[ Page 2483 ]
Workers' compensation review board. Mr. Gabelmann –– 2483
Dismissal of Mr. Ron Butlin. Ms. Edwards –– 2484
B.C. Development Corporation annual report. Mr. Williams –– 2484
Expo Corporation accounting. Mr. Williams –– 2484
Native education funding. Mr. Jones –– 2484
Admission fees to provincial museums. Mr. G. Hanson –– 2484
Pesticide Control Act. Ms. Smallwood –– 2485
Starfire Resources Ltd. Mr. Sihota –– 2485
Westcoast transmission propane plant subsidy. Mr. Clark –– 2485
Wine industry and free trade. Mr. Rose –– 2485
Letter from GAIN recipient. Hon. Mr. Richmond –– 2486
Presenting Petitions –– 2486
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training estimates.
(Hon. S. Hagen)
On vote 5: minister's office –– 2486
Hon. S. Hagen
University Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 32). Hon. S. Hagen
Introduction and first reading –– 2490
University Foundations Act (Bill 57). Hon. S. Hagen
Introduction and first reading –– 2491
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training estimates.
(Hon. S. Hagen)
On vote 5: minister's office –– 2491
Mr. R. Fraser
Ms. A. Hagen
University Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 32). Second reading
Hon. S. Hagen –– 2519
Ms. Marzari –– 2519
Mr. Jones –– 2520
Hon. S. Hagen –– 2520
University Foundations Act (Bill 57). Second reading
Hon. S. Hagen –– 2521
Ms. Marzari –– 2521
Hon. S. Hagen –– 2521
University Endowment Land Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 46). Second reading
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 2521
Ms. Marzari –– 2521
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 2521
Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 36). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Michael –– 2522
Mr. Miller –– 2522
Hon. Mr. Michael –– 2522
Motor Carrier Amendment Act, 1987 (Bill 47). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Michael –– 2522
Mr. Miller –– 2523
Hon. Mr. Michael –– 2524
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No –– 3), 1987 (Bill 55). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Strachan –– 2524
Mr. Stupich –– 2524
Mr. Williams –– 2525
Hon. Mr. Veitch –– 2527
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation and Highways estimates. (Hon. Mr. Michael)
On vote 61: minister's office –– 2528
Hon. Mr. Michael
The House met at 2:07 p.m.
MR. LOENEN: Mr. Speaker, with us in your gallery is Mr. John Jantzen from the great riding of Richmond. Like so many people there, he is a member of the Social Credit Party. He helped us as a volunteer in the last election. Please make him welcome.
MR. JONES: I'd like to introduce a visitor in the gallery today, Dr. Alan Child from Birch Island in Kamloops. Would the House please make him welcome.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: In the gallery this afternoon we have my executive assistant from Surrey, Marguerite Leach, and her husband Derek, and with them we have Derek's sister and husband, visiting from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England, Edwin and Barbara Coughlan. I would ask the House to please make them welcome.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a woman in the gallery who over the last six days, along with her supporters and workers, has worked diligently in Victoria, signing petitions concerning the Provincial Museum. In the gallery is Betty Martyn. Would Betty please stand up — and welcome to the gallery.
HON. MR. DUECK: It gives me great pleasure to introduce my son Leonard. He's living in Victoria for the summer, and taking some more classes, going for his master's degree in music education. With him is his mother, who also happens to be my girlfriend and my wife. I don't know exactly where they're sitting, but I'd like the House to make them welcome.
MR. REE: Mr. Speaker, today at noon a number of people in the precincts were entertained by a very lovely band outside. I'd ask the members to show their appreciation for the performance by the Akko Youth Band of Israel, which is doing a North American tour. They've been to Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria; they're off to Toronto and then down to Boston. Would the House show their appreciation.
I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I should have mentioned their conductor, Shmuel Kahana, who is leading them.
MR. DIRKS: Mr. Speaker, in the interior we hear a lot about Pacific Rim countries and our connection with those countries, but they seem far distant most of the time. It gives me great pleasure, therefore, this afternoon to introduce in your gallery Mr. Takase of Osaka, Japan. He is a man of vision, for bridging our two cultures. He's the president of the Japan Education Academy, and now also the chairman of Canadian International College, a unique Japanese-Canadian joint venture in education.
With him this afternoon is Mr. Sakamoto, also of Osaka. He is the supervisor of the Tokyo office of Japan Education Academy. With them also is Mr. Haraguchi of Vancouver; Gloria Tiede, a consultant to Canadian International College; Mr. John Christianson, the chairman of Nelson International School Inc., and also a former cabinet minister in Duff Roblin's government in Manitoba. Accompanying them from my good constituency is my official agent in the last election campaign, Mr. Tom Baybutt. Would the House please make them welcome.
MR. PELTON: On your behalf, Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the House that in the gallery today are a group of people who have been making a presentation this morning to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Development. These people represent the Powder Mountain Resorts. They are Mrs. Nan Hartwick, Ms. Diane Hartwick, Constable Rick Bell from West Vancouver, Don Docksteader, Milton Zink, Roger Tadema, Barry Drummond, Ron Slinger and Ms. Lara Zink.
As well, accompanying this group of fine people is an outstanding young Canadian. He is the winner of three World Cup downhill races: one in Kitzbuhel, Austria; one in Furano, Japan; and one in Aspen, Colorado. He's been on the Canadian national ski team for ten years. He's a recivient of the John F. Bassett award for his role as an ambassador of Canada through sport. I would like the House to welcome Mr. Todd Brooker and all these other people who are here with us today.
HON. S. HAGEN: It's a pleasure for me to welcome to the House this afternoon two people from two of our premier educational institutes: Jake McInnis of East Kootenay Community College and Doug Jardine of Capilano College. Would the House please make them welcome.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD
MR. GABELMANN: I have a question for the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services: what steps has the minister taken to recruit a replacement chairperson for Paul Gallagher at the WCB board of review?
HON. L. HANSON: There will not be a permanent placement immediately. There is a temporary chairman who is going to look after the board for an interim period.
MR. GABELMANN: Can the minister tell the House who the temporary chairperson is and how long his tenure will be?
HON. L. HANSON: It's a little difficult to do that right at the moment. I will advise the House very shortly, The reason is that we haven't been able to contact the individual. He is on holidays for three weeks.
MR. GABELMANN: The WCB says in its leaflets to claimants that boards of review are "an independent appeal body operated by the provincial government." Is it the policy of the government that an arm's-length relationship and a clear separation from the board shall be part of the attributes of the successful candidate?
HON. L. HANSON: The review board of the WCB is, in fact, an independent body, and it would only be appropriate that the individual be independent. The decision as to who the identity of that person may be hasn't been made yet.
MR. GABELMANN: A final question, Mr. Speaker. Given the answer from the minister, can the minister confirm that Peter Bazowski has been excluded from the consideration because of his previous close links working with Jim Nielsen while Mr. Nielsen was Minister of Health and Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs?
[ Page 2484 ]
HON. L. HANSON: I cannot confirm that. I also cannot confirm that any individual or particular person is excluded at this point, because there hasn't been any decision made. The particular individual that the member has mentioned has been rumoured to be a candidate, but that rumour has not come from my ministry.
DISMISSAL OF MR. RON BUTLIN
MS. EDWARDS: My question is to the Premier. In view of the Minister of Tourism's (Hon. Mr. Reid's) refusal yesterday to admit that he has misled the House regarding the dismissal of Mr. Ron Butlin, who was the former manager of the B.C. Games, will the Premier demand the minister's resignation?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: No, Mr. Speaker. But I was given a letter today that I hadn't seen previously, and I'll certainly be discussing it with the minister.
MS. EDWARDS: Supplementary, Mr. Premier. I understand you had received a letter from Mr. Butlin, and he requested an audience. Will you be giving that audience to Mr. Butlin?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I have not myself received such a letter. I did see a copy that was sent to the media, which was given to me. But apparently the letter is on its way to me.
MS. EDWARDS: The copy, as I understand it, is of a letter directed to you. Are you saying that you did not receive, that letter?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I've not yet received the letter.
B.C. DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Premier. Yesterday the Premier indicated that there was a need for better reporting by the Crown corporations so the public would know what they were and weren't doing. B.C. Development Corporation lost $87 million in the '85-86 year, and we still don't have the annual report for the last fiscal year. Can the Premier advise the House when we're at least going to get the annual report for B.C. Development Corporation?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I believe it's the end of August, but I could defer the question to the minister responsible. Perhaps he can give you the information more accurately.
EXPO CORPORATION ACCOUNTING
MR. WILLIAMS: Earlier in the year, the Premier indicated there would be a full accounting of the Expo debt as well, and that it would be made public. This would, of course, involve B.C. Place as well. Could the Premier advise when that information will be provided the House?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, the information with respect to Expo was provided publicly.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, most legislatures in this land have a Crown corporations committee, where bipartisan groups can quiz the civil service and Crown corporation servants. Has the Premier considered this matter, and is he prepared to have these matters go before a Crown corporations committee? That suggestion has been put forth again in the last several days, and I'll pursue that.
NATIVE EDUCATION FUNDING
MR. JONES: I have a question for the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations which is really a freedom-of-information question as well.
Some three and a half months ago, the member for Alberni (Mr. Skelly) put on the order paper a written question. The question was asking for some straightforward, simple, statistical information. Several weeks ago I asked a question in question period relating to that same question. The minister did not answer it at that time. Is the minister aware of this question on the order paper? Does he take seriously his ministerial responsibilities to respond to written questions on the order paper? And does he intend, before the end of this session, to answer that question?
HON. MR. ROGERS: Yes, for the first one. Yes, for the second one. And if the information is available for the third one.
ADMISSION FEES TO PROVINCIAL MUSEUMS
MR. G. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to address a question to the Premier. The Premier, the first Premier in 101 years that the Provincial Museum has been in place in this province.... As he is aware, in 1886 there was a petition established to have a Provincial Museum. Today in the local newspaper a former director, Yorke Edwards, stated that "charging the people of the province to see the magic of their own displays...puts us back somewhere before 1886." In light of these comments, will the Premier now reconsider his cabinet decision to impose admission fees at the provincial museum?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: A resident of the province can purchase a pass for the balance of the year for $10, and this covers the entire family for all facilities throughout the province, including the museum. It certainly also provides revenues to do upgrading, to improve the facilities, and hopefully to cover some of the costs. Frankly, I think the majority of British Columbians would be supportive of such a move.
MR. G. HANSON: Mr. Speaker, the government previously stated that it would reconsider user fees only if a provincewide protest formed. There now exists a petition that my colleague introduced in the Legislature today with over 11,000 signatures gathered in just a few short days. It's clear that there is provincewide objection to people paying to see their own history and their own heritage. Would he now consider again a sober second thought? W.A.C. didn't do it; the Barrett government never imposed it; the Bill Bennett
[ Page 2485 ]
government never imposed it. Why don't you just abandon it?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, we're not just dealing with museums; we have other facilities as well for which the pass can be used. We're talking about a number of facilities. We think the program can have a very beneficial effect. I think it's also recognized, particularly in a place like Victoria, that there are many private facilities that charge, and they're very successful and contribute a great deal to the economy of the province and most especially of this area. I believe that we should really see what the....
MR. BLENCOE: Private facilities?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Yes, private facilities. This facility is not a private facility, in response to the message across the floor. This is a public facility, obviously, but it's also being paid for by taxpayers, who will be faced with additional taxes if we want to expand the facility or if we see the costs continue as they are.
We say that there is the opportunity here for visitors and all others to contribute, to have these moneys available for expansion and improvement. I believe that the majority of people will be supportive of it, and we'll certainly look at it again as time goes on. I believe it will be a successful program. If otherwise, obviously we're prepared to look at it.
PESTICIDE CONTROL ACT
MS. SMALLWOOD: My question is to the Minister of Environment. Pursuant to our previous conversation regarding the Pesticide Control Act, will the minister say on the public record whether or not he is presently reviewing the Pesticide Control Act and the appeals process and limiting the ability for the citizens of B.C. to appeal pesticide spraying permits?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'd like to thank the member for the question and put on record the statement that the story covered by the Vancouver Province Friday last was fabricated, to say the least. The story, in part, says: "The new Pesticide Control Act" — there is no new Pesticide Control Act — "would deny the public the right to appeal pesticide application permits...." That is also not correct. Section 10(11) of the Environment Management Act indicates that all may appeal a decision of the Ministry of Environment.
As for new legislation, Madam Member, there is none considered at this point in terms of pesticide control, and it would come under the Environment Management Act anyway, not the Pesticide Control Act.
STARFIRE RESOURCES LTD.
MR. SIHOTA: A question to the Minister of Finance. One of the companies listed on the VSE by the name of Starfire Resources Ltd. has filed several accounting reports outlining its affairs. The report for the year ending December 31, 1985, which was filed on May 7, 1986, contained the following comment from the auditor of the company: "The company has entered into certain agreements described as investments and is unable to supply adequate evidence to substantiate advances, obligations and considerations related thereto." Can the Minister of Finance advise this House what steps the superintendent of brokers office has taken with respect to Starfire Resources?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: As I have mentioned often in this House, particularly to the questioner, there is really very little that we can say publicly regarding ongoing investigations and examinations. I find myself in the same position with respect to this question. Under these circumstances I have no choice but to take the question under notice.
PROPANE PLANT SUBSIDY
MR. CLARK: A question to the Minister of Energy. Could the minister advise the House why hydroelectricity subsidy has been provided to a propane plant owned by Westcoast Transmission. which is regulated by the National Energy Board? In other words, why would there be an electricity subsidy to a regulated utility?
HON. MR. DAVIS: B.C. Hydro comes under the Utilities Commission and must make available the same rates and conditions to similar classes of users, So I think the reference to the word "subsidy" is inappropriate. The Utilities Commission would have passed on that matter.
MR. CLARK: The propane plant is regulated by the National Energy Board. If there is a problem with cash flow, surely they can go and get their regulations adjusted. What about the whole question of subsidies? This is like using a Cadillac resource — electricity — to subsidize a cheap energy source — propane — which is what Amory Lovins calls using a chain saw to cut butter. Is there any restriction on using electricity as a form of subsidy to these kinds of cheap energy resources?
HON. MR. DAVIS: As I endeavoured to say earlier, electricity is not used preferentially as between individual customers in any particular rate category. There is no subsidy. Federally regulated companies or private companies coming under federal, as opposed to provincial, jurisdiction are treated like any other customer.
MR. CLARK: In the same town there is a significant hydroelectricity subsidy to a pulp mill. Could the minister advise the House why there would be a hydroelectricity discount to a pulp mill when the pulp sector is making more money than they have ever made in the history of British Columbia?
HON. MR. DAVIS: Several years ago, in anticipation of a surplus of energy on the B.C. Hydro system, a new category of rates was established. Those rates run for several years; they don't run indefinitely. They have been used to attract new industry. But again the same category of rate is available to the same kinds of industries provincewide.
WINE INDUSTRY AND FREE TRADE
MR. ROSE: I'd like to ask a question of the Minister of Economic Development. I wonder if the minister can confirm that the B.C. wine industry is a priority bargaining chip in the current bilateral trade talks between the U.S. and Canada, and I'd like to know what B.C.'s position is in terms
[ Page 2486 ]
of protecting this $150 million industry employing 6,000 people.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It is also a very high priority for this government to assist in the protection and sustaining of that industry for British Columbia. We have, as a government, been meeting with the industry — both sides; growers as well as the wineries themselves — and we have also been discussing their situation with the federal government. It is true that the federal administration, who have the responsibility for the freer-trade talks with the U.S.A., are suggesting that it is a very important area in terms of the U.S. negotiations with Canada. We are doing our best to work with the industry, and members of our House have met with them, and we hope that we can come to a satisfactory resolution with the federal administration.
LETTER FROM GAIN RECIPIENT
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a very short ministerial statement that I don't think will require a response; it's a spur-of-the-moment thing.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, in my ministry we get many thousands of letters, and most of them are of the same nature. Some are quite different. We received one in the ministry today that I would like to share with the House. I won't name the person who wrote it, but I think as this House winds down we can all use a small injection of levity or human interest. The letter reads as follows:
"...let you know that I got estate and cheque from my sister's lawyer. My sister died in Edmonton, Alberta. Do not send GAIN cheque to me any more, because I am rich. Please phone Richmond and Grace McCarthy that I thank them very much."
That's the end of the letter, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure that the thank-you was meant sincerely for all British Columbians.
MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Economic Development seeks leave to make an introduction.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: I'm very pleased to see in our gallery today Mr. Mario Caravetta, a businessman from Vancouver and a great British Columbian. I would ask the House to welcome him.
MR. WILLIAMS: Along with the Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Speaker, I would as well like to welcome the candidate who ran third in a by-election in Vancouver East a few years ago.
MR. BLENCOE: Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to present a petition.
MR. BLENCOE: This last week Victorians have diligently organized — and I on their behalf am presenting today — an I 1,000-name petition requesting that the provincial government have a second thought at the last minute about introducing user fees for the Provincial Museum. In addition, I have a special petition from the children of British Columbia — which I can't table, obviously — who have signed in their own way, and they express their concerns about the user fee for the museum.
This petition signed by 11,000 British Columbians of all political persuasions is clearly an expression of dissatisfaction and of a feeling that the application of a user fee for the museum is totally inappropriate. I would like at this time to read the petition.
"To the Honourable the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia in Legislature Assembled:
"The petition of the undersigned, concerned citizens of the province of British Columbia, states that we are extremely concerned with the proposed admission fee to the Provincial Museum.
"Your petitioner respectfully requests that the Honourable House do all in its power to keep the Museum free."
I table those on behalf of all British Columbians, and ask this government, in particular this Premier, to honour his fresh start for British Columbia.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to apologize to the House. I gravely misled the chamber in an answer in question period. I referred to section 10(11) of the Environment Management Act and it should have been section 11(10). I apologize, and I want to put that on the record.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mrs. Gran in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ADVANCED
EDUCATION AND JOB TRAINING
On vote 5: minister's office, $184,709.
HON. S. HAGEN: I am extremely happy to rise to speak to the estimates of the new and revitalized Ministry of Advanced Education and Job training.
Before I embark on my address, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge some key members of my ministry staff who will be with me momentarily on the floor of the House this afternoon. They are Isabel Kelly, my deputy minister, and John Watson, assistant deputy minister.
The Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training, of which I am most proud, is a far different organization than anything which has existed before in this province. It is an amalgam of crucial elements from three former ministries, bound together as a force to provide basic support for the development of our people and the economic growth of our province. My ministry includes universities, colleges, institutes, science and technology, job training, youth, and women's initiatives, moulded together into a dynamic combination that is providing a new sense of meaning to the term "post-secondary education."
[ Page 2487 ]
This ministry brings together activities related to the skills and education needed for life. What has occurred in the evolution of this new ministry is a change in attitude. No longer are we looking at post-secondary teaching as an element of social reconstruction, but rather as an investment in the potential of British Columbia and as a development cost in the creation of the primary asset of our province, its people.
HON. S. HAGEN: I will.
In the developing countries of the Third World, there is a common phrase: "No country can rise above the level of its people's education." The same might be said of any Canadian province. It is our people's capacity to perform that will dictate our ability to grow, to compete and to lead.
In British Columbia right now we have one of the finest post-secondary systems in Canada. In ever-increasing ways, we are looking cooperatively to ensure that the system remains strong. A good example of this is the recently announced Alaska Highway consortium on teacher education, a $1.4 million initiative to train elementary school teachers in the north who will stay in the north and teach. This proposal is a unique and innovative step and will involve Northern Lights College, Simon Fraser University and three northern school districts. All of the training will be delivered in the north.
My estimates will reflect an 8.3 percent increase over last year, which I feel is well justified by the results we are seeing and equally justified by the restraint practised over the past five years. A comparison of this year's estimates to those of last year will prove difficult, because the form of my ministry simply did not exist one year ago. I'd first like to deal with science and technology. It was only in April that I assumed responsibility for science and technology, a component of overwhelming significance to every other part of my ministry and to others like Education, Health and Economic Development.
I cannot talk about science and technology without telling you about some of the exciting projects we are involved with. One of the projects with great significance for British Columbia is the planned upgrading of the TRIUMF facility at UBC to build the kaon factory. This $500 million project will make British Columbia the world-class centre of excellence for high-energy physics research. It will have an immense scientific and economic impact on British Columbia and indeed on all of Canada. TRIUMF has already spawned several significant developments in electronics, cancer treatment and robotics.
We all need to work together to increase public awareness and knowledge about the importance of science and technology in our society and to encourage the expansion of our talent base in science and technology through post-secondary and employment training programs.
Next I'd like to talk about apprenticeship and job training. The apprenticeship and job training programs branch of my ministry designs, develops, implements and administers programs which influence and stimulate the provincial labour market.
New jobs have an immediate effect on our economy, but all of the programs which we run provide British Columbians with opportunities to develop, increase and improve skills, knowledge and proficiency for entering or remaining in the workforce. In 1986 the fiftieth anniversary of the first formal apprenticeship in British Columbia took place. Over 4,000 new apprentices were indentured; over 3,000 graduated to journeyman status. Our program of journeyman upgrading will continue so that our skilled workforce remains competitive in an ever-changing workplace. On the private sector side, we continue to promote and register private training institutions — now in excess of 400 — which provide our citizens with a wide variety of training at reasonable prices.
Our ministry's motto is "skills for life." This, among other things, encompasses training and work experience. JobTrac is an integral part of the government's economic development, and this year we will invest $81 million, double last year's commitment. My ministry's contribution alone is $30 million.
The program ensures that those with the greatest needs have opportunities for employment and training: young people, women, older workers, welfare recipients, students and the chronically unemployed. JobTrac brings together all of the government's programs and services under one umbrella, and provides better access and simpler service delivery. JobTrac will stimulate 17,000 job opportunities, job training and training on how to apply for a job. One-stop offices are an excellent example of improved access, making a variety of key services available in one convenient location. We will be establishing additional one-stop offices to the one located in Prince George, based on this highly successful model.
The innovative use of new technology to improve access in remote parts of the province is a priority, and has resulted in a pilot project called "The Working Network." The Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training is taking the lead in the delivery of JobTrac and works closely with other ministries offering JobTrac programs: in tourism, Community JobTrac; Forests and Lands, Forestry JobTrac; Environment and Parks, Environment JobTrac. The Ministry of Social Services and Housing plays a key role in helping income assistance recipients receive training and jobs.
Through a number of joint agreements between ourselves and the federal government, we will further increase the level of opportunity. This year on summer employment opportunities we are spending $29 million, and for income assistance recipients we are spending $30 million. As I have done in the past few months, I will continue to meet with the federal Minister of Employment and Immigration in order to obtain even greater support in the future.
Vocational rehabilitation. It is important to increase access to jobs for the disabled. With awareness of the disabled heightened by the tremendous achievements of Rick Hansen's "Man in Motion" world tour, our efforts must now take on new urgency. Work experience will play a major role. Last year our contribution to this field was $3.7 million; this year it will be $5.5 million. Self esteem and equality for the disabled are goals for which we must all strive.
Distance education is a key element in our efforts to increase access to advanced education. British Columbia is a world leader in its use of new technology to deliver educational programming to remote regions. Through contributions to the Knowledge Network, Open Learning Institute and the three universities, 250 communities are currently served in this way. University course registrations through distance learning now stands at 61,000; college course registrants are at almost 40,000; $9.5 million dollars has been set aside for distance education, an increase of 5 percent. Distance education is a cost-effective response to improving
[ Page 2488 ]
access to post-secondary education in the province, and offers the flexibility of a multitude of program opportunities.
Shortly after I was sworn into cabinet, I asked the Premier why women's and youth programs were not in my ministry, because it seemed to me that many of the issues faced by those two groups pertain either to job training, job retraining or education. Where better than the Ministry of Advanced Education to locate the women's secretariat? Ours is a ministry with a mandate and the expertise to directly focus and address these most pressing needs for women.
Women's Programs was established in 1982, and under its new title — women's secretariat — coordinates all government initiatives relating to women's issues in British Columbia. We continue to be committed to ensuring equal participation of women in the social, economic and political life of our province. As a major employer in the province, we are showing leadership in providing equal employment and advancement opportunities for women.
We have endorsed a federal-provincial labour force strategy for women. The secretariat last year co-sponsored a conference of women business owners in Vancouver, attended by over 300, with more conferences planned this year in each of the major regions of British Columbia. We have recently appointed Fran Norris as the new executive director of the women's secretariat and the Youth Council. With her background and proven abilities in this area, and our steadfast commitment to improving the standing of women in the province, we will succeed in achieving the goals we have set for ourselves in this area.
I must emphasize that our government continues to work towards the full participation of women in all aspects of British Columbia society. We still believe that the most effective way of achieving a fundamental change in attitudes towards women is by working with ministries and community organizations. This approach has been highly successful already in the Ministry of the Attorney-General, where everything is done in such a way that the benefits of women will be clear.
The role of the secretariat has been and will continue to be that of an advocate, facilitator and conscience within the government. Some of the ways that the secretariat fulfils this is through grants to women's organizations and institutions for seminars, workshops and literature, to provide education, employment and training-related projects to enhance participation. The women's non-traditional employment program provides wage subsidies to employers to hire and train women in a range of non-traditional occupations not previously open to women.
The recent appointment of a coordinator of regional programs will ensure an enhanced presence in the regions where much of the need has been expressed. We have established with the assistance of the secretariat throughout the government.... to enhance access to government programs and services on a wide range of issues for women.
The British Columbia Youth Council was created in 1985. It is a representative group of up to 16 members from various regions, age groups, career interests and ethnic backgrounds. Our aim is to create open dialogue with young people and to involve them in a meaningful way in the development of programs and policies of benefit to them. The council toured extensively around the province last year, meeting with young people and encouraging the formation of a provincial network of youth groups.
Education and employment emerged as the key issues for youth in British Columbia today, and my ministry is looking for ways to improve access to education for them, and to provide assistance to them to enter the labour market. The youth grants program administered by the youth council will continue to support new projects of benefit to young people and their communities — projects that contribute to the development, independence and participation of young people. I will continue to meet with my federal colleague, the Hon. Jean Charest, Minister of State for Youth, to encourage his government's further cooperation in supporting the youth of British Columbia.
International education. Efforts toward marketing our educational expertise to our trading partners is now enhanced. We are in a position to involve British Columbia talent and expertise from both the public and private sectors in the development of the economics of our Pacific Rim neighbours. Priority will be given to increasing the participation of our public and private institutions and training projects in Asia, funded by CIDA, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. My ministry supports institutional initiatives to recruit qualified international students, when capacity is available, on a full cost-recovery basis. There has been $5 million committed to allow institutions to provide, on a contract basis, short-term traveling courses — for example, ESL and business briefings — in a number of Asian countries. This investment will be cost-recoverable through future revenues from international education projects.
Student financial assistance. We have recently demonstrated our increased investment in students in British Columbia with the announcement on March 27 of the new student financial assistance program. On the basis that our students are our investment for the future, the new program will provide them with some $50 million in additional assistance. The new program includes many of the recommendations put forward by the advisory committee to the student financial assistance review, a committee made up of educators, students, and people who work with students in financial assistance offices in colleges and universities. The new program includes increased student assistance limits, a new equalization fund, a revamped loan remission program, a $12,000 loan ceiling, and more to be announced in the next few months. The program emphasizes equality of opportunity and personal responsibility. As always, student assistance will be on the basis of clear need, and we will continue to be flexible and compassionate.
Universities. We have three world-class, publicly funded universities in this province, and their main focus is excellence — excellence in teaching, research and students. These institutions have a long and proud history and have made major contributions to our economic well-being and cultural heritage. They will continue to do so. Our university population now stands at approximately 50,000 students. In 1986, 9,000 university degrees were granted, with a similar number expected this year. Our capital investment in universities has increased significantly, and it is my hope that this trend can continue.
One recent example of this commitment is my announcement, on July 9 of this year, of the approval of a $16.4 million research facility at the University of British Columbia — the new chem-physics building. This facility houses research and teaching laboratories for chemistry and physics. It will be second to none in Canada and will ensure that UBC continues to be a leader in scientific education and research.
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The universities have left their ivory tower. They have gone out into the community with their expertise through university-industry liaison offices and business development centres. University researchers have become entrepreneurs by creating new companies in British Columbia. Companies such as Moli Energy, Vortek Industries and MacDonald Dettwiler all grew from university research. In fact, 57 companies, resulting in over 2,500 jobs and $170 million in sales, have grown out of UBC alone.
The universities have responded to the changing economic climate. They are focusing on those areas of excellence that will diversify and strengthen the provincial economy.
The arts and the humanities play a major role in enriching our culture and society. The University of British Columbia will be receiving nearly $160,000 from the fund for excellence for a new degree program in arts administration — the only program west of Ontario. A special feature of this program will allow students to spend six-month internships in local arts and cultural organizations throughout the province.
Since becoming minister responsible, I have spent a good deal of time at all three of our universities, and I'm very impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication shown by those representing all aspects of university life.
Colleges and institutes. Our fifteen colleges and four institutes make up a system attended by an estimated 300,000 students last year and provide a diversity of education and training programs at a local level throughout the province. The colleges and institutes are contributing significantly to the development of our technological society by training people for our new economic initiatives in British Columbia, such as the high-tech industry, and by participating in the transfer of new technology to the marketplace. I'm looking for colleges and institutes to play an expanded role in this area.
Along with the current emphasis on science and technology, British Columbia's universities are pre-eminent in the teaching of arts and humanities. These programs develop the true human capacity for understanding, cooperation and perceptive thinking. Hand in glove with the social programs at the universities are the university transfer programs at the province's 15 community colleges. the offerings of OLI, distributed by the Knowledge Network, extend access to advanced education to every comer of our province.
Grants and contributions to colleges and institutes are up by more than 6 percent as compared to last year: from over $325 million to over $345 million. I recently made important announcements involving significant expenditures on some of our institutions. Selkirk College will now be able to spend $150,000 a year to lease a new and improved space for its Trail campus. This forms part of the new downtown revitalization program for the city of Trail. And $5.35 million will be spent on much needed additions to the Kamloops campus of Cariboo College. Major renovations will be made to BCIT's Burnaby campus, to the tune of $3.67 million, and $2.5 million will go to Okanagan College for construction of its Penticton campus. Much of that increase will go to equipment replacement, new programs and program expansions, and to handle inflation costs.
Enrolments in the area of adult basic education, career technology, university transfer and vocational studies are steadily increasing, from 48,962 FTEs last year to 50,330 this year. My ministry continues to assist the colleges and funds a wide variety of major and minor capital requests. This year our support will cover such varied programs as ocean engineering at BCIT and entrepreneurial manufacturing at Northern Lights College. As we have always done, our aim at all times is to allow as many of our citizens as possible to benefit from colleges and institutes by providing accessibility: local campuses at a reasonable cost to the students.
Business development centres. My ministry now funds business development centres in 14 community colleges and universities. Last year the centres counselled more than 3,000 clients, resulting in 257 business startups, which in turn created 594 full-time and 158 part-time jobs. These centres play a vital role in increasing the awareness of self-employment and entrepreneurship among college students.
Fund for excellence. As always, the aim of the fund for excellence is to invest in educational excellence by enhancing post-secondary programs and facilities. Expenditures in my ministry will total over $105 million this year in universities. Over $33 million will support ongoing costs of programs started last year. A further $10.25 million has been provided this year to the universities to support a variety of new initiatives, such as the integrated computer systems research at UBC, biotechnology at SFU and forestry science at the University of Victoria.
Colleges and institutions. Over $33 million is provided this year to support excellence programs started last year. An additional $9.5 million has been provided to assist provincial colleges and institutes in new programs, such as equipment replacement, remote access — for example, nursing at a number of regional colleges — and regional coordination of adult special education. Rinding for distance education has risen 20.6 percent over last year and now totals in excess of $11 million. In addition to almost $10 million provided this year to continue program improvements begun last year, a further expenditure of $400,000 from the fund for excellence will go towards the adult basic education student assistance programs.
The Premier of this province and this government made a commitment in the throne speech earlier this year, and I think my estimates show that we are prepared to back up what we promised during that throne speech.
MS. MARZARI: Madam Chairman, in the next two and a half hours I hope that the opposition will be able to accomplish the following tasks. What I would like to do, just for a few moments, is to outline some of the areas around which we want to put questions forward. This will assist your side to know what's coming up and I hope it assists my side, as they listen in their offices, to know when they will be expected to come.
First of all, I want to spend a few minutes discussing universities, our definition of what universities can be and what post-secondary education might be about. I want to talk a little bit about infrastructure, and about the things that are required to build post-secondary systems into strong, viable systems that assist us all and will assist us as British Columbians. I want to talk within the context of infrastructure about faculty, capital investments, new techniques in education, and the financing of post-secondary education.
Then I will turn my attention and the attention of my colleagues to the college system in the province. I will be addressing the autonomy of colleges, and my colleagues the
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second member for Nanaimo (Mr. Lovick) and the member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards) will be addressing the hands-on experience of the college system in this province.
Then we'll be discussing for a few moments students — the purpose for which the systems have been created; the most important commodity, the most important aspect of what it is that this system is all about; their access, their aid, their participation rates.
Then we want to talk a little bit about job training. As you know, I share this portfolio with my colleague for New Westminster (Ms. A. Hagen). My colleague from New Westminster will be addressing job training programs, and most specifically the JobTrak program. My colleague the second member for Nanaimo will be discussing science and technology or asking questions around that area.
So let us begin. Let us begin the task, if we may, of trying to measure the rhetoric, very impressive rhetoric and impressive programs, with the actual dollars and the actual ability to perform. We on this side of the House generally subscribe — strongly subscribe — to the principle that postsecondary education is so much a part of our economic and social goals for this province that it must be given top priority. I will quote from Dian Cohen, a Canadian economist, who says:
"The choice that faces Canadians is whether to mortgage the future to the digging of ditches or to the use of our brains. It's crucial that we give at least equal weight to megaprojects based on the information-age premise that people are the wealth of the economy, as we do to those projects that are still hooked on the industrial-age belief that natural resources will make us rich."
We're talking here about balance. And in discussing balance we have to talk in this province, right now, about planning our systems and our commitment to those systems. The depth of our commitment is really determined and can be measured, I think, by the thoroughness of our planning and how well we sit down together in this province and develop the kinds of plans for post-secondary education that will bring us through the next ten years, to the year 2000, with a cohesive policy; a cohesive idea about the fact that postsecondary education and the education of our young people could well be the foundation stone of the economic turnaround of our province. We train them here, we educate them here, and hopefully we don't export them, we keep them here.
So then, the careful balancing of what we do with our young people in our post-secondary systems, and the kind of dynamism that that educated group can bring to the economy as a whole, is really what we're talking about.
But that's the economic spinoff, isn't it? I want to address the business of education per se. Education isn't just the knowledge industry. It isn't just there to have economic spinoffs. Our universities are not there simply to turn out students or simply to job-train and become vocational institutes. I would think that much of what has happened in the last number of years has attempted to turn many of our educators, many of our administrators in post-secondary education, into economic hucksters almost, in the sense that we must now sell our universities or our colleges as great places to come to learn a trade. The university system must be measured in other terms as well — in social terms, in educational terms — because what makes a university great is the quality of the contribution it makes to the encouragement, the development and the vigilant maintenance of a decent society. We have to demand high standards of competence and performance, and not by the number of inventions it can market.
UBC, for example, has pulled in many hundreds of millions of dollars because of the spinoff economic side products that professors and administrators have been able to develop and invent. We are proud of this. But we're not just a knowledge industry, and we can't be assessed just in terms of economic growth, because universities aren't factories.
Consequently, if universities are about quality, and they're measured by standards developed through the history of civilization, we've got to talk about flexibility. We've got to talk about what Northrop Frye calls "the dedicated mind" — the mind that loves and enjoys learning. It prepares a person, I think especially in this economy in this country, to be flexible and to approach life in an open-minded way; to be able to switch career paths if necessary, and to understand that there's more than one narrative in a person's life — there can be many. Perhaps a liberal arts education might be a way of helping society and individuals in society live with this period of transition from industrial age to information age, if we can put it that way.
Timing for a moment, then, to the infrastructure of the universities....
AN HON. MEMBER: ...break just for a second. He'll introduce the two bills, then you can go back....
MS. MARZARI: Since that's a natural break — a definition of what universities are — and since we then move to the infrastructure, I would propose, Madam Chairman, that we pause at this point in the estimates so that the minister can introduce two bills which in fact are totally compatible with the next points I'm about to make.
I would move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
The House resumed; Mrs. Gran in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
UNIVERSITY AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
Hon. S. Hagen presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled University Amendment Act, 1987.
HON. S. HAGEN: Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
I am pleased to introduce today Bill 32, University Amendment Act, 1987. This bill will amend the existing University Act by deleting all references to the Universities Council, the University of British Columbia student loan fund and the Joint Board of Teacher Education.
The Universities Council acted as an intermediary body overseeing university funding allocation. It will be replaced by an advisory council which will include direct involvement by the representatives of the universities and private sector volunteers in the consultation process. The new council will
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provide for more direct communication and advice to the minister on university issues.
The other amendments are largely housekeeping in nature. One major housekeeping amendment is the repeal of the University of British Columbia student loan fund, which is no longer needed since each university has established its own student aid fund pursuant to the power delegated to the boards of governors under the University Act.
The second large housekeeping amendment addresses the dissolution of the Joint Board of Teacher Education. Some of the function of the joint board will now be assumed by the council of the College of Teachers, as provided in the recently passed Teaching Profession Act, and the others are the responsibility of the board of governors of each university. I commend this bill for your consideration and urge its speedy passage.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'm going to make the motion on behalf of the Minister of Advanced Education and Job Raining. Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading, with leave, later today.
Bill 32 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading, with leave, later today.
UNIVERSITY FOUNDATIONS ACT
Hon. S. Hagen presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled University Foundations Act.
HON. S. HAGEN: Madam Speaker, I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
I am pleased to introduce today Bill 57, the University Foundations Act. This bill will establish foundations for our three public universities. The purposes of those foundations will be to develop, foster and encourage public knowledge and awareness of the universities and their benefits to British Columbians, and to seek private sector financial support for the pursuance of the universities.
I commend this bill for your consideration and urge its speedy passage.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Once again, Madam Speaker, on behalf of the minister I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading, with leave, later today.
Bill 57 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading, with leave, later today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I thank the members for their indulgence. I regret not having these messages ready earlier, and accordingly I call Committee of Supply.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mrs. Gran in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ADVANCED
EDUCATION AND JOB TRAINING
On vote 5: minister's office, $184,709.
MS. MARZARI: Since the bills didn't go into second reading, and now that they are going into second reading, I won't be addressing them now. We'll be talking about the Universities Council and the foundation after these estimates are over. If I may be allowed, I would like to address, just for a moment, the Universities Council.
Before I do that, I want to add to the bottom of my agenda, last but not least — and perhaps that's because it's so important that I didn't put it on the back of my envelope — that we will be addressing at length, from this side of the House, questions related to the women's program in this province.
The infrastructure of the university system is based, of course, upon its faculty, its administrations — three solid and good universities in this province — on their capital assets, on the dynamism of new programs that need to be brought in, and on the financing. May I just turn to each one of these areas for a few moments and ask some questions that may help us all.
I begin my remarks by saying that from '83 to '85 British Columbia suffered the largest cuts in university funding of any jurisdiction in North America. Where other jurisdictions have increased their funding to universities, B.C. has decreased its commitment. This is the first year in many years that the universities and the post-secondary system have seen a turnaround, however slight.
I must say, in my own travels through the province and in my own contacts with university administrations, that the post-secondary system has been reeling for some years. It has been traumatized. It has been sent into what Crawford Kilian has called "a death spiral." The cutbacks have had their impact. They have discouraged qualified people from coming to B.C. and they have, as we read these figures quarterly, sent many staff faculty people to other countries or other provinces, most notably Ontario. In fact, it's a rather sad commentary that other provinces are reaping the benefits of much of our post-secondary investment over the last number of years. We have been exporting and suffering economic and social loss because of the number of people who have been leaving.
We haven't made that up. We have a long way to go to make that up, with all the goodwill in the world, Mr. Minister, and with this 3.8 percent turnaround. I must admit that I have observed a new buoyancy inside our post-secondary systems, inside the faculties and inside the administrations. I hope that it is warranted, and I hope that the new optimism is warranted, because we still have a great way to go in many, many cases to regain any kind of stature and credibility as a province in post-secondary education. We don't want to be ten out of ten in student participation rates. We don't want to be the bottom of the barrel when it comes to faculty salaries. In '82 I gather we were second, third and fourth, with University of B.C., Simon Fraser and University of Victoria. Now we are fourteenth, fifteenth and eighteenth in Canada, I believe. We don't want to be ten out of ten in terms of student financial aid. We don't want to be the bottom province in terms of per capita expenditure on post-secondary education.
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Even with this small turnaround that we're facing now, and with the dedication, I think, of a sincere minister, I have to lay it on the line with the government as a whole that I hope and pray that this new commitment is not tokenism. What I want to see is that it's coupled with a new commitment. And I want to see a new capacity for planning into the future.
This is where I bring up the Universities Council, which shouldn't be allowed to die without an obituary. The council was established as a planning and financing mechanism. I don't see anything in the estimates to replace the capacity for that planning. I don't see anything in the estimates to replace the function of the Universities Council. What I do see in the estimates is a tightening and a centralization of administration through the minister's office, rather than a consultation with the community at large and an arm's-length relationship with the university administrations to enable them to do what they feel should be done in the educational area.
The infrastructure, faculty; question number one. We're basically faced with an ageing faculty in this province, a faculty that was hired to deal with the baby boom of the sixties and seventies. Consequently, I'm going to ask the minister if he has discussed or consulted with the various universities as to how it is best going to replace the faculties that will have to be replaced over the next ten to 15 years as the faculty that was brought onstream in the sixties and seventies is retired.
HON. S. HAGEN: I'd like to thank the hon. member for Point Grey for her opening comments with regard to universities. Many of the first comments that she made I could whole-heartedly agree with. Many of the later comments I felt were overstated, to say the least. I guess it's because since becoming minister on November 6, I've made a point of visiting every area of my responsibility. I visited every university several times, as I am sure you are aware. I have visited every college and every institute, every job training office — or ten out of 17 of the job training offices — and met with many groups around the province.
When I travel to the campuses I've made a point of meeting independently with the students, with faculty, with support staff, with administration and with the board. The purpose of doing that is twofold. Firstly, it gives each one of those groups an opportunity to say what they want to say to the minister without having to worry about what they're saying.
Secondly, it gives me a feeling for the university or the college or the institute. When I leave that place, I want to feel that I have some knowledge of what's going on from an educational sense and from a person sense. With regard, more specifically, to the universities, the comments made with regard to restraint or to cutbacks over the last few years are interesting.
Not having been here over the last few years, I can't talk about the percentages or the dollars, but I would agree with you that probably less money went into the system. The interesting thing is that the people who work in that system, the people on whom we depend to carry out the education — the instructors, the professors, the college instructors — have, I think, done a tremendous job.
The students that are coming out of our educational facilities in this province are sought after by industry. I attended a press conference yesterday with the Hon. Frank Oberle with regard to the big, new announcement with MacDonald Dettwiler. MacDonald Dettwiler employs over 600 people in this province in science and technology, and the question was asked: "From where do you get your engineers?" The answer was: "From the three British Columbia universities, mainly."
They like the quality. They like the product that's coming out of our universities. I give the credit for that to the people in the universities and colleges who are teaching those people. I think they've done a fine job. I'm not arguing that there could have been more money or the same money or whatever, but I think that the people in the institutions and the colleges have shown what they're made of.
They've done their jobs over the past several years. I know things have been tough not only in the colleges and the universities but in the households and in small business and in big business. They've been tough on employees around the province. It's not limited to those areas. But I want to say that the quality of the students coming out of our institutions and universities, in my opinion, is second to none.
With regard to the faculty question, as a matter of fact, I think it was the first topic that I discussed when I had my first meeting with the three university presidents, about two weeks after I was sworn in. It's obviously a concern to them and, because of that, it's a concern to me.
The interesting thing is that the administrations of the three universities are not only confident that they can draw the people that they need, but universities are, in fact, drawing the people they need to fill positions that are going to be vacated by the ageing faculty. I'm sure you've read the articles in the media, and you know as well as I do the world-class people that we are drawing to our universities. It's important to me, as it is to the universities, the students and the parents, that we continue to draw these world-class people. The fact is that we are drawing them, and it's extremely exciting.
I've also discussed the question of the ageing instructors with regard to colleges. It would be nice if all the ageing college instructors could run for politics and get elected — then they'd have something to do. Unfortunately, not all of them can do that.
MR. LOVICK: It would improve the calibre of the place.
HON. S. HAGEN: Actually, I hear they miss you in Nanaimo.
You mentioned ten out of ten, or 14 out of 14, and I'm really glad you mentioned student financial assistance in that number, because I agree that we were ten out of ten. As a matter of fact, the first question that the Premier of this province asked me to address was student financial assistance. When the committee I appointed brought in their findings, I don't think there was anybody more upset with the results of their findings than the Premier of this province. As minister, I can tell you that it's not really great to appoint a task force to go out and get information and have that task force bring you back the findings — which, by the way, I made public — to say that we're ten out of ten. We immediately took steps to correct that with an injection of an additional $50 million into that field.
I'm really pleased to be able to say that. I can't tell you the number of people that I've met in the graduations that I spoke at in the last couple of months.... Parents came up to me — and I had never met them before — and said: "I'd like to thank you for what your government has done with student
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financial assistance, because without that help my daughter would not be going to university next year."
That's really what it comes down to. You mentioned students, and of course our whole system revolves around students. That's why I enjoy meeting with them when I travel around the province. I want to hear what they're saying. I want to hear what their expectations and desires are, and the suggestions they have to improve the system.
You mentioned the word consultation. I think I can say that I have done a great deal of consultation in the last eight months, and I've spoken to a lot of people in the system. The reason was not that I like traveling — I'd rather be home with my own five children and my wife — but to find out what was going on in the system and where we could make improvements.
In answer to your original question, yes, I am concerned about the age of the faculties. We discuss it regularly with the administrations from the universities. The university administrations feel that the difference in attitude over the last eight months has made a great difference to them in being able to recruit the people that they want. I happened to be at the University of Victoria one day when they had just closed a competition for a position out there. They got 56 applications from all across the North American continent, and they assured me that they would get the person that they wanted, and it would be the best person for the position.
I'm not saying we're not concerned about the problem; we are, and we will continue to be concerned about the problem, because we want to make sure that we are able to attract the best people to this province.
MS. MARZARI: I want to put that question in the context of an overall plan, not just individual consultations, Mr. Minister, and not just dealing with a question now because it seems to be pressing, but the need for this province to have an overall context, and a visible, workable plan. Nowhere is it more important to have that plan than in the area of financing the universities. Let's move to that now.
I gather from reading old copies of Hansard and from preparing myself for six months now for this two and a half hours that you were probably expecting me to go into a bit of a tirade over EPF and the fact that our province is now making 104 percent of what it puts into post-secondary education. I am not going to make that point, Mr. Minister. You can take all your notes on that and toss them. I am not going to get into the fine hair-splitting about what happened with the Canadian health act in 1977 and when it was capped, and whether or not there was a 50-50 commitment and whether or not, therefore, we are making a profit on post-secondary education.
What I do want to say very seriously, though, is that we are at a transitional point in this country. We are going to have to make up our minds — post-Meech Lake — what our relationship is with the federal government vis-à-vis university financing. I don't think there has been enough serious attention given this — not just by this government, but by any government. I haven't seen very much coming out of the federal government either, except the recent Senate report suggesting we go to a system of tax points, which will return to the provinces and give authority to the provinces for university financing.
Can you tell me what our position will be when the time comes to discuss this? I know the conference in Saskatoon in October is probably going to be a seminal one. My suspicion is that at that conference the provinces will probably be canvassed for their positions, so some firmer commitments will be made later in the game. Am I correct on that? Would you give me some indication of what our province's stance is going to be, and would you be good enough to tell us whether or not that's going to be made public before you go to Saskatoon?
HON. S. HAGEN: One of the conferences I attended earlier this year was my first national forum on education, held in Ottawa, where a lot of the conferences seem to be held. The second one I will be attending is in Saskatoon, as you mentioned. I believe it's in October. Interestingly enough, the president this year of the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education is our own Minister of Education, the Hon. Tony Brummet.
There are several things on the agenda of that meeting. As there were several things on the last agenda, there are several things coming up on this one. At this meeting the Secretary of State, the Hon. David Crombie, is there. It's his responsibility federally for education.
We will be discussing, and we have discussed in the past, the relevance and the position of the federal government in providing financing for education. I think the general feeling is that the federal government is looking to decrease the amount of money they've put into provincial issues, whether it be education or anything else. The provinces find themselves fighting tooth and nail even to maintain a status quo. The question then is: if there is going to he a decrease, is it going to be compensated for by tax points? That's sort of the position we are in, but it's at a very early stage of discussion. There are many other issues on the table at that conference. Whether or not there will be any public discussion on it I really don't know; I really can't tell you.
The other thing, of course, that takes place throughout the year is that there are several meetings held between the deputies and senior staff to work out some of the plans and options we're dealing with. But as with other issues which we deal with the federal government on, we would bargain very hard. I don't think we can overlook the amount of federal money that comes into our universities through research grants. It's a very large chunk, and it helps pay salaries and fund some fixtures and assets on the campuses. We happen to do very well in the percentage we get, again because of the people we draw. You know, the amount of money a university professor can draw is really based on his expertise in a particular area and how he is perceived on the national scene, which I think, again, says something very positive about the type of people in our universities.
MS. MARZARI: A point about infrastructure: we don't attract world-class people unless we've got basic infrastructure to bring them to, unless we have departments that are of a calibre and a credibility that it is in their best interests to be with. Unless we have a high morale among existing faculty and professional administrators, we can't bring those world-class people. For every one you can name me that's coming in, I can probably name you two who are going out — solid people, good people who are leaving because salaries are better elsewhere, because they are being attracted elsewhere. I'm not saying this to denigrate the university system. I'm saying it in the context of wanting to build and plan for a better system to ensure that we have our planning in place, so that five years down the road a faculty person now in Ontario
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might say: "Because of what I see, I'm ready to go to British Columbia five years from now. I can make that a part of my career path, because things are looking better there." That's what I'm looking for — the infrastructure.
On research grants, yes, this business of bringing in federal bucks in terms of research is an important one. But you know as well as I do — and my colleague from Nanaimo will be addressing this later in research and technology — that those research grants are tied to corporate cost-sharing; therefore the research capacity in our universities is tied to corporate cost-sharing. When you have a good person who can set up a good lab and finance that lab and attract good people to come and work with them because they're doing a special project, that's fine. But when I talk about those federal tax points, I'm talking about core funding, basic funding: the stuff that keeps an infrastructure going; the stuff that helps our universities to stay afloat and meet their basic requirements, not just to establish their research labs. I'm talking about the maintenance of a good balance, if you will, between the engineering, medical and science side and the liberal arts side, if you want to put it that way; the foundation stone of what Northrop Frye calls the civilized mind.
Also on financing, one more question. The fund for excellence has always been contentious, as you know, Mr. Minister. It's important, I think, that this province be reasonably assured that as in Ontario, which had a similar initiatives fund, we will over the next few years be looking forward to the rolling of that fund back into the basic operation grants, just as a natural part of doing an appropriate plan, so that each university and each institution can look forward to seeing that $105 million which your ministry is receiving from the fund for excellence this year; that an increasing precentage of that will be rolled into the base core budget so that when we read our estimates we don't have to add in what might be coming. from the fund for excellence. Every administrator, every member of government and opposition will be able to say, "This is in fact what the operating core budget is this year," and not wait for special funding. I want you to assure me that this is in effect what we'll be doing here in B.C., as in fact they're doing it in Ontario now.
HON. S. HAGEN: I find that Ontario is continually trying to catch up with us and how we do things.
Before I answer some of those questions, I've been neglecting to recognize another important member of my staff, and that's Dr. Jim Rae, assistant deputy minister in charge of universities. I want to say for the record that I have a great deal of respect for the management team in my ministry; they guide the members of the ministry staff, the people in the ministry who do the work and do an excellent job. I'm very proud of them, and I have met, I think, almost every one of them. I want to commend them for the job they're doing, and I want them to know that they are appreciated.
I have good news for you on some of the things you were asking about. I disagree with your statement that for every good professor we get, we lose two. I think if that was true we would have a shortfall of professors out there, unless my mathematics is out. I think that if you have spoken in the last few months with the presidents and with the senior administrators of the universities, they can and will tell you that they are not only getting good people applying but are able to retain the good people we have in the system.
With regard to the infrastructure and the planning, I'm pleased to say that in capital — dealing with capital for a moment with the universities — we are currently working on a five-year plan with the universities, where we project on a five-year basis what their requirements are going to be on a dollar basis. We also do that with the colleges. We are also talking with the universities about going into a three- to five-year operating-projection budget, like we do with the colleges. Because of the way the government does this funding, it's not something that we can place in concrete — to use an example — but it is something that they can use to do some planning down the road. This is one thing that we instituted very shortly after I became minister, because I felt it was important for them to be able to have some guidance as to where they were going.
Funds for excellence. I don't have any trouble justifying the funds for excellence. I commend the previous government and the previous Premier for the exciting step that they took in establishing those funds. There is certainly no guesswork with regard to the funds; the funds were a $600 million three-year commitment for the post-secondary system. The people in the system are very excited about those funds. They think they're great. You know, the interesting thing about funds for excellence is that in the 17 high-tech areas in the United States, every one of those areas — like in North Carolina, the Boston Corridor and the Silicon Valley — was started by targeted government education funds, just like the funds for excellence.
So I can assure you that the funds for excellence will continue at least one more year. I cannot give you any assurance that they will be rolled into the base. My hope would be that we can continue to budget funds for excellence on an annual basis, and that we can use these funds the way they have been used, which is on an agreed-upon basis with the universities and colleges, with them setting the priorities of what they want to target. In my opinion, they've been very successful, and they've certainly added to the standards that we have seen increase in this province over the last couple of years.
MS. MARZARI: Mr. Minister, on the funds for excellence we disagree on the basic concept. No, I shouldn't say the basic concept, because I have had the pleasure of perusing an old document submitted to the Universities Council some ten years ago, which suggested the creation of a special innovation fund that would encourage and act as an incentive to universities and post-secondary educational institutions to do interesting programs. What I fear ended up happening was that the tail ended up wagging the dog on the funds for excellence. The reason that I think you see gleams in the eyes of those you dangle the carrot in front of is that they haven't had any carrots at all for so long that we end up in this province forcing our educational institutions to grovel for what should be basic funding. So we simply disagree.
But I am heartened to hear, Mr. Minister, that — if I can read between your lines, being an optimist — the funds for excellence will, within the next few years and possibly the next year, be rolled back into those operating budgets. Hopefully, with a new planning authority, that will help us plan not only our capital infrastructures for the universities but also our programming infrastructures, so that we are guaranteeing universities some solid core budgets that they can work with.
I want to move away from universities and into colleges, but I have a transitional question related to both universities and colleges. It has to do with new programming, which
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should be a part of any infrastructure and any plan, and it has to do with Open Learning, of course. I'm looking forward to the anticipated Open Learning act, and I'd like to know when it's coming in. Before you answer that question, I'd like to be assured by the minister that Open Learning is not going to be used to replace faculty and that Open Learning will be used for what it was intended to be used for: for distance learning, for the development of adult education programs, and for certain types of programs that can be taught without a teacher student relationship.
My concern here, and it is the concern of many people in the industry, if we can call it that, is that Open Learning might be abused; that for every professor coming in, two are leaving — I will stick to that story — and it will replace that one with a television screen. It strikes me, and it strikes many people in the field, that learning is discourse, and discourse is education. A teacher-student relationship is a very important one.
I'm going to ask you to tell me about Open Learning, which I embrace and we all do, but that it's not going to be abused in this province.
HON. S. HAGEN: It's almost as if I had written the hon. member's notes. I really thank her for the opportunity to talk about one of my favourite subjects, and that's distance education and Open Learning, a very exciting concept with regard to education.
I want to correct one statement that you made, though, just going back to research funds, and that was the statement that National Research Council and NSERC grants need industry participation. They do not. It's not triggered by that. On the other hand, sometimes you can judge the excellence at our universities by the volume of these grants that we get. Obviously, our universities are seen to be at a very high level by people in Ottawa, for instance, who determine where these grants are going to go. So I wanted to take that opportunity.
Also, I still disagree with your statement on losing two for every one that we gain — just so we're clear on that.
The Open Learning agency and Knowledge Network, and that sort of distance education, is very important to me, and I feel very close to it. It's one of the reasons that I brag about my wife once in a while. When I met my wife in 1965, she was a charter student at Simon Fraser University. I'm going to give you a bit of family history here. We got married in 1967; it was actually our centennial project. In 1968 we moved to Courtenay. At that time she had roughly a year and a half of education at Simon Fraser, majoring in history. We started having our family in 1970, and she has given birth to and raised five children. During that time she decided she wanted to complete her degree, so she became a charter student at North Island College, and through the facilities of North Island, Knowledge Network and Open Learning, and through the distance courses at Simon Fraser, UVic and UBC, she managed in 1983 to complete her degree. That was without leaving home. Without having to return to the campus, she completed her degree in history.
That really says something about what we offer people in this province. They do have the opportunity. I want to assure you that we are looking at many ways of improving the use of the Knowledge Network for the delivery of adult education programs, which I happen to feel are very important and certainly change the lives of the people who take them. We will also be offering apprenticeship programs and job-training programs. We will be enlarging the programming.
It's interesting that you should raise the concern about replacing instructors or teachers with television, because I find in my travels around the province, particularly north and east of Hope — what I sometimes call "beyond Hope...." There is no intention of replacing teachers or instructors with television. I don't think there ever has been.
I find in my discussions with instructors around the province that this is not a concern anymore, because they have seen how the programs operate. I'm not saying that facetiously; I'm saying that as an honest statement. I know it was a concern a few years ago. I doubt if it ever was an intent. I agree with you that the interaction and relationship between a student and a teacher, instructor or professor is very, very important, as is the interaction between students and students, and all the other things that go on in an educational institution.
That is not any sort of intention that I have, but we do want even to improve the system. I say "even improve," because it's important for the people of this province to realize that our Knowledge Network system is looked upon by all the other provinces, including Ontario, which spends buckets of money on TV Ontario.... But they don't have the quality, and they haven't achieved the ability to deliver education to the outermost parts of the province that we've achieved in British Columbia. It's important for people to realize that, and I think that it's a reason that the governments in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia want our system. They see that it's a good system, it works well, it delivers, and it's very cost-effective. We are working with those three countries now to help them in developing their delivery systems in television.
MS. MARZARI: There's a Monty Python skit where one chap says to the other: "Well, when I was young, we had to get up and walk ten miles to school in the freezing cold." And the other chap says: "Luxury! We had to live in a septic tank and lick off the road every morning before we went to school." The third chap comes in and says: "You had good luck. We had to live in a brown paper bag in the middle of the road." Your wife was lucky, Mr. Minister.
HON. S. HAGEN: Do you mean about going to school or...?
MS. MARZARI: She was very fortunate vis-à-vis her relationship with the post-secondary institutions. If she had been a non-English-speaking person seeking basic language training right now, she might have found herself frozen out. She might have found that in Vancouver the outreach programs that did exist in secondary schools and in church basements have dried up. She might have found, ironically enough, that our efforts to become entrepreneurial with our college programs and bring in foreign students at market prices have dried up access to many programs that were previously enjoyed, both by individuals doing long-term credit courses — not people doing university transfer programs, but people doing part-time adult education or perhaps working towards a degree or certificate. She would have found herself in a different situation had she not perhaps been living where she was when she was, and been English-speaking.
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So I am addressing the business of colleges in this province with that opening remark. The colleges in this province, from my understanding, had a very solid foundation back in the mid-sixties and developed themselves along the model of community colleges in every sense of the word: in the sense that they had elected boards and were created basically to reflect the needs of the regions that they represented. Another reason that your wife was lucky — she was probably involved with the college in the mid-1970s, if I'm right.
What I think we're watching happen right now in this province is a squeeze so tight that it threatens the concept of the community college. I fear — and many people in this system fear — that we are moving more towards the Ontario model of there being provincial institutes rather than community colleges. The idea, then, is that the community college no longer necessarily reflects the needs of the region it serves, but the needs of the ministry itself in terms of economies of scale.
You're going to put certain pieces of heavy machinery into one college, and therefore encourage all students in the province to move toward that one college; that being at this end of the continuum, as opposed to the other end of the continuum where a college is prepared to forgo economies of scale in an effort to meet local needs. The possibility of a physiotherapist program up in Prince George is one good example. Are we going to do that where there seems to be a need? Or because of economies of scale and because UBC needs to develop a better program than it's got even now, should we keep it there? So it's a dilemma that you have to face.
I'm asking you, Mr. Minister: are we moving toward provincial institutes? Can we expect to see our community colleges retain their initial intent and their initial value? Can we expect to see community college boards being elected, for example, in the next while, which would guarantee some at least cosmetic autonomy? Can we expect to see an increase in commitment to the community colleges, rather than a financial squeeze on those colleges? That's what I perceive. I get worried when I hear stories about classrooms being overwhelmingly large, and that the system has been tightened up to the point where it is squeaking and can barely handle the workload it has; when I hear about instructors being laid off when in fact enrolments are increasing; when I hear about faculties being offered financial incentives not on the basis of merit or with a COLA clause, but simply to take on one extra credit course so that the college can reduce its faculty. I get worried about the squeeze on those colleges. When I hear about outreach programs at colleges that basically set up nonprofit associations to work in neighbouring towns that in turn hire staff at less than faculty wages, that worries me. It strikes me that in the name of the outreach spirit, the community colleges are getting themselves into the business of planning poorly their programs and their staff needs. There's a lot of saving going on, which in the last analysis doesn't add to the ability of the college to meet local and regional needs.
I'd like you to talk a little bit about the autonomy of those colleges and their ability to maintain some real presence that's locally and regionally relevant.
HON. S. HAGEN: Again, Madam Chairman, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about the colleges that we have in this province, which I feel are second to none in the country. But before I do that, I want to introduce somebody else who has joined us on the floor here. We're kind of shifting people to keep you alert and....
MR. LOVICK: It's harder to hit a moving target.
HON. S. HAGEN: No, it's actually that the minister needs all kinds of input, you see, to answer these questions. The people get tired, so we have to keep on changing them.
I'm really pleased to welcome Lorne Thompson, just behind me here, who is the acting assistant deputy minister in charge of colleges and institutes for the province. I really appreciate the job that Lorne is doing. He has stepped in on short notice. You may be aware that Dr. Grant Fisher, who is the assistant deputy minister in charge of colleges, had a heart attack earlier this year and is recuperating. I can't say enough about Dr. Fisher. I know that his reputation is strong in the province; he's well respected by the people whom he deals with at the colleges, and is a fighter for the college system. But I want to say that I appreciate the job that Lorne has done at very short notice, in coming in and picking up where Grant left off.
I can say categorically that the regional colleges — and I have visited all of them — truly are regional colleges, and I would say that they are becoming much more closely aligned with the communities they serve. It's even broken down more finely than that, in that the satellite campuses that each college has, or that many of them have, really serve each of the smaller communities.
I remember going into Williams Lake to visit the satellite campus of Cariboo College there to see how they're addressing the needs of the Williams Lake area. What they have to offer there is different from what Cariboo College in Kamloops has to offer, because they serve a different community.
I agree with what you say. It's very important that the colleges address the needs of the communities they serve. There is no intention on my part to have them serve some sort of overall provincial perceived need. As a matter of fact, I think that would be absolutely impossible and certainly would be detrimental.
On the other hand, there are colleges which have unique programs that may not be offered in other areas. This could be for any number of reasons. It could be because they have the ability to come up with an instructor for that program. For instance, I think of the program at Dawson Creek which is a unique helicopter and fixed-wing maintenance program. They teach that program there because the campus is located on an old DEWline base, and when they bought the facilities, there were a couple of hangars. It tended to lend itself very naturally to some aircraft programs. That particular program is very successful. It draws students from right across Canada. When I was there I met students from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba and the other provinces. That's where people like Okanagan Helicopters and other helicopter companies in British Columbia get the qualified people.
[Mr. De Jong in the chair.]
It would be wrong for me to tell six other colleges in the province that they must offer a helicopter maintenance program, because the need might not be there. It's important to me that each college retains its uniqueness. It's important that they retain their uniqueness because they are proud of their uniqueness. The people in the colleges are very competitive.
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It's like the three universities. When I've asked the three university presidents to work together, they've done that; but they are also very competitive. I think that's good; I think it's good to take pride in what you're offering in your educational facility. I can tell you that the universities and the colleges do.
One of the other things I've attempted to do as minister is to be sensitive to the requirements of the regions of the province. I mentioned in my opening statements — and I hope you didn't take that as rhetoric, because it really wasn't rhetoric — that I'm very proud of the ministry. I think it's the best ministry in the government.
HON. S. HAGEN: I think we're getting a handle on things. I think we're starting to do a good job.
One of the things I found in traveling around the province.... And I've taken a bit of heat for that too. I get tired.... Every time I walk into the House, Brian Smith introduces me. They keep referring to Hagen's travel service or something.
One of the things I found on a visit to Prince George way back in January — the dark cold days of Prince George — was that if you can offer people training in a certain area of the province, the chance that they will stay there and work is that much greater. At that time we were looking at increasing the size of the dental hygiene program, because there is a shortage of dental hygienists in the province. We knew that we were going to increase it, either at Vancouver Community College or at the College of New Caledonia. The decision was made to increase the size of the program at the College of New Caledonia, specifically because I believe that those young people who are trained.... And they're not all young people. I think the average age in our colleges is something like 27, which, if you're 47, is young; but if you're 17, isn't so young.
I believe that if we can offer those programs in the regions.... It's like the teachers' training program I talked about in my opening address and offering that in the north to encourage them to stay in the north. It makes me think of that old song: "How are you going to keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?" Sometimes when people come from regions of the province into the greater Vancouver area, they are reluctant to go back to those regions for whatever reasons. Maybe they meet somebody to settle down with or whatever. But we are trying to — we are in fact doing this — increase the opportunities in the outer regions of the province, let's say, or the other regions of the province, and we are in fact doing this.
Let's talk about boards. The question of college boards has been raised at several of my meetings throughout the province, most often — as a matter of fact, I would say almost entirely — by faculty members. I recently changed the policy on the appointment of board members. While I was building up to that, I considered in my own mind whether or not I would go to either partially or fully elected college boards or stay with the appointed boards and go to terms. I made the decision to stay with the appointed boards and to go to terms. The question was put to me — or the argument was made with me — at one of the colleges: "Why don't you go to publicly elected boards, because they can exert much more pressure on the government to do things?" I didn't want to be disrespectful to the gentleman who raised it, but I really had to chuckle. I thought of my counterpart, the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Brummet), who I guess deals only with the president of the B.C. School Trustees' Association.
I get phone calls from every board member in this province — they feel they have direct access to the minister because I have appointed them — pressing their case for what they want to see happening at their college. There is far more political pressure, I believe, exercised on the minister by his own appointed people to get things done at their school. They don't care what the budget is or what the finances are. If they think they've got something to fight for for their particular school, for their college, then believe me, they fight for it. I get phone calls from many, many board members around the province pressuring me politically for what they think they should have at their particular college.
I'm pleased with what the colleges have done. I would be disappointed if we saw the same sort of political positioning take place that we see on public school boards from time to time. If our primary concern is for the students, if the students are our bottom line, then that is lost a great deal in these political skim-fishes that take place at the board levels. I haven't seen those skirmishes at the college levels. I think the colleges are well served for that.
MS. MARZARI: I feel I should respond for a few moments on the fact that I think you made the wrong decision, You had a decision in front of you as to whether to go to appointed or elected boards, and from my experience of it, I think the system, in order to be truly a community college system, must go back to elected boards. The skirmishes, as you call them, is basically the price that one pays for having an open, democratic system; and a board that listens to its constituency and makes up its mind based on the pressures that are placed on it at a local level is probably going to make decisions that are closer to home and more relevant to that community than those of an appointed board. That is basically the strong position of this side of the House, which I think is consistent with the foundation and the values of the community college system.
I want to ask my colleagues, the member for Kootenay and the member for Nanaimo, with their own hands-on experience inside the college system, to talk about colleges and ask questions for a few moments — for 15 minutes.
MS. EDWARDS: First of all, I'd like to welcome Mr. Thompson. I know that he'll recognize some of the things that I'm going to talk about, because he's been in the system, watching and observing and being there somewhat.
I came alive and decided to follow this debate very closely, Mr. Minister, from the time you began talking about ageing college instructors. I was in the college system for approximately a dozen years. I knew quite a few college instructors; every one of them was ageing. In fact, they were beginning to age considerably faster than they had been when I first got into the system, and a lot of that had to do with what we called "restraint."
What happened to the college system after 1982, Mr. Minister, is something I think you're glad you don't have to be called responsible for. I'm going to lay a foundation for what I'm going to talk about first, and that is participation in post-secondary education in the province of British Columbia, which is as low as it can be. It's even lower for people who come from the area that I come from. It may be that that's because the people in Victoria are remote. We hear an awful
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lot about people being remote, and sometimes that's ascribed to us who live in the Kootenays, or in the north, or even in North Island. In fact, Mr. Minister, sometimes we think it's the ministry that's remote.
Participation is low, and there are a number of reasons for that. I must congratulate you for recognizing that problem, when you talked about the student loans program. The difficulty with your addressing the problem is that the loans program is limited. In fact, students who cannot, for any number of reasons, get to any facility where they can get the kind of post-secondary education that they need are not going to be able to get into the program on a full basis. They are going to have to wait, and even when they do, the extent of the loan that goes to them is not nearly enough to cover the extra costs that they have because they are going to a remote area on the lower mainland or in Victoria, where the only universities in the province exist.
As you may or may not know, we used to have the oldest university in the province, Notre Dame University; it existed at Nelson. During academic parades, I'm told, the president was very proud to be very much at the front. Well, that oldest university no longer exists, and there is no university in the interior of British Columbia. What in fact happens then is that the students who need to go to university have that problem of distance; they have that problem of living in an area remote from home. They cannot live at their parents' house; they have to pay for that particular expense, and they are going to try to do that over all of these major problems.
They have another difficulty if they have an interest in going into the academic area, the university area, and that is that the colleges themselves have had an attack on academic programs. I call it an attack, and that is probably putting it as dramatically as I can. In fact, what happens is that there is a funding system.... And you all know what the funding system is. What it does is it militates against academic education. Besides that, which requires that you have a certain number of students, and that the amount of funding is weighted in a certain way, and so on and so forth.... If you come from a college in an area like mine, you understand how those weights work against you.
What happens is that the funding isn't there, and the first thing that goes is the learning resources, i.e., the library books. The books are no longer there. Then we begin to have decentralization attacked, and we no longer have the academic courses going out into the areas. You're talking about the regional colleges serving the regions, but in fact they again have to centralize themselves. No longer do we have the money to afford travel for the academic instructors. This becomes a problem. It's much more difficult to get academic instructors there, largely because they can no longer be hired on a continuing basis; we're now hiring them on a contract basis. So we're fighting all of these problems for a person of any age at all, the ageing student — let's put it that way — who wants to have an academic education.
All of these things work against the student who wants an academic education. There are many students who don't want an academic education particularly. They may go into it at any time of life. I think that probably the attitude has now changed: people can get an education at any time in their life; they should. It's life-long learning, and we have to hope that that works better.
The colleges cannot plan their — shall we call it — vocational, and there are other programs. There are a number of basic education programs, there are a number of vocational programs, in which if they want to begin the program, they have to begin through Excellence in Education funding. You have said that those are innovative funds, but, Mr. Minister, let me tell you that because of the shortage of funds in the institutions throughout this province those funds have to be used for basic operating costs. Everybody puts in for an Excellence program. They hope that they can get it onto the budget the next year; and if it does, of course, something else goes.
All of these problems make it very difficult for the colleges throughout this province to operate and give the best kind of post-secondary education to the people in that region. Believe me, there are people working in those colleges who are extremely good, and they are extremely dedicated. There are people not only in the colleges but in the communities who are extremely dedicated to the college and the college system. But the colleges have these problems.
I would like the minister, who says that post-secondary institutions.... I'm not sure if he was only talking about universities. He said that they loved to recruit who they want. In other words, you can get who you want because there are all sorts of people out of work. I'm not sure that that was the background of that statement, but if that's the case, I can tell you that it's not easy to recruit all those people who are floating around, even those people with the qualifications, to get them to areas in the province that you call beyond Hope. It's partly because they are hired on a contract basis, they don't know whether it's permanent employment, and they are hired at rates far lower than regular faculty, and the regular faculty at these institutions is shrinking and shrinking.
Could the minister discuss the kind of thing that he sees happening to help improve the rate of participation in postsecondary education for students in what we call the interior of the province?
HON. S. HAGEN: I'm really pleased to be able to address the question. It's always a pleasure to talk to somebody who has had so many enjoyable years teaching in the college system. I certainly appreciate your positive approach to the colleges, to the people who work in them and to the students.
The participation rate is the second question that the Premier asked me to address when I was sworn in as minister. It's a very intriguing problem because British Columbia, because of its geography and some other reasons, is different from many of the other provinces. One of the things we have given Dr. Grant Fisher to work on during his recuperation is the question of participation and access. I have also asked Dr. Les Bullen, who chaired the Student Financial Assistance Review Committee, to chair a committee on access with regard to post-secondary education for the province. We are looking at that, and it is a concern.
With regard to the statement you made that sometimes it's people in Victoria who are remote, I haven't found that. I have found the people in my ministry to be very sensitive and responsive to people in any area of the province. They assist me in dealing with the problems that come in. I would say the contrary. I guess it's an advantage to me that I don't come from the lower mainland or the Victoria area. I come from Comox, which is not remote, but it's not metropolitan either. I can certainly appreciate the problems that people have in accessing some areas of post-secondary education.
I want to assure the hon. member that a priority of the community colleges is not only to address the needs of the community and the people in that community with regard to
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career-oriented programs, but it's also to address the needs with regard to university transfer programs. This is one of the reasons that the 15 colleges were instituted around the province: to enable people to pick up one or two years of university courses without having to leave home, and then transfer to the universities to complete them. In some cases young people are not ready to leave home at that age; in other cases it's cheaper for them to do that. I think there are a lot of benefits to achieving your university education that way. But certainly this is a priority with all the community colleges, and we will continue to see that that priority is addressed.
With regard to what you referred to as the inability of students to be able to afford post-secondary education, I would encourage you to study and read the new information on student financial assistance. It is apparent that you haven't looked at it. It provides assistance of up to $6,500 for students, which is the amount that was recommended by the committee. It also puts a limit on outstanding loans of $12,000, which will do away with people having to borrow large sums of money to get their education. At the end of completing their degree, they will owe a total of $12,000, which I think is a significant step. It's a unique step in Canada. We have other provinces looking at our program, and they are very excited about it.
One of the other exciting aspects of the student financial assistance program is what we call the "Passport to Education." This is a booklet that will be handed out to students in grade 9, and as they complete each year — it'll be based on scholarship, on the top percentages, probably 25 or 30 percent of the class — they will have a dollar amount stamped in that book. At the end of grade 12, they'll be able to take that book to the post-secondary institute or university that they want to attend and have that amount deducted from their tuition.
That's important from a financial point of view, but it's more important from a question of access and participation. Because this is such a resource-based province, and many of the people who work in the resource-based industries live in the outermost parts of the province, one of the topics around the dinner table at night is not post-secondary education. One of the philosophies behind this booklet is that when the student brings the booklet home the first time in grade 9, he will then talk to his parents about what will be possible through the use of this book. And then the parents will say, "Well, what do you want to do after grade 12?" In other words, the idea is to get these young people starting to think earlier about what they want to do after grade 12. They may not automatically go to work in the local mill — not that there's anything wrong with working in the local mill, but there are other opportunities out there.
It will encourage them to talk to the counsellors to find out the opportunities that are out there. I believe that this will have a significant impact in the participation rates of students in this province. It is certainly one of the steps that we're taking. I can assure the hon. member that we'll continue to work on this program through Dr. Grant Fisher's study, and also through the committee that is headed by Dr. Les Bullen.
MS. EDWARDS: I was talking about remoteness in a very physical sense. Something that is remote is something that is distant from where you are. If you live in the Kootenays, then Victoria is remote. We have very sensitive, responsive people in our area as well. I think there are many sensitive and responsive people in Victoria. I'm talking about a distance problem. However, I would have to say that when we have the minister talking about the resource communities in British Columbia, where in fact the conversation is not about post-secondary education, I would suggest that the conversation is about post-secondary education every bit as often as it is in any other home in British Columbia.
I'm pleased to know that you're putting out a booklet, but I think you might be much more practical if you provided some better access to first- and second-year post-secondary education at all levels, and some access to third- and fourth year university courses throughout what we call the interior of the province. It is the interior of the province. That's fair. Remoteness is simply a point of view, like age. That's what I'm talking about. In fact, there are a number of programs in this province that are being presented by foreign universities. Also, for example, students in my area are going to the University of Saskatchewan, which has an extension program that is long and was founded years ago. When people want an extension program, they have to go out of the province to meet their specific needs. In fact, frequently it's offered by Gonzaga University. Why is it we don't have three of our outstanding universities in British Columbia offering this sort of thing?
However, I'm going to get back to colleges specifically, and I want to talk about a couple of things. The first thing is your choice to have appointed rather than elected boards. I would suggest, Mr. Minister, that you talk about something that's really beyond belief. You said you chose appointed with terms. Now had you chosen elected, I can assure you that you probably would have chosen terms as well. You had the choice of doing what you wanted with boards.
There are some major problems with having appointed boards. It's simply that they are appointed, and they are seen to be appointed, and particularly with the penalties that are in place in this province for members of boards, they are seen to be people who will have to agree to a certain extent — I leave the measure of that extent open right now — with the minister who appointed them, and with the government of which that minister is a member.
You're talking about skirmishes on elected boards. Mr. Minister, the point of having skirmishes is that the community gets to talk to the people on the boards. When you have only one group of people, who are specifically directed to the government, for example, the members of that board are not even able to operate as well as well as they could had they been elected. In fact, when something happens that looks like it might be a political action, everybody on that board is painted with the idea that that is a political decision, whether it was a political decision or not. Nobody on that board who has been appointed by the minister can get away from that. It's a problem for appointed boards, and I think that it should have been recognized.
I also was talking to you, Mr. Minister, before you did your college board appointments, and you suggested to me that you had included and were looking to include some appointments from various other sectors of the community that had not generally been appointed to college boards — unions were one of the major areas that you mentioned. I don't believe that you have followed up on that, and I would wonder why that hasn't happened.
I would like an answer on the boards, but I also would like to talk a little about open learning, as you've talked about it as a marvelous invention, and how it's happening. A number of
[ Page 2500 ]
methods of distance education have been developed that are very good. I think there are a number in process that are not very good. One of the ways that we could quantitatively decide whether an open learning system is any good is to look at the completion rates, and I can suggest to you, Mr. Minister, that a lot of us have looked a long time at a lot of open learning and distance education processes, and find it very difficult to find anybody bragging about the completion rates.
What it means is that committed students at a level that they understand can deal very well with most of the systems of distance education we have right now, but other students fall by the wayside at a rate that we don't like to talk about. Again, if we are going to have good open learning — and I don't care whether you're suggesting that there aren't any good models here or anywhere — it takes a considerable commitment of development money. But whether you get that development money or not, there are stages in the educational process where you simply cannot avoid having it happen, if there is a person there facilitating the learning that is going to go on by the student. I'm simply suggesting that we are not evaluating in any full, fair way the kind of distance education that (a) we could have and (b) that we do have.
MR. R. FRASER: I look forward to joining this debate, Mr. Chairman. The reason I want to do so is that I like to point out that the opposition always feels that all you need to do to solve a problem is to pour more money down into the problem. It isn't true; it's never true.
This morning we were pouring hundreds of millions of extra dollars into health care, and yesterday one of the members over there said, "It's only $104 million," like it was nothing.
MR. WILLIAMS: Have you ever talked to the member from Little Mountain? As a money-thrower, she's unparalleled.
MR. R. FRASER: The first member for Vancouver East says my colleague is a money-spender? Unbelievable!
When you talk about funding, it's not how much, it's how well. That's what really counts — that's the secret, right? I'm going to help you over there learn something new. When you talk about participation rates, you always talk about, it seems to me, the lack of money. It isn't the lack of money that affects the participation rate, from my point of view. The work and the research I did with my colleague from Surrey here pointed out that it was the attitude of the family, the attitude of the community.
One of the things that I think we really ought to explore when it comes to participation rates in post-secondary education is: what are the attitudes of the high school teachers? What are they doing to the students when they say: "You are bright, you should attend a post-secondary"? Do you ever hear a teacher saying anything to a kid in grade 8, 9 or 10? You don't hear it very often. You should, though. You should hear it all the time. The teachers, those people who themselves have had post-secondary training, should be saying to their students: "Think about your career after grade 12." You don't hear about it very much. They ask us: "What are you doing to increase the participation rate?" The teachers have an opportunity unparalleled; they are there all day long.
In fact, the loan-grant system we have here is amazing; a student can borrow up to $6,500 a year, have a debt of $26,000 and pay back $12,000. What a bargain! I'm not sure that will encourage people to use their own money, but that's a great opportunity, no doubt about it. In fact, the government's been so generous that you can get — if you can believe it — credit store loans, I understand, for making contributions to Greenpeace. Now there's a remarkable idea — an organization that's well-known for flaunting itself and many times, apparently, illegally, and we are funding this stuff. I mean, you've got to make yourself wonder why we are doing it.
Talking of completion rates, you don't have to complete a course in order to learn something. Anything you learn is an advantage. The member for Nanaimo the other day learned how to golf. I was a witness to this great achievement — not too bad. A hole-in-one is a practical gift there.
Education is just learning something new, not necessarily completing a course. If you complete, great; but the kids who go to colleges and to universities are such a small percentage of our total population that they're the advantaged. They have a great opportunity not only to get an education but they have to remember to give it back, somehow, to the community, presumably through earnings and taxation and things like that.
Throwing money at a problem is never the answer. Working and thinking is. This minister here is doing his damndest to give every kid in our province a chance to learn, either through open learning or colleges or networks or whatever, and that is great. Think positively.
I can remember going to one of the colleges and the principal there.... The attitudes of principals change so much. The one in Malaspina is a great, outgoing, energetic, ingenious man, a perfect guy to be principal of a college because he really thinks and works. One I ran into one day said: "The government money is gone, the community money is gone, industry isn't buying training courses. Oh, woe is me! " I thought to myself: why would he sit there with the chance of a lifetime, a whole facility full of opportunity, full of openings, and not say to himself: "What am I going to do in the community to get people to come? What am I going to tell them that will make them happy?" The ads in the papers look like the phone book and are about as much fun to read. He could have gone out there with a message and ad campaign and said to all those people in the community, in a way to make them think: "If I go and take that course, I will be the beneficiary." The college presidents don't have to depend on governments to get kids to go to school; they can do a sales job, and more of them should. The Malaspina guy does.
MR. WILLIAMS: What are you talking about?
MR. R. FRASER: I'm talking to you. It's not just the money, Mr. Mayor from Vancouver; it's the principal, the leader of the college, that makes the difference. It's the people; it's not the money. I want you to remember that.
MR. REE: I just have a short question for the minister with respect to the limit on student loans. My understanding, and I stand to be corrected on this, is that on the first degree a student has a limit of $12,000. Any borrowings after that are forgiven if he completes. If he goes on for a second degree, he gets a limit of $16,000.
I had the question posed to me the other night: what about the industrious, hard-working, thrifty student that gets his
[ Page 2501 ]
first degree without a loan but requires the assistance on the second degree? Should he not benefit on a $12,000 limit instead of being penalized on the $16,000 limit?
This is the question I would pose to the minister. Possibly the programs should be per degree, not first or second degree, or the first degree obtained with assistance. That's the only question.
HON. S. HAGEN: Your assumptions are correct that the limit is $12,000 for the first degree and $16,000 for the second, but it's on a per degree basis. Of course, you have to remember that it is based on financial need. If you don't have the financial need you don't borrow the money, or you can't borrow the money.
The question that you posed is one that I don't think has been encountered by the ministry staff yet, and so I don't think I can give you a specific answer. I can tell you that I have retained the student financial committee in place to monitor the program for the first year or so and to come up with suggestions on how to deal with unanswered questions. The committee is largely made up of the same original members, the same spectrum of people. Robert Clift has been reappointed; Dr. Bullen is heading it; and we have people from the student financial assistance offices. Perhaps one of my staff could get back to you with a more specific answer on that question, which I appreciate.
Has the member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards) left?
HON. S. HAGEN: She asked about quite a few things.
I just want to make a couple of comments with regard to the appointed boards. the first comment is that the people who are appointed are generally high-profile individuals in the community and, therefore, are very accessible by the public and are held up to question by the public on what's going on at the community colleges. I don't think there's any danger of the board members not being accessible and not being answerable to the public about what's going on in the specific institution.
The other question dealt with the appointment of a cross-section of people. If you look at the appointments that were made, you will see that there is a broad cross-section of the population included, including representatives from the trade unions, and four or five board representatives from the native communities. We will continue to involve various aspects of the community to make sure there is broad representation. I give you my commitment to do that; I don't have any difficulty with that. I want to make sure that we are answering the needs of the various parts of the community that we are serving.
I also want to assure you that we will continue to maintain our lead that we have in the Knowledge Network and the Open Learning Institute. The policies that are set by those groups will be dedicated towards serving the public of British Columbia. My understanding is that we have 400,000 British Columbians currently taking courses on the Knowledge Network. Admittedly, many of those people do not complete any sort of degree, but I think the opportunity is there to upgrade yourself, to take the job training programs and to even access apprenticeship programs.
MR. LOVICK: I am going to make my comments very brief, but I'm going to approach this debate with a little more intensity than we have had thus far. And I do that without too many reservations. I do that because I have listened here for some time to what I take to be some rather platitudinous and pious utterances that tend to avoid the reality of the college system, a reality that I know rather well, Mr. Minister.
First of all, let me just respond briefly to your reference to skirmishes that you get when you have elected officials, because there are political cleavages within a community. Others of my colleagues have addressed the issue, so I don't need to give you a basic introduction to the nature of a democratic society, which is to legitimize dissent and to allow people to have differences of opinion. Instead, what I want to do is remind the minister what happens when you have an appointed board. What happens with an appointed board is that those individuals who are charged with looking out for the welfare of the community college system become as quiet as clams. They don't speak regardless what the government might do to the educational institution. That's why the college boards throughout the province lost the confidence of their constituents. That's why faculty associations throughout the province decided that they were violently opposed to the business of appointed boards, because they look to those appointed boards to defend the integrity of the college system, and they discovered instead silence. That's the point and that's the reason why we have suggested that appointed boards are a mistake. They simply are a mistake.
I want to touch very briefly on another issue that I take issue with regarding the minister's comments: namely, the business of the fund for excellence, the Excellence in Education program. The minister had a marvelous opportunity here, as the new boy on the block, to demonstrate to all of us that he in fact wasn't going to represent a continuation of a system of an old regime that so many found distasteful. Instead of seizing that opportunity, however, the minister not only refused to simply.... I'm sorry, I'm not stating this well. As a matter of fact, I get so incensed when I think about this that I have difficulty stringing sentences together, which doesn't normally cause me a problem; but let me try it again.
I'm suggesting that the minister had an opportunity to at least remain silent, if he didn't attack it, about the Excellence in Education system. However, he decided to demonstrate the enthusiasm of all converts by leaping on the proverbial bandwagon and saying: "Yes, by heaven, that Excellence in Education fund was a grand program."
Let me tell you about the Excellence in Education program. The way it was perceived throughout the province, again by all the people within the system, was that the college system had effectively been victimized, starved for funds and threatened for a number of years. Suddenly we had money, but only we had money with two conditions attached: one was that only certain kinds of programs, subject entirely to the whims of the ministry and officials within government, would be funded; secondly, we had the predicament of having to go and literally bow and scrape for funds, while at the same time struggling very hard to maintain the existence of current programs.
Excellence in Education was considered to be a sham from the beginning. Anybody who has done any homework on the subject knows that. Indeed, when we attacked and challenged various representatives from the ministry, again throughout the province, to defend that program, most of them, quite frankly, didn't have the temerity to even continue the pretence of pretending that it was legitimate funding. It
[ Page 2502 ]
was a scam; it was a sham. It was a marvelous attempt to get some new publicity after the same government that was providing us with the so-called new money had starved the system of funding. Thus I begin with a certain amount of passion, Mr. Minister, and I make no apology for that.
But I don't want to devote all of my attention to that. Instead, what I want to do is simply to pose a question to the minister. There is a very quick preamble to my question. When the college movement began in this province, as I'm sure the minister well knows, it had a very large sense of mission about it. It said that what it was going to do was to provide three kinds of formal education, under the heading "comprehensive community college system." Those were academic, technical and vocational. In addition, what the colleges assumed as part of their mandate was what we can loosely call a recreational and cultural imperative. The notion of what they were going to do was literally to serve communities as community centres, as places whereby communities that otherwise didn't have the advantage of outside speakers and cultural events would suddenly be given those opportunities.
The essential question that I want to pose to the minister is just this: it seems to me, and I think to many others who are examining this entire business of post-secondary education in the province, that we have begun a gradual transformation, a shift to something that we usually refer to as the Ontario model for colleges — the CAATs, the colleges of applied arts and technology. That system, as we know, is heavily weighted in terms of vocational training and job emphasis, to the point that what has increasingly happened in Ontario is that they do indeed have a two-tiered system. They have something called the university system for those who want to study the liberal arts curriculum or social sciences and suchlike, and they have the colleges becoming more and. more a place where you go to get vocational training. That has certainly caused some ripples and concerns in the province of Ontario.
What I want to ask the minister, then, is whether he can provide us assurances that the British Columbia system of the comprehensive community college is still a concept embraced and endorsed by the ministry, or whether in fact we are moving more and more away from what we call the classic and traditional liberal arts education towards a very specific job-centred education. I would like the minister to answer that question. I hope he will reassure me that the B.C. system as originally designed will obtain and we will not make the switch to the Ontario model.
HON. S. HAGEN: I'd like to thank the member for his lecture. I guess once a college instructor, always a college instructor. But I appreciate the things that you said with regard to the importance of the community and the college. I find it a bit surprising that you would raise the question that you raised. I know of your background; I know where you taught, and I know the close and tight relationship between Malaspina College and the surrounding area. I had the opportunity to attend the play Grease there earlier this spring; it played, I think, for 12 or 15 nights to sellout crowds — the sellout crowds being, of course, the people from the community. I saw this as a very positive thing. It shows that the people of the Nanaimo area appreciate what they've got in Malaspina College.
I can assure you that we have no intention of following Ontario and what they're doing. As a matter of fact, I made the comment earlier — I guess you weren't here — that Ontario is continually trying to catch up to us in many of the things that we're doing in post-secondary education. The commitment that was made to this province by previous governments with regard to the college system has not changed. I am personally not interested in changing it. So I can give you good news and put your mind at rest; we will not be taking any different direction with regard to the arts or humanities, or anything else in the college system. We're not taking any sort of renewed thrust in a different direction.
MS. MARZARI: Thank you, Mr. Minister. We will use your words as a promise and a commitment. We'll be watching the estimates next year to ensure that the money is there to back up the promises, because this is what estimates are all about — to match the rhetoric with the money. What I think this side of the House wants to do is to ensure that that goes on.
Moving from colleges to student participation, the basic rationale for the whole system, I'd like leave, Mr. Chairman, to introduce students who are present here today to witness this estimate debate.
MS. MARZARI: I'd like to introduce Pam Frache and James Tate from the Canadian Federation of Students. Pam is the president of the Alma Mater Society at UVIC and James is vice-president of the academic society. I ask the House to welcome them.
Colleagues in the House have already addressed student aid to some extent, and that was to be the meat of this particular section of our deliberations. I should say at this point that we do want to discuss students, their participation and the aid given to them. We also want to discuss, as I said before, job training. We want to spend a few moments on science and technology, and on women's programs. With leave of the Chair, I would like to extend my previous time estimates from 5:30 until 6:15 or so. That, I believe, is what it is going to take to proceed with the rest of this particular set of estimates. I just want to inform the House, and that will inform my colleagues as well as colleagues on the other side of the House.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
A lot has been said and a lot of praise has been given to the student aid program that this government has brought forward. I am the first one to add my congratulations to that financial aid program. The process by which the program was established.... Of course, the short term in which the committee had to report was a problem; nonetheless, the report was a good one. The fact is, the estimates promised a small increase, but the student aid program that I look at now is far in excess of what the estimates promised. I think it would be useful at this point for the minister to comment on the actual dollars going towards student financial aid this year.
HON. S. HAGEN: Thank you, hon. member, for the question. In the estimates, the money committed to student financial assistance this year over last year is a growth of 50.7 percent, from $17 million to $26.45 million. That doesn't
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include an additional $10 million from the contingency fund, which was made necessary because of the scope of the student financial assistance program, so that will increase the amount to $36, 450,000. Next year that will be increased to $40 million, and I think by the next year we'll be somewhere in the vicinity of $80 million, because there's an additional commitment of $50 million which will come into being in the third year of the program.
MS. MARZARI: This is all in the context, of course, of the other ingredients that go into the mix to describe the student population in this province.
My colleague for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards) talked at length about the participation rates. We still have a long way to go in this province before we can take a serious stab at bringing our participation rates of post-secondary students into line with any kind of national average. Figures that I have been working with, which I think are a few years old but probably still relevant, are that there should be 19,000 more students in our post-secondary institutions in order to come up to the national norm. Only 7 percent of grade 12 students in non-urban areas actually get to attend post-secondary institutes, from my numbers.
There is a crying need, therefore, to expand our service, our network, to develop the university of the north, or to expand the capacity of our college system to be able to deal with an outreach program that we should be engaging in now in this province to encourage more and more students to make themselves ready for post-secondary education. The unemployment statistics point to that need, too — the youth in our society. Such high unemployment, somewhere around 25 percent to 27 percent of our youth are unemployed, points to the need to also build that machinery.
I would ask the minister if in fact we are looking towards the building or the creation of a northern university, or if we are looking at the kind of capital and staff outlay that we need to meet some kind of a national norm, if we establish that as an objective or a goal. Are we planning for that kind of outreach and that kind of inclusion and catchment for our secondary students, to encourage them to (1) stay in B.C. and (2) become trained or educated here?
[Mr. Weisgerber in the chair.]
HON. S. HAGEN: That's another very good question by the hon. member. One of the good-news items, I guess — and I think it's directly related to the student financial assistance package that I was able to introduce in March — is that I understand that in many colleges around the province, for instance, the requests for student financial assistance are up 30 percent, which means that there are more people who will be able to access the system. After all, the objective of providing the program was to make sure that individuals in this province who did not have the monetary means, the financial means, to continue or to even start post-secondary education would have that ability through the student financial assistance package.
It appears that the news is getting out there. I'm sure you are aware that we sent the information of the student financial assistance package to every grade 12 graduating student. It's in all the high schools, colleges and universities, and the news is getting out there.
The participation rate is a concern, and as I mentioned in previous talks, we are addressing it very aggressively through the study that Dr. Grant Fisher is doing and also through the committee that is chaired by Dr. Les Bullen.
I don't know whether your figures are correct. You mentioned youth unemployment, and that's a grave concern of mine. I guess the good news there is that in the last two successive months it has decreased, I think, by 3 percent, certainly more than the adult area. So there are jobs being established out there, but it's a concern. I have five children of my own, the oldest one being 17, and I'm anxious for them to have the opportunities that I had when I grew up.
MS. MARZARI: I suppose the irony of all this is that we have finally brought up student financial aid to, shall we say, an adequate level. It's not respectable yet, but I think we're pushing toward it. At the same time there's a small turnaround in university and college funding: 39 percent. This obviously is no cause for a grand celebration; it is a turnaround, but it isn't up to cost-of-living or inflation standards to this point.
It is ironic that we're looking at student-aid increases in the very year when, in fact, the tuition at all three universities has increased substantially. I should say that it has increased — 117 percent over the last three or four years. Consequently students are being asked to pay more of the burden of a university. So we are now, in fact, loaning and granting money to students while we are collecting it back from them in terms of tuition fees,
That being the case, we can see that we do have a long way to go in the province. I would like to think, however, that the tuition load carried by students would become less rather than more over the next few years, so that these grants and loans might have a real impact upon access. As we know, access to university and post-secondary education just isn't a function of money alone; it's very often a function of expectation and availability and physical proximity to an institution.
I'd like to leave the area of student participation and student loans at this point and ask my colleague, the member for New Westminster (Ms. A. Hagen) to begin to address job training, which, of course, is very much related to the employment statistics we were talking about and to all these questions of aid and access. The job training program is as much a part of the post-secondary emphasis as the other things we have spoken of.
I believe you, Mr. Minister, would like to make a few comments beforehand.
HON. S. HAGEN: I want to make a couple of corrections to the numbers you were using. One is that the operating budgets of the colleges actually went up 6.7 percent this year, not the 2.8 or something you were referring to.
MS. MARZARI: 2.8 overall.
HON. S. HAGEN: Okay. But the operating budget which we were talking about went up 6.7 percent.
On the comment with regard to students and the increased fees, which of course are set by the institutions themselves, I would like to make the point, so that the public understands, that it is public record that even with the increased fees, the students are paying only 18 percent of the cost of operating our universities. I'm not saying that's right or wrong; I'm just making the statement that they're only paying 18 percent of the cost.
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I'd also like to take this opportunity of thanking you for recognizing the relationship between job training and the rest of my ministry and that it is, in fact, tied together. I've always felt that myself I take this opportunity to introduce another member of my management team, Ron Woodward, who is the assistant deputy minister for science and technology and job training.
MR. R. FRASER: I heard the minister say something I'd like him to clarify, and I hope what I heard wasn't quite right. I think the minister said that the packages on post-secondary education were going to students in grade 12. It's my persuasion that packages on job training, post-secondary education — all those things — should be better directed to people in grade 8 or 9. So I would like to have that one point clarified, if I may.
HON. S. HAGEN: The information on "Passport to Education" is going out to grade 9 students. The information on job programs, of course, is available to all students; but this year, because it's a new program and we wanted the students who are entering the post-secondary field to be aware right away, the information on the student financial assistance package was sent out to grade 12 students.
MS. A. HAGEN: Mr. Chairman, I'd like also to welcome the assistant deputy minister in charge of science, technology and job training to the House this afternoon.
When the minister speaks about job training, he's speaking about a very broad area, because we all know that whether one is in the field of academic studies or whether one is an apprentice, one is often looking to what one's vocation is going to be. In the time available to me this afternoon, I'm not even going to pretend that I will be addressing the range of the programs that come under your ministry. I've decided that because this is a new ministry, and there are some programs which are coming under this ministry that haven't existed in the post-secondary portfolio that preceded this ministry, which had a little time getting born and getting its title straightened out and so on, that I'd Re to start and probably take most of my time talking about programs that are new to the ministry, or programs that have come to this ministry from the Ministry of Labour.
The goal of my questions will be to try to get some idea of how those programs are going, and to understand something of your approach and philosophy to those particular endeavours of your ministry. So I'm going to start with JobTrac, not because that's a huge dollar volume in your ministry but because, as I think the minister himself noted in his introductory remarks, this is deemed by the government to be a tool of economic development, and because with the briefings that we have had from members of your ministry senior administration, it appears that your ministry occupies the coordinating role for JobRac. Because we have JobTrak in a number of ministries — eight, in fact, involved in a committee of deputy ministers — I want to put you on the spot as the coordinator. Somewhere we've got to have somebody who's going to be answerable for the programs, and it's difficult, really, to do that through the various ministries and know how we are going to track it. I'm going to raise a number of questions before I sit down.
I'd like you to consider, firstly, Mr. Minister, the monitoring and coordinating role that your ministry will occupy at the end of this fiscal year when we want to go back and see whether $80 million has been spent, whether 17,000 jobs have been created, whether the target populations for those jobs have in fact received those jobs and the training that is associated with them. I want you to perhaps let us know whether you're the minister who is going to be answerable for the success of that program, and I don't mean in the sense that your colleagues will not have a role, but to have some idea of where we will be going for some of those answers. We've had some opportunity to raise questions around this particular job training, job development initiative with the Minister of Social Services and Housing (Hon. Mr. Richmond), and we've raised it also briefly with the Minister of Forests (Hon. ME Parker). We have not had an opportunity to address questions to either the Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Culture (Hon. Mr. Reid), nor to the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Strachan).
The program got underway relatively late. When I talked to people in your ministry in April there was still a lot of coordinative work to do after the coming down of the budget, and I say that not necessarily in criticism. I think it's a fact that a lot of the initiatives regarding this program were not in place, and I noted, for instance with the Minister of Forests, that when I was in Prince George on June 10, at that stage not one forestry job was, to the knowledge of your one-stop shop there, available within that area. I'm advised that there have been some changes, and that that program is fully subscribed. So I'd like to have some information about the infrastructure, about how the program is in fact moving along — are the targets coming along well? Do you have some information at this time about the number of jobs that are in place of the 17,000 goal that was indicated in the budget speech?
In that regard, I'd like to ask you also about the toll-free number, the 800-something-TRAC which is in your literature, in the various packages, that says this is where people can go for information. I'd like to ask who, in fact, is responsible for that particular number, to whom is it contracted and what is the mandate of that particular organization or contracted group. What is their mandate in providing information via this provincewide number? Can we take a look at how the system is in an overall sense established and in place, with a great deal of publicity, a fancy brochure and a lot of very small-print brochures — which I, quite frankly, find it difficult to read, because by the time I go through them all to figure out to whom this particular brochure applies, I find it somewhat discouraging. I realize again, having talked to the ministry, that this was a rush job to try to get I don't know how many different programs — eight programs, sort of basically.... If I look at the minister's JobTrac book, which I didn't bring down with me, it's a mind-boggling field of various programs that the ministry has in place.
So give us some information about how you think the program is going, how many jobs or projects you know have been let and, if you don't know, where that information is going to be managed — you as coordinator hopefully would have some idea of where that information will be available — and who is managing the toll-free number, what the mandate of that group is, and what kind of information they are required to make available to the public, which is, I am sure, from many parts of the province trying to get information through that single communication link.
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HON. S. HAGEN: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for New Westminster for those very pointed and detailed questions.
I am the minister in charge of JobTrac, which all the other ministers who are sitting here reminded me of; they are all saying: "It's his responsibility." I can tell you that it is good news. Everywhere I go in the province, people are telling me what a success this program is. I think one of the reasons that it's successful is that for the first time we've combined eight ministries into one. There is a great deal of coordination in the delivery of these programs.
After all, the objective of JobTrac is to help as many people as possible find their way into the labour force. The objective also is not only to offer the job training that takes place, but to assist people in learning how, for instance, to apply for jobs, how to fill out application forms, how to list what their past experiences are, and how not to forget things like listing volunteer programs that they've worked on, and that sort of thing — which all counts towards the plus side when they're applying for whatever job they're applying for.
The program has been running quite a short time, but already has shown that it is more successful and has generated more jobs than the entire program did all of last season. The number of jobs generated as at June 25 of this year is 7, 600 jobs. I think that that bodes well for the program. I know that people in the tourism sector are excited about it. People in the forestry sector are excited about it. And, of course, the people who have obtained the jobs are excited about it.
The objective here is that the people who have gotten the jobs through this program will then have the ability and the training to apply for jobs as they come up in the private sector. As these jobs that they're on continue, they apply for those jobs and get those jobs, and actually hold those jobs.
It's kind of on the same basis as the co-op programs that we have in the universities and colleges, where we find that the students who go out and obtain those jobs under the co-op programs are the people who are retained in those jobs when their education is finished. It's a very, very successful program. The University of Victoria has the most successful program in the province. A large part of the credit, I'm sure, goes to the president, Dr. Petch, who helped develop the program at Waterloo. I guess it's another example of people from Ontario who come out here and get jobs in our universities, and show that people come from Ontario to get jobs here as well.
AN. HON. MEMBER: It's the sunshine.
HON. S. HAGEN: Yes, it's the sunshine, I guess, and because it's such a great place to work.
I'm just waiting for some information on the specific request with regard to the telephone. You know how that works: you pick up the phone and dial the number and then the person answers, and if you're looking for information in Houston or Terrace or something, then hopefully they give you the number of the local job office in Terrace or wherever you ask.
MS. A. HAGEN: I'll look forward to knowing with whom that is contracted. I do know, Mr. Minister, that there is a bit of a runaround with that particular number, whether that's avoidable or not when one considers the fact that it's trying to cover the whole province. But I'll be looking forward to knowing what the mandate of that particular contract is in providing that information.
You spoke a moment ago about the number of people who were employed, and it would be useful to have information about how that's breaking down into the various named kinds of JobTrac. I won't necessarily ask for that information now but I would certainly like to have that available, because we're interested in seeing how it breaks down. So I'll wait for that as well.
You spoke about people coming into these jobs very much like the co-op jobs. Indulging a little bit, I'm familiar with those too, I have a son in the program. I'll tell you in a couple of years whether he's successful at the end of his university career in having that be a parlay into a permanent job in his field of work.
The experience with job subsidies, though, has been that employers employ those people while the subsidy is available and in most instances lay off those people at the time when that subsidy comes to an end. I think that that pattern is quite consistent and known both in federal job creation and provincial job creation activities. I don't say that critically but just as a fact. In many instances businesses do not have enough resources always to be able to employ all the people they might like. This is an opportunity for them to have a good employee and to provide some training, but the jobs don't necessarily stay.
I don't know whether you have seen today's Globe and Mail, Report on Business, and the report — that is still unpublished, I understand — on an analysis that has been written by Lawrence Pinfield, a business professor at Simon Fraser, and Roslyn Kunin and Otto Knauf, economists with the federal Department of Employment and Immigration — two people whose credentials I know to be excellent. They talk about a two-tiered kind of job situation in B.C. They talk about continued high rates of unemployment. They talk about there being people who are core employed in jobs that have relative security, but then there will be a very large sector of people who will be involved with what they call temporary, contract and part-time work.
With all respect, Mr. Minister, I think that although this will provide opportunities for people to work for a time, one of the things that I am somewhat sceptical about is whether it will make any dent over the long term in the unemployment situation that we face or in any significant way be an employment and economic development strategy. And that's not to underestimate that anyone who has work experience and training is benefited by that.
Let me ask the minister what requirements there are of employers, in any kind of formalized way, to provide other than just straight on-the-job training, the kind of thing that every employer must do as he or she brings a new employee into the place of work. Are there applications? Are there some kinds of conditions? Is there monitoring? Are there project people working in these various programs where there are job subsidies available to employers? I know that that whole program of job subsidies is, from my research, the one that's being marketed probably most vigorously. It's being marketed directly to the employers, and it's also being marketed to potential employees who can go and literally offer that kind of carrot, if you like, to an employer: "If you hire me, then I can bring to your place of employment a subsidy of a certain amount of dollars for my wages." Could
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you give us — because you've also emphasized the importance of training that's appropriate to your ministry — some indication of what requirements there are of employers to train?
I don't know whether you're familiar with the job development program of the federal government, where training programs must be in fact defined, and where there's what they call "on site," which is the workplace, and "off site," which is at some college or training facility for formalized training to specific objectives to be achieved. I'll wait for your comment on that part of the employer's responsibility.
HON. S. HAGEN: First of all — and I thank the hon. member for her questions again — I would strongly disagree with her statement that these jobs that are generated through these programs are not continuing jobs. The reports we get indicate that the majority of the jobs are continuing. Having been in the private sector myself for quite a while, I can say that the programs that I've seen out there really have in fact generated jobs that have turned, in the majority of cases, into full-time employment.
After all, we can't forget the objective of these programs, which is to help people who in many cases don't have the self-confidence — or, in some cases, the ability — to go out and look for jobs themselves. They've never been taught how to, whether that be training that they didn't get from their parents or whatever. The objective here is to help these people. And the long-term objective is to place them in a situation or position where, after they've finished the government-sponsored program, they will take up the full-time jobs that are there and be full-time contributors to society.
There is a monitoring that goes on. I can tell you that the JobTrac programs will continually be monitored. It's a little early to give you some of the specific things that you asked for with regard to areas of the province, and that sort of thing, but I will be asking for those figures as the program continues. The monitoring will continue.
There certainly is an application procedure. I'm sure you're aware that the employers have to fill out applications, as do the employees. These vary, of course, with the different components, and the training varies with the components also. The training that takes place, for instance, in teaching people how to space and thin trees would be different than the training that takes place in some of the other programs. But the training is to continue as long as the subsidy is in effect, and even after the subsidy is in effect. So there's an ongoing training aspect to the program.
MS. A. HAGEN: The minister has certainly answered the question in part, with the responsibility of employers to train in the area that probably is the most simple; if you're planting trees, presumably you're going to be trained to plant trees. But it's my understanding that in the job subsidy program the JobTrac is being marketed to employers far and wide. I still don't feel I've had an answer to the question: what are the requirements of those individual employers to provide training for the people coming to them, as you say, possibly needing skills in order to be more job-ready and to have more market skills? How are you going to monitor when you might have literally hundreds of different employers across the province? There may be an application I haven't seen that gives me some of that information, Mr. Minister. I've seen the Community JobTrac application, and it does indicate some information about training. But again, the whole setup which says that there might be a project manager or supervisor if there are as many as eight employees leaves me wondering how training and all of that kind of thing is going to go on. I know from firsthand experience that if you're dealing in this field and you're providing training, it's something that has to be specified if it is to be delivered.
What I'm looking for here is some sense that the ministry has some accountability on the part of people to whom they are making available dollars to hire an employee; that they are not just getting a subsidized employee, and that there is some return to the employee and to us through your ministry and its concern for job training in the skills and experience that that employee is going to have. There has got to be something that says you're going to return something for those dollars besides getting something, which is clearly what the province is giving most employers. They are giving them an opportunity, through a very generous subsidy, to hire an employee that they might not otherwise have been able to afford and might very well need in their business.
I'm not satisfied yet that I know or have a sense of how you're going to know that the job training component is addressed by those individual employers that you may have legion numbers of in any of the communities of our province if you're successful in marketing that job subsidy program to the degree that your market plan would suggest you want.
HON. S. HAGEN: Certainly the program is successful, as I pointed out by the numbers that we've seen already. It's really started off and is a successful program. The amount of training that takes place, obviously, is in relationship to the amount of training that the individual needs in whatever job he's doing. It's very difficult to be specific in answering the amount of training that is required.
I can assure you that our concern, too, is that the program is monitored. Because we are providing the opportunity for these heretofore unemployed individuals to get jobs, it's important that we know what jobs they've gotten so that when those jobs continue we know what sector is growing and whatever.
The monitoring, of course, takes place throughout the province. Because of the fact that we've got eight ministries involved with this, the resources that we have include the eight ministries and their offices around the province who are monitoring on a continuing basis the JobTrac projects that are underway. It's not just our ministry that's monitoring it. We have the resources. We have 17 job offices, but we also have the resources of the Social Services offices, the government agents.... We've many offices around the province in which these people work who are doing the monitoring of the various programs.
MS. A. HAGEN: A very direct question to the minister. An employee of one of the eight ministries or of the Hewett Group, which is marketing these programs as well, goes out to an employer and says: "We've got some job subsidies available if you'll hire employees." What do you require of that employer in the way of training opportunities for the person that that individual is going to hire?
HON. S. HAGEN: As I tried to explain to the member for New Westminster, there are 35 different programs under the JobTrac heading, and the amount of training that each person will require depends not only on the type of job that he's going to be doing but on the amount of training that he
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doesn't have when he takes the job. If he requires more training, the employer is obligated to give him the training he needs to fulfil the job.
MS. A. HAGEN: I'd be interested to know how the minister is possibly going to monitor that endeavour. It sounds to me as if the targeting for that particular employer will be a very interesting kind of thing. Who is he going to hire?
It's clear that there isn't something that says that there has to be a training plan for this employee; it has to be related to that employee's needs. It's also clear that there's no real incentive for an employer to hire somebody who needs lots of training; there's much more incentive for him to hire somebody who needs very little training, because then he's going to have somebody all ready to take the job.
MS. A. HAGEN: I think I have the floor, Mr. Chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Minister, if you have a point of order, raise it. If not, you'll have to wait until you have the floor to answer the member.
MS. A. HAGEN: Let me pursue this. I appreciate that the minister wants to be more vigorously involved in the discussion, and I know that he'll take the time that he needs to try to answer my questions.
Much of the JobTrac advertising and marketing indicates that the particular group it is designed to serve — people on social assistance.... Those on social assistance are longterm unemployed — over eight months, I understand. The minister spoke earlier about attracting dollars from the federal government and seeking more dollars. We know that some of those dollars have come under the "four comers" agreement. We also know that the two levels of government have looked at ways in which they can more effectively serve people who are out of the economic mainstream of the province. This program is going to cost more than social assistance, but there's a three-year period during which both levels of government are going to see whether this is an effective means of mainstreaming people who are economically disadvantaged back into productive work.
All of those things, we know, are part of how the JobTrac program has been structured. Those are some of the parameters with which your ministry is working. So let me ask you then, Mr. Minister, again around the theme of job training: where are the jobs being targeted? Are they being targeted to areas where unemployment is high? Are they being targeted on the basis of population across the province? Are they simply being targeted on the basis of applications that come in from employers or community groups, so that no kinds of quotas are being looked at? Is there any relationship between the kind of marketing of these jobs that's being done and skill shortages? I understand that the labour skills projecting group that came over from the Ministry of Labour is perhaps no longer in existence, or has somehow been gathered up into some other aspect of your ministry where I haven't as yet been able to clearly identify it. How then are we looking at how these 17,000 jobs are going to be targeted to social assistance recipients? I know there are others as well, but specifically to social assistance recipients, to areas of high unemployment, and to skill shortages that we know exist within the province or that your ministry in some way anticipates you need to be looking to address in order to have skilled people working in those fields. Perhaps that will give me some idea of how you're dealing with job training as a part of what are basically subsidies for jobs — a job creation project, which is different from the job training perspective.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would just remind the member to address comments to the Chair.
HON. S. HAGEN: I thank the member again for her very specific questions. One of the criteria in the JobTrac program is, of course, that the people who are looking for work have to be matched up with people who are looking for people who are looking for work. Without that, you wouldn't be able to put people to work. The money is allocated as much as possible on a regional basis.
With regard to the questions on what groups of people we are targeting, we have targeted programs for persons on income assistance, for instance. We have people who are looking at job search skills, work assessment, referral and education upgrading. We have work experience with small businesses through wage subsidies. We have Forestry JobTrac — work on silviculture projects; Environment JobTrac — work on habitat improvement and parks projects. As a matter of fact, we've got several of those up in my area where people have been wanting to build paths and walkways through the parks. Now they're able to do that through this project. These people will be trained so that they become employable with the parks department and in other jobs. We are targeting youth, the unemployed and the disabled.
So I think there are 35 different programs under the JobTrac heading. It's a very broad program. It's been well received. It's not just a case of providing companies with subsidized help. In many cases these companies wouldn't have hired these people if there wasn't this program. In many cases, as the economy builds in the next six months, these people will be retained under this program. I think the program is successful to date. We will continue to monitor it. We have 17 job offices located around the province that are staffed by very qualified individuals who have been working at this for many years and know the questions to ask and how to monitor these programs, and who, I think, are doing a very good job.
MR. R. FRASER: I once again join the debate, Mr. Chairman, and I'd like to point out to the members opposite that what we want to do with any kind of job training or education, or whatever, is not to necessarily create a permanent job but the hope of permanent opportunity, so that people who occasionally are in need of help can get it from either government or someone else, not necessarily government. Once they have achieved even a modicum of confidence, they can go out into the market and find their own kind of work.
We're talking about training. My company trains lots of people. While the program wasn't structured per se, it certainly worked well enough, because it was developed to respond to the capacity, interest, willingness and aggressiveness of the employee involved. And that is where we come into the small business idea. It's extraordinarily hard for a small businessman to get involved in these programs. I don't know how we're going to address that. I'm not even
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sure we really want to, because the less involvement small companies have with business, the better off they all are. The more they rely on all these programs — the more forms they have to fill out and the more time it takes — the worse it becomes.
We can create a distortion in the market, if we're not careful, by making the individuals with JobTrak credits or salary supplements more employable than those who don't have them. We have to be very careful about not distorting the market to the extent that there is a lack of willingness except to hire those who have these JobTrac points or these salary credits.
What I think we would be better off to do in a lot of ways is have less and less incentive per individual and more and more incentive per corporation, where there would be some kind of taxation credit, or where companies that are moving along quickly would be able to go to the college, or wherever, and find people who either were trained or had the capacity to train.
But the most important thing of all is not to guarantee that someone has one job forever. The most important thing about all this is to make sure that you can find other jobs as you go through life, because as I see it, all the students in school today will have about five careers in their lifetime. They will have a career teaching in a community college. They will have a career as an MLA. They will have a career somewhere else. They have to be able to respond to the challenges and the opportunities that come by, and that's really what we want to do.
The interesting thing about some of the students you talk to is that some of them don't seem to want to start at the bottom of the pile: "I'm educated and I want to go right to the top right away because I'm a whiz." I always enjoyed reminding those students, and still do, that better common sense than flowers, my friend. I always like to remind those who think they should start at the top that lots of people who are very successful started where they could when they could, and because they saw past the immediate future — today's payday — they succeeded, because they were able to take advantage of the future, of the plan; they always had a plan.
So I encourage the Minister of Job Training to be very careful about how we expand these plans, and to make sure that we don't, in a spirit of cooperation and willingness to help those who need help, distort the market out of shape too badly and that we don't use whatever government agency is available to us to distort the market out of shape. Because if we do that, we will ultimately be the losers.
[Mrs. Gran in the chair.]
MS. A. HAGEN: I'm not sure the first member for Vancouver South and I very often agree, but I think we have agreed that these are short-term jobs in many instances and that they may not be the most appropriate way for job creation. I'm sure the minister will heed that advice. In fact, I might just comment, although this sounds very new and exciting, that we've been through at least three or four manifestations of this kind of program in the past, and unless something very different is happening in the world, some of the results are predictable. And again, I don't dispute the fact that for the person who has the job and has that experience, that's a worthwhile thing. I think that that's true.
I would also like, in further comment to the member for Vancouver South, who I don't want to have deter me from my single-minded discussion, through you Madam Chair, with the minister, to suggest that he perhaps is out of touch with most of the young people I know and particularly the 15 to 25 percent of young people who are unemployed. Most of them aren't interested in starting at the top, but they would like to start at a wage that would at least allow them to pay their rent, modest though it might be, and eat. I think most of them have very realistic expectations, and they're prepared to slug it out with lots of very dirty and not very attractive jobs to get that experience right across the spectrum. I'll challenge the minister to any kind of debate on the readiness of young people to have realistic expectations.
Mr. Minister, you may not have responses to this question, and I won't belabour it if you don't. It really is an issue that I should have had an opportunity to discuss with the Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mr. Reid) but did not. I want to just briefly touch on Community JobTrac, which is a little different from the JobTrac that we have been discussing, which is very heavily weighted around the subsidy program. It's about a quarter of that total budget, a $20 million amount; it's new this year and it's targeted, I understand, at non-profit organizations and community organizations.
I would be really interested in having just some brief description of the kinds of projects that are acceptable within this context, because there are not a lot of community groups that are necessarily involved in the non-profit sector. There are chambers of commerce that have information centres, and there may be nature houses that build trails and museums, but many communities don't have some of those structures in place. I know that as of just a few days ago, that program was moving quite slowly: only 12 projects had been approved according to the information we have, and just a little over $1 million, about 5 percent of the $20 million budget for Community JobTrac, was in place. I would assume that a lot of those programs are targeted to good weather and to activities that may be related to the tourism season and to the period of high recreation.
So if you have some information about that program and how it's going, since it's going to be a significant one right across the province at 25 percent of the total budget, I'd be interested in hearing about that right now.
HON. S. HAGEN: It's a very exciting part of the JobTrac program, and certainly in the communities in my riding that I have talked to they are very excited about the program and are just now getting going on it.
I think one of the difficulties in this particular part of the program was that these projects require a lot of input from local community groups, and therefore it's taken a little longer to get on stream than, say, the Forestry or Environment JobTrac programs. The type of projects that qualify for this are the heritage, recreation and culture projects, like museums in communities, which are going to be able to undertake special projects which might well lead to continued employment.
I think the answer to your question is that it's taken a little longer to get this up and running because of the input that is needed to come in from the local community groups, which is now starting to happen.
MS. A. HAGEN: I'll just note, in regard to Community JobTrak and the training, that I am concerned that the kind of requirements that are there are not very specific. I'm also concerned, from looking at the application which I have
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studied, that there appears to be some possibility of less than adequate supervision and project management. The level at which a project manager may be hired seems to sit at around eight employees. My experience in that whole business of job creation is that the success of the program has an awful lot to do with the administration and supervision that's available. I just make that comment and if the minister wants to respond to it, perhaps I'll leave it to him.
I want to move on now — because I have used perhaps more of the time than I should have on the JobTrac issue — to just talk a little bit about apprenticeships. This is another new area that's come into the Advanced Education and Job Training ministry. It is my understanding that about $19 million of the $80 million JobTrac money is in fact earmarked in the apprenticeship area. That's information that we received when we were briefed by a member of your ministry, who very kindly gave us an overview of how the JobTrac program was working several weeks ago.
Apprenticeships have been one of the success stories in British Columbia. They are a training program that has genuinely enjoyed the cooperation of both labour and management, and the structures that have been set up in this province are known continent-wide for the quality of the training program and the calibre of the journeymen who are produced out of those programs. I think we have from both the organized union sector and from many employers in the province a commitment to incredible hours of work in coordinating those programs and in dollars that are available to provide for the continuation of those programs.
There is a lot of apprehension in the labour community about the matter of apprenticeships at this time. It stems from a number of factors. It stems from what is perceived to be a very major decrease on the part of the Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training to staffing, to support the ministry's role in the trade advisories and project coordination on the various aspects of how that apprenticeship works. I don't pretend, as probably you don't, to know all of the intricacies of this, but I've been interested in trying to get a really good handle on it, because I have been aware that apprenticeship has been an issue.
There's a concern about the number of people who are in apprenticeships at this time. The minister made some reference in his comments to the number of people who are presently apprentices in the province and the number of people who've recently completed their apprenticeships. I don't have a complete picture of the number of people who are apprenticing, but the figures I have show that in the last five years, the number of people in the apprenticeship program has declined by 50 percent. In 1982 there were almost 19,000 apprentices in our province; as of June 30, 1987, there were just over 9,500. If we look at some of the areas where apprenticeship is a major part of a training program, we find: with carpentry, it has declined by almost one-third; the electrical trades have declined by about 85 percent; plumbing has declined by about 50 percent; steamfitting by about 75 percent. In fact, the only area where apprentices have increased is in the field of cooking, so obviously we are eating out, and I know from some of the job training programs that are taking place that cooks are in high demand.
We know, too, that because of the downturn in the economy, the difficulty of an apprentice's completing his or her period of apprenticeship, which is usually four years — 85 percent of it on the job — has been very great, and it has taken a lot of work on the part of the trade advisories and the people who organize that apprenticeship to arrange for the necessary hands-on work experience to occur.
So it's a field where there are concerns, and right now those concerns are exacerbated by a couple of other factors. One is that the skilled force is ageing. In fact, that's one of the reasons that W.A.C. Bennett brought in this program, because we were having to bring people in offshore from other jurisdictions and other countries to provide for our skilled trade needs. To his credit, he said we should be training our own people. We should have those jobs available to our people here, and we should be providing that training here. I might extrapolate that whole comment to occupations that are not apprenticeships, but where we need to be adding to the training job opportunities in the professional areas as well. So we need to be providing those opportunities for training here.
The other thing that is happening is that some of our young, very skilled trades people are taking off to other jurisdictions. Although this is Lotusland and they may sometimes choose to come back, I worry that we may have lost those people for all time. In many areas in this province we have a record of looking to other jurisdictions to find our skilled workers. I'm hoping that this minister, who I think has a genuine concern and interest in the young people of this province, will take as one of his tasks and one of his challenges to ensure that our young people are getting training to fill jobs in our province. I'm not talking about ceiling borders or anything of that nature. I'm saying that if we have skill shortages, potential or real, we look at ways in which our young people can find opportunities here to get the necessary training to fill those jobs.
The member for Vancouver South says I don't want people to travel. Let me say to that member that I certainly do believe young people should travel, and my own children are a classic example of that. I think we as a province with needs for skills should first and foremost be looking at our young people. Any province that doesn't have a commitment to its young people, if those jobs are going to be available in the province, is derelict in its duties. I come from the Maritimes, where we went down the road because the economy was not able to manage all of the young people who were there. I'm talking about when the economy can manage those young people; what the skill shortages are going to be and how we deal with that.
Could you comment, Mr. Minister, about the budget in your ministry for apprenticeship training? Is it more or less than the budget that was available last year in the Ministry of Labour? Your deputy minister has come from that ministry and will probably be familiar with those programs. Have you cut back, and by how much, in the staffs that service the apprenticeship operations of the province? If you have cut back, why have you cut back? What are your long-term plans to keep the apprenticeship programs in this province healthy and to deal with skill shortages and apprenticeship opportunities?
HON. S. HAGEN: We're talking about one of the favourite areas of my ministry. Apprenticeship is, I believe, very important to this province and also to the young people and the trades people of this province. It's on-the-job training and it's good experience. It's experience while you're learning. You're getting paid while you're learning. As a point of interest, my father-in-law started apprenticing 51 years ago
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for the company that he worked for for 51 years. I think that's very significant.
One of the reasons we have the most successful apprenticeship program in Canada is that we have 58 trade advisory committees operating in this province. The committees meet on a volunteer basis four times a year to discuss the needs of the province at the present time and what the needs will be six months, twelve months, two years down the road. That's one of the ways — probably the main way — that we ascertain what courses to provide at our colleges and at BCIT to train people in the various trades. I have met with the chairman of each of these 58 trade advisory committees on two occasions. I have spoken with them and listened to their ideas on how they see improving apprenticeship in the province. I want to pay tribute to these people, because they do this on a volunteer basis. These groups — each committee has 20 to 25 individuals — represent a cross-section of each sector that they're dealing with. They represent the union sector, the non-union sector. They represent the large company, the small company. They represent the training sector that the unions provide and the training sector that the companies provide. It's invaluable to us as the government to have these groups in existence. They provide a non-partisan sort of information, and they do an excellent job.
I'm concerned with the reduction in apprentices from the years that you mentioned — 1982 to the present time. This is certainly a reflection of the downturn in the economy. But of course it's also a reflection that the people who were on the program at that time have graduated and gone on to jobs.
At the present time in this province, apprenticeships are growing at the rate of 300 per month. There are 300 new individuals entering apprenticeship programs each month, which, if you extend that into a 12-month period, is 3, 600 a year. So we are in an upturn, and I think that is exemplified by these numbers. It's a good sign. Employers that I have talked to, and employees too, believe in the apprenticeship program, and the young people that I've spoken to in the colleges and at BCIT look forward to their apprenticeships; they look forward to that on-the-job training. I just think it's a win-win situation.
The colleges are very supportive. There's a very tight relationship between the regional colleges and the employers in those regions. There's a direct attempt to place graduates from the colleges and BCIT in the industries that are looking for people and looking for apprenticeships. You're right when you say that we have the best apprenticeship program in Canada. It's recognized across the country. We want to make sure not only that it maintains itself and that we maintain it as the best system, but that it is improved. The one concern I have is that maybe not all sectors of industry, particularly construction, are contributing to the extent that they should be. But we are examining that now, and I'll have further information on that later on.
MR. MILLER: First of all, I'd like to express my approval of the changes that have taken place with regard to access to post-secondary education for students from the rural areas of British Columbia, and from my own area in particular, Prince Rupert, on the north coast. Certainly the evidence was there to indicate that there was a handicap, a barrier, and I'm hopeful that that barrier is at least a little lower than it was previously. So that's on a very positive note to the minister.
With regard to JobTrac, I must confess that as I sat and listened to the debate, I got the impression that, rightly or wrongly, we are really just creating a bureaucratic maze that in the final analysis won't really amount to a heck of a lot. You know, I don't particularly favour this whole approach, in terms of subsidies to employers in this program and that program and 23 different programs; they're all called the same name, and they're administered by 24 different people, and all the rest of it. You know, I think you can just create yourself a bureaucracy that doesn't really achieve anything. I prefer a much simpler approach: that is, if there is some cyclical....
MR. R. FRASER: Let's hear it.
MR. MILLER: I'm going to say that I agree with some of the statements made by the member for Vancouver South. He's demonstrated at times that he's not that astute, but sometimes what he has to say does make a little bit of sense.
I just want to register that concern. I liked the old idea we had when, in times of high unemployment, the feds came in with that winter works program, and we put a few people to work over that cyclical downtime. Certainly the problems in our economy are much more serious, and we have to deal with them in a different way. But I'm not convinced that this JobTrac.... They always get fancy names for these programs. I don't think they really do a heck of a lot, in the final analysis. It certainly doesn't deal with the underlying problems in our economy.
But really, the reason I stood up is my hobby horse, I suppose, in a sense: apprenticeships. The reason I have a strong feeling about that is that I was an apprentice. Not only that, but while I was an apprentice, I was also president of my union and fairly active in the apprenticeship committee. I did some time on the trade advisory committee for the millwrights in B.C.
Quite frankly, my view of the government's commitment to apprenticeships is that it's terrible, and it has been terrible for a long, long time. There's no question in my mind that we've failed to train people in British Columbia to meet our future needs, and that goes back a long, long way. I worked in the pulp industry most of my working life, long enough to see that we've had successive waves of tradesmen that have come from other jurisdictions. I don't have a particular hang-up about a Canadian moving from Ontario to British Columbia, or from Nova Scotia to British Columbia or vice versa, because during the downturn a lot of our guys went back east where there were jobs.
I don't really have a problem there, but we did bring a lot of our tradesmen in from Europe — from the Scandinavian countries, from England, from Germany. We imported those tradesmen, and in so doing we denied the opportunity to a lot of our own people to get in. I think an apprenticeship is one of the best ways to acquire a skilled trade, as this minister has pointed out: to be paid at a slightly lesser wage while acquiring one, and to arrive — and this is really important to a working person — at a job that gives some level of satisfaction.
There are a lot of jobs in industry that are pretty mindless, and it's a bit much to ask people to be committed to those kinds of jobs. Quite frankly, the commitment primarily lies in their paycheque. At least tradesmen have the opportunity to be able to do a job and then be able to look at it and take some
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pride in it. There's some skill involved, and it's very worthwhile in that sense. We haven't done anything.
I recall going to a conference that Jack Heinrich organized when he was Minister of Labour, at the Airport Inn in Vancouver. The captains of industry were there, the union leaders were there, and Mr. Heinrich as the Minister of Labour said: "We've got to deal with this shortage in skilled trades. We're going to have to put a program together." There was a fancy little pin that I still have at home somewhere. You know what came of that? Nothing. The employers of this province have simply not lived up to their commitment. They've been content....
I recall that when I was in negotiations one year in the pulp industry, we took a look around the pulp mills to find out how they were training. Harmac, with 1, 800 employees, had two apprentices at that time — two apprentices. The mill I worked at was pretty good, because the union at those times, when they had that kind of clout at the bargaining table, said to the employer: "You've got to train apprentices. We had it in our contract." To a certain level. And it's unfortunate we've lost that. That was one of the first things to go when the employers came to the unions when the unions were in a weak position, and they gutted that section out of our contract.
MR. R. FRASER: You agreed to it.
MR. MILLER: That comment by the first member for Vancouver South is illustrative of the times when he doesn't know what he's talking about, and I'm sure that won't appear in Hansard, but....
AN HON. MEMBER: Be nice.
MR. MILLER: I'm quite prepared to be nice, Madam Member.
But my contention is home out by the figures, and in my mind there is only one solution, and the Minister of Labour (Hon. L. Hanson) has talked about it. That is a form of levy grant system — call it what you like — some system that says to the employers of this province: "You have an obligation to train a certain level of apprenticeships, and if you don't do it there's going to be a penalty."
All the good will in the world is not going to achieve the end that the minister talks about. No matter how many trade advisory committees you have talking about the needs, about the college courses, none of that really nice stuff is going to do anything to convince an employer to take on apprentices and train them — to undertake that burden. From a cost point of view — maybe that's the way they look at it, and that's fine — the employers are looking at the bottom line, and if they can hire a tradesman as opposed to training one, then they'll hire one. That's their self-interest. Our job is to rise above their self-interest and say: "Look, you have a larger obligation." You can't take apprentices who were trained in a mill that's got a good program and steal them.
This is really serious business. In my opinion, I think we've just screwed around with this whole subject for too long — I don't know if that's parliamentary or not, Madam Chairman, but if it isn't you'll advise me — and it's time to stop this and get down and put a program in place that is going to actually train the kids in our province so that they can acquire those trades. We've got a paper mill being built up in Mackenzie; there's about a billion dollars' worth of capital works going into pulp mills in this province to increase capacity. That's going to require more tradesmen. It's time we stopped with this talk about trade committees and all the rest of it, about statistics and " aren't we doing a wonderful job," and actually did something. I'd like the minister to comment on that.
HON. S. HAGEN: I do appreciate what you've said, because I don't think we differ a whole lot on the last, say, ten minutes of what you've talked about. I won't reiterate it. Currently, the Minister of Labour and I are jointly doing a study on the apprenticeship program, and it's very possible that many of the things you suggest will come into being.
MR. MILLER: Given the history in this area, I'm not particularly pleased with that answer; that's with all the best intentions and no disrespect to yourself intended. I'd like some assurance that you're considering a program that would force employers in this province to live up to their obligations. I'd like the assurance that you're giving that serious consideration.
HON. S. HAGEN: I give you that assurance.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Could I have leave of the House to make an introduction?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Because we're spending so much time at these night sittings, I found it necessary, in order to keep myself married to the woman of my life, to invite the family to come join me at dinner. I'd like the House to recognize the presence in the gallery of my wife, Milly, and my number one son Rick Couvelier and his betrothed, Lynn Currie.
MR. LOVICK: Certainly we on this side would join in the welcome to the members of a Minister of Finance's family, though I'm a little taken by the observation he began with, inviting people to the Legislature as a way to maintain harmony in a relationship; I'm struck by that. However, in keeping with this new spirit of harmony, I shall try to do the same in my few comments to the minister regarding the area of science and technology.
I've spoken on a number of occasions — about half a dozen times, by my estimate — on these subjects, and certainly I'm not going to introduce something that I've already touched on; I'm sure the minister is well aware of the questions I have already asked. Instead, I guess what I do want to stress is that we on this side of the House are indeed well aware that there has been a transfer of responsibility. I know that it would simply be premature of me, and also, frankly, a little bit unfair, to say: why haven't you done this and so? — because it is really relatively new.
What I would like to do though, having said that, is take a little jab at the minister — not a big one but a little one. I noted when he began to introduce his estimates he said, in talking of science and technology, that there were a number of exciting projects — and I quote him — and then he went on to list them. The problem is, the list consisted of one item, and the item was TRIUMF and the proposed kaon factory, largely federal money.
I'm going to outline a series of questions and perhaps the minister would care to respond to them all together rather
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than individually. The first question is simply: tell us about some of the other exciting projects. I haven't heard any yet, and I'd like to hear of some.
Let me just list some questions which are fairly straightforward. First, regarding the shift of responsibility from Economic Development to Advanced Education, where is it now? I have been trying for some time to get some information from both ministries, asking precisely what is happening, and have always been given essentially the assurance that everything is in flux, everything is in motion. What I'm asking for — and I don't do this with any vindictive streak at all — is for a progress report. That's the first question, in effect. Tell us, if you will, where it stands now.
The second question I'd like to pose is to ask the minister if he would be good enough to provide us with the rationale for the change, and whether he can allay and assuage the fears that some have that what the government has effectively done by making the move to Advanced Education from Economic Development is to deny, or minimize at least, the economic development dimension to science and technology, and more specifically, of course, research and development. So the second major question is that I would ask for a little bit of explanation for the rationale for the transfer.
The third question I would like to pose is that I'm asking, I should say, for an update on the Premier's advisory council. Has that body been now constituted? Has it met? We on this side are certainly excited by the concept, and I commend the government for its stated intentions. The question is: what's happened? Has anything yet happened? Again I'm asking, in short, for a progress report.
The fourth question concerns the whole, large dimension of longer-term planning. Every book on the subject, every article that talks about science and technology policy, says that we must look at a longer-term set of developments. Certainly that's the nature of the so-called new economy, or at least, that is the consensus of opinion among economists and other futuristic kinds of thinkers. What I want to ask the minister, in effect, is whether we have begun to sketch out a science policy for B.C. as opposed to a kind of, dare I say, ad hocratic approach. What I think we've been doing — and it's not necessarily a bad approach — is coming up with a number of interesting initiatives; but there does not yet seem to be any kind of coherent or cohesive force there. In short, I think we need direction.
If I can anticipate what might be an answer.... I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I've had these kinds of answers before, and I don't want to hear about all the wonders of discovery parks, because I do not think that discovery parks or science fairs or other creatures of that ilk represent, by any stretch of the imagination, an alternative to a science policy for the province. Again, I'm not asking necessarily for a specific and concrete answer now, but I hope we can get some assurances that that indeed is part and parcel of the mandate within the ministry.
My last question, I guess, can be described as a slight shift away from pure science into the realm of technology, more pointedly and specifically to do with technological change. If there is one truth we know about economic development — and certainly I had originally anticipated posing my questions to the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mrs. McCarthy), but given the shift, I must now try to fit them into Advanced Education.... That's a long parenthetical expression, by the way, and back to the main part of my sentence. The one truth that I think we know is that we are not, frankly, capable of deciding what we ought to do in the name of education that will guarantee our people jobs and productive existences in the future. We're finding our way. The mistake we make all too often is to train people for jobs that no longer exist by the time the training is completed. In that sense, I have some sympathy for the shift of science and technology to Advanced Education. I hope it will indeed take on a kind of futuristic or, at least, far-sighted cast of mind and approach. To the issue of tech change more specifically, my question — and it's really a statement hiding behind a question — is whether the ministry is going to accept and acknowledge the fact that science and technology, research and development, tech change and all those other things must be part of the overall economic development plan for this province.
Back to the point I made earlier about a science policy for B. C. Let us try to come up with a science policy for B.C. that not only talks about accommodating the present and the future but also deals with the kinds of casualties that will inevitably result from the shift to a different economy, from the shift to a different economic base. We know for certain that one thing is true about the new economy, whatever other configuration it has: we will need fewer people to produce more things. The question then is: what are we going to do about that? How do we accommodate tech change? How do we accommodate the outrageously high levels of unemployment that most people anticipate in the name of tech change? What do we do about retraining? What do we do about helping people adjust to that new economy?
Those are the broad questions to the minister, and as I say, I offer them not in the spirit of confrontation at all, but rather because I would genuinely like to hear what is happening with the Ministry of Advanced Education concerning science and technology, and because I sincerely hope that that ministry will do the sorts of things that have too long been effectively avoided or neglected in this province.
HON. S. HAGEN: I think the hon. member for Nanaimo answered his own question in his last series of statements: that is, why was science and technology transferred to my portfolio? I guess the only person who really knows the answer to that is the Premier Science and technology obviously is important to the future of this province. Results of science and technological change have an impact on the future of the province. They tie in with education, they tie in with job training and job retraining.
To start out with your questions, some of the exciting things that are going on in science and technology besides TRIUMF.... TRIUMF should not be understated, by the way, because there's quite a provincial commitment to that project; there's a substantial amount of provincial funding in that project at the present time. Recognizing that the majority of the funding would be federal, it still has an economic impact on the operating basis and the construction basis of the kaon upgrading project. It's probably the largest single economic impacter that this province is looking at at the present time, so it shouldn't be discounted as just a federally funded project.
Some of the other exciting things that are going on are through the Advanced Systems Foundation, where they're working with artificial intelligence, which I'm not interested in — but you might be — and robotics, which is an important phase of economic development for this province. We have
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people coming in from other countries regularly to see where we are in robotics, because we're ahead of many other countries in that field. The university industry liaison offices: doesn't sound sparkly, but they are. These have been very influential and have played an important part in the economy of the province. As I mentioned in my talk, there are 57 spinoff companies from UBC alone that last year generated $170 million in sales and 2,500 jobs. These are important things, and we want to encourage the universities to continue with this.
The pharmaceutical industry and the Terry Fox foundation, the development work that they're doing with interferon — these are very exciting prospects. I didn't go into any depth with regard to the cancer treatment that's taking place as a spinoff — and I hate to use the term, but it is in fact a spinoff — of TRIUME So there are a lot of really interesting, sparkly things going on with research and development and with science and technology. The interesting thing is that about 60 percent of the research and development that takes place in the province takes place on the university campuses. I guess that's another reason for science and tech being transferred to this ministry: that it's very tightly related to what's going on in research and development on the three university campuses and to some extent in some of the colleges and at BCIT.
The Premier's Advisory Council on Science and Technology was in fact announced. It was announced publicly with a press release and in the paper. Somewhere here I have a date. It was named about six weeks ago, I guess. I have held two meetings with the executive of that council, and the first whole council meeting is a two-day meeting taking place July 20 and 2 1. These people, who are roughly fifty-fifty from the universities and private industry, are very excited about this. This is the first time that this sort of thing has happened in this province, and, they really are charged up about it. They're looking forward to the meeting. I think we're going to see some very positive things come out of this committee.
Yes, I can assure you that a science and technology policy is being generated for this province. What you asked was a very good question, and a very important question. I can tell you that it's being developed right at the present time, and we will receive some help in developing it through the council and through our discussions with people involved with science and tech at the university level.
I can't remember what else you asked me. I guess I can go back to your final statements — which in all fairness were really, I think, more of a statement than a question — in that there is a tie-in with science and technology and with job training and retraining. It's a natural tie-in into this ministry, and an important tie-in. I agree with you that it's a bit like a treadmill: that as we increase in our knowledge of science and technology, we decrease the number of jobs required in some of the fields. But we also are going to increase the number of jobs required in the knowledge field.
As I said earlier, I was at the announcement yesterday or the day before with Frank Oberle, when he announced the new contract in Vancouver, and I can tell you that it's going to mean jobs for this province, and there's more of that. We find our niches in this broad technological area that we're looking at. We have the people in this province who can fill the requirements in those individual little niches. We can compete with anybody in the world in the field of science and technology.
MR. LOVICK: Madam Chairman, just a couple of quick questions to pursue for a moment one of the questions I posed earlier. Could the minister be a little bit more specific when we talk about the development of a strategy or a policy? For example, in the throne speech I recall vividly that it said very clearly: "My government will present a science and technology strategy to bring together the universities, the private sector and governments as partners." Fine. Good. We accept that. The question is, is there any timeline, any sense of when that will come down? Will that be a major position paper for science policy in this province — something that we can debate, something that we can talk about, something that we can invite all of the participants to get involved in?
Supplementary to that is another question. I'll put the two together, all right? The other question is: what about dollars? Is there any money attached to this? I was looking for some notes I had about the percentage of the gross provincial budget devoted to science and technology matters, and unfortunately I seem to have misplaced those notes, but I recall that the figure seems to me minuscule — less than I percent, I think. My question, to be more blunt about it, is that if we are going to continue to make these pronouncements about the importance and the incredible dynamism and value and worth of science and technology, how many dollars are we going to devote to that cause?
HON. S. HAGEN: I'm really pleased that you asked that question. It's a very, very important question, but the reason it's important is that it's not the dollars that are important; it's the people who are important. We're not going to have any sort of science and technology industry in this province without the people. I think it should be pointed out that we have an excess of $100 million a year invested and spent in our universities — granted, those are mainly federal funds again, but they're still moneys being spent in this province, and they are attracted here because of the class of individual we can attract to our universities in this province. We will continue to attract that as long as we continue to perform on the basis that we have.
I agree with you that there has to be a monetary commitment, but you know you can't just throw money at something and expect it to happen. When we release our science and technology policy later on this fall, which is going to boggle your minds and knock your socks off, you will be very impressed with the direction that we're taking. As we were able to do with our budget, we made a statement with regard to Advanced Education and Job Training in this province, and we fulfil that statement in the budget this year, and as we come up with the policy on science and technology, you will see it develop over the coming months.
MR. LOVICK: Madam Chairman, I thank the minister for his answer. One final quick question, and a question that's also a plea, I suppose. I sincerely hope that that thing called science and technology strategy or science and technology policy that we have heard reference to will also be one that attempts to accommodate the reality of worker displacement, the reality of technological change. I'm afraid that that phenomenon, that predicament, is one that is sadly being neglected. I don't see it addressed in the Ministry of Labour; I don't see it addressed anywhere else. I would suggest that perhaps science and technology may well be the rubric under which that kind of attention can be given, and I hope it is,
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because I think it is, as I suggested earlier, a serious problem we have definitely to contend with.
HON. S. HAGEN: Madam Chairman, I thank the hon. member for Nanaimo for that suggestion.
MS. MARZARI: Madam Chairman, before we begin the debate on the women's programs, I believe that I should just do a wrap-up here on the post-secondary and job training part of our debate. I think it's worth saying now that, in reading the Blues tomorrow, this side of the House will be very, very aware of what commitments have been made and the answers that have been given by the minister. We will be monitoring the answers that have been given. We will be asking further questions during the course of the coming year, as the budget is in fact spent. We still believe.... Leave to make an introduction by the minister?
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The minister would like leave to make an introduction.
HON. S. HAGEN: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. We have in the galleries some very special people, my deputy minister's father and stepmother, and I'd like the House to welcome Hugh and Evelyn McCaw.
MS. MARZARI: We still have a system which is very underfunded. We have a system which desperately needs solid evaluation and good monitoring. We have a post-secondary system which needs a lot of consultation — more and more consultation. If this House believes in the value of postsecondary education, not just as an economic spinoff, for the money that it can bring to the province, but in terms of its value for students, of student age and in later years, to create flexible-thinking, civilized individuals, then we really have to — and I'll reiterate this point — develop the planning and the infrastructure that will bring about a post-secondary system that we can live and work with in a way that is not ad hoc, responding as squeaky wheels get grease, both in the universities and the regional colleges.
This debate has been a difficult one for the opposition because this side of the House can see that the minister is trying to turn it around. This side of the House sees this particular minister as a minister who understands the financing of post-secondary education and has made some solid new beginnings. We have not talked about the past. We have avoided dealing, to any great extent, with how difficult it has been. We did not push the suffering and the pain that has gone on in the community colleges as classes have been cut, as outreach has been slashed back, as people have been laid off. We haven't talked, to any great extent, about the difficulties that the universities have gone through in dealing with reduced budgets, the loss of morale there, and the difficulty of rebuilding those systems. We are starting where we're at today, and we're starting with the promises that are being made today. It's difficult because it's like skating on very thin ice without trying to think about the murk that lies beneath. But that's the way we're starting, and that's what's made this opposition debate difficult to get involved with. We've got to start from where we're at now. We have to take the commitments that the minister is making as serious ones. As we're looking forward to an entirely new system of financing universities, for example, post-Meech Lake, there is a lot of work to be done. And it's going to be done without the help of the Universities Council; it's going to be done without a lot of money in your budget, Mr. Minister, for doing the kind of planning and consultation that needs to be done. So we put that challenge before you.
Nowhere in this debate perhaps is the need for planning, consultation and coordination more imperative in your ministry than in the area of women's programming, and that is the area that I would like to introduce now. For the next half hour my colleagues and I will attempt to quiz you on this interesting budget, because nowhere, as I said before, can the rhetoric be matched against the money in a more interesting manner than in the women's program. We have a plan for progress presented to us called "Women in British Columbia," outlining a number of most interesting programs, and yet a budget which is nowhere near the capacity that the program promises. We have an '87-88 budget of $582,000, which is $200,000 less than '85-86. It's less than '84-85. We have a budget which in fact is shrinking rapidly, and a program that is promising to be expanding rapidly.
I think women's programs in this province have been almost non-existent in the last number of years. This is very sad, because the impact of the restraint program on women has been more visible and more tragic than on perhaps many other groups in our society. Women have been strongly affected by welfare cutbacks. When I say "cutbacks," I mean the lack of ability to keep up with inflation. Women have been slapped in the face, in terms of human rights and the commission cutbacks. Women have not been offered more pension security or job security. In fact, information programs have been cut off to them in the last number of years.
Although much has been said about job training, and the Canadian Jobs Strategy targets women, it still does not bring women into the mainstream in any major way. Women still make two-thirds the wages of men in most white-collar positions and less than that in blue-collar positions. Women are now asking for child care programs. They're asking for jobs and they're asking for training. Yet when we look at the program outlined here, it portends much, but we fear that it doesn't deliver much.
This side of the House, Mr. Minister, is requesting a more sincere and involved commitment to women's programs. This evening we are going to be asking for a commitment to the development of an advisory commission on the status of women for the province of British Columbia. As we spend some time over the next few minutes discussing women's programs in the province, that scene will recur. We hope to develop terms of reference with you for such a commission.
MT. Minister, perhaps to lead off this discussion you could outline some of the programs that your ministry has now.
HON. S. HAGEN: Thank you very much, to the member for Vancouver-Point Grey. I appreciate her comments. Just to start with, I would like to introduce Lisa Harney, who is the coordinator of policy for our women's secretariat. She is just behind me. She is a young women who started out as a clerical individual in our ministry and has worked her way up to that position.
One thing that I've attempted to do in order to familiarize myself with the issues with women is to meet with women's groups around the province. When I've gone into cities and
[ Page 2515 ]
areas of the province, I've always attempted to sit down with representatives of women's groups. I've done that in Prince George, Cranbrook, Kelowna and on the tour we were on as a social policy committee to learn more about the concerns of various women's organizations around the province.
We also have attempted to more specifically address the needs of single parents, who, as you know, are mainly women, with the new student financial assistance package. This is an attempt to address some of the special needs that they have. I remember meeting with a group of single parents in Salmon Arm, who at that time — and this was about a month after the program was announced — were not aware that the program had been announced. This was going to make the difference between their being able to continue with their education at Okanagan College, thereby having a better opportunity to improve — I don't want to use the term "status" — where they are in life....
You mentioned the budget. I'm not sure where you got your numbers, because the numbers that I have indicate just under $1.2 million for the year. That is roughly the same as it was last year, but we had some administration costs last year that are not there this year because of changes in the positions — mainly in the deputy minister's position, which is no longer in that budget. So the budget has in fact increased slightly over last year, and we'd be happy to provide those figures.
MS. MARZARI: Certainly the youth budget has.
HON. S. HAGEN: Yes, that's right.
I guess the other point to be made, and it might as well be made right now, is that we don't run programs from the women's secretariat. What we attempt to do is get the individual ministries to work on improving their individual programs and services to benefit women. It's really an educational thing from our aspect, and I must say that it's working better in some ministries than in others. The main thing in this game is not to get frustrated when things don't happen as quickly as you would like them to happen. There are ministries where very real progress is being made. There are other ministries where there isn't as much progress.
I want you to know that I take these issues very seriously; I don't take them lightly. I recognize the hardships that many women have had to go through, and I think I'm starting to understand some of the reasons. What we want to do is try to offer helpful suggestions through women's groups, through the grants programs that we allocate to women's groups, and offer some self-help programs besides the work that is being done through social services, health and those areas. I think that we can certainly assist in the education areas, because I really was sincere when I asked the Premier back in Fort Langley why women's and youth programs weren't in this ministry. It seems to me that we can offer more help to women through education, job training and job retraining than really any other ministry can.
[Mr. De Jong in the chair.]
MS. EDWARDS: Well, Mr. Minister, I hate, first of all, to be berating you, but I really would suggest that rather than telling yourself not to get frustrated, maybe you should come along with the rest of us and get frustrated a bit. Sometimes it is what's required to get something going in this area. It's an area where the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, for example, in 1970, recommended the establishment of an advisory council at federal and provincial levels right across the country.
Every other province in the country and the federal government has an advisory council on women except British Columbia. Maybe it will be a degree of frustration that might get that to happen. So I would like to try for a more specific answer on your consideration of whether or not you have considered that there be an advisory council for issues relating to women for this province, and if so, what is going to happen with it.
To get back to one thing that you said, you said the budget was just under $1.2 million. In fact, that's for women and youth, which I believe you've now seen. Certainly the budget for women's programs is lower than it was last year at $582,000, rather than $591,000 which was the voted expenditure for 1986-87.
I have a few questions about these figures. First of all, I'm curious to know how many staff you have, because in fact, with all the changes, we don't know how many staff you have. I would also like to know the duties and the conformation of the offices, because the office in Vancouver is down to what you might call a token staff, rather than even a skeleton staff. Therefore I'm sure that many of the functions that had originally been carried out in Vancouver are not carried out any more, and possibly the ones that are may not be done to the extent they were before.
I think I will sit down for a minute for some specific answers on those questions. First of all, have you considered an advisory council for women? If so, can you background that as to what is going to be done? What is the staffing for the women's programs and what are the functions that staff is to do? In other words, how are you handling the jobs that are being carried on in an office that has been almost destaffed?
HON. S. HAGEN: I guess the two people in Vancouver, who are very committed, concerned individuals, would not appreciate being called token staff members. We have in fact increased our FrEs by one since last year. We have a total of 12 on staff now in the women's secretariat.
With regard to your question on the advisory committee for the status of women, I have discussed this with my secretariat. I'm continuing to discuss it. One of the things I'm learning is that in many provinces the advisory committees were established when there was no other input available into the government, when there were no women's secretariats, for instance, operating as an arm of the government. I have not said no to the establishment of an advisory committee on the status of women, and at this point I guess I would have to say I am undecided.
MS. EDWARDS: I don't worry about "token"; it's a term used frequently in relation to people of our ilk, Mr. Minister. It certainly was not an indication of them. It's the numbers they have and what was done out of the Vancouver office. The Vancouver office, as I understand it, was to be the outreach office. The outreach from that office was very effective, I also understand. There are many people who commended the staff of that office. Now there are two. What outreach is now being done? Is it being done out of Victoria? What is the answer to that? You have approximately a similar staff, so is the outreach program carrying on?
[ Page 2516 ]
Perhaps I can add this in at this time, because in fact I see.... I've lost my total translation code, but if I'm not mistaken, the grants for the year for the women's programs are $47,500. I know, Mr. Minister, that if you have talked to people at women's centres throughout the province, they have asked you to increase the amount of money for program funding and those kinds of grants. So what is the outreach? What is the effective input that this branch of the ministry is putting into women's centres?
HON. S. HAGEN: My understanding is that the staff in Vancouver participated in the discussions and the decision to locate most of the people in Victoria, because the thrust was to work with the other ministries, and it was easier to do that from Victoria than from Vancouver.
I am also advised that in addition to the budget under the women's secretariat, we have $750,000 in the women's nontraditional employment program, through our apprenticeship and job training part of the budget.
The expenditures with regard to grants total $47,500, plus $200,000 from the apprenticeship and employment job training section. Last year, that total amount was allocated to 53 organizations receiving funding for 57 projects. I can give you the areas, as a matter of fact. In the north, there was an expenditure of $23, 123 for seven projects; in the Okanagan, $9,500 for three projects; in the Kootenays, $4,000 for two projects; on Vancouver Island, $39, 600 for 12 projects; and on the lower mainland, $164, 227 for 33 projects.
MS. EDWARDS: I'm going to make an assumption, since you have spoken so clearly about apprenticeship and job training funds. I am assuming these are mainly job reentry programs. Would that be a reasonable assumption? I'll take a nod, if that's generally what you're talking about. Certainly that's one of the directions the programs should go. Okay.
I'm confused then. I will give you a moment to answer. First of all, you said $750,000 would go to the women's programs under the apprenticeship and job training. Then you said there was a grant program of $47,500 which is under women's programs, $200,000 under apprenticeship and job training. Can you clarify that $200,000, plus the $750,000? Could you clarify the types of programs going on? And perhaps you could answer whether in fact these programs and the goals we have are from an outdated — as you will agree — plan for progress of March 1986? Are these the goals that your ministry has for the kinds of action you would take?
HON. S. HAGEN: One of the difficulties is that in the job programs, we don't allocate them to men or to women. We're able to separate out some of these amounts because they're for non-traditional job training programs. We don't separate the other job programs — JobRac and soon as to whether they go to men or to women. So it's a little difficult to give you an accurate figure on how much money is spent on training women versus training men. We just don't have that amount split out.
MS. EDWARDS: You didn't answer me, but again, maybe I'll proceed on the basis that perhaps these goals are similar — the goals that were laid out under "Women in British Columbia: A Plan for Progress" of March 1986. A number of things were put in here, and one was that each ministry is required to prepare, on an annual basis, plans of action relating to women's issues. Maybe I'll ask you about that right now, since you've said that rather than looking outward into the province, one of the particular thrusts is to look inward into the government and to work through ministries. How is that happening? Is every ministry putting forward an annual report to indicate what they're going to do?
HON. S. HAGEN: Yes, that's correct. We ask each ministry to update their report on an annual basis to let us know where they are and what they're doing with regard to the statements included in that "Plan for Progress" in 1986 regarding the advancement of women in the public service.
MS. EDWARDS: Are these plans available to other members of the Legislature? Are they available to the public?
HON. S. HAGEN: I understand that they haven't been in the past, but I will follow that up and see if they can be made available.
MS. EDWARDS: It says that through the established mandate of women's programs you would provide a focal point within the provincial government for input from various people in the province on women's issues. I'm going to go back to the issue of the women's advisory council, which could in fact act as a very good instrument for getting through to government the concerns about women in the province. I'm curious. Again, you've said you haven't said no to a women's council, so I'll ask you if you have said anything that is specifically positive toward it.
HON. S. HAGEN: I'm having a little difficulty with that question. I guess what I said was that I haven't said no, and therefore I haven't turned it down, and therefore I'm still considering it. I don't know how much more positive I can be.
MS. A. HAGEN: Let me just pursue the matter of the advisory council for a moment, Mr. Minister. I think the "Plan for Progress" is inward-looking, and I don't mean that as it may perhaps sound; that it basically is aimed primarily at working within government. That has been one of the focuses of the secretariat, and I think your deputy minister has commented about that as well — that this is one of the main focuses at this time. Given that a very significant number of the employees of government are women — I did at one time know the percentage; I'm not sure I can dredge it out of my memory, but something in the order of 65 percent might be a ballpark figure — I think that's a very appropriate area for the minister to be concentrating energies on.
As far as the Advisory Council on the Status of Women is concerned, I think one of the strengths of those councils, regardless of whether there is a secretariat or a structure within government to deal with women's issues, is that there's an element of arm's length, an element of — if I could use the word — autonomy to speak to the government on issues of concern to women. It's a vehicle, in fact, a sounding board for the minister. I think I detect in your response to the second member for Vancouver-Point Grey (Ms. Marzari) an element of sincerity. Not that I'm questioning your sincerity in terms of your whole ministry, but this is obviously a new area for you to be working in. I detect there an element of concern and sincerity to try to really address this particular
[ Page 2517 ]
matter well. I think we should be heartened by what appears to be that interest and that commitment.
So appreciating that you are not prepared at this time to respond with even a hint, other than that you haven't made up your mind about an advisory council, let me urge you to consider the value of that added dimension to your deliberations and to your planning. I think it would be a decision that would incredibly strengthen in the eyes of the women of the province their perspective of your commitment to dealing with issues of concern to women. There is no question that progress is slow. I won't repeat some of the matters that have been outlined by other women on our side of the House, who are speaking to this issue on behalf of the women of this province.
Let me leave that issue with you. I think we would certainly be prepared to discuss that when we have an opportunity to meet with your deputy minister, which unfortunately was scheduled for this afternoon and had to be obviously postponed. We had planned to meet with your deputy minister and the executive director of the women's secretariat to discuss some of these issues, and we have found that those kinds of meetings are fruitful.
Just one two other points that I would like to make. The issue of the women's centre in Vancouver is one that I truly hope you may look at again. I think my colleague from Kootenay talked about "remote" earlier on — is that the word that she used? Again, there is a large concentration of women within access, if you like, of Vancouver; half the province almost in terms of the population. Without in any way minimizing the needs of women in other parts of the province, to have a well-staffed centre there and access for people in the Vancouver area has merit.
We hear, and I'm sure members on your side of the House hear frequently, about the very real problems of people even making a phone call to Victoria, because it's a long-distance phone call, and a long-distance phone call costs money. If you're a women's group struggling on a low budget, you don't make a long-distance phone call, simple though that may seem. If you're a woman with an idea or a concern, you don't make that phone call very often, because those kinds of dollars are ones that may not be available to you. The information that I have is that there is concern about the staff that's available. The resources that were developed in that centre are good and they're well valued.
In that context too I'd like to talk a little about the profile of the ministry in regard to the women's secretariat, and perhaps you might comment about how you want to raise the profile and have people aware of what your ministry is doing.
As for the work that you're doing within ministries, I think we will look forward with great interest to the availability of progress reports or information reports that come forward. We're using general terms about advancing the cause of women, their economic status and so on, but I'd be more interested in knowing what's happening in the way of affirmative action, so that women may move into jobs of greater responsibility. What's happening in the issue of pay equity? What's happening around tech change and women being in a position to respond to those issues? I would hope that when we have an opportunity to look at that information, it will be information that's dealing with really tangible issues around the status of women, so that there are formal plans that are dealing with improving the status of women within the government, if that is the thrust at this particular time.
Finally, because we throw dollars around quite a bit, just as my colleague was speaking I played around with the figure of $750,000 that you'd spoken of for women having opportunities for work and training in non-traditional jobs. This is a very simple calculation, Mr. Minister, but assuming that that person is paid $6.50 an hour — which might be a wage that might be available in a training program — and assuming that person works for six months, which is one of the things that JobTrac has set as a kind of parameter, if you're looking at $750,000, you're looking at about $6,000 per person and you're looking at 125 jobs. Again, although that 125 jobs is important, it's not a very large number when you consider the number of women who are economically disadvantaged and who need training.
There is one other matter that has just come into my head — it wasn't in my notes — that I want to mention. At one time the community colleges had, in most of the colleges of the province, a women's centre. To the best of my knowledge, there is one left in the college, in my community at Douglas College, and it is there because, I think, of the commitment not only of the administration but of the staff to find dollars within their budget for that particular program to be available. It is a program that I think adds immeasurably to the goals of the minister and his ministry in assisting women, and I would certainly ask the minister whether he might be prepared to consider — possibly out of funds for excellence, if it can't come out of core funding — funding women's centres again at community colleges to assist with some of the goals that he has spoken about for the advancement of women.
HON. S. HAGEN: Just with regard to the comment on the non-traditional employment and your numbers, I guess I'd make a couple of comments. One is that the employer pays, I think, half of that program, so that would double the number. Secondly, my information is that there is some difficulty in getting women into the jobs. Okay? So the 250 number that you're looking at maybe isn't that out of line. I'm not sure. It's just a comment.
With regard to the question of women's centres at the colleges — and I'll take your word for it that there is only one left — my understanding is that those were funded by my ministry, the previous ministry, for the first three years and that the undertaking then was that the colleges would continue to fund them or continue to operate them.
The commitment I will make to you is that I will discuss the women's centres with the administrations of the colleges to find out why they haven't continued them — whether it was a question of the reduced funding or whether there is a possibility that they felt they weren't needed, or what. I will determine that, and then base my future action on what the answer to those questions is.
MS. SMALLWOOD: I first would like to say that there has been quite a bit of discussion in the House over the last while about how women's lives are affected in this province by inequality and some of the difficulties they face both economically and socially.
When looking at and trying to learn — I guess as you have done — what the ability of your ministry is to begin to grapple with some of those problems in this particular section, the question that becomes more and more obvious to me is that rather than trying to deal with and provide specific programs, why is it that the women's programs — that
[ Page 2518 ]
department — doesn't begin to try to grapple with some actual structural change? Why isn't your ministry dealing with issues like affirmative action and pay equity? In the direct responsibilities within your own ministry and your own government, you employ more women in the public sector than just about any other sector in the province. There are immediate things that could be done to affect women's lives that don't necessarily mean, for instance, a staff increase in your office. There are things that can be done in the way of actually influencing policy changes in the government, in the cabinet and throughout the different ministries that you've talked about.
There's an example here where the women's programs in colleges came down to a discussion of whether or not it was dollars and cents for those programs, and the funding that the women's section provided, or whether or not the Minister of Continuing Education, with responsibility for the colleges, could go in there and say that this should be an integral part of the programs provided. It's a wholly different approach. It's whether or not you provide the funding for a short-term program for women at a college or university, or build it right into the system you are responsible for.
In addition to that, several other members have raised the issue of an advisory council. This opens up the whole process, and allows the women of the province to have some say as to what the important issues for them are. It would seem to me that with 12 staff people, I think I heard, the women's programs under your responsibility are tremendously understaffed to deal with 51 percent of the population. However, if there was a change in the perspective, and those 12 people were working on using and supporting some of the resources out in the province, as opposed to trying to do the job themselves, you could do a lot more work than is being done at present.
I can see the minister is being talked to by his deputy there. Maybe he would like to make some comments about how he sees the women's program responsibility changing in the next while under his stewardship, or whether he sees it continuing along the path that has been taken, and indeed diminishing in the stance it has had in the province in the last couple of years.
HON. S. HAGEN: I guess the one comment I'll make is that we have gone through some restructuring, as you are aware, in the women's secretariat. Because of that restructuring and the hiring of a new executive director, and new directors, and because this happened very recently, I haven't really come to the point in that particular part of my ministry where I can say that we've decided to either change direction or maintain the direction we're going in. Unfortunately, the timing, I guess, with regard to these estimates is such that those positions have only been in place for two or three months. It is something that I do plan on taking hold of and making some decisions on. But at this point we are still going in the direction that was established in that program in 1986.
MS. SMALLWOOD: In closing, I just want to remind the minister of some of the statistics that have been brought to this House. Working women in particular, women from working families who have limited education and limited access to the job market, are making something like 48-cent dollars. The 65-cent dollars that are bandied about.... That average is changed significantly by the averaging out of incomes. The majority of women in this province make significantly less than 65-cent dollars. When you're talking about families in this province, you're talking about a large number of single parent families.
When the minister talks about restructuring this particular department, he should realize that there are a lot of friends out there who want to help. You don't stand alone on this. If we're to make it work, the best way to do it is to involve a lot of people in that process. I'd like to offer the assistance and support of the opposition in actually making some changes in women's lives in this province.
MS. MARZARI: This debate is drawing to a close, and I think it important that it be said now that the minister we are debating with has some challenges in front of him. The postsecondary system of education in this province is a system that desperately needs rebuilding and investment. The women's program is a program that needs to be built. We are starting from almost nothing. We are starting from a point where we don't compare well with other provinces and we don't compare well with the federal government. Where the universities are asking for a dollar commitment, women are asking for a structural commitment, a value commitment. Women in this province are asking for the kinds of commitments that would enable us to take a look at legislation, social change, economic change and technological change, and to help women relate to that and plug into it. It's not simply a matter of $45,000 worth of programs. It's really a question of coordinating all those things that go on in this House, in this province, in church basements and in schoolrooms.
When I look at the legislation that's come before this House — physiotherapists — have been withdrawn; teachers; an adoption act — I see how women have been affected. It's women whose jobs have been affected, not so much men, in terms of teachers; in terms of the physios losing their certification if we'd gone through with that amendment to their act; in terms of welfare; in terms of the $5 on Pharmacare affecting, of course, senior women, who are a demographic majority.
Women's programs need coordination not just on the street level, with information out of the storefront, but structural coordination of all aspects of what we do as a government. We, the opposition, are asking that you consider seriously the business of an advisory commission or an advisory committee on the status of women that will advise you and the House on the logical steps that we can take to create a comprehensive program that will address the needs of women, do the studies that need to be done, report back rationally and develop, as we develop a capital plan for university-building, a five-year plan for programs for women and for legislation that will improve the lives of women.
In closing, then, Mr. Minister, I'd like to thank you for being forthright. Some of your answers were somewhat evasive, but we'll squeak more from you as the years and months go by. We'll look for more investment in your ministry, as you are looking for more investment in your ministry.
I'd like to thank my colleagues for spending time and energy. I'd like to thank my portfolio shareholder from New Westminster for her intervention. It's been a good debate. It's amazing that one can spend six months preparing for a few brief hours in the House, hoping that a few questions that make a difference have been asked and answered for the public record.
So I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Minister.
[ Page 2519 ]
Vote 5 approved.
Vote 6: ministry operations, $695, 466,020 — approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise, report resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
The committee, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 32, Mr. Speaker.
UNIVERSITY AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
HON. S. HAGEN: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to move second reading of this bill, the University Amendment Act. The purpose of the amendments is to dissolve the Universities Council, and to update existing legislation, including deletion of references to the University of British Columbia student loan fund and the Joint Board of Teacher Education.
Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to summarize the main reasons for this bill. First of all, the dissolution of the Universities Council, the Universities Council was established as an intermediary body between the provincial government and the three public universities in 1974. the purposes of the council were to coordinate programs, review budgets, make recommendations to government, and allocate government grants to the three public universities.
The council was established at a time when the model for interbodies between government and the universities was a popular one. What has happened over the decade or so of interbody existence in Canada is a gradual understanding that councils have become redundant bodies. While the Universities Council provided useful advice, and allocated funds among the universities, the growth of the post-secondary education system, and the establishment of a ministry responsible for that system, now enables government to handle the responsibility of the council in a direct and more effective way.
The two major functions performed by the council were the day-to-day administration of the system and the provision for policy advice to government on university-related issues. On the matter of administration, I have through our restructuring of the new Ministry of Advanced Education and Job Training, enabled administrative services earlier provided by the council to be provided by the ministry.
On the second matter of advice, I have created a University Advisory Council. This new council will permit direct involvement by representatives of the universities and private sector volunteers in the consultation process, and will provide for more direct communication and advice to me on university matters.
The allocation of the government grants among the three publicly funded universities will be worked out directly between the ministry and the universities. An agreement has already been reached for 1987-88. Since the new advisory council will not address funding allocation issues, it can include members from the universities. Their inclusion addresses one of the weaknesses in the former Universities Council which, because it did allocate funds, obviously could not have university representation.
The new council will also include representation from the colleges, distant education institutions and youth groups, who will complement the previous representation from the general public.
It is our belief that these changes to the advanced education system improve and will build upon the knowledge and experience which was created by the Universities Council. The dissolution of the council will remove a layer of bureaucracy which has slowed the budget process and will provide the same level of service without the additional costs of the council, updating the legislation to reflect the current situation.
I would like to conclude my opening remarks on this bill by quickly covering the reasons for two of the larger housekeeping amendments. The first amendment will repeal a section of the University Act which established the University of British Columbia student loan fund. This fund was established by legislation prior to the existence of the other public universities. It is no longer needed as each university developed its own student aid fund pursuant to the powers delegated to the board of governors under the University Act. The University of British Columbia advises us that this specific fund has not been active since May 23, 1975, and concurs with its abolition.
The second large housekeeping amendment addresses the dissolution of the Joint Board of Teacher Education. Some of the function of the joint board will now be assumed by the council of the College of Teachers, as provided for in the recently approved Teaching Profession Act, and two of the functions and responsibilities of the boards.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, these amendments will provide for an improved and more cost-effective system of management for the university system and will update the legislation to coincide with the current reality. I commend these provisions to the House and move second reading.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Just a comment, Mr. Speaker, courtesy of the House. This bill, of course, was introduced this afternoon. It's being passed around now and distributed as printed, and I can advise the House that the hon. debate leader did receive some ministerial notes with respect to this. I just wanted to put that on the record.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you, government House Leader. Perhaps we should have just a very, very short recess while the bill is distributed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: No, we'll just carry on.
MS. MARZARI: Like the government side, the opposition side recognizes the current reality. Some months ago when the dissolution of the Universities Council was announced, we regarded it with some dismay. We recognize, however, that each government must use tools at his disposal, or create tools that do its bidding. The Universities Council is obviously not necessary for this government, and that in itself is perhaps worth commenting on. The Universities Council, as I said before during the estimate debate, is going to pass, but it needs an epitaph as it does.
The council, as it was initiated and developed in the early seventies, was basically the tool of a government that wanted to keep an arm's length between itself and the funding of universities. This was considered necessary and essential for
[ Page 2520 ]
the preservation of freedom of universities and in appreciation of the autonomous nature of the university community. The council served as a planning body, and it developed a budget to develop some rather interesting and informative and useful studies over the years. As we went through the estimate debates, I recall that one of the studies done ten years ago was on access to university education. The terms of reference for that particular study were terms of reference that the minister might want to reread today. In fact, the study is one that's worth rereading because the situation hasn't changed tremendously in ten years. The cutbacks have changed the system, but the needs are still there. That ten-year-old study on access to university commissioned by the Universities Council is still relevant today.
As we say goodbye to the Universities Council, I think it's worth saying that it did provide, in my opinion, an essential tool: the separation between the funding body and the university. It set up an informed group, an advisory group with spending authority of their own, with a budget, to do the job.
My major concern as this bill passes, because the council is obviously no longer useful to this government, is that this government is going to have to replace the functions of that council. The arm's length will no longer be there, but the budget has to be there for the studies, for the commissions, for the evaluation, for the monitoring of the post-secondary system. That budget does not exist within the existing ministry. I dare say that the half million dollars a year that the council cost this government was perhaps very well spent. No one, as far as I know, regarded it as another level of government or another level of bureaucracy. It became redundant as the government itself decided to have more of a say in the ongoing programming of universities and in the ongoing budgeting, which sets a precedent that I hope we move away from in the years to come.
So as we say farewell to the Universities Council, I make these two points: (1) we're going to need it again someday in one form or another; and (2) its functions are going to have to be replaced, and they have to be replaced within the existing ministry. It's going to cost us; we're not saving money. We're losing an institution that I think was an essential prerequisite of the development of an autonomous and strong university system. But as it goes, and as the ancillary bill comes forward, I can only say that the opposition regards it with sadness but understands that this government wants to be much more involved in the day-to-day and month-to-month administration of its universities.
MR. JONES: I wish to make a brief comment and maybe ask a question about the section regarding the Joint Board of Teacher Education. Having just received the bill, I'm not exactly sure which part I'm speaking to.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is second reading, hon. member. The question can be put when we're in committee stage.
MR. JONES: I'm on the right bill, anyway.
I'm sure the minister is aware that teacher education has been a long-standing concern of all those involved in education in this province. I don't know how effectively the joint board has really operated, because those concerns have persisted as long back as I can remember. One of the major parties that shares those concerns about education — and I'm sure the minister is aware of that, being a former school trustee himself — is the school trustees of this province, represented by the B.C. School Trustees' Association. It seems to me that they had representation on the Joint Board of Teacher Education, and I suppose that if we are to accept the college, it's appropriate that that be a major function of the college. However, in that process we seem to have bypassed trustee input into teacher education in British Columbia.
I would just like to ask the minister if he is aware of that, if he is concerned about it, if he's thought about alternative ways that trustees in this province might have input, seeing that we have lost the Joint Board of Teacher Education.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is second reading of Bill 32.
MR. JONES: That was my only concern about the bill. It does remove the opportunity for trustees to have direct input into teacher education. I'm sure that the minister, being a former school trustee, is very concerned about this issue and would like to see some vehicle for trustee input. I'm sure he has devised a mechanism whereby trustees in this province, who represent a significant contingent of the education community that wants to have such input, who are concerned about it.... I'm sure the minister has an appropriate response and has thought about such a vehicle, so that the trustees can be represented in teacher education in this province. I know the minister, in his windup remarks, will want to respond to those concerns that I've raised.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing order 42, the House is informed that the minister closes debate.
HON. S. HAGEN: In answer to the member's concern with regard to school trustee representation, I guess I can say I have some concern over that, but I would say that the concern should.... It really is more appropriately addressed to the Minister of Education (Hon. Mr. Brummet), who will certainly have more influence than I in the establishment of the teachers' college. All this does is remove what won't be necessary when that comes in.
In closing, I would like to say, first of all, that I thank the people over the years who served on the Universities Council. I met the entire council prior to their dissolution. They are very interested and concerned with regard to post-secondary education, but I think.... As a matter of fact, I know that they themselves realize that the council was not really serving any useful purpose.
I want to remind the member for Vancouver-Point Grey that the government is not touching section 70 of the act, which deals with the autonomy of the universities. Really, the request to terminate the existence of UCBC came as a result of the first meeting that I had with the three university presidents. They asked me to look at its future use, because it was frustrating them and frustrating the universities, in what they saw as a process that just wasn't necessary. It was delaying the budget process. I think we got the information out to the universities much sooner this year than we had in previous years, and I think that it will be beneficial.
With regard to the question of the secretariat and support for the volunteer group that we have, we've taken that into consideration in our budget. We have told them that we are quite happy and prepared to offer assistance to provide research for them. I think the fact that the new advisory council
[ Page 2521 ]
also includes one person from each of the three universities who can certainly speak directly on behalf of each university — and that's an appointment by the president — and the fact that it includes people from the college system, from distance learning, from the Knowledge Network and from youth.... I think we will have a much stronger and much more representative group, and a much better arena for discussing the concerns of post-secondary education.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill 32.
Bill 32, University 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: I call second reading of Bill 57.
UNIVERSITY FOUNDATIONS ACT
HON. S. HAGEN: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to move second reading of Bill 57, University Foundations Act. The purpose of this bill is to encourage and support private sector giving for the benefit of the public universities in our province.
This bill will establish foundations as agents of the Crown. The role of the foundations will be to encourage, facilitate and carry out programs and activities that will be of benefit to the universities, to receive, manage and invest private donations, and to allocate such donations for the benefit of university education, research and university-related programs.
The dissolution of the Universities Council pursuant to the University Amendment Act, 1987, removed from the university system a Crown corporation which, as an agent of the Crown, could receive gifts for the benefit of university level education. The council, as agent of the crown, enabled donors to deduct up to 100 percent of the value of the gifts from their income tax. This was obviously an important feature to major donors, and the universities were able to benefit from several large gifts.
The colleges and institutes in this province are established as agents of the Crown under the College and Institute Act, and thus qualify for these donations. The universities are not agents of the Crown under the University Act, nor is it desirable that they be so. The universities differ significantly in their purposes and roles from the colleges and institutes. They have and need a degree of autonomy from the government to fulfill their responsibilities.
This bill will establish foundations as agents of the Crown and restore the attractiveness to donors of making substantial gifts to the benefit of our universities. I commend this provision to the House and move second reading.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
MS. MARZARI: Mr. Speaker, I believe the opposition endorses this bill, since it does provide 100 percent deductibility to donors that are donating money to the universities. We regard it as a companion piece to Bill 32. So in that context we are prepared to go along with it, and I suppose the faster it goes through the better, because it will probably help the cash flow.
We did notice in section 7, however, that there were broad guidelines for foundation investment, and the opposition would like to put in a good word for ethical investment as well as prudent investment — investment in British Columbia.
So with those words I commend this bill.
HON. S. HAGEN: Mr. Speaker, I close debate on this bill, then, and move second reading.
Bill 57, University Foundations 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: Second reading of Bill 46, Mr. Speaker.
UNIVERSITY ENDOWMENT LAND
AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and privilege to have the honour of putting forward for second reading Bill 46, University Endowment Land Amendment Act, 1987.
This act will regulate land use within the University Endowment Lands, and thereby establish a solid legal foundation for a community land use code in the developed area which falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
These actions are widely supported and will lay some of the groundwork for choices on local government status. The legislation continues urban land use controls in the existing developed area. It allows the extension by cabinet order of such control into areas that may subsequently be developed.
I want to assure the Legislature that this initiative is completely distinct from and not prejudicial to other issues such as land claims and park designation. I move that the bill be now read a second time.
MS. MARZARI: The opposition commends this bill. It has been long awaited. The University Endowment Lands community has been planning for 10 to 12 years. I believe the member for Surrey and I were on the GVRD together when the community plan was set into motion. I regard this as a facilitating bill, an enabling bill that's going to lay the basis and foundation for a solid community plan for a community in my constituency. So I heartily endorse it.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: Mr. Speaker, I think that everything that need be said on this particular bill has been said by both sides of the House. I move second reading now.
Bill 46, University Endowment Land 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.
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HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 36, Mr. Speaker.
MOTOR VEHICLE AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
HON. MR. MICHAEL: I have the honour to move second reading of Bill 36, the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 1987. The most significant amendments in this bill relate to the crucial issue of traffic safety. I am personally not satisfied with traffic safety in British Columbia, and I am personally committed to looking at new initiatives to improve road-user safety. There is included in this bill the introduction of a yellow-arrow traffic control signal to warn drivers that a green arrow is about to change, so that a driver will not be trapped in entering an intersection against a red light.
There will be an increased responsibility for cyclists riding on sidewalks to remain at. the scene of an accident in which they are involved, and to ride with due care and attention for others.
This government is committed to enhancing traffic safety and reducing the accident toll on our highways. These amendments will assist in carrying out this goal.
The remaining amendments are varied and include such minor amendments as these. Number one, extending reciprocal vehicle-licensing arrangements granted to students in full-time attendance at the provincial universities, who have a vehicle licensed and insured in another provincial jurisdiction, to students attending the Institute of Technology or a college or institution under the College and Institute Act.
Number two, allowing a driver to enter or leave a highway regardless of line markings on the highway, as long as it can be ascertained that the movement can be made safely.
Number three, provision for the movement of extraordinarily wide loads in opposing traffic lanes, when the movement cannot be done safely on the right side of the roadway and the vehicle movement conforms with the terms of an overload or oversize permit issued under the Commercial Transport Act.
Number four, expanding the information that may be included in a superintendent's certificate, given as evidence that a person was prohibited from driving, to include a written acknowledgement of the prohibition received by the superintendent and signed by a person, which appears to be that of the person to whom this notice was sent, or the person whom the superintendent intended to prohibit or suspend.
Number five, changing the reasons for the superintendent to refuse to issue a driver's licence to include offences included under new sections of the Criminal Code.
Mr. Speaker, many of these amendments, although minor in nature, are important for ensuring traffic safety for the citizens of British Columbia.
MR. MILLER: I suppose at this late hour, if I stood up and said that the opposition intends to fight to the end opposing this bill, we might wake a few people up, but I wouldn't want to do that. All I briefly want to say is that the opposition will be supporting the bill.
There are some useful provisions with respect to licensing for out-of-province students. One cautionary note I have is with regard to section 135, the use of the yellow arrow. When we introduce a new traffic control device into British Columbia, we often find the unfamiliarity with it can be a bit of a hazard. So I would simply ask the minister to be very cautious and to monitor the application of the yellow arrow after its introduction.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: I think the member's point is well taken. However, I think that with this provision, the amber lights now give clear indication throughout the province as to what they mean. Many of the left-turn signals throughout the province already have the parallel amber signal — although it's not an arrow; it's an amber signal — and I'm convinced that the people will not be too confused with the introduction of this change.
With that, I move second reading of the bill.
Bill 36, 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: Second reading of Bill 47, Mr. Speaker.
MOTOR CARRIER AMENDMENT ACT, 1987
HON. MR. MICHAEL: It is my privilege to move second reading of Bill 47, the Motor Carrier Amendment Act, 1987. As it is the custom in this Legislature for the proponent to make a statement of the policy embedded in the legislation while moving second reading, it is my wish to explain to you some of the thoughts about motor carrier regulations.
The motor carrier industry in North America is facing revolutionary changes in its structure and regulation. The United States, as we all know, introduced deregulation to its interstate transportation industry seven years ago. In Canada, the federal government is introducing broad changes to the regulation of interprovincial trucking. Motor carriers already free of any rate controls will have competitive access to new markets. The industry will have to strive for new innovative ways to meet shippers' demands for lower rates and fast and efficient service.
The legislation of the government of Canada will delegate the regulatory power to provincial boards and commissions, so the Motor Carrier Commission of British Columbia will be regulating the interprovincial and international truckers under this new regulatory scheme beginning on January 1, 1988. The British Columbia trucking industry will be challenged by a new regulatory process. Discussions now going on between Canada and the United States have put free trade in services such as transportation on the table. Truckers throughout the country are concerned that the market will be flooded by companies based in the United States that operate in lower-cost environments.
In addition to these economic regulatory changes, we've introduced the new commercial vehicle inspection program, which is successfully changing the behaviour of commercial truckers regarding safety of their vehicles. We are working with the government of Canada and all the other provinces in developing a new national safety code which will add driver performance and hours-of-work regulation to the vehicle inspection program. These changes will be coming in the immediate future. I'm sure all members of this Legislature will agree with me that safety on the highways must be of
[ Page 2523 ]
paramount concern and will applaud every effort at improvement. British Columbia's motor carrier industry is now beginning to face these challenges to operate more efficiently, more safely and more competitively.
The industry has asked that the pace of change be moderated to allow full development and implementation of the national safety code and to allow time for it to adjust. At the same time, several communities have asked that the pace of change be slowed so that they can evaluate the impact of changes in the service to their industries and businesses. For this reason, Bill 47 contains only several non-controversial changes to the Motor Carrier Act. The changes to this act are designed to reduce the administrative burden on motor carriers, increase the enforcement ability of the Motor Carrier Commission and give the Minister of Transportation and Highways power to give policy direction to the commission.
Bill 47 introduces fleet licensing. We are moving to the licensing of motor carriers rather than the licensing of motor vehicles. What this will mean on a practical basis is that a motor carrier who operates ten trucks for the same job will only need one licence rather than the ten he now needs. To the motor carrier, this represents a significant reduction in the amount of paperwork, and to the motor carrier branch it represents a significant reduction in the number of files that must be maintained — a real step in the reduction of red tape in the motor transportation industry. This change in licensing of motor carriers will allow a more thorough modernizing of the process in the motor carrier branch. We have already begun the changes in the branch, and the industry has acknowledged the improvements in the responses to their applications and questions.
The second set of initiatives in this bill deals with compliance and enforcement of the act and regulations. For the industry to want to comply, the rules must be seen to be applied fairly and even-handedly throughout the province. The penalties for breaking the rules have to be meaningful and related to the magnitude of the sin. For these reasons, we have introduced increased levels of fines and the power to make the existing field staff of the motor carrier branch into peace officers for the enforcement of this act and regulations. We have also added a refuse-to-issue section which will give the commission of the superintendent the discretion not to transact licensed businesses with a company that is delinquent in fines or accounts with the government or one of its agencies.
It is necessary that the government have the means of openly communicating its policy on transportation to the Motor Carrier Commission. This power has been missing since the Motor Carrier Act was last rewritten in 1973. The commission is charged with the duty of regulating motor carriers, and is given the necessary independence and discretion to conduct this activity. At present the only action that can be taken by the government to adjust to the policy direction of the commission is the overturning of a decision of the commission when it is appealed to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. This is not very satisfactory.
Bill 47 gives the minister the power to give a general directive to the commission, to which the commission must comply. No power is given to the minister to intervene in individual cases, nor would any minister wish to do so. Only clear statements of the government's policy thinking on matters in the area of interest of the commission can be transmitted under this legislative language. The minister will also be able to request the commission to hold hearings or to undertake investigations on matters of concern to the industry. The commission already has the power to investigate complaints and to conduct hearings into any matter on its own motion. The addition of this further capability will provide the minister and the government with an additional vehicle through which to determine the views of the shippers, carriers and citizens of British Columbia, while using the experience and knowledge of the commission.
Mr. Speaker, the trucking industry is a large and important one in British Columbia. In 1985 there were over 1,000 companies with direct employment of nearly 10,000 and indirect employment of another 9,000, and operating revenues that were over $880 million. In addition to these larger trucking firms, there were another 3, 400 firms reporting to Revenue Canada with annual earnings of less than $100,000. These are the small businesses that move the gravel, logs, hay and cattle throughout the interior of the province. The changes in the Motor Carrier Act will allow these industries to adjust and will allow us the opportunity to assess the effect of changes already going on and to gather from the shippers, carriers, labour unions and citizens of British Columbia their opinions about any further changes.
MR. MILLER: Mr. Speaker, we on this side don't have any trouble with most of the provisions of the bill, but I want to talk very briefly about section 11, which we do have some problems with. First of all, the minister in his address talked about deregulation, and it's clear that section 11, though it's very brief in words, is the section that really allows the government to move in that direction — in my opinion, the wrong way.
Certainly we're all aware of the concerns that the industry has with regard to deregulation. I think any MLA who reads his mail will be aware of some of those concerns that have been expressed by some fairly large transportation companies in British Columbia. Going back to 1979, the former Premier, of course, was very much aware of those concerns, and in an address to the B.C. Motor Transport Association had these words to say: "I know that your association has been concerned that government may be planning some immediate action toward deregulation or toward significant change in the pattern of regulation of highway transport. I want to assure you that no such action will be taken, or is contemplated." Those words may have been suitable for the moment, but as the minister has also pointed out, we do have to move with the times, and there certainly is the need for some changes. We've seen some of the changes brought in, for example, in fleet licensing, which are good changes, which do in fact cut through some red tape, and we're all in favour of that.
However, section 11, despite the minister's words that the commission already has the power under its own motion to deal with these items.... I suppose that I logically must ask, if the commission now has the power to deal with it: why are we bringing in an amendment to give them the power to deal with it? It doesn't strike me as a very strong argument — I don't think they do. I think the commission now has the power to investigate matters under the act; I think they're fairly clearly restricted to dealing with matters under the act. The commission and the branch really are charged with the administration of the provisions of the act, not creating a new act. In fact, the amendments, as I read them, allow the
[ Page 2524 ]
commission, which is a quasi-judicial body in terms of administering the provisions of that act, to actually go out and say: "We think the act should be changed." So you have the commission not only enforcing the provisions but also deciding what those provisions would be.
I'm going to test the House, I suppose, because I think that despite those shortcomings in the bill, we could be persuaded to allow the bill to pass, if we were given the assurance that prior to any legislative change in terms of deregulation in the transportation industry, an all-party committee of this House would deal with that issue. If I could receive that assurance from the minister, I'd be prepared, despite my misgivings about section 11, because I think it can only lead to trouble when you have that kind of politics at a quasi-judicial level.... We know there are changes taking place, we know that a manager at the branch has departed, we know that somebody has been there temporarily, and we've heard some dissatisfaction in the industry with one of the minister's officials responsible for the whole question of deregulation. So I'll take my place on that, Mr. Speaker, and if that is not forthcoming, then obviously we would have much more to say on the bill when we deal with it clause by clause.
MR. SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing orders, I advise the House that the minister closes debate.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: I have no hesitation whatsoever in giving a commitment, which I've given to many of my colleagues already, that prior to any deregulation or reverse onus legislation there will be a referral to an all-party committee. I have no hesitation in giving that assurance, and with that, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill 47.
Bill 47, Motor Carrier 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, on behalf of the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) I call second reading of Bill 55.
MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES AMENDMENT
ACT (No. 3), 1987
HON. MR. STRACHAN: In speaking to that, of course, I'll advise the House that in the case of an omnibus bill there's really not much to be said in second reading, because the bill has no principle. I'm sure the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Williams).... There may be a play on words with respect to the comment I've just made, but we will of course allow totally unfettered debate with respect to the principle of the many sections in the bill during committee stage. With that I move second reading. I believe my colleague has more to say to it.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: That was it? You were going to do what I did. Okay.
With that I move second reading. But let me make one parenthetical comment as a minister, and that's with respect to the Wildlife Act. We have increased the fines considerably for poaching and offences against the Wildlife Act. This is at the request of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, and I'm very happy that we could do this in response to a very concerned and good element of our provincial community and these wildlife offences. As a personal aside to that portion of the bill, I'm pleased to see those amendments in this miscellaneous statutes bill. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.
MR. STUPICH: I don't know that it's any more appropriate that I lead off for the opposition on this bill than it is for the government House Leader to lead off on behalf of the Attorney-General. When you look at some of the sections of this bill, and in spite of the fact that it is an omnibus bill, it has been customary for the government member moving second reading that he does deal with some of the more important sections of the bill.
MR. STUPICH: The next one, after I've spoken.
I don't know how to anticipate what the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch) might say about this bill. Certainly I'm more concerned about the way in which it deals with some of the finances of the province than I am about the way in which it deals with wildlife. But there are many, many sections that we could talk about; of course, we will talk about them in committee stage — I'm not sure just at what length, but certainly we'll talk very seriously about what the government has done and what the government is doing.
I had an opportunity recently to meet at the invitation of the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Couvelier) with representatives in Treasury Board. It was a very interesting tour, a very interesting discussion. One of the things that bothered me about it was the idea that — certainly it's the government's position, and it was the idea that was promoted by members of the staff as well — to measure what's going on in the economy we look at the private sector. When I think of the influence that government has with all of its Crown corporations, the real engine is not the private sector in British Columbia, and it hasn't been for a long time; the real engine is the provincial government and, unfortunately, that often runs out of steam. The engine seems, in spite of the fact that I'm using reference to an engine that has to run on tracks, as far as the government is concerned, to so often get off the track at great cost to the taxpayers of British Columbia.
What's happening in the sections of this bill that deal with B.C. Place, with B.C. Development Corporation, with the new corporation — I'm not familiar with the initials yet? Obviously the engine of government has gone off the tracks not just once but several times.
I recall one bill before the House a few years back that proposed to give to one of the Crown corporations some $470 million. At point of fact, I think the figure finally was $430 million, and that was to make up for some very bad investments on the part of government. It was said to be old debt, but I don't think there's any doubt in the minds of anyone that this was a taxpayers' contribution to northeast coal, or else it never would have been done.
The legislation before us is proposing once again to take unto the government's purse massive debts. The biggest one
[ Page 2525 ]
previously for B.C. In one chunk to swallow was the $430 million for BCR, but in this case the government is swallowing some $605 million in debt on behalf of the people of the province, and that's just the beginning. That's the figure as of March 31, 1986. We have not seen all of the figures for '87 yet, and we don't know what's going to happen from April 1, 1987, to December 31, 1987. So it's all of the losses incurred in that period as well. Since everything is losing — BCDC and B.C. Place — the only one that's making money is B.C. Buildings Corporation, because it's charging government enough rent so that it does make money. So in effect, the taxpayers are already subsidizing B.C. Buildings Corporation, which in turn, has been subsidizing B.C. Place. You rolled it all into the B.C. Development Corporation, and it's going to be approaching some $800 million in this one chunk to swallow.
Mr. Speaker, for the government House Leader in introducing this bill to talk about what he's doing for wildlife, when I think of what it's doing to the people in the province of British Columbia, bringing all these chickens home to roost, trying to bring all the mismanagement of the government over the last year, over the past ten years, over the past 20 years, trying to bring it all into one pot now and say we're going to write off the whole thing.... It's going to increase the public debt enormously. It's not going to change the interest; we're all paying it anyway. But it's going to increase the public debt tremendously, and the minister talks about what it's doing to wildlife. One is reminded of a recent bill in the House of Commons that made some changes, and that nobody wanted to pay any attention to, so it was just quietly slid through.
Here we have a bill that's going to increase the direct debt of the government of British Columbia by some $700 million or $800 million, and we're dealing with it in an omnibus bill. There ought to be some sense of reality, there ought to be some sense of propriety; and when you're dealing with something as big as this, it should not be one or two or even a number of sections in an omnibus bill. It should be separate legislation, where the government honestly brings forward its plans and says: "Look, we made mistakes, we guessed wrong, we planned wrong, we didn't plan enough, we made terrible mistakes. The people of British Columbia are going to be paying for it for generations to come. Perhaps we'll never get it paid off. But there is only one thing to do and that's to realize it, to measure it and to say this is where we are, this is how badly we've led you astray, this is what a terrible job we've done, this is the measure of it, and from here on in we're going to do a better job of running the financial affairs of the province."
On the face of your record, no one would believe it, but at least you would be coming forward and saying honestly: "This is what we want to do." Instead of that it's in an omnibus bill. There may well be some sections of the omnibus bill that we want to support, but I don't see how we can vote in favour of a bill which attempts to whitewash the mistakes of this government over several decades, or vote in favour of it even though there are some sections we like. We'll have to oppose the legislation before us, but of course the detailed discussion of some of it, I am sure, will come from the first member for Vancouver East after the hon. Provincial Secretary has his turn and when maybe we'll have a bit more information to....
HON. MR. VEITCH: I'll close debate on the bill.
MR. STUPICH: Okay. Well, Mr. Speaker, obviously it's not going to be a serious debate in second reading because we're not given the position of the government with respect to any of this. They say: "Here's the bill. We'll talk about the items that don't really mean anything. The rest of it we'll leave until committee stage."
I guess all I can say on behalf of the opposition is that we will talk about the details of this legislation when we get to committee stage — in detail.
MR. WILLIAMS: It was appropriate that the government House Leader said there's no principle in this bill at all. How right. He also mentioned it deals with some wildlife and he was right there. There has been some wild living over there on the government benches, and this is the bill. Now we're having to pay the bill.
With this administration there has been runaway spending, runaway debt and a runaway minister. She's a runaway minister in every regard. I saw her a few minutes ago and she has run away again. I don't know if she is on a yacht. That's where she was last week when the bill came in. I don't know if she is throwing another million-dollar party, and if she is I can understand why she'd have to be away. But she was here just minutes ago. As the member for Nanaimo says,"The chickens are coming home to roost," but she got chicken. Well, you know, it's fascinating. As the member for Nanaimo says, here you put it in an omnibus bill. This great sink-hole of B.C. Development and B.C. Place, with monumental losses, monumental mismanagement, I suggest, and you hide it in an omnibus bill and give it the cover of the name of the Enterprise Corporation.
Somebody has a sense of humour over there, Mr. Speaker. These are corporations that have clearly been mismanaged, and now the taxpayer is going to have to pay for the mess and the losses. This is a culmination of high living; it's a culmination of glitzy views of economic development.
Let's look at B.C. Development Corporation just for starters. Let's look at the pattern of losses in that corporation in recent years: 1981, $5 million losses; 1982, $7 million losses; 1983, something happened, only $353,000 in losses; 1984, $20, 932,000 in losses; 1985, $60 million in losses; 1986, $87, 405,000 in losses — in the 1986 year alone in this corporation.
There has never been a more mismanaged quasi-bank in the history of Canada. What we have there is a growing river of red ink under this administration and under this minister. You still haven't deposited the last annual report for 1987. If the projection is on the same basis, the losses for '87 would be $100 million — that's the pattern. No little credit union could survive. The little Black Creek Credit Union would really have a time with this stuff.
It's no wonder that a few months ago the Premier of this province said: "This mess" — in terms of B.C. Place and BCDC — "is the biggest problem on my plate." It may be an even bigger problem because of the minister that's dealing with what's on the plate. In addition, those are the losses in BCDC in recent years — your Development Corporation. You wrote off, just a year ago, another $54 million in equity in the B.C. Development Corporation. There's a clear pattern. What you've got are Crown corporations, both in this one and in others, that are having to borrow from the bank to pay the interest on the previous borrowing to the bank. That's what you're doing. No citizen, no businessman, could carry on the way this government has carried on.
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I think it's quite fitting that the minister should have been.... She should have been in black today, not white, because she's the undertaker. The first member from Little Mountain is the undertaker for the B.C. Development Corporation and B.C. Place. She should be wearing black.
She held the wake last week. It was a million dollar wake thrown at the new convention centre in the harbour in Vancouver. This now is the merger of two big Social Credit losers, B.C. Development Corporation and B.C. Place. B.C. Place, let us remember, was a burial ground for Expo, another burial ground for profligate spending, and for B.C. Place's subsidiary, which is the B.C. Pavilion Corporation. Hundreds of millions of dollars are involved in that enterprise. You're going to give it a new label, the B.C. Enterprise Corporation, and according to the minister's notes, you're going to swallow a $396 million lump with this legislation.
But as the member for Nanaimo says, that's only part of the lump. Cabinet wrote off $205 million this year alone, through the B.C. Buildings Corporation; the $205 million was advanced from B.C. Buildings Corporation with respect to B.C. Place. That, then, is a total of a $601 million lump, in terms of losses, failure, deficit, collapse, financial collapse, whatever you want to call it. You look at those losses under your mismanagement, and you start wondering. You start wondering about the newspapers of this province and this land that report the collapse of private financial institutions, day in and day out, week in and week out. And under this minister we get minimal reporting with respect to the major financial collapse of two of your Crown corporations, because that's what this is all about. Look at it. The Bank of B.C. collapsed. It was a major story for weeks in the Vancouver press, and how much of a lump in the end was that? That was $200 million. You have the gall to come before this House now, in the dying days of the session, to ask for a $396 million lump — the $205 million and more, because it's an open-ended demand on the public treasury.
So the Bank of B.C. collapsed. It was a major story in the business pages and the front pages of the metropolitan dailies for weeks. Under the member from Little Mountain or from Shaughnessy here and this major collapse, it's a non-story in British Columbia. You guys are throwing a million-dollar party, throwing away $400 million, $600 million, in losing corporations; it's not news in British Columbia. It just isn't news anymore. That tells us a lot about your level of incompetence. We heard about the Northland Bank, too, for days, weeks and months in this country — wrestling with it at the federal level. What kind of lump was that? That was $225 million.
You guys are involved in a disaster bigger than the Northland Bank, which dominated the business pages of this nation. You guys are responsible for a collapse bigger than the Bank of British Columbia, that had to be bailed out by an international bank from Hong Kong, that dominated the business pages of British Columbia. This is a mess of unprecedented proportions that is being dealt with here — let's recognize that. And let's also recognize that the Minister of Economic Development is not here again. She holds the people's parliament in disdain, this woman that throws million-dollar parties. She has barely been in this House this session to answer questions and to report, and once again she is not here now, in terms of dealing with this mess that she has sitting on her desk.
We still have no up-to-date reports with respect to the corporations this woman is responsible for. The books are there. The last we showed was $87 million in losses in BCDC. Imagine! In one year there was $87 million in losses in this quasi-modest little operation called B.C. Development Corporation. And we still don't know what the losses are for the last fiscal year. We still don't have a committee of this House that deals with these Crown corporations which are running amok, are not delivering and not producing, and in fact are classic failures.
What else is there in BCDC? There's $1.6 billion in guarantees. Do you people over there know that? Mr. Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch), are you going to provide the House with a watch-list that shows the state of those loans, the state of the security, what those assets indeed are worth and how much the treasury of British Columbia is vulnerable for, with respect to $1.6 billion? It's $1.6 billion, and the minister isn't even here to report on this corporation.
Let's also reflect on who the players were in B.C. Place Ltd. Let's also note that there's a court case out there right now involving Mr. Bayne Boyes.
MR. WILLIAMS: It's public knowledge, and I'm simply repeating what is public knowledge, Mr. Minister. Mr. Boyes was the vice-president for finance for this Crown corporation, B.C. Place. He's suing for wrongful dismissal, because Jimmy Pattison and the players in B.C. Place and Expo interfered, he maintains, with respect to financial statements. It's ironic. Mr. Boyes was the head of his profession and the head of a professional committee. There was clearly money being transferred between these Crown corporations, and this professional did not want to see the accounts handled in the way it was suggested they should be handled — or as they indeed probably were.
The whole B.C. Place operation was a blank cheque from beginning to end. The Vancouver Sun editorially called it a blank cheque. The Victoria Times editorially called it a blank cheque. The Sun also said it was simply carte-blanche spending, and that's exactly what it was. So we're up to what, in terms of a bundle of debt and losses here? Some $600 million. But the money that the Buildings Corporation funnelled through to B.C. Place had interest payments slid through from the Crown for a period of time — interest on $205 million over five years. You can throw on another $100 million in terms of this bundle we're throwing away tonight. That bring us up to $700 million for that whole exercise, and then there was the other $54 million write-off with respect to BCDC that the auditor-general reported in her last full report. That gets us up to $750 million in losses in terms of these disastrous Crown corporations.
Now you're merging the two losers, and you have the gall to call the new animal the B.C. Enterprise Corporation. If that ain't chutzpah, I don't know what is: B.C. Enterprise Corporation, a great $750 million lump underneath it. It's really a cruel joke to working people and to enterprising business people in this province to call this the B.C. Enterprise Corporation.
We've said that that minister, who's not here again, is the Marie Antoinette of British Columbia politics, and that party she threw last week really kind of summed it up. These are incredibly expensive tastes, and what we're seeing here now is a bath the size of which we've never seen before in British
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Columbia. The crash of these corporations is a financial bath like we've never seen in the operation of this province in the past. It is appropriate that someone with Marie Antoinette tastes should be involved in the biggest financial bath in the province. It's the biggest bath we've seen in decades in this province, yet the government still ain't coming clean. You're still not coming clean. You haven't delivered the financial reports. You haven't provided the data, You haven't given us Foley's reports. We've had private indications from your House Leader and others in this administration that those reports would be forthcoming. We are still awaiting them. They have not been delivered. We had complete understanding with government leaders that there would be far more information provided the opposition with respect to this bill. That information has not been delivered at all.
It's ironic, you know, to have had the person who was chairman of the finance committee of Expo, where so much of this money was involved and buried and slid to B.C. Place Ltd., to now be named the chairman of the Enterprise Corporation. That's as smooth and as galling a move as we might have got from Prime Minister Mulroney, in terms of the financial problems he has been in in recent years.
None of these things has gone before a committee of this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and they should. Now you want to bury the bungling; you want to bury the losses. You ironically say this is going to give you a clean slate. You dump the $750 million. That's a twist on the fresh new start that the Premier talked about. But B.C. Place includes all kinds of other activities. It includes all kinds of land projects, such as the member for Victoria has been concerned about: projects in Riverview, Westwood Plateau, Songhees, B.C. Place in Vancouver, Coquitlam suburbs and Whistler. There is equally thin reporting on all these activities. There is scandalous non-reporting on all these activities in this House and before committees of this House in terms of the minister not being there.
Now, through this legislation, you also want to make the activities retroactive and legalize the activities of this minister over the recent months in terms of the various land deals she has been pulling together without legislative authority whatsoever. You're backdating the books in terms of the various activities she has undertaken. You're legitimizing through this process the deals she has already made and has never reported to this Legislature — never. That's what you're doing with these statutes.
MR. S.D. SMITH: What deals?
MR. WILLIAMS: You don't know? I don't think the cabinet knows. I don't think the Premier knows. Only the member from Shaughnessy knows. And she's asking for another blank cheque. Blank cheque number one, and now she wants blank cheque number two. Again, authority for new borrowing. Not only are you blowing the $750 million, she wants another cheque. Starting the exercise over again,
What kind of process is there for the selling of these lands, as the member for Victoria has questioned? What kind of process is there in Vancouver? We're talking urban cash flows of hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of the lands at B.C. Place, False Creek, Songhees, Whistler, Westwood Plateau, Riverview and so on. What kind of bidding process is there for the sale of these lands? Does anybody over there know? Does the second member for Kamloops (Mr. S.D. Smith) know? No, he doesn't know. Does the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch) know? He doesn't know. Does the Premier know? I doubt it. The flogging of land at Songbees, the inner harbour real estate values that are extraordinary, as they are in False Creek in Vancouver.... What kind of public process is there? What kind of tendering is there? What kind will there be? Not a word. Yet we know the deals have been cut. They are proceeding. There's a potential here for fire sales and favouritism under this member from Shaughnessey in terms of those public lands — incredibly valuable public lands — with no open public process in terms of the sale of those lands. It's extraordinary.
This then, Mr. Speaker, is clear and simple: the recognizing of a modem, major financial collapse unequalled in modem British Columbia history. It's so appropriate that the biggest spender of them all, the member from Little Mountain, should be presiding on this occasion — even though she's wandered off again, who knows where and at what cost to the taxpayers of British Columbia.
It's very clear that this legislation should have been brought forward as a statute standing on its own, not in an omnibus bill like this. It's very clear that the minister should be here, and should be answering, and she is not — not only answering but speaking out and trying to defend the indefensible. But rather than try to defend the indefensible, she's really abandoned this chamber this evening. It's extraordinary that this is once again the case. It is absolutely extraordinary.
We look forward to hearing the Provincial Secretary try to defend the indefensible tonight.
MR. SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing orders, I advise members that the minister closes debate.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Mr. Speaker, in my role as acting Attorney-General, I close debate on Bill 55.
I'm going to resist the impulse to give back in kind what the hon. member was doing tonight, because I don't think this is the time or the place to do it. Suffice it to say, my friend, that even with your vitriolic statements and everything else.... The fear mongering that people like you spread throughout this province is the very kind of thing that does not do this province any good. You're very good at it. You've been practising the same crap for years, and you're very good at slandering people.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the minister to withdraw that.
HON. MR. VEITCH: I'll withdraw. Mr. Speaker, he's very good at saying things about people who are not in the House at a certain time.
Times change, Mr. Speaker. Expo did present a wonderful opportunity for the people of British Columbia. Because it presented a wonderful opportunity, and because the Leader of the Opposition, as mayor, tried to stop one of the greatest things that ever happened to British Columbia, they're still sore and they're still smarting over the success of Expo 86. That's what this is all about.
Times change. The structures were right at the time. The structure for Expo was correct. The structure for BCDC was correct. The structure for all these corporations was correct, but restructuring is necessary to manage this huge operation we have before us at this point in time.
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HON. MR. VEITCH: If you shut up for a minute, hon. member, you may learn something. I doubt it, but you may.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The minister should bring his language within parliamentary bounds.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Mr. Speaker, the hon. first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Williams) knows very well that it's been the courtesy of this House for many years to present an omnibus bill and have very little debate, certainly not the kind of vitriolic debate that we've just been exposed to — very little debate, and the debate is carried on in the committee stage. He knows very well that the ministers in charge of the particular sections of this bill will be here during those stages, and he'll have every opportunity to discuss and debate these things with the ministers, as I'm sure he will, and they'll have every opportunity to give the same back in kind to the hon. member.
The information relative to this bill, out of courtesy, was delivered to the opposition, and that's where you got most of your information from. We did keep a promise and we did do it, so that is not correct.
I want to address some of the elements of this bill in closing, Mr. Speaker, and again resist the temptation to become more vocal. I think the need for legislation is completely covered in this bill.
B.C. Place Ltd. was incorporated under the Company Act in March 1980 for the purpose of acquiring lands on the north shore of False Creek in Vancouver, preparing the majority of the site for Expo 86, building the B.C. Place Stadium and installing the main infrastructure: roads, sewers and water mains for the long-term development of the entire site. That was part of a plan for Expo, and it's part of a plan for post-Expo.
The B.C. Place act, giving the company special status and powers required for a Crown agent, was enacted in 1980. Amendments are now proposed to reflect the new direction for the company and, in conjunction with Bill 53, to enable the necessary financial restructuring required to place this company on a very sound fiscal footing.
In April 1986, Mr. Speaker, B.C. Place acquired additional lands from the Crown having potential for immediate development in the communities of Coquitlam, Victoria and Whistler, and took on the responsibility for the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and the Whistler Conference Centre and golf course.
At this time, the B.C. Development Corporation has similar land development interests in North Vancouver and New Westminster and holds industrial lands in some 20 other communities throughout the province, while also conducting an industrial loan business.
Proposed amendments to the B.C. Place act of 1980 reflect the new role of this Crown corporation. The company is to be renamed B.C. Enterprise Corporation. In conjunction with the provisions of Bill 53, the assets and operations of B.C. Place Ltd. and the B.C. Development Corporation will be merged within the B.C. Enterprise Corporation. As well, the amendments provide for the necessary restructuring of finances to place the B.C. Enterprise Corporation and the B.C. Buildings Corporation on a very sound financial footing.
The proposed amendments to the bill will: (1) effect the transfer of BCBC shares and the B.C. Enterprise Corporation to the provincial government; and (2) accommodate the transfer of management and responsibility for public facilities such as the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and B.C. Place Stadium to an existing corporation, the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of B.C. Place.
Bill 53 is to be introduced. The Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations (Hon. Mr. Couvelier) will deal with the financial restructuring in more detail during second reading and the committee review of that particular statute.
This bill includes an amendment to the Property Purchase Tax Act. There are Pipeline Act amendments, Mr. Speaker. I think the only amendment there of any significance is the transfer of responsibilities for the economic regulation of the interprovincial oil pipelines from the Ministry of Transportation and Highways to the B.C. Utilities Commission. There are changes to the Wildlife Act, as the House Leader has pointed out.
Mr. Speaker, I've not touched on some of the more minor amendments within this bill, but instead have sought to provide some explanation of only a few of the more significant ones. My colleagues and I will be pleased to respond to questions from the opposition during committee stage. With that, I move second reading of this bill.
Motion approved on division.
Bill 55, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 1987, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call Committee of Supply.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mrs. Gran in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 61: minister's office — $235, 299.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: Madam Chairman, the 1986-87 fiscal year has been a tremendously busy one for my ministry. Certainly 1986 was a banner year for Transportation and Highways.
The ministry celebrated the opening of two major projects: phase 1 of the Coquihalla Highway, and the Alex Fraser Bridge and Annacis system, without a doubt two of the most ambitious projects this province has seen in more than 20 years. The Coquihalla opens up a whole new world of opportunity for British Columbians, and the Alex Fraser Bridge, like the man it was named after.... They are both one of a kind and great assets to our province. Over a ten-year period, my friend and colleague the first member for Cariboo (Mr. A. Fraser) oversaw the building of over 8, 900 kilometres of highway, while directing the expansion and improvements in the B.C. Ferries and air ambulance systems.
My ministry was a proud participant in Expo 86, with our Coquihalla Highway display at the world showcase. We also had the natural gas-powered MV Klataitu ferry on display during the specialized transportation period at Expo.
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May 27, 1986, saw amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act and the strengthening of laws relating to impaired and hit and-run drivers, and other serious offenders. On June 13, 1986, the ministry officially opened Don Campbell Way in Vernon in memory of our colleague and friend, the late Don Campbell, the former Okanagan North MLA.
In 1986 we also had the implementation of the commercial vehicle inspection program, which has proven to be a great success. September 30, 1986, saw the first announcement of the $100 million highway improvement program, cost-shared by the four western provinces and the federal government. In May 1987 we were happy to announce the federal-provincial agreement to improve the Yellowhead in B.C. The agreement was signed, designating $36 million to be spent over the next three years, with Ottawa contributing $18 million.
February of this year saw the first announcement of improvements to the Vancouver Island Highway and the first tender call to four-lane a section of the Malahat just north of Goldstream Park. Public information meetings were held up and down the Island, with a very interested response from the people in those affected communities. A report was prepared on how best to fulfil improvements to the Island Highway, and the opinions, suggestions and concerns of the people in those communities were incorporated in the report. That report was submitted to me on June 30 and is being reviewed by government.
In April of this year Roy Illing was appointed my new deputy minister, and I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his appointment and welcome him to the ministry that gets things done.
On April 8 we announced a tri-level government task force formed to review the shipment of dangerous goods throughout the lower mainland, and on April 10 I was proud to announce that transport of dangerous goods in British Columbia was now to be enforced by my ministry's highly competent weigh master inspectors.
In May of this year my ministry, through our secondary highway cost-sharing program, was pleased to distribute $2, 920, 632 to some 58 municipalities. This year we have been working toward agreement on a National Safety Code program to enhance fitness testing of commercial vehicles.
We have also, as a major provincial initiative, set up a Cabinet Committee on Traffic Safety to look at ways of improving the safety of the traveling public on our roads and highways. This committee includes the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) and the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services (Hon. L. Hanson), who is also responsible for ICBC. As chairman of this committee, I want to inform you that our mandate is to review what safety programs are now in place as well as to coordinate, develop and deliver new and effective traffic safety programs involving all forms of road transportation. Establishment of the committee was approved by cabinet in June, and our first meeting was held July 6. The committee will be reporting periodically to cabinet on those new initiatives that are aimed at meeting our objective: that is, reducing accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads and highways and improving the safety of the traveling public in British Columbia.
During 1986 my ministry had 355 kilometres of road under construction for a capital expenditure of $265 million; the equivalent of 1, 211 kilometres of two-lane roads were surfaced or resurfaced for a value of $115 million; and 70 new bridges, two pedestrian overpasses and a snow shed were completed. That bridge work alone pumped $87.5 million into the B.C. economy.
Construction of phase 2 of the Coquihalla Highway from Merritt to Kamloops is nearing completion and will open in September. Construction on phase 3 is also now underway, with completion scheduled for 1990.
Work is continuing on the Richmond freeway, with proposed opening in the fall of 1988.
Other major works throughout the year included continued upgrading of Highway 99 between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish, Highway I between Revelstoke and Salmon Arm and Highway 97 in the Okanagan Valley.
We are also pioneering, through my ministry's air transport assistance program, the use of microwave landing systems, which will greatly improve access to communities such as Pemberton, as well as improving safety for aircraft in our province.
Mr. Chairman, our nation more than others depends on good transportation to bridge the long distances over which people and goods have to move. British Columbia has good primary highways, and we are working steadily to improve the system, because British Columbia is the gateway to the Asian Pacific Rim. We have a role to promote trade, travel, and the safe flow of people and goods on behalf of all Canadians.
In 1986, results for the British Columbia Railway group of companies showed improvement for the fifth consecutive year. Before payment of dividends to preferred shareholders, net income amounted to $69.9 million, compared with $61.4 million for the preceding fiscal year. It is gratifying to report also that the debt position of the railway has continued to improve since the corporate reorganization in 1984. By the end of 1986, the total outstanding debt was $327 million, compared with $411 million in June 1984. In addition, at the end of the first quarter of 1987, short-term debt of $10.8 million had been paid down. For the second consecutive year, British Columbia Railway has paid a dividend to the province in excess of $10 million.
Riming to our B.C. Ferries in 1986, traffic on our two major runs from Vancouver Island to the mainland was the highest ever recorded. Route 1, Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, experienced a 35.8 percent increase in passengers over the previous year, while vehicles increased by 21.9 percent. Route 2, Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, saw a 19.9 percent increase in passengers and a 12.8 percent increase in vehicles. Route I carried in excess of one million passengers for the first time in history during August 1986. Numerous terminal and ship improvements were carried out, and the reservation centre moved from Vancouver to Fleet House in Victoria, in order to effect cost savings. Both revenue and expense rose in response to the requirements of Expo service. Revenue increased $28.2 million, while operating expenses rose $36.4 million. The corporation now operates a fleet of 38 vessels on 23 routes serving 43 terminals. The company has a year-round complement of 2, 300 employees. Overall during 1986-87 the ferry system carried 18.2 million passengers and 6.5 million vehicles.
I would like at this time to ask all members to join me in paying tribute to the late Adm. Andrew Collier, who until his death on January 2 this year was president and chief executive officer of the B.C. Ferry Corporation. I would like also to ask all members to join me in offering belated condolences to his wife Betty, their daughter and son, and his mother. Born in
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Kamloops in 1924 and raised in the Shuswap Lake area, Andy Collier served more than 27 years in the Canadian navy. His decisive, dedicated and professional command earned him the Distinguished Service Cross while serving on HMCS Cayuga fighting in Korea. After retiring from the navy, he was appointed in 1980 as commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, spending three and a half years in Ottawa as head of that organization. When he took the helm of the B.C. Ferry Corporation in September 1984 and began preparations for the busy Expo year, he stated that he was impressed with the quality of the people in the corporation and praised them for their spirit and enthusiasm. At his memorial service, it was said of Andrew Collier: "His inquisitive, straightforward approach to life added a buoyancy to wherever and whomever he touched. He loved life, people and his country, and gave generously of himself to all. So has lived a great Canadian."
Finally, we in the ministry are seeing the end of an era with many personnel now retiring who joined the minis; after World War II. Their expertise will be missed. However, I want to congratulate the thousands of staff members who remain for the great job they are doing and continue to do as we look to 1987-'88 and another busy year for Transportation and Highways, the ministry that gets the job done.
MR. MILLER: There is obviously a great deal to canvass in the estimates of the Ministry of Transportation and Highways, briefly touching on some of the areas of concern in the province. Before I start, I should make mention of the minister's staff and my previous acquaintance with the civil servant who is capable of writing the shortest memos in the history of the civil service in British Columbia.
Nonetheless, we are dealing first of all with the minister's budget, and it's a great disappointment not only to me and probably other members, but to people out there in the province, that we've seen a significant decline in the minister's budget. I don't know what that says about his ability at Treasury Board in terms of fighting for his share of the funds. But it's obvious that the kind of work that could be done will not be done, because the money isn't there. We see an overall reduction of about 12 percent and, more significantly, in terms of capital projects about a 36 percent reduction.
Yet the plans go on. We hear about fast-tracking plans on the Coquihalla, and of course we're concerned about tolls being used to achieve that end, and we look at the target dates for completion and we concern ourselves with whether or not we're still really building highways for electoral purposes as opposed to trying to logically plan the highway system to best serve the needs of the various regions of this province.
I suppose it may be appropriate to start by asking the minister if he would outline to the House what isn't going to be done as a result of this pretty significant cut in his budget.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: All the major plans that were on the drawing-boards for the current fiscal year are still in place. The ministry was able to pick up a few million dollars here and a few million dollars there, and we're going to be spending $40 million in total on Coquihalla 3 in the current fiscal year. Our target for completion is 1990, and I think it's going to be a great thing for not only the Okanagan but points both north and east of the Okanagan. I am sure all the members affected and the people of British Columbia affected will certainly be looking forward to the great economic activity resulting from the opening of Coquihalla 3.
MR. MILLER: That wasn't a very complete answer, Mr. Minister. You are talking about a highway that is going to be financed through various means. Of course, I intend to discuss at some later date the Coquihalla and some of the problems I think we may be facing with it. But at this point, since he raised the issue of the connector, perhaps the minister would outline his plans in terms of the amount of money required to finish — some $66 million, if I'm not mistaken — and the raising of additional revenues through increased tolls, and also the completion date.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: The completion date will probably be the fall of 1990 for Coquihalla 3. Coquihalla 2 will be open on September 4 of this year.
The dollars for the completion of Coquihalla 3 will level out between 1988 and opening year. I believe the 1988 figures alone are something like $65 million. This current fiscal year we are spending something in the neighbourhood of $56 million, or $58 million less than we did last year, on the Coquihalla system. Last year, of course, we had the big push to finish Coquihalla 1, and Coquihalla 2 was underway. But this year there is not that much being spent on Coquihalla 2, because it is a matter of just the blacktopping and finishing UP.
As far as the tolls are concerned, there will be an increase of 25 percent. When Coquihalla 2 opens, probably the next day the rates will go up to $10. That will increase the revenue by some 25 percent. The revenue in the first year, ending March 31 of this last fiscal year, was very close to $11 million. We are expecting that figure, without the increase, to have been somewhat similar in the current fiscal year — $11 million or $12 million. With a 25 percent increase, that should come up to $14 million or $16 million.
As a matter of information, one of the significant figures to watch out for as far as the tollbooth is concerned is the opening of Coquihalla 3, because the experts tell us that the traffic will increase by some 40 percent when Coquihalla 3 opens. So you take the current fares of $15 million in round figures, put 40 percent onto that, and it will be over $20 million in the tollbooths once both 2 and 3 are open.
MR. MILLER: Going back to June 1986, the then Minister of Transportation and Highways, in discussing the expected revenues of the Coquihalla at that time, talked about having estimated $20 million. I'll say we probably hit $20 million. But I note that in the estimates for 1986-87, the government had estimated $16 million, and that was revised downward to $11.3 million. Obviously there was some shortfall in the expected traffic on that highway. Could the minister provide us with some general information on traffic volumes on the highway? As I said, it is perhaps a bit difficult, because one topic inevitably leads into another, and there are a number of topics surrounding the Coquihalla, particularly in terms of Highways I and 3.
Nonetheless, just dealing with that in terms of the government's expectations, it appears there has been less revenue from and less traffic on that highway system than the government originally anticipated. I wonder if the minister would comment on the kinds of volumes that he sees, and whether or not he sees that that's going to be a static figure, or whether there is anticipation of significant growth with the completion of the second phase.
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HON. MR. MICHAEL: Certainly the traffic was not as high through the Coquihalla tollbooths as was anticipated. As near as we can determine, the reason is that Expo did attract the volume that we predicted coming from the east, mainly from the prairie provinces; however, the traffic from the west did not materialize. It's not only Highways that projected this flow; experts throughout the province and in other ministries projected that people would come to Expo and spend four days, and then they would travel the province for three days. What in fact happened for our friends coming from the south and other regions of British Columbia and the lower mainland who attended Expo, is that they enjoyed Expo so much they not only stayed for the four days, they stayed for six days; and thus the breaking of all records that were predicted on Expo did materialize, but the flow of traffic from the mainland, from the west and from our neighbours to the south did not materialize in Expo year, although the flow was good coming from points east of the Coquihalla. It's true that the expectations and predictions of traffic flow did not materialize in the Expo year.
MR. MILLER: It appears, Mr. Minister, that even a simple comparison with the.... Let's use the Vancouver Island Highway as an example — and that's another topic that we'll be doing. When we look at the average on the Coquihalla, we're looking at about 3, 400 vehicles per day. Even Expo peak only achieved about 6, 400, compared to some counts on the Island Highway, particularly at the Heinicken counter, almost 39,000 per day; the counter just south of Parksville, almost 12,000 a day. So it's obvious that the volumes are simply not there. Of course, when we talk about the massive expenditure that was undertaken with respect to the Coquihalla, one wonders whether or not in the final analysis it was the wisest move in terms of not only the decision to proceed, but most importantly the decision to proceed with the haste that was evident at that time. We will see what other problems may result, or could result, from the decision to do that.
Mr. Minister, when I stand up and talk about highways and question expenditures, I don't want that misinterpreted by some of the members in the back bench, particularly the member for Yale-Lillooet (Mr. Rabbitt), who has complained quite bitterly about the need for upgrading on Highway 3, and so far has been disappointed. I'm simply trying to point out that perhaps some decisions were made that were inappropriate.
Before I leave the topic of the budget, I wonder if the minister could advise with respect to the question I originally asked, if the minister had received that million dollars. I think he was quoted in a news statement some time ago, saying that he wanted a million dollars. I wonder if the minister can indicate what projects he had in mind to use that additional money, another $130 million or $140 million that he doesn't have. What kind of expenditures would have been undertaken by your ministry, with respect to that money?
HON. MR. MICHAEL: Madam Chairman, I think that's speculative. We have a very long list of capital requests that we have on the drawing-boards. A recent review of capital programs by my senior staff, at my request, clearly identified a capital need over the next number of years. I believe we did a projection on something like ten years. We are clearly in need of something in the neighbourhood of $4.7 billion to satisfy all of the capital programs on the drawing-boards currently; and as the ten years unfold, you could probably add a significant percentage to that.
To name specifically what projects would be done if we got the full billion would be very difficult. We have requests for capital programs in every region of the province. We have the improvements that will be made on the Yellowhead. There is certainly a lot of work to be done in the Stewart area. There is an abundance of work to be done on the TransCanada Highway. The area between Kamloops and the Alberta border is in need of four-laning, bringing it up to freeway standard.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: Yes, the Shuswap area needs a lot of attention. It has been overlooked far too long and certainly needs attention.
We also have the question of completing Highway 97 north and south in the Okanagan. And of course the Island Highway: we'll be doing some work on that this year and hopefully will be accelerating the work in line with the Premier's commitment, over a ten-year program, to finish the Island Highway.
I could go on and on. There are a lot of overpasses needed. There are still, I believe, two or three major overpasses on the Trans-Canada and in the Fraser Valley area that need to be installed. There's work to be done in Langley. There's work to be done on Highway 7 between Mission and the Dewdney constituency. I could go on and on. There's a tremendous amount of work to be done. We mustn't forget 200th Street, either; that's very high on the minister's priority list, and something we'll be looking at.
MR. MILLER: It seems obvious that it's indeed a good mantle to fall upon the shoulders of a member here — to be named Minister of Highways — particular in terms of the amount of blacktop that's laid in his or her particular constituency. Certainly the Cariboo has been well served by the previous minister. I'm struck by it every time I drive down that lonely rough road from Prince Rupert and reach Prince George and start to head south. I'm amazed at the width of the highways and the overpasses and all the rest of it. I suppose one way of dealing with that would be to rotate the job around; if every member got the opportunity to be the Minister of Highways, I'm sure that the transportation needs of this province would probably be well taken care of.
However, I'd like to shift the topic to another section, the motor vehicle section. I'll start off with the whole subject of motor vehicle testing. As most members are aware, there is a fairly strong feeling in the province that by bringing back mandatory motor vehicle testing, we would be going some way towards cutting down on the accident statistics in this province. When I talk about that, I'm not inflexible when it comes to the ways that it could be introduced. I would expect that in the lower mainland and Victoria we would see a return to the kind of testing that existed prior to the restraint program, when those testing stations were shut down.
I want to cite a number of sources in terms of this question, and then get the minister to respond. First of all, the Province did a survey. They not only did a survey of people's attitudes, but they quoted a number of people in the province concerned with the issue. They seemed to be unanimous in their feeling that, indeed, motor vehicle testing is a necessary
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thing and would accomplish the goals that I previously stated. Such a one is Vancouver traffic superintendent John Lucy. He is talking about the number of traffic accidents related to vehicles that really aren't up to par. "Those are casualty accidents," he says. "There are many other accidents that don't involve injury." In other words, we don't really see those kinds of statistics recorded. "We've been without annual tests for three years. If we leave it a few more, watch how much worse it's going to get."
The B.C. Automobile Association pesters Victoria for an inspection program. It should come back and it should be provincewide. "The sooner the better," says B.C. Safety Council manager Stu Richardson. Vancouver mayor Gordon Campbell, who himself was recently involved in an accident — I don't know whether that was due to the fact that his vehicle was below standard or not — is confident a new program will be introduced. Maybe he's got the inside track; we'll find out. Campbell goes on to talk about the fact that the government doesn't necessarily need to be involved; there are ways of setting up a testing program. I would think that one of them would be through the use of independent garages, particularly in the rural areas of the province.
, There seems to be overwhelming support for the return of these kinds of testing programs. That's not just an emotional argument, as I see it. There are a number of people who are knowledgeable in the field and concerned with the issue, and who are also saying that there are some genuine reasons why we should bring these programs back in.
Just a few more statistics before I sit down, in terms of the number of defects in reported accidents. In reported accidents where vehicle condition was the major contributing factor, in 1985-86 — we're really dealing with brakes, primarily — 32 percent, according to the information I got.... I'm not trying to mislead and say that 32 percent of all accidents.... I'm saying that where vehicle condition was a factor in those accidents, 32 percent in 1985-86 and 26 percent in 1983-84 were due to faulty brakes.
That's a pretty basic element of a car or any motor vehicle, for that matter. When we think about the various components of that machine that we get into and drive, sometimes at considerable speeds, certainly brakes are a very important part. Just as an example — perhaps a personal one, but I think nonetheless a valid one — in driving my wife and daughter to the airport yesterday afternoon I encountered two cyclists who crossed over from the shoulder of the highway right across two lanes into a left-hand turn lane on the highway to the airport. They had clearly misjudged the speed of the oncoming traffic, and it was a foolish move on their part. As the lead car on that inside lane, I was forced to brake very sharply in order to allow these cyclists to pass in front of me. It occurred to me at that time that had I had defective brakes, in terms of their ability to stop the car in time or perhaps to prevent the car from veering one way or another, there could indeed have been a fatality.
I don't think that it's wise to continue without that kind of basic testing, which in my opinion and in the opinion of many people would lead to a decrease in the number of traffic accidents. Certainly I could cite some more statistics, but I think I've tried to present a case, again not just on the basis of emotion but on the basis of some kind of logic, supported by people who have some familiarity with the problem.
Finally, quoting the minister in a story on April 19 in the Province.... I should say that I am cognizant of the efforts that the minister has put it in terms of promoting highway safety. There are components of that plan that I want to discuss later on, but nonetheless I think that the minister has done a fair job in trying to bring that issue to the fore and make people aware, and in setting up the cabinet committee. I'm sure you had something to do with that.
But what about this issue of vehicle testing? It seems to me that it is critical. Finally, as I said I was going to quote, the minister is quoted as saying in the Province that a return to vehicle testing, which readers overwhelmingly called for.... "Michael says if it is reintroduced, he would like to see it done through a blend of government and private effort." So having gone on to that extent on the question, perhaps the minister might respond.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: Madam Chairman, I would like at this time to congratulate the author of those articles in the Province, Keith Morgan, who in my opinion did a first-class job in drawing out public opinion. I understand that Keith has received hundreds and hundreds of letters and suggestions from the readers of the Province. Keith and I will be meeting again very shortly to review the input he has received from the public.
There is certainly much to be said for motor vehicle testing. I have received a tremendous amount of input from radio talk shows and public meetings throughout the province. Whenever the subject has come up, particularly on radio talk shows, there seems to be a very strong desire, certainly from the people who phone in.... Whether it's the population in general, I don't know; but the people who phone in seem to favour some form of motor vehicle testing.
I can tell the member that in having discussed this with a lot of people in the field of safety and with other Highways ministers throughout the Dominion of Canada, I have picked up a lot of ideas. As an example, the member may or may not be aware of the motor vehicle testing program they have in Manitoba. They have a lottery system, where not every vehicle is tested, but so many names are pulled out of the hat every month and those people are required to go in for a vehicle test.
I had a very interesting discussion with a person who is in a position to know who the culprits are in the province of British Columbia in general, and that RCMP person's advice to me was this: "Perhaps, Mr. Minister, you should be looking at the people who are having the accidents, because it's our experience that the people who are having the accidents are the same people who don't keep their cars in a proper state of repair."
I don't know if the member is aware of this or not, but 21 percent of the people in the province of British Columbia have a 100 percent of the accidents. Some 79 percent don't have accidents; the figures that come out of ICBC say that 21 percent have them all.
I might be convinced that we could introduce some type of lottery system for the inspection of vehicles based on those 21 percent who have the accidents. Their names would go in the hat and they would be required to have their vehicles inspected following an accident, say every six months for three years. A system like that could be done through the private sector.
That, Madam Chairman, will be discussed at length by the safety committee named by the Premier a short time ago. As I said in my initial statement, the committee has had one meeting. We set up a technical advisory committee. They are
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going over a great amount of data at this time and will be bringing forward concise recommendations to the committee in the month of August.
I can say, however, in looking at accidents and fatalities: yes, they are on the increase — a dramatic increase in 1986, and those statistics are continuing to climb in 1987. So it's certainly an area that has to be addressed, and was the signal that caused me to approach the Premier and my cabinet colleagues suggesting that a high-profile committee such as this, placed to take immediate action on recommendations, be put in place.
I should make it clear that you could look at all kinds of causes of accidents, but we must bear in mind that it's the person. If you want to look at the real causes, something in the neighbourhood of 87 or 89 percent of the accidents are clearly identified as driving without due care and attention. Alcoholism, drugs, excessive speed, careless driving: those are the things that are causing the fatalities and the serious accidents on the highways and byways in British Columbia. That is the thing that clearly has to be addressed immediately.
I assure the member that vehicle testing will be on the agenda. It will not be in the top four or five slots on the agenda for action by the committee, but it will certainly be on the agenda. I think you're going to see a lot of decisions and a lot of positive action in the interests of the people of British Columbia as a result of that committee being named.
I might add, Madam Chairman, that one of the key things in any motor vehicle testing program is compliance. There's got to be a follow-through. There's got to be some kind of checking system to make sure the person has indeed gone in and had his vehicle inspected.
I say this with a bit of tongue in cheek, but back in 1983 we had quite a debate here about the vehicle testing program. The members opposite came on pretty heavy on the cancellation of that program, and one of our members, the current Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston), took it upon herself to go to the parking lot and check the vehicles of the NDP members opposite to see how many had an up-to date sticker, having had their vehicle inspected within the period required. I believe she came back with only three names. So it's important that if we do have a program we do follow through and make sure that compliance is indeed in the cards.
MR. MILLER: Mr. Minister, 21 percent of the people have 100 percent of the accidents, so 21 percent of the people in British Columbia have accidents. I wasn't quite sure if you were suggesting that it's the same 21 percent every year. Or is it a different 21 percent? Or is it a half or a third? What you're saying, the way I interpret it, is that one-fifth of the people in this province every year have an accident. That's a pretty high statistic. In fact, you're accurate when you talk about the increases. In 1986, some 600 people died and over 40,00 received injuries as a result of traffic accidents, some 100 percent increase over the previous year.
I've already commended the minister for some of the initiatives that he's brought forward — increased fines, the safety committee, and a number of others that I think will make people mindful of their responsibilities. Perhaps the anecdote about up-to-date testing stickers on cars is illustrative, I'm not sure of what. I recall when I lived in Victoria back in 1973 to 1975, having come down from Prince Rupert where there was no vehicle testing, I very shortly was nabbed and had to go in and get a test, and I think
I was sent a letter; I can't specifically recall. Nonetheless, I had to go back two times, and the end result of all that, despite my displeasure at that time, was that I had to do certain things to my vehicle that made it safer.
Also, as a rural member I can tell you that whenever I was in the market for a car I looked for that sticker, and that is a good thing in itself. I see the Minister of Tourism (Hon. Mr. Reid) is here, and maybe he can talk about selling cars; but if you've got that kind of up-to-date sticker on used cars that are being sold off the lot, it's certainly an indication to the buyer that he or she is getting a car that is up to scratch, at least in terms of the basic functions.
MR. R. FRASER: Not necessarily true.
MR. MILLER: Not necessarily true, says the member for Vancouver South, who may want to let us know how it's not necessarily true. Nonetheless, given the kind of statistics that we see where we have one-fifth — these overwhelming increases in terms of the number of accidents — rather than that item being fourth or fifth on the list of these august recommendations of the cabinet committee, I would prefer to see it moved up to one or two.
Moving on from the testing question, there was an item in June with regard to the B.C. Transit buses and the lack of locking devices on these buses to prevent someone from being able to get into the bus and actually get hold of the mechanism and make that bus move. I wonder if the minister could comment on any investigations his ministry may have done with respect to this issue, any recommendations that may have been made, and any action taken to date?
HON. MR. MICHAEL: On the last point, I have recollections of having read something about that question in the last few weeks. It seems to me it was a result of a coroner's investigation, a recommendation. I can assure the member that if my staff haven't already or aren't in the midst of investigating that recommendation, then we will thoroughly investigate that.
Getting back to the vehicle testing, it would appear from the time that we will probably not finish the estimates tonight, and it might be a good exercise for the member to ask for a show of hands in caucus tomorrow as to how many members opposite had their cars tested in the last six months.
I think there is a tremendous responsibility on all individual citizens, particularly people who drive a lot of miles and who have children who ride in their car with them, regardless of whether the program is in effect, to have their cars checked out on a regular basis. Have it flagged on your calendar or in your diary or on your car in some way to have a regular inspection. I know I'm very conscientious about that; I have been all my life. I make sure that my vehicle is in good operating shape.
I think that's one of the key things in society. We can have all the rules and regulations and laws we want in society, but there's a tremendous responsibility on the personal driver. I know we can inspect a vehicle one day and the next day the tail-light goes out, and perhaps the clutch starts to slip or what have you, so it's not a matter of waiting till the next test. Get in there and get the thing fixed and get the job done.
Regarding the question on the buses and the locking devices, we will follow through on the member's suggestion. I'm sure my staff probably have that well in hand already.
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MR. CHALMERS: I promise I'll keep my remarks brief because the hour is getting late. I have mentioned on a number of occasions in this House, and so has my running mate, the first member for Okanagan South (Mr. Serwa), the importance of transportation to our part of the province in the interior and the fact that tourism and the economic well-being of our area depend on a good transportation system.
There are a number of people in our area who are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the definite opening date of phase 3 of the Coquihalla Highway. Mr. Minister, I would like to personally thank you for the efforts you made to see that that date could be set for September 1990. There are a lot of people who are happy to see that happen.
This came home to me loud and clear last week when the Leader of the Opposition on a radio station in Kamloops....
AN HON. MEMBER: Mikey.
MR. CHALMERS: The same one.
He said that if he were Premier today and the NDP were government, they would cancel the construction of phase 3 of the Coquihalla Highway. I think that demonstrates they know very little about the real needs of the interior of British Columbia. They know very little about the importance of a highway system in the interior of British Columbia.
MR. R. FRASER: And nothing about tourism.
MR. CHALMERS: Absolutely nothing. I think it's so important. There is a well-known ad that says: "Give it to Mikey. He'll eat it. He'll eat anything." The people in the interior of British Columbia aren't going to swallow that one; they know why they elected Social Credit government.
Mr. Minister, thank you very much for the efforts that you have made.
MR. MILLER: I would like to congratulate that member. That was a great maiden speech.
Back to the issue at hand, we were discussing the very serious issue of motor vehicle testing. Mr. Minister, I am not averse to asking my colleagues for a show of hands, in terms of the number who have had their vehicles tested. But I am afraid I couldn't divulge the results due to the solidarity of our caucus.
Nonetheless, I want to canvass the minister's opinion with respect to several other safety-related issues before I leave the topic altogether. One is the release of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia in March, where they talked about the need to get into more of the safety devices that are becoming increasingly available, which save lives and prevent serious injuries — such as the passive restraints, the air bags and automatic seatbelts which a person has to put on; you've got no choice. When you get in the car and shut the door, you've got that seatbelt on. ICBC, the provincial insurance corporation which is familiar with the problems we have in this province and the carnage created through these motor vehicle accidents, is urging that these kinds of things be increasingly used. I don't use the word "mandatory," but they are certainly pushing very hard for these devices.
In addition, I have received requests from individuals concerning the requirement that rear shoulder belts be made mandatory. There is some illusion that because you happen to be riding in the back seat of a car, you are somehow more protected than a driver and that a lap belt will suffice. In fact, there is information that suggests that the lap belts themselves are extremely dangerous and can lead to serious spinal injuries.
Would the minister comment with regard to ICBC's position in terms of using these devices and whether his ministry has considered these things? Would the minister comment on whether the government would be prepared to make the rear shoulder belts a mandatory item in British Columbia? I assume it would be on a phased-in basis.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: I am very supportive of what the member is saying about air bags and automatic seatbelts and shoulder belts and all those features. There's no question whatsoever that the tools are very worthwhile in cutting down injuries where accidents have taken place. It's my view, though, Mr. Member, that it's more a matter of federal jurisdiction than it is provincial, and perhaps a little encouragement to your members in Ottawa to push the federal government to enact this area, which in my view is their responsibility, on new car design, would go a long way.
I will take the member's suggestions under advisement, and we'll have it on the agenda for our future safety committee discussions. Perhaps we can nudge the federal government along in coming up with these types of features.
I also read a short time ago, I believe, that all new vehicles in Canada by the year 1989 will be required to be designed and built with a feature that when the car is running the headlights will be on. A member close by here made a remark that he doesn't particularly think it's a good idea, but you can't dispute clear evidence. The evidence I have read clearly shows a significant reduction in accidents when headlights are used while driving during the daytime.
It's my understanding, in reading the article, that one of the negative aspects of driving with lights on during the daytime is the utilization of energy and the extra gas consumption, and what have you. It is my understanding that the new design will be a very low draw on your battery, which will result in a minimal amount of extra energy, and they will automatically shut off once the engine is shut off, which is a very important feature. I'm sure all of us have been caught driving in a little bit of fog, having our headlights on, and the fog lifts and you go to the airport and walk away and the lights remain on, and you come back a day or two later and your battery is dead. So that's not a very good idea either. Built into this plan for 1989 is the feature that not only will the lights be on during the daytime on all new vehicles, but it will be a low draw and they will shut off automatically when the car stops.
Regarding the comment from the second member for Victoria (Mr. Blencoe), I can understand members opposite having a problem such as that, but I'm sure with a bit of an education program we could fill that gap as well.
MR. MILLER: I frequently have trouble with that: whenever I drive through that tunnel underneath the Fraser River, I end up with my lights on all the time. I'm not surprised that the member for Vancouver South is frequently in the dark.
I have a couple of issues, and I think I'll just try to canvass the rest of the safety issues before we break for the evening. I'll do them all at once, and perhaps the minister will be prepared to respond.
First, there has been a suggestion that the drinking age be raised. There are serious concerns in terms of statistical
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information and the use of alcohol. We find all too often a pattern involving the younger driver. I think it may be true in the sense that with age comes some maturity and wisdom, and we tend not to do some of the more foolish things that we did in our youth. Has the minister given any consideration....
MR. R. FRASER: Speak for yourself
MR. MILLER: I'm getting protestations from everywhere on that one. Nonetheless, my personal experience tells me that there is some truth to what I'm saying.
Has any serious consideration been given to raising that age? While we are talking about age in terms of drinking, could you also comment on the age a person can get a driver's licence as well. I know as a parent I've always exercised that judgment with respect to my own children and my feeling about when they were ready, mature and responsible enough to take my car out. I have certainly sweated a little bit, and I have a couple yet to go, and I'm sure I'll do a bit more. So the question is of increasing the age when individuals can acquire that first driver's licence.
Thirdly, in March the minister talked about a plan to improve drivers' ability, and part of that plan was an incentive offer of having a different-coloured driver's licence. Presumably that would mean that depending on the colour you had, you'd be either good, bad or somewhere in the middle. I note that when you talked about that you also stated you were extremely upset at the slaughter that is going on out there. I wonder if you followed up on that in any way.
There has also been a suggestion — and I really don't know a lot about it, but I'll ask the minister whether it is being considered or being put into practice on an experimental basis — of allowing private driving schools to issue learner's licences. Is that something that is being considered?
I think I'll leave it with that. We're approaching 10 o'clock. I want to talk a little bit about the national safety code with respect to transport and trucks, but that would require some time. With the minister's response, perhaps we might get a motion to adjourn.
HON. MR. MICHAEL: Madam Chairman, regarding the drinking age, I'm not so sure we could change it. I'm certain I heard the Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) say that it's a constitutional matter. I would have to check that with him, and unfortunately he's not here today. But there is difficulty in changing that; it's not a simple matter of changing a provincial law. I'm certain that there are federal complexities in that.
Regarding the age of 16 to get a licence, our statistics show that the 16- and 17-year-olds are not the problem. The problem is in the 19- to 23-year-olds. That group has the problem. It's not the really young ones; it's when they get the confidence and the experience that they seem to think they have that they have the accidents.
Regarding the idea of the gold card, the idea is to give an incentive to the young people to excel in their testing. Perhaps the ones that do better than average, the top quartile or something like that, would get something special to give them pride. We could see whether something along that line would work as an incentive to good driving.
Regarding the private driving schools and the issuing of learner's licences, the thing I would want to have a look at before we entertain that idea is certification of driving schools. I think we would have to set up a certification program to make sure that they were competent to carry on not only driver instruction but the issuing of learner's licences, I think there is a tie-in there that we could work on and perhaps set up a system where they could be self disciplining.
There have been problems in other parts of Canada with the practice of permitting private driving schools to issue licences, and I would make sure that I wouldn't want to step into that pit. I would want to make sure that we did our homework and that all the groundwork was done before we entered into a program such as that.
Certainly all the things you have mentioned have been discussed by the members of the committee and their staff, and no doubt we will be discussing them a lot more as the months and years unfold.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House at its rising do stand adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 9:59 p.m.