2001 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 36th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2001
Volume 22, Number 8
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The House met at 10:03 a.m.
Introduction of Bills
HEALTH CARE AND EMERGENCY
SERVICES SALES TAX EXCLUSION ACT
R. Kasper presented a bill intituled Health Care and Emergency Services Sales Tax Exclusion Act.
R. Kasper: Hon. Speaker, the bill embraces the philosophy that those who provide health care services and fire and emergency services in the province of British Columbia should no longer have to pay provincial sales tax on the items that they have to purchase in order to provide the valuable services that they give to many British Columbians. Health care providers receive exemptions and rebates from the federal government by way of GST. But that does not happen when it comes down to provincial sales tax, and I think that has to change. There are a number of small organizations in British Columbia that provide fire and emergency services and that do not have the advantage of receiving provincial grants. Therefore this act recognizes that, so that those organizations can have tax relief in order to purchase and provide the valuable services in British Columbia.
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.
The Speaker: Thank you, member. We'll deal with the motion on first reading first.
Bill M204 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.
Hon. M. Farnworth tabled the annual reports of B.C. Housing for the fiscal years 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
The Speaker: Order, members.
Orders of the Day
Hon. G. Janssen: Surely it becomes curiouser and curiouser in here, as Alice would say.
I call second reading on Bill 11.
SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY ACT
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move that Bill 11 be read a second time.
I'll keep my remarks brief on second reading of this bill, because I don't think there will be much disagreement on the principle that's embodied by this legislation. I expect the more significant discussion that will take place and should take place will be during committee stage of this bill.
The principle embodied by this bill is that every child, woman and other vulnerable British Columbian should be safe from sex offenders. I want to emphasize at the outset that this bill does not establish a public registry. This is not about the public having access to lists of sexual offenders. Instead, the sex offender registry will provide police with an additional investigation and enforcement tool that will help solve sexual crimes.
Current information about an offender's location and appearance can be critical to solving both new and unsolved crimes. We know that many of the sexual offences that are committed are committed locally. That is, the sexual offender commits offences near where he lives or works or otherwise has the occasion to be.
This registry will also ensure that police are aware when a known sexual offender moves to their jurisdiction, so they will be in a position to notify individuals, schools or communities if that offender presents a threat. Current notification programs will be enhanced, because police will have access to current information about sex offenders for a minimum of ten years.
This bill establishes the types of offences and circumstances that will require an offender to be registered, and I do believe we'll get into that in some more detail in committee stage. The selected offences reflect and support government's efforts to combat child pornography and child prostitution, as well as other sex crimes. The relevant crimes were selected in consultation with Crown counsel, sex offender specialists and the police.
In the first phase of the program outlined by this bill, registered sex offenders will be electronically traced through the registrar's legislated ability to demand personal and location information from public and private data holders. This data will allow the police to map offender locations in their jurisdiction. Offender location information will be verified through the supporting sex offender registry program. The effectiveness of this first phase will be evaluated after the first six months of operation.
In the second phase, should it be required after the evaluation, mandatory registration will be the key. Sex offenders will be required to update their information in the registry at least annually, as well as whenever they move. Offenders will attend community corrections offices to register. Offenders who do not comply with this requirement will face prosecution, fines and possible incarceration.
This bill recognizes that offenders do have a right to privacy and to live in our communities free of harassment. For these reasons, the public will not have access to the registry. However, existing police and corrections notification programs will be enhanced, because they will have current offender information over an extended period of time, which is something they don't have now to the extent that they should. This means that in all likelihood, as a result of passage of this legislation, there will be more public notifications issued by police where they feel a sex offender poses a threat to the community.
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Offenders will be traced for a minimum of ten years and can be traced up to life depending on the crime they committed. Repeat offenders will be registered for life. We are aware of the transient nature of offenders. Police, other sex offender registries and law enforcement agencies in Canada and other nations will have access to B.C.'s sex offender registry information. The legislation enables government to enter into information-sharing agreements that will make it more difficult for offenders to evade detection.
When compared to Ontario's legislation, the only other province that has sex offender legislation, this bill is tougher on sex offenders, because it includes more types of sex crimes and more types of offenders. B.C.'s bill does not remove offenders from the registry when they receive a pardon for good behaviour, something that does happen in the Ontario system. Our position is that they committed the crime, and they will continue to be registered regardless of a pardon. B.C.'s bill will also include young offenders, where the Ontario bill does not.
The federal Solicitor General believes that Canada already has a sex offender registry with the Canadian Police Information Centre, or the CPIC system. However, that system does not contain current offender addresses, and there is no federal legislation compelling offenders to register their current addresses with the police. It only contains indictable offences, yet B.C. is interested in offenders who commit both indictable and summary offences. As well, the CPIC system does not allow for modern data analysis techniques or geographic mapping. CPIC simply is not adequate as a sex offender registry.
Hon. Speaker, those are my brief comments on second reading, and I'll await the comments of others in this House before moving this to committee.
M. de Jong: Well, lest there be any doubt -- and I think the Attorney General signalled this in his remarks -- this side of the House is going to support the principle of this bill on second reading.
If I can just go through a couple of things
The distinction that the Attorney General pointed out in his remarks about the different approaches that could have been adopted by the government is, I think, an important one. And it bears repeating that what has been chosen here, and included and encapsulated within this legislation, is a law enforcement model as opposed to a model that would provide for an element of public notification. I think that choice -- deliberate choice, presumably -- has had some impact insofar as the comments that one would generally hear from various civil liberties organizations, those watchdog groups that thankfully are out there to provide their own analysis when the state purports to step in and consider measures along these lines. We haven't heard -- at least I haven't -- a great hue and cry from those traditional watchdog organizations, and I rather suspect it is because the government purports to enshrine within this legislation a law enforcement model.
It is, except for the province of Ontario, new legislation in provincial jurisdictions. I suspect that we will have some questions for the Attorney General around the rationale that his ministry and his staff and his legislative draftspeople employed in selecting the range of offences that were going to be included. It's one of those things where I don't know of anyone who is opposed in principle to a piece of legislation that is designed to protect people. But there will be some questions about how you do that in a balanced way. I am proceeding on the basis that that was something uppermost in the Attorney General's mind when he examined the legislation that was presented to him. Are we maintaining the balance that on the one hand affords the protection that we are seeking to provide, without going overboard in intruding in the lives of people who are living lawfully within society? So that definition component to the range of offences that are going to be covered will, I suspect, provide for some exchange in this House at a later point.
I was curious when I read the legislation that -- unless I'm mistaken, and if I am, I'm sure the Attorney General will point this out -- what I didn't see is provision within the bill for a more specific or detailed or individualized risk assessment with respect to the registration and reporting requirements. To what extent, I suppose you could ask, does this individual who is captured by the provisions of this bill actually represent a risk? Now, maybe that is something that is difficult to include within a bill of this sort, but it does speak to the issue of a more particularized and individualized approach with respect to the reporting requirements.
The Attorney General, in his remarks, talked about a difference that exists between this piece of legislation and the precedent in Ontario, and that is the application to young offenders. Or I guess I should say the potential application to young offenders, because I believe it does require, under the provisions of this legislation, a specific application to be made. We will have, I think, some interest in exploring with the Attorney General the criteria that would be applicable in determining when and whether that application would be made and what the implications are for the young offender that would be the subject of those proceedings. And that, of course, is something that distinguishes this act of the Attorney General's from the legislation in Ontario.
I guess the other thing that has occurred to us on this side of the House, and that we will want to explore with the Attorney General and his staff, is the degree to which he can provide the House with some assurance that the bill will withstand a challenge that goes something like this: by virtue of the passage of this bill and the obligations it imposes upon individuals who have been sentenced under one of the defined sections of the Criminal Code, that represents a retroactive or retrospective application of an additional penalty. I'm sure the ministry has addressed that point.
I think it bears repeating that in supporting the principle of the bill at second reading, we are saying to the Attorney General that we believe that is a reasonable thing for the state to be doing. But what we may believe and what the Attorney General may believe may differ from what a court -- and
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perhaps even the high court in this land -- may believe. So I think we will be seeking some assurance from the Attorney General that that line of argument, at least, has been contemplated and an indication from the Attorney General as to what the government's response to that kind of argument will be.
Mr. Speaker, it's been a long time coming. We're here now and see no reason to unnecessarily hold up the passage of this legislation. And at second reading we'll be lending our support to the bill.
The Speaker: The Minister of Transportation and Highways rises on a matter.
Hon. H. Giesbrecht: I request leave to make an introduction.
Hon. H. Giesbrecht: In the precincts this morning we had 30 visitors and five adults from the Royal Canadian Air Cadets 747 squadron of Terrace. This is a group that does a lot of work in terms of life skills, first-aid and leadership training, so would the House please join me in making them welcome.
P. Priddy: I'm very pleased to rise in the House, as I realize everybody will be, to speak in support of this bill. I don't think there will be anybody -- and I think people have already indicated that -- on either side of this House or anywhere out in the community who would suggest that this is not the right thing to do. I understand that there will be questions about how people go about doing it, but not about why we're doing this. When I think about the why -- why this bill's been presented, why it's been drafted and what's driven people to do this -- I look at the values that we hold and the concerns we have as parents, grandparents and community members.
Our concerns are for the people in our communities who are indeed the most vulnerable to being victims of sexual offences or offenders. By the way, anybody, male or female, can indeed be the victim of a sex offender. But we do know that there are people who are more vulnerable than others to horrific attacks by sex offenders. Women, children -- both boys and girls -- and people with disabilities are more likely to be victims.
One offence like that devastates literally dozens and dozens of people. It devastates entire families, and the effects of that are lifelong, and they're life devastating. The family costs, the financial costs and the community costs are enormous. So to pass this legislation is one more good tool, only one more, in being able to provide some legislative support and protection for people.
You know, on both sides of the House, hon. Speaker, there are parents and
grandparents and aunts and uncles -- and let me offer my congratulations to the
member for Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain; I saw the paper this morning
I think that the wider range of offences that the Attorney General has spoken to, and certainly wider than Ontario's, is important for a number of reasons, although we have become more vigilant, as we should be -- and I don't think vigilant enough -- about the risks that vulnerable people or anyone in our community faces from a sexual offender.
Sexual offenders have also had more access because of the expansion of technology. I don't think there's a week goes by that we don't see an example of how technology and the Internet have made it easier for offenders to, if you will, access potential victims. That's why I think that expansion of the range of offences is important for this piece of legislation.
I think the fact that we know that many sexual offenders commit those
offences close to home within a particular geographic area -- and the tragedies
that we've seen in the last six months here in British Columbia would prove that
again to be true -- that being able to have current information about the
location of the offender and the appearance of the offender
I would also say that this is an important tool, but it's only one of them. There's no tool, no matter what we do, that somehow is the perfect way to ensure that vulnerable people in our society would be protected. So we have to have a variety of tools, including this one. I know it's become a fairly trite phrase, although I still like it, but it's been overused, which is: it takes a whole village to raise a child. One of those pieces of vigilance is the vigilance that communities have to take, as well as the legislative tools we have to ensure that people in our communities are safe.
Hon. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pride that I stand today to support this piece of legislation, as I know others will. It certainly is not the end of the number of legislative tools or other kinds of supports and vigilance we need to ensure that men and women and children are protected in our communities.
J. Weisgerber: It will come as no surprise, I suppose, that I stand to support this legislation. I've been calling for a sex offenders registry for at least a decade -- particularly when the state of Washington, which was one of the first states to introduce a registry, brought the idea forward. I've believed that it's an important tool to protect particularly children from sex offenders.
To refresh the memory of those people who haven't perhaps been following this closely, what Washington State has done is create three categories of offenders, based particularly on their crimes but even more importantly on the offenders' attempts at rehabilitation. I think it's no secret that when incarcerated, when convicted, some of the most fiendish of these people resist any attempt at rehabilitation. They go to jail, they're offered programs, and they reject them. Washington State says that when a person rejects those attempts at rehabilitation, they essentially forfeit their privacy. When they go back into the community, by their resistance to rehabilitation they forfeit their right to anonymity.
Washington State looks, on release of these people, at the crime -- crimes, most often -- and at the attempts at
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rehabilitation. If they believe these persons didn't want rehabilitation and simply wanted to get back into the community, then they make available to the public the names and the pictures of these people. It's not a kind of lynch-mob mentality but rather a very thoughtful process of saying: "If you don't want to change, if you simply want to go through the doors, spend time in jail, go back out and reoffend, then we're going to let the community know who you are and where you live." It's for that reason that I have been a keen proponent of a sex offenders registry.
It's the reason why I'm disappointed in how far this bill doesn't go. It's important to have a registry, and I'm going to support the bill. This bill is important insomuch as it will assist the police in identifying offenders. But I think all of us would much rather see crimes prevented than crimes solved. This bill simply says that we're going to make it easier to solve crime. Heaven knows that everybody can support that.
As the member from Surrey said, I'm sure everybody in this House supports this legislation. But I have to ask myself: why then so long to introduce this legislation? When our current Premier was Attorney General, he continually rejected this idea. He said: "No, it's not a provincial responsibility. It is in fact a federal responsibility." We saw the sham in Ottawa, where the Alliance put forward a motion for a registry. The Chrétien Liberals accepted the motion and then said: "Well, we've already got one, because the police have the records. Therefore we really don't have to do anything." Sadly, I think, the government here has learned a bit from watching Mr. Chrétien and his friends in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, that's my primary concern. There's no question about it. My primary concern is the lack of public identification of those people. I worry, when I look under the section that deals with personal information. There's a section -- and we'll deal with it, I'm sure, in committee -- that says "the legal name and any aliases." I highlight that because of the practice now in Canadian jails for people to change their name legally while they're incarcerated. I think it's outrageous.
I think it's absolutely outrageous that we put somebody like Noyes in jail for a whole string of sex offences, and they very blithely change their name and come out not only with their appearance changed but with their names legally changed. So I hope there are mechanisms within this act to deal with that particular problem.
The Attorney General also suggested that we would deal with the sections under the sex offences and noted that there was an expanded list. I looked down the list, and there was only one that I really wonder about, and that is the inclusion of "vagrancy." We know what vagrancy is all about. It's about picking out street workers for whom you can't get a conviction for prostitution and charging them with vagrancy.
Quite honestly, prostitution, as I understand it, has been around since the
beginning of time, and I don't think that's going to change. I don't see them as
the offenders that most people are worried about. Quite often you see young
people forced into prostitution for whatever reason, whether it be a drug habit
or simply street life, and I wonder whether we gain anything by taking a young
person who has been charged with vagrancy and obliging them for ten years to go
in and notify changes of address. I really wonder, in this particular instance
under section 12 or whatever, whether or not
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I'll support the bill. It's an important step in the right direction. I think it's a very timid step. I think it's at least a little bit modelled on the Ottawa response, and I don't believe that it goes far enough. But certainly halfway or a quarter of the way there is better than no direction at all.
D. Lovick: I should, I suppose, say at the outset that I disagree with my colleague from Peace River South. I think it does go far enough. But I'm not here to have that debate; rather, I'm pleased that we both agree with the need for this particular piece and are both willing to vote for it.
I just want to make three or four points. The first one is that why I support the legislation is because, as I understand it, what we're really talking about is simply protection of the public. That's the intention, and I think all of us would agree that as a concept it is certainly something we ought to be wedded to. Specifically, what the bill does, again as I understand it, is make police aware of sex offenders moving into or currently living in their jurisdictions. Moreover, the bill provides law enforcement agencies and officials with an additional investigative and enforcement tool. Who, I would question rhetorically, would question any of that? I think we all accept that those are good and desirable things, and insofar as the bill succeeds in doing that, we will all hurray the deed.
I want, though, to say that I am going to accept one point made by the member
for Peace River South when he says that crime prevention ought to be hugely more
important than crime solving. I agree entirely, and therefore I must question in
this bill -- and I know it's only in second reading on the principle of a bill
that one can do this
We all, I am sure, accept the proposition that sexual predator behaviours, sexual offences, are repugnant in the extreme. That's given; we accept that, I'm sure.
Tragically, however, the phenomenon continues, and the proportion of offences seem to be (a) increasing and (b) epidemic in nature. This isn't any longer an aberration, something that happens once in a blue moon. Rather, you hear from women's groups and from people involved in taking care of children, especially in an institutional setting, that this is an epidemic; this happens all the time. Huge numbers of women report to us that something like one in two women at some point in her life will be assaulted sexually. There's a problem out there, and alas, it seems to me that we as a society don't do much about that.
I think the question has to be at some point: what do we do? I think the
starting point and the answer to that question, moreover, is to acknowledge that
we look in the mirror, and we discover that we -- and I now refer to men -- are
the problem. The overwhelming majority of sexual offences are committed by men.
To be sure, there are some women, but the overwhelming majority
I would suggest, then, that the logical conclusion that follows therefrom is that maybe there's something wrong with men. Now, is it human nature? I don't think so. I don't think it's a matter of the error being bred in the bone, to use a little poetic language. I think it rather has something to do with our
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conditioning and our acculturation. I think it has something to do with violent movies, and I think it has something to do with the fact that boys are conditioned that it's not okay to cry, but it's okay to hit people.
My generation and I myself were certainly raised that way, and I suspect that's true of most boy culture. Until, it seems to me, we start to grapple with that question of what is civil and acceptable behaviour and recognize that there shouldn't be two sets of behaviour -- one for little boys and another for little girls -- we're going to continue to have these problems. I don't think it is a matter of human nature; I think it is, rather, something about the society and the norms and the patterns that obtain in that society.
I think this is a good piece of legislation. I think it is certainly on the right track. I am happy to say it seems to me that it captures a balance between protecting the public interest and going on some kind of vigilante crusade. That, frankly, scares me to death, because I am an old-fashioned civil libertarian who believes that to protect my liberties, I must protect others' liberties. It seems to me that it's something like the golden rule in action, I suppose -- the rule for civil liberties.
In any event, I am pleased to stand in my place and support this legislation. I want to commend the Attorney General for bringing it in. It isn't easy to do, because the moment you say you're going to do so, then, needless to say, all kinds of people are going to demand much more. I congratulate the Attorney General for the courage of saying that we are not going to introduce a public registry.
This is not going to be about vigilantism. This is not going to be about pillorying individuals who in some cases are rather sad and tormented and sick individuals who won't offend again and about the fact that their names, some people argue, should still be posted on telephone poles, and they should be harassed and hounded from community to community. Thank God, we haven't sunk to that level. We've found the balance, I think, between protecting the public interest against some very scary actors and actions without trespassing on the civil liberties of all of us. Again, I am pleased to stand in my place and support this measure.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Very briefly, there are a couple of things I'll touch upon in closing this debate.
One of the points raised by a couple of the members of the opposition was around timing and why this has taken this long. I want to make it clear to this House that I've met with the federal Solicitor General on two occasions since January, and I pressed this matter both times, as the Premier did in his role as Attorney General before that. It is my preference that we see a national sex offender registry established. It makes more sense to have a registry that would cover all jurisdictions in this country.
However, I have reached the conclusion, after two meetings with the Solicitor
General -- and frankly, even after the passage of the motion in the House of
Commons last week -- that there was not going to be movement from the federal
government on this in a significant way for some time yet. In fact, the federal
government's position that CPIC is an adequate tool
So the time is now. It's a judgment call. I've made the determination that we
should go ahead with our own registry. I think it's an excellent model. We'll
debate it more in committee stage, I know. And I think there is the possibility
Finally, the last thing I'd like to say in this debate is that I appreciate the comments from the opposition that there are legitimate issues for debate, certainly in committee stage. This is something that has to be approached in a thoughtful way. I can assure those members that as I worked with my staff in developing this legislation, I had serious questions about some of the matters that were being raised in the draft bills I was seeing. I note the member for Peace River South raises the issue of why vagrancy, for example, would be one of the offences listed. I had a lot of those questions, and so I look forward to having that discussion in committee stage. It's a legitimate discussion, and it's the type of discussion that we as legislators should be engaging in when looking at the passage of what is really a very important piece of legislation with serious consequences for our society.
So with that, hon. Speaker, I move that the bill be read a second time.
The Speaker: Could members please take their seats to help with the division.
Second reading of Bill 11 approved unanimously on a division. [See Votes and Proceedings.]
Bill 11, Sex Offender Registry Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. G. Janssen: I call committee stage on Bill 9.
ACCESS TO EDUCATION ACTThe House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 9; D. Streifel in the chair.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
J. Weisbeck: This has been the sixth time now that we've discussed the tuition freeze. In 1996, when this was first introduced, I asked the question of how the government arrived at this policy. The response was the Orum report. The Orum report basically states that institutions should be allowed to set their own tuition rates.
I've never been satisfied with how the government arrived at this policy. If it wasn't the Orum report, how did you arrive at this policy? I've also never been satisfied with the fact that there's never been an impact study on the true impacts of a tuition freeze. It obviously affects institutions
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differently; it affects individuals differently. So I wonder if at this time I could have some sort of an idea of how the policy was arrived at and, since this policy has been introduced in 1996, what the impacts have actually been.
Hon. C. McGregor: I wasn't the minister responsible for this portfolio at the time the Orum report came out. I understand it was actually commissioned by Tom Perry, who was the minister at the time. My understanding, as well, is that the report dealt largely with student financial assistance and the need for students to be able to gain access to institutions through government policies and programs as it related to existing student financial assistance at that time.
Obviously government has taken a number of initiatives related to student financial assistance that isn't directly covered by this bill. The member opposite will be familiar with some of the initiatives, like the extension of the grant program into years 3 and 4 and other similar policies. But it's my view that reduction in tuition or a tuition freeze is in keeping with the concern for students being able to access post-secondary institutions. In fact, I'm told repeatedly, no matter what student group I'm a part of, that tuition continues to be a barrier -- even with the tuition freeze -- on the question of affordability.
So while the Orum report itself did not deal with the issue of a tuition freeze, our government is fully committed to improving access. We believe that the tuition freeze is a tool through which greater access is afforded to students who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it.
J. Weisbeck: I do agree with you: it is certainly a barrier. I guess I've always wondered how much of a barrier it is. I mean, the government has taken the stance that participation rates have increased strictly because you have frozen tuition fees. I'd like to see the impact study to know that that is actually proven with a study. I've seen surveys that the government has sent out asking the question: "Would you like to have lower tuition fees?" Obviously you're always going to get a positive answer there.
Truly, individuals are affected differently, just as institutions are affected differently. I've never been satisfied with the fact that government has actually looked at the process and said: "With this policy, are we impacting the people that need it the most?" I mean, if you look at the student populations, you know for a fact that some people have made allowances, as their children grow up, to pay for tuition. Some don't have the means to do that. With this policy, how do we impact the people that are most in need?
I would say probably 50 percent of the student population needs a lot of help. Yet 50 percent -- I'm using those numbers arbitrarily, obviously; let's say the other half -- of parents are able to pay for their educations. So how do we impact the people most in need and improve access for those individuals?
Hon. C. McGregor: The member is correct in saying there probably are a number of barriers to students accessing post-secondary education. But one of the most significant barriers is the level of income of the family that the student comes from. In fact, statistically only 10 percent of the students entering post-secondary education come from the lowest 25 percent income bracket families in the province. So 10 percent of those students attend post-secondary.
Anecdotally, I certainly know that the numbers are more like 90 or 95 percent of students going on to post-secondary when their parents themselves also attended post-secondary institutions. So we well know that the socioeconomic condition that a student might find themselves in is indeed one of the indicators of whether or not they will participate in post-secondary, beyond secondary, school training.
The other one, as the member probably is as aware of as I, is where you live in this province. That's a significant barrier, and that's why we've taken a number of initiatives as a province to expand access to programming all over the province. The member's own institution, Okanagan University College, and the one that's in my riding, University College of the Cariboo, both have multi-campus programs in order to increase access and opportunity for students, regardless of what part of the province in which they live. That's another initiative our government has strongly supported over the last nine years of our policy around post-secondary.
The member made reference to non-traditional groups, and I think there are some -- for instance, aboriginal students. Aboriginal students are much less likely to attend post-secondary, and so we've worked very hard through programs within our ministry on improving access to aboriginal students. In fact, we've worked with aboriginal organizations themselves to establish programming either on reserve, in partnership with existing institutions, or at the Institute for Indigenous Government Studies as well, which offers programming directly to aboriginal students. So I think that's another one.
You know, there are a lot of reasons why students may or may not attend post-secondary. One of the things we do know is that giving students access to information about opportunities and about labour market studies that show where future careers lie is an important part of that information cycle as well. That's why we launched the B.C. opportunities program, where we've given students in grades 9 to 12 access to a document through which they can see for themselves what programming is offered throughout the province and what types of skills or university program they might choose to go forward with.
We also brought young people together. I introduced some of them in the House just yesterday. They've gone into schools and talked directly to both parents and students themselves about what we know about the future work environment here in British Columbia -- work trends, where new careers will lie and so on. This, as well, provides information to students and more opportunity for them then to make selections that fit not only their own personal goals but what they understand to be the future market as it relates to jobs.
One of the other factors that I'm aware of because of the work that I've done with the B.C. opportunities campaign is that students are more likely to enter post-secondary if their parents have discussed with them going on to a post-secondary degree -- 60 percent more likely, I'm told.
So all of those are factors, hon. member, and government should take a broad-ranging approach to how it deals with the questions of improving access for students. Yesterday in the House the member talked about our participation rates, and it
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was interesting to me, when I had the opportunity to look at participations rates around the province, that the member's riding has one of the lower participation rates in the province. We need to do more work with OUC in order to make sure that we're targeting programs in that community which meet the needs of young people and make sure that they reflect the needs and interests of people who live in that region of the province.
So, are there other factors? Absolutely. Is government attempting to address all of those factors? Yes, indeed we are.
J. Weisbeck: The freeze obviously doesn't affect institutions equally and in the same way. At OUC, for example, if you compare some of their costs per course to the University College of the Cariboo, their costs are higher for the same course. When this tuition freeze took effect, in effect it was freezing some of the rates at a much lower rate. It obviously has had quite a huge impact on Okanagan University College. So my question is -- and I've asked this numerous times: was there ever any consultation prior to this policy being introduced? And secondly, was there any opportunity for some of these institutions to possibly balance out, create more of a level playing field for some of their rates or some of their courses? If not, is there any thought for the future to be able to level the playing field?
Hon. C. McGregor: I understand the member is concerned that fees were frozen at different levels, but in the compensation program that we have in place in order to compensate for the tuition freeze, we've taken into account the different rates of tuition charged in the institutions, and that includes their average cost per FTE. So we've worked hard with institutions to address that issue through the funding formula.
J. Weisbeck: The minister commented that OUC has one of the lower participation rates. I might add, too, that they have one of the longest waiting lists in the province for programs, mainly because we have always felt that at the university college, we haven't had our fair share of the post-secondary education funding. I wonder if the minister would comment on that.
Hon. C. McGregor: Actually, I think that would be an excellent question to do during budget estimates.
J. Weisbeck: My next questions are related to section 6, so we can move along to section 6.
Section 2 approved.
Section 3 approved unanimously on a division. [See Votes and Proceedings.]
Sections 4 and 5 approved.
On section 6.
J. Weisbeck: This section deals with a compensation package. This has not always been the case. I think this is the first year that has actually had some compensation for the tuition freeze, making up the difference between what the institutions would normally collect as revenues. In the past we've had increased enrolments asked of institutions without any compensation whatsoever.
I'm looking at a report done by the Advanced Education Council of B.C. It shows annual funding per student FTE from 1991, which is $7,809 per FTE, and then we go down to the year 2000, and we've got $7,175. So there's actually a loss of revenue to the institutions of $634 per student. The universities, for example, have said that over the years, due to the tuition freeze, there's been a funding shortfall of around $40 million. It's my understanding that this year, something like $7.5 million of this difference has been made up.
I wonder if the minister would respond, please. You know, we've heard of the issue of quality and the fact that we've had courses being cancelled. We've heard from various institutions the talk about the time of graduation being increased -- for example, for a four-year program to 5.2 years. So that obviously has a huge impact on students. I wonder if the minister would respond to the fact that the compensation doesn't quite cover the full amount of revenues that have been lost over the years and what sort of plan they would have to make up that difference.
Hon. C. McGregor: Well, the member's wrong when he says that there hasn't previously been compensation given to institutions for the tuition freeze. In fact, we have for a number of years funded those. We can go through the previous budgets at some other time to demonstrate to the member that that's the case.
Without a doubt, we did work with institutions to improve their capacity to deliver programming -- to really overproduce, if you will, FTEs on the basis of their funding. There was recognition at the time that there were significant cuts in federal transfer payments and that that was putting a real squeeze on the province. But in fact, we did agree to work with institutions to improve efficiencies across institutions in order to continue to offer programming despite some reduction per FTE. The institutions themselves were incredibly successful in doing that.
Most institutions now actually overproduce the number of FTEs they're funded for, through a number of efficiency measures. And I would argue that the quality has not been reduced; in fact, I believe the quality of our institutions has significantly improved. It's not just our government that believes that we have high-quality institutions. Student surveys continue to support the quality of our institutions and the programming they receive, as well as national surveys such as Maclean's rankings, which put three of our major universities right at the top of Canada, consistently, for the last several years.
So have we had challenges on the funding side? Absolutely. But each and every year we've delivered improved funding to the post-secondary system, despite the fact that our government was running a deficit. We continued to improve funding, and we worked with institutions to increase efficiencies, to make sure that students were still able to access quality programming.
On the question of the period of time it takes for students to complete degrees, there are a number of reasons why degree completion can take longer than traditional four-year
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universities. In our day, when we went to post-secondary institutions, programs were pretty standard. We sat in lecture theatres for four years and did traditional programming. But universities and institutions take a much broader approach now, and in many cases, there are things like co-op placements that significantly extend the time of a program. And we have a lot of co-op programs. In fact, they're largely supported by institutions and agencies and organizations which benefit from the placement of co-op students directly into the workplace. It also creates an opportunity for employment of those students at the end of those co-op placements.
We also have more older students participating in the post-secondary system in British Columbia than in some other provinces. Older students often are part-time students and therefore work part-time. Sometimes they are supporting their own family members and children. There are a number of reasons why programming can go beyond the traditional four years, and I don't think there's any reason to conclude that is a result of a tuition freeze or reduction.
J. Weisbeck: Well, certainly the Advanced Education Council of B.C. doesn't agree with you: "We need better spaces. The quality of access is jeopardized because we experience dropping rates of funding per student. While funding levels have gone up, institutions have not been adequately compensated for inflation."
Certainly the students that I've talked to are finding real difficulty in getting courses and programs. You hear all the time about the lineups for courses. Certainly in my institution in the Okanagan Valley, the lineups are huge. So I have difficulty believing the minister is saying that this hasn't had some impact, that you have continued on with this level of funding to maintain the quality of education in our province. This is not the story that I'm hearing, and if the minister would like to respond to that, she's certainly welcome.
Hon. C. McGregor: In fact, this legislation makes sure that government will continue its commitment to increase opportunities for students in every region of the province and, of course, in the member's region as well.
In terms of how allocations are made, one of the joys of doing this job is that you find out lots of information about how decisions are made. We use formulas which give institutions in areas where participation rates are lower the opportunity to increase more seats so that we can use that as a tool through which to deliver a policy direction of trying to improve and increase access.
The budget increases in this ministry's budget last year and this year are absolutely unprecedented. We have worked with institutions to make sure that the funding we've put in place will enable them to deliver and continue to deliver quality programming. The member opposite wasn't present when we made our announcement around the tuition freeze and the budget allocations at the University of Victoria, where we had members from the Advanced Education Council present highly praising us for our efforts on this year's budget and the opportunity it will provide for their institutions to deliver very high-quality services for students -- even more spaces than have existed in the past.
When organizations lobby, they often put their demands into writing and phrase them in such a way as to put the best light on their arguments. I fully recognize that there were pressures on institutions across the province, and that's why last year and this year we have significantly improved budgeting to those institutions in direct response to their concerns. They have done an excellent job of bringing their issues to our attention. They have also acknowledged that we have addressed them through this year's budget.
J. Weisbeck: I just have one more question. Historically, we've been well below the national average for university degrees, and even though we've increased the number of spaces by 5,000 this year, that still will obviously not meet the national average. I wonder if the minister could respond to the question about what she feels the number is that we would have to increase our student spaces to and what sort of plans she would have to meet that differential.
Hon. C. McGregor: I think it's important for us to recognize that
there are a lot of types of programming available to students and adult learners
across the province that don't necessarily result in university degrees. In the
time that you and I, hon. member, were in post-secondary
J. Weisbeck: A long time ago.
Hon. C. McGregor: Yeah, a long time ago.
That's not to say that university degrees shouldn't be looked at in terms of a signal or as a benchmark, if you will, of our progress on the question of student participation rates. This is something that we dealt with directly this year in my capacity in consultation with the University Presidents Council. There were a number of issues and requests that they raised around issues related to research, in particular, spaces and other areas of concern. So we did work with the university council to address their issues.
I think it's also important to note that we are the only jurisdiction in Canada to have created three new universities in the last decade. Across Canada, no one in the last 25 years has opened a new university. And yet here in British Columbia, we've gone with Tech B.C., UNBC and Royal Roads -- all university degree-granting institutions -- increasing and improving access and making them more available to students regardless of what part of the province they come from.
Most importantly from my point of view, perhaps, is the work we've done with university colleges. I know the member opposite is familiar with the university college model and how it has really given us, in other regions of the province, an opportunity to offer university programs. Some might be first considered as sort of basic or core fine arts types of programs, but beyond that we've given institutions the capacity to develop university programs that fit a niche of interest in their communities. I think of the natural resource science degree program at UCC as one example of that.
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So I think this government has been very committed to improving access to students who are interested in university degrees, and we'll continue to improve on our record in that regard as we continue to increase spaces and reduce tuition so students can have even better access to university programming.
J. Weisbeck: I guess my concern is that if you look at the numbers and our university degrees and we talk about access to universities, it really lends itself to our problem with the brain drain. You look at UBC, for example, and at the high rates of percentage average that kids have to have to get into UBC. They're monstrous -- like 92 percent averages for a student to be eligible to get into the University of British Columbia. I just can't help but think that this is really part of the brain drain.
We get a student, for example, who has a high 80 percent average -- an excellent student -- but he's having to go somewhere else, whether it be to Alberta or Ontario or to the United States. I think once you get this individual moving to another province or state, it's possible they're going to set down roots and stay there. By having this low number, being well below the national average and having this lack of access to university degrees, I think it's sort of relative to what's happening in the brain drain. I wonder if the minister could respond to that.
Hon. C. McGregor: You know, it's interesting, because this question of a brain drain or a brain gain is a debate that I've heard referred to repeatedly in the media in particular. It's an issue that I addressed with the University Presidents Council, in fact, and the president of UBC in particular -- and the needs, as she saw it, for our government to make significant investments in the area of research and development. In her view and in the view of the University Presidents Council, this is a significant factor in making sure that we have a brain gain, that we bring professionals and researchers -- the best in the world -- to British Columbia by supporting research initiatives in our major universities.
So through the B.C. knowledge development fund, which we've increased by more than $110 million in the last year in order to match CFI federal grants, we've been able to put more money into UBC and the other major universities as a tool through which we can bring the best to British Columbia and in fact have a brain gain.
In addition to that are the investments we're making in the B.C. Cancer Centre and the $110 million Michael Smith Foundation. Those are both programs which will bring the best and link health research with our major institutions -- in particular UBC, which does the vast majority of research as an institution in British Columbia. But beyond that, other university institutions engage in research. And that's why, in this year's budget, we've also announced $23 million to cover off indirect costs of research, so that the universities themselves can maintain that excellence in research and still support the quality instruction that's necessary to support university-degree teaching at those institutions.
I think it's also important to acknowledge Tech B.C. in this brain gain, or brain drain, discussion. I think we're doing remarkable work in the province by creating a technical university here. It's the only one of its kind in Canada that's a public institution. The hon. member may not know this, but the other technical universities that deal with high-tech research, development and training are all private institutions with tuitions that range from $12,000 to $25,000 a year. And yet here in British Columbia we have a technical university with some of the best and brightest instructors in North America who are delivering those very same programs to train our young people to enter a high-tech field of study and job opportunities into the future, at the average tuition of about $2,000.
So we're making a huge commitment in that area in particular. And I have to come back to the university college model again. We're the only jurisdiction in Canada that allows colleges, through the university college program, to actually grant degrees outside of our major universities. It's unprecedented. In fact, Roger Barnsley, who is the president of University College of the Cariboo, was recently at a world conference where the rest of the world is looking to our leadership on this question of improving access and opportunity through this model of not only offering college programming, the certificates and diplomas but expanding that by giving university access at the same time. Hon. member, we are working extremely hard to make sure our students have the best access to university and other types of training and programs around the province.
Sections 6 to 11 inclusive approved.
Hon. C. McGregor: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Bill 9, Access to Education Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Janssen: I call second reading of Bill 2.
CHILD CARE BC ACT
Hon. M. Farnworth: I move that Bill 2, Child Care BC Act, be read a second time.
This bill enshrines all child care grant programs including the Child Care B.C. funding assistance program, a major new social policy achievement in British Columbia. This bill follows through on our promise to working families, a promise of quality, accessible, affordable child care. It sets out how we will reach our goal of a comprehensive, made-in-B.C. system of publicly funded child care.
We believe that every child in British Columbia deserves the best possible start in life. Studies clearly show that the quality of care a child receives in the early years is the strongest indicator of their later success in school and in life. Children who have experienced good care, either at home or
[ Page 17468 ]
through formal or informal child care, have better social skills, higher levels of language development and fewer behavioral problems than those who experience lower-quality care.
Good child care can mean fewer repeated school years, lower dropout rates and less need for special education programs. Good child care can lead to lower juvenile delinquent rates, fewer teen pregnancies and lower long-term health costs.
Good child care takes many forms. It comes from parents, who are the primary caregivers of their children and are the most important influence on their lives. It comes from relatives -- aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins -- and increasingly it comes from caregivers outside the home -- group facilities and family providers, licensed and unlicensed. We recognize and respect the right of parents to choose the kind of care that works best for their families.
Our government has held child care as a priority for many years. In 1973, 28 years ago, the B.C. government brought in the first child care subsidy program based solely on income. The program has been operating ever since then. Last year we assisted almost 40,000 children each month, because in B.C. we believe that no child should be denied access to child care due to the financial circumstances of their parents.
We recognize the commitment of families who choose to have a parent stay at home to care for their children. Since 1996 the government has been helping these and other families with the costs of child care. We made the B.C. family bonus available to all low- and modest-income families in British Columbia.
The family bonus is a tax-free monthly benefit of $107 per child. Today about 45 percent of B.C. families receive the benefit. That's 430,000 B.C. children. This $400-million-a-year program became the model for the national child benefit introduced across Canada in 1998. It started here in British Columbia. I'm proud to note that families in British Columbia were able to take advantage of financial support two years before the rest of the country.
Many of these families choose to care for their children in their homes. However, the reality is that many do not. Today four out of five working families have both parents working outside the home. Many parents who, in the past, would have stayed at home or asked a relative to care for their children can no longer do so because they and their relatives are working. The result is that more and more families depend on outside care for their children.
At the same time, many working families are having trouble finding outside care and finding the money to pay for it. Government must respond to this reality, a reality made clear by more than 10,000 British Columbians who responded to our discussion paper on child care. The vast majority told us that child care is an urgent priority for all levels of government. They've told us that they're struggling to balance employment and family, and they need help. We know that lack of child care can interfere with the parents' ability to get an education, find a job or stay in a job. It can mean the difference between welfare and work. It can mean the difference between despair and opportunity.
The parent-child care needs assessment survey in 1997 found that more than 40 percent of parents attending school training programs and 25 percent of parents working full-time had difficulty finding or paying for the child care services that they need. Quality, affordable, accessible child care means that families can participate more fully in B.C.'s expanding economy. Child care is a good investment in the economy, in society -- but most importantly, for families.
We have come to recognize the value of investment in education, because we know how important the school years are to a child's success. Now we're turning our attention to the investment in the preschool years, as evidence grows that early education and child care make a real difference in shaping children's lives. A dollar invested in child care today returns $2 in the long run. The same investment returns $7 in the long run for high-risk children.
Parents in British Columbia are already making this investment. Today they spend $1.35 billion a year on child care. We all know investments in early years pay big dividends. It's not different from that old adage: "Give me the child until they are eight, and I will give you the adult."
With funding assistance through Child Care B.C., government will be reducing the financial burden on parents. Parent fees will be reduced. Government will make up the difference by means of direct grants to child care providers. In addition to making child care fees more affordable for parents, the direct grants will provide greater financial stability for providers. Government has a role to play in keeping child care costs at a level that parents can afford and ensuring the continuing existence of child care spaces for B.C.'s children to attend.
B.C. is recognized as a leader in child care programming. Since 1992 government has improved and expanded the child care system with more resources and innovative new programs. The latest innovation is the Child Care B.C. funding assistance program, launched in January as a modest first step towards a comprehensive system of publicly funded child care. The first phase of the program supports before- and after-school care for children in 21,000 licensed group care spaces. Government will be funding a 20 percent increase in spaces for school-age children. This will provide secure quality care for latchkey kids who have no after-school care and go home to an empty house.
Already the first phase of the Child Care B.C. funding assistance program is a success. Parents whose children are enrolled are saving up to $1,100 per year. They say they have noticed a real difference in their monthly finances and are putting that money towards food, clothing and other family expenses. In January we announced the next phases of the program. We are committed to gradual, prudent expansion of the program so that by 2004, all licensed child care providers will have the opportunity to take part in the program.
This bill reflects the commitment and provides parents with the certainty that they are looking for so that the funding assistance program will unfold as planned. It sets out the timetable for expanding the funding assistance program to other age groups and other licensed providers. By next January the program will include licensed family care providers and infant and toddler care, and it will save some parents up to $6,000 per child per year.
By 2003 it will include preschool children and cover care during summer breaks. By 2004 every parent of a child aged 12 and under will have the option of enrolling their child in a publicly funded, licensed child care facility for a maximum fee of $14 per day.
[ Page 17469 ]
Subject to the enactment of an appropriation, the bill sets out the projected budget for all grants under the Child Care BC Act. When fully implemented, the annual cost is estimated at $480 million. The bill sets out the target of the number of child care spaces to be created and commits government to providing the budget for these spaces, and it caps the fees that parents will be required to pay at $14 per child per day, regardless of the age of the child or the type of the care.
The Child Care BC Act is also an umbrella for a series of existing child care programs. These include the infant-toddler incentive grant program, which helps licensed family child care centres meet the higher costs of caring for young children. It includes the emergency repair, replacement and relocation grants program, which helps child care providers with small capital costs to meet licensing standards; the facilities and equipment grant program, which helps create and maintain spaces; the compensation contribution program, which increases the wages of lower-paid child care workers. It will also include supported child care through the Ministry for Children and Families. This important program provides support to special needs children who attend child care.
I am proud that our approach is inclusive, and I look forward to reaching our goal of eliminating wait-lists for children who require child care and particularly those with special needs. The proposed act will be an umbrella for excellence in child care. It would govern all programs which provide grant funding to caregivers so that they may offer child care to families regardless of family income.
We are separating these from the child care subsidy, an income-tested program for low- to moderate-income parents. Accordingly, we are proposing to amend the BC Benefits (Child Care) Act as the BC Benefits (Child Care Subsidy) Act for the sole purpose of governing that particular program.
I think one of the most crucial things about this bill is that it has been developed with the help of parents, child care providers, educators, business, labour, multicultural and first nations communities from around the province. There has been comprehensive development in this bill. There has been comprehensive consultation. Thanks to their advice, we are moving towards a system of publicly funded child care that truly meets the needs of British Columbians in a fiscally responsible manner.
Hon. Speaker, we are one of two provinces in this country to provide -- and that will provide -- comprehensive child care. For families, parents, relatives and most importantly the children of British Columbia, I am proud to introduce second reading of this bill.
K. Whittred: It is my pleasure to respond to the government's child care act, Bill 2. I'd like to start with a little story that will enable me to share with the House my feelings about child care. I think it was just about four years ago that I rose in this House to announce the birth of my granddaughter. My little granddaughter, whose name is Courtney, is now nearly four. That was an interesting time for this House, because at that time I believe that my hon. colleague from Langley had also had a grandchild, and I believe the member for North Coast introduced his new granddaughter at that particular time. It was quite an event for this House; I think three of us became grandparents within a few days of each other.
Those little girls are now nearly four years old. Last Saturday, which was grandma day -- that's the day my grandchildren come to visit -- my little granddaughter Courtney drew me a picture. She had written her name, except that the letters were all in different orders. And I thought: "Isn't it remarkable that this little tiny girl knows all the letters in her name, and she can put them in this amazing order." I mean, I couldn't do that, I don't think.
I tell that story because it illustrates my feelings about the value of early childhood education. My little granddaughter, like most children of working families in British Columbia, goes to a child care facility, and she has many, many wonderful experiences. She is encouraged to stimulate her mind. Like I'm sure the other grandchildren I mentioned in this House are, she is an example of how important that mirror of opportunity is in early childhood for the development of the brain.
I have no disagreement with the minister when he talks about the value of early childhood education. I agree with it, and the official opposition supports that position. It was very interesting, the other day, that the North Shore health region -- the region that I represent -- came out with a study on readiness of children. This was a cooperative venture between the North Shore school district and the health board. Even in an affluent community like the North Shore, it showed that 20 percent of the children were not ready for school. So once again, I share with you an experience that indicates the high regard and the importance that this side of the House places on the value of early childhood experiences.
We have, as a caucus, defined education as our number one priority, and we would include early childhood education as part of that overall broad experience. This is why I have in many instances said that one of our goals, if we ever have the fortune to form government, would be to work toward providing all-day kindergarten and, I hope, eventually junior kindergarten. I might point out that those goals were shared by my colleague who is the critic for Education.
Another area where I certainly have no disagreement with the minister is that child care is a significant issue to all B.C. families. B.C.'s official opposition supports the funding of child care options, and we also support quality day care. Whether this be in the way of early intervention for children with special needs, whether it be for other programs to develop certain skills, we know that every dollar that is invested in education is in fact a dollar invested in our future. We would continue to fund child care programs. There are, however, many models of education.
On that note, noting the time, I move adjournment of debate.
Introduction of Bills
HUMAN RIGHTS CODE
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
Hon. G. Bowbrick presented a message from his Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2001.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
[ Page 17470 ]
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I'm very pleased to introduce Bill 17, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2001. Its purpose is to enshrine the principle of pay equity in the Human Rights Code of British Columbia. Pay equity means equal pay for work of equal value. It is achieved when employers pay their male and female employees the same for work of equal value, even if the work is different. On average, women in British Columbia earn only 73 cents for every dollar men earn. That means there is a gap of 27 cents between men's and women's wages. Eight cents of this 27 percent wage gap is due to the historic undervaluing of work traditionally done by women. Pay equity closes this portion of that gap.
The Human Rights Code already prohibits employers from paying their male and female employees differently for similar work. However, this does not assist employees working in predominantly female occupations that have been traditionally undervalued. Low wages for women and for men working in jobs traditionally done by women have, in effect, been subsidizing employers and other employees for years. Wage adjustments are the right of these employees who have not been fairly paid in the past.
This bill contains changes that address this inequity by prohibiting employers in both the private and the public sectors from discriminating by paying male and female employees differently for work of equal value.
Bill 17 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.
Hon. J. Smallwood: I request permission to make an introduction.
Hon. J. Smallwood: We're joined today by a delegation of leaders, men and women that have worked hard to ensure that men and women are paid in recognition of the work that they do. Their names are: Colleen Jordan, Heather Inglis, Joanne Reece, Laurie Larsen, Maria Bisognin, Venetta Francis, Robert Gilchrist, Sandi Greenfield, Bev Cutler, Paige Clark, Chris Schultz-Lorenz, Wendy Lawrence and Joie Warnock. I'd like the House to make them welcome.
Hon. G. Janssen: Before I move the motion, I also notice that a former member of this chamber has joined us: Harold Steves. I ask the House to make him welcome.
The Speaker: Leave was granted, I assume.
Hon. G. Janssen moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 11:58 a.m.
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