[ Page 3719 ]
Environmental Appeal Board. Mr. Guno –– 3719
NDP "Medicare Notice" mailing. Mrs. Gran –– 3720
Community college and BCIT funding. Ms. Marzari –– 3720
JobTrac program. Ms. Edwards –– 3720
Vancouver Stock Exchange. Mr. Sihota –– 3721
Ambulance dispatch services. Hon. Mr. Dueck –– 3721
Ms. A. Hagen
On the amendment
Mr. Michael –– 3722
Ms. Marzari –– 3726
Mr. Vant –– 3729
Mr. Guno –– 3731
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 3733
Mr. Cashore –– 3737
On the main motion
Mr. Rabbitt –– 3740
The House met at 2:05 p.m.
HON. MR. VEITCH: In the members' gallery today is a gentleman with whom I've had an interesting symbiotic relationship over the years, Mr. Patrick Thomas, and also with him is Mr. Mark Angelo of the British Columbia Institute of Technology. I ask you to bid them welcome.
HON. MR. REID: Yes, Mr. Speaker, some other symbiotic people I'd like to introduce.... If Dale Lovick will tell me how to spell it, I'll use it again.
In the House today I'm proud to introduce Mr. Stan Pukesh, who is chairman of New Approaches — it's a public consultation on public libraries in the province of British Columbia — and with him are two of his committee members, Her Worship Audrey Moore, mayor of Castlegar, and Ron Cullis, a mayor also on the committee. Would the House make these people especially welcome.
HON. MR. DUECK: I would like this afternoon to introduce to the members of the assembly two friends of mine. They are Mr. Peter Suderman and Mr. John Martens. Mr. Martens is a longtime businessman from the Prairies who has now retired. Mr. Suderman is an appraiser and a realtor, and he's also a governor of the Real Estate Institute of B.C. Not only are these two gentlemen known to me, but they are friends of mine inasmuch as they were instrumental in getting me elected. They worked very hard, and I'm not sure whether they did this to get rid of me or whether they did this because they had confidence in me. However, here I am. At one time they were members of my sales staff. I would like this House to welcome them to this assembly.
MR. PELTON: Hon. members, on behalf of our Speaker I would like to ask you to welcome to the House today Elizabet and Dennis Lane from Vancouver.
MR. DE JONG: It gives me great pleasure to introduce to the House today Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Bernice Steenbergen, who are the associate pastors in the Christian Reformed Church of Abbotsford, together with their children Daniel and Melinda; also with them are their parents Lubert and Alice Steenbergen from Ontario. I ask the House to give them a cordial welcome.
MR. MICHAEL: In the members' gallery today we have three guests from that great alpine city of Revelstoke: Mayor Geoff Battersby, Alderman Fred Beruschi and Administrator Bob Clark. I would ask the members to make them welcome.
MR. CLARK: Today the NDP caucus met with a group called Coalition Against Free Trade — many excellent patriots and nationalists. People like Jess Succamore, Sue Vohanka, Blair Redlin and others are in the gallery today. I ask the House to make them welcome.
MR. MILLER: In the precinct today — but not in the gallery — is a member of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union from Prince Rupert, Fran Brown, who came all the way down to Victoria to meet with the rest of the Coalition Against Free Trade group, of course very vitally concerned about the impact of the recent GATT ruling and the implications for employment in the fish processing industry in this province. I would ask the House to give her a welcome.
MR. MICHAEL: My colleague from Columbia River has just pointed out to me that I introduced the administrator of the city of Revelstoke as Bob Clark. If that is so, I would like to correct the record. His last name is Carter.
ENVIRONMENTAL APPEAL BOARD
MR. GUNO: My question is to the Minister of Environment. Both the Islands Protection Society and the Haida nation have applied for an appeal on a pesticide to be used in the Queen Charlottes. The Environmental Appeal Board has asked 18 questions of the appellants before they can appear, and these questions range from how animal life will be affected to providing a cost-benefit analysis. Is it policy now that appellants must meet these complex hurdles before they can be heard?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: The writer of that letter, Frank Hillier, the chairman of the Environmental Appeal Board, is an expert on pesticides and has posed those questions to the appellants with that expertise in mind, and I have no argument with the questions. Other evidence will come out later as they go through the appeal process.
MR. GUNO: A supplementary to the same minister. Why has the Environmental Appeal Board asked the Haidas about their position on carcinogens in beer and alcohol, while it has not asked the same question to the Islands Protection Society? I want to read the question, Mr. Minister: "Number 10: What is your position on other known carcinogens which human beings can be exposed to in the Queen Charlotte Islands (i.e. mushrooms, bacon, ham. smoked salmon, potatoes, celery, carrots, etc.) and the carcinogens which exist within a human body such as human saliva, estrone, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, etc. The Haida have received an identical letter, except there's one difference: in this question, the chairman has included beer and liquor. Can the minister explain the special treatment the Haida are receiving?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Not having seen the other letter you referred to, no, I can't; but I will take that portion of the question on notice. Thank you.
MR. GUNO: I just want to pose the question: would you not agree that is a particular concern, to have that kind of special treatment?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I don't particularly know the line of questioning the member is trying to get at. All the items mentioned are carcinogens.
MR. GUNO: Then I'll pose this question to the Premier. Would he not agree that this is a blatantly racist statement on the part of the chairman of the board, and that this statement towards the native people discredits the board; and for that reason would he not immediately call for the resignation of the chairman of the board?
[ Page 3720 ]
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I have not seen nor heard the statement and I really can't comment.
MR. MILLER: To the Minister of the Environment. The minister is aware of the letter because I wrote to him in the first instance. The minister should be in a position to comment. One letter goes to an environmental group and talks about the carcinogenic effects of certain substances in carrots — and I don't know what that has to do with pesticide appeals in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Another letter goes to the same group at the same time and talks about alcohol. The minister should comment on that because in my opinion it's racist.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: That identical question was posed about three questions ago by the member for Atlin. I said I was not aware of the second letter, if there was one, that differed from the first letter, which I am aware of, but I would take that question on notice. Is that clear?
MR. MILLER: A new question to the minister. If the minister looks at the letter, and I assume he will, and if what we say is borne out, will the minister remove Mr. Hillier as chairman of the Environmental Appeal Board?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The minister has stated that he will take the question as notice. I don't think you can ask him any further questions in that area. A new question by the member for Prince Rupert.
MR. MILLER: A new question, Mr. Minister. The deadline for this appeal is April 15. There's a great deal of confusion and concern caused by the correspondence on this issue. Will the minister assure the House and the groups involved that they will not be bound by that April 15 deadline, so that this matter can be cleared up?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: If I took it upon myself as a minister of the Crown to tell appeal boards how they're going to handle their own processes, then we wouldn't have the need for appeal boards.
NDP "MEDICARE NOTICE" MAILING
MRS. GRAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, and it's regarding a notice that is going out to the residents of this province. On the outside it says: "Medicare Notice" in red lettering. On the inside is a request for money to help in the medicare fight, and really the money is for the NDP party. I wonder if the Premier would comment on the ethics and legality of this.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, I too have seen the letter, and I'm sure many British Columbians have seen the letter because obviously it's been widely mailed. I suppose a lot of people would open the envelope because it certainly appears as though it's very official. It's much like the envelope that might normally be mailed from the medicare association. I think most of us are familiar with the contents as well.
As far as I'm concerned, having reviewed it, I can't say whether it's legal or illegal, obviously. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker and all members of the House, that it's low-down; it's despicable; it's cowardly; and if not fraudulent, it's an almost-fraudulent campaign. If that is what it takes for the NDP to seek membership in their organization, they've got a tough row to hoe. I could never be party to such garbage, let alone put my name to such garbage, such as a Mr. Harcourt has. It's garbage, garbage, garbage!
COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND BCIT FUNDING
MS. MARZARI: This is a question about a despicable, fraudulent and cowardly act of the provincial government in its budget, as it was expressed towards community colleges and BCIT. I should add the word that what they're most concerned about is that the budgets promised to community colleges and BCIT are low-down.
I would like to ask the Premier, since the Minister of Advanced Education (Hon. S. Hagen) is out of town until 4 o'clock this afternoon, when he's meeting with the executive of the boards of colleges in this province: have you consulted with your minister about the fact that there is an actual decrease in real dollars going into community colleges in this province? Given your own rhetoric about your priorities about post-secondary education, I'm assuming you have made that consultation. Have you consulted with your minister about where he's going to find that $7 million to bring them up to bare minimum subsistence budget?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, we've had many discussions about colleges, universities and the educational system, and I can assure all members that we have and will continue to have the finest educational system in the country right here in British Columbia.
MS. MARZARI: Mr. Premier, then I'll ask you a more direct question about BCIT. We know that the Park commission reported directly to your office, not even through your Minister of Advanced Education, around BCIT last year, so I would imagine that you have been perhaps even more involved with the cutback to BCIT than your minister has been. Are you aware of, and what do you intend to do about, the $3.5 million to $4 million cutback in BCIT's budget this year? This is your flagship of technology; this is your prime technological institute. What are you going to be doing about this? Have you made up your mind how you're going to make up this deficit, or are you going to decimate the organization, the institute?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Mr. Speaker, this probably could be better discussed in some detail during the budget debate, but let me say this: no institution, no particular group, no particular function, is guaranteed automatically through good government that there's always an increase or that things shall always remain as they are and that we don't have to make changes from time to time.
I know that the minister is meeting with the officials and the people from BCIT, and I'm sure that will lead to some very fruitful and useful recommendations as to what changes they can agree upon. But I can assure the hon. member that BCIT and all other colleges and educational facilities will continue to provide good, responsible programming in this province.
MS. EDWARDS: My question is to the Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Culture. Twenty million dollars for JobTrac was used last year to support jobs in training in
[ Page 3721 ]
tourism, recreation and cultural industries in British Columbia. Now JobTrac doesn't exist; it's not in the budget. Could the minister confirm that $20 million is still available this year from his ministry for direct support for jobs in training in these important industries?
HON. MR. REID: I cannot confirm that there is $20 million for JobTrac in my ministry this year, because according to the budget numbers there are no dollars for community JobTrac in 1988.
MS. EDWARDS: A supplementary to the Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Culture. Community organizations, including chambers of commerce across the whole province, have already prepared extensive JobTrac applications for summer work in the industries that I mentioned. Will the minister assure this House that there is an alternative to get the work done, such work as restoring and rebuilding and maintaining camping and recreational projects?
HON. MR. REID: I can't confirm that there are provincial dollars for that, but the communities themselves and the organizations that the hon. member talks about are those leadership community groups who, probably with their own initiatives now in 1988, will be able to continue those programs.
VANCOUVER STOCK EXCHANGE
MR. SIHOTA: A question to the Minister of Finance. On March 22 I asked the Minister of Finance a question about insider trading with American Canadian Systems Inc. He said at that time that I had "hit on one that was presently under examination." After two weeks of reflection now, does the minister still stand by that comment?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Yes, I'm pleased to tell the hon. member that we have adequate surveillance and monitoring activities in the securities industry and that they are in place. They are working effectively and we are cognizant of the issues of the moment that might arise on a day-to-day basis, and we deal with them as they require dealing with.
MR. SIHOTA: Let me put it this way: if the Minister of Finance were Pinocchio, his nose would be growing. I've had the opportunity to talk to investigators of the superintendent of brokers. I've had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Brown at Canarim, and I've had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Harwood, the president of Canarim. They tell me that on March 22, when the minister made this statement, that company was never under examination. Is the minister saying that those people have been lying to me?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted to learn that there is now a dialogue between some of the principal industrial leaders of this province and the socialists from across the floor. I wonder whether the hon. member in introducing himself during that phone call called himself the NDP — that is, the New Democratic Party — or the new delta party? Was he careful enough to ensure that the recipient knew who he was talking to?
MS. CAMPBELL: Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make an introduction.
MS. CAMPBELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry I didn't notice that the gentleman was here during the regular introduction period. In the House today is a longtime resident of Vancouver-Point Grey, whose family has been in Vancouver-Point Grey for very many years. He is a young man I've known since he was a young, enthusiastic and very precocious 15-year-old, and who has had a distinguished career on radio and television in Vancouver and in many other enterprises. I'm sure he'll be familiar to many members in the House. Will the House please make welcome Mr. Bob Spence.
Hon. L. Hanson tabled an answer to a question on notice.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Speaker. I'd like to make a ministerial statement.
AMBULANCE DISPATCH SERVICES
HON. MR. DUECK: Yesterday in the House the member for Prince George North (Mrs. Boone) made some very damaging accusations in regard to the dispatch of ambulances since we centralized them to certain regions of the province. I have checked on these. The member is not here; she was to get in touch with me on these particular instances. I thought it was too serious a matter to let go for another day, because when we're talking about the death of people because of some mismanagement. it concerns all of us — no matter what side we're on or what party we belong to.
I believe the one she is referring to was on April 1, involving a John Palmer, and the Emergency Health Services Commission crew's response time was two minutes. From the information received, assistance was not required. When the crew arrived and found the patient in cardiac arrest, they immediately called for and received fire department assistance in under four minutes. Some apparent confusion by the calling party as to the address was the cause of the delay in calling for an ambulance. There were no delays whatsoever because of dispatching.
The other case was April 4 and the patient's name was Fred Nartz. The ambulance arrived in seven minutes, provided advanced life support protocols for 20 minutes and transported the patient to the hospital. The patient arrived at Prince George Regional Hospital in a conscious state. He was hospitalized for more than five hours before suffering a fatal cardiac arrest in the IC unit.
Furthermore, the provincial chief coroner, Vince Cain, this morning checked out all the various emergency transports and dispatches in the northern regions, and he indicated that his department had no knowledge of any deaths in the north related to ambulance dispatching.
Clearly from the evidence. the remarks yesterday were fallacious and inflammatory, and they were there to bring scare tactics to the seniors whom we want to serve. I think all of us have that in mind, Mr. Speaker. We want to do our best for the seniors, and I think by and large we do that. However, the scare tactics that have been used in the last while are inexcusable, and I think this House deserves an apology from that member for the statements she made.
[ Page 3722 ]
MS. A. HAGEN: As the minister has noted, the member who asked the questions yesterday is not here. Indeed, she had to leave the House very shortly after asking those questions to attend to some matters in her riding.
I will not comment on the specifics, which I know that member wants an opportunity to discuss with the minister. However, I would comment, in respect to the questions that the member raised, that a broad number of issues were discussed around the adequacy of ambulance services to the people in her community, and there was a generic problem that was a part of that issue that I think she will want also to discuss with the minister.
I want also to comment briefly about the minister's last statement that we do not want to cause fear and concern among our older people, and to say that in some respects, in reference to issues presently a part of our discussion, seniors are in a state of uncertainty because of a lack of information and lack of certainty. Much of that, in fact, is because of information that doesn't come from the minister.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, adjourned debate on the motion that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee of Supply.
On the amendment.
MR. MICHAEL: In debating the budget address and the motion, I speak against the motion. In doing so, it was my decision to somewhat vary from the budget before the House and do some comparisons with the only other area that I could possibly compare with, the province of Manitoba, that being the only socialist province in the Dominion of Canada. I thought it would be interesting, after having listened to the debate from the opposition, the number of questions asked, to go to the library, get some documents, get the Manitoba budget, and just compare it with what we're doing here in the great province of British Columbia.
In obtaining a lot of information from the library, a lot of it is perhaps repetitive. It's common knowledge in British Columbia, as an example, that Manitoba is the only western Canadian province that's against the free trade agreement. It's also evident that Manitoba has the lowest credit rating of any province in western Canada. It is also indicative, in looking at the revenue Manitoba receives, that 12.9 percent of their total income comes in the form of federal equalization payments — there again, the only province in western Canada to receive federal equalization payments in the last fiscal year.
Just as a matter of information.... This is information that is certainly pertinent to the debate, in that it leads into the type of statements made in our budget about the federal government cooperation with the province of British Columbia. Had we got anywhere near that 12.9 percent into our budget, British Columbia would have received an extra $1.475 billion into its coffers in the last fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, in examining the Manitoba budget, it's quite obvious that theirs is an economy driven on borrowed money. It is a temporary situation. Their unemployment is reasonably low right now on a percentage basis, but if you look at the facts and the number of dollars they're borrowing.... As an example, the great Limestone dam project — $1.7 billion in borrowed money, indeed putting 1,700 workers to work, but to be phased out starting in the year 1990, with an enormous amount of debt. As yet, for the record, 60 percent of the power to be generated by that great project remains unsold as of this date.
It's also interesting, in looking at the Limestone project and listening to the members opposite attack the province of British Columbia for exporting our power to the United States, with the great theme that exporting power is exporting jobs, that here we have an example in Manitoba where they're building an enormous dam with enormous capacity and planning on exporting every ounce of power generated to the United States of America — into North Dakota and Minnesota. For the record, since 1981, Manitoba has lost 11,000 manufacturing jobs. It's obvious that companies are not locating in Manitoba and indeed are relocating because of the severe corporate tax and payroll tax imposed by the government of Manitoba.
In looking at the facts from the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, the members should know that in British Columbia from January 1987 to January 1988, 90,000 new jobs were created, the vast majority of them full time. The statistics also show that in Manitoba the growth rate was precisely zero. The records will show that not one single new job was created in the province of Manitoba in that 12-month period.
Mr. Speaker, I've listened to the members opposite talk about education and the amount of money that the province of British Columbia is putting into education, so I put the two budgets side by side, and I find that in British Columbia, on table 15 of our budget, if you look at the percentage of money devoted to education in relation to total dollars spent, you will find that the province of British Columbia funds education to the tune of 23.35 percent of our total expenditures. In Manitoba, I truly expected that figure to be way up in the high 20s or perhaps even around the 30 percent level. What did I find on page 3 of the budget in brief? I found that a paltry 17.1 percent of Manitoba's budget was spent on education as compared to British Columbia's 23.35 percent. I would ask that Elsie McMurphy pay close attention to that the next time she decides to attack the province of British Columbia on education spending.
Also interesting in looking at the Manitoba budget, turning to page 9 — again, very interesting statistics regarding value for tax dollars. I will read from their budget, on page 9 of the speech: "Yet Manitoba's overall spending remains moderate. It is fourth-lowest among provinces and almost $200 per person lower than the ten-province average." They go on to say: "That is good value for the money." In their graph, they show the ten provinces, and guess which province is indeed the lowest of all the provinces in Canada? That is the province of British Columbia, which is $400 lower than Manitoba and $600 lower than the Canadian average. While they in Manitoba are patting themselves on the back about the great job they are doing in getting value for the taxpayer dollar, they are indeed indicating to the rest of Canada that British Columbia is doing the best job of any province in the Dominion of Canada.
In looking at the deficit, Mr. Speaker, and turning to the lead page in their budget address, I wish the first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) were here, the critic for the socialists opposite, because you talk about budget juggling and
[ Page 3723 ]
misleading figures. Mr. Speaker, they don't talk about deficit when they do a summary of where they are in this or past years. Their word for "deficit" has been replaced by the words "net budgetary requirement." That's what they make mention of; they mention the word "deficit" hardly at all. I will refer to that later. But the big joke is that they clearly have a shortfall of $334 million in this current fiscal budgeted year. But what do they put under it? They say: "Well, we have less capital expenditures." They deduct that from the true deficit, and they come up with a net operating requirement — net deficit — of only $66 million. If there's anything I've ever seen in the way of misleading figures, I would certainly say that the Minister of Finance in the province of Manitoba is certainly guilty of cooking the books.
In looking at the public debt, it is interesting to look at the very fine print on page 14 of their budget. They mention in one little line — it's hardly noticeable; they tried to hide it on page 14, tucked in way behind the front pages — that public debt costs are estimated at $523 million, bringing total spending to $4.55 billion. That is the position the province of Manitoba is in, in relation to their public debt.
I must say that if you look at the total expenditure for Manitoba, you will find that for every dollar spent in Manitoba in this coming year, 11.47 percent of all of their expenditures is going toward debt payment. In British Columbia, you will see in table 15 that that figure is only $605 million, and when you consider that our population is some three times the size of that of Manitoba, we in British Columbia are indeed doing a good job in controlling our deficits in general. Compared to Manitoba, our total expenditures are 5.1 percent of our budget for debt servicing, and in Manitoba it's 11.47 percent.
They make mention about fed-bashing. We've heard a lot in this debate about the amount of fed-bashing that's going on. It's interesting again to see what the NDP socialists in Manitoba say about fed-bashing on page 25 of their budget: "In Manitoba, federal funding has dropped to 43 percent of the costs of health and higher education. The federal contribution now falls over $123 million annually short of an equal 50 percent share in our province." They go on and on talking about how tough things are because of that cruel federal government back in Ottawa not giving a fair share. They're blaming Ottawa for their woes and the terrible state they're in.
We've also heard a lot from the socialists over the years about these corporate welfare bums. It's been the leading slogan in previous federal election campaigns. There are a couple of interesting things on page 28, under mining taxes, and I will read them into the record. One sentence: "In 1984 a loan of $10 million was made to Sherritt Gordon Mines Ltd. to maintain production at the Ruttan mine." Another paragraph reads as follows: "In 1986 a forgivable loan of $2 million was made to SherrGold to help develop the MacLellan mine and maintain the town of Lynn Lake." It would appear, Mr. Speaker, that they are great on the old proverb: do as I say but don't do as I do.
The other thing they talk about is the total deficit, and if you look at the amount of borrowed money that Manitoba is looking at in the current fiscal year, you will see that their total requirements are $1.33 billion. Of that $1.33 billion, they are only going to be collecting $179 million for refinancing. That means that their total borrowing, their net borrowing, the bottom line in the coming fiscal year for a province with one million people, is going to be $1.151 billion.
Compared to that, in British Columbia our net borrowing position after we borrow what we need to borrow and pay off what we are committed to borrow will only be $329 million. So comparatively, British Columbia has three times the population of Manitoba, but Manitoba is borrowing three times the amount of money that we are in British Columbia. So you can see the terrible position that that province is in as a result of NDP socialist management. And where that province is going to be in the future, Lord only knows.
The other thing is the tremendous attacks we get on what we should be doing with labour and increasing the minimum wage and providing better settlements for labour in British Columbia. It's interesting to look at the other section of the Manitoba budget which is entitled "Economic Review: The 1988 Manitoba Budget." Turning to page 14 — I find this incredible; I couldn't believe it when I read it, but here is what they say in their economic review — they say: "In 1987 the average hourly wage in the manufacturing sector was $10.48.... the lowest of any province in Canada and 14 percent below the national average of $12.22."
They go on to say that base-rate settlements for collective agreements in the first three-quarters of 1987 were lower in Manitoba than in Canada — 3.3 percent compared with 4 percent."Wage settlements in Manitoba have been at or below the national average since 1984." What a confession for a Minister of Finance to make, the NDP socialists in Manitoba admitting that the labour costs, the average wages in manufacturing, are the very lowest in the Dominion of Canada, lower on this chart than Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick — all those have-not provinces in eastern Canada.
Guess which province on the chart the Manitoba Minister of Finance shows to be the leading province in the Dominion of Canada, and by a significant amount. The province of British Columbia. In their own document they talk about us being at the top of the heap.
Further to that, they talk about membership in trade unions. They're beating their chests back in Manitoba about what a great percentage of people in Manitoba belong to trade unions. Thirty-seven percent of the non-agricultural workforce belong to trade unions in Manitoba. I took it upon myself to do a little bit of research, and I find that in British Columbia 40.3 percent of the non-agricultural workforce belong to trade unions — again. significantly better than what we find in the province of Manitoba.
In looking at the economic review again and turning to page 21, we find a mention of Manitoba hydro rates. It goes on to talk about how the residential and industrial electricity costs in Manitoba are among the lowest in the world. Boy, I found that very exciting. I went to the library and got some more information on that, and guess what I found? I found that there's an act in Manitoba called the Energy Rate Stabilization Act, and in pulling out a column written by Fred Cleverley of theWinnipeg Free Press, he says that the province of Manitoba also confirmed that the amount charged to the Energy Rate Stabilization Act, an approximation in the current year — this was last year — was approximately $65.8 million.
"Last year, for example, if the tax subsidy had been added to power bills, every monthly bill in the province would have climbed by $12.50."
Again, clear deception is outlined in their budget. Mr. Cleverley goes on to say:
[ Page 3724 ]
"If the $12.50 actually paid were added on, the rates in Winnipeg would be the fourth-highest in Canada, using the same list. Manitobans have really been paying much more for their electricity than consumers in Toronto, Saskatoon, Regina...Edmonton and Montreal."
It's very interesting when we get into these things and just see what's going on in other areas.
In looking at those types of figures and statements, I thought that there must be something hidden somewhere — that things were better in other areas of taxation. Because clearly things are bad in the overall taxation system. So I thought, you know, it's got to be cheaper when it comes to paying property taxes. That must be where Manitoba really lets the average working stiff off really cheap. So I went and did some research on property taxes and asked for some comparisons. My first request was: "Please get me a comparison in Winnipeg and Vancouver. Give me the gross property tax pardon on a home in Vancouver worth $100,000 and give me the same for Winnipeg." Here's what came back from research. This is before the homeowner grant. Gross property tax on a $100,000 home in Vancouver is $1,148, compared with approximately $2,025 in Winnipeg. Gross property taxes are approximately 75 percent higher in Winnipeg than in Vancouver.
I thought, well, there's got to be something wrong with that. Maybe they're just taxing the rich and letting the poor people off. So I went back to research and I said: "Look, there's got to be another answer to this. Give me the comparisons between Vancouver and Winnipeg on a $70,000 home," Here's the story. Gross property tax on a $70,000 home in Vancouver is $804, compared with approximately $1,525 in Winnipeg. Gross property taxes are approximately 90 percent higher in Winnipeg than in Vancouver.
Well, I said, there's got to be something funny here. This can't be so. It can't be that bad. It's got to be hidden in the homeowner grant. There's got to be an answer to this thing. They must have a homeowner grant in Manitoba. I wouldn't believe that they would have, because I remember how the NDP opposite criticized our government when we first brought in the grant. They had all kinds of names for it; they were very much opposed to it. However, I find that Manitoba does have a homeowner grant. So I thought, this has got to be the answer. They must have a very generous one, much more generous than British Columbia. Again, here's what I find. Homeowners in Winnipeg receive a $325 grant, and seniors receive an additional $175 for a maximum grant of $500. What do we give in British Columbia? Do we give the $325? No, we give $380. How about the seniors? The seniors in Manitoba receive a $500 grant, we in British Columbia $630.
So I flubbed out on that one too. I was trying my best to find something in Manitoba that was better than in British Columbia, but I came up with zero. Indeed, it's worse.
Now, I thought, we'll go and look at the population. Because of all the great things we've been hearing in this House about the tremendous job that they're doing in Manitoba with the NDP there, I'll bet you the population's going strong. So I went back nine years as a result of reading the budget; they refer to the nine-year population growth. I see that population in Manitoba has gone up a whopping 47,000 in nine years, an increase of 4.5 percent. Turning to British Columbia and doing a comparison for the same nine years, our population has increased by 383,400, or 15.08 percent.
Thousands, I might add, are leaving the province of Manitoba. I believe between 7,000 and 8,000 migrated from Manitoba in the last calendar year and have come to such provinces as Ontario and British Columbia, which are the two provinces with the highest growth in the Dominion of Canada.
I thought I would go over the same nine years and do a comparison with the great job they were doing in Manitoba in the way of job creation. With this socialist government back there and all that we hear from the members opposite about the great job they're doing in socialist Manitoba, surely that's where they must be able to shine.
So I went to the economic review section of their budget and checked it out from 1979 to 1987, and I found 36,000 new jobs in nine years — a growth of 7.8 percent. In the same period in British Columbia: in 1978 we had 1,103,000 people working; in 1987 we had 1,306,000 people working — a gain of 203,000 jobs or 18.4 percent. Mr. Speaker, repeating what I said earlier, in the last 12 months going back from January '87, Manitoba had zero growth, even with the limestone project. I suggest, with the phase-out of that project starting next year, that you're going to see Manitoba in real trouble, while we in B.C. had a growth of 90,000 jobs — most of them full-time jobs.
Looking at the financial statistics again, on page 8 — I'm going to "Direct and Guaranteed Debt." This is probably the most indicative page of all that I will be talking about and the most indicative example of the socialist performance in NDP Manitoba. That graph should be sent to every household in the province of British Columbia and every voter in the upcoming Manitoba election, because it tells the real story of what's going on in Manitoba.
From April 1, 1982 to December 31, 1987, their debt has gone up from $4.6 billion to $9.027 billion — a 93.13 percent increase in debt in five and a half years. From April 1, 1986 to December 31, 1987 — and this is their figure; it's in their document — their debt has gone up by $1,725,000,000 — an increase of 23.6 percent. Now you talk about fiscal responsibility. That graph right there on page 8 of the Manitoba economic review portion of their budget is a sad, sad story indeed, and one that I'm sure the opposition parties in Manitoba will be pointing out to the voters in the election at the end of this month.
On page 10 of the economic review we go on and talk about the revenue per capita. Here's another dandy. You see Manitoba again giving British Columbia a pat on the back probably without being aware that they're doing it, but indeed they are. They say: "Manitoba's fiscal situation compares favourably with that in other provinces. Analysis of 1987 provincial budgets shows that Manitoba revenue per capita is third-lowest...$251 per capita below the ten province average."
It's interesting. In looking at these figures, which is the second-lowest? B.C. is $551 lower than the provincial average — not $251 — indeed $300 better on a per capita basis.
Looking at the expenditures on a per capita basis, they go on similar to the last page: "The Manitoba government has placed great emphasis on providing quality services at reasonable cost." Really good stuff. That sounds like our Finance minister. It goes on to say: "In 1987-88, Manitoba's budgeted per capita expenditure was fourth-lowest among provinces, $196 below the ten-province average." Mr. Speaker, guess which was the lowest province in the Dominion of Canada. Indeed, British Columbia was lowest. We were $393 per capita under the province of Manitoba. Again Manitoba is complimenting the things that are going on in the province of British Columbia.
[ Page 3725 ]
Mr. Speaker, we will now talk about debt service costs. Here's another interesting graph. It's on page 13 of the Manitoba budget financial statistics section, and they go on to say:
"High-interest rates have resulted in additional costs to borrowers. Lower rates in the United States and elsewhere have provided opportunities to reduce interest costs. The recent rise of the Canadian dollar, particularly as measured against the United States dollar, offsets some of the effects of foreign exchange fluctuations which have occurred over the past few years. Manitoba's budgeted debt service costs per capita in 1987-88 were fifth-lowest among provinces and close to the ten-province average."
Guess, Mr. Speaker, which was again the second-lowest of any province in the Dominion of Canada — only $8 behind the province of Alberta. British Columbia came in nowhere near the Manitoba figure of $429, but we were at $179. So again, before the members opposite attack the great Social Credit government of the province of British Columbia, perhaps they should go to Manitoba and read that budget, and they would probably better understand what a great job we are doing in the province of British Columbia.
The member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew (Mr. Sihota) spoke yesterday, and I heard him while I was sitting in my office doing some work. He was talking about the amount of tax that the citizens paid in British Columbia. Of the total income,83 percent was derived from the citizens with a paltry 17 percent coming from corporations.
Well, by golly, I heard that on the speaker and I thought I've got to do some homework on that. I'll bet you if I look at the Manitoba budget they have taken in buckets more than 17 percent. They're probably up 25, 35 percent. So I went through the income section of their budget and I added up every single thing I could. I threw in water taxes, revenue taxes, corporate taxes and capital taxes. I went through the whole thing.
I'll read some out for you for the record. Page 3 of the revenue estimates refers to corporation capital tax, insurance corporation tax, mining tax, oil and natural gas tax, minerals and petroleum and other energy, mines, parks, forestry, fisheries and other natural resources, corporation income tax. I added them all up and related them to the total income. Guess what the percentage came to. Nowhere near the 17 percent we are getting in the province of British Columbia; their figure came to 9.22 percent. I do hope the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew is listening.
The member for Prince George North (Mrs. Boone) and several other members have made scathing attacks on the province of British Columbia and the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health for the increase that we made on the price per room for those in our extended-care facilities, increasing the percentage from 75 to 85 percent.
It is interesting to compare our figure now with the other ten provinces in Canada, because we are lower than every single province in the Dominion of Canada with a possible exception of Alberta, which has a triple-tier system that is pretty hard to put a percentage on. I was sure when I looked at it I would find Manitoba not at 85 percent, certainly not at 75 percent; I expected to find Manitoba at maybe 50 percent or 60 percent, to give those seniors all that extra money that the members opposite keep talking about their needing. Indeed, in looking at the facts, despite the fact that their wages are lower and all kinds of other things are lower, cost of living just as high, the basic charge that they levy on their seniors is 85.8 percent. Under our formula we leave a minimum disposable income of $109.31, and in Manitoba they leave $97.27. Strange, I can't understand why none of the members opposite bothered to do some checking before they launched their vicious attack on our Minister of Health and our Minister of Finance. I find that very, very interesting.
I do wish I had more time to go through some of the things that are happening in Manitoba in the area of the Limestone dam. But I will say that in 1986 Manitoba exported to the United States 7,009 gigawatts worth $111.7 million. In the same year in British Columbia we exported 2,103 gigawatts worth $45.5 million. In reading that, I thought to myself that with the ratio there, with them exporting more than three times as much as British Columbia, surely they would be getting more than three times the revenue. Not so.
I get a report which is compiled from the National Energy Board annual report. and I find out how much they are receiving mills per kilowatt-hour, and I find out what a great bunch of negotiators they are back in Manitoba — the NDP socialists. Because in British Columbia. while we ship much less to the United States than Manitoba does, our price per kilowatt-hour is 26.3 cents, whereas in Manitoba in 1985 the figure was 17 cents. If you look at 1986, Manitoba was only able to negotiate an average selling price of 15.9, whereas we in British Columbia negotiated an average rate of 21.7. So in 1985 we did a better job to the tune of 54.7 percent, where in 1986 we did a better job to the tune of 36.5 percent.
I take it my time is up, Mr. Speaker. I'm sorry I didn't have more time because I have much more here on my desk to tell about the great province of Manitoba, but I think the members have got the general picture about the, kind of job that they are doing there, as compared to we here in the great province of British Columbia.
MR. BRUCE: Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make an introduction.
MR. BRUCE: Not too many friends. In the House this afternoon are some very good friends of my family. Mr. and Mrs. Dick Christmas and their grandson, Adrian Achurch, are here to view the proceedings. I'm glad it is as constructive as it has been. Will you please bid them a very warm welcome.
MR. PELTON: I also rise to ask leave to make an introduction.
MR. PELTON: While listening to my hon. friend make this excellent speech, I noticed a fine group of young Canadians come into the gallery opposite me. I can't tell what squadron they belong to because my glasses don't give me that kind of vision, but they are a group of fine young air cadets. I see at least three officers with them. Fine young citizens of Canada and British Columbia, and I think the House should give them a very, very warm welcome.
MR. D'ARCY: On a point of order, I'm wondering if we could briefly suspend the rules of the House and allow the
[ Page 3726 ]
member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. Michael) to rise again and make at least some fleeting reference to the motion before the House, or indeed the budget delivered the other day by the Minister of Finance.
MS. MARZARI: I rise to speak to the amendment, and the amendment to the motion around the budget speech has to do with the disastrous impact of this budget on the poor, the sick and the elderly.
What I would like to address is the issue of broken promises: promises that have been made by this provincial government to the people of B.C. over the last many years; promises that have been made at election time; promises that have been made in budget speeches and in throne speeches. Yet when we actually look at the numbers, when we look at the estimates and the actuals — that column at the other end of the estimates that shows what was really spent — and when we look at the cutbacks that are reflected in the numbers, I think what we have is a trail of broken promises, not just this year's budget speech but last year's and the year's before. It is for that reason that many of us in the opposition are in the House in the first place: because we have sensed, in the communities that we live in, that over the years promises have been made and not kept. Grand words have been spoken, and the words have meant very little.
Those of us who have come to this House through the experience of municipal councils understand, perhaps even more than others, what broken promises mean when they're made to municipalities, to people who live in small towns and cities around the province. In fact, you can't get away with this kind of stuff when you're on a municipal council. When you make a promise on a municipal council, you're right there. You're not sitting 70 miles or perhaps 300 miles away. Your phone number is there in your mayoralty office or in your aldermanic office, and you are immediately accountable. I have a feeling that a lot of what we've seen, a lot of the rhetoric and the promises not backed up by the numbers, we could only get away with here, isolated as we are from the people we serve.
You have cut health care. You have maintained health care in those areas where people managed to send enough letters to protect the services that they cared about: the physiotherapists, the massage therapists and, thank heavens, the naturopaths. They roused enough of their consumers and their clients to get to you with letters, and I'm glad to have been part of that lobbying process and procedure. But you have cut health care. You have taken services out of the health care system. You have put onto a user fee schedule certain services that we have always considered to be a part of our right as consumers and as patients of medical services in this province. Not only have you cut health care, you have imposed fees and increased fees: hospital fees, pharmaceutical fees, fees for seniors; fees for everyone basically who comes to use health services.
You have said that you want to promote day care for children. In fact, by buying in to the federal government day care promises and schemes, you are actually going to allow day care to atrophy in this province. The number of safe licensed spaces will not be increasing in this province. They haven't been increasing much at all over the last ten years, but they would not be increasing as much as we could expect them to increase if we looked at other provinces and what they have managed to negotiate over the years with the federal government.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
I don't refer to Manitoba, because I felt for a moment I was living in Winnipeg; and it was rather a relief to come back home when the introductions of people in the gallery took place. It sort of focused us again for our discussion here. I should also add that the Manitoba statistics quoted by the previous speaker were ones we were all regaled with last year, I seem to remember, around the discussion of the new property tax you brought in last year. So I think we've been through that speech before. I'm sure the member thought he was doing original research, but I think that if we looked at Hansard, we'd find all those statistics reamed out last year by different members on your side of the House.
MS. MARZARI: No, just keep repeating them, because if you've only got so many speeches.... Keep it coming.
The child care situation is something that gives us great concern.
We have seen you cutting family spending power. The increase in taxes and fees you're promising is going to adversely impact on family spending power by — we are calculating — $700 a year. But you're not controlling the costs that families have to pay on a day-to-day basis in this society we live in. Even people on welfare who are in receipt of transfer payments are not being lifted to anywhere near the actual cost of living; even where, through transfer payments, you are capable of controlling the costs that families pay, you aren't in fact doing it with the GAIN regulations.
I also notice that you've cut women's programs in your budget by $50,000 this year. Now that doesn't sound like a great deal; it sounds a bit nickel-and-dime to be mentioning it in a budget speech response, where we very often talk billions — or at least hundreds of thousands. But a $50,000 cutback, from $709,000 to $644,000, is a major cutback in a budget which is not that large to begin with, in a community that wants to help women, in a government that doesn't necessarily refer to women as people, but generally places them in a family setting, refers to them as members of families and certainly wants to keep them that way. I should say that the $50,000 cutback in women's services is going to be sorely missed, if only because when you're dealing with such a small budget, it's very carefully monitored by the people who work within that budget, and spread very thin in a province where women's groups and associations are making more and more demands and needing more and more services.
Of course, this begs the question on the whole issue of bringing women into the labour market on an equal footing with men. The kind of pay equity program we would envisage would certainly not even begin to be covered by this paltry budget in the first place. But the $50,000 is significant, taken out of the ministry in which it's placed, especially when we notice that the Premier's office is taking a massive budget unto itself — somewhere close to $200 million, I guess. It hasn't been broken down very well, but much of it might well be spent on the antithesis of women's programs — in other words, depriving women of choice.
I also see broken promises in decreasing quality of education. This is where I want to make a major statement, because this is the issue, in my opinion, that most affects us all. You are placing increased demands on the post-secondary
[ Page 3727 ]
education system that it cannot possibly survive. On the one hand, you're claiming that post-secondary education is one of the foundation stones of the society you want to build. And then when we actually look at the numbers, when we actually take the words and translate them into numbers, we see quite the opposite picture.
As I look at the community college budget and BCIT budget, the question comes up: how long can you continue to talk about quality and being up there on the national scene in terms of your sense of standards when we are faced with budgets that are in fact declining radically in real dollars and we stand tenth of ten in Canada? In terms of accessibility to post-secondary education, in terms of numbers of dollars spent per student on post-secondary education, we are way at the bottom, even below Newfoundland, even below the Maritime provinces, on some of these variables.
When you go to national meetings, as our Minister of Advanced Education (Hon. S. Hagen) did last October to Saskatoon, what do you carry with you? As I look through the proceedings of that meeting in Saskatoon, that meeting of university and college professionals, of students, of interested business people, of federal bureaucrats and ministers and provincial ministers of post-secondary education, what did B.C. carry into that meeting? It carried in a 1986 paper written by the Universities Council talking about planning and the necessity to plan post-secondary education and the necessity to encourage and force post-secondary educators and institutes to develop mission statements, to develop five-year plans, to develop expenditure patterns and to develop ways in which post-secondary can be provided to more people without reducing excellence. That 1986 paper by the Universities Council — which was disbanded, as you will remember, by this government in 1987 — was taken to a conference in late 1987, basically promising and espousing principles that this government can't even begin to muster. The ability to plan has been decimated in this administration, I fear, through the letting go of many staff and the inability of the remaining staff to adequately meet planning needs of our post-secondary institutions.
What is the impact of this budget on our post-secondary institutions? Let me turn first to the universities, because they have to deal with crumbling infrastructures on two campuses, the older campuses, and they have to deal with new development at the University of Victoria. They have to deal with an ageing faculty in the space of the next ten to 15 years, so that as the faculty ages new people can come in and there would be some sense of continuity and some sense of passing on of information to new faculty, and training. But this government actually contemplated the notion of dealing with that problem by pulling this province out of section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This isn't planning; this isn't sit-down, five-year fiscal planning. This was the kind of knee-jerk reaction that makes us a laughing-stock in the country when we are trying to establish a reputation for ourselves with first-class, par excellence post-secondary institutions that can attract students and faculty from around the world.
The universities are concerned about maintaining and increasing their standards of teaching and attracting students, and they are looking at increasing access for more students, whether at the graduate or at the post-graduate levels. What do they face with this budget? They face a 5 percent increase, a light at the end of the tunnel. Last year they received a 5 percent increase, and this is perhaps further incentive of a bare maintenance budget. They seem to be actually grateful in this province. I would suggest that for the universities we have provided subsistence money and a little bit of planning. because we have encouraged the university administrations to sit down with us and do a little bit of planning,
Let me turn to the community colleges and to BCIT, because these are the institutes where the students are suffering badly. Here for the community colleges we have no money and we have no plan. We have a promise this year of $287.1 million. Last year the estimate was $284.5 million. The $2.5 million increase just happens to correspond almost exactly with the decrease recently announced for the B.C. Institute of Technology. It's almost ironic that within a week of announcing this tiny increase to community colleges, BCIT was informed it would receive a core budget decrease of the same amount.
Now I will just pursue that a little, because these numbers themselves aren't terribly indicative of what's really going on. The $2.5 million increase into the community college system, in basically a $300 million budget, is not what it seems. First of all. the actual amount that went into community colleges last year was $290 million when you take into account the fact that funds for excellence were used and certain grants were given to various community colleges over the year as they needed them. They are not reflected here in actuals. Between $287 million and $290 million there is a real decrease in the dollars going into community colleges this year if you take the actuals and not the estimates from last year.
If you take a decrease of that magnitude and add inflation, we are dealing with a very substantial decrease. In 1982-83, $273 million was invested in the community colleges, and now it's $287 million. We're only looking at a 4.8 percent increase in a society and a community which is claiming that post-secondary education is extremely important, crucial, and that we want our kids to have a place to go and we'd like to keep them at home. We don't want to send them to Toronto or Calgary. We don't want to send them to California. We want to keep them here, I think. It's somewhat inconsistent to hear those promises and then see a less than 5 percent financial — not real dollar — increase into the community colleges. If you talk about real dollars with inflation, we're talking about a 27.7 percent increase in inflation since 1982. Match that against a 4.8 percent real dollar increase, and what we're faced with is a deficit of staggering dimension and a community college system that is reeling as a result.
What does it mean for the colleges? It means inability to build the kind of administrative planning facility that you need. It means a complete inability to develop capital programs. It means bare-bones maintenance. It means cutbacks in programs. It means inability to provide the programs that students need and that colleges want to provide. It means crowded classrooms, so crowded that one instructor told me at the beginning of the year last year that students were sitting on the stairs and standing crammed at the back of a lecture theatre. The instructor looked out and wondered how she was ever going to be able to mark the papers and prayed that those students would drift off or drop out of her course. The quality of the lecture that she gave did not deteriorate, but you can imagine the impact on an instructors morale to see a room that was built for 45 people holding 90 people who had been allowed to enroll in the course because of sheer demand and necessity.
What does this budget mean for students in community colleges? This budget basically means that students are not
[ Page 3728 ]
going to be able to enroll in the courses that they want. The courses won't be there. They will not be able to apply for three courses, which is what they need in order to qualify for a student loan. Very often they have absolutely no ability to become part-time students in a community college because community colleges have organized their full-time equivalents so tightly to qualify for their funding. Because they're on formula funding, the first priority is most emphatically given to full-time students. Part-time students are very often turned off or turned away. I should add that those part-time students are very often women who are raising a family or living elsewhere with their employment and are then not able to come for part-time courses at the community college.
Talk to me about student financial assistance. The bright spot here is the doubling of assistance, something that I think the minister can be reasonably proud of. In the last year student financial assistance has quadrupled. This budget takes a budget that had already been doubled and doubles it again, something to be commented on and applauded. The government side has taken no pains to applaud itself. It has done an excellent job of patting itself on the back on this one.
Let me throw a few other variables into this pot. What happens when a student realizes that they might qualify for student financial aid, quits their job or adjusts their life and makes their plans and shows up at Douglas College to sign up for a full-time course? The likelihood at this point is that they won't be able to get the courses they want. In fact, last year for the first time Douglas College kept very close tabs on how many students were turned away, and the numbers vary between 800 and 1,200 full-time students. That's not even counting part-time students or students seeking part-time education. At least 800 students — that's the conservative estimate, and I'll use conservative estimates because I don't like blowing up figures for the sake of looking good — were turned away at the door, This year, if we look at a doubling of student financial assistance, and if student financial assistance has anything at all to do with people's feeling of access to opportunity, we might well see 1,600 students turned away at Douglas College. Lineups would be absolutely out the door and down the hill towards the Fraser River — not a desirable situation for ourselves, for this government, or for those students.
MS. MARZARI: About 800 students being turned away? When I was in small retail at Christmastime, I would stand behind my cash register and look at the clients in the lineup waiting to give me their dollars, I should say to the member from South. I made sure that they could pay their money and take the merchandise out of the store, okay? If I have to put it to you in small retail terms, I will. I think that as a province, as a retailer of post-secondary services to our children, the least we can do is make sure that when they're lined up at the door, we've got the services to offer them.
I also want to raise this question around the student financial services. This is perhaps even more distressing. You can say to yourself that because we've got $50 million going into student financial assistance now, we're going to have twice as many students availing themselves of these moneys. But I have to add here that what we have been watching in this province in the last few years is a burgeoning and a growing of the number of small private colleges around the lower regional mainland and throughout the province.
That is, community colleges cutting off programs and pushing certain programs out into the community; or people in the community establishing private colleges and getting their licences — without a great deal of monitoring, I should add, and very little supervision, not the kind of supervision that I should think we should be providing; but a very overworked office which has now encouraged and licensed 400 small private colleges run by one or two people, sometimes a small board. They are providing post-secondary education, most often in the service industries — perhaps hairdressing, perhaps computer technology — at rates which sometimes exceed three times the going rate for the community college equivalent course.
So we now have an indication that students are receiving loans for a ten-month course of up to $7,000 out of the student loan fund. It suggests to me that we're not going to be looking at a doubling of the students receiving the loans; we're going to be looking at a tripling of the tuition charged by small private colleges as post-secondary institutes are privatized. We will be looking at the same number of students carrying our provincial dollars into private schools and private settings not properly monitored, by my reckoning, and our money is going to be spent on loans to students who are not getting the quality of education that we could provide them for one-third the price in our community college setting. So that is also an impact of this budget. This is macho manoeuvring of the worst variety.
Most tragic of all, and the issue that's facing us most drastically today, is BCIT. What is happening with BCIT that $2.6 million has been removed from its budget? It's not recorded in the estimates, but the administration at BCIT were informed on March 29, just last week, that they could look forward to a $2.6 million decrease in their base budget. That does not take into account $900,000 that they are anticipating spending on staff increments over the next year or so. That is not taking into account special programs which have been amortized over a number of years, programs which BCIT specializes in and which only they can do. There is a suggestion from BCIT. The president, Roy Murray, has issued a declaration, a letter, to his staff and to all those who care to hear, expressing his fear that basically BCIT is looking at an effective cutback of $3.5 million to $4 million this year, out of a total budget of $52 million last year.
If community colleges are faced with zero planning and zero budget increase, zero money, BCIT is being faced with actual decimation — not only a lack of planning, but a major 8 percent cutback in its ability to provide service to students and its ability to provide stability to its faculty, its administration, and to this province's reputation in the field.
I would say at this point that unless we sit down, not in a crisis situation, and deal with post-secondary problems in an adult way, deal with the community colleges, work with BCIT to rebuild its morale, and sit down with the federal government to renegotiate the EPF, which the federal government is now prepared to do, I am told.... It is now softer in its attitude than it has been. Unless we are prepared to do that, our post-secondary institutions will become third-rate. We will not be able to keep our faculty. We will not be able to keep our young people here in the province. We are going to lose any credibility we might once have had. It's not a happy picture for the future of this province in this very crucial area of building a reputation in the technical trades and in the community college field.
[ Page 3729 ]
I will end there by especially putting out a call for immediate work to be done around BCIT, immediate work to rebuild that budget and to help that institute rebuild itself to the flagship that it is and should remain as the Park report last year suggested to the Premier. There is an immediate demand that we have to bring the community colleges at least to a subsistence level of a $7 million increase at this point. Then we can call ourselves credible once again, and start the planning to reconstruct the system.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Just before we proceed with the debate, the second member for Okanagan South asks leave to make an introduction.
MR. CHALMERS: In the gallery today we have a resident from Rutland in the great constituency of Okanagan South. I'd like everybody in the House to make welcome Mr. Bud French.
MR. VANT: I'm pleased that even the member for Rossland-Trail (Mr. D'Arcy) noticed my presence here today. For sure, I rise to speak against this amendment, this socialist fear mongering amendment first proposed this morning by the first member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Harcourt).
MR. R. FRASER: Did you say socialist?
MR. VANT: Yes,1 certainly did. There are just a handful of them in the socialist corner of the House this afternoon.
This amendment mentions the poor, the sick and the elderly. Believe me, there's lots for the poor, lots for the sick and lots for the elderly in this budget.
The second member for Vancouver-Point Grey (Ms. Marzari) said just a little earlier this afternoon that there were cuts in health care. I can't figure out what kind of socialist arithmetic she's into here, but the overall budget was certainly increased by 10.2 percent. Indeed, there is an 11.5 percent increase for the Medical Services Commission, an 11.4 percent increase for Pharmacare, a 10.1 percent increase for hospital programs, a 12.5 percent increase for emergency health services, and golly, a 10.6 percent increase for continuing care services. The way I look at it, that is certainly not a cut in health care.
So for the most part I'm against this amendment, and I certainly support this excellent budget. It is a good budget. It's not a perfect budget, I'll admit that; I am realistic. After all, no budget ever is. I'm sure that for the Minister of Finance it's not an easy job to figure out who gets what and who pays for what. I compliment my colleague the hon. Minister of Finance for his cautious estimates of expected revenue last year. Indeed, with good Social Credit government we set the stage last year for economic growth, resulting in $551 million of unexpected revenue.
For sure, this 1988 budget is a people budget. People, I am convinced, want jobs, not welfare. After all, this is the best way we can possibly help the poor. People also, of course, have very high expectations of services from government, and Social Credit delivers in good times as well as in tough times. The question for all of us is: just what is it out there that generates the necessary revenue for these good services for the poor, the sick and the elderly? It's really not the government that generates this revenue; it's really the private sector. The big job generators overall, it is agreed, are the small- and medium-sized businesses, so indeed it is good news in this budget that the small business income tax rate will be reduced from 11 percent to 9 percent on July 1 this year. This will lower it below the level of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Already — indeed, it started January 1 this year — the general corporation income tax rate has been reduced from 15 percent to 14 percent. What a contrast that is to the highest corporate income tax rate in Canada — in Manitoba — of 17 percent.
I must admit that I have always called those in the corner of the House the socialists, but I guess they would prefer to be called the NDP — the "No Down Payment" party, or the "No Darn Policy" party. As a fairly new member of this House, I sit and listen to speech after speech and try to figure out just what their policy is about certain things. They say they care about people — as though they had some exclusive claim to being the people party — about the worker, about the poor and the sick and the elderly. In Manitoba, where I'm sure that very shortly we'll see the demise of the last socialist administration in Canada, right now you pay high personal income tax at one of the highest rates in the country. To add insult to injury, they still have that payroll tax. They talk about working families and a heavy tax burden on middle-income people in this ridiculous amendment. I just wonder what they would do if they were in power in this province.
MR. R. FRASER: They'd shoot down the NDP budget themselves.
MR. VANT: Yes.
In British Columbia — if you read our wonderful 1988 budget — the average personal income tax rate was reduced by $100. Do you know something, Mr. Speaker? This puts no less than $148 million into the pockets of those poor working people out there. That is definitely something for the middle-income and the work-in- families of this province.
In Manitoba you even have to pay a sales tax of 7 percent on meals. Everybody has to eat, even the poor and the working families. Of course. in British Columbia there's absolutely no sales tax on meals.
In the Cariboo, that great constituency which I represent, we have many seasonal resorts, and tourism is extremely important to our economy. We certainly welcome the deduction of 50 percent of the assessed value of all tourist accommodation to a maximum of $150,000. For sure, Mr. Speaker, this helps the small seasonal resort operator who initially feared the removal of the seasonal resort tax classification. This means that the "ma and pa" seasonal fishing resorts in the Cariboo can now, with this significant property tax reduction, keep operating and improving and expanding their facilities. This benefits the elderly, so those retired folk can enjoy fishing at these resorts.
I'm very pleased also about the increase in the Ministry of Environment and Parks budget for this year. Continuing fish enhancement programs will be most welcome, and the restocking of some of our 8,000 lakes in the great Cariboo. We can look forward, too, to more conservation officers being posted where they are needed to prevent poaching and to further enhance opportunities for recreation in the wilderness.
In the Cariboo the forest industry accounts for over 60 percent of the employment base. This budget provides over
[ Page 3730 ]
$90 million more for silviculture. This will ensure the future of our forests. This increase is most welcome, and the Cariboo forest region looks forward to its share of this significant budget increase. People will be employed planting, thinning and brushing. Of course, this government expects that the private sector forest industry, in order to have the privilege of long-term tenure of Crown forest land, will gradually take on more and more responsibility and will this year plant seven million seedlings. This will increase to 192 million seedlings by 1993. Again, all of this will ensure the future of our wood supply. This is a very important part of our sound economic base, which is so essential to providing services for the poor, the sick and the elderly.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
For metal mines in British Columbia, and in particular Gibraltar Mines, Blackdome and Mosquito Creek in the Cariboo, the reduction in the mineral resource tax from 17.5 percent to 15 percent will improve their competitiveness, ensure their future and of course maintain over 500 jobs for some of those middle-income and working families. The mining tax reduction from 15 percent to 12.5 percent on coal and structural materials will have the same effect. Indeed, I was very upset the other day during the actual budget speech when the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Williams) said "shame" to that. He must be against the survival of these industries and the provision of all those jobs.
You know something, Mr. Speaker? More people work in the coal-mines in B.C., thanks to northeast coal. We have more of a share of the world coal market than ever before. People working is what our Social Credit government and this budget are all about, and expanding our share of those world markets is very important. Indeed, capital investment is way up in our province. It shows confidence, and with confidence our budget predicts an increase this budget year of up to $12.7 billion in total. That is exceedingly good news, and again it will assist in that necessary economic activity.
Education funding for kindergarten to grade 12 is up 7.4 percent. In our great constituency of Cariboo, over 85 percent of the operating budgets of School District 28 in Quesnel, School District 27 (Cariboo-Chilcotin) in Williams Lake and School District 30 (South Cariboo) is paid by the province. This helps the cost of long school-bus runs.
Also, the province increased the homeowner grant to reduce local school taxes in this budget by 9.6 percent. There's something in this, Mr. Speaker, for the elderly. Indeed, their homeowner grant will be $630, and the general grant for middle-income and working families is $380.
Indeed our province contributes no less than $125.5 million in this budget year to teachers' pensions. Now if that isn't help for the elderly, I don't know what is; that is an increase of 7.9 percent. Who could possibly criticize that?
University funding is up 5 percent. That's more than the rate of inflation. Indeed, if some of those elderly professors at UBC don't retire, that too could be construed as something in there for the elderly. Of course, at the other end of the age spectrum, the best student aid program in Canada has been announced by this budget. Now doubled, it totals a whopping $58 million.
But I will be very objective and realistic about this budget. The only problem I can see for the Cariboo constituency that I am proud to represent is in the funding for our colleges. As I look at it, it is only up 0. 89 percent. Cariboo College has programs and campuses not only within my constituency but in the great constituencies of Kamloops and Yale-Lillooet, yet their enrolments last year, as the members from that area will know, went up no less than 25 percent, and our colleges will probably be faced with a salary increase of 3 percent this year and operating costs may go up as much as 4 percent.
That will be a tough one, but of course, not being part of the negative persons' party over in the socialist corner of the House.... Being positive, perhaps we can utilize the contingency section of the budget if necessary, so that the colleges can make ends meet and we will have delivery of quality post-secondary educational programs. Indeed, the minister responsible is meeting this very day with the chairmen of these various college boards, so we do listen and respond to the concerns out there.
Not only in accordance with this ridiculous amendment before us at this time.... Just the other day the second member for Victoria (Mr. Blencoe) accused us of overtaxing the poor and the elderly. But we have a first-class, quality, long-term-care program in this province, in both extended and intermediate care. B.C.'s per them charge to the residents is still lower than most provinces in Canada, lower of course than Manitoba — as the hon. member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. Michael) just said in great detail. Indeed, our senior citizens in continuing care will have a higher minimum disposable income than any other province in Canada except Alberta. In B.C. the resident pays $19.20 a day. The government, on the other hand, pays an average of $46 a day for the care of these long-term-care residents.
This is certainly a people budget. Social services, health and education now consume the lion's share of the budget — no less than about 69 percent. I look at the expenditures by ministry, and I am pleased to note that Agriculture and Fisheries is up this year by 16.9 percent. That makes up for the 3.3 percent cut last year.
The great Cariboo constituency is largely rural. Two thirds of our 62,000 people live in the unincorporated areas. Our public roads system exceeds 7,000 kilometres. As I have said in this House many times before, only one-third of those roads are paved, so continual upgrading and maintenance are extremely important. Last year I could accept the cut in the Transportation and Highways budget due to the very ambitious and, I must say, essential highways programs in 1986.
I must say that I am concerned this year that this ministry's budget has been cut a further 14.2 percent. Good, safe roads are essential to the well-being of our people and our economy throughout the province. In a riding like the Cariboo, good, well-maintained roads are the only means by which all those thousands of people who live in those rural areas can get to work, to the schools, to the hospitals, into town to do business and out to the lakes for recreation, etc. I look forward to an increase in the highways budget in subsequent years, as we responsibly nurture and set the stage for continued economic strength in our economy.
You know something, Mr. Speaker? In terms of care for the elderly, it's often in those sunset years, the period of retirement, that old-timers travel. They too need a first-class road system, and that brings to mind tourism. It's a great part of our Cariboo economy, and I note that that ministry, when I look at last year and this year, lost its increase and dropped about $5 million. The big tourism marketing effort last year paid off handsomely. We trust they will keep coming back.
[ Page 3731 ]
With the momentum and, of course, with the worldwide reputation we have gained from Expo 86 and with our natural beauty and our friendliness....
I have concern for middle-income and working families. This government is a responsible government. Yes, those with the ability to pay will be faced with Medical Services Plan increases: $9 more per month for a single person; $7.50 each for a couple; $16 more per month for a family. What about the poor? This government is not only responsible but indeed very generous. Some 360,000 low-income Medical Services Plan subscribers and dependents receive some form of premium assistance. That is valued at no less than $68 million. That is certainly in there for the poor, the disabled and the disadvantaged. People on income or disability assistance do not pay Medical Services Plan premiums.
MR. R. FRASER: What do they pay?
MR. VANT: Nothing. This is paid by a generous Social Credit government; and that amounts to no less than $36 million.
MR. VANT: Right. Less than that sneaky letter that was sent out under the guise of the medicare program.
Many others have their Medical Services Plan premiums paid by their employer. Do you know something, Mr. Speaker? Even with that increase in this year's budget, our Medical Services Plan rates are still lower than Ontario's — that great, rich province in central Canada.
Finally, I must say a word or two about fiscal responsibility. The socialists in the corner of the House here keep talking about our accumulated deficit. Indeed, the second member for Victoria likes to not only talk about the direct debt of the province; he also likes to throw in all those contingent liabilities out there, all the debts of Crown corporations. They really like to just throw in and exaggerate everything they can.
Our direct debt is of great concern to me. As a true Social Credit Party member, I believe in a balanced budget. Deficits are only necessary in tough times to maintain services. That's where rainy-day funds come in. Again, that's for the poor and the elderly. This is to prevent or ease the down cycles in our very revenue-based economy. Of course, we will diversify; we are making progress. We will have the privatization benefits fund as well. Again, the poor and the elderly will all benefit by that new fund. British Columbia's net debt, by the way, in relation to the provincial gross domestic product is lower than Manitoba's — lower, indeed, than all provinces' except Alberta's. This didn't all happen by accident. Decades of Social Credit government in both British Columbia and Alberta made this possible. We have a proud record.
This budget addresses our contemporary and our future challenges and opportunities. To me the budget is all about responsible management of the public purse. This budget sets the stage for continued growth of the economy. Both these aspects are what guarantee for our people the level of service that they expect and that they deserve. This budget will preserve our health care system. It will promote wellness. This budget invests in our people through our education system. This budget gives us a strategy into the nineties and, indeed, right on into the next century. This budget ensures the future of our forests, the competitive position of our businesses, the attraction of capital and the creation of jobs. Overall. Mr. Speaker, it's a very good budget, with lots for the poor, the elderly and the sick. Therefore I am against this amendment and very much for this budget.
MR. GUNO: I'm quite glad to rise today to speak in support of the amendment to a budget which seeks to have continued increased revenues from fee increases which will directly impact on the poor and the sick and the elderly. I think it's a first-rate amendment and should be supported.
In my speech I want to focus on the impact of this budget on my constituents in the north. I can't help but feel a strong sense that this budget offers little hope for people who live in the north. It is, as my colleague from Rossland-Trail (Mr. D'Arcy) described it, urban-oriented, but I would say that except for the privileged few, it offers little hope even for the many people who live in cities in British Columbia. Conspicuously absent in this budget is any mention of new initiatives to make living in rural areas more bearable in terms of providing even the most basic services in health and social programs. I want to go into that in some detail later.
In my opinion, a budget should not only be fair but should have some balance. I'm not talking about a balanced budget, but it should have some kind of proportion. This budget is not. by any stretch of the imagination. fair or balanced. This budget is a cruel hoax played on the people of British Columbia: cruel because of the Premier's promise of a fair and open government; a hoax because it creates an illusion of better times for people of British Columbia, which in reality it is not.
It bears repeating that this budget reveals a government totally lacking in compassion. Witness the Finance minister's non sequitur the day after the budget was made, when he suggested British Columbians should get used to 10 percent unemployment. I believe a few years ago the Social Credit government said that they should act used to 6 percent. He stated that most of the unemployed aren't really interested in full-time work, and that Ontario's 5.2 percent unemployment wasn't a result of economic growth. They should so wish, Mr. Speaker. He claims that there is low unemployment in Ontario because "the winters are so cold there, people have to keep busy." I must say that the large number of unemployed young people in my riding, especially in the Nass Valley, would take cold comfort from that kind of insensitive remark by the Finance minister. It does get pretty cold up there, but still there are no jobs, and it's not because the young people are not trying. There's simply nothing happening there. This government has failed to address that very critical problem in the north, and it is a tragic waste of the human resources we have there.
Not only is this budget unfair and unbalanced: there is a surreal quality to it. It talks about the mythical budget stabilization fund, ostensibly set up to provide for rainy days. Mr. Speaker, it raises the question: rainy days for whom? It certainly is not for the people who have to bear the incredible burden imposed by this budget. In their case, when it rains it pours — all the time, unrelentingly. It's raining today. I wonder. how bad does it have to get before this government realizes that we have a crisis out there, particularly in the north? When the Social Credit government talks about saving for a rainy day, in actual fact they're talking about saving for an election year.
Mr. Speaker, this budget stabilization fund — BS fund as some have, I think. correctly labelled it — certainly does not
[ Page 3732 ]
bear any economic reality. It is a gross manipulation of figures. In his response to the budget speech the first member for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich) did a great job of exposing this rather transparent effort of the government to continue to hoodwink the public.
The Premier has been quite honest in saying that his strategy is to really put the screws to the public in the first two years and then, come election time, start to unleash the funds and give the goodies, and the people will come running and support the Social Credit. He calls that honesty; I call that stupid arrogance.
MR. GUNO: You bet it is, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is a government that is led by a Premier who lives in a castle in a place called Fantasyland.
I don't want to be unkind, but I sincerely wish that this government would wake up to the fact that you can't run a government the way you run a business or a family budget. As stated by John Kenneth Galbraith in his recent book, Economics in Perspective, with regards to the fallacy of this position: "Wise state policy in all its diverse needs and complexity does not necessarily accord with the rules that govern even the most wise and most prudent family."
A further example is the fact that individuals in British Columbia still pay 83 percent of all income tax paid in British Columbia, while corporations pay only 17 percent. This is in comparison to 1981 when individuals paid 75 percent and corporations paid 25 percent. So there's a regressive pattern.
Just to highlight the unfairness of this budget on the family: this year's budget takes $700 out of the pockets of the average British Columbia family in tax and fee increases. Added to the tax grabbed in last year's budget, it makes a total of more than $1,400 in the 18 months since this government took office.
In terms of the Medical Services Plan hikes which have been more or less universally condemned by many observers as brutal, for families the rate increases from $42 per month to $58 — an increase of $192 to a total of $596 per year. For individuals, the rate goes up from $20 to $29 per month — an increase of $108 to $348 per year. The question that must be asked is: is this fair? No, it isn't.
A further example of the unfairness is that the increased premium will bring an additional $141 million in revenue, meaning that the government will collect a total of $555 million from premiums. These increases make the premiums the fourth largest source of provincial revenue. The corporate tax at $557 million is projected to bring in only $2 million more than premiums. Again I pose the question: is that fair?
The Finance minister has justified the level of premiums by saying it represents 50 percent of fees paid to doctors. This seems to me to indicate that we can expect further increases in premiums any time doctors' fees are raised, in an attempt to blame premium increases on doctors. Only Ontario, Alberta and B.C. collect Medical Services Plan premiums.
This is not only unfair; it doesn't make much economic sense, because it does impact on the competitiveness of business. For example, the premium increases will hit many businesses, as businesses pay approximately 50 percent of the premiums in B.C. We can't buy the argument by this government — or their claim — that the subsidy plan has been improved. The changes do not protect those already receiving subsidies from the increases. Families who already are receiving subsidies face increases of 38 percent. Individuals already covered face increases of $45.
Turning to the seniors: another example of the heartlessness of this budget. It is truly disheartening to see how this government is treating our seniors. Surely the people who have contributed so much to the development of this province deserve more from this government. The government has not backed down on its increases in charges for long-term care from 75 percent to 85 percent of combined OAP and GIS income. This will raise something in the order of $18 million per year. The change is that seniors in long-term care will now be eligible to apply for the GIS. That's a small relief, but so minuscule in the face of the continuing onslaught of the government on seniors. The total income of seniors receiving OAP and GIS is something like $679 per month. In most cases, that fee for long-term care will rise from $500 to $576 per month. This will decrease the seniors' disposable income from $178 to $103, leaving only $3.39 per day.
I think that that's unconscionable, particularly in light of the fact that seniors must pay for things like wheelchairs, denture relinings and glasses, with what little money they have left after paying out the long-term care. In addition to that, things like user fees on physiotherapy and the $5 dispensing fee for prescriptions must also be paid out of the disposable income of the seniors before you even consider personal items.
I want to turn a bit to the items relating to my riding in Atlin and to speak from a more or less rural perspective. I feel that I first have to acknowledge the extension of the B.C. Hydro grid to Stewart. I must commend the government for responding to the efforts of the local people of Stewart. I myself have raised this matter on two occasions in question period, and again, I must say that the government has finally responded.
But this is only a beginning. It is, I acknowledge, a much needed ingredient in the diversification of the local economy in that area. Stewart has the potential to develop the first port facility for that area. This new access to power should open up that development, and I would urge that the government get together — if they are still on speaking terms — with the federal government in terms of pursuing this matter.
I look forward to the government moving with some alacrity to see to it that the forest licence-holders make good on their promise to build local mills so that value can be added to our forest resources. Licence-holders in the North Kalum TSA have been granted licences to export over a million cubic metres a year — an incredible drain of opportunities to get our local people working. So I hope that there is no excuse now for these forest licence-holders not to make good on the promise to add value to the forest resources there. These have been fairly significant considerations in granting these licences.
Again, to reinforce what was said by my colleague for Rossland-Trail (Mr. D’Arcy) about the incredible lack of services in the rural areas, it's certainly true for Atlin. It's not uncommon for people to travel many miles to obtain the most basic services from government.
It is because people choose to live in the north, in these isolated areas, that they continue to live there despite the fact that there is such a neglect on the part of the government in providing these services. I refer to people in the small community of Atlin, who have to pay a disproportionately high property tax just to fund the overruns in their school
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district funding. It's not really overrun because there are frill items that have to be paid for. These are overruns that are really geared to fund the most basic educational needs of the area.
Again, in terms of my riding, in terms of lack of services, I refer to Telegraph Creek, where people have to suffer the fact that there is very little policing there. Anytime there is some kind of major report of some criminal activity, it takes sometimes two days for the RCMP stationed 70 miles away in Dease Lake to respond. These are everyday sorts of problems that the people in Telegraph Creek and Dease Lake have to contend with.
So there is a very strong sense, as I said before, that this government has relegated the citizens of the north to a second-class status. I think that is unfortunate in terms of public policy, because it has forced so many of our people, sometimes in futility, to move to the larger urban areas where they are more vulnerable to such things as alcohol abuse and so on.
There's an even bigger problem in terms of this kind of pattern of people moving from the rural areas to the larger urban area. The Brundtland report indicates that one of the great pressures on the continuing ability of our earth to be able to sustain our way of life is the growing concentration of the population in large urban centres. It states that by the year 20 10, over 50 percent of the people in the world will be living in these large cities. I think that kind of pattern should be reviewed very strenuously by government in British Columbia, in terms of how it will impact on services.
In terms of the highway system in Atlin, I must say that there is not much prospect in the budget for much-needed upgrading of the highway system throughout Atlin, especially Highway 37. As I understand it, there's something like a 14 percent decrease in the transportation budget dealing with highways.
This is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, in regards to Highway 37 because we are, I believe, missing a great opportunity to develop tourism in that area. In my travels through Atlin — and I try to do that as much as I can; it's a vast riding, so sometimes that is not always possible — I'm always awestruck by the natural beauty of the area, the incredible diversification of natural beauty. Take, for example, the grand canyons of Stikine; the Atlin lakes; the lava plains in the Nass. These are natural beauty tourist attraction areas whose potential, I think, we have really failed to exploit. The present state of Highway 37 is a bar to increased traffic to and from the Alaska Highway.
In terms of the highway system throughout the Nass, it is in a horrendous state, and I think that is something that has been in existence for many years. When one sees the number of logging trucks rolling out of the Nass Valley carrying forest products from that area, fuelling the economy of the south and of the multinationals, it is really unfair to see that people in the Nass Valley must put up with the horrendous state of the roads and the high unemployment. I think that is unacceptable and there is nothing in this budget that would alleviate that kind of situation.
When you compare the response of the government to the plight of Stewart — which I'm not in any way criticizing, because I think that three years ago they were on the ropes, economically speaking, when the mining companies shut down operations. The speed with which this government moved to bail out that community was commendable, but it is highly selective because it ignores the similar plight of the people in Nass River. It just completely ignores them. I think that's unconscionable and highly discriminatory.
So I have no doubt that the roads into the Nass will improve when the number of non-Indians or non-Nishgas have exceeded the population of the Nass. I really feel that, because that horrendous state of the road has been in existence for 20 years. and it is rendered even more useless by the continuing, traffic of these big logging trucks.
Another blow to the northerners is the pathetically small increase in the financing of the B.C. community colleges and institutions. For us, the college in Terrace is a very valuable institution. It's the only institution that a lot of our people can afford to attend to prepare for higher learning institutions. So under the successive Social Credit governments, colleges have been underfunded. The small increase found in the budget is certainly going to mean more cancellations of pro-rams. more students being turned away from major institutions.
But if the colleges are further gutted, as seems to be the case in this budget, then what little opportunities our northern youth had will be taken away by this government which can’t seem to realize the folly of underfunding the education of our young people.
I listened to the government speakers citing the increase in student aid, which is welcome and long overdue. But I wonder how useful it is without a corresponding increase in funding for community colleges and institutions.
I listened this morning to the first member for Langley (Mrs. Gran) and her pious ramblings about poverty, its roots and the lack of responsibility of the unfortunate, which I found to be highly offensive. It was an obvious attempt to curry favour from the Premier, after a rather brief sojourn into independence.
At any rate, I'm amazed at the Social Credit members continuing to get up and offer their simplistic view of the world — a one-dimensional view. An example is the $20 million budget which has been touted to be the Premier's response to the crisis in the family in British Columbia, when in actual fact it's his holy crusade against abortion. It just begs the question: who isn't for the family? Who isn't for motherhood? I think we have to be practical and get to the source of the problem. Why hasn't this government focused on the area of prevention? The member for Langley’s holier than thou ruminations would be tolerable were it not that she reinforces the fact that this government is totally devoid of compassion.
I suspect that all the sound and fury from this side of the House will not move those members. I'm reminded of a quote I ran across recently from Will Rogers who said: "People's minds are changed through observation and not through argument." Maybe if government members would open their eyes and observe what hardship this budget will have on the seniors, the sick and the ordinary working people. then they might change their minds. But I doubt it; blind ambition is too well entrenched over there.
I support this amendment, and I would urge the members to support it also.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I waited with bated breath for the last speaker, because I was sure he was going to support the budget and not the amendment. I thought from his tone that be was going to be with us — his positive upbeat tone which has characterized that side of the House and the positive view of the economy and the good sort of buoyant
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optimism that is prevalent on that side. I thought for sure that he'd be supporting this budget because the budget is a very good mixture of tax incentives, a move toward more fiscal responsibility by balancing the budget, which is getting closer, and a planning-for-a-rainy-day philosophy. We took a small step in that direction in 1981 by the creation of some funds and a silviculture fund, but unfortunately in the recession that followed, those funds were emptied. I think that to create such a fund and to have it available will produce much better evening of these very unsettling cyclical periods that we tend to go through.
I also see the budget as showing the strong commitment of the government to strengthen essential social services, and it is a budget which does so and puts a great deal of additional new money into health, social services and other social programs. I want to talk for a minute about fairness in taxation and the stimulus in this budget to economic growth on the basis of taxation, because it is a very good budget. It stimulates the economic activity of the mining industry, small business and tourism. I just want to talk about each of those.
The mining industry is one of the province's great industries, but because of depressed metal prices, no industry has had such a hard time and been so exposed in the last four or five years to international markets. It's only recently, with gold and some other prices, that we're seeing an improvement. During those periods, all the government subsidies in the world, all the infrastructure in the world, wasn't going to get that industry back on its feet.
Now that those prices are improving, this government — through this budget, through a reduction in taxation, through increased expenditure on important vital infrastructure — is giving this industry a chance to take off. I commend the government and the Finance minister for the subsidization to Cassiar. I think that company and that mine has proven itself in the asbestos market, and done so through difficult years. Now that that asbestos vein is running out and there's very little in the main pit that can be mined, the development of a new asbestos mine in that location is well worth the investment.
But what I'm so delighted with is that this Vander Zalm government is following what I think is the most important economic policy in this province, the one that was followed by both Bennetts: that is, that the well-being of British Columbia isn't just lower Vancouver Island; it isn't just a ribbon of industrial development in Vancouver and the lower mainland. This province is much broader and greater. It's the whole hinterland in the north. You've got to put money and investment into the place where the resources are, where the people produce those resources. You've got to spend that money. That's what this government has done with Cassiar, and that's what this government has done as well.... The member for Atlin (Mr. Guno) knows well what moving that grid north to Stewart means for job opportunities in Stewart and the whole part of the lower part of his riding — the access to tidewater through Stewart, that year-round port. That's where that asbestos is going to come from Cassiar. That's where it's going to be shipped out. The economic opportunities for Stewart are going to be enormous, and the grid is the key to that. The key to that is power and investment.
So I'm delighted with those initiatives. I'm also delighted with the taxation breaks that have been given to small business and tourism. I think that's long overdue, and I commend the Finance minister for his wisdom and his fortitude.
I notice, though, that there are some losers in the taxation policy: smokers and drinkers. I'm not going to indulge in praise of sin taxation, because as a sinner I'm certainly an offender; not as a smoker and a drinker, but as a sinner. I must say that I don't mind one bit the tax going up on cigarettes, but when they start to hit my pipe tobacco and my cigars, and when these sneaky bureaucrats in Finance with their quiet indexing automatically take more and more money out of the pockets of poor people like me who can't afford their pipe tobacco anymore, then we've got to revisit this policy. I don't mind cigarette taxes, I don't mind taxes on alcohol going up, and I don't even mind paying 10 percent on draft beer, which I duly love; but pipe tobacco and cigars, that's going too far. I'm prepared to consider supporting the rest of the budget, but it's a close thing on those, I'll tell you.
Social spending and health: up 10 percent. A 10 percent increase in health spending — $375 million — yet if you came in this chamber and listened to some of the gloomy prognostications opposite, you would think there were great waiting-lines; that we had the national health scheme of Britain; that people are not able to get facilities or beds; that we had some kind of crumbling health system. Instead, we have $375 million of additional money put into what really has to be probably the finest public health care system in the world.
What I like is that this Minister of Finance, for a change, had a bit of a vision on preventive medicine. I remember that when he said that on budget day and when it was discussed afterwards, some of the members opposite pooh-poohed it and didn't seem to think it was anything but trite commentary. But it isn't trite commentary; we haven't had ministers in this province speak as eloquently on the preventive value of health spending as the Minister of Finance did. I just want to go back to some of his words there because I think they should be emphasized: "Despite spending more and more dollars, we are still hypnotized by curing sickness rather than keeping ourselves healthy." In other words, the health system has been an illness maintenance system. We have paid a lot of lip-service to preventive medicine, but we haven't put dollars where our philosophy is. In this budget we're putting some dollars there. We're recognizing that at the end of the scale.... Chiropractors, podiatrists, physiotherapists, massage practitioners and so on provide preventive services that may not require, if they're plugged in early enough, the massive expenditures required later by hospitals and medical practitioner treatment. It's a good program.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
I also want to praise the inclusion by the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Services of very major additional, new funding for the disabled. I want to single out the role that the second member for Vancouver-Little Mountain (Mr. Mowat) has played in that community, and at an earlier time in the International Year of Disabled Persons, when he was the executive director of that program. I know that under him programs for the disabled and the Premier's council on the disabled will have not just a profile but a particularly advantageous position for accessing government programs. The additional spending in this budget in that field is very welcome, I can assure you.
We have some excellent educational programs for the disabled. When I was Minister of Education a number of years ago, we were just starting on the road of integrating into
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the school system and into the regular classrooms special education children and children with special needs. We've come a long way along that route in the last ten years. Many children who were left at home, hidden under a bushel, forced to educate themselves or to have their parents assist them, but who never appeared in a regular classroom, are now there benefiting from education at various levels. I don't say that's a point of view or a policy exclusive to this side of the House; it isn't. But I think it should be acknowledged and recognized that it's been highly successful.
Having said that, we have to be very, very careful on all these policies, such as integration of special needs children into the school system and its counterpart, deinstitutionalizing physically and mentally handicapped adults into the community. Both those programs are good programs that this government supports, but we have to be very careful to realize that we are always dealing with individuals and that it's not going to be of value to every student with special needs to be put into a regular classroom. Nor is it going to be advantageous to put every physically or mentally disabled adult living in an institution "into the community," because in his case he may need some special care. He may be more comfortable where he has specialized service. He may not be able to function in the community. So we can't treat them all like sausages in a sausage machine. We can't treat them all like some kind of doctrinal guinea pigs and force-feed them into some kind of program where we're going to deinstitutionalize them all, or put them all in a classroom if they're students. For many of them that's a good thing, but for some it isn't. So we've always got to have alternatives, and I hope we never lose sight of that when dealing with both children and adults who have disabilities.
I want to also say that the budget contains very major increases in the student aid program. I say, as someone who represents a number of students in my riding and has had a good association with the university in my riding for some years, and with the University of British Columbia, that this student aid support — I think it's some $34 million now — is very, very well received. I think it's a good investment.
I know that during the years of restraint we didn't do very well in the field of student aid for some years. In fact, it was in the last year of the Bill Bennett regime. when my former colleague Jack Heinrich took hold of the student aid program, rescued it from oblivion and restored it on a road where there was incentive and reward for achievement and marks, not just for those who happened to come in the top 10 percent but also those who completed their programs and were able to pass.... They got an additional amount of money for doing that. The present minister in charge of this, the Minister of Advanced Education (Hon. S. Hagen), has secured a very major lift and improvement and enrichment in the program, and I commend him and the Finance minister for that.
I also commend the computer- acquisition spending in this budget. If we're going to have our young people compete in the technological age, they've got to have the tools to work with. Our computers in some schools have been woefully inadequate, and despite the efforts that have been made by the Minister of Education over the years, it was always hard to get funding in tough years for things like computers. Now we're putting that money in a needed investment.
In the Attorney-General's ministry the budget has supported a number of new programs. We've done very well. I want to acknowledge with pride the funding that has been put into this budget for the family maintenance order enforcement pro-ram, an absolutely first-rate program which we talked about during the passage of the bills. The new money in that program should make it possible for us to make some real progress in getting off the dependence on the courts and on a system that wasn't working. People who have not been able to get support from their spouses will now be able to get that support. They will be able to have some dignity and will not have to be on income assistance. I can't say that overall we're going to end up making a lot more money for the treasury. I would like to think that we did, but I know that the motivation of that program is to bring about fairness and personal responsibility, not to try to make money.
The victim assistance program is another one — 2.1 million of new dollars this year, $1.9 million last year. It is a very well supported community program, and another one which really stresses personal responsibility. It stresses the fact that you invest a little bit of money in people who are victims of crime, you give them the courage, the training, the strength and the support so that they can go into that courtroom ultimately, and they can stand there and testify. If they have the courage to do that and withstand the ordeal, then the person who committed the crime against them will be put away and won't go free because they are unprepared or unable or don't have the emotional support or the networking to get them through that ordeal. Now they ' 11 have that, and it means that we'll be able to put away the guy who did that. That means that somebody else won't be his victim next week or next month, because he'll be inside.
Now if we could get a parole policy that would keep him inside for a few days, we'd be all right. We've Lot to get a new approach to that, and this budget and these estimates reveal that we will be putting some more resources into that field. We will be developing and announcing very shortly a Green Paper on parole. I am very pleased to see that the National Parole Board very recently, in mission statements that it leaked to the press, indicated that at Iona last it has made as its major and sole and first priority the protection of the public in cases involving violent crime. I think that we're on a new track in the field of parole, and victim assistance programs and the reparation parts of that and the restitution parts tie in very well.
I also note that the budget has a section on increased expenditure on legal aid — some $2.1 million of legal aid. There was another lift last year, so that the legal aid expenditures during the past two fiscal years have increased from $14 million to some $19 million. All of that, I think, will be welcomed by the people who work with impoverished applicants who seek better access to the courts.
I want to mention a few economic initiatives besides the ones at Cassiar and Stewart, which are so important. One, of course, is the one under investigation at present: the racetrack initiative. I would be remiss, Mr. Speaker, coming from the area that you come from, if I didn't mention the great potential of this industry in your area and in the whole valley. It has the potential to be to be one of our major horse-breeding areas in the whole of North America.
We are much better favoured than Ontario because of climate, and we will become the capital of Canada in this field, I believe. We now have 10.000 people who are dependent directly on the industry, and I see that amount as probably doubling in the next five years, if we develop a good policy for thoroughbred and standardbred racing. That
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doesn't mean a policy of handouts; it means a policy of government support, government encouragement for some new facilities, government encouragement to take care of zoning and the problems that are necessary, and to give the support so we can have some world-class facilities.
HON. B.R. SMITH: We cannot leave that track alone; that's the whole problem.
MR. WILLIAMS: You can rebuild it.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Certainly we can rebuild it. We can rebuild it right there on that site. There's ample land to do it there. It is a myth to say that there is not room to do that there. There is room to do it, and a first-class, world-class track can be built at the present racetrack site. But we've got to have some proposals and people with imagination who are prepared to do that.
I am pleased to note in the press within the last week or so that the present operators seem to have presented a very interesting new plan to rebuild and expand that track right on that location. I think that is an absolutely prime location. There are other locations in Richmond and at Colony Farm where you can do that as well and where you could also have a wider world-class facility that would include a turf track, training and probably jumping and a very major training facility on those sites.
HON. B.R. SMITH: You'll be glad to know that we're going to be guided by what the Jawl commission tells us, because it's their job to go out and evaluate these proposals. That commission is a pretty good, broad representative of the industry; I think it's a good representative group. Standardbred, thoroughbred and Racing Commission are all represented there. The Jawl task force isn't in anyone's pocket and doesn't represent any point of view. I can assure you that it neither represents a Colony Farm point of view nor a PNE point of view.
I happen to believe that that was one of the most important initiatives in the budget, the special racetrack fund, and I know that the member for Vancouver East agrees with me on that one. I know also that he will be in his riding on Monday evening, walking up Hastings at 6:30, as he has been wont to do, buying a form. He is a kind of household word there, in those greengrocers along there who sell those forms and those tip sheets. They know him.
I am also pleased to support this budget because of the very favourable economic climate in my own area, and I include greater Victoria in that, not just the great riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head. The economic climate in this area is very good and favourable. Some of that is due, I believe, to the climate that the government has created and the government support for various local initiatives. I look forward to the development of the Songhees projects that have been identified and are underway — the residential developments, the commercial developments, the hotels, the housing for seniors. I think that is very good for Victoria and good for the people of my riding.
I also am going to take a great deal of pride in the completion of the convention centre, because if there is one thing that Victoria has always needed, it is a good convention centre, a place to bring medium-size conventions from all over the world. We're ideally suited to do that, and with the provincial and federal money that went into that centre, it was made possible. We've got a very good site in back of the Empress Hotel and, thanks to the great fortitude, courage and determination of Alderman Frank Carson, when interest flagged, Frank persisted, and we're going to have our convention centre. It will be opening within the next year.
I also am honoured that in July of this year, the first B.C. Summer Games to come to greater Victoria will be based or capitalled in my riding, because it is the Oak Bay-Greater Victoria Summer Games, but the host municipality is the municipality of Oak Bay. I can remember the first Summer Games when I was mayor of Oak Bay. We tried to put together an area wide bid, and some of the municipalities wanted to do it and others didn't, and we never did get them all together. So it is a great tribute, I think, to Saanich, Esquimalt, Victoria and Oak Bay that they were able to cooperate on this one and use the excellent facilities, resources and volunteers that are in all four communities.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the initiative of the Commonwealth Games. Listening to me, agreeing with me on this and supporting me every bit of the way on this, are the members for Victoria and Saanich, who have been part of a team that we have worked on to get these games, under the leadership of David Black. A number of citizens have given many weeks and months of their time. I know that the two members I referred to have gone off and personally called as emissaries and lobbyists in a number of Commonwealth countries and have done so with considerable success and energy. These games in 1994 are, I think, most likely to come to Victoria. This is the most likely and desirable place for them.
Everyone I talked to at the meeting of Commonwealth Games delegates in London early in January wanted to come to Victoria. They didn't want to go to Delhi in July. They didn't want to go to Cardiff in July; not even the United Kingdom delegates wanted to go to Cardiff in July, because they can go there in June or in August. They want to come here, to God's country.
When we had some out here a few months ago and they were being hosted at Mr. Black's place, it turned out that about half a dozen of them were golfers and were tremendous golfing fans. So to sew them up, if there was any doubt about Victoria, I took them out to the marvelous Victoria Golf Club out there on Beach Drive, where I've been a member since the age of two. I took them up to the old seventh tee, the one those trendy, progressive new members put out of action so they could turn the course into a PGA 70 par rating, and turn an old par 3 into a par 4, and leave as a kind of alternate hole the best par 3 hole in the whole world. This hole is known all over the globe — Mount Baker hole. Bob Hope always hits golf balls in the water when he plays that hole. He always hits four or five in and contributes to the local economy. That's a great hole. But I'll tell you,20 minutes out there on that tee, and we had all six of those delegates sewed up. They want to come back here, and they want to spend weeks on that golf course.
HON. B.R. SMITH: You have no sense of relevance, hon. member, absolutely none. How could he talk about things like that? Tiresome subject.
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HON. B.R. SMITH: I know. Well, the real economic infrastructure of this area resides in that kind of endeavour. In fact, what we need here is five more golf courses in greater Victoria; that's what we need, because we've got enormous waiting-lists, and we've got a huge retirement group of active and very healthy citizens who need to play golf.
The other thing we need here too, I'll tell you, is access to sport fishing. I'm going to just put in my little plug, in the hope that the federal government may reconsider its limits on Chinook salmon in the waters of Oak Bay and Brentwood and Saanich Inlet, because I do not think that they understand that those waters are a little different than the rest of Georgia Strait or the northern part of Georgia strait. The waters are a little different; the fish are a little different. We don't have great runs of Coho down there, you know; we have Chinooks. Those are the salmon that a lot of our sport fishermen catch. We also have a very large sport-fishing-resort industry on Vancouver Island.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Well, I don't have any conflict of interest on this one, because I have trouble getting one. So I can talk about it from the standpoint of tourism. And all these lucky friends of mine who took early retirement about four or five days ago and are out there in their boats are going to have their limits so quickly they'll be down here at my desk. I'm glad it's a federal policy, though, because it's going to give me a chance to have a little larger voice in the next few months, as I can put the arm twist on my local candidates for federal parliament and hope that they'll maybe review that.
Having said all that, I recognize that we've got to conserve the Chinook salmon and to save it. But I happen to believe that it should be....
HON. B.R. SMITH: No, no. I happen to believe that the first crack at these waters and the waters of Georgia strait should be for sport fishermen. I believe that firmly. I do not believe that they should be the prime target of the commercial fishermen.
MR. WILLIAMS: Citizens of Oak Bay.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Quite right.
In summary, then, I am proud to stand in my place and commend these economic initiatives: the Summer Games, the sport-fishing program, and all these things that are contained here in this budget, and the new social programs and the spending increases that are absolutely unprecedented in the field of social services in my time. It is a budget with a great deal of foresight.
MR. CASHORE: It's an honour to be able to rise in the House and speak following the Attorney-General. I don't have that many stories about golf and fishing and the one that got away, but I think we could say....
MR. CASHORE: He's the candidate that got away.
I thought he was saying in the latter part of his remarks that he's planning on seeking a federal seat here in Victoria. Was that what the hon. member was saying. Mr. Speaker, that he's going to seek that seat in Victoria so that he can do something about the...."
HON. B.R. SMITH: I remind the member about the standing rule on unparliamentary language.
MR. CASHORE: Well, Mr. Speaker, I could certainly understand his desire to escape from this budget, this caucus, this cabinet, this disaster that's....
MR. CASHORE: Well. earlier today you had a member who was running for cabinet in Manitoba. He can't seem to stay in the cabinet here in British Columbia, so he spent his whole speech talking about Manitoba — the former Minister of Highways. I don't know if he could act into the cabinet there or not, but that was an interesting prospect for him to speak about here in this House this afternoon.
The hon. Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith) was speaking about the fact that there are a lot of winners in the budget from his point of view. For those in our society who come from a certain perspective, a perspective that does not have to do with what it is to be on fixed income and does not know what it is to be one of the working poor in our society, that concept of there being all winners out there is probably quite readily available to that narrow view. The fact is, if we look at Stats Canada, the top quintile of people in our society in Canada are amassing an ever-increasing portion of the total disposable income and the total wealth of our country, while the people in the lower two quintiles have — it can be demonstrated — a dramatically decreasing income and a decreasing portion of the assets and wealth of the country. This is a drift we should be very deeply concerned about. It's a drift that is certainly a result of the public policy of the Conservatives in Ottawa and, before that, the Liberals. It certainly is the policy of several Social Credit regimes.
We can listen to members of the government side rationalize the corporate sector always having, in every budget, an easier time of it, while small business, middle-income earners and the working poor continue to struggle in a recession mode while everybody else — the rich who get richer — really are enabled to do that. They're enabled to do that by a budget and public policy that tilts the playing-field in favour of the friends; in favour of those who pour the dollars into helping the Social Credit Party Let re-elected: in favour of those who feel it's in their vested interest to 'make sure the Social Credit gets re-elected; in favour of those who don't really want to see the kind of policies in place that make it possible for small business — the greatest generator of jobs in our country — to really get going, or to see the statistics change dramatically with regard to the number of small business bankruptcies in this land, or to see us truly get back on our feet economically in a way that shares that resource with the total populace. It can be done.
On the government side of the House we have proponents of a trickle-down theory. It's a theory that says if the corporate wealth is enabled to become ever greater, then that will at some point begin to issue forth in greater benefits to those who are wage-earners, the small business people in the
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economy and even those who are disabled and unable to work. The fact is that people wait year in and year out for that philosophy to bear fruit, and it doesn't bear fruit because it doesn't work, because the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and that simply is a tired concept. It's a bad trip, and it's inappropriate for British Columbia. We see that philosophy very much entrenched in this budget.
In order to really get a fix on this budget, I think we have to take a look at a longitudinal view of what's been going on in this province. We need to take a look at the budget from a year ago and see what progress has been made coming into this year's budget. When we look at last year and this year, and we think about some of the things the Minister of Finance has actually admitted about what's coming up next year, we can see the scam that's actually.... I withdraw that word, Mr. Speaker. You've warned me on other occasions not to use that word, and it slipped my lips. We can see the deception that's really implicit in the kind of government that we've been getting. It's a style of government that says that we're going to avoid following a consistent pattern which enables real growth and development, because what we're going to do is rake it in during the first two years of a mandate, and then we're going to use what we can, what we've manipulated off into special funds, to be able to offer those goodies that make it possible for us to get us elected in an election year as it comes up.
When that kind of a government is functioning, it is government that does not place a high value on planning. It is government that places a high value on re-election so that it can continue to govern and continue to help out its wealthy friends.
That's inappropriate for British Columbia at this time, and I think we are seeing that the citizens of British Columbia, the voters, the taxpayers, are seeing through that approach. We just have to remember that last year we had user fees — $5 on a wide variety of procedures — and this year we hear the Attorney-General standing up a few moments ago and telling us that our government is a government that recognizes the value of preventive health care, knowing full well that just a year ago measures were taken that seriously impacted the value of preventive health care.
If this government really understood and believed in the value of preventive health care, there would be a tremendous revision of the home nursing care program in this province, those programs that would enable people to receive home care and put off the day when they required very costly institutional care. I think we see, in the kind of rhetoric that we hear coming from this government, a lip-service government — a government that doesn't really care, a government that doesn't really deliver on its promises.
We had the increase last year in Pharmacare. We had the increase in property taxes for seniors. And what happens this year? We see two of the most major increases or two of the most major impacts being impacts upon medical care premiums and upon those people in long-term care.
My colleague from New Westminster very eloquently described the impacts of the additional burden on seniors because of the measure that was taken to increase the cost of long-term care from 75 percent to 85 percent of a person's combined OAS and GIS income, and to see their disposable income decrease to approximately $3.39 a day. This is shameful, Mr. Speaker.
This is an impact upon people who have helped to build this country; it's an impact upon people whom we say we respect and who have contributed incredibly. Often these are people who need such extras as glasses, or wheelchairs, or denture linings. Yet what do we find in this budget this year? No relief from last year's budget. We find no increase in the guaranteed income supplement; we see no increase in SAFER; we see no GAIN increase; we see no increase for persons on handicapped persons' income assistance. There is no increase in the minimum wage. There is not the kind of measure within this budget that would enhance or improve the life of those who really need it.
At a time when we have the Minister of Finance bragging about being able to squirrel funds away in some kind of a mythical instrument, we have within the GAIN budget a decrease of $40 million. Yet we have the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Social Services (Hon. Mr. Richmond) bragging in this House that the number of people on GAIN is decreasing. As a matter of fact, on page 7 of the budget book is a picture of a graph. If you look at this graph, it appears that something is going down. Well, what is it that's going down? The number of income assistance recipients is going down. It states that in 1985 there were somewhere around 157,000 people on GAIN, and that towards the end of 1987 it was down to around 130,000.
This is a very creative statistical analysis. In the first place, they're talking about cases, so they're not talking about the numbers of men, women and children who depend on GAIN in this province. To be more accurate, to go back to 1985 the number would have been about 248,000. At the present time, the number would more accurately be around 240,000 — granted, an improvement. I would caution the minister and the Minister of Social Services and Housing, though, because if they would look at their statistics from October of last year until the present time, the graph is going back up again, It's increasing at a fairly considerable rate again. It affirms the point that the wealth that they talk about in this province is not being shared with those people who are continuing to suffer under the impacts of recession.
We can go back and put this graph into a better perspective, move the line back to 1975, if you will, and you will find that at that time there were fewer than 100,000 men, women and children in this province depending on GAIN. Looking at it in its real, honest analysis, this graph would be a very embarrassing picture for this government to be presenting in its report, if they had just run the line back a little bit further and shown the picture for what it really was.
You've often heard the statement: "You'll always have the poor." Even Jesus said that: "The poor you will always have with you." That statement has always been used to justify the fact that we should ignore the poor and not really address the problem as a generic problem that needs to be resolved within our society today. When we can address some of the most incredible things that we do address in terms of medical services and medical invention, why can't we address the causes of poverty within our society? Why can't we recognize that that is an economic issue just as important as the fight against cancer in society? If we are going to do that, we are going to have to change the mindset of the people in the government of this province. If we go back to 1978-79 and look at the number of people on GAIN and look at the number now, the figure has more than doubled. When you have people saying you'll always have the poor, is it tolerable to accept a doubling every eight or nine years? Ten years from now, when that number is up around 330,000, will they be saying that that's all right?
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We're looking at a large portion of the people of British Columbia. What do we have — something over 3.3 million in the province? Then we have 235,000 depending on GAIN and approximately 180,000 depending on unemployment insurance. The working poor are somewhere in the neighbourhood of at least 200,000. You add that up and we're looking at an alarming percentage of the people of this province.
I would like to put this question to the Minister of Finance and to the government: what is this budget for? Is it for that portion of the population that doesn't fit into that? We will hear sanctimonious people standing up and giving speeches and saying: "But we are taking measures. Look at what we're doing." And they'll cite some things that have happened. I grant you, they will cite an increase in programs for substance abuse, and we had that whole ball of wax of the Premier the other day citing how he was going to save the family. I hope I have time to say a few things about that a little later. But we don't have the kind of comprehensive plan that is really going to address these issues in this province at this time, and we need that. We need that desperately.
If we do not start to address those issues, I am afraid that we are going to find that everybody in the province will be a loser as a result. Everybody in the province will have to deal with the impact of the need for increased institutional care because of family breakdown. Everybody will have to pay for the increases in support services, prisons, mental health services, and all those services that become necessary as people in our society who cannot cope find that they need to be taken into situations where they are controlled or managed or in some way helped.
Who is this budget for? I want to take a moment in the House and say that I have gone through a process of mourning in the last couple of days because Rose Peters died. Rose Peters was a native Indian woman who, for about three years, has stood at the corner of Hastings and Gore in Vancouver as a prostitute. Rose was found dead in a back alley just a couple of days ago.
I think it's appropriate that we acknowledge such a person from time to time in this Legislature, because this person is a citizen of this province, and she is a victim of a situation where people fall between the gaps. Somehow they are seen as hopeless and forgotten. In acknowledging Rose, I think it would be inappropriate for me to say that I don't see myself as part of the problem. I think the problems in our society that result in this type of tragedy happening in the lives of people are problems that we have to face together and do an awful lot of soul-searching about.
I would like to say that as a member of the opposition who has a responsibility for social services and our critique thereof, I would very much love to be able to sit down and do some soul-searching together with members of the government on that issue. But how can we do that when the Select Standing Committee on Health, Education and Social Services is one of the standing committees of this House that never meet? How can we do that if we cannot have that issue put on an agenda that we can sit down and talk about in a less adversarial format?
I would like to call on some of those members of this government who I believe really have moxie and guts — even though there have been people in the past who would accuse them of having no guts or having no moxie — to stand up and be counted and to call upon this Premier to give us an agenda in the Select Standing Committee on Health. Education and Social Services. because we have a meeting that needs to be held. We've got things to talk about. We have a need to sit down and en-age one another.
MR. LOENEN: Walk across the floor, John. Any day.
MR. CASHORE: Mr. Speaker, therein lies the problem. We recognize that given the adversarial aspect of our parliamentary tradition, which we revere, which has government and opposition, there are nevertheless some issues that we do not get to deal with in a really creative way. A step towards that, beyond this House, is the provision of the select standing committee. So it's not a matter of you walking across the floor: it’s not a matter of me walking across the floor. It's a matter of the second member for Richmond (Mr. Loenen) and me and others in this House meeting around a round table.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Is that a threatening suggestion? Are you bothered by that? Do I have b.o.? Do you feel that you would not be able to hack it in the same room with me? Is there something about me that you find completely offensive, and you're not willing to have me come sit down with you at a table? In reverence for Rose Peters, who died the other day, let's sit down together and talk about some of these issues.
I would like to think that the second member for Richmond has as much moxie and guts as the first member for Richmond (Hon. Mr. Vander Zalm) does, and I happen to think that the second member for Richmond is in a marvelous position to do some creative things. I've heard him talk about creativity in this House. and I would like to call on him to be really creative, to go into a political back room and put his arm around his colleague, give him some comfort and some succour and say to him: "My friend......
You have enabled committees on resources to meet; you have enabled committees on finances to meet. You have enabled all sorts of committees to meet, but you won't enable the Committee on Health, Education and Social Services to meet. Isn't it about time? Or is that just not an important thing? Is that the reason" Or is the reason that we might be dealing with issues that this Premier is embarrassed about, and he might be unwilling to lose the kind of control he has in the risk that something really worthwhile might happen?
I believe it can happen. I would like to think that if we are going to deal with the Rose Peters of this world, with the tragic circumstances that they experience, with the situation of hungry kids in our society, with issues of poverty, we are going to deal with them because we have the political will to do so. That political will is more likely to be manifested in worthwhile results if it can be manifested on both sides of this House, and I plead for that. I believe that there are. among the members of this government, people who are capable of sitting down and putting their heads together and thinking some of those issues through, and then coming back to the government and saying: "Why don't we suggest going about it in this more humane way?"
I want to get on to the Premier's plan for the family — the salvation of the family. I am offended that we are in the midst of debating the budget and the budget estimates for the province of British Columbia for 1988.... We've had the throne speech and the budget speech, and then right in the midst of that comes this $20 million plan — new money.
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MR. REE: Good program.
MR. CASHORE: My friend says that it is a good program; that remains to be seen. But we have to ask about the motivation. Why is this Premier doing this? Is it because of guts and moxie, or is it because be got his tail in a knot following January 22, when he made some very inappropriate moves with regard to the abortion debate and then found that his only way out was to use disadvantaged families as a means of trying to save his political skin? If he was really genuine about the programs that he's putting forward in that plan, he would have come forward with them prior to January 22. He would not have had to wait until that time to invent the family to try to save him from having the embarrassment of the situation he got himself into.
There's no question about that. It was not necessary for him to use the poor, to use families that are in difficulty, as a means of trying to hold this high-profile press conference to put forward that event. The estimates for Social Services and Housing are coming up, I understand, on Tuesday. Surely if this plan was needed, it was needed long before the Premier got himself into this embarrassing predicament.
I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail about that program. But just to point out how fatuous it is, one of the facilities called for is a $3 million home for unwed mothers — $3 million for a throwback. The Province reported that in the lower mainland there are two homes for unwed mothers now. One is empty; the other is half empty, having something like 11 beds occupied. Had the government sincerely wanted to meet a felt need, they would have done the research to justify the kinds of programs they were going to come forward with. Obviously the research wasn't done; obviously they had to leave it to the Province to do the research.
This is unconscionable, because it makes it very clear that what the Premier was doing was using unwed mothers and, I think, $1.4 million to put up a monument to himself in the form of a home for unwed mothers, something out of the 1950s. Even if we can anticipate 20 women needing such a facility, it would amount, given the maintenance portion of that project, to something like $65,000 each.
Mr. Speaker, there are very sound proposals that have been coming forward for a long time about how to support people who are in need in our society, and that's not the way to go about it. There are very solid ways of going about helping people. For one thing, if you are going to have a plan that makes it possible for women to go out and look for jobs, you'd better make sure there are some jobs out there for them to look for — decent jobs, properly paying jobs, jobs that are going to enable them to become a part of the economy and feel that they are valued and participating in such a way, rather than the kind of window-dressing that tries to make it look as though a problem is being solved.
It's a cat-and-mouse game that's going on. I want to plead for consistency in the ways in which social programs are delivered. Without that consistency you leave yourselves open to the accusation of using disadvantaged people in our society as a political football, a political ploy. You talk about coming in and saving the family. But you know that in 1983,220 family support workers were laid off. You know that the child care counsellors were lost from the school system in that year. You know that the teams for supporting families with handicaps were disbanded at that time. You know those things, and you know that even.... Have I used up my time, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately the member has used up his full time.
In view of the time, I think, if members agree, we'll put the amendment.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
MR. RABBITT: It certainly is a proud day for me today to rise as the elected representative for Yale-Lillooet and speak on the second budget of the thirty-fourth parliament. We as members have never lived in such an exciting, interesting and challenging time as today.
My remarks are those of an individual who is not an accountant, not a financier, not an economist, but one who has raised a family, one who has worked in the labour force, one who has operated a small business, one who has been involved in municipal government both as an alderman and as mayor, and now as a representative of the riding of Yale Lillooet.
The perspective I put forward today is a personal perspective. The perspective is one of Yale-Lillooet. What problems do I see? I have seven municipalities, eight school districts, seven hospital boards, four regional districts, three college boards — many of you have heard these stats before — and I have 35,000 constituents. Their concerns are my concerns. Their problems are my problems. My constituency is the reason I am here.
As I have told you many times, we are a very diverse riding. I have shared with this assembly on several occasions the history of Yale-Lillooet dating back prior to Confederation. I've explained the rural nature of my riding, the small 43 communities that make it up. I've also described the diversity in the landscape, the weather, the industry and the people, which are its most valuable asset. When you live in a riding such as mine, were born in that riding, and when the day comes will retire in that riding, it's very difficult to keep from telling this assembly how great that riding is. But I will move on.
I wish to thank my colleagues again for electing me as their Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. It has
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already given me a new perspective on debate in this House, and I have learned to appreciate the contribution of all members. I've learned to appreciate the role of the opposition and the competitiveness of debate. Again, I say I've learned the perspective of the House. I've learned whether it is half full or half-empty. During the throne speech debate I made reference to political viewpoints, and where they came from was not a concern of mine, because the concern from either side of this House with regard to the economic and social future of this province is all our concern.
In the throne speech the government has charted a course that will successfully steer us into the twenty-first century. We're not only planning for today but we're planning for tomorrow and for the many more tomorrows that will follow. This budget is another page in the book. It's another part of the plan for both the present and the future.
Some discussion has arisen as to the budget process, a process that has developed over hundreds of years, a process started here in British Columbia in 1871. The party system was introduced in 1903, and as my colleague the member for Burnaby-Edmonds (Mr. Mercier) has pointed out — he made some very good points — this traditional process could possibly be reviewed, but it is a traditional process, and in the meantime all of us must make it work.
My job as the elected representative of Yale-Lillooet is to make this process work for my constituents — and I believe it is working. Even using a rear-view mirror approach, we are making it work. I refer to two changes specifically that happened in the budget, and one was that the Minister of Finance recognized the farm income limit at $1,600; it's going to stay that way. He also recognized that seasonal tourist facilities have a special significance and require special treatment on taxation rates. This government has taken a second look and will take a second look.
Again I must mention that what makes the debate in this House so interesting is perspective. Many issues are viewed from one of two perspectives: that of free enterprise or that of socialism. As a free-enterpriser, I can tell you what I believe in. I do not believe that government is always right, but I believe that government should not be big. I believe that government should make policy and police that policy. I believe that government should not be in business, and I believe that government should put the decision-making back in the hands of the people, such as they are doing, with regionalization and privatization.
Government should not deficit-finance, and government should have a rainy-day fund. Government should pay as it goes, and government should make every effort to meet the social and health requirements of those who cannot fend for themselves. Quite simply, we should help the needy, not the greedy. I guess that's the difference between my philosophy and that of the socialists.
Why is ability to pay important? Very simply, it's because government does not have a dollar of its own. The only dollars government has are those collected from the taxpayers.
The socialists talk of consensus. We're not a government of consensus; we are a government of elected representatives, and it has taken 10,000 years to get here. It works and it works well. We're making a conscious effort to deliver the needs of today without giving away the future of tomorrow, such as the socialists would do.
The challenges of today are many. We have an ageing population; we have provincial revenues which are very volatile and very difficult to predict. We have interest rates that climb. We have a Canadian dollar that's also rising. All of these conditions that I've mentioned are beyond the control of this government.
Let's look at some of the highlights of the 1988 budget.
Contributions to public school operating costs will increase. Independent school funding will increase. The Passport to Education program will increase. Fifteen million dollars to upgrade and add more computers to the classroom. The old Social Credit tradition of property tax relief through the homeowner grant will be maintained. We're more than doubling the student financial assistance in this province.
Let's look at some of the services for the disabled: $317 million on programs for the disabled and children with special needs; $195 million for equipment for special classrooms and other measures, including personal attendants; $29 million for special health services to the disabled.
In health, the Ministry of Health expenditure this year will total over $3.9 billion, an increase of over 10 percent from last year. That's $1,300 for every man, woman and child in this province, and nearly one-third our total budget. I ask the socialists, what's wrong with that? That's a good track record.
What has the government done for Yale-Lillooet? This Government has done lots in the last year and a half. There have been extensions to the hospitals in Lillooet, Hope and Merritt. Extended-care facilities will be built in both Hope and Merritt. We have a commitment for a new elementary school in Hope. The Ministry of Social Services adopted an infant autism program in Merritt. In Princeton they've just completed a downtown revitalization program second to none. In Logan Lake the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has come forward with a municipal emergency grant to assist that community. Throughout my riding the student financial assistance program will help every student to go to a postsecondary facility to gain a better education. We've had reduction in mining taxes . in small business taxes, and the list aces on and on. I ask the socialists: what is wrong with that?
We have been accused of not caring for hungry children and not caring for persons on expensive drug programs. I will repeat what I have heard both the Minister of Social Services (Hon. Mr. Richmond) and the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Dueck) say in this very House: "Show me someone who needs help and we will help him. — We want to make sure that the people do not fall through the safety net.
I believe the Minister of Finance has made an honest effort to deliver a fair and equitable budget. But then again, I am an amateur, not a professional. So let's hear what a professional has to say. Let's hear what Richard Allan, chief economist with the B.C. Central Credit Union — we heard this morning from the Leader of the Opposition what a great credit union this is — has to say: "I think the budget stabilization fund is an excellent idea." He goes on to say: "It's crazy to try to balance the budget on an annual basis, because business cycles don't work that way. You need a rainy-day fund like this."
AN HON. MEMBER: Tell us who said that again.
MR. RABBITT: Richard Allan. chief economist with the B.C. Central Credit Union. It's a great quote, my colleagues. I think you should keep it.
The throne speech mentioned that B.C. deserves a fair deal from the federal government. The opposition called this
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fed-bashing. But what did Pat Carney, a senior member within the federal government, now President of the Treasury Board, have to say? She agreed with us that British Columbia was not getting a fair shake. I ask the socialists: don't you want a fair deal for British Columbia? Don't you want a government fighting for British Columbians to get their fair share? Maybe, just maybe, your federal interests are getting placed before the interests of British Columbia. Maybe the socialists of this province have a hidden agenda.
But back to the budget. What is the outlook for British Columbia?
"Economic growth in British Columbia during 1988 will be solid.... A key consideration in the 1988 British Columbia forecast is the physical limits on output."
That means, as hard as we can go, we can only produce so much without expansion.
"Employment in British Columbia grew steadily during 1987."
I can add that it will continue under this government in 1988.
"...improved labour market conditions should result in stronger growth in aggregate wages and salaries, personal income and average weekly earnings than occurred in 1987.... Capital investment should remain strong in 1988."
Whether the socialists like it or not, without that capital investment we cannot create jobs.
"Inflation in British Columbia is expected to increase slightly.... The service sector is expected to grow faster than in 1987...."
More moderate growth in the forest products sector is expected, and faster growth in mining and secondary manufacturing is also expected. I think, when we sum this all up, 1988 is going to be a good year.
In viewing the entire budget, I too had a wish list. I would like to have seen increases in highway spending. I would like to have seen major maintenance and upgrading programs continue throughout the province. I would like to have seen a very firm commitment on a ten-year plan for the Vancouver Island Highway. I would like to have seen increases to the regional college and reinstitution of the JobTrac program. I'd also like to see increases to the Ministry of Environment and the reinstitution of the diking program which worked so well in my riding; also increases in salary to our very overworked and sometimes underpaid conservation officers. If money was not the limiting factor, I could be like the opposition and let my list go on forever and ever. But I will follow the fine example of the Minister of Finance and adopt a responsible fiscal management policy.
Mr. Speaker, the hour is drawing nigh, and I will conclude my remarks. But I was pleased to rise today and vote against the amendment put forward by the opposition, and I will be even more pleased to rise and vote in support of the 1988 budget.
Mr. Rabbitt moved adjournment of the debate.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:54 p.m.