1987 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 34th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MAY 19, 1987
[ Page 1209 ]
Native education funding. Mr. Harcourt –– 1209
Visible minorities on police forces. Mr. Sihota –– 1209
Casino gambling. Mr. Blencoe –– 1210
Okanagan building component plant. Mr. Williams –– 1210
Access to transportation for special-needs children. Ms. A. Hagen –– 1211
South Moresby national park reserve. Mr. Kempf –– 1211
Expropriation Act (Bill 22). Second reading
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 1211
Mr. Sihota –– 1213
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 1218
Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 9). Second reading
Hon. L. Hanson –– 1219
Mr. Lovick –– 1219
Mr. D'Arcy –– 1220
Mr. Sihota –– 1220
Hon. L. Hanson –– 1221
Municipal Amendment Act (No. 1), 1987 (Bill 30). Second reading
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 1221
Mr. Blencoe –– 1222
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 1223
Teaching Profession Act (Bill 20). Report –– 1223
Hon. Mr. Brummet
Legal Profession Act (Bill 25). Second reading
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 1224
Mr. Sihota –– 1226
Hon. Mr. Strachan –– 1229
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 1229
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Attorney-General estimates. (Hon. B.R. Smith)
On vote 12: minister's office –– 1229
Hon. B.R. Smith
The House met at 2:08 p.m.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today we are indeed privileged to have with us students and the teacher in charge from Star of the Sea School in Astoria, Oregon. These are grade 8 students, and they're here to study our parliamentary system and see Victoria and Vancouver. Would the House please give them a nice warm British Columbian and Canadian welcome.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) is not in the House today, but it gives me great pleasure to introduce, from the great riding of Oak Bay, Milnor Alexander, who ran for the New Democratic Party in the last provincial election.
AN HON. MEMBER: How did she do?
MR. BLENCOE: Just wait.
Would the House please make Milnor Alexander welcome.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Speaker, in the precincts today are members of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia: Norman Thomas, registrar; David Henderson, president; Judy Kotow, vice-president; and Marvin Nider, councillor. Would the House please make them welcome.
MR. LOVICK: Mr. Speaker, I just noticed two guests in the precincts today from the constituency of Cowichan-Malahat, and I would like the members to join me in welcoming Miss Bonnie Oldershaw and Mr. John Waldin — former students of mine, as it happens.
MR. JONES: Mr. Speaker, it's my privilege today to introduce to the House two prominent British Columbians who have been watching the Bill 20 debate very closely. The first is Mike Dumler, president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which has something like 10,000 members who are going to be affected by this legislation. A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of introducing the president of every teachers' federation in this country except our own, and today I would like to introduce to the House — and would hope the House would make both these people very welcome — Elsie McMurphy, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
NATIVE EDUCATION FUNDING
MR. HARCOURF: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations about the cut in funding for native education. Recently the federal government, we understand, decided to take away $125,000 in funding to the Urban Native Indian Education Centre in Vancouver. This is a centre which assists native students to prepare for college programs and the workplace. Given the proven effectiveness of the programs at the centre, has the provincial government or the minister made any representations to the federal government in opposition to this loss of very important funding?
HON. MR. ROGERS: Yes.
MR. HARCOURT: Supplementary on that. Could the minister let the Legislature know exactly what the representations were?
HON. MR. ROGERS: That question could take some time, but in essence there is the whole matter of the federal payment of education funding and the master tuition agreement. In discussing the master tuition agreement, we have also raised other educational issues with the federal minister responsible, and I have yet to receive a formal reply to my requests for information on the matter.
MR. HARCOURT: A new question which again involves education of natives. We understand that the federal Department of Indian Affairs has recently decided to no longer fund post-secondary education for status Indians who have been accepted for full-time study. They said that the reason is that there aren't sufficient funds for this program. Has the minister made any representations as part of his discussions with the federal government on this matter?
HON. MR. ROGERS: It's more of a global question, because all of the aspects of native peoples' education in the province, regardless of whether it's K to 12 or post-secondary, are included in my discussions with the federal minister.
HON. MR. HARCOURT: Supplementary on that. Does the minister anticipate when he will be receiving a response, and would he be prepared to table it in this House as soon as he has that information?
HON. MR. ROGERS: I can't anticipate when I'll get a reply to that letter. But I think it's important that if a minister writes a letter to a federal minister and is planning to table the reply and make it public, then you have to let them know in advance when you're writing them that letter. I would anticipate being able to bring to this House the substance of his remarks to me, but I don't think it would be appropriate for me to table the letter that I received from the minister without having advised him in advance that I was planning on tabling his letter.
VISIBLE MINORITIES ON POLICE FORCES
MR. SIHOTA: A question to the Attorney-General, who I see is now in the House. I've been advised that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is concerned about the number of visible minorities represented on Canadian police forces. Could the Attorney-General please advise this House what the government is doing to better B.C.'s track record in this regard?
HON. B.R. SMITH: We take quite seriously the need to attract more minority members into all of our police forces, both our local forces and the RCMP. I must say, recruitment has been disappointing in some areas of that community. It hasn't been for lack of trying; it has been difficult to get people to offer themselves. I am quite frankly far more concerned with the need to do that, Mr. Member, than I am
[ Page 1210 ]
with what the Solicitor-General perceives as a growing need to up the bilingual allotment in the RCM Police. That doesn't help us much in British Columbia. It may be of assistance in Manitoba and the Maritimes; RCM Police don't police Quebec, of course.
We have a real problem here in recruiting policemen from the native community and the Asian community, and that's where we need help. Any assistance or ideas that he can offer would be very well received on this side, I can tell you.
MR. SIHOTA: And women, too.
As a supplemental, Mr. Speaker, the question simply is this: the Attorney-General indicates that he's disappointed at the level of response in this regard. Will he advise this House whether or not he has taken any specific steps to study why that response has been so disappointing?
HON. B.R. SMITH: I've certainly made representations to the Solicitor-General about the RCM Police recruitment and our own policing here in our local police forces. Our branch has made strong representations to try to improve the number of visible minorities. I didn't include women in that because I believe they're a majority of our population, but we have also been seeking women recruits. We've probably done a little better in that regard than we have with some of the visible minorities.
MR. BLENCOE: I have a question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The government of which she is a member has decided to do a major expansion of gambling casinos in British Columbia; therefore the cost to local government in terms of increased policing has the potential to be horrendous. I'm wondering — and my question to the minister is — what studies have been done with regard to increased costs of policing to municipalities that will result from the government's expansion of gambling in this province.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: I'm not aware of a major expansion, but to the best of my knowledge, at least within my ministry, there have been no studies done.
MR. BLENCOE: A question to the Premier of this province who is, along with the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith), the architect of expanding gambling casinos in the province of British Columbia. Municipalities, mayors and aldermen and those who have to pay for local costs of policing are deeply concerned about your government's move into gambling casinos and expansion. Police chiefs are concerned about the increased costs and moving away from community policing to deal with prevention.
My question to the Premier is: is this government prepared to meet those increased policing costs to deal with the potential for organized crime and to get in touch with the potential for horrendous policing costs in the province of British Columbia?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: The member makes a number of suppositions that I can't comment on. I would ask that he ask the question of the Attorney-General.
MR. BLENCOE: Well, I'll try to get an answer from the Attorney-General. This government is moving ahead on gambling casinos in the province of British Columbia. Police chiefs have already indicated their concerns with criminal activities. My question to the Attorney-General: what is he prepared to do to ensure that municipalities don't pay the increased policing costs, and what studies are being done in the province of British Columbia to deal with this growing concern?
HON. B.R. SMITH: The assumptions and inferences contained in the question haven't been proved at all in the asking of it a second time, but nevertheless I will answer the question as best I can. The only expansion of gaming in this province that has taken place has been on an international cruise ship, and to my knowledge that has not involved policing by local and municipal police forces. Also, that gaming has been run by the province and has not provided any risks or difficulties with operators, and the experience with it in the very short time that it's been operating — two weeks — has been one of considerable approval and law and order.
So I don't think that we're going to have these horror stories which the member opposite seems to be almost wishing for so that he can point to them. He's wishing for these horror stories. He keeps talking about Atlantic City north and Las Vegas north. That's not the intention of this government, now or ever.
MR. BLENCOE: A last supplementary to the Attorney-General. Will the minister give the assurance of this House that if policing costs do mount — and there are indications and concerns already with policing departments — if those costs rise dramatically, will the province of British Columbia cover those increased policing costs for local government?
OKANAGAN BUILDING COMPONENT PLANT
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Premier. On his return from the filming of Sinterklaas in February, I guess it was, in Amsterdam, he indicated that there would be.... He tantalized the unemployed of the Okanagan with the thoughts of a building component plant that might be worth some $10 million. Can the Premier report progress with respect to that plan?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the amount of the proposal is exactly. Certainly I don't recall the figure that has been quoted. However, there are a number of economic development proposals that we're pursuing right now. I can't give you the status of each of them on a daily basis, but I assure you that we keep in reasonably close contact, to make sure that if the opportunity is there to see it proceed quickly, it will be done. We're very pleased with the progress made to date.
MR. WILLIAMS: Supplementary. The date of that announcement was February 16. Could the Premier advise us of the name of the firm involved that he referred to at that time?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I don't have it just now, but I'll certainly get it.
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MR. WILLIAMS: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Would the Premier be willing to table all correspondence and studies related to the proposal?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: No.
ACCESS TO TRANSPORTATION FOR
SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN
MS. A. HAGEN: My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Many developmentally delayed preschool children in the lower mainland are unable to attend early development preschool classes and therapy without special transportation available to them. Can the minister assure us that B.C. Transit has as its policy the provision of such services to all such special needs children in the region?
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: I would think that that information could probably be obtained from the Vancouver Regional Transit Commission, and I would be pleased to receive a response for you, Madam Member.
MS. A. HAGEN: Supplementary on that same matter to the minister. If there is any problem with the policy that B.C. Transit has regarding these children, could the minister assure us that she will take action in regard to a change in policy, in order to increase access for these children?
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: Mr. Speaker, I think that would be referring to future policy. Perhaps it would be best if we waited until we received the report.
MS. A. HAGEN: I also have a question for the Minister of Social Services and Housing. Services for special needs children are funded by the Social Services ministry. Can the minister tell us what action he has taken in his ministry to ensure that there is improved access to the special programs for these developmentally delayed children?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Well, Mr. Speaker, just to the extent that in my ministry we work very closely with B.C. Transit to make sure that there is transportation for all such people, as they do fall under the purview of this ministry. I don't see any change to that policy in the future.
MS. A. HAGEN: Mr. Speaker, can the minister assure us, then, if there are children who are not in receipt of such services at the present time, that through contact with their local social services and housing offices, transportation services would be available to those children?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, I would give this undertaking to the member and to anyone: if they require special transportation, be in touch with my ministry, and we will deal with each case on an individual basis.
To the best of my knowledge — and I have repeated this many times in this House — we never turn anyone away from this ministry who is in need.
SOUTH MORESBY NATIONAL PARK RESERVE
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Premier. Now that British Columbia has capitulated to eastern interests with respect to South Moresby, and in particular Lyell Island — against the wishes not only of the majority of the people on the Queen Charlottes but I believe of the majority of British Columbians — has the Premier decided where he will be awarding Western Forest Products timber, in order that not only the loggers on Lyell Island, but those who work in the plants and operations supplied by the timber from Lyell, might continue to make a living?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, negotiations are proceeding on behalf of British Columbia, on behalf of Western Forest Products, on behalf of the logging operation, Frank Beban, and also on behalf of the employees. I can't really comment while these negotiations are proceeding.
MR. KEMPF: Supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Is the Premier not aware that all of the annual allowable cut in British Columbia is already committed? Has the Premier decided which forest company's annual allowable cut will be reduced in order to provide Western Forest Products with the timber required?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, negotiations are proceeding, and that is certainly a part of the negotiations.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. STRACHAN: At the outset, Mr. Speaker, the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts is meeting today at 3:30 to discuss organization and strategy –– I would ask leave of the House for that committee to sit while the House is sitting.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 22, Mr. Speaker.
HON. B.R. SMITH: It's a pleasure to rise and move second reading of the expropriation bill. This bill is probably one of the most progressive pieces of legislation of its kind in the country. At committee stage we will be making a few changes to the bill which will, I think, improve it even more. The bill provides for protection for the average citizen against the taking of private property without reasonable notice and fair compensation.
It may be hard to believe, Mr. Speaker, but the old expropriation laws in this province go back to English legislation passed in the mid-nineteenth century. At the moment there are more than 30 B.C. laws that provide for some form of expropriation. In this bill we're trying to end the chaos, to modernize the variety of outdated and inconsistent procedures and compensation principles, and to have a one-stop shop for expropriation. Some might say that the protections and procedures contained in the legislation will make the job of expropriators more difficult. If this is the case, then I think that's a good result, because for far too long the scales of bureaucratic justice have been tipped in favour of the acquiring authority. This legislation will ensure that the scales are now balanced a lot better and that property owners whose land, through no fault of their own, is within the scope of a public project will be assured of fair and equitable treatment.
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The bill establishes a uniform process to ensure that there will be an elected, politically responsible authority to approve proposed expropriations and that there is a process to establish fair compensation for those whose land has been confiscated. I use that word "confiscated" deliberately, Mr. Speaker, for that goes to the very heart of the matter. We will settle, of course, 85, 95 or even 99 percent of these cases without resorting to expropriation. But expropriation is still confiscation, and this is why there has to be a procedure that ensures not only the appearance but the reality of fair process, which is so crucial to the fairness of a government that wishes to develop the province and take land compulsorily, as it has to do occasionally.
When discussion proposals for a new Expropriation Act were released in August 1982, the government was deluged with letters of support and commendation from both private citizens and interest groups. About 120 responses were received, including a number of very lengthy briefs. All of these had one thing in common: they indicated support in principle for introducing a new expropriation bill.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those individuals and groups for the tremendous amount of thought and work that went into the preparation of their briefs and the good quality of their material. Their suggestions have greatly assisted us in ensuring that this legislation is the finest expropriation legislation in the country.
The letters and briefs that we had came from a good cross-section of both the public and private sectors. The common thread was an overwhelming support for a new, understandable and fair expropriation law. I should say that in developing the act before us, we have taken into account the recommendations of the 1971 Law Reform Commission report on expropriation and the Clyne report on expropriation, and we have reviewed the expropriation laws in every other Canadian jurisdiction. In its 1978 report on expropriation the Law Reform Commission of Canada identified five guiding principles that it considered would be essential to a fair act. Those were: equality of treatment, clarity and accessibility, openness, fairness and political accountability. All of these principles are embodied in this legislation.
This legislation will ensure that all expropriations are approved by an elected, politically accountable authority. Municipalities and school boards will be held accountable for their expropriations under the act, and the minister responsible for the administration of the government legislation in other cases of expropriation. But the important thing is that they won't go thirty different routes; they'll go one route, and you can think of what that means to municipalities, school districts and local authorities who have been caught, just as innocent landowners have, in the maze of expropriation law that has snarled this kind of work.
As an added protection, the act will give the cabinet the right to designate another minister as the approving authority, should circumstances warrant that. In those few instances where agreement to purchase land required for public purposes can't be reached and expropriation is required to serve the owner, the expropriator will be required to serve the owner of the land with a notice of intention to expropriate and a copy of the Expropriation Act. Additionally, the expropriator will have to post a sign on the land to be expropriated indicating the contents of the notice, and must file the notice in the land registry office. Except for linear developments, such as highways and hydro lines, within 30 days of receiving the notice any owner of land affected by the expropriation is entitled to request an inquiry by an officer appointed by the new Expropriation Compensation Board. In the case of a linear development, considerable planning has already taken place on the route selection, and in many cases there are no alternative routes. In addition, this lengthy planning process has already provided opportunities for public input. It would be impractical and expensive to provide for pre-expropriation inquiry for those linear developments. But in all other cases these requirements will be met in all but the most extraordinary case of urgency or compelling public interest. In those special circumstances, the expropriator may apply to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to dispense with the public inquiry; but those are very limited in their scope.
To expedite the process, the expropriating authority is also able to initiate the inquiry procedure and may do so prior to the serving of an expropriation notice. Next, where the Expropriation Compensation Board grants a request for an inquiry, then a public hearing will be held to examine alternative sites or changes in the amount of land being taken. The inquiry officer then has 30 days following the first day of hearing to submit his report and recommendations to the approving authority. That authority will have the power to approve, modify or disapprove of the expropriation.
Where an expropriation has been approved or approved with modifications, the expropriator — and this is probably one of the most important new features of this legislation that distinguishes it from other jurisdictions — has to make an advance payment to the owner of the land being expropriated within 21 days of the approval. That advance payment has to closely approximate the market value of the property plus damages for disturbance. The advance payment provisions also apply to owners who have agreed to transfer their land to an expropriating authority: that is, where there has been no expropriation but it has been done by agreement and they don't agree on the amount of the compensation offered.
These advance payment provisions are a most important innovation, because they put the owner in funds so that he can then take effective measures to obtain substitute premises. The payment does not in any way prejudice his right to have the amount of compensation determined by the Expropriation Compensation Board. So it's full, upfront payment in advance of the appraised market value of that land, and also damages for disturbance. That upfront money can be drawn and used by the owner. It doesn't have to sit in trust or in a court registrar's account; it can be used by him. Now it's true that if he asks for a hearing and he ends up getting less, he may have to pay some money back. But we're taking the position that the authority that expropriates the land should pay for its use, and the owner should not be inconvenienced by the delays of process.
Once the advance payment has been made, the owner has one year to make an application to the Expropriation Compensation Board to determine compensation. The board, which will be an independent quasi-judicial body, will have the full power to determine the compensation to be paid in relation to a wide variety of matters, including reasonable disturbance damages, damages for business loss, damages caused by an expropriating authority in the exercise of a right of entry where no expropriation results, and damages from partial taking and for injurious affection.
This legislation is designed to encourage negotiation and settlement between the parties at every step of the way. But
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also it must and does provide ample protection for the property owner for recourse to the Expropriation Compensation Board where the owner feels that expropriators are acting unreasonably.
The compensation provisions of this act have been founded upon one basic principle: that an expropriated owner is entitled to economic reinstatement; that is, he is entitled to be put back in the same economic position that he was in prior to the expropriation. The basic formula for compensation is that of market value of the interest, plus reasonable damages for disturbance unless the owner chooses to have his property value at its highest and best use.
Disturbance damages are money which enables the owner to relocate without economic costs, to re-establish his business or farm. Broadly speaking, they consist of the reasonable costs or expenses and the financial losses directly attributable to the expropriation, as well as the reasonable cost of relocating on other land, so that where an owner has been carrying on business on the expropriated land and the board determines it's not feasible for him to relocate his business, then the board can include in the amount of compensation an additional amount to reflect the value of the goodwill of the business. Or when a church or other like property for which there isn't any great demand in the marketplace finds itself expropriated, then the owners of that property have the option of choosing between having compensation based on market value plus disturbance damage or, where the intent is to relocate and continue with the same use, to have it based on the costs of building a new church or school. There's a replacement cost option in those cases.
Tenants are also entitled to compensation consisting of both their reasonable moving costs and an amount equivalent to three months' rent. Additionally, disturbance damages for lessees are provided for. Perhaps more importantly, where the expropriated land includes the owner's principal residence, then the owner is entitled to an additional amount consisting of 5 percent of the market value of that land, and this 5 percent allowance to the owner of a principal residence on expropriated lands is intended to compensate for the uprooting of the homeowner, the expenditure of time and effort in finding a new home and the many miscellaneous small expenses that might be claimed under the additional head of disturbance damage. In addition to compensation for land taken, an owner will be, in most if not all with advanced payment provisions, entitled to claim reasonable legal appraisal and other costs incurred by reason of either the inquiry or the compensation hearing.
In all, this legislation is a model of how fair, equitable, and just expropriation proceedings can be. No one wants to have their land expropriated, but in those few instances where the public interest demands it, the owner will now be assured of being dealt with fairly and quickly, and he will be fully compensated.
I should say that we'll be making one technical amendment to section 17(2) of the bill in committee to make it clear that advanced payments are required where the expropriation is for a linear development. Also I will be making some modification to the powers to override the hearing process contained in section 5 of the act to further curtail those and limit them to undue delay. Those are both matters that I think my friend the opposition critic will be pleased to hear me state in the House. I can formally make those amendments in committee.
I'm very proud of this bill, Mr. Speaker, and grateful to all those people in government who produced it and who worked on it over many years, including Mr. Gardom, who was the minister who took it forward in 1982 as a green paper and who sponsored it, and including also many officials in my ministry and the Department of Highways who worked long and hard to find a process in legislation that both would be fair to the public and allow government to do the major tasks of linear development that are required.
I look forward to the support of the opposition for the general principles of this bill — as I'm sure I will have, because they have been quite constructive in their response to it.
I have the honour, then, to move that the bill be now read a second time.
MR. SIHOTA: Mr. Speaker, the Attorney-General is quite correct in saying that it was quite some time ago that the green paper was put out by Mr. Gardom, and it's interesting to note that — with one exception, which I'll talk about a little bit later on — there has not been a substantial deviation from the act which Mr. Gardom introduced back in 1982 and which was the subject of numerous submissions from various interested groups in society.
Before I go into that one exception and some of the other concerns that we on this side of the House have about this legislation, let me right off the bat spell out in clear terms that I have of course spoken publicly about some escape hatches as I saw them in the legislation, and some flaws, and I'm certainly pleased to hear that the Attorney-General intends to introduce amendments to deal with the concerns that I've publicly talked about. I'm going to put those concerns on the record in a few minutes, and I will say at the outset that we will support the legislation at this stage, pending review of the amendments that will be forthcoming at committee stage, and then we'll take another look at the legislation at that time.
I have with me a copy of the report that the former Attorney-General, Mr. Gardom, prepared in 1982 along with the draft legislation, and I indicated earlier on that there are some differences between that green paper and the legislation that appears before us today — in particular, the introduction of the clause numbered 9(2) which deals with linear development in the province. As I read the proposed legislation which was tabled in 1982, it did not under its section 8 provide for an exemption for linear development, whereas under the current Bill 22 there is an exemption for linear development. It does cause us some concern on this side of the House that developments such as highways, railways, hydro or electric transmission or distribution lines, pipelines, sewage and water or drainage lines are not covered for the purposes of the inquiry provision of the legislation. Nor is it covered in terms of an advance payment.
Of course, as we all know now, the advance payment provision within the legislation was one of the features that the Attorney-General pointed to when introducing this legislation, and clearly if land is being expropriated for those types of developments we define in the legislation as linear developments, there will be no advance payment. I appreciate again the comment of the Attorney-General that that appears more to have been an oversight; hopefully that will be remedied by the time we get to the committee stage and deal with the amendments at that time, because I do think it is important that if we are to embrace in legislation of this type
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the principle of advance payment, then it ought to apply for those provisions that are exempt from the inquiry; in other words, linear development under section 9(2). I think that that only stands to reason when one looks at the basic tenor of this legislation. So I'm relieved to see that that will be addressed, because obviously that played a pivotal role in this side of the House coming to a determination as to where it stood on the legislation.
Although that is being remedied, the Attorney-General also mentioned in the course of his presentation to this House that there may be some amendments to section 5, which is the power of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, or his cabinet, to dispense with approval or inquiry, and it is that which causes us a fair bit of concern.
Once again, I'm looking forward to the amendments that may come down to see whether there is a substantial departure from what appears to be the intent of section 5(1), simply because it gives the cabinet power, when there is the public interest or any other special circumstances which are undefined under the legislation, to dispense with approval and inquiry.
There are a lot of concerns about that. If one wanted to take the most negative reading on the intent of cabinet, it could potentially allow cabinet to bypass the approval and inquiry stage of the legislation for every type of development that is being proposed. That, of course, would cause us concern. For example, if B.C. Hydro felt that it was important to situate a transmission site on a particular piece of property in this province, and if it was deemed in the public interest that there would be undue delay in going through with the inquiry process under the legislation, then cabinet could dispense with that type of initial hearing, which, in my mind, is very important. It is that initial hearing that determines whether or not an alternative site is available or, secondly, whether or not the quantum of land that is being expropriated is necessary for the purposes of expropriation — in other words, whether or not someone's property should be expropriated to a lesser degree.
It is my hope that section 5 would be utilized only on occasion and in the most serious of circumstances. The way in which the legislation is drafted right now, and given a liberal interpretation of the legislation, it is quite possible that just about every application could have the approval of cabinet, and therefore the question of the approval and the inquiry would be dispensed with.
The ombudsman, when he was making his report on the expropriation legislation in 1983, took a look at section 5. I think it would be interesting at this point to quote a little of what the ombudsman had to say, because it appears as if the ombudsman was in concert with the opinion that I have, which is that that provision is too broadly stated. In fact, I quote the ombudsman in his report of January 1983 when he says as follows:
"It is my opinion that this power is too broadly stated and permits the cabinet to deny an affected landowner his right to an inquiry in circumstances which may too frequently be thought to exist. The right to an inquiry constitutes, in the context of expropriation, the right of an individual to put forward his side of the story before his property is taken from him. Such a right is fundamental to our belief in fair treatment and should not be set aside lightly.
"Not only does the right to an inquiry protect the affected landowner, but it provides yet another check on the potential abuse of power by government. While there may be very rare occasions where an emergency exists and time is of the essence, it is my view that the power of the cabinet to dispense with an inquiry should be narrowly circumscribed in the legislation. "Further, I would suggest that the exercise of powers under section 5 requires in each case a report to the Legislative Assembly at its next sitting, thus ensuring that such decisions can be debated by our elected representatives."
So that's what the ombudsman had to say, and I must confess that his concerns with respect to section 5 do not deviate at all from my concerns with respect to section 5. I think he is quite correct in saying that it may be often that the government may well feel that an emergency exists and time is of the essence and that there would be undue delay if the expropriation process did not take place immediately, whereas from a public interest point of view that may not always be the case.
I can certainly understand instances and can certainly think of situations that have occurred in the past with other land legislation wherein cabinet has taken a decision that overrides the concerns not only of the affected landowner but of the community at large. Therefore I would certainly be in agreement with the ombudsman and would look forward to amendments to the legislation which the Attorney-General has now promised which, I would hope, would narrowly circumscribe, in the words of the ombudsman, that provision of the legislation.
We'll look forward to those, and we'll look forward to seeing what, indeed, is incorporated in those amendments so as to sort of narrow the very gaping loophole that currently exists under section 5 of the legislation.
The other point is that in the event the government chooses not to limit the powers of cabinet under section 5, and hence dispense with approval and inquiry, I think that the second thrust of what the ombudsman was saying in his report of 1983 ought then to be embraced. In any event, it ought to be embraced under either circumstance — if those powers are reduced or indeed if those powers are allowed to exist. There ought to be a full report to the Legislative Assembly at its next sitting indicating the reasons for cabinet's decision to bypass the approval and inquiry stage under the legislation.
At that point there ought to be, of course, a provision to allow those of us that are in this House to debate the actions of cabinet. That is, once again, consistent with open government, which I know the Premier promised over and over again during the course of the last election campaign — which we believed — and which I would hope the Premier would agree to under the provisions of the Expropriation Act. I see the Premier is listening, so I will repeat it.
The Premier did promise open government. Under section 5(1) of the Expropriation Act, there is a process whereby cabinet can dispense with an inquiry for expropriation. The ombudsman, in his report of January 1983, looking at the identical section under Mr. Gardom's legislation, said that if cabinet were to take that action and dispense with an inquiry for expropriation purposes, there ought to be a full report to the House at its next sitting, so that that report and the decision of cabinet could be debated in the open confines of the Legislature. Therefore, keeping in harmony with the Premier's commitment to open government, I would anticipate an amendment — because the Attorney-General has indicated that we will have amendments on section 5 —
[ Page 1215 ]
consistent with my view and the view of the ombudsman in January 1983.
I am pleased to see that both the Premier and the Attorney-General are currently talking, I would trust, about this matter, so that type of amendment is forthcoming. I look forward to an assurance from both individuals in that regard. I indeed feel comforted already watching the conversation taking place across the floor, Mr. Speaker. So now that I am blanketed by that comfort, I will move on to other concerns that we on this side of the House have with the legislation in the form that it sits in right now.
The Attorney-General, during the course of his introduction of the legislation, if I heard him correctly. . . . And if I did, I think we both agree on this point. The vast number . . . . I think about 95 percent of these types of matters are settled; hence there is seldom a need for a tribunal, whether it is the board or the courts, to deal with the question of appropriate compensation. In 95 percent of the cases, if not more, the parties — the government agency that is expropriating the property and indeed the individual who is losing the property — have the opportunity to arrive at a deal that they can live with, that places an appropriate value on the land and compensates for loss of business income and so on.
Section 3 of the legislation is one that deals with those types of situations. It deals with situations where indeed the owner agrees to transfer land to the expropriating body at a price to be determined, or just simply agrees to dedicate land. Where they can't agree to appropriate compensation, the compensation provisions of the legislation, as I recollect it, are then triggered.
However, it seems to me that section 3, at least philosophically, ought to go a little bit further. It seems to me that the legislation should make it very clear that when an expropriating authority — whatever agency of government — intends to approach, and then makes the initial approach to a landowner whose property they have got in mind, the landowner should be given certain information. That information, or parts of that information, at least, should be specified in the legislation.
It seems to me that there ought to be a notice. The notice that is provided to the landowner should at least contain, in my view, the following factors. First of all, there should be notice from the government that they are not expropriating until the vendor knows that he has some choice on the matter. In other words, the vendor is provided very clearly with notice as to what his or her rights are.
Secondly, a notice should be provided under section 3 advising the landowner that he has the right to appear before a board to determine appropriate compensation. There should be information contained in that notice telling the landowner of their appraisal, and that their appraisal and legal costs will be paid for in the event of a decision to go to the board to deal with the question of compensation. In other words, there should be disclosure as to what the legislation contains in simple, clear language, so that the landowner knows what their rights are.
Then there should be, in addition to that, a further requirement, in my view, under the legislation: that is, before the affected landowner signs a document transferring the property, or the title and the property, from his or her name to that of the expropriating authority, there should be a certificate of independent legal advice, so that when the landowner has gone to a solicitor — hopefully — to bring about the transfer of this property, the solicitor can put on the record that he has given the landowner a review of the legislation, has advised the landowner of his or her rights and their various options under the legislation, and that only after that advice has been given has the landowner consented to executing the transfer of property.
I say this in an abundance of caution as someone who has worked in the legal field, at least until October 22 of this year. This type of certificate of independent legal advice is provided in all sorts of matrimonial matters where a spouse consults a solicitor with respect to a transfer of property. Often, what happens is that the spouse will walk into a law office and say: "I've discussed this matter with the spouse from whom I'm separating; we've come to an agreement, and as a result of that agreement I'm now prepared to transfer the property over." The solicitor just sort of accepts that advice and signs the document, and that always leaves the option open for the affected spouse to come back two years later and say: "Look, I didn't know I had the right to claim or do a, b, c or d."
I can see the same type of situation coming up where a deal has been made privately between the expropriating authority and the landowner. I don't think any one of us, on either side of the House, would like to see these types of matters clogging the courts, and the courts then having to decide whether or not the circumstances of that property transfer were conscionable or unconscionable, whether or not there was equal bargaining power or an inequity of bargaining power on the part of both parties. Clearly, when you have a government agency and a landowner — particularly an unsophisticated landowner — there is always the possibility that the unsophisticated landowner will feel that he or she is in a place of inequality of bargaining power.
In order to ensure that that bargaining power is equalized, there should be a notice specifying the factors referred to a few minutes ago. In addition, I think it would be appropriate that there be a certificate of independent advice from a solicitor saying: "Yes, the landowner consulted me. I advised the landowner of his or her rights, and it was on that understanding that the landowner executed the transfer of property." That would seem to be an additional safeguard for the state as much as for anybody else, because of course the state would then have the security of knowing they had given them all of the appropriate information that I referred to earlier in a notice, and a certificate of independent legal advice on top of that. That, I think, would probably kill the chances of anybody trying to argue inequality of bargaining power at the end of the day.
So I think those three factors should be brought in, in principle, in terms of a notice attached to section 3; fourthly, perhaps a certificate of independent legal advice. I throw that open to the Attorney-General and his advisers for consideration, and look forward to their response on that point.
The other issue that struck me as somewhat odd is that under the legislation, when there is an agreement — keeping in mind that 95 percent of the cases deal with an agreement or indeed a dedication; I'll talk a little bit later on about situations where dedication arises — the act goes on to trigger section 19, which is the section of the legislation that talks about advance payment. It also, of course, allows the affected landowner to deal with the board on compensation. In 95 percent of the cases, then, it would bypass the inquiry stage. I raise as an issue at this time, Mr. Speaker, whether or not — notwithstanding agreement — there should be an
[ Page 1216 ]
opportunity for an inquiry. I raise it because it seems to me that although there may not be an issue about requiring that land to be expropriated, there may indeed be an issue as to the quantum of land that should be taken. Although a landowner feels it would be quite appropriate and he understands the argument put forward by the expropriating authority, they may have a disagreement as to the amount of land that should be expropriated. I'm really thinking of a large farm or a large tract of forestry land, where the dispute may centre on the amount of land that needs to be expropriated and the compensation for it.
In those types of circumstances — cases where the quantum of land is at issue — it may be appropriate for the parties to be able to trigger the inquiry process under section 13 of the legislation. I put that out, once again, as a thought for consideration, because I know there are amendments forthcoming. I look forward to the Attorney-General's response on that issue and on that thought, as to whether or not there should be the opportunity for the vendor of the affected land — if you want to word it that way — to have the opportunity to inquire. I don't have access to all the professional advice that the Attorney-General has, and I look forward to hearing his response with respect to that. That is another matter that causes me some concern, and I've put it forward to the Attorney-General at this stage of deliberations on this legislation.
There are a couple of other areas that the ombudsman dealt with, Mr. Speaker, during the course of his response to Mr. Gardom's proposed legislation — which, as I said at the outset, is virtually identical to Bill 22. I want to touch on those matters. The expropriation legislation, as I read it and as it has been interpreted to me, does not capture some of the concerns that the ombudsman laid out in his report of January 1983.
In his report, the ombudsman dealt with three instances where he thought — and it seems to me that there is indeed method to his thinking — that there were situations of expropriation without compensation. I think that the clear intent of the legislation that the Attorney-General has introduced and that we're now reviewing is to ensure that there is expropriation with compensation; so much so that we're talking about expropriation with advance compensation, under the advance payments.
The ombudsman dealt with what he called section 4 roads, which are roads or highways under section 4 of the Highway Act; it may be renumbered by now. In his report he said: "Section 4 of the Highway Act provides that 'where public money has been expended on a traveled road that has not before then been established . . . that traveled road is deemed and is declared to be a public highway.'" In other words, if a local Highways grader shows up on a private road and agrees to provide some upgrading work on that roadway, then because there has been expenditure of public money on that traveled road, it is deemed to be a public road. The ombudsman points out, I think quite correctly, that that amounts to a situation where there's expropriation without compensation. Keeping in mind the exemption under 9(2), which deals with linear development, there is certainly merit in what the ombudsman was saying at that time. Of course, he went on to say that if a grader does show up on anyone's private road, what he would suggest is that you say, "Thanks but no thanks," and that would prevent the road from being converted from a private road, yours and yours alone, to a public roadway, which then can be deemed to be expropriated without compensation. I'm sorry to see that under the legislation here, the matter of section 4 roads is not dealt with.
The second point that I must also find myself in agreement with . . . . There is another issue that I'm going to get to later on that I don't find myself in agreement with on the ombudsman's report of January 1983. So I should say right now that I'm not in total agreement with everything that the ombudsman said in his report. I find myself in agreement with at least three points that he outlined, in addition to some of the points already made.
He talked about the notice in the British Columbia Gazette, dated sometime in August 1911, which gives notice that all public highways in unorganized areas — of course, in my riding I have several of those — and all main trunks in organized districts are 66 feet wide and have a width of 33 feet on each side of the straight line of the traveled road. In those instances there is once again expropriation without compensation, because there is just a deeming provision, saying that all roads are deemed to be of that size. Once again, the ombudsman pointed out that although the courts have overturned the Gazette notice, the Ministry of Highways, for some reason, does not believe that the court decision . . . . I think it was in 1920 that the court . . . . It was a Supreme Court of British Columbia decision, if my memory serves me correctly. For some reason the Ministry of Highways, some 67 years later, does not believe that the decision had any bearing on it. Hence, in those instances where property has been expropriated under the Gazette notice, there is once again expropriation without compensation.
Finally, there is the provision under the Land Title Act, where it is deemed . . . . It used to be under section 23; I know that section has changed, but I don't have with me here today the Land Title Act, so I can't quote what section. The provision says that 5 percent of all property that is owned by any property owner under their title is reserved to the Crown. Once again the ombudsman reported in his case that he believed that that would also amount to expropriation without compensation; and as I understand Bill 22, neither one of those situations is covered, and I think they ought to be covered under Bill 22.
The legislation also raises a point with respect to injurious affection, and I want to talk a little bit about injurious affection because the ombudsman in his report had said that he believed that the law of injurious affection should be broadened. He felt that really the common law of injurious affection was antiquated; it was difficult to prove an action of injurious affection, and therefore it was difficult for an adjacent property owner whose property has been devalued by an expropriation act of an expropriating authority to claim any type of compensation for injurious affection, simply because it rested on the law of nuisances, as I recollect it — and I must confess I haven't done any cases on injurious affection; they're few and far between.
I'm pleased to see — and I'm going to comment on this a bit later as well — that under the legislation the government has chosen to allow the existing law of injurious affection to stand as it is, and hence make it difficult for adjacent property owners to be able to claim for a diminishment in value as a result of expropriation. I agree; I don't think that there ought to be a deviation from the law as it stands. I think those of us on this side of the House have a lot of difficulty with the concept of injurious affection, and once again in philosophical terms there is an interesting question, of course, as to what ought to happen in the case of zoning changes. Just to
[ Page 1217 ]
put aside expropriation matters, in the event of a zoning decision that has an adverse affect on a third party's or an adjacent property owner's property, then ought that individual to be able to . . . .
MR. SPEAKER: I should . . . . Order, please. If the member could resume his seat for just a second, I'm sure the member wants to be the designated speaker?
MR. SIHOTA: Correct.
MR. SPEAKER: If that's the case, that's fine.
The Attorney-General, I think, had an introduction that he was going to ask leave if he could make.
HON. B.R. SMITH: If I could make an introduction, Mr. Speaker.
HON. B.R. SMITH: In the gallery today is Mr. Donald Munro, who was for a number of years MP for the federal riding of Esquimalt-Saanich. Don was a Canadian diplomat as well before that and served his country. It's nice to have you come down here to this place, Don, and see how we're doing. I hope you get a chance to come back again and again.
I ask the House to make him welcome.
MR. SIHOTA: Mr. Speaker, before I continue, I'd like to make two comments. First of all I, too, would like to extend a welcome to Mr. Munro, who at one time represented the riding that I live in now, the federal riding of Esquimalt-Saanich.
The second point is that I apologize. If we were to notify you in advance that I was the designated speaker . . . I'm sure that as a rookie I wasn't quite aware of that and I'll make sure I learn now. In any event, I don't have that much more to say on this legislation.
I was talking about the law of injurious affection and talking about it in philosophical terms, and I have some real difficulty philosophically to allow for an expansion of the law of injurious affection. I'm well aware of the fact that although the legislation here talks about injurious affection and talks about preserving the existing common law, there is indeed a case right now before the Supreme Court of Canada that may well unravel all of that law and set down some new guidelines with respect to injurious affection.
Knowing what the current law is, it is on that basis that we can say at second reading that we agree with Bill 22. If that law were to expand and to change the law of injurious affection and allow for greater rights and for greater ease with respect to making a claim for injurious affection — I know the legislation doesn't say that, but if the Supreme Court of Canada decision were to have that effect — we would have some difficulty with what's being proposed in the legislation. But that's really looking down the road, and we really don't know what's going to be coming down from the Supreme Court. I think we all look at that with some interest, because it may indeed have profound implications later on with respect to this legislation as well if adjacent property owners can make with greater ease claims for compensation than is the case right now. But suffice to say that the law is somewhat restrictive right now. As I read the legislation, all it does is maintain the law in its current fashion — under, I believe, section 40(2). With that understanding, we are prepared to proceed with support for the legislation at this level. It remains, I think, of interest to only perhaps two or three of us who engage in this profession, who know a little bit about the law, to see whether or not the law changes significantly over time.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
Enough said about injurious affection. Moving through the legislation, it deals extensively with matters of compensation. I don't really have any significant problems with what the legislation says about compensation, because it seems to me, as a barrister who did a lot of work involving loss of income and business loss, that the principles underlying the compensation concept in the legislation are quite clear. However, I have one concern as I read section 19 — and I must confess that I went through the legislation about two weeks ago, when it first came down. It does not, as I read it, allow for immediate advance payment for loss of business income. If someone is operating a farm or a gas station or a grocery store and loses property to the expropriating authority, he or she is compensated immediately for the diminishment in value of the land; but there is no initial compensation for business loss, and therefore an interruption in the stream of income that that person has enjoyed, until there has been a subsequent hearing. Once again, to be consistent with the concept of advance payment — which, as I said at the outset, I don't have any difficulty with — I think the legislation should take a look at a provision for some business loss compensation, along with the advance payment for loss of property value, so as not to significantly interrupt the stream of income that an individual is receiving from property.
A question arises as to how you do that. It seems to me that the easy answer is to take the last two or three years of income tax returns that people have filed, and perhaps base a loss of business income on that type of approach, because as we all know, people have to file income tax returns. They will indicate on these what their business income has been — and I am not saying that under the advance payment provision there has to be the full average of those three years paid out, but maybe a percentage of that full average as a way of compensating people for loss of business.
It is one thing to take property away from an individual where he doesn't have an income flowing from that property and to provide him with an advance payment. It is another to take that property away under the legislation, and also his stream of income, and then to compensate him for the first diminishment or loss of the property, but not for the loss of income, hence forcing him to live from the income that he may receive from investing the money he takes from the advance payment. I don't think it ought to be the intent, and I don't think it ever was the intent, of the drafters of this legislation to say that people ought to live off, as a form of income, the interest, for example, accumulated from the advance payment. What really ought to happen is a form of advance payment that would also compensate for loss of business income, and I have tried to throw out a way of being able to calculate that.
To summarize then, Mr. Speaker, at this stage of the bill in second reading, it is our intention to support it. We await the amendments that the Attorney-General has said are forthcoming. We certainly anticipate that section 9(2) will be clarified so as to allow section 19 on advance payment to be
[ Page 1218 ]
triggered when section 9(2) is brought into play. I don't think we are going to have any problem with that.
The comments that I made with respect to section 5 on the powers of cabinet will be taken into account consistent with the government's announced intentions with respect to open government, and will embrace not only what I have had to say but also what the ombudsman himself recommended, that there should be a broadening of section 3 so that the affected landowner knows of his or her rights under the Expropriation Act and that there is some choice. As I said earlier on and as the ombudsman pointed out over and over again in his report, people often do not know that they have a choice. They think that when the expropriating authority shows up, they've got no choice. Hence they just begin to deal with the matter of compensation. They should be told that they've got a choice, that under the inquiry provisions of the act one of the things that can be done is a determination to see whether or not that property is the appropriate property to be expropriated for that purpose, and whether or not the quantum of property being taken is the appropriate amount. So they should be told in a notice, which should be laid out in the statutes, that you have to do this if you're the expropriating authority; that they do have a choice; that they have a right to appear before a board to determine appropriate compensation; that they should be provided with information telling them of their right under the legislation for appraisal of legal costs in the event of a decision to go to the board.
There should be a requirement, in my view, under section 3 of the legislation for a certificate of independent legal advice, more for the protection, it would seem to me, of the state than it would be for the landowner, particularly when you look at the potential for argument of unconscionable bargains and inequality of bargaining power. It still seems to me that there ought to be some right to an inquiry under section 13 where there has been agreement, if the parties can't agree with respect to the quantum of land that's taken.
There should be some consideration, in my mind, in the legislation that deals with section 4 of the Highway Act, the 1911 Gazette notice and the right to resumption, and the views of the ombudsman that those amount to expropriation without compensation. There are currently some concerns we have with respect to injurious affection but we'll let those ride for the time being. Finally, there should be some business loss provision provided in the advance payment to allow people to enjoy some income from the property, or to recognize the fact that people enjoyed some income from the property before it was expropriated.
Those are the thrust of our concerns and I guess if you totalled them all up it would almost make it sound like the legislation is a little bit like Swiss cheese, but I really don't mean to say that. It really is a step in the right direction and I think it can be improved upon, and hopefully the comments that I've made today will add to that improvement and result in legislation that we can support, not only at second reading but in addition at third reading.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the comments that we've just heard from the opposition are generally very positive and supportive and they're appreciated. I'll try and deal with as many as I can.
The suggestion that there be included in the section 3 provision, where an owner actually agrees to transfer land but the issue is still how much it is worth, that in those cases where owners make initial inquiries they should have a statutory right to receive certain information, that argument seems to me to certainly make a good case for a policy similar to that on the part of the authority; but I don't think it is something that needs to be actually put in the act. I think that if an owner did go in to this authority, that's the kind of thing he should be able to obtain. He should certainly know that the statute will provide that he'll get his compensation paid in advance. Certainly he should know, if he decides to question the compensation and he's going to have a hearing, where he stands in relation to his costs. I think the matters that the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew (Mr. Sihota) pointed out would be the foundation, or form at least part of the foundation, of a good, sound policy which certainly commended itself to me, and I think that's something that the compensation tribunal could be encouraged to adopt.
I noticed as well that he spoke about the issue of section 5, where the cabinet exercises its authority to do away with an inquiry in an appropriate inquiry case. I think that when we introduce an amendment there narrowing the scope, as we intend to do, of the exercise of that power, he may be a little more comfortable with section 5. But I think to bring forward into the Legislature every case where that was exercised, together with reasons, would be an unnecessary bureaucratic process. Any such case where any member wished to have information in this chamber, or reasons, they would be furnished; but I do think he'll be somewhat relieved on section 5 when he sees the amendment because I intend to cut most of the ground out of 5(l)(b) and (c) and leave the authority to deal with situations of undue delay or an emergency, and really no other contemplated situation that's set out there in (b) or (c) I think is required in the statute. I think the statute can survive without. I think with linear developments being exempted from hearing, there really isn't a need to have most of those provisions in (b) and (c). He also dealt with the interesting idea that a certificate of independent legal advice would be helpful. I gather, again, that you're talking about the 95 percent of the cases where the owner agrees.
I would wish that if we did something like that, it would be fruitful, but my guess would be that it would be much harder to get a certificate of that kind out of a member of my profession than it would be to get a certificate in relation to a matrimonial matter. The similarity between expropriating authorities and devious husbands is probably not an analogy that could always be pursued, but certainly I think solicitors would be so very reluctant to give such a certificate that I'm not sure it would achieve the results the member wants.
Also, from my limited experience with the 5 percent that we're thinking of . . . . I had one long experience when I was mayor of Oak Bay with a gentleman who was expropriated. We had really the most horrendous time with this gentleman, because he had a small business right in the centre of Bee Street, the road to the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, and he wouldn't deal at all. He just absolutely refused to deal, and ultimately the expropriation took place. He wouldn't appoint an arbitrator for the hearing; he refused. The court had to appoint an arbitrator, and then we appointed a counsel to represent his position. He didn't like that afterwards. He was really mad that we had appointed a lawyer, because he thought that was the worst insult of all. An award was made against him in absentia, and the money was paid in the court. He wouldn't take the money out, and I finally had to get an order to have the money taken out and paid to him.
[ Page 1219 ]
He used to come in and see me and tell me that as I was mayor and I was a very powerful man, I could make this right. I think I appointed two sets of lawyers to advise him, at the expense of the municipality, and was even prepared to open it up and have it adjudicated again, but nothing would satisfy him. People like that are not satisfied with lawyers. In fact, often the mere introduction of a lawyer and a lawyer's certificate makes them think there is something wrong.
I don't think the certificate would meet those few cases that give us all the concerns and the bad profile, and have in the past in this province, that we've treated some ordinary guy unfairly and ground him into the ground. I don't think that possession of one of those certificates from one of my fellow practitioners would be much reassurance to him.
But it's a good idea, because I think it's well motivated to try to see that things not only are done rightly, but appear to be done rightly. I'll review that one before third reading.
The member has also gone into some of the highway issues. I'm sorry the Minister of Transportation and Highways (Hon. Mr. Michael) wasn't here to listen to those, but he no doubt will pick them up in the Blues. The provision of one twentieth of the land for a highway, which is another area that's often been criticized as being some form of taking without compensation . . . . But the pure legal theory involved in the one-twentieth rule, as the member knows, is that it isn't a taking at all; it's the exercise of an old Crown reservation, which all of us, of course, were aware of when we purchased our land. We knew that the government could do that, or were deemed to be . . . .
I think these are genuine issues for another day. If I were to have tackled all of those in this bill, I can tell you, hon. member, I'd never have got the bill out of the bureaucracy. It would have languished there for another 20 years. Another Jack Clyne would come and go, and you and I would both be superannuated, and we still wouldn't see a bill. So for those reasons, I didn't tackle those issues, but it's legitimate to raise them, for sure.
The law of injurious affection is so complicated that I don't think anyone understands it except Prof. Eric Todd, a former professor of mine — and the member's, no doubt. Writing in the University of British Columbia Law Review for 1967, the centennial edition, he attempted to codify the existing common law of injurious affection.
All I can say is that I totally agree with the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew that it is not desirable to expand the law of injurious affection. I have reservations about the law of injurious affection, just as he does. We both agree we don't want to expand the law, but fortunately neither of us has to give a treatise in this place as to what the law is, because that would take us days, and people would understand less of what we're saying than they have up to now, which is probably not a heck of a lot.
I will undertake to give my opposition critic, the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew, copies of the proposed amendments in committee probably later today. I will now move second reading.
Bill 22, Expropriation Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I call second reading of Bill 9.
INSURANCE (MOTOR VEHICLE)
AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
HON. L. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, the principle of Bill 9 was referred to in the budget speech. It said that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia would be subject to the insurance premium tax. Bill 9 removes ICBC's exemption from the insurance premium tax, and it also removes ICBC from the exemption under section 48 of the Fire Services Act. That section refers to a premium charged to insurance companies in British Columbia for investigation and other fire-related expenses. When ICBC was in the general insurance business, Mr. Speaker, it was exempt from that tax. But since ICBC has sold its general insurance premium, section 48 of the Fire Services Act will have no effective bearing on ICBC, unless they should go back into the general insurance business.
As far as the rates are concerned with ICBC at this point in time, one of the theories behind the application of the insurance premium tax is that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia not only sells the mandatory part of automobile insurance; it also provides extended coverage, which is also open to competition from the general insurance industry. It will now make those premiums that relate to the discretionary extended coverages competitive with the private-enterprise insurance companies. The effect on ICBC in the year 1987 will be not quite $15 million in terms of that premium and will be absorbed by ICBC for that calendar year without any increase in rates.
I now move second reading of Bill 9, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LOVICK: Mr. Speaker, we understand the logic and the rationale as presented by the minister for this measure. However, we are concerned that the conclusion of the measure, once implemented, will simply be that insurance premiums will rise for average British Columbians. That needs to be noted, and I would sincerely hope that everybody paying attention to this legislation will indeed recognize that it is the case.
The removal of the exemption from ICBC, in effect, will account, we estimate, for some additional $25 million cost to the corporation. That's our understanding. When I listened to the minister, he seemed to suggest that, given the general insurance removal, that would not happen. I sincerely hope that I am wrong in stating this and that something will be done about it . . . .
Sorry, Mr. Speaker, for that delay. The House Leader was trying to find out from me how long I propose to speak on this. The answer is: to allow the House Leader to indulge his nicotine habit, I shall indeed speak for more than two minutes.
As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, before that rather unorthodox interruption, our concern is that what we're looking at here is simply another evidence of a government that wants to raise some money, and in the name of modifying the nature of insurance coverage in this province we have, dare I say, a kind of tax grab going on. We guesstimate that the average motorist in B.C. is going to pay some $12.50 annually in increased premium as a result of this measure, simply because of the fact that ICBC will be losing a certain amount of
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money, given this measure that amounts to a 3 percent premium hike for consumers. Our concern, then, given the other hits that consumers have been subjected to with this budget, is that that is perhaps going to be yet another load that people are going to rebel against and be even less willing to go along with than they have with those others. That's the first concern, then — simply that cost to the consumer.
The second concern we have, which also incidentally translates into a direct cost to the consumer, appears to be the result of an administrative muddle. Bill 9, as we understand, does indeed amend or remove ICBC's exemption from the tax imposed under section 48 of the Fire Services Act. However, the error occurs insofar as amendments to the Fire Services Act needed to allow the collection of this tax have not been proposed. That is perhaps going to cause us or certainly the government some difficulty. It will at least produce a muddle and perhaps something more serious.
Our concern, then, is that this other provision of the amendment here before us will also cost the consumer money. As we read the legislation, ICBC will be required to pay the B.C. fire commissioner a tax equal to 1 percent of the total premiums received, and that 1 percent tax obviously will be passed along to B.C. motorists just as the 3 percent tax that I alluded to earlier will be passed along. It will amount to a 1 percent premium hike. That too will add to the cost of insurance to the average motorist in this province — here we guesstimate approximately $4.16 to the insurance premiums of the average motorist.
Our concern is simply that this legislation — though it certainly doesn't say so in the justification provided for it by the minister — really amounts to minor concessions that are part of what we would call a major tax grab. Once again government seems to be sticking it to people regardless of those individuals' ability to pay. We hope that at least the administrative muddle will get sorted out when we get to committee stage, and I would offer it to the minister's recommendation now.
MR. D'ARCY: I'm happy to have the opportunity to make a few comments on this debate. Automobile insurance is compulsory in B.C.; it has been for a great many years — since a number of years before the creation of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. And when government makes something compulsory, regardless of what name they choose to dress it up with . . . . When something becomes compulsory and you have to pay it, it's a tax, and I don't care whether it's called an insurance premium, as in the case of ICBC or in the case of the federal program of unemployment insurance, or whether it's called a rental, as with the water tax, or whether it's called an assessment, as with Workers' Compensation. The fact is that car insurance is a necessity. I'm not opposed to the fact that it's compulsory, but the fact is it's a tax. As such, when you add, as the second member for Nanaimo has pointed out, a 4 percent tax — or two taxes which together total 4 percent — you are putting a tax on a tax, and I'm strongly opposed to that.
There's no question that the automobile is essential in British Columbia and that proper protection for the public from damages caused by automobiles is essential. I see no additional benefit to the people of B.C. by adding two separate taxes on that. Already we are heavily taxed for gasoline in British Columbia by both the federal and provincial governments. The budget provided for more taxes on leaded gasoline in British Columbia. There is already a transit tax of a cent a litre, roughly, in British Columbia — though in my constituency, at least, while there are a couple of transit services, they certainly are not of the same level as the transit services provided in the metropolitan areas of British Columbia. Indeed, I have to agree with the British Columbia Automobile Association in that the motorists in British Columbia are already inordinately taxed relative to other jurisdictions not only in Canada but also in the United States.
We know the argument is going to be put forth by spokesmen on the other side that the government has to get their money from somewhere. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, they do, but I consider this kind of a tax on a tax on what in my riding and I believe for most British Columbians is an essential service, an essential facility — the use of the private automobile — is something that I feel very strongly about and that I oppose very strongly in this House.
MR. SIHOTA: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to speak in opposition to this legislation. I wasn't quite aware that it was coming up today, in light of the previous bill, Bill 22, that we just dealt with. But it seems to me that this legislation is just another nickel-and-dime money grab on the part of a provincial government that has so failed to deal with the basic economic issues in this province that it desperately needs money and therefore will try to acquire funds from any source it can lay its hands on. And when it reviews the books it finds that it wasn't taxing the insurance corporation with respect to premiums, and hence we see the introduction of this type of legislation which would allow for a more direct and blatant money grab by this government.
To me as I sit here and reflect upon what's being proposed in the legislation, it underlines the need for this government to begin to develop some comprehensive, fair taxation policies that grab money — if that's the way you want to put it — from sources that can afford to pay, instead of blanket taxation measures like this which hit across the board in an indiscriminate way and which tax the resources of not only the Insurance Corporation but obviously the consumer out there who will then have to pay it. Whether they pay it indirectly or directly, they're going to end up having to pay it one way or the other. Either it's going to show up as an increase in premiums next year, when the premiums are posted, or it's going to show up in the form of a direct tax on their assessment notice for ICBC premiums.
One way or the other, it's this continual nickel-and-diming of the taxpayer that we saw introduced in the budget and that we're now beginning to see reflected in the legislation that's coming before the House. The philosophy, the point of view, of this government is that if you don't want to do it directly — if you don't want to take the political consequences of hitting the taxpayer directly — what you do is you camouflage the taxation mechanism in the legislation. And after you've camouflaged it, you extract that much more income out of the pockets of ordinary working people in this province.
Like I say, sure, the argument can be made that it's the corporation that's going to end up paying this tax. The fact of the matter is that it's going to be reflected in the premiums. I would hope that instead of coming down with this type of legislation, the government would make a commitment now to some type of fair, comprehensive taxation scheme, working in concert with the federal government and taking advantage of the more progressive taxation legislation that exists in
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a lot of other jurisdictions in this country, to get away from the nickel-and-diming of the consumer reflected in this legislation.
I've already commented to the minister in the past about the concerns I have about other aspects of how it is that the Insurance Corporation . . . . I don't want to go into the details, but in terms of the premiums that the people are paying on their driver's licence, and the interest that compounds on that, that is a bit of a windfall. That really hasn't a lot to do with this legislation, except just basically what we're beginning to see . . . . This is Bill 9, and I believe it's the second piece of legislation that we've had to deal with. I think Bill 17, the other day, or Bill 19 . . . . No, that's the labour act. We were dealing with another matter, anyway, on Friday, with the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Couvelier), and here we are again dealing with another nickel-and-dime piece of legislation. I'm not happy to see this, and I think the government should rethink its views.
It may be true, and indeed arguable, that this would bring the corporation more in line with entities in the private sector. I hope that at this stage of the game this is not a forerunner in any way whatsoever. I would look forward to assurance from the minister that this is not a forerunner in any way whatsoever with respect to the privatization of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. The government, to date, has been secretive about its intentions with respect to the Insurance Corporation. I would hope that the minister, in his response to the comments that are flowing from this side of the House, will indicate to the House whether or not this is considered to be a forerunner of the government's efforts to privatize. Indeed, could he confirm, for the benefit of those of us on this side of the House and for the public at large, that the government has no intentions to privatize the Insurance Corporation?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing order 42, the minister closes debate on Bill 9.
HON. L. HANSON: First of all, I'd like to clear up some obvious misunderstandings on the part of the hon. members opposite. There was a suggestion by two of their speakers that it was a tax upon a tax, but I would suggest that if they read the act, as it relates to section 48 of the Fire Services Act, it says in there: " . . . any subsequent calendar year for policies insuring property situated in the province, other than automobiles . . . ." So the repealing of the application of section 48 of the Fire Services Act to ICBC was simply a housekeeping matter that applied to ICBC when they were in the general insurance business. Never at any time, even though ICBC had not had that exemption from section 48, would that tax have been applied to the premium as it relates to automobiles. So there is not a double taxation, as was alluded to by the members opposite.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, when I referred to a cost of some $15 million, I referred to the balance of 1987. I think that if the hon. member had heard that, he would understand. The cost is, in fact, about $24 million on an annual basis. But, seeing as we are about halfway through the year, the cost is estimated to be about $14 million for 1987. I'd also like to point out that there will be a saving to ICBC of some $2 million to $3 million due to the reduction of the 7 percent sales tax to 6 percent, so it's not totally in that direction.
I have dealt with the housekeeping issue. There is no requirement for housekeeping, because automobile insurance is in fact exempt from section 48. Repealing that section simply relates to the fact that if ICBC should get back into the general insurance business, they would then be subject to that tax, the same as every other insurance company in British Columbia.
In my opening remarks, I also referred to the fact that the mandatory part of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.'s premiums as are applied to automobiles are not subject to competitive quotes, because it is mandatory to purchase your minimum coverage from ICBC. But I would remind the members that much of the insurance that goes beyond the mandatory minimum limits of ICBC is bought from the private enterprise sector. The application of this 1 percent will make ICBC live by the same rules, if you will, to be competitive in the open market — which, by the way, they are. So they do have to compete with those in private enterprise on a fair and reasonable basis.
In response to the request from the last member of the opposition, who suggested that he would like me to give assurance that this is not the first step in privatization of ICBC, let me assure the House that privatization of ICBC is a subject of future policy, and that it will be advised as and when that decision is made. But let me assure the House that there is nothing hidden in this bill to suggest that it is the forerunner of privatization of ICBC, and has no relationship at all.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say, in my short time on the board of directors of ICBC, that they certainly are a well-run organization. Their rates as they are now are very competitive. I can refer you to a number of news articles that have come out in the media to show that other provinces in Canada would be quite happy to have a similar situation as ICBC. Most recently in the press is Ontario. I do believe that the Insurance Corporation of B.C. is a well-run Crown corporation.
With that, I move second reading of Bill 9.
Bill 9, Insurance (Motor Vehicle) Amendment Act, 1987, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I call second reading on Bill 30.
MUNICIPAL AMENDMENT ACT (No. 1), 1987
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: Bill 30 is a two-part bill that responds to the requests of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the professions, the building industry and the general taxpayer.
First, this bill deals with municipal liability situations and the resultant problems posed to local governments by ever-increasing liability insurance premiums. Secondly, the bill effectively addresses the need to improve upon and add to the land-use legislation introduced as amendments to the Municipal Act in late 1985. These measures respond to need, Mr. Speaker. They are effective and will be welcomed by local government.
I move that the bill be now read a second time.
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MR. BLENCOE: It is not my intention to dwell on this bill too long this afternoon. We are basically in support of the intention and the general direction of the legislation. Indeed, we have consistently, over a number of years, called for the government to take appropriate action in the area of municipal liability, an area that has given grave concern to local government, particularly the costs of municipal insurance.
We had hoped to see this legislation before us some time ago. Be that as it may, it is here today. I have some doubts whether, indeed, the legislation as it is will do what the minister wants, in terms of dealing with private sector rights. I suspect it won't have a dramatic impact on those rights, but it will — which I think is a useful part of the legislation — give a degree of protection to those public servants who work at the municipal level. Unless it's proven that the courts did their job improperly or dishonestly or maliciously, aldermen and officials will have some protection, which I think is appropriate. And of course, it deals with the personal liability of a municipal officer.
In our estimation, however, the only way for local government to be able to really do anything about the costs of insurance is to move ahead with the UBCM proposal for a self-insurance scheme, the pooling concept that the UBCM has now studied in full. I might like to add that it was some two and a half years ago that I, on behalf of our caucus, made a presentation to the UBCM and all the mayors and aldermen of this province, a fairly detailed proposal suggesting that the UBCM take a look at the self-insurance idea that has been done in other jurisdictions, that it could indeed be a way for the UBCM to cover itself and its members.
I'm pleased to see that the UBCM has finished the studies and, indeed, is going ahead, but requires the enabling legislation to put the whole thing together properly. I would hope that we see that legislation in the very near future, to allow the UBCM to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. We are very much in support of the municipal self-insurance proposal. It's an exciting one. I think it's one that other public bodies can take a look at. Indeed, it probably does the job of the general insurance part of ICBC. If it was still alive and well, we could have gone ahead with such a proposal with them. Be that as it may, the UBCM and local government are now moving ahead on their own scheme. We are in full support of that and would hope to see the legislation very soon to encourage them in their work.
In our estimation, that is what will challenge the private sector. Quite honestly, I think the private sector needs a challenge. I think their rates have been scandalous. I don't think there is much evidence there for what they have done in the last few years to public bodies in terms of liability insurance. I think all the evidence is there that they were on a down cycle in their business and wanted to recoup their losses on some of the policies they had written over the last few years that they didn't get the return on, and they were going to take local government to the cleaners in the kind of usurious rates they were putting in place. I think that self-insurance scheme is the only real way the private sector can be challenged.
I certainly commend the UBCM, and I would hope all local councils will participate in that proposal. It's somewhat of a digression, but on the topic in terms of the intent of this bill to try to do something with municipal liability. So we support that.
The other area that the bill pays attention to, of course, is the whole area of land use. We all know that there was a land use bill before this House some time ago under the former minister, Bill Ritchie. We indicated at that time that we felt the consultation process wasn't the best, that there were many sections in that old bill that would get the provincial and local governments in trouble. Today we see the results, I think, of legislation that wasn't thought through properly. We now have, from section 9 through section 57, what are basically amendments to that former bill that was before this House some time ago. I think that's an indication that government really has to be very careful when it's introducing legislation that impacts on other jurisdictions — to be a little more thoughtful, to be a little more careful and to dot the i's and cross the t's. Of course, I don't think it's any reflection on the current minister; but I would hope it's a lesson to us all, if you will. Staff at the time probably told that former minister to be very careful with that legislation, but in the wisdom of that past minister that legislation was put through this House, and today we have major amendments to legislation that I think was flawed at the time. We indicated and said so, and here we are today dealing with repairing that piece of legislation. I'm glad we're repairing it. The local councils are glad we're repairing it, too.
The only real comment I would like to make, Mr. Speaker, on this section in a global perspective is to ask the government to consider in the future a rate of flexibility for local council in terms of dealing with land use and zoning matters. One thing that I really think was very sad was when land use contracts in the province of British Columbia were cancelled. We need to take a look at the Municipal Act and how we can give local councils, towns and villages the opportunity to deal directly with developers and introduce innovation into zoning — flexibility, if you will. Sometimes the Municipal Act, because it's an all-encompassing bill . . . . It covers all regions and all zoning rules; it doesn't allow for regional or community differences in dealing with developers, unlike Vancouver, where they can operate under the Vancouver Charter, to look at innovation and creativity in zoning and land use matters.
We need to take a look at regionalizing, if you will, the Municipal Act. Maybe we need to take a look, for instance, at the capital region. Maybe we need a section of the Municipal Act called the Capital Regional Municipal Act. I think we've slowly but surely begun to realize that this province is made up of distinct regions. I know my colleagues from the north will certainly tell me that on many occasions. Often bills and legislation — particularly municipally — are created here in Victoria, with Victoria, Vancouver Island or the lower mainland predominantly in mind, and we tend to forget that we are a province of distinct regions, with distinct concerns and uniqueness. We need to take a look at the Municipal Act, not only in land use and zoning, but in how we encourage those regional differences.
I just share that with the minister and the good staff who are here today. I know we've discussed it over and over again over the years, but when I talk to people in the regions and the municipalities, they say: "Boy, that Municipal Act is so limiting to us. It may be appropriate for development in Victoria, Vancouver or a larger community, but we need to have some flexibility in dealing with our particular situations in our communities." How can we encompass that in the Municipal Act?" I would certainly be interested, Mr. Speaker, in joining the minister in the committee of this Legislature we have and talking about these issues.
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MR. BLENCOE: I'm not picking apart anything; I'm giving you some ideas; that's what the chamber is all about. Thank you, Mr. Member. I think it'll be very useful, within the confines of trying — both sides of the House — to deal with local government in a fruitful and progressive way, rather than sometimes in a confrontational way.
So, Mr. Speaker, I put those points before the minister and the government in terms of land use and zoning, and I would hope that we will in the future see some discussion on how we can take care of some of those regional concerns. I know, for instance, in my community again — that's the one I know best, obviously — I would very much like to see the ability to deal with the Songhees in a far more innovative and creative way, rather than sometimes through the traditional zoning and land use way. If we had the land use contract concept available to us, I think it would allow city council here in Victoria to sit down with the various developers and look at how we can create something very special for this community. We need that flexibility, and I hope the government will consider that in the years ahead.
To close, we support the intents of the legislation. There are some areas that I . . . . There is one particular that I will bring up in committee, and I will give the minister notice now that I'm not sure where it's going. It's section 4: section 310 is going to be amended by striking out "appointed officers" and substituting "any person." I'm not sure what that means — "permits council to authorize persons other than officers to enter property for enforcement purposes." I don't quite know what that's all about, and obviously we'll investigate that in committee stage. Maybe the minister can bring back some appropriate answers to that. There have been some rumours, and I don't like to deal in rumour.
Otherwise, Mr. Speaker, we support the intent. We think it's been long needed, and I eagerly wait to see the enabling legislation for the self-insurance scheme by the UBCM.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing order 42, the minister closes debate.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the member's comments, and I can assure him that the pool insurance scheme that has been put forward by the UBCM is being very carefully considered at this time for possible legislative action.
His comments about regionalizing are also very well taken, and certainly are also being addressed at this time as a result of the Premiers' conference, which was held earlier this year. At that particular meeting we had representatives of all B.C. municipalities, and it was a suggestion that was very actively discussed and is presently being further reviewed.
Bill 30, Municipal Amendment Act (No. 1), 1987, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Report on Bill 20, Mr. Speaker.
TEACHING PROFESSION ACT
MR. JONES: Mr. Speaker, I don't wish to repeat that which we've said in committee stage, but I would like an opportunity to reiterate our opposition on this bill.
To this side of the House Bill 20 is a symbol to the teaching profession that they are valued less, that they are singled out and treated differently than the 200,000 other teachers in this country; a symbol that their input into legislation is not valued in a serious way. Nobody asked for this legislation. It is also a symbol, Mr. Speaker, that there is a feeling that the teachers in this province need to be managed, and it is a symbol that more of them need to be fired, by the widening of powers to do that. It is a symbol, too, that dissent in the education field will not be tolerated in this province. We've seen that in the past by the firing of the Vancouver School Board, and in Bill 20 by the end run around the B.C. Teachers' Federation, and in the future for individual educators who wish to take stands on education. I suppose they will be invited to get out of the classroom if they wish to dissent against education policies of this government. I think this is the mentality that spawned Bill 20 — that idea that we cannot disagree, we cannot tolerate, we have to stomp on the rights of individuals to dissent on education policy in this province.
I think the saddest aspects on this bill, Mr. Speaker, are that the product of this legislation will be to carry on the confrontation that we've seen in British Columbia in recent years. We see this as unnecessary legislation that detracts from the serious needs of the students of this province. It does have a serious effect on people's lives. I talked to a friend of mine on the weekend who I think is a leader in his field in this province. Because of this legislation he felt compelled to withdraw from three ministry committees that he serves on, and his service is a valuable asset to this province. It's unfortunate that we will lose that kind of input because of the process and the product of Bill 20.
I think also that the saddest part of the legislation is that I don't believe it will be effective — that it will work. And certainly the governments of Alberta and Ontario saw that when they withdrew similar legislation.
I suppose when this bill passes the government will have the legislative authority to carry out the clauses in Bill 20, but I think a good government would realize that without the cooperation and the understanding of teachers in this province, it's not good legislation and it will not be effective. I would hope the government would find ways of working with the teachers in this province — perhaps forget Bill 20 and get on with dealing with the very serious issues that are of great concern to all British Columbia in terms of education in our province.
HON. MR. BRUMMET: I appreciate the member's brief comments, although I can't agree with quite a few of them. I realize that they are dedicated to opposing this bill; the reasons may raise greater questions than they do answers.
The member mentioned that the teachers in British Columbia have been singled out. One of the reasons for this legislation, which provides full bargaining rights, is that they had argued that they were singled out by not being given full bargaining rights. This gives them full bargaining rights.
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Somehow the member says that input from the teachers is not valued. I think the input is very much valued, and all of the processes that have been in place can continue in place.
There have been criticisms that the bill takes away the curriculum committees that the ministry has had — all of these sort of things. It certainly does not.
He mentioned that somehow this bill indicates that the teachers need to be managed in this province, when Bill 20 clearly gives the management over to the teachers — the College of Teachers and the local association — to manage their own affairs, to do their bargaining. So I don't know how the legislation manages the affairs of the teachers, when even the minister's powers and qualifications in certification have been turned over to the teachers themselves to run.
The member mentioned that dissent will not be tolerated. I don't know how that inference can be drawn, in that there is no way that this prevents people from speaking up as they have in the past and as they can in the future. But is dissent the real objective, or is the achievement of educational objectives and educational improvement the objective? If dissent is the major objective, then it doesn't prevent it. If cooperation is the major objective, then of course it is welcomed and is quite acceptable within the bill, before or after Bill 20.
That this is unnecessary legislation that carries on the confrontation . . . . I don't know if the member has forgotten what happened before the legislation was introduced: we were facing work-to-rule, the confrontation that had been in place. I'm very sincere in hoping that now that the bargaining rights and these issues have been settled, we can in fact get back to discussing educational issues rather than bargaining rights on an almost permanent basis.
Input. As I indicated, this does not remove input; it welcomes input into various ministry functions — for instance, curriculum development, professional development, program development. None of those has been removed by Bill 20.
Again, I could indicate that we would like to have cooperation. The ministry is not withdrawing from any of the curriculum committees, program committees, accreditation committees, or anything of that nature. So I welcome the cooperation of the teachers in this province on all of the things that they have been involved in in the past and, hopefully, on a more direct route in the future on educational issues, where we can continue to talk about that.
I look forward to working with teachers. I think it is important that we get back to dealing with educational matters, now that the full bargaining rights issue has been settled. I really look forward to doing many of the things that we're looking forward to doing in the educational field, for the improvement of education, for the teachers, for the public and for the students of this province.
Bill 20, Teaching Profession Act, read a third time and passed on division.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call second reading of Bill 25, Mr. Speaker.
LEGAL PROFESSION ACT
HON. B.R. SMITH: On very lengthy notice, it's nice to rise fresh and unencumbered with notes or anything else on the Legal Profession Act. But it's a bill that I know reasonably well. In 1986 we introduced amendments to the Legal Profession Act which are basically intact here, but I think what I should do is indicate the changes that have been made since the bill was introduced last time, and I'll do that in my speaking notes.
I have the honour to move second reading of Bill 25. I want to describe how this bill was put together. The Law Society in 1982 commenced the task of revising the existing Barristers and Solicitors Act. The last revision of that was in 1955. It was seen to be badly in need of modernization and reorganization to deal with confusing, obsolete and misleading provisions. The process of revision has involved input from benchers, officers and a number of members of the Law Society and government drafters. Through 30 drafts, a membership review, two special general meetings and the involvement of the Canadian bar, a high degree of consensus among the 5,800-member legal profession has emerged as to how to fulfil their statutory mandate to govern the profession and protect the public interest. I mention this process because, as the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew (Mr. Sihota) and I both know, a lot of broad consensus has been achieved in order to produce the bill that is here today. I want to commend the benchers, the members of the Law Society and the Canadian bar for their process and for the product. These efforts have been significantly assisted in the work that's been done by my department and by legislative counsel, and we think the legislation has been improved. An overwhelming majority of the Law Society's proposals have been incorporated, but some have not.
The major provisions in this bill relate to the public interest, the powers and functions of the benchers, credentials, competency and disciplinary committees, confidentiality and financial responsibility, fees and taxation, distribution of unclaimed trust funds and the practice of law by corporations.
This bill for the first time spells out the Law Society's object and paramount duty to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice. Methods of doing so include protecting the freedoms of all persons, overseeing the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession, and setting standards for the profession.
The powers and function of the benchers are provided in this new bill. The benchers are the governing body of the Law Society. For the first time provision is made for the appointment of three non-lawyers to serve two-year terms as lay benchers. These benchers may serve on all committees and may sit on discipline cases. Previous provisions included regional representation among the benchers; those are continued and simplified.
Provisions in this bill will make the benchers more accountable to the membership by requiring implementation of resolutions of the members unless these are contrary to the Law Society's statutory obligations.
Another major improvement here is that the benchers will provide for the qualification and certification of members as specialists to set standards for competency; they may regulate specialization and they may set financial standards and inspect records. The authority to set financial standards and inspect records is sought largely as a result of financial difficulties that were faced by a very few members during the recession.
Another new provision will make B.C. the first law society in Canada to provide for archival deposit of members' records.
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This bill will give the benchers broader powers over admission to the profession and the competency and discipline of those practising law. Present procedures will be reformed to enable appropriate committees of benchers to perform these functions which previously required a direct involvement of all benchers. The committees are empowered to require that members answer questions and provide information, while the confidentiality of clients' information will always be respected. In order to reflect the variation in fields of practice, the Law Society is authorized to define qualifications and provide certification of specialties. A very high priority is placed upon ensuring a high level of competence within the profession for the protection of the public.
For the first time, a competency committee is specifically recognized in the act. It will have the authority to investigate cases of suspected incompetence and to recommend to the member ways to improve knowledge and skills. Alternatively, in an extreme case of incompetence the matter may be referred to the discipline committee. In cases of alleged incompetence or professional misconduct, the discipline committee can inquire into actions of the members or a former member or an article student. They can conduct a preliminary investigation and require the production of files or records. The bill clearly lays out the discipline committee's options where they have determined that a lawyer's action has constituted professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming a member or in contravention of the act or rules. In these cases the offending lawyer may receive a reprimand, a fine of up to $10,000, have conditions imposed upon his practice, or ultimately be suspended or disbarred. Where the discipline committee determines that a lawyer's performance of his duties has been incompetent, the committee will also be able to disbar or suspend, or choose from a wide variety of remedial options, including suspension until the courts or examination have been completed, suspension until satisfying a board of examiners of the individual's physical and mental health or freedom from addiction, or placing limitations and conditions upon his practice, including direct supervision by others. Of course, for all credentials, competency and discipline committees, provision for appeal and fair process will exist.
I mention these details only, Mr. Speaker, to clearly indicate to this House that a major and recurrent theme of this bill will be to safeguard the public through setting and enforcing high standards for the practice of law in this province. These provisions significantly improve the Law Society's ability to regulate the profession, and the delegation of work to committees is a more efficient approach to enable them to handle overall policy matters.
There will also be provision to regulate members' financial records, fees and trust accounts. To ensure a high level of confidence and integrity in the general practice of law, these provisions will be of great assistance. The benchers are empowered to set standards of financial responsibility for those who practise law in this province, and to order the audit of books and records. Violations of these financial standards are dealt with by the discipline committee. This bill provides authority for lawyers' records to be inspected to ensure that standards of practice are maintained. These inspections relate primarily to the need to assess the integrity and financial viability of a member's professional practice.
The bill empowers the benchers to set conditions to be met by members on the form and content of contingency fee arrangements entered into with clients. There is a statutory prohibition in this bill against contingency fees in cases involving matrimonial disputes or child custody or access. The bill also provides that where a client is unhappy with an agreement for payment for legal services, the client may apply to the registrar of the Supreme Court and have that agreement reviewed; and the registrar may conclude that the contract is unfair or unreasonable, and may require that it be modified or cancelled.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
The bill creates authority for the Law Society to make rules governing the care of clients' trust accounts and to designate suitable financial institutions for their deposit. The society is empowered to enter into agreements with savings institutions concerning the investment and security of pool trust accounts. The society may operate an account called the Law Society pool trust account, the interest from which is held for the benefit of the Law Foundation, a body which disburses these moneys for public education, legal aid and other worthy public legal objectives. The fund would ensure that members' trust cheques drawn on their pool trust accounts are honoured, even in the event of the failure of a financial institution. The pool trust fund provisions are intended to both increase the security for clients' funds held in weaker financial institutions and to significantly increase the interest income that goes to the Law Foundation. The bill will create an obligation upon savings institutions to report to the Law Society any overdraft of more than $1,000 of a member's pool trust fund account. As well, for the first time, where a lawyer has been unable to locate a client for two years, any trust funds held on behalf of that client may be transferred to the Law Society, which will hold these in trust as a service to both the client and the lawyer. If the funds remain unclaimed for ten years, the principal goes to the Law Foundation for its public purposes.
This bill also allows lawyers to incorporate their practice of law as a law corporation or personal law corporation, and the statute and rules of the Law Society will govern these corporations. So it won't be a way of circumventing conduct rules or discipline. Incorporated practices will be allowed to engage in only the provision of legal services or directly related activities, and voting control has to remain with members of the Law Society. Incorporation will not shield a lawyer from liability for his negligence or professional misconduct, or from discipline by the Law Society. By being allowed to incorporate, lawyers will be able to organize and conduct their business in a form like that of most other major professions and small businesses — other professions do and can incorporate — but with very strict rules and protections for the public.
The changes made since the legislation last year include the practice of law by incorporations, which I've just dealt with; the transaction fees on the insurance program; letters of complaint against a lawyer; the society's correspondence not being discoverable for civil litigation; a provision that savings institutions report overdrafts of pool trust accounts; and a number of minor amendments and some four amendments that were incorporated from the 1986 session.
Mr. Speaker, if I was to point to any features of this act that are the most important, I would point to those that will provide for lay benchers, that will acknowledge the public responsibility of the Law Society, and will enhance and
[ Page 1226 ]
strengthen their ability to deal with competency and discipline. I therefore have the honour to move second reading.
MR. SIHOTA: Mr. Speaker, the Attorney-General aptly noted I was out of the room when this bill was introduced. I must confess, as the Whip opposite knows, that I was told about this a little bit earlier on this afternoon. I didn't take him seriously, and my Whip never did tell me that we would indeed be dealing with this legislation today. Nonetheless, I was glad I heard it over the speaker — to let all of you know I do listen to it in my room. I'm glad to have the opportunity to come into the House to talk a little bit about this legislation.
People are going to begin to wonder if I'm in cahoots, one way or the other, with the Attorney-General. Not only did I agree with Bill 22 introduced earlier this afternoon, but here I am again saying that on our side of the House we're also in concert and agreement with Bill 25 and pleased to see that it has come before the House. It is really going to have everyone wondering what the Attorney-General is up to if we find ourselves agreeing to his legislation over and over again. However, as I've just been told by the government Whip, we will be dealing with his estimates next, and I guess that's where all this good will stops, so I'm putting you on notice in terms of what's to happen next.
I want to talk a little bit about the process in this legislation. I think that in principle the type of approach taken to the introduction of this legislation is the type of approach we on this side of the House would like to see taken to other forms of legislation. This government went out of its way for something like five years to consult with the legal profession with respect to the provisions of this act, to talk to them about what it is that they wanted to see as part and parcel of changes to the old Barristers and Solicitors Act. As a consequence of that dialogue and consultation, we've now been able to come up with legislation that is not only to the satisfaction of the Attorney-General and those of us on this side of the House but also to the individuals practising in the field and the various representative groups of the legal profession.
To the extent that the Attorney-General played a role in that, I think he ought to be applauded. I should say I only wish that the same type of approach and the same atmosphere of good will and trust had been in place during the course of deliberations on Bills 19 and 20, which are really plaguing this province and causing all of us, I'm sure on both sides of the House, a lot of concern. Certainly no one is happy with the type of confrontation that's going on outside with respect to Bills 19 and 20. If only that process that led to Bill 25 had been the same in those two instances. However, what's before us today is Bill 25, and I must say that it certainly meets with my satisfaction. From the comments that I've received from the bar association and its representatives throughout the province, they're pleased with the legislation, and certainly I have no reservations about it.
I wanted to talk, Mr. Speaker, about certain provisions of the legislation that I think are of particular interest to me. I know the Attorney-General would agree with me when I say it's absolutely essential that those of us involved in the legal profession, both in this House and outside of it, want to make sure that the highest standards of competency and discipline and scrutiny are set for individuals that practise in the field of law. There must be an appropriate system of dealing with competence. There must be an above-standard way of dealing with matters of discipline. There must be ways of monitoring the financial activities of solicitors, because I think both of us know that we deal literally with millions of dollars each year. It's important that everything is accounted for and the integrity of the profession is protected and maintained. I'm sure my predecessors, both Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Lauk, shared that view. However, I'm sure that they could perhaps entertain the House with stories about the honour, the integrity and the traditions of the profession far better than I can, simply because I'm relatively new to the field, having practised law for a period of only five or six years.
Nonetheless, the legislation before us is very good, because it deals quite adequately with those three concerns, and in particular with matters of competence and discipline, in the way in which it sets out the various ways of dealing with those issues. When we get to committee stage, I will talk in a little bit more detail about some reservations or concerns I have about some of the provisions in those two areas of competence and discipline. Suffice to say that the thrust of what is proposed here in the legislation is something that I find meets that very high standard of ensuring that there is public confidence in the activities of lawyers.
Having said that, I want to move on to another area of the legislation that I want to talk briefly about. I was pleased to see that section 78 of the legislation in particular went to some length to deal with the matter of contingency fee agreements. I know that there are some in the profession who feel that contingency fee agreements should extend to matrimonial matters and maintenance, but I certainly see that the policy of the legislation here is not to extend it to those types of issues.
I will talk about that a little bit later, but right now I want to focus on the fact that the matter of contingency fee agreements is being dealt with in section 78 of the bill. The reason I raise that is that as someone who has practised in this field, and in particular more and more as a specialist in personal injury matters, I am very familiar with contingency fee arrangements and the potential abuse of contingency fee arrangements that we have seen in that field of endeavour; in particular, contingency fee arrangements which will extract anywhere between 15 percent and 50 percent of the award that is made at the end of the day to the prospective client.
As I know the field, I think that certainly there is no doubt that solicitors ought to be paid for their services. When they do a good job, that also should be reflected in the fee arrangement, but I was certainly beginning to have some concerns as time went on as to the size of that percentage agreement. I was also beginning to have some concern that we were beginning to see in more and more of those agreements that costs, such as solicitor-client or party-party costs, were captured by the contingency fee arrangement. I am pleased to see that in section 78 the legislation addresses itself to that matter and, as I read it, will not allow for the attaching of the contingency fee to that portion of the award.
I think that is proper. As I say, it disturbed me somewhat to see that indeed some of the people practising in the profession were taking advantage or certainly not informing clients directly of the possibility that that portion of it, which I always thought philosophically ought to be exempt, should have been exempt.
The legislation under section 78 again allows for an application to the registrar to determine whether or not the contract is unfair or unreasonable under the circumstances. I think that is important. I think it is important that the contingency fee arrangements be subject to scrutiny, because the mere fact that they are subject to scrutiny will result in compliance and fairness to the consumer of legal services,
[ Page 1227 ]
simply because solicitors, knowing that that is there, will draft the agreements with a little bit more care than has been the case in the past.
So I was pleased to see that those matters are dealt with specifically in the act, because they are the things that often caused me a fair bit of concern as someone practising in an area where we deal daily with contingency fee arrangements.
On the matrimonial issue, as to whether or not those types of agreements ought to apply to matrimonial cases, I know that there is mixed opinion among the solicitors I practise with. It certainly had never been my practice to do that, but it seems to me that there are some instances where it may well be appropriate, particularly in the case of large maintenance payments that are outstanding. Sometimes the only way in which someone could secure the services of a solicitor was on a contingency basis, because they couldn't afford the upfront retainer or the upfront fees to deal with maintenance applications in quantum, and particularly large maintenance applications. Certainly I have never had any difficulty in opposing contingency fee arrangements in matrimonial disputes involving property. However, it seems to me there is some value in continuing to allow it to occur in maintenance agreements, and given the broad way that section 78(5) of the legislation is worded, I am not too sure if it would apply in the case of maintenance.
But other than that, I'm glad to see that that aspect of it has been dealt with. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of people who, when they decide to walk into the office of a lawyer, are always wondering how much it's going to cost them. They've heard all sorts of sad tales as to how expensive legal services are. They don't quite understand how solicitors or barristers arrive at a figure of $120 an hour. It seems like an enormous figure. They've heard about contingency fee agreements, and they don't know what is or is not an appropriate figure. They've heard all sorts of figures ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent, and they just don't know where they stand.
I know that privately within the bar there are some people who have started to explain . . . . They've always sort of explained to a prospective client that they have the right to review and the right to tax, and they have rights enshrined previously under section 99, if I'm not mistaken, of the Barristers and Solicitors Act. Although that always existed, it's important that that be spelled out. I'm pleased to see that the legislation is trying to deal with this difficult matter of contracts for remuneration.
I also noticed, when I was going through the legislation, that it ignores section 77 of the act, which also addresses itself to an issue that often comes up in terms of remuneration payable to a solicitor when there's been a change of solicitors. Often private arrangements have been made between the new solicitor and the old one with respect to the way in which the fees are to be dealt with. Once again, I was glad to see that section 77 in the legislation addressed its mind to that and allowed for a way of resolving it. It's certainly not far from what most people agree to in any event, but I think that the mere fact that it's embodied in the legislation is a reflection of what's happening out there. It is a way of trying to encourage a solicitor to resolve what often can be a very difficult issue. I don't think there's anything more frustrating than a client who wants to move away from a solicitor to another solicitor, for whatever reason, who doesn't have the cash to pay out the existing one and doesn't know what to do. I'm pleased to see that . . . .
MR. SIHOTA: I've never had that problem, if the member's asking, because I've been on the other side and people wanted to come to me.
I'm pleased to see that that issue has been dealt with as well in the legislation.
I guess I'm sort of focused in on matters that come up in day-to-day practice that are of concern to solicitors. I haven't talked that much about matters that come up from time to time that are matters of specific interest to the public at large. On that point, as I say, the key provisions really are competency — because I think it's absolutely essential that the public has an idea or is assured that the highest standards of competency are maintained within the field. I think the legislation being proposed here tries to ensure that.
It's unfortunate, Mr. Speaker . . . . I guess it's a debatable point as to whether or not this should be covered by the legislation, although we're beginning to see more and more movement in this regard privately by the bar, in any event. It's unfortunate that solicitors do not advertise in a far more direct way with respect to their specialties. I think that the public interest would be served far better if there was further and ongoing promotion — if I can put it that way — or at least information, with respect to the specialty of solicitors.
No one would go and see an eye doctor for a nose problem. They'd obviously go and see somebody who specializes in nasal work. In the same way, people often just go see a lawyer for the sake of seeing a lawyer without really ascertaining or determining whether or not the solicitor or the barrister is a specialist within a particular field. There should be greater emphasis placed on the profession with respect to the promotion and advertising of specialties. I don't think that's necessarily something that ought to be captured or reflected in legislation, and I'm not suggesting that Bill 25 ought to be amended in that regard. I'm just saying that I would hope to see, in the years to come, the profession itself moving in that direction and allowing for specialty. It would begin to deal . . . . I wouldn't say deal, but it certainly is connected and dovetails in with the matters of competence that are raised within the legislation in a world that's becoming increasingly specialized. Increasingly legal matters that are so broad and far-ranging and given a law, particularly in the area of negligence, that's developing as quickly as it has and in other areas . . . . It's impossible for a general practitioner to remain a general practitioner and to deal with all of the matters of law that come up.
Unfortunately, sometimes — and I say this realistically — pressures, whether they be financial or other-wise, often result in a solicitor or barrister taking a case in a matter that he's not particularly familiar with. I especially think that we should move away from that. I also think that that's not necessarily a matter for legislation to reflect, but I think it would make it a little bit easier to deal with matters of competence.
As I say, from the standpoint of the public interest, I think the first issue really has to be competence. We try to ensure that through the education process we have within the universities. As the Attorney-General probably knows, he was one of my professors of criminal procedure in my second year at the University of Victoria, where we tried to ensure that
[ Page 1228 ]
through the CLE courses and the bar admission program. I think that there is also a need to ensure that through a competency committee, as is being contemplated under Bill 25. I should also tell the Attorney-General that I never really did practise criminal law — I don't know if that's a reflection on him or not.
The discipline aspect, of course, is another matter on which I think the public has to be assured that there are wide powers and a great ability on the part of a discipline committee. We've recently heard and read about a number of instances that have warranted disciplinary actions. I think that the public needs to be assured that the committee has wide powers to determine whether members or, indeed, articling students have contravened the provisions of the act, and to deal with members or articling students when they have violated any rules or have been involved in serious matters, particularly involving accounts of clients. I am pleased to see that the legislation provides the chair of the discipline committee with a fair number of powers when it comes to inquiries. The ability to suspend is codified in the legislation. It deals with matters of disbarment and other actions. Once again, I think all those are public interest matters, and the public needs to be assured that there are appropriate and broad powers in the hands of the various committees to deal with discipline. I'm glad to see that the legislation does that.
A third point I want to make about the public interest is that I think it is important, with respect to the public interest, that the public begin to have some input into the operations of the Law Society of British Columbia and the benchers of the society. I am pleased to see that the legislation, for the first time, allows for lay benchers to participate in the ongoing affairs of the society. Once again, I think that's an appropriate move.
MR. SIHOTA: I hear the member opposite saying that that's what we do in the case of teachers under Bill 20, I take it. Let me comment on that, because I think the member obviously failed to take note of my opening comments with respect to this legislation. I think they were important comments that bear repeating, and they're simply that this legislation is a model of consultation. It has taken four or five years of ongoing direct consultation between the profession and the Attorney-General's department. They sat down and talked about the legislation. In fact, I should point out to the members that, as I understand it, the legal profession itself made the overture in the first place to the government and said: "Look, the old Barristers and Solicitors Act is antiquated and needs some type of reform." Of course, in the case of teachers it was the opposite approach. It was this government that decided on its own initiative, without consultation with teachers, that it wanted to move on the legislation.
MR. RABBITT: No, no.
MR. SIHOTA: If you want to argue about that, Mr. Member, the fact remains that this legislation is a model of consultation, whereas that one is the exact opposite. The legislation the member makes comments about is simply legislation which reflects a doctrinaire point of view on the part of this government. In my view, it did not involve adequate, ongoing, effective, meaningful consultation with the profession. If it had, we wouldn't have the type of chaos that we have right now in this province; we wouldn't have the type of rally we're supposed to be seeing on the steps of the Legislature tomorrow with respect to Bills 19 and 20. I can only say to the member opposite that I would hope he takes the message back to his colleagues and suggests that in future the type of approach that was embraced with respect to Bill 25 ought to be the type of approach taken with all forms of legislation dealing with various professions.
MR. SIHOTA: Since we still have time, if the member opposite, who wishes to heckle on this matter, wishes to take the matter back before third reading of Bill 20 and before the conclusion of second reading of Bill 19 . . . . Well, sorry, but he can still take it back to his colleagues and say: "We should not move with that legislation any further. We should not have it proclaimed, because it was not triggered in the same way, under the same type of consultation and mutual respect, that this legislation was." It's somewhat schizophrenic for a government to, on one hand, take the type of approach it did on Bill 25 and to take the exact opposite approach on Bill 19 or Bill 20; the government really should be shamed for it.
The member wants to smile about the nice things about Bill 25. I'm quite prepared to say good things about this legislation, but believe you me, those comments ought not to be interpreted to suggest that we in some way support the process or the "consultation" — or lack thereof — under Bills 19 and 20. Bill 19 and Bill 20 were a shame, and the type of consultation that supposedly took place was essentially a fraud. With Bill 19, we know now that the solicitors were drafting that legislation at the very time the hearings were going on, and somehow the member opposite takes great comfort in that. We don't; we don't think that's an appropriate way to go. We do think that the way this government went about Bill 25 is the way to go. So I would hope that the member opposite takes those types of comments under advisement and considers them before he directs a smile in the direction of this member to try to suggest that my comments with respect to section 6 of the Legal Profession Act in some way indicate support with respect to the lay provisions of Bill 20.
Having made that point, let me get back to the matter of Bill 25, the legislation before us — unless the member has any other points he wishes to make.
Lay benchers, like I said at the outset, is certainly an appropriate way to proceed. My only concern with respect to section 6 of the legislation, and to the idea, is that I would have preferred a different way of dealing with the matter of the appointment. Of course, we again have three appointments being made here at the pleasure of cabinet. We're beginning to see, over and over again, this — well, not over again; it's always been there, I guess — the ability of cabinet to make some of these appointments. I would trust that those appointments will be made in consultation with the profession.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: David Vickers and Les Bewley. How's that for schizophrenia?
MR. SIHOTA: The member opposite suggests that Mr. Vickers and Mr. Bewley ought to be the lay benchers, and he's quite correct that that would be schizophrenic. I'm not
[ Page 1229 ]
too sure if that would result in greater efficiency in terms of the operations of the Law Society; but then again, I could be proven wrong. In any event, I would have preferred to see a different mechanism there in terms of choosing the lay people.
In conclusion, I want to emphasize, as I now have twice, that we well support this legislation. It is legislation that meets with the satisfaction of all the parties to be affected by it. I haven't heard one negative comment about it. I've consulted with and was approached by people in the profession on a number of occasions; accordingly, we're quite pleased to support this legislation. That's two of the Attorney-General's bills that I've supported, which is a little better than I thought I'd do. I look forward to the estimates, where perhaps we can talk about larger matters.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: With respect to this bill, I'm going to observe at the outset that the member opposite has encyclopedic knowledge, and I've been most impressed with his debate today. I would advise the House — and this is just a sort of notice of advisement — that I think it might be appropriate, following second reading by the hon. Attorney, to ask leave to proceed to committee stage of this bill. I'm just advising you of that question, which I'll be posing later, and you can decide on how your caucus might feel about that. That would be for later today.
Now, where is the Attorney?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Oh, there are amendments, are there? That could make it difficult, then. In any event, the Attorney will soon be approaching his place and, I presume, concluding debate, and the members can think about that request. I'm easy, but I just thought I'd give you that advice now, Mr. Member.
Mr. Speaker, could we have a brief recess?
MR. SPEAKER: The members request a five-minute recess? We certainly can have one. I'll ring the bells when it's time to resume.
The House recessed at 5:01 p. m.
The House resumed at 5:06 p. m.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I very much appreciate the words of the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew, who has examined this bill and also consulted with the profession, as did I. It certainly is a bill that came through a great deal of consultation.
There were two suggestions that he made for improvement. One was that he noted that there may be some cases of maintenance actions where there could be some importance in having a contingency fee, particularly where you had one side much better equipped to pay than another. I am quite prepared to make a modification in committee in that regard and to allow contingency fees if they are approved by a court in relation to maintenance, but not in relation to custody or access. I'd never concede that there should be any contingency fee in relation to those or in relation to matrimonial property.
The other point that he made was that perhaps there would be consultation with the Law Society on the appointment of lay benchers. I don't think that is appropriate, because I just don't hold to the proposition that when you bring some sunlight into these professions and have some non-lawyers, some non-engineers, some non-dentists and so on sitting on the board . . . . They represent the public, and there shouldn't be approval from that profession as to who they are. I think it defeats the cause of sunlight. I would not be prepared to consult with them. Every self-governing body would like to have a say as to what non-members of their profession go aboard. That is not the way you get sunlight. We have got to put people on there who represent the public interest and are independent.
I thank the member for his constructive comments, and I move second reading.
Bill 25, Legal Profession Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
MR. SPEAKER: The second member for Vancouver Centre seeks leave to make an introduction.
MR. BARNES: Mr. Speaker, I would like the House to join me in welcoming a couple of people from Los Angeles, California, who surprised me today with a visit. They are people I haven't seen for some 30 years. They were in your gallery; perhaps they had to catch their bus back to Vancouver. I think it was back in 1949 the last time I saw Maurice Davis. He has married a lady from the east, Ann. Would the House help me in making them welcome.
HON. MR. REID: I seek leave to make an introduction.
HON. MR. REID: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. Savage) and Mr. Walter Davidson, MLA, I would like the House to make welcome Mr. Gordon Cartwright from Delta.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: At the outset, Mr. Speaker, and before calling the next piece of business, I would like to thank the opposition, particularly the Attorney-General's critic, for the ability to consult and decide about how we were going to proceed for the rest of the afternoon.
With that said, I call Committee of Supply.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ATTORNEY-GENERAL
On vote 12: minister's office, $219,629.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I am going to depart from the tradition of making a long opening. I am going to be very brief and make a few remarks only.
[ Page 1230 ]
This is, I guess, my fifth time in estimates as Attorney-General, and it has been a position that has had a great deal of support from all corners of this House and cooperation from a number of people. It's not always a ministry of good news. It's sometimes a ministry that has to do tough, unwanted tasks that nobody else wants to do. But nevertheless, this large ministry is responsible for the police, court services, criminal justice, corrections, and also for a number of fascinating quangos and other things that range from the B.C. Steamship Company to the Racing Commission to the emergency services, and it is an interesting ministry.
I hope that this year one of the major changes that I'll make in this ministry, or that I intend to make in this ministry, is to try to focus attention in the criminal justice side of my ministry on victims of crime, and to try to provide some support for victims of crime. We have support now under the Criminal Injury Compensation Act, but it's very, very minor payments that we make under that act. What is needed desperately is some kind of support system for the good community groups and volunteers in this province who deliver services along with the police to people who come before the justice system, not as people accused with a crime . . . . The lawyers and the legal system have done so much to safeguard their rights, but nobody has done very much to safeguard the rights of the person who is there innocently and is often bewildered and sometimes terrified.
I know that I've talked about this before, but I intend to back up this talk with some solid programs this year — that will include assistance for the sexual assault centres and the battered women support services that we do support now — to give some ongoing support and to make some new commitments. So any comments of a helpful kind in that regard would be greatly appreciated. I feel that that's probably the most important thing that this ministry will do in the current fiscal year — to make some developments for victims of crime.
One thing that I intend to institute for victims of crime is a toll-free number across this province, very much like the system that's been implemented in California, which allows anyone who needs advice or help or support — emotional assistance — to call. From that number they will be put in touch with their nearest community support system. This has worked very well in the state of California, where it has been run by the students at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. The University of British Columbia law school has agreed that the students, under their faculty supervisors, will run a similar program here, and we think this will provide us with a good beginning. But that's only a beginning; what is needed is some kind of network of volunteers with some kind of basic support throughout the communities of the province. We have good support now in some of the cities, but we don't have a lot of support around the province.
I'm also committed very much to improving the enforcement of maintenance orders. We've made a start, of course, on an automatic enforcement program for maintenance orders, but I hope to have the enforcement of maintenance orders provincewide. I think that's the only way to go. We've been doing this in the Vancouver area, and it's a case of getting the right technological equipment in place to do this. We need a process whereby we can locate defaulting spouses, trace them in a confidential manner, have access to major data banks in this province, and have a fully operative system which I hope to see provincewide before the fiscal year is ended.
We have, of course, launched a new motion picture bill dealing with regulation of adult videos and making a major assault, as we did in that legislation, in a sensible way, on pornography. I think our approach to pornography — I say it quite confidently — is a better approach than the approach of the federal government. Twice the federal government have brought forward ambitious changes to the Criminal Code. The first ones last year were completely unacceptable, I think, to vast numbers of the community — to the artistic community and to a lot of ordinary citizens. They've come back with better legislation this year, but it's still, to my way of thinking, too blue-stocking in its approach.
Our legislation dealt with the real evils that are out there. What are those evils? Child porn, sex and violence, violence and women, the things that we don't want our children to watch — that we don't want anybody to watch really — and certain unnatural acts that I won't go into here that are considered generally to be not displayable have been removed. We have on the other hand allowed adult video to depict a fair degree of tolerant cinematography for adults, but out of the reach of kids — but nothing that falls into any of those categories that I've mentioned. I think that was a sensible, balanced, modem approach in the 1980s, and it's an approach that seems to have worked in this province. It hasn't caused great problems with the video industry. It hasn't caused great problems with distributors or with artists. We don't have people marching against that legislation. That legislation is working quite well. I just wish that Ottawa would follow a course like that. Even though their second bill is better, I think it needs more improvement.
We are going to launch a public education program of our own on pornography. The overall goal of this program is to increase public knowledge and awareness about the issue of pornography. We'll have community workshops, and a critical viewing skills program for pre-teens and young adults. All facets of that program will be designed to make people — particularly young people — aware of the need to control pornography. We hope that that preventive and educational approach will again be better than a punitive approach and the use of the Criminal Code.
Another comment I want to make just briefly in my introductory remarks is that 1987 marks the tenth anniversary of Counterattack. It's a very good time to reflect on the overwhelming success of this program, which heightens the level of awareness among British Columbians of the hazard of mixing drinking and driving. It's hard to imagine that that program started only in 1977. It was started by my predecessor, Mr. Gardom, and operated by the ministry and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Counterattack has had an enviable record, which has been watched all over the world, in combatting the crime of drinking driving through high-visibility police road-check campaigns; year-round education programs, including television and radio messages; in-school student action committees; and research and evaluation concerning drinking driving and the effects of that program.
With the two-pronged approach to drinking and driving — that is, better education of kids and more involvement of kids in safe-driving programs — and then a highly visible enforcement campaign with road checks and with charges being laid, and scaring the pants off people with television ads, we've had good success. I believe in the deterrent when it's used that way. I think there is a deterrent in drinking and
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driving, but unfortunately the only way you keep deterring is by keeping at it. You can't let down your guard.
We can take great pride, then, in our program, which has run for ten years. We have reduced alcohol-related traffic accidents, including injury or death, by about 30 percent. That constitutes saving over 8,000 people from injury or death in just a ten-year period, not to mention the costs to the medical and justice systems, which would have been some $13 million at the very least.
The theme of the tenth anniversary is "A Decade Down a Safer Road." We have planned a number of activities that will incorporate that theme during the year, including the spring Counterattack road-check program, which is already underway and which you should have noticed, several regional youth leadership conferences, the sixth provincial youth leadership conference in Vancouver, and a travelling mall show.
I also have the responsibility for public gaming in this province. I have no doubt that some of the observations that will be made in these estimates will have to do with public gaming, but I could be wrong.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Oh, gosh, I'm wrong again. They're not interested in that subject.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I'm pushing bringing the matter into the public arena and having it regulated by a gaming commission, which we have done. We're charging them with the responsibility of reporting to us by November 30, and we will let them recommend to us whether we're going to go further down the road of any expansion of gaming. We are not committed to going down that road.
MR. BLENCOE: Plans are already in the works.
HON. B.R. SMITH: No, you're wrong again. The commission is going to look at ways of improving current regulations. I think that members sometimes forget the amount of gaming that already takes place in this province, and the industry that's already there. It's about a $700 million industry, if you take into account the amount that is wagered on lotteries and horse-racing. Some $200 million on horseracing, $400 million on lotteries . . . .
MR. BLENCOE: How many have you got in Oak Bay?
HON. B.R. SMITH: I can tell you, Mr. Member, that you may find too, if you start going around on weekends talking to your constituents, that a lot of them buy lottery tickets. They buy them all the time.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Well, lottery tickets are exactly the same as other games. In fact, it happens to be not as good a way of winning money as betting at the race-track. We have no intention, in any event, of marching out of step with the public, or making major strides . . . .
MR. BLENCOE: You're out of step.
HON. B.R. SMITH: No, we're not; you're out of step. You talk like some bluestocking out of the eighteenth century on this issue. Yes, you do, and you talk out of both sides of your mouth, because you don't want this activity, but you're the first one to come around and snivel for lottery grants.
With your leave, Mr. Chairman, I'll change that unparliamentary observation to "plead."
To get back onto the non-confrontational introduction that I had previously been launched on, youth containment centres are a major priority. A major priority of this ministry is to build youth containment centres to meet the requirements of the Young Offenders Act. Federally driven regulations have produced a considerable boom in the building industry in this province for youth containment centres. We have to provide the best that we can, and we are doing so.
We also have a strong obligation, Mr. Chairman, to continue with our initiatives to replace Oakalla, the Lower Mainland Regional Correctional Centre. The first step in that process . . . . I know the hon. Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch) is hanging on every word that I'm saying, because this is a matter of abiding interest to him. He has been a great leader of the decentralization of the Oakalla facilities.
The first step in this process was the building of the Vancouver pretrial centre, which opened in August 1983 to accommodate 153 remand and awaiting-trial prisoners. Two other replacement facilities have been approved by the government in recent months: the Maple Ridge Correctional Centre, a 250-bed facility for sentenced adult males, and the Burnaby Correction Centre for Women, a 126-bed centre for sentenced and remanded adult women to be located adjacent to the Fraser River in south Burnaby. That will mean that we will at last be able to operate a facility for women in British Columbia, and it means that federally sentenced prisoners will be able to have access to that on agreement with us.
In addition, planning approval has been obtained for the two remaining facilities required so that we can fully vacate the Oakalla lands. I look forward to the day that those lands will not be custodial any more and will be able to be used for the community purposes that the government supports.
With those brief introductory remarks, it is an honour to present the estimates of the minister's office.
MR. SIHOTA: I'll open my comments by saying that this is the first occasion that I have had since I've been elected to deal with the Attorney-General's estimates, obviously. It's the first time as an elected official that I've had an occasion to deal with these estimates, period. Therefore, what I intend to do is make some opening comments in a broad-brush way, to talk a little bit about the things on our agenda as New Democrats in areas that fall within the purview of the Attorney-General's ministry.
I'm glad to see that the Premier's here. I would hope that he stays for some of my comments, because some of them are more apt to be directed towards comments that he made and things that he seems to take a personal interest in. Since all the deputies report to him, I think that it would only be appropriate that he stay here and listen to the comments that I've got to make.
First of all, before I launch into it, I should say that I'm pleased to see that so many of my own NDP colleagues are here to support me at this late hour as we move into the third issue that I've had to deal with today with respect to the Attorney-General. I mentioned to the Attorney-General in
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the course of the debate on the Legal Profession Act that this is beginning to sound a little bit like a love-in, because I'd agreed with the first two pieces of legislation that he brought in that we discussed earlier today. And now we're about to begin — I'm sure, given the Attorney-General's experience in these matters and the lack of it on my part — a new David and Goliath show. But. . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: But we all remember how that turned out.
MR. SIHOTA: I want to warn the . . . . You want to remind the Attorney-General how it turned out? The love-in is in some ways going to end. I think we're going to get a little bit of turbulence here on this.
There are a number of issues that are being promoted by the government that cause us some concern, and I want to deal with those. I want to start off — and I'll catch the Attorney-General off guard on this matter — with the matter of gaming. Clearly it is a matter of concern to those of us on this side of the House. It is our view indeed — to quote the Attorney-General and reverse the argument on him — that the government is out of step with the public on this.
A lot of comments were made during the course of the Attorney-General's introductions on this matter in reply to the comments of my learned friend the second member for Victoria (Mr. Blencoe) with respect to gaming, and supposedly contradictory statements flowing from that side.
Since the Premier is here right now, I would like to pose a thought that hopefully the Premier will at some point have the opportunity to publicly comment on. On January 17 this year, I read with some interest in the Vancouver Sun that the Premier had indicated that all of the money that would flow from the gaming operation on B.C. Steamships was going to go to charities. That comment was made — in this style of "consultation" — after a representation from Mr. Leslie and groups that represent 400 charitable organizations. The head of that group approached the Premier, and it was only after "consultation" that we read with some interest in the newspaper that on January 17 the Premier said that all the revenues from the charity operations on the steamships — I know the Attorney-General has jurisdiction on those matters — would go to charities. That was January 17. Four months later the government had totally reversed its position and was using those moneys to offset the debt on that Crown corporation.
The Premier said, and it seems to me it was a rather flippant comment: "I was wrong." Well, I don't think that is satisfactory; not at all. I think this government ought to explain to the people of this province the reasons for its reversals. What happened between January 17 and this month to cause the government to reverse its position? Who made representations to the government on these matters to convince it that it ought to change? Why was it that the Premier made the comment on January 17 and found himself reversing it later on? Is there any consistency in the points of view in this government on gaming? Indeed, if it is wrong on this point with respect to the B.C. Steamship Company, then what else is it wrong about? If indeed the public was led into a sense of false security on January 17, and indeed that false security is now proven to be false, what other comments on the part of the government with respect to gaming cannot be relied upon? I see that the Premier is anxious, and perhaps members of the media who haven't hit the machine right now at 5:30 will have the opportunity to ask some of these questions to the Premier when he goes outside. But they are important pivotal decisions to be made on the matter of gaming in this province.
Of course, we have staked out our territory. We have said very clearly where we stand as a party on the matter of gaming. It causes me great concern that this government is not clear, that it has no idea where it is going and that its positions can change that drastically in a period of four months. It's a question of confidence and of competence on the part of government — confidence in the statements made by the highest elected officials in this province, and competence in terms of the government not knowing where it's going on this issue. We have a lot of concerns about the government, and I don't think it is satisfactory at all for anybody, let alone the Premier or the Attorney-General, to turn around and say: "Well, I was wrong." An explanation is owed to the charities, to the opposition and to the public. We want to know on this side of the House where this government is going with respect to the matter of gaming.
Oh, I see the Premier is excited and wants to reply. As I say, I would invite the reply, but it is not the only example of inconsistency on the part of this government when it comes to the matter of gaming. Let's give the Premier a bit of a break here and go to the Attorney-General. On January 15 this year the Premier was quoted in the Times-Colonist in a front-page story, saying that the run from Seattle to Victoria would not be an appropriate testing-ground for public acceptance of gaming in this province, if I can paraphrase — and if he wants to hear the direct quote, I am sure I could produce it here in a second. This is for the edification of the Attorney-General, to remind him of what he had to say. He said: "I think the public that is going to appraise what it thinks of gaming has got to have some longer experience than an hour on the cruise to Seattle." That was on January 15, and we're talking about inconsistent . . . .
MR. BLENCOE: Who said that?
MR. SIHOTA: The Attorney-General of this province said that. He was quoted by the newspapers as having said that — unless of course . . . .
We're talking about inconsistencies on the part of this government with respect to gaming. We're talking about changes in its position in a period of four months. We're talking, on the one hand, about the chief elected official in this province saying the money is going to go to charities and then reversing himself in four months; on the other hand, we're talking about the chief law enforcement officer in this province saying on January 15 that the run to Seattle was not an appropriate testing-ground, and then the government turning around four months later and saying that it will be the only testing-ground. What happened? I think the public deserves an explanation. What happened between January 15 and this month with respect to this government's stated intentions, saying that that run was not an appropriate testing-ground and then using it as a testing-ground?
Who made representations to the government and asked that the Seattle run be the testing-ground? How is it that someone can justify a 90-minute experience on the Princess Marguerite as an appropriate testing-ground for determining the public appetite for gaming in this province? Why the inconsistencies? Why this deception and this false propaganda, if I can put it that way, to the public? Will this
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government make it clear what its intentions are? Will it explain why it has supposedly reversed its public pronouncements in terms of those two issues on gaming and give an adequate and open explanation? It's not enough to say, "We were wrong"; it's not enough to say, "We've had some second thoughts about it." The fact of the matter is that there are inconsistencies, and they raise questions of competence and questions of confidence. How can the public and the members on this side of the House have confidence in this government when it is making one statement in January and a totally different statement in May?
When I raise those points, Mr. Speaker, I'm not even dealing with the heart of the matter. We're not dealing with the forests, we're just dealing with the trees here. We're just dealing with statements that the government has made on the matter of gaming. We haven't dealt with the heart of the matter, which is why that this government intends to move in that direction. Where is the push coming from? You know, when I walk around . . . .
HON. MR. REID: Tourists love it.
MR. SIHOTA: I hear the Minister of Tourism saying the tourists love it. Let me tell the Minister of Tourism this: this past weekend being a long weekend, I spent a little bit of time talking to a number of people who work within the parks department and work as parks rangers in the parks in my riding. Of course, at this time of the year there are a lot of tourists spread out anywhere between Sooke and Port Renfrew and in all the various parks we have. A lot of them are American tourists. The parks rangers commented to me — unasked; they just came up to me and started talking on the issue . . . . They said: "You know, it's interesting. We've received a lot of comments from the seniors and the families enjoying our public campgrounds right now, and they are saying: 'Why is it that in this province you people want to introduce gambling?"' The overall consensus . . . .
HON. MR. REID: Name names. Where are they from?
MR. SIHOTA: I will name names. I'm not hesitant to name names, unlike the minister opposite who supposedly has all this information. I'll be pleased to name those names if the Minister of Tourism will cite one study to me — and table it in this House — that says that those American tourists want gambling. So I say to the minister, you table a report in this House that shows that those tourists want gaming in this province, and I'll name names in terms of the parks rangers who talked to me.
HON. MR. REID: You're on.
MR. SIHOTA: You've got that down, Mr. Minister? Write it down, because I don't want you to forget when you leave the House. Put it down, and we'll deal with that the moment you table that study.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, the Chair admires your enthusiasm, but I thought we were dealing with the Attorney-General's vote 12 — not the Premier's and not the Minister of Tourism's.
MR. SIHOTA: So did I, Mr. Chairman, but the Minister of Tourism just got me excited there for a moment.
MR. SIHOTA: I appreciate the comments, but the point here is that I think this government is moving in a very, very dangerous direction when it talks about the introduction of gaming in this province. I don't think the public wants it. I don't think it is consistent with the heritage and the traditions of this province to introduce that type of sleazy activity. It invites crime and the drug trade.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hon. member, you used a terminology there. I think you said "sleazy." The Chair doesn't really approve of that kind of language. Would you retract that, please?
MR. SIHOTA: I will retract that, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for that.
It's that type of unsavoury activity that none of us want to see in this province: the prostitution, the drugs, the criminal element that is wedded to gaming operations. It's that kind of stuff, Mr. Chairman, that we don't want to see in this province. We suspect that it's that type of activity that's going to come.
I want to congratulate once again my friends the second member for Victoria (Mr. Blencoe) and the first member for Victoria (Mr. G. Hanson), who raised important questions with respect to enforcement and the concerns that chiefs of police have with respect to the introduction of gaming operations, and the extent to which they are going to be subsidized by the province if the province decides to continue its way down this dangerous route.
I don't want to spend any more time on the gaming issue, nor do I intend at this stage of the game to quote to the Attorney-General comments that have been made by leaders of the Social Credit Party in the past and the current Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy), and what they have to say about gaming in this province. We've read those comments, and we're aware of them, as is the Attorney-General. There's a total shift of policy on the part of this government that really could bring about shame to this province, and we don't want to see that.
So we're hoping that this government does not continue on its road to gaming. We hope that both the Premier and the Attorney-General will explain in much more elaborate ways the statements that they made in January, and why there was a reversal in position.
I notice that the Premier has drifted off to sleep, and I know he . . . . Oh, I'm sorry. I woke him up again. I didn't mean to interrupt the Premier. Let me move on to another issue. Hopefully it's one that will not also bore the Premier.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sorry, hon. member, your time's up, under standing orders.
MR. CASHORE: Mr. Chairman, I've been enjoying the brilliant comments of my colleague from Esquimalt-Port Renfrew, and I would like to request that he continue this line of discussion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair recognizes the hon. member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew.
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MR. SIHOTA: I want to thank the previous member for his very complimentary remarks. The Premier and the Attorney-General made a major issue after the provincial election of the matter of consultation. I think it's becoming evident to us on this side of the House, and I hope to the public at large, that there appear to be all sorts of efforts at consultation and yet very little follow-through. It's evident to us that there are indeed a number of examples where at the end of the day very little weight has been attached to the representations made to the Premier and the Attorney-General.
It so happened that in December of last year, the Attorney-General, I believe, and certainly the Premier, were visited by the representatives of the Law Society of British Columbia on the matter of legal aid. At that point a paper was submitted, dated December 1, 1986, to the Premier by the Law Society that dealt with the matter of legal aid and access to justice. The Premier heard the representations; he listened to the representations. The members of the Law Society indicated that they were pleased with the reception they received; that they were confident that the government would begin now, finally, to move on the matter of legal aid; that there would be an expansion of legal aid coverage in this province; that there would be a recognition of the needs outlined in the task force on public legal services that was released by the province in August 1984, a task force that was set up at the behest and the request of the Attorney-General, where certain terms of reference were provided to the various people.
After meeting and consulting with the Premier of this province there was a view among the benchers. . . . I remember at the time walking into my law office — because in those days we weren't in the House and it gave me the occasional time to walk to the law office and catch up with my mail — and reading the Benchers' Bulletin, the regular statement that comes out to all members of the legal profession, and there was a nice picture on the front with the Premier, and he was shaking hands with the representatives of the Legal Aid Society and the Law Society of British Columbia. There was a nice editorial piece written in the benchers' bulletin at the time, if I recollect it properly, that said that everyone was confident that we were moving into a new era of consultation in this province; that there was hope that when the budget came down we would begin to see greater funding put out for legal aid in this province; that there would be a plan laid out to achieve the goals that were set down by the task force in August 1984. There was a lot of hope that the budget that came down in March 1987 would reflect the conversations that had taken place between the Law Society and the Premier.
Like a lot of other British Columbians out there, there was a lot of faith vested in the Premier that not only would he listen — because the essence of consultation is not to listen but then to act on the representations that were made — but that the government would then begin to act on the representations that were made by the Law Society of British Columbia.
All of us who participated in the profession, myself included, understand the limitations of the current legal aid system. We know where the cracks are, we know the level of underfunding, we know that there is a clientele out there, a portion of society that is in desperate need of basic legal services, like women wanting to make an application in court for spousal maintenance. It just makes pure economic sense to provide ongoing legal aid coverage for women in those types of situations, so that they — single mothers — can move away from their situation of severe poverty and get some support from husbands who have the ability to pay but are just ducking all of the enforcement orders.
I was pleased to see the Attorney-General talk about spousal maintenance. Within the context of legal aid, I as a practitioner know of the number of single mothers, women who came into my law office, let alone others . . . . I can only gauge it by my own office. There was a desperate need for appropriate legal aid coverage for that type of assistance. Yet the system lacked; it didn't provide; it was essentially not covered. And in areas where coverage was provided, the amount of assistance provided was nominal and often made it uneconomical for solicitors to proceed on this matter.
I want to tell the Premier that there are an incredible number of single mothers out there who are in desperate need, and who look to that court order that says a person is to pay $200 or $250 a month in maintenance. That's the difference between poverty and just a few basic ingredients on the table at home, something that moves them away from Kraft Dinners every night to some type of decent food. That's what we're talking about: something that can move them away from the government, from social assistance and welfare, and give them a level of support. Yet it's lacking, and it's lacking because they don't have access to adequate legal services to begin to enforce those maintenance orders. That's just a basic requirement. It's true that we could change the social condition of a lot of women and children particularly. I see it every day in the field that I practise in. Women and children in this province could benefit from a stronger legal aid system if we're going to maintain the current rules of spousal maintenance.
I'll talk a little bit later about spousal maintenance, because it's another item on the New Democratic agenda in terms of improvements. One of the cornerstones in our agenda, in terms of the Attorney-General's estimates this time around, is to talk about the legal aid system and its inadequacies, and why it is that the government, when it introduced its budget in March 1987, never fulfilled the hope of that December 1986 meeting between the Law Society and the Premier. The essence, the spirit of consultation, the whole intent and purpose of the meeting with that society to determine the needs of legal aid in this province, and the hope that flowed from that meeting, evaporated when the budget came down. We didn't see any substantial movement in the area of legal aid. We'll talk a little bit later during the course of these estimates about the inadequacies of the legal aid system. We'll talk about the fact that the government is saying they put $5 million more into legal aid and upped the amount from $14 million to $19 million, when indeed that is not true. We will pursue that matter in some depth with the government, because there has not been a $5 million increase. And even if there was, it is not adequate.
The task force on legal aid that came down in August 1984 spelled out very clearly what the needs are. We're talking about somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30 million to $33 million to properly fund that system, and there is inadequate funding.
I want to say that gaming and gambling is certainly on our agenda, first of all. Second — and this is not in order of priority, believe me — is the matter of legal aid. I raise those two issues because I noticed the Premier was in the House, and accordingly I think it would be appropriate to deal with
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those matters now. Those are two, but there are a number of other issues on our agenda when it comes to dealing with these estimates.
The third one that I want to talk about very quickly, because I've sort of touched on it already and I don't think it needs further amplification, is this area of spousal maintenance. I've certainly made it clear that if during the course of my tenure in this Legislature there are two or three issues that I would like to have made some impact on before the next election, the number one item on my personal agenda, and certainly on our agenda, is the matter of spousal maintenance. We will certainly be talking to the government about support and changes in the enforcement mechanism to make sure that women in particular have access to adequate maintenance. I've already flagged that once so I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about it.
The fourth issue I want to deal with in terms of items on our agenda is the matter of the victims of violence. I'm glad to see that the Attorney-General shares that concern as well, and I applaud the Attorney-General for the types of programs that we have been able to introduce in this province. I think we would both agree on the need to go further, and there's a question of funding. It's certainly on our agenda, on our new, upbeat, positive, New Democrat agenda: this whole question of victims of violence. To quote our leader, I think that there are a number of missed opportunities on the part of the current government, and there are new directions that those of us in the New Democratic Party want to put forward in terms of victims of violence and all the other issues that I raised within the context of the A-G's estimates.
There is, I think we would all agree, a need to recognize victims of violence, and to recognize the need for appropriate compensation, both in terms of direct damages and of what I would call indirect damages with respect to victims of violence. We will be touching on that issue as being another issue that is very high up on our agenda.
I see my time is moving, so I want to list a couple of other items so that when we continue this debate a little bit later on in the estimates we can deal with the specific questions instead of a broad-brush statement from myself. But there are other issues.
Pornography is clearly an issue that we want to deal with, because I agree with the Attorney-General that there are some questions arising out of the current amendments to the Criminal Code — certainly access to pornographic material. If I can just touch on these issues very quickly, we're not really talking about the whole issue of exploitation of women with respect to pornography, which is an issue that I would like at some other time to have some opportunity to elaborate on, but also with respect to access to pornographic material. I think recent studies are now beginning to show that the segment of society that tends to want to have access to pornographic material, particularly video material, is young people between the ages of 12 and 19. That was just a shocking statistic I read the other day in a report that came across my desk, and I think that there needs to be some dialogue on that. So I want to serve notice to the Attorney-General that we will be dealing with that.
The Attorney-General is quite correct in dealing with the matter of Counterattack. It has been ten years, and it's a good program, but we have some concerns with respect to the relationship between the Counterattack program and the privatization of liquor facilities and the greater availability and access to liquor in this province — severe concern on our part. The Attorney-General may call our position antiquated and outdated and seventeenth- or eighteenth-century, but it's not. It reflects a shift in opinion in society today. There sure was a time in society when we wanted to see greater liberalization — things like pornography laws, things like access to liquor, perhaps even things like gaming — but the pendulum is swinging, and I think the cutting edge of public opinion now is toward a view of restricting some of these things, and certainly with respect to Counterattack and the privatization matter.
Finally, as time wraps up, there is the whole question of youth programs within the juvenile system. I can elaborate on it later on, but there is a need to deal with adequate youth programs at the front end before kids find themselves incarcerated and in situations that occur in incarceration.
I haven't mentioned at all the matter of police services, and there are a number of concerns that we have with respect to police programs in this province. Court services, particularly with respect to the flow of things within the court program.
So there you have it, Mr. Chairman. Those are items that are on the New Democratic agenda, and we look forward to debating these matters with the Attorney-General in the days and weeks to continue, and to continue this David and Goliath show that we just commenced a few minutes ago.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'll advise hon. members that we will be sitting tomorrow afternoon, and we will continue this scintillating debate on the estimates of the hon. Attorney-General.
With that said, Mr. Speaker . . . . The first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) is relieved, I see, to some degree.
With that said, Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.