[ Page 5143 ]
Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 38). Hon. L. Hanson
Introduction and first reading –– 5143
Transportation and Highways Statutes Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 34). Hon. Mr. Rogers
Introduction and first reading –– 5143
Vancouver Island bee inspection. Mr. Stupich –– 5144
Employment Plus program. Mr. Cashore –– 5144
Parks maintenance. Ms. Edwards –– 5144
Sport awards program. Mr. Barnes –– 5145
Late government payments on day care centre billings. Ms. Marzari –– 5145
Firing of employees with PCB concerns. Mr. Harcourt –– 5145
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Health estimates. (Hon. Mr. Dueck)
On vote 45: minister's office –– 5146
Dental Technicians Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 37). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Dueck –– 5160
Mrs. Boone –– 5161
Hon. Mr. Dueck –– 5161
Dental Technicians Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 37). Committee stage. (Hon. Mr. Dueck) –– 5161
Municipalities Enabling and Validating Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 26).
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 5161
Mr. Blencoe –– 5161
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 5161
Sechelt Indian Government District Home Owner Grant Act (Bill 43). Second reading
Hon. Mrs. Johnston –– 5162
Police Act (Bill 21). Committee stage. (Hon. B.R. Smith) –– 5162
Hon. Mr. Strachan
Land Title Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 24). Committee stage. (Hon. B.R. Smith) –– 5169
Law Reform Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 27). Second reading
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 5169
Mr. Sihota –– 5169
Victims' Rights and Services Act (Bill 31). Second reading
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 5170
Mr. Sihota –– 5170
Mr. Loenen –– 5174
Ms. Edwards –– 5174
Mr. Blencoe –– 5174
Hon. B.R. Smith –– 5174
Commercial River Rafting Safety Act (Bill 29). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Strachan –– 5175
Ms. Smallwood –– 5175
Ms. Edwards –– 5175
Hon. Mr. Strachan –– 5176
Pension (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 1988 (Bill 39). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Veitch –– 5176
Mr. Clark –– 5177
Hon. Mr. Veitch –– 5177
Resource Investment Corporation Amendment Act, 1988 (Bill 44). Second reading
Hon. Mr. Veitch –– 5178
Mr. Williams –– 5178
Mr. Clark –– 5180
Mr. Miller –– 5181
Mr. Michael –– 5182
Mr. Lovick –– 5183
Hon. Mr. Veitch –– 5184
Appendix –– 5185
The House met at 2:07 p.m.
HON. MR. VEITCH: In the members' gallery today, Mr. Speaker, we have two very distinguished visitors. His Excellency Dr. Vladimir Pavicevic is the ambassador for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Accompanying His Excellency is Mr. Nikola Jelincic, who is the consul general of Yugoslavia at Vancouver. I'd ask the House to bid them a warm welcome.
HON. MR. PARKER: Joining us today in the gallery are friends from Oregon. I'd like to introduce to you and to the House State Senator Joan Dukes, her husband, Eric, and their son, Ian. Would the House please make them welcome.
MR. ROSE: I'd like to introduce to the House a young man who's come from half-way around the world to be with us today. While the Law Clerk, the second member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) and I were in Zambia in 1980 we met the family of Eric Mkandawire. His father expressed an interest in having a Canadian education for his son. As a result of a lot of cooperation from Mr. Speaker, from the Hon. Perrin Beatty, the Minister of Defence, the Progress Club of Vancouver or North Vancouver — I've forgotten which one it was — Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, and of course the charming member for Coquitlam-Moody, we were able to arrange for him to have a two-year scholarship. He's half-way through now, doing very well; his grades are better every quarter. Would you welcome Eric Mkandawire from Malawi.
HON. MR. VANDER ZALM: I would like to see the House welcome a very good friend of mine and a resident of Port Moody, one who's certainly been successful in the community and in our province, Mr. Frieder Kempe. He's in the House.
MS. EDWARDS: I'd like the House to join me in welcoming a friend of mine from Cranbrook who's on a bit of a Cook's tour, I think. When he's home, Robert McLeod is the news director for CKEK radio. Would the House join me in making him welcome.
MR. PELTON: Hon. members, we are honoured in this House today to have with us the Speaker of the Queensland Legislative Assembly in Australia. The Hon. Lionel Powell and his wife, Mrs. Powell, are here, and they are accompanied by the Deputy Clerk of the Parliament, Mr. Robert Doyle. Could we make them welcome, please.
Also, hon. members, on behalf of our Speaker I would like to introduce Miss Robbin Frazer, president of Spectrum Three Consulting Ltd. Could we give her a warm welcome as well, please.
MS. A. HAGEN: As is often the case, young people give us an opportunity to meet other young people. We welcomed to our home this week a friend who entertained our son in West Germany. As a result of his coming to Victoria, I've had the opportunity to also meet two other young West German travelers who are visiting British Columbia. I'd like to ask the House to join me in welcoming Ludwig Boehme from West Berlin, Karl Bastuck from Lahr, and Bernd Koch from Marburg, who are visiting British Columbia.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: It is indeed a pleasure for me to rise in the assembly today and welcome, on behalf of the second member for Delta (Mr. Davidson) and me, a constituent, Mr. Dennis Elsom, who has been responsible for developing a good part of North Delta. Would this assembly please make him welcome.
HON. L. HANSON: In the gallery today visiting us from Burlington, Ontario, we have Mr. and Mrs. Al and Lorraine Neurnair. They are the parents of a very important person in my office, one of my secretaries. Heidi. Heidi is trying to convince them that British Columbia should be their permanent home, and I'm sure that when they've seen the beauties of British Columbia, it will be. Will the House please make them welcome.
MR. LOENEN: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce someone who has made a great contribution to our community over many years of service: Irene Frith, who is a former alderman and is currently chairperson of the North Fraser Harbour Commission. Accompanying her is Ted Hurschman. I would like the House to give them a warm welcome, please.
MRS. GRAN: Mr. Speaker, seated in the gallery today is a group of grade 7 students from Simonds Elementary School in Langley. Would the House please welcome them.
Mr. Speaker, seated in your gallery are two friends of the second member for Langley (Mr. Peterson) and mine. One is a farmer, Juergen Wernikke, and the other is a developer, Ken Thompson. Would the House please welcome them.
HON. MR. COUVELIER: I also have a friend or two, and two of them happen to be in the House today. I'm pleased to ask the House to welcome Mr. Peter Daniels and Mr. Graham Roberts of Victoria.
Introduction of Bills
LIQUOR CONTROL AND LICENSING
AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
Hon. L. Hanson presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act, 1988.
HON. L. HANSON: I move the bill be introduced and read a first time now. This bill is the result of extensive public consultation and follows the recommendations of last year's liquor policy review. I am pleased to introduce the Liquor Control and Licensing Amendment Act for first reading at this time.
Bill 38 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.
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
Hon. Mr. Rogers presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Transportation and Highways Statutes Amendment Act, 1988.
[ Page 5144 ]
HON. MR. ROGERS: I move the bill be introduced and, read a first time now. In speaking very briefly to it, this is what would best be described as a miscellaneous statutes amendment act specifically geared to this ministry and dealing with such exciting issues as axle weights, lengths of trailers and other things which I am sure will stimulate the members during second reading and debate.
HON. MR. ROGERS: Oh, absolutely. No, this isn't housekeeping; this is vehicle-keeping. I move the bill be read a first time now.
Bill 34 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.
VANCOUVER ISLAND BEE INSPECTION
MR. STUPICH: A question to the Minister of Agriculture. I understand the bee inspector, Ed Milot, who worked so hard to persuade the ministry against their determination that those offending 340 hives be removed from Vancouver Island, was fired this morning. That's what I heard from the local radio station early this morning. I'd like the minister to comment.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: To the hon. first member for Nanaimo, I would like to inform the member that I have done some investigative work this morning. The altercation involved a sailing of the 7 o'clock ferry from Horseshoe Bay on-site at the ferry terminal. As I understand it, there was some confusion about the leaving of the Island of those 137 hives out of the 347 that are on the Island. I don't think there was an altercation, but I believe Mr. Milot came to the terminal with two police officers, as I understood it, and apparently was expecting some sort of altercation, from what I am reported.
But I can tell you, hon. member, that the chief inspector who was on-site does not have the authority to release anyone. That is the jurisdiction of the minister or the deputy minister, so I can assure you that that is not the case. He may have been told that, but that is not in fact the case.
MR. STUPICH: I would expect that relations between the chief inspector and the inspector who's doing his job would be rather cool at the present time. I wonder if the minister has given any consideration to appointing the one who seems to be doing his job and knows his job so well, Mr. Milot, as chief inspector and making Mr. McCutcheon the assistant, so that he'll learn something about the job.
HON. MR. SAVAGE: I do not wish to comment on that until I've completed my investigation.
EMPLOYMENT PLUS PROGRAM
MR. CASHORE: My question is to the Minister of Social Services and Housing. Yesterday the minister announced with great fanfare from the Crystal Garden — of all places.... Given the money that's been removed from JobTrac, I don't know how the minister was able to afford to announce it from that place. Mr. Speaker, the minister has some explaining to do. Can he tell this House the real difference between the former JobTrac program and this effort that was announced for the second time yesterday?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: If the member would read the news releases that are sent to him and would study in detail the program, he would find out there are significant differences.
The reason it was announced yesterday is that.... We are announcing the public launch of the program because the success of this program depends on the small business people of this province, the private sector, picking it up. It seems it's being met with enthusiasm in the private sector. The reaction so far seems to be excellent. So I appreciate the member asking the question, because it gives me an opportunity to say in this Legislature, and to the public of British Columbia, that we hope the small business people avail themselves of this very worthwhile program.
MR. CASHORE: Supplementary question. I find that very interesting, having received a call this morning from a person who went into one of the offices of the Ministry of Social Services, and the people there didn't know anything about this program and were not able to help that individual. We all know that this program is a shadow of the ineffective, inadequate JobTrac program that didn't create real, lasting, meaningful jobs. When pressed, the minister acknowledged to the press that the program is a little late this year. How can the minister expect these business people and non-profit societies to access this program when he is just coming out with the information and the material now, in mid-June? The offices don't even know anything about it. How can we expect these businesses and non-profit societies to read the material, go through the process they must go through and make use of it before winter sets in?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: I just wonder if the member meant that all as one question or as a series of questions. I will try to be as explicit as I can. I did say to the press that, yes, ideally we would have liked to have had the advertising program put together perhaps ten days ago, but we still don't feel we are late for this summer season, Mr. Member. It's still just the middle of June, and we have a great summer season of tourism and great weather to go through in this province. The program is for a minimum of two months and a maximum of six, so I think the uptake on it will be very, very good. I have every confidence in the private sector of this province. And the parks and tourism components of it — which the member failed to mention — will leave lasting legacies for this province. It's our experience that when we get these people on income assistance their first job and they have something on their resume, not only do they achieve the self-esteem and worth that we desire, but in many instances they stay on with the employer and it becomes a permanent placement.
MS. EDWARDS: My question is to the Minister of Environment and Parks. One of the new Employment Plus programs is to enhance projects in about 30 parks across the province. Will the entire parks maintenance program in the few parks left that are not privatized now be handled by the Employment Plus program?
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HON. MR. STRACHAN: For the benefit of the record and members of the Legislative Assembly, let me say this. The program, as it was last year, is funded to the tune of $2 million for parks enhancements. The contractor this year, as was the case last year, is the Outdoor Recreation Council. They're not doing maintenance work; they're doing trail enhancement and many other good works for the benefit of the parks system. This year they are also going to be expanding their program to deal with some municipal parks and regional district parks, so it's more urban based.
I'm quite proud of the system. I'm proud, as a minister, to be participating in it, and I can assure this assembly that it's going to achieve two very good measures: one, it's going to improve our park enhancement system; secondly, and most importantly, it's going to provide entertainment and training for the young people of our province.
MS. EDWARDS: A supplementary question. If the minister is not hiring auxiliary staff, as you have said before; if the existing staff is merely skeletal, as you have said before; and if the Employment Plus project is not for maintenance but for enhancement, who is maintaining the parks?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Maintenance staff or maintenance contractors, as has always been the case. We have 208 parks; 156 of them are privatized in terms of maintenance, and the rest are done by Parks employees. More are going to be privatized. The maintenance will be done by the maintenance crews, and the enhancement work will be done by the Outdoor Recreation Council and this project.
SPORT AWARDS PROGRAM
MR. BARNES: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism, Recreation and Culture. A couple of weeks ago the minister and I had, I thought, a very productive exchange discussing the tributes of Harry Winston Jerome. At the present time the Premier's sport awards program is available in something like 1,000 schools across the province with 111,000 participants. I understand that the program will not be funded after the end of June. Can the minister indicate why he is withholding the $200,000 grant that he has been making available over the past six years?
HON. MR. REID: Yes, the school program which concludes at the end of this 1987-88 year will be ended. There is $60,000 in place at the moment to complete that program. We are discussing it with the private sector and some sponsors in the communities of the province who have showed an interest in picking up some of the components of that program. It will be in place in 1988-89, but it will be funded not only by taxpayers, but by some interested private sector sponsors.
MR. BARNES: I didn't want to get into too long a dialogue over this, but it sounds to me like this is through the back door. What you're saying is you're privatizing this program, because $60,000 is far less than what is required. Without notice, it sounds to me as though the program will be at risk. It's very disappointing as well for the minister to be making this information known today that they are going to be significantly reduced in their ability to carry this program on. Just remember as well that the minister invited this side of the House two weeks ago to come up with recommendations which would help to perpetuate the memory of Harry Jerome in the schools. This is a very disappointing bit of information.
HON. MR. REID: I'll take that in a roundabout way as a supplementary question, and I'll address it in this way. I give that member the assurance that all the programs we have been involved with in the past are better than they've ever been before, and this one is no different from other programs we have in place. Because there is a shift in corporate sport marketing in the province by the private sector wanting to have some promotional opportunities with sport, we are also making this available to that particular program. It is a $200,000 contract for the year. The contract for 1987-88 runs out at the end of June. The contract has not been renewed, because we're setting different guidelines for it for the future. But I give you the assurance that the program has not been discontinued.
LATE GOVERNMENT PAYMENTS
ON DAY CARE CENTRE BILLINGS
MS. MARZARI: A question to the Minister of Social Services and Housing. Yesterday I put forward a question about non-payment of bills to the day care givers in this province. The minister assured me that he had not received any complaints from day care givers that they had not received payment on their coupons. I have in my hand two letters dated March 19 and June 6 from day care givers to the minister claiming that they had not received payment and they could not continue to operate on such a shoestring. I have too a letter from the minister back to one of them, dated March 29, recognizing completely the nature of the problem and stating that bills would be promptly paid by this government within 14 days of receipt. Would the minister care to change his answer of yesterday to reflect the evidence I bring forward today'?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The letter that the member refers to.... I haven't seen the one she has, but I am certain it refers to a day care centre in Kamloops and to a specific case of a specific family. I have not received any letters from day care centres regarding the overall late payment, as she suggested, up to eight weeks, I believe it was. If she would care to show me letters stating that, I would be happy to deal with it.
FIRING OF EMPLOYEES WITH PCB CONCERNS
MR. HARCOURT: I have a question for the Minister of Labour, and it cleats with an item that the member for Surrey Guildford-Whalley (Ms. Smallwood) brought to the attention of the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Strachan), who took the matter on notice. I am talking about the plant in Burnaby where five employees were fired for raising their concerns about the potential hazard to their health from the PCBs on the site. Will the minister tell the House what initiatives he has taken to investigate this whole matter?
HON. L. HANSON: The Minister of Environment took the issue on notice. As for the concern of the individuals that they were fired improperly. there are remedies for those individuals. If they are a unionized firm or if they are under agreement with their management, they have an arbitration
[ Page 5146 ]
process, and if they aren't under that, they have other remedies through my labour standards branch. At this point I am not doing any investigation, because the employees have not come forward with a complaint to me or to my ministry.
MR. HARCOURT: A supplementary, Mr. Speaker. Surely I don't have to remind the minister of his responsibilities to working people, the enforcement of health and safety laws. I think the matter is important. It's a non-union outfit. The real issue is people who are concerned about dangerous chemicals and bring it to the attention of the authorities in good faith, and who are fired for that. I think there should be a strong message back to those employers in that non-union outfit that they can't do those sorts of things when these people are dealing in good faith. Would the minister agree to undertake an investigation of this matter?
HON. L. HANSON: Now that the Leader of the Opposition has made his question somewhat more clear, the Workers' Compensation Board has been in to investigate the hazard of the material you are concerned about. I haven't had a report yet from them as to what their determination is.
Orders of the Day
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Pelton in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF HEALTH
On vote 45: the minister's office, $305,183.
MRS. BOONE: I'd like to ask the minister some questions. For a few minutes I'm going to be focusing more on the hospital end of things — for a short time anyway. On behalf of the first and second members for Nanaimo (Mr. Stupich and Mr. Lovick), I'd like to get this out of the way if I may. It's a specific question regarding the Nanaimo hospital, which apparently has the longest surgical waiting-list in the province.
About three days a week, in-patients must be housed in emergency unit beds because beds aren't available anywhere else. About 40 acute-care beds are filled by patients waiting for extended-care beds to become available. I understand that the minister is aware of this situation and that he's had a dialogue with the members for Nanaimo. I would like to know what the status is regarding expansion of the hospital or anything that will alleviate the problems they have in that area.
HON. MR. DUECK: Some hospitals have longer waiting-lists than others, which is understandable. It's due to many reasons, some being that the growth of population is greater and the ageing of the population in certain areas is higher — and that certainly applies to the Nanaimo area, where they have a large number of senior citizens.
As for the bed-blockers, as you call them, who are occupying acute-care beds at the present time, this has been alleviated somewhat by the opening of the new extended-care and intermediate-care facilities. We also have — and I'll just get some of the information here.... Mr. Chairman, I want my people to get the information, what the status of new extended and intermediate care in that area is right now. I'm not sure whether we have that information. When you zero in on specific hospitals, you know.... There are 135, and I can get that information very quickly. The average occupancy of non-acute-care beds is roughly between 10 and 15 percent in all hospitals, and it has been that way for some time. We also find that if we build enough extended- and intermediate-care beds and take them out, it is a matter of a very short period of time before they're filled again. So there will always be some people in acute care who could perhaps be better served in extended or intermediate care.
I should also mention at this time that the thrust of this government is to try and keep people at home as long as possible. We find we've been very successful in this. The average age now in a continuing-care facility is 82, which is quite an improvement over even five years ago and certainly an improvement from ten years ago. So we are keeping people in their own home, whether that be an apartment or their own house, and doing quite well with support services, such as home nursing and homemakers. We find, too, that that area is one that needs to be beefed up and improved. I believe it will be less expensive and ultimately much better for senior citizens than putting them into a facility.
I'm quite happy in general terms with what we're doing in this province. If you're talking about extending intermediate care, it might be of interest to you that we are planning 1,200 new beds in the province over the next two years.
MRS. BOONE: Certainly we're looking for new intermediate-care beds, but the immediate problem of the people in Nanaimo is that they're looking for an expansion to their hospital. I understand they have been dealing with the ministry, looking for a new hospital addition, since 1981. What they are looking for is approval for a three-phase expansion, and they hope they might get approval from the ministry within a short time so that they can go to tender on working drawings for that hospital. Can the minister tell me, please, what status that project has?
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Chairman, I think I mentioned that I haven't got it here. But we sent for the information, and I will give it to you in a few minutes.
MRS. BOONE: On another note, I've tried to get some information from some of the hospitals regarding their budgets. It's difficult because they've only just received their budgets, so they're not quite sure how well they will meet their requirements — or if they are going to meet their requirements. A general problem has been a lack of funds for the operational side, for the equipment side; not enough funds to just purchase some of the ordinary equipment — not necessarily the new technology but just everyday equipment. As you know, that was a problem we brought to your attention last year. The hospitals have not been able to keep up with inflation, and they have not been able to deal with some of the issues they've got. Can the minister tell me, please, if there's been any substantial change to hospital budgets in those areas, if he has heard from hospitals regarding this problem, and if there's any intention to increase those budgets so that hospitals can purchase the nitty-gritty things of hospital budgets. I'm not talking about the large, technical things; just the everyday things that hospitals are finding it difficult to purchase right now.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Chairman, we deal, of course, with the association that represents the hospitals, which is the
[ Page 5147 ]
BCHA. They are very happy with the funding this year. I think the hospitals are adequately funded. They're all meeting their budgets. If the problem you are alluding to is in one specific hospital, we may have to deal with it and ask them what their concern is. But the majority of hospitals in the province are very satisfied with the budgeting procedure and are adequately funded.
MRS. BOONE: I would like to ask the minister some questions, because you mentioned the need for people to stay at home and the desire of this government to keep people at home. Yet we haven't seen any increase in the home care budget at all — well, just a pittance. There is a minor increase there, but it's not enough to really deal with the situation or be an encouragement for people to stay in their homes. I know the member for New Westminster (Ms. A. Hagen) went to great lengths with that, but that is an issue that I would like to see addressed, and I don't see how we can be addressing the area of keeping people at home when we don't increase that home care budget.
We also haven't seen any increase — and I mentioned this to the minister several times last year, and we debated this — with regard to hospices. We talked specifically about hospices for AIDS victims. The minister said we needed hospices for all kinds of terminally ill people, which I agreed with, yet to date we have not seen any increase in hospices in the province, and those are areas that are cost effective. They treat people humanely and are far better alternatives to keeping people in very costly acute care. Yet we don't seem to be moving on this issue at all. In fact, we are not even moving on the palliative care units that are connected with hospitals, and we have seen some shifting away from that.
One of the complaints I had from a hospital was that there is no encouragement or additional funding to encourage people to promote development of palliative care units. Again, these are areas that are very cost effective and very humane, and they treat people properly — the way they should be treated — yet we don't see any movement in that area at all. I find it difficult to understand how the minister can be patting himself on the back for keeping people at home, providing alternatives and doing all this prevention when in fact we don't see the support systems out there to actually help people do those very things we want to do.
Can the minister tell me what the plans are for hospices, and if there are any plans to develop hospices and encourage hospitals to develop palliative care programs or specialized units even within the hospitals? What kind of movement is there in the ministry in this direction? This is the progressive direction, one the ministry should be moving in, and it should be moving there much more rapidly than it is.
HON. MR. DUECK: To get back to the question I said we would get from the office, the planning process at the Nanaimo hospital is in place. The planning is underway for 89 to 90 acute-care beds, and construction approval will follow when that process is completed. Also, diagnostic treatment and support services will be provided at that time with the new facility.
The question on palliative care and hospices: we have two hospice facilities in British Columbia now, and we have just announced $1.3 million for operation of 24 hospice beds in British Columbia. During the current fiscal year, the Vancouver hospice is expanding its operating capacity from 11 to 15 beds. The additional beds will become operational by December 1988.
In addition, proposals for hospice development by University Hospital, Shaughnessy site, and St. Paul's Hospital are presently being considered. Hospices have been developed to care for those where a cure is not expected and who probably face the last days of their lives. We have said before that we believe hospices should be for ill people — for people dying of all kinds of diseases. We have not segregated any particular disease, although in St. Paul's there is an area set aside mostly for AIDS patients, but we are moving in that direction.
Palliative care — I believe it's on the drawing board, but perhaps when we expand hospital services to Eagle Ridge, Royal Columbian may again go into palliative care,
MRS. BOONE: The minister mentioned an expansion of beds, and I'm very pleased to hear that. You mentioned a lot of things that are on the drawing board or being considered. I didn't hear of any hospices at all for outside the lower mainland. I find that kind of interesting, after the rant the Premier went on yesterday with regard to putting things outside the lower mainland and taking care of people outside the Vancouver areas. We don't see any hospices going outside that area. Are there any plans for any hospices or palliative care units to be developed outside the lower mainland area'?
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Chairman, I think the member is wrong. I think we have many areas. First of all, a hospice is not necessarily a facility. Many organizations throughout the province provide hospice care. We also have hospitals, although they don't have a closed-in facility saying,"This is the hospice area," and shutting it for everything else. But they have hospice beds. They do care for those people who are dying.
I don't know how you can possibly say that hospitals don't look after the dying or the sick. How you can possibly say, in our province where we have the best possible health care of any country. that we don't look after...? We haven't got enough hospice, enough beds. This year's budget alone — and if you'd like to listen, I will repeat it — was increased by $362 million. and you say we don't provide the services. We provide absolutely excellent services. If we would only look at some of the good things we do and ask how we can improve them, rather than criticize.
MRS. BOONE: I certainly never said that our hospitals didn't take good care. I said that hospices deal with people in a more humane way. They treat them, and it's more economical. I never, ever said and I would never say that our hospitals did not treat people property. As the member from Coquitlam said once, you've got to stop taking these things personally and listen to what we're saying.
You have a report that was done on acupuncture. I've requested that report. You've indicated that that will be made available once it goes to cabinet. I would like to know at this time when that report will be available to us or when it's going to cabinet.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Chairman, very soon.
I want to mention one more thing, and this is probably not the appropriate time but I think I will still do so. I got word just a little while ago that I'm a grandfather of a baby boy.
[ Page 5148 ]
MS. EDWARDS: Mr. Minister, I can't let that unanswered question go past. The member for Prince George North asked you if there were going to be any more establishments of hospices — that means facilities; that means a room where a hospice group can literally do some work with those who are dying. The question was: are there any more going to be established? Because there are not enough in the province.
HON. MR. DUECK: Mr. Chairman, I think I did say which ones are now under consideration, with some extra money funded for those facilities I mentioned. The question was then whether it was for the rest of the province. At that point I did say that a hospice is not necessarily a facility, and you can imagine that not every town will have a separate hospice facility. They do that in the workings of the hospital in general. That's why I asked why you are down on hospitals, because even the smallest hospital will cater to dying people. Even a hospital that has ten beds will deal with people who are dying, and that is a hospice situation. They'll deal with that individual differently than they do with someone who's there in recovery and will only be there for another two days. So that situation does exist, but whether in fact every hospital has a hospice area, no, and it won't have.
In the more populated areas — I think I mentioned it, and I'll say it again, if you want to mark this down — an extra $1.3 million has been set aside for the operation of 24 hospice beds in British Columbia during the current fiscal year. The Vancouver hospice is expanding its operation capacity from 11 to 15 beds. The additional beds will become operational by December. In addition, proposals for hospice development by the University Hospital, Shaughnessy site, and St. Paul's Hospital are presently being considered.
We've also been in touch with hospice societies in various areas — New Westminster, for example, has a very active hospice society — but we don't necessarily have facilities specifically designated as hospice facilities. But they're used as such, and hospitals in general do that. I'm very glad they do. I have to say again that I believe that just because we haven't got every hospital designating hospice beds.... Every hospital in the province does cater to and look after the dying in the same manner as if we had the hospice beds set aside. In the larger areas, it's easier to set aside and have personnel looking after those people only. It's much simpler to do it in a larger populated area.
MS. EDWARDS: I guess what you're saying is no, there isn't any more funding going beyond the ones that you mentioned.
The question in my mind, and certainly the issue in my community, is how you get a room or two set aside within a hospital that can be used by the family of the dying. How can you do that within the funding formula that's there? Too often it is far too difficult within hospitals all across the province — and there are people dying all across the province; as you said, it isn't just the lower mainland and the well-populated areas that should get this. They need some space where the people who are dying can spend some time apart from the wards, with their family. That's what I was asking.
HON. MR. DUECK: To begin with, I would like to make a correction. I said the Nanaimo hospital. That's phase one, and that does not call for new beds, but rather for the area of equipment and services that we're providing. Phase one will not include new beds.
Hospice is much more than what you're saying; I'm sure you're aware of it. We also have hospice services to their own homes. Many people prefer to spend their last days at home, which I'm sure you're very much aware of. We have hospice agencies do exactly that work in the homes where people lived before getting ill. We provide that through the hospice society and also through home nursing and homemaker agencies. There is that service available.
If you criticize that there isn't enough, I'll accept that, but to criticize that we haven't got it and that people aren't looked after, I reject that; I will not accept that.
MS. EDWARDS: Mr. Minister, the annual meeting of the B.C. Hospice-Palliative Care Association was in my community this year. In visiting that convention, the major problem that they still face, according to the people that I spoke to, is a simple issue of getting all these volunteers that are training themselves and being trained and learning to help the dying in their last days.... The major problem is a little bit of space within hospitals.
Yes, of course a lot of people prefer to be at home, but many people cannot be at home. They go to a hospital and end up in a four-bed ward or even a semi-private, their family comes to visit and they have no privacy. That's the kind of thing that I was hoping to hear you say you had looked into and that you had found a way that even the smallest of hospitals can, under the funding formula, set aside some physical space for this kind of activity to occur, so that people who are dying in hospitals do not have to say the final words that they have to say to their families in, perhaps, a ward of four.
HON. MR. DUECK: I know what the member is saying, and of course, if I could meet that request in every instance exactly the way you described, it would certainly be much better than having it less. I said this before: if you criticize that there isn't enough being done in some hospitals, I accept that, but when I consider the resources available, I think it's not bad. As a matter of fact, I would say that in most hospitals that I visit, the care of the dying is very well looked after; and we're always looking at ways of improving it with funding — of course it takes funding — and also with people and suggestions that the administration and the board make to us, and also from hospice. I meet with many hospice organizations. I met with the people in New Westminster, which is a totally volunteer group. They're fine people doing an excellent job, but they're doing it mostly in the homes where the desire of people is to spend their last days at home.
Sure, we can expand. We can certainly improve on hospice. But I still have to say that most people are very satisfied. The families that go through this very traumatic experience when loved ones die, by and large, are quite satisfied with the system, and we're providing the care that people need quite adequately with the resources available.
MRS. BOONE: I think the minister is missing out on the economic side of this as well. Aside from the humane aspect, it is a more economical way to deal with this issue. It's not an easy one to deal with. It's certainly not the best time in people's lives to be dealing with it. But it's at a time when we have beds being filled up with people, when we are having difficulty getting people into emergency, situations taking up.... In the Nanaimo area, people are unable to get into hospitals because of the long waiting-lists.
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The obvious answer is that we've got to look at the alternatives. The alternatives are putting some more money — it may be an initial outlay right now — into the hospices, which will eventually save you money; and into home care, which is the other area that has not been strengthened nearly enough to meet the need, so that we can take the strain off our hospital system. If we really want to take the strain off that, then we've got to provide those other services. And the only way we can do it is through some initial recognition that those are the areas we're going to fund, that those are the areas that need to be strengthened. We haven't seen that commitment.
I'm sorry I've got to do this, but I just got a letter yesterday regarding a mental health situation, and I'd like to go back to that. It comes from Victim Support Service in Golden. They are expressing severe concern over the fact that their mental health position is going to be vacant and they have no guarantee that this position is going to be filled. I believe they have written to you, to their MLA, to the paper and everybody around, trying to get some answers on this and some care for the people they are dealing with. The mental health situation there is probably similar to the one I mentioned with regard to Mackenzie — just no services available.
The letter goes through a lengthy report on the number of people they see at Victim Support Service, the type of people they deal with — the sexually abused people they have to cope with; the psychological and emotional effects of sexual assault on children, and what is happening.... I would like to have some assurance from the minister that he will look into this situation and ensure that this community has a mental health worker. It is very short-sighted to deny these people those services when we're going to be paying the consequences down the road of people not getting early intervention. I'd like the minister to give me the assurance that he will personally look into this and make sure this community gets the mental health services they deserve.
HON. MR. DUECK: Certainly early intervention is of utmost importance. I can't argue with that statement at all. These are all good statements. As a matter of fact, any of the statements coming from that side are very valuable, and I wish I could commit myself to all the good suggestions being made.
I cannot recall at this moment if a letter was sent to me with regard to the Golden situation. I would like to ask: when was the position vacated? Perhaps the member knows that. It will be noted, and we'll certainly look into it, because if there is a need in that area, we will either try and find a replacement or send a team in on a temporary basis — a flying squad that will go in and do it so many days a month, a week or whatever.
The statement the hon. member made just before the last time she rose was: "We haven't had the commitment from the minister." I don't know whether that was meant in general terms or in one specific area. I want you to know that my commitment, I think, is very sincere. I think my commitment to health is perhaps more sincere than you believe or think — although in the second breath you said: "Don't take it personally." I do, and unfortunately I'm that type of personality: I can't seem to leave my personal feelings behind, just go ahead and do my job and then go home and say: "So what." I just can't operate that way. I want to assure this House, and I want it on the record, that I'm committed to health care, to every phase of health care; and if in our deliberations — and I've made notes of many things you've mentioned — you can help me, I appreciate that. I do not take it as an offence.
I sometimes do reject people who try and act personal — or the ministry.... Just saying all the good things we could do or should do.... Yes, I could spend another billion dollars, and we would still have that side of the House getting up and saying: "Do you know that there's...?" That's natural. I would probably do the same if I were sitting there. For heaven's sakes, when we spent $4 billion.... I think we're very efficient when we compare figures with other Health ministries in Canada. Improvements can always be made, but by and large the ministry is very efficient. I think we are using our dollars properly, and we're spending an awful lot of dollars. I hope that we can do this in future too.
I just got a note here about Golden. The position will be filled. We are recruiting at the present time, so I don't have to get back to you.
Just to give you an idea how committed I am, last year — and I don't want to talk about letters that come from these various groups that put pressure on, but other than that — I received over 15,000 letters, and if you add the others it's over 30,000, and I sign them all myself. I don't read all of them.
When you ask about one specific letter, I must say that sometimes, unless it's something that really seems to captivate my mind, I don't always remember, but I can get that information for you.
MRS. BOONE: I'd like to move on a little bit here to your medical ethics program. The committee was established last year on medical ethics to debate moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia and access to health care, and that is what I'm specifically talking about today.
I would like to know what is happening with this committee, We've heard some comments from it. The ethics committee responded on the issue of AZT. The minister didn't follow the advice of the ethics committee, but they did respond on that. I'd like to know if the committee is meeting and when they are going to be coming out with recommendations for the government. Does the minister have a list of the topics that committee is considering right now? That committee has Dr. David Boyes. Dr. Bill Webber, Dr. Kluoe, the ombudsman and a Roman Catholic nun — who remains nameless, I suppose; I don't know her name. Can you give me the answers to the questions I just asked you with regard to that committee, please?
HON. MR. DUECK: Exactly what do you want to know? Who the members are? You read them off; that's not what you wanted to know. The ethics committee report has been received by my office. I have gone over it. It will be taken to cabinet in the near future. Whether it will be released or not will be up to cabinet. I think you erred when you mentioned that AZT was one of the questions considered by the ethics committee. I believe you are mistaken I think that was the AIDS advisory committee that looked into that, and the ombudsman recommended it. We've gone through that and our reasons for it many times.
I think yesterday we spent some time with speech pathology, especially in the Simon Fraser area. I have a report back now which I would like to put into the record. It will also help you with the questions that you asked, or one of your
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members asked, yesterday. Further to our discussion in this House, my ministry has reviewed the problem of waiting lists for speech therapy services, both in the Simon Fraser Health Unit and other health units around the province.
As a short-term solution to this problem, we will be contracting with community agencies to enhance preschool speech therapy services on a priority basis. Further, we will be sending in a team of professionals, first to the Simon Fraser Health Unit and to the Campbell River area to immediately clear the assessment backlog and ensure the successful implementation of this preschool speech therapy initiative. As a result of this strategy, we anticipate a significant reduction in the waiting-lists in these two areas within three months, and elimination of the waiting-list by March '89.
Further, the professional team will be taking action to address the problem of coordination of services between the various service delivery agencies. They will address the allocation of speech therapy resources to preschool programs, where they are the most effective. Following the work in the Simon Fraser Health Unit and Campbell River, the team will begin to address similar situations across the province, beginning with the health units with the next longest waiting-lists.
It should be noted that this is an interim solution, and in order to address the longer term, I will be discussing with my colleagues from Education and Social Services and Housing, which are both involved because it involves the education of these professionals.... Once the people reach school, Education takes over, and of course Social Services has their people that they are also providing the service for.
We wish to bring forward a proposal to establish a committee of experts to review the speech therapy situation in the province and to make recommendations concerning a coordinated approach to the delivery of this service. I think I touched on it yesterday. I asked my people to check this situation and see if they could fast-track it, and they came up with this suggestion this morning. I said that we must do it, and to do it immediately.
MRS. BOONE: I want to thank the minister for his prompt response. I can assure you that every part of this province will welcome the reduction in the waiting-lists. I know that in my area alone there are 200 at the Northern Interior Health Unit. We've constantly had that problem, so any efforts the ministry can make with teams or what have you to reduce those waiting-lists would be greatly appreciated,
Any action to coordinate your efforts with the Minister of Advanced Education and Job Training (Hon. S. Hagen) to ensure that we have trained people in that area would also be well accepted by this side of the House, and I encourage you to do that as soon as you can. But I really appreciate the action your ministry has taken on speech therapists at this time; it's certainly appreciated.
MRS. BOONE: I'm being nice to him now because he's just become a grandfather. Congratulations.
The member for Surrey-Guildford-Whalley has some questions for you right now, so I'll turn this over to her.
MS. SMALLWOOD: I was very pleased to hear the minister say that he cares about all aspects of the health care system. As a hard-working Minister of Health, I certainly hope that he would.
I would like to have a little bit of information about what has gone on with the hospital system, in particular with regard to abortion. I've looked at some of the figures since the controversy a couple of months ago, when we had women having to leave the province because this government refused to pay for and make accessible abortions in this province after the Supreme Court ruling. I'd like the minister to provide a bit of information about the work his ministry is doing to make abortions more accessible throughout the province, in conjunction with the Supreme Court ruling that was subsequently upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court.
HON. MR. DUECK: I don't think I do any work in that area. We know that the judgment has come down, and there is now no law in place regulating abortions. They are certainly legal; it's between the physician, the woman and the hospital. Hospitals are really an entity all of their own. They have management, they have a board, they have an administrator or president — whatever you want to call them — and they function with a global budget.
At the present time we are funding abortions. I cannot give you an answer as to how many people are leaving the province. I would doubt that many people would leave the province when they can have that procedure done free of charge. I can't see why anyone would have an abortion out of town when they are free in this province. We believe that the federal government will come to grips with this subject sooner or later. It may be later rather than sooner, because it is something that most politicians do not like to talk about or discuss. I believe some sanity has to come back and there have to be some guidelines and legislation for this procedure.
We believe that with the program we have for strengthening the family there are options. I have had people come to me and state — also by letter — many times that when they look back to earlier years when they did in fact have an abortion, they wish they had had some counselling or alternatives. We have endeavoured to provide that by way of counselling, literature and education, so that people can make an informed decision.
We believe that focusing on minimizing the demand for therapeutic abortions is the right direction to go in. We make no apologies for that. However, we hope that every physician that agrees to do an abortion does it for medical reasons. Sometimes in the past I believe there has been a grey area, because when we have an abortion rate nearly double the national average, it leads me to believe that perhaps if people had had the alternatives and the education and the background, perhaps they would have thought this over a little more closely. With the federal government taking a stand on this and putting some guidelines in place through legislation, hopefully this whole issue of abortions can be brought back to some sanity where we don't abort over 26 out of every 100 live births, and at the same time ask for immigration from other countries because our population is declining. And hundreds and hundreds of people are waiting to adopt children; that's why the adoption area is also in this particular initiative of strengthening the family.
MS. SMALLWOOD: I am going to try very hard to get some information from the minister. I don't plan on engaging in the kind of debate that is very tempting, after some of the
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comments the minister has made. Suffice it to say we disagree — and disagree quite fundamentally — on this issue.
Could the minister tell this House how many women have submitted bills for abortions and travel during the time the government had a policy in place which was later found to be in contravention of the Supreme Court ruling?
HON. MR. DUECK: I haven't got the numbers here, of course. However, the people who have asked for refund have been advised that they can get a refund for that period of time when we were not funding abortions.
MS. SMALLWOOD: I wonder if the minister would undertake to provide that information to the House.
I'd like to comment on the minister's reaction to my question about accessibility to medical services across the province. The minister indicated that the government has put in place a program called Strengthening the Family. He has indicated that many of the people he's talked to have indicated they would have appreciated more information when they had to make that very difficult decision. I want the minister to know that the opposition supports — and has done so as a policy position for a long time — the providing of information for all alternatives, including the alternative of having an abortion should the woman choose to do so.
The minister talked about the education program which I gather your ministry is involved with, along with the Ministry of Social Services and others — for instance, about the pamphlet that talks about contraception. A little while ago we heard some criticism that there is misinformation in that pamphlet, and that if people followed the information within that pamphlet it could bring about unwanted pregnancies. Could the minister tell the House whether or not the ministry has addressed that problem?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just before we proceed, hon. members, the second member for Langley asks leave to make an introduction.
MR. PETERSON: On behalf of the first member for Langley (Mrs. Gran) and myself, I'd like the House to join me in welcoming some students and teachers from Langley Prairie Fundamental Elementary School who are sitting in the public gallery right now.
HON. MR. DUECK: Those particular pamphlets that you refer to were in fact done by the B.C. Public Health Association. The so-called errors.... Perhaps they're not errors, but if you read it a certain way it may not be as clear as it could be. They have undertaken to update those pamphlets when they run out. The pamphlets are designed to encourage readers to consult with their physician or other health professionals to obtain more in-depth information pertaining to their individual needs. This is evidenced by reference in both pamphlets to the need to consult your doctor.
We went back to the B.C. Health Association when this concern arose, and they said that it was not an error, but perhaps the wording was such that some people would think that this would be sufficient without consulting a physician. I'm satisfied that saying that you should consult your physician on every one of these products was the emphasis. That was very clearly spelled out. Most people have taken it as such. I think the concern came more from people that were trying to find fault with the pamphlet rather than looking at it as a guide for their own personal use.
Strengthening the Family. You mentioned that all areas should be covered. I want you to know that we do not, in any way, say in all that literature that the alternative is just abortion. That is part of it, and we make no apology for that. The Initiatives for Strengthening the Family have nine strategies. I want this for the record again: (1) professional education targeted at medical and helping professionals; (2) public awareness program; (3) exploration of disincentives to the family in government policy; (4) adoption; (5) enforcement of maintenance for children;...(7) marriage preparation; (8) day care initiatives; (9) supportive living environment for pregnant women. It goes on and on.
[Mrs. Gran in the chair.]
We can expand on every one of those: education, for example. It also has three pamphlets, I think. In "How to Avoid Pregnancy" it also says rather than choose an abortion, these are the alternatives. It says "choose," so it's up to the individual. We've run this by many societies and many people. I think it was well done and well written. Anyone who says that that documentation and the TV commercials were in bad taste or done in such a way that we were zeroing in on the abortion issue is absolutely wrong. We're saying that these are the alternatives; you make up your mind, but you can do it with informed information. That's what we're trying to zero in on.
I don't know why you're spending time on abortion, because it's out of our hands. It's in the federal government's jurisdiction. You're trying to start a dialogue going again. Suffice it to say that we are now funding abortions. We hope that every physician does that procedure only when medically required.
MS. SMALLWOOD: The minister's comments are somewhat contradictory. The minister indicated that one of the packages, one of the pamphlets, one of the components of the Strengthening the Family program, while it was less than correct, was not the responsibility of the ministry; it was put together by another organization. Then the minister goes on to say that the pamphlets are to provide information so that people can make an informed choice.
Again, I don't think that it's good enough for the minister to say that this organization that has produced these pamphlets, part of the information package, would reprint them and correct this flaw when they run out of them. Either the government is interested in providing information so people can make an informed choice, or this government has a policy of compulsory pregnancy and this program is tainted in that direction.
The minister would do well to take a look at the message that he is giving, and if he is interested in informed choice, then provide all the information and take the responsibility of ensuring that the information is accurate. You are playing with people's lives. They deserve the best. They deserve the information that is necessary to make that informed choice.
The minister asked why we bring this issue up at this time. Number one, this is the ministry's estimates and is the opportunity for us to canvass what is happening within the health care system in this province. This is a very important
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issue for families and in particular for women. When we take a look at what is happening in the hospitals around the province.... We canvassed something like 46 hospitals in the province and found — this was in March, not that long ago — that 23 of the hospitals were performing abortions, and for various reasons the remainder did not perform abortions or had in some way severely limited the service that was provided.
It causes — and I think that we have had this discussion before — a great deal of stress and inconvenience for both the women and their families if they cannot find the kind of health care that they certainly deserve, that they pay taxes for and that the minister should be ensuring. I can't help but think that if it was another duly recognized medical service, the minister in some way would be encouraging, discussing and educating — doing something with these hospitals to ensure that there was indeed a balanced delivery system in the province. For the minister to say that it's not this minister's responsibility or that some politicians are uncomfortable dealing with this issue, or pass the buck to the federal House, is not acceptable.
MS. SMALLWOOD: For the member for Vancouver South (Mr. R. Fraser), you'll have your opportunity and I would appreciate you giving me mine. You could be next on the Speaker's list.
If the minister would be good enough to take a look at the kinds of discrepancies that we are seeing with these numbers and the fact that this recognized medical procedure is not accessible to many communities.... Many of those communities are communities off the lower mainland. The government party earlier today was going on and on about how it cares about the whole province and doesn't just care about the lower mainland. Well, this is a good instance of a medical service that is not provided off the lower mainland, causing particular hardship for the families off the lower mainland. If the minister would respond, I would appreciate it.
HON. MR. DUECK: Madam Chairman, it's like deja vu from last year, going over old rhetoric.
Perhaps you saw the news just recently about the Vernon hospital. I don't interfere in the Vernon hospital. They have now elected a board that's pro-choice. You don't see me phoning the Vernon hospital and saying: "What are you doing?" Neither do I phone another hospital that has decided, by a board that's democratically elected, that makes that decision.... Not all procedures are done by all hospitals. When we do over 11,000 abortions a year, you're telling me that the procedure is not available. We have Catholic hospitals that have never done abortions and never will. Are you telling me that I should tell those hospitals they should now perform abortions?
That's how the system is set up. They elect a board. They decide democratically what they will do in that particular hospital. I've taken that stand right from the beginning, and you know that. I've had just as much pressure from the other side that I should interfere with hospitals that are performing abortions. I absolutely refuse to do that, because I said they were elected democratically, they made that choice and I would not interfere. And I haven't done it the other way around. So don't give me that garbage and say that I should run over there when it suits you, and when it doesn't suit you, I should take the other side. I've gone right down the middle and said they are doing their own procedures the way.... The hospitals are elected by a board and they make that decision, and I've honoured that decision.
MS. SMALLWOOD: Before I finish this topic, I want to make it perfectly clear that we are not talking about what suits me. We are not talking about what suits the government's opposition. What we are talking about is support for the family. This is supposed to be what this government stands for. We are talking about good medical services that are provided on an equitable basis across this province. We are talking about access to good-quality care. We are not talking about an individual's opinion here. We are talking about service to women and families. That's what we are talking about, Mr. Minister, and that's what I will continue to lobby for.
HON. MR. DUECK: I must respond to that, because that's exactly what I've said right along. I'm responding to a democratically elected board that makes that decision. I have not interfered. Even when we had therapeutic abortion committees, I did not interfere with the boards that were pro-life; I did not interfere with the boards that were pro-choice. I said that that is a question under the law that's decided by that particular board. You are trying to tell me that I'm supposed to take the other route. That's a different system you're talking about; you're not talking about democracy now. If you're talking about good health care, I can tell you right now that we're providing good health care in this province in every area.
I reject your statement and your saying that you want good health care and that you're not being biased. Your statements alone show that you're biased. You're zeroing in on the area that you zeroed in on last year. I told you then and I'm telling you today that it is up to the board. There is currently no law in place. It's up to the board to decide to perform abortions if it so desires. If it doesn't wish to do them, it is a decision that that particular board makes — and that board is democratically elected.
MADAM CHAIRMAN: The Chair would like to remind the hon. members to direct their remarks to the Chair and not to each other.
MRS. BOONE: I'd like to ask the minister a few more questions about the support-for-the-family program. The program that you have right now crosses three different ministries — Health, Education and Social Services and Housing. Who is coordinating this program? What kind of evaluation is being done on this program? How is it being monitored? How will the people of B.C. know if this program has been at all successful?
MR. R. FRASER: Why do you ask?
MRS. BOONE: Because it's a tremendous amount of money, and I know the first member for Vancouver South is very concerned about how the taxpayers' dollars are being spent. We would certainly not like to see this money being wasted. For the sake of the member for Vancouver South, I'd like to know how we're going to know if this is successful, so that we can determine whether we should put money into it.
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HON. MR. DUECK: Madam Chairman, I will address my remarks to the Chair.
In this regard, an interministry committee has been set up to monitor and evaluate the program, and it continues to do so.
MRS. BOONE: Who is on this interministerial committee then? Is it the deputy ministers, the ministers, the support staff? How are you going to be determining whether it's successful? What are the criteria for determining the success of this program? Is this something we're going to see on an ongoing basis each year — $20 million being put in? Or are we just going to support the family for one year'? What is the program here? What is the purpose to this program? I'm afraid that the people of British Columbia really don't understand the purpose of this program, unless it's to totally.... I'm not sure. The support to the family.... I just don't understand what the support is.
HON. MR. DUECK: Madam Chairman, the hon. member must be one of the very few who does not understand the program. I have had hundreds of letters and calls, and people I've talked to say: "It's about time that you addressed some of these areas."
When we talk about marriage preparation, we have a society working on that, and certainly you cannot argue that for marriage preparation, those people who desire to have some information may receive that. Everyone who goes for a marriage licence will have information given to them. They can get counselling if they so desire. Many churches, of course, do that at the present time. We're not in any way competing with them or saying to people that they should have this counselling, but they can have it if they so desire.
Enforcement of maintenance for children. Surely you can't argue that that is a good thing. Surely you're not sitting there and just saying you don't understand, if we're going to get after people who take off from their family. Let's say a man. You must know of hundreds of them — I do too — from your experience in the community, where these poor people.... Maybe a woman with a couple of children has to go on welfare, while the man has a good income, probably in another province, and nothing is being done. Surely you're not telling me that this is not worthwhile.
There are so many things. To streamline the adoption process. ... Are you saying that that's not a good idea? I can go down the list again and again. It's good stuff, It's the Premier's initiative whether this will go on for next year or the year after, or how much of it will continue. I cannot tell you at this time, but it's being evaluated. The things we have in this program are excellent. I think we all want it; I'm sure you do too. We want to strengthen the family. If we can in any way help the family unit get stronger, could you object to that? I certainly can't.
MRS. BOONE: I find this really difficult. I was trying not to get emotional, as the member for Surrey-Guildford Whalley (Ms. Smallwood) did. But when you talk about strengthening the family, you seem to say one thing — not you Mr. Minister, and not even your ministry, but this government — and do totally the different thing. We stood here and asked the Premier of the province whether he would increase the welfare rates so that single parents could have more to feed their children. That is a basic thing.
We are dealing with poverty. We are dealing with people who need some assistance. They are on the very basic living scale, They don't need some more pamphlets distributed to them. They don't need those things. At one point we're saying to people that we'll give them marriage preparation courses, and yet once the marriage is over there are no counselling services out there for those people if they have any difficulty.
I can tell you about Cassiar and Mackenzie and any number of places throughout the northern half of the community and the interior half of the community that have very little in counselling services or mental health services. We leave these people. Sure. we want to strengthen the family, but you strengthen the family by giving that family the tools to live. You give that family enough income to survive, you give that family enough money to clothe themselves; feed themselves: get bus passes so they can go to work. Those are the things that we need to strengthen the family.
There are some other areas you mentioned, but I can't even remember them at the moment. Strengthening the family is an important thing to do, but you can't strengthen the family with pamphlets and media hype and everything along these lines: you have to give them something they can hold on to. Get them out of the poverty-stricken areas they are in, and then you will see the family unit being strengthened, Mr. Minister. I know this is not in your area, and so I can't hold you responsible for that. I certainly don't hold you responsible.
Day care. Fine. What kind of money do you need to streamline adoption processes? Surely any kind of a streamlining of adoption processes would cost less money, not more money. You can streamline the adoption process. We've been involved in my office on two occasions in the last two months Just trying to get through the bureaucracy of adoption, assisting people in those areas. You can streamline that bureaucracy. It's not going to cost you a heck of a lot — $20 million, Mr. Minister. Come on.
I want to talk to you a little bit about the associate family component of the program. Apparently it's bringing together natural parents with the associate family who are trained to assume responsibility in helping to raise a special needs child with a natural family. Before the minister jumps at this, I'll tell you that I'm not adamantly opposed to this. This does not sound terribly radical. I would like to know, though. how these families are chosen. Who is responsible for them? Is it the Ministry of Social Services and Housing'? Are they being paid the same rates as foster parents'? Do they go through the same screening process that foster parents go through'? What is the detailed information with regards to this program'?
HON. MR. DUECK: Welfare rates and adoption are areas that Social Services looks after, so I'm not going to answer those particular inquiries, although the mention was made that perhaps that was one way to strengthen the family. I can't argue that. One also has to feed the family, not just give information education. It's a combination of many things.
As far as the associate family is concerned, I haven't got my information here, but they are assisting the natural parents, which you mentioned. The annual cost for 25 that we've placed now in the associate family situation is roughly $730,000. I don't have the individual per hour or per month. That is through Social Services, but I can certainly get you that information. This year we hope to place a further 20 children in that particular situation. We believe that a child is always better off in his own home, but there are situations
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when this cannot be, and that's why we've chosen this particular way of looking after some of these children.
The screening process is very carefully done, I hope, and I certainly trust that we will only have associate parents that can qualify in the parenting skill. I personally don't get involved in that, but I think the criteria set up should be such that only those are chosen. I believe that is true, and we haven't got that many out there yet. I think, as even happens with the real parents, there may be situations when we have to make changes. I hope that's not necessary, because the screening is quite adequate.
As far as pay is concerned, if you want to have the information as to whether we pay a family per child by the hour or by the month, I will get it for you. I think it comes front Social Services, but I can get it for you.
MRS. BOONE: I understood that this associate family program was through your ministry, but the payment for the families comes through you, does it not? I'm a little confused, I'm afraid. Who chooses the families'? Who does the screening process for the family? Is it Social Services and Housing, and do they do it at the same time? They do the adoptions and foster parents. Does the money come from them or from you'? If the money doesn't come from you, what is all that money being used for'? It's in your budget. It doesn't make a lot of sense as to who is responsible for what. I guess what I want to know is: who is minding the house here'?
HON. MR. DUECK: We work with the Ministry of Social Services and Housing, which is primarily responsible for developing foster care homes; for example, multiply handicapped children, pediatric extended care, and so on. The moneys come out of the Ministry of Health for the associate family, and funding was made available, of course, from the special fund through the Premier's office. It comes through us, but it comes from that fund to us and then to the associate family. That is why I was a little bit hesitant as to whether it went from that fund to Social Services and back to us. Apparently it comes to us from that fund, and then we pay for it. We work very closely with Social Services on this.
The per diem cost to the associate family is $80.
MR. MICHAEL: I just want the minister to know that not everybody in the House is a critic who is continually demanding unreasonable requests that members know can't all be met in one year. I think it's fair and reasonable to congratulate the minister on his efforts on behalf of the health recipients of the province of British Columbia. I think the record will show this year that the minister got by far the largest dollar increase in his budget — in excess of $300 million; somewhere close to a $350 million increase. The current budget — $3.9 billion — is by far the largest of any single minister.
He is to be congratulated for fighting on behalf of those in need. I am surprised that we don't hear the members opposite, at least on some occasions, giving recognition to the hard-working efforts of our great Minister of Health.
When the cost of living is projected to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3.7 percent, and he is able to extract from this government, from Treasury Board, from the Minister of Finance and from the Premier — all very close watchdogs of the public purse — an increase in the neighbourhood of 9.9 percent, I say to you, Madam Chairman, that is a job very well done for the health community and the province.
I suppose the members opposite would like the Minister of Health to follow in the footsteps of those great politicians that have just been ousted from office in the province of Manitoba. A recent editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press — I will make sure the minister gets a copy — one of the great newspapers in western Canada, dated April 29, 1988.... I think the minister and the members opposite would be well advised, before thinking about expanding budgets beyond 9.9 percent, to read this editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press entitled "Manitoba's Financial Mess." Let me read a few paragraphs to the minister:
"The extent of the fiscal mess left behind by the Pawley government is described in the report issued this week by the Dominion Bond Rating Service. The report destroys any lingering illusions that the New Democrats were following a responsible fiscal policy in their last years in office. It makes nonsense of the claim made by some of their members and friends that they were, in fact, fiscal conservatives. It demonstrates that the government has spent the past few years digging the province into a financial hole which the next government is going to have a hard time climbing out of.
"The problem is that the NDP government has been increasing...spending every year at a rate more than twice as high as inflation. That means it has been increasing spending much faster than could be financed by a normal increase in tax revenue. It financed that spending through the early years by an ever-increasing deficit and in the last couple of years by a slightly smaller deficit and a massive tax increase.
"The net result of this approach has been an immense increase in the provincial debt and an increase in the annual costs of servicing that debt from $90 million to $523 million. Every dollar spent servicing that debt is a dollar which cannot be spent on service to Manitobans. Most of those dollars go to financial institutions outside of the province and outside of the country."
The editorial goes on: "There is worse to come. If future governments let deficits keep on rising, there will be another result. The province's credit rating, which has been slipping slowly but steadily since the New Democrats came to power, will sink to a level at which the province and its utilities, such as Manitoba Hydro, will find it difficult to borrow money at any price."
From the articles I've read and the people I've talked to, I believe that we in British Columbia do not have to bow our heads to any other province or any other country in the world for the great service that we provide. I think it's opportune once in a while not to listen to the doom- and-gloomers opposite, but to reflect a little bit on the positive things that are happening in the province.
MRS. BOONE: I certainly hope that same organization reviews the debt in British Columbia — a $20 billion debt. I'd really like to find some other Social Credit government in Canada that we could compare you with, but unfortunately there is none. I guess that speaks for the Social Credit record in this country.
We have canvassed this at different times before, but I'd like to ask the minister some questions about the full funding of the drug AZT. I've mentioned to the minister — and I think
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to the Premier as well — the economic advantages to funding AZT which have been brought forth by various people regarding keeping people in their homes and out of hospitals. The minister acknowledges that this is something we are striving to do. That's something AZT does: it keeps people in their homes; it keeps them out of those acute care beds which we need for other people; and it reduces our hospital costs.
British Columbia is the only province that doesn't fully fund AZT. It's something we've been calling for for many months now. It's creating a hardship. I know that victims do get reimbursed after $2,000. Some of these people, who are sometimes in a very weakened state, are actually leaving their jobs and becoming dependent upon the state in order to have this drug paid for. Surely it's more cost-effective and more advantageous to people to provide that drug to these people on a regular basis so that they don't have the stress, in this weakened time of their lives, of trying to scrape up the money for that drug.
As I stated, it will keep people out of hospitals and at home. It is the only drug we know of that assists AIDS victims at all. It's a terrible disease, and I know the minister is aware of that. It's something we have to deal with as a society. I would really like to see the ministry reverse its decision on the funding of AZT to get us in line with the rest of Canada and to make us aware of the cost-effectiveness of this drug.
HON. MR. DUECK: We've gone over this ground many times. At this point I want to state for the record that your leader is a little confused about the Pharmacare program, although I have gone into detail on a number of occasions to explain it. He still insists that we should do the same as we do with the growth hormone. If you would give him the message and tell him that we do....
MRS. BOONE: I did.
HON. MR. DUECK: Oh, okay.
The other thing I have said on AIDS is that I agree it is a very insidious disease, the worst, I suppose, in this century; and what makes it so scary is that it is fatal in all instances. They have not yet found a cure or are even close to developing a cure for this particular disease. However. there is some good news. Three months ago we were informed that there were not 20,000 to 30,000 people with the virus checking positive; rather, we believe there are now perhaps between 4,000 and 5,000. So the picture is a little brighter.
When it comes to the AZT drug used for this particular disease, it has not been found to be a cure at all, which I think you are aware of, but it has shown some remarkable results in prolonging the life of some individuals. However, of the 150 — and I use round figures only — who have this disease, approximately 50 are on welfare and pay nothing. We believe there are another 50 — and it's very difficult to get the exact numbers — who could qualify, but will not make an application and pay. We have approximately another 50, most of whom we believe could qualify, but they will not make an application; they walk out of the hospital and say: "Sue me." I have gone on record in the House; I have told whomever I could speak to in various media — whether by way of open line or on TV — and said that if anyone desperately needs this drug, and cannot pay and cannot qualify under the terms of Pharmacare and Social Services, please contact my office, or someone in my office or the Ministry of Social Services, and we will sit down and find a way to help them. To date I've had no one contact me. How much more of an invitation...?
In this life, if you have a birth — my little grandson was just born — you must go and register. If you want to have unemployment insurance, you must identify yourself. If you want hospital insurance, you must identify yourself. That is the system, and you keep asking why we don't do the same as any other province. Most provinces haven't got a Universal Pharmacare program: we have. I believe we have the best program, but it may not be the best in some areas, because some provinces are in fact funding this particular drug at no cost to anyone who has the AIDS Virus. You can take bits and pieces out of anything and make whatever you want of it. We have a universal Pharmacare program, but we recognize that whenever you have a program, it doesn't fit everybody's best interests. There are some people who are just over that earning level and they may be hurt more than someone who is just under and gets it all free.
However, we have made exceptions by saying: please come forward. We have helped some people in other areas who did not qualify under Social Services terms: but the money they spent on drugs and other health care costs was so great a percentage of their income that we were able to help them in that particular area without them going on welfare or a Social Services program. There are various areas — and I just want that on the record — in which we are willing to help, because we all agree that this is a terrible disease. I wish someone could find some way to come forward with some drug or other method Of countering this particular disease, whether it's inoculation not to get it or even to cure it after you've got it.
The Pharmacare program was changed and that's what triggered all this. We put in an upper limit. It was triggered by the families that had children with a growth problem, because it could cost them $20,000 to $25,000 a year. That was not acceptable, so we looked at it and said: "Look, let's make it an upper limit of $2,000." That's when, of course. everyone came into the argument on AZT only, on the drug for AIDS. There are other drugs — not just the growth hormone drug or AZT; there are quite a few of them — on which people are spending hundreds and thousands of dollars, and they all go under Pharmacare. The Pharmacare program — for the record again — is $78 million this year. I'd better check that figure to make Sure. It's probably more.
While they're checking that, you were also asking about this total program of Strengthening the Family, and was there any research done; did we just dream this up, and wanted to counteract abortions. Or was it from the other hon. member'?
We did a pre-program social market research, evaluating the degree of public understanding and knowledge respecting contraception, family planning, adoptions and alternatives to adoptions; and this data will be used to do post-information program evaluation. Information material on Strengthening the Family was developed based on social market research which identified areas where information was lacking and/or desired. An independent firm said: yes, these are the areas where information is lacking and where we should have more education and information and programs, to help some of these people that were saying: "Look, we haven't got this information. We are ignorant in these areas." So we developed this, formed the research that.... Not "we did"; we had an independent research team doing this on contract, and this is what they came back with. Then we developed the program to address the concerns that they found in the province. They took quite a bit of time doing it. It wasn't an
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ad hoc or a dream that someone pulled out of a hat, the way it sometimes comes across from the side opposite to us, Madam Chairman; it was a well-thought-out program.
I made an error on the Pharmacare, and the error is horrifying — and I knew this. It was not $78 million; it was $178 million. Remember that most people pay for their own drugs. You can just imagine how many pharmaceutical drugs are being paid for by the province, and this is a population of three million people. When you look at this.... You check with the other provinces: what does the government pay in pharmaceutical drugs? You'd be very much surprised at how much more per capita we pay than the other provinces.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The second member for Richmond requests leave for an introduction.
MR. LOENEN: Mr. Chairman, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to welcome to the House 14 grade 7 students from the Seacliff Christian School in the great community of Richmond. I do this on behalf of the first member, the hon. Premier, who regrets that he was unable to be here. He would have liked to have been here because he is a neighbour, Fantasy Gardens being immediately beside the school. I would ask the House to please welcome the students this afternoon.
MRS. BOONE: Just a few comments on this. The minister mentions 150 that are on AZT, 50 that are fully being paid for on welfare, 50 that could.... In my arithmetic that leaves about 100.
MRS. BOONE: Okay, it doesn't matter. The point that I'm making is that to have people constantly have to go and plead for special assistance is very humiliating and not something that should be done, in particular in these areas. It ought to be paid for fully as a procedure, so that these people can keep at their jobs, can keep at home, can stay as worthwhile citizens in the community for as long as possible.
I'd like to shift into a different area. I want to talk a little about billing numbers. I think we'll probably do this every year, Mr. Minister, because it is something that I am concerned about, and I'm concerned about it for a couple of reasons — for many reasons, actually.
Number one, we are restricting our young doctors; we are not allowing them to receive billing numbers, and we're losing a lot of them. They're leaving the province or the country. I don't want to see that happen. I have a great fear that at some point our elderly doctors are going to retire and we are going to be faced with having to import doctors along the way.
My question to the minister is why we are allowing the same numbers to be trained at UBC, when we are bringing them out and have no jobs for them. Surely it would be a better idea to restrict the number being put through medical school rather than providing them with the ability to train and get their education and giving them at least the idea that they may be able to work in the province and then not allowing them to have a billing number.
It is not having the effect we wanted, which was to get doctors outside the lower mainland. I do appreciate that there is a program in place now, and I'm hoping that program has been successful. We supported that program providing incentives for doctors to go. But I'm hearing that doctors do not want to go to those areas. If they take a job in a remote area, then they're going to be stuck there forever because their billing number is geographically restricted. So it's doing the opposite of what we wanted it to do in regard to getting doctors into the outlying areas.
I have some concerns because the minister always says that this is being done to keep a ceiling on the costs of MSP, which is a rapidly growing thing, and I can certainly share the concerns of the minister to try to keep a cap on that and control the spending that's going on in the MSP program. However, there is currently a ceiling on that Medical Services Plan. In fact, last year some doctors were returning money to the Medical Services Plan because the billings went over the amount allowed by the ministry. It appears to me that if there is that ceiling, then there is no harm in giving new doctors billing numbers. The only thing that will do is weed out the poor doctors out there, because they won't be able to survive if there's a lot. This is a free enterprise government that believes in competition, and surely we ought to be allowing competition to take place in the medical profession.
If we are adamant in maintaining the practices of all the existing doctors at the levels they've got — which is what we are doing — we are making sure that these doctors have no competition and that they maintain full practices all the time. That is what the restriction of the billing numbers is doing. It is definitely not a money problem when there is a cap on that whole billing process. Surely we can give these doctors some numbers, allow them to set up their practices and take their lumps. If they don't make out well, then surely that's what the free enterprise system is for; they can go under. If they make out well, then fine; it's showing them that they are good doctors and providing the proper service. But at least allow them to put their shingles out so that they can practise.
I also have some concerns because there are alternatives that the ministry hasn't looked at. The alternatives are in setting up community health clinics. If you look at the areas....
AN HON. MEMBER: Like in Esquimalt, right?
MRS. BOONE: Like in Esquimalt. If you look at a lot of areas where people can't get proper health care.... If you go to Ontario, you'll find that places like Sault St. Marie established a community health centre there as a result of the unions getting together to develop a plan, and it's funded by the ministry. In Toronto they have three or four different community health clinics in the city, and of course, they have salaried doctors. They offer a degree of service that is really quite impressive. They have 24-hour service, which would do away with and prevent the misuse of the emergency wards such as you've been talking about. They have groups organized for health care, and they produce some really good pamphlets on all kinds of things such as hazards of office work. This is the one I like: "hazards of housework." I think that one is really good. I think everyone should have a copy of this to establish what the hazards of housework are. They deal in the prevention aspect.
These are true community organizations that deal in prevention and work as a community to deal with hazards in
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that community such as air quality. They had a problem with lead in the soil in that area. As a community health centre, they dealt with all those things. They use a team approach; they have chiropodists, and they have a lot of different organizations and groups working within the community health centre. When you look at some of our areas, and you see that they are struggling to maintain services and doctors, surely we can look at these community clinics as a means of providing services to those areas.
There are also other alternatives in the form of health service organizations — some people call them HMOs or HSOs — whereby physicians are paid a fee per person, and that fee per person changes with their age and sex. That is the fee they get for the year for that person, when they register with them, whether they are extremely ill and require a great deal of service, or whether they are very well and never actually go to the doctor. There is a great incentive in that situation to keep people well; to keep people out of hospitals; to not prescribe drugs unnecessarily; to not have, as the term goes, a revolving door through which people are called back unnecessarily. We certainly aren't saying that all doctors do that, but we know there are occasions when some physicians do.
It's an alternative to the system we've got right now. I'm not saying that you have to have one or the other. but perhaps you can look at implementing all three of them so that people have some options, so that young doctors can earn a living in British Columbia, and so that people can go to the physician they want to go to.
The restriction on billing numbers has an adverse affect, particularly on women doctors and on women. If a woman doctor leaves, there's no guarantee that she is going to be able to fill that position with another woman. Therefore the clients who specifically went to that doctor because she was a woman are being denied the right to go to a woman doctor.
There are a lot of problems with this, and I really hope the minister reviews the situation, looks at Bill 41, changes his attitude toward it and makes it so that our young doctors can stay and work in this province. We're losing a tremendous number of qualified, young, vital people who are leaving our province and going elsewhere as a result of this government's policy towards billing numbers.
HON. MR. DUECK: I want to answer some questions I didn't fully answer before; I'll come back to the latest suggestion.
The associate family was asked about. The screening for the associate family is done by the Ministry of Health's services to the handicapped program and contracted agencies. The Ministry of Health approves them, and some people are turned down because they don't meet our standards. We check criminal records, we check personal references, and homes are thoroughly reviewed, so a very thorough screening is done before anyone is placed in an associate family. I just thought you should have that information.
Again on AIDS, I don't want it to be left as though we're not spending money for this unfortunate group of people. We are. We figure the five-year estimate, based on projections of 650 cases, is $120 million. It's no small dollar we're spending in this particular area. That includes research. hospitalization and special education programs. Last year we spent many millions of dollars in various areas, and I think that's worth putting into the record.
I think your colleague asked how many people went out of province or out of Canada to get abortions during that period when we were not paying for abortions. Approximately 40 women submitted out-of-Canada accounts for abortions they couldn't get in British Columbia during that period. These accounts have all been paid. Fewer than 100 got reimbursed during that period, and 40 were out-of country.
Speaking about doctors and billing numbers, that has been an ongoing dilemma not just for British Columbia but for many provinces. You made much of the free enterprise system, and I can assure you without any problem that if it was truly a free enterprise system, like with lawyers, there would have to be no restriction, and there would be no restriction. Supply and demand would look after themselves. But when it comes to doctors. that isn't so. We pay. It's a socialized system, but with free enterprise people working. It's a quasi-capitalistic-socialistic system. It's a good system; it works well. But we have to have control over it.
You also asked why we graduate all these doctors and don't put them to work. It might interest you, for your information, that we graduate roughly 120 doctors a year. In 1987 we gave 228 permanent billing numbers. You've got that in context? One hundred and twenty graduated, 228 permanent billing numbers, plus 230 locums that relieve doctors when they're on holidays, sick or away from their practice for other reasons. A total of 458 new people came into the system, but only 120 received the diploma and graduated from medical school.
You may ask when they are not all employed and why some doctors are brought in from out of province. I think you know the answer, but I'll still repeat it for the record: you will need a certain physician, a certain discipline, a certain specialist that the hospital requires because they have a vacancy for a certain specialized area, and they cannot put this individual to work who has just graduated,
I agree with you that the system is not good insofar as we cannot give everyone a job. But you must also remember that there are many engineers who can't find work: there are many teachers.... My son had to go to Fort McMurray. No one likes to go to Fort McMurray when he was born and raised in the lower mainland. He went there for three years because that was the only place he could find work.
We still have a shortage of certain health professionals, not just doctors, and I can't get them into a certain area of need, because they all want to practise in Vancouver and Victoria. But you can't have it both ways. It is a supply-and-demand situation. If they want to go out and look for a place where they are needed. they will get a billing number. And yes, it is restricted to a certain area, but that doesn't preclude them at all from applying for another position while they're working within that restricted area of practice. It doesn't put them in any different position than if they stayed here, did locums and then looked for vacancies as they came up. We have a fairly good system of priorities and criteria, and how they apply. They must have hospital privileges and many other things. We still have an area in the province that is underserviced and we have too many doctors. We have more physicians per capita in British Columbia than any other province in Canada: and when you talk about the lower mainland and Victoria, we far exceed the numbers required.
You also said that perhaps we should let them all come in, with a cap, and it would look after itself. I can just imagine the hue and cry if we let the 1,005 waiting for billing numbers come into the system. Suddenly the doctor used to earning $200,000 a year would have to take $75,000 a year. I'm
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sorry, but it's not just for the costs as far as the ministry is concerned; even if they tell you that they wish everyone could come into practice, if we put on a cap and let them all come into the system, it would cause quite a turmoil, I can assure you.
Out of the 228 permanent billing numbers, 87 graduated from UBC. So that's the percentage still coming from this particular area.
We believe that the cost of MSP would dramatically increase — and we've got a record of it; it increases by X number of dollars for every billing number we issue. If we let all 1,005 come into the system, we project that it would cost us, in not too long a period of time, roughly $100 million.
HON. MR. DUECK: Yes, we have talked about that. There many options. We have talked to the B.C. Medical Association. The contract we had.... We were able to negotiate a ceiling, they did honour that contract, and they did pay back from their fee schedule. So we are working with them, but not without fairly extensive negotiations. It wasn't easy. But they have cooperated, and we have a fairly good relationship with the medical profession. I meet with them on a regular basis.
Sure, they want things changed. However, we are restricted by funding. It's not as simple as just saying,"Well, let's saw it off in the middle and somehow, through arbitration, we will arrive at some figure," and then go the Finance ministry and ask for another $50 million or $100 million. You would be the first one to say: "Where's all this money going to'? Taxes are going up. We can't afford it." So I suppose that's also my unfortunate position. I have to watch the dollars we're spending in health care.
We have information that Ontario is seriously considering limiting doctors. I meet with Health ministers across Canada, and they told me at the last meeting that the only reason they have not yet.... Some have even got legislation just about drafted, or have drafted it and it is ready to go into the House. They would probably like to go forward with legislation similar to ours. They've looked at our legislation. You know that it's under appeal at the present time, and we don't even know the outcome. It could be quite a disaster, depending on what we want to do at that time.
I don't particularly like restricting young doctors. Surely no one does, because they are the latest, the most enthusiastic.... They love medicine. That's why they graduate; that's why they went to school. They're the brightest. I meet with them again and again, and we try to find ways of solving this problem. I've had various committees working on this: "Help us somehow. Can we find some other method of not letting the MSP get out of hand?"
HON. MR. DUECK: It's not workable. If we let all those in, I cannot imagine having a ceiling, and the average is $50,000 a year.
HON. MR. DUECK: Well, we're working on the Victoria Health Project. That is going in the exact area you're suggesting. We're going in that direction, but you can't do it all at once; you can't say: "Today we're in that business." Until that is on track, running in tandem with the system we have today, it may even cost us a little more in the short run. But we're going in that direction.
Some of your colleagues have suggested it in the past and have had these ideas, and many people in the health professions have suggested exactly what you're saying. The United States has done this in some areas. We've checked with the Americans, with many of those systems that they have going, and we find that the HMOs.... Most of the people who have joined them are actually well. With our system we still have to look after all the others. There may be a physician who says," Fine, I'll take this on," with so many people in a particular catchment area or class of employment or what have you, and checks it very carefully. If they're all of a fairly moderate age, it may work all right. But we have to look at the total population, because we have universality, so it's a little different than the American system. We don't want to copy everything the Americans have, because it's pretty disastrous.
The Ministry of Health and the Medical Services Commission do not make unilateral decisions to issue practitioners' numbers; rather, each decision is made cooperatively with the local hospital board and local community input, when received, like a manpower plan. Some hospitals have in fact been very diligent and have given us a manpower plan. If we approve of that, then there really is no problem. They can hire the people they need without much intervention from our ministry. But those hospitals that haven't got a manpower plan in place.... We certainly have to take control of it. Of course, all such decisions are governed by the Medical Service Act. So it's cooperation with the medical profession and the hospital boards, and by and large I think they have all cooperated.
Although they don't like these young doctors not coming in.... We don't either, because they are the gung-ho ones who would like to go. They've got the latest information, the latest education, and we want them in the system. We've even talked about retiring the older physicians, but under our present structure with the Charter, we cannot put into law that when you reach the age of 65 or 70 or 75 you must retire. So we have a number of very senior doctors who are still practising. It's very difficult to nudge them and say: "Perhaps you should make room for your colleague, who's anxious to get going." We've asked the BCMA if perhaps through some method of education and discussions with some of the seniors they could voluntarily make room for younger doctors. They don't wish to do that either. They want us to solve their problems, because this is where a lot of controversy comes in. Unfortunately, up to this point in time we have not been able to develop a better mousetrap; consequently we're using the one we've got.
MRS. BOONE: They are having problems in Ontario — or they will have problems — with their Medical Services Plan. They talk of the revolving door. I understand and accept that the minister has to deal with that budget and come to grips with it. I am saying that there are some alternatives we could implement that would still deal with the situation, because you do have that capping procedure here in British Columbia which stops the billings from going through the roof. We have a lot of physicians out there — young doctors who are going to be an asset to our community.
[ Page 5159 ]
The outlying areas, I know, are places where community clinics would survive. Those people who won't go there because they don't want to be stuck there forever or don't want to make a financial commitment to putting in a practice, purchasing equipment and doing all those things would go to such a community on a salary basis if they knew that there was a place that they just had to plug into, where they didn't have to get equipment, purchase a place or hire staff — the staff were all there. That's something we can be looking at for those areas.
There have been times when a lot of different places have had a shortage of physicians because they just couldn't attract them. They go fine for a while, and then all of a sudden some problem is created. Rather than this part where you've got an overabundance of physicians, I'd sure like to see you trying a community clinic in some of the areas that really need the facilities. Certainly I'd like to see community clinics all over the province, but I'd really like to see you dealing with those in some of the remote areas as well.
The HMO concept is something I think we should be looking at, with a view to implementing it quite rapidly, I would think, in order to give doctors a chance to get started. The experience from Ontario is that those people in the HSO — they call them HSOs there — are happy. They can still have an entrepreneurial spirit to a degree. They can go and rouse up as many patients as they want. As long as they make sure that those patients are kept well, then they're fine and dandy; they still are able to develop their practices. The people who have opted into going into those areas are by and large quite happy in that situation.
I'd like to deal with a couple of issues, and I think we're getting a little late. If we can shift gears again, Mr. Minister, over to the minister's office, I can't help but notice that there has been a substantial increase in salaries and benefits in the minister's office, yet the number of FTEs is actually down. I'm wondering if this is going to outside contracts, or are you paying your staff really well over there? Why do we have the increases in the salaries and benefits in the minister's office when, in fact, the FTEs are reduced?
HON. MR. DUECK: I will answer the last question first. I am by nature a fairly tight person, so I don't think you can accuse me in any way of paying someone too much. The salaries for the secretaries and my executive assistant are all set — they're standard — so I have really no ability to change them. But two FTEs were funded by the ministry last year, and this year they come under my office. We added the extra one because of the increased workload that I think I mentioned to you. It is extremely busy in my office. I'm not saying that to indicate that people aren't working as hard as in another office, because they are; they are very conscientious.
Of course, there was an increase also in the minister's salary; that's part of it. There was an increase during the year. That's also in there and the benefits that go with the increase. It's fairly open. I can give you — I haven't got it with me right now — the individual remuneration of any individual person. It's not a hidden thing at all, except we did add an extra person. We now have five women and one man in my office.
MRS. BOONE: When you get into the ministry operations.... I have a breakdown here on some things: professional services are down 11 percent; data and word processing supplies are up 17 percent; office and business expenses are up 32 percent. We get into information, advertising and publications — up 137 percent. Statutory notices, annual reports and non-discretionary publications are up 819 percent.
It certainly appears that the ministry is spending a tremendous amount of money advertising or promoting various things. Is the majority of this due to the Strengthening the Family program? What are these extraordinary cost increases in the advertising areas of the ministry?
HON. MR. DUECK: Part of that was transfer for the AIDS program and also for Strengthening the Family, and that's why it's distorted — because it came from another fund and was brought in here, and it looked like I was spending it in my publication and advertising. We don't spend in proportion with some ministries like Economic Development where they have to do a lot of promotion work. We're very lean and mean in that area. But it does distort those figures, and you're right, it looks terrible.
MRS. BOONE: The ministry has moved so in any things in the budget this year I'm having a difficult time finding them. I'm wondering what you're going to change next year so you'll really confuse me. Please leave it the same for next year so I can understand what's happening here.
In the Medical Services Plan I notice that there's less for salaries and benefits again, and I know this is probably due to the fact that you are shifting the responsibility for billing to the physicians rather than through Medical Services Plan. However, you turn around and the operating costs are up. Why is it that operating costs go up when you have fewer people there? Why would operating costs go up when you are losing some of the staff and losing some of the work you have to do?
HON. MR. DUECK: There has been no shift for the electronic billing up to this point in time, and it's not reflected in this budget at all. Hopefully that will come next year.
We have a 5 percent efficiency reduction, and early retirement also accounted for quite a large sum. I suppose when you take all that together it really gives you the wrong percentages, because a lot of things have shifted and have gone from other funding into this particular area. The early retirement costs are paid out of this fund.
If you wanted to know anything specifically in any area you don't understand, I would be only too happy to give you the percentage and actual dollars in written form,
MRS. BOONE: I think we've had a fairly good canvassing of the estimates. I thank the minister for his answers and candid responses. I look forward to dealing with you on some of these issues I have brought up which you said are good ideas. I would like to encourage the minister to call that committee together so that we can sit down and discuss some of these ideas we've got. Your deputy pointed out that I suggested some things that he had actually promoted earlier, so we must be on the same wavelength on some issues. There are certainly many issues we can work together on. There are many issues we can deal with in a proper way, working to the benefit of all British Columbians.
In my opening remarks I mentioned that I would really encourage the ministry to do a full review of the health care system, because what we're doing right now.... You've got your plan down here in James Bay or Victoria. and you've got
[ Page 5160 ]
different things, but what we really need to do is have a full review so that we can say this is the area we're going in, this is what our priorities are, this is what our goals are, and then set out and meet those goals.
Some of those goals, as I stated earlier, should be in providing more funding towards the prevention end. If prevention is our goal, obviously we have to address the situation of a speech therapist — which you've already done — the ideas of home care, the ideas of hospices, all these different areas. But we need to set our goals first, and I would really encourage the minister to work towards that and develop a full review of our health system so that the people of British Columbia know where we are heading in the health area.
HON. MR. DUECK: I would like to thank the members of the opposition for the way they've handled the estimates of my ministry. We don't always agree, and sometimes we get excited. One of the members from Coquitlam, I think, lectured me and told me not to lecture you. I take that in good spirit. I do get excited at times. I believe you should be very nice to me, especially today; I am a new grandfather.
HON. MR. DUECK: It is a boy. We have five granddaughters and one grandson.
I would like to state what I said in my opening remarks: that when it comes to health care we wish to do it in a constructive way. I must admit that by and large it has been done that way. I would like to thank my critic for having done it in a calm and educational way, where the concerns were brought to my attention in such a way that it was for educating me, perhaps, in the areas she felt were necessary. In the meantime, the suggestions that she and some of the others have made are certainly taken in that vein. We are already proposing many of the suggestions. We do agree in many areas, although some are not completely acceptable to us.
We have been doing a long-term review and a short-term review for some time. I would like the members to know that we are not doing it ad hoc or by the seat of our pants. We are doing it with a business plan in mind, which is my background, and I want to continue to do that.
I would like at this time to thank all my staff, especially the senior staff that have been here on the floor assisting me; also the ones in my office who have brought notes and information which I didn't have with me at times. I thank everyone for their patience. I think we could have ended this much, much sooner had you agreed.
Vote 45 approved on division.
Vote 46: ministry operations, $2,637,469,226 — approved.
Vote 47: Medical Services Commission and Pharmacare, $1,277,222,011 — approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: That's it. Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise, report resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call second reading of Bill 37.
DENTAL TECHNICIANS AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
HON. MR. DUECK: The Dental Technicians Act is being substantially amended to more adequately respond to the contemporary conditions in this field. These changes are almost identical to those given first reading in 1986.
The first and most obvious change is that the act will now be called the Dental Technicians and Denturists Act to reflect that the act applies to both professional groups. Including apprentices and those on permit, there are more than 400 dental technicians and more than 175 dental mechanics — or denturists, as they are now called — working in B.C. Although they work separately, the degree of commonality of interest permits one board to regulate both groups. Accordingly, an amendment will expand the board to seven members and guarantee that each group will have at least two representatives on this board.
Because of the need to control all aspects of the industry, the board will now issue certificates of registration to replace the former licences to students, including apprentices, and to assistants, as well as to dental technicians and denturists. The board has given corresponding powers to make rules respecting the various requirements for registration, including qualifications, education and fees.
Various other aspects of the profession are clarified in this legislation, such as delineating what types of services may be performed by registrants. Of particular note is the elimination of the requirement for a qualified denturist to obtain a certificate of oral health from a dentist or medical practitioner. There are new powers of inspection conferred upon the board. Authority to perform an inspection and to seize records and equipment may be obtained by a court order which must be reasonably specific to the inspection of seizure to be undertaken. Provisions for disciplinary hearings in section 9 have been replaced by more comprehensive requirements. Particularly in addition to suspension and cancellation of registration, the board has been empowered to dispose of matters by placing conditions on the registrant's entitlement to practice, fines and assessment of the costs of a hearing up to a $3,000 limit.
Along with these additional powers and rights granted to the board, there are additional responsibilities. For example, the board will no longer be able to delegate supervision of education of dental technicians and denturists, and, consequently, approval of courses of study will also be its responsibility.
I should add here that the exemption to the board's regulatory provisions have been moved from section 11 to section 6 of the act for clarity. The original intent of the exemption to protect people who are legitimately doing this type of work in some other capacity is maintained. Also a new exemption has been added for persons performing the work of a dental technician under the direct supervision of a dentist for that dentist's practice.
The rule-making powers of the board are expanded to correspond with these amendments. It will now be possible to make rules about different classes of registrants, continuing education, limitations of services performed, conditions for continued registration and renewals and specialization.
There are several consequential amendments with this bill that are necessary to make the powers and authorities
[ Page 5161 ]
granted to the board more sound in a legal sense. The right of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to rescind the rules made under the act in whole or in part is clarified with the addition of a new section 16.
In closing, I should add that this is an instance where the government has consulted at length with the groups involved. It is a bill that will make for a good working relationship between these groups of health professionals and with government. I move that the bill be now read a second time.
MRS. BOONE: We have absolutely no problems at all with this bill. I would like to congratulate the minister on working so well with the three groups affected by this bill to get them to agree to this. I think that process has worked well, and as a result this bill is going to get fast passage.
HON. MR. DUECK: Thank you very much for giving a compliment like that. I appreciate that. I think we have worked very diligently with the three groups. Our people also had the opportunity to go over the bill with you, and I think it has helped a great deal in that regard.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to refer Bill 37 to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
Bill 37, Dental Technicians Amendment Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
DENTAL TECHNICIANS AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
The House in committee on Bill 37; Mr. Ree in the chair.
Sections 1 to 20 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 37, Dental Technicians Amendment Act, 1988, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call second reading of Bill 26, printed in the name of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
MUNICIPALITIES ENABLING AND
VALIDATING AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: It is my pleasure and privilege to have the honour of putting forward Bill 26 for second reading.
Local governments and other parties have entered into a number of agreements which require either validation or enabling legislation before they may proceed.
This bill contains a provision to validate the Burnaby official community plan. Validation will ensure that the entire enactment process, including a public hearing, will not have to be redone.
The bill validates borrowing by the city of Revelstoke to pay dredging costs incurred in flood prevention. This provision enables the city to finance its share of a needed project. Without validating legislation, the city would have been required to obtain voter assent. which would have delayed the project and jeopardized the agreement with the other parties involved.
Bill 26 contains measures to permit Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and the city and township of Langley to gain access to the enhanced 911 emergency telephone system. This validating legislation is necessary because these municipalities are outside of the GVRD. which is implementing the system.
The bill contains measures to validate Prince George's Blackburn-Airport Hill specified area bylaw. Validating legislation is required to confirm all taxes, water rates and other charges levied on the specified area since 1976.
Bill 26 contains measures to validate letters patent for the Fort Nelson-Liard and Peace River Regional Districts concerning election procedures and other matters pertaining to the formation of the two regional districts and the municipality of Fort Nelson.
A final provision of Bill 26 enables council of the district of Esquimalt to amend the district's 1987 tax rate bylaw to lower the tax rate on class 2 utilities property. This amendment will reduce an unreasonably high grant-in-lieu for B.C. Hydro in 1988.
The amendments contained in Bill 26 ratify a number of agreements between local governments and other parties in the province. Without this legislation, these agreements will not be realized. I am therefore happy to move that Bill 26 be given second reading.
MR. BLENCOE: We support the bill, Mr. Speaker, and we will give it second reading very quickly. There is only one item on which my colleague the member for Burnaby North (Mr. Jones) may have a few questions. I am not sure if he has all the information he wants. That's on section 1 re Burnaby official community plans. I will just let the minister know for committee that he may have some questions.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: He can phone me.
MR. BLENCOE: He can phone you. Okay.
MR. SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing orders, I advise the House that the minister closes debate.
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: I am pleased that the bill will be supported by the entire House.
Bill 26, Municipalities Enabling and Validating Amendment Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call second reading of Bill 43, printed in the name of the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
[ Page 5162 ]
SECHELT INDIAN GOVERNMENT DISTRICT
HOME OWNER GRANT ACT
HON. MRS. JOHNSTON: It is my pleasure to present for second reading Bill 43, which contains measures to make Indian and non-Indian occupiers of native lands in the region eligible for the provincial homeowner grant. This funding has the effect of reducing residential property taxes, while provincial school taxes and other local government levies continue to be paid. Eligibility was promised to the band as part of the overall agreement in forming the district. It places them on the same footing as other local governments in the province. I am therefore happy to move that this bill be given second reading.
Bill 43, Sechelt Indian Government District Home Owner Grant Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Committee on Bill 21, Mr. Speaker.
The House in committee on Bill 21; Mr. Peterson in the chair.
MR. SIHOTA: May I have leave to make an announcement?
MR. SIHOTA: I have a note here. It has come to my attention that Wayne Williams and Linda Williams have had a new daughter by the name of Rebecca, who was born at 3:50 this morning at Victoria General Hospital. I'm sure all members of the House would want to join me in wishing the Williams family well.
On section 1.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I wanted to get to section 1, and inasmuch as our hon. friend across the hall the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew is trained in the law, and this is the interpretation section, perhaps he would be so good as to explain to us what it means.
MR. SIHOTA: This is a pivotal provision in the act, and I hope no one ever reads Hansard on this, but this is the interpretation section. [Applause.]
I'm glad I've got all those members opposite on my side now.
The interpretation section is a very important section of this bill, because it defines for us everything else that's going to be in this bill. In fact, it tells us how to read everything else that follows. I'm sure the Attorney-General is somewhere right now reading all these other sections and wondering how they interpret.
MR. MESSMER: You're doing great.
MR. SIHOTA: Am I doing a great job? I hope there are no high school students in here listening to this.
MR. ROSE: If there were, they'd be gone by now.
MR. SIHOTA: Someone tells me that if there were, they'd be gone by now.
The Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mrs. Johnston) might be interested in this. We have a provision in here that talks about bylaw enforcement officers. A bylaw enforcement officer is defined as someone who is an enforcement officer appointed under section 36.
I keep waiting for the minister to show up.
But the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be....
HON. MR. STRACHAN: We'll go on to something else.
MR. SIHOTA: You're going to do something else? Aw, come on, I was just getting into the speech. I want everybody to know I have a tee-off time at 7 o'clock, and if the Attorney-General doesn't show up pretty soon.... I don't want to change my tee-off time.
MR. SIHOTA: I think maybe we should have some eloquence from an intervening speaker.
MR. ROSE: Stop being so supportive.
A number of questions that arise in this act have a good deal to do with my own riding. As the Attorney-General will confirm when he comes in here, every time I complain about the lack of policing in Belcarra in my riding, one more FTE is subtracted. I keep telling the Attorney-General that it's not FTEs I want; it's cops. That's my big problem. He makes noises about going to the commissioner and changing the allocations, or making recommendations there, and I'm beginning to think, because of the action, that the A-G has got about as much clout as I have in these matters.
In clause 17 there's a whole section dealing with the failure of the municipality to police.
Section 1 approved.
Sections 2 to 6 inclusive approved.
On section 7.
MR. ROSE: I'd like to speak to sections 7 to 10 because of concerns about the park district around Anmore — the regional park there — and the village of Belcarra. I was explaining that due to my representations we keep losing policemen, not adding to them. We have hundreds of thousands of people, especially in the summer, who need protection, not necessarily from criminality, but parking problems, problems of safety, water safety, and a number of other things. The minister is quite familiar with this.
If we jump over to section 17.... I don't want to talk about that in detail, but there is a certain responsibility of the municipality to provide for policing in one way or the other: either contracted out, or use municipal officers or special constables. If there's a responsibility on the part of a municipality to do this according to some formula, and the municipality makes representations to the Attorney-General's
[ Page 5163 ]
department and to the commissioner, isn't there an equal responsibility on the part of the commissioner to live up to proper policing for the municipality? I'm interested to know that, because while there may not be RCMP-contracted manning sufficient to look after these needs, there are other alternatives which could be supplied by the provincial government, and they're outlined in these clauses 7 to 10: special constables, auxiliary constables and the like. If that extra demand for manpower is caused by the regional park, the regional park itself might consider some of these avenues for short periods and the two months.
I don't like this idea of rent-a-cop on the cheap. I don't believe we should be using auxiliary constables when we should be employing well-trained full-time constables. But if this is necessary for short periods of time, such as at parades or the riots of various kinds that we hold each year in British Columbia, and for parks and summer visitors, there should be provisions there. There is an established precedent in the special constables, the auxiliaries to the RCMP of kids going through for law school. We're even losing those out of that area. I'd like the minister and his officials to know that, so that we might have some action on that.
Essentially, if there's a responsibility on the part of the municipality to provide for a proper manning of that area according to 17 of the act, isn't there an equal responsibility for the commissioner to look after the requests of municipalities for precisely the same thing?
HON. B.R. SMITH: This was canvassed in estimates. We can talk about this every time there's anything that has the name "police" on it, but the fact is that the member's comments have been faithfully passed on each time to the RCMP. One extra police officer has been added to Coquitlam for provincial policing purposes. There has not been a reduction. There's a summer student who isn't back. But there is one extra full-time police officer doing provincial policing in that area.
I can't do more than express the member's concerns, which I do, and ask it of the deputy commissioner if there is more demand to put more people on, and they will. But the whole province has to be policed, not just the park in Belearra. The whole detachment area has to be policed, and if the demand is there, the police will be provided. It is not, of course, exactly as fast a process as it is if you have a local police force, but if you have ever tried to get extra police in a local police force in a particular area of your local region — which the member from Victoria knows, because he's been involved with community policing as I have — even with local police forces you have to go through the board. You have to fight with the chief and so on. You have to convince them of the need and the manpower and somebody has to vote the money, but I can assure that member that we don't just slough off what he is saying. His concerns have stimulated the production of one extra policeman. If he checks with the detachment there, he will see that this week, I gather, the extra full-time constable doing provincial policing in Coquitlam was on the ground.
Sections 7 to 24 inclusive approved.
On section 25.
MR. SIHOTA: This is just a housekeeping point for the Attorney-General, as I read it into drafting. The section is entitled "Chairman and Quorum." and it talks about the mayor of the council being chairman of the board, and where the mayor is absent, there should be election for a Chair, and what will happen in the case of a tie vote. The section doesn't seem to deal with quorum, whereas all of the other sections that are analogous to this one do deal with quorum. The old Police Act, section 21, subsection 3, said: "Any three board members constitute a quorum, and a vacancy in the membership of the board does not impair the authority of the remaining members to act." What you need is a subsection (4) here to deal with quorum. It's a drafting point, but I don't think it was caught by your people the first time around.
HON. B.R. SMITH: No, they are ahead of you and ahead of me. I probably would have said the same thing, but the Interpretation Act governs. and it defines quorum.
MR. SIHOTA: Okay. that's fine. In all the other sections you've got that provision in there in the act, when you have other quorum sections. It doesn't matter.
HON. B.R. SMITH: We are changing this section for other reasons. We weren't changing the others, so we didn't chance them all.
Sections 25 to 30 inclusive approved.
On section 31.
MR. SIHOTA: This section allows the appointment of local police committees. It's unchanged, as far as I can see, from the previous legislation, except for removing the requirement that appointees reside in the area covered by the committee. I am just wondering why that residential provision was removed.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I'm just trying to think of the many possibilities where you might have somebody who didn't live within the geographic confines but had been active in policing in a particular area and was on a committee before, or had some real connection with preventive policing in that particular community — maybe had their business address there and were involved in that way.
It seems to me that to be restrictive is not particularly heaven in this field. You're talking about a police committee, and I don't know why we would have to limit it to the residents of that area in all cases. I certainly concede that what you would want to do is to get people serving who are users or are involved in the community. My only answer to you is that we were trying to be a little less restrictive. We weren't trying to bring in people from another part of the province and have them serve on a local police committee.
MR. SIHOTA: That's an obvious response to what I said. I know I'm jumping, but if you look at section 33, which talks about making recommendations with respect to the adequacy of policing in the area.... I didn't raise this when we just passed the section on police boards, but my experience has been that quite often the government will appoint people to boards without due consideration of what municipalities have said. I saw that in Esquimalt when I served on council there as well.
Given the connection between 31 and 33, given the matter of recommendations with respect to policing in the
[ Page 5164 ]
area, and given the fact that this opens the door for appointments of people from outside the community, I just don't think that it quite makes sense. I can see, in some areas such as the police board, you may want to look at it in a different way, but I'm not convinced you would want to do the same with respect to local police committees, which I think should be built on local citizenry.
I've stated my point for the record, and I don't think there's any point in our going back and forth in terms of you saying you want it as wide as possible and me saying it should be restricted to the community. Given the intent of the legislation with respect to the function of those committees, as I read it, I was a little surprised that the government had chosen to remove the restriction which was there. I don't know of situations which would have invited that removal in the past. I think I've put my concern on the record.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Regrettably, as well, we don't have much history of police committees. Very seldom have they been requested by local residents. I guess the legislative intention of that change was simply to parallel the lack of restriction for police boards, who perform a managerial function, and to try and have it unrestricted in an age where people commute and their residences and their businesses may be an hour or so apart. That's the rationale.
Sections 31 to 48 inclusive approved.
On section 49.
MR. SIHOTA: I want to move an amendment at this stage, Mr. Chairman.
MR. ROSE: Have you got it written out?
MR. SIHOTA: Yes. I'm glad I met the first step of the criterion from the opposition House Leader.
On the proposed section 49, I want to move the following amendment: to delete the words "the member of the commission appointed by the minister" and substitute the words "the deputy ombudsman appointed by the ombudsman."
Is it in order? If I can speak to it, I can explain. I'll be fairly quick on this.
If one recollects the debate we had in second reading, it was my submission on this side of the House for our party that there should be an independent process for the complaint investigation, and that there should be a beefing up of the powers of the complaint commissioner.
There are several ways in which one can achieve the measure of independence that we suggested was required. I think the essence of this bill really is the extent to which the complaint commissioner is or is not removed from the hierarchy of the commission. As a consequence of that, we felt that the legislation should have brought about a greater level of independence, because in our view the police boards were still involved in the complaint process and there was no independent authority of the complaint commissioner to order his own investigations. I think I quoted some extracts at the time from a couple of editorials from the Sun and the Province in this regard.
The intent of the amendment is to have the deputy ombudsman, who is appointed by the ombudsman, have the power to do the things necessary to investigate complaints.
The purpose here is really to heighten the level of independence and to strengthen it more than the government is proposing under this piece of legislation. If this is acceptable, there is a whole series of consequential amendments that I have also handed up, but I'm sure, given the Attorney-General's comments in second reading, that will not be the case.
I introduced the amendment largely to point out our main objection to the bill — there is no truly independent body set up to deal with complaints — and to express our concern that the Police Commission is not always seen by the public to be independent; that at times it is perceived to be too closely involved in police operations to be truly independent. That's the purpose of this amendment.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: To speak to the form of the amendment, it would be the opinion of the government that it goes far beyond the scope of an amendment and far beyond the scope of this section. I would submit that it is therefore out of order.
MR. ROSE: To the extent that the amendment negatives the clause, I reluctantly but generously agree with the government House Leader.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The Chair finds the amendment out of order.
Section 49 approved.
On section 50.
MR. SIHOTA: This section establishes the duties of the new position of complaint commissioner. The previous section, of course, which we've talked about, just defines the complaint commissioner as a member of the Police Commission. Our concern with this provision is in keeping with the comments I made previously in second reading, in that the list of duties makes it clear that the complaint commissioner's duties are primarily to monitor the complaint process.
It's my view that the complaint commissioner ought to have the ability to investigate complaints that arise either on appeal or at any other stage he considers appropriate. Really, when one looks at the provisions of section 50, they are to receive complaints, to record complaints, to maintain a record of what's happening, to give information and assistance, and to do annual inspections. In our view, that is not adequate, in keeping with the comments I made under section 49 and in the amendment I introduced.
I don't really have a question to put to the Attorney-General on this. We've debated it, so I don't want to go into depth, but I think it's important that we again express for the record our concern with respect to section 50.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Very briefly — because I agree that we just continue to state our positions — the Police Commission has established a considerable reputation in the community and in the police community for being a body that is both independent of all local forces that it deals with and not dictated to by the government. The complaint commissioner, who will be appointed by the minister of the day and who will also be someone who quite likely will hold the position of federal complaint commissioner, will have to, it is true, operate to some degree under the Police Commission.
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Although the complaint commissioner can't initiate a full investigation in a formal sense, he does in fact have authority to interview parties, to read all police files, to order reinvestigations and to carry out an entirely separate investigation with the permission of the commission.
A decision to have a special investigation out of the control of the chief constable and having bypassed the chief constable is a serious decision, particularly after a complaint has been reinvestigated. I would point out, as I did before to the member, that all other national police jurisdictions including the RCMP do-at the first instance have a provision whereby the police do the first investigation of the complaint. In this case, the final investigation of the complaint may be by an independent person, and he is independent from the local police force.
Sections 50 and 51 approved.
On section 52.
MR. SIHOTA: I just want clarification on this. I take it this section.... Does it or does it not? I read it several times, and it's not clear in my mind how this section works. Does it give an individual options as to where the complaint should go? Or does it mandate that person to go to a particular body, given who it is that the complainant is making a complaint against? I read the latter way rather than the former, although it's open to both interpretations. There's some confusion there in my mind, because disciplinary authority is defined under section 49. Does it give one an option, or does it just clarify where the starting process is, depending on who you are making a complaint about?
HON. B.R. SMITH: The starting process for making the complaint is any of the ones enumerated. So you can make the complaint by going to the complaint commissioner. The investigation in the first instance will be done under the auspices of the chief constable. But if the complaint was made to the complaint commissioner, he would then pass that on to the chief constable to conduct an initial investigation. He would also keep copies of all the material.
It's a several-stop shop, but the investigation initially is done by the force; there's no question about it. You could file your complaint in one of several offices.
MR. SIHOTA: I'm trying to decide if I like this section or not. I take it then that you're saying that you can commence it wherever you wish, and then the normal process will trigger, so it won't be held against you if you go to the wrong spot. In other words, it's not a technicality then. In that regard, that's fine; I don't have any problem with that section.
HON. B.R. SMITH: No, it's substantive, because there are people who don't want to go in and have anything to do with their local force for whatever reason. They can go to the complaint commissioner who starts that investigation, monitors it and watches it and so on.
MR. SIHOTA: That being the case and the explanation, I'm quite content with that section.
Sections 52 to 54 inclusive approved.
On section 55.
MR. SIHOTA: Quickly on this section, this is one that I said during second reading was a good section. I'm pleased to see this section in there. I think it's a vast improvement to require that these status reports be provided and to provide some sensible time-lines for it. I think that, for the record, the government ought to be applauded with respect to section 55; it's a good section.
Sections 55 and 56 approved.
On section 57.
MR. SIHOTA: I've got some difficulty with this one, because this section requires the investigation of complaints where no informal resolution is required. If that process fails, then it requires the complainant to request an investigation in writing. I'm not content with that. It just seems to me that it ought to be more automatic than placing the onus on the complainant. Again, I'm thinking about the unadvised or not particularly sophisticated individual who may be launching a complaint. If the informal process doesn't work well, the individual may not know that he would then have to initiate an action in order to trigger an investigation. It seems to me that it might be better that there be a report to the commissioner indicating that the informal process has failed. Once that is filed with the commissioner in the form of a status report, I guess there should be an automatic investigation. I'm wondering for what policy reason the government chose not to consider that option. Would you not agree that might be preferable?
HON. B.R. SMITH: I think section 53 takes care of that and certainly puts an onus on whosoever receives the complaint under section 52 to fully advise the complainant of his rights in the complaint. Those rights would certainly include the right under section 57 to request an investigation in the event that the disciplinary authority does not attempt to resolve the complaint.
MR. SIHOTA: I thought of that before I asked the question, when I was going through it originally, and I said during the course of second reading debate on this stuff that I've acted for both sides on these things. I've acted for the police in complaints lodged against them; I've also acted for people who have made complaints against the police. I think the point is that you can give them a form under section 53 telling them what the procedure is. But let's face it, inevitably the cases that come across our desks — both the Attorney-General's and mine in my critic responsibilities — are situations where someone didn't understand the procedure or the system.
I think there should be an ease with which the system should work and more automatic rather than manual levers in it that require a person to do it. I appreciate that they're told what the procedure is. I understand what section 53 tries to do there, but I will venture to say that all of us will find cases on our desks where something didn't happen; where there has been inordinate delay, no filing of the report and time has elapsed for one reason or another, maybe with respect to witnesses being available or police officers being around.
Again. it's fine to tell someone in a form what the procedure to be followed is and what the rights of the complainant are. I think that's separate and distinct from
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deciding whether you want to go towards a manual process, as I call it for lack of a better word, or an automatic one. I think you should have an automatic one so the system moves smoothly along. You eliminate this problem of procedure which I know inevitably we'll get. I've got letters on my desk, and the Attorney-General has letters on his desk, from people who are frustrated with the current process, who don't understand it when the act is very clear.
I think we could remedy that by improving it in this regard. I put that forward as a suggestion, knowing of course that the ultimate disposition depends on the Attorney-General in any event.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I don't like to be unresponsive to these things, and I quite often do accept the member's suggestions for changes in committee, as he knows. I am just troubled with the other side of that coin: the automatic responsibility to proceed to another level of process without the complainant taking a step. We often have some difficulty confirming whether or not a complaint has been resolved informally. Surely if a person is entitled to know what their rights are under section 53 as a complainant, they would, if they couldn't get satisfaction or resolution, express that they were not satisfied and wanted further action.
Even if they couldn't express it specifically in the language of section 57, it would be an expression to the authority — in this case, the chief constable. If that was expressed but wasn't in some kind of statutory form, and the chief constable didn't pass it on, since he is obliged to pass on to the complaint commissioner everything that's requested anyway, I would think that chief constable would be in serious trouble. So I do think that this complainant you're worried about who might fall between the stools and not know his rights has quite a lot of safeguards against that.
I think we can only go so far to lead him through the system. Being not unsympathetic to that, I think the other side of that coin is bad as well.
Section 57 approved.
On section 58.
MR. SIHOTA: I'll just say for the record that I don't like the use of the words "trivial matter" in 58(l)(a)." The complaint is frivolous, vexatious, not made in good faith or concerns a trivial matter." Somehow I think that leaves too much latitude. I've got at least two or three cases on my desk that have been deemed frivolous and vexatious, and believe you me, having argued on both sides of these matters, from the eyes of one party, every matter is frivolous and vexatious, and from the eyes of the other party, none are. To broaden the scope by saying,"a trivial matter," I'm just not happy with the broad nature of that language.
With respect to 58(l)(c)...." The complainant knew or ought to have known, more than 6 months before making the complaint, of the act or omission to which his complaint refers...." The disciplinary authority, under that basis, may refuse "to investigate or to further investigate a complaint...." I would like to have seen a longer limitation period there, because I think that a six-month period is too short, given the way people operate. Maybe another three or six months wouldn't have hurt. Those are just points I put on the record for response from the Attorney-General. I appreciate that they're matters that we all call, and you can call it one way or the other, but I do have some difficulty with the language "trivial matter" and with the six-month provision.
Where an appeal is lodged, the existing procedure is changed only by allowing the complainant a chance to be heard by the review panel, which I guess is an improvement over what we've had before. But by implication, the power given to the complaints commissioner in section 46 to request a special investigation at any time should apply where an investigation is refused under this section. More than the comments I made before, I'm just wondering what the Attorney-General's response is to that.
In a parallel situation in section 59(c) — which we'll get to later on — the right to request an inquiry after an investigation is clearly spelled out. That isn't the case here, and to rephrase what I said, by implication, the power given to the complaints commissioner in section 46 to request a special investigation at any time I would suggest should apply where an investigation is refused under this section. I'm wondering why that was ruled out.
Am I making myself clear, or are we jumping around from section to section too much?
HON. B.R. SMITH: Can I just respond to your first two points, and then you do that one again? I'm not appreciating the last one; I want to hear it again.
The first two comments you made about section 58.... They were in the old bill, though that doesn't mean they were good. I can tell you that the expression "trivial matter," being foreign to our profession, has maybe a broader connotation than these terribly arid, cold, narrow expressions, such as frivolous and vexatious, which seem to me are often judicially interpreted to cover very little. They were broadened to include ordinary laymen's language, robust language like "trivial matter," which was also paralleled in the Ombudsman Act. In section 13 of the Ombudsman Act, drafted by an all-party committee, you can find that good laymen's language,"trivial matter." I like "trivial matter"; I hate "frivolous and vexatious" — it's lawyers' language.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
To come to the next one, which is the six months, the saving of that, I guess, is...." Ought to have known" should probably save that from an injustice." Knew or ought to have known," together, gives a little scope. It was there before as well. We're not changing the law in that regard.
If I can get that last point of yours, I can respond to it. I'm sorry.
MR. SIHOTA: Section 46 gives the minister, or the commission on its own initiative...to request from the complaints commissioner at any time an investigation to be made....
MR. SIHOTA: Okay, I see. I've caught my own error; I misread section 46. That's fine.
Just on the matter of the "trivial" thing and the six months, it's fair enough what the minister says, and I won't engage in a lengthy debate on it. I like the words frivolous and vexatious, but that's probably beside the point as well and an indication that I've been out of law school for a shorter period of time than the Attorney-General has.
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MR. SIHOTA: Maybe I practise more regularly than you do.
During second reading I think I talked about the Harelkin v. University of Regina decision, where Mr. Justice Dickson talked about the ascending order of rigidity: as you work your way up, it gets more and more difficult to overturn the decision made at the lower level. Drawing on my own experience, in cases where something is deemed to be frivolous and vexatious, it just stacks the deck against you as you move your way up the hierarchy of appeals. In this case, of course, there's only one. The Attorney-General and I both know the psychology of these things in terms of where the complainant is coming from as the victim and where the officer is coming from, who also feels victimized or unfairly chastised in this process. But I must confess that in those instances where I have seen the frivolous and vexatious provisions, I've often had to turn my head twice, either to wonder if it really was or to then deal with the complainant, who feels very much undone by the system. It always reminds me of the reasoning of the court in that decision.
Fair enough. I don't want to get off on a long debate on this matter. I think I've articulated my concern on that section.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Those are very good comments, but I think the bill will take care of people who not only have legitimate concerns, but who believe that they do. It's true that everyone who somebody else thinks may have a trivial matter believes it's an important matter, and I think it's important that in this bill there's a chance for a different look. That different look comes from the complaint commissioner, and a whole new investigation can come from him as well. But if he comes to the same conclusion as the investigating authority — that the matter is indeed a trivial one — it seems to me that there has to be an end. You cannot go on forever.
I know of some local cases, and I'm sure he does as well. In one that was in my bailiwick a man pursued something that he felt he was entitled to, and it exercised a great deal of time and cost. It may have involved subject matter that was trivial, but it involved a principle that was important. Eventually this gentleman got some satisfaction, didn't he? No? Well, he had the satisfaction of a great deal of process. The time that was spent on it was quite unbelievable.
Somebody has to decide, with another independent person looking over that judgment call afterwards, whether something is justified or not. I guess your point is that the original fact-finder seldom gets reversed. We've got a complaint commissioner there who can be a new fact-finder, and he has all the data and information to do that.
MR. BARNES: I really don't want to speak specifically to the section. I just hope that you'll allow me a little latitude, because I wasn't here earlier, unfortunately. I basically just want to commend the government for at least a step in the right direction. I can recall, over many years, the difficulties that citizens have had respecting complaints against police and public officials generally. This is a window. It's a compromise, perhaps, in terms of an ultimate solution, but had this bill been in place with respect to the Alfred Fraser v. Paul's Restaurant situation, there may have been a more expeditious result in terms of dealing with that complaint. You know the problems that happened. It took about six years for that matter to finally be resolved. It ended up in the Human Rights Council.
I'm not here to be critical or even that analytical, but just to say I've been listening to the debate by my colleague from Esquimalt-Port Renfrew, who has been addressing this matter and has canvassed most of these points. I'm just glad we're recognizing that there has to be a more believable situation in terms of solutions to legitimate concerns. If they're vexatious, fine: they will be weeded out. But in many cases people do have legitimate complaints that just get lost in the bureaucracy.
With that, I'm very pleased this bill is before us.
Sections 58 to 71 inclusive approved.
On section 72.
MR. SIHOTA: I want to know what the reasoning was with respect to this section and why the government chose to exclude the ombudsman from the process.
HON. B.R. SMITH: The argument that the ombudsman should investigate police complaints, of course, has been around as long as the office in this province was established and in other jurisdictions as well. I think there is a tradition of dealing with police matters in a different way, and this community that takes a number of risks and has to deal with matters in confidence and in secret is not a community that responds to endless microscopic examinations. It has to be a fair complaints process, and I hope that we've made major strides in this bill; I believe that we have.
I appreciate the generous comments of the member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Barnes) who knows from whence he speaks in these matters, because we've had some problems in Vancouver with some of these matters in recent years. We don't have a terribly happy track record in one of those cases particularly. which has gone the whole distance of all the courts, civil litigation and everything else. Still, a man who suffered a pretty serious injury while in custody has never been able to have a finger pointed as to who did what to him or why or how.
We're not proud of that one. The verdict is still out. The Police Commission had a hearing. but if we'd had this act in place, I think we could have got a lot further a lot faster. To have the ombudsman deal with police the way he does with all other public officials and public servants, I don't believe is appropriate. I know that you can make that argument. I have a very high regard for the present ombudsman. I think he is a very sensitive and fair-minded individual who is trying to do his job without fear or favour — without headlines but without fear of authority. I think he does an excellent job.
For police to be dealt with just the same as all public officials making their administrative decisions — they're not the same. They have to deal with matters in confidence and with matters under investigation. It is a community that takes enormous risks and is frequently under siege and attack. We recognize the need for sunlight to get in, and that it's not good enough to have them constantly investigating themselves. That doesn't give confidence to the public as to the administration of the police.
I went to the Supreme Court of Canada a year ago and had the pleasure of junioring Mr. Robert Edwards, who is the recipient of the Lieutenant-Governor's medal as the top
[ Page 5168 ]
public servant in British Columbia this year. I had the honour to junior him in the Supreme Court of Canada a year ago and to argue a case, because I thought it was a good idea to have the Attorney-General of a province say what had to be said to that court. That was that unless the province has the constitutional authority to set up some process to examine a police force and make sure that police force is honest and performing its duties correctly, we don't want to run the police or administer justice.
Let's turn that over to Ottawa. Let them do all that stuff. If we're going to have nitpicking arguments on constitutional jurisdiction so we can't investigate a police force, then we don't want to run a police force. We've got to be able to investigate police forces, and we are investigating them, and we won that Jacobsen case. We have a special process for investigating police, and we don't do it under the ombudsman.
MR. SIHOTA: First of all, let me also pass on my congratulations from this side of the House to Mr. Edwards for his achievement and his award. It is very appropriate, in my mind.
I want to deal with the Attorney-General on this issue, because I disagree with him fundamentally. I think this is the threshold of division among us with respect to this bill — more so than the matter of the independence of the complaint commissioner. It's not that what I have to say is new to the Attorney-General, because this is a debate, I am sure, that his officials went through when they looked at this section.
The Attorney-General is quite correct when he says that these people are police officers, hence they don't enjoy the same status of people — if I can paraphrase him — in the public service. That's very true; they are authority figures, and they are respected authority figures, and they enjoy a tremendous amount of integrity. From my experience, they do one hell of a job. The type and the calibre of people that we get involved in our police forces really is a credit to this province and to this country. I think we all understand the level of genuine respect and high esteem that the public has for police officers in British Columbia, let alone in this country.
There are times when there are indiscretions. That's why we have this act: to deal with those types of indiscretions so that the wheat is separated from the chaff as quickly and expeditiously and justly and fairly as possible. We must, therefore, have a system which on one hand respects the integrity of those officers, and which on the other hand says to them that if you're doing your job you've got little or nothing to fear. But there is a competing interest in the public, which says to the public that fairness must not only be captured in a statute, it must be seen in a statute as well.
It seems to me somewhat obtuse to say to these people which we hold in high esteem that because of that, for some reason, they are exempt from review of the ombudsman. In fact, more so than anybody else, I would submit, they ought to be open to review and examination by the ombudsman so as to ensure by that type of a process that the integrity and the esteem that I talked about earlier on is crystallized and preserved so that there's full confidence in the public, so that we don't get those types of irritating cases that go on for six or eight years. That's why it's vital that you have the ombudsman given some authority to take a look at these matters. That's why I say that the ombudsman ought to be involved in these types of matters.
It's not a matter of respecting secrecy. We know that the ombudsman does that. We know that the ombudsman, particularly the current ombudsman, has done a marvellous job of respecting the confidentiality of files that come before him, but at the same time assuring whether or not justice is done. It's not an interminable process. The ombudsman alternative here would not make this an endless on and on process. The ombudsman is relatively expeditious, given his staff allocations. It's not going to be something that's going to cause undue delay.
More important than that, whatever happened to the famous second look? It's provided for in a couple of places in the legislation; I'll grant you that. There are some appeal mechanisms; I'll grant you that. But there are a lot of other disciplines, if I can put it that way, that are open for review by the ombudsman. There are other self-regulatory groups with their own internal discipline procedures where there's no apparent reason for excluding the ombudsman. I would submit that that ought to be the case here.
If I may be allowed an opportunity to talk in political terms for a moment with respect to the absence of this government's own unwillingness, particularly through the Premier, to take that cautious second look, to reconsider matters. It seems to be sort of a theme that runs through government. It's not a theme that I expected to be duplicated in the Police Act, and it is with some regret that the ability of the ombudsman to review is specifically excluded by virtue of section 72 of this legislation.
Those are my points, Mr. Chairman.
HON. B.R. SMITH: I think that's a well-expressed point of view. It's not a point of view that this side of the House agrees with, but he's expressed it very well. I might point out to him that the Ontario act also excludes the authority of the ombudsman. The Metro Police Force Complaints Project Act, 1981, was introduced by McMurtry, and is now an act there and excludes the ombudsman. To have too many parallel investigations involving police, investigations that are complaints, investigations that may take place before local police boards, court proceedings which are still possible, and also to have the ombudsman have jurisdiction, I think, for an organization like the police that must deal in confidential matters constantly, is not appropriate. It's a very logical suggest — but we reject it.
Section 72 approved.
Sections 73 to 77 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
Motion approved on division.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 21, Police Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I call committee on Bill 24, in the name of the hon. Attorney-General (Hon. B.R. Smith).
[ Page 5169 ]
LAND TITLE AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
The House in committee on Bill 24; Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Chairman, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 24, Land Title Amendment Act, 1988, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 27, Mr. Speaker.
LAW REFORM AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
HON. B. R. SMITH: I'm just going to move a proposed amendment to the bill, which I have given any, hon. critic notice of.
It is a great pleasure to introduce the amendments to the section on personal liability under a mortgage. This will clarify the law on personal liability under a mortgage or an agreement for sale. Under the existing law the original borrower was liable, on the personal covenant, to repay the borrowed money until the lender released him from the covenant and the terms of the mortgage were substantially altered. In normal circumstances this liability had no effect on the original borrower, but if for some reason the lender had to foreclose on the new purchaser, he could count on the sale of the property to recover the amount owing. Of course. in times of falling property values that situation from time to time prevailed and created injustices on people who many years before thought they had been relieved of obligations.
Under the proposed amendments, where a homeowner has sold his home and the purchaser has assured the mortgage, the original borrower's liability will be extinguished unless, based on the amendment now put in here, the lender demands full payment within three months after the term of the mortgage has expired. So long as the purchaser continues to make regular payments, there would be little reason for the lender to demand payment.
Selecting the end of the term as the single event for terminating liability on the covenant has a number of advantages. It provides a certain and objectively verifiable method of determining where personal liability ends and establishes the duration of liability on the covenant. The original borrower will be able to extinguish his liability by having the lender approve the credit worthiness of a purchaser or a proposed purchaser. You can go the fast-track route; you can get that certificate of credit worthiness.
[Mr. Rabbitt in the chair.]
I'm going to put this on the record, because the Law Reform Commission does this work over a period of many years. We put these things through. and I think it's important to have some short statement on the record in second reading. I know everybody is anxious to move, and I'm not going to be long-winded. I'm going to put it on the record.
The new law will protect the homeowner, who in the past may not have been aware of his ongoing liability, and will prevent a repetition of the unfortunate situations that arose in the last few years. The amendments I will deal with in committee, but I think they improve the original bill and clarify its intention.
There is also an amendment to the Infants Act in this bill, which provides guidelines to determine the domicile of a minor. At present, the domicile of a minor under common law is always that of the father. This has resulted in some ambiguity respecting the domicile of dependency of a minor, and sometimes the courts have had to intervene. The rule will now provide a descending hierarchy of circumstances to ensure that the domicile of dependency is that of both parents first of all, or one parent, or a lawful custodian, or some other jurisdiction in which the infant has the closest connections. There will not be some arbitrary rule based on the domicile of one spouse; that will be more in keeping with the Charter as well.
Obsolete remedies against estate property, the Estate Administration Act, the Law and Equity Act and the Trustee Act are also included in this bill. The series of interrelated amendments will repeal a number of obsolete provisions which have not been in use in this province since the mid-1920s. These are largely incomprehensible provisions, because they address aspects of the law of succession and administration which has been obsolete for almost 60 years, but in which the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew (Mr. Sihota) is a specialist. He has very gratefully consented to speak affirmatively on these provisions, even though it will greatly cut into his law practice and its viability.
The provisions in question within the Estate Administration Act are concerned with remedies available to creditors upon the death of a debtor. Several of these provisions hinge upon a distinction between claims upon a debtor's real property versus those on his personal property, following the death of the debtor. In 1925, through various statute amendments, the rules governing the descent of real property were changed to remove the distinction between real and personal property.
I am pleased to introduce these amendments, which update the law and improve its understandability. There is a minor provision as well, which abolishes by statute a common law action by a master against another party for the loss of the services of the master's servant. This provision has little or no contemporary use, having been replaced by modern tort law. As I recall, it was only used in repeated actions brought by the government of Canada to try and get minor claims satisfied.
I can see that the Clerk is very quietly nodding with his eyes his affirmation of that and his experience in practice.
We are cleaning up some anomalies in the law, and we are passing — as we try to do each year — some of the good recommendations of the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia. I move second reading.
MR. SIHOTA: It's pretty hard to argue against the Law Reform Commission, so I won't. We certainly endorse this piece of legislation, although I guess I won't be able to do my doctorate thesis on action for quod servirium sumpsit. My
[ Page 5170 ]
Latin is terrible; I used to be very good. You know, I took Latin in grade 8, and I was actually quite good. It always bothers me that my Latin has evaporated to the point it has.
MR. LOENEN: Never mind the Latin, how about the English?
MR. SIHOTA: I know it's that fine school I went to.
I just want to make a quick comment on the provision — really the central provision — which deals with the covenants and mortgages. It really is an overdue provision. You like to think that the courts would have come out with some decisions that would have made it unnecessary to come out with this type of legislative intervention. I was always surprised that those cases did not get overturned as they were appealed.
I must say that I agree with the principle involved here. I said to the Attorney-General during our private discussions that I was miffed at why that six-month provision was put in there originally. Now I understand that by way of an amendment to be introduced later, it will be reduced to three months. I must confess that I still think that the right of the lending institution, for example, to proceed on those covenants should be extinguished at the time the transfer takes place, and that there really shouldn't be a 90-day or a 180-day period of exposure to the innocent vendor on the part of a default by the purchaser. I appreciate that often financial institutions will not take action on foreclosure until the first three payments have been defaulted, and that may kill it at that point — unless, of course, other action is taken under this act. However, I really think that it should be triggered immediately at the time of the transfer as opposed to waiting three months for it to happen.
Apart from that comment, we welcome and support the remaining provisions of this bill.
Bill 27, Law Reform Amendment Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 31, Mr. Speaker.
VICTIMS' RIGHTS AND SERVICES ACT
HON. B.R. SMITH: I'm going to be very short on this one, Mr. Speaker, because we've talked about it before. I think this is a really good bill, and I'm very proud of it. It's not going to be the final bill in this country, because many jurisdictions are at last getting into the business of doing things to help victims of crime. It started in Manitoba, then in New Brunswick.
This bill is, I think, a different approach. The other provinces had declarations of principles, then they had a provincewide committee and then they had a special fund. We believe in the declaration of principles, and we also believe that a declaration of principles should have some kind of lay language in it, not just legal concepts but talk about the compassion that should be shown in the system to victims. So we've done that, but we've gone on to include a bill of rights which guarantees some legal rights for the first time in legislation in the country. It actually guarantees legal rights.
We didn't set up a provincewide committee. We left the mandate with the ministry to promote victims' services, and we're going to have our work done not with a committee but with community committees in every corner of this province under our victim assistance program, as we've done over the past year with the aid that we've given.
Instead of having a special fund, we've done an appropriation provision in our bill which unlocks access to victims of fine surcharges, Criminal Code and provincial.
I believe the bill of rights is a very major step forward because it means that a victim will be entitled to know of the services designed to assist him or her and have the right to know, if the victim wants to, basic information as to the name of the accused, the charges involved, or that a decision has been made not to investigate or prosecute a case. If the victim is interested in pursuing any restitution remedies or supplying the court with a victim impact statement, which has now for the first time been mandated under the Criminal Code amendments that were brought in federally, that victim now has the right to be informed under this bill of the opportunities for doing those things.
If a victim desires to have his or her views known with respect to parole of the offender under the B. C. Parole Board, which is responsible in this province, that victim will be able to know that. He or she will be informed of an opportunity to make written submissions on parole, not to appear as part of the parole hearing but to make written submission if he so wishes.
In addition, if a victim is required to testify in a court, that victim has a right to be kept apart from the accused whenever possible. That is a right of some importance, particularly in small communities where there may only be one courtroom, and everybody gathers outside that courtroom at a preliminary hearing in a trial, and the victim has to be subjected not only to the glances of the accused but maybe his friends and supporters that are there. That's very intimidating for a lot of women in this province who have had to go through sexual complaint cases. That gives some protection.
There is also more protection given in this bill to provide privacy of identity for victims, not just identity of their name but identity as to their occupation, residence and so on, which again in a small community may instantly identify that victim to the people of that community. Just protecting her or his name isn't going to do it; you have to give them more protection.
I think this bill has a very strong message that this government is prepared to do some things — not just to talk about them, but to do some things for victims of crime; not just to put money in the field, which we've done; not just to support community groups; but to put legislation on the books which will secure some legal rights for victims of crime. That's what we've done. I'm very proud of this bill, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SIHOTA: It's a pleasure for me to enter the debate with respect to this legislation. I know the Attorney-General has traveled around the province with a view to establishing legislation to assist victims and to make sure that the voice of the victim is heard when it comes to these types of matters, which are always unfortunate ones that leave people with a permanent scar. I do think that any effort, be it local, federal or provincial — in this case it's provincial — ought to be applauded when it strives to assist victims. I think all of us on both sides of the House recognize the way in which society in the past has overlooked the position of the victim, and it's
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essential that there be greater recognition and cognizance of what victims go through in society. I have no hesitation in saying,"Well done," to the Attorney-General for taking some leadership in the matter of victims. It's something that we supported from the outset, and it's something that we'll continue to support and speak out for.
It's really with that last comment about speaking out in mind that I want to deal with some issues that fall into the general area of victims' rights and services. This is a piece of legislation entitled Victims' Rights and Services Act. The legislation deals with victims' rights and has a fine preamble and articulation of rights accorded to the victim. As I said, I applaud that.
I want to talk at some length about victim services, because that's the other half of the equation. It's one thing to recognize that people are scarred and victimized by a criminal action, and that they're entitled to certain rights; it's another thing to deal with the healing process. That healing process requires some sensitivity and some support, effectively from the social services network, in the broad sense of the words, that exists out there in this province.
So let's take a look at the services component of this bill. Section 9 of the bill, entitled "Services to assist victims," says — I'll just paraphrase it, because I don’t want to get into a clause-by-clause debate — that it ensures that the Attorney-General will work towards "services designed to assist victims...to use the resources that are available to help them deal with the effects of victimization." The rights are limited by section 2 to situations where people can only be assisted within reasonable circumstances and therefore by the services that exist.
It's a sad commentary on our society today when we pick up the newspaper — and regrettably this happens just about every day — and read, often tucked away in a short paragraph, about sexual assault. Then from time to time we see celebrated cases of sexual assault. Regrettably, we just saw one yesterday or today, with respect to an individual in the Kootenays.
It has always troubled me that there seems to be such a sad abundance of sexual assaults in society. To my own way of thinking, it's got to be one of the most hideous — and I don't use that word lightly — assaults upon the body of any individual. The situations vary from the shock of a rape to the manipulation of children. It's just a tragic part of society. It's something that I find very offensive. After the incident it provides the victim with an outlook on society that is regrettable, and it leaves someone, as I think I said before, psychologically scarred for life — and not just the victim. The anguish with families.... I know the Attorney-General heard it when he toured around the province, and I've heard it as well — about the anguish that attaches to the family as a consequence of sexual assault. Recognizing the nature of the crime, I thought I'd use the opportunity provided by the second reading debate here today to talk a little bit about what this government has to offer in terms of services to those victims; the rights are well catalogued here, but in terms of services available to people involved, unfortunately and regrettably, in sexual assault.
To start off on the positive again, the legislation does deal with offences against people, whether there be a criminal conviction or not. That's perhaps a good starting point. However, the funding that's available for many of these groups really applies only to victims of criminal offences. In fact, around the province I'm told that only 3 percent of all female victims of violence have access to services. Often the services do not allow for the provision of assistance with respect to family disputes — the battering and assault that occurs there — but are limited to cases involving criminal prosecutions and criminal convictions. So it's estimated that 3 percent of all female victims of violence receive assistance from government-provided services.
When you talk to the people who provide these much needed services, there's a sad tale of inadequate funding, which results in understaffing of facilities, in inadequate resources to meet demands, and in inadequate programs and services to people who are affected.
MR. VANT: Can we have an example?
MR. SIHOTA: I'll provide the member with examples in a few minutes.
AN HON. MEMBER: It would make it a little more interesting.
MR. SIHOTA: I don't think this is a comical topic, Mr. Member. I don't think the comment about making it a little more interesting is appropriate.
There are limitations in society with respect to follow-up counselling services and second-stage housing, which may not be available to victims of sexual assault. There's a great need in this province for follow-up counselling services and second-stage housing. After living in the transition home for a small period of time, someone has to move away to total independence. There's just nothing there to fill that vacuum. Around this province operations really exist at a subsistence level. For example. there's little or no capital funding with respect to the expansion of facilities.
The members said they'd like to have some details. I certainly don't intend to go into detail with respect to incidents that I'm aware of, but I do intend to go into detail with respect to the inadequacy of facilities by bringing to the attention of the Attorney-General during the course of this debate the situation across this province, in both urban areas like Victoria and rural areas such as Kamloops and Terrace, in order to demonstrate just how acute the problem is. It's one thing to engage in the articulation of rights, but another to talk about the absence of services.
The Victoria transition home has 12 beds. It has an average occupancy rate of 90 percent. In the last two months they've had to turn away people who have been victimized in one way or another. The problem does not rest with rights. It's captured by the absence of services to people who are victims. In that facility they have one office to share among five counsellors. There are no other private counselling areas or office space. There's only one room to occupy the needs of children. Let's not forget that quite often children are traumatized by an assault, a battering, particularly if it's a family situation. It's not just the woman who shows up at the facility. Often it's the woman and a child, or two or three. At Transition House here in Victoria, we have only one room for the children's recreational needs. That's what's lacking: the commitment from this government to begin to deal with addressing the basic needs of these victims who are privy to batterings at home or who have gone through the obscene experience of a sexual assault elsewhere.
The Victoria Women's Sexual Assault Centre. There are two and a half staff positions required to attend over 24 hours.
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The balance of the counselling in that facility is handled by volunteers. I don't mean to demean the volunteers, but I'm saying that there have to be adequate services and staffing for facilities like this to attend to the needs of victims of sexual assault — and as I said earlier, more often than not they are women. The facility has only two counselling rooms, which is insufficient, given the demands of space and time.
MR. BLENCOE: They're looking for new space.
MR. SIHOTA: In fact, I'm told by the second member for Victoria that they're looking for new space.
If you want to put this in perspective, the average volume of crisis calls in Victoria right now reaches 300 to 400 per month, and requests for their services over the past four years have increased by 1,300 percent. Their funding over that same period has increased by only 40 percent.
Funding, Mr. Speaker, is the essence of commitment. It's not adequate to show victims a piece of paper which is an articulation of their rights. What victims expect, require and deserve is the funding that is an expression of the commitment we're asking for. A 40 percent increase in funding and a 1,300 percent increase in request for services — obviously, funding problems are the primary obstacle to violence victims in Victoria.
I know the Attorney-General's representatives in this House are listening to this debate. It's regrettable that the Attorney-General has chosen to share his thoughts with other members of the House and not listen.
That's Victoria. Let's take a look at what's happening elsewhere in this province, because the same picture is repeated over and over again. Maybe in this predominantly male bastion of the Legislature some members can't relate to the nature of this problem. Maybe that explains their indifference as I stand here and talk to them.
In Terrace they have one funded position for a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service. By their own estimate, to get the job done in that community requires eight staff people. However, they have four full-time and one part-time staff, and have to rely on auxiliary staff to fill the gaps. They have 23 beds, and about two weeks ago they had to turn away two families who required some type of assistance. I want to say again to members of this House that we're talking about victims and their families, and two of those families were turned away.
It's of some concern when we stand up in this House and express our concerns with respect to the absence of these types of vital services...
AN HON. MEMBER: For women.
MR. SIHOTA: ...for women, for victims, and all we get is chatter on the other side.
I make these points with a fair bit of conviction. It is an issue that I feel as strongly about as the Attorney-General does about victims' rights. He's toured and traveled this province on victims' rights, and I want to say that this is one issue that in many ways goes to my core and is one of the motivating factors for my getting involved in this business of politics. It is an area that cries out for reform; it is an area that is clearly neglected by government in terms of services. If we have within ourselves an ounce of compassion and understanding for the women and the families brutalized by some of the actions that take place on the street and in the homes of this province, there has to be a greater level of commitment from this government to provide adequate services for those women and those families.
MR. MERCIER: You think you're the only one....
MR. SIHOTA: I'm going to ignore that rather cavalier comment from the member for Burnaby-Edmonds. But I'll tell you something, Mr. Chairman. The attitude on display now is indicative of the government's lack of appreciation of the problem. I invite the member for Burnaby-Edmonds to stand up and speak on this issue, to express his concern and talk about his experience.
MR. REE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some comment about the attitude of those listening to what the member who has the floor was saying. Possibly the attitude reflects the distance of his comments from the principle of the bill. We are here in second reading to speak on the principles of the bill. You do not speak on what the bill does not have; you speak on what the bill has. Possibly the member could speak on the principles of the bill in second reading, in which case I am confident the other members of this House would have an appropriate attitude to his comments.
MR. BLENCOE: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. The government Whip avoids the issue that the topic of this bill is victims' rights and victim services. The member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew has every right to make the point about victim services and expansion of victim services. It is very interesting that when the member starts to talk about women and sexual assault, the members on the opposite side start to caucus and avoid the issue and laugh.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Would the hon. member conclude his point of order.
MR. BLENCOE: That's the point.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will refer to Erskine May, page 485: "Debate on the stages of a bill should be confined to the bill, and should not be extended to a criticism of administration or of the provisions of other bills then before the House or contemplated...." I would ask all members of the House to remember the rules of relevancy. Hon. member, please continue — and keep it relevant.
MR. SIHOTA: I want to say to the member for North Vancouver-Capilano (Mr. Ree) that he should be listening. What I'm talking about here goes to the very heart of the principles of this legislation; and even if it didn't, given the nature of this issue, he ought to have the courtesy to allow the case to be made. I don't have to get into that, I'll tell you.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, can we come back to Bill 31.
MR. SIHOTA: I don't have to get into that, because the principle of this bill — as the title indicates — deals with victims' rights and services. Sections 2 and 9 of the bill talk about services to assist victims. I'm talking about those services because I care about those services. I am offended by
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the inadequacy of those services in this province, and I'm going to continue to talk about the principles of this legislation until members of this House begin to recognize the inadequacy of some of the services that are provided.
For example, Mr. Speaker, you would be interested to know that in Kamloops, because of inadequate funding at the Kamloops sexual assault centre, there's a two-week waiting period for non-crisis counselling — as they call it, of course. It's actually crisis counselling, but in that instance, because of the inadequacy of funding, the really severe cases get immediate priority.
If you wish to bring it back to this piece of legislation, this legislation says that those rights are limited by the resources available. To reiterate the point, it is one thing to say to people what their rights are, but it is another not to provide the services necessary to heal the wounds and the scarring that occur from criminal incidents — and in this instance I'm talking about sexual assault.
I was talking about Kamloops. They have a shelter at the YMCA.
MR. MERCIER: He's criticizing the administration.
MR. SIHOTA: The member says I am criticizing administration. The member doesn't want to hear the facts as they relate to services for victims of sexual assault in this province. It's not a matter of criticizing the administration as much as it is of bringing to the attention of the administration its obligation to fulfil those things which it says this legislation is endeavouring to do, and that is to provide services for victims. I'm saying fulfil those obligations: 17 beds, inadequate funding. In that instance they're classified, of all things, as a hostel. Sixty percent of their clientele use the facility as a transition home. They've been endeavouring to be reclassified in order to secure additional funding, and they've been waiting for some time to hear about their application. If you really think about it, Mr. Speaker, this really shouldn't be a problem of administration, because both hostels and shelters are funded out of the Ministry of Social Services and Housing.
I see the second member for Richmond (Mr. Loenen) here, and I'm sure he is aware of Nova House, a transition home. I'm sure, with his concern for the women who are victimized by sexual assault in his riding, he is acutely aware of the needs there. I'm sure that member would be more than prepared to enter this debate and put on the record what he's doing for women in his community who are victims of sexual assault. I'm sure he's aware of the concern, and I invite him — later on, as we get into this debate — to stand up and tell us on the record what he's doing.
There are five full-time staff on duty between nine and twelve. There are ten beds. The average occupancy rate is 85 percent — although it's usually full. There are seven other transition houses in the lower mainland with about ten beds each, and they're usually in an overflow situation so the excess ends up in Richmond.
They are concerned with the lack of follow-up counselling programs for those no longer in the house, and I want to emphasize that point. I said earlier that one of the problems in the province is that those short-term transition facilities exist — and often they exist for the victim and not for the kids in the case of a woman who has been battered or assaulted within the house or not — but there's nothing after that. There's a problem that still exists. There are all types of psychological and social problems that have to be addressed with respect to that human being, and there's a whole set of opportunities that must be created so that person can leave the incubator of the transition home and act into society in a productive and meaningful way.
In that instance in Richmond, people are only allowed to stay for one month in the transition home. But, again, due to the fact that there's a lack of complete integration and immersion facilities in that community, people try to find ways for them to stay on. There's a need in Richmond for second-stage housing. Right now there's only one actual second-stage house on the lower mainland, and it only has five suites. In Victoria there's one with four suites.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, the Chair has allowed an awful lot of latitude in allowing you to make your point, and if you could get back to the principle of the bill, we could get on with the debate.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Would the member please take his seat.
MR. CLARK: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, this bill clearly deals with services to victims. In the 20 months I've been in this chamber we have given great latitude on second reading to cover the principles of the bill and anything that's relevant to that. I think the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew is entirely in order when it deals with specific sections of the bill, and he can deal at great length with detailed examples. That's certainly been in keeping with the way this House has operated. I think it would be unwise for the Speaker to now try to change the rules of the game after 20 months here.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'd like to advise the hon. member that although I may have limited knowledge of the rules, I am going by those put before me and the tradition of the House, and I will continue to rule as such.
I would ask the hon. member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew to continue, but to operate by the guidelines I've been trying to put forward.
MR. SIHOTA: I've come to the end of my comments in any event, and I appreciate the latitude.
I guess the case I'm making tonight is that this legislation is called Victims' Rights and Services Act. And I'll say it again: the Attorney-General should be congratulated for his efforts with respect to the articulation of victims' rights; with respect to developing a piece of legislation that talks about principles governing victims' rights; and with respect to the work he's done in going around the province on this issue. I've never taken issue or umbrage with that. We've always supported that; we think that's correct.
But with those rights come responsibilities. If you want to provide those rights, you've got to provide services, and that is what this legislation is also about. It's about services. I've taken one component or one criminal action that offends me more than any other, as I said at the outset of my comments — sexual assault — and I've utilized this opportunity to make the case that perhaps this legislation should be called the Victims' Rights Act, but certainly not Victims'
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Rights and Services Act. What's lacking in this province is not the political desire to do all sorts of nice PR about victims' rights, but the necessary commitment to provide services for people who are victims of criminal offences, particularly and most disconcerting of all in the area of sexual assault of women and their families who are traumatized, attacked, abused, used, manipulated and then tossed out in one fashion or the other, when that indecent act is completed.
To conclude, the point we're making is that we want the government to fulfil its obligation in this piece of legislation and to now begin to move from the matter of victims' rights into the appropriate support and funding for victims' services. We say on this side of the House that the first place to start is with those women and their families who face the criminality of sexual assault.
MR. LOENEN: I do want to enter the debate briefly. I was invited to do so, and I certainly want to do that, because I am proud of my community, I'm proud of the many services that we provide, and I want the House to know that virtue is not a monopoly of the other side. We too have a social conscience. We too are concerned about victims, and that's what this legislation is all about.
When it comes to services, the member mentioned Nova House, and we're proud of that. The community supports it, and this province supports it. It provides services not only to the women of my community but to women throughout the lower mainland. It's a facility that I am closely in touch with; I know the people who run it. I appreciate their dedication and efforts. In fact, I was instrumental in getting them a lottery grant for doing some renovations very recently. I have breakfast with these people.
Mr. Speaker, I am committed to those women. I am committed to the victims. I am committed to providing firstclass services, and the record will bear it out that we can always make improvements, but our community and our province provides services to our community that are absolutely second to none. I go out of my way to have breakfast with these people regularly — the various services that are run through the United Way agencies, for instance.
I am proud of what we do in Richmond. I am proud of not only the province putting in funding but also the various volunteer organizations and the municipal council working together to provide those services.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. member, I would like to bring you back to relevancy and to the principle of the bill.
MR. LOENEN: As far as victims' rights and services are concerned, I would just like to point out one additional item. Very recently, the Richmond police victims' services was funded to the tune of some $25,000 for 1988-89. I supported it, and this government supported it. In fact, next week on my monthly TV program called "Connections," I'm going to have people from the RCMP detachment explain those services to the people in my community. I know they're doing a superb job, and they are helping spread the word.
I take it ill for the member across the way to stand up and say that services are lacking in my community. We're in there caring for the people and improving things. To say that services are lacking is to misrepresent the facts, and I'm sorry the member did that.
MS. EDWARDS: I think it would be remiss to pass by this bill, which says it talks about rights and services. It may in principle be all right to talk about services in legislation when, in fact, they are limited by such mundane and directed from-centre things as things "that are reasonable in the circumstances of each case." But to suggest that rights are being given to people when they can be limited by the availability of resources and any other limits that are reasonable in circumstances of the case is not to be giving rights.
MR. BLENCOE: I want to change the direction a little bit. Perhaps my comments will be more appropriate in committee, but I just want to mention one particular aspect of victim services that has come to my attention very recently.
First I have to say that I think the government is trying in some way to make some changes in direction, and I think the Attorney-General has tried to consult. He has traveled, I understand, and I certainly applaud him for listening, but obviously we still have a long way to go. The comments made by the member for Esquimalt-Port Renfrew I think reflect that, in terms of the services side of this whole issue.
I want to talk about victims' services for those victims who are victimized outside of British Columbia and Canada. I recognize that currently there is no mandate, no legislation, that permits help or assistance for victims outside of the country.
At the moment, I am working on a case that is a particularly nasty one, where a couple were visiting on holiday and were victimized. Sexual assault was involved, and it was a very unfortunate and hideous crime. The couple are at this time seeking counselling and we have been trying to assist them. The problem that has arisen is that this particular couple is going to require assistance on a long-term basis, maybe years, and the resources that are available through mental health or psychiatric services are limited. Also, the specialized resources are not often covered by the Medical Services Plan. This couple, because they are British Columbian and Canadian and because the crime was committed outside of the country, are finding it extremely difficult to acquire the services that they desperately need.
I would like to put it on notice, and maybe we'll cover it a little more in committee, that that's an area we have to take a look at. Although the assault did not happen in British Columbia or in Canada, we do indeed have Canadians being victimized outside the country in a violent way. They come home and are faced with the limited resources and services. The case that I am working on right now.... This is the first case I've had, and it has clearly brought home to me — knowing the kind of case and the horrible circumstances — the limited services that are available to this couple who are going through incredible trauma at this time.
I just note that on the floor today, and maybe in committee the Attorney-General can comment about the possibility down the road that we can cover or expand service in this kind of circumstance.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Just a very few things. I think that the thrust of the debate — which got a little bit far afield on estimates, really, but was trying to make the point that you put services in place before you enshrine rights — is precisely what I did. There was no bill until we had put a two fiscal-year community-support program in place, gone over the province and had at least 25 public hearings. And we had them in places that are under-resourced, that don't have rich social services; we went there, not to places that have a number of agencies and a number of community organiza-
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tions. That's the way we did it. We did it to take the message out to places where it was needed, to try and get community organizations set up in various regions of the province. In some places there were organizations but a lack of services; there was overlap — or none at all. We would get umbrella organizations together and put funds into those communities. A number of community organizations received grants in Richmond, in Cranbrook and in Victoria.
So we didn't start with legislation with pious statements and then go out and try and fund them from driblets of provincial fines, as some other province did. Where we had nothing before, we tried to put in some services with volunteer organizations. I'm not talking about a whole bureaucracy of victim services. That's not the intention of this legislation. The intention of this legislation is to send a light to people in the public service and in the volunteer sector that the victims' time has come, that they're entitled to something.
To put $2 million of new money in is a considerable amount of assistance when it goes into community and volunteer groups — not to set up a bureaucracy but to help volunteer organizations. That was our approach, and that approach is working and will continue to work. We didn't guarantee things we couldn't deliver. We didn't say: "You have these absolute rights, and you can go and sue if you don't get them." We made them subject to the availability of resources, because we were honest and up front, Mr. Speaker. We followed the approach of Michigan and Minnesota and other progressive states, not jurisdictions like old Manitoba. We delivered what we said we would deliver. We didn't promise things we couldn't deliver. We put those things in place first, and we didn't guarantee what we couldn't guarantee.
HON. B.R. SMITH: Yes, we did — that's right. They don't like hearing that message, but it's very true: we put a volunteer program in place, funded it, and then passed a bill that guaranteed some rights. So I have the great honour of moving second reading.
Bill 31, Victim's Rights and Services Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Mr. Speaker, I call second reading of Bill 29.
COMMERCIAL RIVER RAFTING SAFETY ACT
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I'm going to be brief on this, Mr. Speaker, speaking to the principle of the bill. Of course, as we all know, as a result of tragic events last summer, the summer of 1987, this bill came to life. It had life breathed into it by a committee put together by the ministry, which worked very well and worked very hard. It went throughout the province, examining what had to be done for such a bill. I have to commend the chairman, Jim Millar, and members Jim Lavalley and Dan Culver. They did a very good job of canvassing the river-rafting industry, understanding what the problems were — how to regulate it, how to regulate it simply, how to bring in regulations that would make sense and which could be adhered to — and without their good advice this bill would not be in the form it's in.
It's in a form that's acceptable to the industry — and for that I'm glad. It's a form that is also.... I'm speaking to the principle only, and when we get to committee stage I'll discuss the various elements of the sections and why we're doing things the way we are. It's a bill that's typically in the form of something that comes from the Ministry of Environment, which is normally regulated by engineers. Engineers always like to put in regulations that are in fact self-regulating. They require people to put plans in place, have their plans approved and have their plans subjected to some sort of adjudication; but the person doing the planning has to develop the plans and subject them to some scrutiny. And that really is what this act does in principle.
With that said, I will simply move second reading and take my seat, and hope that we have some good debate on the bill.
MS. SMALLWOOD: I'd like to congratulate the minister for taking on the task of trying to put together some river rafting regulations. I hope these regulations are able to prevent the kinds of very serious accidents that we have seen in the past.
There have been some concerns expressed to my office about the process undertaken to develop these regulations. I hope that as we go through the clause by clause, the minister will be able to answer questions about how this legislation will affect the broad industry, because the concerns that I have had expressed to me have been with regard to the possibility that these regulations may unduly or harshly affect some of the competitors or the people who participated. We'll look at it clause by clause and see how it does affect some of the smaller operators.
Beyond congratulating the minister, I'd like to point out to him something that the report says visually. The cover picture in the report is a very unsafe river-rafting experience, as you can see. In that picture, Mr. Minister, one of the rafters is sitting on the outside of the boat with his legs dangling. I would hope that this isn't an indication of what the minister is encouraging for the river-rafting industry in this province. In addition to that, the picture shows people rafting with crests on their life jackets. The crests indicate the name of one of the companies that participated in the process. Again, that's just a symbolic reflection of some of the concerns that people have had in the past.
Perhaps these are small concerns, but at any rate it's a very serious problem and a good attempt to begin to deal with that problems. Hopefully we can look at the legislation with regard to its impact on the total industry.
MS. EDWARDS: I too would like to congratulate the minister on coining up with this bill. He faced a difficult situation in actually trying to balance a situation where wilderness tourism is an extremely important aspect of the development of an industry in British Columbia, an industry that we all pay tribute to, and also trying to keep it safe and keep it interesting. In doing that, Mr. Minister, I congratulate you on coming up with the bill.
I believe as we go through it — although I have some questions that I want to ask the minister as well — that the bill indicates the kinds of skills and balance that we're going to have to put into the regulations for these activities that are very exciting and that represent the best in recreation that
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British Columbia has to offer, but that also have to somehow be made so that the participants know that there is a degree of safety and that that safety is going to have to depend on the skill of the people involved.
I hope that that will be recognized in the bill, and, as I say, it will have more to do with how the bill goes through than with, I think, the principle of the bill itself. So that's all I have to say at second reading.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: With respect to the picture on the front, I'll also remind the assembly that they should take into account the opening line, or actually the first comment that is made in the report by the river rafting committee. They quote Helen Keller. When you think of river rafting and white water, you don't really much think of Helen Keller, but she was a very brave person, and we know why. They quote Helen Keller, and she said: "Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all." I think that really characterizes what life is all about. It certainly did for Helen Keller and I think for those of us who like to enjoy sporting activities, some of them dangerous.
I had the good fortune on the May weekend to be in Calgary for a school reunion, and they opened the bobsled run at the Olympic site and for $10 you could ride on a Luge and sign a waiver and go down. I did it, and it was really a blast. My elbows are still sore, because at about 50 miles an hour if you hit the wall it is exciting. But life is exciting, and a lot of people pay for adventure.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: No, just my elbows; not my head. They make you wear a helmet. But it was fun.
Life is definitely exciting. An awful lot of people pay for the adventure in B.C., and B.C. wilderness tourism, whether it be river rafting, heli-skiing or just wandering around, is very exciting to an awful lot of people. There's a great tourism message there, a great tourism industry there, and we're all aware of what a remarkable dollar value it is.
I wouldn't be excited about the picture, Madam Member, because the act says that the guides have to put a program in place as to what people can do in various parts of the river. The site where that picture is taken may in fact be very safe. They can hang their feet out, whatever, because there's nothing else below them. Until you know the river, which is what this legislation does, then you shouldn't worry about what's in the picture.
MR. MILLER: Does it meander at all?
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Is that a reference to me? Thanks; you say the nicest things.
I'd like to thank the member for Kootenay for again commenting on the work of the committee: Jim Millar, Jim Lavalley and Dan Culver. They really brought a remarkable expertise to the process. They were accepted by everyone who had input to them. They were certainly accepted by government, because they're outstanding people in this field. We'll have much more to say about it when we get to committee stage. So on that happy note, I'll move second reading.
Bill 29, Commercial River Rafting Safety Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: Second reading of Bill 39, Mr. Speaker.
AMENDMENTS) ACT, 1988
HON. MR. VEITCH: When I introduced this bill I indicated that the changes to the four public sector pension statutes are minor in nature. They are, however, important to show this government's continuing commitment to develop change through consultation.
As you are aware, there are four public sector pension statutes. These statutes provide pension coverage for employees who work for provincial and municipal governments, as well as for teachers, college instructors, hospital workers and the non-teaching staff in school districts and regional colleges and institutes.
In total, there are approximately 620 employers participating in these plans. These employers remit contributions on behalf of 148,000 contributors. In addition, records are kept for about 32,000 former public sector employees who have left their funds on deposit in the plans. Lastly, there are 42,000 pensioners who are currently in receipt of pension benefits.
In describing the contents of this bill, I would like to start with those changes which are being made to all four pension statutes. These changes will provide uniformity under the plans, as this is a continuing objective of this government. The first category of change relates to the improvement that will have the greatest application to women. These changes, however, have been written to provide the same access to benefit for both men and women.
They include, first, an expansion of the definition of spouse to include a common-law spouse. The new definition requires that the relationship exist for a continuous period of at least three years. This provision is overridden if there is a child resulting from the relationship and the relationship has existed for at least one year. The effect of expanding the definition of spouse will be to provide a survivor pension to common-law spouses when an employee with a common-law spouse dies prior to retirement and meets the other criteria to receive a survivor benefit. This amendment also provides protection to a former spouse where there is a written agreement or court order which is inconsistent with the terms of the plan.
Secondly, a married member who retires will now be required to elect that at least 60 percent of the retirement pension be paid to a joint life on last-survivor basis. This requirement can be waived, but only if both the husband and the wife — or the common-law arrangement — sign the waiver form.
Lastly, a member who leaves a workforce and remains at home to raise children will have such time, to a maximum of seven years for each child, excluded from any period of absence which would otherwise be considered in the break-of-service rules for the portability and reinstatement provisions of the pension.
The second category of change relates to improvements that will increase the administrative efficiency of employers and the superannuation commission in keeping onstream the records which make the program run effectively. They include: (a) effective January 1, 1989, changing the method
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by which employee and employer contributions are calculated to a basis that levels, over a calendar year, the combined contribution that a person makes to the Canada Pension Plan and the applicable public sector plan — this change will make it easier to comply with the proposed changes to the federal Income Tax Act and will ensure that the contribution and salary information which is reported by the employer is indeed accurate; (b) the eligibility provisions have been rewritten to clarify the conditions for enrolment in the pension plans.
In a few minutes I will be describing the plans' specific changes; however, the general changes which will be made are: (1) to clarify the criteria for compulsory enrolment in the plans; (2) to remove the restriction which excludes older persons; (3) to require that once an employee becomes a contributor, the employee must continue as a contributor as long as the employee continues to be employed by the same employer, regardless of the status of the employee with that employer; and (4) to provide a mechanism for resolving situations where the employer has failed to deduct employee contributions as required by the plan provisions. This clears up some ambiguity in areas such as Vancouver and Surrey and municipal plans.
The specific changes with regard to eligibility are:
(a) In the college pension plan, new full-time and continuous instructors will be required, effective September 1988, to participate in the plan. In the past, coverage has been optional for these employees.
(b) In the municipal superannuation plan, provision has been made to clarify the compulsory enrolment provisions as well. Employers can provide by resolution for the optional enrolment of casual employees.
(c) In the public service superannuation plan, the criteria for enrolment of auxiliary employees have been changed to a basis which will ensure that these employees are enrolled at the appropriate time and won't slip through the cracks as they have sometimes done in the past. MLAs have had to deal with these problems and try to help them out.
The third category of change will improve the portability arrangements between the plans and will also increase the uniformity in the plan provisions. The major change in this category will be the extension of the reinstatement provisions on a cross-plan basis. In fact, reinstatement of an earlier refund was only permitted if the person returned as a contributor to the same plan from which the refund was taken previously.
The fourth category of change provides benefits to employees who enter the public sector at older ages and who would not be able to complete ten years of contributory service prior to retirement. As I indicated to you earlier, we will no longer be excluding older employees from participation in the pension plan. As a result, employees who continue to contribute through to their maximum retirement age will receive an unreduced pension benefit calculated according to the regular pension formula, regardless of the contributor's length of service. Contributors who retire within five years of their maximum retirement age will be entitled to a reduced pension. The reduction will be 5 percent for each year the contributor's age is less than the maximum retirement age.
The last category of change is applicable to all plans. It relates to pensioners who return to public sector employment. These provisions have been tightened up so that they can be applied equally to all pensioners. They have also been changed to reflect more closely current trends which describe the pension benefit as a deferred wage; that is, something that has been earned by the employee but is not payable until a later date.
There are two specific changes of note which I would like to bring to the attention of the House. The first is in regard to the funding of the college pension plan. In the last valuation of the plan, the plan's actuary recommended that the basic contribution rates be increased to improve the funding of the pension plan. This recommendation is being implemented in part by increasing both the employee and employer contribution rates by 0.5 percent each. At the same time, the inflation adjustment contribution rate is now being reduced by 0.5 percent. This is possible because the college plan is relatively immature and therefore doesn't have the same requirements for contributions to the fund to fund the indexing provisions as do other public sector plans. The change will obviously strengthen the funding of the basic plan benefits while maintaining the funding of the indexing benefits as the strongest among the public sector plans. The funding requirements will also be improved by requiring compulsory, rather than optional, enrolment of all new full-time and continuous college instructors as at September 1, 1988.
The other noteworthy change is under the teachers' pension plan. Last year government introduced an early retirement plan called the "55 and Out" plan, which would have an application to retire if retirement occurred prior to June 30, 1989. This plan is being amended to include teachers who complete their teaching assignment as at June 30, 1989, and who attain age 55 prior to the commencement of school on September 5, 1989. The remaining changes are minor and primarily of an administrative nature.
Lastly, I wish to reiterate my earlier comments. These changes which are being proposed are viewed in a very positive manner by those individuals who participate in the plans. We have had continuous dialogue with them, including Ms. McMurphy and others. They have been determined through consultation and reflect the responsible manner in which those involved in this process deal with such issues.
The results are encouraging, particularly to those who will be affected by the changes. They also reflect the government's continuing commitment to ensure that public sector employees are treated fairly and equitably in the provision of retirement income related to their period in public sector employment. I would like to move second reading, Mr. Speaker.
MR. CLARK: I want to express cautious support for the bill. In all honesty, I haven't had a chance yet to review it in detail, because it is a very large bill. We may have a number of questions in committee stage, but I will say to the minister that there clearly are some excellent changes, and I want to say that for the record.
They are recognizing common-law relationships for the first time. We're finally moving into the twentieth century. I’m sure he hasn't checked that with the Premier, or it probably wouldn't be allowed. He's removed sexist language from the bill, for example. There are a couple of other changes — which I have dealt with on behalf of at least one constituent — that allow the payment to continue from a temporary employee, which I think is long overdue. There are clearly some changes that are first-class and overdue. I commend the minister for bringing them in.
There are some other things which I'd like to canvass in committee stage as well. One deals with limiting — and
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maybe the minister can deal with this as he wraps up — the income that a recipient of a pension can earn if that person gets a job in the public sector. As I understand it, if I was working at $40,000 a year in the public sector, and I retire and then get another job — say a junior job or a part-time job — the combination of my pension and my new salary cannot exceed my old salary.
HON. MR. VEITCH: It puts it into a fund, though.
MR. CLARK: I understand that, so maybe the minister can clarify that. We can go into a little bit of detail in committee stage. I just want to know how that works, because there clearly are potential problems. I was wondering whether this was a Garde Gardom amendment. I've been advised that MLAs' pensions are different from that, but perhaps the minister could clarify that.
So in balance I express some cautious support. I will take a chance to go through it in more detail in committee stage, but there clearly are many things in the bill that are long overdue and are significant improvements.
HON. MR. VEITCH: I want to thank the hon. member for his cautious support of the bill. He's quite correct. The amount of pension that one receives and the amount of salary that one receives as an employee, should one come back into the public service, can't exceed one's highest salary prior to leaving. We can discuss that in more detail during committee stage of the bill.
You will be interested to know that I plan to bring forward a similar sort of provision for members of the Legislative Assembly later on. With that, I want to thank the members of the House, and I move second reading.
Bill 39, Pension (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
HON. MR. STRACHAN: I call second reading of Bill 44, Mr. Speaker.
RESOURCE INVESTMENT CORPORATION
AMENDMENT ACT, 1988
HON. MR. STRACHAN: This is going to be a small debate. Don't leave. We'll be adjourned early.
HON. MR. VEITCH: I just know that the hon. first member for Vancouver East will not want to debate this bill.
MR. WILLIAMS: Barely at all.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Barely at all. I understand that.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: We'll stick to scope and principle, Provincial Secretary.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Oh, yes. The principle of this bill is that he won't want to debate it, Mr. Speaker, I am sure.
As I mentioned when this bill was introduced, it was initiated by a request from the company, the British Columbia Resources Investment Corp., to place it in a legal position no different from that of any other operating company in our province's private sector. We've reviewed the company's request and believe that the amendments proposed in this bill are both reasonable and desirable for the company, its shareholders and the people of British Columbia.
The original act creating this corporation was passed in this House in 1977, received a bit of debate, as I remember, and has been amended several times. This bill completes the process by giving the company all the freedoms and restrictions common to other companies that operate in British Columbia. While we will have an opportunity to go through this bill clause by clause in committee, I'd like to mention a few of the bill's principal features.
First of all — and I know the hon. first member for Vancouver East is listening with bated breath to all this — it changes the name of the company from British Columbia Resources Investment Corp. to Westar Group Ltd. The company and its subsidiaries are well known throughout the world by the name Westar. This amendment gives recognition to that fact, and places the company in the same position for any future name changes as any other British Columbia company operating under the Company Act of British Columbia.
This bill also eliminates the restriction on non-Canadian ownership in shares of the corporation. The company views this restriction as having a negative impact on the trading value of its shares. I'm not going to comment on that, other than to say that the company views it that way. In order to enable the company to attract a broader range of shareholders, including foreign shareholders bringing money into British Columbia to increase jobs, it has become clear that the ownership restriction should be removed.
Our government supports and encourages foreign investment in British Columbia. We operate in a super-small, open economy which requires foreign investment if we are to continue and indeed expand the lifestyle that we have in British Columbia. We believe that this amendment is both reasonable and, in terms of economic activity in British Columbia, desirable. This bill effectively repeals most other sections of the act, except for those dealing with the rights of the holders of bearer shares.
This bill will benefit the company and its shareholders. We believe it will attract more foreign investment. It will benefit British Columbia, which must trade and deal with people who do not reside in this province. It must attract capital from outside this province in order to exist and to provide the lifestyle that we do for our citizens. It completes the process started more than a decade ago when certain assets were returned to the private sector, assets which I believe should have never been bought under public ownership in the first place.
This government has no hesitation in completing that process, by allowing the company to operate generally in the same manner as other companies in our province. Indeed, we desire the best of fortune for all British Columbia companies, their employees and their shareholders. Therefore I move second reading of the Resource Investment Corporation Amendment Act, 1988.
MR. WILLIAMS: Even the Provincial Secretary had a hard time getting enthusiastic about this one. It's a dirty job, but somebody had to do it. It's BCRIC, RIP — it's BCRIC,
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rest in peace; it's BCRIC, rip-off, for the average investor in people's capitalism. At every stage of the great experiment in people's capitalism under Bill Bennett.... Remember Bill Bennett? Oh, great experiment in people's capitalism. This was the first great initiative in privatization. And here, late in the evening, in the dog days of summer, there's a burial. This is recognizing the death of BCRIC and the failure of the first big privatization scheme in British Columbia.
Remember all of the posters, folks, that were in every bank and trust company? "Invest in the people's resources company." The Premier was going around shilling for this outfit, and the people, unfortunately, were going along with it, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of their savings, in investment.
It's interesting to reflect on the original assets that went into BCRIC. It was the Canadian Cellulose Co. that was put into BCRIC, with its pulp mills in Castlegar and in Prince Rupert, and with its sawmills, again in the northwest part of the province and in the interior at Castlegar again, and Plateau Mills and shares in Westcoast Transmission, and great assets in the gas fields of the northeast. All of these were assets that were brought to this corporation. In addition, the people put in their savings, in terms of equity, to the tune of almost $500 million. So this corporation, this first bold experiment in privatization, included pulp mills, sawmills, a million acres of forest lands, gas fields, and the savings of the people, in the form of equity, of about half a billion dollars.
Ten years later, what's left of this former giant?
MR. LOVICK: Ten years of which government?
MR. WILLIAMS: A witchcraft government. Ten years, and in terms of net value there, it's in the minus quantities. You look at the capital assets of this corporation, and they are now one-eighth of what they were. There was over $2 billion in assets in plant and equipment, in real value; it is now an eighth of that. Imagine what skill it must take to fritter away $2 billion in assets down to a quarter of a billion. That takes real skill. Only the staunch followers of Social Credit, the true believers, would have the capacity to do that.
Let's track the history. The forest assets that went into BCRIC were acquired by the former administration. the New Democrats — now listen to this, Mr. Provincial Secretary — for about $20 million. That's all of the assets...
HON. MR. PARKER: And a big debt. Tell the whole truth.
MR. WILLIAMS: ...which were paid off pretty quickly, and at 5.5 percent, my friend Mr. Forests Minister. Have any of your smart friends in this administration been able to borrow at 5.5 percent from the Prudential Insurance Co.? I don't think so. No, it was a modest debt.
HON. MR. PARKER: Oh, no.
MR. WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. You don't seem to know what your friends in Westar borrowed. You don't seem to understand what your Socred appointees in Westar borrowed and then blew. They not only blew the $500 million in people's savings, they not only blew all the assets, they also blew the debt, the borrowings from the banks, which sunk them in the end. Excessive borrowing.
The Canadian Cellulose Co. and the Plateau Mills operation made over $100 million in profit in a few short years on that $20 million investment. It was extremely successful. The present Minister of Forests, who is an ideologue — if you'll pardon the pun — of the nth degree, simply doesn't understand the reality. It's now a shadow of itself, Mr. Speaker.
The interesting thing is that every time the appointees, the board and management, had to make a critical decision in this new corporation founded by Social Credit, they made the wrong decision. The wrong decisions were made in the first place by the Social Credit government, in the form of the board of directors. There was nobody on that board of directors appointed that had any background whatsoever in the resources field. The chief executive officer was appointed with no background whatsoever in the resources field. That's how they started stumbling along in this new so-called giant. That was the first mistake.
Then they got played by one of the smartest players in the corporate game in British Columbia, and his name was Edgar Kaiser. By strategically arranging things, Mr. Kaiser was able to flog off his Kaiser Resources for a huge price, along with a special contract for him, selling off the corporate plane and all the rest of it in a very neat piece of work. That was right at the point when coal prices and profits were at their maximum, and they've been on a downhill slide ever since. Then, with all the know-how, the special board this government appointed embarked on a $600 million investment in Kaiser Resources, and they have never recovered from that first step.
Not satisfied with that one bad step, they carried on, and again, at every stage, they made the wrong decision. This is a company called British Columbia Resources Investment Corp. The next big step was to move into North Sea oil, and they made a deal that carried with it such incredibly huge capital commitments that it started sinking them as well, and they had a heck of a time getting out of that one — a $75 million write-off on the North Sea oilfields alone.
I wonder if government members over there know how much they wrote off in the mining company in the previous year. You don't really keep track, do you, because it's embarrassing.
Then this outfit was pressured by the banks to sell off their assets — the pulp mills. Through the pressure of the banks, they ended up selling off their pulp mills at the beginning of the biggest boom in modern history in pulp prices. The very same people sold off the Prince Rupert pulp mills and the Castlegar operations. Do you know who they sold the Castlegar operations to? Why, the People's Republic of China.
HON. MR. PARKER: Only 50 percent.
MR. WILLIAMS: Only 50 percent says the Minister of Forests and Lands. Very good. And a Quebec outfit. It wasn't your friends in Taiwan, the People's Republic of China got the biggest deal in pulp history. With Canadian savings they picked up 50 percent, along with Bathurst, and they're on their way. Then they also sold off the Prince Rupert operation to Repap, and the government came along and funded threequarters of that sale through a loan from the B.C. Development Corporation — which, remember, lost $500 million dollars before you buried that in the last session.
The interesting thing about the sale to Repap is that they ended up putting it on their books subsequently for $125 million more than they paid for it from Westar, and they were able to sell shares and pick up that $125 million. That went
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into Mr. Petty's pocket. This clever sale from BCRIC ended up doing Repap and Mr. Petty extremely well.
Since then pulp prices have doubled, and the profits are extraordinary. I understand the cash flow at Prince Rupert a couple of months ago was running at $12 million a month. They sold this off under the pressure of the banks, and they've ended up with barely nothing left in terms of assets. They've got the sawmills, the port and the mines. Five years ago this company had assets of $2 billion; they now have one-eighth of that. They wrote off the mining operations in the past year — $324 million. They wrote off $75 million in the North Sea, and in the past fiscal year the losses in this company total $307.8 million. Is it any wonder they want to change their name? It's no wonder at all.
They still have long-term debt. The long-term debt they're carrying right now is $464 million. They started out with that much in cash, plus all the assets.
MR. WILLIAMS: No, it's okay. I am the designated speaker, I believe.
At any rate, it has been a monumental failure. The Provincial Secretary gets up in the House just a few minutes ago and says: "One of the reasons we are changing this is so that it won't be local people alone who invest in BCRIC, or Canadian citizens." I guess not. The word's out. The people around here know what BCRIC is. It's been the biggest corporate disaster in the modern history of British Columbia, and they are going to have a hard time getting British Columbians to put up money for it again.
MR. WILLIAMS: No, I did not. After all, I was involved in the initial process with Can-Cel, which was a great success.
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, maybe the Minister of Forests (Hon. Mr. Parker), who pretends to be such an expert, can get up and deal with this. He hasn't looked at the books. He doesn't seem to understand. Have you read the latest annual report of Westar, Mr. Minister? Do you want to read this last report of Westar? "A change in name allowing the company to mirror the name of" — Westar — "is one of our 1988 goals." Big goal. "...fundamental restructuring of the company...has already taken place." "... more than a cosmetic change...." "New management, a cleaned-up balance sheet...." Etc., etc. "Westar, as a diversified...company, has taken its lumps in the cyclical downturns...." That's the understatement of the century. You go through this annual report, and it's just a chronicle of disaster, year after year. Ten years of failure.
This was to be a company that the people of British Columbia invested in, that developed the resources of British Columbia. They frittered it all away. This was Privatization I. Ten years later you are moving into Privatization II and III.
MR. CLARK: Son of BCRIC.
MR. WILLIAMS: Son of BCRIC coming up. All in all, it has been a monumental failure. Little wonder that you wait until the end of the session to dump this load. I feel sorry for the Provincial Secretary, being stuck with this smeller. It's the kind of thing that the Premier should have brought on himself, because he's the new champion of privatization and it would have been enjoyable discussing this with the Premier as we embark on Privatization II and III.
The name isn't going to make much of a change, I'm afraid. We can wish them well, but there's not much left of what was and could have been a significant giant corporation that could have benefited all British Columbians. It has done none of that. They embarked on adventures abroad. They failed. They got suckered by the smartest corporate players around, and they lost hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions. And we've lost employment; we've lost almost 2,000 jobs through the failure of this company. They used to employ about 2,000 more people than they do today.
It is a failed giant. It is an idea that did not work. You are embarking on the same program again and we will pay the price again.
MR. CLARK: I will just speak very briefly. I think this bill is very instructive, because it is a precursor of things to come in British Columbia. It's back to the future. We have a government now embarking upon privatization, and they are saying: "We're not going to allow foreign companies to come in and take over the Hydro, gas division. No, we wouldn't do that." It's funny; they said that ten years ago.
I just quickly looked up the definition. It says: "We are not going to allow non-residents of Canada to buy shares." Bill 45, which is the next bill after this 44, defines "nonresident of Canada" from (a) to (g). I look at the old BCRIC bill ten years ago, and the definition of "non-resident of Canada" is identical. They have lifted this clause out of the BCRIC bill and put it into the Hydro privatization bill. Isn't that ironic? Today we are removing the restrictions on foreign ownership in the BCRIC bill. Ten years from now we will be in here removing — if these guys get elected, that is, the next two times....
MR. CLARK: That's right, they'll be in here bringing a bill in, if they do. If they get their way, they will be in here bringing a bill in removing the restrictions on foreign ownership of the Hydro gas division.
The question is: can you trust these guys? They're all cheering. It's typical. They're cheering because we're removing the restrictions on foreign ownership.
When the minister introduces the bill, he says: "This is important because that's the reason the price is depressed." We didn't know that. It's because of these restrictions on foreign ownership. That's why the price is down. It has nothing to do with incompetence in government; it has nothing to do with the incompetence of the management. Of course, they're saying: "Well, we're not going to sell the Hydro gas division. We're not going to allow foreign owners." But the minister hasn't said that that was going to depress the trading price. In fact, he said we were going to get $800 million for this public asset, but then he brought in changes which you're now saying are going to depress the price of the public's assets. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Minister.
I think it's very clear from this bill that what we're going to see with privatization doesn't mean anything. What's
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politically good and what they think is politically desirable they'll put in at the time, as they did ten years ago and as they're doing today; but down the road, if they want, they'll change the rules. They say there's a freeze on the Hydro rates, but it's not in the bill. Can we trust the government to deal with that?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.
MR. CLARK: Just like this bill we see before us today.
It is ironic that they're bringing in this legislation today on the verge of a major sellout of public assets in British Columbia. It's so ironic that they blew it then and we're going to pay the consequences in the future.
MR. MILLER: I've spoken in the House before about the fact that I was an employee of one of the companies that was transferred to BCRIC, and I just want to relate from that point of view the events that transpired over the last ten years. My colleague the second member for Vancouver East talks about trust, and the residency provisions that were contained in the original resources bill and are now being gutted in this bill today, and cautions people about the true intentions of governments when they bring legislation in. What do they really mean? Well, if you're talking about trust, I guess you really have to ask yourself if you would trust somebody who sold shares at $6, and they're now worth 85 cents.
AN HON. MEMBER: Eighty-four.
MR. MILLER: Oh, 84 cents. Pardon me. I would suggest to the members that that does not exactly engender trust.
I'm a bit disappointed in the government. We should be having a wake for BCRIC. This is the gutting, the death, the funeral of BCRIC, the first major privatization initiative brought in by a Social Credit administration and an absolute failure. The Provincial Secretary, in his rather lame — I'm afraid I have to say that, Mr. Provincial Secretary — remarks when introducing this bill, talked about the desire to attract offshore capital. Well, that sounds all very nice. What do we want to do — get back what we lost, what we dropped in the North Sea? Do we want to try and get that back now? Is that the purpose of this bill — that we want to attract back all that capital that we lost?
[Mr. Weisgerber in the chair.]
I think it's worth looking at the record. I think words are important. I think what people say in this House is very important, because in the final analysis it's not just a dry bill with its dry sections. What gives life and breath to a bill are the words spoken when it is introduced and debated in this chamber. That's the real life of a bill, and it's contained in Hansard. I think it's entirely appropriate in this wake — as is the custom, I'm sure, when we gather for the departed — to read a few words into the record. I see they're waving white flags over there, and they'll be waving them again in 1990.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members, let's keep it down to a dull roar here. We'll all have an opportunity to stand up and speak.
MR. MILLER: I'm looking forward, Mr. Speaker, to the defence that's going to be offered by members on the government side. Before they have the opportunity, I want to complete my remarks. I want to refer the members to April 7, 1978.
MR. WILLIAMS: April 1?
MR. MILLER: Well, no, it was a little after April 1; but the joke was on the people of this province.
These words were uttered by the then Premier, Mr. Bennett, on page 226 of Hansard, April 7, 1978:
"Mr. Speaker. the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation will provide the people of British Columbia with a tremendous investment opportunity, a voluntary investment opportunity to participate in a company that will be British Columbian and Canadian, because the legislation provides that."
That's what his intention was. I'm sure he's probably disappointed that this administration that he no longer heads is now bringing in legislation to gut the provisions that he so ably defended back in 1978.
"It will provide them with this opportunity, and I look forward to the day, which will come soon, in which they will have that opportunity to make such an investment."
Little did the people know, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Bennett had a few more words to say, and I think we want to canvass the full range of opinion he offered at that time. This was debated quite extensively, and in support of the people of this province, my colleagues offered reasons why this privatization initiative would not work. There was lots of debate over this issue.
I should add that when I say I speak as an employee, I did work for that company, and I'm quite aware of what happened prior to the then administration acquiring the assets of that company. There are members of the Social Credit Party who are quite aware of it as well, who are quite aware of the fact that a pulp mill was going to be shut down and some 900 people were going to be thrown out of work, and that the government of the day did not respond to the entreaties of the workers in that mill, refused to listen to them, and that the New Democratic Party administration did listen to them, did acquire that asset and did save the jobs in my community. They all remember that, Mr. Speaker.
We remember, further, that the worst operating period in the history of that company was when it was privatized under BCRIC; when it was shut down longer than any other pulp mill in this province; when more people lost their jobs than in any other pulp mill in this province. So we're quite aware — from a very personal point of view — how bad BCRIC management was, what a bad idea it was.
It is quite a contrast to the assurances offered by the then Premier, Mr. Bennett. I have spoken about what, in my opinion, should have been illegal — for the Premier to go on television and tell people to rush down and buy those shares. I'm sure the Premier bought some; I think he took a bath. I'm sure there are some members over there.... Maybe we should go through them. and they can stand up and tell us how much they lost, and how much they enjoyed it.
Nonetheless, the Premier continued his sterling defence of BCRIC on May 3, 1978. He's speaking about BCRIC and he says:
"This will, I hope, be enthusiastically received by the people of British Columbia, as an opportunity to
[ Page 5182 ]
harness their capital and to have a major public company in the private sector that will be our own British Columbia company."
Our own little company.
"The company is restricted to first issue in British Columbia, and Canadian ownership."
That was a real point.
"It will be our own company in size and substance, our private sector corporation" — oh, this is interesting — "and our measurement against the multinational corporations."
Really, the more you go back and review the activities of this administration over the past ten years, on a strictly financial basis, the more you have to come to the conclusion that they have largely been a failure.
MR. JANSEN: Go away.
MR. MILLER: The member for Chilliwack says: "Go away." I can well understand why he would want me to go away, and why he would want this bill to go away and why he would want this issue to go away, because, quite frankly, it's embarrassing.
I want to further quote the Premier in the same section of Hansard, May 3, page 1047.
MR. MILLER: I hear the second member for Kamloops (Mr. S.D. Smith) heckling down in the corner, but I'm sure I won't be hearing him standing up defending the development of BCRIC.
MR. MILLER: Oh, he's going to. Well, we look forward to that, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps he will speak for the former Premier.
Nonetheless, on with the speech. I think these words need to be quoted. The former Premier said on the same page:
" I believe it to be a great opportunity in this province, not only for the people, but to have a private sector corporation which is neither run by the hand of government nor has the hand of government compromised by both the policy and the opportunities which it has."
I don't know what that means, and maybe that's a reflection of why BCRIC has been such an absolute and dismal failure.
I could go on, but I'm going to save the members opposite. I would recommend, though, for any of them with short memories — and selective memories.... There may be some over there who remember. Nonetheless, I would recommend that they read the Hansard of the day and the debates that occurred around the establishment of the B.C. Resources Investment Corporation, and the very good points that were made by members on this side of the House with respect to the creation of that corporation and the folly in proceeding in the direction they did. They're always trying to cast us in a negative vein. We do offer very positive comments and suggestions; unfortunately, these guys never listen. They won't listen. As a result of their not listening, we are in the sad position that we are today.
I can make only one further recommendation before I allow members opposite to rise and support the bill — support the development of BCRIC in the first instance; I'm really looking forward to that. That is, I think the government really missed an opportunity here. It seems to me that if you took assets owned by the people in this province, held by the government of this province, and sold them to them.... We could never figure out how that happened. It's like buying your own car or your own house twice. They took assets that were owned by the people and sold them to them at $6 a share. Those were the original values. Five free shares worth $30. They were giving you back your piece of the investment. By my calculations, those shares are now worth about $4.25. They've lost $25.75.
I think the Provincial Secretary should have included an amendment in this bill to pay back those shareholders of British Columbia who got suckered $25.75. The least they could do is give them their money back, because it was a bum deal.
MR. MICHAEL: I can only assume, by what the member for Prince Rupert has said, that that is going to be NDP policy in the next election. They are going to give full reimbursement to all of the investors who invested in BCRIC shares. It's on the record, and I assume that is what's going to happen.
I find the remarks and the arguments very interesting in listening to the debate. I reflect back on the years when BCRIC was formed. I reflect back on the years prior to that when all the advice, all the wisdom, indicated that investment in the resource industries of British Columbia had to be a good deal. I'm sure many of the members opposite can remember the books published by the Club of Rome. Mankind at the Turning Point. I remember it well. Limits to Growth. Our famous ex-Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau, was a member of the great Club of Rome. I believe the head man was the chief executive officer of Volkswagen. All those books indicated a reduction in the resource industries and the resource wealth throughout the world. All the basic metals.... Copper was going to come to an abrupt end in the early part of the next century. Oil and gas was a foregone conclusion, diminished by the end of this century; aluminum, nickel and coal by the middle of the following century. All those statistics were printed by those so-called experts. The geniuses of the world assembled and made these predictions.
Along with that, all of the investment thrust in those years was toward the resource industries — no question about it. This government appointed certain people. They made certain investment decisions. What the members opposite are trying to do now is to hold our government accountable for the investment decisions made by that board of directors. That's what they're saying.
Let's draw some comparisons. I can remember a province in this great country — the province of Saskatchewan — looking at the fantastic wealth being made in the potash fields in Saskatchewan. What did they do? They went out there and bought out holus-bolus I don't know how many companies in the area of potash. What did they lose on that? Let's do some comparisons. At that point in time, it was the logical, fair, understandable judgment decision for them to make.
Let's talk about Manitoba and Manfor Ltd. Let's talk about the forest industry and the millions of dollars. Let's talk about the shoe factory in Saskatchewan that the government got involved in. My god, the list goes on and on of all these so-called smart decisions made with all the evidence at hand
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at those particular points in time. No question about it — a great many planners and advisers were involved in guiding these people to those decisions. It's true, they made bad judgment calls.
I can think of other instances. I can think of Panco Poultry back in the early part of 1973-74. Let's talk about that for awhile. I want to look for a minute — if you want to talk about bad decisions — at the province of Manitoba and the hydro rates that were negotiated with the Americans in comparison to what we are doing here in British Columbia. They are getting 30 percent to 40 percent less than what we are getting in British Columbia with negotiators through B.C. Hydro.
Mr. Speaker, I could stand here all day and give comparisons of what is right or wrong, and who made good or bad decisions. But even with the best evidence at hand, look at last October on the stock market. All the advice was that the market was going up. All of a sudden, it crunched and went down. Are you going to hold the government to blame for that as well?
I think the point has been made that judgment, wisdom and the best advice — yes, at certain times.... I would advise the members and anyone who bought shares: don't forget you had an opportunity to sell those shares at $9 if you wanted to sell at a particular point in time. They did increase 50 percent in value within a very few months. I was never an investor in BCRIC, but I know other people who got in at $6 and out at $9. Perhaps that was one of the wisest investment moves I've made. Nonetheless, people did make money in it. The trouble with the losers is they're crying now because they didn't get out at the right time.
MR. LOVICK: We on this side were beginning to wonder whether anybody over there would make an effort to defend. After hearing the last speaker, I can see that we're still wondering. Is anybody going to defend? Apparently the argument from the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke is that we're all only human, and we should be humble. Again, given the source, I have to agree; I think that's a fair argument.
AN HON. MEMBER: They made a mistake.
MR. LOVICK: They made a mistake. When we heard the Provincial Secretary first introduce this bill, I thought my ears deceived me. I thought he was saying that we're going to take a company that was really unique, change the name and modify it so it becomes a company just like any other. That was the basis of the comment. Then I thought perhaps I misunderstood, so I read his comments, and I found that was indeed the case.
Then I looked at the guts of the bill, which is clause 2 in which we talk about changing the name and also changing the memorandum of the company. I quote: "...is deemed to be altered by deleting the name 'British Columbia Resources Investment Corporation' and substituting the name 'Westar Group Ltd."' I suddenly was reminded of revisionist history, because what revisionist history does is effectively say: if you change the names and rewrite it, guess what? It didn't happen; it disappeared.
I suspect that's the real agenda in all of this. because certainly you would think that a good, loyal minister of the Social Credit government would want to praise the history of that government and would want to say that we trod, tread, treaded — whatever the verb is.... We went where people had not the courage to go before, and we set the example of people's capitalization for the world. Instead, what we got was the Provincial Secretary coming not to praise it, but to bury it as deeply and as quietly as possible.
I wonder why that's the case. Is it simply the fact that it is a colossal failure? Is it just that simple? You would think that the Provincial Secretary might have had the temerity to at least share that with us and say: "Look, sorry, we made a mistake. It was a terrible screw-up. We didn't do a good job. It didn't work." All the talk about people's capitalism; all the talk about taking it to the folks so that they can control their own destiny; all the suggestions about privatizing and saying,"We don't need to rely on foreign investment and outsiders to make our decision" — was all that talk merely air? Or have we indeed gone back into some kind of time warp?
Then I thought: "Well, wait a minute. We are all being much too critical. We are not listening closely enough to the real arguments about privatization." I want to square with you, Mr. Speaker, the great defence of BCRIC that I heard at a privatization conference. This is what we called the Fraser Institute defence.
MR. WILLIAMS: You went?
MR. LOVICK: I went, and I listened to a panel discussion about precedents for privatization. The speaker on the panel talking to us about BCRIC — and what a marvellous episode that was in our history: what a marvellous exemplar of privatization that was — just happened to be the biographer of W.A.C. Bennett, otherwise known as the hagiographer, because it was really St. W.A.C. Bennett in that book, as we all recall. What that person did — and, oh, we recall him — is write another book, a recent one. What was it called? "Accession," "Succession." "Excess" — something like that. In any event. that book purports to lay out the new reality for B.C. in the eighties and beyond.
That author presented a brilliant argument. You know what it was? It said that contrary to what all you poor folks out there who are now trying to flog your shares for 85 cents a pop think, that it was a failure, BCRIC was a marvellous success. And you know why it was a marvellous success, according to this official orthodoxy — what we must assume is the official orthodoxy of Social Credit, given that they are still embracing the same concept? The argument was that it was a success because we were able to divest ourselves of other resources as quickly as we did. That was the whole argument. And one says: "Well, wait a minute. Is that really an accomplishment?"
Then you ask: "How did they do it?" What they did, of course, is give away a considerable asset, needless to say, already paid for, already owned by the people. They gave it away and used that as the marketing technique to then flog shares, and moreover. we act what was about as close as you could possibly get to an official guarantee that this was a good deal. Who told us that" The Premier of the province went on television and told folks that this was a good deal. "Believe me, this is a good deal." They wondered why it was a success, and yet that argument is still being used: BCRIC was a success because they showed how you do it.
It gets a little more sinister, and I'm not going to be in a jocular mood at this point, because in Fraser Institute terminology, the model used for BCRIC is now called BCRICing
[ Page 5184 ]
in the official literature. That's a legitimate concept. It's a term used to talk about share giveaways and how you divest yourself of public resources.
MR. JONES: Loss leader.
MR. LOVICK: There's a loss leader. You're darned right; that's exactly right, my colleague from Burnaby.
The problem, though, is that we — all of us who have common sense, all of us who aren't about to be snowed by some right-wing ideological tripe — can recognize pretty clearly that this is just a numbers game. This doesn't have any value; this doesn't have any validity. And I would just like to, for the record, demonstrate the response to this bill, Mr. Provincial Secretary, because you may think that a name change doesn't matter, and after all, all is forgiven, but I don't think all is either forgiven or forgotten.
Let me just share a couple of little tidbits. I noticed two editorials and a very brief editorial in the Province yesterday.
MR. WILLIAMS: It's the only kind they have.
MR. LOVICK: Yes, it's the only kind. It's Province journalism — short and sweet. The headline, appropriately enough, is: "Short Memories?" and it reads as follows: "The B.C. Resources Investment Corp., which was supposed to be Bill Bennett's shining example of people's capitalism, is to be renamed Westar Group Ltd. BCRIC has certainly lost its shine after seeing its shares plunge to persistent lows in value. But will the name change really help the losers to forget?" The obvious answer to that question is no.
I am unaccustomed to reading things into the record at any length, but I'd like to read something else into the record, lest we forget. This is another editorial from a Victoria paper, the Times-Colonist. Again, I think the headline is significant,"Obituary of a Mistake: Lest We Forget." "Deaths and Funerals" is the heading:
"BCRIC — euthanized peacefully June 14, 1988, in Victoria, B.C., aged 10. Born in Victoria in 1978, the illegitimate offspring of former B.C. Premier William Bennett and the Socred Party. Cut loose by government in 1979, BCRIC was adopted by 1.8 million British Columbians (some were unwilling). Roughly $6 at birth, BCRIC quickly grew to $9. But the infant became anemic and was a skeletal 85 cents at the end. Left to mourn are BCRIC's parents; a remnant clone, Westar Group Ltd.; and a precious few others. There will be no memorial service and the family requests no flowers. Those who wish to do so may send donations to the Mobile Home for Decrepit Politicians."
I would suggest — if the last line is the telling and the right one, because the home for people who can do this kind of thing will indeed be mobile, will indeed be temporary — that the imagination that produced this turkey is decrepit indeed.
HON. MR. VEITCH: Now I understand. You can dress these people up, you can put them in a nine-piece suit and send them out, but they're not going to change. I can tell you that right now.
The policy of the NDP and what they intend to do should.... Heaven forbid they ever become government again! Mr. Speaker, in case you hadn't noticed this vein running through all of the debate we had, they want to go out again and buy the whole world. It becomes an asset you see, somehow or other, because the government owns it. It doesn't cost anything because the government owns it, and they can run it and somehow or other run it better.
Just a little bit of history, and I'll be just as relevant as the hon. members were with respect to this bill. A little bit of NDP history. I remember the night in 1972, when W.A.C. Bennett lost and Dave Barrett became Premier of the province. I got up early the next morning and looked out, and the sun was still in the sky. I couldn't understand why, really, but it was still there, for whatever set of reasons.
Then I saw a little clip on television, and here was Mr. Barrett, then the Premier, roaming around the buildings here. The TV guy, I don't know who it was at the time — maybe it was still Clem Chapple or somebody — came up to him and shone the thing in his face and said: "What are you doing?" He said: "Oh, this is mine. The Queen gave it to me yesterday." That's what they thought. They thought that they owned the whole damned province, that the government owned the whole province because the Queen gave it to Mr. Barrett yesterday.
They don't understand the system that makes things work in this country, in this world, and free enterprise. They don't understand that you can win sometimes, and you can lose sometimes, but there is no guarantee that you are going to do either. You don't just prop it up with government all the time because someone.... You have an absolute right in this country, in this province to win, and you've got the same damned right to lose, and that's what the system is all about. They don't seem to understand.
I remember some of the wonderful things that happened that they bought — relevant to this bill — after the Queen gave Mr. Barrett the whole province, gave him this building and gave him this whole province; it all belonged to him, all belonged to the socialists. I remember what happened at that time. They bought "Pinko" Poultry. Do you remember that one? They bought that. Then there was another one. It was a very interesting thing about it.
There was a fellow here, I can't remember his name now. He was about my size and girth and he owned a Dairy Queen. He was a kind of a genius. He said: "Mr. Premier, Premier Barrett, we ought to nationalize all the Dairy Queens in the province. You ought to do that because that would be a good thing to do, and if we nationalize the Dairy Queens, we could get into the milk business, and we could do a whole bunch of other things here in the province."
Barrett said: "Hey, that's why you're not Premier and I'm Premier. I've got the brains and I'm smart." He said: "What we'll do is we'll have a pilot project." What they did is they bought an old Esso station over here on the Inner Harbour, and they called it Barrett's Beanery. Do you remember that? And what happened? They lost $40,000 the first year, and another $50,000 or $60,000 or $100,000 the next year, and Barrett said: "See, we should never, never socialize the Dairy Queen. That's why I'm Premier. I know what I'm talking about."
HON. MR. RICHMOND: And then he went into the hotel business.
HON. MR. VEITCH: They went into hotels; they bought the Glenshiel over here. That was another brilliant entrepreneurial move these people did.
[ Page 5185 ]
HON. MR. VEITCH: The Comrade Hilton, they used to call it. Really wonderful!
Another thing they did. They talk about when they bought all these wonderful assets and the mining. During that time they turned ore into rock. You'd never believe it. It was interesting. The whole mining business had Nimsick-ness. It was just about ready to....
Twelve hundred days and twelve hundred nights of disastrous government that's never going to happen in the province of British Columbia again. They built railcars in Squamish. Then they bought out Ocean Falls. All sorts of wonderful.... They were great people.
What they don't understand is that in this business, under a private enterprise system, you can win and you can lose. They took about $700 million and pumped it down the drain and left another couple of hundred million dollars of debt. During the time when the whole economy of the whole world was on the ascendancy and British Columbia's economy should have been on the ascendancy, this bunch pumped it down the drain. They don't understand the open economy principle. We're talking about private enterprise and about how the system works, and they don't understand that under our system.... We just don't have as many people here. The Premier said we've got about three million people here in this province, and for heaven's sake, we spend about $4 billion a year on health care. Where do you think that comes from? It comes from selling things to other folks and bringing in investment from other places — open economy. We're just a small, little open economy. We have to send things. We need foreign investment. Should these guys come back in style again, they would chase away the foreign investment, and you could see what would happen to an economy that's just starting to move out from that great recession we had.
They just don't seem to understand. It's interesting, the promise that was made tonight. They said that if they ever come back into power again — this is what came through to me from the hon. member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Miller) — the NDP would repay all the BCRIC shareholders who happened to lose some money. That's a promise they made tonight, and that will be most interesting should it ever happen, heaven forbid.
Mr. Speaker, the NDP aren't bad people. They're good people — even this group over here. Some of my best friends are socialists. But I want to tell you what the problem is, Mr. Speaker: their whole philosophy...
HON. MR. VEITCH: If you'd just listen for one minute...makes people dependent upon the government. They don't seem to understand that if they can't bring in dependency, if they can't go out and buy everything and bring it in, so that everyone is working for the government and becoming increasingly dependent, even for basic needs, they can't get elected. That's the secret of the whole thing.
Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. It's a bill for our times. I move second reading.
Motion approved on division.
Bill 44, Resource Investment Corporation Amendment Act, 1988, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. Mr. Strachan moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 8:49 p.m.
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
23 Mr. R. G. Fraser asked the Hon. the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations the following question:
Will the Minister advise this House if he would consider introducing legislation leading to a foundation for designated charitable organizations similar to the foundations for universities?
The Hon. M. B.Couvelier replied as follows:
"It would not be possible for the Province to design legislation to provide charities with the tax treatment provided the university foundations.
"The Federal Income Tax Act provides some tax advantage for donations to the Crown and to agents of the Crown over donations to registered charities. In the case of the university foundations, agent of the Crown status was accomplished by structuring the foundations and their activities to satisfy Federal requirements that the foundations should be, in fact, actual agents of the Crown.
"This cannot be accomplished in the case of private charities whose management and use of funds are not subject to Provincial Government policy and which, therefore, cannot be agents of the Crown."
[ Page 5186 ]
22 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations the following question:
What were the total surcharge payments by the Teck Corporation and Quintette Coal to B.C. Rail to help defray the capital cost of constructing the Tumbler Ridge branch line in the calendar year 1987?
The Hon. M. B. Couvelier replied as follows:
"Total surcharge payments by Teck Corporation and Quintette Coal relating to the Tumbler Ridge branch line were $17.4 million in 1987. This consisted of $13.1 million from Quintette Coal and $4.3 million from the Teck Corporation."
23 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations the following questions:
With regard to the surtax on Provincial income tax:
1. How many individuals paid this surtax, or are estimated to pay re 1986 and 1987?
2. What was the total amount collected for these same periods?
The Hon. M. B. Couvelier replied as follows:
"1. In 1986 there were two surtaxes: The British Columbia high income surtax, levied on Provincial income tax in excess of $3,500; and the British Columbia Health Care Maintenance Surtax. All the approximately 1. 3 million British Columbia taxpayers in 1986 paid the Health Care Maintenance Surtax, while an estimated 100,000 individuals paid the high income surtax. Both surtaxes were eliminated for 1987.
"2. In 1986, the Health Care Maintenance Surtax raised $170 million and the high income surtax on Provincial tax in excess of $3,500 raised $35 million."
24 Mr. Stupich asked the Hon. the Minister of Finance and Corporate Relations the following questions:
1. For 1986/87, what was the breakdown of social service tax revenue between that paid by consumers and that paid by industry?
2. For fiscal year 1987/88, what is the estimated breakdown between that paid by consumers and that paid by industry?
The Hon. M. B. Couvelier replied as follows:
"1. For 1986/87, approximately 55 per cent of social service tax was paid by consumers and 45 per cent was paid by industry.
"2. For fiscal year 1987/88, it is estimated that the breakdown between these two groups will be approximately 53 per cent for consumers and 47 per cent for industry."