2001 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 36th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2001
Volume 22, Number 19
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The House met at 2:08 p.m.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I have four introductions to make today. First are Brewster Kneen, an internationally recognized expert on the food system and author of books on biotechnology, agriculture and agribusiness; and Richard Bocking, an agricultural economist, author and documentary film-maker on issues related to the environment and agriculture. Richard is a licensed professional agrologist and is active with the B.C. Institute of Agrologists. Also here is Herbert Moore, vice-president of radio-pharmaceutical development with Alpha-Med Inc. As a research scientist, Mr. Moore is very concerned about the health and environmental consequences of genetic engineering in food. Finally, Gracie MacDonald, who's a board member of the South Island Organic Producers Association and a Green Party candidate in Saanich South, is here. Will all members of this House please join me in making them welcome.
D. Lovick: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today is a delegation of students and their teacher from Malaspina International High School, based in Nanaimo. As the name suggests, these are students from overseas, mostly from Asia. I see about a dozen students up there along with their teacher, Mr. Dave Butler. I would ask if all my colleagues would please give these students and their teacher a very warm welcome.
C. Clark: I am delighted to introduce Harry Bloy to the House today, a man whose long history in the community is going to serve him well in becoming the next MLA for Burquitlam.
J. Pullinger: I'm delighted to introduce today some people from my part of Vancouver Island. These are representatives of the South Vancouver Island District Women's Institutes -- and partners. With us today are Jessie Anderson, Ruth Fenner, Margaret Baird, Marcia Stobbart and Leonard Fenner. They are all in the gallery today. Also with them is Barbara Wallace, who's a former member of this House and the first woman and New Democrat to be elected in the riding that I now hold: Cowichan-Ladysmith. So I would like everyone to make them all very welcome.
Hon. I. Waddell: I'm doubly delighted to introduce to the House today Mr. Sinclair Philip. Members will know Mr. Philip as the proprietor of the internationally acclaimed Sooke Harbour House, voted second-best inn in the world by readers of Gourmet magazine in May of 2000. Mr. Philip is here because of his commitment to eating food that does not contain GMOs. Please welcome him.
S. Orcherton: There are some visitors in the gallery today who are consumers who want to know what's in the food that they buy for their families, and they're all from Victoria. Joining us in the gallery are Diana Brooks, Betty Muller, Diane Dobbin, Elania Konoby, Allison Green and Marnie Bradfield. Monica Hall-Kowalewski is also here today with her two daughters, two-year-old Chiara and ten-month-old Antonia. Monica volunteers for Gene Action in Victoria. As well, joining us in the gallery is Imelda Pearson. She is a director of the Council of Canadians and a representative of the Council of Women. All of these women are from Victoria, and I'd ask the House to make them very welcome.
G. Mann Brewin: I'd like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of someone that many of us on this side, and the other side as well, may have heard from, from time to time. She's a constituent of mine. She'll well over 80; she's involved in the community. And when Bernice Packford phones, you respond and you pay attention. Would the House please welcome Bernice Packford.
Hon. C. Evans: Like my colleague, I was going to comment on Bernice. When the prayer said that we should check our consciences before we open our mouths, I thought maybe he was talking about Bernice's presence here today. Bernice could act as any of our consciences, and I would tell everybody to mind what you say while she's visiting; she might call you later.
Also visiting us from an organization called LifeCycles, a youth-driven organization promoting food security are Linda Geggie, Todd Graham, Kate Paul, Zev Roman, Melanie Hay and Linda's mother, Valerie. Would the House please make them welcome.
J. Sawicki: I too would like to introduce someone who I've actually worked with on agriculture and food and land use issues for many years. Kathleen Gibson is here today representing FarmFolk/CityFolk and the Capital Region Food Roundtable. FarmFolk/CityFolk is a provincewide organization dedicated to encouraging the production and consumption of local, homegrown quality food. The Capital Region Food Roundtable is one of more than a dozen food security coalitions around British Columbia whose membership numbers in the thousands. They too work on community food issues. Would the House please make her welcome.
Hon. J. Kwan: I have four visitors in the gallery today. They're representatives from the Community Economic Development Corp., better known as CEDCO, which does a variety of work in our community, and of course community development is its aim. The director, Vanessa Hammond, is here with Geoff Ray, Chris Mather and Maureen McDougall. Would the House please welcome these visitors.
R. Thorpe: Visiting the House today are two constituents of mine, Norma and Pat Clarke from Naramata. Also visiting the House today is a couple I met earlier this year while on vacation, Pat Hapgood and Jack Elliott from Victoria. Would everyone please make them welcome to the House.
B. Goodacre: In the House today visiting for question period is Redner Jones, a dear friend that I've met in the last couple of years in Victoria. He's also interested in saving Beacon Hill Park from commercial development.
On behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, I also have to introduce to the House Mara Jernigan, a chef and organic farmer who works with FarmFolk/CityFolk to organize the annual Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island. Mara is a founding member of the Island Chefs Collaborative and is active in agritourism on the Island, helping to develop and promote
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top-quality local resorts and restaurants. Also here is Melanie Banas, who works with Mara at Engeler Farm on southern Vancouver Island.
Brian Hughes and Lamont and Heather Stretch are organic farmers at Kildara Farms who grow GE-free food on the Saanich Peninsula. They also run an organic vegetable delivery service in greater Vancouver. I'm also pleased to introduce Lee Fuge, a manager at Capers grocery store in Victoria. Capers is committed to selling food products free from genetic engineering. Also here are David Friend, an organic grower and trainer from Victoria who wants to know what's in the food he eats, and Tina Fraser, representing the South Island Organic Producers Association. SIOPA includes hundreds of local organic growers on the Gulf Islands and southern Vancouver Island. I ask the House to please make these people welcome.
J. Dalton: I rise to acknowledge the contribution of Simon Jackson, who I believe the Premier either has acknowledged or is about to. Simon is a graduate of West Vancouver Secondary. Two years ago he was the premier of the North Shore youth parliament, and in his spare time Simon found his picture on the cover of Time magazine. So if my colleagues and I could please acknowledge the contribution that Mr. Jackson has made to British Columbia.
LAND USE PLANS IN B.C.
Hon. U. Dosanjh: I rise to make a statement on a significant achievement for the province of British Columbia, and that achievement is due to people like Simon Jackson and others. There were many in the room earlier today, when we made that announcement, who worked for years to bring this about.
In the last decade, thousands of British Columbians have participated in land use planning processes around the province. In hundreds of communities, great and small, ordinary people have gathered to achieve what many considered to be impossible: consensus on land use plans for the province.
Perhaps members of this House know better than anyone the difficulties of working together with those who seem ideologically or temperamentally opposed to our own views. It is all too easy to resort to name-calling or reflexive dismissal of those with different views, however honestly held those views may be. But British Columbians have proved that shared interests can be stronger than differences. They worked together, reached consensus and made plans for how to use and sustain the rich resources of the land that we all share.
Also during the last decade, our government undertook to redress our most onerous moral and social debt, ending more than a century of injustice, by beginning to make modern treaties with first nations. I'm pleased to report significant milestones in both of these endeavours -- milestones which will help us ensure economic opportunities for communities and first nations, continued international markets for our products and continued progress on settlements with first nations throughout British Columbia.
First, we've reached consensus on the central coast land use plan. Today I was pleased to stand with first nations chiefs, representatives of industry and working people, environmental and community leaders and many others who participated in that process. While there is still plenty of work to do, we have made some significant achievements including reaching agreement on a preliminary land use map for the area, which sets out areas for protection, sustainable resource management and tourism as well as areas that require more study. In particular, we've agreed to protect the area now known as the Great Bear rain forest, home to the world's only white spirit bears.
Forest companies have agreed to further implementation of ecosystem-based logging in the area. We've agreed on the need for shared transition strategies, with government, industry and the environmental community all contributing to the economic stability of the region. We're preparing an enabling agreement for signature with the 17 first nations in the central coast planning process. This agreement will set out a process for their continued participation as well as a mechanism for further discussion of resource management issues of importance to them.
Second, today we signed a landmark protocol on interim measures and land use planning between the province and six first nations of the central and north coast. This agreement defines a new role for first nations in three land use planning areas. It speaks to our government's goal of working with first nations at every opportunity to continue our hard-won progress in treaty-making while ensuring economic opportunities and environmental sustainability.
These agreements move us forward in resolving the land use issues in this region. But they're not the end of the difficult choices we must make, difficult choices for the central coast and many other regions of this province. A decade ago we faced significant challenges: a war in the woods, a growing international boycott of our forest products, but most importantly, increasing concerns about the sustainability of our forests and therefore the sustainability of our forest economy.
My government has been clear in the choices we've made to deal with these challenges. We chose to listen to communities who wanted to resolve land use disputes closer to home. We chose to double parks and protected lands in this province, even when some would argue that no more parks were needed. We said no to industrial activities in those parks, when some said the two could coexist. We chose to secure our international markets by improving our forest practices and keeping our harvest at sustainable levels.
These two initiatives that we announced today will enhance and improve our international markets by telling the world, countering the view that our environmental standards, as some might say, may not be the best in the world. Today's initiatives send the message: our environmental initiatives, including our Forest Practices Code, are the strongest in the world, and we want to continue to improve those.
For the first time, as part of this consensus, the environmentalists, the industry, the workers and the aboriginal leaders will be travelling abroad, meeting with our customers
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and our markets, making sure that this message goes out to the rest of the world: we are the best in the world in environmental sustainability.
The Ministry of Forests will continue to work with the IWA and with the truck loggers to make sure that the losses are mitigated and the workers are assisted through a transition period if there are any job losses, as there are going to be. But it is important for us to recognize that we bring about these initiatives -- that we work with the communities, the industries, the workers, the first nations and the environmental groups -- to ensure that the environment we have in British Columbia is sustainable; that the standards we have in British Columbia are the highest; and that we are enhancing those standards, enhancing our forestry practices and enhancing the initiatives we take to ensure that our international markets remain in place and remain strong for us.
Now, those are difficult choices. We've made those difficult choices, and I'm proud of those choices, and I stand by them. I would ask my colleagues on both sides of the House to take this moment to applaud the talent, drive and good faith of their fellow citizens in bringing us this far and to join me in supporting the vision and the process that led us to today's announcement.
The Speaker: To respond to the Premier's statement, the hon. member for Shuswap.
G. Abbott: I'm pleased to rise today to respond to the Premier's statement on the central coast land use plan, on behalf of the official opposition.
First, we want to join with the Premier in commending those who have volunteered literally thousands of hours in their efforts to resolve this complex conservation and development issue at the central coast LRMP table. The official opposition recognizes that there have been and, I guess, to some extent continue to be conflicting visions for the future of this very important part of our province.
We also recognize that it's critically important for all stakeholders not only to be engaged in the discussions but, more importantly, to be party to the decisions that will affect their future. We've heard from communities and we've heard from forest workers that they are extremely concerned about the future of the central coast. We know from our discussions with the IWA that they are gravely concerned about the impact of today's announcement on at least 500 members of their association and their families. We also know that resource-dependent communities on the coast and on Vancouver Island have a host of unanswered questions with respect to this announcement.
The official opposition is committed to the principle that a full social and economic analysis be undertaken prior to these types of land use decisions being made. We must always remember that resource workers and resource-dependent communities are an integral part of the environment. Further, the cost to the Crown both in direct mitigation costs and consequently in stumpage and associated revenues is unknown at this time. We're pleased that the process has included first nations, and we look forward to the resolution of their hopes for the central coast. Our vision is an inclusive vision that includes first nations, forest workers, fishermen, miners, tourism operators and all other British Columbians who choose to work and live in this very beautiful part of the province.
As all the participants in the process have stated, clearly much, much work remains to be done. We look forward to helping meet that challenge.
Introduction of Bills
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD
Hon. G. Bowbrick presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Genetically Engineered Food Labelling Act.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I'm very pleased today to introduce Bill 18, the Genetically Engineered Food Labelling Act. This bill is being introduced as an exposure bill at this time. The purpose of the bill is to promote public discussion and input on the best way to frame a legislative response to a wish of consumers to know whether the food they and their families are eating is genetically engineered. The increasing prevalence of genetically engineered foods is of growing interest to consumers in British Columbia and throughout the world. The European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all taken steps to introduce mandatory labelling mechanisms within their jurisdictions. I'm pleased to say that this government is the first in Canada to introduce mandatory labelling legislation.
The current labelling system for foods sold in Canada does not require food producers, processors or retailers to identify the presence or absence of genetically engineered materials in their product, the only exception being food that contains known allergens or food that has a substantially different composition than its non-GE counterpart. The federal government approaches the issue of GE foods on a health and safety basis, and requires new GE products destined for human consumption to receive federal approval before being offered for sale. The federal government is not contemplating mandatory labelling at this time.
The bill I'm introducing today enables government, at an appropriate time in the future, to establish a labelling system for foods in which GE material is present. It does not itself set up such a system at this time. In recognition of the complex issues that a successful labelling system must involve, the bill establishes an expert advisory panel to make recommendations to government about such things as when food should be labelled as GE and what those food labels should say. The bill does not prevent voluntary labelling of food as non-GE so long as the definition of GE meets that used in the bill.
In addition to the bill, my ministry is releasing for public review and comment a discussion paper which provides further background information on this important issue. I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 18 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.
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CARRIER LUMBER AND
G. Campbell: We know that the Premier did not read the Carrier Lumber decision prior to continuing his government's attack on a long-established family-owned business in British Columbia. Can the Premier tell the House if he has read the order-in-council that his government issued yesterday in respect to Carrier Lumber, and can he explain to the House precisely what it entails?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: That order doesn't relate to the matter before the court at this time.
The Speaker: Order, members.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: It doesn't relate to the matter before the court at this time. We issued the order. I don't know what else the opposition wants to know about that.
The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition has a supplemental question.
G. Campbell: Hon. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, the head of this government, the head of the executive council who passed an order-in-council yesterday. Let me tell you what the government did yesterday -- at least in my mind what it did.
It signed an OIC which said they would pay back Carrier Lumber for rents and
penalties which Carrier should never have paid to begin with. The act that
created the authority for the government to act in this manner says that such
remissions can be made when "great public inconvenience, great injustice or
great hardship to a person has occurred
Will the Premier now admit that all three of those injustices took place with regard to Carrier Lumber? And will he tell us why he did not volunteer at the time he decided to abandon the appeal -- months ago -- that at a minimum, taxpayers in British Columbia would be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars due to the great injustice that took place under his watch?
Hon. U. Dosanjh: Hon. Speaker, when the decision to appeal was made, it was made based on comprehensive briefings and my understanding of the case. I have learned nothing from what the opposition has said or anybody has said that I didn't know the day the appeal was launched; it was appropriately launched. When the decision to abandon the appeal was made, it was made by the current Attorney General based on the appropriate advice. And the opposition has been given the offer by the ministry to provide them with briefings appropriately on this issue. With respect to this particular matter, my understanding is that this complies with the directions of the court in some respects, and I believe that's why the order went.
The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition has a further supplemental question.
G. Campbell: This is a very serious case. This Premier and this government had been at the centre of this case from the outset. Yesterday this Premier's government decided to pass an OIC -- OIC No. 424 -- which said that it was in the public interest to avoid a great injustice. Surely the Premier understood there was a great injustice that had been done when he decided to launch his appeal. Surely he understood that a great injustice had been done when he decided that he had no case.
My question to the Premier is: precisely what was meant when his executive council signed OIC No. 424 yesterday, saying it was time to pay back Carrier Lumber for dollars which had been taken by this government for rents and penalties, which were unjustly taken? Can the Premier explain fully exactly what was going on and why, in fact, that great injustice wasn't disclosed months ago by the Premier, when he knew about it?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: The Leader of the Opposition is deliberately straying into territory he knows is completely inappropriate. This matter is still before the courts.
The Speaker: Order, members.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I said "this matter." The Carrier matter is before the courts. The Leader of the Opposition is attempting to use this as a back door to get at a matter that's before the courts. He knows that's completely improper. It's not proper conduct for the Leader of the Opposition.
G. Plant: Yesterday the cabinet issued an order-in-council that remitted $144,000 plus interest to Carrier Lumber. Actually, I didn't notice that that order-in-council formed a part of the Premier's "good news announcement a day" strategy; nonetheless, the order-in-council came to our attention. I thought the Attorney General said it had nothing to do with the lawsuit -- or maybe it does have something to do with the lawsuit. What the order-in-council says is that there was a great injustice done to Carrier Lumber, and because a great injustice was done to Carrier Lumber, the government is returning $144,000 to Carrier Lumber that it should never have taken in the first place. My question to the Attorney General is: what was the great injustice that was done to Carrier Lumber?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I think that both the opposition leader and the opposition justice critic know exactly what they're doing here. They are attempting to get before this House the issue of Carrier Lumber, which they know full well is before the courts of this province right now. They know that is wrong, and they should cease doing it.
The Speaker: The member for Richmond-Steveston has a supplemental question.
G. Plant: My question is for the Premier, the head of the government. On what basis did his government issue this order-in-council yesterday?
Hon. U. Dosanjh: This order was based upon appropriate legal advice and was made. I have no difficulty in defend-
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ing the order. I've said why it was made. I believe that every time the opposition gets a chance to stand up and ask a question, they sink to the gutter. I have said that there is absolutely nothing to hide with respect to my conduct in the Carrier case. And I'm prepared to publicly commit to a public inquiry if I form the next government, which I intend to do.
G. Plant: We're asking a pretty simple question, but it seems to be awfully hard to get an answer. Yesterday the cabinet of the government of British Columbia said that it was in the public interest to avoid a great injustice to remit to Carrier Lumber $144,000 in respect of rent and penalties that appear to have been incurred as a result of not just one legal proceeding, but three or four or five of them. It's not my order-in-council; it's the government's order-in-council. What was the great injustice that this government did to Carrier Lumber?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: This OIC was issued pursuant to the mediation that was agreed to between Carrier and government. There are terms of confidentiality agreed to by both sides. Again, hon. Speaker, this is not the appropriate forum for a discussion of that matter at this time.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR
G. Abbott: New topic: a question for the Minister of Employment and Investment. Back in 1992 the NDP imposed a half-percent tax on natural resources in order to create a natural resource community fund. Now, the purpose of this was to assist communities that are suffering severe losses of forestry and mining jobs. Well, what have the results been so far? The government has siphoned off nearly $80 million into general revenues, while providing less than $2 million for communities. Again, in this year's budget they've made no plans to distribute these funds except to pay for the government's fudge-it budget. Will the Minister of Employment and Investment admit to this House today that the NDP has not kept its promise and that this fund has done nothing to help resource-dependent communities?
Hon. P. Ramsey: This is a little much. We had an announcement today about a historic land use plan for the central coast, and we also announced mitigation measures to help workers who are dealing with displacement. That's what we did.
This opposition opposes every effort of this government to mitigate the changing circumstances in resource communities. We step into Golden and save Evans Forest Products, and they say: "Don't do that." We say we're going to step in and preserve the communities of the northwest; we're going to make sure that Skeena works. And what do they say? They oppose it every single time. And now they stand up and say: "You're not doing enough." I say: get your stories straight, hon. members.
The Speaker: The hon. member for Shuswap has a supplemental question.
G. Abbott: If the government's proposing to use this fund in this case, certainly it will be a first for them to try to actually use the fund appropriately. Again, hon. Speaker, $2 million to resource communities, $80 million to general revenue -- that's the balance sheet so far from this government.
Since this government came to power, thousands of forest and mine workers have lost their jobs, and resource-dependent communities have been devastated. Will the Minister of Employment and Investment -- and that's the guy over there, I think -- tell us why his government has so little interest in the plight of resource-dependent communities that it hasn't even bothered to use a fund that was explicitly designed for that purpose?
The Speaker: Order, members.
Hon. P. Ramsey: Hon. Speaker, this member and his allegations just pass credulity. Look at this hon. member. You stand up and oppose Forest Renewal B.C., which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training and retraining for workers. You want to know what this government has done to help forest-dependent communities and resource communities? Go to Golden and ask them. Go to Gold River and ask them. Go to Tumbler Ridge and ask them. Every time we've had difficulties, we step up to the plate and help -- contrary to everything that opposition says.
The Speaker: Members, order. Members, come to order.
R. Neufeld: Well, when the government created this fund, the member for Vancouver-Kingsway said: "The $25 million is a real fund. It's not a bookkeeping entry." Well, in hindsight this fund has turned out to be another announcement the NDP had no intention of doing. Will the real Minister of Employment and Investment tell us what effort he has made to stop the government from draining more money from this fund, instead of using it to help the resource industry funds that have been so desperately decimated by this government?
Hon. P. Ramsey: A few more examples for the members opposite. We have introduced Fisheries Renewal B.C., as well, on the coast to help the communities up and down here. The member well knows how we've stepped in to assist a community in the north, Tumbler Ridge. That community was faced with devastation following the early closure announced by one of the major coal companies. We have invested funds to help the municipality, to help the workers, and now that community has a new life and a new head start. In every community that we've been able to, we have stepped in and assisted. That's a record we're proud of. They don't seem to even acknowledge that communities out there exist, or at least they don't even know that snow flies in some parts of this province.
R. Neufeld: Well, Mr. Speaker, there were a number of members from that side of the House that had really good things to say about this fund when it was introduced, and one was the member for Cariboo South. I'm going to quote:
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Well, this government's commitment to resource-dependent communities is lousy. Get this -- this is to the Minister of Employment and Investment who's sitting down there; I hope he will stand up and answer this question. For every $40 collected, only one dollar has been returned to those communities. Will the Minister of Employment and Investment apologize to those resource communities for taking money out of their pockets when they so desperately need it? Please, Mr. Minister -- fourth question -- stand up and answer to the people of the province of British Columbia.
The Speaker: Order, members.
Hon. P. Ramsey: This member stands and accuses government of ignoring resource communities. At the same time, he knows that his riding in the northeast has benefited from an unprecedented action of this government called the Fair Share agreements -- $12 million a year of infrastructure in his riding.
The record of this government in assisting resource communities is unparalleled in the history of the province: Forest Renewal B.C., Fisheries Renewal B.C., the Columbia Basin Trust, the Power for Jobs accord. And every one of them, they oppose.
The Speaker: The bell ends question period.
Hon. G. Robertson: I rise to table the report of the Oil and Gas Commission for the year 1999-2000.
Hon. C. Evans: In the new spirit of openness and transparency, and in
keeping with the Deloitte report, it is my pleasure to table here the very first
business case for a Ministry of Health capital project, the Nelson health
campus. And just in case
Hon. C. Evans: Hey, you guys, you don't want to heckle a good project.
Just stop heckling. Some of it actually, if they'd just
Hon. C. Evans: I wonder how this looks in Nelson, hon. Speaker. They're heckling the new project in Nelson, B.C. In the spirit of fairness, we have some business cases for members from the other side's constituencies. This would be the Omineca multilevel-care facility in Vanderhoof -- and in the Fraser Valley, the Fraser Valley and eastern Fraser Valley cancer centre business cases.
You can clap now.
R. Neufeld: Enclosed is a 12-page petition signed by 169 people who use roads 110 and 111 all the time, and they're very concerned about getting these roads paved this year. The highway is on a high school route and is heavily travelled by industry.
An Hon. Member: Would that be a resource community?
The Speaker: Member, order.
R. Neufeld: Do you have a problem with me presenting a petition?
It's used by industry and farmers hauling grain to Dawson Creek.
J. Pullinger: My friends that I introduced earlier brought with them a petition today, the South Vancouver Island District Women's Institute. There are over 9,000 signatures -- 9,200 to be exact -- to say two things. No. 1 is that genetically engineered food should be labelled so that consumers know about it. No. 2 is -- and this is primarily to the federal government, I believe -- that the precautionary principle ought to be invoked, that there should be no further genetically engineered foods licensed in Canada for consumption until we know whether or not they're safe. The work simply hasn't been done. This petition was also presented to the House of Commons a year ago, where the Liberals and the Alliance voted it down.
Hon. H. Giesbrecht: I wish to table a petition signed by 189 people, 66 from the Skeena riding, calling on the government not to proceed with the court challenge of the federal government's definition of marriage.
Orders of the Day
Hon. G. Janssen: I call second reading of Bill M202.
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
(second reading continued)
Hon. E. Gillespie: I rise to conclude my remarks on the private member's bill regarding complementary medicine.
Hon. Speaker, complementary medicine includes therapies such as environmental medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, botanicals, orthomolecular medicine, vitamins and minerals, and chelation therapy. This legislation speaks to medical practitioners who incorporate complementary medicine into their practice, combining the best of conventional western medicine and the best of alternative medicines.
I left off speaking about the preventive nature of much of complementary medicine compared to the disease-based treatment of modern western medicine. People are drawn to complementary medicine for many reasons, including limited or adverse effects of conventional treatments, a less invasive treatment method, its focus on the whole person -- and perhaps because people want a more personal approach to their health care, which conventional medicine is increasingly
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less able to offer. Other factors that draw people toward complementary medicine are increased public knowledge, patient autonomy and multiculturalism, with different views of medicine -- perhaps one reason why complementary medicine is so popular in British Columbia.
One other significant factor is that people seek out complementary therapies after running into dead ends with conventional medicines. Perhaps their doctor tells them they're healthy, but they're not feeling okay. This refers back to what I was speaking of earlier, when the debate left off -- that while we do a very good job in modern medicine in treating acute disease, we have not done as good a job in chronic disease. Complementary medicine provides some people with some real hope with respect to their chronic conditions.
In 1990 about 20 percent of Canadians used the services of at least one complementary medical practitioner within a six-month period. Studies completed in 1997 showed that 42 percent of Canadians seek alternative medical therapies. In British Columbia 56 percent seek these therapies.
British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in North America to give official recognition to the practice of traditional Chinese medicine by recognizing it under the Health Professions Act and allowing the title "Doctor" for its practitioners.
Hon. Speaker, complementary medicine covers a wide range. It provides hope, in particular, for individuals who suffer from chronic conditions.
I want to conclude my remarks by thanking one individual in particular, a constituent of mine, Mrs. Betty King, who has written me and telephoned me at least once every year since I have been elected, in order to promote her interest and the cause of the people that she represents in terms of chelation therapy and complementary medicines in British Columbia. I celebrate the work that Mrs. King does, and I commend her work to all of us here as we consider this legislation.
B. McKinnon: I am pleased to rise in support of the Medical Practitioners Amendment Act, 2001. I think that this bill is long overdue, and I congratulate the member for Victoria-Hillside for bringing it forward.
Complementary medicine looks to prevention rather than waiting for the disease to happen. Complementary medicine seeks to address the cause rather than suppress symptoms.
When a person chooses to use alternative methods, they are making a choice to take greater control over the healing process and are making a decision to take greater responsibility for themselves. With rising health costs and hospital and nursing shortages, we as responsible government members must support an initiative to provide alternative services to our citizens and to allow medical practitioners to more accurately respond to the needs of their patients.
Studies have shown that in British Columbia, 56 percent of our population seek alternative methods rather than to go and see a medical practitioner. While these are recorded statistics, we know that the actual numbers are closer to 85 percent.
Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for 4,000 years. The study of herbs and their healing powers has been with us and used for over thousands of years.
There was a time when women were burned alive as witches because they used herbs to heal people. Now we see the pharmaceuticals on a witch-hunt, trying to take control of our herbs and vitamins and put our health food stores out of business. They have found it to be a lucrative market, because many people have discovered they would rather put the natural product in their bodies than use chemicals.
I believe we would have many more doctors practising complementary medicine if they did not fear retribution from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. As early as 1996, the B.C. Medical Association found that 62 percent of doctors in this province supported alternative therapies as useful and beneficial adjuncts to conventional practices.
Think of the benefit of a comprehensive and integrated health care system, with both medical doctors and alternative care providers working together to create an optimum system.
We are seeing more and more of our young people taking on the diseases of the elderly. Our diets are high in sugars, fats and processed foods. Toxic air, toxic water and a toxic food supply are killing all of us and do not allow our children a healthy lifestyle. Put all of that together with the amount of prescription drugs that our society is relying on to survive, and we have very serious problems created for our health care systems.
A University of Toronto study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, April 15, 1998, estimated that 2.216 million hospital patients experienced serious adverse drug reaction, and 106,000 of those patients died. These deaths were due to properly prescribed and administered prescription drugs. This is one of the leading causes of death in North America.
The Journal of Medical Ethics states that only about 15 percent of medical interventions are supported by solid scientific evidence. In other words, 85 percent of medical interventions are not supported by any scientific evidence. Some of the things that are so-called proven and safe by the medical profession are the Dalkon Shield, thalidomide and silicone breast implants. These were all endorsed to be safe.
This amendment will create an environment more conducive to beneficial results in medicine and will enhance patient care through greater choice in health care. This amendment will also ensure that doctors who offer these options will be protected. It also prohibits the College of Physicians and Surgeons from adopting its own bylaws to supersede those created by this amendment. Doctors will still be under the regulations of the college. However, if the college is going to investigate a doctor using alternative therapies, the Association of Complementary Physicians of B.C. must be included as well. What this will ensure is that doctors who understand complementary therapies are among those participating in the judgment, offering a more fair investigation. There are many excellent alternative caregivers in British Columbia, and they should be recognized as such.
For years I suffered from debilitating migraine headaches that affected me four days of the week. I found that the medical profession had no answer for me -- only pills that suppressed the symptoms and never addressed the cause. Twelve years ago I turned to alternative caregivers for help. They showed me a way to heal myself, and they gave me back my life. I am very grateful to them.
I have tried many alternative methods of healing myself and highly recommend them to people who are in need of help. You only have to be willing to take responsibility for yourself and have the intention to heal. It is amazing what can be accomplished.
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Nova Scotia, Alberta and Ontario have passed legislation that protects patient access to complementary therapies and effectively ends abuses to regulatory bodies. B.C. doctors and citizens deserve this same protection.
This amendment reflects the principles of the Helsinki agreement, which Canada signed. This agreement states that in the treatment of the sick person, the physician must be free to use a new diagnostic and therapeutic measure if in his or her judgment it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering.
I strongly support this legislation. I'm very disappointed that the Liberal Party is not supporting this bill. I know that the Liberal Party is in opposition, but to oppose something that the greater majority of this population uses and supports is a waste of this Legislature's time, and a travesty of the democratic and representational government that we profess to have. I know that there are members of the Liberal Party who are in full support of complementary medicine. I'm surprised that they were not given the opportunity for a free vote on such an important piece of legislation that gives people freedom of choice to heal themselves.
J. Sawicki: I want to concur and congratulate the member for Surrey-Cloverdale on her remarks. I think that her personal story is a story that is shared by thousands of British Columbians. I have my story, as well, in terms of being able to be relieved of pain when all of the pills in the world didn't work.
And that's exactly why I think so many British Columbians are supporting this initiative. I want to commend the member for Victoria-Hillside for bringing this forward.
As someone who has also felt passionately enough about an issue to bring forward a private member's bill, I know how much energy and work and tenacity it takes to bring it this far. The fact that the member has been successful in having this debate take place really does attest to the huge support across this province for what is called complementary medicine.
I think we do need to acknowledge that there are concerns from the established traditional medical constituency, if you want to call it that, out there. Let's not get confused as to what this bill is and what it is not.
Firstly, it does not give physicians that are using so-called non-conventional treatments any special rights. It doesn't change the Medical Practitioners Act. What it does is allow physicians to make the best judgment in the treatment of their patients, to make the judgment to use new diagnostic and therapeutic measures in order to relieve pain and heal their patients.
I believe that's a physician's job, and I don't think they should be concerned about this legislation that we are debating here in front of us. As the hon. member for Victoria-Hillside is quoted as saying in a recent press release, this legislation is not intended to legitimize quackery. We are talking about a body of knowledge that is, in many cases, thousands and thousands of years older than what we are now calling conventional medicine. Conventional medicine, in terms of the surgeries, the drugs and the chemicals that we use and are prescribed when we go to a doctor, may be ten, 20, 50 or 100 years old. Some of what is now called alternative or complementary medicine is the result of the wisdom of thousands of years. I think all of us automatically think of things like acupuncture.
The other thing that makes this legislation very timely is that we need to recognize that over recent decades, the whole concept of health has changed. I remember, when I was a councillor with the city of Burnaby, Healthy Communities was an initiative that many of us were dealing with at the municipal level. I think that was really one of the first times that broad-ranged groups of people got together and said: "Just a second here. Health is more than treatment of disease. Health is also wellness. Health is also prevention. Health is also a clean environment. Health is also a good community. And all of these things make a healthy community."
Similarly, we have seen a radical change in the delivery of health in the past decade. Witness all of the work that our government has done, with the great support of people and communities throughout this province, to move treatment out of acute care hospitals into communities, to move away from invasive surgeries and into much more benign treatments that actually achieve the goal of wellness. All of these things are happening. There's a much more holistic approach to virtually everything we are doing.
I know that members in the House are used to hearing me stand up and talk about managing the whole ecosystem in terms of the environment. Those of us on this side of the House who have done a tremendous amount of work on education often talk about teaching the whole child. What we are talking about here is healing the whole person. The argument about whether it is science or whether it is a placebo is nonsense to me. If in fact the goal is to ensure wellness, then surely, if it works, success needs to speak for itself.
There is huge evidence, a huge number of personal stories. There is tremendous support for using alternative or complementary medicines and techniques. Clearly we're not suggesting here, in bringing this bill forward, that you're going to use vitamins and minerals to heal a broken arm. That's not what we're talking about. But I think it is extremely important that physicians are free to use all of their knowledge, all of their wisdom and all of their approaches to indeed heal their patients without fear of recrimination or harassment from a body of people who think differently. That's what we're talking about here: choice for physicians to do their best for their patients and choice for patients to take care of their own bodies and maintain a good quality of life.
So I want to say that I certainly applaud the member for Victoria-Hillside in bringing this forward. I certainly will say that from the perspective of my constituents, this is an issue that I've heard about, as an MLA, through the whole ten years that I've been in this House. And I know that they, in Burnaby-Willingdon, along with many hundreds of thousands of people throughout this province, will welcome this House passing this legislation. I urge everyone to support it.
Hon. G. Janssen: I ask leave to make an introduction.
Hon. G. Janssen: Joining us in the gallery today are 50 to 60 grade 11 students. They're here from Alberni District Sec
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ondary School. They're here to study government, legislative procedure and history. They're joined by their teacher, Mr. Hawkins. I'd ask the House to make them welcome.
P. Calendino: I'm pleased today to rise to speak in favour of Bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act, 2001.
As we've heard from all the people who have recently spoken to this today and the other day, it seems that we all have some kind of anecdotal story that makes us warm up to the issue of complementary or alternative medicine and that makes us support the ability of medical practitioners to implement that in their practice.
This bill is a non-partisan bill. It's a very socially progressive bill. And it's one that in my view, as we heard in the evidence of the member for Surrey-Cloverdale -- the statistical evidence that she gave -- is debated in this House for the common good. As legislators we are here to do that: to debate issues that are for the common good. And it is a shame that members of the opposition have taken the position that they will not debate it and they will not support it. But I'll come back to that.
I think that this bill is long overdue; its time has come. It's a bill that obviously is not groundbreaking. We've seen that a similar bill has been introduced in other jurisdictions in Canada and in the U.S. In fact, this kind of legislation exists in Alberta and in Nova Scotia. Last fall it was even approved in Ontario, and the support for it was unanimous. It was supported by all parties. Even in the United States, where private medicine is paramount, this kind of complementary medicine has been supported and approved in a number of state legislatures.
And why is it happening? It's happening because legislators have realized that we are now finally in the twenty-first century. We're in the third millennium. We're in the information age, in which people are educated enough and informed enough to be able to determine what is good for their bodies, what the best treatments are and what is best for themselves and for their families. We live in a time in which people want the freedom and the opportunity to make the health care choices that suit them and that work for them.
I want to congratulate my colleague the member for Victoria-Hillside for having persisted and for having employed his tenacity in presenting this bill to the House last spring and again in this session. I'm very happy that we are doing it, and I'm happy that finally it is up for debate.
I'm disappointed that the Liberal opposition would not embrace this bill. The member for Surrey-Cloverdale, who used to be a member of the Liberal opposition, said she knows that a majority of those members favour complementary medicine. I was surprised that the Health critic, the member for Vancouver-Quilchena, stood up yesterday and supported the spirit of the bill but at the end decided he could not support the contents of the bill. In his view, it was too confrontational in the issue of resolving the problems that exist between the conventional doctors, or the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the practitioners who want to use complementary medicine.
Either I don't read English too well -- I know that I have an accent -- or the member for Vancouver-Quilchena must be coming from another planet. I didn't, and I don't, see any confrontation in this bill. I'm not sure that wanting to allow medical practitioners to use alternative methods of care is a threat to conventional medicine. As a matter of fact, more than 60 percent of medical practitioners are already using some form of complementary medicine in their practice. So I really don't see the issue here of the College of Physicians and Surgeons objecting to it. The only thing I can say is that they are there simply to protect their interests, to protect their authority over having the final word on what medical practitioners should or should not do in their practice.
I really think that this issue of confrontation is nothing but a red herring. And I think it's one that the Liberal opposition has taken up because they are afraid that perhaps the BCMA will not support them, will not give good financial support in the coming election. So I challenge them. I challenge those members who do feel that complementary medicine can be employed to stand up and speak in favour of this bill. I challenge them to break the code of silence that their leader has imposed on them. Maintaining the code of silence on any of the issues that we're debating in this House is not doing justice to democracy. And it is not doing justice to their constituents and to the people of British Columbia, who want to see what positions people have on issues that are important to their lives.
Bill M202 is not going to determine the outcome of the next election, so those members can feel free to stand up. Even if they put their foot in their mouth -- and sooner or later we all do that when we stand up and speak in this House -- they should not be afraid of retribution from their leader. They should not be afraid of retribution from the Medical Association in terms of supporting them in their election campaign.
This bill is not a major thing; it's a very minor amendment. It will simply give medical practitioners the freedom to introduce complementary medicine in their practice without the fear of being investigated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and without the fear of having to lose their licence. It's really minor in terms of law, but it is major in terms of the psychological effect that it has on the citizens who want to pursue alternative forms of health care for themselves.
With the bill, once it passes, medical practitioners can make use of their knowledge and training in ancient, proven traditional forms of medicine without the threat of being persecuted by the college and without fear of losing their licences.
For the last five years, ever since I was elected to this House, I've had numerous phone calls and numerous letters, and lately I've been inundated with hundreds and hundreds of e-mails on this issue -- many of them coming from my own constituency of Burnaby North. All of them were urging me to amend the Medical Practitioners Act in order to allow medical practitioners to use their best judgment in providing health care for their patients.
Indeed, I had drafted an amendment to the Medical Practitioners Act four years ago, and I had presented it to more than one Minister of Health. But unfortunately, other priorities dominated the legislative agenda in the past. So I'm very pleased that this has finally come to light for debate in this Legislature. Outside of the reservations of the Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons and obviously of the Liberal opposition, there is huge support for this initiative out there in the public.
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We heard the member for Surrey-Cloverdale giving some statistics. In British Columbia, more than 56 percent -- I think the latest figures show over 60 percent -- of the population uses some form of complementary medicine. I've made use of complementary medicine myself on more than one occasion. More than 15 years ago, when I had gall bladder stones, I resorted to complementary medicine to try and alleviate the discomfort and the pain. I finally resorted to surgical intervention, because it became an acute form.
A few years ago, when I had an automobile accident and I had back problems, the conventional medicine ordered very powerful painkillers, which really did not do anything for my back pain. It just suppressed the symptoms, but it did not treat it. So I resorted again to a complementary practitioner, and believe it or not, within a few months my back pain disappeared. My wife also had very serious back pain for a long time. She could not walk straight. She went to the same practitioner that I went to, and she's now almost totally free.
I have to say that there are people who say that complementary medicine should not be used because it has not been clinically tested, and therefore we cannot trust it -- that it may do damage to the health of people. Well, that's not totally true. Complementary medicine is based on thousands and thousands of years of experimenting with people and with what herbal remedies and other types of remedies have done to people. The advantage of that is that when one uses complementary remedies, they are eliminating many toxic materials from entering their bodies and from doing damage to other organs that perhaps should be protected.
Complementary medicine, as we know, has been used by Chinese society for thousands of years. Our first nations people used it for hundreds and hundreds of years. Of course, they didn't have X-rays and MRIs, etc. Complementary medicine is now being promoted by the World Health Organization as a means of providing services to developing countries at a low cost and as a means of lowering the cost of health services everywhere in the world. Even in the United States, Chinese medicine is being promoted. The U.S. National Institutes of Health office of alternative medicine is overseeing ten federally funded centres exploring alternative treatments for cancer. So even in the U.S., the government is intervening and is promoting complementary medicine.
The thing here is that conventional medicine does not have all the answers for all the ills that affect some people. I have to give you an anecdotal example that occurred in my family in the last few weeks. I have a brother-in-law, not yet 70, who has a serious heart problem. His arteries are blocked, and to keep going he has to take these very powerful drugs that conventional medicine orders. My brother-in-law has faith in conventional medicine, and he does take those drugs in order to thin his blood and let it flow through his blocked veins.
But six or seven weeks ago his specialist decided to test a new drug on my brother-in-law, and he gave it to him. Suddenly, about three weeks ago, my brother-in-law woke up in the middle of the night. He had a stomach upset and he felt nauseated, so obviously he went to the bathroom to empty his stomach. To his dismay and shock, all he emptied was blood. Obviously that scared the heck out of him. Immediately he called the ambulance, and he was rushed to Vancouver Hospital. There, of course, I must say that although emergency was full, my brother-in-law was admitted immediately, because it was a question of life or death. Immediately he was put on an IV and given all sorts of tests.
Well, he was kept there for four or five days. The doctors could not find out
where the bleeding was from. He was sent home. The bleeding continued for days
and days after that, until my sister finally told him to stop taking the new
medication. Well, he stopped the medication, and the bleeding stopped. So when
people here say that complementary medicine has not been clinically tested
So you see, most doctors, when they order powerful pharmaceutical drugs, don't really know the effects of those drugs. They go on a trial-and-error basis. The problem with that is that those drugs are very, very damaging to the system many, many times. They're very invasive.
Again, I keep referring to the member for Surrey-Cloverdale. She gave statistics that in the U.S. about 135,000 people a year die because of the type of drugs conventional medicine has ordered for them. That is scary. This is why today more and more people are looking to complementary medicine to treat the illnesses or the problems they have, because complementary medicine addresses the causes of illnesses, not just the symptoms. It gives patients a greater role in their healing process.
It is a widely known fact that complementary medicine is practised all over the world. I mentioned China, but in Europe the prescription from most practitioners, when you go to them, is usually a herbal remedy combined with some form of dietary regime. We know very well that even the Queen of England uses complementary medicine. In fact, her personal physician is a homeopath. Now, I don't know if we can take that as saying that complementary medicine should not be considered quackery, but obviously the Queen of England is not the only one who uses practitioners like that.
In Germany doctors order ozone therapy to treat many, many serious illnesses. As a matter of fact, in the German medical system not just ozone therapies but mud baths are part not only of the health system but of the social benefits the state offers to its people and pays for. The same thing happens in Italy and in France as well. Things like homeopathy, which I've spoken about, acupuncture, environmental medicine, botanicals, orthomolecular medicine -- vitamins and minerals -- and chelation therapy make up what we call complementary medicine.
Now, there is nothing harmful about those things. If some medical practitioner does not follow proper procedures and does do some damage to a patient, obviously the College of Physicians and Surgeons, upon some complaint, can still investigate, even after we approve this bill. This bill does not take away the power of the College of Physicians and Surgeons to investigate, but it does prevent them from doing it on an arbitrary basis. And when they do have to investigate, it does say that on the investigative body there should be at least representation from the Association of Complementary Physicians.
You know, alternative medicine may not be the salvation of everybody, just as drug-based therapies are not. But per-
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haps a combination of conventional medicine and complementary medicine could be the solution for many, many people. As a matter of fact, Dr. W.H. Kirkaldy-Willis wrote in a letter to the Victoria Times Colonist just last Saturday. If I can find it I will read it. He is a retired doctor, I believe. He said this:
"Throughout the world, North America included, year by year more and more patients are seeking help from therapists in these branches of medicine."He was talking about alternative and complementary medicine. He continues:
"Physicians and surgeons are more and more satisfied with the help they get from their colleagues in other disciplines as they learn that for many conditions, other therapists can give the patient more effective and more cost-effective treatment.He closes by saying that orthodox and alternative medicine complement one another and that this is the way for the future. This is from a surgeon who practised for 40 years or more. He finds that doctors should work together.
"For 20 years in Kenya and 25 years in Saskatoon my work was made much easier by relying on the help I obtained from osteopath, chiropractor and physiotherapist.
"I learned to regard these people as valuable colleagues whose help complemented my work as an orthopedic surgeon. As I look back, I see that I could not have managed without them. By working together in combination we were able to formulate regimes of treatment that were more effective than either of us could have used on our own."
I mentioned that most of us have anecdotal references as to why we choose alternative medicine, and I have to give you another one before I close.
Am I running out of time? No. Okay.
I taught French for 21 years before I was elected. For 15 of those 21 years I was department head, and for seven or eight years of those years I taught with a lovely lady from Glasgow. I had to pay careful attention when she spoke with a Scottish accent. This lady was very big on vitamins. She seemed to live only for the sake of vitamins, even though her energy level didn't seem to go up that much. But suddenly one year about 12 years ago she discovered what we may call the scourge of women's diseases: breast cancer. Needless to say, that was a shock to her. It was devastating news. She didn't lose control, because she had been used to complementary medicine.
Now, her first reaction to that, obviously, was to go to a specialist in breast cancer -- conventional medicine -- and she did go there. She was examined, of course, and she was told what the remedies would be. The remedy, like most women have to do, was to remove the breast and to be subjected to very heavy doses of chemotherapy and radiation. They also told her that she had probably only two years to live.
It wasn't happy news, but this woman was used to other types of medicines, so she turned to her medical practitioners who practised complementary medicine. She also decided to change her lifestyle. She quit teaching: first, through a leave of absence and then, totally quitting. She went to some country in South America to get away from stress. She subjected herself to a form of complementary treatment that suited her body. Well, it's now 12 years later. This colleague of mine is very much alive, is very happy. She has full control of her body, and she did not have to lose any parts of her body. This was due to alternative therapeutic treatments.
I think I've spoken enough. I'm pleased, again, to support Bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act, 2001, because in my view, it does not detract from conventional medicine. I think it adds to it that touch of personal involvement and personal responsibility that's paramount in determining one's health care needs.
If conventional medicine was so superior to complementary medicine, we should not have cancer existing today still, AIDS not being cured today, heart disease rampant and killing the majority of people in our society -- well, of people with heart sicknesses. Conventional medicine or the standard medicine that we all go to is not perfect. Until they reach that stage of perfection, I think there is room for alternative and complementary medicine in our province, in our country and around the world, where it is already being practised.
Thank you, hon. Speaker, for the chance to speak for so long.
S. Orcherton: I seek leave to make an introduction.
S. Orcherton: Joining us in the gallery are two tremendous activists supporting complementary therapies for the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Joining us is Ms. Judy Kubrak and Ms. Sandy Simpson. They are listening with intense interest to this debate, and I'd ask the House to please make them welcome.
Hon. J. Kwan: It gives me great pleasure to speak to this private member's bill. Like many members who have spoken before me in the House today, I have also had wonderful experiences with alternative medicine. In fact, on two occasions in my life I've had access to this service, and it actually improved my health significantly.
The first instance was actually some years ago when I had torn the ligaments in my foot. I was on crutches. I was on painkillers. I was on all kinds of things and also going through different therapies to heal my foot. Unfortunately, that process was rather unsuccessful. It took many, many months, and my foot was not healing properly. Finally, on the advice of my mother, who suggested that I should go and see a Chinese herbalist who provided medication for these kinds of injuries, I went to see an herbalist in Chinatown in Vancouver. The herbalist provided me with this concoction of stuff. I have to tell you that it was actually awful-looking, and it smelled even stronger than it looked. Nonetheless, this material was given to me. It was taped onto my foot, and after two weeks of the applied pressure of the medication, my foot actually healed.
I'm not saying that this is some sort of magical situation. It's just simply my own personal experience of how my foot did not heal for the longest time, and after seeing the herbalist, it did. It gave me much relief, and I was soon able to lose the crutches and to walk again.
Another situation that actually occurred to me was much more serious than the first incident. I was actually in my early twenties, and I was in a series of car accidents -- in fact, three car accidents, all within a one-to-two-year period. I was rendered very sick and unable to do a lot of activities. In fact,
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most of the time I was lying on the floor with my back on the ground and my feet up. Even if I went for short walks, I experienced excruciating pain, headaches and the whole works.
Again, I went through a whole series of medications. I went to see the doctors in different therapies and took painkillers and anti-inflammatories, to no avail. My condition just got worse and worse. And because I took so much medication, it also weakened my immune system significantly. Consequently, I was exposed to every single flu bug there ever was that entered into my system, and I was constantly sick with bronchitis and the like.
After a couple of years in this state, when I was just about to give up in
terms of ever actually being healthy again, at the advice of my mother
I thought, well, what have I got to lose? So I went and tried it, and once again, through that experience, I was given medication -- a variety of different herbs which were to be prepared under various different instructions. I was on that medication for a couple of months, and I stopped getting sick. I stopped getting ill with the flu, I got rid of my bronchitis that seemed never to go away, seemed to be with me all year around, and slowly but surely I began to heal.
That was my own personal experience with alternative medicine and how it did work for me. To that end, I'm very excited about this bill. I know that there are a lot of practitioners out there who are eager and engaged in providing health options. In many ways that's how I look at this bill -- as providing a variety of health options to individuals who are dealing with health challenges in their lives. I think it is also about expanding preventive health care in many ways, because a lot of alternative medicine is about that. It isn't just about the healing process; it is about prevention as well.
Is that to say that all of it will work for everyone? I don't think so, and I don't think any of the members would claim that that is the case. But it may work for somebody at some point with particular illnesses, and that's what this bill is about.
I think it is important, as we enter into an arena where health care costs are expanding, that treatment and options also need to be expanded. And practitioners who provide those treatments need to be engaged in an environment where they can be free and unencumbered to provide for these alternative health care approaches for British Columbians.
From the Chinese community's point of view, about five years ago I had the great pleasure to meet with a group of alternative medicine practitioners. Some of them were acupuncturists, and some of them were traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. Some were a combination of both.
At that time, they were working very hard to have government recognize the importance of this alternative form of medicine. They were requesting and working with government to establish a college that would manage and regulate traditional Chinese medicine along with acupuncture as a unified approach to alternative medicine. They were having many difficulties in that process, being unfamiliar with the process and how to work within the government agencies and the bureaucracy and so on, and they came and sought my advice. I spoke with them at length in terms of how they could participate, what the rules were and how to move forward on establishing the college. After much hard work and volunteer work from the people who participated in this process, they were successful in creating, with government, the first college of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture. It's the first of its kind in Canada, and the community is very, very proud of that.
Why did the community want the college? They wanted to make sure that there are regulations in place and that people look towards them to make sure that the conduct of practitioners is appropriate. So it's not to say that the people who engage in and want to engage in the traditional alternative form of medicine don't want any oversight in their conduct. Of course they do, because it is about protection of professionalism as well. But at the same time, there's a balance in which we want to set those standards in place, and there's a balance in which you don't want to unduly prohibit or prevent people from entering into the practice -- whether it be perception or in actuality of how people are reviewing the work they do and the conduct they engage in when they're providing for this very important expanded health option.
The college is now actually established, and they have their own registrar. They are registering people who are providing this alternative form of medicine and people who have met various different standards, so you know, again, that there are qualified people out in the field who are providing this form of medicine.
In particular, I want to mention the current president of the Society of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncturists, Man Tak Chau, who's worked so hard in this regard in moving this forward. I know they're going to welcome this bill, because it does expand the options for people who are doctors right now that may also provide for and engage in this alternative form of medicine. It also makes it easier for people to engage in that regard.
Therefore I am very proud of the work we have done as a government in moving forward to provide health options and preventive health strategies to our broader community.
This reminds me of other nations that have engaged in alternative medicines for many, many years. Aside from the Chinese community, I think about the aboriginal community. In fact, for them it's not really known as an alternative medicine approach. It's their traditional medicine approach -- a health approach -- in dealing with illnesses, and so on.
More and more people are exploring those options in terms of what those options are. More and more I think we need to engage in providing less difficulty and access to this form of medicine and preventive health care. And more and more I think we need to embrace all the different approaches in dealing with our health care system.
I have no doubt that with this approach we will lessen the burden placed on our Ministry of Health with the huge dollars and budgets that are put forward to try to deal with our health care services. If we can prevent illness to begin with, the savings to both the individual and to the broader health care system are significant, and this is valuable. We must explore all of these different kinds of options to move forward to creating healthy communities and healthy individuals.
It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in support of my hon. colleague the member for Victoria-Hillside for his vision, for his forward thinking, for his approach in bringing
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this matter before the House and for working towards bridging health care options and ensuring that this range of options is available to all British Columbians.
Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I welcome all of the members' participation in this debate, as we work towards building healthier communities for all British Columbians.
Hon. G. Robertson: I rise today to speak in support of Bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act. It's a wonderful bill.
Some people may wonder what complementary medicine is, in fact -- how you would define it and what the interaction and relationship is between complementary medicine, with respect to today's medical practitioners and the types of health care services that are delivered.
Complementary medicine supports the body's ability to heal itself by offering safe, effective, non-toxic therapies, free from the side effects of prescription drugs. It looks at the causes of illness rather than suppressing symptoms. Complementary medicine includes treatments such as environmental medicine, acupuncture, botanicals, orthomolecular medicine, vitamins, minerals, chelation therapy and homeopathy.
Many people are familiar with them, and many people throughout British Columbia and in my constituency utilize these services. In fact, there was a study done by Statistics Canada in 1996, and there are over three million people who have sought medical treatment outside the conventional medical establishment -- and that was back in 1996. These were basically treatments that were free from the side effects of drugs and therapy.
Many other countries have a broader range of therapies and treatments, and these therapies that they have are incorporated into modern medicine and modern medicine technologies. For instance, in Germany they have used ozone therapy for over 30 years. I have a number of constituents who use and support complementary medicine: Lesia Davis, Edward Fauchon, Shannon Scott, Sheila Jenner -- to name a few. I've talked to Sheila over the course of the last few years, and she's used chelation therapy very, very successfully and supports it.
Patients and physicians support complementary therapies. But I think one of the problems is that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia continues to intimidate and investigate physicians who practise complementary medicine, even though no patients have complained in respect to physicians using these therapies for many, many years. And that in itself is concerning.
Doctors practising complementary medicine have had files removed without patients' consent, and doctors with absolutely no training in complementary medicine in many instances were appointed to undertake investigations into the practice of complementary medicine therapies. This is also concerning. The investigations were one of animosity, hostility and intimidation and were not open to public review. Numerous physicians have been investigated and harassed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia for using chelation therapy. A lot of people with heart and coronary problems have used this, in their opinion, very successfully in British Columbia.
Over the years several community organizations and numerous individuals have approached politicians in British Columbia to find a solution to this dilemma. The Citizens Supporting Complementary Medicine from Vancouver Island, the Chelation Association of British Columbia and the Citizens Supporting Complementary Medicine have all worked hard to ensure that complementary medicine is supported in British Columbia.
I really would like to commend the member for Victoria-Hillside on all his hard work to introduce the Medical Practitioners Amendment Act. He's done a lot of hard work with community groups throughout British Columbia, and he's really to be commended for that.
The amendment is consistent with the principles of the Helsinki agreement, which Canada signed a number of years ago. The agreement reads as follows: "In the treatment of the sick person, the physician must be free to use a new diagnostic and therapeutic measure if, in his or her judgment, it offers hope of saving life, re-establishing health or alleviating suffering." This amendment will create an environment more conducive to beneficial results in medicine and will enhance patient care through greater choice in health care, which I believe is extremely important.
Doctors have risked discipline in the past from the College of Physicians and Surgeons if they offer an alternative treatment to their patients first. This amendment will protect the doctors who offer these options. This amendment prohibits the college from adopting its own bylaws to supersede those created by this amendment.
There are also numerous instances where legislation has been passed. The province of Ontario passed similar legislation in December 2000, as have Alberta and Nova Scotia. They've also passed similar amendments to the medical acts over the past few years. A recent study found that 78 percent of the doctors are practising some form of complementary medicine today in Ontario. Twelve U.S. states have passed similar legislation, and 13 others are in the process of creating legislation as well.
Health care in British Columbia and Canada today is under tremendous stress, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Money is part of it. The federal government is a big part of that. I think we really have to take a look at all the options. Alternative or complementary medicine is definitely an option and an opportunity here in British Columbia. Great numbers of British Columbians use it on an ongoing basis. We also have to look at community health care and education -- not only for the adult population in British Columbia but also for our children in school -- and at things like nutrition and exercise and, of course, modern medicine as well.
I think it's obviously a different approach, and one that's embraced by many. It provides options and provides balance. Again, I can't say enough about the member for Victoria-Hillside. I know he's worked on this bill over the course of many months, and it will be well appreciated by a large constituency in this province. I certainly support this bill, and on behalf of my constituents and those who utilize complementary medicine, this bill will make a difference.
F. Randall: I am certainly pleased to rise and support this private member's bill that was presented by the member for Victoria-Hillside: Bill M202, the Medical Practitioners Amend
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ment Act, 2001. I'm also pleased that the government has supported this private member's bill to come before this House. This is indeed very rare.
I have seen cases where individuals have been told they have up to six months to live -- various periods of time -- and I know a lot of cases personally where people have tried other methods and have been very successful -- particularly people I know who have had cancer. It's sort of a dead-end road there. I know people now who are out playing golf and certainly doing just fine. In fact, I had lunch in the dining room here last week with a person who was a goner in 1996, and he's just a picture of health today. He certainly explained to me the number of different options and things that he tried. It may not make you live forever, but it may extend your period of life that you have available.
Also, I've met quite a few people who practise Chinese medicine. There's an association that has about 800 people who practise herbalism and acupuncture and various things. I spoke to them about who their patients are, and they say that 85 percent of the people who go to Chinese medicine practitioners are Caucasians. I found that very interesting.
I know in my case, about 20 years ago I had a very bad right elbow, and I couldn't hold a tennis racket at all. Nothing the doctors could do could solve the problem after a year. I went and tried reflexology -- had my feet worked on. Some people thought I was crazy. They said: "What do you mean, reflexology?" I said: "Well, I had two treatments, and I haven't had a problem with my elbow in 20 years." They almost look at you like you're a quack if you say that you have a person rub your feet. I still do it on an ongoing basis, strictly as maintenance. Why wait till you've got a problem? And I enjoy my feet being worked on anyway.
I just look at all of the things that are happening with regard to health matters. I just look at the growth in health food stores. Some of them are supermarkets now, almost. They have everything in the way of health things. My own doctor, who's a general practitioner, just came back from the United States about a year or so ago. He had worked about four years in the U.S. and then moved to Burnaby. He certainly isn't bashful about using acupuncture himself if he feels it is necessary; I know, because he stuck me with some needles one day.
So a lot of this stuff is going on. For most people, if a doctor feels you've got some problems and should try some other kind of method, I think it's certainly worth doing. Usually western medicine is sort of disease-based -- you have a problem when you're involved with it -- whereas complementary medicine looks to nutrition, exercise and prevention in the healing process. It supports the body's ability to heal itself by offering safe, effective, non-toxic therapies free from the side effects of prescription drugs. And many of the drugs today have side effects, as we all know. It seeks to address the cause of the illness rather than to suppress symptoms.
Natural treatments offer patients a greater sense of control over the healing process. People are drawn to complementary medicine for many reasons, including adverse effects of conventional treatments, or because of its focus on the whole person. Studies completed in 1997 show that 42 percent of Canadians seek alternative medical therapies, and in B.C. 56 percent seek these remedies.
The traditional Chinese medicine, we all know, has been around for -- what is it? -- over 4,000 years. So they must have learned a few things in that period of time. B.C. was the first jurisdiction in North America to give official recognition to the practice of TCM by recognizing it under the Health Professions Act and allowing the title "Doctor" for its practitioners. Since 1999, when acupuncture received recognition in B.C., 400 acupuncturists have been licensed in B.C. A recent Canada health monitor survey of 2,500 adults found that more than 50 percent had used a complementary treatment in the past six months. Last year over 42 percent of adults in the U.S. used some form of alternative treatment, according to a survey conducted by Landmark Healthcare Inc. in California.
I guess the question arises: shouldn't the patients have a choice as to how
they want to deal with their health and determine
This amendment prohibits the college from adopting its own bylaws to supersede those created by this amendment. Doctors will still be under the regulations of the college; however, if the college is going to investigate a doctor for using alternative therapies, the Association of Complementary Physicians of B.C. must be included as well. This will ensure that doctors who understand complementary therapies are among those participating in the judgment, offering a more fair investigation.
Complementary medicine is not a new treatment -- unlike conventional medicine, which has only significantly developed over the past 100 years. If one wants to discuss using treatments without scientific evidence, why not look at all the unsafe treatments that conventional medicine has brought to us?
I believe this has been mentioned previously also. Four provinces have now passed legislation. Ontario passed legislation in December 2000. Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have all passed amendments to their medical acts within the past few years.
A study recently conducted found that 78 percent of doctors in Ontario are already practising some form of complementary medicine, 12 U.S. states have passed legislation, and 13 others are in the process of creating legislation as well.
In closing, I just wanted to get up and say a few words on this, because I know so many people that are doing all kinds of different things. They feel good about what they're doing, and I think that's certainly very important. But the first thing we talk about is health. We say to anybody when they retire: "Have a healthy, happy retirement." On New Year's, we say: "Have a healthy, happy New Year." Health is foremost in any good wishes that people give.
I think it's an ever-changing world with regard to new methods, new medicine.
I know the biotech
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tainly deserves an awful lot of credit, because this bill would not be before us right now without his initiative. Again, thank you very much.
P. Priddy: I too rise to support this bill. I think it's interesting to think about: why here in British Columbia and why now? I must admit that it has happened in other provinces before British Columbia, and in hindsight we might have thought British Columbia would be first. But we know from research that's been done that in British Columbia, there is a greater openness to alternative and complementary treatments, to looking at all kinds of alternatives. I think, also, that in British Columbia there is an openness to looking at what people call holistic. We can at least call it looking at the whole person in terms of their health, whether that's their physical health or their emotional health or their spiritual health -- whatever that might be. But there is a greater openness to looking at that, if you will, whole person.
So why now? Well, I think it's extremely timely although behind some other provinces. But in this day and age, I think any of us who read any of the health journals or simply read the newspapers on any kind of regular basis know that we have a much more informed public -- about their own health, health care issues, new developments, new drugs, new technologies -- than we have ever had before. As someone who has been in the privileged position of being the Minister of Health, I know how often we've been approached by people who had heard about a new treatment, a new drug, a new homeopathic treatment or a chemical compound, and were telling us about it.
So it's a very informed public today about health care issues. It's also a public that does a great deal of research about health in general, health care issues, and about what their own health care issues might be. I once had a family physician say to me that he occasionally felt like an air traffic controller at an airport -- he meant that quite respectfully -- because his patients would come in with an armful of research and a thought about where they should go next. Now, bearing in mind that that did need some discussion, it did mean that people were doing a lot of research about alternatives, about complementary treatment, about traditional treatment, whatever that might be -- a lot more research.
And we have a lot more Internet access today, certainly here in British Columbia and across the country. People are using that. They're using it for their research, but they're also using it to talk to other people who may be faced with similar health challenges or have tried particular kinds of treatments. The caution, always, with Internet access to health care information is that it doesn't have a quality control on it, so I think we always have to think sensibly when we take information off the Internet about health issues. Nevertheless, there is this wide range of information and other people that people can now access. So that's another part of the "why now?" here in British Columbia.
I think, too, that it is a time when people want more choices about how to keep their bodies healthy. Again, whether that's emotional or physical or mental or spiritual, they want more choices about how they do that, rather than a more traditional perhaps -- at least, for some people -- narrow range of choices. Although, there are certainly people who are part of our society -- and, I think, probably people who have been in the gallery the last couple of days -- who have always pushed the edges of having a wide variety of choices in their health care. Perhaps even around the province that would be the case, in different geographic areas. So I think that the push for more choice about our health care or our bodies or healthy bodies is part of the "why now?" as well.
We also have -- in terms of the "why now?" -- knowledge that we didn't have before. I don't think that if you asked people 20 years ago about the history of aboriginal healing or the history of traditional Chinese medicine, people would have known very much about it. The words might have triggered something, but in general, I don't think people would have known very much about it. We know a lot more now about other kinds of healing than we knew before. We have aboriginal healers who are acknowledged healers in this province -- acknowledged healers, actually, under our medical care system -- who bring their history and knowledge and skill around aboriginal healing to the people that they work with, as well as what we know about traditional Chinese medicine and about medicine and treatment from other cultures. So we have more information.
I find myself a bit surprised that I'm standing to support this bill, and I
do thank the member for Victoria-Hillside for all the work that he has done. I
think that if you had asked me 15 years ago if I'd be standing here supporting
this kind of a bill, I would have said no. I wouldn't have. I mean, I was
trained originally as a nurse, so I think that for most of my adult life I
believed that traditional treatment was what people should look at. And other
things didn't have the same kind of credibility for me. I was wrong. So to find
myself here, actually
My own experiences
So the word "complementary" for me is really important. Some people may consider it an either-or, and people have the right to do that. I certainly don't consider it an either-or. It didn't occur to me that I would not do surgery or chemotherapy or radiation. I mean, I knew I would. But suddenly there were complementary things that would keep my whole body healthy. And by keeping my whole self healthy, I think I enabled myself to heal in a more effective and perhaps more efficient way.
I think it's important to acknowledge that all treatments -- traditional, complementary, alternative, non-traditional, or whatever term people choose to use -- are open to doing research. I mean, I don't think anybody's saying that people should not question the validity or efficacy of any kind of treatment, whether that's traditional treatment or complemen-
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tary treatment. We should. As patients we should question it. Therefore I would certainly support research going on not only in the traditional areas that it does but also in the areas of complementary medicine. And there is certainly some of that research currently going on.
Most of us have talked, in a way, about a broader range of complementary medicine, but this bill in particular does speak to the protection of physicians from being, I think, investigated solely because of their use of a complementary treatment. The College of Physicians and Surgeons has a really important role to play, and they should continue to play it. They monitor what happens in the province, they investigate where it should be investigated, and they investigate many physicians around traditional treatment as well. But I don't think we should treat complementary medicine in a different way than traditional medicine when we look at how a physician who uses it should be viewed.
When I first graduated from nursing in 1965, children born with the effects of thalidomide were about a year and a half or two years old. I happened to be working at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and we saw a number of children who had very definitely in their bodies the effects of thalidomide -- babies with abnormal or atypical limbs, particularly arms, and other kinds of anomalies. That taught me a very powerful lesson: just because there's a traditional treatment or a traditional drug that is prescribed, that doesn't somehow make it automatically safe. We have a number of adults in this country who are now in their late thirties, probably, or early thirties, who have had challenges because of a traditional drug prescription. So I don't think that we can think that somehow if it's traditional, as we've always looked at it, it's absolutely perfectly safe, and if it's complementary, then somehow there are far more questions around it. We should ask questions of all kinds of treatments.
One of things that acknowledging this and passing this kind of legislation does, and acknowledging the legitimacy of complementary medicine, is that it actually makes it safer. Maybe other speakers have used this example, but with the acknowledgment of the effectiveness of acupuncture, we have established a college of acupuncture. As a result of that, there's more monitoring and more accountability. So just by that acknowledgment, we begin to bring a higher degree of safety and monitoring to those other areas into which people are obviously moving. People are going to seek those treatments anyway, so if we have colleges that are monitoring and making sure that people have the proper training and are accountable, then we will all benefit from that.
As I say, I think the key to the use of complementary medicine -- and to patients who go to physicians who either they're asking for complementary medicine from or who are already providing that -- is that they are an informed patient. We want people to have as much information, ask as many questions as they want to and as they should be entitled to -- which we are seeing much more of.
I think that this particular bill
D. Lovick: Mr. Speaker, I have just walked into the chamber, and I'm delighted that my timing is good. Indeed, I was apprehensive about the fact that in this bill as with so many others, I wouldn't have an opportunity to say anything. A number of them, I have wanted to talk about. The difficulty is, of course -- and what an irony -- from members opposite who are not participating in the debate, and then those of us who do speak are accused of filibustering. You can understand, then, my apprehensions.
I'm not going to be long on this bill, but I do want to go on record. I listened to my colleague the member for Surrey-Newton, who as a former Minister of Health and with training as a nurse began -- I think quite courageously -- saying that some ten or 15 years ago she would not have felt comfortable supporting the measure.
[D. Streifel in the chair.]
I must confess that I can offer a similar kind of perception and experience, coming as I do from that academic realm where evidence-based conclusions are the only game in town, and so forth and so on. But I, as she, have come to the conclusion that this measure is indeed worth supporting. That doesn't mean for a moment that one accepts all the propositions embedded in it. You don't accept all the notions and all of the claims that are made for complementary medicine.
But by the same token, you don't go the other direction and say, because the medical establishment tells us that this is not based on good science or hard science or evidence, that therefore it is to be peremptorily dismissed. That's where I find myself, because I can recall very vividly some ten or 15 years ago encountering a group of people in the area where I live on Vancouver Island who had been fighting the fight for chelation therapy for years and years, and they presented all kinds of what we would call anecdotal evidence to support their conclusions. In the world of contemporary science and medicine, anecdotal evidence doesn't count for anything.
But there, I think, ironically enough, is the tragedy, because anecdotal evidence is indeed evidence-based. It's just that it doesn't measure up to the arbitrarily imposed, so-called scientific standard. I think of that. And I recognize, in dealing with all of those people who were advocating for chelation therapy, that some very articulate, bright, successful and competent individuals were all able to present, frankly, very compelling evidence and arguments as to why it worked for them.
Here's the rub: the grand irony, remember, of the scientific revolution is that when Galileo tried to introduce the whole concept of scientific method and evidence as being the only basis for argument, what did he base it on? He based it on a simple observation. When the church said to him, "This is the existing rule of how we perceive the universe, that indeed the Earth is the centre of the universe, and the sun rotates around it," and all of that stuff, Galileo's answer to that was to simply say, "Look up there. Look through this telescope and see what is actually happening" -- in other words, the evidence of your own eyes. What you could see was in fact happening. I wish my Italian friend from Burnaby was still here so I could test out Galileo's expression, "Epur si muove" -- and yet it moves.
Galileo's whole point was: "Look at the evidence; it's there." And that's what all of the people who are standing
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behind this girl introduced by my friend from Victoria are saying: "Look. Don't persecute these people for finding something that works." We may not be able to demonstrate conclusively, scientifically and in an evidentiary way that it works, but it does. That, I think, is one of the reasons why I feel pretty good about supporting this. It is simply doing what we have good reason to do.
I recognize, Mr. Speaker, that we have gone on for some while, and therefore I can't make the longer speech I wanted to. But the other reason I feel good about this is because this particular measure, thanks to the efforts of the member for Victoria-Hillside, does something that this Legislature has not done in all the years that I have been here. It responds to a particular demand by citizens rather than by those of us who represent the citizens deciding what shall be brought forward. This is a citizens' movement. Those citizens have banded together and found somebody to support their cause in the person of my colleague, and they have successfully managed to get the bill this far.
We are debating here the principle of the bill, I note, and on that basis I have no hesitation whatsoever in supporting the bill. I want to say, though, in fairness, that I have taken some time, and I have read the position paper of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and I think they have some legitimate questions. My hope is that in the course of committee stage of this debate, we will be able to address those questions. My reading of the bill leads me to the conclusion that this is not nearly as restrictive as the college would suggest it is. Rather, it is about choices to be made. I don't think the bill is coercive; I think it is rather enabling in nature. For those few reasons, I am pleased to stand here and offer my support for the bill.
Finally, I want to note the other statement I have read: the document produced by the College of Physicians and Surgeons. This is their position on the ethical principles that physicians ought to follow. I note in reading that document that it seems to me that every single one of those principles, those ethical principles that physicians talk about, is indeed accommodated in the legislation here before us, save one. And that is simply the one that says as follows: "The ethical physician must not associate with or refer patients to alternative practitioners who recommend unproven over proven therapies." And that, I think, is the nub of the issue.
My point would be just this. I don't think that qualifies, quite frankly, as an ethical principle. The assumption there is surely writ large that only one kind of treatment counts, only one kind of evidence counts. To suggest that that's an ethical principle, I would suggest, is stretching it a bit. I don't have training in medicine, but I do have some training in ethics, and I think I'm on pretty solid ground in saying that. With that, I am very pleased to offer my support for second reading on this particular bill.
Hon. C. Evans: I rise of course to speak on private member's bill M202. But I'm also quite pleased to be rising to speak essentially in support of greater access to complementary therapies, which is at the heart of the private member's bill.
We all know -- and lots of members have said -- that over the last few years there has been an increase in interest in lots of complementary therapies in health care services not only here in B.C. but across Canada and, I would argue, many countries. This cultural shift is powered, I think, to a great degree by an increasingly aware and educated and informed public who wish to have a greater role in their own treatment and therapy that they receive from their doctors. That is the wish, as well, of the government and I think would be the wish of any aware government in the modern age.
It is ridiculous to define health care as an external process, and it is necessary to engage the citizens themselves in their own well-being. To the extent that this bill assists us to drive in that direction, it strikes me as simply going where governments and provinces across Canada desire their citizens to go. It really doesn't matter if governments desire their citizens to go there or not. Happily, there's a confluence in this occasion, but that's where citizens are going anyway.
It is not like a totally new thing. Lots of complementary therapies have been in use for literally thousands of years. In fact, there is at least one irony in this entire debate, in that what we are calling complementary today predates what we in British Columbia ordinarily call traditional. In fact, the reverse is true in terms of history around the world.
When this debate began, the opposition health care critic got up and said that he wished to hear the Health minister speak on this bill. He said that he found it to be a divisive bill. His comments suggested that the hon. member was sort of well-meaning or had a good heart or could be forgiven for trying to do something good, but that the introduction of legislation in the attempt to do something good was a divisive tactic, and therefore the opposition would oppose this initiative.
Hon. Speaker, I'm dismayed by that position. For starters, I've worked over here for a long time -- nigh on ten years. I've often listened to people on the other side talk about the need to democratize the process in this place, about the need to be able to hear from the back bench, and for participation in committees and in this building by members of all parties and independents. Here we come to a moment when an hon. member who does not hold a portfolio brings forward an initiative, and the response is to heckle and call it divisive. It seems to me to be precisely the democratization of this building and this room, and of governance, that hon. members have asked for.
I'm somewhat dismayed, as well, because in the hon. critic's words there was
a suggestion that the use of this building, and the power of law or regulation,
was a divisive tactic and would get in the way of progressive change. When we
used this building to empower midwives in health care, was that divisive? Should
we have just kept our mouths shut and done it somewhere quietly? Would it be
less divisive to just make changes out there and not bring them in here into the
light of day? On the contrary, when you behave in that fashion
I come from a constituency where there is a cultural tradition of home births. When you don't bring change in here and bring regulatory change into governance, you get change in secret -- and it's dangerous. I am somewhat chagrined and saddened. The region of my constituency has, I think, the highest infant mortality rate in the province, or one of the highest. That is because of the fact that in terms of health care, we chose activities out there that, for fear of being divisive, we didn't bring in here and make those changes in the light of day, like with midwives.
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I think the member should be celebrated for bringing debate into the light of day, which is happening on the street. If the critic thinks that having this debate in public will keep it from happening every day on the street, I think the critic is mistaken about the definition of divisive or the role of governance. Did the critic think it was divisive when we came in here and a previous minister moved a motion to make Chinese medicine legitimate and create a college in British Columbia? Was that divisive? Or was it the right thing to do and an idea whose time had come?
We are trying with health care in B.C. to move from a crisis intervention model -- that's the historical model and the one that we all acknowledge Canada will not be able to afford forever -- to a wellness model. We are trying to engage the citizen -- the patient, if you will -- in their own care and attempting, with so many of the initiatives of the health action plan and recent changes, to say to citizens: "We'll send you a guide in the mail. Read the guide and take a role in your own care." Is that divisive? Are these kinds of changes -- moving away from the historical model -- divisive, or are they the right thing to do?
One of the things, besides complementary care, that Ministers of Health have traditionally been unwilling to talk about is the process of dying in British Columbia. Ministers of Health are only supposed to be engaged in saving lives. And so, historically, probably to keep from being drawn into a discussion that scared us, we failed to make changes in palliative care that made many people's last moments on this earth way more demeaning. And it is only in recent times that we brought in the changes that allowed a citizen some choices around where they die and some dignity in that process.
The fact that we're only now, in 2001, beginning to discuss that in this room
I'll give you another example of what the critic might find divisive. It is also about time, in the great drug debates, for a minister of health and people to start talking about harm reduction, instead of the criminalization model that is always obtained in this room. And when some hon. member has guts enough to stand up and say that maybe it's a health care issue instead of a cops and courts issue, will that be divisive, or will it be the right thing to do?
I would like to acknowledge, in all of this, that I cannot accept the responsibility or the credit for having the good sense to bring this bill before the Legislature, and neither can previous Ministers of Health or the Ministry of Health. What is happening here is very clearly a moment of populism, a moment where the dozen or so people in this room are being driven by the people outside this room -- by the people writing letters, by the people crashing the government's computer system with their e-mails, by the people writing editorials -- by the fact that the people outside the room have moved to understand what is necessary before we did.
As Minister of Health, it is perhaps with a little bit of chagrin that I didn't observe that phenomenon. But somebody did. There's a lot of people that stood up here and gave credit to the member for Victoria-Hillside for having the wisdom to bring a private member's bill before this House. He may have had the wisdom to observe something that was happening, but what was happening is happening among the broad population, and not just in British Columbia. As other speakers have said, other provinces observed the populist movement going on out there before we did. If the member for Victoria-Hillside deserves credit, it is for observing where the people wanted to go.
There's an old saying. There's a crowd on the street, and there's a politician standing and talking with his friend, and the crowd is going by. And the politician says to his friend, "Oh, I've got to go now. There goes the crowd, and I have to lead them," and runs to catch up with the crowd, which is already moving down the street. This moment in this Legislature, which the critic for the opposition calls divisive, is a moment where the citizens have already gone. What's happening here is that we are catching up. And the member for Victoria-Hillside is leading us in catching up with the citizens outside -- hardly divisive. I would actually call that leadership and something that separates the brave from the timid.
Now, I want to suggest that my role in all this, besides to come here and
attempt to explain my support of the bill
I have, in the last while, discussed this bill on many occasions with the hon. member, with the hon. member's supporters, and also with ministry staff and legal advisers and with a representative of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. It was my concern that, while a populist initiative driven by the people may be the right thing to do, nothing that we do here create language in law that will destabilize the excellence of what I consider to be the best health care system in the world. For while we have traumas and stresses, and we must always change, keep in mind that what we're working with is the best health care system in the world. I would like to suggest that the initial wording that the hon. member brought to me -- that was some time ago -- is now history, as he has worked to improve the language.
It is my belief that this process may improve the language some more, so that
all of us -- and I want the critic for the other side
Imagine that: a private member's bill that goes through the process and
evolves and is changed and has other people's wisdom brought to it finally
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Deputy Speaker: Before I recognize the next speaker, I'm going to remind members that it's not appropriate to refer to the presence or absence of members in the House. The member for Victoria-Hillside closes debate.
S. Orcherton: Seeing no other speakers, I'm going to make some closing remarks in respect of private member's bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act. First, I wanted to thank all of the independent members in this House who have risen in their places and spoken in favour of this initiative: all the members on this side of House who have spoken independently and, notably, the member for Malahat-Juan de Fuca, the member for Peace River South and, most notably in my view, the member for Surrey-Cloverdale, whose presentation I listened to today on this issue -- very impassioned, very well informed and very well spoken and knowledgable on matters around alternative therapies and complementary medical practices.
I also wanted to respond to a couple of the comments that were made by the
Health critic from the opposition. I take it that there's a beginning of a
longstanding history that the opposition only has one speaker on any issue and
everybody moves in lockstep to support that. I hope I'm wrong with that
assessment, but that's where I am at this point. The opposition Health critic
spoke about the need for scientific evaluation. Let me just say, in terms of
scientific evaluation, out of the Journal of Medical Ethics, 1992
The American Journal of Medicine says that 107,000 individuals are hospitalized for gastrointestinal complications from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and that 16,500 die as a consequence of these drugs -- more scientific evidence that the member seems to be looking for.
Sixty percent of all people prescribed drugs end up with drug-related problems. That translates into about 9 million hospital admissions per year in our country, at an estimated cost of $47.4 billion -- more scientific evidence, complementary medical facts that the member as the opposition critic doesn't seem to have his hands on or an understanding of.
In Holland, 47 percent of doctors use non-conventional techniques; 77 percent of German pain clinics employ acupuncture; 37 percent of British doctors utilize homeopathy.
And 3.3 million Canadians sought treatment outside the conventional medical establishment, and that's from Statistics Canada, 1996. The Medical Society of Nova Scotia approved a separate section for alternative medicine in a precedent-setting vote.
Hon. Speaker, there is no sure cure to health care. But what there is -- with the passage of this bill, should the members of this House choose to move it along in that direction -- is a sure and certain sense that there are alternatives to health care beyond the mainstream, traditional alternatives of surgery and pharmaceuticals. There are alternatives, and they can complement those mainstream practices and therapies.
This bill is about fairness. It's about a process that still leaves the College of Physicians and Surgeons in control of their membership -- doctors and physicians in British Columbia. It's a process that allows for fairness. And it's a process that moves us into the future in terms of where we need to go in terms of health care. The hon. Minister of Health spoke about how we have to start approaching health care challenges in a different way, moving from crisis management to a wellness model of people getting in touch with the therapies that are available.
You know, I see the critic for Health has just entered into the chambers, and I hope he's listening to the final stages of this debate. You know, it's interesting. If I can just depart from my closing arguments to make a statement, it is very interesting that only one member of the official opposition rose to articulate his opinion on this question. And I'll tell you: I don't agree with the member who rose, but I congratulate him for rising at his seat and speaking. In the last minutes of this debate, there are members sitting across the floor who will not get up and articulate any view other than to sit quietly in their seats and march in lockstep on this issue. I'd encourage the members to get up. It seems they can't get up.
I've got correspondence here from the member for Saanich North and the
Islands on this question. And he writes to a constituent of his: "The
private member's bill referred to in your e-mailed submission did not pass the
first reading stage during the last legislative session, and that session has
since closed. The same bill was reintroduced on March 20 of this year, and like
most members' bills, it probably will not make it past first reading phase in
this session either." He goes on to say: "This bill does not have the
support of government." That's a very interesting comment from a member who
sits in opposition, who refuses to stand up and articulate his views on this
question in this chamber. And in closing he says: "I could not support it
You know, hon. Speaker, I've got correspondence that members of the opposition have sent to constituents who raise questions regarding their support and whether they're going to support this initiative to move forward or not. In fact, I have a letter from the Leader of the Official Opposition to a woman, Lorna Hancock. She's with the Health Action Network Society. And he says to her: "Thanks for your letter regarding complementary therapies and the private member's bill tabled in the Legislature last year."
B.C. Liberals support the right of British Columbians to access safe medical treatments. We also believe government's role should not be to protect the conventional or traditional medical community from competition from complementary and alternative approaches.
"We are saying
S. Orcherton: That is a very good statement, and I'm glad the members agree with that. But what happens here in the rest of this letter is that he goes on to waffle on the question, as those members opposite are doing. He says: "We are saying it is time to break down some of the territoriality in the health care professions. More than anything, this will require a shift in attitude, but we are not convinced that can only be achieved by simply amending or adding more legislation. This issue requires more discussion and more consultation, and that is certainly something we will encourage and support." That's what the member says.
And the reason I read that into the record is because it seems that the Leader of the Opposition does not have the
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capacity or the gumption to come in here and debate this issue in a frank way in this House, where it needs to be debated. It seems that he's uncomfortable with this issue. I am sorely disappointed on this question. I was under the impression, when I raised this bill and put it in first reading, that there was no partisan politics involved in this at all. And there isn't.
This is an issue that tens of thousands of British Columbians are calling for. It's a chance for choice for British Columbians in terms of their health care. It is a chance for choice in terms of doctors offering alternative therapies or not offering alternative therapies, and doing so without fear of harassment and intimidation. It's moving the British Columbia health care system into the mainstream of health care in North America and indeed around the world. This is not a partisan issue, members. It's an issue that's been driven here by the people, and it really is a victory today that we are in second reading on private member's bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act. It's a victory for the tens of thousands of British Columbians who have worked so hard to achieve this small change that can have such huge opportunities for our health care system.
With that I move second reading of Bill M202.
[The Speaker in the chair.]
Second reading of Bill M202 approved on the following division:
|YEAS -- 39|
|NAYS -- 32|
|van Dongen||Barisoff||J. Wilson|
Bill M202, Medical Practitioners Amendment Act, 2001, 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 second reading of Bill 22.
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Hon. Speaker, I move that the bill be read a second time.
The amendments in this bill are very simple. They create a new designation of judicial justice in British Columbia. All persons who are currently sitting as justices of the peace will become judicial justices under these amendments. The amendments to the Provincial Court Amendment Act will provide judicial justices of the peace with two hallmarks of judicial independence. First, they'll have security of tenure, and second, they'll have financial security under these amendments.
In a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision, Justice Sigurdson found that the current practice of appointing justices of the peace at pleasure compromises their judicial independence. These amendments provide judicial justices with security of tenure by ensuring that the judicial office is held until retirement, resignation or removal following an inquiry.
To further comply with the decision of Justice Sigurdson, the amendments will provide for financial security. There will be a compensation committee struck to deal with judicial justices' compensation. That committee will recommend remuneration allowances and benefits for judicial justices. This committee will be composed of three members. It will support recommendations to the Legislative Assembly every three years, and the first committee will report at the end of April next year.
In addition, these amendments will remove provisions related to court referees and directors of provincial mental health facilities. We've determined that these provisions are no longer required. They are very simple amendments. I think that's all I have to say on second reading of this bill.
G. Plant: I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the people who work in the public service of British Columbia in the Ministry of Attorney General, and in particular I want to say to all of those who work as sitting justices of the peace that I congratulate them for their dedication and their commitment to public service.
The amendments before us are before us by reason of a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, which the government has decided to accept without appeal. They put into place, in the context of the work of people who are going to become the judicial justices of the peace, a compensation arrangement that is intended to protect their independence. That is, I think, an important consideration for government. The challenge, it seems to me, for governments across Canada over the past ten or 15 years has been how to treat and deal with the question of compensation for judges at all levels of court in times of fiscal restraint. I think in part because jurisdictions have managed that issue less than successfully, we now have a series of court cases, including a very important decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on this issue. That decision really provides the larger framework within which the current issue arises.
It would be interesting to consider some of the principles that underlie the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Provincial Court judges case, but ultimately it is probably
[ Page 17671 ]
irrelevant, because when they make a constitutional law, they are the court of last resort. In this particular case we have a Supreme Court judge of B.C. interpreting and applying some of those principles to the work done by the very important men and women in British Columbia who have served as sitting justices of the peace.
I think there is no possible basis, at this point, upon which an opposition could oppose the government's recognition of its legal obligations in this bill. And we'll be supporting the government.
The Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the Attorney General to close debate.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move second reading now.
Bill 22, Provincial Court Amendment Act, 2001, 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. I. Waddell: I call committee stage on Bill 7.
ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY
STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
The House in committee on Bill 7; D. Streifel in the chair.
Sections 1 to 4 inclusive approved.
On section 5, section 21.1.
G. Farrell-Collins: Section 5 is essentially,
Hon. I. Waddell: I have no problem with that.
The Chair: Just for clarification of the Chair
G. Farrell-Collins: What I was trying to do was
In section 5, the first part, which is section 21.1, is the appointment of the commissioner. This issue was raised in the Public Accounts Committee when the memorandum of understanding that was signed between the government and the auditor general came before that committee. We hadn't seen the legislation, but we'd certainly seen what the memorandum of understanding entailed. So now, having looked at the legislation, I think the concerns that I raised at that time continue and are reflected by the bill.
This bill sets up the position of an environmental commissioner and allows that individual to report back to the Legislature -- report directly to a committee of the Legislature, in much the same way as other officers of the Legislature do. My concern is one of accountability. If you have an individual who reports directly to the Legislature, it is my opinion that that person, for all intents and purposes, is accountable to the Legislature and should be accountable to the Legislature in the provision of their duties. This commissioner is not accountable to the Legislature under this act, but rather is accountable to the auditor general.
I understand that what the government was trying to do was create this office without creating a whole other level of bureaucracy that would have been included with it. The attempt here was to try and meld the environmental auditor function with the auditor general's function, but I think we've sort of got something that doesn't work very well in its practical nature and in the process of accountability for that individual. I believe that if the Legislature is going to have somebody reporting directly to the Legislature, that individual should be accountable to the Legislature. The only way they can be accountable is if they're hired by the Legislature and if the Legislature is able to remove them from their position as well.
That's my concern around this first part of section 5, section 21.1. The appointment process for this environmental commissioner is sort of an arm's-length hiring process that will involve one representative of the government, one representative of the official opposition and then a whole bunch of other people as well -- representatives of business, labour, environmental organizations, etc. The auditor general would obviously play the key role in that. My concern is that that is too unaccountable.
I believe that if the Legislature wants to hire someone to be an environmental commissioner or an environmental auditor, or whatever we want to call that role, the Legislature should hire them. I made those comments in the Public Accounts Committee as well. I believe that the members of this Legislature come from very diverse backgrounds -- members from the north, the south, from resource-dependent communities, from urban communities. There are different environmental issues that face representatives that represent urban areas or suburban areas, as opposed to those who represent more rural areas or resource-based communities. I believe it's important that when we choose this commissioner, we have a broader range of input from the members that are here, because that person ultimately is going to be reporting to us.
I've sat on a number of committees that have hired auditors general or other officers of the Legislature, and I know that almost all members of the House have at one point or other served on those committees. It's a pretty challenging task, and I've always found it very educational to hear the types of questions that were being asked in the interviews by
[ Page 17672 ]
my colleagues and the types of comments that came up when we were reviewing those interviews and going over who we thought was the best person for the position.
There are different viewpoints from people's backgrounds, from their work experience -- I'm talking about the members of the Legislature now -- the region of the province they represent, the region of the province that they represent, the economic base of their communities, etc. All of those things come together into that mix as we debate who is the best individual to take on the position. And I think that by having one representative of the opposition and one representative of the government, we are giving short shrift to the members of the Legislature, whose duty it is to hire those people who'd report directly to us. As I said, I understand what the government's goal was. I just don't think this accomplishes it very well.
We will not be supporting this process for appointment. We don't believe it's the appropriate process to follow. As we voted in favour of the bill, we're in favour of having a commissioner or someone to look into these issues on an ongoing basis -- somebody perhaps even in the auditor general's office, or perhaps a separate individual altogether. That can be discussed. But this appointment process here, I believe, does a disservice to the Legislature and minimizes the role that legislators have to play in hiring the individuals that report directly to them.
So I'm glad to hear the minister's comment on that, but having seen the memorandum of understanding, and having read this section of the bill, I just wanted to express our concern about that hiring process and accountability structure.
Hon. I. Waddell: First of all, let me introduce, on my right, Ken Baker, who's my assistant deputy minister for the green economy, and Lawrence Alexander, who's a policy analyst. They are helping me today.
I agree with the hon. member for Vancouver-Little Mountain that the model is unusual. I also agree that we didn't want to waste money or add to bureaucracy when we could put something in with the auditor general that would be efficient and workable. Remember, we're not appointing an ombudsman. We're not appointing an advocate for the environment. We're not appointing someone who's coming on policy. We're appointing someone who's reviewing the government's policy on sustainability in the different ministries and also feeding public comment into the government and making reports to the government on how the government is progressing in its goal of achieving environment sustainability in all of the different departments.
What we did is we looked to the federal model. They used this setup as a model, and it seems to work for them, so that's why we've proceeded this way. I appreciate the member's concerns. That's the choice we made in the bill.
I know that the hon. member for Saanich North and the Islands, the Environment critic, said in the debate on Monday, April 2 -- on page 40 of the Blues -- that the opposition would be supporting the bill. I'm a little concerned that you can't suck and blow at the same time. You can't support the bill and then want to gut the bill. But I'll give the member the benefit of the doubt on that, that he's basically saying: "No, we don't want to gut the bill, but we just disagree with the process, and we would suggest another process."
We're open to amendments on various parts. I told the hon. member that. I know the hon. member for Saanich North and the Islands outlined about seven possible areas that he objected to. And if he wants to put forward any amendments, I'd listen to them -- but not on this particular one. I think this is really the guts of the bill, and it's set up this way so that it would go through the auditor general. We believe that it would work, and we believe there's precedent in the federal model.
G. Farrell-Collins: There are other parts to this, as I said -- sections 21.2 through 21.9, which really are the role, the duties, the responsibilities, the mandate and the scope of this commissioner. I know that perhaps there are some technical issues that we can raise and have a more protracted discussion on, but I'm not sure that that's going to help much. The problem that we have with section 21.1 is that if one were to amend that section in such a way as to create an entirely different appointment process, I suspect I know what the Chair would rule. That would probably be out of order. I think that the minister is aware of that as well. That's why it's a difficult thing to express -- and I'm trying to do that verbally -- what we would desire to see this section contain, as opposed to trying to draft an amendment which ultimately would be out of order and perhaps a pointless exercise.
As I said, I don't have any huge problems with the idea of a commissioner -- the reporting, the scope and the mandate. There may be technical issues with the rest of the bill, but I think it's difficult to get beyond the problems that we see in this section here. The rest, as I said, I don't have huge problems with, but this section I do have a significant problem with. I think that we do as a group. Ideally, what we'd prefer to see would be the normal process for hiring an officer of the Legislature. That would be out of order in this bill, so I'm trying to express that verbally.
We're not opposing the bill or the concept or the principle of the bill in any way, shape or form. What I am saying, though, is that we are very uncomfortable with the accountability loop and the structure of the appointment process. I think the minister probably understands that. He may not agree with it, but that's fine. I just wanted to express that. I don't think that by disagreeing with the way the individual is appointed, you're gutting the bill in any way, shape or form. You're having a concern about the accountability process and the way that person is hired. The guts of the bill and the mandate of the role are contained in the other sections.
Hon. I. Waddell: I note and appreciate what the hon. member is saying. I would add, as I meant to say previously, that I'd see the auditor general as the committee that's appointing. It's taking people from all different parts of the community and putting them on a committee who will make a shortlist, and then the auditor general will make the appointment. The auditor general is an officer responsible to the Legislature. But I take what the hon. member has said and note it.
M. Coell: Just to add to the House Leader's comments, one of the things I did was go back and look at how many times the Environment Committee had actually sat in the Legislature in the last decade. Actually, the Clerks were unable to tell me the last time the Environment Committee of this Legislature sat. I think everyone in the House agrees with the desire to have environmental audits done on a regular basis with regard to sustainability. The ability for the MLAs
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from both sides of the House to sit on a selection committee at this point leaves me with some problems, in that we're days away from an election.
We cease to be MLAs when the election is called. That means there would be no one on the committee representing the Legislature and the people of British Columbia who would be appointing this person, who would be responsible to the House. I see that as a real problem. I understand the government's desire to have this legislation put through prior to an election. But at the same time, you're not going to have members of this assembly able to be part of the selection committee, as the first part of this section outlines. So that is in addition to our House Leader's comments.
On the rest of the mandate and the agenda -- doing audits, following government's ability to be sustainable in their decision-making -- I don't think you'd find much discrepancy on both sides of the House at this point.
I did speak in second reading about the need for amendments. Most of those amendments were in this section, and I don't think they would be relevant at this point because of the submission that both myself and the House Leader have made.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, first of all, let me say to the hon. member that I don't know if we're days away from the election. Maybe he knows more than I do.
Hon. I. Waddell: He says he does. Well, in our system the Premier calls the election date. But I'd be glad if he could give me the lead document, or show it to me.
Let me say this: I'm sure the hon. member has noted that certainly, as Environment minister, I'm working hard to get a really good environmental agenda. He noticed the announcement today on the planning for the central coast, noticed the green economy initiatives. He's noted the land planning initiatives. He's noticed that we're going to be doing water. We're doing work in air and parks. There have been a lot of initiatives, so we're going full speed on our agenda. I invite him to be part of that.
The job postings, I'm informed, have closed, so the selection committee can be formed, and they could make a recommendation. They could make a shortlist and get it to the auditor general, and it could be done. So I invite the hon. member to select his MLA. Let's get the committee moving, and perhaps we can get the committee to make a decision within the next few weeks. I invite him to do that, and we can get on with it.
The Chair: For clarification of the committee, section 5 has been split into sections, by agreement between the minister and the Opposition House Leader. So the vote we'll call now is on section 5, section 21.1. Is the committee clear on that vote?
Section 5, sections 21.1 to 21.9 inclusive approved.
Sections 6 to 11 inclusive approved.
Hon. I. Waddell: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Bill 7, Environment and Sustainability Statutes Amendment Act, 2001, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Janssen: With leave, I call private members' statements. I understand that the members are on their way.
Private Members' Statements
HISTORY RESTORED -- CANADA'S
OLDEST CHINESE CEMETERY
I. Chong: Today I rise to speak on a project in the constituency that I represent, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, that is not only significant but is also very dear to my heart. This project was just recently completed and concerns Victoria's cultural history. This project will be featured and shared with the entire community this weekend on Sunday, April 8, 2001. All those attending are invited to learn more of certain traditions that are still maintained by Victoria's Chinese community.
The project that I speak of is the beautification of the Chinese cemetery located at Harling Point in Oak Bay. This remarkable cemetery is situated between Gonzales Bay to the west and McNeill Bay to the east, and it overlooks the majestic Juan de Fuca Strait. Contrary to popular belief, the Chinese cemetery property is not public property. Rather, it is privately owned by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the CCBA. Its acquisition is a story in itself.
This history of how Victoria's Chinese cemetery came into existence is rather complex. We begin in 1858 with the Quadra Street cemetery, which in fact was Victoria's first cemetery. It did include a section that was set aside for use by the Chinese population. After this cemetery became overcrowded in 1873, the Ross Bay Cemetery was established, and it also allowed for burials of aboriginals and Mongolians. A low-lying section that was almost at sea level, in the southwest corner, was set apart for those burials. The records indicate that the first Chinese person who was interred in Ross Bay Cemetery, on March 18, 1873, was identified as "Chinaman No. 1." Thereafter, all subsequent burials continued to list the interment in a similar manner -- that is, Chinaman No. 2, Chinaman No. 3 and so on.
In addition, it soon became apparent that this low-lying, southwestern corner in Ross Bay Cemetery was subject to frequent flooding after heavy, severe rainfalls. So it was primarily this reason that led the CCBA to consider establishing its own cemetery and, in particular, to find one that would adhere to the principles of feng shui, which is wind, water -- a harmony, hon. Speaker. They needed to find a site that would
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work in harmony with nature. The CCBA was successful in locating a site. They found a parcel of land on a southern slope of Lake Hill, an area in Saanich that we now know as Christmas Hill. So on October 30, 1891, the CCBA paid the handsome price of $2,200 to purchase an 8.75-acre parcel of land.
However, this parcel of land was situated among several farms. The adjacent farmers were not pleased with this intended use, and they did not welcome their new neighbour. In fact, the historical records indicate that the Chinese were chased away at their very first planned burial. Consequently, the Chinese never returned, as they were essentially prevented from using the cemetery site.
In the meantime, the allotted section in the Ross Bay Cemetery became so fully occupied that eventually those graves that were very close to the waterfront became exposed, and their remains were swept away after heavy rains and also from the very strong waves. This was clearly unacceptable. So the CCBA was forced to make yet another important decision. In 1902 they sold their Christmas Hill property. So the search was on again for another suitable feng shui site.
What was eventually found is the current site at Harling Point. At that time it was known as Fowl Point. In April 1903 the CCBA purchased a 3.5 acre parcel of land, and finally the Chinese community had its own cemetery. Shortly thereafter, burials began to occur on a regular basis.
However, once again, all was not calm. As with any new area at that time, it was only a matter of time till development would commence. As families began moving into the surrounding area and as neighbourhoods began to spring up, dissension also began to surface. There were complaints that the cemetery deterred urban development and prevented improvements in neighbourhoods. Then there were attempts by the neighbours to change the use of the site to other than cemetery use. This part of history was not particularly pleasant. But in the end the cemetery was allowed to continue with its designated use and with its traditional burials.
I would like now to offer an insight on how the cemetery was utilized. In those very early years at the turn of the century, many of the Chinese immigrants did not expect to remain in Canada forever. In fact, many had hopes of returning to their homeland once they had accumulated enough wealth to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. So burial plots in the Chinese cemetery were not sold; rather, they were leased for a term of six years. In the seventh year the grave would be opened and the bones removed to be cleaned and dried. These bones were then packed into wooden crates for shipment back to the immigrant's home village in China for reburial. This process meant that the Chinese cemetery was never fully occupied, as the unearthed grave was then available for use again.
In 1937, however, the transfer of remains ceased, due in part to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. Consequently, the practice of exhuming remains also ceased, and the cemetery soon became fully occupied. By the late 1940s it was estimated that more than 1,000 graves occupied this cemetery. In 1950 the CCBA closed the cemetery after all of the available burial sites were occupied. However, it was fortunate at that time that the Chinese people were permitted to use the then Royal Oak Burial Park in Saanich.
Another problem surfaced as the CCBA was left with many of the wooden crates of bones that had not been sent back to China. To resolve this, a final reburial ceremony was held on October 15, 1961, with 820 unclaimed crates representing the last remains buried in 13 mass graves, grouped according to the home counties. Over the next 30 years there's more history to be spoken of.
I see my time is up, and I will wait for the response from the member opposite.
The Speaker: Thank you, hon. member. To respond, the hon. Minister of Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers.
Hon. J. Kwan: I thank the member for bringing this important history with respect to the Chinese community and the development of the cemetery. I want to congratulate all of the people who worked hard, and particularly Dr. David Lai, a historian who has worked very hard in recapturing the history and who's worked with the CCBA in bringing about the reconstruction of the site, which I understand will be opening this coming weekend.
This season in the Chinese community is also known as the Ching Ming festival. In Chinese, it's essentially a festival to which we in the younger generation go and pay respects to our ancestors, in particular at their gravesites. Our real duty and responsibility is to clean the gravesites and to pay our respects and honour our ancestors. So I would like to take this moment to wish the people from the Asian community a very happy Ching Ming festival.
And in Cantonese also, [I would like to wish everybody a happy Ching Ming Festival. The observance of this ancient festival is very important in the Chinese community. The act of paying tribute to and honouring our ancestors is an age-old tradition for many Chinese families and is a practice that should be respected throughout the province.]
[Translation of speech provided by Hon. J. Kwan.]
On the point around Harling Point and, of course, the rebuilding of the history of the cemetery, it does bring back to me a lot of the challenges and discrimination that the Chinese community has faced and a lot of the loss that families and individuals have suffered over a number of years.
The Chinese community has played a significant role in shaping our province. It brings me back to the times of the infrastructure that was shaped for British Columbia from 1887 in the coal mines in Nanaimo, where there was an explosion. Some 148 Chinese men were killed. And you know what? Much like the cemetery in its early days, the lives that were lost weren't recognized, even by name. They were simply received as numbers. In terms of the brass tags that the men were wearing as a recognition of the people, no names were attached to them. Like the gravesite: Chinaman 1, Chinaman 2, and so on.
It brings me back to the days of building this great nation that we now live in, connecting us from coast to coast to coast by building the CPR and the railway. A lot of the Chinese community and families had also lost their lives as a result of that, and they really worked hard in building this nation. I'm just delighted to see that the hon. member and this entire House are recognizing the contributions of the Chinese community in building British Columbia and Canada.
In Victoria, like most early settlements, the Chinese community was segregated from the rest of the society. The Chi-
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nese immigrants were faced with extreme hardships every single day of their lives. And of course later on, after the infrastructure was built, the Chinese community actually faced a head tax. The discriminatory head tax was really a blatant approach in preventing Chinese people from coming to British Columbia and to Canada. This is important history, I think, to remember and also to recognize that in 1947 the Chinese community finally had the right to vote.
Hon. Speaker, just one more thing before I take my seat. I want to also recognize the aboriginal community. The burial sites for the aboriginal community have equally important significance to the people who are still with us today in honouring their ancestors. We in the House have a responsibility to ensure that the aboriginal community is recognized in its right as the first people of this province, to make sure that we work towards bringing treaty settlement, to work towards ensuring that all aboriginal people have the right to self-determination, that no minority rights issues are brought before a referendum, and to make sure that these rights are protected.
I want to thank the people of Victoria for working so hard in bringing about the cemetery, in refurbishing it and dedicating it as a historic site. The province is proud to have contributed financially to that restoration as well -- over $60,000 in terms of provincial contribution matched with the federal government. That's the kind of work that we believe in. That's the kind of work that we do on this side of the House. And I thank the other side and the hon. member for her contribution and participation in supporting all Canadians and all nations.
The Speaker: To reply, the hon. member for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.
I. Chong: I want to thank the minister for her comments. As I was concluding my first introductory remarks, I left off with the fact that this cemetery had its last burial in 1961 and had in fact remained, I guess, deactivated until now. Unfortunately, it was subject to some deterioration and some vandalism, which is the reason why this beautification had to come about. The positive outcome was, of course, that not only were the neighbourhood and the municipality of Oak Bay involved, but it got people in Victoria thinking about our cultural history and the multicultural society in which we live.
In November 1995 we were fortunate enough to have the Minister of Canadian Heritage approve a recommendation by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada that this cemetery be recognized as a national historic site. This led to the hon. David Anderson announcing on January 31, 1996, that this was in fact a national historic site. It took another two years, though -- in 1998 -- before a Chinese cemetery beautification committee was struck, and it has been working very diligently since that time. As the MLA for the area, I was also involved in that committee and was able to offer some suggestions. I do also want to acknowledge the people involved, who have made this come to fruition, because they are very important.
Already mentioned by the minister is Dr. David Chuenyan Lai from the University of Victoria department of geography, who was also a cultural adviser to the CCBA. I have special gratitude also for Messrs. Paul Gin Poy Chan and Alan Yuen, who are directors of the CCBA, and for Ms. Marjorie Arnold and Ms. Geraldine Peet, who are neighbourhood representatives. Without their efforts, hon. Speaker, we would not have this remarkable historic site.
As I indicated earlier, this will be a ceremony that will commence this weekend. Once the ribbon cutting is done for the beautification, we will have the Ching Ming ceremony take place, as the minister has indicated. I know she has spoken about that, but for those who attend and are not used to seeing this, it is an annual festival where Chinese people observe their ancestral respect by tidying up the tombs and offering fruits, roast pigs, steamed chickens, pork buns and flowers. In addition, they will see candles and incense sticks lit and paper money burned, the smoke from which is a message sent to one's ancestors to know that their ancestry line is being carried on here on earth. Surely this is history restored, and surely this is a good thing for all of us.
I am very grateful that I have been a part of this project. I am very grateful that I have been able to have this opportunity to speak on such a very worthwhile project that I know will benefit not only my community of Oak Bay-Gordon Head but indeed all of greater Victoria.
FOR OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE
P. Calendino: It is with pleasure and pride that I rise to speak about the services and the commitment that this government has made to children over the years in order to provide them with a solid foundation and educational opportunities that will give them the tools to be successful in the future. It is a fact that when children are given the proper environment and the appropriate assistance in the early, formative years of their lives, they encounter fewer difficulties in later years in school and fewer problems for the rest of their lives. In the short time allotted, I won't have time to give many details, but I will touch on a variety of these programs.
Let me start with child care. Every educator knows that child care is the cornerstone of the social and educational development of the child. And every educator will attest to the fact that a child who has gone through a licensed child care system run by trained professionals normally adjusts easier to the rigour of regular school and thus performs better. So I'm proud that we have, as a government, introduced a publicly funded day care initiative, because I look at it as an essential complementary service to the overall education of a child.
Child Care B.C. is therefore a great investment in the future of our children and in the future of this province. The fact is that we are only the second province in this country to provide universally funded child care at only $7 per child per day for before- and after-school care, saving families up to $1,100 per year per child. We will be the only province to offer infant and toddler care for only $14 a day per child, starting January 1, 2002, at savings of up to $6,000 a year. The fact that no tax cut of any size can match this kind of benefit is secondary to the long-term benefit to children, to families and to society.
As the gap between the rich and the poor gets wider and wider every year, more and more children in less affluent quarters of our community face more and more problems. Many families can't afford medical or dental care for children, and they can't satisfy the basic needs of food and clothing. We know that when a child is hungry or has an ache or illness, that child cannot concentrate on learning; learning is the last thing on his or her mind.
Because of these situations, various programs have been put in place. One of these programs is the Healthy Kids
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program, which provides dental and eye care to children of families with a net income of less than $20,000. I'm pleased to say that only last week I managed to save the pediatric dental program of the Burnaby school board, which is a 50-year-old program providing dental care to thousands of young children in Burnaby. As well, a dental van is in place, equipped to travel around the province to provide dental care to low-income families in rural communities.
And then there is the hungry kids program, introduced in the early nineties for those children of low-income families who are not provided with a meal at home before going to school. The program is so successful that teachers report improvement in student health, classroom behaviour, happiness, well-being and knowledge of nutrition, as a result of participation in the program. Given this success, this year the government has increased the program by $3.5 million, and it is committed to doubling the investment in the next four years. It's a great accomplishment.
In contrast, I have a daughter who teachers primary children in a poor district of Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand, of course, is that paragon of fiscal responsibility that our members opposite want to emulate if they should form the government. Well, my daughter has to bring food to school every single day, at her own expense, to ensure that children have something in their stomachs before they can start a lesson, and to ensure that they can pay attention to her. That's not to mention the type of clothing that she tells me about. That's very sad, but that is a result of reckless cuts in taxes and reckless cuts in services by the New Zealand government of the 1980s.
On the academic side of things, here in B.C., many good things are happening in schools. Individualized educational programs, or IEPs, are in place in every school to suit the learning needs of a child and to make the learning experience a pleasant and constructive one. In every elementary school, there are early intervention programs aimed at providing an early proactive response to children with learning difficulties. At all levels of the system, there are all sorts of programs to help children with learning or behavioural problems. Every school has a learning assessment team made up of teachers, administrators, counsellors and support staff, and at times even parents, to design personalized programs for pupils.
But the crème de la crème of all programs has to be the implementation of class size limitations for the first four years of a child's education. Nothing is more valuable to the learning environment than a small class size. This has been shown by numerous American long-term studies on the benefits of a small class size.
Now, in B.C. we have a maximum of 20 students in kindergarten and 22 maximum in grades 1 to 3. This allows the teachers to assess the strengths and the weaknesses of a child and to tailor instruction to that child and to his or her needs. For this, we have provided funding to hire an extra 700 teachers and an extra 500 support staff. I think that they're all worth every penny of it, because they are an investment that will pay dividends in the future.
Education initiatives have been taken by this government on a broad front. Money has been provided for K-to-12 education every year for the past ten years. This year alone we are putting $169 million more for the continuation of small class size in the early years of school, and to improve services at all other levels. And this is on top of $185 million that we put in last year.
We also have connected every school in the province to the provincial learning network, and we have provided Internet access in rural communities and to every other educational institution in B.C.
Portables have been reduced by a quarter in the last few years, and the plan is to reduce them by half in the next two years. The government has spent almost $3.6 billion on capital construction since '92-93, and part of this was to make up for the lack of investment in previous administrations. In the last ten years 133,000 new classroom spaces have been created through the construction of 5,323 classrooms and 181 new and replacement schools, along with 458 additions.
I see that the red light has gone on, hon. Speaker.
I think this is a great accomplishment. I await the response by the member opposite, and then I will continue with the government's accomplishment in post-secondary education.
R. Masi: I want to thank the member for Burnaby North for his remarks on education and generally about our children and the future of our children. I might point out before I start, though, that despite the litany of so-called successes in British Columbia, there's still a very strong move by parents in this province to look for alternatives and other choices in education. So I think we still have a ways to go in what we're doing in education.
You know, when we speak of our children's future, there are many aspects and components of our society that have a direct effect on that future. We must consider such influences as the opportunities for education, the effectiveness of a health program, the appropriate philosophy of child care and family security and, above all, the economic foundation of a province and a nation to be able to provide such services.
When we discuss education as pertaining to a child's future, we are discussing activities ranging from prekindergarten to post-secondary. But throughout this educational continuum, there are three vital elements. One is stability, the second is choice, and the third is vision. Children and young adults need stability and security. They need to know that the choices they make will still be there, and will be there on a consistent and timely basis. The most traumatic thing that can happen to a child is to have to change schools, change teachers or face any disruption in their programs. This becomes highly traumatic and counterproductive to the learning environment.
We also know that children need choice. We all know that learning and aptitudes are individualized. One methodology does not fit all, nor does one type of school or one method of delivery system. Choice must be inherent in any successful and visionary educational experience. Above all, for a rewarding future, children must experience the advantage of an educational program that encourages vision and self-fulfilment.
When we talk about health care and the future of children, where better should early implementation of health programs take place than in the schools? Where better should public health facilities be developed and located for all members of the community than in the schools? And we cannot
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forget that health and physical activity programs are a must for today's children, who can be rooted in video games and computers.
When we talk about child care and early childhood intervention, it is essential that we demonstrate vision and not take a narrow view on the subject. Child care should be a question of parental choice. There should be opportunities for small, privately run centres which can deal with care and achieve success on an individualized basis. Child care is not just housing kids in large, institutionalized settings. It is about differentiated approaches and applications with a view to identifying any and all special needs of a child at an early age.
You know, hon. Speaker, we cannot implement or provide these vital services for children and for our youth without a strong, stable economic foundation. Nurturing our young and providing opportunities for our youth to be able to compete in the fast-changing world society takes enormous resources, but the return value of an educated and healthy society will more than compensate for any expenditures that we may make.
The Speaker: To reply, the hon. member for Burnaby North.
P. Calendino: I want to thank the member for Delta North for his comments. I'd like to respond to some of them and specifically to the issue of choice in child care.
It's fine for the member to speak about choice in child care. The reality is that that party doesn't even offer choice, doesn't even have a plan for child care. In fact, they even want to abandon the plan that we have put in place. As well, he talks of stability in a child's home or environment. I think that this government has done a lot of things to create stability in a child's life with all the programs that I mentioned earlier. Then he goes back to the economy, which is the mantra of the Liberal Party, it seems.
You know, the economy in this province goes up and down in cycles every four or five years. We've had a down cycle. We now have an up cycle. We're doing fine, thank you. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in 20 years. So I think that for most families, stability is here. For those families who do not have a place in the employment lines, this government provides very suitable assistance programs, especially in families with children.
I said I wanted to talk a little bit about post-secondary education. There won't be that much time, but I just want to point out again that this province has been the only province that for the last five years has never reduced funding for post-secondary education. It has made those institutions much more accessible to many more students than ever before. As a matter of fact, we have now changed from the second-lowest attendance in the country to the second-highest attendance. And why? Because we have frozen student fees, and also because students have -- because of lower fees -- post-secondary education with the lowest debt load in Canada -- in fact, $7,000 less than other provinces. And this is all because this government does have a vision for education. But I haven't seen what the vision from the other side is up till now.
An Hon. Member: How many graduates?
P. Calendino: In post-secondary education? More than before. In
high school, the graduation rate
When we talk of vision and we talk of choice, the amount of choice that we have in the secondary school system today never existed in the past. When I went to school, I didn't have all the options that young people have today in the school system, and I think that the member across knows that.
Let me go to post-secondary education again. We have also implemented a reduction in tuition fees for the coming year. But what is the position of those members over there? Are they going to implement that? Or are they going to cut 5 percent of all funding, like they've done in Alberta and in Ontario and in New Zealand, where my daughter unfortunately chose to go?
COMMUNITY COMMITMENT AND CHANGE
G. Hogg: Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher's 1973 economic analysis, concludes with the words "the guidance we need cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind." Traditional wisdom is conveyed by stories, not by studies. And stories have been the connective tissue which facilitates the growth of social capital.
Social capital has been defined as the value of social networks and the ability of those networks to effect change in communities. These networks are based on cooperation, on trust and on information. The most powerful predictors of life's satisfaction are found in social capital and in social bonds.
Robert Putnam, in his work, argues that a stable personal relationship can be as satisfying as a fourfold increase in income and that attending a club meeting regularly can be equal to doubling one's income. And communities with the most social capital have better health, better education and lower crime rates. The research and surveys that Putnam has done in terms of looking at the value and quality of community life show that they measure organizational life in communities by looking at whether or not an individual has served on a local organization in the past year or has served as an officer in a club; they look at measurements of engagement in public affairs and turnout to elections; they measure community volunteerism, the number of non-profit organizations that exist per thousand of population; and they look at informal social ability, in terms of having friends over, and measure issues of social trust.
Over 100 years ago, with the advent of industrialization, urbanization and immigration, many people left their extended families, their agrarian lifestyles, their friends and social institutions to find a new life in urban centres. The changes left individuals in societies to respond to the loss of social connectiveness by creating social institutions to compensate. Those were designed to reconnect people to changing circumstances. Hence the founding dates of most civic-minded organizations fall somewhere largely between 1890 and 1915, the same time period in which industrialization,
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urbanization and immigration were having their largest impacts. It was the founding time of such organizations as Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Shriners, Kiwanis, Elks, Jaycees and many other organizations.
These help groups have helped to create new communities of interest, new social capital, and hence they have enhanced life satisfaction factors. They served our communities well during the last century. However, their membership rates across North America have been dropping dramatically since 1990. It is symptomatic of a loss of the sense of community which has become existent in so many urban centres.
This civic disengagement has been measured and reflected in a number of studies and reviews. And in fact, they're finding that we have seen reductions in the number of people who read newspapers daily. Up until 1975 it was running in the 49 through 78 percent range, depending upon the age group, and it has dropped to 21 percent to 53 percent. Those who attend churches weekly has dropped from 36 to 25 percent. People participating in civic activity and signing petitions have dropped from 42 to 23 percent. Attending public meetings has dropped from 19 to 8 percent, writing to a politician from 13 to 7 percent, participating in local organizations from 13 to 6 percent. Writing to a newspaper has been cut in half, from 6 to 3 percent. Working for political parties has dropped from 5 to 2 percent, and running for public office has seen a drop as well.
So we've seen a number of those shifts which have reflected a lack of continuance of involvement in community and community activities. That same disconnect that occurred a century ago has started to shift and reflect itself more powerfully, importantly and potently today. And as we are uprooted from friends, families and neighbours, this time it is not industrialization, urbanization and immigration. This time it's such things as the pressures of time and money, as we often see families with two wage earners and no parents at home. It's the issues of suburbanization, which has seen us moving into commuting and being further removed from families and home. It's been the impact of TV and computer and video games, which have started to depersonalize the relationships that exist in families. And there's been a generational shift as we've seen newer generations and younger generations failing to take on the same types of responsibilities and involvements that came, more historically, through our great-grandparents, grandparents and our parents, on to us.
John McKnight argues that many competent communities have been colonized by professional services. He sees this as having taken away from that sense of community as well, as non-profit associations and societies have been overwhelmed by bureaucracies, by experts and by organizations. He argues that when this happens, the spirit of community falters, families collapse and schools fail. Human service institutions try to substitute service for the irreplaceable care that communities can best provide. Local citizens are often the best at resolving social problems. Institutionalized systems often grow at the expense of communities. A community is where we can be citizens. It is where we can best find, deliver and service people. It's a place where we can best care.
Hon. J. MacPhail: I listened with interest to my colleague across the way. It's a very thoughtful speech, and I think it's very timely as well. So many of us sit in this chamber and make decisions that affect communities and families, and sometimes we forget to bring our own experience to those decisions. The member opposite was listing the pressures that we now face as we enter the new millennium and, frankly, I expect that every single one of us in this room faces those same kinds of pressures. Yet, do we try to soften our approach and humanize our approach as we make very important decisions on behalf of all of society?
I totally agree that community infrastructure is essential. Even the physical infrastructure is so essential. That's why the school is so important. Building schools and expanding the use of those schools are key. When you put a computer in a classroom, why not open up that classroom in the off-hours and let the whole community come in?
Yes, time pressures are so important on today's families, so perhaps we should decide as legislators that we will take as an issue providing more time off for today's families to cope with these pressures. I know that the member opposite may find himself in the same situation that I do, which is being what they like to call the sandwich generation. We have children for whom we are responsible; they increasingly get older, but we also have aging parents. We, as legislators, can make change in order to alleviate those pressures on families.
I also think that one of the issues that faces us as well is to actually define what a family is. The family of today is much different than the family of 20, 30, 40 years ago. The grandparents may continue to live with us or they may not. But you may have a family that has two dads. Or you may have a family that has two moms, but that's a family. You may have a family that's a single parent and an adopted child, but that's a family. Or you may have a blended family. Those are step-parents, stepchildren, step-aunts, natural children, half-siblings -- all of which is absolutely key that we all embrace as a definition of a family, because if the family works to support not only those inside the family but works to support the community, then we should embrace the new definition of family as well.
I also fully appreciate that the member brings to our attention the fact that society is changing in terms of where we live and how we live. That's true, that as increasingly our population centres in greater urban areas and suburban areas, we have to make sure that the quality of life remains high, whether you live in a suburban area or whether you live in smaller, rural communities. That means that we have to have a very broad and inclusive approach and not pit one aspect of our communities against the other. While there are common needs in supporting families in today's pressures, there are also differing community needs depending on whether it be a suburban community, an urban community or a smaller, rural regional community.
I feel a little bit sad that we've come to the close of a session where we're discussing these matters with common ground. They're important discussions and, frankly, I think these kinds of considerations should underlie each and every decision that we as legislators make. I really do thank the member opposite for putting them on the agenda.
The Speaker: To reply, the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock.
G. Hogg: I appreciate the minister's comments in referencing the issue of family. I don't think it has ever been
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more difficult to be a parent or to be an adolescent than it is today, subject to the number of changes that we've seen as society speeds up. It becomes more difficult to relate to community and family because of the structural changes that we've seen, probably since the late sixties.
Societies now are seeing children that are often raised with a lot of extrinsic rewards and bombardments rather than the intrinsic sense of motivation, which we saw coming through in days gone by, when the processes of play were used to teach us about our culture. We've seen some dramatic shifts in the processes of play that are occurring today, be they in toys or the impact of television.
We're seeing children raised with good television programs such as "Sesame Street." But because of that information and the entertainment value that comes with that, when a child starts grade 1, the teachers not only have to be educators, they have to be entertainers to get the child's attention, because it's so much more fun to learn the alphabet from Big Bird and all of the entertainment that comes from that. So it becomes much more difficult as that bombardment of information floods down on our children today, and they're trying to adjust to that and learn from it.
As we look at all of the changes that are happening, we have to struggle with ways that we can envision our future, the type of future that we want to have in this province for ourselves and for our children's children. We have to look at the ways that we can increase that social capital, that interconnectedness that means so much, so that we can, through that process, ensure that we have greater life satisfaction. I think we have to encourage greater civic engagement and perhaps civic education and community service programs that allow people to have that time together.
The minister made reference to issues of making areas more family-friendly. I think that we should be looking at developments and workplaces that are more family-friendly. We should look at design and integrated places that allow for pedestrian-friendly areas that make public spaces available for casual socializing, so that that type of interaction can occur there.
We could take active leisure time, so that when we have leisure time and time off, it's not passive but active and involved, and it participates with others. We have to take places and time to connect with people in ways that allow us to have those relationships that will cause us to grow and to understand and to be able to call upon people to assist and support us when we have need for assistance and support. We should not have to become reliant upon institutions and bureaucracies and structures, but should be much more reliant upon the sense of community and family and friendship that once was so prevalent in our communities. That seems to be disintegrating to some degree with the number of changes that have happened in the past decade, despite seeing a growth in that for probably 80 years prior to that.
I'd like to close with a reference to the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Over a century ago, when looking at the issues of how our society should function, he said: "One of the simple things we could and should do is multiply picnics." Perhaps, hon. Speaker, that's still a good message today.
WITH LOCAL AREA NETWORKS
B. Goodacre: The topic that we want to deal with tonight is connecting British Columbia with local area networks. It's about bringing Internet service to rural British Columbia.
As we all know, since 1995 the world of the Internet has basically taken over our society. There are very few workplaces now that do not rely upon computer communications in order to operate. One of the basic features of this new technology is the speed at which you can move data. One of the disadvantages that we face in rural British Columbia is that the infrastructure, in order to move data, is not adequate to create the kind of speeds that are necessary to be effective in this modern economy.
One of the key features of telecommunications which is becoming more and more prevalent -- thanks to our friends in Ottawa and thanks to our government -- is a thing that was referred to as either telehealth or telemedicine. This allows rural areas to have access to medical help that otherwise would not be available. For example, a thing that's available through telehealth in northern Alberta is that through satellite technology, they're capable of doing video conferencing where people don't have to travel to Calgary and Edmonton to see specialists anymore. They can actually visit their specialist through video conferencing.
Now, in the area where I live, of course, people who have to travel for medical consultations very often will come all the way to Vancouver from a place like Smithers or Hazelton simply to spend 15 minutes in a specialist's consultation at one of the major hospitals or major clinics down in the lower mainland. The idea of being able to move away from having to do that sort of thing is extremely attractive to the people where we live. But the question that we're faced with in rural British Columbia right now is how to make that access a reality. Despite the fact that we do have commitments from both governments to move in this direction, and the money is available to do it -- it's not an extremely expensive thing -- one of the concerns we are faced with is a change in the way that the industry operates.
For the longest time we expected that telecommunication services would always be provided by the big telephone companies -- in our case what used to be B.C. Tel and is now called Telus. One of the concerns that faces us in our part of the world is that there is no real business case for a company like Telus to make the investments to bring wideband access into communities like Smithers. Despite the fact that Telus has a 48-strand fibre optic cable going right by our community, the cost of connecting our community to that fibre and making the changes in their system in Smithers in order to allow people to use it doesn't fit their investment pattern. They can make much more money doing things with their investments in the city, where they get a better rate of return.
But one of the things that has happened in one area of our province, in Ashcroft, is that the school district in that area has been very fortunate in having an individual working for them by the name of John Savage who, when they started bringing high-tech into their school district, was way ahead of the game and started finding ways to aggregate local demand in those areas to create a thing that they called local area networks, where different groups in the community would get together. What happened is that the school district actually hooked the
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school board office to cable and then created a hub, then provided wireless and small-fibre access to the municipal hall and band offices and others in order to provide high-speed access to virtually everybody in the community who wanted to hook up.
They're in the process now of adding more and more people to their local area network, to this hub at the school district, which is operated by a local development company that is controlled by the community. One of the advantages there, of course, is that the community itself gets the necessary ongoing revenue to keep the system up and continue to do it.
John Savage has been free with his time in travelling around the province and holding workshops to assist communities throughout rural British Columbia to understand how this can be done. I first encountered him in Williams Lake, where he gave a workshop to a group in that area. He subsequently came up to Smithers, Hazelton, Houston and Burns Lake and shared this information with us in order to demonstrate that a community, by working together, can in fact put these local area networks in place and bring high-speed wideband access into our communities.
In that way we can move into using the telehealth facilities that are being built, and we'll be able to do things like the videoconferencing I earlier referenced. Teleradiology is another issue that can be brought to bear by hooking up our hospitals.
But even more attractive to our communities is that it does open up something that we can't do right now: attract companies that deal with high-speed data transmission. Right now we're actually in the position of putting a lot of the consultants that live in our area at an economic disadvantage because more and more work is being done over the Internet, and these people are suffering from lack of access.
The Speaker: To respond, the hon. member for Okanagan East.
J. Weisbeck: My thanks to the member for his presentation. I agree with him 100 percent on the importance of connecting all British Columbians to the Net.
He talked about the increase to the Net, and that has certainly been
very, very prevalent. He said a number of years ago that the number of
users would double by the year 2003. But more important than that, the
amount of information that was going to pass across the Internet was
Obviously there's a whole number of things that you can access: number one, education -- K-to-12, for example. It is a great tool to deliver curriculum, especially in some of the outlying areas. Post-secondary education -- we've always talked about access, the importance of being able to access the courses not only in British Columbia but throughout the globe. I was noticing that Royal Roads, for example, and Athabasca University have created a union there where they're offering virtual degrees.
We talked about health. I just received a very interesting document put out by the University of B.C. medical school, talking about expanding the medical school into some of the outlying areas and, with that, using some very, very important e-learning tools such as telemedicine, web-based courses, real-time video and Internet-based support units. So here's an opportunity to get medicine out to the rural communities. What a wonderful idea, an option, if you could have the ability to transport X-rays -- whatever -- from one part of the province to the other, from a specialist in Vancouver up to Fort Nelson, for example. What a great opportunity.
Another thing: governance. I think that an expanded high-speed Internet access has changed the whole way we govern. I can visualize a number of years away when we could have referendums weekly. It would be wonderful to stand up here as an MLA and to know that you have placed an issue out into the public and had them respond to it and that you would be responding to your constituents.
The idea of e-government. I just visited New Brunswick and saw what
they were doing out there with Service New Brunswick. They actually copied
some of the things that we were doing in British Columbia through our
government agent offices and were able to supply services not only on line
but through telephones, through direct access. It's a great idea. And
obviously to be able to connect with the rest of the world through the
Internet, with the high-speed access, to everyone in British Columbia and
to be able to allow our businesses to develop their e-business
We always have a number of challenges, you know. We have very, very difficult geography, and the cost of infrastructure is very high in British Columbia. So it's important that we have some collaboration between government, industry and vendors, requiring a managed optical network. It's necessary to get the vendors and the carriers together to supply all the important pieces of the Internet to keep the costs down and to build a balanced network. It's senseless to build a LAN using a 10-megabyte Ethernet and not to be able to take advantage of that because you have too small a pipe leaving your premises. It's like building an apartment block on a residential service for a sewer. I mean, it will plug up.
So it's important that we have some high-speed access and increased bandwidth. The member mentioned the importance of speed and bandwidth, to be able to transport some of these functions across the Internet.
There's some interesting technology happening right now. One of the ones I find most interesting is called dense wavelength division multiplexing. What we do here typically is run light down fibre. This light has become very, very quick, because it's using lasers to light up fibre, and it's very, very fast. But this particular technology takes the light and splits it out into its various wavelengths. What they've done at this point in time is split out light to about 160 wavelengths. And actually, in the lab they've done about 1,100 wavelengths. So you can just appreciate the amount of bandwidth that you can get out of one single strand of fibre. By being able to get this out there into British Columbia, we're going to have the ability to do some really, really marvellous things.
Hon. Speaker, it's really important, obviously, to be able to connect British Columbia, and it's also extremely important to connect British Columbia with this high-speed connection, so that we can take advantage of all the services available.
B. Goodacre: I want to thank the member for his comments. I certainly want also to express the appreciation that I have for the depth of knowledge that he brings to this subject.
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The specific problem that we're faced with in getting wideband into communities in the area that I serve has led, as I mentioned earlier, to our contacts with Dr. John Savage.
I'm glad that the member also referenced the work being done on telemedicine through UBC. I'd like to express publicly my appreciation to Dr. Kendall Ho, who is the individual who has been doing an incredible job through UBC to promote telehealth in this province.
Right now, with the help of the rural development office, we're engaged in a community development telehealth project in the Highway 16 corridor from Hazelton to Burns Lake. We're going to have researchers talk with the people of the health community in this region with the express intention of hooking these medical facilities to the Telus pipe that I mentioned is already there. And, hopefully, then creating these local area network hubs through our medical facilities to which our communities can then connect through fibre to create a wideband opportunity for virtually everybody in the community, not just the health facility itself.
It's these kinds of community-based initiatives, with the assistance of federal and provincial dollars and medical facilities in the south working with medical facilities in the rural area, that are the kind of partnerships that really create the kind of community, actually, that the earlier member's statement was referring to.
I think it's somewhat ironic that this high-tech world could actually become a high-touch world in terms of, especially in our smaller communities, creating opportunities where people can actually work together to create economic and social opportunities, improve our health care, basically improve our economic situation and also, as we like to think, level the playing field for rural British Columbia in terms of our relationship with the great big world in the lower mainland.
So, wrapping up, I'd like to like to thank folks for listening in and hearing the story that our little part of the world has to tell. And pretty soon we'll be able to communicate with you at a very high speed right from downtown Smithers across the fibre.
The Speaker: Thank you, member. And I thank all the members for their statements.
Hon. G. Janssen: I move that the House do now adjourn.
The House adjourned at 6:37 p.m.
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