1992 Legislative Session: 1st Session, 35th Parliament
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22, 1992
Volume 2, Number 8
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The House met at 2:06 p.m.
B. Copping: I am very pleased to introduce a lifelong friend -- our grandmothers played together, and our mothers, and we did -- Norma Popescul. Would the House please make her welcome.
E. Barnes: I'd like to introduce some very special visitors who are in the members' gallery: the consul general for Germany, Mr. Siegfried Haller, and his wife Waltraut Haller. Mr. Haller has been the consul general in British Columbia for the past four years. He is, I understand, the dean of the consular corps in the province. He will be retiring soon, leaving for Bonn in mid-May. I would like to say that he is a very interesting person. We had lunch together today along with some other members in the Legislature. I'd like to ask the House if they would join me in making Mr. and Mrs. Haller welcome and wishing them safe speed on their return to Bonn in mid-May, which is about three weeks from now.
J. Tyabji: I'd like to introduce, first of all, my companion for the last two days, someone small you might have seen running through the House, and also someone I consider could be the most patient man in the province: my husband, Kim Sandana and my daughter Kiri.
Hon. E. Cull: It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, Lynn Hunter, and her assistant Carol Lane, who are visiting us today. I'm especially pleased that Lynn could be here today on Earth Day as she's the federal New Democrat international environment critic. I ask the House to join me in making both of them welcome.
F. Garden: I've got a very special guest I'd like you to make welcome today. He's actually from the hon. opposition leader's riding of Powell River. He's my son Ken. He's sitting up there, and he's with my wife Margaret. Make them welcome, please.
L. Reid: I'd like to recognize today Jack Rantanen, the superintendent of the Richmond schools, accompanied by Bruce Bierstow. I ask the House to please make them welcome.
Hon. A. Edwards: Hon. Speaker, I would like to introduce today a group of 25 professional managers and Prof. Don Balmer, who are from Lewis and Clark College under the sponsorship of Bonneville Power Administration. They're here visiting in the Legislature today. Please help me make them welcome.
G. Wilson: Hon. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The members of the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the school trustees have made it fairly clear that there is an immediate need for roughly $86 million in order to maintain current levels of education delivery in the province of British Columbia. Would the Premier take the $80 million that is earmarked for expansion in the fall and commit that on an emergency basis to sustain the current level of education in the province today?
Hon. M. Harcourt: The answer to that question is no.
G. Wilson: Hon. Speaker, it is noted, if indeed the Premier will not commit the money that is earmarked and is already in the bank, that roughly $582 million is budgeted toward school construction this year. Will the Premier agree to take $86 million of the $582 million and put that into the delivery of educational services in order to maintain the current level of service that we enjoy today?
Hon. M. Harcourt: Hon. Speaker, I find it a very unsatisfactory solution that students, who are living their school day in seismically unsound old school buildings, continue to live in those unsound buildings. That is unacceptable; that's what that capital money is going for. It is unacceptable that in schools in Surrey, the majority of the students are in portables instead of in decent, new facilities. Those schools would become even more crowded in the fast-growing areas of this province, with students in more portables. I don't find that acceptable for our children.
So the answer again is no. I have made it very clear that this government has treated the education of our children with the highest priority. We have provided a 9.1 percent increase in education: an increase in spending for every school district in this province. We have provided $300 million in extra funding for education. We are treating it with the highest priority. As well, we have provided extra funding for high-growth areas, for English as a second language and for the school meals program. I think we've shown the respect that our children deserve. It is a tough budget year for everybody. We say that we're going to have to be creative in how we can live with what the taxpayers of British Columbia can afford.
G. Wilson: Coming back to the capital fund, some would argue that you shouldn't go out and buy a new car if you haven't got the money to put fuel in the one you're already driving. It would seem to me that if we're looking at capital construction but do not have the money to keep teachers employed to provide the current level of educational service, the provision of $86 million out of a $580 million capital budget, on a one-time-only, emergency basis, would be a good way to go.
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My question is: could the Premier tell us what educators, parents and school trustees have to do to get action from this government on what is an emergency situation in education? Do they have to come out with placards on the front lawn and sing "Solidarity Forever," or go into a closed meeting with the appropriate minister to "Let's Make a Deal," to get some action from this government? Is that what we have to do? What must educators do to get some real action on this emergency situation, so that we can maintain and sustain current levels of education?
Hon. M. Harcourt: Hon. Speaker, these are priority requests from the school boards themselves for funding necessary new schools or for upgrading old schools. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that it's not a question of fixing up an old car; it's fixing up an old car that is rust-filled and is unsafe to put our children in. We want to make sure that the car our children travel in is safe, secure, warm and not overcrowded. That is as important for the learning conditions of our young people as saying to the taxpayers of British Columbia that there's only so much money.
We have put a tremendous amount of investment in education in this budget. The only other solution.... I think it's regrettable that the suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition is that we should go out and borrow more money. That's basically what he's saying: leave the schools unsafe and unhealthy for our children; or borrow now from funds that are required next fall for increased enrolment.
The Speaker: Order, hon. members.
Hon. M. Harcourt: The solution is very straightforward: we all have to live within what the taxpayers of British Columbia can afford. If the money isn't there, we cannot spend it.
PAYMENT OF MEMBERS' LEGAL FEES
C. Serwa: My question today is to the Minister of Labour with respect to the Firestone case. If the minister's personal legal costs were deemed to be an appropriate public expense of his previous role as opposition critic, and even though some of these funds were expended after he became a minister, perhaps the minister can explain why the settlement costs were not also paid from public funds.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Point of order. Members of this House know that questions to ministers should be addressed in respect of matters under their responsibility. This question is an issue that was current in the previous parliament. It is not the responsibility of the Minister of Labour and Consumer Services and is therefore out of order.
J. Weisgerber: Certainly if we take ourselves back to that last parliament, most of question period then was in fact out of order, because we spent months and months on questions that were of a particular....
The Speaker: On the point of order, please.
J. Weisgerber: Well, hon. Speaker, the point of order is that it has been the practice in this House to direct questions to ministers, including the first minister of the province, with regard to expenditures and actions by them. Those have been deemed to be in order, and these questions are about the actions of a minister while he was an opposition critic and while he was a minister of the Crown.
The Speaker: Hon. members, this is straying far beyond the raising of a point of order.
G. Farrell-Collins: My understanding is that points of order are not raised in question period but afterwards. I do have a question, however.
The Speaker: Hon. members, that has certainly been the practice of this House. However, there is nothing against raising a point of order during question period. If it takes considerable time, the Chair can certainly extend question period to accommodate.
I have heard three submissions on the point of order.
C. Serwa: Hon. Speaker, on that point of order, the matter that I am requesting information on from the hon. minister is with respect to funds that have been expended after November 5. They are in this current administration, and it is current and topical. I have written letters to the auditor general and to the Deputy Attorney General. In fact, the public of British Columbia has a right to this knowledge.
The Speaker: As Chair, I am going to ask that we continue with question period, and I will get back to the House as soon as possible on the point of order that has been raised. I would also ask that the time taken to raise this point of order be added to question period.
FAIR WAGE POLICY
G. Farrell-Collins: In light of the Premier's comments today on education, I would like to ask the Minister of Labour if he still believes that the fair wage policy of this government will not increase the cost of public sector construction projects in this province.
Hon. M. Sihota: Yes.
G. Farrell-Collins: In an interview published in the Vancouver Province on Sunday, the Minister of Finance indicated that because of fixed wages.... "I guess it's true that there may be one less building built...." According to estimates provided by at least one school district, six elementary schools in British Columbia will not be built this year as a direct result of the fixed wage policy. My question is to the Minister of
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Education. Which six elementary schools has she and the Minister of Labour decided will not be built?
Hon. M. Sihota: That is a question based on conjecture as opposed to fact. The fact of the matter is that of the proposals approved under the fair wage policy to date, they have all, to my knowledge, come in under budget. I refer the member to the evidence -- the facts -- that flow from the Commonwealth Games; that project came in under budget. I refer the hon. member to the facts as they govern the university of the north; that project came in under budget under the fair wage policy. And I'm pleased to say that the same happened with respect to Simon Fraser. So the facts dispute the conjecture and speculation on the part of the hon. member opposite.
The Speaker: Final supplemental, hon. member.
G. Farrell-Collins: Perhaps the minister didn't listen to the comments of his Premier with respect to education today. Budgets are irrelevant; it's the cost that finally comes down.... You can set the budget at whatever you want.
Hon. Speaker, will this minister either confirm for us today that school construction will be affected by this fair wage policy, or is he willing to contradict statements by both school districts and his own Minister of Finance? Who can the parents of British Columbia believe? Who's in charge over there?
Hon. M. Sihota: It's an interesting question posed by the hon. member, because the Leader of the Opposition just minutes ago suggested that we take $86 million out of the capital budget and put it into education.
The Speaker: Order, please, hon. members.
TRADE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
K. Jones: My question is to the Premier. Can he advice this House of the names and qualifications of the other people who were short-listed for the senior position which was filled last week in the B.C. Trade Development Corporation's Vancouver office?
Hon. M. Harcourt: I will take that question on notice.
The Speaker: Does the member have a new question? There's no supplemental, as the hon. member knows, to a question that's been taken on notice.
K. Jones: New question, hon. Speaker. We've been inundated with calls from all over, from other longtime NDP party loyalists -- including failed NDP candidates -- who want to know how much longer they're going to have to wait for their patronage appointment. We note with interest the appointment of Dick Gathercole, who today has received his just rewards. Others still want to know. Can the Premier please advise this House when these announcements will be made?
Hon. M. Harcourt: I can say that they're going to have to wait a lot longer than the failed Liberal candidates who were hired immediately by the Liberal caucus, and the campaign manager of the opposition House Leader, who was hired immediately as the research director. They're going to have to wait a lot longer than those patronage appointments.
CAMPBELL RIVER LOGGING DISPUTE
W. Hurd: I have a question for the Minister of Forests. This being Earth Day, British Columbians were appalled to find out that 20,000 cubic metres of logs have been lying on the earth near Campbell River, for up to ten months, while the company and union are in another dispute, involving layoffs. Is the minister prepared to use his good offices to bring the parties together and get the logs to the mills, where they belong?
Hon. D. Miller: Yes, hon. Speaker.
W. Hurd: Again to the Minister of Forests. Can the minister confirm the total volume of these logs which were harvested on public lands, and whether there is any stumpage due to the province?
Hon. D. Miller: Well, I can't give you all the details now, but just by way of information, some of those logs were on private land. I can assure the member that stumpage, if it hasn't been paid, will be paid. I can also assure the member that we will not tolerate wood being wasted, regardless of the reason, whether it's a dispute between labour and management or any other reason. We have made that clear to the parties, and I don't think there is any cause for concern.
The Speaker: Final supplemental.
W. Hurd: It's a sad day indeed when we have to ask the questions on this side of the House and answer them. This minister's own district manager has advised us that 9,000 cubic metres of the 20,000 was clearcut on public lands. Who's in charge here?
Since this minister is apparently unwilling to do anything, will he at least obey the law of the Forest Act, which he is mandated to do, and assure the people of the province that stumpage revenue won't be lost as a result of some 570 truckloads of logs rotting in the woods?
Hon. D. Miller: The volume of the member's questions certainly does nothing to provide any clarity. I did answer, with respect, the two points. The member in his second question said that the wood was harvested from public lands. I think I pointed out in my response that some of the wood was harvested on private land. The member simply repeated that.
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Secondly, I gave assurance -- and I'll repeat it if the member didn't hear me -- that stumpage will be collected on Crown timber, and that there will be no Crown timber wasted as a result of a dispute, be it a labour dispute or any other kind of dispute. I give the member that assurance. I guess he can call me on it if it doesn't happen.
LATE DELIVERY OF GAIN CHEQUES
V. Anderson: A question to the Minister of Social Services. In phone calls today I've had numerous requests from persons asking why the GAIN paycheques are being delivered on the 29th of this month instead of on the 22nd, today, when they were expected.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to thank the member for my first question. I'm glad to know that the opposition cares about people in need of assistance in this province. I'll take the question on notice and get the information right back to you.
Hon. J. Cashore: It is my distinct pleasure to remind the members of the House that today is a significant day for the environment. As most of you probably know, today is Earth Day. Earth Day was first held in 1970 and is considered to be the launch of the modern environmental movement. Today, over two decades later, 200 million people in 142 countries participate in Earth Day, showing indisputable interest in environmental concerns.
Already these concerns have affected our lives. They have changed the way in which we work, play and travel. For example, just this morning the Sunrider was christened. The 24-foot boat is on a 52,000-mile educational voyage around the world, fuelled by vegetable oil. Now recommended not only for our good health but for the health of the environment too, vegetable oil yields a fuel with no sulphur emissions and just enough carbon dioxide to nurture the next generation of soy plants. This fuel is a British Columbia development. It is just one of the many examples of how we are rising to the challenge of environmental problems that not just we but North America and the world are facing together. They are complex problems, not easy to address. The only way to tackle and diminish them is with a spirit of optimism, cooperation and, indeed, hope. That is happening in B.C.
I would like to suggest that as leaders of our province, all of us could show our commitment to change in lifestyle and awareness by participating in Earth Day activities in communities throughout the province. On Saturday, Earthfest and the annual peace walk take place right here on our Legislature lawns. Elsewhere throughout the province there will be similar events. There will be the annual Vancouver walk, which has set many records with the number of participants. I'll be participating in the walk event in Kelowna this coming Saturday.
British Columbians are keenly aware of issues, and our concern is real. So are the actions we are taking as individuals, as government and as a people for our children's future.
J. Tyabji: I would like to reply to the address on Earth Day. I'd like to point out that although Earth Day did start in 1970, it was actually in 1990 that we saw a resurgence of the environmental movement in B.C. I think it brought a new perspective and a long-term commitment from most people to take the environment seriously and to factor in the environment in all our economic decisions. It's with that in mind that I stand up on Earth Day urging the government to have a more long-term plan toward the environment. We talk about the optimism and cooperation necessary in order to tackle the environmental problems that we face. In order to have optimism and cooperation, you have to have the trust of the people as well; and in order to earn the kind of trust that is necessary to tackle the problems, we have to be able to set out a long-term strategy for the people of B.C.
A long-term strategy has to include things like airshed management. We have to have proper water quality guidelines, particularly if we look at the B.C. Round Table on the Environment initiatives. A lot of those initiatives with regard to water quality are excellent. We should adopt them. We have to have a commitment toward revitalization of some of the rivers and watersheds and some areas of the province that have fallen by the wayside because of industrial development. Therefore we have to have revitalization.
Of course, we come down to the bottom line -- and that is always money. Where are we going to get money for this kind of revitalization? With this long-term strategy we should have a cleanup fund. The cleanup fund should be brought together based on the money that's being generated by the pollution fines. I would urge this government, in the long-term strategy for the environment, not to put pollution fines into general revenue, and not to spend the money as it comes in from the polluters, but to put that aside so that we have money set aside to set up the kind of cleanup program we're going to need.
We have to deal with forestry issues. We currently have a commission on resources that is dealing with the long-term process, but there are very critical forestry issues that have to be dealt with in the short term, today. We have some of the most valuable old-growth forests in the world. We have to protect them today. We can't put up buffer zones, and we can't set up commissions to deal with something that critical and time-sensitive.
As we stand up on Earth Day, some of the things that we have to look at are alternative energy sources. For example, we talked about the ship that has been launched with vegetable oil. In his budget speech my leader talked about alternative energy sources, with regard to a moving away from the use of fossil fuels and research and development into alternative sources. I would commend any kind of approach like that, and for that we need research and development. We have to look at that as an investment. We have to have some
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kind of long-term strategy that starts off recognizing the time-sensitive environmental issues and also investing in some kind of research and development, in conjunction with the private sector, to take us in new directions.
I would hope that as we sit here on our first Earth Day with the new government that we will take the initiative, set up a long-term strategy and develop the kind of trust that we need with the people of B.C. to tackle these environmental issues as soon as possible. I don't see one currently in place. We need to take the initiative to set up those parameters, to not set up buffer zones, and to defeat the cynicism that has been building in the people since 1990, with the resurgence of the environmental movement. I will do whatever I can, and we as an opposition will do whatever we can, to bring about a better environment.
C. Serwa: We certainly enjoy and welcome the celebration of Earth Day. But to me, Earth Day is every day in British Columbia. The province's motto is "Splendour Undiminished." When you look at the green side, the majesty and splendour, the abundance of rich natural resources, scenic beauty, grandeur, and fish and wildlife biodiversity, it's all here.
Hon. Speaker, the cartoon character Pogo once said something very wise: "I have seen the enemy, and it is us." When we talk about Earth Day, it's incumbent on all of us to recognize that rather than treating the symptoms, we have to look at the cause of the problem. Fundamentally, the cause of the problem is something that each one of us should know and appreciate. It's the population growth on the one side and the needs, wants and expectations of that population growth on the other side. That is the driving force: the unrealistic expectations, in some cases, of that population.
The minister responsible for the environment was correct in saying that we are going to have to be looking at changes in lifestyle. I believe that. We're going to have to trade off some of the quantity of life for an enhanced quality of life. I think that we all agree with that.
What impacts? Wages, profits and taxes all impact very heavily on what has come to be a shock absorber in driving the engine of our economy, and the environment is paying the price. Our resource-extraction industries in British Columbia are paying that price. As long as we recognize that we can do something about it individually, as the power of one.... The clock is ticking, but we have time to correct it.
I will be joining in some of the celebrations locally in Kelowna. Lloyd Manchester and an organization called Earth Care have undertaken the responsibility to enhance local awareness. I'm very pleased to say that I will be taking part in some of those events. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Earth Day, which is every day for all of us.
SEIZE-AND-SUE POLICY OF
FORD CREDIT CANADA
Hon. M. Sihota: I've just received a note, and I wish to apologize to the third party. I take it they did not receive a copy of the statement, and they may wish to reserve the right to reply later. I've no difficulty with that.
The statement deals with the deliberate policy on the part of Ford Credit Canada Ltd. to ignore the laws of British Columbia. Ford Credit Canada, the company that finances consumer purchases and leases for Ford Motor Co., has been for a number of years violating the seize-and-sue safeguards of the Sale of Goods on Condition Act and the Personal Property Security Act. Most provinces across this country have this protection enshrined in their legislation. As a result, my ministry has filed a class action writ in the B. C. Supreme Court to stop this practice.
Here's what Ford Credit Canada is doing to British Columbia consumers. WWen a British Columbia consumer defaults on a lease agreement with an option to buy the vehicle at the end of the term of lease, automobile companies have one of two options. They may repossess the vehicle, or they may sue for the outstanding balance. Ford Credit Canada has decided that it will do both. The company repossesses the vehicle, sells it wholesale, then the company goes after the consumer for the difference between what they sold the vehicle for and what was still outstanding in terms of money owing. This is illegal. Ford Credit Canada knows that it's illegal, because they've been told on a number of occasions by staff from my ministry and from the Attorney General's ministry. Their position is that if this practice is illegal, then we should take them to court, and that is exactly what we are doing.
My concern today, however, is not simply for the 11 consumers we have named in this class action writ; the concern, of course, is for an unknown number of other British Columbians who may have been subjected to this illegal practice. I call on anyone who has paid out money under the circumstances that I've described to call my consumer operations office, and we'll add those names to the writ. If British Columbians have paid money to Ford Credit Canada or their collection agency under this mistaken impression, I want to know and I want to assist them in securing refund of their money.
G. Farrell-Collins: Had I known that the members of the third party did not receive notice, I would have passed on my notice to them. I got it during question period, so don't feel too bad.
I think this is a step that should have been taken by the B.C. government in past years. The law is the law, and I think it's a just law. I think that corporations, as do individuals, have to comply with the laws of the province and of the nation, and it's incumbent on the province of British Columbia to ensure that those laws are upheld in whoever's name. I'm glad to see that the minister has taken some action on this. I assume he's working together with the Attorney General, and I commend him also.
It's unfortunate that people had to go through this process and have dealings with Ford Canada -- as far as the leasing and the defaults on these loans go. I wish that the past government had acted on this earlier, but I do commend the current government for doing so.
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I hope that the minister will be able to give us some idea of how long the people concerned, who have had these experiences with Ford Motor Co., will have to wait. Has he any feeling on how long this case will take? Has there been, or is he suggesting, any sort of means to assemble these names, other than just by this statement and perhaps the press coverage that follows? Is there going to be some structural means by which people can get together and contribute their information? How long do these people have to wait in order to get this money back? I would be eager to hear comments on that sometime in the near future.
L. Hanson: I was a little confused by the statement, because it seems to say that at the end of the lease they had to repossess the vehicle. I understand that at the end of the lease they would own the vehicle. In any case, we were not circulated the ministerial statement. Nevertheless, my knowledge of the automobile business -- I've had some years in it, and I'm aware of the issue the minister is talking about.... The law was put in place originally to stop people who did not dispose of the asset at a realistic figure and then tried to impose on the individual that shortfall, so there was a responsibility on the part of the repossessor to obtain full value from whatever the residue was. But we as the third party can do nothing but support the law. If the law has been broken by someone, then I am sure the minister is doing exactly the right thing. I'm not sure that every time someone breaks a law, it necessitates a ministerial statement to that effect. But in any case, if there is a contravention of the law, it will be tested in the court and should rightly be done that way.
G. Wilson: Hon. Speaker, I beg leave to present a petition.
G. Wilson: Hon. Speaker, I rise to table a petition of roughly 4,500 signatures from the citizens of the Sunshine Coast, who are requesting that this government move quickly to establish a late-night sailing between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale.
Hon. Speaker, in 1976, when I first moved up to Langdale, there were many more sailings than there are today. The diminishment of service has created a great deal of concern for merchants, for residents and for travellers who voyage to and enjoy the pleasurable area of the Sunshine Coast.
In tabling this petition today, I urge the government to take seriously the signatures on this petition. We have roughly 4,500 signatures gathered in only ten days, and there are a number of others that will be following with written submissions to the minister responsible for B.C. Ferries.
In closing, let me say that we have a situation where all-night sailings between Horseshoe Bay and the Nanaimo area are under some protest, because of a lack of consultation. If the government wants to put on additional ferry service, the people of the Sunshine Coast, through this petition, would urge that that be done now....
The Speaker: Hon. member, I hate to interrupt, but traditionally a petition may be tabled with only a very short explanation.
D. Mitchell: Hon. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have a serious point that I'd like to raise today with respect to the order paper for this assembly. In particular, I would like to deal with a number of written questions on the order paper, notice of which has been given, and which have been on the order paper for more than a month.
My point of order is this: I believe that we, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, have a right to seek information from government. We have that right, and there is an obligation as well -- according to the practices and procedures of this House -- when information is requested, for it to be returned.
I refer the Chair to standing order 47(1) dealing with written questions. The questions I refer to on the order paper are questions numbered 1 to 32. They are not overly complicated questions; they are very simple. They could be answered in a very straightforward manner. I can tell you, hon. Speaker, that we raised these over a month ago in the hope that answers would be returned to us before the estimates review process commenced in this Legislature. We wanted this information so that we could ask some further questions and understand the estimate review process for the budget in a way that was meaningful and thoughtful. The information we are seeking is not complicated.
Hon. Speaker, our abilities as members of the Legislature are being impeded by the fact that this government, which claims to be an open government, is not coming forward to answer these questions. So I am appealing to the Chair to assist us by offering some guidance to the House -- and in particular to the government in this House -- for following the practices and procedures of this House in order to serve the need to give straightforward answers to simple questions when notice is given and they appear on the order paper.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Hon. Speaker, I have just reread standing order 47 to see what the obligations upon ministers are that the House Leader refers to. I find no obligation whatsoever requiring an answer or a particular time-frame.
The standing order notwithstanding, when the answers are ready to be tabled they will be tabled.
The Speaker: Thank you, hon. members, for your comments. While the Chair fails to see that it's exactly a point of order, I think the points raised by both sides of the House will be taken under consideration by both sides of the House.
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Hon. C. Gabelmann: Hon. Speaker, I call both committees.
The House in Committee of Supply B; E. Barnes in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
On vote 56: minister's office, $350,718 (continued).
G. Wilson: In order to help the minister in answering the questions, let me suggest that the bulk of my questions deal specifically with her ministry's dealings with aboriginal matters and aboriginal people. I think the minister would agree that it's somewhat difficult to deal with some matters specific to aboriginal people in the province of British Columbia, because much of the work of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, for which I am the critic, is in fact administered by various ministries: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Services, the Ministry of Education and the Attorney General ministry. My questions are directed in order to try and find out exactly what dollars the province is committing to assist aboriginal people who require social service assistance outside that money which is federally administered through the Department of Indian Affairs, or the money that may be regulated specifically through an arrangement that is made between the aboriginal people and specific bands in the province of British Columbia.
The first group that has indicated considerable concern with respect to the provision of family services, and in particular services relating to children, consists of those who would be directly represented by the United Native Nations. They are primarily urban-dwelling people, people who are not reserve-based.
I wonder if the minister could tell me what level of money is committed in this year's estimates that would be directed specifically to the provision of support service through core funding or through assistance funding to locally based social service groups and organizations for aboriginal people. Also, what money is directly administered through the ministry in terms of specific delivery of service to children and to family services around child-support services for aboriginal people living in Vancouver's urban areas?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The member may well be aware that there is a split jurisdiction, in that the province delivers services off-reserve and the federal government has responsibility for the delivery of services on-reserve. There are currently four federal agreements with the province for the delivery of services by four separate groups.
In addition to that, our services off-reserve are currently somewhat integrated, so I can't give you an overall number, although I can tell you that we have in this budget increasingly targeted specific money to specific native care issues. There is an increase of $3.4 million in this budget for development of urban-based family support programs for natives. That includes the Mamele project, cross-cultural training and resource development.
There are a number of targeted or specific projects. One of the projects that comes to mind is our Parents in Crisis line, which we have just announced in the last while. There we have contracted separately with an urban native organization to answer questions to do with child protection for native families.
G. Wilson: I am indeed aware of the split, and I'm conscious of the fact that it becomes quite complicated when we look at joint jurisdictions, federal-provincial, and we try to understand how that money is actually broken out and delivered. Sometimes it's difficult to pull out those different accounts. I'm aware that the minister may have difficulty in responding to some of the questions that I am directing her because of those complexities. But I am specifically referring to matters in relation to urban native people, aboriginal people who are living in the urban areas.
If I'm to understand that that money is dedicated or earmarked for that group, I wonder if the minister might tell me what proportion of the $3.4 million is actually earmarked for the delivery of services -- that is, for direct application of services -- and what proportion of that fund would go into administration and promotion and distribution of information: communications, for want of a better word.
Hon. J. Smallwood: First of all, I'd like to emphasize that the increase in the budget is enhancement. Currently we're talking about child protection. In speaking to the member's critic for this area yesterday, we outlined that one-third of the children in care are natives, so one-third of our budget for child protection is dedicated to the support of native children.
This particular enhancement speaks to projects that enhance our ability to be culturally sensitive, over and above the current budget. Something like 10 percent of that total amount would go to administration, although it is primarily community-driven and driven by contracts. Even that administration is in place in the community, not in the ministry.
G. Wilson: If I could revisit the one-third of the clientele being aboriginal, therefore the one-third of the budget being "dedicated" -- I think was the word you used -- for native people, could the minister elaborate on what kind of money we're talking about in terms of old budget, and what kind of money that would be in terms of new budget that is dedicated? You say the administration is community-driven. Is that funded through some kind of core funding for non-profit organizations, or is it through contracting out to people directly from the ministry?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to emphasize for the member that the current budget for the ministry is broken primarily into two significant areas: one around child protection and the other around GAIN caseload. There are native people on our GAIN caseload. It would be difficult for us, but we certainly could break that
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down for you. As far as child protection goes -- I'm talking specifically about children in care of the province -- roughly a third of those children are from native ancestry, and that's my reflection in the budget.
The change in this ministry, over the last year and leading up to this last year, has been an emphasis on culturally sensitive services to aboriginal people. There has been a continuing emphasis around training, not only of our own staff, but support for training of aboriginal people for the delivery of services in preparation for the negotiations our government is and will be involved with down the road -- to ensure aboriginal people's ability to deliver their own services and support them in that transition. That also is ongoing. The fact of the matter is that at this point in time those services and that activity are integrated within the whole budget. For the most part, we have not separated out all services or moneys going directly to aboriginal peoples.
G. Wilson: The response leaves me just a bit confused. You indicated that there was money dedicated, but if it's in a general budget, how is that money dedicated? Maybe the minister can explain. How do you dedicate funds if it's in a general budget for delivery? If I have missed that point, I'm sorry.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'll try once again and repeat for the member that most services to aboriginal people off-reserve are integrated within the two major budgets within this ministry. However, in the last year or so there has been a move towards culturally sensitive services and an enhancement in that area. That is the money which is dedicated. We're showing this year alone an enhancement of $3.4 million towards that culturally sensitive service.
G. Wilson: I thank the minister for her clarification.
I wonder now if we could have a bit more elaborate definition on what is.... What are you talking about when you talk about the culturally sensitive services to which this $3.4 million is dedicated? Could that be explained in some detail?
Hon. J. Smallwood: There are a number of areas. We have cross-cultural training for ministry staff. There is a native unit that deals specifically with native people. We have the Mamele project. In addition, we currently have underway a review of family and children services and are very proud to acknowledge that we are the only province in Canada that has the full involvement and cooperation of the native community in the development of that new legislation.
G. Wilson: I thank the minister for that response. With respect then to children, and if I could just look at youth services specifically, to what extent is money being put aside for the relocation, if I can use that term, or for the taking of young aboriginal people who wish to be reunited with families that have gone through child adoptive services? Is that something that you leave exclusively to federal jurisdiction? Is there much work being done in the reuniting of families where young people have been estranged?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The member should be aware that it is a policy of this ministry for the first placement choice for aboriginal children to be placed with aboriginal families.
G. Wilson: I appreciate that, and I am aware that this has been a policy. It has been mentioned to me previously. What I'm most concerned about are young people who through past action have been estranged from families and wish reunification to be taking place, and there is a bid to try to reunify families. I am also concerned about young people in urban areas who require the assistance of your ministry to be able to find their way back to their families. Often that involves rehabilitation programs for many different matters where they could have those services provided to them.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I think what the member is referring to is some work that has been done by the UNN in Vancouver in particular, and the emphasis that they have placed on the need for that continuing work. The member should know that in all of our child protection issues, including the ones the member is raising, we have a very good relationship with the aboriginal community. That is emphasized by a number of the agreements already in place in the province. It is our goal, and certainly our priority, to enhance that in the years to come, and we will continue to work with groups such as Mamele and the UNN to support them in their goals.
G. Wilson: In relation to that support -- and I am delighted to hear that there is a good working relationship -- it's an area that I think we need to focus on and spend a good deal of time and attention addressing. It's a growing problem for this province to take action on.
In relation specifically to this group I am referring to in terms of young people looking to find reunification that is being assisted, is it the goal of the ministry to have that administered, in terms of the dollars committed to those programs, through the ministry, or is it a goal that we should start to look toward core funding for social services to be able to be delivered by community-based non-profit organizations or aboriginal organizations that may be developed in relation to tribal councils?
Hon. J. Smallwood: As with the delivery of all of our services, we are committed to community-based non-profit organizations. As I have emphasized in the past, we have enjoyed a good working relationship with a number of aboriginal organizations and would see supporting and enhancing the work they are doing as the vehicle to achieve these kinds of reunifications.
G. Wilson: I appreciate that. What I'm trying to get to.... Let me be much more direct and specific in this question. In my meetings with members of UNN, with a number of different community-based organizations
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that are specifically dealing with these matters, there is a pressing need to have core funding established so that these organizations are able to budget programs on an ongoing basis. I wonder to what extent core funding is available, and if it is available, what kind of dollars we're looking at and whether or not there is some kind of budget process that could allow the people who are involved in these organizations to have some faith or confidence that this core funding can be ongoing so that they can put programs in place and do some long-term planning.
Hon. J. Smallwood: As the member speaks, I can hear a good friend's voice, and I know who has been lobbying you.
It's very clear as you look at this ministry's budget that services to people are a priority of this government. We cannot, in one year, address all of the needs. We have recognized and hope that communities see our intention to work with them by some of the contracts we have already negotiated.
Specifically, I think the member is referring to an application that was put forward by the UNN and the Mamele Benevolent Society for core funding. We have entered into a number of contracts with that organization and will continue to work in good faith with them. We are unable to meet all of their requests at this time, for this year.
G. Wilson: I'm sure that much of that is welcomed. I didn't realize I was paraphrasing quite so directly, but if you know who the message comes from, I'm sure the message will get back.
I wonder if the minister might elaborate a little bit more with respect to the provision that may be there for counselling services. I'm speaking now specifically for teenage aboriginal people that have had difficulties with the law and require counselling services that are directed, not so much in terms of legal counselling -- I did put these questions to the Attorney General in the estimates yesterday -- but with respect to social counselling in terms of the ability of young people, particularly those who are coming from rural British Columbia into urban B.C., to find adequate housing, to put together a program to provide training facilities so that they can be self-sufficient and independent of the services that your ministry is putting in place.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The status of native services, particularly in Vancouver and currently under the umbrella of urban, is fairly varied in its approach. We all recognize that there is a need to enhance and build on the services that are currently there.
The member should be aware, however, that the native service unit in Vancouver serves all native children in care -- and this deals with children, in particular under the age of 12, living in Vancouver. There are nine staff in that particular unit, including a supervisor, all of whom are of aboriginal origin. In addition to that, there is a native family support program which provides outreach services to native families having difficulty. The ministry also funds a native group home through the Mamele Benevolent Society.
G. Wilson: My focus now is actually on young people older than 12, in their middle to late teens or even early twenties, who require the assistance of the Ministry of Social Services with respect to counselling on a number of different matters. I wonder if there are dollars dedicated. The difficulty that these young people face, while not being in terms of the physical form of the difficulties -- be it substance abuse or matters of violence particularly, and especially violence against women.... The resolution to the question -- and I think the minister would agree -- may be more complex if the resolution means relocation and reintegration into a family setting that is outside mainstream, urban British Columbia.
My question now is: where do these services fit in relation to your ministry, and to what extent is some money being dedicated to look after what I believe is a pressing need in B.C.?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to add to the list I've already shared with the member. In addition to the programs that I've already outlined, there's a teen moms program run by the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre; the Helping Spirit Lodge, which is a transition house for native people; and a native job action program run by native courtworkers. I believe most of these are under the umbrella of urban. This kind of coordination is happening in Vancouver specifically. There is the ARIES project for native street kids run by the Urban Native Youth Association. Those are a few, and they are good models that we can continue to enhance and build on. But again, I believe that we have a long way to go.
There is a significant social infrastructure deficit in this province, and this government is committed to addressing that deficit. But we have inherited a situation where for some ten to 15 years the previous administration in this province has not seen the value of supporting and enhancing these kinds of services.
G. Wilson: With respect to those agencies that you've just referred to, I know that there is very good work being done. I'm not familiar with all of them, but I am fairly familiar with two of them. With respect to the money used in the provision of services in those facilities, to what extent is the money forthcoming from the provincial government and to what extent is the federal government responsible for financing? It's my understanding that much of the money being pumped into these agencies is federal dollars, not provincial dollars. I wonder if the minister could give me a clear breakdown on what those dollars are.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The member should be aware that because of the initiative that the federal government undertook in the last number of years with the capping of CAP, all of the enhancements currently in this budget are paid 100 percent out of provincial revenue. The capping of CAP has cost this province roughly $260 million this year alone. So what the
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federal government has done is not only abdicate their responsibility to aboriginal people off-reserve, but they have very clearly not filled their responsibility to aboriginal people on-reserve either. There is a very serious problem in this province -- as, I suspect, in others -- where the federal government has not provided the kinds of social service, child protection and other services on-reserve, creating continued problems for aboriginal communities.
G. Wilson: Amen to that. You'll get no argument out of me on the fact that the federal government has indeed abdicated its responsibility. I'm well aware that capping has put a very serious constraint on many of these organizations to be able to continue to function.
My question, however, dealt more specifically with the percentage of money within the ministry that is allocated to alleviate some of those difficulties for these organizations in response to the federal government's position. Has there been a greater proportional increase with respect to services to aboriginal people within your ministry, or has the cost essentially been shared equally by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people with respect to the lack of dollars?
Certainly what we're feeling and hearing -- and I would welcome the minister's reaction -- is that either the problems that are facing aboriginal people in urban B.C. are expanding fairly rapidly or we're only now starting to see many of them surface to the degree that government is prepared to deal with them. That may be a function of past blindness, but nevertheless the needs are urgent. I question how many additional dollars have actually gone into the provision of those services.
Hon. J. Smallwood: First of all, I can only reiterate my earlier comments that most of the services provided under the responsibility of the province for aboriginal people off-reserve are integrated generally in our budget. So it would be very difficult for me at this point, at least, to actually identify the dollar value that is for the delivery of services to that community specifically.
I guess I'd like to take the opportunity, as I have done earlier in the estimates, to engage the opposition in support of this government's lobbying and very strong stand with the federal government to lift the cap on CAP for all communities in this province. It is the money coming out of this ministry's budget that is providing the services, because we are committed to providing those services and ensuring that those least able to pay are not further encumbered by the federal government's lack of vision.
In addition to that, I think it's important that we also pressure the government to live up to its responsibility to those on-reserve communities, so that they can be assured of the same kinds of services that the rest of us in the province have.
G. Wilson: I can assure you that you will have our full support in lobbying the federal government to honour their obligation and responsibilities. I recognize that it is difficult to break out the figures. I would hope that the minister appreciates that as the critic for aboriginal affairs, what I am attempting to do here is not put the minister on the spot so much as to break out and identify the dollars that are earmarked and dedicated to these programs, so that we on this side of the House can mount an effective opposition role, in terms of making sure that the interests of that constituency are adequately and properly served. If I were to prepare a written request, it might be easier over time to specifically look at the dollars of the programs that I'm requesting, and I would appreciate that.
With respect to services for aboriginal women, I recognize that some of this may not fall within your ministry, and I would appreciate clarification. But one of the growing concerns that is expressed to me as critic, and that I'm hearing now from a wider constituency in the province, is the provision of education and training services specifically for aboriginal women who are non-status and to those who are status but off-reserve.
I refer not so much to that which is available through federal share into the Ministry of Education; those questions were put to the Minister of Education in estimates. But I'm now speaking more specifically with respect to training and education programs, because I'm sure the minister would agree with me that the long-term goal of the Social Services ministry is to downsize itself to the point that it's no longer necessary. One way we do that is to get everyone up and working so they don't need it. At least, I would hope that's the minister's goal. So I wonder if we could look specifically at the training and education programs that are available for aboriginal women.
Hon. J. Smallwood: Again, my answer to the member is that our services to aboriginal people -- men, women and children off-reserve, whether they are status or non-status -- is integrated into all of our programs, and that a native woman on GAIN is supported by our ministry in education and training opportunities to full employment.
We are very pleased to provide the member with the enhancement in this budget to employment initiatives to a number of our employment programs. The total budget is now $56.1 million for employment and training opportunities to support people back into the workplace. Again I can only say at this point that the budget supports all of our clients on GAIN, including aboriginal people.
G. Wilson: I would appreciate that if the integration is there, it will be difficult to factor that out. However, I come back to my submission to you that it is difficult to look at some of the needs of aboriginal women in the context of general needs, given that the programs that may be necessary to actively get some of the legal complications in the province solved and addressed need to be more specifically tailored to the individual needs that are there.
I'm sensitive to not wanting to move into areas of future policy, but I wonder if the minister could generally outline the philosophy within the ministry in terms of the dedication of dollars to putting in place the programs that are necessary in order to be able to
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identify those in need prior to their services becoming a chronic requirement, and to what extent preventive measures do stress education, training and matters that would allow individuals to be able to escape this web which tends to entangle people on an almost life-long basis.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I've been trying to facilitate the member's questioning because of his critic responsibility around aboriginal issues and certainly because of my sensitivity and support for the goals and aspirations of the aboriginal community in British Columbia. However, I think that I need to bring to the member's attention that while I've been emphasizing integration of services within the budget of this ministry, we would have some real difficulty in asking -- both philosophically and legally -- the racial origin of our clients. I think that would represent a considerable violation under human rights. For that reason, we have not gone that route; not segregated different communities of interest within our client population.
[M. Lord in the chair.]
Having said that, it is the priority and the goals of this ministry to support each and every community within this province. We recognize and are committed to the support of native communities both here in Vancouver, where we see a significant aboriginal community and a significant network of aboriginal services.... Our way of addressing and recognizing the need for culturally sensitive and appropriate services is by supporting and working with those communities to identify needs and then contracting the delivery of those services with the communities themselves. That is the direction in which we are headed. There is already significant contracted services with the aboriginal communities in this province, and we'll continue to enhance those.
G. Wilson: With respect to that, let me allow the minister knowledge of where I'm headed with this series of questions, because I suspect it's a matter that is going to be both of financial importance to the government and of legal importance to the aboriginal people. It has to do with the matter of -- I understand from the tabled Speech from the Throne and comments made by both the Attorney General and the Minister Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs -- the government recognizing the political legitimacy of aboriginal title. As a portion of that aboriginal title there is a recognition of aboriginal rights, and that those rights run essentially with the individual and not with the land. Therefore the title and rights are accorded in the legal definition that is being put forward, and would be available for aboriginal people on reserve or off reserve. I'm assuming that that is what the position is. Therefore on any resolution of the question with respect to land claim or with subsequent self-government that may come forward -- and the ability to be able to provide services on the basis of aboriginal rights -- there is going to have to be within each ministry some manner of dedicating the moneys for the proposition that those rights and the rights that run with title will be accrued to aboriginal people whether they're in urban centres or whether they're on reserve.
I wonder what the minister's thinking is with respect to that, because it is a matter -- as the minister I am sure is aware -- that is before the constitutional reform committee federally. It is a matter that is going to be a subject of resolution provincially with respect to aboriginal title, and it's a matter with a significant price tag for this minister's ministry if indeed the proposition of settlement is for the provision of aboriginal rights and title to run with a self-government proposition that allows for those services to be paid, whether through compensation or package of settlement or through an ongoing contract with the government. I just wonder what the minister's thinking is on that matter.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm sure the member is well aware that all of the issues that he has outlined are matters for negotiation and that the government -- as he has indicated -- is committed to resolving these issues. This is a priority for our government.
The member may also be aware that I chair the cabinet committee on the constitution and am a member of the aboriginal cabinet committee. One of the reasons for that, in addition to my commitment to those two significant policy areas, is the importance of this particular ministry for the self-government negotiations and to the constitution.
G. Wilson: I am indeed aware of the minister's role in each of the capacities she has just outlined. This is precisely the reason for my question, because it was my hope that there might be some statement with respect to...if not the dollars, and I recognize that would be impossible to put a realistic figure on, and in fact it might not even serve a function to try and guess at it. It's likely to create problems, not solve them.
So if not that, with respect to the technical proposition -- I am now speaking of the technicality of how one, within a line ministry that integrates services as you have just pointed out your ministry does, deals with that issue, if in fact there is no baseline upon which we can start to make some assessments with respect to the needs that are going to be there, given the proposition on settlement.
I wonder if the minister could explain, because this is something that is foremost in the minds of many aboriginal people, especially those off reserve who are members of UNN. They are represented by organizations that feel that their voice is not being included in the negotiations on the constitutional resolution as effectively as they would like, because there seems to be a general proposition that only those aboriginal people living on reserve are going to be dealt with on the final resolution of this question.
Yet the biggest and most complex problem, in my view -- it's a personal view, and I believe it to be shared by a number of aboriginal people in this province -- is going to be how the kinds of programs and services I have just been talking about over the last few minutes are going to be dealt with in a final resolution or
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question on negotiation. So my question directly to the minister, from that rather long preamble, is: to what extent does the minister see an apportioning of funds or a restructuring of the ministry to be able to accommodate new kinds of services? Such services may be made necessary by the approach and direction that her government has taken with respect to their proposition that they recognize the inherent right to self-government. This is in both the throne speech and in matters reflected in the budget, and more specifically and importantly, in the recognition of this government in the political legitimacy of title. This, I would gather from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, is that title in its broadest sense as defined by aboriginal people runs with the individual whether they're on reserve or whether they're living in Vancouver.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The member has already acknowledged this is not an appropriate fishing trip for this ministry. The issue of self-government and the negotiations is an issue that is and will be dealt with at the negotiation table. Each and every negotiation will be different and each and every negotiation will have different ramifications. Whether it's in the Ministry of Social Services, education, health care, resources, it will certainly touch a number of arms of government as well as communities within this province.
It's not appropriate for me to pre-guess that process. I can only assure the member that this government is committed to that process. This ministry, in particular, will work very closely with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs to ensure we enhance and support that process in the best way.
G. Wilson: If I can pick up on the last part of that question, in relation to the best way of supporting and enhancing, would the minister concede that in looking at the number of dollars dedicated -- specifically with relation to the moneys that are available for off-reserve aboriginal people and their social service needs...? Would the minister not concede that one of the better ways to proceed, in planning for any eventual resolution, would be to dedicate dollars that would then be made available through core funding to aboriginal community-based organizations that could self-administer the money, rather than have this maternalistic-paternalistic kind of relationship between the provincial government and off-reserve aboriginal people?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I understand that the member's background is within the education system. Surely one of the skills of a teacher has got to be to learn how to listen as well as to teach. The questions that the member just finished asking were answered in the earlier round of questioning. It was around the services and the responsibility of this ministry and the province to off-reserve people. I don't see very much point in going over again the answers I've already given him.
G. Wilson: With all due respect, certainly listening is a big part of it. Adequately and properly answering questions is also a big part of the instructional process.
Let me then be more specific in my question. Perhaps I can get a more direct and specific answer. My question is that if we are moving toward the proposition of aboriginal title, which is a stated position of this government, would it not be better in the establishment of a budget for social service delivery to aboriginal people -- rather than integrate funds in terms of the dollars that are here, which you very clearly articulated cannot be isolated -- to make those funds available as a core funding toward autonomous aboriginal-based social service organizations within the urban centres of British Columbia? In relation to the potential for negotiation of settlement, there could then be direct administration of those moneys for aboriginal services -- as opposed to this rather maternalistic or paternalistic role that government constantly finds itself in at the provincial or the federal level.
Hon. J. Smallwood: Being a patient person, I'll try this one final time. There is certain responsibility. The responsibility for on-reserve is the responsibility of the federal government. The issues of the delivery of services and the cost of the delivery of services is currently the responsibility of the federal government. Any changes to that status will happen at the negotiation table -- if there are to be any changes at all. The responsibility for the delivery of services off-reserve is the responsibility of the province. We currently are delivering those services and providing, as a policy direction, support for aboriginal communities and groups to provide services to their own people. That is the area that we already covered, and I believe that is the appropriate answer for the member. I have no intentions of pre-guessing the process that will take place in the next coming years.
G. Wilson: Just one last try at this, and then I'll move on to another area. I'm well aware of the relationship between the federal and provincial government with respect to on-reserve and off-reserve. I'm not talking about on-reserve people. I'm talking specifically about off-reserve urban dwellers of aboriginal ancestry. I'm well aware of the responsibility and obligation that currently lies within the provincial jurisdiction for the delivery of service. I understand also that this minister has said that the moneys available are not defined on the basis of client -- whether they're aboriginal or not. They're integrated services, and therefore it's difficult to pull out moneys that are available. I'm well aware of that. But the fact is that if the proposition as outlined by this government with respect to aboriginal title proceeds, those services, given the definition that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has tied to aboriginal title, will be required from this government to aboriginal people in urban areas.
What I'm specifically saying is, and it comes back again to the UNN question on core funding, that many people in social service delivery both as aboriginal people or non-aboriginal people believe that a far more efficient, cost-effective and better way to be delivering those dollars, rather than to be doing it through the big hand of government coming down and handing out to the people in a rather paternalistic manner, is to
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dedicate those dollars through core funding to ongoing programs for aboriginal services in the centres. I wonder if the minister would not agree that this would be a much more cost effective way of managing the taxpayers' money for the provision of these services, especially in light of the commitment the government has made with respect to the provision of aboriginal title, which runs with aboriginal people whether they are on reserve or not. That's my question.
I see that I'm not going to get an answer to my question. That's unfortunate, because there were a number of people both aboriginal and non-aboriginal who, through the benefit of the televised House, were watching today hoping to get some kind of clarification. Obviously they're not going to, and I'm sure they'll be disappointed to not have it.
Let me move on to matters relating to programs for mentally handicapped adults and the provision of community services in respect to people with mental handicaps and disabilities. Once again I appreciate that there is no division by ethnic or racial origin in these services.
Could I ask the minister to what extent her ministry is involved in the identification of people, particularly clientele of aboriginal origin, with respect to mental handicaps? To what extent are people requiring that service identified within communities and provided service within communities in which they live? And to what extend are those services centralized? Also, what kind of dollars are available for those special-needs services on a case-by-case basis, particularly for those people living outside urban British Columbia?
Hon. J. Smallwood: We've already thoroughly discussed the structure of the ministry. We've already thoroughly discussed the fact that all of our services are integrated for aboriginal people. It would be a violation of human rights to identify aboriginal people by racial origin. That also holds true for people with disabilities.
G. Wilson: I'm totally puzzled by that answer. Clearly within the laws of Canada there are fiduciary responsibilities and fiduciary rights under the federal government that provide services to aboriginal people identified as aboriginal people. There's no violation of anybody's human rights in that. That happens to be the law of the country.
Secondly, I don't know how you can make provision for dollars that are provided for people with mental handicaps if there is not a provision within the social services area for adequate testing, adequate facilities and identification of people in need. I'm speaking specifically about those people who are looking at the proposition of a need for services for people who have mental disabilities. Is the minister prepared to outline whether or not there are dollars available in rural communities for identification of such needs? I don't think that has anything to do with human rights; it has everything to do with families looking for services from this government for people who require help and who need to have identification of the kind of help that they require.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to just bring to the member's attention that the piece of legislation that governs and enables the federal government to isolate and treat native people differently is the Indian Act. It is readily recognized in this province -- and, indeed, across Canada -- as a racist piece of legislation. The fact that this province does not have a commensurate piece of legislation is something that I'm quite proud of. The fact that we do not segregate services to people of different racial origins is a policy that is correct. I have already gone over the ground with the member that the way we recognize and support culturally sensitive services is by funding different communities to provide services directly to their specific communities.
As far as the services for people with mental handicaps go, we have an integrated program throughout this province providing services in a number of areas. If the member would like to ask specifically about a support program to families or to individuals with mental handicaps, I'd be more than happy to answer him.
G. Wilson: Let me say that anybody who has followed my discourse on the question of the Department of Indian Affairs and the Indian Act will know that I share the minister's view that the Indian Act needs to be repealed. That's not at question here. Furthermore, to try and impugn my questions as somehow being tied to some racially motivated matter is, I think, demonstrating a considerable amount of naivety on the part of the minister. This minister might want to look at the history of social service delivery to aboriginal people in this province if she wishes to see a legacy of racial application of dollars and funds. I certainly don't need a lesson from the minister with respect to what is or is not racially motivated intention.
Within some rural communities -- and I raised this yesterday in estimates with the Attorney General -- there seems to be a provision of services at two levels: one that is applied to people that live in the larger urban centres, where facilities are available for testing and for identification of mental handicaps; and one in areas in rural British Columbia where those facilities are not available for aboriginal people. Because of the added cost of travelling to urban centres, the difficulty of finding accommodation in urban centres and the difficulty in having people who are administering tests understand that there are cultural differences that exist among aboriginal people, they find it very difficult.
To what extent is the Social Services ministry prepared to identify those questions. It goes far beyond simply having some of the members of the minister's staff being trained in what is considered to be culturally sensitive areas. These are very real, very painful problems to a good number of citizens of British Columbia. My questions are very specific with respect to the provision of social services that are dedicated to people who, for far too long, have been put into a blind alley with the pretence that somehow paternalistic federal and provincial governments are going to hand out on a need-by-need basis.
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Hon. J. Smallwood: I've already stated -- and perhaps the member was not in the House during the debates yesterday and during the introduction of the ministry's estimates prior to this week -- the goals and priorities, and how those goals and priorities are reflected in the increases in the budget for family support and in particular around the support and recognition of the needs of aboriginal people in this province.
That fact that we have inherited a considerable social deficit from the previous administration is not one -- and I'll state it once again for the member -- that we will be able to resolve tomorrow.
As far as services for people with mental disabilities, the provision of services from this ministry are among the most decentralized services of all services provided by government. We have offices and services in just about every community in this province.
As far as the testing that the member referred to, the testing for people with mental handicaps is provided by the Ministry of Health. We work in cooperation with the Ministry of Health as well as with a number of other ministries in providing a comprehensive service package to each community in the province. We are not directly responsible.
G. Wilson: Hon. Chairman, I will reserve further questioning on that for the Health estimates. Hopefully I can get some information with respect to the Health estimates.
Let me speak now specifically about the employment initiatives program. Once again I would like to focus on the provision of services especially in the rural parts of British Columbia with respect to employment initiatives. To what extent is there now an integration of services with respect to training? I'm referring specifically to matters of post-secondary technical training, adult basic education training and integration of high school training for people currently on social assistance who require those kinds of services. To what extent is there an integrated program? To what extent is somebody on extended social assistance eligible to continue full-time on those training programs, whether they're aboriginal or non-aboriginal?
Hon. J. Smallwood: We work with a number of ministries in the delivery of some of our employment programs; we work with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Ministry of Forests. As far as educational opportunities, whether they are training or adult basic education, that is done in conjunction with the college system and Advanced Education in each community of the province.
G. Wilson: My final question to the minister with respect to this matter deals with the NITEP program and any kind of services there may be in your ministry to facilitate the NITEP_program that has been quite successfully put forward with respect to post-secondary education for aboriginal people entering the college system. I wonder if there is, in fact, family support service available for young people who are coming down and involving themselves in that program. I can give you the example of Capilano College, which has successfully run that program, where people who are in a service area such as Bella Coola may require relocation and assistance on housing. Is there provision for assistance through your ministry, or is that strictly a matter which is funded out of the federal share which goes into that education program?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The member might pursue that questioning with Advanced Ed or Aboriginal Affairs. It doesn't reflect on this ministry.
G. Wilson: Just for clarification then: are there no dollars to assist young people coming down on that particular educational training program with respect to housing, facilitating of housing, assistance in relocation or even where you have a single parent, for example -- often a single mother? Is there no assistance for child care facilities that would be directly tied into those educational training facilities?
Hon. J. Smallwood: If an individual is on income assistance, and this is an approved upgrading course, then we would provide assistance for that individual as we would in any other course.
G. Wilson: As a final clarification, is it that only those who are eligible at the time of entry would be eligible? Is that what I'm understanding the minister to say?
G. Wilson: Thank you.
F. Gingell: In prior years there have been programs such as the assistance for the disabled in-home program that were funded by the B.C. Lottery Corporation, but administered by your ministry. Can you please advise me if that program will be ongoing?
Hon. J. Smallwood: If the member is referring to the at-home program, this is a very positive program, one that we are very proud of and which was instigated by this ministry along with, I believe, some cooperation with the Ministry of Health. We are committed to that program, and indeed there are enhancements in the budget for it.
F. Gingell: Can you tell me approximately how much is in it for the year 1992-93, and how much would have been in it for 1991-92, which, as I understand it, was funded directly by the B.C. Lotteries?
Hon. J. Smallwood: This program was not funded in total by lotteries. The lottery portion was an equipment-only contribution for this program. This program's budget in our ministry -- and there are other components to it, as I have already indicated -- was $4.6 million in 1991-92. In 1992-93 we have enhanced the program by $1 million. The current budget is $5.6 million.
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F. Gingell: As a result of organization of the payment of grants from B.C. Lottery funds being changed, can you tell us exactly how much of the $100 million that has been spread around the ministries has been allocated to your ministry?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The change in the status of the funding will not impact this program. There is currently around $3 million for equipment, and that will be funded through the Ministry of Health.
F. Gingell: In prior years one could go through the B.C. Lottery grants program and find a whole series of grants that come under your jurisdiction. For instance, in 1990-91 there was a grant for the NEED crisis and information line in Victoria to renovate and upgrade premises. There were grants for the Victoria Cool Aid Society to renovate and upgrade day care facilities. Is that kind of financial assistance going to be available in the future through your ministry?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm not sure.... The member might like to re-ask the last part of his question. At any rate, I'll take the opportunity to emphasize the difficulty that we face as a government. I'm not certain whether the member was present in the House when I shared with the opposition critic some statistics around what happened to community projects in 1982-83, and the implications of those cuts and that lack of vision in funding those projects. The very fact that a number of community organizations are now looking to lotteries and gambling to support needed social infrastructure is a significant problem and a very sad legacy left to this province by the previous administration.
The issues around lotteries and lottery funding is not a direct responsibility of this ministry. The provision and delivery of services to communities is our responsibility, and this year, as well as in the years to come, we will look at enhancing that community infrastructure.
As well as being part of the ongoing policy analysis and development underway with Government Services and the AG around the policy decisions and implications with regards to gambling and lotteries in this province, I will have an eye to protecting and, in every way possible, supporting the good work that is done in communities by organizations such as you've just outlined.
F. Gingell: Do I understand you to say then that there still will be funding for these types of programs -- I only just picked out one or two as an example -- whereby local community groups can come to your ministry, if yours is the appropriate one, and apply for grants for equipment for day care and those kinds of things -- not necessarily funding for ongoing costs, but for capital items and equipment?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I think the member is trying to put words in my mouth. What I said was that the decisions around lotteries and gambling have not been made. I will be interested in and will represent very strongly the interests of communities as those decisions are being made, but that is not the responsibility of this particular ministry.
We have a community grants program. It is not an extensive one at this point. We have enhanced provisions for support of families and a number of other projects in our budget. As for the community project funding specifically, I'll share some very interesting and revealing numbers with the member, as I did with your critic. In 1981-82 there was something like $6.6 million in community grants. In 1989-90 -- those are the most current ones I have in front of me -- the funding for community grants was $5.4 million, and those are not in constant dollars. If they were in constant dollars, we would have to have something like $15 million to commit the same amount of money to community projects as there was in 1981-82. As the member can readily see, we have a tremendous amount of catch-up to do to heal the wounds that were inflicted on communities by the shortsightedness of the previous administration.
F. Gingell: Madam Minister, I don't know how we get from $6.6 million in 1981-82 to $15 million in the current year, because that means that one has anticipated an inflation rate of 250 percent in the intervening years. That clearly is not the case.
I'm not talking about gambling. I don't approve of the lottery. I personally think that your government, by moving lottery funds away from culture, amateur sports and recreation, as it was originally intended for, is acting somewhat like a New York-based business in the numbers racket. But that's not what I'm asking, and you keep coming back to it.
What I'm asking is this: there were certain important community projects that have been funded -- whether we agree with the way it was done or not -- by lottery funds. We have been told in the budget that the way lottery funds have been disbursed in the past is no longer. Fifty percent of the funds is going to education, and the other 50 percent is going to the ministries. There is roughly $100 million in that 50 percent; the lotteries make $205 million. We have basically been told that all of the ministries are splitting up $100 million among themselves to, we presume, continue the same kind of community support programs that have been going on in the past. How much do you have in your budget to continue this support, or have we not been told the truth? Have you just taken the $100 million, stuffed it into general revenues and not increased your budget to be able to respond to these community needs?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Again, if the member wants information about the lotteries and the distribution of the lotteries money, it's more appropriately asked of the Ministry of Government Services, as they are the ministry responsible. I will, however, share with the member the fact that 50 percent of the lottery money went to the Ministry of Health, not Ministry of Education, as the member said.
F. Gingell: I said "Health," didn't I?
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Hon. J. Smallwood: No, you said "Education."
There is still money in Government Services. The portion for recreation and sport is within the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Recreation and Housing. A portion designated to culture is in the Ministry of Tourism.
F. Gingell: You didn't get anything, Madam Minister? There were no additional funds allocated to your ministry to respond to these needs?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to restate for the member that we're very proud of the commitment that our government has made to this ministry, and to the enhancement of programs for family support. We're looking at something like a 23 percent increase to services to family; a 23 percent increase to community support services; and a 27 percent increase to programs for independence.
F. Gingell: Do I take it that there will not be any manner in which community groups can apply to your ministry for grants for the kinds of things that we discussed, other than the $5.4 million that you have stated previously? There's only the $5.4 million that's available?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The number I read was for the previous year, $5.4 million. For this year it's $7.2 million. That is an ongoing funding. The community projects funding for this year has been in our budget for some years, and it will be under that category that groups can apply for funding support.
F. Gingell: Then I take it that you did get an additional $1.8 million from these funds.
Madam minister, has all of this $7.2 million been committed or spoken for? Or are there funds available for community groups to come and apply for?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I don't want to mislead the member. The enhancement to this ministry's budget has not flowed from lotteries. It is an enhancement and a commitment that our government has made to community support. There are a number of different projects, or different categories, in which community groups can apply for funding. The community projects funding is simply one of those areas. We have a significant increase in our services to families. If the group's delivery of service falls within that category, they can apply for community funding. The increase in that particular area is 23.4 percent; the overall budget in that area is $213 million.
F. Gingell: How are the decisions arrived at that determine whether or not a particular community group is going to receive the support it has requested?
Hon. J. Smallwood: This is a very decentralized ministry. The moneys are allocated on a regional basis, with a fair-share proportion going to each and every region within the province. We are increasingly looking to enhance the community involvement in the distribution of that money. Where there is already a significant relationship between the ministry and community organizations, we will be building on that in the future. Hopefully -- it's under the direction of myself and this government -- we'll be supporting communities and identifying their priorities for spending this money.
C. Tanner: Just to follow up on my associate's questions, the $7.2 million split up on an area basis is discretionary, as far as I'm concerned. Am I correct in making the statement that those funds are discretionary funds?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm not sure what the member means by "discretionary." Perhaps he can explain that.
C. Tanner: In your total budget, you've got 80 percent committed by legislation. The other 20 percent you can play around with a bit. Of the 20 percent, the $7.2 million which is allocated and spread throughout the province in your various areas, somebody must decide how it's going to be spent. Is that a discretion of the minister, or is that a discretion of her offices?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I want to assure the member that we don't play around with money in this ministry.
Secondly, he is correct that this is discretionary; it is not statutory. The distribution of discretionary funds is allocated by region, and the decision and the allotment of that money is made in consultation with the community. When the member refers to the community projects funding, the base is already dedicated. The base in this case is 5.4 percent. The enhancement is not committed. That will be the money that is available for the different regional managers to either enhance existing projects or start new ones with the community.
That is specific to the community projects. As I mentioned to the other member, there are other categories that are specific to either family service and support or programs that target other specific communities of need.
C. Tanner: The 1.8 increase over last year, which you've assured us didn't come from lottery funds, is an increase within your own budget. It is our understanding that the $100 million that used to be distributed by various agencies is now going to be distributed by the ministries themselves. The question that my fellow member asked you was: did you foresee, or have you received, or have you been indicating to your ministry whether or not you will get any of those lottery funds?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'll restate for the member: there are no lottery funds coming to this ministry.
F. Gingell: Just now, when you were responding to the question from my friend, you stated that $5.4 million of this year's $7.2 million is already committed. Is that because $5.4 million is what was spent in the year 1991-92, or does that just happen to be a coincidence that it's the same number?
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Hon. J. Smallwood: That's the baseline. It's committed for ongoing projects.
F. Gingell: Once a program has been funded under this particular program, is ongoing funding guaranteed in subsequent years? Is all this $5.4 million for ongoing programs and not dealing with just one type of funding?
Hon. J. Smallwood: As in all of our programs in the ministry, our programs respond to specific need in communities. From time to time the need changes, depending on the demographics. The funding is not guaranteed; it is tied to need. I'm thinking of some of the community organizations that I'm familiar with. Even under this type of funding there has not been significant change over a considerable period of time. There is continuity in the funding for these projects. Again, I want to emphasize that it is tied to need, and when that need changes, then too will the funding.
A. Cowie: I have a series of short questions for the minister based around housing for GAIN recipients. If I could see if it's in your ministry.... There is an allocation of $325 for one person under GAIN and $650 for families. My question is: is there any provision within the ministry to help people get housing within those constraints in urban areas, such as Vancouver or Victoria, that offer expensive housing, rather than finding accommodation that would be easy within those constraints?
Hon. J. Smallwood: First of all, I'd like to bring to the member's attention that there are two categories in GAIN payments: support and shelter. The shelter portion of the GAIN payment does not meet everyone's shelter needs -- and we're aware of that. We're also aware of the pressure that is brought to bear in housing markets in areas where there is a very low vacancy rate and the ability of landlords to adjust the rents according to increases in that particular portion of the GAIN cheque. Having said that, we have consciously, in the last GAIN increase -- in some categories -- increased disproportionately the amount paid to support, to give families more discretionary money, so that they have the ability to control the money they get rather than having landlords decide for them.
A. Cowie: I attended an aging workshop -- not that I was particularly looking for a solution myself -- the weekend before last. In fact, there were 20 similar workshops around Vancouver, which I'm sure you are going to get valuable information from in time.
Housing was identified as one of the major issues for people, even in the workshop that I attended in the Kerrisdale community centre. I'm not going to say that a lot of the people there are in great need; most of the people have sufficient money. The problem was finding housing. A number of the ideas were generated on a greater need for sharing: older people sharing; owners able to bonus so they could build what are commonly called "nanny suites" -- maybe they should be called something else; and other secondary-type suites for older people. A lot of people, when they do get older, don't have relatives around and are not being looked after properly, do need assistance in some way. I'm wondering what assistance your ministry does have for those people. Also I might ask what your ministry is doing to encourage municipalities in providing alternative forms of housing mentioned at this workshop.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The housing portion of this ministry was transferred to Municipal Affairs, Recreation and Housing. They are now responsible for that portion. Some of our seniors' programs were transferred to the Ministry of Health. At this point we have the seniors' supplement and a seniors' bus pass program. Those are the only two programs left within the Ministry of Social Services specifically targeted to seniors.
A. Cowie: I'll attempt to get information on that through both of those sessions when we have them.
I have one final question regarding the increase of homeless people or street people or whatever you want to call them, especially in Vancouver. You do see them in Victoria and other urban areas. It's become, as you know, a major problem in the States. It's a growing concern. There is no housing for these people, and there doesn't seem to be any direction for it. I'm wondering if there is any consideration within your ministry to look at what seems to be an increasing problem.
Hon. J. Smallwood: Just to tie up a loose end here, one of the programs that we still have for seniors in this ministry, I'm actually very pleased to announce, is the seniors' counsellor program. We have been able to enhance that program by an additional 17 counsellors through this budget. That is one of the many good-news announcements in this ministry.
While I would very much like to be involved in the discussion around housing and the homeless with the member, it's more appropriately referred to the Minister of Municipal Affairs in his estimates.
I might tell the member that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is a ministry represented in the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy, of which I am a member. We have had opportunities to talk about housing and will continue to do that. It is a concern of mine, although not a responsibility of mine.
There is, in addition to the increases in our commitment to community, an increase in additional moneys targeted specifically to hostels through this ministry, and that budget is $760,000. That is new money in this budget and will provide seven different hostels -- either new or enhanced current hostels.
A. Cowie: For the clarification of that, is $760,000 going to provide seven hostels? It couldn't do that.
A. Cowie: Enhancement? Okay, so not to build them, just to operate them. Is that it? It certainly couldn't build them, so it must be to operate them.
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A. Cowie: Yes, that would be helpful.
Hon. J. Smallwood: For Vancouver-Howe Sound, the regional downtown eastside youth hostel, a three-bed increase; for the south fraser women's hostel, I don't have the exact beds, but I believe that's money for a new hostel; for Okanagan-Kootenay and Central Okanagan, a 10 percent bed increase; for Prince George-Cariboo, this is an enhancement of an existing hostel; a new seven-bed hostel for men in Terrace; the North Island hostel in Courtenay, that's a new facility; South Island, a ten-bed increase to existing facilities and a life skills worker to work with individuals in that particular facility.
L. Stephens: I would like to discuss a little the child-apprehension portion of the ministry. I would like to know how many apprehensions the ministry made last year, how many of those were withdrawn by the ministry and how many actually ended up in court.
Hon. J. Smallwood: If the member would be good enough to give us a few minutes to get the statistics for her, I might take the opportunity to ask her if she received the manual that I made a commitment to share with her in our last estimates.
L. Stephens: Yes, I did, minister, about two hours ago. I thank you for that; it was very much appreciated. While you're looking, I have another question for you.
There is a child-protection panel that's going around. I would like to ask if the minister will commit to this House that all of the submissions received by the panel would be made available to the general public or whoever would like to see them.
Hon. J. Smallwood: We will certainly make the commitment that all public presentations made to the commission will be made available to any interested party. Any submissions made in confidence will be impacted. I haven't actually studied it to see whether the range of presentations made in confidence will be impacted by confidentiality provisions under the freedom of information legislation that will be introduced later into the House. But any that were made publicly will certainly be made available to anyone who is interested.
L. Stephens: I have one other question here. The home care studies: are these reports made available to the subjects? And if they are, is there an appeal process to those home studies?
L. Stephens: The ministry does home studies of clients who are applying for the suitability of the home. Are the results of those home studies -- the report -- available to the people who are being studied? If so, and if there is a disagreement, is there an appeal process in place that they may utilize?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Perhaps the member can be more specific as to what type of home studies she's referring to, whether they're for adoption or for fostering.
L. Stephens: I refer specifically to a home that would be for an adoption.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The home studies are shared with the families being studied. If there is any disagreement, then the appeal process is through the supervisor.
L. Stephens: At the onset of an investigation, do the ministry staff make available clear information, either oral or written, or both, about the role of the ministry?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm having some difficulty following the line of questioning, because you're confusing the area of home studies for foster placements and adoptions with investigations around issues of child safety. I will address the two separately, because they are two very different and separate issues.
Around the issue of child protection and the mandate of this ministry, the member is well aware that we are currently reviewing all practices within this ministry, as well as the legislation, and seeking community support and consensus-building around the direction this ministry should take in the future. Any questions that the member puts to me would have to do with current practices and would not reflect the changes that will be brought about by the review.
L. Stephens: The particular question I just asked you has to do with child apprehensions, as I'm sure you're aware. I'm asking whether the policy of your ministry is that the staff making the initial apprehension must inform the people involved, either orally or in writing, about the role of the ministry.
Hon. J. Smallwood: We introduced this pamphlet within the last number of months. We made a public announcement about it in connection with the work that the review is doing. This pamphlet has questions and answers about child protection investigations. When there is an investigation and a child protection worker goes to a home, they go with this pamphlet in hand. It provides a third party for the family to phone. The third party in this case is the B.C. Parents in Crisis Society and, for the aboriginal community, the Mamele Benevolent Society. There are 800 numbers for both.
But the pamphlet not only gives that third-party contact to parents, it also outlines a number of questions. As the member can well imagine, given a situation where a child protection investigation is underway, it most certainly provides for a very frightening situation for parents and for their family. Often parents may not know the questions to ask, or indeed, who to ask. This pamphlet sets out a number of questions to help parents begin to frame their search for
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information so that they can know whether they need to seek legal advice, and what the rights and responsibilities both of the ministry and of the family are.
L. Stephens: I'm very glad to see a pamphlet. It's something that's been needed for a very long time and I'm very pleased to see that, and I know a lot of other people are as well. It's something that's been badly needed.
Are those the figures that I was asking for? Those are the only questions that I have, other than the figures that I had asked for previously.
Hon. J. Smallwood: There were 31,429 investigations for 1991. I might again refer the member to a recent publication that provides statistics and information about the status of child protection services, and the number of investigations all the way through to placements and adoptions. I will share that with the member as well.
We believe very strongly in and are committed to providing information. So, as I indicated much earlier, the days of this ministry owning the problem are gone. We are providing information to share not only some of the difficulties that this ministry has historically faced but also, hopefully, some of the solutions that we can work out together with families and community. The best way to do that is through information and informed decision-making. We are living up to that commitment with some of the publications that we now have made public, and will continue to do so in the future.
Around the investigations, I have shared the number of cases of possible abuse or neglect with you. There is an increase in that particular year, 1991, of 5 percent over the previous year. A very small number of those total investigations actually culminated in apprehension. The apprehension rate for that year was 3,183. Of that number of apprehensions, in 35 percent of that smaller total, 1,111, the ministry decided that the parents were able to resume support and care of their children and withdrew from any further court action.
Of the remaining number, 1,091 or 35 percent of those apprehended were committed to care of the superintendent. Of that number left, in 619 of those cases the court issued a supervision order for the children and the children were returned to their parents. In 57 cases the court returned the children to their parents, indicating the ministry had not presented sufficient evidence.
W. Hurd: I have some specific questions regarding an area that both the minister and I share -- and, of course, the municipality of Surrey. As the minister is also aware, I have had the fortune or misfortune to locate my office down the hall from a Ministry of Social Services branch office. So I've had a bewildering array of problems and issues come through my office that are as bewildering sometimes for the member, I am sure, as they are for the people involved. I have a specific question, however, about the issue of privatization of some ministerial services which occurred under the previous administration. Specifically, I am wondering if there is anything in vote 57 that would enable the ministry to more closely monitor privatized services -- advisory services, counselling services, community-based services -- and to gauge their effectiveness and ensure that the funds provided by the ministry are being well spent.
[E. Barnes in the chair.]
Hon. J. Smallwood: Perhaps the member can be more specific about the services that he was interested in. We provide a very wide range of community-based services.
W. Hurd: I am just wondering, do we need to talk about specifics to the minister? For example, in alcohol and drug counselling for youth, is there anything in the budget to assess the effectiveness of privatized services in this particular area? Is the minister satisfied that the cross-referencing or the checks and balances which were in place under the previous administration are satisfactory to ensure that these privatized services are functioning as they should?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The reason I asked the member is that I wanted to be clearer as to where the member was headed. With an answer, I want to let him know that drug and alcohol is not the responsibility of this ministry.
However, in general terms, the question around monitoring and accountability for contract services is an important one to this ministry, not only around the accountability of taxpayers' dollars and ensuring that we are getting value for money but also around the quality and provision of services to those that are receiving those services. There is a wide range of services provided by this ministry, everything from community grants programs, which are community programs developed by contract, to the contracted services of group homes. In particular, we have, around the care of children and adults with mental handicaps, increased the FTE allotment by 40 to reduce the number of cases that our social workers are responsible for, thus enabling them to spend more time on contract compliance and ensuring that we are providing a good service to those adults and children. We are doing similar things in a number of areas that we are responsible for.
W. Hurd: The minister will recall that during the election campaign we attended a meeting, sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association, regarding services for mentally handicapped people being discharged into the community. I notice there's a healthy increase in funding, which I applaud, for community support for mentally handicapped adults. Does this also include programs for people with mental disabilities who are discharged from Riverview and other institutions?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I want to bring to the member's attention that those suffering from mental illness are very different from those suffering from mental handicaps. People with mental handicaps are
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not ill, and mental health services are provided by the Ministry of Health. Questions with regard to mental health would be more appropriately made during the Health estimates.
The provision of services to people with mental disabilities has been enhanced in this budget. You are correct.
W. Hurd: Another question I wish to ask pertains to the investigations portion of the ministry's operations. This question may be dealt with in the upcoming freedom-of-information act, but I'm wondering, for those who might be under investigation for matters of welfare fraud, is there any indication by the ministry that these files will be more accessible to people? This is just another issue that has crossed my desk in the course of being a member for the last five months.
Hon. J. Smallwood: Investigations of fraud within the ministry will not be made available for public consumption, any more than police investigations or the Attorney General's files around criminal investigations.
W. Hurd: My question wasn't clear. I was just speaking on behalf of the individual who may be under investigation for an indeterminate time and does not have access to the files to determine whether the investigation is ongoing, has been terminated or is being left open for an indefinite period.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I have no intention of answering any questions around the opening of files for ongoing criminal investigation. I don't think that it is appropriate, nor is it required in any other area where a criminal investigation is underway.
L. Fox: I know you addressed one question at least to some degree yesterday. I had to leave and go into the other chamber, so I'm not sure that I got it all, and I wasn't able to find it quickly this morning. With respect to staffing, your ministry had Housing as part of it last year. As well as removing Housing from your ministry, you've added 129 new members, according to the numbers that I have. I'm making a couple of assumptions now. The Housing portion of your ministry staff would have mainly been in urban areas. How then are the added numbers, which I'm sure would include...? Given that you have an aggregate increase of 129, I am assuming that you also had a larger increase than that in order to deliver the services. How are those going to be distributed throughout the regions of this province?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm not sure that I caught the last part of the question, but I'll answer the first part. If it doesn't cover off, you can restate the question. The previous Housing component of this ministry, for the most part, was housed in the B.C. housing corporation. There were approximately 17 staff associated with that.
The increase in FTEs in this budget reflects -- again, for the most part -- the increased caseload, which is projected at approximately 20 percent over the next year. To manage that GAIN caseload, we had to add staff in an effort to ensure that our front-line workers had a manageable caseload.
L. Fox: Then I'm to assume that wherever the caseload is heaviest throughout the province is where you're going to distribute your FTEs. Is that correct?
Hon. J. Smallwood: They're allocated on a caseload fair-share basis, yes.
L. Fox: Just to follow up, I'm particularly concerned, of course, with my own constituency. Part of Prince George falls into that. Given the increase in caseloads, what measurement are you going to use for the criteria? Is it going to be 50 per caseworker or 20 per caseworker? How are you going to measure that?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The financial assistance workers could only dream that they would have 50. At this time it's 265 per financial assistance worker, and the recommended caseload is 225. With the increase in FTEs, the caseload will actually drop from 265 to approximately 250. We are still considerably higher than what is manageable.
L. Fox: Earlier you made a comment about involving the community in the delivery of your services. Does this mean that you might be committed to something that we've seen before, as in elected community resource boards? Is there any money in this vote with respect to that?
Hon. J. Smallwood: From an ex-resource board worker here.... I have somebody saying: "Say yes." The answer is no, we are not going to a resource-board model. In the future we will be looking for other models that will empower communities to be better able to prioritize the spending and service delivery in each and every community.
Currently through each of our offices we have a good relationship, not only with the contractors of services but with a number of interest groups and advocacy groups in each and every community, and we'll be looking to enhance that in the next while. That is future policy, and we are not in a position at this point to predict the outcome of the work that we'll be doing with communities to define that role.
L. Fox: If I understood you correctly, the makeup of that structure is in the future sometime, and you don't have a perception as to what it is at this time.
Can the minister tell us what definition of the poverty line her ministry is using when it speaks of GAIN rates in relationship to the poverty line?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Depending on which study you're looking at, there are approximately seven poverty lines that different people or different groups refer to. Currently this ministry looks at the Stats Canada low-income cutoff. That is not, however, a poverty line.
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L. Fox: May I ask again what criteria your ministry is using with respect to that? What is your definition of the poverty line used with respect to the GAIN program?
Hon. J. Smallwood: We're not actually using a poverty line, and I referred earlier to the Stats Canada low-income cutoff as a projection tool. However, at this point in time we're well aware of the fact that GAIN rates are substantially below just about any poverty line you'd like to point to and that the GAIN rates do not adequately meet the needs of individuals and families in this province.
We are looking in a number of areas, and there will be some future policy announcements that will begin to either address directly income assistance.... I would bring to the member's attention two already announced -- the GAIN rate increase of February and the enhanced earnings exemption that we have announced just in this past couple of weeks -- that impact the amount of money income assistance recipients can keep and point to a number of future policies that will either enhance...or get the debate out there in the public beyond this ministry and beyond the House, to address the issue of poverty in this province.
L. Fox: Does this vote provide sufficient funds to increase GAIN to the levels recommended by your government's policy?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I don't understand the question. I've already acknowledged that the majority of the increase in the GAIN vote has to do with increased caseloads. It does not reflect an increased amount to income assistance recipients; it will not reflect an increase on their individual cheques. The issue of the GAIN cheques and the inability of that amount of money to support an individual or family is a very real thing. All one has to do is look at the lineups for food banks in just about every community to realize that income assistance does not meet the needs of individuals and families in this province.
There are a number of significant issues around poverty in this province, both for income assistance recipients and for the working poor. I make the commitment to the member that this ministry will take a lead in developing policy and encouraging the people of this province to come to grips with the issue of poverty. Quite frankly, no government and, indeed, society can afford the effects of poverty at the level we are seeing it at now in British Columbia.
L. Fox: Can the minister explain why the funding for seniors' programs has been frozen? This means that in real dollars there's a reduction, given that seniors will be contributing to the provincial coffers through higher income taxes, higher school taxes, camping fees, ferry charges, etc. How do you equate this?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Perhaps the member can be more specific as to which program he's talking about.
L. Fox: When you look at vote 57, it appears that seniors' programs, in essence, have been frozen to the level of last year.
Hon. J. Smallwood: The program left in this ministry is the seniors' supplement, which actually increases pension income to persons turning 65. That population is decreasing. There's a decreasing number of seniors eligible for that program, and I think that that likely reflects the fact that pensions and income security for seniors have, over a number of years, increased more quickly than programs for younger individuals and families who are poor.
L. Fox: I find the rationale that the number of seniors is decreasing rather difficult to understand. While they're decreasing in terms of their need for this program, the numbers are decreasing? I find that rather difficult to believe, given that by the year 2010, B.C.'s population of seniors is projected to have an increase of 49 percent. Given those kinds of factors, I find it rather difficult to understand that there's actually a decreasing number of individuals needing this assistance. The number of people over the age of 85 will increase by 130 percent by the year 2010.
Has the minister's budget been put to the Seniors' Advisory Council for their comments, and is the council satisfied that there are sufficient funds in vote 57 to adequately provide for seniors' programs?
Hon. J. Smallwood: What I would like to bring to the attention of the member is that this is not all of the programs for seniors. There are three very simple programs provided by this ministry. They are the seniors' supplement program, which is an income supplement to top up pensions, the bus pass program and the seniors' counselling program. I've already had the opportunity to announce an increase in the number of seniors' counsellors that we will provide under this program. The bus pass program has seen a modest enhancement. As far as the seniors' supplement is concerned, this is a very targeted program that enhances seniors' pensions, and that program eligibility has not changed. The thing that has changed is that fewer seniors are requiring a top-up to their pension.
Hon. J. Smallwood: There has been no change in the qualifications. There has been a reduction in the number qualifying for the seniors' supplement. One can explain that in a number of ways. One is by the reliance on private pensions, or the Canada Pension Plan, or other avenues of support. The fact that this particular program has not seen an increase is a reflection only of the numbers qualifying for it, not of any change.
L. Fox: In all due respect to the minister, your party objected to a cut in last year's budget. In fact, it argued in this House that an additional $20 million should be placed in the seniors' supplement program. I have difficulty understanding how in one year's budget it
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means $20 million more, and in the next year's budget, under your administration, you suggest that it can get away with $2 million less.
Hon. J. Smallwood: My only comment is that this program reflects need, and the budget is appropriate to those who are qualifying under this particular program.
L. Fox: A final question, Mr. Chairman. Given that, as you suggest, the poverty level is so low in all corners of the province -- and I concur that it certainly has to be addressed -- I have a particular concern that falls, I believe, partly under your ministry, and that's with the homemaker program. Does that come under Health or partially under Social Services?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Both.
L. Fox: Both. Okay.
I have a couple of instances where young unemployed individuals are prepared to live with and look after their grandmothers or grandfathers. However, the program really doesn't recognize that these people can be employed in this way; instead, the individuals are forced to use a home care worker who comes in on an occasional basis. I don't expect an answer now, but would the minister commit to looking into this kind of thing and seeing if you somehow can't marry the social services aspect with delivery of this health care, making these people feel like they're doing something more worthwhile than just accepting their cheques?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I think the area of homemaker service that the member is referring to falls under the responsibility of Health. Our home workers are family support workers and support to the disabled community. I might, though, share with the member that each and every program in this ministry -- and, I suspect, in this government -- are being reviewed to ensure that they are effective and meet the priorities and commitments of this government. I'm more than happy to take the member's comments and look at that in the review.
H. De Jong: I have a couple of questions to the minister which relate to the maintenance enforcement program. This was a program that I think was initiated sometime in '88 or '89 by the Minister of Social Services at that time, and it proved to be very successful. Could the minister bring us up to date as to how this program is working? Is there still a backlog, as there was in 1988? And what really are the results of this program to date?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The increased FTEs allotted to this program in last year's budget are now on stream, and they are impacting the waiting-list. The waiting-list is still significant. This is one of the programs that we are currently reviewing, and there will be future announcements in this area.
H. De Jong: Does the minister have any idea as to how much money is actually being saved, which would otherwise need to be paid out of human resources through the success of this program?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I might start by making the comment that this is a program that is valued. Recognizing the value both to families and to government is important. It's a program that single parents look to for some assistance, so any changes that this government brings will be to enhance the program and add to its ability to function.
The value of orders filed with family maintenance, projected for 1992-93, is $10.2 million.
H. De Jong: A further question, then. Suppose that a single mother is remarrying or has remarried. Does maintenance enforcement still apply from the previous husband to be paid for the maintenance of those children? If so, why does it take three months before any action is taken to follow up on the lack of payment by the previous husband?
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm sure that the member is well aware that the actual enforcement provisions of this program are the responsibility of the Attorney General. So I'd suggest that the member take advantage of the Attorney-General's estimates -- they may be going on still in the other committee room -- and ask that ministry to answer your questions.
J. Tyabji: I would like to talk about Social Services programs with regard to small business, the interrelation between some of the people who are receiving assistance and perhaps the integration of that through a training program.
First of all, I'd like to know the basic budget and direction with regard to the ministry. In the riding I come from there is a great need, and there are a number of people who would like to get off social services. In order to do that, they would need some kind of training. They don't really want to be in what they're calling the welfare cycle. They want to break the welfare cycle.
Particularly, I know we want to focus on small business development, because we're being affected by cross-border shopping, and small businesses could certainly use the advantage that would be provided by having people who are having their training program funded through Social Services, so you're getting the training on one hand and the benefits to small business on the other. If you could provide some direction there....
Hon. J. Smallwood: I realize that the member wasn't in the House when we actually talked about the employment programs. There has been an enhancement of employment programs; there's quite a wide range of programs provided by this ministry. The current budget for employment programs.... Clearly it is a priority of this government to emphasize employment opportunities and training for income assistance recipients. We also believe very strongly that there's a tremendous waste in this province when large numbers of people are denied the opportunity to participate fully
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in the workforce. We'll be looking for ways of empowering people to be full citizens in that regard. Employment programs -- like every other program in government -- are being reviewed. We have continued this ministry's commitment to a number of the existing programs while the review is underway. I'd like to bring the member's attention to a number of those programs.
One is the community tourism employment training program delivered through the Ministry of Tourism and the Minister Responsible for Culture. That is a small business program for the most part, and is enjoyed by income assistance recipients. There is also a forest enhancement program -- one that is used by a number of regions in this province -- that enhances both forestry and small business, and provides opportunity for training and employment for income assistance recipients. The other programs responsive both to small business and to the needs of income assistance recipients are the RISE programs and the employment opportunity programs through this ministry.
As I said, we are in the process of looking at those programs to ensure that they best serve the needs of income assistance recipients, and provide real and meaningful opportunities for meaningful, well-paid jobs.
J. Tyabji: Following that line of questioning, what I'd like to know is: with regard to integration of small business with these programs, how much money is set aside for workshops or for some kind of information -- not just in the form of pamphlets, but some kind of communication -- to small businesses about the services and the options available to them?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Within the specialized services provided by this ministry, we have a section responsible for employment programs. The professionals in those areas are rehab officers or employment officers, and they, in each and every area of the province, are in ongoing communication with the business community in providing placement opportunities for income assistance recipients.
J. Tyabji: Going back to what you were talking about -- the forest enhancement program -- just for some kind of clarification, my understanding is that the forest enhancement program has been moved over from the Ministry of Environment portfolio, and that was formerly part of the Environment Youth Corps. Could you clarify that?
Hon. J. Smallwood: The forest enhancement program is provided through the Ministry of Forests. That program, in partnership with this ministry, is ongoing and has received an enhancement over the previous year -- a considerable enhancement, I might add. In addition is the youth corps program, one that was provided through the Ministry of Environment in partnership with this ministry. That budget allotment has returned to this ministry. We are in the process of reallocating and redefining that particular program.
J. Tyabji: With regard to the Environment Youth Corps program -- which, as I understand from your explanation, was shared between Environment and Social Services -- that portion that was under Environment has come back under Social Services. Now we're dealing just with Social Services with this program.
Could you give me some indication how you want the direction and parameters of the Environment Youth Corps to do similar projects under Social Services?
Hon. J. Smallwood: This particular program was funded by the Ministry of Social Services and administered through the Ministry of Environment. The funding has been retained in the Ministry of Social Services. It is for our clients. We are in the process of restructuring that program and are not in a position, at this time, to make an announcement about it.
[D. Streifel in the chair.]
J. Tyabji: The reason I'm pursuing this line of questioning, with regard to the Environment Youth Corps, is that I have been contacted by a number of past participants. Their big concern is that the corps has been discontinued. The understanding that they have, based on their discussions with the various ministries, is that it is now under the auspices of Social Services.
What I'm trying to understand, for example.... Can you give me a general idea of how it's going to be outlined, if it will be for social services recipients only, or if there is still some measure for past students to get involved or if you...?
You said the forest enhancement program is something which is being shared by your ministry and the Ministry of Forests, as well. There's a lot of different things being talked about here that have some overlap with the environment. Could you clarify those for me?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Our employment programs are for income assistance recipients. That's what the money is for. We develop employment programs in cooperation with other ministries, whether it's Tourism and Culture, the Ministry of Forests or, in the past, the Ministry of Environment. The program that the Ministry of Environment administered in the past no longer exists. The decision has been made by the Ministry of Environment to discontinue their portion of that program. Our portion of that program, targeted specifically for income assistance recipients, is undergoing a restructuring. As soon as we can, we will make an announcement about that restructuring.
J. Tyabji: I'll abandon that line of questioning for now, but if I could ask the minister about any kind of initiatives.... My understanding is that the specifics of this haven't been discussed previously, so if I'm repeating a question, my apologies in advance.
With regard to the situation of mothers on income assistance who would like day care and training programs in order to move into the workforce, are there any creative solutions such as day care initiatives? For example, if someone has a situation which offers a more creative and less expensive alternative to day care....
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What I'm trying to get at is: what is the long-term plan with regard to integrating the professional lives of working mothers if they are trying to get off income assistance?
[E. Barnes in the chair.]
Hon. J. Smallwood: We have a number of bridging programs to support re-entry into the workforce. They range from programs that enable people to keep more of the money that they earn.... We've made an announcement in the last couple of weeks around enhanced earnings exemptions.
As to your questions on day care, there will be some announcements to that effect in the near future, so I'm not able to comment about that at this time. We are looking at our bridging programs, at expanding the opportunities for training for people and for increased support back to the workforce.
J. Tyabji: To go back to the idea of a creative solution, in our riding we have a large number of seniors who would like more contact with younger people; we have a lot of working mothers who don't have extended family around; we have a lot of children who would like to be around older people. It seems to me that if we want some kind of creative solution, it would be to get adoptive grandparents who can come in and relieve some of the financial burden with regard to day care initiatives. We could actually bring together a working mother who wants to pursue a career with, perhaps, some senior citizens who would like to spend more time with children. I believe this would fall under Social Services. It would also reduce to some extent the capital costs involved if we could provide some care for the children in the home.
Could you give me an idea of the long-term plan? Are there any initiatives on the board for really bringing back the sense of community? I know in our area there is a feeling of people wanting to bring together the community but not having any mechanism to do that. Bringing together all these diverse groups would not only be nice in terms of the community but a lot less expensive in terms of the Social Services budget. It would probably result in a much better situation for all parties involved. This gets back into long-term plan and any incentives to put these groups together.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'd like to first of all state as strongly as possible that this ministry believes in community, and we believe in community initiative. We look for opportunities to support that community initiative. In earlier discussions we talked about the kind of work that is being done by community groups to identify needs and to meet those needs. That's ongoing in just about every community of this province, depending on how the community defines those needs. And we hope that we'll be able, on a continuing and enhanced basis, to acknowledge and support those kinds of initiatives.
J. Tyabji: Do you have any plans for pilot projects in which you would bring together diverse groups of the community for such an initiative -- for example the seniors, working mothers and children -- where perhaps there's an integration that would be, as I say, less expensive, less-capital intensive and able to meet the needs of all the parties involved?
Hon. J. Smallwood: Rather than speaking specifically to this project on a continuing basis.... Very clearly, it is limited by the amount of time that our staff has for really getting involved in community development initiatives. From community to community there is ongoing consultation where communities identify needs, and the ministry staff on the front lines look for ways of supporting and enhancing the ability of the community to meet those needs. That kind of relationship exists now. It's the hope, and certainly the priority, of this government to encourage and create more and new opportunities for communities, both to identify those needs and to have those needs met.
J. Tyabji: In my riding I have put together a group: we're called the Community Needs Alliance. It is a representative from all the existing groups -- the food bank, housing, any kind of group that's in existence to deal with homeless people or people who are below the poverty line and have run out of money before the end of the month. All these groups have come together on the Community Needs Alliance for two purposes: one is to assess, and the other is to assist.
Shortly after the election, it was brought to my attention that there were a number of women who were homeless. We have a growing problem with homeless people in Kelowna because of a lack of affordable housing and, of course, a growing population. When this was brought to my attention, the first thing I found out immediately after was that nobody could give me a real number as to how many people there were, how many people there used to be, and how many people we expect to have.
When we brought this group together and decided that there may be a need, the first thing we decided to do was some kind of fund-raising to raise public awareness and put something together for the people who are identifiably on the streets -- which we have done. I'm happy to announce that the house will be open within a month. It's a joint project of the community. It includes some money from Social Services, but is primarily from the community.
What strikes me as the most frustrating part of the whole project is that there were no real numbers, and it's very difficult as a representative who is accountable to the people to stand up and say: "We have this need in the community." What I was able to say was that these people had expressed this need to me, and therefore I'm doing something on their behalf.
What I would like to know is: what is Social Services doing in areas like Kelowna to make sure that the people who are falling through the cracks are identified, that trends with regard to these people are tracked and that there are provisions so that they don't fall through the cracks in the future?
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Hon. J. Smallwood: I can't speak directly to the process that the member has spoken of, but I might share with her that there are such processes going on in a number and variety of communities: some ad hoc like the process the member is engaged in, some more established in structure and more reflective of some of the community agencies -- and those community agencies have been meeting for a long time. My community in Surrey is supported by the social planning component of municipal hall. I might suggest to the member that the best way for a community to work toward the kind of social planning that she's ultimately talking about is by having all of the players at the table and moving toward the entrenchment of an ongoing structure, so that it makes the leap from an ad hoc structure to one that the community can rely on, and which is part of an ongoing process where we have a number of people accountable for it. Those are the sorts of things that we're looking at with this ministry.
One of the earlier questions was whether or not we were looking at a resource board model. We are not looking at an independent resource board model for social planning, but we will be looking at other existing structures -- whether it is simply the meeting of social planning agencies or institutionalizing it in some way in existing structures like municipal councils and their planning departments. That's future policy, and I'd be more than happy to discuss that with the member.
Each one of our offices, in each and every region and area of the province, has contact with a number of ongoing committees, whether it's the child and youth committees -- which exist as an interministerial vehicle to identify and respond to community needs -- or whether it's directly in response to structures such as the one you're involved with.
J. Tyabji: What I consider to be symptoms of a problem that is much larger than what we're seeing are things like the food banks, the homeless people, the people who are falling through the gaps and the lack of affordable housing.
I'm wondering what plans the ministry has in terms of preventive measures: first, to identify what the ultimate cause is, because I think we're just dealing with symptoms; then putting in preventive measures so that we don't have a worse problem in a few years. In Kelowna we're finding that there tends to be a geometric pattern evolving, where the people are continuing to fall through the gaps and no one has identified the ultimate problem. More symptoms are cropping up as you get larger centres, and the sooner we institute preventive measures, the cheaper it is for all of us. I was wondering what the preventive measures are for the ministry.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I'm going to take the opportunity to share with you my thinking on that, as I have with a number of members previously, because I think it's important to take every opportunity to talk about the directions this government is taking.
There are two very separate and distinct categories within this ministry: one around child protection and one around GAIN or income assistance.
Hon. J. Smallwood: While I love to talk about my ministry, I also like to have people listen.
Around support for families, we are doing a couple of things that are reflected by the budget we have before you in estimates. We have increased the amount of money for family support, because every income spectrum needs support at one time or another. No matter how good the family is or how strong that relationship is, they may find themselves, at one point in their parenting, needing some sort of support, whether it's a parenting class or self-support. We've enhanced the support to families, and we believe that that is an important preventive measure that will ultimately, as our goal, decrease the number of children who will fall into the care of the province. A significant number of children who fall into care are, I believe, the result of poverty, the pressures that poverty puts on families and the ultimate breakdown of families that are under the stress of being unable to feed their children.
This brings me to the issue of GAIN. We have enhanced our employment programs and training to provide opportunities for people, but very clearly the solutions to poverty are not found, in total, in this ministry. This government is committed to dealing in the broadest fashion with the issues of poverty, and we will have some announcements about vehicles to enhance and support that debate in this province. The issue of poverty is not simply a matter of increasing GAIN payments, but indeed, of providing real opportunities for people to be full citizens in this province.
I'm sure that we'll have an opportunity tomorrow to continue this debate. I understand that the House Leader wants to report from the other committee. I'd be more than happy to continue this line of questioning at a later time.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Committee of Supply B, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Committee of Supply A, having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
The Speaker: In accordance with the sessional order passed earlier this session, it is now time for summaries of the debates of Committee A. I call on the member from the third party for a five-minute summary.
C. Serwa: This moment in time is part of an historic occasion in the Legislature of the Province of British Columbia, to have two committees working simultaneously to speed up the process of estimates. I had stated at the opening of this particular estimate how significant it was for British Columbia and for this
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Legislature to speed up the passage of debate on estimates, so that we can focus more on legislation, and that is one of our primary purposes.
There are a number of very positive things associated with the opportunity to sit in Committee A. One of the things that transpired was the agreement to proceed with the estimates in a specific order. It was done by agreement with all of the parties involved, and I thought that was a very welcome, cooperative gesture.
The estimates of the Ministry of Attorney General were well canvassed. It was most appropriate that they were selected as the first estimates for this Committee A, in that, throughout the British Empire -- we're part of the Westminster system here -- the rule of law and order is the very foundation, the very essence of our structure. In the canvassing of it, we looked at the organization, the court system, motor vehicles, police matters, corrections, criminal justice, legal services, the provincial emergency program.
The questions were well asked, well directed. I compliment the minister on his responses on his new ministry, which carries with him the honour and the integrity he has so rightfully gained in his years of tenure in this Legislature. I also compliment the critic for the official opposition on doing an exceedingly fine job. For the Social Credit caucus, the third party in the Legislature, we are very pleased with the results of the estimates and express our complete confidence in the operation of the Ministry of Attorney General. They are going to be running on a very tight shoestring with a very small 0.5 percent increase, with tremendous responsibilities representing especially government services with a lot of tough issues floating out there. But, again, I am confident in the minister and his staff, and from my perspective, I congratulate the minister for doing a splendid job in the course of his first estimates in the Ministry of Attorney General.
A. Warnke: I want to echo the member for Okanagan West as to this being an historical moment in terms of establishing two separate committees. In my assessment, this particular set of estimates dealing with the Attorney General seemed to work quite well. I'm very satisfied with the results that have taken place. The division of the committee into two seemed to work very well in this particular case.
I do not want to make a premature judgment, however. Whether it is the model for all cases, we do not know as yet. I hope that it is a model. I hope that the committee, by dividing into two such as this, will work. However, we will monitor it as it applies to other estimates that are brought before Committee A. I'm pleased insofar as the arrangement, as the member for Okanagan West has pointed out, by focusing in on certain areas agreed upon by the three parties, explored them in considerable detail.
We recognize this as very awkward in some ways, because the Attorney General has before him the situation of transition, by essentially taking two ministries -- the former Attorney General ministry and the former Solicitor General ministry -- and amalgamating them into one new ministry. As a result, the opposition certainly appreciates the difficulties the minister had before him of revamping, reshaping, reorganizing and restructuring the ministry and its departments. It's a tremendous challenge that's before the Attorney General, and we appreciate it. We certainly appreciate the candour of the answers to the various questions that have been posed to the minister. I want to extend my sincere thanks to the minister for his role in this.
We had some specific issues and concerns dealing with the courts. We dealt with different issues with regard to policing, alcoholism and the administration of criminal justice corrections. We dealt with some specific areas such as the family maintenance enforcement program and so on. I'm quite satisfied in my mind -- and I think the opposition is as well -- that the minister provided in full, to the best of his ability, the answers to the questions we asked.
Therefore, hon. Speaker, I'm very pleased at this stage that we've made progress. Once again, I want to thank the minister and especially the minister's staff. I think the staff in the department need to be commended for the splendid job they did in providing help to us and no doubt to the minister. The entire ministry seems to be well onto a good course, especially given the fact that it is in such a state of transition.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: First of all, I want to express my thanks to the member for Okanagan West and the member for Richmond-Steveston for their comments. As has been noted, we have embarked on a new path for this Legislature. I agree with the member for Richmond-Steveston that the jury is still out on the Committee A and Committee B approach to estimates. It seems to me, based on the three days that we had dealing with the Attorney-General's ministry estimates, that in fact it is an experiment that has passed its first test, an experiment that seems to allow every member an opportunity to express views or to ask questions or to pursue a particular issue. We had a few teething problems with substitution, but those were minor and were dealt with. I suspect we will occasionally have to deal with issues of that kind, but I'm certain that with the good will that we experienced in the first three days of the operation of that committee, we will have no trouble at all making sure that a system is in place that will allow every member of this House to participate in a full and effective way in whatever estimates are being conducted over there while at the same time being able to participate in the estimates here in this House. If we continue with this approach and, as I said in my opening comments to Committee A, even put our minds, as time goes on, to additional changes that may well be useful and that we should consider, then I think we can really do the things that are important to do in reforming this institution.
It's a storied institution, this Legislature, and it's one that has a lot of history to it, much of it proud history but some of it not so proud. As I've said on previous occasions in this House, there have been times in the course of this Legislature's history that all members don't feel good about, and certainly there were moments that did not make one proud. It's only a suggestion that the carpet is red because of all the blood
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that has been spilled in here. But on occasions, particularly about a decade ago, if the carpet hadn't been red, we would have noticed the blood stains. It was a raw and raucous place that did not serve the public's interest particularly well on occasion. I think the changes that we've begun with this Parliament have been really very useful.
I want to echo the thanks that were expressed to ministry staff. The Attorney General's ministry comprises some 5,700 people, plus some contractors. Also under my responsibility, we have another 1,500 or so people who work in government liquor stores around British Columbia. It is a large number of public employees, all of whom do outstanding work for the people of this province. I think it's important to acknowledge their work, their commitment and their dedication to public service whenever we have an opportunity to do so.
I welcome this opportunity to say thank you not only to the ministry staff who were present during the estimates -- the deputy, assistant deputies and others -- but to the entire ministry staff, who do outstanding work. The public often is not fully appreciative of the kind of work that the public's employees actually do on behalf of the public.
In terms of the issues raised in our estimates, I don't think that the issues were such that we are taking the full opportunity of what this particular wrap-up session was designed to do. I guess in the original design it was an opportunity to recanvass briefly in this House the fundamental issues that divided us in committee. I can say that, almost without exception, we had a meeting of the minds about the issues that were raised. Clearly there were some issues where there are different philosophical approaches, but there was a good and healthy discussion about a very complex ministry, which not only combines the old ministries of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General but also takes in some elements of Labour and Consumer Services and the old Provincial Secretary's ministry. In fact, it combines, as I say, elements of four separate ministries and is quite a large and diverse ministry. Despite that diversity, despite the wide variety of issues, we had a good and productive debate and discussion about all of those issues.
I could take my ten minutes, but I don't think I need to do that. The debate has concluded, and all I want to say now is thank you to all members of the House who participated in this exciting new experiment, which I hope will become an institution in our parliament.
Before moving the adjournment motion, may I just advise members -- because I haven't had an opportunity today to fully inform members about what we are doing in the House the next couple of days -- that tomorrow morning for up to an hour we would like to debate Motion 26, which is the motion on the order paper in the name of the Minister of Advanced Education. Following that, we will go back to Committee of Supply in both committees. In this committee we will continue to deal with Social Services. In the Douglas Fir Room we will go to Aboriginal Affairs.
I understand that members of the opposition are unable to continue with Aboriginal Affairs in Committee A on Friday. I haven't had an opportunity to consult with my colleagues, but we will probably go either to Agriculture or to Municipal Affairs for the Friday session. I will try to do some consultation about that tomorrow. In this House, when Social Services is finished early tomorrow, we can move on to Transportation and Highways.
I think that gives us the agenda for the rest of the week. If there are any questions about it people can see me after.
Hon. C. Gabelmann moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:51 p.m.
The House in Committee of Supply A; D. Streifel in the chair.
The committee met at 3 p.m.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
On vote 18: minister's office, $386,191 (continued).
A. Warnke: By prior arrangement, Mr. Chairman, we should proceed on two outstanding areas: criminal justice and legal services. From that point we will have covered the seven areas as agreed in advance. For the remainder of the period, we'll see how it goes. By earlier agreement, we would then open it up to a variety of questions. I have a few questions other than the seven that we covered.
As the Attorney General mentioned on different occasions, we've actually had some blurring in areas, as we are all trying to go through estimates for the first time. It has been an interesting experience that way. Nonetheless, we will try to look at aspects of criminal justice. As much as possible I'll try to add a couple of specific questions. I don't know how many members are here or are going to be here, but if other members have questions with regard to criminal justice, I'll defer to them. Similarly, I'll have a couple of questions in legal services, and then I'll defer. Perhaps that will expedite this.
I want to pose an initial question to the Attorney General, and it is with regard to justice support programs. I've noticed that there has been a sharp increase in the funds allocated to the community programs division. When we compare 1989-90 to 1992-93, the figure here is almost double. I'm wondering if the Attorney General could just give us a quick
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outline of some of the contributing factors leading to the increase in funds.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: We didn't quite get to the criminal justice branch. We'll get there, I suppose. We're talking here about an increase in community programs from '91-92, restated, of $10.86 million. This year we're talking about $12.6 million, an increase of approximately $1.74 million, if my arithmetic is correct. Of that increase, $1.27 million goes to family maintenance enforcement, $190,000 to community programs operations, $260,000 to native court workers and counselling and $20,000 to programs for victims of sexual assault.
The biggest chunk of money is for family maintenance enforcement. That is designed to maintain enforcement services at '91-92 levels. It provides for a 2 percent increase for the program. It also provides $190,000 and five full-time-equivalents for the maintenance enforcement information search unit to deal with increasing volumes and to maintain the case aging of searches -- whatever that means -- at the '91-92 level. In any event, those are the major items in answer to that question.
A. Warnke: I believe the minister made reference to the criminal justice branch as well. Would the minister elaborate on that also?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: If you're asking about the budget of the criminal justice branch, it has increased from $29.7 million, as you know, to $35.2 million. The increase of $5.5 million, which is 18.5 percent, provides for the following initiatives. Firstly, full funding for the so-called law and order initiative, which includes $1.38 million for special prosecution units; $370,000 to expand disclosure courts; and $780,000 for Crown-based victims programs. Secondly, it includes funding of $545,000 -- just over $.5 million -- for the third and final year of a scheme approved in fiscal year 1990-91 to increase Crown prosecutor compensation, and $700,000 for the annualized cost of second-year increases in that program. Thirdly, it includes funding in the amount of $1.6 million for facility cost increases and a funding shortfall in the branch's building occupancy budget in 1991-92. There's a bit of catch-up money in there as well. There is an additional $250,000 in here for Crown-based aboriginal justice initiatives. I think that accounts for the $5.5 million.
There was some question about whether I was giving you the right numbers on the community programs branch, but it turns out we think I did give you the right numbers.
A. Warnke: We did discuss the family maintenance enforcement program in general terms on the first day. Since then a number of people have approached me on the program. In a financial context it might.... I must admit, I have looked back at Hansard, and I was thinking that there needs to be some elaboration here with regard to the ministry's commitment to children especially. Perhaps I've missed it, but just to make sure that this is covered, can the Attorney General just outline the government's commitment to the children resulting from broken homes, in the context of the number of cases, whether they've been fully paid up, and whether there's any sort of financial implication resulting from this. I don't believe that was discussed earlier.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I'm struggling to comprehend the question. We talked last week about family maintenance enforcement and my concern that there are obviously some difficulties for many people who are in the program and involved with it one way or another. We are in the middle of doing a review of it to ensure that we can provide the best possible system and that payments are actually made by people who are ordered to do so.
There are different programs across the country and different ways of dealing with it. We've tried different ways here in British Columbia over the years. I don't think any of us are completely satisfied with the current structure, and I'm determined to find ways of improving it so that payments are made when they are due, and families that are left -- usually the mother and often some children -- do get money from the former spouse -- the father, which is usually the pattern that we have here. We are determined to do something about it to ensure as best we can that the payments are made.
A. Warnke: I also want to turn my attention to something we did not overlook. We were focusing yesterday on some aspects of gang violence, and I thought the Attorney General outlined a fairly adequate view of some of the problems with regard to gang violence, especially in the city of Vancouver. He even cleared up some of the misconceptions that the press and the public may have about gang violence. On the other hand, we never really touched on an old problem, another form of organized criminal activity that has actually been in existence for some time. It's interesting that the press and the public, as the Attorney General has pointed out, tend to focus on gang violence involving recent immigrants. We tend to downplay organized crime when it involves people who have been born and raised in this continent, if not in this country, and who are very familiar with North American ways. For the time being I am quite interested in the ministry's financial and policy commitment to address the problem involving organized criminal groups with international ties to the United States, Europe and so forth. To what extent is the province actually getting a handle on this and making progress in this area? I'd appreciate it if the Attorney General could elaborate.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: There is a special unit in the Crown prosecutors' offices in the lower mainland to deal with commercial crime. We also have senior prosecutors around the province who are specially charged to deal with organized crime wherever it occurs. The Crown prosecutors have organized themselves in such a way as to be able to deal effectively with organized crime, whether commercial or any other kind.
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A. Warnke: In light of some of the recent controversies with regard to Crown prosecution.... I will take that up in a few moments time. We may way to allay any fears that the public may have concerning the Crown's ability to prosecute. Perhaps it is an opportune time for the Attorney General to express that some of the financial issues involving Crown prosecutors will not interfere with the administration of justice.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I want to thank the member for Richmond-Steveston for giving me the opportunity to deal with this issue. It's one that has received some media attention in recent days.
Our ministry still has a considerable number of very senior Crown prosecutors who have a great deal of experience and are able to prosecute cases that require expertise. That is happening and will continue to happen. There are also occasions when the ministry will go outside the ranks of staff or contracted prosecutors and retain a private lawyer to act as a prosecutor. It is important for all members and the public to know and to feel confident that prosecutions in this province are conducted effectively. We are not at risk in any way in terms of not gaining convictions where convictions should be gained.
That's not to say that there aren't serious concerns expressed by Crown prosecutors, and I have said this before in this committee and in the House. We acknowledge and accept that there are some legitimate concerns raised by Crown prosecutors. We have agreed to sit down with them to talk about the issues they have identified. Another meeting between the association and government representatives is scheduled for the day after tomorrow to deal with those issues.
The public should be reassured that they are getting very good value for their money and that we are not in jeopardy in court as a result of any of these issues. We may not have a lot of money to throw at it, but by various means we intend to raise the status of Crown prosecutors in our justice system. They are an essential ingredient. They play a crucial role in our justice system. It's very important that they feel good about the work they are doing for the public. I want them to know that I think they do very good and effective work and serve the people of this province very well indeed.
A. Warnke: On this point, I did want the minister to provide that kind of reassurance to the public, because it has raised some concern. There's a specific question attached to that, on which I would like the Attorney General to comment, and that is that perhaps within the profession -- and among Crown prosecutors who are the best and brightest of that group -- they are finding it attractive to leave and go into private practice. I think we'll touch on that in a moment.
At the same time, I would like to have the minister respond to this impression that perhaps the best of the Crown prosecutors are leaving for private practice, and that what we're left with is something not quite as adequate, or people who are not quite as experienced and trained to deal with some of these very serious criminal problems. It would be highly appropriate if the minister could respond to that particular impression.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: There have been one or two very high-profile prosecutors leaving to go to private practice. That has always been the case. You will always find prosecutors moving to private practice -- in some cases back to it, and in some cases to it for the first time. That's something that we should expect. It's built into the way the system works, and there has been nothing particularly unusual in recent years.
In fact, I think the attrition rate in the last three years gives us some sense of that. In B.C. in 1989, there was a total of 174 prosecutors; 14 left, for an attrition rate of 8 percent. In 1990 there were 230 prosecutors; 17 left, for a rate of 7.4 percent. In 1991 there were 276 prosecutors; 22 left, which brought us back to 8 percent. So we're sitting at between 7.5 and 8 percent attrition in Crown prosecutors. That's not a bad attrition rate in any field. It's certainly a lot lower than it is for MLAs.
A. Warnke: Very good. This subject does introduce us to some other aspects of the controversy, and perhaps the best way to deal with this is in the context that it has been displayed in the press and in the public mind. The way it has been described is that Crown prosecutors in British Columbia with five years' experience have an average salary of around $43,000, compared with Crown prosecutors in Ontario with five years' experience having $70,000 as their annual salary. Another way that it has been put in the press is that Crown prosecutors at the top of the profession in British Columbia are earning somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000. Yet if they were to somehow move out of that profession and into private practice, they would obtain perhaps three or four times that amount as their income.
I suppose that what has been raised is that there is a disparity when comparing the payment of salaries or income to Crown prosecutors in this province to those in other provinces, such as Ontario. There's that question. There also seems to be an impression of tremendous disparity between public and private practice, and incomes accordingly. Therefore I think that what I would like to see the minister respond on is a strategy or response of the government to reduce, on the one hand, the disparity between ourselves and Ontario and, on the other hand, the differences of income between private and public practice.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I would like to deal with this in a couple of ways. First of all, in the last three years the budget for prosecutions has gone from $19 million to $35 million. So there has been a significant commitment in the last three years, which includes the last couple of years of the former government. I think that point needs to be made.
Our commitment continues to try to deal with some obvious disparities, and the member referred to some of them. The Crown Counsel Association has produced numbers that demonstrate apparent discrepancies between us and other provinces. The real discrepancies actually occur between us and Ontario, and not so much with the rest of Canada.
In fact, when you look at this in real terms, there are particular components of the scale, as it were, that stand
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out. I don't want to engage in discussions here that will be taking place properly between the GPSD and the Crown Counsel Association, other than to say that we don't have a lot of money to solve all of the problems this year. I've made that clear to the association. But we have an absolute commitment to try to do whatever we can to redress some of the really bad anomalies where they may exist, and also to do whatever else we can that may involve non-monetary items to deal with upgrading the status of that group within the public service. I intend to do whatever I can to demonstrate to this group that we value their work and their long hours, and we recognize that we get very good value for money from their work.
A. Warnke: I appreciate the Attorney General's remarks on that. I also appreciate the problem he is faced with. It is a public issue in the public fore, and it is very difficult to discuss negotiations and all that sort of stuff. The Attorney General just simply cannot do that at this particular time.
There was one other point the Attorney General did raise, and we only raised this question very briefly the other day. He mentioned that the Crown Counsel Association was not seeking to establish itself as a collective bargaining unit. On the other hand, many of its prominent members have come out and stated that while they're not thinking in terms of establishing something like a union, they nonetheless want to be recognized maybe not as a collective bargaining unit but they do want to be essentially approached and negotiated with along the lines of the principle of collective bargaining. Could the minister qualify that a little bit?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Public Service Labour Relations Act specifically excludes lawyers from bargaining under the PSLRA. The Crown Counsel Association has never argued that they should ask us to exempt or to change the legislation so that they could bargain as other professionals do. The issue of certification and the forming of a union, which would then engage in collective bargaining, is apparently not on their agenda. On one hand they say very clearly that they do not want to form a union, they do not want to have the legislation changed, but on the other hand, they're publicly talking about wanting collective bargaining. They've really got to choose: either they want to be a union, and we can consider that question, or they don't. If they don't, then collective bargaining per se doesn't follow. That doesn't mean we're not prepared to discuss issues of concern to them in the best possible way we can.
They don't want to be a union. If they don't want to be a union, they don't get all the rights that unions get under the law. Maybe they just have to make that choice. I think they have made the choice, but they still talk about collective bargaining per se. They also talk about wanting binding arbitration as a final result, and I've made it very clear to them that the government is not able to accede to that particular request. That doesn't mean we're not genuinely interested in trying to resolve what I have described before as quite legitimate problems.
A. Warnke: At this point, I do have a few other questions, but I feel I'd like to yield to anyone else who would like to pose a question to the Attorney General.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: It's all yours.
A. Warnke: Looks like it. If not, I'm going to bounce right back up.
F. Randall: Pass the motion.
A. Warnke: Not so fast.
I would now like to move into the area of legal services. I suppose there are many different ways we could look at that as well. The minister outlined last day, and again today very briefly, the family maintenance enforcement program. One member was interested in following up on this; I see he's not here. Towards the tail end of the day that question might be raised again.
There are a number of agencies seeking support and help. Perhaps we could quickly describe some of the financial aspects of funding some of these different societies and agencies that are looking for support other than the family maintenance enforcement program that the minister has already mentioned -- in particular, any of those that relate to problems of youth. Are there any sort of support programs the ministry has in mind in terms of the support of youth. In addition to that -- and again drawing on some discussion that we had yesterday -- there is the perceived growing problem of child abuse and that sort of thing.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: First of all, in the legal services branch of the ministry, there aren't really any grants and contributions to groups. Essentially, legal services branch provides legal services to government. In this branch we're not talking about those kinds of programs providing assistance to youth and to children. The legal services branch provides assistance to every ministry of government. In the operations of government some of that money will be directed to issues that may involve children. If the member is asking me to try to identify grants and contributions that apply specifically to programs for young people.... I think what really happens in these programs is that they are made available in a more general application, particularly victim assistance programs. There may well be many situations where children would be beneficiaries of the program, but other people might be too. So unless the member is more specific, I'm going to have to be very general in these kinds of answers. I'd welcome a more specific question.
A. Warnke: First of all, I'm exploring the more general question I have here -- and the Attorney General touched on it -- on the victim assistance program. I did have a set line of questioning here, but I'd like to kind of deviate from this. The victim assistance program, if I may suggest, seems to be heading in a right direction in that the public seems to be asking that more attention be paid to the victims of crime; that some sort
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of compensation be allocated towards individuals who are victims of crime along the lines of restitution. More philosophically speaking, the public seems to be thinking that more and more attention ought to be paid to the victims of crime -- whether it's breaking and entering or more vicious and violent crimes -- rather than just incarcerating people and putting them away in jail. I would appreciate from the Attorney General some elaboration on the rationale, and maybe on the progress we are making on the victim assistance program. I'd sure appreciate that.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: There are several victim assistance programs. We provide some $6 million -- I think I said this the other day, but I'll repeat it -- to over 100 victim service programs, $362,000 to six sexual assault centres, $225,000 to five aboriginal victim programs, and about $12 million in criminal injury compensation. Those programs are in place and have not been subject to curtailment as a result of the budget squeeze. Victim assistance programs are seen as a priority, and we're continuing to deal with that. If there are more specific questions about it in terms of particular elements, I will try to respond to those.
If I can just go back to the previous question in terms of legal services branch provision of funding for programs that may impact on children, I think the primary issue here is social services and family law. The total budget there is about $3.7 million in the current fiscal year that will go to support programs related to family law, which obviously dramatically affects children.
A. Warnke: I notice that there has been a significant increase in criminal injury compensation, and I'd appreciate it if the minister could comment on whether criminal injury compensation is adequate to the number of applicants and whether the ministry is meeting the target compared to the expectations held last year. This is with regard to criminal injury compensation.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The criminal injury program is a statutory program, and therefore its budget is, in a sense, beyond our ability to anticipate. We try to guess at what the number might be, but we are required by the act to pay out whatever claims are made against that particular program. The numbers have increased in recent years as the program has become more widely known and as issues relating to sexual abuse have come more to the fore. So we have a program that is expensive and becoming increasingly so. It's a little bit like the flood relief program: the government has no control over the payments. There it depends on what nature does, and here it depends on the number of claims that are successfully made through the workers' compensation process.
A. Warnke: With this becoming more public knowledge -- and I think the minister is quite correct -- there are naturally going to be more cases come before the ministry that qualify for funds.
Along this line of criminal injury and victim assistance, specifically in terms of property offences -- I'm thinking specifically of victims of breaking and entering, etc. -- is any sort of progress being made? That's quite general, and I really would appreciate it if the minister could respond to it. More specifically, is there some anticipation of developing a policy or program which takes into consideration that flood gates may be opened up again to more applicants concerned with or affected by property offences? What's being done in this area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The criminal injury program does not apply to property. It's personal injury, physical or emotional. There's no intention of expanding that program. No other jurisdiction in the country has expanded it to include property. I'm not sure if that answers the entire question.
A. Warnke: I would assure the minister that that certainly does answer the question, and I'd still like to compliment the minister for his straightforward answers to the best of his ability. He's certainly to be commended for that.
On the seven issues -- it's not that I'm really in a hurry to get out of here, or something like that.... But as far as I'm concerned, the original seven issues that we really wanted to address for the time being.... I do have many more questions; it's not that I'm going to give up asking questions, but I think on this area, considering that I don't see anyone else at the table, I do....
M. Farnworth: You can ask more questions.
A. Warnke: I'm anticipating that momentarily, Mr. Chairman, I'll turn the floor.... Perhaps even some of our opposition members would like to ask the Attorney General a question; I'm not sure. I'll give them a moment to get on their feet if they want to ask a question along the seven lines.
A. Warnke: None? You had your chance. Okay. I'm moving on very quickly.
A number of areas that come under the Attorney General have come to my attention. I thought we could briefly touch on them, particularly with regard to freedom of information. Some of my colleagues and some members of the public, interestingly enough, who have actually taken the trouble to telephone me or write me, are extremely interested in the whole area of freedom of information and access to information. It's somewhat stimulated by the ombudsman report, Access to Information and Privacy. I'll lump a number of questions together rather than doing a number of questions separately.... Many people have asked: "Well, what sort of studies have been conducted in the past? What sort of time-frame are we looking at?" This seems to be extremely important to a lot of people. "What is to be the content? When can we expect the implementation of a Freedom of Information Act?"
I recognize the possibility that there is some speculation involved in this; I simply don't know. That's the
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reason I'm turning to the Attorney General, to see whether the ministry and the government have any time-frame for when a Freedom of Information Act may come down, and what may be contained in the proposed act. So once again, I would really appreciate it if the Attorney General could comment on the state of the freedom of information.
The Chair: I bring the member's attention to standing order 61, about debates in Committee of Supply. It must be only on administrative matters of the ministry, not on legislation. Could we bear that in mind.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: With that in mind, hon. Chair, I wasn't going to talk with the legislation in detail anyway. I anticipate we'll have an opportunity to do that in the House later this session.
I should just say to members that from an administrative point of view, freedom of information resides in the Government Services ministry. That's where, once the legislation is in place and even as the programs are being planned, the administrative responsibilities.... The responsibility of our ministry is to develop the legislation. We're doing it jointly with the Ministry of Government Services. The hope is that legislation will be introduced next month. I say "the hope is," but I fully anticipate that we should be able to do that. We hope to have the bill passed this session. There is a fair amount of work to be done in an administrative way: training and ensuring that all elements of the government are able to live up to the requirements of the legislation. So there will be a considerable period of time between passage of the bill and proclamation. I would anticipate that this would be more than a year but less than two years. That's the thinking at this stage. I don't want to be held to that, but that's what we think at the present time.
Even without legislation, the government is beginning an administrative process to get us up to speed so that we can deliver on the freedom-of-information and privacy issues. As a result, this year there is a budget of about $6 million earmarked for that program in all ministries.
A. Warnke: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for mentioning that. I did take that into consideration, and certainly it would have seemed like an opportunity to the minister. I certainly respect the minister's answer on this. It has been raised by the public, but I certainly respect the Chair's point on it as well.
Another issue brought to my attention concerns the whole question of paroles, plea-bargaining and that sort of thing. The British Columbia Parole Board, as everyone knows, makes decisions as to the conditions of release of inmates. A question that has been raised is that governments increasingly find themselves in a position to encourage more paroles in order to save money. Perhaps the minister could comment on the allocation of funds. Maybe it's not a primary consideration of the minister to think of the financial aspects of paroles that are granted; it's just a view of the public. I suppose plea-bargaining to a certain extent is seen this way as well. In the administration of justice over 70 percent of the cases are solved through plea-bargaining. There is a cynical view that governments are looking at this not in terms of the administration of justice but in terms of how to save money on behalf of the public. I would like the minister to comment on that.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The B.C. Parole Board is independent of government and does not take government's direction. It operates under its own statutory authority and deals with a very limited number of people incarcerated for provincial offences. In no way could one conceive of the Parole Board acting in order to save money by releasing prisoners. They do not take our direction on that issue, nor should they. They're independent, and their decisions, I suspect, are made on the basis of the best interests of society.
A. Warnke: I would really like to draw the Chair's attention to this as well, because my intention is not to flirt with violating one of the standing orders. As a matter of fact, if the Chair finds that my question does flirt with a standing order, I certainly respect the opinion of the Chair on this. Nonetheless, there is, as everyone knows -- certainly the minister and I know -- a bill before the House, Bill 9, that concerns the extra surcharge on legal fees. It's not the debate on that that I want to focus on, because that's a clear violation of the standing orders. Nonetheless, I have a problem with -- and perhaps the Chair could help me on this -- seeking a rationale and justification for the surcharge, and whether there is any sort of revenue anticipated from the surcharge. If that, as I'm sure everyone recognizes, cannot be debated within the Legislature.... Therefore I wonder whether that is an appropriate question for here. It has been raised.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: That discussion will take place during the debate on Bill 9; the Minister of Finance, who introduced the bill and the measure, will be accountable for it at that time. It's not in any way related to this ministry.
A. Warnke: That's a very satisfactory answer, hon. Chair.
I would like to take up one other concern with regard to the British Columbia Gaming Commission. The estimates outline an interest in electronic slot-machines and betting. There is a concern about off-track betting, which I'm sure the minister is aware of, that any infusion of moneys from the ministry, or encouragement of electronic slot-machines and betting, might take away from funding for community groups.
There's a bit of a problem here as well, in that Government Services is involved in lotteries and so forth. I don't want to explore that; I believe that can be taken up with the Minister of Government Services. Nonetheless, the B.C. Gaming Commission is interested in one aspect of gaming that might affect community groups. I wonder about the rationale for the ministry's becoming more interested in electronic slot-machines and betting. What is the rationale or the background for this?
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Hon. C. Gabelmann: To go right back to basics, gambling in this province is the responsibility of, as you say, two different ministries. The Attorney General ministry has responsibility for horse-racing, for parimutuel gambling; it also has responsibility for the Gaming Commission. The lotteries branch is in the Government Services ministry. If VLTs were to be introduced, under the Criminal Code they would only be able to be introduced through a government operation; presumably that would be Lotteries.
That issue is not before this committee today. In fact, the whole question of gambling is part of the larger issue that we feel it essential to get a handle on. As a result, some internal work is being done on the larger questions of gambling and the role of technology -- in particular now, where you have electronic bingo and the possibility of the grey machines, and on and on. But much of that is not the responsibility of this ministry. My responsibilities include horse-racing, casinos and bingos. The latter two are under the auspices of the Gaming Commission itself.
I think I understand the drift of the question. There is a concern, on the part of many community groups that receive considerable financial support from casino and bingo operations, that if other forms of gambling come in, it could detract from their revenues. All of those issues, and many more, are part of the review that we're conducting.
A. Warnke: As the Attorney General has pointed out, the ministry also has the horse-racing industry as one of its responsibilities. I don't know whether this is appropriate or not, because we simply don't know the answer to.... Again, I hope it's not out of order or anything like that. If the minister feels that he cannot respond, I totally respect that. But as everyone knows, the horse-racing industry is in a bit of an uncertain state at this time. It has been suggested that that uncertainty has been a result of the previous government's ambiguity -- some have even suggested procrastination -- in deciding some of the issues. The issues involved facing some very critical deadlines, such as the future of Exhibition Park. There is also a concern that a decision has to be made fairly soon; otherwise the prospects for an entire racing season could be missed altogether.
I'd certainly appreciate an answer from the Attorney General as to whether there is any progress being made -- any moneys being allocated, or whatever -- towards making a decision which would affect some of these issues and the future of the horse-racing industry.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: As members will remember, in late January the government appointed a new Racing Commission and instructed the commission to come back to government in no more than six months with recommendations in respect of an enhanced track -- whether it's one mile or not; whether it's at Exhibition Park or not -- and also in respect of teletheatre wagering, which were the two outstanding issues that required attention some years ago and didn't get the kind of attention they needed in terms of meeting the time deadlines.
Exhibition Park has a December 1993 deadline, which requires quick decisions, which we intend to make. I'm confident, based on advice from the chair of the Racing Commission, that if government does what it needs to do -- and we will -- which is to make some decisions as soon as we get the recommendations, which I expect will be shortly, there is no need to fear losing a season. There are ways of dealing with that issue. I am comfortable with the response from the chair of the commission.
In short, we are absolutely committed to the horse-racing industry. It is a significant economic generator in this province. It provides a lot of employment and generates a lot of revenue, not only to government but to many people in the private sector. We want to encourage and enhance horse-racing in this province. I am confident that the commission will give us some recommendations that cabinet will be able to deal with in an expeditious manner. Hopefully we can get on with making the decisions that should have been made a long time ago.
A. Warnke: Some other members have entered. I have some more questions that I would like to ask, but at this point I would defer to other members who may have questions for the minister as well.
G. Farrell-Collins: I do have some questions for the minister which deal with an issue that we haven't had the opportunity to discuss outside this committee or in the House. It deals with the proposal for a youth detention centre in Aldergrove. That was of concern to people in the community some time ago, when the tentative project was announced. It continues to be an issue in the minds of the people who live there. They are curious as to the state of the proposal and any process that may be in the works to ensure that the people who live in the community will be consulted thoroughly before any decision on this project is made one way or the other.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Members know that we on the lower mainland have the Willingdon centre, which requires some fixing -- put it that way. We also have a population shift in the lower mainland, which means more and more people are moving down the valley. We have a policy in the ministry that institutions should be as close to the community as is practical -- particularly youth facilities, so there can be some contact with family, among other things. We are continuing to attempt to work with local governments in the valley to find a suitable site.
I am surprised that municipalities aren't competing with each other to try to get the facility. It's a job-generator and an economic bonus for any community. I am sure that the experience in other communities that have lived with youth detention centres around them will indicate that no one has ever identified any NIMBY-related problems of any kind that that should concern valley residents. My only surprise in all of this is that I don't have all the mayors in the valley pounding on my door and demanding that we build the
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centre in their community. That's what I would have expected to happen, given the general desire of municipalities to enhance their economic position and to create jobs in their own communities. We haven't had a lot of that. We are talking to various people in municipalities, and we'll continue that process.
In the final analysis, if nobody wants it, we are going to have to make some tough decisions. Government has to govern, and we will. We would prefer to do this with local governments in a cooperative way, and that's what we are doing at the present time.
G. Farrell-Collins: I certainly appreciate your comments. I understand that the government may be working quite diligently with other levels of government in the municipalities and in the cities. However, being in the political process as long as you have, you must be aware of the growing public cynicism regarding relying on either elected or unelected officials -- bureaucrats or politicians -- to make these decisions in isolation, without consultation or communication with the public. I am very well aware of the information sessions that took place in the Aldergrove area with regard to the youth detention centre. I attended a number of them. I've been to the Victoria Youth Detention Centre. I spent almost a whole day there.
The people who will be living wherever the facility is located do not want to be told by a municipal clerk, minister or local politician: "Everything is going to be fine. This is really a good project, and you should be happy you're getting it." That doesn't work any more. Things are different now -- if they ever were that way; I don't know.
People want to understand the process that went into the selection of that particular site. They want to know what other sites were considered. They want to be convinced of the wisdom in the choice of location, in the choice to build another facility. People want to be able to see the logic and to make those decisions themselves before they are comfortable; people no longer want to trust in politicians to make those decisions for them. My concern throughout this whole issue has been the lack of substantive communication on behalf of the former government, and now the current government, with the people who live there, in order to open up to them the process used to determine the sites. I would like to know if there is any plan to do that in the future, to really involve the community and the people who are there and who have these concerns, whether they are valid or not -- inviting them into the process so they can decide for themselves.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The short answer to that is yes, we intend to involve communities in this decision-making process. We look to the elected people in the community to be representative of the community, and therefore look to the mayor and council in various communities -- and the local MLAs, for that matter -- to begin these discussions. The municipalities, of course, have their own process that they have to go through in terms of zoning and public decisions; that involves a public process as well.
I think the reality is that when people make up their mind that they don't want something, they blame the process. They say: "Well, the process wasn't fair." Rather than saying they don't want it, they say: "We weren't involved." In my experience, and in canvassing the ministry staff, the process by which we deal with communities in these issues.... I'm sensitive to that and want to make sure we consult properly. It's really clear to me that it's not for lack of opportunity to be involved in discussions; it's not for lack of commitment on our part to involve communities in the whole process. Rather, if people don't get involved until we are fairly well along the way to a decision that they have had an opportunity to be involved in earlier but didn't get involved in, and then they decide they don't want the facility, they blame the process rather than being straight and open, and saying they just don't want the facility.
It's a difficult issue. You also have to deal with property acquisition issues; there's a whole series of other issues that make it a complicated process to determine sites for facilities like this.
I don't know what more I can say about it, other than that there is a commitment to discuss. We will discuss as long as we have to, but not so long that it effectively means the answer is no. We have to have a time-frame, and we have to make some decisions soon. If you tour Willingdon, you will recognize the need to make some decisions soon so we can get on with more appropriate facilities.
G. Farrell-Collins: In that vein, when was the first public announcement made with regard to the site chosen for the Aldergrove youth detention centre?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I don't know the answer to the question off the top of my head. It was certainly before I was the minister.
G. Farrell-Collins: I may be wrong on this. I'll wait to be proven wrong -- hopefully -- but my understanding of this issue.... I'll tell you, as the candidate in the area, I was campaigning for a year and a half because of the complications with finally getting the election underway, which you are aware of. I had my finger on the pulse of the community and the issues, and had built up a network of communication and people in the constituency who would keep me abreast of the issues.
I might add that the first time I received notification of this issue was through one of those people during the lead-up to the October 17 election campaign, within the last two weeks. In fact, the information was passed to me in somewhat of a covert manner. I suppose at that point it wasn't public knowledge; nor were there any ads in the paper advising people that I was aware of in that period. The whole issue was brought forth to the public as a fait accompli. When the public first became aware of this, it was brought forward as: "This is where we want to put it. This is what it's going to be." The drawing-boards were up; the presentation was ready. It wasn't a consultative process at that point -- certainly the public hearings I went to -- but rather an informa-
[ Page 897 ]
tion process: "This is the way it's going to be. This is an information session, not a public hearing. We're really not here to listen. You can rant and rave and do whatever you want, but we're not here to consult; we're here to tell you what we're intending to do." I would be interested to find out what sort of other public process there was that I wasn't part of that took place before that time that the ministry or your staff might be aware of.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: First of all, there is no fait accompli, because no decision has been made even yet. Discussions continue in the valley about the issue. Meetings were held between ministry staff and the mayor and council long before the election campaign, and the decisions about how that would become public were really in the hands of the municipal people. It's an issue for them as much as for us. I can't with any certainty stand here and tell you about the steps taken at that time or whatever, and how it might have become public.
Our responsibility -- and I think this is right -- is to deal first of all with the local government. They are the people elected in the community. They are the people who make the zoning decisions. They're the people who deal with the traffic issues and all the other questions that have to be assessed. Our responsibility is to meet with them first. They may have some desire to continue discussions with the ministry before going to the public, and we would generally respect that kind of wish. Whatever happened then, my commitment now is to go through a proper process that involves the public in the best possible way we can, while at the same time recognizing the responsibilities and obligations of the municipal council that may be involved at a particular site.
G. Farrell-Collins: I'm glad to hear your commitment that a proper public process will take place. I would be interested to hear what that process will be or what plans there are -- if there are any -- to have that happen. It's news to me that the timing of making this issue public was in the hands of municipal council and the mayors. I will touch base with them to verify that that was the case.
You felt that it was proper and incumbent upon the government to approach municipal governments first, because they would be the ones dealing with road congestion, traffic and any other issues that may arise. I might add that while councils are responsible for those issues by way of being elected, it's the people in the neighbourhoods who are really going to be dealing with traffic or social problems -- if there are any -- on a regular, daily basis. I'm not saying that there will be; I'm merely saying that the people who live in that area have the right to know that information and be a party to the decision as it's being made.
As far as input goes, I don't believe that process was followed through in this case. Public involvement really took place at a much later stage in the site selection process. I would be very interested to find out what plans there are. If I may ask a simple question, what public input process has been in place from November 4 to date? As the minister said, there have been ongoing negotiations with councils, mayors and municipal governments. What involvement has there been on behalf of the community, other than those public hearings or information sessions that took place in the Aldergrove area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: There's been so much involvement that we're looking for other sites. It was clear that the community was concerned, and the ministry's response to that was to canvass the possibility of other sites in other parts of the valley. We're in the process of doing that at this point. I need to say again that if nobody wants the centre at the end of the day, through what we think is a good process of consulting local government and then allowing the community to have its say, then we'll have to make a decision. That's the final obligation that we have, and I'm not going to shirk that. I'm determined to try to do it in a way that gets support from the community. I really believe in that, and the ministry is operating on that premise as well.
I should say that it's not just the ministry that is involved; BCBC is the landlord in this instance and is very much a part of the whole exercise.
Your community has spoken, and we heard the message. We're continuing to look.
G. Farrell-Collins: I appreciate the fact that the minister and the ministry have taken a second look at the site and have heeded the input -- if I may put it that way -- of the people who live in the area. There was substantial input in the form of letters and lobbying, etc. I do have a concern, however, that perhaps we're following the same path that we followed last time and may end up in exactly the same situation but in a different location. Is the ministry undertaking to implement a process in this re-evaluation of the sites that includes the public and the people who may be affected at an early enough stage that they will be able to give their input before a decision is made?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The answer to that is elusive, because it really depends to a large extent on the councils that we will be talking to. There are a variety of councils. If BCBC identified a piece of land somewhere in the valley, and we sent a letter to all the neighbours saying, "We're thinking about building a youth detention centre here; what do you think?" but we didn't talk to council first, I suspect we would be hearing charges -- if not from this member, then from some others -- about how we don't believe in local government and are violating the process and so on. All I can say is that we are determined to try to work with locally elected people who represent those neighbourhoods. They get elected from those neighbourhoods every three years. They are closer to it than we are. We have an absolute commitment to work with those local governments. As much as is possible, there will be a public process, where we, together with the municipality, embark upon it in terms of.... If there are zoning
[ Page 898 ]
issues, there's obviously a public process; if there are other issues, then there can be some public discussion.
I'm not interested in a process that means NIMBY will win every time, whether it's youth detention centres or a variety of other facilities in our communities that people feel they don't want near them -- until they have them. Once they have them they don't mind. That's the history, very clearly. But if they don't have them in their neighbourhood, they get concerned. We cannot allow ourselves to get into a position where NIMBY defeats needed government programs, so we have to strike a balance between consultation and decision-making. We'll do a lot of the former, but in the final analysis, we'll do the latter.
G. Farrell-Collins: I certainly understand the need for government to take action and make a decision. That's certainly self-evident. Perhaps if other ministers were as tough on that issue, we might not be in the health situation we are in today. Perhaps we would have solved this crisis some weeks ago, but that's neither here nor there.
The real question isn't whether or not public consultation will take place. I certainly don't suggest for one moment that the minister or the ministry bypass municipal councils, because they play a very valuable role in the delivery of services and government to the people. However, it's important to understand -- on behalf of the people -- that perhaps if the consultation with the public took place before the decision was made, instead of making the decision and then consulting with people.... I understand no decision has been made on the Aldergrove centre. I'm very aware of that. But the way the last process took place and the way the people of Aldergrove were informed -- and that's really what it was, informed; this is where we're headed; this is what we want to do, unless something unusual happens -- was not conducive to a good response by the people who live there.
I would think that if you involve the community in the process -- and I'm talking about the people who live around the area -- at an earlier stage, and not be so secretive.... Let them see some of the reports that are done; let them see some of the rationale as to why a particular site was chosen; let them be involved in that process, and you may avoid this NIMBY scenario, as you call it. You may find you have, in fact, trusting, educated, rational people to deal with as opposed to people who are scared, distrustful, and very suspicious of the process in place. I think that may be a better way to do it, and perhaps we could implement some sort of system in this regard.
As far as the BCBC site search goes, I asked shortly after the election for access to that report -- and I'm a relatively logical and rational person -- to see what the decision was in choosing the Aldergrove site, what the rationale was. I've yet to have access to that report, and I've asked a number of times. I believe the latest time was in a letter to the minister, and I have yet to see that report. I'm there as an elected representative, as you said, for the people who are concerned, and if I can't have access to that information on their behalf, then who has access to that information and how public is this process at all?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The problem with public consultation is that if you say to the public in a particular municipality, "We're thinking about building a youth facility somewhere in these 5,000 acres," nobody will come to the meeting. If we say to the people in that municipality that we're going to build an institution at the corner of Fourth Street and Tenth Avenue, everybody will come to the meeting, but they will come saying, "You've already made a decision," when in fact we may not have. In the case we're talking about now, we haven't, didn't and still haven't. But people assume that if you pick a particular site and you identify the site, you've made a decision. Then they come to the meeting angry about government forcing a decision on them, whereas if we don't actually identify a particular site, they won't come to the meeting.
So it's a bit of a difficult issue, and the experience we've had is that you have to find a particular site before you can invite the public to comment; otherwise they won't come to the meeting. We'll have the meetings with the public. Once we've discussed it with the municipal council and there's an agreement about an appropriate site, then we'll have consultation with the public about that particular site. But I'll bet you they'll come to the meeting screaming about how the government has already made up its mind, and therein lies the problem.
Now in respect to the letter you wrote me, I'll make sure we answer it. If you could see the number of letters in my office that haven't been answered yet, you'd understand that I may be a bit behind on that.
G. Farrell-Collins: Believe me, I understand the correspondence problem, and I do appreciate the speed with which I was able to receive communication from your office and your regarding another issue. I do appreciate that. I know it's sometimes like wading through quicksand to deal with these letters.
But, again, let's say the government comes to a decision that Aldergrove is the best site. You've done your research, you've re-evaluated, and you've come to the conclusion that Aldergrove is the best site. As far as I'm aware, from my questions and discussions, that's the stage where the public consultation will take place. You'll take this issue to council, council will say, "Okay, we can live with this," and away we go. We get started on the public process, whatever that may be. At that time, if the BCBC site report is not available to the general public, if the other information used in making that decision to choose that site over other similar or relatively appropriate sites.... How is it that the people are able to give rational input, aside from just standing up and saying: "No, we don't want it here, and we don't trust you to tell us that this is the best place"? Aside from just standing up and being forced into an irrational, illogical position because they don't have access to that information.... How can you expect the public to give credible, logical, rational input without the information the ministry has in making that decision?
[ Page 899 ]
Hon. C. Gabelmann: If it helps to speed this up, I have no problem agreeing, at a public meeting called to discuss a particular site, to give the public a comparative -- from the ministry's perspective -- analysis of the alternative sites that might be available. I have no difficulty with that. You have to be a little bit careful about how that's handled in respect to a site that may not have been discussed with another council yet; there are some logistical problems with that kind of public process. But as far as humanly possible, without jeopardizing other municipal council decision-making processes and issues of that kind, I assure the member that we will give to the affected community our information about why we think it might be the best site available.
G. Farrell-Collins: I'm glad to hear that commitment. For clarification on that process, would it be difficult for the ministry or BCBC or whoever is making the decision to look at maybe half a dozen or a dozen -- I don't know how many sites we're looking at, because I haven't seen it -- to have some communication with the councils that would be effective, and just say: "We have a site in Aldergrove that we think is the best. Just for your information, here are some other sites that we looked at in a preliminary way and evaluated. We certainly have no intention of going to those sites at this point. We've decided more or less that this is the site we will choose, for these reasons, and we intend to release to the public the comparative analysis of these various sites and why we've come to this decision"
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Within the parameters that I outlined in response to the previous question, it's much easier if all of the available sites are within one municipality, and we have canvassed three or four sites in a municipality and, between us and the council, have agreed on a particular site as being the best available. Then at this public meeting there can be a discussion about that in a much easier way. But if it's a question of identifying sites that may not need to be considered and that are in other municipalities where no discussions have yet begun, then it gets more complicated. But as far as it is possible to do, in terms of providing comparative data to the public in order to try to sell the public -- I don't mind putting it that way -- in that particular location that this is a good location and these are the reasons.... I don't have any problem with that commitment as long as we don't jeopardize the proper process in other communities by doing that.
G. Farrell-Collins: I think I've probably taken this about as far as I can. I do have a little concern with the tone of some of the replies, and I would hope that the minister -- and certainly the ministry also -- would be aware, as we're going through this process.... Instead of being concerned about the difficulties this process presents to the ministry, or to the councils, perhaps we should stand back and take a look at it from a different side, and say: "What are the difficulties that not having a public process presents to the people who live there?"
I think it's time that government, in general and in specific issues, acted in a way that the public are the people who are going to have to live with these decisions on a day-to-day basis, good or bad, and that we have to try to ensure that the public process is followed. But it must be a different type of public process than the one we're used to, which is more cynical and elitist, and says: "We'll make this decision for you, and you live with it." Let's try and turn the whole thing around and deal with it from the public's point of view, and say: "What does the public need to know to buy into this process?" Let's try and adapt our process as government, and as municipal governments, to ensure that that takes place, and that the people living there and the young people affected by that decision who may end up in that centre are given some priority too -- two factors that have to be brought in.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I hear the member, and I think we've had a good discussion.
K. Jones: I heard your comments about the inadequate facilities at the Willingdon Youth Detention centre, and I totally agree with them. I think it's about time that something serious was done. I was just wondering if you had a realistic timetable as to how that facility will be replaced with a suitable one that will meet modern styles of detention and dealing with young offenders.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I think the best way I can answer that question will be approximately three years after we've made decisions about the site. We'll then be up and running with the new facility. Willingdon is an old facility, one that needs to be rebuilt and downsized in population. A new site, as we talked about, needs to be selected somewhere closer to the increasing population centres in the valley. Once decisions have been made about sites, both in the Burnaby area and in the valley, then we hope to be up and running with new facilities in about three years.
[D. Schreck in the chair.]
K. Jones: Hon. Chair, welcome to the chair. It's your first opportunity.
Just how many sites do you have in mind to replace that facility? It's a provincewide facility at present.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: It's not really a provincewide facility in that sense; it's a lower mainland facility. There are other youth centres.
Leaving that aside, two sites will be selected to replace Willingdon, each of which will have roughly half the population that Willingdon now has.
K. Jones: Do you have the locations of those two sites at the present time?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: One is in the Burnaby area and one is in the Fraser Valley, either in Aldergrove or some other community in that neighbourhood.
[ Page 900 ]
K. Jones: From previous discussions it's obvious that it's a fairly touchy situation, particularly the valley site. Are you finding the same type of difficulty in the Burnaby area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: No, we aren't finding the same kind of difficulty in Burnaby. People in Burnaby have lived with the facility and know that it's a good neighbour, so they are happy to have it.
K. Jones: Does that indicate that you've already determined a site in Burnaby? If so, where?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: There are several sites under consideration in Burnaby. No final decision has been made.
K. Jones: Did the minister indicate where those sites are?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I'd like to be able to answer that question. We are having discussions with the council of the municipality of Burnaby. We had an on-site tour of Willingdon with several members of council six weeks ago or so. There was a discussion with them about potential sites in Burnaby. I don't mind saying that one of the potential sites is obviously Willingdon itself, the current location. A couple of others are identified. Until council has had an opportunity to give us their evaluation in a more formal way, I would prefer not to get into the precise locations that might be under consideration.
K. Jones: Okay, we'll leave that. Does the Maples centre adjoining Willingdon come under your jurisdiction?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Ministry of Health.
K. Jones: I would like to go on to another area. How much more money is needed to complete the remand centre in Surrey? What concerns have been expressed by the staff or the public with regard to the facilities and operations?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The concerns of residents in that area relate to security, as I understand it. Work is being done on perimeter fencing, which, in government terms, is a moderate cost. I don't have the exact number of dollars, but it's in the $50,000 range, give or take some. There have been discussions with people in the community about that. It appears that this is a satisfactory solution to the problem that had been identified earlier.
K. Jones: Just to reiterate, have any concerns been expressed by staff with regard to the facilities or operations?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Not to my knowledge.
K. Jones: I'd like to go into another area, with particular emphasis on organized crime in smaller communities. With regard to the Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit, why hasn't more concrete action been taken against the criminal activities of local gangs, such as bike gangs, particularly those that have often terrorized many small communities, both their own and those they tour?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Coordinated Law Enforcement Unit actually does have what they might call a bike squad -- a particular unit which deals with the kinds of issues that have been raised. As I understand it, they have met with relative success in dealing with some of those issues. It doesn't mean that would solve all the problems everywhere, but there is an effort to deal with it; there is a particular focus within CLEU. As I said last week in these estimates, CLEU's activities go beyond the greater Vancouver area and in fact include the whole province. So they are dealing with it.
K. Jones: I'm glad to hear that they are dealing with it, but there is a great deal of concern in the community that, basically, there's been no indication to the public that any action has been taken. Prostitution, drugs, other forms of coercion and intimidation, and other rackets still continue to be practised by these people. What action are you going to take on this?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I'm going to jump on my bike and chase them. It's fair to say that police officers, whether employed by CLEU, working under the aegis of CLEU, or in various municipalities, before they can actually arrest apparent or alleged criminals, have to catch them in the act. It may be that they haven't been able to do that in the particular instance being cited.
If the suggestion is that there is a lack of concern on the part of the police about the gang or biker issue, I think I can put that to rest. CLEU has a mandate to deal with it, and deals with it in the best way possible. But in the final analysis, if you're going to make arrests, you have to have evidence and you have to be able to ensure that it's going to stand up in court as well. It's not just a simple matter of picking people up on the suspicion that they might be doing drugs or deals or doing this, that or the other. You have to really be in a position to make the charges stick as well.
[D. Streifel in the chair.]
K. Jones: I recognize that it's a very difficult area to get beyond the point of concern to the point of action, and I think people are asking for some action. We're all very concerned. A lot of people in our communities are being intimidated and victimized by these people who don't seem to consider your laws. They can afford to buy all the people they want to in the process -- pay for the theft lawyers and the sorts of things they need to get their defences -- because of the funds that are available to them and because it's a very lucrative business for them. The community is asking that there be some concrete action in this regard.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: All I can say about this is that it is a priority for the police, and it will continue to
[ Page 901 ]
be. I don't know what more I can say about it. It is certainly a commitment on the part of the government.
K. Jones: I appreciate that, and I hope that will be uppermost in the Attorney General's mind. I would like to ask a further question in the area of private patrol businesses. We found throughout the Fraser Valley that people are forming private patrol businesses which solicit donations, supposedly to pay for their operating costs. Are these licensed under this ministry? Are they supported? What action is being taken if they are not supported?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: This is an issue that has been developing particularly in recent years, and even more recent than that, actually. Licences have not always been applied for for the kind of patrol that the member talks about. We have a legal opinion which suggests that a licence is, in fact, required. We intend to follow up on that by ensuring that licences are, in fact, applied for and received prior to any kind of private patrol that is suggested by the member.
I might go one step further and say that beyond that it's my own view that this kind of activity should not and cannot replace police activity; that if, in fact, these patrols run into wrongdoing, it's their obligation to report that to the police and have the police undertake police action.
K. Jones: Would it be improper for them to be advertising to the public that the police are inadequately able to provide them with protection and that therefore the people need to support this type of patrol? That's the kind of advertising they're putting out publicly. I've seen no response from the Attorney General's department to indicate that that's not correct.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I haven't seen any of the ads. Before commenting on whether an ad is appropriate or should be dealt with in some way by the ministry, I would actually like to see the ad and see what's being said. I could say more, but I think I'd rather see what's being said before I say much more.
K. Jones: I'd like to go into another area with regard to lottery-generated funds. How much lottery-generated funds have been anticipated in your budget?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: If the member is referring to the approximately $201 million that government receives from the lotteries branch, then to the best of my knowledge none of that money is allocated for Attorney General expenditures.
K. Jones: So you've not included anything in your budget as a revenue source from those generated funds? The reason I'm asking is that half of those funds have been placed in general revenue, to be distributed among the ministries. Is your ministry not receiving any of those funds?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Again, this is a question that should be directed to the Minister of Government Services; lotteries are her area of responsibility. But just in general terms, half of the money is allocated to health care. If my memory serves me correctly, another $27 million goes into the Tourism budget, and there are other allocations for other programs. That information, if it's not available in the Estimates book, will be available in the estimates debate of the Ministry of Government Services.
K. Jones: I realize you're trying to suggest that this should be asked in the Government Services ministry, but under the legislation just brought in with the new budget, those funds are no longer administered through Government Services; they go into general revenue. I think Bill 3 designated them for general revenue.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Legislature has yet to speak about the disposition of Bill 3, so I have no idea what might come of that. Nonetheless, all of the lotteries issues are in Government Services. This ministry deals with casinos, bingos and horse-racing.
K. Jones: With regard to bingos, horse-racing and non-lottery gambling processes, are any of those funds going into ministry operations? Or are they totally going into general revenue?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: It's a policy of government that all revenues go into general revenue, and then expenditures are made from one pot. We do not have particular revenue-producing projects to deal with particular expenditure projects. There is no tie-in of revenue with expenditure. All revenues go to general revenue and from there are dispensed, as you see in the blue book.
K. Jones: I would like to go into one other area: the provincial emergency program. The provincial emergency program appears to be totally underfunded and understaffed to provide a minimal response, let alone an emergency response, to any major centre in this province. We have serious potential for disasters, be they natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis or flooding. We don't seem to be able to respond very quickly on those. We have other disasters: transportation of hazardous goods by truck or rail could create fireballs or chemical disasters that would require emergency action. Yet the ministry covering that program appears to have next to no capability of responding to any of those situations. What plans have you got to rectify this situation?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Without commenting on the implications of the way the question was framed, let me say that there's a $2.8 million budget for PEP. It has 36 full-time-equivalent employees and in many ways acts as a coordinating agency for emergency and disaster problems.
The member mentioned potential environmental disasters on highways. Members need to know that the
[ Page 902 ]
Ministry of Highways, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Forests and other ministries all have various capabilities to deal with emergencies. Forests, for example, fights forest fires; Transportation and Highways has its programs. All of those programs are coordinated across ministries. PEP has a coordinating and lead role to play in many instances. I think the most important thing to say about this whole issue is that PEP organizes literally tens of thousands of British Columbians to be volunteers in emergency programs, whether for earthquake preparedness, tsunami preparedness or major oil spill preparedness. There are many British Columbians involved. Municipal governments and school boards are involved. Just about everybody in every walk of life in our province is involved one way or another in emergency preparedness -- and even more so as time goes on and public consciousness is raised on these issues.
What am I going to do to rectify the problem? The answer is that we have a sufficient budget to deal with preparedness. We are enlisting the support of British Columbians, and the program is a model for many other jurisdictions.
K. Jones: This area, as you've indicated, certainly depends upon a lot of volunteers to do the work. In fact, a lot of the volunteer organizations are self-generated; they have had no stimulation from the ministry or from PEP. They are finding it very difficult; they don't even have minimal funding for some of their basic needs. For example, an oil spill volunteer group that's trying to save birds and be prepared for oil spills can't even get government funding to pay for their minimal cleaning costs or adequate clothing for a beach protection program. That money doesn't seem to be available. It's about time that there was a much better look at this -- a full involvement of the community in determining the PEP or emergency preparedness response, rather than just a group of people in a ministry determining it. There's a much broader source of input that could really give us a better, very quick response, if we were to involve the community more, as you have suggested. But this doesn't have the adequate support of the ministry.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I don't want to be combative, but I just don't agree with that. PEP involves the community in a very proactive way. The member talks about inadequate funding for oil spill cleanup. Those are moneys that would be budgeted in the Ministry of Environment. PEP is not designed to be the funding agency for any manner of emergencies that might develop; it is a coordinating body. It administers the flood relief moneys -- emergency payments paid under the statute.
As I said earlier, it coordinates other ministries and public involvement. From my own experience as an MLA when we've had flood disasters in my constituency, I can tell the member that the lead role played by the provincial emergency program people in the community has just been outstanding. They bring together, in that case, Highways, Forests, federal Fisheries, provincial Fish and Wildlife, the Environment ministry obviously, and health agencies. In the particular case I'm thinking of, even the Ministry of Education was involved, because the school was flooded.
PEP acts as the coordinating body for all of those activities and does excellent work. With the recent changes last year under the former government in respect to payments to people who have had flood damage, even that part of the program has been increased or improved to a point where I no longer hear criticisms in my constituency about the way PEP delivers its programs and its services. That's a mark of a job being very well done by a small number of people. They don't pretend to do all the work; they do the coordinating, and they do that very well.
K. Jones: I'd like to really thank the minister for giving us the time and the response. He's been very forthright in handling some very difficult questions. I appreciate the way he's done that. I would like to also say that I feel that the provincial emergency program staff have certainly done the best they could within the limits they have, in the various times when we've had emergency situations. It is not my intention to impugn their very good efforts, but I feel they have a need for much greater support, to be able to be more effective in the community.
A. Warnke: I suppose one appropriate way to address this aspect of the estimates as applied to the Ministry of Attorney General concerns one area that the ministry is responsible for, and that's elections -- the Election Act and so forth. Some comment is required with regard to the funds being proposed by the ministry for allocation to elections. I suppose there's the general question at the outset of whether these are merely contingent funds that are build up or whether they are in fact applied to particular projects or something to facilitate the electoral process.
In elaborating on that, I'm wondering to what extent the funds are committed to the process of electoral reform. Let me elaborate on this a little bit. In the past provincial election.... I really want to emphasize that this is not to cast any aspersions on the previous government. As a matter of fact, I think it is a problem facing federal governments and all provincial governments: how do we come to terms with some of the problems and issues associated with the electoral process? How do we make it more efficient? How do we ensure that voter registrations are proper? As a matter of fact, I believe I need to go so far as to commend the previous government for some of the contributions they've made in generating electoral lists and so forth.
Some of us have had the privilege of living in other parts of Canada and even voting in other provinces -- as I have -- and to be quite honest, when I compare Ontario.... We always like to compare ourselves to Ontario to see whether we're behind or ahead. From my own personal experience I believe we're way ahead of Ontario, and we have been ahead for more than a decade -- in terms of generating voters lists and that sort of thing. I think the province of British Columbia has really been most advanced and is at the forefront of
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establishing voters' registration lists, complete with, as we know, the cards that are mailed out to ensure -- although some onus is put on the voter -- that those lists are up-to-date and that there's some sort of central registry.
I have seen in the province of Ontario -- as well as in some other jurisdictions -- how voters' registration lists have been put together the old archaic way, by going around with scrutineers knocking on doors and what not. It's just abominable. As a matter of fact, in the last federal election campaign in 1988 -- I hope I'm not exceeding the bounds here -- there were some very questionable and at times even comical situations in which whole city blocks were excluded from the voters' list. I recall two whole apartment buildings in the city of New Westminster that contained voters who were excluded from the list simply because the scrutineer failed to enter those apartment buildings which he was responsible for.
In many ways the province of British Columbia has been most advanced in this area. Nonetheless, even in the last provincial election there were a few problems. I suppose there will always be problems with regard to voting registration, and therefore there will always be pressure for reform of the election process. Having said all of that, it is perhaps appropriate that we talk about elections a little bit.
I would like some indication from the ministry -- the ministry being responsible for elections, the Election Act and so forth -- as to whether there is some allocation of funds or some sort of strategy beyond just carrying contingent funds that would be allocated to the reform of the electoral procedure. I realize we're four or five years away from the next election -- maybe three; there's a bit of tradition of that in this province too. Nonetheless, even though the government is in the first year of its mandate....
Hon C. Gabelmann: Elections are a little bit like floods: when they come along you have to pay for them. There's no wat of predicting -- in fact you can guess, but you never know for sure -- when the general election is going to be. Then there's obviously the question of referenda or plebiscite costs too, which can't really be budgeted for.
We budgeted approximately $3 million for the maintenance of the elections office in this province. The money is used to maintain staff and the lists -- to keep them up to date. As the member says, we have a permanent voters' list here rather than a list as a result of an enumeration prior to an election. It's not on my agenda. So far it has not been on my agenda to deal with, but clearly there are a number of issues that I want to deal with in the not-too-distant future -- both the act and the administration of the act. However, that's probably next years' work rather than this year's.
What's happening now in the elections branch is the maintenance of the system, the constant upgrading of systems as well as names, and of the ability, at short notice, to deal with elections that may occur, like by-elections or plebiscites. Clearly you can't budget effectively, because you can't always predict.
A. Warnke: Since a couple of extra members have joined us, once again I would like to defer to any other member who might have an outstanding question. Now or forever hold you peace.
Vote 18 approved.
Vote 19: ministry operations, $719,300,245 -- approved.
Vote 20: judiciary, $28,681,838 -- approved.
Vote 21: emergency assistance, $803,500 -- approved.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
On vote 8: minister's office, $295,507.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I move, if I may, hon. Chair, that the committee rise, report resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 5:07 p.m.
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