2000 Legislative Session: 4th Session, 36th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2000
Volume 18, Number 1
[ Page 14495 ]
The House met at 2:05 p.m.
This being the first day of the fourth session of the thirty-sixth Legislative Assembly of the province of British Columbia for the dispatch of business, pursuant to a proclamation of Hon. Garde B. Gardom, Lieutenant-Governor of the province, hon. members took their seats.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, having entered the House and being seated upon the throne, was pleased to deliver the following gracious speech.
All members extend their heartiest congratulations to the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson on her appointment as Governor General of Canada and their sincere thanks to the Rt. Hon. Roméo LeBlanc for his service to country as Her Majesty's representative.
British Columbians have every reason to face this new century with confidence and with optimism, but we face it without some of our brightest lights. We note with sadness the passing of those who've made public service a noble calling: Wesley Black, who served in cabinet for 20 good-humoured years; Fred Gingell, who left his mark on this place with his unshakable faith in the role of the legislator; Don Munro, who served Esquimalt-Saanich as a Member of Parliament and served his country as an ambassador in Central America; Leo Nimsick, who represented the Kootenays in our Legislature for more than a quarter century; Lorne Shantz, who served the Legislature as its Speaker for five years; and John Tisdalle, who was the MLA for Saanich and the Islands for nearly two decades.
We are saddened, as well, by the loss last week of Chief Joe Mathias of the Squamish first nation. He was one of the rarest of individuals: someone who had insight into the past and a strong vision of the future. Chief Mathias understood his people's profound connection to this land, their culture and their ancestors. He understood the injustices of the past and their long reach into the present. But he could also see the day when those injustices will be righted, and he worked tirelessly for that day, helping to shape the B.C. Treaty Commission, helping to found the First Nations Summit and leading the Squamish first nation. As we remember him today, let us rededicate ourselves to that day when justice is finally done -- the most truly fitting memorial for a great leader and a great British Columbian.
We have lost other community leaders as well: former Musqueam chief Edward Sparrow, an also-great chief of an also-great family; Gerry Stoney, the former president of IWA Canada; entrepreneurs and philanthropists Clark Bentall and Tong Louie; Norman Richards, the first president of the B.C. Government Employees Union; health reform activist Sharon Martin; newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer, a member of the Order of Canada and of the Order of British Columbia; and, of course, World War II Maj.-Gen. Bertram Hoffmeister, former commander of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.
We marked, also, the passing of well-known British Columbians like "The Beachcombers" icon Robert Clothier, music producer Bruce Fairbairn, mountain climber and author Jim Haberl, racing car driver Greg Moore, author and social activist Bridget Moran, acclaimed contemporary artist Jack Shadbolt and internationally respected composer Jean Coulthard. One year ago this month, we said farewell to Jack Webster, a tough but fair-minded scourge of many who have occupied these seats and also a great believer in the wisdom of the ordinary person.
The past year and a half has seen many changes in British Columbia -- changes in political leadership and changes in the political landscape. Now it is time for changes in the way we conduct politics in this province.
My government recognizes the fundamental importance of transparency in budgeting. It is critical that British Columbians have the highest confidence in the budget numbers. Citizens may argue about the choices made in the budget, but they must have confidence that these choices and the facts and assumptions behind them are fully and fairly presented.
My government has accepted a broad range of advice on the budget-making process. The auditor general, the Enns panel, the official opposition and individual British Columbians have all been heard and heeded. In this session, my government will introduce a new law: the budget transparency and accountability act. The aim of this act is to give British Columbians the facts, all the facts and nothing but the facts.
The new law will make important changes to the budget-making process. The process of building the annual budget will start with an all-party committee of the Legislature. This committee will be provided with up-to-date information from the Finance minister on the province's economic and fiscal performance. It will then consult with British Columbians on the provincial budget and make a public report of its consultations by December 31 of each year. The new law will set a fixed budget deadline. This will ensure that the budget debate is conducted earlier and is completed prior to March 31 each year. The new law will require complete disclosure of all budget assumptions and forecasts, including the advice of the Economic Forecast Council. The completeness of this disclosure will be certified in writing by the secretary of the Treasury Board.
The new law will require that the government's bottom line now include the bottom lines of Crown corporations and other government agencies. The new law will open the books on all major capital projects, fully disclosing their objectives, business case, performance targets and, each and every year, the current and anticipated costs to the taxpayer. The new law will hold the government to a higher standard of transparency if it uses special warrants. However, my government will follow the direction of the Enns panel and make supplementary estimates the rule, not the exception. Supplementary estimates will be tabled in the Legislature for open debate.
These changes will assure citizens that they can be confident about the completeness and transparency of the budget
[ Page 14496 ]in our province. But we must go further. When you receive this new law for your consideration, it will not be complete, and for good reason. My government will keep one section of the budget transparency and accountability act open: the section dealing with the estimates process in the Legislature. The expertise and determination to make that process work lie with this assembly.
So to you, members of the Legislature, goes the task of creating this section of the new law, which will ensure that the estimates are scrutinized as thoroughly, as effectively and as efficiently as possible. As you do that, I encourage you to draw on the guidance offered to us by the Enns panel and by Fred Gingell, the late member for Delta South.
Just as we must restore confidence in the budget process, we must also restore confidence in this assembly. And it's a balance that we must strike between the need for honest, forceful debate and a need for a new culture of civility, openness, respect and cooperation. My government will work with the official opposition to reach agreement on a parliamentary calendar that will end legislation by attrition, establish workable time lines and ensure a proper balance between member responsibilities in this assembly and within their constituencies.
As the Premier has said: "No one of us knows as much as all of us." My government will seek the assistance of committees of the Legislature to focus on important emerging public issues that transcend partisan boundaries.
Change must come not only in the rules of this House but in its culture. Civility and respect are gained by understanding a fundamental truth in our parliamentary democracy: members of this House are rivals, not enemies.
My government will not claim a monopoly on wisdom but will seek to achieve critical balances in the budget and in its agenda, and will seek to balance the need to maintain vital public services with the need to cut taxes to fuel economic growth and the need to control the deficit.
My government's agenda will also seek to achieve critical social balances: a balance between economic progress and environmental safeguards, and a balance in land claims negotiations between sharing economic gains now, through interim measures, and negotiating treaties that can be sustained forever.
Moving in an extreme way in any one of these areas would undermine steady, stable progress in our province.
Finding these balances requires choices. Those choices begin with our universal health care system -- the bedrock of family life in Canada and B.C. Health care is the top priority of today's families.
In the coming weeks, my government will set an agenda to begin to relieve the pressure on our hospitals -- the heart of our health care system. We must address the shortage of nurses today and expand training for the nurses we'll need tomorrow. We must reach a new agreement with B.C. doctors. We must further upgrade hospital equipment. We must improve access to long-term care and home support, to provide better care outside of hospitals.
Money alone will not sustain our public health care system. We also need innovation; that means providing British Columbians with the right care at the right time in the right place. For example, last fall, Saskatoon offered free flu immunization for seniors and those at risk well in advance of winter. The result was no overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms during the flu season.
My government will bring health care providers, administrators and other experts from B.C. and from outside the province together this spring for a B.C. health innovation forum. Our goal is to create an innovation culture throughout our health care system and to broaden the leadership that B.C. has shown in tobacco prevention and other areas.
We'll roll up our sleeves and work with other provinces and the federal government to protect and improve universal health care in B.C. and across Canada. My government believes that experiments now being launched elsewhere to start Canada down the road to American-style, for-profit medicine are wrong.
The cutbacks to Ottawa's support for health care have put the system under stress from coast to coast. The federal government's contribution has fallen from 50 cents to 15 cents on every health care dollar. No province, including B.C., can hold up 85 percent of the sky and sustain universal health care over the long haul. Universal health care is a statement of our fundamental values as a society and a province that we will stand by the sick and the infirm and work together for the health and well-being of all. We must renew the national partnership that created medicare.
Health care helps define who we are as a province; education defines who we will be. Every parent wants their child to have every opportunity to succeed, to get ahead, to do better. British Columbians know that B.C.'s economy depends on having a well-educated, well-trained workforce. Education is one of the best investments the provincial government can make.
In this session, my government will further improve the quality of education, expand the opportunities for our young people to learn and work to keep our schools safe from violence. We will continue to cut class sizes in B.C. schools. There will be fewer portables, more teachers and more access to the tools of our modern economy. By July every public school in British Columbia will be connected to the Internet, through the provincial learning network. My government will continue the tuition freeze in universities and colleges. We will provide new support for B.C.'s universities and colleges to create new spaces and offer new courses. For many young people, a trade is the ticket to getting ahead in a rewarding career. My government will expand opportunities for apprenticeships and training.
In the new knowledge economy, learning no longer ends with graduation. Education now runs from K to J -- from kindergarten to a good job -- and beyond. Quality education will ensure that British Columbians have the work skills, the professional skills, the entrepreneurial skills and the life skills to allow B.C. to succeed in the modern global economy.
In this session, my government will begin to build with parents and care providers a publicly funded child care system. Our first step will be a new initiative to support safe, affordable before- and after-school care. This will help working parents to better their skills, improve their education and earn a better living, secure in the knowledge that their children are in good hands before, during and after school. And with the contribution those families make to our economy, we'll all be better off.
[ Page 14497 ]My government will pursue a modern, balanced approach to economic growth in B.C. My government believes that the best way to grow the economy at this time is to stimulate consumer spending by deliberately targeting tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners. In addition, my government will introduce targeted business tax cuts to encourage job creation. These cuts may be modest, but they will signal to all players in our economy that my government respects and values all of their contributions.
B.C.'s envied quality of life gives our workforce and our entrepreneurs a strong competitive position in the global economy over the long run. My government believes that the investments we make in maintaining our public health and education systems and in preserving our clean and healthy environment consolidate that strong position. A healthy, educated and productive workforce is a vital key to British Columbia's success in the modern economy. My government will continue to make these investments to secure both our environmental heritage and our long-term economic future.
In the last decade, my government set a goal to protect 12 percent of our province's land base in parks and protected areas. During this session British Columbia will reach that goal. My government will make this achievement permanent through a new parks and protected areas act. This act will enshrine in law the protection of B.C.'s 550 parks, 141 ecological reserves and 12 special protection areas.
My government is working with the forest industry, workers, scientists, environmentalists and others to develop new ecocertification for B.C.'s forest products. We will fine-tune the Forest Act and the Forest Practices Code of our province to reduce costs while promoting the sustainable use of our forests. Our aim is to assure our lumber and pulp customers abroad that B.C.'s forest harvesting practices meet the new certification standards being demanded by our international customers. My government is confident that British Columbians have the knowledge, the experience and the will to make this happen.
My government will also continue to encourage B.C.'s leadership in the development of new environmental technologies to compete in this $600 billion global market. Our specific experience in this field of growing importance gives us another strategic niche in the knowledge economy. My government will establish a green economy development fund to support such green enterprises. It will support research and demonstration projects for made-in-B.C. inventions. My government will also examine practical ways in which our tax system can encourage businesses and individuals to shift from environmentally damaging to environmentally friendly practices.
My government will further grow our innovation economy in areas such as film and high-tech. Working with the private sector and building on the success of the B.C. Film Commission, my government will establish a B.C. high-tech commission to market our high-tech advantage around the world.
My government's objectives in this session are to reconnect with the hopes and values of B.C. families; to rebuild trust between British Columbians and the new government; to rebuild credibility in the budget processes; to cool down the hot politics in our province; to develop a new culture of openness and cooperation; to strengthen and modernize health care; to improve quality education from K to J; to support parents through greater access to safe, affordable child care; to cut taxes to fuel economic growth; to consolidate our competitive economic position and to bring balance to government rather than going down the narrow road of an extreme agenda.
Hon. members, I have every confidence in the ability of this assembly to rise to these challenges. My best wishes to each one of you as you discharge your duties and responsibilities in this, the first legislative session of the twenty-first century.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
[The Speaker in the chair.]
The Speaker: Hon. members, in order to prevent mistakes, I have obtained a copy of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor's speech.
AN ACT TO ENSURE THE SUPREMACY OF PARLIAMENTHon. A. Petter presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled An Act to Ensure the Supremacy of Parliament.
Hon. A. Petter: The introduction of this bill prior to consideration of the throne speech expresses the established right of parliament, through its elected members, to deliberate independently of the Sovereign. As such, it is an important part of our parliamentary democratic process. This right was first asserted by the Parliament of Westminster in 1603, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Bill 1 introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
The Speaker: Government House Leader.
Hon. D. Lovick: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I move, seconded by the member for Vancouver-Little Mountain, that Tim Stevenson, the member for Vancouver-Burrard, be appointed Deputy Speaker for this session of the Legislative Assembly.
The Speaker: Opposition House Leader, on a point of order.
G. Farrell-Collins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, with all due respect. The Government House Leader mentioned me as seconding this motion. I have not, as in years past, been advised of the government's nominee for Deputy Speaker until this very moment. So I find I'm not
[ Page 14498 ]
Hon. D. Lovick: To the point of order, Mr. Speaker. First of all, let me say quite publicly that I apologize. My understanding was that the Opposition House Leader had indeed been so advised. Normally, we regard this practice as entirely a matter of protocol. The government, on its side, would nominate the Deputy Speaker, and as I say, it's a matter of protocol that the opposition would simply second the nomination. However, having said that, I recognize that consultation didn't occur. Therefore I would certainly respectfully apologize to my colleague.
The Speaker: Seeing no more submissions on the point of order
Hon. D. Lovick: Mr. Speaker, perhaps, then, I will revise the motion to say that I would move the nomination of Mr. Stevenson, seconded by my colleague the Deputy Premier.
Motion approved on the following division:
|YEAS -- 37|
|NAYS -- 33|
Hon. D. Lovick: Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the member for Vancouver-Hastings, that Mr. Dennis Streifel, the member for Mission-Kent, be appointed Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole for this session of the Legislative Assembly.
Motion approved on division.
Hon. A. Petter: I move that the Votes and Proceedings of this House be printed, being first perused by the Speaker, and that he do appoint the printing thereof, and that no person but such as he shall appoint do presume to print the same.
Hon. U. Dosanjh: Hon. Speaker, prior to moving this traditional motion, I want to say to all members that it's my hope that despite the hiccups just now, we begin a new era of cooperation in this assembly. While I move this motion, traditionally the Premier's prerogative, I offer all members my commitment that we will return to the issue of the appropriate list of committees and their powers in this session.
As outlined in the throne speech, it is my hope that in the coming weeks both sides of the House will meet and discuss reform of legislative committees, budget estimates and the legislative calendar. Through this cooperation, we can then move forward with consideration of improvements to this assembly. I must say that I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon, and he has agreed to work with us on the issue of the legislative calendar, committees and budget estimates.
I now move that the select standing committees of this House for the present session be appointed for the following purposes:
1. Aboriginal Affairs;
2. Justice, Constitutional Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations;
3. Education, Culture and Multiculturalism;
4. Economic Development, Science, Labour, Training and Technology;
5. Environment and Tourism;
6. Finance and Government Services;
7. Health and Social Services;
8. Agriculture and Fisheries;
9. Forests, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources;
10. Transportation, Municipal Affairs and Housing;
11. Women's Equality;
12. Public Accounts;
13. Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills;
14. Crown Corporations;
which said committees shall severally be empowered to examine and inquire into all such matters and things as shall be referred to them by this House and to report from time to time their observations and opinions thereon, with power to send for persons, papers and records; and that a special committee be appointed to prepare and report, with all convenient speed, lists of members to compose the above select standing committees of this House under standing order 68(1), the committee to be composed of Hon. D. Lovick, convener; Messrs. Janssen, Conroy and Orcherton; Ms. Walsh and Ms. Gillespie; Messrs. Farrell-Collins, Neufeld and Hogg; and Ms. Whittred.
Hon. D. Lovick moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 2:47 p.m.
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