2004 Legislative Session: 5th Session, 37th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004
Volume 20, Number 18
|Introductions by Members||8845|
|Introduction and First Reading of Bills||8845|
|Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (Bill 2)|
|Hon. R. Coleman|
|Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act (Bill 3)|
|Hon. R. Coleman|
|Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act (Bill 4)|
|Hon. R. Coleman|
|Statements (Standing Order 25B)||8846|
|Tourism in Victoria|
|Black History Month|
|Economic development in Pitt Meadows|
|Open Learning Agency severance payments|
|Hon. S. Bond|
|Hon. G. Collins|
|Remuneration of Crown prosecutors|
|Hon. G. Plant|
|Hon. G. Collins|
|Cost of new Abbotsford hospital|
|Hon. C. Hansen|
|Auto theft prevention|
|Hon. G. Plant|
|Literacy in B.C.|
|Hon. T. Christensen|
|Service Plan 2004/2005-2006/2007, auditor general report|
|Second Reading of Bills||8850|
|Ministerial Accountability Bases Act, 2003-2004 (Bill 10)|
|Hon. G. Collins|
|Motions without Notice||8851|
|Committee of Supply to sit in two sections|
|Hon. G. Collins|
|Throne Speech Debate (continued)||8852|
|Hon. J. Les|
|Hon. R. Coleman|
|Royal Assent to Bills||8874|
|Supply Act, 2003-2004 (Supplementary Estimates No. 3) (Bill 9)|
[ Page 8845 ]
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2004
The House met at 2:03 p.m.
Introductions by Members
Mr. Speaker: Good afternoon, hon. members.
Today it was my pleasure, along with several of our colleagues in the House, to have lunch with a distinguished delegation from Serbia and Montenegro. I'd like to introduce them to you at this time. Mr. Dragoljub Micunovic is President of the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro. He is accompanied by Mr. Milorad Drljevic, Dr. Zarko Korac, Mr. Borislav Banovic, Ms. Natasa Vuckovic, Ms. Svetlana Popov, Ms. Sanja Zikic and Mr. Branko Marjanac. Our guests are also accompanied by officials from the Parliament of Canada: Ms. Christine Fisher, Ms. Danielle Gougeon and Ms. Mireille Aubé. Would the House please make them very welcome.
Mr. Speaker: In the presence of our guests, hon. members, I would also like to acknowledge the sad news this morning that the President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, was killed in a tragic plane crash in Bosnia. On behalf of our Legislature, I would like to express our condolences to the Macedonian government and all residents of the Balkan region who are mourning his loss today.
Introductions by Members
Hon. J. Murray: I would like to introduce Ian de la Roche, who is the president and CEO of Forintek Canada Corp. Mr. de la Roche is visiting in the parliament buildings today. His organization is widely respected and supports the success of our important forestry sector. Would the House please make him welcome.
Hon. G. Cheema: Today in the members' gallery I would like to acknowledge a special guest from the Bahamas. Please join me in welcoming His Excellency Phillip Smith, the high commissioner for the Commonwealth of Bahamas. This is the high commissioner's first official visit to British Columbia, and I am pleased that he has travelled to British Columbia to discover the many opportunities our beautiful province presents. He's accompanied by his wife, Etta Smith, and Mr. Jack Thompson, the deputy high commissioner. Would the House please make them very welcome.
Hon. S. Bond: It's my pleasure today to introduce someone from Prince George to my colleagues here in the House. He is a member of the Prince George school board. He is here meeting with several ministers and doing due diligence today — a good friend. Would the House help make John Rustad welcome today.
D. Jarvis: I'd like to welcome today, for their first visit to the Legislature, three of my most favourite people — that is, my granddaughter, Emily Jarvis; my grandson, Jake Jarvis; and my first wife, Dianne Jarvis.
B. Penner: It's my pleasure to introduce to the House Fred Dyson, who is a state Senator from the great state of Alaska. He is also this year's president of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. He's joined by PNWER's hard-working executive director, Matt Morrison, and Michael Cormier, who is from the Victoria Harbour Authority. We've had a number of productive meetings with various ministers this morning. I'd like to thank the Speaker for his kind hospitality today at lunchtime. I ask that the House please make all of these gentlemen welcome.
J. Bray: Joining us in the gallery today are several students from one of the oldest high schools in British Columbia, Victoria High School, commonly and fondly known as Vic High. Joining them this afternoon on a tour is their teacher, Ms. Leslie Albers. I'd ask the House to please make these fine young people very welcome.
First Reading of Bills
BUSINESS PRACTICES AND
CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT
Hon. R. Coleman presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
Hon. R. Coleman: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. R. Coleman: I have the pleasure today to introduce new consumer protection legislation for the province of British Columbia. The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act is one of the three bills that I will be introducing today, which will strengthen consumer protection in the province and support good business practices.
The first of these three bills, the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, repeals and replaces six consumer statutes: the Consumer Protection Act, the Cost of Consumer Credit Disclosure Act, the Credit Reporting Act, the Debt Collection Act, the Trade Practice Act and the Travel Agents Act. In addition, it replaces the contractual provisions of the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act.
The streamlining of these acts will modernize consumer law, strengthen enforcement actions available under consumer law, make penalties consistent across industries, provide a consistent approach to dealing with regulated industries, fix problems that have been caused by repeated amendments to consumer law over
[ Page 8846 ]
the years, remove duplication and inconsistencies, and address new areas of consumer law in a manner consistent with other jurisdictions in Canada.
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 2 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.
AND FUNERAL SERVICES ACT
Hon. R. Coleman presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.
Hon. R. Coleman: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. R. Coleman: I have the pleasure today to introduce new cemetery and funeral legislation for British Columbia.
Along with Bill 2, the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act makes significant improvements to the Cemetery and Funeral Services Act. While Bill 2 deals with consumer transaction matters for the industry, this act establishes rules relating to the operation of cemeteries, mausoleums, columbariums and crematoriums. It also deals with land issues and disposition and disinterment of remains and activities that cannot be carried out on the land of a cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium.
Improvements to the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act include adoption of the streamlined and enhanced enforcement tools outlined in Bill 2; clear requirements for opening and closing a cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium; and reduction of the regulatory burden on businesses.
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 3 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.
BUSINESS PRACTICES AND CONSUMERPROTECTION AUTHORITY ACT
Hon. R. Coleman presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act.
Hon. R. Coleman: I move that the bill be introduced and read for a first time now.
Hon. R. Coleman: I have the pleasure of introducing the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act, the last of three bills I am presenting today.
This act establishes an independent authority to administer the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act. The new authority will deliver consumer protection services throughout the province and promote fairness and understanding in the marketplace. It will administer and enforce the laws that protect all consumers and will regulate the travel, cemetery and funeral industries and debt collectors.
The new authority will enhance the oversighted consumer protection activities in B.C., increasing industry and consumer involvement in consumer protection, and will focus on consumer education. The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority will operate at arm's length from government as a non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors. The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act is another example of this government's commitment to put into place alternative and effective service delivery mechanisms.
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 4 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.
(Standing Order 25b)
TOURISM IN VICTORIA
J. Bray: This week tourism operators in B.C. were holding their annual conference here in our beautiful capital of Victoria. I think this is very apropos, because Victoria has become a tourism mecca for British Columbia. In fact, tourism has outpaced all other industries in growth over the past decade. In Victoria alone, it is worth over $1 billion to our economy. That means direct and indirect jobs, investment and economic diversification.
The world has noticed. Condé Nast Traveler named Victoria best city in the Americas in 2003 and Vancouver Island the number one island in North America. That's a great achievement. Our government has worked hard with industry to help achieve these world-class results. Competitive tax rates, support for Tourism B.C. and the Greater Victoria Community Olympic Committee are all successful collaborations.
The Museum Act passed last year helped establish the Royal B.C. Museum as a stand-alone entity, allowing it to significantly improve fundraising and employ more entrepreneurial activities to improve operating revenues. The Royal B.C. Museum now anchors the cultural precinct in Victoria. Cultural tourism is one of the fastest-growing markets in this industry.
[ Page 8847 ]
I have spoken before about the desire of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to build an additional 35,000-square-foot exhibition space in the cultural precinct. I continue to support this initiative and encourage our government to also support this project and its positive impact on cultural tourism.
Our cruise ship visits are projected to grow to a new record this summer, with 152 visits — a 50 percent increase since our election in 2001. [Applause.] You can applaud that. That's good news. Our support of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has helped make the cruise ship terminal upgrade a reality.
Many of our American tourists arrive in Victoria right outside the Legislature at the Belleville Street terminal. As our U.S. border facility, it is in need of expansion and improvement to handle the continued increase in tourism demand. I believe the Belleville Street terminal project to be the next key tourism investment needed in this region. I urge our government to look forward and support this.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
R. Stewart: Last weekend I had the pleasure once again of attending the annual gala celebration of Black History Month in Vancouver, along with several of my colleagues, including the Minister of State for Immigration and Multicultural Services. It is indeed a testament to the multicultural nature of our great province that this year's celebration took place at the Croatian Cultural Centre, while last year I attended a similar event at Alliance Française.
Many people might not be aware that British Columbia has had a long and proud history of African immigration and influence dating back to the earliest days of pioneer settlement. In fact, B.C.'s first governor, James Douglas, was of British and African heritage. In 1858 Douglas extended an invitation to San Francisco's African American community to enjoy new lives as free citizens on the colony of Vancouver Island. More than 800 African Americans made the journey north, and upon their arrival they made numerous important contributions to the colony's social fabric. This new and vibrant demographic formed one of the earliest colonial militia units, the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps.
In 1972, B.C. elected its first black person to the Legislature — Rosemary Brown. She was a champion for human rights and women's equality. In 1994, Emery Barnes became the first black Speaker of the B.C. Legislature. I'm sure that the efforts of both these members will be remembered for years to come.
I could speak for hours about the many contributions the black community has made to make B.C. a better place. The 2001 census states that there are more than 662,000 Canadians who identify themselves as black. They come from Africa, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the United States and many other parts of the globe.
The Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services has done an outstanding job in reaching out to our ethnic communities and developing anti-racism strategies. I'd like to applaud this government for establishing a Minister of State for Multiculturalism. This new appointment can only mean that B.C.'s multicultural communities have an even stronger voice in Victoria.
IN PITT MEADOWS
K. Stewart: Last Thursday, shortly after our government delivered a balanced budget, I joined more than 50 Pitt Meadows business people representing groups from home-based business to major railroads and Fraser ports. We participated in a business and economic development summit hosted by the Pitt Meadows economic development advisory committee. The goal was to look at ways to continue to develop our local economy, taking advantage of our natural attributes, our wealth of human resources and, of course, our proximity to Vancouver.
The local business community sees the tremendous potential with such initiatives as the Pitt Meadows Airport revitalization program, growing tourism and agritourism opportunities, the new Fraser crossing and the future upgrading of the Pitt River Bridge, Meadow town centre, the GVRD greenway plan, the proposed Codd Island conservation area, and of course the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Business people know these initiatives are spurring local economic confidence and interest in our region.
Round-table discussions took place on how to take advantage of these opportunities inherent in the initiatives to build a sustainable and growing local economy. Following the round-table discussion, presentations were made based on strategies affecting sectors which include agriculture, transportation, tourism, commercial development for downtown and the Lougheed Highway, general industry, home-based business and education.
This was a highly successful evening. The confidence and energy expressed by the participants was indeed encouraging. It was also great to hear many present express confidence in our government and optimism in the direction our government is going and the opportunities presented by a balanced budget. This is only the beginning of more great news for Pitt Meadows.
OPEN LEARNING AGENCYSEVERANCE PAYMENTS
J. Kwan: Students and parents across B.C. are paying through the nose for college and university, owing to Liberal tuition hikes, but it appears that senior post-secondary executives are getting special treatment from government to ensure that they're well taken care of. Can the Minister of Advanced Education explain why the former CEO of the Open Learning Agency, Ms. Terry Piper, was awarded $150,000 severance
[ Page 8848 ]
payment disguised as a completion bonus after only 16 months of work?
Hon. S. Bond: I'll take that question on notice.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant has a supplementary.
J. Kwan: New question and new information. The $150,000 severance handed to Ms. Piper was $10,000 more than the government's legal advice said was appropriate — and only after the payment was deliberately disguised as a completion bonus so as not to appear as a severance payout. The opposition has obtained leaked confidential minutes from the Open Learning Agency, which describe this deception in detail. Can the Minister of Advanced Education explain why, at the April 5, 2002, board meeting, OLA directors conspired to change the wording of Ms. Piper's contract and that of vice-president Mr. Bill Harlan to hide the generous severance provisions embedded in their contracts?
Hon. S. Bond: I can assure the House that should policy and practice not have been followed appropriately, we will certainly follow up on that immediately.
J. Kwan: Well, those words bring little comfort. Terry Piper was appointed as CEO of the Open Learning Agency in June of 2002. Bill Harlan was appointed COO at the same time. According to the confidential minutes from April 5, 2002, OLA board directors discussed PSEC concerns that the $150,000 agreed to in Ms. Piper's and Mr. Harlan's contracts might be construed as severance payments. Therefore, according to those internal minutes, it was agreed to reword the language of the contracts to get around PSEC rules.
On September 18, 2003, Ms. Piper resigned her position to, in her own words, "go pick apples in Nova Scotia," and walked away with $150,000. Bill Harlan is still on the payroll. Can the Minister of Advanced Education tell students and parents why they're paying more for education when senior executives at the Open Learning Agency are being handed huge severance payments disguised as completion bonuses? Will she order her deputy to rewrite Mr. Harlan's contract to protect taxpayers from this deliberate deception and tell us how many more sweetheart deals are being signed across government?
Hon. G. Collins: As the minister responsible for PSEC, I can assure this House that when we took office, there were literally hundreds of contracts in place that did not comply with policy — that were excessive. There were huge severance issues across the public sector. We brought in Bill 66, which standardized those provisions. Those provisions are expected to be followed. If individuals at any level have tried to avoid those policies….
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order. Let us hear the answer.
Hon. G. Collins: If individuals at all have failed to comply with that or deliberately failed to comply with it, the appropriate action will take place. There's also provision in the legislation that any contract wording that does not comply is null and void. If there is money owing back to the taxpayers of British Columbia, we will pursue that in a necessary way to refund those amounts.
It's a little hard to take the comments from the Leader of the Opposition about not being on the ball when ICBC, under her watch, spent $250 million on a building that was worth less than that. She has yet to apologize.
Hon. G. Collins: Well, we could talk about that as well.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. G. Collins: The hypocrisy that comes daily from the member opposite is a little hard to take when you look at her record. Bill 66 was designed to clean up the actions by that government. We've done it. We'll recoup those funds if they're owing.
REMUNERATION OF CROWN PROSECUTORS
P. Nettleton: The Attorney General's response to the Taylor report and concerns of Crown prosecutors simply parrots the party line with no regard to the agreed process nor to the public interest in preventing a strike.
Furthermore, this is an Attorney General that has presided over the closure of courthouses and legal aid offices, the elimination of victims services, and censure by his own colleagues within the legal profession — and his blind devotion to the Premier and his heartless ideology.
Will the Attorney General today do the right thing and be an advocate not only for Crown prosecutors but for the entire justice system?
Hon. G. Plant: In the year 2000 the former government and the Crown Counsel Association entered into an agreement. As a result of that agreement, the former government brought legislation into force that made the Crown Counsel Association the recognized bargaining agent for Crown prosecutors in British Columbia.
As a result of that agreement, there were negotiations. I believe prosecutors received just about an 8 percent pay increase over three years. Matters reached a point, as contemplated by this process last year, where an arbitration panel was constituted. A majority of the panel made a recommendation which, under the
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agreement and the process that the Crown themselves had agreed to in the year 2000, government was free to reject.
I examined the report carefully. I gave careful consideration to the arguments made in the report and by the Crown Counsel Association representatives who met with me. While I can sympathize with the disappointment, I am resolute in my conviction that the case for a market adjustment was not made out. Crown counsel in British Columbia are fairly paid, and there the matter rests.
J. MacPhail: There's an old saying, recently written up in the Times Colonist, that goes like this: "Young New Democrats go to convention to make policy. Young Tories go to convention to make contacts, and young Liberals go to conventions to get…." I won't say what it is. In the interests of parliamentary decorum, I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Let me read from a recent e-mail from the president of UVic Young Liberals, Dallas Henault, regarding this weekend's regional Liberal convention in Vancouver. After telling his readers the cost for this "exciting convention" — $30 for B.C. Liberal Party members — Mr. Henault goes on to say: "The rest of the weekend is covered, which means ferry, booze, hotel and all the good stuff."
If the old saying about young Liberals is true, can the Finance minister shed any light on what the B.C. Liberal Party will be covering — which Mr. Henault is calling "all the good stuff" — and can he tell us how much the B.C. Liberals, out of taxpayer dollars, are paying for "all the good stuff"?
Mr. Speaker: The question really does not deal with ministerial responsibility.
J. MacPhail: Well, Mr. Speaker, actually it does involve…. There's an issue of taxpayer dollars here. The upstanding young Liberal was seated behind the Finance minister during the budget speech, and he took great delight in the minister's elimination of student grants, increases to tuition and the continued gouging of low- and middle-income earners.
The Finance minister is familiar with youth recruitment techniques and the recent revelations about activities in his office. Could he tell us if Mr. Henault and other young Liberals have been told to clean up their act after the embarrassing revelations of B.C. Liberal youth activities over the past few months? Or has he removed himself from youth politics since the raids on his legislative offices?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order, please. The question is out of order. The Minister of Finance may answer if he wishes.
Hon. G. Collins: Well, I have another out-of-order question: did you ever pay back the $2 million your party stole from the charities in Nanaimo?
Mr. Speaker: Order, please.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Will the Leader of the Opposition please come to order. The member for Maple Ridge–Mission has the floor.
COST OF NEW ABBOTSFORD HOSPITAL
R. Hawes: I've stood….
R. Hawes: Some of my constituents are interested in the question, not in listening to this kind of verbal garbage.
I've stood in this House many times to help counter the fearmongering and the misinformation put out by the Hospital Employees Union regarding the new Abbotsford Hospital and Cancer Centre. The latest self-serving document put out by the HEU points out some more erroneous figures, and even their own report says: "Costs in the original analysis were estimates based on our" — and that's the HEU — "interpretation." That's hardly an endorsement for unbiased accuracy.
Can the Minister of Health Services now confirm to my constituents and the residents of the Fraser Valley that this hospital is being carefully planned and that the latest cost estimates by the HEU are unfounded and unwarranted fearmongering?
Hon. C. Hansen: Well, first of all, I think we just have to acknowledge that after a decade and a half of promises by the previous government around a new hospital in Abbotsford, it's finally happening, because we deliver on our promises.
I can assure the member that the information that was used by the Hospital Employees Union in their evaluation is old information based on a previous model. The good news for the residents of the Fraser Valley is that we have expanded the scope of that project to make sure that we're ready not just for the health care system of the NDP generation in the 1990s but for the health care system of the future, which means that we have more ambulatory care. We've got more infection control built into that facility. We actually have more space to allow for it to become a teaching hospital, which is so important as we go forward into the future.
This is an exciting project. There has been a lot of good work. We have sought out worldwide expertise to make sure that this public-private partnership brings the best of everything, to make sure that the residents
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of the Fraser Valley get the kind of facilities they need going forward into the twenty-first century.
AUTO THEFT PREVENTION
B. Locke: My question is to the Attorney General. As part of the auto theft task force, last week I attended a public forum on auto theft held in response to Surrey being named the car theft capital of North America. My constituents are rightly frustrated and demanding action to combat the city's spiralling car theft rate. While there are things that we can do as individuals to combat the problem, a theme stemming out of the forum was in regard to the administration of justice.
Can the Attorney General please tell the people of Surrey and the people of B.C. what is being done and what can be done to address auto theft?
Hon. G. Plant: First of all, I know that auto theft is causing the people of Surrey and people everywhere a lot of frustration, and I share their concern. There is a lot of work being done that's good work. There's great work being done by the Solicitor General in partnership with the police, in partnership with ICBC around the bait car initiative, including the PRIME-BC program to help deal with law enforcement at the street level. I think it needs to be said — and I know that people in Surrey are working hard to advance this — that the devices that we can put on our steering wheels may be the best thing we can do to prevent car theft.
But now we know that the judiciary are interested in making sure that their work has the confidence of the public, and I applaud the judiciary for their progressive step in that regard. In my ministry we are doing everything we can to contribute to constructive solutions to ensure that repeat offenders are dealt with appropriately by the court system, and we will continue to do that work so that the people of Surrey and British Columbia have confidence in the administration of justice.
LITERACY IN B.C.
K. Manhas: My question is to the Minister of Education. It's the goal of our government to become recognized as the leader in literacy by the year 2010 in North America. However, there is a little bit of confusion surrounding the funding for teacher librarians in our schools and how that affects students' opportunities to improve their own literacy skills. I'd like the minister to please explain how we'll address this concern to ensure that our students are able to achieve their very best and that we do indeed become the most literate location in North America by the year 2010.
Hon. T. Christensen: I think if there's one thing that every single member of this House can agree on, it's that strong literacy skills are essential to our students achieving their best. That's why the Premier has pledged that by 2010, British Columbia will be the most literate jurisdiction in North America.
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order.
Hon. T. Christensen: This government has introduced school planning councils and accountability contracts to assist schools and school districts to improve student achievement. All 60 school districts throughout British Columbia have made literacy their number one priority. In fact, there is a concerted focus on early literacy and on incorporating literacy skills into all parts of the curriculum. This government has provided….
Mr. Speaker: Order, please. Order. Order, Mr. Minister. We'll continue when we have order in the House.
Hon. T. Christensen: The government has provided an accountability framework. School districts, teachers and principals are all working hard to ensure that within that framework, they're working to improve student achievement. I'm confident that we will reach that goal of being the most literate jurisdiction in North America by 2010, just as the Premier has promised.
[End of question period.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. members, I have the honour to present the auditor….
Mr. Speaker: Excuse me. Excuse me. I'm sorry to interrupt you, Leader of the Opposition. I truly am. There is another question period coming up Monday, and I'm sure the opposition would like to participate.
I have the honour to present the auditor general's Service Plan 2004/2005-2006/2007.
Orders of the Day
Hon. G. Collins: I call second reading of Bill 10.
Second Reading of Bills
BASES ACT, 2003-2004
Hon. G. Collins: I move second reading of Bill 10, the Ministerial Accountability Bases Act, 2003-2004.
This bill is the second part of an introduction…. It attaches to the introduction and passage of supplemental estimates for the Ministry of Agriculture yesterday. As well, it deals with the issues that have arisen in the last fiscal year with regard to the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
[ Page 8851 ]
As the House will be aware, this last year the province of British Columbia was hit with a number of natural disasters: the forest fires in the interior, the BSE infection amongst the cattle industry here and the impacts of that — or the impacts of that infection — across Canada and in the United States, as well as the costs of floods and fire control from the Ministry of Solicitor General.
At the time last fall when those events were occurring, I made it clear that the government would obviously do whatever was required to put the fires out, to deal with the flooding, to support our agriculture sector due to these natural disasters, and that we would bring back to the House, if required, a supplemental estimate to pay for those. You will know that the Ministry of Forests as well as the Ministry of Solicitor General both have statutory provision for their expenditures. It was also said at that time, last fall, that we would be bringing into the House legislation to provide for the exemption under the ministerial accountability act for those three ministers.
In contemplation of the creation of this legislation, the issue arose with regard to these kinds of eventualities and whether or not exemptions should be put in the act itself to deal with that, as was the case in the legislation that the previous administration had before the House. It was felt at that time — rather than put a standard provision into the legislation that would allow members to just declare that there was a natural disaster or an emergency and have an exemption therefore — that we would require members to come into the House, require the minister to come into the House and request that exemption of the members of the chamber. It's obviously up to members of the House whether they think that's appropriate.
I believe, given the disasters that the province faced last year, that the inability to anticipate them in any way, shape or form is good grounds for an exemption under the ministerial accountability act. This bill does that. It does it by going back and referencing the budget numbers in the estimates that were presented at the beginning of the last fiscal year and adding to them the sum that is included either in a supplemental estimate or through statutory approval. Then we'll compare that with the number that comes out of the public accounts at the end of the year. That is the mechanism that's being used here to accommodate this provision.
J. MacPhail: Most of my questions around this matter will be at committee stage. I find it interesting how the Finance minister always has the take that these are improvements over what was a disaster before. If indeed it is true that his legislation is an improvement on previous legislation, we're going to put that to the test at committee stage. It is unfortunate that we won't have the benefit of the Filmon report to actually examine the nature and the value of the expenditures. We will be looking at the provincial emergency program and changes that have occurred there, the impact it had on the supplementary estimates. We will be examining in detail the effect that it has had on the salaries and the stipends — what this means in terms of salary and stipends for the individual ministers.
We're going to take the Finance minister up on his assertion that this is such an improvement to debate this in the Legislature. Only this Finance minister could make it a partisan issue — forest fires — in this province. Let it be so, Mr. Speaker, and we will be examining it top to bottom.
Mr. Speaker: The Minister of Finance closes debate.
Hon. G. Collins: I fail to see how it has been made a partisan matter, other than the questions that were asked last fall by the members of the opposition with regard to payment that was happening across the province. My comments were merely to explain why this legislation is required and the rationale behind the structure of the legislation that was put in place with the ministerial accountability act. If the member for some reason views that as being partisan, I would perhaps suggest that her skin is becoming thinner all the time.
I think the legislation does exactly what it was intended to do. It provides a venue for that debate to occur. I look forward to any comments members may have in committee stage for debate and questions or suggestions. We always do.
With that, I move second reading.
Hon. G. Collins: If I may, there is a motion that's in the hand of the Clerk as well as the opposition. It's the standard motion at the beginning of the session to set up the provisions to run two committees of supply, one in the Douglas Fir Room and one here. It's the same standard motion that the House moves every year.
I request leave to introduce and then move that motion.
Mr. Speaker: Please proceed.
Motions without Notice
COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY
TO SIT IN TWO SECTIONS
Hon. G. Collins: I move the motion that's in the hands of the Clerk.
[Be it resolved that this House hereby authorizes the Committee of Supply for this Session to sit in two sections designated Section A and Section B; Section A to sit in such Committee Room as may be appointed from time to time, and Section B to sit in the Chamber of the Assembly, subject to the following rules:1. The Standing Orders applicable to the Committee of the Whole House shall be applicable in both Sections of the Committee of Supply save and except that in Section
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A, a Minister may defer to a Deputy Minister to permit such Deputy to reply to a question put to the Minister.
2. Subject to paragraph 3, within one sitting day of the passage of this Motion, the House Leader of the Opposition may advise the Government House Leader, in writing, of three ministerial Estimates which the Opposition requires to be considered in Section B of the Committee of Supply, and upon receipt of such notice in writing, the Government House Leader shall confirm in writing that the said three ministerial Estimates shall be considered in Section B of the Committee of Supply.
3. All Estimates shall stand referred to Section A, save and except those Estimates which shall be referred to Section B under the provisions of paragraph 2 of this Order and such other Estimates as shall be referred to Section B on motion by the Government House Leader, which motion shall be governed by the provisions of Standing Order 60A. Practice Recommendation #6 relating to Consultation shall be applicable to this rule.
4. Section A shall consist of 19 Members, being 17 Members of the B.C. Liberal Party and 2 Members of the New Democratic Party. In addition, the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole, or his or her nominee, shall preside over the debates in Section A. Substitution of Members will be permitted to Section A with the consent of that Member's Whip, where applicable, otherwise with the consent of the Member involved. For the fifth session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament, the Members of Section A shall be as follows: the Minister whose Estimates are under consideration and Messrs. Bennett, Bloy, Bray, Hamilton, Hunter, Jarvis, Lee, MacKay, Manhas, Penner, R. Stewart and Visser, Mmes. Locke, Orr, Sahota, Trumper and Mmes. Kwan and MacPhail.
5. At fifteen minutes prior to the ordinary time fixed for adjournment of the House, the Chair of Section A will report to the House. In the event such report includes the last vote in a particular ministerial Estimate, after such report has been made to the House, the Government shall have a maximum of eight minutes, and the Opposition a maximum of five minutes, and all other Members (cumulatively) a maximum of three minutes to summarize the Committee debate on a particular ministerial Estimate completed, such summaries to be in the following order:
(1) Other Members;
(2) Opposition; and
6. Section B shall be composed of all Members of the House.
7. Divisions in Section A will be signalled by the ringing of the division bells four times.
8. Divisions in Section B will be signalled by the ringing of the division bells three times at which time proceedings in Section A will be suspended until completion of the division in Section B.
9. Section B is hereby authorized to consider Bills referred to Committee after second reading thereof and the Standing Orders applicable to Bills in Committee of the Whole shall be applicable to such Bills during consideration thereof in Section B, and for all purposes Section B shall be deemed to be a Committee of the Whole. Such referrals to Section B shall be made upon motion without notice by the Minister responsible for the Bill, and such motion shall be decided without amendment or debate. Practice Recommendation #6 relating to Consultation shall be applicable to all such referrals.
10. Bills or Estimates previously referred to a designated Committee may at any stage be subsequently referred to another designated Committee on motion of the Government House Leader or Minister responsible for the Bill as hereinbefore provided by Rule Nos. 3 and 9.]
Mr. Speaker: It's the same motion that's moved every year at this time.
Hon. G. Collins: I move that Bill 10 be referred to Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 10, Ministerial Accountability Bases Act, 2003-2004, 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. Collins: Now I call Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Throne Speech Debate
Mr. Speaker: Address in Reply continues with the member for North Island.
R. Visser: When I was speaking last time in a brief introduction to my reply to the throne speech, I think I was in a little different mood.
North Island is one of those great places that is wonderful to live in but is being visited upon by some tremendous structural economic forces. It makes it challenging for the people that are there — that live there, that work there, that are trying to raise their families there. Issues that we hear about on the news — the Canadian dollar, the price of copper, the price of lumber, labour costs in China, shrinking markets, differing markets — all have a human face there some days.
I was in Port Alice yesterday. Port Alice is a beautiful little town on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. In 1908 some entrepreneurs came along and decided that would have been a good place for a pulp mill. By 1913 a company had in production a cellulose pulp mill. Yesterday when I visited the community again, as I have done nearly monthly now for the last couple years, there is renewed talk of it closing because the parent company is struggling in the process of creditor protection. The markets in that industry have shifted over the last few years, and for that little community of Port Alice, the world has changed.
It doesn't feel very good to represent that. It's not a success. It's not what people like any of us in this House seek office for — to watch a small town go through something like that. On the northern end of Vancouver Island I've seen it too many times. We saw it happen in Gold River when the pulp mill there closed in 1995-96. We saw it again in Tahsis a year and a half ago when the sawmill there officially closed after being down for two years.
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This kind of shift has an even longer history than that in our area. There are whole towns that used to exist and that used to have thriving hospitals, community centres and schools, which are now mere pilings eroding at the water's edge. I don't think that's the fate of this community. That's not the sense I get from the people there. It's not the sense that I get from their leadership. They're fighters, and they're going to make every effort to get this to work. Those economic forces — those winds are strong, and the challenge that's faced in the financial world for them is uphill.
I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the government does have an obligation to communities like that. We have an obligation to the Barrieres, the Port Alices, the Tahsises of the world. The obligation is this: to assist where we can, to not be the barrier to their success, to have policies that allow them to move forward and to let them be all that they can be. This government needs to work with that industry and its leadership, the financial community and its leadership, and the communities and the workers and the staff and their leadership to find ways to achieve success.
When you sit around the table with these folks, none of us underestimate the challenge ahead. As we come to deadline after deadline in the courts and as this drags on over what is now close to two years, where people's lives have been interrupted, where they've only worked about a couple of months in the last year, hanging on to that community…. The mayor did a straw poll. The town used to be 1,100 people. Today he figures it's somewhere just over 700. We've got some work to do. As a representative of this government, it is going to be challenging to find ways through.
But you can't take your eye off all the successes that are out there. There are other things that communities like Port Alice can count on. There are other things we have neglected over the years that we have to encourage now. Shellfish aquaculture won't replace a pulp mill, but it will provide some distance and some strength to that community. Small-scale salvage won't replace a pulp mill, but it will provide some strength to that community and some diversity. Tourism will not replace a pulp mill and the GDP that it creates, but it will provide some stability and some diversity. Mining may, but nobody guarantees that the hills surrounding little communities like that are full of minerals. They do have a limestone quarry there that's been operating for years. They do have a finfish aquaculture hatchery there that's been operating for a few years. They do have some abilities for diversified success. They are moving forward. There are little communities out there that do that.
Think about Tahsis for a minute. The community of Tahsis used to get a million dollars a year — roughly about a million, just shy — from the company for its sawmill in property taxes. When they closed the mill and started taking it apart, that number dropped to $8,000. It's hard to run a town on an industrial tax base of $8,000 when you go from $1 million. The same thing happened in Gold River. Governments can be there, and we have been and will be there for those communities when they suffer those things — to help them with transition, to help them plan for the future, to help them seize opportunities that are out there.
On the northern end of Vancouver Island there are run-of-the-river projects slated for hydro and energy development. There are wind farms that are being talked about for electrical energy development to provide those much-needed electrons for Vancouver Island. There are opportunities, and there is hope.
Tahsis and its mayor made a presentation to the Premier last year that I thought was spectacular. They called it Tahsis 2010. It's that council's vision of what that community's going to be like in six years. It's a great vision. It's a vibrant community. It certainly is a different community.
They recognize now that nobody is going to build a new sawmill in Tahsis. So they're counting on some things. They're counting on things like community forests, like I know Port Alice, Port McNeill and Port Hardy are. They're counting on salvage industry, like I know those other communities are. They're counting on shellfish aquaculture, like those other communities are. They're counting on finfish aquaculture, like those other communities are. They're counting on run-of-the-river power projects, like those other communities are. Government's job is to allow them to seize those opportunities, allow those communities to reach their vision in 2010.
I was there last year, and they had a cruise ship called The World tied up at the dock. What a marvellous thing it was to have driven into Tahsis for years and years, where at times there were freighters loading lumber at the deep-sea port, and to drive into that community and see this monstrosity of a vessel there and all of the passengers off milling about in what is unquestionably a beautiful little town in a very beautiful part of the world. That's part of their vision for the future.
I had this idea that they should partner with Gold River. They should build a golf course there, and they should become the back nine for the Gold River golf course — a little fishing, a little golf. Now, the clubhouse turn is 64 kilometres over a gravel road, but hey, I think it would be the only golf course in the world — and I have not verified this, but I'm going to run with it anyway — that you can tie up your cruise ship to. Mr. Speaker, I know what a fan of cruise ships you are. You may have to play nine holes in Tahsis someday, which would be a wonderful thing for a community like that.
Those communities struggle, and those people struggle. It doesn't seem fair, and it doesn't seem right. The interesting thing about Port Alice is that in the last three, four, five years that I've been there talking to those folks, every single time they say: "What happened in Skeena and the way you bailed out Skeena — we don't want that. It's not going to help us. You can't spend $500 million and get us nowhere, because we'll be right back in this boat again."
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The forest industry is going through a structural change. We saw it in the Pearse report. It's visited in the employment numbers. It's visited in the shipments. It's visited in the capital invested in this industry on the coast of British Columbia. All of those numbers are down, down, down. This year, as recognized in the throne speech, 2003 was the year of the forests. If 2003 was the year of the forests because of hard, complex, forest policy shifts, then the year 2004 should be the year of success in forestry, where we start to reap the benefits of that policy change, where we start to be able to withstand those economic winds out there that challenge us.
I'm confident, very confident, that these shifts are going to get us to where we need to be, where we're turning around this industry, where we're engaging with those entrepreneurs again, where we're engaging with those investors so that that money starts showing back up here. I am confident we will be putting in new plant. We'll be buying new trucks, buying new log loaders, buying new yarders — going beyond that and buying new sawmills — increasing our productivity, competing in that world, introducing new products, engineering new wood products and finding new marketplaces abroad. This is the year we start to engage in that process and win some successes back for our small communities.
Government has to build a foundation for that, so we make forest policy changes. We also do some other interesting things. I think we have brought a certain discipline and a certain meaningful perspective to the concept of land use planning in British Columbia. Beyond all hope or expectation, I think, a group of people on the central coast of British Columbia have arrived at a consensus plan for land use from roughly Bute Inlet to Bella Coola.
Now, that's not my area, but it is where the people who live in my communities work. I grew up in Campbell River. I can tell you, when you grow up there, one of the things you know about is camp life. Sometimes your dad's gone for ten days and home for four. Sometimes your neighbour's parents are gone for 14 and seven. You get outside of coastal British Columbia, and nobody understands what ten and four or 14 and seven or 21 and seven means. When you grow up in those communities, you sure do. For those 21 days, those 14 days, those ten days, our parents were in camp. They were in Wakeman Sound. They were in Mackenzie Sound. They were in Jervis Inlet or Bute or nights in logging camps working, providing for their families.
There has been a lot of turmoil on the central coast. We have engaged in a process that I think…. When you put an end point on it, when you put an end date on it and put expectations on that table, you put expectations on those interests and you get them in that room and you get them all working together and you ask first nations to be participants in it, you are willing to engage with those first nations in government-to-government discussions, you will be able achieve success.
I think, finally, we might have come to some resolution on the central coast. I feel optimistic about it. I feel as though we're gonna get back to work there. I feel as though the cut that has been back down to 1.6 million, 1.7 million or 1.8 million cubic metres last year will be able to ramp back up to three million metres where it belongs, where it is sustainable and meaningful for the communities of Bella Coola, Port McNeill, Port Hardy and Campbell River and indeed many others.
[J. Weisbeck in the chair.]
It's a good thing. It makes you feel good. It makes us feel as though the world around us is starting to stabilize. The Ministry of Forests right now — currently in ongoing, consultative back-and-forth negotiations to protect the broader community and the interests of the workers in British Columbia — is going through a takeback exercise. I think we'll have some final results in that over the next few days. I'm encouraged to know that I think we're getting to where we need to be in that file.
We're getting to where we can commit to first nations. I think we signed 29 forest agreements worth just under 7.25 million cubic metres of wood, and we're revenue-sharing almost $40 million this year with first nations where they're actually becoming involved in that forest economy.
Communities like the Quatsino first nations communities, Kyuquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island and Klemtu all need to become involved in this economy of ours. For too long they've not been involved. For too long that relationship has been antagonistic and challenging and difficult, and for too long it has headed to the courts. For too long the courts have been telling successive governments of the day that you need to move forward on the issue of aboriginal rights entitlement. This government is doing that, and day in and day out the Minister of Forests, the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management and others in treaty negotiations are moving this province forward with agreements.
I think we're moving in a bunch of other industries too. It was announced last week that a company in Toronto called Breakwater Resources — primarily a a zinc producer from around the world — has purchased or is offering to purchase the Myra Falls operations, the copper-zinc mine in Campbell River from Boliden, a Swedish zinc metals producer.
I sent a quick note off to the CEO of this company thanking him. I got a note back that said they're looking forward to coming back to British Columbia. They're looking forward to being here because they heard that the mining industry in this province is turning around. They've heard it loud and clear from around this world — and that's where all their operations are — that this province is open for mining, that this province wants the mining industry back here again.
It is places like Myra Falls and Campbell River that mine in one of the most spectacularly, environmentally
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honest ways that any mine has ever done in the heart of Strathcona Park, the oldest park in British Columbia. It has been there for 25 years. With luck and good hard work and with good solid investment, good productivity and the winds of the economic forces of the world, it should be there for another 25 years.
It's good to have people thinking about British Columbia. It's good to see those capital markets around this world looking at assets in British Columbia again, saying: "We need that as a key part of the foundation of our future moving forward." I know that many of the people at the mine are excited about this. This mine will get some new focus and be able to start exploring again underground, will start developing new resources underground and will be there for the long term in that community.
We're moving ahead with mining, and I think that's good news in British Columbia. The Quatsino first nation is working hard with a company called Electra Gold to put in a modest geyserite quarry. Geyserite is one of those industrial minerals we use to help in cement-making, and it's a great opportunity for the first nations and a great opportunity for cement businesses in Seattle and Vancouver. It's a great product, and they're moving forward with those types of investments here in the North Island but, most importantly, in British Columbia.
There are lots of things we've got to do. There are lots of doors we have to open. We have to open doors in tourism and in fisheries, and those two things are more linked than you could ever imagine. We need to build a very constructive relationship, one that has not been particularly constructive in the past, with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. British Columbia and Canada have got to figure out a management scheme and a management arrangement that allow the interests of British Columbians to be fore-centre of decisions made in Ottawa around fisheries policy.
It is no secret out there in my riding of North Island and in many other ridings that there are complications in the relationship and that the federal entity presents challenges to us, but they are things we can work through. There are things that the Minister of Fisheries is trying hard to work through and things even the Premier is working through. We need to connect that. We need to draw the line between those two organizations, between ours and theirs, so that the people of this province start to benefit.
They need to benefit in the commercial fishery. They need to benefit in aquaculture, shellfish and finfish. They need to benefit in forestry, in land development and in tourism opportunities, because those rules that regulate when you can catch a fish are the same rules that regulate who's going to bother coming to British Columbia on a fishing trip. For places like Tahsis, Port Alice, Port McNeill and certainly Campbell River, which has prided itself on being the salmon capital of Canada, that's an important piece of information. That's an important decision, and it's something that a better relationship between Ottawa and British Columbia will provide some certainty for and some security to that investment that tourism operators make.
I want to talk a little bit about the throne speech and the Olympics. I ran into the coach of British Columbia's Special Olympics floor hockey team the other day in Campbell River. For Darcy, Dave, Hazen, Beau, Ben and the others, they won silver back east. What a great accomplishment.
It was in that room in Campbell River when we sent them off that for the first time for me, other than being at the Olympic announcement, I actually got just a small sense of what it is going to be like in 2010. If we can just capture some of that every now and then, if we can just bring that feeling to the people of British Columbia every now and then, it's going to be a great six years we've got ahead of us.
You know, I can feel the energy building. It builds on Mount Washington. It's building across the communities of the North Island. It's building because people want to bring the world to our part, our little corner. They want to bring folks here and share our world with them.
The throne speech talked about the B.C. Rail–CN partnership, and I am very supportive of that deal. Coming from a constituency that has virtually no railroads in it — or ones that go anywhere other than within the constituency — people ask: "Well, why would you care?" I think it is important to care, and here's why. If we're bringing the world to British Columbia, I want that world to travel up Vancouver Island, and I want that world to get on a ferry in Prince Rupert. I want those people to travel the beautiful Inside Passage, the trip between northern Vancouver Island — Port Hardy — and Prince Rupert, or Port Hardy and Bella Coola. I want them to get off that ferry, I want them to get on a rail passenger train out of Prince Rupert, and I want them to go over to Banff or Jasper or Calgary and then back to Vancouver again.
We need that kind of infrastructure. We need that kind of entrepreneurial spirit. We need that kind of energy out there in this province again so that we can legitimately go out to that world and say: "Come and visit us, and here's where you can go."
This has been an amazing three years. It has been a bumpy three years for many communities on the North Island, but every single time we have hit a bump in a road, they found a solution. Every single time there has been a crossroads, they've taken the right path. It is the government's obligation to help those folks down that path. It's government's obligation to be there for those communities and to work hard with them to allow them to seize every opportunity they can.
I'm happy to respond to this throne speech, and I look forward to next year's.
R. Sultan: I respond to the Speech from the Throne where the Lieutenant-Governor addressed bringing out the best in our economy. She said: "…costs have been lowered, tax rates have been cut, red tape has
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been reduced, competitiveness is being restored, progress has been made, and results are beginning to show. Next week your government will table a balanced budget, right on schedule." That's what she said.
I would like to remark upon one dimension of the program of this government which I think will play an important part in restoring the economy, as the Lieutenant-Governor referred to it. I refer to what some thoughtful people in the financial community are referring to as the sleeper in the government's program. The sleeper in the government's program, in their opinion, may well turn out to be the proposed legislation dealing with international financial centres.
To understand what international financial centres are all about, let me give you some personal history. In the seventies I was working with a very large banking institution in Montreal. In those days, Montreal was not quite prepared to concede that maybe the world had shifted to Toronto — perhaps not unlike Vancouver saying: "What are those upstarts in Calgary thinking about? We're the centre of the universe out here in the west."
However, the acceleration of head offices — and in particular the financial community — from Montreal to Toronto accelerated under the impulse of what was called the terrorist organization Front de Libération du Québec, the FLQ, to be followed politically by the accession to office of the Parti québécois under René Lévesque and Jacques Parizeau. These people made it very plain, even prior to the election, in their visits and luncheons with us — our little tête-à-têtes, as we tried to understand what their program was — that there was really no place in Montreal for institutions like a major, largely anglophone bank. The message was received and people left — in the night, quietly, but they left.
Gradually, the level of activity in the community subsided. While those of us who remained enjoyed a very intense social life, there were fewer of us around because many of our friends and neighbours had moved to Toronto. I think even the bureaucrats in Quebec City realized this was not a very good economic strategy and thought: "My goodness, we have to do something to restore economic vitality to the financial sector of Montreal."
As frequently is the case, they looked to Ottawa for a solution. They went up there and said: "Why don't you pass some special legislation so that financial transactions in Montreal can be conducted tax-free? That would give us a big hand-up over Toronto." The people in Ottawa said: "That's a good idea." The people in Toronto didn't think it was such a good idea, and there was a huge uproar and delegations, briefs, lobbying — all the stuff that goes on.
Finally a deal was made. Yes, Montreal would get its tax-exempt status for international financial transactions, but to provide balance in Canada they wouldn't help Toronto because that would, of course, destroy the whole point. They wanted a leg-up over Toronto, but there is that city way up there in the west coast that we hear about occasionally called Vancouver, so why don't we give the same tax-exempt status to Vancouver? The deal was made, and Canadian balance and unity were restored.
The folks in Vancouver, you know, when they weren't busy skiing and sipping on their lattes, didn't really know what hit them. It seemed like a nice idea, but they really didn't feel much necessity or compulsion to take advantage of this new legislation, unlike the folks in Quebec. Let's give them full tribute for the entrepreneurs and the hustling people they are. These people get in there and do business. They created a whole structure around both federal and provincial tax exemptions for international financial transactions. To this day, some 1,500-plus people are employed and billions of dollars of transactions are flowing through Montreal tax-free.
While eventually people in Vancouver awakened to the possibilities, it was always on a very low scale compared to Montreal and never really provided Montreal with any serious competition, which is probably what the people in Montreal assumed would happen all along. That was more or less the case until a year or so ago when the International Financial Centre Vancouver came under some new leadership.
Just so you understand more precisely what the International Financial Centre Vancouver is, it's a public-private partnership designed to promote the exceptional advantages that the city of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia have to offer as a location for investment and expansion in the financial services sector. It is only one of two Canadian cities so designated. Calgary? Tough luck. Toronto? I'm sorry. You got left out.
Companies that qualify under the international financial business legislation are eligible to receive a 100 percent provincial corporate income tax refund. Specialists employed by these firms — the individuals, the workers, the management — can also receive up to a 100 percent provincial personal income tax refund. Not only does the business operate with many tax advantages — I think to say it's tax-free is an exaggeration, but many significant tax advantages, nonetheless — so do the people doing the business. This is a nice business, at least in the first two years of employment. That's what was set up, and the companies that located here of course have tremendous advantages in terms of lifestyle, infrastructure, educated workforce and so on.
The new chairman of the IFCVancouver described this fresh start for the IFCVancouver as follows. Ron L. Bozzer, senior partner of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, said in the annual report:
"This fresh start for the IFCVancouver provided an opportunity to press the provincial government for specific changes to the legislation governing International Financial Centre offices which would enable Vancouver to better compete with many other prominent financial centres around the world. In this regard we have worked closely with the provincial Ministries of Finance and Competition, Science and Enterprise in Victoria to consider the effect of the proposed changes."
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He goes on to say nice things about the member for West Vancouver–Capilano and the member for Vancouver-Burrard, which modesty prevents me from quoting.
Let me go on to the president's report — Robert A. Fairweather, president of the International Financial Centre Vancouver. "My first six months as president of the IFCVancouver have been hectic." He has been dealing with a lot of people, especially officials and politicians in Victoria. He pays a lot of tribute, and he also acknowledges the assistance in proposed changes to legislation to become more competitive with Montreal from the Investment Dealers Association, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and others. He pays particular credit to the former Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise, without whose strong leadership — and I don't think this has really been acknowledged adequately in this House — the new IFC legislation would not have occurred.
The Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise of the day deserves a good deal of credit for wrestling through some imaginative changes, of course ably assisted by his deputy minister, who took on this assignment with a gusto. A lot of people, at the end of the day, were involved in this reformatting of some legislation — which in truth we have not yet seen, but it has been described — to change the rules.
Finally, let's consider what Lynn Reston, the senior vice-president of finance of Canaccord Capital had to say about it, again drawing from the 2003 annual report, as I have been doing. It says here:
"Canaccord Capital…. With approximately 1,200 employees in 26 offices worldwide" — they've come a long way, Peter Rabbit — "they offer a full range of investment banking, fixed income, research, institutional sales, international trading, insurance and estate planning, products and services."
How's that for a plug?
"One of the earliest and largest supporters of the IFCVancouver, registering as a core member in 1989, Canaccord now has 22 staff members registered as eligible employees or specialists" — under the act, the previous act of course. "This broad partnership has helped them develop the most extensive U.S. trading desk operation of any Canadian investment firm in business today."
Of course, with pending changes in the act, they're looking forward to aggressive expansion, it would appear.
What, again, do these international financial centres actually do? A whole range of things limited only by the imagination, to some degree, of the financial institution's leadership. An easy one is fund management. A large pension fund perhaps legally domiciled in Hong Kong could be managed out of Vancouver with this tax-favoured status.
Film distribution companies, we are told, will be included in the new IFC legislation, so we could distribute films worldwide — films made here in British Columbia, we hope — on this tax-favoured basis. Back offices can be set up in Vancouver to do all of the accounting and computerized recordkeeping that, say, a mutual fund requires — or a bank or a trust company offshore.
The new IFC legislation will allow one-sided foreign exchange transactions. Someone will have to explain what that means to me. We are also told, for example, that a couple of our major forestry companies, which have set up subsidiaries in other Canadian provinces because of the restrictions under B.C. legislation, might be lured back home with this new legislation.
Why should we even encourage this stuff? It's hardly the traditional resource business that has been in the past the backbone of British Columbia. I would suggest to you that financial institution activity is a very desirable form of economic activity. The pay is good; it is non-polluting; the workplace is dry. And as they say, there is no heavy lifting. I think it's the sort of white-collar job in the service economy that increasingly characterizes modern economies, and when it leaves town we miss it. We miss it in my riding. We miss it in Vancouver and in all of British Columbia.
The new legislation will make us more competitive with similar tax-favoured domiciles in places that we in British Columbia deal with regularly, commercially, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which have huge financial centres in their own right, usually on extraordinarily favourable tax terms. This will make us much more competitive with those entities — not to mention with our friends, of course, in Quebec.
Another advantage of the new legislation will be that it has been extended not just to Vancouver, which is the geographic boundary, you might say, of activities under the federal side of the legislation…. You appreciate that there is both federal and provincial legislation acting in tandem here. But on the provincial side, as we have been told, the proposal is to extend the advantages to the heartland, so for the first time one might imagine a wood products trading operation based in Terrace taking advantage of these favourable tax environments — or in Prince George or in Quesnel or in Nelson or any other place in the heartlands. It need not be on Howe Street. That is the point.
At a dinner the other night, where some of us speculated about the implications of the new legislation, the question was raised: well, how do you define Vancouver? The head of one of our major financial houses said: "That is a very good question." With a bit of imagination, I could see the wheels going round in his brain — that maybe almost any transaction could be routed through Vancouver if you set your mind to it, even though the people might be somewhere else.
There is another aspect to this new legislation that is worth mentioning in passing, although it is speculative at this point and far too preliminary to embrace with any certainty. I refer to the possibility of changes in the B.C. Securities Act. I think, as is well known, there has been extensive consultation. The B.C. Securities Commission has been contemplating changes in the B.C. Securities Act that would really move from a rules-based to a principles-based basis for regulation.
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It's too bad what's happened to securities trading in Vancouver. Some people still think we have something called the Vancouver Stock Exchange. They say: "Those rascals down at the VSE — they're at it again." Well, you know, I've got news for them. The VSE was shut down a long time ago. It went to Calgary. Calgary couldn't hang on to it. It migrated somehow to Toronto. Those rascals in the east always seem to come out on top. Toronto is, frankly, hanging on by the fingernails. Whether it will move down to New York or to some computer based in who-knows-where — Midland, Texas, perhaps — isn't clear.
The location of trading activity has been shifting and, frankly, shifting to the disadvantage of Vancouver, which has and continues to maintain a tradition of entrepreneurial finance, risk capital, angel financing, junior company mine exploration finance, etc., that is of landmark status in the world.
It's hard to believe that in fact Vancouver, despite the absence of a trading floor, continues to be one of the world's centres for entrepreneurial mine finance, just to cite one example. Of course, with high-tech and biotech software companies popping up here and there and so on, we see a whole new spectrum of young, emerging companies taking advantage of the entrepreneurial finance tradition of Vancouver.
We have a history here of excellence in this field, but we lost the trading side of it. What is intriguing — and without mentioning too many names — I thought, for me, is that a very interesting and educational dinner party, with representatives of a couple of the larger investment houses in Vancouver ,was held here about a week ago. The Investment Dealers Association representatives from Toronto, who were in town. John Howard — an eminent attorney retired and living in Sooke, the father of the Canada Business Corporations Act, former general counsel to MacMillan Bloedel and a director of the IDA — discussed the possible impact of the new IFC legislation and speculated how it might interplay with proposed changes and redrafting and, in fact, a brand-new B.C. Securities Act.
This could be the opportunity to restore Vancouver as a major financial centre not just in Canada, not just in North America but worldwide. There is opportunity here that I think we have to explore very carefully.
To wrap up, the international financial centre legislation that is proposed is certainly in keeping with the announcement of the Lieutenant-Governor — bringing out the best in our economy, which I think all of us endorse heartily. I would only leave this topic on one note, and that is to say we can pass these laws here in Victoria. I'm afraid as laid-back British Columbians, we sometimes, particularly here in the Legislature, say: "Well, we've done our job. Over to you folks. Make something of it." It is what I call the Kevin Costner syndrome — the field of dreams. Build it, and they will come. In the twenty-first century you can build it, but they don't necessarily come. You've got to get out and sell it.
This perhaps has been something we have not paid enough attention to. We are going to have to work closely as legislators. Hopefully, as the government I would urge them, as people in the financial community in Vancouver and the other people in the community — municipal and elsewhere — to really sell this concept. It's tricky. It needs explaining. We need to get on the road and explain it, but I think it's another dimension of the tremendous acceleration of the rebirth of the British Columbia economy that the B.C. Liberal government is fostering, and I commend them for that.
R. Stewart: It's a great pleasure to follow my esteemed and learned colleague from West Vancouver–Capilano. His experiences of a life of business, a life of finance and other aspects of business I think are invaluable to the work we're doing here in the Legislature, and I applaud him for the work that he does for this Legislature and for the province.
I applaud all my colleagues for the tremendous amount of effort that has gone into the last two and a half years as we have sought to turn this province around from a position of having enormous deficits, an inability to create jobs, an inability to house its people and an inability to afford the important social programs that I think all of us value tremendously.
One of the aspects of the work that we have to do in getting this province back on its feet is the role of housing in improving our economy, in making certain that our families are in the best position they can be to succeed. I believe very strongly that housing is one of the most important things we can do. The throne speech touched on aspects of housing in a way, I think, that speaks to the role we have in trying to move the province forward in the coming years.
Housing has seen a tremendous growth in the last two and a half years. For example, in 2003 we saw a 21 percent jump in housing starts. This year looks better again. The national housing Economic Research Council, of which I used to be chair, actually is now pointing to British Columbia as being perhaps the brightest market for the creation of housing in the country. It hasn't always been that way. I look to some of the history of our housing market over the past decade, and I regret some of the ways in which governments interfered with the housing market, in which governments actually in many cases destroyed the housing market in British Columbia. That doesn't just mean destroying the businesses and putting people out of work. It means making it almost impossible in many markets for families to find appropriate housing.
We saw housing starts fall from about 38,000 a year in the early days of the previous government's first mandate to less than 15,000 a year in the dying days of their mandate. In many ways it was exactly the same as the way they treated the economy — the way in which the economy reacted to the business policies and the economic policies of a government that didn't understand economics, which didn't understand the importance of job creation and business confidence and consumer confidence in ensuring that the economy was strong.
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I met a few weeks ago with a group called the Tri-Cities housing coalition. This group is largely made up of concerned citizens and church groups and other community interests trying to lobby for improved access to what they call affordable housing. Everyone understands what we think we mean by affordable housing, but all too often what we really mean is housing that isn't actually affordable and must be subsidized in order to make it affordable for the market that they're aiming the housing at. We had a long discussion, and I think we agreed on a great many aspects of the concerns that I have and the concerns that they have over the housing market in British Columbia, particularly in the Tri-Cities area.
We know that governments have a tremendous role to play in either allowing housing to be built or in stifling the construction of housing. We know that in the past decade we've seen almost no rental housing, almost no purpose-built rental housing constructed in the province. The result of that is that we have very low vacancy rates and very high rents in many communities.
In my community I actually visited, about five weeks ago, a family — a single mother and four children — who lived in absolutely decrepit conditions in rental housing that was far too expensive and was completely inadequate and unsafe in many ways. I looked with great concern at the fact that her situation was unavoidable. Her situation in the environment we inherited is unavoidable because she can't even complain about her housing because she'll lose it. We could actually have her housing shut down, and there is nothing for her to move to with her four children. That is the predictable result of a lack of focus on the development of housing and the lack of focus on making sure that the housing market functions like other markets.
In British Columbia for the past decade the housing market has been made to be almost dysfunctional. It is almost impossible to find a pro forma that makes rental housing construction viable. You couldn't borrow money to build rental housing in British Columbia because high land costs combined with some federal tax policies and a whole bunch of municipal and other regulations that pile on make it so that rental housing doesn't work.
If we move forward in the spirit of the throne speech to try to ensure that every family has a bright future, we have to make certain that we can house them as well as possible, that the market is functioning as well as possible so that we will end up with higher vacancy rates and better ability for the development community — both profit and not-for-profit — to build rental housing and for-ownership housing that is affordable to the markets that they're aiming them at, particularly at the low end of the economic situation.
I applaud the Tri-Cities housing coalition for focusing their interests and their attention on the issue of housing. I look forward to a greater dialogue with groups like that and with municipal governments, the provincial government and the federal government to make certain we can get governments out of the way and unfetter the market to some degree as it tries to build housing. That's the market that consists of both for-profit developers and not-for-profit societies, which tell us exactly the same thing. There are incredible impediments to building financially viable market housing and non-market housing that don't come with some enormous subsidy from government.
Yet in many other communities, it isn't an issue at all. We can blame it all on high land costs, but in the end, high land costs are only one of the many impediments we face in the housing market. I think we have to focus on a great many of the other impediments, as well, to make certain that as much as possible, we've removed the barriers existing in our market to make certain that people can be housed as well as possible and to really focus on achieving results in that regard.
Achieving results is what we focus on in everything that government is trying to do. That's what we're focusing on in our education system, for example — focusing all the dollars we spend on education on achieving results. We spend a tremendous amount on education. We often hear, of course, that we've cut education funding. That's not true, but we hear it. In fact, we hear it sometimes from people who ought to know better, and I hear it from some people who know they're not telling the truth. They know they're not telling the truth about education, because we've added money to education every year in spite of declining enrolments.
We know it would be great if we could add more money to education. It would be great if we could add more money to almost everything we do as a government. I get e-mail from across the province, and I have yet to receive a piece of e-mail that says we should spend less money on this particular social program or this particular program of government. All the e-mail suggests that for a particular element of government, we're not spending enough money.
I understand that, but let's understand, as well, that we spend more money on education, K-to-12, per student than almost any jurisdiction in North America. We spend a tremendous amount on education, and we want to make sure we're focusing those dollars on the classroom, on achieving results for our students. I think that's really, really important.
It's the same thing with health. Our health care system is extremely expensive, extremely important, and we spend more on it per capita than almost any public jurisdiction in North America. We don't spend enough, we'll be told. Of course, it would be great if we could add more money to health care, but let's be realistic. Over the past 15 years we haven't seen balanced budgets. We have seen an ever-increasing amount spent on education and on health care, to the point where we are today.
For the last 15 years we were unable as a province to sustainably balance our budget. For the last 25 years the budget has been balanced only five times, and two of those times were based on unusual economic circumstances that permitted the budget to appear bal-
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anced. We could throw more money at health care, yet I've heard from health care practitioners who say more money isn't what is needed. We really have to refocus the way health care is delivered, and that's what this province has done.
We've focused on creating outstanding centres of excellence in any number of forms of health care, outstanding centres of excellence like the leukemia centre in Vancouver Hospital. I had the occasion to visit a young patient in the leukemia treatment centre on the top floor of the Jim Pattison building in Vancouver Hospital. This young patient is housed in a room very close to a member of this House who is also in that ward, and I saw the outstanding service that's provided in that hospital for leukemia patients.
I know that Karine is in very good hands in that hospital, and I know other patients also benefit greatly from the tremendous quality of service by the professionals in Vancouver Hospital and in hospitals across the province. In Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, we have new services that are now being introduced. We have eliminated film on X-rays and medical imaging, for example. It is now almost all electronic, and that allows hospital practitioners to share the X-rays — essentially, to allow the X-ray to be viewed over at Royal Columbian by the specialist, who is going to either take the patient on at Royal Columbian or recommend some other form of treatment. It allows for cost savings in the long run, but it also makes health care tremendously better in that one small area, in that one small form of health care — medical imaging.
We've got new operating rooms at Eagle Ridge Hospital that will benefit our community and communities around the health authority. I had the opportunity on the weekend to tour the emergency room at Eagle Ridge Hospital with the head of the emergency room, Dr. Peter MacDonald. We saw the challenges that that hospital's emergency ward and many other hospitals' emergency wards are facing and have faced for the last number of years, perhaps ten years, in adapting to the challenges sometimes created by government policy.
We have had, over the last few years, a real challenge with long-term care beds. As a result, we have many patients admitted to hospital and lying in acute care beds, who don't need to be there and would be better off in some other form of health care. But we haven't had that, and our government is committed to creating those health care spaces outside of acute care hospitals so that the acute care beds can be freed up for the patients I saw in Eagle Ridge emergency ward — patients who had been admitted to hospital already but were still in the emergency ward.
This isn't new, of course. I remember that I was once admitted to a hospital, one I'll leave nameless. This was about five years ago, and I stayed the entire stay in the emergency ward. The ambulance actually stayed out in the parking lot, because I was still on the ambulance bed. It was tremendously expensive. The last government's response was that there weren't enough beds in emergency wards, when in fact the doctor told me it wasn't about the number of beds in emergency wards but that they were all filled with patients that should be in acute care. So I said: "Well, there aren't enough acute care beds." He said: "Oh, there are lots of acute care beds, but they're filled with patients that should be in long-term care."
We see this shortage of long-term care beds resulting in a shortage of parking spaces in the parking lot for ambulances waiting to get their ambulance stretchers back. That's an unreasonable situation that has existed for ten years, and we're going to fix that. I thanked Dr. Peter MacDonald for raising the issues he raised with me. I know we're going to be moving forward on a number of those issues, trying to ease the challenges we inherited in a health care system that I believe can again become the best in the country.
Another thing we're achieving — we promised to do it, and it's going to be outstanding — is the Citizens' Assembly. The Citizens' Assembly is working very hard and moving forward in this province to do something no one has ever done before. We have more than 100 people from across this province that are sitting down, weekend after weekend, and studying electoral systems. As interesting as that sounds, I want to applaud them for their dedication, because it undoubtedly is going to be arduous. They are going to have some important and heated discussions, and the results are vital to future generations in this province. I believe so.
I had the opportunity to speak to a grade 5 class at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic elementary school in Coquitlam. That was about eight weeks ago, I think. This group of grade 5s had a passionate and keen interest in the way government works, but nothing raised their interest more than when I put this question to them. I asked them to pretend they were the Citizens' Assembly and that essentially they were going to elect their class president or a provincial…. They were going to design an electoral system, and these children were passionately interested in this. The most important thing they wanted to know was: "How does this affect my future? Will this actually change the way I will live in my future?" I think it will.
Actually, tomorrow, I think, I'm going to see my daughter's grade 2 class at Mundy Road Elementary. We probably won't have the same high-level passionate discussion about the Citizens' Assembly and electoral reform.
R. Stewart: We might be surprised indeed. I look forward to that discussion. Ultimately, everything we're doing is aimed at that one thing — our youth. Everything we're doing is trying to make certain that our youth have a better future, that the next generation comes along with more stability, with a better sense of a bright future that will meet their needs and those of their own children.
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Part of that bright future is the Olympics. We see excitement. I met someone from Squamish yesterday at the tourism conference. They were as excited as can be about the Olympics. For them, it was going to play an important role in the future of their community. I also met someone from up in the Peace River district who was just as excited. That seems a little bit far from the Olympics, but from their perspective the Olympics is in their back yard, and they're going take advantage of it. I applaud them for their enthusiasm.
I met with the francophone chamber of commerce. The dedicated people that work for the francophone chamber of commerce are looking at the Olympics and looking at the bright future that British Columbia is starting to see again. They're saying that the Olympics have some tremendous advantages for the francophone population in British Columbia, and the francophone population of Canada also presents some outstanding advantages for our delivery of the Olympic Games, because the two languages of the Olympics are English and French, and Canada's two official languages are English and French. I look for the francophone chamber of commerce and other groups in the francophone community of the province to really embrace the Olympic Games as we move forward toward them in 2010 and to come out strongly and make certain that we produce the best Olympic Games that have ever happened in the history of the games.
If we look at business job growth, business growth in British Columbia is once again happening. We saw a 9 percent increase last year in business starts. We saw tremendous job growth. We in British Columbia are essentially the bright spot in job growth in North America. That's because of improved business confidence, improved consumer confidence, that has resulted from the government policies we've put in place.
I think that as we move forward over this next decade, we will be able to tell the world very confidently that we're open for business in British Columbia, that they should come here and invest here and that this is the place to do business. We haven't been able to say that for a decade. I'm very pleased, as we now look at this bright future that we have ahead of us, that we will be able to say to businesses: "This is the place to invest."
Finally, we have a balanced budget. The throne speech spoke of a balanced budget and the benefits that would be achieved by fiscal responsibility and by making certain that we didn't borrow from our children. We've been doing that for 15 years. I've got four young children. We have been borrowing from them to pay for government services that we couldn't afford ourselves. My generation borrowed from my children, broke open their piggy banks and took the money from them, saying: "You can pay for the services that adults today are going to use up." That's a shame.
I'll be speaking to a grade 2 class tomorrow, and I'll be able to hold my head a little bit higher knowing that I'm not borrowing from them, as the last government did, to spend on programs that I think are valuable. These are valuable programs — no question — but if we can't afford them, we're going to have to do something about that. The something we must do is not simply borrow money from the next generation.
A balanced budget was critical to this government's election campaign. A sustainably balanced budget is critical to this province's future. With that balanced budget comes a very bright future.
I applaud the throne speech. I know that the future of this province is brighter. I know that the people of this province are enthusiastic about the future. I look forward to working with my colleagues over the next year to make certain that we bring this budget in completely balanced on schedule and that we continue to move forward in creating the kind of environment where British Columbia and British Columbians can thrive into the future.
H. Long: Well, of course we are speaking to the throne speech today, but I can't help but speak to the budget speech, as well, and what it means to my community in Powell River–Sunshine Coast. I want to thank the Premier and the Minister of Finance for both the throne speech and the budget speech that he made and that they put out on the table for the future of British Columbia.
Of course, we all know where we have come from. We know that when we were elected in 2001, we had a huge job on our hands. I want to thank all the people of the Sunshine Coast and the people of Powell River for their patience with us. We have had a lot of hard things to do, a lot of very tough decisions to make that have affected their lives. I just want to thank them and all the people there for being with us. There have been changes, lots of changes, and people basically don't like changes.
I'd like to talk about one issue that has come up, which is very important to me and to my riding, and what I think we have to look forward to in the future. When we went into the election, they said there was going to be a referendum on how the people felt about treaties here in British Columbia. There was something that was brought forward, and we were criticized sternly for going to that referendum — that having that referendum was a waste of money, that the first nations wouldn't go along with it, that they wouldn't buy into it and weren't going to have anything to do with us in the future.
Well, lo and behold, the Attorney General has got some great successes on his side. I just want to congratulate the Attorney General on this, and I want to congratulate Chief Maynard Harry, the chief councillor for the Sliammon band in Powell River. They have signed an AIP, agreement-in-principle, with the province. Of course, that's going to lead to a lasting treaty in the end. It gives them great opportunities to get into the economic market, to get more timber, to have more opportunity to work with the rest of the people of Powell River in that area.
I've got to congratulate our mayor and council in some respects, because they had also signed an accord
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with the native Sliammon people, and it was well done. They signed an accord, and now the municipality, with the native people and with many of the other entrepreneurs in the area, is looking forward to some really good economic development in the Powell River area.
When I say that, I know that the economic development people in Powell River — and I have a meeting there tomorrow — are looking at the possibility of trying to entice a sawmill into the area where an old sawmill used to be, where the footprint still is, where they still have all the needs for a sawmill. It could be a brand-new sawmill.
I see the Minister of Forests across from me nodding his head, so I imagine there are some real opportunities. I'm not putting the Minister of Forests on the hook here. I know it's an uphill battle. It means if someone out there — an entrepreneur, a group of entrepreneurs — has the opportunity and it's a good business study to put a mill in, then they can do it. I hope Weyerhaeuser and some of the people that hold that timber with the native people maybe can get together and create the jobs in that area. I congratulate them.
I would look forward to the Oweekeno people, that tribe, to have a treaty — and also the Sechelts. Of course, the Sechelts have a huge economic driver in their area now, and I think that to sign an agreement with the Sechelt's Chief Garry Feschuk would be a great boon for the area. They already work hand in hand with the community. I think it would just be a huge plus, and I encourage them to work with me and our government to get a treaty and an AIP and carry on with that.
You know, on the lower Sunshine Coast we have some real opportunities in the health care area. We have a 140-bed seniors unit being put there by the Vancouver coastal health authority. These are all positive things for seniors. These are multicare housing units. It's something that's so desperately needed there. As well, they're looking at more care units in Powell River in the future.
I'm going to go back and say: where were the NDP in the last ten years? I was first elected to this House in 1986 to '91. Do you know, when I think back on that — and I said this to our newspaper a week ago — and when I look back…. She asked me a question. Basically, I asked her the question. I said: "What have I done in the last two and a half years I was here in this House? What have I done?" Do you know, the only way I could answer — and I'll do this maybe as diplomatically as I can…. What we have been doing in this House for two and a half years plus is cleaning up the mess of the NDP, which put a scourge on this province in the last ten years. I said to her: "If you go back in history, when I was there in '86, what did we get in Powell River? What could we do? We had balanced budgets. Things were going well. We got a hospital. We got a school. We got a golf course. We got a pipeline. Vancouver Island pipeline came through Powell River, through Jack Davis."
All these things could happen because we had a balanced budget. We had the revenues, and we had the money to do it. The NDP got in, and I said: "What has happened in the last ten years?" She could not answer one single solitary monetary thing that went into Powell River in ten solid years. Now we've cleaned up the mess, the books are balanced, and I think we can look forward to some really good initiatives moving forward for all the communities of B.C. over the next session.
Even in the health care system I know that in Powell River, for instance, we do have a brand-new hospital. It's not that old; it's only ten or 12 years old. On the Sunshine Coast I know that they're looking at upgrading the hospital in Sechelt — their X-ray room, their emergency wards and some other areas. They just finished bringing it up to earthquake standards.
I'll tell you, one of the biggest things that bothers the people on the Sunshine Coast — specifically on the lower coast even more than Powell River, but Powell River is really affected by it — is the ferry system. The new B.C. Ferries authorities that are there now have marching orders to make sure the ferry system works for our communities, and I think that's important.
We have put more money into the area. We've put money into the infrastructure of water and sewer on the Sunshine Coast. Last Saturday, unfortunately because of fog, I wasn't able to get to an economic development meeting in Gibsons, and I'm sorry I missed it. It is a growing area, the Sunshine Coast. It's a hugely growing area.
I would have to ask the infrastructure people here, between the feds and the province, to really take a hard look at our requests for infrastructure money, because without it, we can't grow. I'm encouraging the municipalities and the regional districts to really get on board, to open up the land so they can start building more housing; so we can get more water and sewer and bring the people there and bring less dependence on the ferries to take people back and forth rather than them staying in their communities, shop in their communities and get our hospital up to standards where they do not have to travel as many times to Vancouver.
But there's one thing. You know, Mr. Speaker, we go back in time to when — maybe this is a little dated — we gave the 25 percent tax cut on provincial taxes to everybody in the province. The people on the lower income actually have more in their pockets to spend. Of course, everybody has more in their pockets to spend, and that is quite obvious. The NDP condemned us for it. They told us it wouldn't work. I guess they're right. According to their figures it won't work, because what they propose…. I want to tell the people of Powell River, and I don't want to mince words on this…. This is what their Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives — which, in fact, is the NDP's group that gives them the recommendations on what to do, which the NDP have not denied…. The Leader of the Opposition and the members have not denied what this paper says.
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Basically, it goes like this — that people earning between $32,000 and $65,000 a year…. Now, most of you out there that are watching television today would really sit down and say: "$32,000, $65,000 — where's my tax bracket?" If you're in that tax bracket, look for a 40 percent increase in your personal income tax if, in fact, the NDP was government here today.
That's unacceptable — a 5-cents-a-litre increase in gas tax. We put on 3 cents a litre on gas tax to do the infrastructure of the highways throughout the province. I can see those activities happening in the Sunshine Coast today. There was one announced the other day at Pratt Road, so there will be work done there. All across this province you're seeing work being done and you're seeing things happening, because we committed to only three cents on that litre of fuel going toward the highway system.
The real scary one is the small business tax. Just as we get it down with the small businesses in a tax bracket where they can survive and we have growing small business, we have the small business creating 85 percent of the jobs in this province. We have the business that's out there doing their hardest. They've taken their own personal money, without government money, put it up front and taken a chance. They took a chance on the economy and a government like ours that's willing to work with them and make it work for them. They're the ones that create the jobs.
The NDP are saying they will raise the tax on small business by 70 percent. Well, there go the jobs, there goes the investment, and that's unacceptable as well. I know there are a lot of NDP out there that are going to jump up and down and say, "It's not true," but the Leader of the Opposition hasn't denied it.
I go back into the throne speech, and I've got some things highlighted. It pleases me to see a lot of the things. There are so many things this government can do and has done. Well, you can go right back to the $30 million one-time exemption funding on the legacies for sports, where through our committees, our 2010 committees — the Olympic committees that we have formed both in the Sunshine Coast and in Powell River — some of this money will be available for kids in sports and for initiatives that are needed for the Olympic Games. This is for our children as well.
I think we've got a lot to look forward to in the future here in British Columbia. I know — as I've said before to the people of my riding, and I really appreciate them — that it's not easy, and there have been some changes. But I also think that when you put $176 million over the next three years in timber sales programs to encourage the forest industry, to encourage everything we're doing with forests, and provide $6 million over the next three years to help the timely harvest of timber damaged by fires and pine beetle…. I don't think people in my riding understand exactly the scope of the pine beetle, because we don't have it in our area.
Recently I flew over the province — all the way from my home up to Muncho Lake, actually. I flew over the area behind Prince George, and it's devastated. It's terrible. All you see is a sea of brown, dead trees. I did watch harvesters down there trying to take out as much as they could as quick as they could, but they haven't caught up to it and they aren't going to catch up to it. I think the quicker we get the timber out of there….
Of course, a lot of the environmentalists say, "Well, all these dead trees in the park," and a lot of them are in the park, and you know, we should be taking them out of the park. I mean, common sense says that if you leave all these dead trees in a park and you can't cut them out of that park and regrow new trees, you're going to have such horrendous fires that the park won't be there anyhow. So it's time we started looking at what we're going to do in our parks and how we're going to manage them. They're there to be managed, and we must, especially when we have all this bug- kill around.
I mean, there are a lot of things in the budget that don't touch us. You know, we've got the budget for $17 million for the B.C. oil and gas development strategy. Of course, that's the northeast, but that's where we get our gas from that we warm our homes with right in Powell River now, which was not even conceived of quite a number of years ago. There are lots of things. I'm trying to hit the things that really touch my communities.
On some of the other things, the education, of course, in which we have brought the per-child…. I think it's up to $500-some-odd per child over what it used to be in our education system, so I think that's a real plus for our government. One of the things I noticed in Powell River, which is the school board…. I was criticized the other day for shutting down schools. When I think about shutting down schools, the school boards look after that. I know that the only school that shut down, where they were criticizing, had nothing to do with me. It had something to do with the school board, and it was the best move they ever made.
They went to the Minister of Finance, and they took all their finances together. They looked at it, and they said: "Over the next two years we're going to shut down the school." They did some moving, and they were going to add on to one school and shut down another school. And you know, they ended up with a net value in the bank toward their school board of $2 million to the plus — not a negative budget, a plus budget, so they got money for the future. They can do some planning. They, too, can now make choices on what they want to do with that money. They can make choices on lots of things in that school, and for someone like these NDPers to criticize that the schools are closing and that doom and gloom are coming is ridiculous.
I think that with everything we're doing here in Victoria, it's a real plus. The people in my riding can look forward to a great future. I hope we can bring more economic activity to my riding.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it again, seeing the Solicitor General here in the House. Going back to the statement of one Adrian Belshaw, one of the council
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lors on the regional board… And I want to make it right clear, it's up there. He made a comment to the police meeting, when the RCMP were there for their meeting with the regional board, that the police should stay away and leave the marijuana grow ops alone, because they created economy for the peninsula: "Do something worthwhile, like go out and look after traffic."
Well, if you have people like this in your society, in your councils, that are so misguided that they think the traffic is more important than our children, we've got a problem. Personally, I would like to see that member resign his office for the comments he made and have an open meeting to find out who would take his place, because that's irresponsible. There are kids dying because of drugs. You've got the grow ops here in B.C. creating drugs, selling them for heroin and all kinds of other drugs — crystal meth and everything else — back into their community. Any politician that says, "My community is open for grow ops, for drugs, for crime," is detestable. It's awful. They should just quit.
What we have in the balanced budget today is going to bode well for this province in the future. I think it's all said when the minister says we will be able to make those choices, will be able to make the choices that are good for all the people of British Columbia. And on the $1 billion we put back into health care, I want to tell them, as well, that it doesn't go toward the physicians or the nurses. It goes toward the physicians to fix people. I mean, if you're going to be a physician and get paid, here's your pay. Do an operation, and get paid. That goes toward patient care, and I think that's important to remember as well.
I really appreciate the opportunity to speak here today. I also appreciate how tough it was for all those people in my riding over the last two and a half or three years and understand that things will get better for them in the future. I think that with the balanced budget, we will prove that.
K. Manhas: I rise to support the Speech from the Throne. This occasion continues to be a real honour for me. It's nice to be part of an enterprise that is building on the greatness and the opportunity in British Columbia. In fact, we've just seen recently that our accomplishments have captured the world's attention. The Economist intelligence unit rated cities around the world on a scale that took into account such things as health and safety, culture and environment and infrastructure. It was reported around the world. We came first — the best-rated place in the world.
While it would be absurd for any person to claim credit for our inspiring geography and pleasant climate, I think we ought to be proud that Vancouver was rated the best in the world according to measures such as the availability of goods and services, recreational opportunities, transport infrastructure, housing stock, education and more.
What's truly amazing, however, is that we have the opportunity to improve ourselves even further. In fact, today I sense a great burden of responsibility. We have been entrusted to help this province fulfil the dreams and devote an attentive ear to the concerns of the people of this province. No matter how much we're celebrated abroad, I know the people of my community and the people of British Columbia will never lose sight of their spirit that has made British Columbia such a great place to live, and they will never cease to dream or care for their families, their youth and their neighbours.
The residents of my community of Port Coquitlam–Burke Mountain are counting on our government to help reverse the damage done after a decade of irresponsible governance, a decade where British Columbia missed the largest period of expansionary growth in North America's history — a period where British Columbia became one of two jurisdictions in North America to slip into recession. They're counting on us, on our government, to reward the hunger of all British Columbians for good opportunity. This government's priorities and the priorities listed in the Speech from the Throne do just that.
People of my community count on us to ensure that British Columbians return thankfully to work, that no one is left unwillingly behind. They trust that we will not forget that they do not serve us in government, but we serve them.
Between elections most people's first concern is what's going on in their personal lives and in their own neighbourhoods. This is by no means trivial. It is by individual lives and communities that our success as government, as leaders and representatives is measured. We are starting to win again as a province, but we must ensure that the spirit of shared endeavour reaches into every single neighbourhood — each block, each home, each individual. Each individual's life is touched. This is certainly not to be taken for granted, for it's not everyone who begins with the advantages of a supportive family and appropriate education or a familiar neighbourhood.
Not too long ago, the Tri-City News and The Now featured the same front-page story. The report concerned the assault of a grade 12 student by three teenage attackers. The boy was pushed to the ground and beaten with a bat while two other assailants kicked him repeatedly in the head. Apparently dozens of people stood around and looked while this savagery took place. You may wonder how badly the victim was hurt. You might not be surprised if I told you this boy was killed — murdered — at 3:30 in the afternoon in a public park just months before he was to graduate from high school. In fact, the boy did not die. Luckily, his life was saved.
The boy's rescuer was a complete stranger, a passer-by who saw the assault taking place. This brave woman fought her way through a crowd of onlookers and rushed to place herself between the attackers and the victim. If it was not for this woman's heroic act, this boy could easily be dead right now.
What does this story tell us? Well, some folks would hear a story like this and conclude that our
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community is plagued by monsters. These folks will double-lock their doors, drop their blinds, despair for life and not talk to anyone on the street. Others, however, will have a glimpse in this story of something encouraging and beautiful. As this heroic woman pulled the beaten boy to safety, three other bystanders intervened to support her action. This proved to be the tipping point. The crowd scattered and the attackers fled.
This is the message that we must discern in this. There will always be things in life which frighten us and which intimidate us. In fact, these things are probably frightening and intimidating everyone else too. When we step forward, when we take action to reclaim our lives and our neighbourhoods, others will and do follow.
In the case of the incident I've been telling you about, I can guarantee you that this heroic woman will prove to have saved more than one boy, and she will inspire more than just three individuals to choose action over indifference. In the crowd she pushed through to break up the fight, there will have been many individuals who will never forget the surprise and the shame they felt when they saw a person defying the trend and intervening to do the right thing. They may well emerge to be the heroes of tomorrow. In addition to these, there are innumerable people who have read this story in the news or who have seen the reports on television. These people's admiration of this one brave soul may well inspire them to lift their blinds, to open their eyes and their hearts to the community they're part of.
Today I'm proud to be able to say that in fact in my community, in my riding, this process of inspiration, action and reaction has been taking place for some time and is gaining momentum very quickly. This is thanks to the unremitting dedication of people who are committed to act and to act positively to keep our community the most envied in the world. I intend to recognize some of these individuals and to highlight some of their achievements, because they deserve to be celebrated.
Many of these projects concern children and youth, our future — the future of our community, of our province. My constituency is a very young one. According to the most recent survey, the average age of people living in Port Coquitlam is 33 years. According to data from the 2001 census, more than a third of Port Coquitlam's population are 24 years old or less. That's more than 18,000 young people, in the city of Port Coquitlam alone, on whom our future depends. These children and youth need to be nurtured in a community that is supportive of them so that they recognize equally the opportunities they can seize and the responsibilities they must fulfil. This has been a priority of mine for years, especially since I was elected to this Legislature.
Of course, I'm not the only one to share this concern. In fact, in my riding there are a great number of committed people and inspired organizations who are working to achieve our common vision. These people are so good at what they do and so full of positive energy that it's hard to express adequately my admiration of them. In fact, to meet these people is to be humbled, and I've recognized that one of the most important things I can do is simply to unite these valuable people, to help them work cooperatively together, and to support them actively with the resources, networking and fundraising they need to reach even more young people.
In April last year I spoke to the Legislature about the youth asset development program I intended to implement in my riding and across the province. I spoke of how the youth asset development strategy begins by identifying 40 distinct elements of personal and community development that support healthy, fulfilling lives and livable communities. From these developmental assets the strategy proceeds to a clearly articulated program of asset development that involves both the youth and the community at large.
In my community of Port Coquitlam–Burke Mountain this strategy has been realized by the means of ongoing Youth Matters! initiative. In June last year Youth Matters! convened a youth asset development workshop that brought together people who were genuinely committed to the welfare of the community and its young people. It was spearheaded through the leadership of many community organizations that organized together. The Society for Community Development took a great leadership position and helped this initiative through some of the most difficult days.
The Society for Community Development has done many great initiatives, but this will truly be a legacy. Their executive director, Cheryl McKeever, put a great deal of work in this — as well, ArtsConnect, represented by its president, Linda Baker; Community Solutions, a project of the United Way administered by Siobhan Ashe; the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce; the local chapters of the Rotary Club; and Share Family and Community Services, represented by Linda Edmunds and Kerry Johnston.
The district parent advisory council got involved — the Tri-City News; Sears in Coquitlam Centre; our school district No. 43 in Coquitlam. The city of Coquitlam leisure and parks services got involved — the McReary Centre Society; the Fraser health authority; the Coquitlam Public Library; the North Fraser Community Futures Development Corporation; the Ministry of Children and Family Development; SUCCESS, represented by Evelyn Humphreys; and the city of Port Coquitlam.
[H. Long in the chair.]
As you can see, it represented such a broad spectrum of the community, such a broad spectrum of the organizations that help make the community what it is. That type of cooperation was never seen in the community before they came together for this initiative to make sure the community members and individuals
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and organizations across the area pointed in the same direction to help support healthy youth development.
The workshop that was convened provided these dedicated people the occasion they needed to build alliances, to pool resources, to identify and prioritize issues, and to develop strategies and programs in cooperation. It's important to note that this effort is ongoing. The workshop participants convened a partnerships group that supports several working communities serving the Tri-Cities area.
The Youth Matters! partnership group, chaired by Wendy Cooper of the Port Coquitlam youth services society and coordinated by Carly Travers, has realized several remarkable accomplishments in its seven months of operation thus far. I shall continue to support every one of them, and it's my hope that every single person in the community learns and supports their initiatives, because the Youth Matters! initiatives will truly change the shape and structure and fabric of the community not only today but into the years ahead.
It's been only nine months since the Youth Matters! initiative first began last year in the Tri-Cities, and it's spawned so many true successes. One of these is a youth entrepreneur program. The youth entrepreneur program has been administered by the SUCCESS business and development organization for over eight years, but only last year was the program brought to Coquitlam for the first time under the direction of Evelyn Humphreys and her incredible staff. SUCCESS looked at what we were doing with the Youth Matters! initiative, and they wanted to be a part of it.
The seven-month program guides participating youth through the process of developing a sound business plan, and the young entrepreneurs do their own market research and are responsible for ensuring the operational, legal and financial viability of their plan. Afterwards, they're connected to mentors from across the business community and from a group of SUCCESS business advisers who coach the youth through the process of starting their business and realizing their vision. Fourteen of 15 participants in the Coquitlam program have started businesses of their own already, which collectively have recorded just under $61,000 of earning after just three months of doing business. That is incredible success. All of the participants were youth with a great idea but who needed a small amount of help and encouragement and guidance and mentorship to help bring it into being.
These youth may easily have been ignored and their vast potential allowed to go to waste, because they wouldn't know where to turn to if they didn't have that mentor or didn't have that encouragement. If it weren't for organizations like SUCCESS and individuals like Ms. Humphreys that recognize a spark of intelligence and ambition in those young people's eyes, that excite this spark into a beacon, this wouldn't have happened. Individuals like this do it simply by helping these individuals be themselves, helping take the confidence to take their ideas into fruition.
This initiative is exemplary, and this year I'd like to see how entrepreneur training can be brought to more youth in the community and to others who only need a little attention and coaching to become strong, self-sustaining contributors to the community. Plans are already underway for two new intakes to the youth entrepreneur program next year of 15 participants each. This program could extend to connect hundreds or thousands of aspiring youth or business leaders throughout the province. Through the individuals who go through the program, who mentor other youth, that can happen.
Inspired by the Youth Matters! asset development forum, Ms. Humphreys and her SUCCESS team also just launched A Chance to Choose. A Chance to Choose is an initiative which just completed its first couple of weeks and is ongoing right now. In fact, Ms. Humphreys is planning on bringing the Chance to Choose young individuals who are participating in that program here to Victoria, so they get a chance to see what we do here as well. A Chance to Choose offers youth aged 16 to 30 who have not completed high school an opportunity to apply their interests and aptitudes to employment opportunities they identify for themselves.
The 17-week program begins by training participants in the basic skills that are most transferable, starting with communication and community involvement. To this end, each of the participants does community work and practises public speaking, thanks to a partnership with Toastmasters. By the end of the program it's expected that the participating youth will have a clear picture of where they would like to go in the world and what they need to get there, and they'll have developed a sound, step-by-step plan by which they can achieve their goals. They will learn what it means to actually make that step, make those achievements and what it takes. Even if the first chance, the first choice, isn't successful, they will have learned what it means to choose an end goal and actually make the steps to achieve that.
After the success of the youth entrepreneur program before it, there's a huge demand for this type of valuable guidance and mentorship. That's one of the things the Youth Matters! initiative promotes — that every single person, no matter how old they are, especially teens, look to other people around them for the types of rules, the types of expectations and boundaries the community puts on them. That's why it's so important that the adults surrounding them give them clear boundaries and expectations and that there are a few people who do take an interest in each one of those youth.
SUCCESS received hundreds of inquiries from youth interested in A Chance to Choose. These led to the receipt of 75 complete applications for just 17 seats available. Clearly, the youth in my community are keen to assert themselves positively and to pursue opportunities that are fulfilling and that benefit the entire community. If this program turns out to be as successful as the youth entrepreneur program before it, I and my colleagues will work to see that A Chance to Choose is extended to more and more young people.
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Youth Matters! has inspired a community-mapping project to survey youth services in the tri-city area and to identify areas where newer, better services are required to meet the community's need. The community-mapping project has also resulted in a comprehensive youth resource list that will complement the tri-fold wallet cards of youth resources distributed by the Tri-City youth network.
The city of Coquitlam has also embraced these principles through the hard work and commitment to the Youth Matters! initiative of Chill Lee, a true asset-builder and the recreational program coordinator for the city of Coquitlam. Along with recent moves by council to embrace the principles of youth asset development in promoting youth engagement and supporting healthy youth development through their leisure and rec department, this is continuing to happen across the municipality — not only across Coquitlam but across Port Coquitlam, across Port Moody, across the region — and people are learning about it. People are coming to look at what is happening in the Tri-Cities.
Mr. Speaker, last week I announced to the House that the Coquitlam school district student leadership council had made some concrete moves to help build assets among their peers themselves. In fact, the student leadership council declared last week, February 12 to 19, as assets development week and gave some concrete examples of how every person can make a difference to youth around them.
Some examples are so small that we don't even realize it, as small as taking the opportunity of acknowledging the young people you see around. Just even a smile or a hello goes a long way in making that person feel that they're important, that they're not a burden to the community, that they're not problem-causers, that they're actually important people. That means youth and teens who are around the neighbourhood, in the stores, in every aspect of society where we go around and see teens.
That's the biggest thing I hear from teenagers in my community. They feel that people don't respect them, that they are a problem, a burden to the community. That's what they did tell me — that the community sees groups of teens together, and they must be problem-causers. They're not. They, like every person, need to have connections. Those connections are to other people, and those connections need to be fostered. The community has a role in that, in helping develop the teens around them, and it starts by providing that connection.
Youth Matters! has inspired efforts to establish a youth-run thrift store in collaboration with Linda Edmunds and Share Family and Community Services. Effort is being made with Linda Baker's ArtsConnect to inaugurate a drop-in centre where young people from the Tri-Cities can pursue artistic projects. ArtsConnect is also looking at the opportunity of building a youth-run arts business for the community, run by kids within the community. This will enable them to develop their skills and talents in a way that will earn them the respect and admiration of the community.
A Youth Matters! place is also envisioned, a facility where some of these activities and many more might be consolidated into one safe, accessible place. Youth Matters! has also inspired an ongoing peace challenge driven by the youth themselves. Every Tuesday these dedicated young people meet to organize and implement projects to promote peace in the community. At Christmas these youth collected and distributed food and warm clothing to the homeless while serenading them with Christmas carols.
These teens don't necessarily make the front page in the way kids who've beaten someone or broken something do. This is really unfortunate, because these good kids — these youth who are starting businesses, who are bettering themselves to find jobs, who are building services for their peers, who are demonstrating to us that idealism is not impractical — are the young people who are the future of our community and of this province. We absolutely must continue to engage these young people and to reward their initiative and their participation with engagement and participation of our own. If these youth are to be models for the few of their peers who falter, they must feel they have the support of the entire community — which, after all, ought to be a model for them.
In the last year the Society for Community Development began a wonderful program to provide exactly this type of modelling and support. The Virtues Club reaches out to youth of all ages and many from lower-income areas. Under the inspired direction of Alice Sellers, the Virtues Club builds a real sense of self-worth and confidence in young people by providing them guidance in social responsibility and character education, and it works.
The SCD's director, Cheryl McKeever, reported to me this week that the observations of a school principal in a neighbourhood where one of the clubs was running were these. Grades have improved, vandalism and mischief have fallen, and attitude has shifted remarkably. The fact is that youth do respond to positive attention and positive examples. The Society for Community Development hopes to expand this program in the near future, and I think this is something the whole community will support. It's something I support.
I believe passionately in positive modelling and mentoring. This is what asset-building is all about. It's for this reason that another priority of mine in the year ahead will be to see the further development of the community youth justice program that is operated in my riding by the Fraser-Burrard Community Justice Society. The community youth justice program was initiated three years ago, but since the passage last year of our new Youth Justice Act, it's anticipated that referrals to the program may rise.
The community youth justice program applies restorative justice in cases referred to it by the community's police services. Restorative justice is applied in these special cases where it's believed that the victim of crime and the young perpetrator will be reconciled in a way that is more likely to build positive experiences than otherwise. As I've argued before, restorative jus-
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tice is not some kind of soft option for hardened criminals who know how to work the system to escape accountability. In fact, community youth justice offers youth who have made a foolish and regrettable mistake the opportunity to accept full responsibility for their actions and to work directly with the people affected to right the wrong that's been done.
We have to remember that these are young people we're talking about. These are not people who have gone through all of the trials and tribulations of life and who are set in their ways. These are young people growing up that need direction, that need that kind of support. They're not individuals that can't be turned around. That's why restorative justice is so important — to reach out to those kids, to provide that positive modelling, to provide that mentorship, to lay down those boundaries and expectations that society expects and to show those kids what the results of their actions are.
Mr. Speaker, I have two success stories here, sent to me by Alan Moosmann, who is the case and volunteer manager at Fraser-Burrard community youth justice. I'm confident that these stories will inspire you as much as they've inspired me. In the first scenario, the first example, a student assaulted another student after name-calling. The resolution agreement was this. The students discussed the incident, and each was made aware of the feelings the other had that led up to it. The accused agreed to pay the costs associated with the assault and to attend a support group, for which he received a completion certificate, in order to deal with underlying issues.
Also, the accused wrote a letter of apology to the youth that he had assaulted, his parents and the school. In the letter he admitted that he had no justification for what he had done and that he had acted inappropriately. He thanked the victim's family for taking the time to give him a chance and spoke at length about his understanding of the negative repercussions experienced by all, due to his particular actions. Lastly, he asked the youth he had assaulted to forgive him and encouraged him to feel safe at school. These are things that show young people what the effect of bullying is on the schools and what the effect is on those individuals that are the victims and on their families.
A second example is as follows. Two youths entered into an elementary school previously broken into and assisted other youth in committing vandalism. The resolution agreement they agreed to through restorative justice was this. The two youths admitted the extent of their involvement in the incident and expressed remorse over how the incident had affected others at the school. As a symbolic way of returning something back to the community and rebuilding student morale, the youths offered to teach an activity in which they were both talented to other students. At the completion of the lesson the school principal was so pleased with their work that they began to pursue ways in which she could pay them back to continue. The youths were also requested to give an apology before the school assembly to reinstate feelings of safety and encourage a better understanding of the incident.
It was difficult for the youths, as they were fearful of the prospect of public speaking. However, when they did give their speech, it was so heartfelt and sincere that groups of both teachers and students cried upon hearing it. In a case summary, the principal expressed her high satisfaction with how the case had been handled. The case facilitator reported that the youths had recognized the impact of their behaviour on others and had turned the case into a learning experience for all of the students.
These are direct reports from the Fraser-Burrard Community Justice Society. These are just words. To see the youth, to see those individuals and how they've been turned around by the experience — that is to see the real true success of restorative justice. It's to see those young people and how they've made the changes in their lives and how they've turned that corner and chosen a path that brings them to success in their own lives and therefore brings a greater degree of safety, of community success into their surroundings, their neighbourhood and their community at large.
Of course, folks want to know if restorative justice is working. This program has been running for four years only, so the data we have right now is limiting so far as deep analysis goes. However, I can report that according to the latest quarterly activity of Fraser-Burrard CYJP, 122 of 124 accused youth who've made restitution or compensation agreements have fulfilled their agreements. That's 98 percent.
So far a total of 133 referrals have been received by 70 individual officers from the Port Moody police department and the Coquitlam RCMP detachment. Of these 70 officers, 32 have referred more than one file and nine have referred four or more files to the youth justice program. The Coquitlam RCMP and the Port Moody police department are currently sending all their new recruits to familiarize themselves with community youth justice and the opportunity it provides to build community assets.
Residents of my community are very concerned about the community's safety, and I'm very pleased to recognize the partnership between the Port Coquitlam RCMP detachment and 32 volunteer auxiliary constables from the community. The auxiliaries assist the RCMP community policing by observing, recording and reporting. They conduct foot patrols through the neighbourhood and provide the police with a valuable perspective on the neighbourhood's concerns. The dedication and interest of volunteers such as these make communities safer. We, too, can do our bit simply by becoming more familiar with our neighbours and by engaging ourselves in the environment we share.
Besides our young, there is also the small but significant group of people who for a variety of reasons suffer the uncertainty and vulnerability of life without shelter. I've been working with the Salvation Army and B.C. Housing to make sure that people really in need
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have the support they need. Over the year ahead I will continue to work with the Salvation Army to make sure that shelter arrangements are built in the Tri-Cities under the SCPI proposal and that other important social infrastructure needed in the area — such as second-stage housing for women, youth health counselling and social services, seniors housing as well as arts and culture facilities — is supported and built in our community.
There are many things that are important over the year ahead — transportation and many other issues. As I see my time is up, I want to just assure people in my constituency and in my community that the year ahead is an exciting one — one we will continue to build on and one that we can look forward to. I look forward to working with people in the community to help them pursue their hopes and dreams and to build this province for the opportunity it so deserves.
K. Stewart: It's my privilege and honour to speak to the throne speech today — the highlights of the continuation of our promise to the citizens of British Columbia. Also, it's a continuation of my promise to the citizens of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
I'd like to take a brief moment to start to talk about some of the other activities or the responsibilities of an MLA which don't include those of the House, and that's of our constituency offices. I believe that about half our work is done through our constituency offices. I have two staff, Sandy and Janice, that work out of my office, and they are the daily contact with the people of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. For many citizens who have issues or problems that cannot be easily resolved by themselves, they come into our office and have an opportunity to first express their views about an issue that may be affecting them and that can easily be relayed back to myself and to government. But also, many of them have problems arising in their life that they need some help with or some direction for. They don't have anyone else to turn to. They come to our office. What's been very effective is liaising with the various government agencies that these people need to talk to. In many cases, it's just been a breakdown in communication.
A big part of the constituency office is actually just helping people connect to the right agencies and the right people. I don't believe we talk enough about the good work that goes on there. I look at the thousands of telephone contacts we've had since we opened our office and the hundreds of files we've started, most of which — fortunately, I'd like to say — have been concluded since we took over as government.
Interestingly enough, the office of the MLA prior to me being the representative for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows was, unfortunately, not that accessible, being midway between Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. It is sort of an area that doesn't have high person traffic through it, so for a lot of people it was inconvenient to get there. I was very pleased that when we decided to set up our constituency office, we went to an area that was central to Maple Ridge. Also, we made it very clear to anyone in Pitt Meadows who had difficulty reaching our office that we would be more than pleased to make arrangements to meet them in Pitt Meadows. Fortunately, with the transit system that we have — which is, I'm sure, open to criticism sometimes — generally speaking, during the middle of the day it's fairly adequate to move people around through our community.
We chose to be at a site where it was very close to the city hall, to a number of government agencies that people often used, to the health region and to the government agents. It is right next to the very, very successful regional library. We've been very pleased at the amount of people who do come through our office, who we're able to provide that service to, and it's very effectively given by my two very capable staff. I'd just like to take a moment to say how that part of our work doesn't get expressed too often in this House, and it's a very big part of our work.
Moving on to the throne speech, there are a number of items in the throne speech that, to me, say a lot about who we are as a government. In the throne speech it was mentioned that the government will launch a major new initiative to address literacy, beginning with the creation of a Premier's advisory board on literacy. It will also provide new funding for literacy initiatives and double the annual contribution to the adult literacy cost-shared program, challenging the federal government to do the same. We talk a lot about education for our young children, education for our teens, education for our young adults in institutional educational settings. We talk about apprenticeship programs, but not too often do we talk about adult literacy.
I had the interesting task one time to supervise an area of government…. I was quite young at the time, and many of the people I supervised were quite a bit older than me. It was interesting that I found out there were a number of them who actually had very poor reading and writing skills. That's in no way a reflection of their intelligence. They were extremely bright people, and they compensated. You would never know, without very close daily contact with them, that they had some severe difficulties in reading and writing because of their ability to compensate for it.
There was one gentleman I remember in particular. Through the encouragement of myself and some other staff, we got him on a program to improve his literacy skills — his reading and writing skills. The world that was opened up for him as he progressed in his ability to read and write, as those skills were enhanced, was just incredible for him. As I said at the start, this was a very bright person. But things that happened in his early life — a family situation where he wasn't able to continue in school, the demands on the family at the time, a breakup of the family due to an illness of a father — really disadvantaged him at that time.
As I went through my working career, I came across a number of people in a similar situation. The rate of illiteracy within adults is much, much greater
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than people realize. So not only are we targeting youngsters on this, but we're also targeting adults. I think this is a very good program to look at our people, our adults, our people out of high school, to get into these programs. I'd strongly encourage them to do so. If you know someone who has been held back due to the fact that they don't have the basic literacy skills, I strongly encourage people to get involved with these programs.
As we talk about education and adult learning, they say now that most of our children will have at least five careers during their working lives. Those careers obviously start when they're going through their elementary school. They start their education and training; many of them go through high school. After high school most people go on not to university but to other sorts of jobs and vocations. All too often, I believe, we focus too much on university. When you actually look at the number of students who left high school and didn't continue in university, I believe it's about four-to-one to those that did.
What we are doing now, of course, is focusing on some of the other vocational training, which in many cases pays very well. We obviously have a shortage of some of these skilled vocations — welders, carpenters, machinists. In many cases, a machinist can, just working regular hours without overtime, easily be in the $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 range. I know tradesmen, friends of mine, who work as millwrights and electricians in industry. With their overtime they're well over $100,000 a year. This is no small potatoes by anyone's salary range. I'd just like to say how much I was encouraged by the throne speech that we were going to focus on education, all levels of education and all different types of education.
One part of the educational system and our whole life system that's changing quite dramatically is the digital age. The technological changes we're seeing in our lives are dramatic. It was very encouraging to see it highlighted in the throne speech, providing — over the next two years — the broadband access to 171 communities and to agencies and programs, including al alternate school in my district. It was recently announced that it would get the broadband digital technology it didn't have in the past — allowing, again, another group of British Columbia citizens to gain access to the world of the Internet, the world of e-mail, the world that many of our homes now have.
It's interesting enough that Canada is one of the highest participants on the Internet, with more homes wired than any other country in the world. British Columbia leads that in Canada. We are right up there at the top of the world with our digital access and technology, and I think as we continue focusing on that level of communications, it's only going to enhance both the knowledge and the skills of our citizens.
Another topic that struck me as important to be mentioned in the throne speech was about seniors — seniors housing and the supply of options for independent living with seniors. We've all seen the demographic shifts in our local communities, how the greatest population range is now entering into that of seniors. Seniors today are not what they used to be. A senior today can be very healthy, living well into their eighties. The average age of British Columbians, I believe, for men is about 78 and for women, about 79. That's just an average. Obviously, there's a number of people now living well into their nineties. We regularly send out congratulatory cards to people celebrating their hundredth-and-beyond birthday. With the advances in health care, it does put large costs on us, and it's incumbent that we deal with some strategies to do that. This was addressed, again, both in the throne speech and in the budget.
In my community we're starting now to look at the housing situation of those homes that used to be called intermediate care centres. Some of them are now being renovated, upgraded to allow more independence of care. We're also seeing a number of facilities coming in where people have their own personal choices of where they're going to live. In my community the Legion has been very good in joint housing projects.
We've got the ECRA Centre, which is another elderly retirement citizens association. It built a fairly large tower with homes in it — eight storeys. There's a large recreational centre down below, where the seniors have an opportunity to partake in an evening meal, many breakout rooms for various hobbies and crafts, plus a very large auditorium for other community events. We're not just isolating a group of seniors. What we're doing is integrating them with many other community events that go on there.
I was just recently there at an event, a trivia night for a fundraiser for the local high school band. I've been there on a number of different occasions for dinners and programs. They even hold some political events there for various groups and organizations. It's a facility in my community that's been built over the last few years. It just looks at seniors and how they can be integrated back with the community.
Another topic I'd like to touch on is the issue of power, our electrical needs and generation needs for British Columbia, which was mentioned in the throne speech. We covered how 50 percent of all new power produced for British Columbia will be generated from clean alternate sources. This, of course, goes through the B.C. Hydro grid.
We're blessed, as many people in British Columbia know, with having had earlier politicians with the foresight to look at the major hydroelectric projects we have. Today we're seeing the benefits of those projects, but if we look over the past couple of years, we'll see that we have been a net importer of electricity in two of the past three years. We're now getting to the point where those earlier advantages we had and the earlier surpluses we had are being used up by the demands of British Columbians. In one way that's good, because it shows that our power demands are growing in British Columbia as our economy grows. As the need for
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power grows, we will be looking for new power, but it will be generated from clean alternate energy sources.
Another topic that is going to be very big and that was highlighted in the throne speech, up till the Olympics and continuing after the Olympics, of course, was that of the Olympics. The winning of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is very large in the strategy for growth and development in British Columbia. It also has its local effects. In my community of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows we have a local community group that's been put together for the Olympics and the events leading up to that.
We're starting to see, in our local communities, sporting events come to British Columbia. As we get closer to the Olympics and the new venues are completed, we see the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship coming to British Columbia — a number of curling events coming, even to my local area. I'm not sure whether it was the Scott Tournament of Hearts or Tournament of Roses — the provincial one that came to our community. As these Olympic facilities are built, they're certainly going to attract a number of new tourism dollars and event dollars to British Columbia.
More locally, again, there are a couple of projects that will have a very long-lasting effect. They're being talked about in context with the increased tourism coming as a result of the Olympics. We have our local GVRD greenway plan. There's the proposed Codd Island conservation area that's moving along very nicely. I understand from the radio today that Brendan Morrison, a local Pitt Meadows lad, has donated money towards it and challenged many other members of the Vancouver Canucks to also donate towards the Codd Island conservation project, which is getting very close to completion and is something we're very excited about.
I'd just like to touch again on the local business opportunities that are coming about as a result of the Olympics. My counterpart next door in Maple Ridge–Mission was showing how there's one company that has a special type of chocolate bar they'd like to market as the official Olympic chocolate bar. That's a unique opportunity for someone. There are many other product lines that will come along and small businesses that will be able to participate in some of the support items that will be needed for such a major undertaking as that. Of course, Picture B.C. will be initiated, and that will showcase British Columbia through a new type of branding and imaging to the world through its words and artwork, which will be expressed prior to those Olympic Games.
Another item that was mentioned in the throne speech was that of forestry and the changes that will be occurring in the forest industry. Some of the items that were talked about in the throne speech included a market-based timber pricing system that will be introduced on the coast. Twenty percent of the annual allowable cut will be reallocated to smaller operators, local communities, first nations and others, and new measures will be introduced to combat the mountain pine beetle. The government will also act on the Filmon fire review recommendations that were just completed. All these items are towards our enhanced forestry production in the future and to ensure that we maintain the stability of that industry within British Columbia.
Many people will look at my riding of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, which only logs a very, very small amount of private logs. I don't believe there is any annual allowable cut in Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, but the riding adjoining me, Maple Ridge–Mission, has a number of local forest opportunities and an annual allowable cut there.
What we do have in the town of Hammond, in the middle of my riding of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows — the town where my mother was born and my grandfather acted as the unofficial mayor for a number of years, as they were part of Maple Ridge…. It's a town that has one of the larger cedar mills in British Columbia, the Interfor cedar mill. They are very dependent on the forest industry, and 200 or so jobs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows — plus all the spinoffs from those jobs — are directly affected by what happens in the forest industry. Though some people may say, "What's the big deal? You have no logging in Maple Ridge," we certainly are — as all areas of British Columbia are — affected by the forest industry and what happens in that industry, as it is still the number one industry in British Columbia and, I believe and hope, will be for many years to come.
Another resource-based industry that we don't have any of in my riding, Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, or none that I know of — no mines…. Although there's some famous story about the Sumac gold mine that was somewhere north of our riding. It's a very interesting story, for those of you who are history buffs, about a person who used to come through the Pitt Lake and down to New Westminster and showed up with all this gold. So even though, again, I don't know of any active mining in my riding, there might be a hidden gold mine somewhere that will be discovered sometime in the future. As far as I know, nothing is occurring today. But, again, that doesn't mean that mining isn't important to the citizens of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows.
One of my neighbours is actually a mining engineer, and he has not been at home much the last few years because he's been down in Chile working for a British Columbia company that's down there working on a number of big mines and exploration out in the woods there. He's fortunately not been one of the ones who were taken on a tour by the locals for a few months for ransom, but there are dangers down there and, if not dangers, certainly the concern about missing your family for a number of months. I can assure you that he's very pleased now that there are more opportunities to be working in British Columbia as we're looking out into the heartlands for new investment in mining.
B.C. has been encouraging the government of Canada to complete its scientific review and join in responding to the offshore oil and gas opportunities in a scientifically safe manner. Not only do we have the
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hard mining that is starting to come back into British Columbia, with the mineral prices moving up — that's also been a great initiative for that mining to move back into British Columbia — but prior to the very recent moves we've seen in metals, the structure that was put into place, the infrastructure that's been promoted through the Ministry of Energy and Mines, certainly allowed for an encouragement of those companies to move back into British Columbia with some of the adjustments to the capital tax, plus ensuring that our regime of red tape and regulation is reduced to ensure not only that we are still operating in a very safe manner but that we're also competitive with other regions of the world.
We are truly living in a global economy, and we have to ensure that our marketplace is in line with that in other jurisdictions. That's why we've seen in the throne speech that there are bills that have been introduced to eliminate unnecessary red tape. We will continue down that road to ensure we have a regulatory regime that protects the safety of the environment but also ensures that we can, without having undue red tape, get on with the work at hand.
Being a farmer, I was also encouraged to see the support in the throne speech about BSE, the bovine spongiform encephalopathy program and the cull program that received an additional $10.5 million from British Columbia. That was the amount that was already committed, but another $16.8 million is going to help those farmers under the whole farm trust.
Again, we start talking about the globalization of the economies, and farming has been, for years, a global activity. We're constantly competing in a world market. But we also have to now start to realize that along with the products being shipped internationally, there are health care issues that are a concern with animal husbandry. So we also have to make sure that we look after the proper regulatory control for that.
I'd like to say that under our Minister of Agriculture…. He's been participating at many different forums to ensure that we're right up to date with the latest activities that are going on in the world of animal husbandry and in food products.
I would just like to talk about one more item before I conclude today, and that's just going back a bit to education and to some of the training programs that were mentioned in the throne speech. Locally, we have Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary, which is being directed to be more of a vocational school. When I say being directed, it was certainly an initiative of the local school board, who we work quite closely with. As I mentioned the other day, our responsibility is to ensure that they are adequately funded to deliver the requirements that we request of them for the funding they receive, but it's up to them to effectively and efficiently administer those funds.
I'd like to say I'm very pleased with the way our school district is accepting those responsibilities, and we have a very good working relationship with them. I hope that will continue as we see more of these schools that are going to be effectively giving the students the various options they're going to need as they move out into the workforce. Our budget for education, as mentioned in the throne speech, will grow by $313 million over the next three years, and the new graduation requirements starting in September will raise our standards for our children and provide more flexibility and choices for students.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank you very much for this opportunity to speak to the throne speech. I'm fully behind it, and I'm sure my colleagues and I will be able to move forward with this throne speech and allow for a better future for those citizens that live here in British Columbia.
Hon. J. Les: Hon. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to make a few comments with respect to the throne speech. I think it's clear that as you read the speech and study the budget that was tabled recently and as you travel around the province and talk to people, a new day has dawned in British Columbia.
In June 2001 when we took over the government of this province, British Columbians were a dispirited lot. They had lost hope. They had watched in the decade of the nineties as a further $17 billion of debt had been piled up. They had watched as B.C. became a province that wasn't a destination of choice anymore for other Canadians. As a matter of fact, we had a net out-migration of people out of British Columbia.
We had watched as in 1999, for the first time in history, we had become a have-not province, receiving equalization payments from other provinces across the country. We watched as the government of the day was aimlessly stumbling around with no apparent vision. We watched as businesses that still wanted to invest in this province had to cope with an enormous regulatory burden that was choking off investment and sending otherwise good and viable ideas out of this province.
That was the situation that we inherited in June 2001, and it was indeed a daunting task that the newly elected government faced as it sought to renew the prosperity we knew was still inherent in this province. We were elected to office with a document in place called the New Era document. In it, there were several hundred commitments that were made to British Columbians, and our new government went to work. I am pleased to say that most of those New Era commitments have now been fulfilled, and they have brought about the results we had hoped for at the time.
They have brought about a new hope and prosperity amongst the residents of this province. The fulfilment of those new-era commitments has brought back investment, with the jobs and prosperity that go with that investment, and British Columbians today are much more optimistic than they were just a few short years ago. Our government has picked up the challenge. Our government has answered the call, and we have rediscovered the prosperity, hope and optimism that we always knew existed in British Columbia.
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Today, as the throne speech indicates, we are bringing out the best in British Columbia. Today, as an independent agency in the form of KPMG has shown in a recent study they released, B.C. is amongst the most competitive places in the world for new business investment to locate. They have completed this study. They've looked at jurisdictions across the United States and across Europe, and they have found that cities such as Vancouver, Kelowna and Chilliwack are cost-competitive in terms of being places where business can come and invest and see a good return on their investment.
Potential investors around the world are going to notice that, and they're going to make decisions to come to British Columbia in greater numbers than they have before. They will recognize that our policies of cutting taxes and aggressively deregulating, in fact, work. We have heard from the opposition and their friends that the tax cuts have not worked, and I want to state — and to restate emphatically — that tax cuts do work. They have worked, and British Columbians are much better off today as a result of the tax cuts we implemented, the restructuring we implemented and the deregulation that is moving along very successfully in this province.
By June of this year, we will have deregulated to the extent of about 33 percent of all regulations, and that, too, will be a major tonic for our economy in this province. Because the tax cuts have worked and because deregulation has worked its way through the economy, we have been able to reinvest in important social programs such as health care. Another $2 billion has been injected into the health care system in the last two years so that British Columbians will be able to continue to access this much-needed service that is so well funded by government.
That is not to say there aren't still a lot of challenges in the health care system. Several days ago the country's Premiers came together, and for the first time, I think, there was a collective agreement that the health care system as we know it is certainly under threat — that if fundamental reform of the health care system in Canada is not undertaken, it is indeed in danger of eventual collapse perhaps as soon as within the next decade. I think that is a warning we all need to heed. Without a good and viable health care system in place, I don't think we would be doing justice to the needs of British Columbians and Canadians.
Because of the success of our economic policies, we also have been able to secure additional funding for education initiatives across the province, which is of particular interest to me. My riding of Chilliwack-Sumas straddles two of the five school districts where the K-to-12 student population is still growing. In most of the school districts across the province, the school-age population is actually decreasing, but in the Fraser Valley, with the very strong population growth that we are still experiencing there, there's also an increase in the school-age population. I am very pleased that we've been able to identify resources, additional resources, for the grade school system as well as the post-secondary school system.
In my riding we will soon be starting the construction of a new secondary school, and we're also working hard to establish a new campus for the University College of the Fraser Valley. Those will be two important new investments in education opportunities for children and students in the Fraser Valley. Particularly, the potential new campus for the university college is a very well-supported idea amongst the public in my riding.
Post-secondary education opportunities in the Fraser Valley historically have always been very limited, but they are becoming increasingly more available. The University College of the Fraser Valley, being part of our education opportunities, has played a large role in allowing students, while they're able to remain living in the Fraser Valley, to obtain bachelor's degrees and other diploma education opportunities.
Other investments that we've been able to undertake include transportation investments. In my riding of Chilliwack-Sumas, the final stages of construction of the new Vedder Road interchange are occurring. In two or three months from now, that construction will be complete. That is a $12 million project that had been necessary for many, many years, and I was pleased to be able to play a role in making sure that got done. It widened the interchange from the previous narrow two lanes to now five lanes. The architecture of the interchange works much better as well, so there will be a far more fluid flow of traffic. The residents of my riding and of the Chilliwack-Kent riding are very pleased that this infrastructure investment was made by our government.
The residents of my riding are much more optimistic today than they have been in many years. Along with many of us, if not all of us, that optimism was certainly characterized by real enthusiasm on July 2 of last year when the announcement was made that the 2010 Olympics would be coming to British Columbia. That is one huge once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that it is our duty to maximize and promote to the fullest extent possible.
Just to be clear, the 2010 Olympics will not just be about 17 days in 2010. The 2010 Olympics is more like about 17 years, starting today. This is an enormous opportunity. The buildup towards 2010 and the aftermath of 2010, once the contestants have gone home, will continue to resonate and reverberate through our economy for years and years to come. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I had the occasion today to meet with the Council of Tourism Associations at their annual convention here in Victoria. It goes, I guess, almost without saying that they are absolutely excited and enthused and filled with optimism with respect to what 2010 can do for the tourism industry as we move towards 2010 and the opportunity to showcase our province that the Olympics will provide.
Given the vastly improved economic and fiscal climate, there is a new optimism right across our prov-
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ince. As I've travelled across the province in the last six or ten months, everywhere you go people are much more optimistic about their futures than they have been in many, many years. And they're prepared to say so. When I was in Prince George a couple of weeks ago, meeting with Initiatives Prince George and the Prince George Chamber of Commerce and other related groups, there was real enthusiasm there. They said: "Look. We've never had as many positive prospects as we do at the moment." Of course, they were really excited about the fact that for the first time in about 25 years, their unemployment rate was at a level below 10 percent.
I'm going to keep my remarks to the throne speech fairly brief. Many of my colleagues have already covered many important aspects of the throne speech. I just want to say that I consider myself very fortunate today to be involved in the government of the province of British Columbia and to be able to play a role where we can build on the prosperity that now seems to be coming our way and make sure that our children have a future that we can all be very proud of. Rather than saddling our children and future generations with debt and further deficits, we are gifting them with a future that is full of opportunity and possibilities. I've got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that that is something that makes me a very proud British Columbian. I hope we will continue on this track of economic responsibility and a future that is bright and prosperous for all British Columbians.
Hon. R. Coleman: I'm pleased to rise and offer my voice, as well, in support of the Speech from the Throne. There are two lines in the Speech from the Throne that really say a lot. It says: "There are moments in history that crystallize the essence of a province's nature and the promise of its people. They are moments that bring out our best and signify our spirit to the world. They are the moments that hold within them the shape of our future." British Columbia has had a lot of those moments in the last two and a half years — the election in 2001, when the socialists were sent to the far reaches of the back bench and should remain there. Moments in our history when we had an election in 1991 that last saw the socialists come to office and virtually destroy the spirit of our great province.
The moment when a group of people elected in 2001 moved forward with a plan for British Columbians that led to the Speech from the Throne and a balanced budget in British Columbia. The moment that sees us actually look forward to a tremendous future as a people. The moment a few days ago when, in under two minutes, international money markets snapped up $500 million of investment and financing with the province of British Columbia, because the world markets believe in the direction that this government is taking this province for its long-term economic future and its stability.
Moments when you see people in our province band together in order to evacuate over 30,000 people in one night while wildfires are attacking a community like Kelowna in our province, with thousands of volunteers working together.
The moments are too many to mention and too long to talk about in the short time I actually have today, because I understand that the Lieutenant-Governor will be in the precincts. So, Mr. Speaker, in order to preserve my opportunity to expound on the great moments for British Columbians, I reserve my position in this debate, and I move adjournment of debate.
Hon. R. Coleman moved adjournment of debate.
Deputy Speaker: If the members would hold their seats, the Lieutenant-Governor is in the precincts.
The House stands recessed for ten minutes.
The House recessed from 5:28 p.m. to 5:33 p.m.
[H. Long in the chair.]
Deputy Speaker: We'll call the House back to order.
Royal Assent to Bills
Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took her place in the chair.
Clerk of the House:
Supply Act, 2003-2004 (Supplementary Estimates No. 3).
In Her Majesty's name, Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this act.
Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
[H. Long in the chair.]
Hon. S. Hagen moved adjournment of the House.
Deputy Speaker: The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:37 p.m.
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