1993 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 35th Parliament HANSARD
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only. The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, MAY 6, 1993
Volume 9, Number 18
[ Page 5917 ]
The House met at 10:04 a.m.
Clerk of the House: Pursuant to standing orders, the House is advised of the unavoidable absence of the Speaker.
[E. Barnes in the chair.]
L. Stephens: It is a pleasure for me to introduce this morning 34 grade 5 students from Uplands Elementary School in my riding of Langley. They are accompanied by a number of parents and their teacher, Ms. Lau. Would the House please make them welcome.
J. Weisgerber: I'd like to take a moment, if I could, to pay a brief tribute to Erwin Swangard.
J. Weisgerber: Erwin Swangard was born in Munich, Germany in 1908, and came to Canada in 1929. Like many immigrants, he didn't speak any English.
In 1935, he returned to Germany to cover the 1936 Winter and Summer Olympic Games as a freelance correspondent for the Vancouver Sun and the Toronto Globe. In 1952 he founded the Tournament of Soccer Champions for the promotion and operation of juvenile soccer, and led campaigns which brought the British Empire and Commonwealth Games to Vancouver in 1954.
For 40 years he held numerous positions in the media, including foreign editor for the Vancouver Province and executive vice president of Northwest Publications. He raised nearly $1 million to build an athletic stadium in Vancouver's Central Park. In 1969 Premier W.A.C. Bennett opened the stadium and, as a tribute, named it Swangard Stadium.
His other achievements include appointment by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to the National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport, co-founder of the B.C. Lions football club, member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and honorary chief of the Squamish Indian band. In 1989 he was appointed member of the Order of Canada, and in 1990 he received the Order of British Columbia. I would ask the House to acknowledge the passing of a truly outstanding British Columbian.
Hon. G. Clark: I'd like, on behalf of the government, to join with members of the opposition in paying tribute to Erwin Swangard. Erwin Swangard was a true builder and booster of British Columbia. His contributions to the province generally and to sport in particular are well noted, I think, and were noted by the previous speaker. I last met with Erwin Swangard just a few months ago, actually, at the Pacific National Exhibition. He wanted to be there, as he was, I think, every year for many years, and of course he played a role at the Pacific National Exhibition. Not everybody agreed with his vision for that site, but it was in keeping with Mr. Swangard's boundless enthusiasm for the province and for building these kinds of entertainment and sports facilities.
I certainly join with all members in passing on our condolences, on behalf of the House, to members of the Swangard family. Truly, he has been one of the most eminent British Columbians in his field.
F. Gingell: On behalf of the official opposition, I would like to echo the words of both the leader of the Third Party and the Minister of Finance. When new immigrants arrive on these shores, one of the first things that happens is that they are sent off to meet people whom somebody happens to know might be able to get them a job. The very first person I was sent to see was Erwin Swangard. Erwin was very kind to me. I was 21 years old and just off the boat. He sent me downstairs to meet the manager of the general advertising department of the Vancouver Sun, a man called Jim Comrie, who has been a good friend for the last 40 years, and I thank Erwin for that introduction. He certainly was a British Columbian who displayed energy and enthusiasm throughout his life and made a difference to our lives, and I know that all British Columbians are grateful for that.
F. Randall: Erwin Swangard lived in Burnaby. I knew him reasonably well. He ran for council at the local level, which a lot of people may not be aware of. Something a lot of us appreciated was that every year he used to invite all the labour organizations to a special dinner at the PNE, and those have not been held for a number of years. I think a lot of us appreciated that opportunity.
J. Weisgerber: Hon. Speaker, perhaps you'd be kind enough to send condolences on behalf of the House.
Deputy Speaker: I'd be pleased to do that.
Hon. M. Sihota: I wish to advise all members of the House that Committee A will be convening this morning to deal with the Attorney General's estimates.
With that said, I call committee stage on Bill 3.
BUILD BC ACT
The House in committee on Bill 3; E. Barnes in the chair.
On section 3 (continued).
G. Wilson: If I could come back to a line of questioning I had on section 3 just prior to adjournment last evening, when the minister was suggesting that I had requested that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs sit on this committee. I wasn't requesting that; I was trying to flesh out who was going to sit on this committee. I'd
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heard that this committee is going to be quite an important one. By the language in section 3, we can see that this is a committee to discuss the building of British Columbia's future -- no small task. I think you would acknowledge that. It simply says: "...the minister and other members of the Legislative Assembly." We attempted to amend that to include members of the opposition. Unfortunately, the government didn't see the wisdom of that, although they haven't ruled out the possibility -- if we were to lobby effectively.
Can the minister tell us now, given the fact that this seems to be a committee that will be steering the agenda of the sections we discussed and canvassed thoroughly yesterday on the purposes, whether or not this is going to be a fixed standing committee or a rotational one? How are these members going to interact, given that there will be special projects affecting the line ministries in a number of areas. We've already heard that the Minister of Women's Equality, Social Services and a few others will be involved. I wonder if the minister can tell us whether or not the intention of this section is to have a fixed committee or to have a revolving membership in it?
Hon. G. Clark: First of all, I would like to introduce to members of the House Cassie Doyle, former assistant deputy minister responsible for housing. She is now the senior staff person responsible for B.C. 21 initiatives.
Having said that, this section says: "Lieutenant Governor in Council may establish a Committee on Building British Columbia's Future consisting of the Minister...", meaning the minister responsible -- in this case, the minister of Finance, "...and other members of the Legislative Assembly designated by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."
The intentions behind this section are to allow the Premier, through the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, to make an appointment to a committee -- the same as any other committee. It is up to the Premier to decide the makeup of that committee and whether its membership changes over time, just as the Premier decides who sits in cabinet and whether that becomes a revolving committee or not. Whether or not members of the opposition sit on the committee is, of course, a decision made by the Lieutenant-Governor.
I don't want to be pejorative, but I'd say it is a bit of a frivolous question. This is a committee established by legislation like other committees of the House, and its appointment is a prerogative of the government. Whether the committee membership stays static over time is up to the Premier. As you can see by the legislation, it does not say the Minister of Finance will always sit on this committee, and it does not say the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs sits on this committee. This section is permissive to allow members of the Legislative Assembly to be appointed at the pleasure of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council.
G. Wilson: The reason this is not a frivolous question, despite the earnest attempt of the minister to make it so, is because we notice -- as we will be canvassing shortly in section 4 -- that this committee will be paid allowances for reasonable, incidental travelling expenses and so on, therefore there is an associated cost. The Minister of Finance is suggesting that this isn't a particularly important issue, given that it's one more expenditure that may, in the overall scheme of things, not be large, but it is nevertheless an additional cost of government.
The second reason it isn't frivolous is because this further entrenches, in a highly centralized system of government, the authority of a very important committee into the hands of the Premier, through an order-in-council, to be able to direct the purposes of this bill, which we have already seen are going to have widespread impacts on the commitment of capital into public sector enterprises. My question with respect to this committee is: if the minister has already established that some ministries are on it -- we know, in fact, that decision has been taken, because he was good enough or tired enough last night to give it to us, I'm not sure which -- then can the minister tell us what kind of costs he is anticipating being associated with this committee, given that the size of the committee is going to be a functional part of that overall cost?
Hon. G. Clark: Virtually no costs. The ministers of the Crown would not receive any reimbursement for sitting on the committee. Travel comes out of ministry budgets. There's no routine increased incremental cost. Any members not in cabinet who are on the purposes committee -- as you know by the Constitution Act -- are not earning extra stipends. If their travel to Victoria or the like can't be accommodated by normal MLA travel, then there would be some. There is virtually no cost over and above the cost of doing business as a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
G. Wilson: My last question on section 3: is it the intention that this committee vet the spending programs for public sector investment, especially those of the line ministries and Crown corporations, with respect to the purposes under section 2(c), (d) and (e), as we canvassed yesterday? Will the function of this committee be to actually make sure that these employment standards will be looked after? Is this the place that's going to be done?
Hon. G. Clark: You'll see by the bill that it's an advisory committee and doesn't vet anything. Treasury Board makes the decisions on spending. This is simply to review the initiatives we talked about at great length yesterday to try to ensure that they are meeting the corporate objectives of the government. If they're not meeting those criteria, the committee itself has no authority to deal with that. That's obviously a decision made by the line ministries and other mechanisms, namely Treasury Board. Now it's obvious that the government is trying to pursue some corporate objectives. If the committee finds that some of those aren't being followed and brings that to the attention of the government, action will be taken, but it doesn't have any formal authority in that regard.
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C. Tanner: I think everybody on this side of the House is a little concerned about the repetition of committees that this government is creating. The government already has committees of the cabinet. They have a Crown Corporations Committee, which includes many of the members the Minister of Finance mentioned yesterday. We have just created the Select Standing Committee on Finance, Crown Corporations and Government Services, and now the minister wants to create another committee. All these committees are concerned basically with the same subject, and this is beside the fact that you've got a cabinet where you all meet together, and the Treasury Board where many of you sit together. It all is very self-serving, and our concern is: why another one? You've got a legislative committee; a specific committee of cabinet; and the Treasury Board, which is making the same decisions this committee is. Why do you have to create another committee? You haven't given us a reasonable explanation for that. When you've got forms....
Hon. G. Clark: Why not?
C. Tanner: Because I guess you've got to keep people entertained and busy. But later on in the legislation we're going to have yet another committee. Surely, within cabinet you have already got sufficient involvement by ministers of the Crown that you don't need this committee in place as well, particularly in only an advisory capacity.
Hon. G. Clark: I'm simply not going to repeat the lengthy discussion of yesterday. The purpose of the act is clear, it's stated. We had many hours of debating the purpose of the act, and this section deals with the formation of a committee to assist in pursuing the purposes of the act.
C. Tanner: Perhaps the minister would then give consideration to the fact that this one committee is not necessary to this legislation, and you could remove it, as at least some indication on the minister's part that what we've been saying, that our concerns and the concerns of the third party and of the independent members -- everybody, in fact, except your side -- are very real. It might give some indication of good faith on his part if this committee and this whole section were removed from the legislation.
Hon. G. Clark: Well, I don't know. Members opposite moved a motion to have 50 percent of the members be members on the other side of the House. You wanted a committee, but you just want to be on it. Well, go and take your case to the people and a couple of years from now you can pursue that line of argument with the public. But the fact is that government is forming a committee; we're involving members of the governing party who are not in cabinet in trying to pursue regional initiatives, training initiatives, getting people off welfare and in to work. That's good public policy, and this committee allows us to utilize more of the talented members of the House, and members opposite should support that.
F. Gingell: So the regional initiatives are only going to be represented in the interests of the committee if they happen to have government MLAs sitting in those ridings? Come, come, Mr. Minister. Surely this is the key, this is the catalyst that makes you see that if an important part of this committee's job is to deal with regional interests, it's important that regions are represented on the committee. Maybe it will come as a bit of a surprise to you, but there may be some area in this province where, through a by-election, or recall even.... Recall may very well cause you to be underrepresented in innumerable regions. But surely, isn't that a reason. If you're going to ensure that you've brought on the Minister of Women's Equality, if you've made sure that you've brought on the Minister of Economic Development, and so on, and you see that these are all parts of the inputs into this committee, and a significant one is regional interest, surely the important thing to do in this section is to ensure that the regional interests are properly represented, whether by government members or others. MLAs are MLAs first. They represent their constituencies first. They represent their political parties second.
Hon. G. Clark: I assure the members opposite that all regions of the province will be represented on the committee. We will do our best to promote regional economic development regardless of the electoral wishes of various parts of the province.
C. Tanner: A legislative standing committee has just been initiated that is represented by members from all parties and by all areas of the province. It's obviously the exact committee the minister is looking for. My point before was that if you can't give us representation, then at least do us the service of getting rid of another committee. You've got committees in cabinet, committees in government, party committees, legislative standing committees, Crown corporation committees. How many committees does it take to run your department?
Hon. G. Clark: The member opposite is making a case for abolishing the Select Standing Committee on Finance, Crown Corporations and Government Services, and I'll take that under advisement.
H. De Jong: It surprises me that the government would choose MLAs only from the government side. If the government is serious about providing equitable distribution of regional development throughout the province and wishes to put MLAs on the committee, then I think it only makes sense that they should also be from the other parties. With the complaints and the criticisms that are there already about this government looking after their own regions and their own people, I simply can't see that they would complicate it even more for themselves by this bill and by this action.
Hon. G. Clark: We receive input from that member every day in the House. I'm pleased to take any input and constructive criticism that members have in the course of these discussions and try to improve the
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way we do business and the way parliamentary democracy works. The member has input. He is a respected member of the House, a respected member of the previous government, and he has the opportunity to raise any concerns he has in this chamber.
C. Tanner: The minister was good enough to say that he will take our excellent recommendations into consideration. Could he go a little bit further? Could he say there will be representation from members other than government members, at least on that committee? If not, would he say that he will give the Select Standing Committee on Finance, Crown Corporations and Government Services more powers to be involved in this legislation? This legislation is a far-reaching divergence from what is normal in all governments of Canada -- except this government, this time around.
The minister is making a strong case that it's absolutely necessary because it's the only way they can deal with problems of employment in the province. It can't use the normal line ministries. If it can't do that, surely he should allay our fears by using the Select Standing Committee on Finance, on which some members on this side of the House sit. Will he give us that assurance that the standing committee will take the place of this committee, since he won't dispense with this committee?
Hon. G. Clark: The select standing committees of the House have sat more often in the first year of this government than in the last five years of the previous government. We're very pleased to give more work to select standing committees. If the members opposite in that select standing committee would like more work to do, we will certainly take it under advisement.
C. Tanner: I agree. History tells us that we've had more select standing committees in this parliament since we've had this government. I applaud the government for doing so, because I think it is important. The member well knows there is a lot of non-partisan, good work done in those committees. They work well. The partisan rhetoric that takes place in here doesn't appear in those committees too often, and it works well. That's the reason it's necessary to get this committee involved.
The minister is in error when he says that this particular committee has sat at all. It was only just formulated within the last few days. I'm asking the minister to give that committee, which he probably initiated, more authority with this piece of legislation.
Hon. G. Clark: No, that's not contemplated by the legislation.
Sections 3 and 4 approved.
On section 5.
F. Gingell: We have concerns that there is a process being set up that causes the work of this committee and the decisions that they make regarding spending to happen in a black hole so that the Legislature and the people of British Columbia are not aware of their plans and decisions. There is no ability to deal with these matters in a fashion through the estimates debate, which allows full and complete discussion.
I therefore move the amendment standing in my name on the order paper. This amendment takes out the requirement to make the recommendations to Treasury Board and instead to make them to the Legislative Assembly and the executive council, as was originally contemplated. I ask the minister to consider this amendment. I know his government supports open government, and I'm told that his government supports free discussion. You have brought in acts like the Freedom of Information Act; we are just trying to bring freedom of information to the Committee on Building British Columbia's Future. We ask for your support.
The Chair: Just before I recognize the Minister of Finance, for the committee's clarification, section 4 was passed. I want to make sure that's clear.
Hon. G. Clark: I want to ensure that this amendment is in order, Mr. Chair. There are Treasury Board and Financial Administration Act rules governing expenditures. I guess the Legislative Assembly can do whatever it wants, but it seems unlikely to me that it would be wise not to have the kinds of power that exist in the Financial Administration Act.
Let me say, though, that the government is accountable to the Legislative Assembly through the debate on the bill. It's through the debate on the bill that the committee is established and an amount of money is allocated to the special account this year. I want members to know that in future years, any moneys added to the special account will be done so through a separate vote of the Legislature, with full debate in the Legislative Assembly through the estimates process. So there will be a vote attached to this. This year it will be set by the legislation. In future years, any incremental money going to the special account will be in a separate vote and debated in the House the same as every other estimates process. In that sense, the Legislative Assembly has all the scrutiny that a normal ministry function has.
The section is currently drafted to give Treasury Board approval for expenditures from the special account throughout the year. This is standard government practice, and it's in keeping with the Financial Administration Act. Even though the quantum is authorized by the Legislative Assembly under this act, no money can be spent from the special account without Treasury Board approval.
In the absence of that, to have a requirement that operating funding allocations be approved by the Legislative Assembly would simply mean that the Legislative Assembly would have to be sitting 12 months a year, and every time there was an expenditure out of the account for purposes, it would be debated in the House. That's not what we do with any other ministry of government or in any other practices of
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government. Treasury Board scrutinizes the spending decisions. The amount is voted on and debated in the House each year. That will the case with this section. Therefore I obviously cannot support the amendment.
G. Wilson: A point of clarification on the minister's last comment with respect to the vote that will be taking place through the estimates process. If one looks at what I understand section 5 to suggest, this tends to be advisory only and really doesn't have the authority to directly spend; it can't commit funds. This essentially is the function of this committee. It doesn't have the authority to actually spend any money. Presumably the only moneys that this committee is going to have access to giving advice on directly, one would assume, is the $100 million in the Build B.C. special account. However, I understand that advice to the executive council will be provided through this committee with respect to other line ministry expenditures in terms of the employment standards, or whatever is in sections (c), (d) and (e). If I've got that correct, maybe the minister can tell me so.
Hon. G. Clark: Yes, that's correct.
G. Wilson: In light of that, would it not make sense, in looking at the amendment proposed, to have this amendment passed? It would seem to me it would further facilitate what this committee is attempting to do, rather than being an impediment to it. What the amendment suggests we do is essentially expand the rule of review and advice outside a very small committee hand-picked by the Premier to the larger Committee of the Whole, if I can use that analogy, which is the Legislative Assembly. I don't think there's anything in this amendment that precludes that being done through the budgetary process or the estimates. All it does is say that the moneys that will be expended out of this special account will be given a recommendation by this committee, and those recommendations that come forward will be reviewed and passed by the Legislative Assembly. I don't think that's inconsistent with existing patterns of expenditure today.
Hon. G. Clark: No, this amendment removes the scrutiny of Treasury Board, which is the most important control mechanism in terms of spending, and that is required under the Financial Administration Act. To remove Treasury Board from the expenditure control function would, I think, be a mistake.
Secondly, it requires the Legislative Assembly to approve each microfunding decision out of the special account. That is not done in any other ministry of government. In any ministry of government you will see hundreds of millions of dollars for this or that function, whether it's schools or not. You do not go into the Powell River School District and question exactly how much is spent on that; you question it in the House, if you like, during the estimates process. You will be able to do exactly that with this account. But to have to come back to the House each time a decision is made to spend out of the account would be bureaucratic, it would involve an enormous amount of red tape, and it's simply not practical. It would be far better to have it the same as in every other ministry, so that members of the opposition can hold us to account for the amount and can question the minister responsible in a separate vote each and every year.
F. Gingell: I'd like to suggest to the minister that accepting this amendment would by no means negate the authority and responsibilities of Treasury Board. Those responsibilities would still be there.
We're not talking about the need to bring to the Legislature all of the specific items that this deals with, as in school boards. You have started the special account off with $100 million. I'm sure you didn't just pick the sum of $100 million out of the air. I'm sure that recognizing the difficult times the province is facing -- I wouldn't want to use the words "your boastfulness," but you're always mentioning how careful and astute you are with money -- you must have a completely detailed plan right now as to how this $100 million is going to be spent. You didn't say: "We will spend $20 million on silviculture, and let's throw in another $80 million for luck." Surely there is a plan.
We aren't talking, of course, about a detailed review of the influence the committee has on expenditures out of ministries. Surely it is important for the Legislature to have some review process for an amount of this size. In fact, I was going to get into this question when we get to item 7. But I've suddenly become concerned that if we don't deal with it now and see to it that there is a process there for legislative review -- not of the amounts transferred from the votes but of the original starting amount -- we could miss it by mistake.
Hon. G. Clark: No. Members may recall that during the prebudget period and prebudget consultations, most of the recommendations were on the job-stimulus side. I think it was public knowledge at the time that the Premier asked, then I asked, all ministries to generate job-stimulus ideas. We naturally got hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of requests for things that would be useful; and largely for fiscal reasons we cut that to $100 million, because we cut the deficit by 35 percent over the last two years. That was quite a dramatic cut in the deficit. We felt that $100 million was prudent. Every year we will be held accountable in this chamber for that spending, the same as every other ministry of government.
G. Wilson: I have one last comment on this proposed amendment, because I can see that the minister is not being flexible at all. It's probably because he was a little upset that he went to the Canucks' game last night and had less than an entertaining evening. That happens. I confess, the only time I've ever been to a Canucks game, they've won. Maybe that says something.
The last comment, I think, comes back to the comment made by my colleague the Leader of the Opposition that this does not in any way detract from Treasury Board. What it does is expand the opportunity for review and the opportunity for members of the Legislature to look at this new initiative in its initial years. I don't think that's an unreasonable thing to expect, given that it appears that this new initiative is going to have a fairly profound effect on the way that
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we allocate dollars to these training programs. I would urge that this amendment pass, because it doesn't alter the nature of the bill. All it does is provide a greater degree of scrutiny by elected members.
D. Symons: I'd like to reinforce what the member for Delta South was saying, that this is not to take away from the Treasury Board. The Treasury Board does indeed, as you rightfully say, have a role to play in this. But what is also attempted by the amendment is to say: "Where is the role of the Legislative Assembly in this particular organization?"
You might say that what I'm going to read to you applies more to section 8, and maybe it does, but I think it is applicable here. What I will read to you is what the member for Nanaimo said when he was in opposition discussing the Freedom to Move legislation in 1990. What the hon. member said, bringing in an amendment as a preamble to section 4 of that particular act, was the following: "Where the minister has made available to members of the Legislature (a) descriptions of the works to be undertaken, (b) current statements of the scope of each project, (c) statements of funds already spent on each project, and (d) estimates of the amounts required to complete each project...."
What he was trying to do there -- and I think the member was correct when he tried to do that in that particular bill -- is precisely what we are attempting to do for Bill 3 in this Legislature today. We're trying to bring the Legislature into this process. Indeed we were elected for that particular purpose, to have a say and an interest in what's going on, rather than having it happen within a rather closed clique of people who share information back and forth but never have it really see the light of day. That's what the member for Nanaimo was asking in 1990.
I'm certain that if that member were in the House today, he would be supporting our amendment, because it's directly on that same line. The thing that bothers me is that all the members now in government who were then in opposition supported that amendment. I would really consider this to be a friendly amendment; it is simply to improve the bill, not to take away, as you're suggesting.
In that vein, I would encourage the government to take part in what we consider to be a friendly amendment to your bill.
Hon. G. Clark: If members opposite continue to read Hansard from previous years, they will learn how to be a good opposition. It took many years for us to learn, and I know that the members opposite will have many years to learn to be an effective opposition.
G. Wilson: The minister is right. It did take many years to learn to become an effective opposition, only for them now to become an ineffective government. So we'll take them back to an effective opposition in the next election and have a proper balance.
The reason these amendments are necessary and the reason it's important we look at them is that if you look at this proposed section 5(a), it says that the executive council is going to provide advice "respecting appropriate economic, regional, sectoral...." That's very wide. What's appropriate? Appropriate to whom? Appropriate to which particular ridings maybe, or which particular election campaign, whatever it may be. You can see that the cynicism out there is going to be fed by that.
Secondly, it says that it's going to provide advice with respect to the development of criteria for reviewing, monitoring and then evaluating. So if that's correct, it would appear there's a kind of audit service here. It's going to evaluate the expenditures. If you evaluate, presumably you don't do that until after they've been spent; you see what kind of value you get for the money.
It seems perfectly reasonable to us that the Legislature have some functional role in looking at these kinds of issues, because they may in fact have some really good ideas. I, for one, don't think the members opposite are devoid of good ideas. I just think they don't often bring them forward; and when they do, they tend to mess them up a little bit. But there may be some good ideas out there; and if we ever did find some of them, we might be able to facilitate getting them in place. So I think this amendment is perfectly appropriate, given the language under section 5(a) and (b).
D. Symons: I wanted to carry on with the comment I made earlier. I was appreciative of the minister recognizing my ability to read Hansard, and I thank him very much for that. But what I didn't hear in his answer was why what was applicable in 1990 in regard to Freedom to Move does not seem to apply now. I was hoping that he could say why, when the bills are very similar in nature and their intent has some similarities, things are different. Why does what they were concerned about then seem to be of no concern now? I'm wondering if the minister might comment as to why, when they had that great concern about the House being involved here at some stage, he now seems so lightly to pass that off and say: "Well, it's not necessary at this stage." Something has changed.
Hon. G. Clark: First of all, the House, of course, is involved right now. Secondly, there's a separate vote every year that you will be able to scrutinize in the House, the spending decisions of the government under this special account.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS -- 20
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NAYS -- 35
G. Wilson: I note with interest that democracy can be cumbersome, when we have to wait for everybody to get here for a vote. I thought we had won that one.
G. Wilson: Yes, I do. The member for Nanaimo wonders if I need him. It would be useful if he could stay here. He might be able to see the wisdom of our amendments.
The Chair: If the member wishes, he may wait a moment or two until the members who have to go back to Committee A have left the chamber.
G. Wilson: Coming back again to section 5, I think we need to look at the language that is proposed here. I've already mentioned to the minister the question of section 5(a) with respect to what "appropriate" means, who determines appropriateness and how it's going to be done. In (b) there is a development of "criteria for reviewing, monitoring and evaluating." Therefore there's an audit service that's going to be provided to this form of expenditure from the special account.
We notice also then under (c): "review expenditure proposals for the special account on the basis of the criteria developed...." The minister has said -- and I'd like him to elaborate on this, because it's important for us to understand -- that given sections (a), (b) and (c), there will in subsequent years be a vote in the estimates for any additional moneys that go into that account. Now does that mean that the $100 million that is set up as seed capital is a standing base and we're going to be looking at additional capital beyond the $100 million, or does it mean that we're going to be able to scrutinize the proposed expenditure of any moneys out of the special account in the estimates for the next year?
Hon. G. Clark: I'll try to explain it this way. This year's allocation of funding on the current account is $100 million. That will be spent this year, presumably, on a variety of initiatives to create jobs, etc. When we come back next year, we will be held accountable for what we spent out of this account, I have no doubt, and there will hopefully be a further allocation to this account for expenditure in the next fiscal year. That will vary depending on the fiscal circumstances the province finds itself in. That will be a separate vote. It may be $50 million, $20 million or $200 million, but hopefully we can find some funding to continue to build the province through infrastructure and developments in the regions.
At that time you will be in the House. As is the same with every ministry, you will, no doubt, question me -- if I'm still the minister responsible -- about everything we spent in the past year, which is the one we're debating now. And you will question us as to what we plan to do for the coming year, given the funding that's made available in the annual budget process.
G. Wilson: That gives us some comfort, because it means that there is going to be -- at least in the estimates -- some accounting in subsequent years for the dollars that are put into that special account. I wonder if the minister might elaborate a little bit on sections (d) and (e) of this particular committee function, which says that they'll be responsible to develop new initiatives that fulfil the purposes of this act. I assume that that's new programs, and if it's programs that are being put in place, one would assume that there is some kind of connection to line ministries to carry out other functions that may be assigned. What is envisaged in respect to these other functions, or is that too futuristic a question? Is this just a caveat to say: "Whatever else we dream up at some point we're going to toss into this committee"?
Hon. G. Clark: With respect to the latter point, it's a standard clause in bills like this to allow the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to assign it other functions to pursue the purposes of the act. It has to be consistent with the purposes of the act. That's simply standard procedure. Nothing is envisaged at this time.
With respect to new initiatives, you're correct. I suspect what will happen is that the ministries will suggest a program -- whether it's a silviculture program or the like. The committee will review it with some independent staff, probably Treasury Board, and it may not be satisfactory in meeting the criteria that have been established. But it may be a good idea, so the committee may want to work with the ministries to improve a suggestion or program to try to better meet the criteria we've established. Another option would be that if there's a particular area of interest to the government which is worthwhile, or members of the opposition may put forward an idea, say, for a housing initiative in Prince George, or something the member might put forward that is not being generated by the line ministry, the committee might want to pursue some innovation in that regard with the line ministry. I think that's essentially the dynamic that will develop.
G. Wilson: I'm pleased that (e) is in fact just the standard kind of pro forma and nothing is dreamed up that has yet to be fine-tuned.
With respect to (d) -- to develop the new initiatives -- would the minister tell us if the employment equity program would be such a program that would be administered through this committee.
[ Page 5924 ]
Hon. G. Clark: No.
G. Wilson: If we were to talk about a revision, for example, to the current programs within the Ministry of Social Services with respect to employment initiatives for people on income assistance.... If those were being proposed out of the Ministry of Social Services, would they be something that would be administered through this committee?
Hon. G. Clark: No. Obviously, administration lies with the ministry responsible for Social Services, but it's quite likely that this committee would review those expenditures on an ongoing basis and work with the ministry to see whether it's achieving those ends. In that case it's pretty straightforward. It's a specific program to take people off welfare and into work, and I think the committee would find it meeting at least one of the major purposes of the bill. If there are some ways that that can be improved, I'm not sure.
More likely that ministry will want to augment its existing programs with money from the special account. They may say: "We have a program which meets the criteria, we think we can augment it and it's good for the government." In that case the committee would then look very carefully to see whether it's achieving, just adding to the existing worthwhile program, or whether there are ways in which we can use the administrative base that's there -- not add to the bureaucracy -- and tailor it to achieve some other objectives not met by the normal ministry program.
G. Wilson: It's becoming a bit more clear. One example from yesterday that is directly relevant to section 5(d): "develop new initiatives" -- if those new initiatives have to do with employment standards and the makeup of a workforce that is going to be eligible for government contract funding -- is the day labour programs and the non-union/union issue. Where would the Legislature have an opportunity to see the details of those proposed new initiatives prior to implementation, and where would we be able to discuss the cost impact of those prior to this committee making recommendations to Treasury Board and the executive council?
Hon. G. Clark: There's no cost impact. If there's a budgetary impact, the budget's already been approved by the Legislature. It has to be within the budgetary appropriations unless there was a special warrant, which, of course, is subject to debate in the House after the fact. That's certainly not contemplated. I think the member should take comfort in that there are no cost implications beyond those already budgeted.
I think there are new initiatives developed by government all the time which are not debated in the House, other than in the broad sense. They're debated in the House certainly every year at estimates time. But when a government announces a housing program for the homeless in September, as a result of work, and for which there is a budget appropriation in the House, then that's the prerogative of government; and one can question whether that was a prudent expenditure or worthwhile program at next year's estimates. This is no different from that.
G. Wilson: One more question and then I would like to propose an amendment to this section. The last question is: can the minister tell us what the function of this committee will be directly in relation to the creation of the new transportation financing authority, and to what extent the committee will be advising on how those funds can be applied to the Transportation Financing Authority?
Hon. G. Clark: I think it's more appropriate to say that the committee will be advising the Transportation Financing Authority on regional equity and other kinds of training goals, and how they might be accomplished, and not in the allocation of dollars. The allocation is in the House, and also made by Treasury Board, not by this committee. So this is more about establishing criteria, monitoring, review and assistance in trying to meet those corporate objectives rather than any direction of funding.
G. Wilson: Then what we're saying here is that this committee isn't going to have any determination on how much you can spend; therefore we're not looking at an additional cost factor. But it is going to have some say on what you can spend that on, based on the criteria being established by the committee. Is that right?
Hon. G. Clark: It would give some advice, not necessarily on what you can spend it on, but on other things that the government would wish to see pursued at the same time. If there's a highway to be developed, then one option would be for the committee to say: "We'd like to see incorporated in the bidding procedure some concern or some review of training initiatives by the private operator." That would be just an example of how it would work.
G. Wilson: Can the minister give us some confidence then that there has been consultation with the major contractors in the province who do highway construction with respect to how this committee is going to impact on their workforce?
Hon. G. Clark: Absolutely. We haven't yet, obviously, because the bill isn't passed, but we certainly will be reviewing it. We've begun meetings with interested parties on some of these questions.
G. Wilson: In other words, we haven't consulted with them yet because it isn't law. Once it's law, we'll tell them what we've done. Is that what you're saying?
Hon. G. Clark: Once it's law, we will inform interested parties, as we go through, of the purpose and goals that we're trying to accomplish. Then we'll work with those parties to see whether we can accomplish them. In some cases it won't be feasible, and in other cases it will be; that's how it will proceed. This is an advisory committee to government, and it will attempt to facilitate some of the broader corporate objectives.
[ Page 5925 ]
G. Wilson: One last question on this particular section of questioning. It would also apply, as I think we established yesterday, to the allocation of dollars through the Crown corporations in terms of the standards or conditions or projects that the government would like to see. These initiatives would also apply through the Crown corporations?
Hon. G. Clark: I guess broadly, yes. But it's a little different there, because the Crown corporations have a board of directors and management making decisions on allocation. This is simply an attempt to review the allocation decisions that they've already made and to see whether there are ways in which we can work with the Crowns to incorporate some of the other objectives of government that are listed in the act.
G. Wilson: I think the minister has alluded to the fact that the opposition will have an opportunity to review, under estimates next year, additional money -- new money or next year's money; let's use those terms -- that is going into the special account, and that we will have an opportunity to find out what kinds of dollars are allocated.
The opposition also has a duty and obligation to the people of the province to analyze pending legislation not only in terms of cost impact and direct tax dollars but in terms of cost impact on the people it is going to affect. This is likely to have a very significant cost impact on contractors in B.C. who traditionally receive contracts from the government for capital development. Not all of it may be bad in terms of the employment side of it. In terms of the apprenticeship program and developing new job initiatives and those kinds of things, some of it may be worthwhile, but it is nevertheless going to have a direct cost impact on the people whose livelihoods are dependent on it.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I would like to move an amendment to add, after section 5, a new section 5.1 as follows: "Details of proposed expenditures and initiatives undertaken pursuant to section 5 will be tabled with the Legislative Assembly at the earliest opportunity and shall not come into effect until approved by resolution of the assembly." What this effectively does is provide an opportunity for us to see the details of these proposed expenditures and initiatives. I underline initiatives, because the initiatives may not have only a cost impact on actual tax expenditures -- that is, the expenditures of tax money -- but a very real and direct impact on the possibility of increased costs being incurred by those people who traditionally have had to depend on government contract work for part of their overall annual income.
The Chair: The Chair has looked at the amendment as you have proposed it and finds that it deals with a matter under section 8, which in the opinion of the Chair is inappropriate, as it contradicts the intent of section 8. The member may have an opportunity under section 8 to pursue the concerns he is raising with this amendment. I would therefore rule the amendment out of order.
G. Wilson: I respect your ruling. There is another avenue to approach this under section 8 and that's what we will endeavor to do.
My final comments with respect to clarifying the functioning of this committee is that it's going to have some very broad-ranging and important advice to provide. I assume advice is the key word. It seems to be an advisory committee to Treasury Board and to the executive council with respect to these new proposals. Given that this is a functional part of what is essentially a new Crown corporation or Crown agency, would the minister tell us how this committee will interact with the second committee that will be established to administer the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority? Where is the overlap? Where's the interaction? How does this committee function and work with that second committee which is a product of the same act?
Hon. G. Clark: It's essentially a product of the same act, but it would be similar to other financing authorities. It will have its own board of directors, although it will be a little different in the sense that it will be chaired by the Ministry of Highways. It will be very small and won't have big staff attached to it. Essentially, though, it functions similarly to other Crowns. It submits its capital plan to the committee. It will make the decision. The Ministry of Highways has a very qualified staff to review highway expenditures. We went through this yesterday. They will be making their appropriations on the basis of, I'm sure, sound transportation criteria. Then the committee will review to see whether there are avenues to pursue those other regional equity and training goals established by the committee.
G. Wilson: Perhaps I didn't ask the question clearly, because I didn't get an answer to the question I was trying to ask. Let me ask the question again. We're now debating Part 2, the Committee on building British Columbia's Future, section 5 under Committee function. One would argue that because this is under Bill 3 there is an integral relationship between the information in this bill. Otherwise the government would presumably have brought it in under two separate bills. Given there is this relationship, what I'm anxious to know is the extent to which -- and I think the minister did say this -- the Minister of Transportation will be a member of this committee.
G. Wilson: No, we're talking about the Committee on Building British Columbia's Future now. Let's not get the two committees.... I understand that he will chair the committee on the transportation authority. My understanding is that the Minister of Finance will chair this committee and the Minister of Transportation will be a member of this committee. I'm assuming from the sign language I'm getting from the minister that he will also sit on the other one. We've essentially got some interwoven relationship here between these two committees. My question, then, in terms of the
[ Page 5926 ]
committee function, is: how directly is the function of this committee tied to the allocation of capital expenditure as administered under the second committee? Is there going to be some direct connection? If not, why would you not just simply do this function under the line ministries as has been asked before?
G. Wilson: I'm talking about the B.C. 21 committee as opposed to the British Columbia Transportation Authority. This is the big one, the bigger of the two committees. This is the one without patronage appointments, because you have to be at least elected to the Legislative Assembly, according to the language of this. The other one is the patronage committee. Maybe that's the way we will define them. We will define them as the legislative committee and the patronage committee. How's that? Then we've got the two committees clear.
F. Gingell: It's not a legislative committee. They won't let us on it.
G. Wilson: It's not a legislative committee. I yield to the member for Delta South. He's absolutely correct, because we're not allowed on it. This is a government committee and, it would seem, a large one at that.
G. Wilson: No, the member for Prince George-Mount Robson said it's a shame that we should have another government committee. We know that this government has committees blossoming like tulips in spring.
How does the function of this committee which we're debating under section 5 relate to the function of the transportation committee, given that the two key ministers -- very powerful ministers now.... I don't know whether the colleagues in cabinet have realized the extent to which this bill provides enormous powers to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation, and essentially eliminates or removes certain powers from other ministers. How do these two committees interrelate? Is one a driving force to the other in terms of advice and direction on how those dollars can be allocated and spent?
Hon. G. Clark: They are clearly connected. One is not a committee. It is a board of directors, which will have the Minister of Transportation and Highways as its chair. It's a board like any other board of directors. The other is a committee made up of Members of the Legislative Assembly. The relationship between the two is similar to the relationship the B.C. 21 committee has with the other Crowns, although as we move forward, capital spending on highways is clearly a key component of regional economic development. In that respect it may be a bit tighter in terms of the relationship. But it's the same kind of thing: to establish criteria to make sure that other goals are being followed by the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority.
G. Wilson: By way of my last comment on this, it would appear that this bill creates a major advisory board with respect to the spending of $100 million of the taxpayers' money. It is totally controlled by government, with very limited review this year -- hopefully more next year, and we'll have to take the minister's word on that. This is now going to be the beginning of a major new initiative for terms and conditions by which government money can be spent on capital construction projects. With that in mind, it is most regrettable that the amendments the official opposition has moved were not put in place. I think it would have made it far more accountable, and far more democratic and open to debate in this House than as it stands now.
As it stands now, I could not support it.
C. Tanner: It seems to me, from the comments the Minister of Finance made yesterday and with what he's saying this morning about what he is attempting to do with this bill, and it's emphasized in this particular clause 5.... He used the expression about cutting through the red tape; he used the expression about slashing budgets so that he can use it within his ministry. I don't know whether he said slashing budgets; he certainly said cutting through the red tape. He wants to be on-line, and that's what he's doing. He's slashing the budgets of his fellow cabinet ministers.
Because he's setting up committees, he's ignoring the expert advice that is within those ministries, and he's neutralizing his own cabinet ministers to set up his own committee -- which he's going to be chairman of -- and run the government through a Crown corporation so that he doesn't have to bother to go through the procedure we've always had in this government. It's emphasized by sections 2 and 5 of this bill. Section 2 tells you about the purpose, and section 5 tells you how they do it. I don't think the minister's intentions are well known to the public, and I think they're going to be horrified when they find out what he's up to.
G. Clark: That's just poppycock.
Some Hon. Members: Oh, oh!
G. Clark: I was searching for a word that was appropriate in the legislative chamber. The Leader of the Liberal Party has a more accurate description of this. This is a major initiative. It is an attempt to try to use money which is already being spent by government, historically, in this province, and to use it smarter -- to pursue training initiatives, equity initiatives, regional diversification initiatives; to use the money we already spend and coordinate it to pursue other initiatives of government. It is a broad initiative. It is not the creation of some super-Crown corporation at all. It's true there is another Crown corporation to build highways in this province, to capitalize highways in this province with a dedicated income stream, and that is an initiative to pursue highway development. The member opposite, I know, is lobbying government all the time for more money to spend on highway development. All the time....
[ Page 5927 ]
C. Tanner: Not true, not true.
Hon. G. Clark: He says it's not true, and I'm delighted with that. So when the Island Highway is constructed, we'll be able to say to the people of his constituency that he's not in favour of that. I'm delighted.
The point is that there's nothing nefarious about this. We're bringing in legislation for debate to pursue those other initiatives of government because we need to do a better job of apprenticeships and a better job of training. We have scarce dollars to do it, so we want to use existing dollars, coordinate them better and drive these broader initiatives of government through all aspects of government expenditure.
Section 5 approved.
On section 6.
F. Gingell: Is this Build B.C. special account the kind of special account where you paid Peat Marwick Mitchell a million dollars for their advice, and they suggested to you that we didn't need special accounts, that we were confused? Is this the same kind of special account as you, when you were in opposition, were continually saying to the government of the day as unnecessary? Is it that kind of special account that you're setting up?
Hon. G. Clark: We have abolished several special accounts since we came to office, and we have created one now as well. The special account has a couple of functions which I think are worthwhile, but we have to be very careful, and I think you'll find that we've constructed this in such a way to give it more accountability, and also to deal with some of the concerns. But one of the key aspects of a special account is to allow money to be carried over from year to year. That's important, because if you're trying to do a multi-year initiative, particularly when it's a capital spending initiative or a program initiative, sometimes what happens is the stop and start of a budgetary year. A special account allows funding to carry over from one year to the next, and also it allows the mechanism of being better able to coordinate activities, rather than in the line ministries.
C. Tanner: Here we go again. More special accounts for which the Minister of Finance will have ultimate responsibility; more committees coming up later in the bill; committees established already, unfortunately, under this bill -- all to enhance the authority of the gentleman who calls himself the Minister of Finance, and who today can find a $100 million which he couldn't find last year. I mean, how did he generate it? Out of the air? Did he win the lottery? What's going on here? If he could establish this fund today and find a hundred million bucks for it, why couldn't he do it last year? Why couldn't he have done these things last year when they were first in government under the departments that are set in place to do it?
The Chair: Before recognizing the minister, I would point out to the committee that the procedure should deal strictly with section by section, and I believe the member who just took his place should have been debating under section 7 rather than section 6.
Hon. G. Clark: The simple answer is that we inherited a mess -- a $2.4 billion deficit which we brought down under $2 billion and have now brought down to $1.5 billion in the space of two years -- a 35 percent reduction of the deficit. We were trying to create the fiscal room to drive these kinds of initiatives. I must say also that in prebudget consultations all around the province, people said they wanted more spending on investment in things like silviculture, road construction and infrastructure. It's broadly supported by the business community. We tried to crank down spending as much as we could -- the lowest since 1987 -- but protect basic health and education service and put some money into a special account, where we can direct with more focus the activities of government in areas that pursue them -- particularly training, job stimulus and regional economic development initiatives.
F. Gingell: I was interested to hear the Minister of Finance say that the advantage of the special account is that it allows you to flow over to the following year. I take it that in the particular case of the special account, it is intended to spend the money that is in the account. Of course, that's the purpose of all the special accounts. The province presently has balances in special accounts of a mere $2 billion, none of which is included in your proposed deficit for 1993-94. Is it the minister's intention, seeing we're on the subject of special accounts, to generally treat special accounts in the way they were intended -- that is, they are for projects, the projects will be defined, and the money will be spent? It may pop over the year-end -- and I appreciate that problem -- but you're not talking about building up large balances and letting them carry forward in the manner of political promises made but never fulfilled.
The Chair: The Chair just wants to clarify that section 6 deals with the principle of the account, and section 7 deals with the matters that the members are raising. I just want members to understand that there is a section to deal with the matters you're discussing.
Hon. G. Clark: I share the concern of the member opposite about special accounts. I think he knows that. As for the $2 billion notional surplus in those special accounts, there's no bank balance to match that up, so we can't liquidate them and save money. What you're really doing with a special account is providing authority to carry over for the next year. You're not necessarily providing any funding. I want to be honest with members of the House: if we are in difficult fiscal circumstances and we choose to cut the budget midyear, we could choose to cut some of this $100 million. That would be quite appropriate, and I'm sure members opposite would support the government in
[ Page 5928 ]
attempting to cut the budget in any way we could. But the authority to spend would carry over for the next year.
Let me give you a concrete example. If we make a commitment to spend on something out of the special account, and for fiscal reasons we have to find more money.... This year, as you know, we cut $316 million midyear because we had a revenue shortfall from the federal government. If we receive a revenue shortfall from the federal government again and we have to cut, I make no apologies in saying that we will cut, and we may cut out of this special account. So if we've approved the spending for a project and then we decide to cut that spending, we'll now be able to move the spending over to next year, and the approval will carry forward. That's the advantage of a special account.
Our intent would be to spend this year the appropriation of $100 million each year. We will not be building up notional surpluses in the account; that's not our intent. At the same time, we do have the flexibility to cut spending in this area, the same as we have in other special accounts.
G. Wilson: I apologize; I had to step out momentarily. But I appreciate the fact that the verbosity of the minister was once again most useful in allowing me time to get back.
With respect to the Build B.C. special account, I don't know if this was canvassed -- if it was, I don't wish to be repetitive -- but in terms of its mandate and the revenue that is put into this account, is this seen to be essentially a revolving account, or is it something that's going to be established on an annual basis by the minister?
Hon. G. Clark: It's more of an annual appropriation. Every year they'll be debated in the House.
Section 6 approved.
On section 7.
F. Gingell: You're a little quicker than I am, Mr. Chairman.
In looking through the estimates briefly, I've only been able to find the $17 million transfer to the Ministry of Forests.
F. Gingell: No, $17 million even. I presume that this is an allocation from the $100 million -- that is, this $20 million for silviculture that you're talking about.
Hon. G. Clark: No, I assume that shortly after the bill passes there will be a further allocation announced for silviculture initiatives of the magnitude the member talked about. This is an initiative to do with the small business forest enterprise program -- a useful program in that it generates revenue for the government.
One of the constant problems of government is that in some cases you can spend money to make more money, yet you're constantly under pressure to reduce spending. When we looked at it we thought there was scope for expanded spending in the small business forest enterprise program on capital. It would, in fact, generate more revenue in the years to come, because that's how the program works. We tried to provide a strong regional focus -- it has one, anyway -- to the small business forest enterprise program, and to invest in trees and road construction. So there is a small business program, and it's been maintained. In addition to that, there will be a $17 million allocation from the special account to the small business program to pursue those objectives. Any silviculture initiative -- targeted largely for social assistance recipients -- will be in addition to that.
F. Gingell: There is already a balance in the special account for the small business forest enterprise program of $183 million. Why didn't you use part of that special account to do this? Why is it coming through here? That $183 million is basically revenue in excess of costs that have happened over the years.
Hon. G. Clark: The member is exactly right. That's revenue over costs. This generates revenue for the government. There is no money in the bank; it's already been spent in previous years on the deficit, as you know. We could have simply expanded -- you're quite right. We could have given another $17 million to the small business forest enterprise program. Instead, we gave them an allocation which I think was over last year in their normal budget process. Working with us, they suggested that there was room for more spending there, and that it could achieve some of the purposes of the act. We decided to enhance it from the Build B.C. special account in order to enhance the regional focus and this project. It will have the incidental effect of generating more revenue for the government down the road as well, and of course that will have the consequence of increasing the surplus in the small business forest enterprise special account.
F. Gingell: I continually hear the minister speak about there not being any money in the bank. I thought that I'd explained to him before exactly how it works. You took the money exactly the same way you did with the municipal revenue-sharing. It caused you not to borrow money for operating purposes. You just used it to reduce debt. Let's not talk any more about there not being any bank account there. Yes, there is a bank account. You have a bank account. In fact, where the public accounts.... I could tell you what the bank account was on the first day. You would simply have had that much more debt. You did the right thing and the essential thing, but it still is the small business forest enterprise program's, as it will be Build B.C.'s special accounts money. You may well use it to not borrow funds for operating purposes. But don't think that because you haven't spent it you've managed to steal it, because you haven't -- it still belongs to the special account.
Now we look at these amounts. Included in the estimates is an item that says "expenditures -- $100 million" out of this account. If you turn to page 220, it
[ Page 5929 ]
shows the $100 million coming in and shows a $100 million expenditure. Is the $17 million that is transferred to the Ministry of Forests part of the $100 million?
Hon. G. Clark: Yes. And if you're going to ask why that didn't show up here....
Hon. G. Clark: Yes.
F. Gingell: Where is the other $83 million shown?
Hon. G. Clark: The same place. It's the $100 million. There's $83 million left after we transfer $17 million to the small business enterprise program.
F. Gingell: You have described $17 million of the $100 million expenditure, and these all balance, one presumes, or are they out of balance by $83 million? The $17 million is a transfer from the $100 million. Where was the $83 million transferred to?
Hon. G. Clark: It hasn't been allocated yet. It would seem to me that one option would have been to show on page 220 the first $17 million going to the small business forest enterprise program to offset the $17 million that's taken in over there. I don't know the answer to why that wasn't done, but it wasn't a deliberate attempt. There is $100 million in the account. The first $17 million has been allocated to the small business enterprise program. The other $83 million has not been allocated yet. That will be allocated over the course of the year.
F. Gingell: As an accountant, I'm having a little bit.... Because the debits have got to equal the credits. I would have thought that if there hadn't been a listing of transfers to the ministries....
F. Gingell: We've only got the one, and I have a problem in dealing with the $83 million balance. Surely it should be included in the estimates somewhere. Oh no, it's all right.
You just showed an increase of $17 million in the Ministry of Forests' expenditure plan, and then you reduced it by $17 million, so you came back to the same amount, which was the amount included in the estimates. Is that correct?
Had you made a decision then that you would spend $20 million in the Government Services account? Madam Minister, I was just about to get you $20 million. You would have shown the increase in the costs and then reduced them as a transfer from the Build B.C. account.
Hon. G. Clark: Yes.
G. Wilson: I must confess that my colleague for Delta South is more charitable than I'd be, having just explained to the Minister of Finance what he's done with his accounts; he's got the minister off the hook from having to explain it himself.
Out of that opening balance of $100 million -- and we're told that $100 million of that is coming from $183 million that is already in the Forestry estimates for silviculture -- I'd like to know how much of that is going to be directed through the committees or how much of it, on the advice of the committee that we've just had approved, is going to be toward a job creation program for people who are not traditionally involved in the silviculture programs.
Hon. G. Clark: I can't give an answer to that. The committee will be giving advice over the course of the year. At Treasury Board time, the only decision that was made to spend out of this account before the committee was established was the small business one, partly because there is a recovery requirement in their special account and because it fit the criteria. Over the course of the year, on the advice of this committee, allocations will be made to ministries for spending from the special account.
G. Wilson: I'll come back to this point because I know that my colleague the Leader of the Opposition has some other questions. Mr. Chairman, I realize I'm walking on the delicate line of being in and out of order on these questions....
Hon. G. Clark: As usual.
G. Wilson: As usual, and usually I manage to get over it once in a while and get away with it.
It would appear that this government urgently has to get this bill passed. The only tangible thing we can tie that urgency to is $100 million that's sitting there itching to be spent or is already committed or already spent. I suspect that the ink is drying on the press release that's about to go out with this major new announcement -- probably on Friday, tomorrow.
Hon. G. Clark: Friday's not a good day.
G. Wilson: We say that Friday is not a good day. We seem to get volumes of them on things they don't want the media and public to know about. But this is one of the ones they want to show, so obviously there is a big ribbon-cutting ceremony going to happen somewhere and a new initiative about to be unveiled.
Can the minister enlighten us as to what in this $100 million is going to provide a different allocation than has been conventionally done under the small business program? This is a long-established and very successful program. We've demonstrated that we do get revenue back from this program. What is it that this special account money is going to provide that is not already provided for under the small business forest enterprise program?
[ Page 5930 ]
Hon. G. Clark: It's not really this section, but I can provide more details for the members if they want. This is genuinely incremental spending; there's no sleight of hand here. There's $17 million of incremental spending on capital projects. It has essentially three focuses, a very strong regional focus and an investment in road construction. As for whether there is any training component in that, there isn't at the moment. The committee, once it's up and running, will review these expenditures to see. We made a decision in Treasury Board to move some over there immediately, for two reasons: one, it does generate more revenue; secondly, it fits with most of the criteria. In terms of enhancing -- and it's an operational program, so you can move it faster -- some of the other components which we'd like to do, that will come over the course of time. But in this case there's not any initial apprenticeship or equity consideration.
The announcement -- just so the member will know -- is that it's not the $17 million but an additional amount of money which we will be allocating for silviculture -- not for road construction or the small business enterprise program, but for a different kind of silviculture initiative targeted to social assistance recipients. That will be a new initiative which fits the criteria of this bill, and there is some time pressure in terms of the planting season, which is nearly upon us, and the ability of contractors and the like to accommodate this new program. That is essentially the most pressing initiative we have -- not the $17 million in the small business program.
F. Gingell: So now we have a rough idea what $37 million of it is going to cover: it's in the forests area. Can you tell us anything about what your plans are for the $63 million, or if there is anything that's a little further along?
Hon. G. Clark: No. It would be presumptuous of me to go further than I already have. Once the committee is established by this legislation, we want the committee to be reviewing the remaining $70-odd million in terms of allocation. You're quite right.
F. Gingell: So the account is going to start with the $100 million. You then have the ability to move funds in from other votes. That doesn't have to come back to this Legislature; you can do that by order-in-council. Is that correct? Those are the special warrants.
Hon. G. Clark: The member's correct. The additional funds may be transferred to the special account from a vote, and that's generally the case, as I understand it. This means that in future years the special account can be topped up through a vote. I'll just clarify, but I don't think there's anything different than other special accounts in terms of the ability to transfer money. Obviously money has already been approved by the House through estimates in ministries, but it may be a that a particular program targeted for these purposes may be better authorized through the special account.
F. Gingell: So it's perfectly feasible that you could transfer money from, say, a vote under the Ministry of Women's Equality and spend it in a silviculture program. Would that require you, then, to only allow women as employees of that program? Do you intend in the future to be able to take money from ministries that we have voted on, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, and transfer it from those into the special fund and spend it on building roads?
Hon. G. Clark: Mr. Chair, we're just having a discussion here. We'll get some research done over lunch.
It's clearly not the intent at all to transfer money from one ministry into the special account and spend it on another purpose. I don't think that's allowed under the rules of the Financial Administration Act. I'll just get the technical explanation.
Section 7, which you're referring to, states in (b): "any money transferred to the special account from a vote, as defined in the Financial Administration Act." I can't envisage a time when the Women's Equality ministry would transfer money to the special account for the purposes of the Committee on Building British Columbia's Future. I'll just check technically, though, what is allowed and what isn't. This is boilerplate stuff out of special accounts, so there's nothing new in here. But I'm not quite sure technically what the transfer can do.
F. Gingell: During lunchtime, could you also please look at the question of whether the amounts transferred from a vote would only happen through the estimates process or whether it is an action that can subsequently take place through a special warrant? Would it be feasible to do it through a special warrant? If there is some ability there to make transfers of funds, which you may very well want to do but clearly have not received legislative approval for, would you come forward with an amendment to put in some form of protection? Perhaps we could start with that after lunch.
Hon. G. Clark: We'll look into the member's concerns. I'm quite sure we can satisfy them. Remember, though, that special warrants have their own test. It's fairly rigorous in terms of the ability to run a special warrant, which is required for the ongoing purposes of government. A discretionary spending item would be unlikely to satisfy a special warrant concern, in any event. We'll check any technical concerns that you have.
C. Tanner: I respect the minister's indulgence in this, but there's another question that I haven't got clear. I don't have the benefit of the previous experience of the Leader of the Opposition. I'm not an accountant, as he was. As I understand it, the minister is telling us that the opening balance of $100 million in this account is coming from interest earned on loans made in the department of economic development and small business. Is that correct?
[ Page 5931 ]
Hon. G. Clark: I'm sorry, I have no idea what the member is talking about. This is an annual appropriation. It has nothing to do with loans from the Economic Development ministry.
With that, hon. Chair, I move the committee rise, report remarkable progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Committee of Supply A, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. G. Clark moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:55 a.m.
The House in Committee of Supply A; D. Streifel in the chair.
The Committee met at 10:22 a.m.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ATTORNEY GENERAL
On vote 19: minister's office, $419,486 (continued).
K. Jones: Hon. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to address the estimates of the Attorney General this morning and to address in general the area of gaming. I would like to include the fact that there are a lot of different areas of gaming and also note the interplay between his ministry and the Government Services ministry, which overlap in gaming with the Lottery Corporation being in Government Services. I'd like to address areas that cover casinos, bingos, charitable games, native gaming processes, the bookmaking card rooms that are illegal at the present time, and new technology such as video lottery terminals, video bingo terminals, video horse racing and offtrack betting.
First of all, I'd like to ask the Attorney General to give us his philosophical views on the concept of gaming as one overall, all-encompassing area versus the present situation, where we have a split, with a portion of gaming in another ministry.
The Chair: Hon. member, the Chair would request a revisiting of the wording of your question. The philosophical nature of the question does not come under the administration of the Attorney General's office. If you rephrase your question, we may be able to proceed with the meat of your question.
K. Jones: Thank you very much. Maybe I could just ask the Attorney General what his administration thinks of this separate relationship for one section of the whole gaming picture. Would it be desirable to bring these all under one area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The reason why there is a separation is that Government Services in effect runs some gambling activities, and the Ministry of Attorney General regulates some gambling activities. The government is still considering policy options on the whole question of how gambling should be regulated, organized and managed in this province, and in due course we will come down with some announcements and directions.
K. Jones: Would the Attorney General perhaps give us an idea of whether the administration of gaming would be done better on an arm's-length basis from Attorney General operations, rather than being so closely attached as an actual, aligned ministry role?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Well, there is a Gaming Commission, which was established by the former government -- without legislative authority, unfortunately. That's an issue we are moving to resolve. The commission has an arm's-length arrangement from the line function of the ministry. There is a gaming branch, which deals with administrative questions, but there's the commission to provide the arm's-length range.
K. Jones: From what you're saying, then, I get the impression that you feel it is best to have gaming under the Ministry of Attorney General. Or do you feel that it's better to have it under the commission, operating separately from the ministry that is responsible for the administration of justice?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Ministry of Attorney General is involved in a variety of regulatory functions in several areas, gaming being one of them. It seems to me appropriate that this ministry have that responsibility, and as far as future direction goes, that remains to be seen.
K. Jones: Does the minister see any difficulties between operating a fairly major source of funding to the government that is beneficial to the operations of the government, which results from the various forms of gaming, and the Attorney General's role of regulator or protector of the interests of the public?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I don't see any problem with the Minister of Forests being involved in regulating forestry practices while at the same time forestry products bring revenue to the government. There are those kinds of issues existing in every ministry in almost everything government does.
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K. Jones: That's an interesting comparison, but doesn't the Attorney General's office actually have a special status that isn't the same as a line ministry -- a special status for the protection of the public justice process, which would be best done separated from the administrative processes of an area as controversial and complex as the area of gaming?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Indeed the Ministry of the Attorney General does have a unique status in government in respect of the administration of justice, and that's why the criminal justice branch has an independence in many of its decision-making activities. That separation is clear, and the independence is clear. I see no conflict there whatsoever. If there were any activity in some other part of the Ministry of Attorney General that required the criminal justice branch to play a role, then they would do so independent of me or anyone else in the ministry.
K. Jones: Does the minister have in his present plans this year the re-evaluation of the relationships of the Gaming Commission and the Racing Commission, and perhaps the creation of any other bodies that would provide for arm's-length overseeing of the gaming area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I indicated earlier that the whole matter of gaming -- gambling -- in its totality is under active examination and review by the government. When the government is ready to make its announcements about the future direction, the government will do so.
K. Jones: Does the Attorney General have a clear role for the Gaming Commission at the present time? You say it doesn't have legislative authority. What is its actual role at the present time?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The Gaming Commission establishes policy in respect of gaming matters. It also makes determinations about granting licences; it has the authority to do that. It doesn't have a statute backing that up, but it certainly has the authority, and that's the way it operates.
K. Jones: If it's got the standing but doesn't have the authority....
Hon. C. Gabelmann: It does have authority.
K. Jones: It does have the authority. I'm sorry. Perhaps the Attorney General could explain just how that authority is established.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The previous government decided that order-in-council authority was sufficient. There is additional authority through the Criminal Code; the Criminal Code regulates gambling, obviously.
I think the member knows, but just so that everybody understands clearly, we're talking here about charitable gaming -- about bingos and casinos, essentially. When the previous government made a decision to move into this area, it established the Gaming Commission by cabinet decision, and cabinet order, and gave it the authority to regulate the industry, to set policies and to issue licences. That's how it operates.
From the beginning of my term in this office, I have felt uncomfortable with the fact that there's no statutory authority in the provincial legislation. We are moving and working to remedy that.
K. Jones: In the process of trying to remedy that, what processes have you gone through to bring about a change?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Staff in the ministry and the Gaming Commission, and others, have been asked for their opinions and advice and suggestions about how to resolve the issues. So there's a fair amount of internal work going on in that respect. In addition, there has been a fact-finding mission by two members of this House -- the member for Comox Valley and the member who is chairing this committee at the present time. They spent considerable time last fall seeking the opinions of the public, of people involved in the charitable gaming industry -- if I can use that word -- and they have reported to cabinet. In fact, they have reported to me and the Minister of Government Services, and we are now in the process of taking their information and the internal work that's being done, and working on the development of policies which will, in due course, go to cabinet and then to the public.
K. Jones: Can the minister give us some indication as to the extent of the review that was done by this two-member.... It's not a commission. What is it called?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: We call them our fact-finders.
K. Jones: I'll repeat the first question: what was the extent of the fact-finding that the fact-finders did?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The extent of their process was to consult widely and to ensure that everybody who had an interest in the subject had an opportunity to convey their thoughts. That's the extent of the process. The next part of it, which is what they reported to us, will come clear in the fullness of time, as members of this House used to say.
K. Jones: Is the Attorney General satisfied that those fact-finders had canvassed all the potential sources of input and interests to provide input?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I think the combination of their work and our internal work will have enabled us to canvass all opinion and to have heard from everyone. If that hasn't happened, we'll learn that following the introduction of legislation, where that's appropriate, or the announcement of policy development, where that's appropriate. If we hear some things we hadn't heard
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before and that requires some re-evaluation of conclusions, then that's exactly what we'll do at that point.
K. Jones: The minister is proposing that he'll be bringing forward legislation during this session in regard to this gaming issue, and that that will then go to the public for an opportunity to....
The Chair: Order, hon. member. The need for legislation is not examinable in estimates.
K. Jones: Well, I'm just following through what I thought the minister had said. I just wanted to get clear in my mind what he was saying, that he planned to bring forward legislation in which the public would then have an opportunity to bring more input, that there would be a continuance of time....
The Chair: Order, hon member. It still becomes out of order to examine the specifics. The administrative capacity of the Attorney General's office is what we examine in estimates. Maybe a rephrasing of the question will solicit the answer you're looking for. But directly dealing with legislation is out of order.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Maybe I can help shortcut it by simply saying that I have no date to announce as to the introduction of the legislation.
K. Jones: What I was really trying to do was to find out whether, as you did with freedom-of-information.... You brought legislation in early, and you allowed an extended time for the public to have input prior to going into the actual debate on that legislation. Is that your intention with this issue as well?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: We're still out of order, but I think we can skate around the edges of order. In response to that I'll say simply that I think it's in the public interest to allow for the public to respond to legislation that's introduced. That's the purpose of first reading, followed later by second reading, and then later yet by committee stage. I'm sure there'll be plenty of opportunity during that process for whatever public input is required to occur.
The Chair: I caution the Attorney General and the member on getting too deep into the examination of legislation. We've had some latitude on this issue, and I ask that we respect the standing orders and carry on with the administrative capacity of the Attorney General's office.
K. Jones: We're really trying to get to the public access and input to the process that was done within the administration of the minister's operations. That's why I wanted to get some clarification on how the public was going to be involved in this. The information that's come to me -- in direct conversations, many letters and input from other members of our caucus -- has indicated that many people who have a direct concern about the future direction of the whole gaming area have expressed that they did not have an opportunity, through the process that was established, to make submissions on behalf of their particular areas, charities or the form of gaming of interest to them, such as bingo or casino. They are concerned very much that the process is going to be changed such that all of the revenues will be garnered to the government, and the public charity role will be diminished if not completely eliminated.
This is why this whole issue is being canvassed in such a detailed manner. The public are saying they don't have a say in the process, and they're fearful of the results that may come out of a very narrow look at the aspects of gaming. We want to indicate that gaming is operating with a finite source of income, because it's the public's disposable income that we are dealing with. Entertainment and other activities, such as sports, also compete for that limited amount of money in the budget of the average person. Therefore, if you move in one direction, you take away from the other direction. The horse racing people are concerned that their industry may be destroyed by moving into telewagering, and there's the development of video lottery terminals -- all of these impact one on the other. So that's why we are trying to get from you an indication of where things are going, and the type of direction that you are giving to this very wide and very popular area of interest.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I'm quite happy to talk about how we're canvassing the public, but I don't think it's appropriate to talk about the results, because these conclusions may end up being the subject of debate in the House. I can say that the groups who are the most anxious about what the government might be doing have been the charities who are beneficiaries of revenues from casinos and bingos. I have met with many of them; the staff in the ministry have also met frequently with many representatives of those groups; and the two members of the House who did the fact-finding mission for us probably met with the representatives of that part of the industry more than with any other group. There was considerable opportunity to make their views known; and that happened. We are fully conversant with the concerns of the charities, and if any particular charity does not feel it has an opportunity to make its perspective clear to us, I would welcome a letter from them outlining their concern. I suspect, however, it will be similar, if not the same, as the concern that's been expressed to us by hundreds of other individuals and groups.
K. Jones: You are correct in that those are the people who have expressed a lot of concern. But their concern is that they didn't have any opportunity to make their input even while the process was on, let alone after the process Granted they can always write a letter, but many of them have already indicated that they have written letters and received no acknowledgment that their letters had been received in your ministry. The long delay in getting responses is a
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cause of concern, as well as the fact that they really have had no clear response to their concerns.
I was hoping that the Attorney General would be able to give us some assurance that their concerns would be given some clarification now, rather than having to wait six or eight months for some legislation to be brought down, when it is a sort of fait accompli, because once the legislation is there, there is little likelihood of changing it. Certainly on the basis of what we have had in the past year and a half in this Legislature, there appears to be very little opportunity for changing the government's direction. So it is important that the government have their input prior to the development of the legislation.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Just a couple of points. On responses to letters, in the first months of my term the turnaround time for my replies was in the two-month range. For the most part, it's now down to three to five weeks. We answer every letter. If the member has the name and address of the individual who's written to me or to the ministry and has not had a reply, I would very much like to see it because I'd like to find out how that could have happened. The commission also replies to its mail, so if they have written to the commission, there should not be an instance -- unless something unusual has happened -- where a letter has gone unanswered. That's that point. I would very much like to have a note from the member giving me the name and address and approximately, if possible, when the letter was written.
In respect of access to the process of decision-making, we think we've provided pretty wide access through the forum of the two members. It's true perhaps that every single charity hasn't had an opportunity to meet with them. I don't think every single charity would have wanted to. There are some 3,000 charities in operation in the province. My opinion is that, from the hundreds we've heard from, we have heard the full range of their concerns. Their major concern is that their revenue sources be protected: they're concerned that the government will come in and scoop up their revenues. We're sensitive to that. We're well aware of that concern. We're well aware of the valuable service delivery that's provided by many of the organizations that are in receipt of charitable revenues, and if we don't provide the funding for some activities through the gaming receipts, the government is going to have to find another means to fund many of those activities.
We're really very well aware of all of the issues, and I can't stand up here and announce what the conclusions of cabinet are going to be until cabinet has considered the issue. So I'm a little constrained from being able to say what the results are going to be, other than to say that everybody in cabinet -- me included -- understands fully the concerns that the charities have in respect of this issue.
K. Jones: Based on that, is it the direction of the ministry and the government to take over the services that the charitable organizations presently provide, such as funding for community service projects? Is it the desire of the ministry and the government to take over that role and put it into line ministries, and take it away from the charitable organization process?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I think I've answered that question. It's being asked in a different way, but the answer doesn't change because the question is worded differently. The conclusions will be presented to the House and to the public when they're reached. Let me just say again, it's my understanding that the two members who did this work for us received some 1,100 submissions. I'm sure they clearly heard the views that the member hears. Perhaps the member has heard from more than 1,100 -- if he has, I'd be happy to receive the additional ones that he has.
The Chair: There's a division in the House. Under those circumstances, this committee recesses to attend to the division, and then we are under direction of the House.... We will reconvene here.
The Committee recessed at 10:53 a.m.
The Committee resumed at 11:04 a.m.
The Chair: The committee will come to order. Before I recognize the hon. member, the Chair will explain to the committee the process for answering a division in Section B. The proceedings of this committee will be suspended to facilitate a division in Section B and then will be under the direction of the main House. Without any specific direction from the main House, we recommence these proceedings immediately after the division.
That's just for clarification, as the rules are well set up to facilitate the examination of estimates and bills within the processes of parliamentary democracy. But from time to time, the rules get confusing.
K. Jones: Hon. Chair, it's always difficult to get all the procedures together, especially when we're trying to do several things at the same time. We all acknowledge the difficulty this places on you and all the participants.
I would like to continue the exploration of the relationships of the advisory bodies in the gaming area. I'd like to ask the Attorney General to give us his understanding of the relationship among the B.C. Gaming Commission, the B.C. Racing Commission, the public gaming branch, the Lottery Corporation and any other regulatory bodies he can bring to mind that I haven't covered.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: First of all, there is no relationship between the B.C. Racing Commission and the B.C. Gaming Commission. They do entirely different things. There is a relationship between the B.C. Gaming Commission and the public gaming branch of the ministry. The branch deals with administrative matters on a routine basis, and the commission, as I said earlier, determines policy and issues licences.
The Racing Commission, together with Agriculture Canada and under the rules prescribed by the Criminal Code and the Horse Racing Act, is responsible for regulating the horse racing industry, both thoroughbred and standardbred. There are other regulatory
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agencies in the ministry. The Motor Carrier Commission establishes policies, issues licences and sets rates in the motor carrier business.
K. Jones: With regard to gaming?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: You want to stick to gaming. What's the relationship between the various parts of gambling...? I call it gambling, because I think of gaming as being charitable -- bingo and the casinos. Lotteries are something else again, and the tracks are something else yet again.
What are the relationships? I'm not quite sure where you're trying to go with this. Perhaps if you'd ask the eighth question in your list first, then we'd know where we were going, and we could probably cut short the whole process. I'm standing here, Mr. Chair, trying to think about what the member wants to know, and I'm not really very clear. So I'm going to sit down and see if he can ask the question in a way that I can understand.
K. Jones: Hon. Chair, the questioning has been very straightforward, with no hidden agenda, as was suggested, leading to something. Basically, what we're trying to do is ask the minster to give us the form of direction in which his ministry is going in the gaming area. I say gaming rather than gambling, because it is more encompassing and because we do have to look at things related to horse and dog racing, and because we're into a much bigger picture than just today's B.C. scene. With the advent of satellite transmission and video operations, all of these are going to part of the whole process. They'll require a decision by government as to whether, how, or should they regulate those.
[H. Giesbrecht in the chair.]
That goes for aboriginal situations. It goes for the area of lotteries -- which, as we've already indicated, is now in another line ministry, although they are intricately connected. They have the same question of philosophical role, whether government should be involved in it or not, whether government should be condoning it, where the money is coming from, and who's being affected by that -- the ethics of that. And also: where is it going? Should it be going to government? Should it be going to the players? Should it be going to other groups that use it, in many cases, as their sole source of income?
That's what we're trying to get at, and basically we've been going at that from the very beginning of this. There's no hidden agenda. We would like, on behalf of the opposition, to have the ministry indicate to us, and the public, what is the direction of this government in this picture.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I've indicated several times now that I can't at this stage canvass where the government's going to go. We are in the process of considering where we're going to go.
Included in the member's comments were some important issues, starting with ethics. Probably 20 percent of British Columbians would prefer to have all gambling banned entirely. Probably another 20 percent would like to see it wide-open. If those numbers are correct, then I'm with the 60 percent in the middle who want to have some gambling, some gaming, some activity, but not unlimited, and carefully regulated.
Gambling dollars are limited, and therefore if you open one tap wider, another one shuts down. There's no question about that. There's also a concern that gambling is -- not entirely but in large measure -- a tax on poor people, and we have to be really concerned about those kinds of questions. We take all of that into consideration when we try to determine policies.
Starting with horse racing, we're considering teletheatre because it is a fact of life in the horse racing industry around the world. We need, therefore, to consider whether it should be a fact of life here in British Columbia. There are compelling arguments in favour of moving into teletheatre. It may well help us to maintain a viable horse industry -- thoroughbred in particular -- in this province. That's useful; the member knows that very well, coming from the Fraser Valley. There are a lot of jobs involved in horse racing, and this government is determined to protect and enhance them, and hopefully create more jobs in that industry. It may take a decision to move into teletheatre in order to help us do that. If we do, it will be done in a very careful and regulated way, clearly. We're considering the options there.
In respect to lotteries, it's another ministry. But there's some $200 million generated from lotteries now. That money goes in general revenue, but more than half of it is earmarked to Health to fulfil a campaign commitment we made. That's where that's going now.
There are concerns around the so-called grey machines, the video lottery terminals that are springing up. While they may not produce cash that you can scoop up in your hand as winnings, they produce other commodities which can be traded in for cash. You've got some very real questions about whether these are operating legally, so we have to get hold of that whole video lottery issue, and we are working on that. We have to determine what kind of legislation should be in place to govern casinos and bingos, and we're working on that. All of these issues, as the member indicated, impact one on the other, and we can't proceed with one without proceeding with the other.
We are trying to integrate the whole range of issues -- the range of problems -- and come down with some decisions that are all-encompassing, and include all of the elements, in a way that protects the public interest so that we don't have unregulated gambling, so that we don't have excessive gambling; it protects the public interest so that there is some revenue to provide needed services; it protects the public interest so that there is revenue to groups who may benefit from casino activities. I don't mind saying that I am very much in favour of making sure that those groups have some protection. How it is going to be done and the nature of it are still to be determined. It is difficult to canvass that issue much beyond what I have just done.
K. Jones: That's much of what we were trying to get at. The purpose of our previous questioning was to get
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some of that position. You are talking about a need to address these areas, but what is the ministry's current philosophical approach to gaming? Is it something that is an ethical question, or is it just a matter of regulation? Is it entertainment? Is it bottom-line money? I hear from, for instance, the Lottery Corporation, that the chief executive officer says that their purpose is bottom-line money to the government -- maximizing the money to the government. The senior vice-president level says that their job is entertainment. What is the role of gaming, from the minister's standpoint?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: All of the above and much more.
K. Jones: Thank you. That's a very quick response. Could the minister then elaborate on the "much more"?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I was being facetious, but the fact is that the government's responsibility in all of this is to deal with the public's desire to participate in gambling activities of one kind or another -- whether it is to go to the track or buy a ticket or go and play bingo or whatever else they want to do. So under the provisions of the Criminal Code, we then, as a matter of public policy, say that the public wants to participate in gambling. Therefore we have to set up regimes, because we've allowed -- we've agreed -- that this public desire is something that should be enacted in public policy. We then have to set up regulatory and management regimes to encourage it.
Different members of the public are going to want to do it for different reasons: some want to gamble because they are addicted; some want to gamble because it's entertainment; some want to gamble because it is a chance to retire the mortgage. There are a variety of reasons. So all of those issues come into play. What's the government's responsibility? Ours is to respond to the public desires as best we can, and to provide regulations so that there is some appropriate control over the activities.
Beyond that, what do we do with the revenues? Again, we need to respond to public desires in that matter and try to find ways of best distributing the money. There will clearly be a combination of conclusions in that respect.
From the track, a certain proportion of the revenue goes back to enhancement of the industry. A large chunk goes back to winnings. There is a variety of purposes met by how that betting dollar is distributed. In lotteries, the money goes to general revenue. It has historically been used for a variety of purposes. It used to be used more for particular activities through programs like GO B.C., where community facilities might be constructed or developed. There was a public mood that it go into health care, so we responded to that. In terms of the charity side, there's a public desire that community groups get involved in helping generate money for their particular activities. It is our responsibility to determine which of those activities are appropriate and which aren't. There are processes for doing that. That should be enough, I think, at this stage.
K. Jones: Does the Attorney General believe that a suitable use of gaming funds is to use it for debt reduction?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Should it be used for debt reduction? I think all government revenues should be used to help with reducing the debt.
K. Jones: The question is a little more specific than that. Should it be used specifically and designated at the point of collection for debt reduction?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I'm going to ask the member to address that question to the Minister of Finance when his estimates are up.
K. Jones: The Attorney General has responsibility for gaming, for regulation of the organizations that raise the funds, and also the responsibility to deal with those funds within his line ministry. I don't think he can pass those on to the Minister of Finance.
What we're asking about is telling the public at the time of raising those funds whether those funds would be collected, as has been indicated, by charitable organizations. I believe the Irish have used theirs for hospitals, and they got a lot of people purchasing them because of where the money was going. There was a previous policy of raising money through the gaming processes specifically to provide for sports and culture in the province of British Columbia. As the minister has already indicated, there is an assignment and an election promise of 50 percent going to health care.
The question I'm asking is: as those have been previous cases of assignment by the body that's leading it, telling the public where the money they're contributing into this area of gaming is going, does the minister feel that a similar assignment to debt reduction would be within ministry thinking?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: The revenue doesn't come to the ministry. If there's any revenue to the government, it goes to the Minister of Finance by way of the consolidated revenue fund. So that's not a question this ministry has any say over.
In respect of how much money comes to government from charitable gaming, out of the $502 million that is spent in charitable gaming, government gets $10.6 million. How the money spent gets distributed is determined by the Gaming Commission. In that case the government got $10.5 million.
Lotteries, I think, would be better canvassed with the Minister of Government Services.
In respect of the track, the Racing Commission has determined the split there. The revenue that comes to the government is approximately $6 million. That money also goes to consolidated revenue, not to the ministry, so it's not up to the ministry to say how the money is spent. The general principle that has been in place is that all revenues go to consolidated revenue, and then the Minister of Finance and Treasury Board and cabinet make decisions about how it's spent, and the Legislature finally authorizes that. It's not for any individual minister to say how moneys that may be
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generated directly or indirectly through activities the ministry is responsible for should be allocated. That's an issue the Minister of Finance has more to say about.
I made one mistake in my comments earlier, which I need to correct. The split in the revenues at the track -- the parimutuel dollar -- is established by legislation, not by policy. So that's a matter the Legislature has control over. The $6 million that's generated out of the $188 million betting handle is in fact a result of an act of the Legislature.
L. Stephens: I'd just like to ask a few questions in the criminal justice area of your ministry operations, vote 20. I see that last year's voted expenditure was $36,273,759, and today, this year of '93-94, it's $46,170,277. Would the minister be able to tell us if there are some new policies or new initiatives they are bringing forward, or why that amount is up about $10 million?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: We did some of this yesterday; but no, that's not the member's fault. Given this bifurcated structure it's inevitable that we're going to do some things more than once. I don't have any problem with that.
There's no question that the criminal justice branch budget has increased, as the member noted, and significantly. The reason for the large increase has to do with the salary increase, determined through a process that concluded earlier this year, to both adjust the salary levels and reclassify the positions within the criminal justice branch. So the 320 prosecutors who are working for the government have had both reclassification and salary adjustments as a result of the process that, as I said, concluded earlier this year. Roughly $7.5 million out of that $46 million could be accounted for by those conclusions.
L. Stephens: Do you have an idea where the remainder of that money is going to be spent? Are new programs coming in that area?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Let me just give you the numbers. There's $11 million in total; I've accounted for $7.5 million. There's another approximately $0.5 million for salary increases for non-legal staff. There's almost $900,000 for building occupancy charges in Vancouver. There's a $600,000 adjustment to the base budget; this is one of these issues that you have to be on Treasury Board for a year before you understand.
The sustainable environment fund used to provide moneys for a variety of programs. Included in those programs were the four, I think, or six prosecutors who dealt with environmental prosecutions. That was in the sustainable environment fund. It's no longer there; it's now in this budget item -- if I've got that correct. The balance is for two initiatives -- one of which you might characterize as new and one of which is because of more concentration in one area. Those two areas are violence against women and increased prosecutions in respect of major crimes.
L. Stephens: I am particularly interested in the violence-against-women program. Is the money that you're talking about being spent on setting up a program that came out of the Violence Against Women and Children policy workshops that were held? The ministry gave a report on February 1993, and there were some recommendations to justices of the peace and trial coordinators. Is part of that money going to be spent on implementing these kinds of recommendations?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: I think the best way of dealing with this is to talk about what the new policy is about. I mentioned the new policy yesterday, I think, in my opening.... Again, I'm not being critical when I say that; I just mention it in passing.
In respect of dealing with violence against women in relationships in particular, I'm going to read this so that everybody has the benefit of what I've got:
"The new policy will have several effects on investigation and prosecution of these offences. Among these effects are the following: to ensure a rigorous approach to arrest, charge and prosecution of cases involving violence in a relationship; to emphasize the criminality of this violence and to send a message to the public that such assaults are an offence against society; to ensure the onus of responsibility for prosecution rests with society, not with the individual complainant; to emphasize the importance of sensitive treatment of the victim and ongoing communication with the victim to keep her informed; to emphasize the need for consultation and referral of the victim to victim services where appropriate; and to emphasize the need for a coordinated approach by justice system personnel in dealing with these cases."
Some of that doesn't deal with criminal prosecutions; it's other parts of the ministry. The significant part of it obviously does have to do with prosecutions. Whenever we implement new policies of this kind or strengthen existing policies, we're going to incur additional costs.
I don't know if I've addressed all the questions. The member referred to a particular conference and to initiatives, and I'm not sure I've addressed those directly. But if you want to come back to me on that, I'd be happy to deal with it. I think I'll leave it and just listen to the member a bit more before I respond any further.
[D. Streifel in the chair.]
L. Stephens: I was asking about the policy on the criminal justice system response that was brought forward by the ministry on February 1993. There were a number of recommendations to justices of the peace and trial coordinators. It says: "In light of the policy being implemented by police, Crown counsel and corrections, the Ministry of Attorney General recommends to the Chief Judge of Provincial Court that the following provisions related to cases of violence against women in relationships be added to the policy governing the action of justices of the peace and trial coordinators." There's a recommendation for eight here, and they deal with peace bonds, training programs for new and current justices of the peace,
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adjournments sought for cases and a number of other issues. I would like the minister to answer as best he can -- what it says here is "recommends" -- if it's very strongly recommended to the Chief Judge of Provincial Court that some of these practices change, and whether the minister is committed to following through on these recommendations.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: Attorneys General are always very careful about choosing their language in respect of what they say to the bench, including the Chief Judge. I think the language speaks for itself. In response to the first part of the question, we are recommending to the Chief Judge that these provisions be followed. Am I committed to it? Absolutely yes, completely and thoroughly.
L. Stephens: It is very encouraging, and I am certainly glad to see that we have some commitment to some of these things that have to change. There is one other report I'd like to talk about, and that was Gender Equality in the Justice System, a report from 1992, and whether or not some of those issues that were raised there have also had recommendations attached to them, to perhaps change. I know one of the things talked about was sensitivity training for judges and other members of the court system, to make them more aware of some of the either perceived or real injustices that have to do with gender equality and a gender bias that many people feel is there. Would the minister be able to tell me what his views and the ministry's are in that regard?
Hon. C. Gabelmann: We're talking here about what has been characterized as the Hughes report. It's a report that I think has much merit and one that we are pursuing from a policy perspective -- and have been since we received the report. For me, it's a personal priority to try to deal with some of the gender bias that exists in the system -- not just in one place in the system but throughout the system and, I think, throughout society, frankly. This has always been a priority of mine in all my time in politics and it continues to be, and it's a priority for the ministry.
Members should know that I meet regularly with the Chief Judge, and we have discussions about these kinds of issues all the time in respect of the Provincial Court. We have these discussions inside the ministry in respect of other parts of the justice system. It is easier to deal directly with your staff than it is with an independent body like the court, but nonetheless, discussions do continue. The Provincial Court has, on its own volition, a training program. One Provincial Court judge assigned to deal with what you might call judicial education does that in fact for the four western provinces. It is Judge Doug Campbell.
In conclusion, all I can say -- unless the member has more questions -- is that we are very deeply committed to trying to make the changes that are so clearly necessary, and have been so clearly identified by reports such as the one done by the gender bias committee.
L. Stephens: Another issue that comes forward is the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, which has had its difficulties. I understand now that in Social Services -- and I will be asking the Minister of Social Services this during her estimates -- one of the changes that have been made is that women are no longer required to proceed with seeking this enforcement order. I would just like to ask the minister if that's something that is desirable from the AG ministry's point of view, and whether or not we can come up with some other ways or extend that one back to the point it was at -- that something has to be done as far as these maintenance orders are concerned and that they have to be enforced.
Hon. C. Gabelmann: As I indicated yesterday, I think that matter -- as the member indicates too -- is appropriate for discussion in the estimates of the Ministry of Social Services. It was the government's intent, in making that change, to ensure that women -- it's almost always women -- in receipt of social assistance are treated the same as other women in society, and that we don't single them out because they happen to have income from that source rather than another source. I think that is the fundamental issue, but the Minister of Social Services can deal with that.
In respect of how the whole FMEP program can be organized to provide a more effective service, as I indicated yesterday, we are determined to find ways of doing that. That work is ongoing and not concluded.
L. Stephens: I have a couple of other questions, but I shall wait until after the committee resumes. Seeing the time, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The Committee rose at 11:40 a.m.
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