2001 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 36th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2001
Volume 22, Number 20
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The House met at 10:07 a.m.
Orders of the Day
Hon. G. Wilson: Hon. Speaker, it's my pleasure today to table the 2001-02 Forest Renewal B.C. business plan. This is the seventh annual Forest Renewal British Columbia business plan, and we are proud to be able to table it today.
Hon. G. Janssen: On behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries and Minister Responsible for Rural Development, I have the honour to present the annual report of the B.C. Assets and Land Corporation for the period of April 1, 1999, to March 31, 2000. Also, on behalf of the same minister, who of course can't be with us, I present the annual report of the Ministry of Fisheries for 1999-2000.
I call committee stage on Bill 14.
MUSKWA-KECHIKA MANAGEMENT AREA
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
The House in committee on Bill 14; D. Streifel in the chair.
Hon. I. Waddell: This is a bill that only has two sections that we'll be considering in committee. The first section extends the time period in which the government is going to make a payment to the funds of the Muskwa-Kechika trust fund. We call it Muskwa-Kechika. We also call it the Northern Rocky Mountains Park. The increase in payments commencing May 1 will be an amount not exceeding $3 million. That's an extra $1 million.
The second section basically deals with references to the official plan and
descriptions of adding an additional 1.9 million hectares of land. Having said
that, hon. Chair, I want to introduce
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
M. Coell: With the addition of the 1.9 million hectares, I just have a couple of questions with regard to mining. There are a number of existing mining claims that will be affected by the final plan, and I wonder what the process for compensation will be and also the process for access to those claims if they're allowed to continue.
Hon. I. Waddell: I can tell the hon. member that we have dealt with that issue, and I'd ask Mr. Mitchell to be more specific on the actual claims.
The Chair: Minister, for your clarification, deputies and directors may speak in Committee A but not in the Committee B section.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, there are some interesting rules in the House. Perhaps I can relay that information. I can tell the hon. member that mineral claims are generally addressed in law by a mining claims amendment act and through the Minister of Energy and Mines. That ministry will do it and address the particular claims. We can get the hon. member details of any claims that have been advanced in the area. Usually access in the area for mineral claims will be dealt with through the local process and the local LRMPs.
I should tell the hon. member, for his information, that there's one claim called the Ecstall claim which we need to get access to. We've approved funding in order for us to get access to and through that area, so that will be dealt with. I think that's essentially it, unless the member has a more explicit question. If he wants additional information from the ministry, I'd authorize the ministry to provide that to him.
M. Coell: Under the right-to-mine act, if the access to mineral claims is not given, there would be compensation. During this process of bringing in the 1.9 million hectares, were there negotiations with people who had mining claims in that area? I'm just interested in how they're going to be dealt with. We've created a very large and magnificent park here, but there are a number of areas that need to be tied down, I believe.
Hon. I. Waddell: Let me answer the member's question by saying that what generally happens is that there are no negotiations before the parks are declared, because there's no legal basis to negotiate. The parks are declared; then there are negotiations. The claim owners are aware of that in this case, and there will be negotiations with them through the Ministry of Mines.
M. Coell: Is there more than one claim in that new area -- the 1.9 million hectares?
[E. Walsh in the chair.]
Hon. I. Waddell: The answer is that there are a number of claims. I don't have the exact number; I would have to get it from the Ministry of Mines. I could ask them and get the member that information.
M. Coell: I would appreciate receiving that.
The other question I have is the agreement that was made with the Kaska Dene, which allows them special rights with respect to development of mineral resources in the area. I just wondered if the minister could explain the effect of that agreement on the plan.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, as the member indicates that he knows, this area is the traditional territory of the Kaska Dene, the Fort Nelson Indian band and some Treaty 8 bands. These groups have membership in the Muskwa-Kechika Advisory Board, so they're represented on the board. They also have some involvement in the LRMP, the planning process, especially the Mackenzie LRMP. There is a letter of understanding with the Kaska Dene people, which specifies that they're entitled to their traditional uses of the land, but the letter of understanding doesn't give any additional access to mineral values.
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M. Coell: Will the agreement give the Kaska Dene the right to mine in the park?
Hon. I. Waddell: There is nothing in the letter of understanding that would give them any explicit rights to mine.
We're not in the habit of giving people rights to mine in parks, unlike the hon. member's party, which in the past, I understand, had some indication that they'd like to open up some mining. No, the only access they could have for any mining would be if it were a traditional use. They could claim it in the land claims process and argue that that was part of the way they've traditionally lived on the land. I haven't heard of mining particularly advocated in aboriginal claims, but there may be some of that.
M. Coell: I thank the minister for that comment.
Our position, I believe, is the same position as the government's, which is
that there should be no mining in parks. If you were not aware of that, I would
M. Coell: The amendment act that we're discussing right now, we support. We support the many, many volunteer hours of the people who have put this plan together. It's been tough slogging for many of those groups. There has not always been strong agreement, but it's here today, I think, with a consensus agreement that is very helpful. I know my colleague from Peace River North strongly supports this issue because it's partially in his riding, which is the largest riding in the province.
With that, I thank the minister for his comments, and I look forward to receiving the answers to some of the questions that I've asked.
Section 2 approved.
Hon. I. Waddell: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Bill 14, Muskwa-Kechika Management Area Amendment Act, 2001, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Janssen: So many bills, so little time. I call committee on Bill 15.
PROTECTED AREAS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
The House in committee on Bill 15; E. Walsh in the chair.
The Chair: The committee will come to order on Bill 15.
M. Sihota: I would like to have leave of the House to make an introduction, if I may.
M. Sihota: I would like to thank the members opposite for agreeing to that unusual request on my part.
It's a pleasure for me to introduce to the chamber today a number of students from Macaulay Elementary School. Macaulay is located in Esquimalt, and a French immersion class taught by Ms. Leroy is here today. I just talked to the students. They are a bright bunch of children who are interested in the environment. We're debating a bill now about the environment, so I'm sure that the children will be most interested in watching that debate and will be impressed with the behaviour of members on both sides of the House. That's why I'm going to leave in a few minutes. Would all members please join me in welcoming these young children.
Hon. I. Waddell: This bill -- and I'm just trying to get the bill out of my binder here to give you some idea of how big it is, but it's deceptively big -- establishes new ecological reserves and parks and revises descriptions of existing ecological reserves and parks. It's really one schedule, the section with schedules A, B, C and D. We're repealing the previous ones and substituting new schedules A, B, C and D, which are the descriptions of all the parks.
I notice that we have many students in our gallery today, hon. Chair, and I
have in my hand the descriptions of the parks in British Columbia. It is really
quite something -- from Tribune Bay Park to North Thompson-Oxbows Manteau Park.
Well, it just goes on. The Skookumchuk Narrows Park
If you think it's just about an inch or an inch and a half thick of paper
So that's what we're doing today with this bill. I will have an amendment to the bill when we get to schedule C. I think we should probably do schedule A, B, and then C and D. Could we do it that way?
Hon. I. Waddell: Okay.
On section 1.
M. Coell: I won't take a lot of time. This is a housekeeping bill. I'd like to congratulate the staff who put this together. I think that we've come a long way in the last few years on the ability to define park boundaries, and the bill does just that. But when you look through this bill, you do see many of the magnificent parks that we have in the province. They're now delineated and put into an act. I think that's a very positive thing. On this side of the House we'll be supporting it, and I believe the amendment that the minister is going to introduce will be supportable as well.
Section 1 approved.
Schedules A and B approved.
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On schedule C.
Hon. I. Waddell: I propose an amendment. The Chair has a copy of the amendment, which is:
[SCHEDULE C, in the proposed description of Dune Za Keyih Park [a.k.a. Frog-Gataga Park]
(a) by deleting "deposited in the Crown Land Registry as Plan 8 Tube 1875;" and substituting "deposited in the Crown Land Registry as Plan 11 Tube 1880;", and
(b) by deleting the final paragraph and substituting the following:
The whole park containing approximately 330 774 hectares.]
Schedule C as amended approved.
Schedule D approved.
Hon. I. Waddell: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendment.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2001, reported complete with amendment.
The Speaker: When shall the bill be read as reported?
Hon. I. Waddell: Now, by leave.
Hon. I. Waddell: I'd like to speak on third reading of the bill.
The Speaker: Proceed.
Hon. I. Waddell: Hon. Speaker, I just want to wrap up this bill by saying a few words. As I said in the introduction, here are all the legal descriptions of B.C. parks. We have, I believe, the best park system in the world, and our job is to keep it that way. That means putting resources into the parks. That means making them accessible to the public, to people. That's why we want to make them user-friendly.
There was an issue this year of whether we should charge for firewood. I said no, we shouldn't. The average family in British Columbia should be able to use those parks and, for the price they pay to get in -- which is a modest price -- should also get to use the firewood in the park. The parks should be staffed. That means that we shouldn't be cutting back their budgets. For example, if a future government were to pass dramatic tax decreases, they may not have enough money left to staff these parks. That would be a tragedy, in my view.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, we just added to the budget last year of $4.6
million, and we added more money this year. We announced yesterday the land use
plan, which will, we hope, create more parks in British Columbia on the central
coast. And we hope that will protect the area of the great spirit bear, the
An Hon. Member: Talk on the bill; talk on the bill.
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, I am talking on the bill, because the bill is about parks in British Columbia.
We're proud of our parks in British Columbia, and
Hon. I. Waddell: Well, I know the hon. members may laugh at it, but I think it's pretty important to people. I think the environment's important to people.
I'll wind up speaking on the bill. We want to have clean air in British Columbia, clean water and the best park system in the world. This bill today really puts it in the most up-to-date and best legal terms possible. I thank the members opposite for supporting and helping us put this bill through with decent haste today.
I move third reading on Bill 15.
Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2001, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Janssen: I call committee on Bill 22.
AMENDMENT ACT, 2001
The House in committee on Bill 22; E. Walsh in the chair.
On section 1.
G. Plant: This is a general question, really, which is why I'll ask it now, if I may, although the particular context is going to be found in the new section 32.1(17), which is near the end of the bill.
One of the things that this bill does in creating a new process for
determining compensation issues with respect to the people who will be called
Hon. G. Bowbrick: First, I'd like to introduce
The answer to the member's question is yes.
G. Plant: I expect that the answer to this question is self-evident. But has the minister made any allowance in his
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budget for the ministry for the fiscal year we're now in and for the fiscal year that has recently concluded to accommodate the possibility that there will be such pay increases?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: No, it's not provided for in my ministry budget. It will have to be taken as a pressure on this current fiscal year, which is, I would argue, an appropriate matter to go to Treasury Board on contingencies.
G. Plant: What is the amount currently set aside for contingencies in the budget of the ministry for the fiscal year that we're now in?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: What I was referring to were contingencies for the entire provincial budget.
Sections 1 to 11 inclusive approved.
On section 12.
G. Plant: Perhaps the minister could explain the purpose of the repeal of sections 35 to 40 of the Provincial Court Act.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Those sections deal with the appointment of court referees. I'm informed it's a title that we've never actually even used in practice. Sitting JPs were doing the work of court referees, and now, with the new designation "judicial justice," it just won't be required.
G. Plant: I think there's some merit to the idea of referees across the court system, if you see referees as being independent third parties who are able to undertake a consideration of tasks, in effect, delegated to them by a judge sitting in a case. Of course, at the end of the day it's the judge who makes the decision, not the referee. But it seems to me, at first blush, when I looked at this, that we're in a situation where the workload of the Provincial Court is expanding. That's certainly the view that the Provincial Court takes of their workload. And it is possible that in the next months and years to come, one way of dealing with their expanded responsibilities would be to ensure that Provincial Court judges have the power to refer matters in accordance with the scheme that was provided for in sections 35 to 40, which we are now about to repeal.
It may be that the response to the concern I'm expressing is that judicial
justices will have all of those powers. In my less than completely thorough
analysis of the bill, it doesn't appear to me that that will be the case, so
that we are in fact writing out of the statute books the opportunity to use
these officials for those purposes. And I recognize that the minister
Hon. G. Bowbrick: The member may be thinking more along the lines of the Supreme Court, which can certainly refer matters to a master or a registrar to be of assistance. But I'm informed that at the Provincial Court level, the JPs, who would also potentially have the designation as court referees, only did traffic matters. That's what they were doing, and there was never any intention that they would be referred these types of matters in the same way as happens with the Supreme Court.
G. Plant: Yeah. And it may be that I'm confused or that my question was confusing. This is a bill which is largely concerned with changing the conception of sitting justices of the peace. But when I look at the section that we have before us, I see that as unrelated to the purpose of the bill. That is, it looks to me as though this is just a provision that comes along because there's an opportune moment to tidy up the Provincial Court Act, if you will.
So if you don't mind, if I'm right in that, then let me attempt to start the discussion that I want to have without talking about judicial justices anymore. We're now talking about a completely different animal. It's a court referee.
The minister is right in his reference to the Supreme Court, that the idea of referring matters to registrars or masters is common in the context of the Supreme Court rules. While my memory is not totally reliable, I actually think their rules about referees in the Supreme Court -- again, in that context -- are not used very often. There certainly are rules that give the judge presiding over a Supreme Court matter the opportunity to appoint his or her own expert, for example, on a particular issue to get some assistance in a situation. The judge may say: "Well, I've got the plaintiff's expert on one side and the defendant's expert on the other. Maybe on this one occasion, I'd better see if I can get neutral, independent help." It doesn't happen very often -- in fact, I don't know if I can recall an instance where it did happen. But that's the concept.
Now, we move that concept into the context of the Provincial Court, where the concept, again, is there recognized in the law. I have no reason to doubt the minister when he says it has never been used. The question is whether it's appropriate to do away with the idea altogether, simply on the basis that it has not been used in the past.
In support of at least the legitimacy of the question, let me say that it seems to me that over the next decade, the project of being creative around the distribution of judicial resources is going to become more, rather than less, intense. This has certainly been well recognized at the Supreme Court level over the past decade in rules like the rule 65 procedure and all that stuff. I recognize that for some of the members opposite, that's a bit too much like talking about lawyers, but in fact these are the tools through which the citizens of British Columbia get access to justice. Sooner or later you have to give those tools a name, and those are the names that we have to use in this discussion.
It seems to me that the same challenges are going to be presented in the Provincial Court. Let me take that thought one step further. Just about a decade ago the County Court was abolished. There was a recognition that the traditional use that the system made for the person, the role of County Court, was no longer relevant in a functional sense. Most of the work done by County Court judges could be and should be done by Superior or Supreme Court judges.
So we went from a system that ten or 12 years ago had three levels -- or maybe four, if you include the work done by JPs. We went from a four-level system of justice, putting appeal courts to one side for a moment, to a two- or three-
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level system. I don't think that the pressure has ended. Some will argue that the Provincial Court has moved to assume a role that encompasses such a wide variety of types and problems of litigation, criminal and civil, that it's starting to look a little bit like the County Court was. Not in the sense of judicial districts and all those formal things but in the sense of being a court of primary access to trial-level justice across British Columbia, the Provincial Court is certainly assuming that role.
So as we watch the Provincial Court continue to assume that role, the question that occurs to me is: do they have all the tools they need to deliver justice in a way that the minister and I would agree meets the test of accessibility, affordability, fairness and so on? And it seems to me that in terms of things like referees and so on, more of those tools rather than fewer are better.
So that is the context in which I ask the question that I asked a few minutes ago: why are we repealing these provisions?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I think the points raised by the member are
completely legitimate. I have to say that the first question I just asked my
official before answering this question was: is there any harm in an amendment
on this or in not proceeding with this amendment? But I'm informed that the
Chief Judge of B.C. did ask for this, so there must be some
G. Plant: Well, I'm not inclined to stand in the Attorney's way, so the discussion may continue in some other form in the months and years to come. It may be that the Chief Judge has ideas for dealing with the challenges that she sees for her court that don't include this particular tool. I thought the discussion was worth having, but as I say, I'm not going to stand in the way of the proposed change to the act.
Sections 12 and 13 approved.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
Bill 22, Provincial Court Amendment Act, 2001, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I call committee stage on Bill 10.
PROTECTION OF PUBLIC
The House in committee on Bill 10; E. Walsh in the chair.
On section 1.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I move the amendment to section 1.
On the amendment.
[SECTION 1, in the proposed definition of "public participation"
(a) by deleting "includes" and substituting "means", and
(b) in paragraph (g) by adding "unlawful or" after "considered by a court to be".
SECTION 1, in the proposed definition of "reasonable costs and expenses" by deleting paragraph (b) (i) and substituting the following:(i) the amount of legal fees and disbursements that are, in a review conducted under section 70 of the Legal Profession Act after the conclusion of the proceeding, determined to be owing by the defendant to the defendant's lawyers for all matters related to the proceeding or claim, as the case may be, including all of the reasonable costs and expenses incurred by the defendant in pursuing rights or remedies available under or contemplated by this Act in relation to the proceeding or claim, and for the purposes of the review under this subparagraph, the plaintiff is deemed to be, and to have standing to appear at the review as, a person charged within the meaning of the Legal Profession Act;.]
G. Plant: The amendment changes two of the definitions in the act. Section 1 of the bill is the definitions section. I've read the amendments, and perhaps procedurally what I'll do is say this: the amendments give better expression and perhaps more reasonable expression to the government's intentions in respect of the principle of this bill.
On section 1 as amended.
G. Plant: The problem with this bill is a problem in principle. It's a problem that has to do with the idea behind this legislation. I said in second reading that there were two questions that I think could not be satisfactorily answered by the proponents of this legislation.
The first is whether the phenomenon against which it is directed is so widespread and pervasive as to require the intervention of the Legislature. In arguing that the evidence is not there in support of that proposition, I want to make it clear again that I have no doubt that from time to time there are lawsuits commenced for purposes that most citizens would regard as improper. The question is whether that phenomenon is so widespread as to constitute a threat either to the system of justice or to democracy in British Columbia. I don't believe that the evidence is there to support that.
The second general objection, or the second general threshold question that the bill has to answer, is whether there are already available, in the laws of British Columbia, tools for responding to improper or illegitimate legislation and whether there's some problem with those tools. I said in second reading that this bill fails on that front also, because there are actually lots of tools available to litigants who believe they have been wrongly sued or sued for illegitimate or improper purposes.
To give the authors of this bill their due, I recognize that they're trying, and perhaps doing so with the best of intentions, to construct another framework for dealing with these kinds of problems. I have looked at that framework. I have considered it even in its now slightly amended form, and I
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don't see it as an improvement on the way the system of justice in British Columbia currently operates and the rules of our legal system operate -- so as to allow people who are sued to challenge the legitimacy of that litigation.
This bill, because it is, in my view, not necessary, fails those tests that I think all legislation has to pass. It's also very deeply flawed in its approach to the solution of the problem, even if you were to accept that there was such a problem that required some intervention by the Legislature.
In my second reading speech I identified some of those concerns. They are concerns that are both with the detail of the scheme that's put in place and also with the basic approach. I want to acknowledge that the amendments that we've just made actually constitute a response to some of those concerns, and in that respect, they improve the legislation. But the legislation is wrong in principle and therefore, in my view, is beyond repair. It would not be possible to fix the basic project here by amending it line by line, because the basic idea is what is wrong.
In second reading debate I identified some of the concerns I had. I have to say that I did not identify all of the concerns I had. One of the things this bill does is reverse the onus on a plaintiff, in effect, at the trial of an action in which someone decides to argue that the case is a SLAPP. The plaintiff will be faced with a negative or reverse onus of disproving a contention. This is always a difficult thing in our system of justice, which proceeds on the basis that generally speaking, the plaintiff has to prove the positive rather than disprove the negative. That's another flaw in the approach of this bill.
I want to be clear about one really important flaw that's not addressed by these amendments. The moment a lawsuit is commenced in British Columbia, this bill will give a defendant the right to stop that lawsuit in its tracks simply by filing a piece of paper. That is, I think, a very significant interference with the principle of access to justice. The traditional rule is that the plaintiff who takes on the burden of proving a case gets the opportunity to control the management of the litigation. The defendant always has the right to go to court and say to a judge that this case is wrong, that this case is mischievous or ill-founded or that the plaintiff is abusing his or her right of access to the court. The defendant has the opportunity to go to court and ask for the lawsuit to be managed in a way which minimizes the costs. But generally speaking, if the defendant wants to shut down the plaintiff's lawsuit, the defendant has to go to court and ask the judge for permission to do that.
What this bill goes out of its way to do is give the defendant the power to
shut down a lawsuit in its tracks the day after it's commenced, without having
to prove anything. At that moment, if the plaintiff wants to get his or her
lawsuit back on track, the person who decided to commence the lawsuit, who may
be a person of modest means
So the plaintiff who wants to get his or her lawsuit back on track has to go to a judge and persuade the judge that he or she should be allowed to get the lawsuit back on track. That costs money. Let's not kid ourselves; that costs money. Those applications cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
And the very moment a lawsuit is commenced, this bill, which is supposedly about simplifying and putting tools in the hands of litigants, gives the defendant a club that allows the defendant to club the plaintiff on the side of the head and say: "You don't get to leave the starting gate without going off to court and persuading the judge on affidavits that you're entitled to proceed." And the judge says: "Well, before we get to the issue of the merits of the lawsuit, we're going to have a discussion about your motives, Mr. Plaintiff. We're not so interested anymore in whether you've got a good cause of action. The question is: are you pure of purpose?"
I don't like that. It's not a partisan thing; I don't like that as a matter of principle about our system of justice. I think it's a bad expression of a principle of justice that says to a defendant, "The moment a plaintiff dares to sue you, you get to stop the lawsuit in its tracks," and the plaintiff says to himself: "I have a dying material witness. The person who can prove my claim is at death's door, but I can't examine that witness. I can't even file a piece of paper in this lawsuit now without going off to court and getting permission."
G. Plant: You know, it's interesting when the parties on the other
side begin to contribute to a debate which will do nothing but increase the cost
of civil litigation in British Columbia. There's nothing in this bill that will
make civil litigation cheaper, faster, fairer or more accessible. All this bill
will do is make litigation more expensive, slower and more cumbersome. That's
not a problem I'm creating; that's a problem that government is creating with
this bill. But we're not having a second reading debate. We're having
The Chair: Members will come to order.
G. Plant: When I look through the bill and its details, starting with section 1 as amended, the problem is that the bill is flawed in principle, and it is multiply flawed in principle. I respect the intentions of the people who are concerned about the problem they see, but this bill isn't an answer to it, and it can't be repaired. I think that in those circumstances it would not advance much in the way of public purpose to deal with the details.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: I take it from the member's comments that he's saying he doesn't want to debate section by section in committee stage because he's so fundamentally opposed to this bill in principle.
Hon. Chair, the problem is this: we all have a duty to recognize the reality of the experience of all people in our society. I'm not going to impugn the motives of the member opposite in any way. But I have to say that we are becoming a more litigious society. People turn to the law. They turn to courts increasingly in order to try and deal with various issues. The problem is that there are many, many people who
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don't want to be part of that. They find this a very intimidating prospect. There are tenants who are intimidated by the very receipt of a notice from a landlord about going to the residential tenancy branch for a hearing.
We cannot deny the reality of the situation we're trying to address. The
member opposite says he doesn't see the need. Well, this is precisely the point.
He may say: "Can you point to every case that's ever occurred in the
history of this province that has involved a SLAPP suit?" The point is that
anybody, especially anybody who's an activist and wants to participate in public
debate in this province
This is about trying to level the playing field. I think the member makes some assumptions about the level of equality or -- since we obviously don't have absolute equality in our society and are never going to -- the level of equity, let's say, within our society. I know, especially as lawyers, we want to believe that every citizen can come to our courts on at least as equal a footing as possible. We want to believe that; it's a noble ideal. But it's not the reality. It's not the reality once people become defendants in these cases. They appear before the court. They are not appearing as equals in terms of their own experience, in terms of their resources.
There's a key distinction. The member raises the concern about how we're
making an assumption about everyone being a big, bad plaintiff. No, that's not
There's a fundamental difference between the plaintiffs the member talks about and defendants. Defendants don't want to be a part of any litigation. They don't want to be in front of the courts. They're not there by choice in any way, shape or form. We're saying that if you are being brought into the court process in this province as a defendant and you feel an injustice is being done, we think that the Legislature should speak clearly and give you the tools in order to rebut that. Not legitimate lawsuits. Legitimate claims are protected by this bill; they're absolutely protected by this bill.
I'm going to leave it at that. We're talking about a fundamental difference
around a point of principle. If we're not going to have a debate section by
section, fair enough. But I think that the province would be served well by that
discussion, because I think that as they enact legislation, what legislators say
matters. I think it is looked upon at least
I'm going to leave it at that. We do have a fundamental difference of opinion on a point of principle.
G. Plant: First things first. The example about the landlord and the tenant is, I think, an important illustration of the point that the Attorney General makes that there are people who find the whole prospect of being tied up or involved in judicial proceedings of any kind to be very intimidating and so on. But, of course, that example is completely irrelevant to the bill before us, because the bill before us has absolutely nothing to do with that situation. So while it is illustrative of the general question, it is not in any way illustrative of the problem that this bill seeks to address.
The second point to make is in response to another good comment by the Attorney General, who observes that many, many defendants are not there by choice. They've not been made defendants by choice; they've not been sued by choice. That probably is true of all defendants. It certainly would be true of people who are seeking to exercise their right of free speech in the context of a debate about a matter of legitimate public interest. They believe that they have done only that and then find themselves on the receiving end of a writ of summons, because someone believes that their words or their conduct was unlawful. This bill will do nothing to prevent that either.
The Attorney General is right to talk about that phenomenon, but nothing in this bill will address that phenomenon. Nothing in this bill prevents plaintiffs from filing writs of summons or commencing proceedings. All of the procedures in this bill come into place after the lawsuit's been commenced. So, important as that principle is and legitimate as that observation is, it is in fact entirely beside the point -- again.
But I don't mean to say that so categorically to be disrespectful in any way. If you stop and think about it for a moment, if that is part of the objective here, what this bill does in its details is show how impossible it is to achieve that objective. If you are going to even pay lip service to the notion of access to justice, you're going to have a process in place that comes into force after a plaintiff has started a lawsuit. Anything more intrusive than that would be, I think, truly an interference with basic democratic principles. So any way you look at it, any way you cut it, the processes in this bill come into play after the lawsuit's been commenced.
A question for the government is this: what is wrong with the remedies that already exist in the law to respond to claims that are in some way illegitimate? There are lots of tools available. In fact, the day after someone who receives a writ is served, the defendant can go up to court and ask a judge to get rid of the lawsuit on the basis that it has no merit. That's the very thing that this bill attempts to do. It is fundamentally a duplication of that which already exists; it is an elaboration. It's an awfully darned complex elaboration, and maybe we will have a chance to explore just how complicated it is.
I am intrigued by the Attorney General's reference to the defendant who doesn't want to be sued, because I have never seen a bill that took so long to say so little. It's eight pages of mind-numbing detail about interrelated processes and applications.
I understand the thought process, the discipline of the thought process that goes toward saying: "Here's the first application; here's the second; here's the third. Here are the remedies available on the first one; here are the remedies available on the second; here are the remedies available on the third. Here's the test on the first; here's the test on the second; here's the test on the third." I get how it all works.
But let's not kid ourselves. No 22-year-old person without means, who is on the receiving end of a writ that they think has been filed to intimidate them out of public participation, is going to have a clue what this bill says or does. Guess what they're going to have to do. They're going to have to go and visit a lawyer.
[ Page 17690 ]
D. Lovick: Reverse it.
G. Plant: The member for Nanaimo wants to reverse it. Well, that's a good socialist argument for curing the problems with the system of justice: reverse the onus.
D. Lovick: Reverse your argument. Think about it.
G. Plant: I have thought about the argument both ways, and here is the problem. Somebody gets sued, and the theory of the government is that the person who gets sued should have available to them this eight-page, highly detailed system of remedies. I suggest, with respect, that the only place that person is going to go is a lawyer's office.
Now, if a person in that situation today went to a lawyer's office and said:
"You know what? I've been sued. I hate it. I can't stand it. I feel
intimidated. It's shutting me down. It's intimidating me out of participating in
public discussion about an issue that I hold very dearly and that I believe to
be profoundly important to the future of my community. Somebody sued me because
of what I said. There's nothing wrong in what I said; I wasn't defaming anybody.
But here I've got a writ by somebody, some well-financed litigant" -- or
maybe somebody who's not well financed -- "who says that I've defamed them.
What do I do
Well, if the defendant were in the lawyer's office today, the lawyer would say: "Well, that's interesting. I can make any number of applications to shut down the lawsuit. I can argue that it's frivolous or vexatious or scandalous or an abusive process or wrong. Or I could argue that you have constitutionally protected free-speech rights that, in the particular context of the issue you're talking about, give you protection, because the context is that it's a government that's acting in a way to shut you down."
All of those remedies are already there. So what's wrong with those remedies that are already there?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: The member raises a number of points. Let me address the specific question first: that the rules already provide the remedies. Hon. Chair, the rules of court do not allow for punitive damages. That is the function of tort law. This bill makes it clear that punitive damages are available to a defendant who's seeking to rebut a case against them. The rules of court do not provide for that. Secondly, this bill expands the evidence allowed, to include evidence of the context of public participation. That is the entire point that we're trying to get at here.
The member also raises the point: "Well, the bill doesn't really have any effect until someone becomes a defendant. So what's the point?" The point is this. Maybe I'm naïve. Maybe I'm stuck in some time years ago, but I believe the law serves an important purpose in our system. It is a statement of the intent of those who are elected to represent the people of this province. This law will send a clear message. It is a deterrent; it should have a deterrent effect. Plaintiffs who are bringing lawsuits in whole or in part for no other reason than to intimidate people, to silence them from expressing themselves as it is their democratic right to do, should think twice before bringing such a suit with this bill in place.
Now, the member also raises questions about the detail of this bill. Yes, it's a detailed bill. This is a conceptually difficult bill. Frankly, when you sit down and start going through this, as I was working on it, it is a brain twister. There's no question. The reason for that is that we have to be very careful. This bill does affect access to justice. That should not be done casually. The detail is necessary in order to try and reach the right balance of protecting the right to public participation, on the one hand, and protecting the right of people to pursue legitimate claims in the courts of this province.
The opposition critic also said, because of the detail of this bill, looking through it: "Well, someone is going to have to go and see a lawyer about this."
I think that illustrates my point. It illustrates the whole point of this bill, because the point of that criticism -- implicit in that criticism -- is that somehow, with a simpler bill, a defendant in these circumstances might just go and make their own application in British Columbia Supreme Court without counsel. Well, I think that's the point: the people who are victims of strategic lawsuits against public participation, which is what this is all about, often don't have the wherewithal to do that.
It's about finances; that's a big part of what this is about. But it's also about the types of people who get hit with these things. If the member took the time to talk to some of the people who've been defendants in these cases, he'd see that they're obviously of limited means. They may be elderly; they may be frail. They may have other complications in their lives that they have to worry about more than trying to represent themselves in B.C. Supreme Court. Maybe they have kids at home to look after. Maybe they have struggles every single day dealing with the day-to-day realities of life, and the only mistake they made was to participate and to express their views in a democratic society. And they're getting slapped with a lawsuit for that. It is unrealistic to suggest that if this were just a simpler bill, the victims of SLAPP suits would simply go to the Supreme Court of this province and represent themselves.
Having said that, I still want to believe in the nobility of the legal profession in this province. But I have to say that in my experience -- and I think there are many senior members of the profession who would agree with this statement -- our profession has a lower commitment to, for example, doing pro bono work than it did, say, 40 years ago.
So there is a problem with representation. I think the hon. member is right;
I think that's implicit in his remarks to some extent. But, thankfully, there
are some resources available. People are going to be represented in these cases.
They're going to be able to go
Thank God that we still have some of that commitment. I should emphasize that those resources exist, in part, because the leadership of our profession has made a decision through the Law Foundation to provide some resources to make sure that people can be represented in those cases. But realistically, nobody who's hit with a SLAPP suit is going to go to B.C. Supreme Court, read through this statute and represent themselves. They are going to get the assistance of counsel. I would like to see more counsel offering assistance, but they will get assistance. This bill will assist them in dealing with something which is actually very traumatic for them.
[ Page 17691 ]
G. Plant: I want to deal with at least two of the points that the Attorney General made, in this order. First of all, I listened carefully to the Attorney's description of the kind of person that might be a defendant in a SLAPP lawsuit. That was a powerful description of a British Columbian, a person who has lots of challenges to face in their lives and fewer tools than they'd like to meet those challenges, who may be forced to deal with problems in their employment, lack of employment, challenges dealing with their family situation. That, of course, is a description that could apply equally and every day in British Columbia does apply equally to people who are plaintiffs as well as defendants.
Imagine for a moment the position of the plaintiff, who fits the minister's description in every single way except this: he or she wakes up one morning, opens the newspaper and sees that somebody has told a terrible lie about them and published it in a newspaper.
What this bill does, of course, is make that whole question of whether or not
the plaintiff has a right to recover in our system of justice for that lie a
whole lot more complicated. If the lie was told in the context of a matter that
someone might be able to argue is an issue of public interest, then this bill
licenses lying. This bill adds to the predicament of the fictional defendant
that the Attorney General talked about. It adds to that predicament if you put
that person in the position of the plaintiff. This additional burden, which
doesn't exist already in the law of British Columbia -- that is, that big-time
lies can be told about them beyond the scope of the law of defamation that
And I suggest with respect that it is simply not appropriate to view this legislative approach only through the window of the defendants that the Attorney General obviously has in mind when he approaches the drafting of the bill, because it will operate both ways. It will operate to affect the lives of plaintiffs as well as defendants. It will affect the lives of poor plaintiffs and poor defendants. It will affect the lives of rich plaintiffs and rich defendants. I think that is a problem with this bill.
The second issue I want to address, which the Attorney General spoke to with some enthusiasm in his remarks, is the observation that the additional remedial tool that this bill would create is the prospect of obtaining punitive or exemplary damages against a plaintiff. Now, let's be clear. That remedy is already available in the law if there's been an abuse of process. So I still don't get the basic foundation of the contention that there's something new here.
But if there is something new here, here is what it is: the defendant gets to stop the lawsuit in its tracks an hour after it's started. Instead of an inquiry directed by the parties into the truth of the allegations made by the plaintiff, instead of an inquiry into the question of whether there's a cause of action and whether there ought to be a remedy for that cause of action, the resources of the court system, the resources of the plaintiff and, yes, the precious resources of the person that the Attorney General described will all be devoted for months on end, days upon days of argument in court, to whether the plaintiff has pure motives. The plaintiff is going to have to defend the legitimacy of his claim in order to resist the argument that he has no reasonable expectation that his claim will succeed at trial without having conducted any of the pretrial discovery that our system of justice usually makes available in civil litigation.
The Attorney General can stand up and say, "Well, that's not quite true," because of course the plaintiff could apply to court for an order allowing all of that discovery to take place. Or the defendant could apply for an order allowing all of that discovery to take place. So the defendant could apply for an order allowing all of that to take place before determining the issues. Well, if that's the case, then again, we're not changing anything. Maybe in that context, the Attorney General is right. This is actually just an exercise in intimidating people from starting lawsuits. I'm not going to suggest that, because I do believe that the impetus behind this is better intentioned than that.
When the Attorney says that the additional remedy that this provides is that someone could get punitive or exemplary damages against a plaintiff who had brought a lawsuit 60 days after the lawsuit started, before the plaintiff has had a chance to do the research or the factual preparation that is part of civil litigation, doesn't that sound like just a huge digression into a wrong-headed inquiry that will turn this system of justice upside down? Isn't there something fundamentally flawed with the idea that you only get to be a litigant in the courts of British Columbia if your motives are pure? Isn't there something flawed in the idea that you only get to be a litigant in British Columbia if you can resist the argument that none of your purposes in bringing the claim has anything to do with dissuading the defendant from doing the very thing that you're actually trying to get the defendant to stop doing in bringing the lawsuit? Isn't there something strange about that?
Imagine this for a moment. It's possible. I have to admit that the example that occurred to me this morning was Carrier Lumber. Now, I have no idea what opinion was given to the plaintiff in the Carrier Lumber case, and we're not going to talk about the details of that. I'm just using it as an example. I have no idea what opinion the plaintiff's lawyer gave in the Carrier Lumber case at the start of it. Maybe there is an opinion that says: "You know, in the circumstances of this case, I can't say that you have a reasonable expectation that your proceeding will succeed at trial. But I can tell you this. Your lawsuit will divert public resources away from public participation into defending the lawsuit." Well, there we are -- presto change-o. We're right four-square within the definitions of improper purpose in subsection (2) of section 1 -- the section that we have before us.
Here is the problem the Attorney faces. He wants to think about this bill
only through the perspective of the people he has in mind as the victims of
SLAPP suits, but he's drafted a bill that is much broader. He's drafted a bill
that will be used by people who don't care about SLAPP suits and who will look
at this bill as an opportunity to frustrate civil litigation. Just like all the
other rules of court are often used in that way, in order to make the
plaintiff's pathway to justice as difficult as possible, because sometimes
that's the exercise that the parties are engaged in
So it seems to me that the first problem is that the example of the defendant is an example that can apply to a plaintiff. And when you think of that, you have to remember the additional issue, which is that we're talking about someone
[ Page 17692 ]
who did not ask to have lies told about them, did not ask to have a defendant mercilessly defame them, did not ask to have a defendant undertake concerted action to cause them economic harm. Nonetheless, that took place. They think they have a right of access to the courts, but this bill will frustrate that. In that context, public participation is expressly defined to ensure that a plaintiff can be the victim of economic harm without having a cause of action.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Hon. Chair, to some extent, I feel like I'm back at
university or back at law school. These are
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Oh no. I'm well aware of where I am. I said that this debate makes me feel that way. It just takes me back there for some reason.
You know, I think the problem is that whenever we as a society have tried to
enact change, there will always be arguments for the status quo by saying:
"Oh no. Look, here's this exception; here's this horrible thing that would
result if we were to engage in such change." If we were actually to have
some faith in ourselves as a society and the way we would conduct ourselves with
Hon. Chair, there is a purposes clause in this act, which is quite unusual. I think the member opposite knows that. It's quite unusual. The reason it is there is to make it very, very clear what the spirit and intent of this bill is. I don't know, but I think that if we read through the purposes clause, it's not intended to see plaintiffs in the circumstances that the member opposite hypothesizes -- being dealt with unjustly. That's not what this bill is about.
It's also important to make it clear that while the member opposite speaks in absolute terms, this bill is loaded with discretion. It is an act of faith in our courts that they have an interest in seeing justice be done, and they will see that justice is done. We are offering a tool. It's a statement from this Legislature, but it's also a tool available to the courts to effect that statement of intent.
The opposition critic says that this is a licence to lie. It's pretty strong
language. And I believe he made the same comment in second reading debate. Let
me quote from Brown, in The Law of Defamation in Canada, on what is an
occasion of qualified privilege. Under the law of defamation, "there are
occasions where the interest sought to be protected is not so compelling and
important as to warrant an absolute privilege
This is later in the same publication: "The privilege serves to bridge certain socially valuable interests. It attempts to accommodate competing social and political interests for the good of society. Thus, in some exceptional circumstances, the law will protect a person in the publication of defamatory words about another if the interests he or she seeks to serve outweighs the interest in reputation that the defamed party seeks to protect."
Section 3 of this bill confirms that public participation as defined in this bill will always constitute an occasion of qualified privilege. Under common law and most circumstances falling within that definition, a court would likely find that there is an occasion of qualified privilege. One of the purposes of this bill, and certainly one of the purposes of section 3, is to remove any uncertainty in that regard.
Finally, on the member's contention that this bill is a licence to lie, the bill does not affect the other components of the common law of defamation relating to the defence of qualified privilege. In particular, the plaintiff can show the following: first, that the defendant knew his words were false or were reckless as to their truth or falsity, that the words were not germane and reasonably appropriate to the issue of public interest giving rise to the public participation or that the defendant's principal aim in making the statement was something other than what is set out in the definition of public participation. Therefore, just as at common law, a defendant can ultimately be held liable for defamatory statements. This bill is not a licence to lie.
The opposition critic says that this bill provides for the opportunity for a defendant to stop this lawsuit in its tracks. It's very dramatic -- that kind of language. He refers to section 4(2)(b) of this bill, which does allow for the action to be essentially frozen but for not more than 60 days, and under section 4(3), injunctions are specifically permitted. Again, the court can order otherwise.
As I say, this bill is loaded with discretion. There may be those who would make the argument: "Gee, this puts a lot of responsibility on our courts. It could create a lot of work for them in cases where this statute is raised in defence." That may be so, but at the end of the day I have faith that we've been very clear as to our intent, and we've been clear that we want to preserve the right of plaintiffs to bring legitimate claims.
You know, the member says: "Well, motive is called into question. We'll have inquiries into the motives of plaintiffs." The answer is yes. Motive matters; that's the whole point. Motive matters when it comes to these types of cases. Legitimate claims, yes, but motive matters. If the point is that it's not a legitimate claim and it's being brought simply to try to silence others, that's wrong. This bill addresses that.
G. Plant: Well, here's the first problem. In order to determine whether the claim is legitimate, motive will be relevant. To use the language that I think the member for Nanaimo likes, I think the minister has just expressed a tautology. This bill inextricably interweaves the notion of motive with the question of whether or not the claim is legitimate, because part of the determination of whether an action has been brought for an improper purpose involves asking the question of whether there is any reasonable expectation that it could succeed. So the merit of the litigation is bound up with the question of whether it was brought for a proper purpose.
If the minister's contention is that it's legitimate to introduce the idea of motive into our system of justice as a controlling factor in determining what lawsuits should proceed and not proceed, and then goes on to argue that it's all right to introduce that element because it will only apply where the lawsuit is not a legitimate claim -- to use the minister's language -- he hasn't understood his bill. In fact, in order to determine whether the claim is legitimate, we now have to figure out something about the merits.
The minister also spoke about how the bill does not touch the other elements of the tort of defamation. He pointed out
[ Page 17693 ]
that there are things which a plaintiff can continue to do to demonstrate
that the tort of defamation has been committed against him -- well, not when
this application's been brought. When the application's been brought, we have an
argument about motive and intent. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe what we then do is
Maybe the intention in the bill is to say that rather than allowing the plaintiff the opportunity to build and prove a case -- as is conventionally done over the course of three or six or nine or 12 months, or sometimes a year and a half, in the run-up to trial -- a defendant who thinks that he or she is a victim of a SLAPP should be able to telescope all that down to the 60-day window.
Well, frankly, I just don't think that's going to happen in any realistic or fair way. Now, of course, we have this additional problem again. All of this is already there in the rules of court. A defendant who thinks that the plaintiff's claim is without merit can bring on that application and ask to have it determined in 60 days. But the existing rules of court, generally speaking, keep the balance of proof pretty fair. This, at certain points, starts to reverse the onus in a way that I think creates a problem.
I've made the point about motive and about how motive is in fact less clearly separated from the process created by this bill than the minister would argue. And I've made the point about the difficulty of believing that you can determine fairly the legitimacy of the plaintiff's claim within the timetable that this bill contemplates.
Two other points. The minister said that this bill places a lot of discretion in the hands of the courts. Well, that's true. That's an understatement. At every clause of this bill, there's language that's going to require judicial interpretation. I don't mean to be in any way unfair to the minister to point out that in the course of a second reading speech -- where I had, I think, less than one working day of parliamentary time to prepare -- I identified enough changes to cause four amendments to the bill. That's not just a bill that puts a lot of discretion in the hands of the courts; it's a bill that somebody hasn't written very carefully.
The amendments are a good thing. I shudder to think what might have happened if the minister had actually taken this bill out for a walk in the public -- not the bill that was introduced last summer. This bill is quite different. There was no consultation done with respect to this bill. There was consultation done -- I understand and fully accept that there was consultation invited by the minister's predecessor -- with respect to the idea. And then the minister's predecessor introduced an exposure bill -- great thing to do. I'm sure the minister got some comments from people about the exposure bill.
But now we have this bill. And I don't think this bill was taken out for much of a walk. I've certainly talked to some people who are the kind of people who would ordinarily want to have a look at it, and they said that they didn't get a chance. They're all struggling to find the time to do that now, frankly, given the timetable of this legislative session: introduce a bill Monday, pass it Tuesday, debate the committee stage Wednesday. That's a good way to make public policy in a hurry, but it tends to encourage less-than-thorough drafting.
So when the minister says that this bill places a lot of discretion in the hands of the courts, he's right. But a lot of that is by accident, not by design. It's because the language used in the bill hasn't been carefully thought out enough to provide the tools that judges need to make decisions.
But you know, it's not just about what happens in courts. This is the other element of that whole dynamic that the minister's analysis leaves off the table. He spoke earlier about the importance of what we do when we make law in terms of sending signals and messages to the world at large, and I agree with that. What we also do when we make laws is send messages to people whose business is to make decisions in their lives and to plan what they're doing. We say to them: "You want certainty; you want stability. Life and a system of law without certainty and without stability are life where no good decisions can be made."
I think it's actually an important part of our responsibility as legislators, where we can, to draft laws that don't just hand a bag full of discretion to the courts but give to ordinary citizens and, yes, their lawyers the ability to make decisions about how to plan their lives so that they have some certainty about what will happen if they conduct themselves in this way. If they conduct themselves in this way, they know the law says that the consequences will be such and such.
When the Attorney General stands up and says that this bill places a lot of discretion in the hands of courts, he's admitting that lawyers will not be able to give advice to their clients about the application of the principles in this bill, because there is so much open-endedness in the language that it's all a matter of discretion. So the advice that lawyers will be forced to give their clients is: "I can't tell you whether this will be caught by the bill or not. We'll have to litigate it."
So we come back to that problem we've talked about before. A bill which I think is intended to bring less litigation to British Columbia will probably end up making more. And it will be more litigation about issues that are quite often -- not always -- sidebar issues, distractions along the road to the fundamental question that should be the fundamental question in every lawsuit: "Has the plaintiff proven the facts necessary to establish a cause of action on the law so that the plaintiff is entitled to a remedy against the defendant?"
This bill has a lot of discretion in it because of the open-ended language that's used. It has a long purposes clause. Purposes clauses are, as the minister says, unusual. This particular purposes clause is interesting. This particular purposes clause defines in the scope of its purposes the very things which are defined in the definition section in the other sections of the bill. What the purposes clause says is: this bill is in part intended to do that which this bill is intended to do. That is what this bill is intended to do with the language that this bill is intended to use.
"The purposes of this Act are to (a) encourage public participation, and
dissuade persons from bringing or maintaining proceedings or claims for an
[ Page 17694 ]
I actually think that it's been a good discussion. There is more we could do. Maybe we will end up having more of a discussion. But I guess the question for the minister is, if he chooses to answer it at this hour: how is it that he can make the comment about the function of motive in litigation when his bill merges together the question of motive and the question of whether there's a legitimate cause of action?
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Well, it's been a morning of speeches. I think we may come back after lunch and do some more.
We just have a very few minutes before lunch. The critic suggests that
there's something wrong with this process: to introduce a bill on Tuesday, pass
it on Wednesday
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Why are bills being passed quickly? Because the opposition is putting up one person on every bill.
The Chair: Members will come to order.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: Bills are being passed
The Chair: Members will come to order. Attorney General, if you could take your seat for a moment, please. The debate has almost finished. It is almost lunchtime. I know that everybody would like to take part in the heckling, but for those hecklers who would like to take part in the fine art of heckling, I would remind them that they are to be in their own seats.
Hon. G. Bowbrick: The member has raised many issues this morning. Let me just finish with this. The last thing he addressed was the purposes clause. You know, a great deal of thought was put into this bill. The member criticized the amendments that were made as indicating perhaps a lack of thought. Well, actually, no.
I went back and forth on the amendments that we're talking about. I went back and forth myself in giving a great deal of thought to this bill on whether we should use the word "includes" or "means." And I think this Legislature is working the way it should. I listened carefully to the comments of the member opposite and came to the conclusion that that was an amendment that I thought was -- considering that I've been going back and forth on it myself -- a worthwhile amendment. That's the way this House is supposed to work, hon. Chair.
So it's not indicative of a lack of thought or hastiness or anything like that. I think it actually shows some respect to this institution that some amendments were made after the criticisms were made by the opposition critic in second reading.
The purposes clause is unusual. I should mention that I have with me here today Ken Downing, who is legislative counsel, and Carol Whitehouse, a senior policy and legislation analyst with my ministry. Legislative counsel does not like purposes clauses, and we had a great debate about this, because this is a difficult bill. This is a conceptually difficult bill; there's no question about that. So we included a purposes clause after great debate. A great deal of thought was put into that. I think it's important, because it sets out as an interpretive rule -- well, it certainly would be an interpretive aid to the court -- exactly what we're trying to accomplish with this bill. Yes, there's a great deal of discretion in this bill, of necessity, when you're changing the law, when you're doing something new. A body of common law will develop. We've used a purposes clause to try to give some direction to that.
Noting the hour, I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The House resumed; the Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. G. Janssen: I move the House do now adjourn.
The House adjourned at 11:58 a.m.
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