit for." We must keep in mind that meaningful, long-term jobs can be created only through private sector initiative and investment. Through the coming session, I will strive to ensure that my ministry, in accordance with the aims of the throne speech, strives to improve labour relations and ensure an equitable balance in the marketplace in this great province of British Columbia.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The Chair recognizes the second member for Vancouver East. [Applause.]
MR. CLARK: Hey, there's more applause for me than your minister. It sounded like a throne speech there. Is this the budget speech?
I'm going to be very brief, like all of my colleagues on this side of the House, and to the point. I think there are, of
[ Page 260 ]
course, two questions on any budget, and the questions are: how are you going to raise money — where does the income come from?; and how are you going to spend money — the expenditures? I am going to be, I think, very brief on expenditures, and I want to deal a little bit at some length on the question of revenue, where the revenue comes from, especially since all of the back-benchers over there keep asking the NDP: "Where are you going to get the money?" Well, I'll try and answer that question for you a little bit.
AN HON. MEMBER: Good stuff.
MR. CLARK: I thought that was the Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Culture (Hon. Mr. Reid). He's not here.
With respect to expenditures, just very briefly, the most glaring omission obviously is the question of jobs. With 15 percent unemployment in this province you'd think there'd be some recognition that there needs to be some moving on the question of job creation. I think that, probably, with the exception of Margaret Thatcher's government, virtually every government in the western world recognizes that it is the role of government to provide leadership and in a sense to provide jobs for the citizens. This province, with its record, needs that kind of leadership more than ever, and it was sadly lacking in the budget speech.
Obviously, one area where we could have moved and didn't move was on the question of reforestation, and we saw the silly statements today by the Minister of Finance, who thinks he's the Minister of Forests, on the question of reforestation, and the kinds of comments like we can't spend the money. I just want to remind the House that Prof. Walters from UBC, who has just retired and I think is one of the leaders on the question of forestry in this province, and Prof. Reed, current chair of the forest policy institute at UBC, have indicated several hundred million dollars needs to be spent on reforestation. There's nothing on that, even though this government campaigned clearly during the election for more money for reforestation.
There was nothing also, of course, on the question of municipal infrastructure — and I see the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston) here. I hope that there's going to be more meat on it later. From my point of view, and I think the member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Hon. Mr. Davis) would agree, that the Cassiar connector has to be built, and we've been waiting and waiting. I don't think that's in the budget, given the kind of cuts that we've seen, but I'll certainly be raising it again, and I hope it's put forward.
And of course, there are no specific programs for women, and we know that 67 percent of minimum wage-earners in this province are women and that unemployment affects them probably more than others. There are no specific programs on pay equity. Virtually every province in Canada is moving towards pay equity; Ontario and Manitoba are leaders on it. There was not even a mention of the principle that women who do work of equal value get paid appropriately. Nothing like that is in this budget.
There are no specific programs for youth unemployment — again, a glaring weakness in the budget, given that a quarter of our young people in this province are unemployed.
I think I won't mention too much on education and social services; I think the kind of inadequate funding that we've seen has been very eloquently put by the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Cashore) and also the member for Burnaby North (Mr. Jones). There're really not the kinds of increases that need to be in place if we want to see better quality or maintenance of the service that we should have in this province.
I want to deal with the question, really, of revenue. How are they going to raise the money? Who pays the taxes in this province and in this country? Where will the money come from for any new programs that I have talked about and where I think there should have been more money spent? The government purports in their budget to bring a greater measure of fairness to the taxation system. Fairness to the taxation system — that's what I want to talk about today.
Working people, I submit — average British Colombians — don't mind paying taxes, or their share of taxes. Of course no one likes to pay taxes, but they don't mind paying their fair share of taxes so long as everybody else pays their fair share as well. But everyone's not paying their fair share, in my view, in British Columbia. Some, in fact, pay nothing at all, not a penny. The budget makes, I think, the system even more unfair. I did some checking, and I see the member for Burnaby-Edmonds (Mr. Mercier) there, who asked me where I got some of these statistics: Taxation Statistics, 1986 edition, a Revenue Canada publication. I just looked at it — the latest one just came out in February — and it shows exactly how many British Colombians in 1984 who made more than $40,000 in income paid no taxes, not a penny of taxes.
MR. MILLER: No taxes! None at all?
MR. CLARK: No. I've got some support here from the member for Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlottes.
In 1984, 1,308 British Columbians who made more than $40,000 in income paid not a penny in taxes. In 1983 the number was 1,762 wealthy British Colombians who paid no taxes. Is that fairness, Madam Speaker, that 1,300 people pay no taxes? Seniors in British Columbia are being asked to pay a $5 dispensing fee for drugs, while over 1,000 British Columbians pay not a penny in taxes. Is that fairness? People are being asked to pay $5 for physiotherapy, chiropractic and other services that used to be provided for free, while over 1,000 British Colombians pay no taxes. Medical Services premiums have gone up by 10 percent, a minimum property tax of $100 levied on seniors in this province — all those kinds of chippy things, I think, while we have over 1,000 wealthy British Columbians who have not paid a penny in taxes.
Mr. Speaker, everyone should pay their fair share of taxes in this province. There should be no special privileges for the wealthy. What does the budget say about this question? What the budget says is they're going to remove the surtax of 10 percent on upper-income earners. That's been removed. Even that modest tax — as I think it can be demonstrated — and people escaped paying that taxation. That's been removed.
The budget actually brags about lowering the tax rate on the rich in this province. I just want to read that section. It says:
"A more significant indicator of the economic incentive effect of income tax is the marginal tax rate. This is the amount of income tax collected on the last dollar of income earned by a taxpayer. The marginal rate of income tax paid by those in the top income bracket in British Columbia is currently third lowest among Canadian provinces. The proposed restructuring will simplify the provincial income tax and will
[ Page 261 ]
decrease the maximum marginal tax rate, making it the second lowest in Canada."
So this government brags while it's putting little taxes that mean a lot to lower-income people. They're putting those kinds of taxes, generating very little revenue, at the same time that they're reducing the tax on the wealthy in this province. I really think that's shameful, and it's not fair. The budget purports to be fair and it simply isn't.
I want to turn now to the corporate income tax system. The tax burden — I talked about this earlier in this House, but I can't emphasize it enough — has shifted dramatically over the years in this province. In 1950 income taxes paid by corporations were exactly equal to income taxes paid by individuals — fifty-fifty. Now individuals pay 700 percent more, seven times what corporations pay in this province. Last year over $2 billion was paid by individuals and only $300 million was paid by corporations in this province. What's happening in this budget? Is there any attempt to address this very real shifting of the tax burden onto ordinary people? The government brags about $600 million in tax relief to corporations, part of which is a further reduction in the corporate tax rate to 14 percent. Every dollar in tax cuts to businesses means that they have to be made up by increased taxes elsewhere. That's what's happening: tax cuts to business, a reduction of the tax for wealthy individuals and an increase in the tax burden of ordinary British Columbians; and even worse, on the poorest, the senior citizens of this province. Average people have to pay more because corporations in this province are paying less.
The proliferation of corporate tax breaks in Canada means that many highly profitable corporations fail to pay a single penny in taxes, much like wealthy individuals. National figures from Statistics Canada show that in 1983 a total of 79,196 profitable companies with total profits of $13.3 billion paid no tax, not a penny in income tax to the federal or provincial governments. Among these, 64 corporations with profits of more than $25 million each, paid no tax — again not a penny.
Let's take just two B.C. examples from the Financial Post. In 1984 Daon Development Corp. made profits of $50 million. Did they pay any taxes? They claimed a tax credit of $21.1 million. In 1983 Genstar Co. made profits of $103 million and in 1984 had profits of $131.7 million, while claiming tax credits of $3 million and $18.3 million respectively. Statistics Canada figures indicate that B.C. companies — you break it out by province — likely earn annually more than $1 billion in profits which completely escape corporate taxation in this province.
In recent years the number of corporations actually paying corporate income tax has varied between one-third and one-quarter of all corporations in this province. Given this, how can additional corporate tax cuts contained in the budget be expected to have a positive impact on investment and job creation? It simply won't work, and it hasn't worked for successive Social Credit governments.
Every year for the last three years we've seen massive tax cuts to corporations in this province, reducing their already low burden further. Yet unemployment hasn't got any better, it's got worse — and that's why. Wouldn't it make more sense economically, wouldn't it be more economically productive, to cut personal taxes, or to spend money directly on job creation, than to give the money, holus-bolus, to corporations? There's a significant body of evidence that tax rates and the level of the tax burden bear little relationship to actual corporate performance. People don't invest in a province like British Columbia because we're 1 or 2 percent below the corporate tax rate anywhere else in Canada. For example, Japan and Germany have the highest corporate taxes in the world, and yet their rates of growth are among the highest in the world.
There is simply not a straight-line correlation between the level of taxation and profitability. Small businesses pay almost twice as much tax on their profits as large corporations, and yet they're the source of almost all the new jobs. So if low taxes create jobs, how does anybody explain the fact that small businesses pay twice as much tax on their profits as large businesses do? There is simply no correlation.
So the strategy of reducing the corporate tax burden in this province is simply flawed. If the goal is to create jobs, and not simply to be biased in favour of large corporations — which I think we've seen from successive Social Credit governments . . . . We only have to look at the forest industry to see that it's the small guys, the truck loggers, that have not had a fair shake and not had access to our timber resource — that we own. Social Credit governments have carved up the province in large corporations and given them access to timber; and that's not been healthy in terms of creating jobs. Surely personal tax cuts and direct government involvement would be more effective than the kind of corporate tax cuts we've seen.
A 1985 federal study conducted by the Mulroney government — this is your government, federally, I'm sure . . . . The study was done by the Department of Employment and Immigration. It found that, dollar for dollar, a cut in personal income tax would create five times as many jobs as a cut in the corporate tax rate. Direct government spending creates six times as many jobs as cuts in the corporate tax rates. That was done by the federal government in 1985.
AN HON. MEMBER: That's your government.
MR. CLARK: My government? I didn't vote for them.
What could be done and what should have been in the budget in terms of redressing this kind of imbalance, in terms of dealing with the free ride that large corporations have been getting in this province? The government should have made a real commitment, in my view, to real tax reform, to moving towards fairer taxes — not just to say it in the budget, but to move towards a fairer taxation system in this province.
In Manitoba Premier Howard Pawley is pressing the federal government on this ground, and of course the federal government is even starting to move on the question of fair taxation. And it moved in terms of the 2 percent tax on net income — which at least cuts across everybody — took a fair share from everybody, and didn't simply rely on the income tax mechanism.
Let's look at Ronald Reagan, another soul brother to the members opposite. He's an idol, I think, a hero to the members opposite. The tax reform bill in the United States that Ronald Reagan is promoting will cut taxes to most families and increase corporate tax revenue in the United States by $120 billion. This is proposed by Ronald Reagan: a 20 percent minimum corporate tax. If it can be done in rightwing Ronnie Reagan's United States, then surely it can be done in Canada and in British Columbia.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
[ Page 262 ]
B.C. doesn't need the federal government to do this. Other provinces, notably Ontario and Quebec, have their own corporate tax system, and we could do the same. If we had it here, if we implemented Ronald Reagan's minimum tax — which I would argue is too light — we would generate for this province $200 million more in revenue annually from corporate income tax. Combine that with the cancellation of $600 million in annual corporate tax cuts — that's in the budget; the budget brags about it — and you've got $800 million in new revenue that could be used. Combine that with taxing those 1,308 wealthy individuals who don't pay any tax in this province, and haven't paid any tax — people making more than $40,000 and $50,000 a year who don't pay any tax — and you come close to a billion dollars in revenue for the government that could be used. That means no chipping away with little taxes on seniors, no chipping away at the poor and at seniors in this province. It means no increases in personal income taxes. It means that money could be used for job creation and for reforestation. It might even mean a reduction in this horrendous deficit if we were collecting taxes on corporations, as other jurisdictions are.
Mr. Speaker, as long as the wealthy and the powerful in this province don't pay their fair share of taxes, the government can't plead poverty to this side of the House and can't argue that the tax system is fair. Genuine tax reform is what is needed in the province, and that is what we don't have in this budget. It is simply not fair. The tax burden has shifted year after year onto ordinary people, onto average British Columbians, and away from corporations.
If we want the Legislature to command respect, if we want the government to be able to implement their programs and justify them, then we have to move towards a fairer system of taxation where everybody pays his fair share. That is sadly lacking in this budget.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: As we are aware, Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor is approaching the precincts. So I will move now that we adjourn this debate until later today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, perhaps we could take a brief recess, and you could assemble the members by ringing the bells, and then we will have the honour of His Honour's presence in our Legislative Assembly.
The House recessed at 4:58 p.m.
The House resumed at 5 p.m.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took his place in the chair.
CLERK-ASSISTANT: Supply Act (No. 1), 1987.
CLERK OF THE HOUSE: In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this bill.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, adjourned debate on the motion that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee of Supply.
ON THE BUDGET
MR. WEISGERBER: Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. It is with pleasure and a little bit of surprise that I stand and speak this afternoon. It's indeed a pleasure to rise and speak today to the budget presented to this House by the hon. Minister of Finance on Thursday last, March 13, 1987.
As a member on the government side representing the constituency of South Peace River, I want you to know that I fully and totally support this budget. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Finance and his staff for the outstanding job they've done of presenting this budget. The Premier and his staff are also to be congratulated. They've done a great job in assisting and obviously setting the direction for this fresh new start in British Columbia.
This budget has several outstanding features. It addresses very effectively the major concerns raised by the electorate during the last election. Primarily more funding for primary and secondary education: we heard that, and we responded to it. Support and assistance for post-secondary education, additional money for health care services, more assistance for families and single parents, a lower deficit, jobs and job training for our youth.
[Mr. Pehon in the chair.]
The Premier promised during the campaign to listen to the people, and this government has responded. I believe that this budget very accurately addresses the needs and wants of British Columbians.
Tax reform is a major part of this budget. Changes have been made to make the tax system fairer for British Columbians, to maintain a positive climate for development, to reinforce environmental priorities, to make taxes simpler and easier to understand, and to generate the additional revenue necessary for the essential program improvements. This is an innovative budget, one that the Minister of Finance can be justly proud of.
This is the first opportunity I've had to sit and listen to a budget debate, and I'm totally amazed and somewhat perplexed at some of the statements made by the members opposite. Last Friday the hon. first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) referred to the budget as "29 pages of bad news for the average British Columbian." That was what it was — 29 pages of bad news for the average British Columbian. Again today he made the statement that this budget is unfair to the average British Columbian. I find that totally amazing. This budget is "29 pages of bad news for the average British Columbian."
Let's look at it. Page 8: "The end result is that the 1987-88 deficit is forecast to be $850 million" — $321 million below last year. That's bad news for the average British Columbian! I can't believe it. "The fact that we have been able to reduce the deficit is due to our government's commitment and willingness to make tough decisions in order to move towards a balanced budget." Bad news for the average British Columbian.
Some more of this bad news: "On the recommendation of the Minister of Social Services and Housing, we will increase
[ Page 263 ]
support allowances for families by 5 percent, effective June 1, 1987, with a further increase of 5 percent on December 1, 1987." Bad news for the average British Columbian, eh? "The maximum shelter allowance under GAIN was raised by 4.7 percent last October and will be raised further on December 1, 1987, by an average of 6 percent." Bad news for the average British Columbian. Bad news for the people you purport to represent. I'm really amazed.
The increased benefit levels are expected to cost $51.7 million for social services — $50 million extra and it's bad news! "For the coming year we plan to spend $54.6 million to provide more job opportunities for employable GAIN recipients, an increase of $34.1 million." More bad news. "The forestry JobTrac program has provided job training and work experience for more than 1,500 income assistance recipients this year, while helping to meet our silviculture targets." Bad news again. We're increasing funding for daycare assistance by 30 percent to $26.7 million. Bad news. "Funding for services for the disabled in the Ministry of Social Services and Housing is being increased to $147.7 million, a 15 percent increase." What can I say?
"In recognition of the importance we place on the family in our society, funding for programs providing day care for children and the preservation of the family unit will be increased by 9.6 percent to $88.8 million . . . .
"Funding for the Ministry of Health will increase by $237 million, or 8.1 percent over the current year's budget . . . .
"For some time the government has expanded silviculture activity as rapidly as facilities and funding have permitted. In the coming, year expenditure on silviculture will increase by almost 28 percent, or more than $54 million . . . ."
Bad news as well.
Next year we will plant 200 million seedlings compared to 74 million planted just seven years ago.
MR. WILLIAMS: You'll have to throw a lot away.
MR. WEISGERBER: Really? We'll also meet the other silviculture target specified in the 1986-91 five-year forecast. Coal represents one of our richest resources, and the government is moving on several fronts to increase sales and develop innovative new markets. Who is the gentleman across that just very, very recently was critical of the fact that we were doing nothing for northeast coal? I was amazed, considering the reading that I'd done on the discussions in this Legislature in the past on northeast coal. I thought it was really something to see the gentleman opposite defending northeast coal.
Really, sometimes the switches that go on in here . . . . I guess you've got to be here longer than most of us have been in order to truly get the flavour for how this works. I think it depends on which side looks expedient at the moment, and probably northeast coal . . . . It's quarter past five, so let's have some fun here, guys. Be nice.
Just to summarize — I see that the first member for Nanaimo is here and I've got a couple of issues that I'd like to touch on before he leaves again — let's look at education: $40 million additional in special initiatives and $42 million into general budgets for the schools, a total of $80-some million additional for education. Bad news for the average British Columbian.
Funding for colleges, institutes, universities and distance education will be increased by $38.4 million, or 5.8 percent, to meet cost pressures and higher expenses caused by enrolment increases. A further $27 million will be allocated for special advanced education initiatives to be determined after discussion with the institutions. Bad news?
MR. WILLIAMS: A new university at Dawson Creek.
MR. WEISGERBER: Hey, that would be all right, eh? It would go nicely with our ethanol plant, wouldn't it?
This government is giving special attention to financial assistance.
MR. WEISGERBER: And cheap at that price.
MR. WEISGERBER: I think this is going to be fun.
MR. WEISGERBER: Chetwynd?
No. They're starting to get tired of hearing the bad news over there, so let's move on to something . . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Is that all there is . . . ?
MR. WEISGERBER: No, there's more.
During his speech last Friday the first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) implied that the budget would restrain new housing starts by introducing a new property transfer tax. Mr. Speaker, I disagree with that completely. In fact, I believe just the opposite will be true. I think most of the people on this side, and I would think probably most of the fellows opposite, received a brief about March 18 from the Canadian Home Builders' Association of British Columbia. Page 1 of that brief is a statement by them that 96 percent of all the homes built in British Columbia were built by builders who build less than ten houses a year. Those are not spec homes that they're building; they're custom-built homes that are not subject to a property transfer tax, and in fact will enjoy the benefit of a reduction of 1 percent in sales tax on the materials that go to build those houses. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this budget will make it cheaper and more attractive for new home building in British Columbia this year.
MR. MOWAT: They're not saying much out there now.
MR. WEISGERBER: No, I don't hear much.
I want to take issue with one final statement made by that hon. member for Nanaimo, and that is with regard to comments made by him and several other members opposite regarding the meat-packing plant for the interior.
MR. WILLIAMS: That's a good one.
MR. WEISGERBER: Yeah, I think it is. All we've heard is that it's got a funny name and everybody giggles about it across the way — the same group of people who are talking
[ Page 264 ]
about job creation, right? Here's a foreign company that wants to come in and create 600 new jobs in the interior and it's funny, right? I think it's probably funny because it's not going in the right riding, or perhaps it's funny because these people came and talked to the Premier and he has indicated his support for it. It might go into Prince George North, and then you folks would have to change your whole tune over there. It's a possibility.
MR. WEISGERBER: Yes. The statement was made that there's no supply. That's the reason this thing is going to be a bomber — because there's no supply for the product. The former Minister of Agriculture probably would be aware that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 150,000 to 160,000 feeder cattle are sold in the interior of this province every year. All they've got to do is be fattened, add some $50 million to our economy, and create 600 jobs. But it's a joke, ladies and gentlemen. Funny.
No, I really don't think it's very funny. I don't mind some kind of positive criticism, but that sort of stuff is just criticism for the sake of criticism, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MOWAT: That's why they're on the other side.
MR. WEISGERBER: I guess so.
Finally, to get back to the bad news in our budget, I guess we should touch on the fact that sales tax has been reduced from 7 to 6 percent. I haven't quite understood how that's bad news for the average British Columbian, but I am sure that as we go through this debate one of the members opposite will stand up and enlighten us as to how a reduction in sales tax is bad news for the average British Columbian.
While I have everyone's attention, I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about a problem that's unique to our South Peace River constituency. That is one that surrounds the social service tax. Because of our proximity to Alberta, and particularly to the city of Grande Prairie, many residents take advantage of the fact that there is no sales tax in Alberta to make their major purchases in that province. Home furnishings and appliances, recreation vehicles and building materials are items which are easily transported, and the price makes the savings on sales tax significant. Because of this, British Columbians are shopping in Alberta. Our furniture and appliance retailers are having a really tough time, and almost all our recreational-vehicle dealers have gone out of business.
The social service tax presents a second and perhaps more serious obstacle to trade in the area. The cities of Dawson Creek and Fort St. John are major shopping centres for a large Alberta farming community immediately east of the border. These farmers haul their grain into British Columbia. They bring their cattle to British Columbia. They normally do their banking in the cities of Dawson Creek or Fort St. John. The sales tax in those cities makes those farmers very reluctant to make their major purchases in British Columbia and therefore encourages them to do the rest of their business in other cities in Alberta.
The combination of British Columbians going to Alberta for large-ticket items and the loss of sales to neighbouring Albertans has a serious effect on the business communities of Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. The loss of jobs and income is a significant problem in the constituency. A solution to this problem was found for the sale of automobiles. Cars and trucks purchased in Alberta are taxable when they are licenced in British Columbia. Dealers in British Columbia can sell to Albertans tax-free with proper documentation of residency.
I think that it's necessary that we find some way in these border communities to apply those same principles to other goods, particularly other major purchases. I hope to be able to present a more detailed brief to this House at a later date.
There are some significant changes to motor fuel taxes in the budget, changes that reflect the thought and innovation that is so much a part of this budget. The 2 cents a litre increased tax on leaded fuel will encourage motorists to burn the proper fuel in their automobiles. It will also add $37 million in additional revenue to the province. The budget also provides for a 2 cents a litre reduction in fuel taxes on gasoline containing ethanol as soon as there is a facility in this province to produce ethanol, and I expect that that will be in the very near future. This is good news indeed for Peace River grain-farmers, and for all of British Columbia. It's going to create jobs. It's going to put additional badly needed money into the fanning community, and it's not going to cost an awful lot of money.
British Columbia grain-growers are indeed in a time of real crisis. World prices for grain are being forced down by the European Common Market and by subsidies in the United States. Forecasts are that prices will be even lower in 1987-88 than they were last year or in this current year, and in this current year the real purchasing power of grain is less than it was in 1930. We've got a really serious problem with grain farmers in British Columbia and in all of western Canada. I certainly hope that with the help of the minister and the members, hopefully on both sides of this House, we can get some assistance for these grain farmers in time for spring planting.
I was also pleased to see that the increased spending for health care will make it possible to accelerate some capital projects. One of them that is a real concern to me is in the community of Pouce Coupe, a small community just outside of Dawson Creek that has an extended-care hospital that is badly in need of replacement. I certainly applaud the Ministry of Finance for making that extra health care money available. It is badly needed.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, let me state again that there is no question that I totally and fully support this budget, a budget that effectively addresses the concerns of so many British Columbians, a budget that deals compassionately with those in our society that are least advantaged, a budget that does represent a fresh start, a budget that makes a substantial investment in our most important resource, people.
MR. JONES: Mr. Speaker, I had intended to prepare my remarks in response to the budget speech last weekend, but I think along with many other members in this House, when I got home I found that the phone had been ringing off the hook. The constituency office was inundated with calls both on Friday and on Saturday, and it has carried on this week as well.
Many of those calls were from people concerned that they were being captured in the property transaction tax, and from seniors who were very upset with the problems in dispensing fees. Some of those calls were heart-wrenching calls. I don't want to go into those calls, because I want to maintain my composure in this House. But there was a tremendous
[ Page 265 ]
amount of anger, a tremendous amount of frustration, and a feeling of betrayal, particularly on the part of seniors.
But I want to restrict my remarks at this time to education. There is a similar feeling of anger and frustration and betrayal among the education community in this province. I'd like to comment on the inadequacy of funding for public education in this province, on the problems associated with the fund for excellence, and on the problems with the disparity between funding for public and private schools. Before I do comment on the funding, though, I'd like to put it a little bit in context. I think what we should do is look at the public mood out there. Certainly a good government would be interested in the public feeling on these things.
Ever since about 1982 — and I think you remember that period in time; certainly the education community does . . . . That was the beginning of the so-called restraint program. I think we've figured out by now that that wasn't a restraint program; it was a megaproject spending spree on the part of this province, and in terms of that spending spree the education community suffered the most of all in the public service. Public opinion polls that have occurred since that time — every one, poll after poll after poll — have told this government to stop the cutbacks, to restore funding to education, to improve that funding. In 1984 the school boards of Coquitlam and Vancouver conducted polls, both with parents and non-parents, and the figures were 70 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent in favour of improved funding. In 1985 the Province newspaper conducted a poll and found a similar result — 81 percent.
The "Let's Talk About Schools" review, conducted by the Minister of Education at that time, was a very interesting one. You might not believe polls. I think you probably believe that you can get the answer you want by asking the right question. The toughest question you can ask people, in terms of a poll, is: can we take money out of your pockets? The government, to make sure that it asked the toughest question at that time, asked that very question, through the Gallup organization. A surprising 51 percent of the public said yes to improved funding of education in this province: "You can take money out of my pocket."
In 1986 the BCTF did a similar poll, and found 75 percent in favour. And BCTV, just after the last election, found that a full 79 percent of the people who voted for Social Credit in this province supported an increase in funding — 79 percent of voters who voted for this government want you to improve funding for education. How has the government responded to this call for improved funding?
MR. JONES: Well, that's what I've done. I've read about it, and I've read about the rhetoric. I have a little bit of problem with this rhetoric that I see in the throne speech, because I have committed all my adult life to the education of young people, as a schoolteacher, as an activist, as a school trustee and as chairman of a school board, and I believe it when we say education is the bedrock on which we must build our new economy. I believe it when we hear that a range of new imaginative initiatives must be brought into the school system. I believe it when it says in the throne speech that all British Columbians are proud of their public education system, that it's fared well in evaluation and testing across the land. I believe it too when it says that we should have more local responsibility and that education is an investment in the people.
I hear the members opposite support this idea in their speeches. Obviously the word's gone out in this province to the Socred benches that teacher-bashing is over, that working in education is now a real job. We have to at least supply the rhetoric, if not the substance. I think that's the best adjective that can describe this budget — charisma without substance.
But I want to test the real feeling of the members opposite. I've talked to members opposite, and one in particular whom I have a great deal of respect for. I mentioned the tremendous disparity between the funding for public and private schools in this province. Rather than saying, "We're proud of the public schools," you know what that individual said? "That'll teach the public school system. Maybe it'll smarten them up." That's a little bit different than what I read in the throne speech. "That'll smarten them up." I think that's a little different. That's not what it says in the throne speech, and that's not what you said in your speech as an MLA.
I don't believe members opposite do believe in education as an investment in the future of this country. I don't believe they are proud. I think they view education as a sink-hole for public funds, as a drain on the public treasury. That commitment isn't there. How do we know that? Let's have a look at the budget. And it's not easy to look at. I appreciate that the members opposite look at the figures there, and they can be fooled by those figures. I guess the people that I feel sorry for are the educators in the ministry — those people who want to be advocates for education, who do care for quality education in this province. I think they are pushed into the background, and they wander around the ministry mumbling "f" words — words like "funds for excellence" and "fiscal framework" and "financial management system" and "functions." They have to cook these books to produce figures that look better than they really are.
The real figure, if we look at it . . . . What did it cost the school districts in this province to operate the education system in B.C. last year? Something like $1.7 billion.
In terms of operating funds that this government has added to support those activities, of $42.3 million we're looking at a 2.5 percent increase, which when we are looking at a 4 percent inflation rate is terribly inadequate. It's a travesty.
Don't take my opinion for it. A couple of years ago the former Minister of Education set up a fiscal framework review committee. This was a non-partisan committee, an independent committee composed of superintendents and secretary-treasurers around this province. A couple of weeks ago when the budget announcement . . . . Although it wasn't out, the fiscal framework amounts were out. That committee had a chance to look at those figures, and they made a recommendation for a $90 million increase, which they considered to be a conservative recommendation to maintain minimal services for school districts. They said $90 million was the minimum; we see $42 million as the government's response.
How do the school trustees around this province feel about this kind of response? The board chairperson from Victoria said: "There is no resemblance to inflation rates. We don't accept this at all." A similar response from the Surrey School Board chairperson: "It nowhere near covers our needs." The president of the B.C. School Trustees' Association, certainly not a supporter of this side of the House, said: "The lack of government funding is taking its toll on all
[ Page 266 ]
school boards, and in his school board there is very much a sense of frustration." It goes on and on, around the province.
So what are school boards going to do? They are going to bite the bullet; they are going to make up the difference that the government has shortchanged public school education on in this province, and they find that very difficult. They not only want to make up that shortfall between what the government has offered and inflation, but they want to begin on the road to recovery to recoup the loss of services that we've seen from Social Credit government since 1982. It is difficult, because in order to raise 1 percent of the money they need, they have to raise homeowner taxes 12 percent.
It's even more difficult in this year because of the changes to the minimum property tax. Something like 70 percent of all rural homes are going to experience an increase in property tax anyway. The member for Yale-Lillooet (Mr. Rabbitt) will be interested to find out that every home in Merritt will experience a tax increase, whether the school board does anything or not about improving their situation.
I'm sure the government — a little different from the Premier's attitude a few years ago — really appreciates school boards around this province, because they are excellent buffers. They take the flak for the shortcomings of this government. They try not to. NPA trustees point to Victoria. That board chairman says if we have to go to the taxpayer, it will be because the provincial government does not provide enough money. Prior to 1983 — and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, I'm sure, is very much aware of this — school boards were allowed to go to the non-residential taxpayer, but this opportunity has been confiscated from them. Now what we see, and I think the scenario is clear on why that's true, is that the provincial government has introduced a three-year program to reduce those non-residential property taxes by some $600 million. Six hundred million dollars — that's a lot of bucks.
That's more than double the Expo deficit. That would pay for the kinds of underfunding of education that we have experienced in this province for something like five to ten years — $600 million. To top that off, the government is going to eliminate property taxes on machinery and equipment. First of all the members opposite ask for positive, constructive alternatives. These have been proposed, and then when they get proposed, they say: "Where will the money come from?" Well, let's stop all the gifts to industry. That $600 million could go a long way to assisting the real needs of people in this province.
And if you're going to do that — I mean if there is some Messianic desire to give away money to industry — to give away $600 million — let's do it in a constructive way. Let's insist that there be jobs created with that $600 million. Let's insist that those profits be kept in British Columbia. Let's study some of these giveaways to make sure that they do create a benefit to the economy of British Columbia. What we see in this province is gifts to corporations, while the homeowners are picking up the difference in the underfunding that the provincial government is not giving.
One of the things that the government — through another one of its buffers, the compensation stabilization board — loved to use was the "ability to pay." We've seen year after year after year the shifting of the burden of responsibility onto the homeowner, who has the least ability to pay. Talk to some of the seniors in my riding about their ability to pay — these people on fixed incomes. Their ability to pay and your own government bureaucracy will tell you there is no relation between property and ability to pay.
There is no question that this budget underfunds public school education, is not meeting the expectations of the public in this province, is providing gifts to corporations and is increasing property tax to people who can't afford it. But what about the fund for excellence that the member opposite mentioned a few minutes ago? This was a measure introduced in last year's budget, and it was $110 million for the first year. It was to improve productivity and "efficiency" in the school system. There were specific criteria attached to that, and most of those funds went to purchase computer systems for the school system. Unfortunately, and because of the bad management of this province by some people who still feel they are capable of managing our school system and our economy, a large portion of those funds had to go into basic operating costs and to textbooks — to basic, fundamental things; not things that are considered part of excellence, but to the basics.
What we also see is that a large portion of those funds were approved and committed last year, but there was no money to fund them, so they're going to be funded out of that $40 million that you were talking about. Twenty million dollars of that $40 million in fact has already been committed, and guess who approves these funds? It's the cabinet. The cabinet approves these funds.
What we have in British Columbia is a school system that's underfunded in basic services, that provides grants for hardware like computers, that gets angry at districts that suggest they use these excellence funds for some of the basic needs that they have in operating expenses — and these funds are approved by politicians. What happens when you have these kinds of funds approved by cabinet is that you create the potential for a political slush fund. Why does the cabinet have to approve all these little computer things that are going on around the province? Don't they trust the locally elected school trustees? Probably the people that are making the greatest contribution to education in this province for the least return are school trustees. Why don't you trust them to make some of these decisions themselves?
So much for the rhetoric about investment in people; so much for the rhetoric about decentralization; so much for the rhetoric about more local responsibility; and so much for the rhetoric about getting government off the backs of the people. The cabinet is in there making all of these little bitty decisions; they're not getting off anybody's back.
But the government did do something right. About a year ago they set up a committee, a minister's advisory committee on computers, an excellent committee. Good stuff. A good model.
MR. JONES: The member opposite needs more influence in cabinet now, because that was a good model. It was a broad-based committee that had representatives from business and industry and education, top-notch people in this province, looking at the problem. It had a one-year time-line, time enough to do the job in order to provide leadership in deciding what we need in education in this province in terms of hardware, in terms of software, in terms of curriculum — the how, when and where for introducing computers into education in this province.
[ Page 267 ]
But guess what's been happening while that committee has been meeting. The cabinet has also been meeting and they've been making decisions before that committee reports on how to dole out all this little money for computers around the province. I see a tremendous danger here for this government. What if the committee comes back with recommendations that say do different things than the cabinet's been saying all this time? I think that could be terribly embarrassing for this government. I think what we've seen is that this government can't run a school system. They can't even run a slush fund. What we've seen in this budget is that there has been really a vicious attack on seniors, on home-buyers, on the unemployed.
But it's not all gloom and doom. There are some who are pleased with this budget. The Federation of Independent School Associations is pleased with this budget. They got an increase of 42 percent in their funding as compared to 3 percent for the public school system; 42 percent must be one of the largest increases in funding in British Columbia history. Five dollars . . . .
MR. HUBERS: Break it down.
MR. JONES: Wait. Five dollars for every independent school student to every one dollar in the public school system.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's your children, too.
MR. JONES: They're our children, too. But when we do five times for one group of children over what we do for other school children, that's a divisive kind of thing to do. The division has been created. It's unfortunate, because it's creating anger and frustration in the public school community, and it's not in the best interests of all school children in this province.
If you want to increase the funding for the private school system, then increase the funding for the public school system, because the private school system is tied to it by their formula.
AN HON. MEMBER: Break it down for me.
MR. JONES: It's coming.
I'm concerned, too, when we do talk about private schools in this province, that there is the danger of stereotyping. There is excellent work being done by independent schools. Many of them have tremendously underpaid staffs. There's a school in my community that deals only with dyslexic students. If the government could properly fund this kind of alternative, education could easily be handled within the public school system, but it's not funded properly.
But there are a dozen or so schools in this province that charge over $5,000 per year tuition fees. These schools are rolling in money. They're allowed to operate at a level almost twice that of the public school system. They admit their students on the basis of entrance exams. They're allowed to advertise their product. They're allowed to advertise small classes. I see it on television. These schools are the bastions of the privileged. Those schools that are the bastions of the privileged don't need the extra funding, don't want the extra funding, and don't want government interference. But you keep giving it to them.
Why is this happening? Why the tremendous disparity? Why create this allure in the private system? Why is there this move to privatize education in this province? We're not going to privatize the parliament buildings. Why are we privatizing education? I believe that it is not a commitment on the part of this government to the independent school children of this province. There is no commitment to school children in the public school sector. It is the bottom-line mentality again. It is the fact that it costs less to have children in independent schools. It saves the government money, and that's why we see this tremendous disparity. Private schools don't want a lot of growth. They believe that small is beautiful.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
If we want alternatives in this province, let's start funding our public school system properly. Let's broaden that system and not narrow it, as we have seen in recent years. Let's provide alternatives within the public school system to make that system attractive. Let's encourage that system and nurture it. Let's not weaken it. That's the system that is publicly accountable, that is responsive to communities, that is controlled by elected school trustees and elected legislators in this House. It is not in the hands of any one group, either educational, political, religious, ethnic or linguistic.
In his response to the throne speech the Premier said that this government was going to provide "assistance to ensure that education in British Columbia would be second to none anywhere in Canada." Well, I know this province has had to endure the hyperbole of this Premier for some months now. But by any objective measure . . . . Pick one. Do you want to pick the percentage of the provincial budget going to education? Do you want to pick the operating costs per pupil as compared to other provinces in Canada? Do you want to pick the pupil-teacher ratio? Do you want to pick class size? What objective measure do you want to see this statement backed up by? By any objective measure that you pick, you will find that British Columbia — sadly — is at the bottom of the barrel if we consider every province west of New Brunswick.
I say let's get real. Let's stop misleading the people of this province in education. This is the Legislature; it's not Fantasy Gardens. What we've seen with this budget is a failure to fund the public education system, a failure to decentralize, and a division created between the public and private systems.
Another issue I would like to raise in the few minutes remaining is an issue I'm reluctant to raise. I think there are two issues in education that I'd like to see dealt with on a nonpartisan basis. One is AIDS prevention education and the other is the commission on education.
We've seen commissions on education in this province in the past. We saw them in 1925, in 1935, in 1945 and in 1960; every 10 or 15 years we had a royal commission on education. We have not had one for 27 years. The qualifications of those commissioners were impeccable; they had stature in the province — not only in the province, but in the education community in this province. The time-lines to do the job were adequate. The last commission, the Chant royal commission, had a three-year time-line. They had a broad mandate to look into the tremendous complexity of our education system.
But what we've seen in this province for the last ten years has been teacher-bashing and restraint, and that has produced a tremendous call for an objective look at education in British
[ Page 268 ]
Columbia. I think the expectations of those people who were calling for the commission were symbolized in the word "royal" in royal commission, and to me that means political neutrality. It means independence from government, and it means public stature and acceptance.
Those people had hoped for consultation on the royal commission prior to its implementation, on its composition, so that it would be broad-based — like the former member mentioned for his computer committee — so that it would have adequate terms of reference to deal with the broad scope of education in this province, the tremendous changes in complexity that occurred in families and what precedes and what follows public school education. They wanted an adequate time-line so this subject could be dealt with in depth and so that there would be time for public input. But what have we seen? A government that went to the electorate on consultation. There was no consultation on the setting up of this commission. We don't see consultation; we don't see any of the reasonable sort of approaches expected. What we see is a one-man show with qualifications of a Crown prosecutor whose major claim to fame in education was prosecuting a teacher. I think there's an unfortunate linkage there. I don't think we're going to see the public acceptance, and the media have indicated that.
We don't see a reasonable time-line. If we consider the time to set up the secretariat, if we consider the summer months, if we consider the thing being completed by November, because December is not a good month, what we see is a three- to four-month commission on education. The "Let's Talk About Schools" review that was done in 1985 was an 18-month study. It had 500 public meetings involving 25,000 people. It was considered too short for adequate public input, but if that's all we're going to have — if we're just going to have a quickie commission — then let's go with the recommendations in the "Let's Talk About Schools" report, because there were some good recommendations in that report.
I'm not suggesting that a commission should be used to sweep under the carpet some of the pressing issues of education today, issues like funding and bargaining legislation, but if this government is not willing to expand the committee and give them a time-line adequate to do the job, if it's not willing to provide time for real public input and to live up to the expectations that the people of this province had, then I say forget it. If you're not going to live up to the spirit of the Premier's promise of last summer, and are just going to live up to the letter, then I say forget it.
In summing up, I would like to paraphrase a quote that I think is very familiar to members present, but it's relevant to this budget discussion. It's a quote by a former President of the United States that suggests something to the effect that if we want to measure our society, then we consider how we treat those in the dawn of life, our children; those in the shadows of life, the disadvantaged; and those in the twilight of life, our seniors.
The assessment of this government, as indicated by the budget, is that we don't see a fresh start here. We see a bad start, and if we're going to give a grade to this government, then is has to be a failing grade in terms of this budget.
Hon. Mrs. Johnston moved adjournment of the debate.
Hon. Mr. Savage tabled the five-year forest and range resource program report, the annual report of the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing; the annual report of the Ministry of Forests; the annual report on agricultural aid to developing countries; and the annual report of the Milk Board for the year ended December 31, 1986.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.