2001 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 36th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, MARCH 20, 2001
Volume 22, Number 5
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The House met at 10:09 a.m.
Hon. C. McGregor: In a few moments I'll have the honour of tabling a historic piece of legislation in British Columbia called the Access to Education Act.
In the gallery here today we have a number of college and university students, all members of the Canadian Federation of Students, an organization that's been at the forefront of fighting for access to high-quality post-secondary education in this province and across the country.
I hope the members will indulge me for a moment, because I have a lot of introductions to make. But let me begin by introducing Anita Zaenker, the B.C. chairperson of CFS; as well as Summer McFadyen, the incoming B.C. chairperson; Jaimie McEvoy, B.C. representative of the national executive. In addition, we also have Carly Turner from the Douglas College Student Union, Local 18 of the Canadian Federation of Students, and Ryan Stewart from Simon Fraser Student Society, CFS Local 23.
From the University of Victoria Students Society, CFS Local 44, we have Cathy Anstey, Zoe Bake Paterson, Danielle Brown and Meghan Jezewski; also, Salma Kahale, Michelle Kinney, Jaimie Matten, Morgan Stewart and Sarah Webb.
From the University of Victoria Graduate Student Society, CFS Local 89, we have Kathy Szirtes; from the Malaspina Student Union, CFS Local 61, Steve Beasley, Rose DaCosta, Pat Fagan, Patricia Little, Stephen Littley and Heather Currie; from the North Island Student Association, CFS Local 72, Janis Gunn and Rob Mealey; from Camosun College Student Society, CFS Local 75, Will Alvarez, Christian Bates, Brian Kowalski, Sasha Kvakic, Alan Lloyd, Anthony Nelson, Aaron Ransome and Michelle Turcotte; from Kwantlen Student Association, Local 26, Paul Browning; from King Edward Student Association, CFS Local 76, Ravi Coughlan and Jeff Whitedeer; and from the federation's B.C. office, Lucy Watson and Kyoth Battie; Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and Student Union Local 33, Luke Gustafson.
Would the House please join me in welcoming all these students here today.
Introduction of Bills
ACCESS TO EDUCATION ACT
Hon. C. McGregor presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Access to Education Act.
Hon. C. McGregor: I move that the Access to Education Act be introduced and read for a first time.
Hon. C. McGregor: Hon. Speaker, this government is committed to making B.C. the education province, and this bill demonstrates our commitment to providing affordable access to quality post-secondary education and the best in Canada. Better access to education means that more British Columbians will get the skills they need to succeed in an emerging knowledge-based economy. Investing in education is the key to our province's future, prosperity, economic diversification and improved quality of life.
This act improves access by reducing tuition fees for approximately 200,000 students at B.C.'s 28 public colleges, university colleges, institutes and universities effective September 1, 2001. The act also ensures that post-secondary institutions will be compensated for the tuition fee reduction. This legislation will see average university tuition fees in B.C. drop to $2,166 per year -- $1,800 less than Ontario and about $1,600 less than Alberta.
This legislation follows five consecutive years of tuition freezes and increases the affordability of public post-secondary education in B.C. by reducing tuition fees by 5 percent. And when finances permit, it is our intention to reduce tuition fees even more in the future.
Under the act, the tuition fee freeze and reductions apply to fees charged for graduate, undergraduate, career technical, vocational and developmental programs. Mandatory ancillary fees remain frozen, as they have for the last three years under the tuition fee freeze acts. The act does not apply to student organization fees or to fees charged to international students or for a contract service or continuing education program. The act provides that the fees for new programs must not exceed fees charged by an institution for similar existing programs. The act also allows the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to make regulations to apply to the act for particular circumstances and to define terms used in the act.
Hon. Speaker, I move that the Access to Education Act be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
G. Farrell-Collins: On the motion the minister just made, the opposition has voted in favour of the freeze for the last five or six years. We'll be voting in favour of this bill, and if the minister would like to move it through all three stages today, we'd be glad to grant leave.
The Speaker: Members, I'd like to deal
The Speaker: Order, members. Order, please, members. I'd like to deal with the motion on the floor.
Bill 9 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.
INJURED WORKERS WAGE LOSS
R. Kasper presented a bill intituled the Injured Workers Wage Loss Continuation Act.
R. Kasper: I believe injured workers shouldn't pay the price for bureaucratic sloth when their workers compensation
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benefits are in dispute. Injured workers' wage loss benefits are cut off because there is conflicting medical evidence about a worker's ability to return to work. Why is it that the WCB can act unilaterally? Why is the worker's medical evidence not as reliable as WCB's doctor's evidence? I've been an injured worker, and I know how critical those benefits are. But I've heard from numerous workers that the WCB has cut off their benefits arbitrarily, without first hearing appeals to determine their eligibility. That's wrong, and we should make sure that's not the practice anymore.
This bill would ensure that workers have their appeals heard and finalized before the WCB could suspend wage-loss benefits payments. If a worker is getting benefits and the WCB wants to end those payments, I believe the worker should have the right to be heard first. The cost of cutting off a legitimate claimant is just too great. If someone legitimately needs benefits and the money is cut off, that person is instantly at a disadvantage in preparing their appeal, because their energies are split amongst fighting to survive and fighting the system.
This bill would ensure that the WCB claimants are treated fairly. Maybe if they had to keep paying benefits through the appeal period, the WCB would be a bit speedier about processing people's cases.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M201 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.
Reports from Committees
R. Thorpe: Hon. Speaker, pursuant to the committee's terms of reference, I have the honour to present the eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh reports of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts for the fourth session of the thirty-sixth parliament. I move that the reports be taken as read and received.
R. Thorpe: I ask leave of the House to suspend the rules to permit the moving of a motion to adopt the reports.
R. Thorpe: I move the reports be adopted.
B. Barisoff: I ask leave to present a petition.
B. Barisoff: On behalf of the residents and the chamber of commerce from Grand Forks, I present a petition concerned with the outrageous prices of natural gas.
The Speaker: The hon. member presents a petition.
Orders of the Day
Hon. I. Waddell: I rise to speak on the budget debate. Unlike some people on the other side, I take the issues of the environment, of education and of health very seriously. I want to speak today about the environment, and I want to speak about education and tie them together. I want to speak a little bit about some of the issues that are important to British Columbia, including one I saw this morning with reference to Senator Baucus of the United States speaking about our environment policies in the context of the softwood lumber dispute.
I want to say a few things about where I see the new economy going, since I was involved, as you know, in working with the film industry and the high-tech industry in my previous portfolio. I see them all tied together. You know, I think this government has the best environmental policy in Canada. It's very simple: we want clean air, clean water and the best parks system in the world. It seems to be a bit of a secret out there, but the best-kept secret, if you like. When I was back in Ottawa last week, I told them that they should all be proud, as Canadians, that this province has now, with the new Okanagan land use plan, put 12 percent of the land of this province into parks and protected areas. Mr. Speaker, that meets the standard of the Bruntland commission of the United Nations, which asked the countries of the world and the jurisdictions in the world to do that. We're the first in North America -- I think maybe the second in the world -- to do that. We should be proud of how we've done that in British Columbia.
It wasn't easy. Do you remember Clayoquot Sound? Remember the demonstrations? Remember Walbran, the Stein? Do you remember Carmanah? I was there, as a matter of fact, in an earlier life doing some of the demonstrations. And I'm proud that we went through that, and we got environmentalists, loggers, workers, tourist operators, miners, trappers, small business people
This is an environmental province. This is a green province, and I'm very proud of that too.
In the precincts today -- that means around the House -- I see some young people here who have joined us. There's a young man that I met with, Simon Jackson -- I think he's still a teenager -- from West Vancouver. He was chosen by Time magazine this year as one of the young people of the world -- the new, promising, young generation. Why? Because he's lobbying and pushing and working with young people to have attractive land set aside in the beautiful north central coast of British Columbia where the spirit bear, the Kermode bear, the white bear -- part of the black bear species that is
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I know that when a ten-year-old asks me, "Mr. Waddell, what are you doing to protect the spirit bear?" that's wonderful. And we are doing it. We're working hard. We're almost at the point where we have a land use plan for the central coast, and we'll set aside a large tract of land that will protect forever -- for generation after generation after generation -- the white bear, the spirit bear, the Kermode bear. Isn't that something? That's what can be done.
Now, when you get these parks and you get water standards and air quality standards, you have to keep them. Dare I be partisan here, since I started out very non-partisan
Hon. I. Waddell: No, I challenge you on that. It's voodoo economics. It doesn't make sense. Think about it. Just think about it: dramatic tax cuts, not much money in the budget, and you've either got to run a deficit budget, which you criticized us for years for doing
Hon. I. Waddell:
The Speaker: Order, member.
Hon. I. Waddell: I want to talk about the budget, first of all in the context of the environment, and then I want to talk about the new economy. When we were creating the parks, and when we did the latest park, which was a plan in the Okanagan to create a 2,600-hectare Snowy provincial park
Mr. Bohn starts his article this way: "A former Microsoft executive from Seattle says B.C. will attract high-tech industries by protecting its natural heritage, not by eliminating it." So by creating the parks, by keeping the parks, by keeping a good environment, we will attract people -- not by big dramatic tax decreases. We can't keep up with tax jurisdictions that are getting lower and lower and lower. Where do you want to go to? When you go down to Mexico, maybe down to Honduras
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, if the hon. member will listen, he should listen to what Mr. Blumenthal said. He said: "The amazing quality of life we enjoy here is a key advantage in recruiting the talented knowledge workers that have propelled high-tech ventures in Seattle, Vancouver and across the region."
High-tech is booming here. We've given them certain advantages, and we've created a good environment. You don't have to go and give them dramatic tax decreases. For God's sake, we have an economic growth of 3 percent in this province. What are you doing? What is the opposition doing? Why are they going to wreck our health care? They're going to wreck our education system; they're going to seriously hurt our environmental protection -- all for what? For this outdated ideology of dramatic and reckless tax decreases. It doesn't make sense. And once this message
I'm glad they're not speaking here, so we have an opportunity to speak to the people of British Columbia. We ask you very simply
Let me tell
Hon. I. Waddell: If the hon. member would listen
I want to tell the hon. member a little bit about what the budget does for the environment. Last November my ministry got $4.9 million to address funding shortages in the areas of wildlife, fisheries, habitat and parks management. This year this budget increases that amount to $6 million. What would they do? They've got to cut it, because they're going to do dramatic and reckless tax decreases for the rich guys. We've increased it; they will decrease it.
In addition, we've put some money into our priority programs. We're going to bring in drinking water legislation so that there can't be a Walkerton in British Columbia. Walkerton, as you know, Mr. Speaker, was a small town in Ontario where people were poisoned by the E. coli bacteria for various reasons, one reason being a lack of resources and a lack of civil servants. The funding will be $4.6 million
Hon. I. Waddell: I want to lay out these facts. The hon. member will get a chance to speak. The Liberals say they don't want to speak in the debate, and they spend all their time in extraneous heckling. So if the hon. member wants to get up and speak after me, challenge me. Tell me why his program of dramatic tax decreases will not hurt our environment and will
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not hurt our health care system and will not hurt our education system. Tell me that. Meanwhile, if he listens for a moment, he might find what a good environmental policy would be.
So we have put in this budget $4.6 million into helping our drinking water strategy so that we have clear water, clean water.
We also have to address the matter of climate change. I went to the Hague conference on the environment, the UN conference. Canada has committed itself, under the Kyoto agreement, to decrease by 7 percent our emissions of what we call greenhouse gases -- that is, pollutants that go into the atmosphere that warm up the world and, in fact, cause rather severe climate change, which we're beginning to see now and which scientists are talking about.
When I was there, I went to a seminar with a distinguished Canadian scientist, and he basically said that if we don't take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in 50 years we will lose the polar bear in the Canadian north. That was pretty dramatic. That's why we have to do things. In British Columbia we have produced a strategy, which I revealed at The Hague. We're going to spend $13 million, and we're going to reduce emissions by six tonnes in the next few years.
I went out to Abbotsford to a rally -- and the hon. member should have been there; he would have liked it -- in which the local people and their kids, about 3,000 to 5,000 people, opposed the Sumas 2 gas-generated plant, which is just south of the Fraser Valley. You'll know -- it's near your area, Mr. Speaker, just south of there. The people opposed that plant because they knew that it was going to put more of these bad emissions into the atmosphere, into the airshed. I was there to say that we took a strong line against that and that one of our priorities in the environment was clearing the
An Hon. Member: When did that start?
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, I'll tell the hon. member: it was there all the time. We did it, and let's not have any of this nonsense. The government took a very strong position. We lobbied, and we dealt with Governor Locke on Sumas 2. We appeared before them, and I was there to do it. So the hon. member doesn't know what he's talking about.
And you know, hon. Speaker, this is a
Hon. I. Waddell: I ask the hon. member, when he gets his chance to speak, to get up and to tell the House
G. Abbott: That's just a bunch of crap, and you know it.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, the hon. member
The Speaker: Excuse me, minister, could you take your seat, please.
I would ask the hon. member for Shuswap to conform to the parliamentary language of the House and to perhaps save his comments until he takes his opportunity in debate.
Hon. I. Waddell: You know, I'm glad the hon. member, in a way, is heckling me, that the Liberals are heckling me, because it must mean that it's kind of getting home to them. The fact is that people have a choice in the election, which is soon to come. That choice is -- as the members laugh at it -- that they put out their program of dramatic and reckless tax decreases for basically rich people, so they can reward their friends, the rich guys, and they're going to be left with a revenue shortfall. They will not be able to fund programs to protect clean air, clean water and our park system.
Now, I was saying what the budget was doing. There's money for a provincial drinking water strategy. There's $2 million to address climate change. We've put another $2 million into the scientific study of grizzly bears. We've done a three-year moratorium on hunting of grizzly bears. The opposition, the Liberals, have said that they would get rid of that moratorium. We believe that we should protect the grizzly bear. We believe
Hon. I. Waddell: I challenge the hon. member to get up and say that's not their policy. That is their policy, and so they propose to do it -- not us. We're
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, the hon. member is heckling me again, worried about the wildlife branch. Let me tell him that we're setting up a scientific panel to study whether it's necessary to have a permanent ban on grizzly bear hunting. We put in a moratorium. We think that that was pretty courageous. We think that the public of British Columbia by and large supports this, because they want to keep these magnificent animals there. They know that if they elect a Liberal government, there will be out-of-control logging. There will be in fact no concern and no money for the wildlife branch at all, and we will lose some of these magnificent animals.
The ministry also will receive $10 million in the budget -- and I'm speaking of the budget, and I ask the opposition to get up and speak to it; I'm actually dealing with the budget -- to maintain and improve the park system. As I said at the beginning of my speech, we have 12 percent of our land in parks and protected areas. You create a park system; you've got to keep it up. And so we put our money where our mouth is, and we're putting money in the budget for that. So there's money for climate change, for air quality, for water quality, for parks. And I challenge the opposition: how, if you have dramatic and reckless tax cuts, can you protect the environment? I don't think you can.
Now, I want to deal with an article by an economist called Seth Klein, and he deals with this notion of what would happen. Let me quote: "According
Hon. I. Waddell: Mr. Speaker, I'm up here speaking, and I have the member for Shuswap constantly interrupting. If he wants to speak, why doesn't he get up and speak?
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Hon. I. Waddell: Well, they've said they won't speak. I think that's disgusting. I don't think that's the way to do parliament. That's not the way to do parliament. The public will figure out these guys. They'll figure them out.
Let me read this article
The Speaker: Members, please. I must again ask the member for Shuswap to take his turn in debate at his opportunity and to allow the present member to speak.
Hon. I. Waddell: Mr. Speaker, let me read the article. "According to recent polls, approximately half of British Columbians agree with the theory that tax cuts will increase government revenues. It's an appealing notion."
That is the argument for dramatic cuts. You give the tax cuts; people will spend more money. The problem is, we've seen it in other jurisdictions where it doesn't work, and it takes a long time to do. We're not talking about targeting tax cuts, which we did for the film industry, which you can do for high-tech. You can do it for certain things, but if you give the broad tax cuts, you simply don't have the revenue to put into health and education and the environment.
So let me continue the article. He says:
"Problem is, the proposition is just plain wrong.
"In fact, tax cuts lower what government revenues would otherwise have been. The notion that tax cuts will stimulate so much economic growth that they will pay for themselves is a delusion. Yes, tax cuts do offer a small economic stimulus. But most economists maintain that tax cuts can only recoup 20-50 percent of their cost through the revenues generated by this fiscal boost."
So he's saying that most economists say that if you give the tax cuts, you can only get back 20 to 50 percent of the money that you lost in the tax cuts. Therefore how do you pay for health care? How do you pay for education? How do you pay for environmental protection? He says:
"Even the B.C. Business Summit, in its report two years ago, acknowledged that its desired tax cut of $1.5 billion could only recoup one-third of its value -- the rest would have to be paid for by cuts in government spending.
"But will tax cuts result in actual decrease in government revenues? Well, that depends. It depends on what's happening in the U.S. economy, the Asian economy and on international prices for B.C.'s key commodity exports like lumber and pulp -- a whole host of factors beyond our control.
"A few months ago, Liberal Finance critic Gary Farrell-Collins challenged opponents of tax cuts to point to
. . . ."
The Speaker: Member, please take a seat. Take a seat, member. The minister should not use names of members in the parliament.
Hon. I. Waddell: I'm quoting from an article which quotes him. But that's fine.
The Liberal Finance critic "challenged opponents of tax cuts to point to a single jurisdiction that cut taxes and lost revenues. So we at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives did. We offered up the example of Ronald Reagan's administration, which cut taxes in the early 1980s -- just as the U.S. was heading into a recession -- and lost revenues. We also noted the case of Alberta, which lost revenues in the mid-1980s when oil prices took a dive.I think he summarizes pretty well the issue there. And let me tell the hon. members opposite, the member for Shuswap, that what's really going on here is that the Liberals have been trapped by a movement that really is against government. And it wants to get government basically
"More recently, in response to comments by former Hongkong Bank economist David Bond," the Opposition House Leader "claimed one could not point to a single Canadian jurisdiction in the last five years that cut taxes and lost revenues. True enough, but such cherry-picking of the parameters does the debate no service. No one lost revenues over the last five years -- thanks to the booming U.S. economy. The more important question is: what happens during a downturn?
"It is fashionable to hold up Ontario and Alberta as models of the virtue of tax cuts" -- and we hear that all the time from the opposition. "But such examples confuse cause and effect. In the case of Ontario, the last five years have been a free ride, courtesy of U.S. expansion. Interestingly, though, revenues grew only modestly in Ontario over the period -- much less than one would expect given" the strong growth of the U.S. auto industry, which Ontario is reliant on.
"As for Alberta, low taxes are not the cause of their prosperity, but the consequence of the real 'Alberta advantage' -- oil and gas." Out of a $25 billion budget, they get $10 billion in oil and gas. "The point is not to replicate Alberta -- the point is that Alberta is uniquely endowed with natural resources that are not replicable.
"Even if revenues continue to increase after a tax cut, the question remains: will the increase be sufficient to keep pace with inflation and population growth? Will the increase be enough to maintain existing public services -- let alone fund new ones like child care and home care?
"The provincial Liberals are promising to have the lowest bottom two income tax brackets in Canada. That sounds great, but there's a problem. At least two other provinces are promising the same, and they can't all be right. How low will taxes be when the bidding war is over? How much will such a promise cost when the race to the bottom ends? We have no idea.
"So remember the old adage: when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." That's the big criticism of the Liberals' economic program.
"If tax cuts were such a miracle cure, the issue would be a no-brainer -- every government in the world would have dramatically reduced taxes long ago. Sadly, tax cuts aren't a wonder drug. They come with a price and mean tough choices."
It means, in fact, the Fraser Institute, the taxpayers' association, the groups that are really pushing for less government, because they want it to be controlled by the corporate agenda. They really want a corporate state and not a balanced state where we have the government. They want to end the old welfare state, and they want a different state -- not a socialist state. They want to end our existing Canadian welfare system.
I think we have it pretty good in Canada. I think we have it pretty good in British Columbia, in spite of what the Liberals say. We have a beautiful environment. We have a world-class health care system. We have, as Maclean's magazine has said, the best provincial education system now. And it wasn't always that way. We had to make an investment.
And you know, when I go to my riding, Vancouver-Fraserview, I point to Moberly school, and I point to the new
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community centres, and I point to the facilities that we've built for people. There's a new school every 19 days in the province. You know, that's a real achievement. And you can't do it -- this is the issue of the election -- if you have dramatic tax increases for the rich guys. It's just impossible. It doesn't work. And so that's the issue of the election.
I stand here proudly, as Minister of Environment for the province. I think we have a great environment. We've worked hard. We're trying to green the economy. This is the future; the future is the knowledge-based economy. The future is not this throwback to the nineteenth century. The future's a balanced economy. One of the great things about the present Premier, in my view, is that he can take a balanced approach to things, and he's saying: "Look, I've balanced the budget, and yet I've found $1.2 billion to put into health, education and the environment." I think that is pretty amazing. That's a good budget. And when all the smoke and mirrors and this bit about Hydro and all the extraneous stuff and the debates in this House and the opposition tactics are swept aside, you really see the issue. And you see the clear choice between the NDP and the Liberals, which they have to face in this election.
So I put it to you. I've outlined what we're doing in the budget in terms of the environment. I've outlined that we want clean air and clean water and the best park system in the world. And I say to the people in my riding: "Look at these schools and the hospitals. How can we keep that up? How can we keep that quality of life?" Remember what the American Microsoft executive said is the key to the future -- a good environment. How can we keep that up if we have dramatic tax cuts that basically go to a bunch of rich guys on Howe Street? It's not going to work for the people. That's the issue of the election, and we have to face it.
So that's the budget. That's my take on it, Mr. Speaker. I'm proud of the people in Vancouver-Fraserview. I'm running again, and I look forward to facing them. I look forward to debating the honourable members on exactly this issue.
Again, let me repeat and conclude with this. My position is, and the government says, that you cannot have the best environment and park system in the world, clean air and clean water and have dramatic tax cuts. You can't be a world leader in education and have dramatic tax cuts at the same time, because you won't have the money to put into that. You can't have a decent health care system if you have dramatic tax cuts, because you won't have the money. You'll get some money back in increased growth, but it's not the balanced system. You'll have to run a deficit, or you'll have to cut services. And where do you cut? Health, education and the environment.
I think the choice is pretty simple, and I look forward to making that. The Liberals haven't run a candidate; they haven't nominated anybody in Vancouver-Fraserview. They seem to be afraid. So I say to them: choose a candidate. Let them come and debate. I'll debate the environment, health care and education any day of the week, and do it very proudly, with this particular budget.
E. Walsh: Hon. Speaker, I rise in support of this budget. I have to say that it's rather interesting that the Liberal opposition has decided not to speak on those very important priorities of the province, of all the people of British Columbia. It's really interesting to hear absolutely nothing about what their constituents feel is important to them, about what their constituents feel is why they elected these people to represent them. And it's really interesting to note that none of these issues that we're talking about in the budget is important enough to any of them to stand up and talk to British Columbia, tell them what they're going to do, what their plan is for British Columbians all over the province -- not just their riding, but people all over the province.
In fact, things like child care, social justice, housing issues, education, health care, you name it -- all those issues are so important to people all over British Columbia. I know that people in their ridings are wondering: where are they? Why are they silent? Why are they not talking about what's important to us in those areas that they were elected in?
I know that they are really fearful of what is going to be happening to them or what they're going to hear as an end result. I think it's really clear that the Leader of the Opposition can't trust his own members -- his own caucus members -- to go out into the public or to come into the House to discuss those issues that are important to those people. He can't trust them. So what they have said, and what the advisers have said, is: "We want you to be quiet, because the last time you blew it, and the people remember that. So this time we want to make sure that you don't do it."
The other thing that I just find really interesting is that they sit on the other side and heckle. They talk about everything across the floor, but they don't come out in public about what they're saying.
E. Walsh: Yeah, absolutely -- exactly. And it's really interesting that they don't do that. Why don't they talk about their one-point plan? I mean, is it that hard to remember what a one-point plan is? It's not the tax cuts. One-point plan -- it's not hard to remember. In fact, the formula for that isn't hard to remember either. Tax cuts equal loss of jobs, loss of programs, loss of services. It's not that hard to remember that formula.
What I'd like to know is just exactly what their plan really is. I've got to tell you, hon. Speaker, it's probably the best-kept secret that they've ever had to keep, and the reason for it is necessity. They're afraid. They are afraid that people are going to be asking them questions. They're afraid that they're going to have to answer questions on health care. They're afraid, because they know that the promises they have made, they cannot keep. They are afraid. They're afraid to face the public. Because of what happened the last time, they are afraid.
If I were them, I'd probably be afraid too. Look what happened the last time. The public started asking questions, and look what happened to them.
[D. Streifel in the chair.]
E. Walsh: I remind the members opposite, while they're talking right now, that they are able to put their name on the speakers list, and they will be recognized to speak.
Anyway, what I'd just like to say is that when we were talking about the Leader of the Opposition actually putting a
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muzzle on his caucus
So I would say to the opposite members that maybe what they should do is share with their constituents, if not everybody in the province
Deputy Speaker: The member for Shuswap rises on
Point of Order
G. Abbott: Yes, a point of order, hon. Speaker.
I'm enjoying this speech tremendously, and I think more members should be here to enjoy it. I believe we're short of a quorum.
Deputy Speaker: Order, hon. members. Just let the Chair take a count here. We need ten for a quorum. The member is correct. We will ring the quorum bells.
The bells were ordered to be rung.
Deputy Speaker: Members, the House resumes; we have a quorum at this time.
E. Walsh: I'm really happy to see that the members opposite are actually sitting and taking notice. Maybe they'll take some suggestions back with them.
What the opposition Liberals have made very clear is that they don't want to talk about these very important issues to all people of British Columbia. I say shame on them. Shame on them, because when an election is called, people are going to want to know prior to what's happening. They don't want to hear some trumped-up excuses that they're going to be coming up with, and that's really unfortunate.
I just want to talk a little bit about why the opposition doesn't want to talk to British Columbians. They don't want people to know, and they don't want people to realize, that they cannot be all things to all people. Well, surprise, surprise. You cannot be all things to all people, unfortunately. Then again, maybe they think they can; I don't know. But if they think they can, well, I believe that they're probably going to be living in a dream world. Take those rose-coloured glasses off, because it is impossible to do.
They talk about tax cuts, about putting more money into working people's pockets. Then they vote against the minimum wage. Shame on them. That part of society, those people in our communities that are the poorest of the poor, have, unfortunately, difficult times enough in making ends meet in their lives. And they vote against minimum wage. Isn't that sad? Those poorest of the poor people that live in our communities -- do they support them? Of course not. But they'll talk about giving tax cuts to the richest, the wealthiest, the most elite in our societies. They have no trouble talking about that.
Deputy Speaker: Order, member, for a moment. Could we just have a brief pause till those that aren't staying leave. The ambient noise is interfering with my ability to hear the presentation.
E. Walsh: For them to vote against minimum wage is, I think, a tragedy. They turn around and say one thing, yet they do nothing about the other
In fact, I just wanted to touch a little bit on some of the highlights of the budget. Some of what we're going to be talking about and I will talk to you about, of course, has to do with the budget, the highlights in the budget: putting our financial house in order; focusing on health care, social justice, education and our quality of life. It doesn't matter what walk of life you come from. These issues are very important to all people of British Columbia, no matter whether you come from the poorest of families or the most wealthy of families. These are issues that are important to everyone in British Columbia.
In fact, even more so that in the Province not long ago
What they said was: "Do tax cuts work or not work?" Well, obviously they do not work, because what is happening now is that the most wealthy -- in fact, 20 percent of families -- saw their wealth increase. But you know that those in the lowest 20 percent bracket didn't see any change. Isn't that a shame? Those tax cuts that the opposition is talking about here
In fact, what they said was that some of the social groups that they interviewed said that the report confirms that tax breaks and other government policies aimed at helping low-income families are missing the mark. Well, you know they're missing the mark, so what does that mean? That means tax breaks don't work.
It also stated that in 1999, the top 10 percent of families had a median net worth of $703,500, while the lowest 10 percent had a negative net worth of about minus $2,100. That means that they owed more than they in fact owned. This is, I think -- and I quote this -- "an unprecedented portrait of where Canadians are today in their income levels and the broad gap now that is separating them." It goes beyond measure that those in the low-income families hold a debt, while those in the wealthiest families enjoy the benefits. And that is a shame. That's a shame.
In fact, the OECD cautioned governments against throwing away what improvements had been made in public finances during the 1990s. What they said -- and this is the International Monetary Fund -- is that governments should cut spending if they want to cut taxes. Now, the International Monetary Fund has said that they should do this, so what are they going to cut? What are the opposition Liberals going to cut in the next budget, if they should -- heaven forbid! -- ever become government?
Hon. Speaker, we still don't know what they're going to cut. They say that they're going to ensure that health care
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Even their economist David Bond -- you know, the guy that had the unfortunate job action taken in a hockey arena -- said that if the Leader of the Opposition wants to cut taxes, then he should cut taxes, but it will only work if he is really tough about expenditures. Well, what are these expenditures? And that's a quote from the Vancouver Sun on March 16. It said that if the opposition leader "wants to cut taxes, and he should cut taxes, it will work only if he's really tough about expenditures,' Bond said Thursday."
What are they going to cut? What are they going to cut?
I was listening a little bit earlier to my colleague from Vancouver-Fraserview. I was really quite interested in hearing what he had to say, because I too am aware of Ronald Reagan's tactics when he was actually President of the United States and also when he did cut taxes in the 1980s. In fact, he did so at a time when they were in recession. I am also aware of Alberta -- since I live right next door to them -- way back in the eighties, when their oil prices were in a dive. They were in the tank, and what happened then is that while they were in the tank, they couldn't even afford at that time to put any money towards their programs, let alone any of their budget deficits.
Hon. Speaker, I will say that the low taxes that Alberta in fact has now and the economic wealth that they have now aren't because of their taxes; it's because of their oil and gas that they've got. That is probably a real
My colleague also mentioned the fact that the opposition Liberals said that they were going to
Deputy Speaker: Order, members.
E. Walsh: They also said that the opposition Liberals have said that they are going to have the lowest tax rate -- income tax brackets -- in Canada. But I have to reiterate what my colleague said. There are another two provinces that are saying exactly the same thing. So where does it end? One is going to compete with the next, which is going to compete with the next. So where is it going to end?
And when do you stop having the lowest personal income tax rate -- when the province is in dire need of funding for all the programs and services? You keep cutting and you keep cutting, because you've said that you're going to do this and there are other provinces in competition. In fact, other provinces are in competition with us because of the programs that we have, because of the services that we provide.
I am proud of the fact that we are one of two provinces in Canada that still builds affordable housing for people. I am proud of that, and I know that is at risk should the opposition Liberals -- and, like I said, heaven forbid should it ever happen -- ever be successful. And I would like to hear from them: is affordable housing at risk?
Our health care funding, our education funding. What other programs are at risk? Child Care B.C. Are those programs at risk? Child Care B.C. is not, contrary to the Liberal belief, for women who want to go out and play tennis. People that live in my riding
Tax breaks. I often ask; I often wonder. Tax breaks -- are they an illusion? Or are they delusions? I think it's up to the public to make up their minds once they hear what the Liberal plans are. They are illusions. People don't want to look for illusions, and they don't want to hear any delusionary tactics, either, from the members opposite. They want to know the facts. They want to know what actually is going to be promised to them.
I just wanted to mention a couple of things here when we talked a little bit earlier about Alberta and their economy. The opposition think it's a mantra with them. They believe that they got it right; they believe that Ralph Klein is the man; they believe that Alberta is the mecca. This is a quote from Linda McQuaig on CBC radio, on March 8:
"Alberta's phenomenal financial success is clearly due to one thing: the stuff in the ground, not in Klein's head. Revenues from oil and gas accounted for $10 billion of the province's $25 billion of revenue this year. And without this $10 billion, Alberta would in fact be running a deficit this year of $4 billion. According to calculations done by the Canadian Tax Foundation, that would be the biggest deficit in the country -- in fact, bigger than all the other provincial deficits combined."And the ending line is: "If there is any moral to the Alberta story, it's that with enough oil and gas revenue even fiscal clowns can look smart."
Those are quotes. For the last ten years the Liberals have been complaining about deficit budgets. They complain that deficit budgets are wrong and that you need balanced budgets. Well, we've balanced the budget three years in a row. And what are they saying now? What the opposition Liberals are saying now is: "Hey, you know, it's not quite so bad, because maybe what we'll do is balance the budget in three years. We're going to balance the budget in three years." They've been balanced for three years now, hon. Speaker.
That means that they're looking at deficit budgeting. Deficit budgeting -- that's what they're going to do. They're going to revoke the balanced-budget legislation, so they can put deficit budgeting in. And guess what. We're going to be back to square one. But for them, they think it's okay. They talk out of two sides of
Let's go back to what tax cuts won't do for B.C. Tax cuts, like I said, won't do anything for housing. It will do absolutely nothing for affordable housing
Deputy Speaker: Order, members.
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won't provide the security that families need today in which to raise their children and their families. In fact, cutting taxes puts the economically disadvantaged people at an even greater disadvantage than what they are.
Hon. Speaker, we all know who we're talking about here. We all know who they are. They're the women and children of this province. They're the seniors, or they're aboriginal people. All of these people are put at a greater disadvantage than what they normally would have to live with. These people, who are in the low-income brackets in this province, would get absolutely no help whatsoever. That news release that I shared with you, with the new Canadian stats on the working poor versus the wealthy
The opposition, though, say they can do everything. They say they can do it all. Well, they have yet to prove anything that they are saying. They have yet to show anybody in British Columbia how they're going to do it. They go out and say that this is what they're going to do, but they don't say how they're going to do it. Nobody knows how they're going to do it. I don't know how you can reduce a revenue flow, because like I said, it's like taking money out of your chequebook and thinking that you can live exactly the same way that you were living the day before you lost that money out of your chequebook.
So how do they intend to meet those same programs -- those services, the jobs that provide those services and programs in this province -- if they don't have the money coming in? Like I said, at best 50 percent of revenue income means a 50 percent to 70 percent to 80 percent cut. It can't be done. It cannot be done.
How are they going to meet those programs? Which jobs are going to be axed? Is this where they're going to go into merit employment? Is this where they're going to be talking about the public service? I want to know how they're going to do it. We all want to know how they're going to do it. Well, I don't know how they're going to do this. Which public service are they going to cut?
An Hon. Member: It's voodoo.
E. Walsh: Yeah, voodoo economics, hon. Speaker.
So which services are they going to cut? Which programs are they going to cut? Which jobs are they going to cut? I know the people in my riding, who live in Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford, want to know whose job is going to be axed next -- whose job, which programs and services. Which ones, hon. Speaker? I can't tell them, because do you know what? I don't agree with their platform, their one-point tax-cut platform.
All I can say is that the promises that we're hearing from the other side are promises of delusion, but they're promises of their power. That's what this is about. It's not about services; it's not about programs. It's all about power. For five years they've been calling every day: "Call an election. Call an election." The negativity that has come from the other side
Not once have they brought forward a good idea for the people that they represent or for the people of the province -- not once. And I say shame on them. An effective opposition should be doing that. And do you know what? It just goes to show you how effective our opposition is. They have not once brought forward any good ideas, and I say shame on them. I have to say I feel really badly for those people who did vote for them, because I think they expected more from them. And what did they get? They got nothing.
Those people that rely on all our programs and services want to know what is going to be happening. What were they talking about? They feel that they don't even know what they're talking about. They're going from one day to the other and just kind of picking out whatever happens to show up in the press or whatever somebody says on the street. They're just picking it out, and that's what they're saying. So they have no platform. It's a puzzle.
An Hon. Member: That's called reactionary.
E. Walsh: Yeah, it is reactionary.
I wanted to say that with all the promises they are making, there is an old Yiddish proverb. Do you know what it says? You can't dance alone. Actually, it says that you can't dance at two weddings at the same time. Well, they're trying to dance at two weddings at the same time. And you know what? It just doesn't work.
The tax cuts. Now that they're dancing at one wedding, let's talk about the one wedding that they're talking about, and that's the tax cuts. The tax cuts are going to make it impossible for them to continue, as we've said, affordable housing. And I know that for a riding such as ours, affordable housing is extremely important, hon. Speaker. In fact, in my riding alone we have five units of affordable housing that have been built in the last five years. Let me tell you, there are people
An Hon. Member: They don't do that in Alberta.
E. Walsh: That's right: they don't do that in Alberta. Those people that live in those homes not only appreciate them but also need that affordable housing. They need safety for their children. And you know what? In Alberta, that's true. They have more working, homeless people in Alberta than I daresay in any province in Canada. And that is not a vision for British Columbia.
Let's talk, too, about affordable housing. What happens in tax cuts? Well, snip -- they're gone. You won't see them. Tax cuts are going to make it impossible
Hon. C. Evans: If it's not true, get on your feet and say it's not true. Otherwise, I believe the lady here.
E. Walsh: It's impossible.
Deputy Speaker: Order. Minister of Health, come to order, please.
E. Walsh: It will be impossible for the opposition to fund Child Care B.C. for four years. And obviously, contrary to what people are saying about tennis games, this money is to ensure that families actually can go to work and get the child care that they need to go to work.
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An Hon. Member: So how are they going to do that?
E. Walsh: So how are they going to do that? Well, I'll tell you what, hon. Speaker. They can't do it, because they've already said that they're going to in fact fund health care and education. So guess what's going to happen to Child Care B.C. Snip -- again. Gone -- completely gone. That is a shame. I think they should be ashamed of themselves. Child Care B.C. -- what a shame.
And what about investments for child development? Have we heard any kind of plans? Of course not, hon. Speaker. In fact, if there's anything we've heard because of their plans for tax cuts, what we're probably hearing is another snip, really loud -- another cut. Child development -- absolutely nothing.
Tuition freezes -- are they going to continue on? Are they going to in fact respect the 5 percent cut in tuition fees? I don't think so, because you know what? They can't, because it's impossible. They will fall into that 50 percent. I would like to know what they're planning for tuition for our students. Our students want to know, because I can tell you when they raised tuition fees in Alberta
Tax cuts also make it impossible for children to realize their full potential. Children need to realize -- and they need to be able to move forward -- that full potential. They will not be able to do that with any of these tax cuts. Tax cuts don't allow that. Remember, you're going to be without 20 to 50 percent of your income now. So who is going to suffer? As I've said, something has to give.
What is it? What is going to give? The members opposite, when they heckle and when they tell us that we don't know what we're talking about
An Hon. Member: They won't stand up and tell you.
E. Walsh: They won't tell us. They will not tell us. We have asked them over and over again. Do they tell us what they're going to do? Of course not. And why? Because they've been muzzled, and because they've been told: "Do not say anything for fear that you're going to say the wrong thing."
An Hon. Member: Just go in there and heckle.
E. Walsh: Exactly. Isn't that unfortunate? As I've said, the people of British Columbia expect more and deserve more.
When we talked about fiscal responsibility, I have to ask what their fiscal responsibility is when they promise the people of British Columbia that yes, in three years they are going to put forward a balanced budget. Well, what happens? There's a missing three years in here. Do they go into amnesia? What happens in those three years? Do they move away for three years and then come back after three years? What happens? Is it just out of sight, out of mind for three years? What happens to the budget in those three years?
I'd like to know what happens to that budget in those three years, because they haven't told me what happens to that budget in three years. All I know is that there's probably only one alternative to a balanced budget, and that's a deficit budget. So I would like to know: is that the alternative for those three years, or do they go into oblivion for three years and then come back and serve us with a balanced budget? What is it that they're going to do? I would like to know, hon. Speaker, and I'm sure there are a lot of other people that would like to know this too.
But you know, the highlights that I was talking about a little bit earlier
Deputy Speaker: Order, members. Member for Kootenay, just hold on for a minute.
The noise gets louder and louder. Every member has the opportunity to rise and enter the debate. The member for Kootenay has the floor at this time. I'd ask the rest of the members to respect that opportunity for the member for Kootenay to deliver her remarks. If other members want to enter the debate, there's lots of time to do that. Minister of Health, I'd appreciate the heckling being lower, or return to your seat and take the advice of Shuswap.
E. Walsh: Thank you, because you know, this is important. This is really important. It goes right back to what I said at the very beginning. If the members opposite have something to say, get up. Put your name forward. When the hon. members stand up on points of order, they are recognized. When they want to speak, they're recognized. If they have anything to say, they're recognized. Obviously they have nothing to say, because they're not getting up, but they feel like they have to heckle. Rather than come out and talk to people out there, they'd rather heckle people back there. That's really unfortunate, because it sure doesn't say very much for their platform or even for who they are representing, their constituents
An Hon. Member: Or how their mothers raised them.
I just want to once again talk about putting our financial house in order, our growing economy, balancing the budget, ensuring a fair and just B.C. These aren't to be taken lightly. These are very important issues to British Columbia. Our child care is an important issue to British Columbia. Our care
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for housing, the people, the judicial system -- all these programs and services that we provide in this province are very important to people in British Columbia.
I just wanted to touch on a couple of things, because this is something that I feel is really important for people to be reminded of. I hear the opposition continually driving it home as something other, when it's not. It concerns me because of the message that they give to people in British Columbia. They continually refer to the 1996 budget, which we have heard for the last few days. From the judgment of Madam Justice Humphries, I just wanted to read a couple of lines, because I'm sure the opposition Liberals have forgotten what this is: "I have found that Ms. Cull's beliefs were honest and reasonable
With that, with my time being expired, I just want to end by saying that if we don't fight hard enough for those things that we believe in, at some point we do have to recognize that we really don't stand for them.
Hon. J. Doyle: Hon. Speaker, I'm pleased to get up and speak in favour of the budget -- the third surplus budget that this government has brought in. I'm very, very proud of our government and the good work that we have done.
The opposition, which is really the farm team for the Fraser Institute, have now been muzzled from speaking on this budget, because they're caught in a trap. The program they're putting forward, with massive tax cuts of up to $3 billion, does not hold water. So they're now caught in a trap. They've been muzzled. They talk about how open their party is, how open their government is. Now they are refusing to get up and speak in this House.
Budget 2001 puts health care and education first, not tax cuts. That's what Canada traditionally has been about. That's why Tommy Douglas worked many, many years ago to make sure that health care was available to all Canadians, rich and poor. British Columbia has been the best example in Canada of taking up the slack of the cuts that happened in Ottawa.
What happened back in 1995, when the federal government was making cuts in transfer payments to the provinces across Canada? The Leader of the Opposition stood up, and he said the cuts were not big enough. Yet they say today, in their ten points of darkness, as to what they would do: "We would fight for B.C.'s fair share of federal tax contributions." The records show differently. It's a great encouragement for the federal government of the day to go ahead and cut transfer payments in Canada, because the opposition leader in British Columbia, along with other right-wing parties in Canada, was saying in interviews in the media that the cuts weren't big enough.
That's what they were saying. That's why they really are the Fraser Institute's farm team over there; that's who they are. It comes to referendums, of course, on settling important issues. Like for their first nations people -- what do they want to do? They want a referendum to divide and conquer, so they can satisfy their masters. That's what they want to do. They maybe should have a referendum on the $3 billion in tax cuts that they want to do. They won't be doing that, yet they're trying to hide and keep quiet right now, because papers like the Kamloops Daily News last Saturday -- which actually happened to be a very important day in Canada, March 17 -- wrote a great editorial saying that the Liberal financial picture is too vague. It said that while the NDP has been transparent with its intentions, the B.C. Liberals have been trying to be all things to all people.
They said they would drastically cut taxes, maintain education and health spending, and eventually balance the books. That's what they say. Where will it come from? Government waste, they say. Is it wasteful for the Forest Practices Code to be in place? The Liberals will have to cut, and cut deeply, in some areas if they take government, which all the polls say that they would do. But they have to be honest with the people in this province.
Western economies are in a downturn, and radical change will have to be made in British Columbia. If health care and education are to be left untouched, where will the money be saved? The B.C. Liberals have a big policy platform, spelled out last year before recent economic downturns in the North American and, to some extent, the world economy. The party owes it to voters to spell out in detail where the waste is that will be pared to keep down tax cuts and maintain the social fabric in our country.
So I'll go back and say: the social safety net that was put together by Tommy Douglas, by the Liberal government of the day in Ottawa, following his lead in Canada to put a social system in place for all Canadians, coast to coast
Budget 2001 puts health care and education first, not tax cuts, as I said earlier. It's a balanced budget which increases funding to health care and education by $1.2 billion. That's what it does: try to make up for some of the neglect by the federal government over the years, which was encouraged by the opposition in this House.
Maclean's magazine has called B.C. Canada's education province. But that wasn't always the case. When this government was elected, it inherited an education system that had been on the back burner for years. And that's when their party was last in government. Now they're here under a new name. Schools were underfunded. Colleges and universities had the second-highest tuition fees and the second-lowest participation rate in the country. Today our public schools get more money per student than any other province in Canada. I am very proud of that. I'm also a parent of two children in school, so I well understand the need for education to be in place. Our children growing up today will need to graduate from grade 12 and also have the opportunity -- whether they're rich or poor children, out of rich or poor homes -- to go to advanced education and university. We're making that possible for them.
Full-time university enrolment is growing at nearly ten times the average of the national rate in Canada. The tuition fees have been frozen for five straight years -- six if you count this year's cut in tuition fees, cut by 5 percent. This budget devotes 28 percent of total program funding spending to meeting the needs of students, our greatest resource; to funding teachers in our public school system, in schools, colleges, universities; skills and training opportunities in our publicly funded education system.
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Next year our government will increase funding to education in British Columbia by more than $312 million. This figure is for public schools and universities, colleges and institutions. Budget 2001 increases post-secondary funding by 8 percent, or $143 million. Again our province has taken up the slack of the transfer payment cuts from Ottawa. It cuts tuition fees for British Columbia's post-secondary students by 5 percent and creates 5,000 new spaces across our province. It also invests $505 million in capital funding to build and improve public schools, colleges, universities and institutions. An additional $123 million has been allocated over two years for upgrading to do with the earthquake concerns in the province in public institutions, including the province's schools, colleges, universities and other institutions.
In our public schools we've increased operating funds by $169 million. This allows class sizes in the primary grades to remain small, with 20 or fewer students in kindergarten and 22 or fewer in grades 1 to 3. What would the class size be if the Fraser Institute's party were in power in this government? There would be crowded rooms. There wouldn't be a chance for children to get a fair chance, in front of a teacher, to go out in the world that ultimately they will be taking on. They wouldn't have a chance. I guess their view is: keep them ignorant. That's what they'd want.
Twenty-two schools have been built or expanded, and improvements made on 190 other schools. Three new career technical centres will be funded in the Okanagan, north Vancouver Island and northwest regions, allowing young people to kick-start their training or post-secondary education while getting their high school diplomas.
[The Speaker in the chair.]
As many of you know, because the leading edge of the baby-boomer generation is retiring shortly, every province faces a skilled labour shortage. That's why this budget will double the number of apprenticeships of skilled training spaces over the next four years by 50,000. We're investing in the future economy when we invest in education. Our youth deserve the best. Our commitment to supporting our education systems remains firm, and this budget reflects that.
Budget 2001 puts health and education first, not tax cuts. And it protects the programs that families rely on, like health care and education. Budget 2001 is about strengthening health care. Budget 2001 is about choices that affect all British Columbians, rich and poor. For instance, should government say yes to dramatic tax cuts and see key programs like health care and education suffer? Or do we say yes to British Columbia's families by investing in the initiatives they have asked for and they deserve?
At the end of the day, making the right choices really wasn't that difficult. We've chosen to listen to British Columbians. We said yes to better health care and education, and no to dramatic tax cuts that the Fraser Institute's farm team want over there. These are choices that our government has made based on the values we share with British Columbians and their families, for all four million British Columbians -- not just some, as they would govern for if they had a chance.
We know that meeting the needs of today's families also meets the needs of today's economy. In that new economy, essentials like access to excellent health care provide a crucial competitive edge, because quality health care keeps productivity high. If people are healthy, they're going to work every day. Our public health care system is one of our greatest resources, just like our people, all four million people of British Columbia -- especially our youth. It's our number one priority for us as government in Budget 2001.
That's why this budget provides hospitals with more funding to hire emergency room nurses and arm colleges and universities with more resources and spaces to train them. It is imperative that we not only protect our health care system but that we improve it. People are asking for that. The shareholders in this great province of ours -- all four million of them -- deserve to be listened to.
Our system has suffered from years of federal cutbacks, with the assistance of the opposition leader, that have been felt across our country, although our government has increased health care spending every year since being elected by a total of $3.8 billion. Remember well, back in 1996 the Leader of the Opposition said that $6 billion was enough -- a drastic tax cut, a drastic funding of health care
We've increased funding for health care by $3.8 billion. This budget recognizes that there is still more work to be done. Our hospitals are overcrowded, we need more nurses, and the wait time in surgery rooms is too long. This budget addresses those serious problems head on. It devotes 43 percent of total spending to meeting the needs of patients. This means more doctors, more nurses, and more hospitals and services will receive the funding they desperately need. We are already hard at work addressing these needs for the year, the Minister of Health working closely with all MLAs.
Last spring our Premier convinced Ottawa to restore some of the federal government cuts that had been made some years ago, with the assistance of the Leader of the Opposition. This money has been put directly into British Columbia's hospitals and medical equipment. Then in December just past, the government launched a health action plan which includes a strategy to attract more people into the nursing profession and provide existing nurses with education and training. That's good news for British Columbia's health care system. Even so, we recognize that there's still more work to be done.
Our first priority, unlike the opposition who want to do a $3 billion tax cut, is to solve the nursing shortage. Every province is experiencing a shortage, but our budget promises to do something about it. This budget will create 400 additional training spaces for nurses, an investment of $4.7 million. A further $12 million will increase the number of nurses working in British Columbia, as well as educate and train existing nurses so they can expand their career options. I have actually made some announcements in the last weeks in my constituency on that initiative. This is a direct boost to front-line care in communities across British Columbia.
Budget 2001 also supports the health action plan commitments to British Columbia's doctors. This includes all doctors in British Columbia's rural and remote communities. As well, it provides $2.8 million for additional intensive care and crit-
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ical beds and $8.9 million for transitional or flex beds in acute care. It targets an additional $2.2 million for increased vaccination and immunization, which will help prevent sickness of British Columbians. We want to prevent illness and injury wherever possible.
Our health care guide program is providing information to British Columbians so they can make informed decisions about their health. That is why this budget includes a 10 percent increase in home support and home nursing, which means the elderly, chronically ill and disabled will have more health care options. Palliative care will receive an additional $2.9 million in funding to ensure that those with illnesses that cannot be cured live in comfort and dignity, as they should after working many years in our system to provide care for all of us.
In addition, we believe that mental health care should be as accessible as other health care services in British Columbia. Our budget increases funding for B.C.'s medical health plan to $31.5 million; that's more than triple last year's investment. This means real and immediate improvements in the level of mental health care in communities across British Columbia. British Columbians have let us know that the province's health care system is the most important service provided by our government. This budget is committed to improving the entire health care system in British Columbia. It puts health care first.
The opposition over here, the Fraser Institute party
British Columbia's new economy. The province we live in today is a strong one, buoyed by an economy that is moving forward and is growing steadily and ever more diversified. The British Columbia economy performed well last year and is poised to do so again, despite an expected tempering of growth this year in many parts of our economy and the world. Despite this downturn, the 16 independent economists who are members of the Economic Forecast Council predicted that economic growth for 2001 will average 2.4 percent and will increase to 2.9 percent next year. Government forecasting is in sync with their predictions.
Newer sectors of our economy, including knowledge-based sectors like high-tech, are becoming a larger piece of our economic pie chart, a fact recognized by 43 percent of British Columbians who identified this sector as the single most important industry for our province. For instance, over the last years every school in British Columbia now has the Internet available to them, something we have done because we know the importance of our students having access to the Internet and to the world that it provides -- every corner, every school, small or large communities across our province.
Our government shares this forward-thinking vision of a new economy. We recognize that the high-tech sector has doubled in the last ten years that we've been in government and now accounts for 52,000 jobs in British Columbia. That's why our government's previous budgets have made significant investments in the high-tech sector. This includes a one-time $4 million investment last year to help fund the optical regional advance network that supports lightning-speed data transmission through the schools, as I mentioned a minute ago; a $23 million boost to research and development funding for the four main research universities in our province; $2.4 million to attract world-class researchers to our universities and high-tech facilities and support the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; and a drop in the top marginal tax to assist in retaining and attracting management executives in this high-tech sector.
This year our government's budget again recognizes the significant contribution that high-tech makes to the province's overall economic health by providing $1.4 million in new funding to improve Internet access in rural British Columbia. Public Internet access will be made available right across our province through the PLN network. As well, $1 million of new funding will support people working with the cancer agencies in British Columbia and other people that need assistance or access to the Internet across this province.
But high-tech isn't the only star in British Columbia's economy. There's a reason why British Columbia has become known as Hollywood North, and celebrity sightings have been commonplace in communities across our province from Vancouver to Prince George to Golden, Kimberley, Field -- many, many parts of our great province. A total of 108 Canadian productions were filmed in British Columbia last year, including 27 feature movies; 11 for-TV movies, miniseries and pilots; and 21 TV series. This is all a new part of our economy as we diversify.
The value of film and televised production has risen by 10 percent from just last year and has pumped $100 million into British Columbia's economy. In order to sustain and fuel future growth, our government boosted the B.C. Film Commission's $1.3 million budget by $20,000 to support a new regional film offices program last year. That funding has been locked in and maintained in this year's budget.
This budget also provides $3.26 million to support programs offered by the B.C. Film Development Society. A new training program, Calling the Shots, will help small businesses in the film and new media sectors take advantage of growth opportunities, with participants receiving training in a variety of business programs. Traditionally, our economy's strength has been derived from the wealth found in the forests, water and soil. While our economy remains rooted in the resource sector -- and a lot of my constituency does
A record of continued investment in the high-tech and film industries will help ensure that the economy continues to grow and support British Columbia as a province of the future -- modern, forward-looking and confident.
If the opposition were to get into government, and because of the $3 billion in cuts that they have promised to do, which they are now admitting is impossible
I would worry about funding that we have committed as a government to do -- important funding like improvements
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to the Trans-Canada Highway from Cache Creek through to the Rockies. As we know, this highway was built back in the 1960s -- 50-50 funding, federal and provincial. We know the opposition leader says the federal government should stay away from the table. I have committed -- and through the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority -- that British Columbia would fund 50 percent of the funding to make improvements to this highway. I would assume that that commitment would be gone if they were to be in government, so they could give this $3 billion cut to their friends.
What have I done to bring additional services to my constituency in the years that I've been the MLA? There's a new skills centre in Kimberley and massive infrastructure -- $8 million for water improvements in Kimberley. Would that be threatened under a government that wants to give tax cuts? Of course it would. Invermere -- the first-ever college that community had. Rightfully so. It's a long way from Victoria, but they should have the same access to advanced education as other parts of the province. That was there. That's the kind of thing that wouldn't happen under their regime.
We were there to help the community of Golden four years ago, when their major employer was in trouble. Yet they knew at that time
Revelstoke Community Forest. I was there for Revelstoke and the community forest, despite opposition from the Liberal benches. The Columbia Basin Trust. Again, they have darned and damned the Columbia Basin Trust over the years. That's a wonderful thing that the four MLAs representing the Kootenays have been able to set up, returning to those areas some of the wealth that was taken when the dams were built and the Columbia River dammed years ago. We were there for them.
We've been there working, this government, to do land use plans, to bring certainty to our province. We're the first jurisdiction in North America to set 12 percent aside for future generations -- again, fought every inch of the way by the Fraser Institute's party across the floor, the same group that wants to increase the annual allowable cut from 70 million cubic metres to 100 million cubic metres. It shows how much they care about our youth and generations that follow, because there would be overcutting and of course then ultimately no markets for the lumber that would be produced while they are clearcutting the province and not thinking about the future and the sustainability.
Social housing. Again, major cuts made by the federal government, supported by the opposition. We're one of the only two provinces in Canada that do social housing. We're very proud to join with Quebec, doing social housing in British Columbia. Again, what would the opposition do? They would leave it up to the private sector. So I guess in their perfect world, people would be left sleeping under bridges. That's where they'd be. That's how much they care about the poor and needy.
At the same time, they're even opposed, of course, to any increase in the minimum wage. Where are those people going to live? They want the minimum wage to be as low as possible -- and maybe even no minimum wage in their perfect world, which the Fraser Institute is in great favour of. I am very, very proud to have been part of a government, as I mentioned earlier, that has assisted with a boost in funding for education, advanced education, the size of classrooms, spaces, tuition. When it comes to advanced education, the Liberal opposition totally forgot about it during the 1996 election. That's how much they care. I guess they say: "Keep them ignorant." That's what they would say. They totally forgot about it.
Of course, there's B.C. Hydro, the greatest resource that we have as a province. Just a couple of months ago the Leader of the Opposition was speaking to one of his groups with the many-thousand-dollar suits on. He said he would deregulate it: "Let's deregulate it." And now he's got the same person that worked with the Social Credit government, when they were in government under a different name than they use today. The same person, Mr. Larry Bell, is having a look, demanding to privatize B.C. Gas, a great resource we have -- that we privatize it, deregulate it. Now he's having a look, for the Leader of the Opposition, into B.C. Hydro, so they can make their few friends richer than they are.
I would rather leave B.C. Hydro there for all four million British Columbians -- all four million. We're all shareholders. That's why we could do the rebate in B.C. Hydro a couple of months ago, because the people of British Columbia are the shareholders. But a couple of months ago they were saying no, they didn't think there should be any rebates. There should be no rebates, because the people they represent maybe don't need it as much. But we govern for all British Columbians. B.C. Hydro is a publicly owned, very proud Crown. It'll stay there under our government.
As I said earlier, every time that we mentioned an increase in minimum wage, they voted against it. They are opposed to it. That's how much they care -- and the groups that they represent, like the Fraser Institute.
Referendum is what they believe in to keep closing the door on our first nations people and not bring any certainty to our province. That's how much they care.
They believe in massive tax cuts for their friends. As I said earlier, they must have been reading up a bit on Maggie Thatcher and some of the awful things she has done to make the poor people poorer and the rich richer. That's all they care about.
As mentioned earlier by other speakers, David Bond dared to put a bit of a shot across the bow of this party over there. What happened? What happened in some nice box at some ball game in Vancouver when he's sitting with the Liberal Party critic for Finance? Suddenly he lost his job. Just coincidental. Coincidental -- just happened. That's how much they care about criticism of their grand plan, of their race to the bottom. That's how much they care, hon. Speaker.
The Speaker: Excuse me, minister, if you could take your seat for a moment. The member for Esquimalt-Metchosin.
M. Sihota: Point of order. I note that the members opposite, particularly the member for West Vancouver-Garibaldi, have all been muzzled. And I notice that he's barking away there. Now that he's lost his muzzle, I'm wondering if someone could go over there and reattach it for him.
The Speaker: Thank you, member. That's not a point of order. The minister continues, please.
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Hon. J. Doyle: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I see that's how much they care about criticism. I see that whenever they fire some person that stands up and tells them that they can't have it both ways -- they can't do a $3 billion tax cut and maintain social services. He dares to say that. He dares to say it out loud. He dares to say it to the media. He's gone; he's fired; he's muzzled, just like they are. That's what's happened. That's what they would like. That's how much they care about criticism. They talk about freedom. They talk about freedom, that party over there. I say
The Speaker: The member for Esquimalt-Metchosin has a point of order.
M. Sihota: I'm getting increasingly concerned that the member has lost his muzzle again.
The Speaker: Members, members. In the moments that we have left, let's try and finish off this debate.
Hon. J. Doyle: I've been pleased to stand up today and do a comparison between our government and the fact that we care for all four million British Columbians, not just for a select few. They're even afraid to get up and debate this budget, because maybe even some of them got a little bit of a conscience and they're happy to have their muzzle on. I would say that.
I've been pleased to have a chance to speak on the budget today. I would like to at this time adjourn debate on the budget.
J. Doyle moved adjournment of the debate.
Hon. G. Janssen moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:53 a.m.
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