1988 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 34th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 1988
[ Page 3817 ]
B.C. Enterprise Corporation. Mr. Williams –– 3817
Inquiry into milk quotas. ML Rose –– 3819
TCMTB levels at Harmac mill –– 3819
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Social Services and Housing estimates. (Hon. Mr. Richmond)
On vote 61: minister's office –– 3820
Ms. A. Hagen
Tabling Documents –– 3842
International Financial Business (Tax Refund) Act (Bill 22). Hon. Mr. Couvelier
Introduction and first reading –– 3842
International Financial Business Act (Bill 23). Hon. ML Couvelier
Introduction and first reading –– 3842
The House met at 2:07 p.m.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: With us today in the House are members of the dairy industry of British Columbia: John Malenstyn from Delta, Joe Groenendyk from Vancouver Island, Ben Brandsema and Jack DeWit from the Fraser Valley, and August Bremer from the Okanagan. I'm pleased to have them here today, as we're considering a number of issues in the House. It's indeed a pleasure to ask this assembly to please make them welcome.
MR. ROSE: I would like, on behalf of the official opposition, to share with the minister that welcome to representatives of the dairy industry. I'm sure they're over here because everything is wonderful and there are no problems, that they've come over to have lunch and congratulate the minister on all his good work on behalf of the dairymen.
HON. L. HANSON: In the House today we have five friends of mine: from West Vancouver, Jack and Iris MacLean and Mrs. Mary Mackie; from Tsawwassen, Ted and Jean Newcombe. Would the House please make them welcome.
MR. SIHOTA: Mr. Speaker, I have two introductions that I'd like to make. First of all, in your gallery today is Kim Manning, a student in the Western Community. She'll be attending the Youth Parliament as MLA for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew and will represent Victoria at the national youth meeting of the Royal Commonwealth Society in Ottawa. She's here to watch us in question period today, and I'm sure the members opposite will behave suitably.
AN HON. MEMBER: Including you?
MR. SIHOTA: And myself as well.
The other introduction that I'd like to make.... Oh, I notice now that one of the members for Okanagan South is here, but I would like to introduce Gordon and Dorothy Jackson, who hail from Kelowna. Yes, we do have friends in the Kelowna area. Would all members please join me in welcoming the Jacksons.
HON. MR. REID: I'd like the House to give a special welcome to the former mayor of Nanaimo, Mr. Graeme Roberts, who is in the members' gallery today.
MR. PELTON: I have two announcements to make today. First of all, Mr. Speaker, on your behalf I would like to ask the House to give a very warm welcome to Mayor Shirley Henry from Pemberton.
Secondly, on behalf of the second member for Dewdney (Mr. Jacobsen) and myself, I would like to bring to the attention of the House that within the precincts today we have some 100 grade 11 students from Maple Ridge Secondary School. We have a third of this group, 30-plus of them, in the House at this very moment, along with some of their teachers, and I would like the House to give them a very warm welcome.
HON. MR. VEITCH: In the gallery today, from Ladysmith, we have His Worship Mayor Alex Stuart, and I would ask the House to bid him welcome.
HON. B.R. SMITH: In the gallery today are Doug Osborn and his wife, Irene, from Sas — Saskatchewan, who are visiting here. [Laughter.] I don't know why that should amuse members of the House, because aren't three-quarters of the people in this province from Saskatchewan? I know more Saskatchewan people here.... The rest are from Manitoba. Doug's father is a justice of the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatchewan, and Doug is a very well-known lawyer. Make him welcome.
MR. MOWAT: It is my pleasure to introduce to the House today two members of the executive of the Coast Foundation: Mr. Darrell J. Burnha,. the executive director, and Mr. Bill Stewart, who is the administrator and property manager. They have a unique organization in British Columbia that is dealing with people with mental disabilities. They have an exciting program called Clubhouse, and they've been over today making a presentation to the government that we hope will be expanded in this program. I might say that they have also been working with the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Cashore) on other projects in downtown Vancouver, and that Mr. Stewart is also an alderman in the city of Port Coquitlam. I would ask the House to please make them welcome.
MR. ROSE: This is a double-barrelled welcome. Mr. Stewart is an alderman in Port Coquitlam, in the dead centre of my riding. We welcome Mr. Burnham as well. I understand that they had some meetings this morning with the Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. Veitch) — well, they intended to; would you not see them, sir? I hope that you'll see them after lunch and that they wring a lavish grant out of you to go to Port Coquitlam.
In case there is anyone in the House who has not yet been introduced — there might be at least two — I'd like to introduce those two people.
B.C. ENTERPRISE CORPORATION
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Premier. Mr. Premier, are you aware that there was a deposit of $250,000 paid down for the Expo lands by the bidders?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: No, I'm not aware of any deposit.
MR. WILLIAMS: Could you advise the House how much of a deposit was put down by Mr. Toigo in his proposal for all the Enterprise Corporation assets?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I am not aware of any deposits. I think perhaps the B.C. Enterprise Corporation may have this information; I don't have it.
MR. WILLIAMS: Any citizen knows that in buying even a house, you put a deposit down as a sign of good faith. Would it not be reasonable to expect such a deposit from Mr. Toigo in view of the fact that he wanted to acquire a billion dollars' worth of assets?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: As I say, I don't know. This information may be available at the B.C. Enterprise Corporation; I don't have that information.
[ Page 3818 ]
MR. WILLIAMS: It's now clear that the Toigo offer was $445 million for the entire corporation, including the stadium, with a leaseback arrangement. Mr. Premier, you have made it clear too that there were tax advantages in the stadium deal for Mr. Toigo. Could you advise the House how you came to know that, in view of the fact that there is no mention of it in the letter?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I have to assume that anyone wanting to buy the stadium or anything like that would need to be looking at some tax advantage. Otherwise why consider it? The hon. member may not know, but it's probably not good business to buy that sort of thing or to make any offer in that regard, be it a SkyTrain or a stadium, unless there is that....
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Sorry, have you got a question too? It's about time. There's only one person in the NDP that ever has any questions. If there's another member who has a question, the whole of B.C. would welcome that change.
MR. WILLIAMS: Would the Premier confirm that he clearly discussed with Mr. Toigo the tax advantage arrangements of acquiring our public stadium in Vancouver?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I don't know what the details of that are or if in fact it's at all as the member proposes it to be. I don't have that knowledge.
MR. WILLIAMS: Could the Premier advise the House how he became aware of tax advantages in acquiring the stadium?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I am prepared to say that I am not a tax consultant or a tax lawyer or an accountant, so I don't have that information. I can speculate from what I see happening elsewhere or what I know has happened previously, or at least was attempted previously even here; but I'm not up on tax breaks or tax implications as they apply to a particular situation of that nature. I think the member should really get better detailing with respect to that and then put the question possibly to an accountant or someone more knowledgeable in the tax field.
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Premier, are you denying that you discussed this matter with Mr. Toigo?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I can't recall discussing it.
MR. WILLIAMS: Since you know nothing about tax questions, as you say before the House now, where would this possibly have come from?
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: Well, to the person who's doing all the questioning, I don't know where that might have come from, but I would suggest that obviously, as I mentioned to the hon. member and I'll mention it again, if you're looking at the purchase of something of that nature, it would seem logical that there needs to be a tax benefit. Otherwise it's not what I'd call the most profitable sort of venture to become involved with. I don't know of any stadium anywhere on the continent that makes money. Maybe there are some, but I don't know of them.
MR. WILLIAMS: There was a leaseback proposal that would have assured that Mr. Toigo made money. Mr. Premier, you've been bending every rule in the book for your friends.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Minister of Economic Development: Madam Minister, you met with Li Ka-shing in Hong Kong. Could you advise the House what officials were with you — or family — at that meeting?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'd be pleased to answer that question. In all of my business meetings in Asia — on a very successful trade mission to Hong Kong, Japan and Korea — I was accompanied by my deputy minister at that time, Mr. Stan Dubas, and my executive assistant, Miss Shirley Boates. My representative at the particular Hong Kong meeting to which the member refers was Mr. Dickson Hall, who runs our Hong Kong trade office very efficiently and very well, getting new business for British Columbia. Of course my husband accompanied me throughout the whole trip — at his own expense, in case that's the next question from the member — and I believe that was the full British Columbia contingent.
MR. WILLIAMS: We appreciate the complete answer. To the Minister of Economic Development: have you met with any of the bidders for the Expo land since they made their bids?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: No, I have not.
MR. WILLIAMS: So you've met with none of the groups, none of the representatives of the groups that made the bids? You've met with none of them individually or none of them as a group? Or their representatives?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, since the bids were presented to the B.C. Enterprise Corporation, and a decision was called on to be made by that corporation, and since that corporation recommended a proposal to the British Columbia cabinet, I have not met with representatives of any of the groups who were proposing to purchase B.C. Place lands.
MR. WILLIAMS: Since the bids were closed, did you meet with any of the bidders, Madam Minister?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Oh yes, and I've just confirmed that I met with people throughout these last few months, and will meet with business people in the course of my duties, and I've never denied that.
MR. WILLIAMS: Have you met with Li Ka-shing in your own home, Madam Minister?
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: The answer is no.
MR. WILLIAMS: To the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker. Who requested the attendance of your officials at the
[ Page 3819 ]
December meeting with Toigo and the Enterprise Corporation?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Had I known I would have been the subject of a question this afternoon, I would have worn my trench coat.
The request to have an observer attend that meeting which had been arranged came from the Premier's office.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Minister of Finance, you said: "I found it entirely appropriate there should be someone there representing the financial interests of the province." Are you saying that you could not be sure that if there was only a representative of the Premier's office, the public interest would not be served?
HON. MR. COUVELIER: Let me expand, because I think that the issue deserves a full and complete answer, Mr. Speaker, and I'm not sure I'll have the opportunity unless I get more questions, and he may decide not to ask more questions.
It is very common for my Treasury Board analysts to attend meetings arranged by other ministers dealing with third parties. That is a normal part of the process and it is part of their duty as responsible public servants. That particular meeting was attended in the interest of protecting the province and its interests. Furthermore, I can tell the House that my Treasury Board analyst who attended that meeting did not participate in the meeting and was there as an observer only.
MR. WILLIAMS: Mr. Attorney, there's a pattern here of the Premier and his ministers bending the rules. You refused to issue a press release giving Mr. Toigo a clean bill of health. Will you carry out an investigation of the whole process regarding the Expo lands?
HON. B.R. SMITH: I think the process has been very well aired in this place and in other places, Mr. Speaker, and I don't think the kind of investigation or interrogation that the member is speaking of would bring out more facts than have been brought out in this forum. I am amazed how slowly and retardedly they bring them out, though.
INQUIRY INTO MILK QUOTAS
MR. ROSE: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Agriculture. I've given him some notice on this.
Yesterday, or the day before, the minister announced the appointment of former Agriculture minister Cyril Shelford as "an independent one-man inquiry, to investigate whether the dissident dairy producers were treated fairly by the Milk Board of B.C." I'd like to ask: did the Premier's office, popularly known as "the Poole room," or his secretary David Poole request such an inquiry?
HON. MR. SAVAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think I'm being snookered over here. [Laughter.] How be it if we play a little eight-ball?
Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, it's definitely not true, if you're assuming that the Premier's office or Mr. Poole had anything to do with this. This is an inquiry asked for by me.
MR. ROSE: I think the minister miscued as usual.
Mr. Speaker, as a supplementary, Mr. Shelford was supposed to determine whether these dissident milk producers were treated fairly by the B.C. Milk Board. I must remind the House that the courts have already decided twice over a period of two or three years that the milk producers have been treated fairly and that they must buy quota if they want to get back in the business. I'd like to ask the minister: how much more public money is the government prepared to spend — including a levy write-off of something like $3 million — to favourably treat these five maverick milk producers?
HON. MR. SAVAGE: I now have to get chalked up, obviously, for a game here.
Mr. Speaker, obviously the inquiry is asked for at arm's length. Whether the question from the opposition is that the courts have made the decision.... There's no question about the court decision; that is not the question at all. The reason the inquiry was asked for is that the minister has been termed to have a bias one way or the other. I feel it's far better for the minister to call for an inquiry at arm's length from those biases that are being called.
MR. ROSE: But it's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the arm's-length inquiry includes a former Minister of Agriculture; what we're asking is for a former Minister of Agriculture to investigate the ministry. That's absolutely absurd and ludicrous.
Finally, I'd like to say that the milk producers were advised by the minister on March 25 that the dissident producers who didn't abide by the rules would be shut down by the end of the month. Since Mr. Shelford is now taking a look at this whole problem on behalf of the ministry, I want to know whether or not the minister would confirm that his March 25 statement about a shutdown is no longer valid and that it ceased to be operative at the point when ex-minister Shelford was appointed to study this problem.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: To the best of my knowledge that milk is still being dumped. It's not being shipped.
TCMTB LEVELS AT HARMAC MILL
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise to answer a question taken on notice some time ago. I know the Legislative Assembly has been waiting in breathless anticipation for this answer, because I had a phone call this morning from the second member for Nanaimo (Mr. Lovick). It has to do with 2-(thiocyanomethylthio)benzothiazole, commonly called TCMTB, which is an anti-sapstain material.
The second member for Nanaimo asked me some time ago whether or not my ministry has conducted studies and will be making recommendations to the WCB regarding permissible levels of this sapstain material. The answer is that my ministry has been working for some time in cooperation with both Environment Canada and the forest industry to identify and control the environmental and health impacts of anti-sapstain chemicals. The code of recommended practices for wood protection, which is aimed at both worker and environmental protection, was a good start.
We took further specific action last September with the introduction of a control program to reduce the release of these chemicals from lumber operations through stormwater.
[ Page 3820 ]
A joint industry-government task force is currently investigating this issue, and the code of good practice will be revised to accommodate this particular concern as well as any new information on these products as it becomes available.
Currently, waste management branch staff are reviewing the available data on the toxicity of all sapstain products currently registered for use, including TCMTB. Although the ministry doesn't have a mandate for setting occupational standards for chemicals, this information is of course available to the WCB. As well, regulations are being drafted under the Waste Management Act to deal with these chemicals. They will address a number of concerns, including wastes discharged to the air, contaminated wood waste, spray-booth sludges disposed of by incineration, and storm water discharges. These regulations will be completed in the very near future.
Here endeth the answer. For the benefit of the Legislative Assembly, the document that I've read from has been sent over by House mail to the member, and I will now send this copy off to Hansard so that they can get the spelling right of that chemical.
With that said, Mr. Speaker, I call Committee of Supply.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
SOCIAL SERVICES AND HOUSING
On vote 61: minister's office, $224,319.
MR. CASHORE: Toward the end of the day yesterday — a day that I think saw some very reasonable exchanges within the House, on both sides, as we canvassed some of the issues before us — there was no question that there was extremely strong disagreement on matters of philosophy with regard to how to address the issue of poverty, an issue that we all share. I would like to say that I think we had a very worthwhile debate in the House yesterday.
Towards the end of the day, we were getting into the issue of income assistance and the difficulty that a great many people have in trying to provide their families with adequate food, clothing and shelter and be able to care for their families in a way in which self-esteem is not lost — because we know that when self-esteem is lost, then social problems are on the way. It seems to me that part of the argument we had at the time, coming from our side of the House, was that it's not the government programs that are expensive, it's poverty that's expensive, and if we do not address the generic causes of poverty in our society, we will not succeed.
We heard the minister saying, with regard to the example of the hungry schoolchildren program, that most of the people in B.C. who are on welfare are able to get by on what they have, and therefore there must be some kind of problem with those people who aren't getting by on what they have in those schools that have been identified by the Vancouver School Board, and more recently by a majority of the Vancouver city council with regard to a motion which was made by the council yesterday and required a three-quarters majority to pass, and was narrowly defeated by a 7-3 vote. There simply isn't enough money to enable those parents to provide adequate nutrition for their families, and therefore they go to school hungry. It's not because they need counselling; it's not because we need to be notifying people who may impose counselling or may cause children to be apprehended. It's because there isn't enough money to put the adequate nutrition there on the table.
I realize, Mr. Chairman, that the debate is going to rage on for quite some time, and that we're probably not going to convince the minister in debate at this time, because we know of the constraints that the Premier has placed upon him. But we do despair at the fact that the GAIN budget is reduced by $42 million — dollars that are desperately needed by low-income people, by people on welfare in this province. Just to give a somewhat different perspective than the perspective the minister was giving, Mr. Chairman....
Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I might ask you to call for some order in the House at this point, as I'm having a difficult time hearing myself speak.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The hon. member does make a good point. Perhaps we could have a little quiet so the member can make his point to the minister.
MR. CASHORE: Mr. Chairman, there is another perspective than that of the minister, and it's contained in a letter to the editor that has been published in several newspapers, written by a Mrs. Beth Loring, an advocate who works here in Victoria as a volunteer with people on low income. She says:
"Following revelations that some B.C. children are going to school hungry...the Minister of Social Services and Housing has declared that school lunches shouldn't be funded by the province, as a single mother with two children receives $1,193 in monthly benefits.
"Canadian Council of Social Development figures for 1987 show that $20,500 a year for three people constitutes poverty. The single mother receives an actual yearly income of $11,052, nearly 44 percent below the poverty level. Drug, medical, dental and hospital benefits, while essential, do not put money into her pocket. The school startup allowance is given once a year: $31 or $47, depending on the child's age. It is not monthly income. The federal child tax credit is a one-time payment and is usually swallowed up by debts.
"In actual cash, our single mother receives $921 a month. After her shelter allowance...she has $435 for support. This breaks down to $145 a month per person, or $4.64 a day, for food, clothing, bus, laundry and all other necessities including recreation."
I'm sure that the minister would agree that self-esteem requires that recreation be available to all people in our society. She concludes: "The minister weaves a fantasy out of words and figures. The mother and her children live the reality."
Yesterday I was making the point that as well as the figures that are often put forward with regard to this argument, the minister is often heard to say that when people are truly in need they can apply for emergency assistance. I won't repeat it, but towards the end of the day I made the point that on many occasions people who apply for assistance are turned down, whether by budgetary constraints or by an official feeling that the people do not qualify for that emergency assistance. I also pointed out that on several occasions,
[ Page 3821 ]
by my own intervention, a phone call to a ministry office has resulted in the client's receiving emergency assistance — meaning that until I intervened there were not the procedures in the ministry office to ascertain that indeed the individual did qualify to receive emergency funds.
Several points are being made here, but among them is the point that when we say that emergency assistance is available and the public gets the idea that it will be given, the fact is that in many instances it is turned down. The opportunities that people have within the system are much more limited than the ministry would have us believe.
I know that when the minister comments, he will want to respond to some of the other points made towards the end of yesterday afternoon, but I do have a few other specific questions that I didn't get to yesterday. One is that in the media backgrounder to the changes in the GAIN delivery, it was mentioned that in the reorganization of service delivery over 200 new positions will be dedicated to income assistance. We understand that and the positions being made available, therefore people who are leaving, Woodlands staff and that sort of thing.... But it goes on to say that there are new IA-EIP supervisor positions to improve service and program monitoring. Then it goes on to say that the number of inspectors has been increased and that an income assistance provincial coordinator will be added.
Are these inspectors people who are involved in the process of dealing with "welfare fraud"? Is the number being increased to deal with such a problem? If that is the case, could we have facts and figures with regard to why such an increase in staffing would be required? We would like data on how that problem, if it is a problem, has increased beyond the level at which the ministry has been addressing it already, it being a known fact that already the deputy minister has very competent people doing that monitoring and inspection. The announcement says that it has been increased, but it doesn't say by how many. So I'm also asking by how many it is being increased. That gives rise to the other question: what is the number that it's being increased from? In other words, how many of those inspectors are there now? What will the new number of inspectors be?
Another question. Once you hire inspectors at that extra cost, given the total cost of having those inspectors hired, would you give me the figures with regard to how much money they recover; and does the money that they recover because of their inspections pay for the cost of their being there in the first place? So the question is: are we in fact spending more money to inspect and to watchdog this whole process than the amount of money that we are saving by so doing?
Another question, Mr. Chairman: in the announcement that came out yesterday — the changes to the GAIN income assistance program — reference is made to an action committee. We have looked all over the place and tried to track down the report of this GAIN action committee that's referred to. It's not in the legislative library. We haven't seen the report. Will this report be made available and will the minister table it in the House?
Now another question which has to do with the employable-unemployable issue. I've done some checking on this and some people who have quite a bit of experience in working with social services issues have stated that they are of the opinion that when a person loses the employable designation....
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The unemployable.
MR. CASHORE: I'm sorry, yes. When they are declared employable, when they lose the unemployable designation, they no longer qualify for training programs. Could I have clarification of that? Does the action that took place yesterday render some people no longer able to qualify for training programs?
I think I will give the minister an opportunity to speak now, Mr. Chairman.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: First of all, I see we have a group of young people up in the gallery who are obviously not in school, and I sincerely hope you're learning something from witnessing the exchange today. It's got to be more exciting than being in school, hasn't it? We'll try to make it that way for you. Welcome. Since I don't know what school you're from, I'll just say welcome.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Maple Ridge Secondary School. Nice to see you here, Maple Ridge.
First of all, just let me cover one thing that was the subject of conversation yesterday for the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam, and that was the individual case that he referred to extensively, the family from Golden, the Graham family.
Mr. Member, I said yesterday that the information on the case was coming to me in dribs and drabs and that I would give it to you in one sort of release today, but — and I wanted to put this on the record — I'm not going to do that, simply because there is far too much information here that is of a confidential nature. Rather than table it in the House, I would request that you and I have a private meeting sometime and spend a few minutes going over it. If that is satisfactory to the member, I will leave it at that; but I didn't want to have it on the record that I would table it in the House and then not do it. Is that satisfactory? The member indicates that it is. So if....
MR. CASHORE: A point of clarification, Mr. Minister. Mr. Chairman, my nodding of my head indicated that I understood what the minister was saying. It did not say that I was agreeing with all aspects, although I certainly do agree to meet with the minister in his office, and I'll say more about that.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: It's just that the case.... All of these cases, as the member knows, are very sensitive — the issues of apprehension and children at risk — and I would rather discuss that with him in private than in public.
I want to cover a few points that the member mentioned. First of all, the self-esteem of people who are on income assistance: I take the view — I think the member knows this but I just put it on the record — that people's self-esteem goes up dramatically when they are employed as opposed to when they are not employed, and all of our research and all the discussions I've had with people who are on welfare would seem to indicate that.
So to reiterate what I said yesterday, the programs and the changes that we announced are to assist people to get off the welfare rolls and back into meaningful employment.
While I'm on that subject, when a person loses the designation of unemployable and becomes employable, he or she will not be deprived of training programs. The training
[ Page 3822 ]
programs will of course be available to that person whether they are designated unemployable or employable; it would be counterproductive to do otherwise.
The member touched again on the issue of schoolchildren in the inner city of Vancouver. That was covered extensively yesterday. In fact, I think we must have spent an hour on that topic, so I will not go into it again. I think my comments are pretty well documented in yesterday's Blues, so if anyone wishes to avail themselves of the Blues, they will understand my and the government's position on that issue.
The member refers several times to the fact that the GAIN budget has decreased by $42 million. Well, that is true, Mr. Member, but you must also remember that the GAIN budget — which in layman's terms is welfare — is a demand-driven budget. As the demand for welfare goes up, the GAIN budget necessarily goes up. We have had years in the past when we have under budgeted for the GAIN amount. The number of people on unemployment rolls has risen; therefore the GAIN budget has risen. This year, the welfare rolls are decreasing, and our projections are that we will get by with $42 million less than we did last year. Just to clarify, that is the reason for the $42 million decrease in the GAIN budget.
Again, the member dwelt on the fact that our welfare rates are too low. We have had that dialogue back and forth many times, starting about a year ago, and I don't think that's going to change. But I will point out that when we compare our rates with the other provinces in Canada, we seem to be just about in the middle in most categories. There are some where we're a little higher and some where we're a little lower, but when we average it out, we seem to be just about dead centre, which I think is a good place for us to be.
The member addressed the 200 new positions, as was issued yesterday. I should add that these are not all additional positions in the ministry, but some have been moved into positions dedicated to income assistance programs. So there are some new positions and some just shifted.
He went on to ask about the number of inspectors being increased. That is true. We have added five inspectors provincewide, and these were to cover areas where we didn't have any inspection services before. The total number of inspectors now is 35, with five new positions scattered throughout the province to cover areas where there was no inspection before. He asked whether the recovery will be more than the cost of these inspectors. I can't give him numbers, but I can assure him without any question that the amount recovered will be far in excess of the cost.
The GAIN Action Committee was mentioned again. I'm sorry my memory isn't good enough to tell the member exactly when and where it was announced, but it was last fall. I will endeavour to find out exactly when and where for the member, but I don't have that information at my fingertips right now.
One other point you mentioned, Mr. Member, about obtaining a crisis grant for one of your constituents.... I applaud you for that, but I also say that that's the duty of an MLA: to go to bat for his or her constituents. We can all cite many instances in every ministry where the system seems to have failed someone, and as a last resort they come to their MLA. We all get them, not just this ministry but others. That will probably continue as long as you and I are members in this House. So, Mr. Member, I guess I'm saying that it's not unusual for a constituent to have been failed — in their mind — by the system and to have gone to their MLA. Sometimes you will be successful in achieving what they wish and other times you won't be; but that is just normal procedure.
MR. CASHORE: I appreciate the statement made by the minister with regard to the family from Golden, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet privately with the minister and find out more about the circumstances of this case. I do affirm the minister's position with regard to confidentiality, as I have done as long as I have been involved in my role as debate leader for Social Services. But I still state, as I said yesterday, that this case is an example of an increasing number of the kinds of situations that are requiring special investigation. Therefore it is appropriate with such a case to call for an independent inquiry and completely clear the air. Such an inquiry would protect confidentiality; there's no question about that.
As I said yesterday, I have called for a complete inquiry with regard to the delivery of family and children's services in the province that would involve not only the Ministry of Social Services and Housing but the other three ministries that have a tremendous involvement in the delivery of services to children — the point being that a multiplicity of ministries provide services, and it's very difficult to coordinate them. Therefore gaps are created and, tragically, people fall between the gaps.
With regard to some of the points that the minister just made, I won't comment on all of them because I think that we've canvassed some of that before. With regard to the crisis grant, yes, I realize it is the duty of an MLA to advocate on behalf of her or his constituents, but I was explaining this with regard to my role as debate leader for Social Services; I had had phone calls from all over the province. The point is that when the message is put out by the minister or by officials within the ministry that this kind of support grant is readily available, it's very difficult in many instances even for a deserving person to receive that grant.
We're talking here about people who are people of desperation. As the minister says, a person has reached the end of the line. In some instances they go to the MLA, but they should not have to do that. The checks and balances should be present within the system.
I'm going to go to one more question, and then I think some other of my colleagues will have some points they wish to make, following the minister's comments. One point that I want to raise is with regard to Bill 72, passed during the last session of the House, pertaining particularly to the GAIN amendment act, which was in connection with the Attorney-General's child maintenance enforcement act. It seems to me that there's a potential problem within the administration of this, and that is that the act is not necessarily implemented in all parts of the province at the same time.
Let's imagine for a moment the confusion that could exist if a debtor lives in a part of the province where the act has not been proclaimed into force, and the creditor does not. Would that not result in some incredible confusion? Also, would the regions of the province be based on regional districts, or would they be based on these other kinds of regions we've been hearing about once in a while in the news recently, or just how would that be dealt with? Would it be in various regions as they pertain to the Ministry of Social Services and Housing? Or would it be in districts throughout the province where Attorney-General's offices existed? I really think we need some clarification on that.
Basically, the point is that if sections of that portion of the GAIN act are implemented piecemeal, as the act makes possible, what about the confusion that would result from that? Also, with regard to Bill 72, there's a real problem in
[ Page 3823 ]
that the $100 exemption is not retroactive. So for the woman who because of circumstances comes to apply for income assistance, we could imagine a very frequent situation where that woman, on the basis of court-ordered moneys, would have anticipated a payment coming through, and would have gone into debt in order to make necessary purchases. And then that money that is rightfully hers comes through; but because she is now on GAIN, she is only entitled to keep $100. This is grossly unfair.
Again, when these measures were being put forward, it was put forward in a way that indicated that this was going to be a real boon for these women. I fail to see how it is going to be a benefit for her. I do realize it will be a benefit for the taxpayer, because it will be money coming into the coffers. But in such an instance, surely that money should not be coming into the coffers of the province but should be going to the woman, so she could pay for the expenses that she incurred during the time that she was a working-poor member of our population and had incurred debts, knowing that a court-ordered payment was forthcoming.
With that, I will listen to what the minister has to say.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: On Bill 72, I understand the member's point about introducing it provincewide. There's no question that that would be the most desirable way to do it. But since the majority of Bill 72, and the control of it, is under the Attorney-General, I have to go on his timetable. We are told that while they will implement it provincewide as quickly as possible, it's not possible to do that. I believe it will be introduced in the lower mainland this summer, but within a very few months will be provincewide. So the period of time that it's not provincewide will be very short; I can't tell you exactly how short, but within a very few months from its introduction it will be provincewide. So if there is any discrepancy, it will be for a very short period of time.
We have canvassed the issue of the $100 maintenance and whether it should be retroactive. I can understand, again, the member's point, but it was the decision of the government not to make it retroactive. From the moment people come on income assistance, if they have a maintenance order, they automatically receive the $100; if there is no maintenance order, they don't.
MS. MARZARI: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to spend the next hour discussing, if I may, the family-strengthening program of this government. I'm under the impression that this program is to be addressed under the Premier's estimates and not the estimates of the Social Services minister. Am I correct in that assumption?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Well, Mr. Chairman, a good deal of the program is being delivered through this ministry, and some of it through the Ministry of Health. So I suppose that whether it's debated here or in the estimates of the Premier or the Minister of Health is a decision for the Chair to make. Without wishing to push any decisions upon you, I would suggest that it shouldn't be debated in everybody's ministry estimates. I'll defer to the Chair.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I appreciate that, and I think the minister is absolutely right. It would seem to me, since funds are going to appear within different portfolios, that the Chair should allow that it be debated in each one. We'll have to avoid repetition if we can. But certainly go ahead, hon. member.
MS. MARZARI: Mr. Chairman, it's our impression that this program, although it's $20 million, is a very controversial one. It's controversial because it takes away from the ongoing program of the Ministry of Social Services. It's controversial because it presents to us policies and ideas and programs, and is presented in a way which can be countervailing to the work of the ministry to date. I am suggesting to you, Mr. Chairman, that this program, as it is presented, is not necessarily just a consolidation of ongoing programs and a redirection of some of them; it is in fact a statement of philosophy and principle put forward by the Premier that takes away from excellent programs that we may have right now for families, in this government and in this province, and in fact turns them around into something that we hadn't intended at all.
I want to, if I may then, because we are proceeding with an investigation of this $20 million budget — a slush fund, basically, to appease the Premier, if I may say; this "Leave it to Beaver" family picture that is being painted for us; this "Father Knows Best" family picture that we are expected to swallow whole.... I would like to address it in terms of the categories the Premier himself set down in a press conference, delineating four subheadings for this program: a child care package, a supported living package, an adoption package and a family support program package. I'm wondering whether the minister would be good enough to cost out each one of those categories.
Yesterday he spoke for a few moments about a $3 million item attached to the day care program, and I have duly noted that in my book. Would he put a cost beside the supported living program, the adoption program and the family support program, and delineate for me which of those dollars might be cost-shared, so we can expect to see a retrieval, and which will be coming out of his ministry?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I'm pleased to answer the member's questions, and I will go into them at length. I didn't really want to get into politics when we're discussing such an important program, but I don't really have any choice. When the member stands up and says, "This is a $20 million slush fund to satisfy the Premier," that's about as political as you can get, and it's about as wrong as you can get.
I have no alternative but to say that I find it absolutely incredible that someone would say that a program to strengthen the family is controversial. All of a sudden now you're against families, Madam Member. I don't find it controversial at all to come out in support of strengthening families.
To make a comment that it takes away from ongoing programs.... I would like to hear your explanation of that. When I sit down you can have your shot at explaining how it takes away from programs being done by this government. It is a $20 million program, approximately $16 million of which will be delivered by this ministry.
A new subsidy rate for infant day care is being negotiated with the feds now, so I can't answer you explicitly as to whether it will be cost-shared. But we are negotiating that, and I think that it will be. The program is $6.1 million, and it's for infant day care for children up to 18 months. It's to assist women to return to work or school after the birth of their child. There will be more enhancements to the pro-
[ Page 3824 ]
vince's day care program once negotiations with the federal government have been concluded. As I said yesterday, the overall negotiations should be concluded sometime this summer.
I point out again that these dollars are not coming from existing budgets in my ministry or any other ministry, so they are not taking away from some other program.
You asked for the costs on the supported living arrangements: $3 million is allocated to provide residential and support services to women during pregnancy and after delivery. The minister currently contracts with facilities in Vancouver and Kamloops, and a range of other options will be developed as needed. We say "as needed" because we don't know at this time what the demand will be, Madam Member.
This could include private homes supervised by nonprofit societies, home-sharing and support arrangements, semi-independent apartment living in clusters of three or four apartments, or small group living situations. These options will be available up to four months before delivery and up to three months after. A user fee will apply with financial assistance to those in need.
Then you asked about the amount allocated to family support services. The budgeted amount is $6.9 million, to provide support services to pregnant women and women with babies at home or in school, as needed; family support homemakers for child care and household management skills for young mothers; special services to children for supportive child care counselling and help with behaviour management skills at home; rehabilitation resources in conjunction with local school boards for counselling and support in basic skill development to pregnant and parenting teens who are experiencing difficulty at school; and a new teen support program in conjunction with local school boards to enable teen mothers to finish school by offering child care as well as parenting and life skills training.
For adoptions we have allocated $350,000, and we have said that we will review the entire Adoption Act because it is out of date and, with one or two minor exceptions, hasn't been modified since 1920. I think it is probably past time that we took a look at the entire Adoption Act and brought it into the 1980s. I said yesterday we will endeavour to do that and have the changes or the new act ready for introduction at the next session of the House, which will be next spring — next February or March; sometime like that.
Madam Member, I think I've answered your questions. I find it difficult to respond to the strengthening-the-family program as being controversial. Families are truly the strength of our country, of our province certainly and our nation as a whole, and to say that it's a $20 million slush fund I think is purely a political statement. I would like to know how you think it takes away from other programs.
MS. MARZARI: I'd like to thank the minister for the invitation. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to tell him how this is old money redirected into new programs. It doesn't seem to me that this is new money by any imagination.
Yesterday, when I was inquiring about day care costs, I asked how much day care would be increased by, since you did not break it down for me in the estimates as I asked last year. You said there would be a $6 million increase in day care. I know that this government puts that money into subsidies to parents who earn less than $800 a month, from my calculations, to put their children in care. Now you're telling me that the $6.1 million increase you're looking for this year is being directed towards young mothers. Am I correct? Is that what you just said: that you're setting aside a $6.1 million increase in day care subsidies for teenage mothers, for children who have been encouraged to produce children in our society? I can barely believe it. Is this a total number you're giving me, or is this a number that's being dedicated to the unborn child?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The figure of $6.1 million is a new subsidy rate for infant day care, not just for teen mothers. I didn't say that; that's a different.... I think you're confusing the support of living arrangements with infant day care. This is infant day care for all mothers to care for infants from zero to 18 months. And it is new money; it is not within our federal cost-sharing programs at the moment. We are negotiating that.
MS. MARZARI: Then I would ask the minister what new money is being injected into the existing day care program, the one that stretches from 18 months to 12 years of age, the program that is desperately underfunded right now and from which 250,000 children in this province could benefit if additional subsidies and spaces were made available. Is there any new money in your budget to upgrade or just meet the simple costs of maintenance and cost of living for the existing day care program, or is all the day care increase going to infants?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I'm happy to answer that. The increase this year in the day care budget is $3 million, and that's the provincial contribution only. That still hasn't been negotiated; that's part of the negotiation with the feds. So our total day care budget this year is $38.2 million plus the $6.1 million that I just mentioned. I repeat, the $6.1 is brand-new money. It's not, as you say, old, recycled money. That brings our total day care budget to about $44.3 million plus what we obtain from the federal government.
MS. MARZARI: Thank you, Mr. Minister, because I asked you for the budget yesterday, and today I feel as if I've gotten a number: $44.3 million. I'll have to commend you for raising that from, I believe, about $26 million last year. Do you remember what the actual costs of day care were last year, since they weren't broken down for me?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I can get it for you. I don't have it.
MS. MARZARI: You have increased the day care budget considerably from last year, but I must add that by injecting only $3 million into the ongoing day care programs in this province this year, you are cutting back the new money. Last year you injected $6 million into ongoing day care programs, into the subsidies. You increased the subsidies for children three to five years old.
MS. MARZARI: Yes, I'm having difficulty figuring it out too. So I think the actuals will be very helpful at a certain point. It would be useful in the future to break these things down in the estimates so that we can all understand from the
[ Page 3825 ]
beginning. I'm suggesting that you're negotiating for $6 million for infant day care, and yet the ongoing program that desperately needs upgrading and pushing for, you're injecting only $3 million into. That program for which there are 17, 000 spaces now — and we desperately could use another 100,000 spaces.... You are taking away from that program in your priorities, Mr. Minister, and supporting an infant program for which there is a demand, but the spaces now only number 177 in the province. So I would suggest to you that your family support program, or the family strengthening program, has already influenced decision-making and influenced priorities in ongoing programs of this province.
Let me turn for a moment to another ongoing program in this province that's run by the Education department, a program, I should add, which seems to have received rave reviews; a program which has been instituted — in 1985, I gather — by the B.C. Ministry of Education, by your government; a program which has different names in different school districts. In Victoria it seems to be called the family management program for grade 12 students; in other school districts in the province it's called family studies, in North Vancouver, for example. It's generally taught between grade 7 and grade 12, and it talks to the following purposes:
"The purposes of the course are to assist students to explore the reciprocal influences of family, self and society and to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their world.
"...the curriculum is designed to encourage students to use processes of decision-making, communicating and problem-solving in a wide variety of learning situations." It concentrates on the "necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to meet the challenges of our dynamic and complex society."
I would suggest to you, Mr. Minister, that your Education department has a beginning understanding of the fact that we do live in a complex and dynamic society, and that the students who go through this course are exposed to real choices and real alternatives. The students who've had the benefits of this course — in talking to one of the teachers who teaches it — generally come out with a pretty intelligent attitude towards how society ticks over, and, if I may add, a generally pro-choice attitude towards abortion.
I suggest to you that a little more investment in programs like the family management program, as it is called here in Victoria, might produce for you a true family strengthening by investing in young people at an early age — at the high school level most notably, when the questions are first asked and when the answers are demanded. By investing in kids at that age we might be a lot better off than introducing $20 million projects farther down the line, telling them where they can live when they get pregnant; telling them what kind of money is available for them after they produce their babies; and then cutting them off at 18 months after the baby is born and expecting them to find their own way at the age of 15, 16 or 17. I'm talking about real choice here, Mr. Minister, and how you are spending money in a post-crisis situation instead of doing a little prevention at the front end by investing perhaps in some better education programs in your schools.
The supported living program. We've gone through some of the programs that are incorporated into the supported living program, and I see that you'll be using for the young girls, the people we used to call wayward girls.... We thought we'd grown out of that in the fifties perhaps, as we watched girls disappearing out of their communities to have babies at Aunt Ida's in Idaho or something, coming back to the community perhaps a year older and looking 20 years older, having produced babies and given them up. Now we have a situation where this ministry and this government are expecting girls to do exactly the same thing that I thought we had put an end to 30 or 40 years ago. I had thought that our community was a little more compassionate to our young people and was ready to invest in real information programs, such as the ones I have just described, in our schools and real attempts to help kids not make mistakes in the first place.
However, since we are here discussing the spending of public money for supported living, perhaps you could tell me, Mr. Minister, how many babies this government is actually banking on.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: It's very difficult to answer a question like the last one, which I find absolutely ridiculous. I will come back to that in a moment.
First of all, I do agree with the member that any education we can provide for young people, in high school or wherever, is good. I mean, who could argue with that? It's a program, if I'm not mistaken, run under the Ministry of Education, and I commend them for it. It's an excellent program, and I think we should continue that type of program.
We have a group of young people with us today. I see they're leaving, but I hope they're getting something from this. Nice to see you here. Welcome to the House. I sincerely hope that you're getting something out of this debate. I think that anything we can do to give young people information about the world they're about to face is terrific. We don't know all the answers at our age, and I am sure that they don't and that they appreciate any information we can impart to them with regard to their future and the planning of their lives.
So I do agree with you there, that family planning and telling them about all the pitfalls of raising families and rearing children should be done. However, it's not a perfect world, as you probably know, and what we're saying to those who find themselves in a predicament they didn't necessarily want to be in is that we are there to offer help.
To ask me a question about how many babies or whatever it was that we expect to produce I find absolutely ludicrous. We have no idea what the demand will be in the supported living arrangement. I said that in my remarks. But we're there to help, whatever the demand is. We're not going to leave them alone. When a teen-age girl finds herself pregnant, not through desire or choice — maybe that's a better word — we're there to help.
So to say that we don't show compassion for young people is erroneous. I outlined what would be available. We put a tentative budget on it of $3 million, but I say tentative, because we can only make a best guess. We don't sit down and say that we expect the system to produce this many babies. I find that question impossible to answer. We know that there will be some, that we will end up with young women who are pregnant and that many of those pregnancies will be unwanted. We hope that before that happens we will have given them as much education as possible, but after they find themselves in that situation, we hope we can give them all the alternatives so that they can make an intelligent decision.
MS. MARZARI: Is there a clear-cut intention then, in your ministry's portfolio, of grants to non-profit agencies to
[ Page 3826 ]
double or triple the amount of money to the family planning agency of British Columbia?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: To say it for the third time, Mr. Chairman, we will provide funds under the supported living arrangement section of the strengthening-the-family program. We will provide funds as needed. I've said that now three times. We don't know what the demand will be, so I can't tell you whether it will be doubled or tripled or quadrupled, but the funds will be provided as needed.
MS. MARZARI: Has the family planning agency approached the minister in the last few months to request additional funding or to request being put back on the funding roster so that family planning of B.C. can continue or restart its process of advising and helping women make a choice about whether they will carry on with the pregnancy?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I was kind of listening to two conversations there. When you refer to family planning, I understood you were referring to family planning in general; you mean the family planning association. My deputy tells me that to date we have not received a request for funding. I am sure that he is correct in that, and at such time as we receive a request from the family planning association, then we will be able to deal with it. But to date we have not had such a request.
MS. MARZARI: In other words, the minister has not gone to the family planning association and said to them: "Look, we want to do a decent education program. We want to get in there and bolster our Ministry of Education with its family management program. We want to make real choices available and help young women understand that choice is available, and we'd like you to submit an application to us, so that we can start this discussion with the young people in our communities." Is the minister saying that he has not taken the initiative on this?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: No, I haven't approached the family planning association.
MS. MARZARI: Would the minister be inclined to do so at this point? We know from his own words in the last ten minutes that he is most concerned about intelligent, rational decisions being made by young people about their future, and he's concerned about what real choices might be available for them if they happen to get pregnant.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I would certainly meet with the family planning association. I think at this time, since they must be fully aware of what the government's doing, I'd rather respond to an overture from them to sit down and talk with me, but I would be most happy to do so.
MS. MARZARI: Moving on from the supported-living aspect of this program.... We have partly covered day care, supported living. Adoption you've covered, Mr. Minister, by suggesting that you are adjusting your adoption regulations to make them more flexible, whatever that could mean. I'd like to talk about family support programs for a while. These are programs which you are going to make available to young mothers after their babies are born and when they are living in the community. I think that's what we're talking about. You invited me at the beginning of this exchange to talk about what new moneys are being directed towards these programs at the expense of ongoing programs, and that's really what I'd like to get involved with talking about here.
For one thing, in a press conference on GAIN that you held April 12, you talked about how single parents who become employed will find that they are charged the day care surcharge for one year. Yesterday we talked about this, and you said you weren't quite sure whether that was in fact going to happen. But are you saying, basically, that anybody who has a child will, for the first year of that child's life, be paid the total costs of child care? Or are you saying that for any single parent on welfare, after she gets a job, you'll be paying the total costs? In other words, if child care costs $350 a month — which it does, for a three-to-five-year-old — you will be paying more than the $262 you presently pay in subsidy; you will be covering the difference, the additional $90. So what are you saying here? Are you telling me about new mothers, or are you telling me about existing moms on welfare?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Chairman, it's exactly as the member stated at the end — it's for existing mothers on welfare who become employed. She had it exactly right. We will pick up the surcharge for one year, if they qualify.
MS. MARZARI: It comes back to this business of family support programs, Mr. Minister. Are you aware that the mother, when she is seeking a job and unable to find one, is simultaneously unable to have the full costs of child care paid for her child?
The minister indicates yes. Once she's off welfare and working, she's then entitled to receive the full costs of child care for one year. But while she's unemployed and seeking employment, she does not have that benefit, and she is forced to pay an additional $90 a month out of her welfare payment, if she has care in a licensed group setting.
I just want to make that clear, because this is one of the inconsistencies we come across when we talk about family support programs: we don't treat people as whole people but as cogs in our own administrative machines. If you're employable and out of a job, you don't get your child care covered completely. If you're employable and in a job earning money, you do get your child care covered completely. You can see that there's a real disincentive there for the individual concerned.
Coming back to the teen-age mother, or the woman who has come through your Maywood Home setting or situation, she is going to receive the full costs of infant day care, I think we decided yesterday. Or is the minister ready to confirm an absolute number that she is entitled to receive for the monthly care of her infant? Are we still talking $400 here? Has the minister made up his mind?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Chairman, it's not a question of the minister making up his mind. I said we were discussing what that amount would be. We're discussing it with the people involved and people who are experts in this. We would be announcing the rate probably by the end of this month.
MS. MARZARI: Talking about the support homemakers, you're suggesting for these new moms, these teen-
[ Page 3827 ]
age moms or these moms out of these "supported" settings, who've made up their minds to keep their babies and who are the beneficiaries of this special pool of the Premier's funds — which are basically your funds out of your ministry and cost shared with the federal government.... The support homemaker program, by my calculations, in family support services declined by 13 percent between 1982 and 1986. The family support homemakers actually went from $4.5 million in '82 to $3.9 million in '86. Those are budget dollars; they're not inflated dollars. They're not dollars adjusted for inflation; in other words, they're not real dollars. But even in budgetary terms, the total spent went down by 13 percent. I'm sure if you added inflation, which was probably close to 11 percent over those years, it would read more like 25 percent.
So you're saying now, after 25 percent has been cut off family support homemakers, that you are going to reinvest in homemakers for young girls, or women who've chosen to keep their babies. What are you going to do for homemaker services for the rest of the population? I'll even exclude the seniors, because my colleague from New Westminster talks about long-term care and about special homemaking support, and it might come under another program altogether.
I'd like to know what happens to the family support homemakers over the whole population, those people who have spent the last ten years since the program was instituted really supporting families. These are the people who go in there and scrub the floors, obviously, who are there to talk when there's a crisis, and who are there to make sure the house is held together in some reasonable semblance. It's the kind of thing that many social service agencies used to do in the olden days, and now we find it being taken care of by support homemakers.
What real increases are you going to make this year to those homemaker services outside of special services to the women who decide to keep their children?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I find it hard to identify with the tone when the member talks about "these new moms of yours," as if we invented them or something like that. I don't think we invented something brand-new here. I think we're trying to deal with a problem that exists, not something new. We don't treat them as cogs in a machine. We are putting more people into the ministry so that we can deal with these people on a more one-to-one basis and give them more one-to-one counselling. We're putting in these services to get away from the very thing that she says we're doing — treating them like cogs in a machine.
As to the budget for family support homemakers, the budget in '87-88 was $4.09 million. The budget in '88-89 is up to $4.38 million, and this new initiative in the family support services adds another $1.2 million, to bring the total to $5.87 million, which is up considerably: the increase is in the area of 36 percent.
I also have to add here that the family support homemakers are not just for these "new moms" that the member talks about; they are there for everyone, for any family that gets into trouble and needs some support and some help — as you say, someone to come in and give them a little respite or do the floors or just to talk to somebody. I should also add that a lot of the homemaker services are in the Ministry of Health. There are a lot in my ministry and there are a lot in the Ministry of Health.
MS. MARZARI: I only raised this, Mr. Minister, because at the beginning you said that there would be no dipping into existing programs to fund these new programs for the new moms, for the development of this family-strengthening program which encourages women to make a choice to have their babies adopted, or to have babies and keep them.
From the numbers you are giving me here, you are bringing the homemaker services back from its '82 level at 4.5 to 4.38, which is still a decrease from '82. But you are saying that one in five of the people availing themselves of this program will probably be new moms, and you want $1.2 million out of this program. I call that politically clever, Mr. Minister, and I have to hand it to you.
I'm sure that the bookkeeping won't be that tight, and when demands are made on this program nobody's going to say: "Are you the new mom fresh out of the Premier's family strengthening program? " Or: "Are you a mom who's been on welfare?" — or someone who needs special help or is in crisis. You won't differentiate.
Now I'm assuming that will happen, or will there be a different set of books kept for this special $20 million, Mr. Minister? Perhaps you could enlighten me on that, because I find the whole thing intriguing — that $1.2 million of $4.3 million would be specially allocated to this new breed of moms that are coming along in British Columbia.
Mum's the word.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Shall vote 61 pass?
MS. MARZARI: No, no, he's not answering.
Are you anticipating that one in four of the people in this program asking for homemaker services are going to be out of this program? Shall I put it straight forward? No answer. You don't know exactly how many moms are going to go through this program, but you are anticipating that out of a total budget of $5.87 million for your homemaker services, $1.2 million will be required for special services to women with infants, or women who need special services because they've come through a family-strengthening program. Do you understand? Is that clear?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The reason I didn't answer the first time is that again I find the innuendo that two sets of books are being kept not even worthy of an answer. The auditor-general will make sure it doesn't happen, but we would never even consider such a thing. The money is up front. I've spelled out exactly where it's going to be: in round numbers, $16 million in my ministry, $4 million in the Ministry of Health. Nothing is being hidden.
I've said several times now that we don't know exactly what the demand will be, and I made it very clear that in the family and support services this service is available to all families. You're dragging numbers out that I don't know of: one in four, one in five. I don't know where you get these. We don't have such numbers. It's available to any family that may be in trouble, whether they be a brand-new family or one that has been around for a while.
MS. MARZARI: Those are the numbers that you just finished giving me, Mr. Minister: that you were going to increase the family homemaker service to 4.3 or something — now I've lost my piece of paper. Then a special allotment would be thrown in that would bring this new program of new moms up to 5.8. And I was congratulating you, Mr. Minister. I was saying: "Well done. Gung ho. Let's get those homemaker services up to $6 million a year. Excellent." Are you
[ Page 3828 ]
going to have to tally every homemaker service as to whether or not they come through the Premier's program, or are you just going to take the money and do what you were going to do anyway? That's all. I was complimenting you on your political acumen.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Don't do that.
MS. MARZARI: It confuses you. I understand.
We've been talking for a while about whether there's new money going into this program or whether it's old money — in other words, taken away from existing programs — and I think what we've come up with is that it's a combination of both. In some areas you could have been spending the money by increasing the day care budget for the overall population by a greater degree, but you're going to the infant day care in a massive way. You're really going to invest this year in infant day care, and that's fine, because infants do need day care. I would suggest that the priority is a little off base, since the real needs and the real demands are being expressed in the three-to-five-year-old and five-to-twelve-year-old age groups, not necessarily in the infant age groups. But fine; you want to put $6 million in this year. I hope you put $6 million in next year, so when we develop these infant spaces they can stay open. And I'm hoping that we do develop infant spaces; that it's not just grants to kind neighbours to take care of teenagers' babies.
A final point which I think has to be raised here under family support is of course the whole business of GAIN mothers being told that 15 weeks after their babies are born they will be considered employable, and that they will be financially penalized for the fact that they are considered employable. I would ask you to inquire and ask yourself about the inconsistencies of that policy. With this new family strengthening program, which is basically a way of encouraging women not to think about the full range of choices, a way of encouraging them to have their babies, what you're doing is selling them a bill of goods. On the one hand you're saying that if you're not on welfare we'll take care of your kid for 18 months and make sure you're supported; you might even get a homemaker into your home. If you are on welfare — and I don't know whether a ward of the government would be considered a welfare recipient — at the end of 15 weeks you're penalized $50 on your welfare cheque if you don't have a job.
Can the minister even begin to reconcile those two messages that he's shipping out there to the community? The young middle-class girl who has decided to keep her child, perhaps supported by her mother and father in her home, goes away to a home for wayward girls, comes back, has a homemaker perhaps and special incentives and child care. But for the mother on welfare who has chosen to keep her baby, when that baby is four months old she's told she is persona non grata on the welfare rolls. As far as the government is concerned, she is now employable: "Get the hell out there into the community and start performing in the market." Where's the incentive for her? Where's the family for her? Where's the choice for that woman? Does the minister have anything to say about that?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I'm pleased to talk about this, because it is an important part of the whole plan. As we've said before, we want to remove the stigma from people that they are unemployable. We have people who are tagged as unemployable, and it seems to stay there forever. It's a much greater incentive to people when they realize they're not unemployable. Many people don't want to be classed as unemployable; they want either to get into the workforce for the first time or to get back into it.
The 15-week limit does bring us into line with the policy of unemployment insurance — whatever that means; whether that's good or bad. But we are bringing it into line with that. More importantly, I think we're offering services at the other end to these people who want to get back into the workforce. Through the infant day care program and extended support, we are vigorously exploring the possibility of subsidizing the extended family to look after the child in cases like this.
But there are many people who don't want to remain categorized as unemployable. I guess you could argue or debate for a long time over what the right age of a child is when the mother becomes re-employable. So we've taken the decision that after 15 weeks the person should be categorized as employable.
To follow that up, it doesn't mean that just holus-bolus you're out in the cold, or whatever your words were: "We're cutting you loose if you don't have a job." We're going to deal with every case individually and do our very best to get these people back into the workforce. But if they're on some roll that says they are unemployable, then they're not even in front of the person trying to place them in the workforce. They're on some roll that's hidden away somewhere, so the financial assistance worker doesn't have them on a list that says they're employable.
I don't see anything contradictory about this policy, with its initiatives to strengthen families. In fact, I think families are stronger and there is more self-esteem and tighter cohesion when they are employable; much more so when they find themselves back in the workforce in some kind of meaningful employment. I don't have any trouble at all, Madam Member, in defending this policy.
MS. MARZARI: I'd just like to remind the minister that this side — and certainly I — could not be more in support of the rhetoric of strengthening family. In fact, if I were to design a family support system, I would start with the family and help them individually almost, and try to look at rules and regulations as best I could and make them bend and work with the family I was dealing with. I think there are many dedicated professionals in the field who feel exactly the same way. But you have to admit that it's not bolstering self-esteem, nor is it bolstering or strengthening a family, to tell a woman that she's going to be cut off $50 a month if she doesn't have a job when her child is four months old. This does not bolster self-esteem; it increases, I would suggest, the jigsaw puzzle, the piecemeal way that we have of dealing with social policy and with income support programs.
In closing, I have mixed messages and feelings. The $20 million slush fund.... I will continue to call it that because we are dealing with a very political program which grew out of one of the most bitter and divisive debates this province has seen in many years: the abortion debates that we had in the middle of February for a month. This program grew out of that. We are faced with very high public relations bills and printing bills from your side of the House for a program which is very dubious in its inception. Although its rhetoric of strengthening the family looks good on the surface, we feel that there's a real state of disinformation and diseducation
[ Page 3829 ]
going on, and we would much rather see the money that you're spending — this $20 million — going into ongoing programs, into education and health programs that inform young girls before the fact of pregnancy rather than punish them after the fact of pregnancy.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
Nonetheless, the other side of that coin — and I will try to leave this debate on a positive note — is that you, like us, are politicians. You are a politician and you have to, if you're going to get your $20 million and bolster your existing programs.... I have to commend you that you do have some dollars there that will be going to serve the general public, and you'll be labeling it whatever you have to label it in order to get that money into the system. To the extent that you're doing that, I commend you. But I suggest, Mr. Minister, that by allowing the labels to be placed as they have been placed on this program you are doing yourself, and other programs that have been years in the formation and years in the planning, a disservice. Because in the last analysis, this $20 million slush fund downgrades the esteem of all of us.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Just a couple of comments on the family support services.
Let me correct one error made earlier. I said the total budget for this year would be $5.87 million, and it's actually $5.58 million.
I want to add that it's available to all families, whether they happen to be brand-new moms, as the member keeps talking about, or just a family experiencing some difficulty. So when she says some of the dollars will be used for the general public.... Those were your words in closing. All of the dollars will be used for the general public, Madam Member. If you know of some dollars that are not going to serve the general public, then I'd like to hear about it, because that just will not happen. All of the dollars in these programs outlined will be going to serve the general public.
I wanted to add one more item that I overlooked when we were talking about employable versus unemployable. Clients who are involved in a job search while on assistance are eligible for full subsidy of the day care. I want to make that point very clear: while they are on a job search, they are eligible for subsidy. This is part of the Individual Opportunity Plan. I just wanted to clear that up before we leave this topic.
I want to read one more thing into the record for the member for Maillardville-Coquitlam (Mr. Cashore), because he was asking about the GAIN Action Committee and when it was announced, etc. We managed to dig out the news release from Friday, October 23, 1987 — a rather lengthy news release, I might add. It's on page 4: "The Premier said government has also appointed action teams to begin an immediate review of the GAIN program of the Ministry of Social Services and Housing and all the programs and operations of the Ministries of Health and Education." So it is on the record. It was announced.
MR. CASHORE: And when do we get the report?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: As I have said, the cabinet has received the report and the recommendations, and we have acted on the recommendations. We have accepted some and rejected others.
MS. EDWARDS: I would like to probe for a minute with the minister part of his release which came out yesterday on changes to the GAIN income assistance program. What's curious about number 5, which talks about the changes in assessing eligibility for small business applicants.... I did read the Blues, Mr. Minister, and what it says is this:
"...we do have a program in the ministry, which is probably one of the most difficult to administer and make decisions on. It is a program to assist the person on income assistance into his or her own business, to make them an entrepreneur."
That, of course, goes with everything. Everybody in the province would be an entrepreneur if we had the happiness of the government, I think.
"It's a difficult decision to make whether you assist someone to go into business and leave him on income assistance for two, three or four months until they get established."
My question, Mr. Minister — and I think you can answer it in conjunction with another one — is this. What is this program that already exists and what changes are there that would be made? If it's simply a change to introduce a private sector approach to the assessment of business by ability, we can proceed from there.
I am curious to know: who are the people already in this program? I am assuming, so that you may not have to go as far as you might otherwise, that these are people who are already on assistance programs, that they have said they want to go into business on their own. In other words, they haven't gone onto assistance because they wanted to go into business. I am assuming that these are recipients who have decided that they would go into business.
Could you describe that program to me somewhat so that I know what happens now with people who are on GAIN and want to go into business on their own?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: We do have a program in the ministry now, as I said yesterday. It is usually difficult for these people who are on assistance and who, for one reason or another, are having difficulty finding employment — usually can't find employment — or who have just decided they'd rather be in business for themselves than remain on income assistance or go and find a job. I say it's difficult because, as you can imagine, someone on income assistance does not have much in the way of assets for starting up a business. So it usually involves some sort of repair business where the investment is minimal. The object of the program was to assess all of these opportunities and counsel the people, have them set up a sound business plan and perhaps keep them on income assistance for a few months until the business started earning enough money so that they could sustain themselves.
I'll be the first to admit, I did kind of fumble through it yesterday, because it's a tough one to explain, or as I said, to get our minds around. That's what we are endeavouring to do, to see if we can make this program more workable, because under its present conditions, it doesn't seem to be very workable. We're having very little, if any, success with it. We think the basis of a good idea is there, so we want to try to make it work.
So when we say we've a private sector approach to the assessment of business viability, it's buzzwords to say that we want to do a couple of things: we want to make sure that the
[ Page 3830 ]
business has as much chance as possible to succeed; and secondly, we must be careful that we're not competing with the guy down the road who's in the same business, and using his tax dollars to help put him out of business — him or her. It's one that we've had trouble wrestling with, and we intend to address it in the near future to see if we can't reshape it and make the thing work. Again, I know that sounds convoluted, but the program has been in existence for some time and up to now has had limited success.
MS. EDWARDS: I'm intrigued. I'm assuming, in other words, that anyone who puts forward a good case to his or her caseworker might be accepted to continue on assistance while they proceed into a business. I might say that this does fill a void that might otherwise be there for people who cannot do that. If they are on unemployment insurance benefits, for example, they cannot go into business and have that kind of help. So I am assuming that that is one of the holes between the slats that may be filled.
But I'm curious. You're talking about having a good business plan; you're having someone assess. You're talking in as general terms as possible, I would gather, about a private sector approach to the assessment of business viability, and I'm not sure how you are proposing to do this. For example, who is going to do the assessment of the business that is there? What kind of resources are available for the person who wants to go into business?
I ask that because there are a number of public institutions that provide that kind of skill; I don't know very many private businesses that in fact will help — without a fairly hefty charge — to put together business plans and so on. I know a number of non-profit organizations and public institutions that do that kind of thing.
So I'm asking: who is going to assess this kind of thing? What kinds of criteria are you going to use to decide whether there's going to be a two-month option or a three-year span of time during which you may assist this person? You may know that when measurements are made on small business, how long a business survives is often measured by whether it's still there three years later. I'm asking about the criteria for that as well, and I think I'll stop there for a bit, Mr. Minister; I have more questions that I'll follow with.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I'll endeavour to go into it in more detail and shed as much light on it as I can for the member. First of all, there is a budget for small business counselling and training, to provide counselling and training support to, first, income assistance recipients to explore viable small business opportunities — which we have gone into — and second, small business owner-operators who are not able to generate enough business income to meet basic needs, but who operate a potentially viable business.
What we are doing currently is developing a policy paper to assist income assistance recipients who want to start a business and, as I said, small proprietors not able to make enough to support themselves and their dependents. If the small business policy paper is approved, funds will be required to pay for small business counsellors to assess businesses for viability.
So we will assist a person to put a business plan together. Management training to small business owner-operators who require it to turn their business into a viable, profitable operation.... So the budget that we set aside for this will be to help them set up a business plan and then, through small business owner-operators, to try to assess their plan as to whether it's viable.
The program is designed to assist income assistance recipients to seek self-employment or entrepreneurial initiatives if that is their desire and, as I said, to prevent the small business operator, who has a business going but can't quite make it.... Maybe with a little bit of help it can become viable.
I want to add one other thing here that I wasn't clear on myself yesterday. Owners or initiators of viable businesses would receive income assistance support for a period not to exceed 12 months, after which they are either successful or must divest themselves of the business to be eligible for basic income assistance. Okay? That's the program we're talking about. We are going to attempt to make it more successful than it has been in the past.
MS. EDWARDS: I have taken this, as I mentioned before, Mr. Minister, from a release that you put out. I'm not sure what the budget is for this. Besides not knowing how much the budget is, I'm curious to know whether you perceive this as a duplication of activities of other entities in the community, or whether this is going to be different in some way than chamber of commerce advice centres and college small business advice centres and the FBDB — and on and on it goes. Even cities have economic development centres where they help people make business plans and so on.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: As we look into this program, we may very well contract with outside agencies — maybe chambers of commerce — to administer this program for us. We may very well do that; we haven't made that decision yet. The recommended budget for this year for the program is $150,000.
The other thing I want to point out is that the way it's set up now, the applicant would first, though, come to the Ministry of Social Services. This is a program strictly for those on income assistance. We're not overlapping with programs other agencies or levels of government have. This is strictly for income assistance recipients. We are going to make that decision as to exactly how we will deliver the program, and you could be absolutely right: we might use chambers of commerce to deliver this program. That decision hasn't been made yet.
MS. EDWARDS: Mr. Minister, I find it interesting that when one asks whether you are duplicating services done by someone else.... To say it's contracted out doesn't make it disappear. It's still in your ministry; you are doing the paying. I'm not sure why you would do that, but I will leave that for a moment, because I've only a minute of your time left that I'm going to take. I don't know whether this can be brief, but I did want to move on to No. 10, which says: "Funding to community agencies to assist in finding employment for income assistance recipients." I don't what you mean by that. What kind of community agencies? Maybe you can tell how this fits into the package — and please include how it does this in rural communities.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: First of all, on the former one, for the entrepreneurial program, we have no intention of making it disappear; I didn't want to leave that impression. But we may just deliver the program through an agency other than ourselves.
[ Page 3831 ]
On point 10, let me come back to that. Let me take that as notice and dig up the background on it, and I'll answer just as quickly as possible.
MR. CASHORE: Mr. Chairman, one of the issues that I wish to address has to do with the deinstitutionalization of facilities in the province. We have seen some information come from the Ministry of Social Services and Housing indicating some new initiatives with regard to monitoring of mentally handicapped people who are being placed in the community.
During the estimates last year, I raised this issue and expressed a great deal of concern about what happens to these people after they've been in the community for some time and about the need that there be adequate monitoring to make sure that those residential care facilities are up to an appropriate standard, and that they do not lose out because of economies of scale on such things as bus trips to a swimming pool, a visit to the aquarium, or those other things that add to quality of life, which is so important in the lives of those people. In the information circular that came out a few weeks ago I was pleased to see that those initiatives were being taken, and I will be following very closely to see how it turns out.
I would also like, however, to look at this issue from another perspective, and that is the perspective of ex-mental patients going out into the community as a result of the highly publicized process that we've been hearing so much about — people going from Riverview Hospital. I know the minister might ask: "Well, why would the member be asking about that, because that is a Health issue?" I understand that point.
The point I want to make is this. As I'm sure the minister and his deputy are aware, people placed in the community unmonitored and where standards are not maintained are in danger of falling between the gaps and disappearing from service, often with quite tragic results. Some of these people disappear off the face of the earth. While I recognize the monitoring program is being put in place with regard to mentally handicapped people, I see no such initiative with regard to ex-mental patients.
It is at this point that the Ministry of Social Services and Housing becomes involved. We have, in fact, in the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, a process of a transfer of cost from Health to Social Services and Housing. This has been the case for quite some time. Take a person who is on income assistance, is a resident of Riverview Hospital, and his condition becomes stabilized. The treatment is such that they get on the right medication, and then they go back into the community, sometimes as persons on HPIA, but often as persons who are not eligible for that but who nevertheless depend on the Ministry of Social Services and Housing for their support.
The question is: what can we do together to address the needs of these people, too many of whom are falling between the gaps and ending up as part of the flotsam and jetsam of our society, and quite unnecessarily so? I noticed that persons from the Coast Foundation were introduced in the House today. The Coast Foundation is one of a number of agencies — not for-profit but citizen agencies — which are very capable of helping to deliver the kind of service that will ensure that these people are less likely to fall between the gaps, and indeed less likely to be brought back to hospital and be a cost on the Health budget. So I'm saying that there is an initiative that can be taken through the Ministry of Social Services that will save money in Health; but it will be big dollars in Health saved by little dollars in Social Services and Housing. You are going to be hearing a lot more from me with regard to the win-win that we can have in society when we look at the tremendous resources of organizations such as the Coast Foundation, the Mental Patients' Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Friends of Schizophrenics Society and others who are very well equipped to address this.
One of the beautiful things about it is that often it is an ex-mental patient who comes into that drop-in centre and sits down beside another ex-mental patient and says: "You know, I think it's time that you and I went and visited your therapist at the community care team because maybe you need to get your medication adjusted." It is often just by that kind of knowledgeable support that comes at the right time that we're able to save a lot of dollars and also do a more socially responsible thing. We have about 20,000 ex-mental patients living in the community, and — I may have to check my figures on this — perhaps somewhere around 1,000 of them are living in specialized facilities. So the vast majority of ex-mental patients in the community are living at home. What they need is a living room in the community where they can drop in, and find people who understand and who will be gentle and helpful with them. It's often a cold world out there for people in these circumstances, and if there is that inviting place when they go out the door after they get up in the morning.... If their situation is starting to break down, they're more likely to wander in there than into, say, the back alleys of the downtown east side. So I would hope we see a new initiative to support such a cost-effective approach.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The member makes some good points — no argument about that. There is always the danger of these people falling between the stools and not being under the supervision of anyone. He also noted that Riverview falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Health, which is absolutely true. But that doesn't mean to say that we can abrogate our responsibilities and ignore them. To that end, my ministry will develop a small unit for about 20 clients with behavioural problems — some of these fit into that category — and people who are not yet ready for community placement.
The member mentioned quality control, and we are very cognizant of the need for quality control in the group homes that we fund. Professional support services will now be available to parents and day program operators, as well as residential caregivers, to provide assistance in service planning and effective care of the mentally handicapped. A provincial review team, community advisory committees and an accreditation system which is now being developed will ensure that ministry standards for quality care for the mentally handicapped are monitored and maintained in both non-profit and proprietary resources. So we are very keenly aware of the need for monitoring and quality control, and will ensure that, whether it's for a non-profit or a proprietary centre, quality control is maintained.
I should take another opportunity just to say, though, that the progress being made by the vast majority of these people who move out of institutions is absolutely incredible. We are truly leading the way in this field — certainly in North America, probably in the western world — of deinstitutionalizing people and getting them out of these so-called
[ Page 3832 ]
warehouses and into the community. I know I've said it in this House before, but it bears repeating that the progress made by these people is absolutely incredible. So I would recommend to every member in the House: if you have not done so, take the time sometime to visit a group home in your community or area, make yourself acquainted and just see what has happened to some of these people.
MS. A. HAGEN: I want to change the focus from people living in the community and needing special community support to people living in the community, very often with considerable independence, but for whom this ministry has a particular responsibility in relation to their housing. I want to talk for just a few minutes about seniors' housing and about two programs that exist within the ministry in respect to seniors' housing, and one program that I want to ask the minister's consideration of.
This government, I think, has always taken a very strong position that housing is a marketplace item, that developers and housing people should in fact create the shelter that people need. But during its 1975-79 term of office it recognized the need for some relief from high rents. In that period it introduced a program called SAFER — Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters. That program has now got a ten-year history, but the last five years of its history have been, I can only think, calculated to phase out the program. Unlike all other programs of financial aid to older people, the SAFER program has not had any indexing of its ceiling rents. The last time the rents for SAFER were increased was in 1982, and they have remained fixed at $330 a month as the maximum amount for which some subsidy is paid — $330 for a single person and $365 a month for a couple. In fact, the formula introduced was that up to those ceilings the government would pay 75 percent of rents that exceeded 30 percent of income. It's a pretty basic kind of formula that the ministry uses in its own social housing.
So in 1982 we had the last increase in rents, and they are fixed at $330 for a single person and $365 for a couple. What we find when we look at the budgets for SAFER is that there is a steady decrease in the dollars available for this program and in the number of clients. One might think that it was a nice happy arrangement and that seniors' incomes were in good shape and that they didn't need this kind of protection; that the program was something that was being phased out for reasons not related to their income. But if we look at the facts, we find that a very different scenario emerges.
If we take the five years since SAFER was indexed — since there was any adjustment in the ceiling — at a most conservative level, let's say 3 percent a year, the ceiling for a single rental unit today should be $395, not $330. That's a very conservative projection. Most rents go up 4 or 5 percent a year. In fact, if we look at the average rent in greater Vancouver, on which the ministry bases its eligibility criteria for social housing, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $475 a month. So I'm taking a very conservative figure as a basis for my projections.
As a result of there being no indexing, just in this last five years we've seen a decrease of over 20 percent in the number of residents who are eligible for any SAFER at all. We know that almost all of the nearly 9,000 recipients for '86-87, which is the last year for which I have figures, will see their SAFER supplement going down each year. If we look at the very first year in which SAFER was available, 1977, the average amount that people got was $813. If we look at 1987-87, the average amount was $789. I don't have to tell the minister.... In that period of time I've lost track of how much the cost of living and how much rents have gone up, but I would estimate that we're looking at something pretty close to 100 percent.
The result, Mr. Chairman, is that many seniors are paying half their disposable income in rent. I've done a number of calculations which would suggest to me that the range is anywhere from about 60 or 65 percent of their income, in what I hope is an uncommon situation, to a very common 40 to 45 percent. I'm talking about people with modest incomes, some 160,000 of our population — we know that from the number who are on guaranteed income supplement — and about what I know are realistic rents, rents under $400 a month. Not only are they hard to find in the big cities and the lower Island, but from talking to friends who live in Prince George, Prince Rupert, Kamloops or Cranbrook, they are hard to find there as well.
Mr. Minister, I want to ask two questions of you. First of all, is it the intent of the ministry to phase out SAFER by attrition, by not increasing the ceilings of rent covered under the SAFER program? And this is the other side of the coin: is the ministry giving any consideration to looking at this program and beginning a process of indexing the rents to the reasonable level that people are required to pay?
I ask that last question knowing that it's not included, quite obviously, in this year's budget — or it doesn't appear to be included in this year's budget. But given the scenarios proposed by the Ministry of Health, where there are going to be additional user fees for long-term care facilities and for home support, which are going to add to the financial burdens seniors in the community have, certainly this ministry needs to be all the more cognizant of how its policies will add to the burden of seniors by virtue of not keeping pace with the rising rents that have occurred and the phasing down of the dollars available to those people still on SAFER and the phasing out of anywhere from 400 to 700 or 800 people a year from the program, a gradual attrition as a result of this failure to alter the ceilings.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I thank the member for her questions — well thought out and well presented. We have no intention at this time of phasing out the SAFER program. I want to make that clear up front. That is not our intent. I too have become aware of the gradual erosion of the budget: in 1987-88 it was $7.4 million, and in 1988-89 it's $6.7 million. So a few weeks ago I asked for a review of the SAFER program. We want to take a look at all aspects of it. I might add, I asked that the review include those elderly renters in mobile homes, which is something that's not included now — and I've had some correspondence on it. With that in mind, I have asked for a complete look at the program so we can see where it has been, where it is and where we're going with it. That's really about all I can tell you. It won't take us very long to do this, so within the next short while we should have some answers for you as to where we're going with the SAFER program.
MS. A. HAGEN: Thank you for that encouraging answer, Mr. Minister.
Could I ask you, then, to advise us at the time that the report from your review is tabled and it does bear out what I have suggested — and what you also seem to indicate is a
[ Page 3833 ]
perspective that you've come to recognize — whether there would or could be some adjustments in the SAFER program for this year. The applications are usually requested of those eligible about now or in early May, and the program runs from July 1 to June 30. Is there a possibility that there might be an adjustment for those hard-done-by older people who are paying such a significant portion of their rent in this current fiscal year?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: In answer to the member's question, I will be as succinct as I can be. The report will come back to me, and I will have to take a look at it. It would be virtually impossible — not impossible, but virtually impossible — to increase this year, because it's not budgeted for and we don't have it in the budget. But that is always subject to what is found in the report as well. If there are shortfalls that are dramatic, let's say, that really need to be addressed, then perhaps I would have to take another look at that statement that I made that there's no money in this year's budget — and there isn't. But I would leave it at that. I don't know what the report is going to tell me yet, so I won't try to prejudge what it's going to say. There's always a possibility that programs can be adjusted mid-year, but it's not likely, so I don't want to hold out any false hopes.
[Mr. Pelton in the chair.]
MS. A. HAGEN: I would encourage the minister to do whatever he can in respect to this. I think it's going to be a very difficult year for seniors because of other fees. If there is any possibility, I would urge him to give a high priority to this particular item. It's one that I'm frequently made aware of. And I really worry when I find older people who are not eating because of rent — and I say that in all seriousness; there are circumstances where that indeed is the case. As we all know, it's not easy for older persons to decide to try to find cheaper rent and move from the community in which they live and move all their belongings. Very often that rent has escalated over a period of time in their place of residence. And ageing in place is a part of good health, very often, and it's something I think we need to encourage.
Secondly, I want to look very briefly at the matter of nonprofit social housing. The number of units being built this year is significantly down: 605 units for independent living and 151 beds for intermediate care. I want to ask the minister, in terms of his reporting on housing units, to make a practice in future of separating out those that are for independent living and those that are for intermediate care. I think it's a service to the community just to have an awareness of each of those kinds of housing, because they are quite different in their nature. In fact, when I said to somebody that the totals of housing units that you hear actually include the independent care beds, they expressed great surprise. I think it's because they think of the intermediate-care beds as lying more in the health sector than in the community living sector. So I would encourage the minister to consider that, given the increase in the number of elderly people — particularly the number of elderly women — who are a part of the demographics of our older population. I wonder if the minister can give us some reasons why the number of housing units being built for seniors has declined, and give us some future projections for that kind of housing.
Older women in our society still have very much less in the way of income than older men, and women who are single through their lives or who are widowed certainly find that the rents they have to deal with are a major problem. I recognize that the minister supports a mix of market and social housing, but we still only have 5,000 units of social housing for older people in this province, with 360,000 to 375,000 seniors in the province. It is a very small number, when one considers the size of that population. When I look at my community, for example, even in the 65-to-75 age range, there are twice as many women as men. Was a staggering imbalance, particularly for women who are in the 70-to-85 age range. The majority of those women are on very basic incomes — usually the maximum GIS and GAIN. Can the minister give us some rationale for the very slow progress we're making in providing a larger complement of subsidized or non-profit housing for seniors that will guarantee their rents at 30 percent?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I just want to clear up one number that that member mentioned. This year we are building 1,886 units of social housing. The number of people accommodated breaks down to 756 seniors, 2,595 people in family units and 110 disabled people, but the total of units is 1,886.
There has been a dramatic decrease in the amount for seniors. I don't know if I can explain it or not, but what we do under this program is respond to the needs of the communities when we go out to tender, and we have to respond to what comes forward from the communities and what the needs are. Most of the units in this last year were committed to the lower mainland and greater Victoria, because that's where the needs are.
We are not building social housing in any area where there is a vacancy rate beyond about 3 percent. In some of the areas in the province we have vacancy rates as high as 40 percent, and in greater Victoria, for example, we have a vacancy rate that's practically zero. So the social housing is being concentrated in the lower mainland and in greater Victoria. But I understand what the member is saying, and we are very cognizant of it and of the need for housing for seniors and especially for women.
We were in a three-year agreement with the federal government. We have now gone into year four on it - we have renewed the agreement for a fourth year. It is one-third sharing: two-thirds by the federal and one-third by us. The program is ongoing.
MS. A. HAGEN: Mr. Minister, again it sounds as if there's an awareness of need. I'm not quite sure from what you said of how that need is determined whether it's determined by some projections that are done at a ministry level or whether it's determined by the projects that are proposed, which it seems to me might be a rather random way to establish the need. I think I heard the minister say that there is a need for more social housing for older people, and some of that housing needs to be particularly targeted for the single older person and for women. If you are able to comment on how you intend to respond to that in this fourth year — whether there will be some increase in that housing — I'd appreciate that.
I'm going to raise one other issue, because time is going on. I'll simply look for some brief response in terms of intent. There's a whole range of alternative housing — new housing models — that is developing for older people. We use the terms sheltered housing, congregate housing, Abbeyfield
[ Page 3834 ]
housing, things of that nature. It seems to me that there's a need for leadership and for your ministry and the Ministry of Health to look at ways in which they can contribute to the development of such housing. I believe that there's a market for it and a good deal of it can develop within the marketplace, but I also believe that there's a place for supported housing or social housing, using some of these models. To date, there has been no leadership on the part of your ministry that I'm aware of, and I'd like you to comment about whether you have in fact looked at this area, and whether you have some intent to work with non-profit groups in the development of some of these alternatives which do provide us with some of that range. The very fact that intermediate housing belongs within your housing responsibilities says that betwixt intermediate and independent-living housing there needs to be some leadership there.
MR. BLENCOE: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, this is really important stuff, and there seem to be a number of caucus meetings happening across the other side. I'm wondering if perhaps you could say something.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I do thank the second member for Victoria for trying to assist, but I would like to point out that when we have visitors on this side of the House — who are always welcome — they must show the due decorum. Oh, I see he's gone now. It's always nice to see the second member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes) come over and visit. You're welcome at any time.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I was under the impression that it was the people to the left of me who were causing the problem.
I thank the member for her questions. When you're talking about how we set the priorities for what will be built, the British Columbia Housing Management Commission generally sets the priorities and tries to respond to the needs. This year it was quite obvious that the need was more for family units than for seniors' units. But the point of the need for seniors' housing is well made, and I appreciate it coming from the member.
We have had numerous consultations with the private sector regarding the type of project that you speak of where retired people move. In fact, I opened one on the Saanich Peninsula a few months ago — I forget the name of it; an excellent project — and I'm going to open another one up-Island in the Duncan area in the next few weeks. In the consultations we have had with them, it was determined that, for that type of housing, we would rather have the market respond to what is needed. So far the market seems to be responding adequately, and if there is a greater demand for that type of housing for seniors not on income assistance or not in subsidized housing, I'm sure the marketplace will respond accordingly.
MR. BLENCOE: I just have a couple of things I want to canvass with the minister. One pertains to the SAFER program, which I believe has not been fully canvassed, though a number of things have been said already.
MR. MOWAT: The member didn't do a good job.
MR. BLENCOE: Those are your words, Mr. Member, not mine.
I also wish to canvass the housing statistics for the capital region in terms of social housing and the allocations — so the staff can prepare, I'll let them know exactly what is coming — that we have had in the last few years. I believe the minister and I have already had some words about this through the newspapers, but maybe we can have some....
AN HON. MEMBER: More words?
MR. BLENCOE: No, hopefully we can have some light shed on the situation that could see this region acquire some more units, because we are.... I don't like to use the word "crisis"; it's overused. But we are in a tight market in the Victoria area.
MR. BLENCOE: The new governor for Vancouver Island wishes to take the floor. Perhaps he would tell me how he's spending his money and I'd kindly sit down.
HON. S. HAGEN: In time.
MR. BLENCOE: You've had six months.
The SAFER program is a good program. I note that the minister talks about the market response, and wishes the market would respond more, I presume. But in my estimation — and I've already said this — here's one program that if you could really beef it up a little bit, unfreeze the freeze.... The levels have been frozen since '82 — and I'll give you some stats in terms of what has happened in the last few years. Here's a chance for you to meet your objective in terms of the marketplace and allow seniors to utilize private sector marketing by increasing the SAFER program and the support that's gained through SAFER. Unfortunately, you seem to want it both ways. You want the market to respond, but seniors with limited incomes cannot respond to the private sector because those rents are far too high. On the other end, I know the minister is trying to do some things in senior housing, and I thank him for my region; but it's obviously not enough. Here's a chance through this program.... If we would unfreeze it, lift the levels, I think we could meet your desire for the marketplace to take care of some of these seniors.
Let's take a look at the stats. If it has been done, I apologize for repeating them. The SAFER expenditures in 1982 and '83 were in excess of $8.5 million; in '86 and '87, four years later, $1.4 million less for SAFER. The minister stated just five minutes ago: "We want the market to respond." But here you're shortchanging the ability of seniors to respond to the market by cutting back the expenditures for SAFER. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Minister.
Then I take a look at the average monthly SAFER benefits. In 1983 the single senior citizen on SAFER received on average $75.11; in 1987 it dropped to $66.89. A substantial drop, but for couples it's even more; it was nearly $41 in '83 and today it's $20.84. I do have to say that one of the things I don't like about the rationale behind these drops is that every time there's a increase in the federal pension for senior citizens on SAFER and those folks get a little bit ahead, this government takes off their allowance on SAFER at the bottom. So one step forward from the feds; along
[ Page 3835 ]
comes the ministry with its SAFER program and the way the system works, and we take off the bottom. Let them get ahead a little bit.
The statistics in your own report show exactly what you've been doing. I know that in my community, where close to 20 percent of my constituents are over 65....
AN HON. MEMBER: That many?
MR. BLENCOE: Yes, that many. It's a lot. Folks who are on this program phone me up and say, "I just got a federal increase," and they're all excited. Then a few weeks later — or however long it takes — the SAFER program goes down as a result. I don't think we need to do that. Let's take a look at the stats in terms of actual totals of people who were on the SAFER program between '83 and '87, and again go back to the theme of the marketplace. You wish the seniors and others to respond to the marketplace — by the way, the SAFER program could be aligned to do that if you expanded it — yet at the same time you're cutting back in terms of total numbers.
In my own community, the Capital Regional District, 2,130 people were SAFER cases in 1983. I look down the list to 1987: 1,576, a drop of 554 cases. In the Greater Vancouver Regional District the drop is even more — close to 1,000. Maybe it's not a lot in terms of numbers, but in terms of where the program could be going.... I believe this is one of the programs that could help you in a sociological way and also in a financial way. You say you don't have the budget to go out and build as fast as you would like. Here's one way to have the seniors respond to the private sector.
You can't have it both ways. Either you construct more affordable housing and seniors' accommodation and family units through the avenues in your ministry or you look at innovative programs like SAFER that could allow you to put more seniors in private sector housing by ensuring this program and the freeze on the levels — it hasn't been touched since '82.... It would allow more seniors to react to the private sector housing. Which way are we going to have it?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: As I said to the previous member who talked about SAFER, the member does make some good points, and I'm cognizant of some — if not most, in fact — of what they say. That's why I asked a few weeks ago for a review of the SAFER program to look at all aspects of it, possibly even to include mobile homes, which are not included now. We do get numerous requests for that.
We are also looking at maybe some innovative new housing. I know that when I say the next word it might strike fear into the hearts of aldermen around the province and regional districts. But let's talk about granny flats for a minute. That's another bit of innovative housing that's been tried elsewhere, and it works very well. We're going to take a look at that as well under the SAFER program and explore the whole area of granny flats; I won't go into all that it entails. As I said, it might strike some fear into the hearts of some city counsellors somewhere, but I think they too are going to have to broaden their scope and start looking at some innovative new ways to house our senior citizens.
I can't take issue with what the member says, because in most of what he says he's right on. Maybe when we do our review of SAFER it will point us in that direction. When I talked about the marketplace responding, though, I was more referring to the projects that I have seen and opened that involve seniors who are not in need of SAFER or on GAIN. The marketplace is responding very well.
The member for Victoria does make some good points about maybe making it easier for the private sector and the marketplace to respond. Well-noted, and when we do our review of SAFER we'll take that into account.
I would like to point out that this year we have asked for some $11.5 million from the Crown land account to be provided for site acquisition for social housing. We don't have that yet, but hopefully we will. I think the figure is about $11.5 million.
I should clear up one other item about BCHMC, and that is that when they are projecting what is going to be required in social housing, they mainly use population projections for an area. They do a projection for the given area for which they are going to ask for a response from a non-profit organization and try to project what is needed on that basis.
MR. BLENCOE: I thank the minister for, obviously, a candid, straightforward response, and I appreciate that. I'm glad to hear that the program is under review and that some points being made on this side have been noted. Excellent; thank you.
I want to move on to the last item, which I mentioned a few minutes ago, vis-à-vis allocations under your ministry for social housing in the capital region. But before I do that I just want to give some background on what's happening to housing in this area. I'll give you some vacancy rates, and then show you where we're at and where I think we should be and what I think we should be doing today.
In 1985 the vacancy rate in the greater Victoria area in April, for instance, was 3.3 — quite high. A good vacancy rate; well, a reasonable vacancy rate. By October 1985 it had dropped to 1.9 percent. Then I look at 1986, around April; it was around 2 percent. Then in October 1986 it had dropped to 0.6 percent. Then I go to April '87: we had a vacancy rate of approximately 1 percent. Then in October '87, and carrying on now, a vacancy rate of 0.4, and I believe it is even less than that today.
Then when I take a look at the allocations.... I'm sure the ministry and the excellent staff pre-plan and take a look at the trends. In 1985, when we had a reasonable vacancy rate — just over 3 percent; and I'm talking about allocations of family units only — 180 units were allocated to the capital region. The vacancy rate starts to drop; the market starts to tighten; the number of those in need of affordable housing rises. The minister, I'm sure, and the staff are aware of the huge waiting-lists for social housing in this community. In 1986 the vacancy rate was going down but the allocations for family units were only 86, a drop of over 100 units. The trend is there: we should have noticed that.
In 1987 we only had 69 family units in the Capital Regional District. I might point out that actually — I’ve made this point already; the minister is aware of it and he responded to me publicly — we were allocated 130 family units for 1987. Now some of it was shifted over to seniors, but I don't want to get in between seniors and family housing. But at a time when there was a real demonstrated need — the vacancy rate was dropping; the reports were in the paper — we start to cut back even more on family-unit allocation. We had a shortfall there, by your own numbers, of 61 units for the Capital Regional District. With the situation we have today, I know 61 units will probably not make a dramatic impact.
[ Page 3836 ]
Boy, when you've got a tightening market, and the trend is there and the vacancy rate is known, and all the societies that deal with family housing — the Capital Regional District, for example — are saying: "We've got a waiting-list of months and months," we get a shortfall, we don't get pre-planning and we don't get an allocation.
I just wonder sometimes, even though I know it's difficult — and the community wonders — why the government can't foresee or pre-plan for these kinds of things and start to take up some of the slack. I have made the case, as far as I'm concerned.... I don't have that number for this community, but we have been allocated 140 family units for the Capital Regional District for 1988. There may be an update on that; if there is, that's terrific. I have made the case that we need a minimum of 300 units for 1988 for this community.
I guess the request I'm putting in for my region, which is having a social housing problem, is that I hope in the future we can at least get the allocation we were supposed to get and recognize that this community has some special housing needs that I think need to be paid attention to. Perhaps we can get a greater allocation of social housing. I'm sure the staff knows the situation in the Capital Regional District. I'm constantly getting people with families coming to us in our community office who are desperate to get something they can afford. I guess this community is not alone in that, but it's very frustrating. Perhaps the minister has some great announcement he can make today, or some plans for the future for the capital region. I'll take my place and eagerly await the news.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I don't know if I have any great earth-shaking announcements, but I think I have some good news for the member.
First of all, I guess I would be the first to admit that maybe we're a little slow to respond sometimes to population trends. We try to stay on top of them through our ministry and the B.C. Housing Management Commission, and perhaps we didn't read this one quickly enough. However, I'll come back to that in a minute because I don't want us to take the full blame for this.
We know about the vacancy rate in Victoria, which is practically zero, as I've said; and rent increases and affordability become problems. So in responding to this for the 1988 social housing program, we have allocated 340 units for the Capital Regional District. That is a mix of both family and seniors. I'm sure the member doesn't want me to cut back to 300, as he suggested that they should have at least 300 units.
MR. BLENCOE: I'm talking about family units.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: All right. This is a total 340 units for this region.
MR. BLENCOE: How many family units?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I haven't got the breakdown for you, I'm sorry. I can get it for you, but I don't have it right here.
But there's one other aspect to this whole social housing thing that I don't want to address for a moment, which is the lack of suitably zoned land for multiple-family and social housing. It is a serious problem, because this region lost some units last year because the CRD wouldn't zone some property. The numbers of units lost — I just can't remember — was in the order of about 56 units. I'm going from memory, so don't quote me on that; but about 56 units out in Sooke were lost because the CRD, for whatever reasons — I don't know their reasons — wouldn't rezone the land.
MR. BLENCOE: Eighteen.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Oh, there were more than that.
Anyway, I'm trying to say that that is a problem we're running into — without casting stones at anyone. I'm just saying that some pressure has to be put on municipal councils and regional districts to start zoning land for multi-family housing. The NIMBY syndrome — not in my back yard — seems to set in whenever these projects are proposed. They all want social housing and multi-family units, but they don't seem to want them in their particular area. So I'm just saying to the members in this House that the total blame does not lay with the Ministry of Social Services and Housing or with BCHMC. But some of the reasons for shortages are at other levels of government, so some pressure has to be put on municipal councils and regional districts. That's all I'm saying.
Mr. Member, I thank you for your questions. Your input is well-presented and duly noted.
MR. BLENCOE: It sounds like mutual respect day in here. Is this the B.C. Legislature, Mr. Chairman?
The minister's point about municipality and land zoning is well taken. I recall that vividly when I was on council. I'll share with you, Mr. Minister, something that could be done. There are sites in this community that have been sitting vacant in the downtown core, in what is called the Harris Green area. The minister may not be aware of it, but his staff who live in this community may be. It has been slated for housing development for some time, but the owners, in their wisdom, sit on those vacant parking lots and old warehouses. They've all just been sitting there for years, just vacant land. Of course, we know why they sit on it, and we also know that with the municipal tax system the lowest level of taxation is on vacant land. I'm not about to say we should force those people into developing, but we know what they're doing: they're waiting for whatever — higher prices, etc.
No one disagrees with that. But we have a tax system that does not create an incentive for those property owners to get on and develop their sites. I've made the point to the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston) and others that I know property rights are important and sacrosanct and all that stuff, but there is a community, there is public interest. We all have responsibilities, and they are part of the community. In my view, when those owners sit on what I think is a dreadful, dangerous state, an eyesore, for years, just sit back and do nothing, basically because there is no incentive to do anything....
HON. MR. RICHMOND: You be careful now. You're getting close to your....
MR. BLENCOE: Don't worry, Mr. Minister.
I think, Mr. Chairman, we should be taking a look at some of the reasons some land sits vacant and we can't get the appropriate movement. But the minister's points are well taken.
[ Page 3837 ]
1 want to close with something that's really not in the minister's area but I want to make a note of it. We've been talking about housing, and the minister has responded quite well to the issues I've brought forward. One of the basic problems we have in this province today is that we have no mechanism for rent review. I'm not talking about rent control — before all of the people get uptight — I'm talking about a process of rent review. My colleague for Vancouver Centre knows all about the excellent work of the office of the rentalsman and what that office did. Under rent review, Mr. Chairman, when a tenant or a group of tenants could justify that that rent was beyond the market....
MR. MERCIER: It's called "supply and demand."
MR. BLENCOE: Oh, there we go. The supply and demand theory went out 50 years ago. It's debunked, history, finished, done. We're on to progressive economics. And if you want to lecture on supply and demand theory, wait until we get to the Minister of Finance's estimates.
Mr. Chairman, the point I want to make is that I think a lot of our problems in terms of the costs that people face with accommodation could be helped by a rent review process in the province. Because we don't have a rent review process, I have personally had to take up the issue with landlords, but there isn't enough time to deal with every kind of rent increase.
On certain occasions I've been able to prove that the rent increase was beyond the market. Because there was no rentalsman, because there was no rent review, because there was no process for that tenant to be able to appeal when they felt they had been dealt an injustice in terms of the market, the majority of tenants have to accept those fairly substantial rent increases. If they had a way to go before a rent review process and say: "Look, I can prove that this rent is beyond the market, it shouldn't be this.... This is not what's happening.
I know. I hear "supply and demand." But you know, there are people involved in supply and demand. There are people out there who are trying to live in those units. They're trying to get by, right? And there have to be some checks and balances in the system. You know, we're a democracy. Hopefully we're still fair and compassionate and understanding of people. When they live in units, they're homes. I know you, Mr. Chairman, understand exactly what I'm talking about.
As I've always done, since 1983, since we cancelled the rentalsman, rent review, and any fair review process in the residential tenancy area, I ask this government once again.... I'm not talking about rent control. I'm talking about a fair system of rent review where both sides are equal; the playing-field is level; both landlord and tenant have a process. It certainly would make your job a little easier, Mr. Minister, because you have to deal with the result of spiralling rent increases and the demand for more social housing. Of course, the market is getting what it can, I know. If we had that system back, I think we'd be a lot better off in the province of British Columbia.
I thank the minister for his ideas today.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I didn't want to interrupt the member, because he was obviously going on and enjoying himself on the rent review thing. It was interesting debate, but it really doesn't belong in my estimates, as he said. I didn't want to call a point of order, because we're getting along so well here that it's almost frightening. I thank the member for his comments.
I did want to clear up one other question that was raised by, I believe, the member for Kootenay (Ms. Edwards), who asked me a specific question on a press release, specifically No. 10, which says: "Funding to community agencies to assist in finding employment for income assistance recipients." I told her that I would respond when I had more background material rather than go on an ad hoc basis.
I would like to put this on the record. What we are saying by that is that we may come up with some core funding to community agencies to assist the private-sector-developed jobs. Because of limited ministry resources, it is just not possible for our staff to contact all employers that may be able to create or develop jobs for income assistance clients. The ministry could, however, solicit the support of community agencies to assist in identifying private sector employers who may be in a position to assist clients to financial independence through the provision of a job.
As I said, we could provide some core funding to offset some of the expenses of staff, telephone, paper, gasoline, etc. that may be incurred by a community or private sector agency while seeking out employers. There are organizations throughout the province, and one that comes to mind in my constituency would be the Thompson Nicola Manufacturers' Association, an excellent association who would probably willingly take on some of this work to assist income assistance recipients in identifying potential employment and helping them contact employers, etc.
The program would be targeted to single mothers and employable income assistance recipients primarily. We could redirect funds for this part of the program from employment initiatives programs.
I hope that explains it for the member for Kootenay. I'm sorry I didn't answer it when she asked the question, but I think that should straighten it out for the record.
MR. BARNES: I have a matter that is partly the minister's responsibility and partly the responsibility of the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services. I understand there are some 9,000 to 10,000 living units in the downtown east side and adjacent area, in hotels and in lodgings. I would like the minister to consider how many of those people who are occupying those facilities are clients of his ministry. How many are likely to be on social assistance?
As the minister knows, for so many years I can't begin to even count them, hotels that have tenants living in them permanently — that is to say, for more than the one or two days customary in hotels, where the itinerant clientele are passing through two or three days or maybe a week.... The situation is quite different in these hotels, and this is of concern, I'm sure, to the minister, and certainly to those residents who have been living in them in some instances for up to a decade or two.
The hotels that provide a service to both the itinerant client and the long-term client have the unique benefit.... Perhaps it isn't really unique, because I suppose any hotel under the Hotel Keepers Act anywhere in the province theoretically could do the same thing. But it just happens that in these areas — as has been pointed out by the second member for Victoria (Mr. Blencoe) who spoke previously — where there is a serious shortage of affordable and decent social housing, you get a situation like we have in the downtown east side where these hotels are doubling up.
[ Page 3838 ]
In other words, they have it both ways. They are, in fact, providing a street service to people coming in and out. You know, some of their biggest turnovers have to do with street prostitution where they could be renting a room two, three, four, five, six, I guess a dozen or more times a day, depending on how many times the people want to go in there and use it to turn a trick, as they say.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
So there is that revenue coming in. The same hotels, of course, have the ability to rent by the week, month, six months, year or years. There's no obligation to the tenant, and that's the question. Many of these tenants, as I say, are on social assistance, and I would like the minister to tell us how many. I have a reason for this. Although you're not the one who regulates the activities of these hotels from a statutorial responsibility, you do have concern understandably for the well-being of these tenants you're spending money on, providing shelter benefits for.
Just as an aside, speaking of shelter benefits, which is part of this issue as well, every time you increase the shelter benefit without allowing the tenant — or at least the recipient of that shelter benefit — the right to negotiate rent with these landlords, you are in effect sending a message to the landlord that he may as well charge the maximum amount that is available through the ministry. If you're allowing $200 a month, then why should the landlord charge anything else? If you're allowing $250, why should the landlord charge anything but $250? It's simply because he knows that the tenant can't negotiate a lower settlement. The tenant can't say: "Well, I can go next door and pay two-thirds of this amount and get a better deal." You don't give them that benefit, that advantage. That's a strange regulation for a free enterprise government. That's all I'm going to say on that. I just want to point that out. That's a problem.
Getting back to the issue of the tenant or the resident living in one of these hotels and the hotel having it both ways — the best of all worlds — being able to do what is beneficial to management.... In your example, your recipients are bound to the landlord's dictates. In other words, they are in effect, in the most extreme cases, not in all cases.... I'm sure there are probably some good, well-meaning landlords who have their hearts on the right side, who try to do a good job, maintain good facilities and make sure they are safe and clean and that the amenities are halfway decent. But quite often the case is just the opposite.
Landlords quite often are dictatorial. They are heavy-handed with their tenants; they use pressure and threats. There is a fair amount of intimidation and coercion with impunity. There are no obligations whatsoever under existing law to these long-term residents, many of them so frightened that they wouldn't make a complaint anyway, because there's no protection for them. They are captivated, in a sense, by the landlords. If there were ever any truth to the landlord being lord and master, I think it's the owners of these hotels.
I'm sure there's a side to the story that they would talk about in terms of the taxation problems they face, the community in which they are serving and the inability to recover their capital investments, etc. There's always an argument, but the point I'm making is that we have citizens in this province with many strikes against them, living in an area that generally is neglected. So the social housing situation still looms over our heads. It really is something that the government has to look at.
Your policy of not constructing social housing directly in the years gone by has been costly. Now that you have the responsibility under the new initiatives by the federal government to participate in the construction of social housing, I certainly think that you should get back to this problem that we've always had — as long as I can remember in the downtown east side — of these people, through no fault of their own but through circumstances, having to live in these hotels and lodging houses, which we have never successfully addressed as a fact of life — and the fact that these people, in fact, love living in these communities. But they are at risk. They don't get a fair shake, and we haven't done our job in protecting them. What do we do about the problem? What's wrong?
In Ontario, they have a similar problem. I guess the minister is probably aware that they have recognized the problem and started to designate those units these people — your clients, for instance — are occupying. Those units are covered under the landlord-tenant legislation of that province, so the tenant can enter a contract with the landlord and receive benefits.
In other words, instead of losing the millions that the province of British Columbia loses by virtue of confiscation of security deposits . . . . I'm sure that if you do some calculations, you'll find it's costing the people of British Columbia literally millions of dollars that are being ripped off, stolen, taken away recklessly and with impunity by landlords, by virtue of the fact that these people down there have no choice. If I'm wrong, I would love to have you demonstrate how that is, because it is my impression that if anywhere near 50 percent or better of these 9, 000 to 10, 000 units are occupied by your clients, and if they are spending anywhere near the $200 or $300 a month that I understand to be the case for these one-room units - and half of that would be a $100 to $150 security deposit - you're looking at a lot of money, because these people may be evicted without notice, without recourse, without appeal.
Basically, that's a social housing issue of a special circumstance. It probably is very minor in other parts of the province, although potentially it could be happening anywhere in British Columbia. Certainly it is well known in the downtown east side. It is neglect. We all know it.
In 1972 to 1975, there was an attempt to address the problem. As you know, we brought in the interim stabilization act which also included rent controls. As well as the rent controls, we tried to address this problem by designating the units. The Attorney-General at the time, Alex Macdonald, along with Norman Levi, who was the Minister of Human Resources, got together recognizing the problem and designated the unit. So as long as that person was living in that unit, the person had some tenure, had some sense of residence, some protection, some recourse against abuses by insensitive and unjust landlords. The case today is quite the contrary. I recognize that it is not a simple problem. You certainly can't bring in a law that is going to have sweeping effects on an industry as delicate as that. I guess what I'm suggesting is that it's trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
Certainly a good start would be to require tenants and landlords to enter into a contract beyond a certain period of time. That would be a requirement. It would be incumbent upon the landlord to advise all tenants that if they are going to be staying more than 30 days, they have a right to a contract, and that the tenant has recourse if the landlord fails to advise
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them of that. Therefore those advocacy organizations can take action on behalf of a tenant to recover any abuses or losses as a result.
This also has the effect of saving money for the province, because the province is putting this money up, these security deposits. It's taxpayers' money that's being ripped off. If a tenant is kicked out, has to go to another unit, that money is forfeited; that's lost. The Social Services department has to come up with more money for the next situation, and so it goes. Are you monitoring this situation, Mr. Minister? Could you make a rough guess as to the losses to taxpayers as a result of this fault in the system? Clearly, with dollars being as scarce as they are, you would want to do it for no other reason than to save money. I would suggest that it's substantially high.
On the other hand, it's important simply to assist these people. Many of them are getting on in age - the people we like to refer to as the old pioneers of the early day whose work years are pretty much over - and we should allow them to enjoy their last years in dignity. I think that this is something that we can approach on a non-partisan basis with a sense of compassion, concern, fairness and justice. And it's in keeping with the spirit of your mandate as minister responsible for Social Services and Housing. So I'd appreciate your response to some of those questions, Mr. Minister.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: There's no question that the member identifies what is a tremendous problem in that downtown east side area of Vancouver, a problem that we're aware of as well as he is. It's just a fact of life down there, I guess.
I don't have an answer for him as to how many of our clients live in those hotels. I'm sorry, I don't have that number. I doubt very much if we have it anywhere in the ministry. I don't have that number. I doubt very much if we have it anywhere in the ministry. But suffice it to say, it's a great number. I don't know how many. You say there are 9, 000 to 10, 000 units down there. I wouldn't even hazard a guess. But I imagine it might be half - I don't know. I wish I could give you a number, but I can't.
There is also no question that there is a need for social housing in the downtown east side. I spoke yesterday about a meeting I had here with all the interested parties from the downtown east side. DERA was represented, and all the rest. We discussed the very problem that you're talking about. As you say, there are no easy answers. We talked about the fact - and you're correct - that the landlord sets the rent at whatever the ministry says the shelter allowance is. There's no question about that; we see it happen all the time. We talked about tenancy in hotels, which doesn't come under my ministry, as you know; it's under the Ministry of Labour and Consumer Services. But it's something that begs us taking another look.
Hopefully, the contracts we've entered into with DERA and with the St. James society under May Gutteridge will solve some of these problems, or at least start us on the road to solving some of the problems for these residents of that area, to give them a sense of permanence by paying their rent for them, and having someone like DERA - which has a little bit of muscle and clout and a lot of knowledge of how that area works . . . . Perhaps we've made a start in the right direction by having people like DERA administer these people's money for them, give them a sense of permanency, maybe strike a contract with some of these hotel owners -they have the knowledge and the clout to do it - get bank accounts opened for them, and start them on the road to some kind of permanence.
So your points are well taken. They're difficult to argue with - nor would 1. It's a problem that we're very aware of. I think we're making some moves toward solving them. Also, we're going to concentrate as much effort as possible on social housing, increasing the number of units in that area, which is drastically needed. We have a good housing project in a contract we entered into with DERA - I can't give you an opening date, but it should be opening soon. I hope that's just one of many we can build in that area with that type of non-profit organization. So while I don't have all the answers for you, Mr. Member - or all you would like to hear - we are taking some steps in that direction, and I think as we get further into it, some of the things you mention will come to pass.
MR. BARNES: I just want to say in closing, Mr. Chairman, that certainly we welcome any initiatives by the minister to construct or participate in the construction of social housing in the downtown east side, He's certainly right; we're going to look forward to that, We certainly will be monitoring his every step along the way.
It's quite a turnaround for the government to recognize its duty in this area because, as you know, we have been saying all along that the government has a role to play in the housing construction market, certainly when it comes to situations where there is a clear, manifest need for alternatives to what is being provided by the private sector.
So if he is intending to participate by using and cooperating with local resources, local people such as DERA, or, for instance, the native counselling services that are available in the area, beginning to recognize that these people know best; or going perhaps even further - if the minister means by his remarks that he is going to survey those clients of his who are on social assistance and who perhaps know better than all of us what the needs are, in terms of the adequacy of resources that have been made available to them and getting ideas as to how they see themselves pulling themselves up by their bootstraps in order to reach for the stars that we all are trying to reach - I think that would be commendable. It's an outstanding turnaround on the part of the government to be taking this initiative.
But I commend the minister. I'm looking forward to participating with him, and on matters such as this I hope we'll be seeing more of him personally down in the downtown east side, working with us elbow to elbow.
MR. LOVICK: I'm very pleased to participate in this debate of the minister's estimates, albeit briefly. I'm certainly not going to take a very large part. What I want to do is, rather, to be (a) short and (b) quite specific rather than general; and that I know is an aberration and departure from my normal procedure in this chamber.
First I want to note the minister's opening comments in which he recognized and showed appreciation for the efforts and the dedication of his staff. I am delighted that he did that, and I would like to do the same. I've had opportunities now to work with various people from your ministry, Mr. Minister, as well as with various contract workers and the volunteer sector, and I think it is the case that all of those people show considerable effort and dedication despite difficult circumstances frequently.
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My focus, as I suggested a moment ago, is going to be quite narrow and specific. I want to start by talking from the perspective of the constituency assistant. It seems to me that perhaps too often we who stand in this chamber get caught up in the larger dimensions and fail to recognize . . . . So what I want to do, Mr. Minister, is simply to share with you, and invite your response a little later, the kinds of concerns outlined to me by my constituency assistant. I suspect that her words are not going to be untypical, but rather will reflect the concerns and preoccupations of a number of people in that work.
The first concern that my constituency assistant has is whether in the wake of the various initiatives called downsizing and deinstitutionalization and other such things . . . what the impact might be specifically concerning whether the ministry is prepared to provide the necessary support services, given that we have moved people into community-based facilities. Are we, for example, going to provide a kind of network to those individuals? People, for example, such as Citizen Advocacy and others who take it upon themselves to be a kind of advocate or representative for disabled and other disadvantaged groups - will they find that they are equipped with resources? To be sure, the ministry may not be taking on those responsibilities directly. The question then becomes whether the ministry will do something to help those persons in some way.
An example of precisely what I'm getting at here refers to that large question we often seem to forget about, namely transportation. Specifically in my community, that translates into the provision of HandyDART vehicles and that kind of transportation for handicapped persons. I have, as you know, spoken with the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston) on a number of occasions about precisely that, and have had some assurances, 1 am pleased to note. But it seems to me that the Ministry of Social Services and Housing ought also to have more direct input into the provision of those kinds of services. Transportation, of course, is merely one of the ancillary and support services that people requiring care do indeed require.
The second broad area brought to me by my constituency assistant is the whole large subject of training and the concern whether there is any kind of standardized training provided for people who are taking on those community responsibilities. The perception and the fear - if I can put it that way - of many people is that what we are talking about doing in the name of saving dollars, downsizing and deinstitutionalizing is perhaps also deprofessionalizing the services. Instead of having qualified care and counselling, what might be the case is that we simply have friendly faces, warm beds and comfortable environments. The issue, of course, is whether those things are sufficient in and of themselves. I'm sure we would all agree that they aren't. In short, it is not enough to offer warm meals and a bed.
The question then, of course - I merely open the door to it here - is whether the government is prepared to pay adequate amounts for on-the-job training, to provide workshops and other kinds of not only training, I suspect, but also, perhaps, dare I say, moral support, comfort and a means of instant answers to questions when difficulties and crises arise.
The people who work in the trenches, if 1 can use that phrase, are perhaps concerned that maybe those individuals who are supposed to be providing the care will not always be equipped to do so, and that will then mean that some of those individuals will perhaps be coming to our attention. The question then becomes: who can provide the necessary care? I'd like to hear the minister's response to that.
The third area from my constituency assistant is connected, 1 suppose, to the one I've just finished referring to, namely what we are doing by way of providing adequate compensation and allowances for caregivers in the communities. I'm referring now specifically to those foster care providers. My understanding, and I hope the minister can clarify for me, is that the amount of allowance presently given to those caregivers tends, to all intents and purposes, to cover only room and board, and not much beyond that. It does not provide much additional compensation for things such as nursing or counselling.
As well, I understand that getting respite care for the caregiver is an extremely difficult proposition. As we know, that is a problem confronting both the Ministry of Health and your own ministry. It's a difficult one, and I'm sure you're making some efforts to try and grapple with it. But I know from very painful and personal experience in my own constituency, Mr. Minister, that all of our failure to provide that kind of respite care has resulted in some pretty tragic circumstances. I'm not going to be maudlin and offer chapter and verse on that now. I'm sure all of us have those kinds of experiences.
So those are the three broad areas, as I say, from the constituency level. I'm wondering if I could get some response from you on each of those. Perhaps I will interrupt the two parts of my remarks now, if you'd like to respond to those first.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: First of all, to address the support services, let me start by speaking of the licensing requirements and the monitoring. We have developed what we think is an excellent monitoring structure to ensure quality care in all residential resources for the mentally handicapped. We have community advisory committees, which will be established by each proprietary care residence to complement the monitoring already done by ministry staff. I want to cover training in the same response because while we do not offer training per se - we do not have a training program -we monitor the homes to make sure that trained personnel are working there and that they come up to our standards. In fact, the contract between the ministry and the service provider specifies that the contractor must supply a means of self monitoring the service provided. We have a provincial review team, an independent team of specialists who have been contracted to regularly monitor residential resource programs; and an accreditation team is being set up in conjunction with non-profit and private operators to develop an accreditation system to evaluate residential facilities for the mentally handicapped.
The staff capacity to monitor will also be enhanced, with the reorganization of the ministry into dedicated offices, so that is on the monitoring side to make sure that the standards are there and that trained people are indeed giving care. As well, we do fund support agencies such as the B.C. Association for the mentally handicapped and the Community Living Society, and there are others whose names just don't come to mind. But we do fund support services. You were asking what support there is; there is support there.
Transportation really doesn't come under this ministry directly, but we're very much affected by it, and we do
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provide transportation allowances for our clients. It's something that we do receive some criticism on: that there is not enough transportation available; that the allowance isn't high enough. It's something we are looking into: increasing the use, for example, of subsidized transit passes and also including transportation costs in residential contracts to cover the cost of transporting clients to achievement centres. We may include those costs in the contract.
So it's something we're cognizant of, and we're taking an ongoing look at it, because transportation is becoming an increasingly important part as we deinstitutionalize, and it's also becoming very costly. It's also scarce in some areas; it's very scarce. So it's something we are taking a good look at.
On the compensation side, there is no question that we must always endeavour to maintain these caregivers - we're talking about the homes now - at a substantial level, or we're in danger of losing that service. As you mentioned, the Ministry of Health and this ministry have the same problem of always having enough money; making sure that we keep them at a sufficient level so that we don't lose these caregivers. So again, it's a difficult problem that we're always grappling with.
You also mentioned the foster parent situation. We did substantially increase the stipend to foster parents last fall to bring us in line with other provinces across the country. It is also a difficult problem to grapple with: how much do you pay for foster care? There's no question that it is the backbone of our system of looking after children in care. But there's more to it than just monetary compensation. It fulfils a need for some people; it fulfils a need for us. The argument is always there: should it be a "job" where you actually make money? Even the foster parents' association is split on this issue. It's one that we try to monitor and stay within reasonable bounds with what the rest of society in other parts of the country is doing. So the compensation thing is one that we have to monitor constantly.
Before I sit down, I do thank the member from Vancouver Centre for his kind remarks. Even though I missed some of them, my deputy diligently wrote them down, and I have read them now three times and I appreciate them very much.
MR. LOVICK: On other occasions I wish the minister had listened three times too, but not this occasion.
I don't have the kind of expertise or background in these areas to debate or argue with any of the answers given by the minister, and I'll leave that to others who may. Instead, if I could though, I'd just like to ask one very brief question. Would the minister give me some idea of exactly how well equipped and financed, if you like, that monitoring function is that he described? There is, as you said, Mr. Minister, a review team which is charged with monitoring exactly how the delivery of services is provided. It would seem to me that's a horrendous job. I am wondering if that is a task that is spread out among a number of people and spread out around the province. Could you give us some indication of how that team functions?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Yes, I can tell the member that the review teams and accreditation teams are well financed. It is our intention to make the monitoring of these homes as stringent as possible, and we will not skimp on the funding of these teams.
The deputy advises me that I may have inadvertently said that we do have standards of training. If I said that, it wasn't intended. I want to repeat what I said: we do not have training programs per se, but we do have standards that caregivers must come up to, and the monitoring teams will ensure that they do.
MR. LOVICK: I would just like to talk now about that other area that I promised I would refer to, Mr. Minister -again, very specific, very focused on my own constituency. This one is a particular case, one that I know the minister and his staff are certainly familiar with, namely the closing of a particular group home in Nanaimo, the one operated by the Nanaimo Youth Services. I want to talk about that very briefly and again allow the minister some opportunity to respond, because it seems to me that perhaps this case will shed some light on that larger area about how effectively we are moving into the community base and how effectively this new program is unfolding and functioning. Specifically, I'm concerned about the fact that what seems to have happened in my community is that a particular facility that was operating did not have its contract renewed because the board of directors unanimously decided that the alternative model suggested to it by the ministry was unsatisfactory and unacceptable to the board as well as to the staff.
The people who were, as I say, charged with operating that home . . . . It was for youth in crisis, ML Minister. The home only accommodated some five to nine young people from the ages of about 13 to 19. Those individuals were, as I suggested a moment ago. youth in crisis. These were people who quite simply didn't fit in to the normal family-school environment. These were people who had dropped out of that mainstream. These were people who clearly needed some help.
The youth services association ran the home for a period of some three or four years. As part of what the ministry, I believe, referred to as a -refocusing process, " as part of a decentralization model under-taken by the ministry, the home was told it had to modify its system of operation to conform to the family model, as referred to by the ministry. The conclusion to that, as I suggested a few moments ago, was that the board said: "We are not able in all conscience to accept that. " They argued that the services they provided were too important necessary and vital to ignore. They also argued implicitly that the new facilities would simply be unable to provide the kinds of services that they saw as requisite and necessary.
The problem, as I say, is that the ministry, despite many negotiations and, I gather, all kinds of efforts to establish some meeting of the minds and to negotiate a contract. was unable to do so. What that meant was that this particular facility closed. We now have a group of young people who have been dispersed to other facilities and other kinds of care.
I'll just summarize the point, if I might, Mr. Minister, to give you an opportunity to respond. The problem, as the Nanaimo Youth Services association contends - both professionals and community volunteers - is that the new model does not allow for the kind of therapeutic service, intervention, counselling, advising, hands-on, 24-hour-a-day treatment that these young people need. Rather, their contention is that this new system, the new model, is simply a placebo that doesn't really address the kinds of concerns for therapy or counselling that these young people require.
The case histories of the people . . . . I won't spell it out in great detail, but I can tell you that since the closing of the home, there are a couple of those individuals who, though we were assured that they would be accommodated by other
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kinds of facilities and would not cause problems because the one youth service that was provided would also be provided by the new one . . . . Those case histories, unfortunately, Mr. Minister, reveal a rather different story. One of those young people is presently in jail; another is currently on the street, we assume making a living by doing whatever that horrible phrase suggests.
I'm not for a moment trying to suggest that that's the norm or the pattern. All I want to ask is if the minister will give some response to those concerns and say that perhaps our efforts to deinstitutionalize, to centralize the model and say that there is indeed one family model that will apparently fit all these cases . . . . Perhaps that assumption needs to be re-evaluated and questioned a bit. I ask the minister if he would care to respond to that.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: For this particular case of the Nanaimo youth services, I don't have all the details at my instant recall, but I do recall the situation in general terms. The member is quite right: the staff in Nanaimo did meet many times and try to come to terms with this group, and they seem to be on two different wavelengths. The decision was made locally, as we are very much a decentralized ministry and have been for a long time. The local autonomy is something we pride ourselves in.
The decision was made that this Nanaimo youth services organization did not fit our mandate, that they were going far beyond what we could pay for. I'm not saying they didn't do good work; they may very well have done excellent work, but they went far beyond what we could justify paying for under our mandate. So the decision was made over a year ago that they just couldn't come to terms, and they decided not to renew the contract. We were willing to renew the contract under a group-home setting, but not to renew offering the kind of therapeutic treatment that you described. That came under another ministry, not ours; it's a mental health problem. So that is really the reason for that home not having its contract renewed.
The treatment was far beyond our budget. It was getting very expensive. But the member does make a good point that perhaps what was being offered was what was required. I'd be interested in following up with him individual cases - not here in this forum, but if he'd like to give to me the individual cases he mentioned, I'd be very interested in that. Maybe it's something we should pursue, and amalgamate the two services. But that's the reason the contract wasn't renewed.
Mr. Chairman, in view of the time, I would like to move that the committee rise, report significant progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Couvelier tabled the annual report of the compensation stabilization program for the year ending March 31, 1988, and the annual report of the auditor-general for the year ending March 31, 1988.
Introduction of Bills
BUSINESS (TAX REFUND) ACT
Hon. Mr. Couvelier presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled International Financial Business (Tax Refund) Act.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I am pleased to introduce today Bill 22, the International Financial Business (Tax Refund) Act. This bill will establish a tax framework that will make Vancouver more competitive with other international financial centres, without exposing the provincial government to significant costs. This is a companion to Bill 23, International Financial Business Act.
A number of people have contributed a great deal of their own time to the international financial centre initiative. I would like to thank the members of the IFC Vancouver committee: Dr. Michael Goldberg, Mr. Samuel Belzberg, Mr. Peter Brown, Mr. John Bruk, Mr. Peter Cundill, Mr. Stewart Cunningham, Mr. Arthur Hara, Mr. Sholto Hebenton, Mr. Geoffrey Hook, Mr. Donald Hudson, Mr. Edgar Kaiser, Mr. Bill Long, Mr. Eugene Nesmith and Mr. Robert Wyman for their selfless contribution of time and effort in developing this initiative. In particular I'd like to recognize the contribution of Mr. Jacob Brouwer, chairman of IFC Vancouver. Bill 22 is the culmination of the hard work of these and many other individuals. I commend the bill for your consideration and urge its passage.
I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Bill 22 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL BUSINESS ACT
Hon. Mr. Couvelier presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled International Financial Business Act.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I'm pleased to introduce today Bill 23, the International Financial Business Act. This bill will provide a regulatory environment that encourages the formation of international financial businesses in Vancouver. This is a companion to Bill 22. It establishes an accommodating environment for the regulation of international financial activity in Vancouver, but provides the regulator with ample authority to intervene in situations where the good name and credibility of British Columbia's financial centre may be threatened.
Bill 23 creates new business opportunities which will inevitably lead to greater prosperity for all British Columbians. I commend this bill for your consideration and urge its passage.
I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Bill 23 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.