2007 Legislative Session: Third Session, 38th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
Volume 17, Number 5
|Battle of Vimy Ridge
| Hon. G.
|Introductions by Members||6529|
| Hon. R.
|Introductions by Members||6530|
|Introduction and First Reading of Bills||6531|
|Anaphylactic Student Protection
Act, 2007 (Bill M210)
|Statements (Standing Order 25B)||6531|
|Quesnel Community Powwow
|Squamish Nation Sculpture
|Vancouver downtown east side arts
| J. Kwan
|World Police and Fire Games
| H. Bloy
|Spare Time Fun Centre
|Kelowna women's curling team
|Mark substitution at private
| Hon. S.
|Dogwood certificates issued by
| Hon. S.
|Funding of seniors health care
facilities in Cariboo region
| Hon. G.
|Visitor access at Deni House
| C. Wyse
| Hon. G.
|Raw log exports and value-added
| Hon. R.
|Impact of government policies on
value-added forest sector
| C. Evans
| Hon. R.
| C. Wyse
|Committee of the Whole House||6539|
|Securities Transfer Act (Bill 9)
| Hon. C.
|Report and Third Reading of Bills||6547|
|Securities Transfer Act (Bill 9)
|Committee of the Whole House||6547|
|Community Services Statutes
Amendment Act, 2007 (Bill 11) (continued)
| C. Wyse
| Hon. B.
| Hon. I.
|Report and Third Reading of Bills||6564|
|Community Services Statutes
Amendment Act, 2007 (Bill 11)
|Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room|
|Committee of Supply||6564|
|Estimates: Ministry of
| Hon. K.
| J. Brar
| G. Coons
| C. Wyse
[ Page 6529 ]
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007
The House met at 1:33 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
BATTLE OF VIMY RIDGE
Hon. G. Campbell: Mr. Speaker, if I can just take a moment. April 9 will be the 90th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It was April 9, 1917. At 5:30 a.m. that Easter Monday, the first wave of Canadian soldiers began their offensive against German defences at Vimy Ridge. They fought their way through mud and sleet across a desolate battlefield and into history.
The Canadian success at Vimy Ridge was a triumph of meticulous planning and uncommon courage. In the end it was the greatest Allied victory of the war up to that date. It cost 3,598 Canadians their lives, but it was a turning point in the Great War.
Vimy Ridge was not the first time Canadian soldiers distinguished themselves in World War I, nor would it be the last, but it was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian corps attacked together. Soldiers from across our country fought shoulder to shoulder, and it has been said that those who witnessed the Battle of Vimy Ridge witnessed the true birth of our nation.
As is so often the case with military victories, Vimy Ridge is a source of both national sorrow and national pride. The Canadians who fought so valiantly there reflected the best of a young nation and who we have become since.
In recognition of their courage and sacrifice 90 years ago, the province is proclaiming April 9, 2007, as Vimy Ridge Day in British Columbia. It's a time to reflect on the courage of generations past and on the responsibility we all share to live up to the legacy they handed down to each of us. It is also a sombre reminder of the challenges faced by Canada's Armed Forces even today.
I ask the House to join me today in paying tribute to those who gave so much at Vimy Ridge throughout the Great War and also to those who carry their proud tradition of courage and service to freedom around the world today in Canada's Armed Forces.
Introductions by Members
S. Simpson: I'm very pleased today. There's a large group of people with us today, who have come to witness the introduction of a private member's bill, the Anaphylactic Student Protection Act, which will be introduced by my colleague shortly.
I want to introduce some of those people to the House today: Mrs. Pamela Lee and her son Aaron — I would note that Pam was the motivator of my statement made yesterday on this issue; Linda Virginello and her son Nick; Stephanie Parsons; Mr. Mike Shannon, who I would note is the father of Sabrina Shannon, the young girl who passed away and who Sabrina's Law in Ontario was named after; Kelly Grinyer; Pamela Nielson; Leann Collins; and Shirley Connell. I would ask the House to make them all welcome.
S. Hawkins: Mr. Speaker, on your behalf, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce 30 public servants seated in the east gallery who are participating in a full-day parliamentary procedure workshop. It's offered by the Legislative Assembly, and this workshop provides a firsthand opportunity for the public service to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the work of their ministries and how that affects the Legislature. Would the House please help me make them welcome.
R. Fleming: Today it's an honour to introduce guests here with us from the Crystal Meth Society of British Columbia. As many members of this House know, this organization has worked tirelessly to stop the use of crystal meth on Vancouver Island and, indeed, in communities across our province.
With us today is the society president Mark McLaughlin, his wife Ruth and their daughter Mila. This family has been the inspiration of much of the grass-roots education that goes on in our communities across British Columbia about this powerfully destructive drug. Their education, their efforts to tell British Columbians about crystal meth have reached tens of thousands of people — be they front-line health workers, parents and school kids, or employees of all levels of government.
Also here with them are incredible volunteers: the society vice-president Marilyn Erickson and her friend Krista Baird, who has just finished her practicum in nursing outreach in Victoria, working among young addicts in the street population.
I would add just further to the McLaughlin family. Ruth's parents Eric and Muriel Pearson are watching this afternoon, and I would like the House to offer their congratulations. They just recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Will the House make these guests most welcome.
Hon. R. Thorpe: Last Friday, March 23, I had the pleasure of attending an event at the French consul general's residence in Vancouver. It was in recognition of a constituent of mine, Lieut. Col. Harry Quarton. The regiment that he served in was the only Canadian regiment unit awarded a Victoria Cross during the Normandy campaign. On March 23 Lieutenant Colonel Quarton was awarded the Legion of Honour by the President of the French Republic.
Lieutenant Colonel Quarton will lead a group of 40 Canadian army officers and veterans on a battlefield
[ Page 6530 ]
tour at Vimy Ridge on April 9. In addition, there will be a number of students from the South Okanagan, including Penticton and Summerland, who will also be in attendance.
I would ask that the House please recognize the accomplishments of Lieutenant Colonel Quarton and express our thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Quarton and all of the others who have served and who are serving our country.
Introductions by Members
M. Karagianis: Today in the gallery we have some visitors from Ottawa, here visiting family. I'd like us all to give a good welcome to Russ and Trudy Tully.
Hon. J. Les: I'd certainly like to add my recognition to the McLaughlin family, who have already been mentioned by my colleague from Victoria-Hillside. The McLaughlin family has done much to raise awareness around crystal meth issues in British Columbia. They're joined today by Marilyn Erickson and April Haussmann. I'd also like to add my congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Pearson on their 60th anniversary.
I have another introduction, and that is a class from Mount Cheam Christian School in Chilliwack who are here with us today. We have a class from that school that comes out annually to watch the proceedings in the House, and we certainly welcome them.
In particular, I'm sure I'll be forgiven if I make reference to my niece who is part of that class, Larissa Lindhout. She's in grade 12. She will soon be one of the teachers in our province. Would the House please make them welcome.
D. Cubberley: It's my pleasure today to introduce some families and individuals who are here because of their concern with anaphylaxis. I would like to begin with Mrs. Nancy Wong, who is a constituent of mine and who's here with her son Brendan and daughter Megan. Brendan is anaphylactic.
I would also like to introduce Mrs. Carolyn Posynick and her son Griffin, who is also anaphylactic, and Mrs. Tracy Zeisberger, whose son is also anaphylactic. They are joined by Dr. Gendreau-Reid, who is an allergist and has treated Nancy's son; Mrs. Karen Sheridan, who is a supporter; and Yvonne Rousseau, who is the B.C. and Yukon regional coordinator for the Allergy and Asthma Information Association. Would the House please join us in making them welcome.
Hon. J. van Dongen: I have two introductions today: first, a number of students from Dogwood Independent School in Abbotsford. They are accompanied by their teacher David Green. I ask the House to please make them very welcome.
Then it's my pleasure to introduce four representatives from the Catholic Women's League that are visiting the Legislature today: Sheila Quinn, Pat Battensby, Gloria Gausobel and Marilyn van Dongen. Marilyn is related; she's married to my brother in Kamloops. I ask the House to make them all welcome.
R. Austin: It's my pleasure today to introduce a visitor from my home community of Terrace. Her name is Jennifer Jones, and I ask all members to join me in welcoming Jennifer.
Hon. R. Neufeld: It's a pleasure for me today to introduce a number of gentlemen that I'll be meeting with later, who are in the business of generating clean, green electricity: Katabatic Power CEO Tony Duggleby and COO Jonathan Raymond.
Accompanying them are people from the Deutsche Bank: Ulrich Schmall, Frank Hasselwander and Uwe Schmidt. Would the House please make them welcome.
C. Evans: I'm lucky to have a visitor from Creston. His name is Trent Hans Nicolajsen. Trent is 40 years old. He's a tree-planter and has three kids, and like many silviculture workers in British Columbia, he also has another trade. We have got wonderful, intelligent, creative tree-planters in B.C. He's also an industrial designer, and he dropped off his portfolio. Welcome to the House. It's your House, actually.
J. Rustad: It's a pleasure today for me to stand and introduce the three bears. I'm talking about the Vanderhoof peewee-A Bears, the Vanderhoof bantam-A Bears and the Vanderhoof midget-A Bears.
They have performed a feat that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been done in the province before. They've all managed to win their respective provincial tournaments. I would ask that the House please help me congratulate the players as well as the coach, volunteers and sponsors of the Vanderhoof Bears.
Hon. G. Hogg: The Minister of Transportation and I had the pleasure of hosting for lunch today both the incoming and the outgoing executive directors for the White Rock and South Surrey Chamber of Commerce: the outgoing executive director Jim Dyson — he has chosen to come here for his last day of work and is then heading off across our wonderful country — and the incoming director Doug Hart, who has come to us from Delta.
We're very pleased to have both of them here with us in the House today. Would you please join me in making them feel most welcome.
D. Hayer: I have a very special guest here today. John Kelly of GlaxoSmithKline is visiting us in the House today. Could the House please make him very welcome.
H. Bloy: It's a real privilege to stand up today. I had lunch with the future of British Columbia — a number of young people. They are members of the British Columbia Young Liberals, and many of them attend Simon Fraser University in my riding. I would like to recognize them: Anderson Zhang, Ben Lee, Brody
[ Page 6531 ]
Murfin, Chris Sandve, Erik Heather, Fuhan Shi, Jamie Mulholland, Katy Merrifield, Peter Woo, Richard Ly, Zach Poturica, Silvester Law and Wisam Abdella. Would the House please make them welcome.
First Reading of Bills
PROTECTION ACT, 2007
D. Cubberley presented a bill intituled Anaphylactic Student Protection Act, 2007.
D. Cubberley: I move that the bill be read for a first time today.
D. Cubberley: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the Anaphylactic Student Protection Act. Anaphylaxis is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction triggered by food allergens like peanuts, seafood, egg and dairy products. To date, British Columbia has taken a voluntary approach to anaphylactic preparedness, leaving many anxious parents to blaze their own trails on these issues. The level of concern this raises is evident from the interest by guests in this chamber today.
This bill would ensure that all B.C. schools are equally prepared to monitor anaphylactic students, avoid inadvertent triggering of anaphylactic reactions and intervene effectively should they occur. The bill requires every school board to establish and maintain an anaphylactic policy, setting out risk-reduction strategies and a mandatory regular training program. It requires every school principal to maintain a file and individual plan for each anaphylactic student. It also enables school board employees to administer or supervise student administration of medication in the event of an anaphylactic reaction.
This bill is modelled on Sabrina's Law adopted in Ontario after Sabrina Shannon died from inadvertently consuming fries that were likely contaminated with a dairy protein, to which she was highly allergic. Severe allergic reactions happen quickly, and intervention has to be equally swift, and it cannot be left to chance.
This bill mandates a uniform approach on a serious public health issue affecting between 1 percent and 2 percent of all students. It's a tangible way of improving student safety through school preparedness. The issue is non-partisan, and it's our hope that government will see the way to support the bill and respond to the needs of anaphylactic families.
I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House.
Bill M210, Anaphylactic Student Protection Act, 2007, 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)
QUESNEL COMMUNITY POWWOW
B. Simpson: Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the Quesnel Community Powwow, participating in the grand entry and even dancing — or at least attempting to dance — with the other dignitaries at the official opening. Although organized by Ecole Baker Elementary, this year the powwow was held in one of our high school gymnasiums for the first time. This venue change proved to be a wise move, as attendance at this annual event has been growing, and the large number of people who participated this year would have crowded out the former location at Ecole Baker.
This year's theme was "Keeping our cultures strong." The plural "cultures" was deliberately chosen by the powwow organizers not only to reflect the diversity of first nation cultures in our area but also to recognize and embrace all cultures represented in our community.
Chiefs, elders, royalty, drummers and dancers from first nations communities in the Quesnel area were joined by representatives of first nations communities from across the entire north and south Cariboo, the Chilcotin and the Nechako region. The North Cariboo Métis Association was also represented in both the grand entry and the events of the powwow.
This year, however, the South Asian community also participated in the powwow activities. The priest from one of our Sikh temples joined the grand entry. He actually had to dance with us, with the dignitaries, afterwards and gave greetings on behalf of his community.
Samosas were also served as part of the powwow feast. The Quesnel community powwow filled the high school gym with colour, music, dance and the wonderful smell of a wide variety of foods.
The organizing committee, led by Sherry Carifelle, demonstrated throughout this celebration of cultures that we can only build strong communities by recognizing and embracing the strength of all cultures.
I ask this House to join me in congratulating Sherry, her large and diverse organizing committee, the staff and parents of Ecole Baker elementary school and the staff of school district 28 for their vision and for their recognition of the strength that comes from embracing diversity in our communities.
SQUAMISH NATION SCULPTURE SYMPOSIUM
J. McIntyre: I'm pleased to report to the House that I had the privilege of attending several events recently related to the Squamish Nation Sculpture Symposium funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage through its designation of West Vancouver as one of its five cultural capitals in 2006.
This symposium is a series of exhibits, public programs and events including the Enduring Traditions exhibit featuring historic and contemporary Squamish and Coast Salish art, which celebrates the Squamish
[ Page 6532 ]
Nation history and continuing presence within their traditional territories.
A highlight and legacy of the symposium is the commissioning of a juried public sculpture entitled Spirit of the Mountain created by Xwa lack tun, or Rick Harry, originally from the district of Squamish, whom I had the pleasure of knowing through my growing relationship with the Harry family.
This stunning steel sculpture, which was dedicated and unveiled on March 17, will endure forever as a marker for Ch'tl'lm, which is the Squamish name for Ambleside Park. It serves as a tribute to the heritage and the bond between West Vancouver and the Squamish Nation, both past and future.
This installation — echoing the Lions Gate Bridge named after the lions, the two mountain peaks that the Squamish Nation call the twins or the sisters — was designed to fit into the waterfront without obstructing views. The brickwork forming the exterior wall of the medicine garden at the sculpture's base is designed beautifully to create the impression of a woven Squamish basket.
I was particularly honoured and touched personally to be asked by the Squamish Nation to be one of the witnesses at the work at the unveiling, and to be part of something so monumentally important in bridging cultures is something I will treasure forever.
I invite everyone to take a trip to Ambleside Park to view this work and/or to participate in the series of events going on now through August to obtain a better understanding of the rich cultural heritage of the Squamish Nation.
VANCOUVER DOWNTOWN EAST SIDE
J. Kwan: The innovations which exist in the downtown east side are central to artistic practice and ideas. It should come as no surprise that many deem this neighbourhood as the art and cultural capital of Canada. Artist-run centres not only provide original artwork but are crucial to holding public discussions and artist talks and to publishing emerging ideas which contribute to the public sphere of B.C.
They're also engaging in groundbreaking work which engages with the downtown east side community as well as other national and internationally significant artistic movements. Generally, these artist-run centres exhibit contemporary art which parallels the larger public institutions and private commercial galleries, offering an alternative to artists in determining how to represent their work.
Most of B.C.'s best-known and internationally recognized contemporary artists, curators and cultural practitioners have come out of the artist-run centre movement. They not only provide an important place of practice for emerging artists and curators but make this a geographic hub of cultural activity incomparable to anywhere in Canada.
People like Jeff Wall, Germaine Koh and Stan Douglas are only a few of the examples of the dozens of artists who have developed an international reputation while working from this community. Jeff Wall, one of the most important living artists in the world according to many critics, currently has a touring exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Much of his artistic practice features this neighbourhood and its residents.
There are more than 250 artists' studios and 38 exhibition centres, including artist-run centres and commercial galleries. There are some coming further in the future. There are also many struggling artists who are engaging in innovative ideas. Some artists' spaces have been in my constituency for over 20 years.
The intellectual community within the art and cultural sector believes that we can have revitalization without the displacement of the long-term low-income community, which is central to the identity of this neighbourhood. I would like to ask all members of this House to join me in recognizing the original, talented, critical and internationally significant voices of the art and cultural community in the downtown east side.
WORLD POLICE AND FIRE GAMES
H. Bloy: During our break week from the Legislature, I made the trip to Adelaide, Australia, to observe the 2007 World Police and Fire Games. These games, created in 1985, were also hosted in Vancouver in 1989 and have taken place in other cities around the world — Stockholm, Sweden, and Barcelona, Spain.
In 2009 British Columbia will have the honour of being the first region to be the official host of the games, and many of the events will be occurring in the riding of Burquitlam. Athletes from approximately 50 different countries participate in a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional sports. Olympic sports such as swimming, wrestling, soccer, and track and field will be represented.
I am proud to report that the British Columbia team in Adelaide, Australia, did quite well, finishing sixth overall — including 49 gold, 39 silver and 28 bronze, for a total of 116 medals. As entertaining as the games were to watch, I was truly honoured and privileged to have the honour of accepting the official flag to bring to Vancouver for the hosting of the 2009 British Columbia World Police and Fire Games.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Burnaby and the whole lower mainland, as the games are the second-largest sporting event in the world, next only to the Summer Olympics. Over 15,000 athletes and 25,000 families and coaches are expected to participate in the 2009 games, generating over $100 million in economic development.
I encourage all members of the House to make plans to attend British Columbia's Police and Fire Games. In the near future I will be providing a package to every member of the House to encourage their local fire and police departments to participate.
SPARE TIME FUN CENTRE
C. Trevena: There has been a lot of discussion recently about child care. Canada ranks 30th in OECD
[ Page 6533 ]
rankings on child care, which is bottom of the league. I think that's pretty embarrassing for us in a country where we have a priority on education, health care and social services.
When we talk about child care, we often assume it's for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, but it also involves children up to the age of 12. I recently visited an amazing example of that after-school child care, the Spare Time Fun Centre based at the David Lloyd George School on West 67th Street in Vancouver.
It's a very energetic program, and the first duty of all the participants is their homework. After that, they can have creativity and stimulation. Throughout the week there's dance, karate, science, sewing, fundraising, chess, computers, baking.
As the youngsters feel ready for responsibility, they can become a leader, where they encourage others to help and to become fully involved. The emphasis at the centre is on being a role model, being respectful and being responsible.
The centre is independent of the school and non-profit. It's warm, and it's welcoming. The youngsters have been involved in furnishing it, decorating it, creating spaces to hang out and play. The coordinator Barb Fuentes, who started the centre when she had children, still drives it with her energy and her very dedicated team.
The centre in Marpole is licensed for 105 five-to-12-year-olds. There is a wait-list of 50, and the centre could create 75 more spaces. They do have the land. They just don't have the money.
It's a pity, because the work of bringing together children of many different backgrounds in this safe and very stimulating environment, which is the Spare Time Fun Centre, helps give them a very solid foundation. Many more in both Vancouver and around the province should be given that opportunity.
KELOWNA WOMEN'S CURLING TEAM
A. Horning: I'd like to pay tribute to Kelowna's own golden girl. Even though she was thousands of miles away from home, Kelly Scott and her rink of third Jeanna Schraeder, second Sasha Carter, lead Renee Simons, alternate Michelle Allen and coaches Gerry Richard and Elaine Dagg-Jackson have made themselves household names in the international scene of curling. They did it by thumping Denmark 8 to 4 in the World Women's Curling Championship in Aomori, Japan last weekend.
At times the game was intense, and being so far away, the team only had a handful of Canadian supporters to cheer them on. Despite being in a foreign land, the team remained focused and determined to bring home the gold.
The team was in Japan vying for gold when a major earthquake hit a city just outside of Aomori. The tremor was a sign for the Scott rink, who knew going into this tournament that there would be challenges, highs and lows and that they would have to conquer without the comforts of being on home soil. They did it all with the grace and charm they have been showing since the first game they ever played.
The tournament has catapulted Kelly into the history books. She became the first female skip to win the gold medal in both world junior championships and a world women's championship. Believe it or not, even with all the accolades and triumphs, every time you meet or speak with Kelly, she remains as humble as her first day on the ice.
They are a team to beat. They are heading into the 2009 Olympic trials, which will determine Canada's team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. So as I've asked in the past, let's give the Scott team another hardy round of applause for bringing home the gold and making us proud. [Applause.]
MARK SUBSTITUTION AT
PRIVATE SECONDARY SCHOOLS
D. Cubberley: Mr. Speaker, last week it came to light that public school students duplicating their English 12 coursework at a number of B.C. private schools were allowed to register markedly higher grades on their ministry transcripts. Staff at University Hill Secondary expressed concern that inflated grades were being used to replace poor scores in public schools and registered on official transcripts as if they were public school marks.
There are two issues here. First, the ministry practice of substituting private-pay marks for enrolled students and, second, the possibility that these marks are grossly inflated.
My question to the minister: how many private schools does the minister have under investigation, and will she agree to put an immediate end to her ministry's practice of substituting concurrent marks?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, first of all, we want to start this discussion by saying that this side of the House supports choice for parents and for students in British Columbia, and we're going to continue to support independent schools.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, we know that the vast majority of independent school opportunities for children in British Columbia are excellent. They are outstanding, and we're going to continue to provide choice in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members. The member has a supplemental.
D. Cubberley: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was not an answer to the question. You know, it's a serious matter.
[ Page 6534 ]
Achievement on English 12 is decisive in gaining access to post-secondary opportunities in this province. Any possibility that students would be gilding their Dogwoods with bought marks should preoccupy the minister.
As it happens, one of the private-pay schools suspected of inflating grades is Kingston High School. Kingston High School is owned by Michael Lo, a big Liberal Party donor who this minister appointed to the government's own quality assurance committee — someone who is now famous for bilking foreign students.
My question to the minister: is she investigating Kingston High School now — and if not, why not? And why has she not already closed the loophole that allows purchased marks to be put onto public transcripts?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, obviously the member opposite hasn't read the clips, as they normally do, to get their answers. In fact, I said very clearly from the moment that information came to my attention that not only are we going to investigate those schools, but we've actually looked at the entire list of both public and independent schools. We're going to follow up on every single mark discrepancy, and we are going to take action if indeed that information proves to be accurate.
Just one final point to be clear. The schools we are looking at…. Let's just check when they were created in British Columbia. Let's look at Century High School, 1996; Kingston High School, brought to my attention by the member, 1992; and St. John's International High School, 1990.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Member has a further supplemental.
D. Cubberley: The question isn't when the schools were created. The question is when the practice began of allowing people to purchase marks and substitute them for marks in the public school system.
What this minister can do today to stop this practice is close the loophole in her own ministry, a loophole opened up by that government. That's a loophole that allows those marks to be substituted for marks in public school. Simply say it can't happen, and the practice will stop. Are you prepared to act today?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, the critic on the opposite side actually is behind. The moment we became aware of that discrepancy, we said we would be sending the inspector of independent schools. All of those visits will be done by April 13, and I can assure you that if there are discrepancies in marks….
We, unlike the member opposite, are actually going to do our homework first before we disparage the work of independent schools in this province. We're actually going to get the facts. If there's a problem, we will move to rectify that immediately.
DOGWOOD CERTIFICATES ISSUED
BY OFFSHORE INSTITUTIONS
R. Fleming: Well, I hope we're getting towards an answer as to what action this government is prepared to take, because the minister started her first answer by saying that buying grades in this province is all about choice.
The minister says she's concerned about her government's policy changes that have enabled the buying of better high school grades to gain admission to university. Given the international concern about B.C. expressed by China, India and Korea with the poor quality and financial swindling, quite frankly, by bad elements in the private post-secondary sector, can she tell this House what action her government will take to ensure that the selling of grades and lowered standards of B.C. Dogwood certificates by private high schools is not happening internationally?
Hon. S. Bond: We've been clear. Mark discrepancies are not acceptable in British Columbia, whether it's a public or an independent school. We said that immediately upon finding that information, we would actually do our homework, and we would go and meet with those institutions.
Listen carefully. Two things will happen. Those institutions will be asked to put a plan in place to rectify the marks and the situation. If that is not done satisfactorily, they will be decertified.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
R. Fleming: On the subject of listening carefully, maybe the minister can address the 11 offshore B.C. private schools selling Dogwood certificates, which was my question.
Two of these are in China. They are owned by a friend and longtime donor to the B.C. Liberal Party, Mr. Michael Lo. His name keeps coming up with this government. This is the very same person who left hundreds of students penniless and empty-handed at Kingston College with fraudulent degrees. This is the same person who misled Ministry of Advanced Education personnel and again ripped off students at Lansbridge University — without any financial penalty or criminal charges by this government, I might add.
Can the minister confirm that this discredited operator continues to operate, with her permission, two B.C. private high schools in China that are licensed to offer Dogwood certificates?
Hon. S. Bond: What's really disappointing is the fact that the Leader of the Opposition was actually a school trustee. You know, one would have expected that after the experience that she's had with education in this province, you would….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
[ Page 6535 ]
Minister, just take your seat. Continue.
Hon. S. Bond: With a Leader of the Opposition who has had experience in education, one would expect that there would be some understanding on the other side of the House that independent schools, that public schools, all offer important options for our students in British Columbia.
In fact, there are rigorous expectations. We will inspect, and if they do not meet them, we will deal with that.
M. Farnworth: My question is to the Premier because it's pretty clear the Minister of Education doesn't want to deal with the question.
The question is British Columbia's reputation overseas. The question is British Columbia and the Asia-Pacific, which this Premier puts great stock in. The question is that a Liberal Party donor of significant amounts of money, who has continuously run into problems here in this province with Kingston College, is operating schools in China which are damaging the reputation of this province and are selling substandard Dogwood certificates and cheapening the integrity of those certificates, which we in this province take great pride in.
I would like to quote from staff that work at that school: "For any teachers considering working at this school, be aware. This school is now managed, and it is not being done in the best substandard. Recruitment is what's taking place. Resources at this school are inferior."
Another e-mail: "This school is a scam and a poor excuse for a Canadian-certified high school. Good quality education is far down on their list. Money and power are at the top."
That is what is being said in China about a British Columbia school. My question to the Premier: will he ensure that this is investigated and that the integrity of the Dogwood certificate in China is being maintained, and our system is not being cheapened by these scam artists that are at work?
Hon. S. Bond: I certainly hope that the member opposite is prepared to make those kinds of allegations in the hallway.
Let's be clear. In fact, our independent schools are inspected annually. Whether a school is offshore, whether it is independent or whether it is a public school in British Columbia, we have rigorous standards. We expect them to be followed. We are inspecting and following up on every situation that's been brought to our attention. We'll continue to serve our students well, and we're proud of British Columbia's reputation.
FUNDING OF SENIORS HEALTH
CARE FACILITIES IN CARIBOO REGION
B. Simpson: Yesterday when I posed my final question about Deni House to the Minister of Health, the minister posed a challenge to me knowing full well I could not respond to it given the rules of the House. The challenge was as follows: "We're about to make a huge investment in Quesnel in a place called Dunrovin Lodge. I challenge the member to get up and tell us whether he wants us to make that investment in Quesnel or not."
To the minister: is that a threat? Because I'm standing up….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Continue, member for Cariboo North.
B. Simpson: Is it because I'm standing up and defending the rights of seniors in Williams Lake that this minister has the audacity, when I cannot respond to him, to ask me whether or not they should continue an investment in Quesnel that is already committed to?
That sounds like a challenge and a threat to me, and I ask the minister directly: was he threatening public investment in Quesnel because of me defending seniors in Williams Lake?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: It is remarkably threatening, I know, for a member of the opposition to have the government spending large amounts of money making major investments in the opposition ridings. I can't imagine how daunting that must be to this particular member.
The other thing that is amazing to me about the way the NDP are conducting themselves on the issue of Deni House is just how shallow they will go, how low they will go in exploiting the frail elderly for their political purposes. It goes even to the point of — as has been a theme other times in this session — ignoring the rule of law, and I think it is unfortunate.
I invite the member again to tell me whether he welcomes that investment. If he doesn't want the investment, he should make it clear to his constituents. But the NDP has to get off this pot. Do they want the investment or don't they? If they don't welcome the investment, they should make it clear that they don't want it.
Mr. Speaker: Members. The member has a supplemental.
B. Simpson: I certainly do, and yes, I want that investment in Quesnel.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
[ Page 6536 ]
B. Simpson: Not only do I want it, but I want it the exact same way that it was done in Quesnel. That's what we've been asking this minister to do.
Northern Health consulted with the community. The community said that they did not want a P3. Northern Health said: "We're not going to do that. We're going to do it publicly."
The community said that we want the ability to have choice in our community and that we want a reasonable and decent transition. Northern Health said they're going to do that. They consulted with the community. They're going to leave Dunrovin open. They're going to do it through the public purse, not through a P3. This is what we've been asking this minister to do in Williams Lake — to have Interior Health do the exact same process in Williams Lake.
My question to the minister is this. Will the minister finally hear what we're saying and use the Quesnel model in Williams Lake? That's what we're asking for.
Hon. G. Abbott: While the member was remarkably articulate, that was one of the most tortured pieces of argument that I have ever heard in this House. It appears that the member welcomes the investment. I guess the question is the investment would only be welcome if it is made through a traditional public spending model. That's what I understand the member to be saying. Yet if we go back to….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: If we go back to 2000, we can hear from the then Health Minister, today the Opposition House Leader, say that P3s were the way of the future. We can go back to 2003. We can see a letter from the gentleman who is now the member for Cariboo South, saying that this is a project that could be done on a P3 basis. We can go back to Treasury Board minutes of the former government and see that the direction of the NDP government in the future was going to be P3s. All of that, I think, points to us doing exactly the right thing from their perspective.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Mr. Speaker: Members. The member for Cariboo South has the floor.
VISITOR ACCESS AT DENI HOUSE
C. Wyse: I wish to return to the issue that we have at hand today. Interior Health Authority has locked all the doors at Deni House in Williams Lake. They have placed security guards on the only entrance left into the building, which is a tunnel that connects Deni House to the hospital. Family members have reported to my office difficulty in accessing their parents who are in Deni House.
Yesterday I received assurances from senior Interior Health Authority representatives that family and friends would be allowed reasonable access to their parents in Deni House. However, very shortly after those assurances had been given to me, I received a phone call from a daughter at my office in Williams Lake in which her access to her mother in Deni House was denied.
My question to the minister, who consistently has defended how Interior Health has handled this issue in Victoria: will he assure the family and friends of people living in Deni House reasonable access to them in Deni House today?
Hon. G. Abbott: Interior Health have handled the issues around the transfer from Deni House to the Williams Lake retirement village in a most sensitive and most sympathetic way, which is not something I can say for that opposition over there. I think that what we have seen….
In fact, family and friends have been able to visit residents at Deni House. The fact of the matter is that there is an influenza outbreak in Deni House. They have had to take some precautions with respect to people going in and out. I understand the member attempted to enter Deni House yesterday. I understand the member was advised…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: …that if anyone in the facility wished to visit with the member, he would be welcome in. Apparently, no one was interested in visiting the member.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
C. Wyse: I do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
C. Wyse: My job in Williams Lake yesterday was not primarily to ensure that they had access to one of their elected officials. My job yesterday was to ensure that family members continue to have access to their parents. I did not get that assurance here. I received those assurances yesterday in Williams Lake from the Interior Health Authority, yet family members continued to be denied access to their parents.
Yesterday the minister also declared that he knows the best accommodation for seniors here within British Columbia. He described very clearly that one size fits
[ Page 6537 ]
all for all seniors everywhere in British Columbia, and he did that very proudly on behalf of the government opposite. The Premier's report on seniors and aging likewise clearly states that a wide and varied choice of living accommodations is required to serve the needs and wishes of B.C.'s seniors.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
C. Wyse: Other communities have similar living conditions provided by Deni House and provide these conditions in an older building. My question is to the Premier. Will the Premier explain to the seniors of B.C. and their families why the residents of Williams Lake are restricted to a single type of service model, while the rest of the province is allowed a choice of different service providers and also allowed different types of accommodations?
Hon. G. Abbott: I think that was an excellent question because it reveals, once again, that the new NDP in British Columbia is nothing but the same old socialism of 30 years ago. That's what the new NDP is. I am amazed that….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: I am amazed that the new NDP appears to be turning their backs on the new and worldly approach that was articulated by the former Minister of Health, now the current Opposition House Leader. He said P3s were a way to go. He articulated standards for new seniors facilities, and it was great that he articulated those. The only problem was that the NDP never acted on them. That's the major problem with the NDP.
RAW LOG EXPORTS AND
VALUE-ADDED FOREST SECTOR
G. Robertson: Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition raised a critical issue of more than 10,000 lost jobs in the forest industry. The Forests Minister promptly blew that off as irrelevant.
A recent submission, which I'll bring to the attention of the House, to government from the Independent Lumber Remanufacturers Association states: "It is doubtful if there has ever been a time when things were tougher than they are right now. The fact is that most of our recent problems have been created by our own governments." The primary issue for the value-added sector is that Liberal forest policy has created a critical log shortage.
When will this minister show some respect to the forest industry, this sector of the forest industry, and take action to stop the export of the logs they need to survive?
Hon. R. Coleman: I thought maybe I would just point out to the member opposite the Valentine's present that the member for Cariboo North gave to the province of British Columbia in his quote in the Terrace Standard on February 14, 2007, when he said: "If you say no to log exports, you kill their jobs. They correctly argue that."
Hon. Member, the fact of the matter is that we've looked at log exports. We've done a study. We're bringing a plan forward, and you know what? You guys have no position among you that's consistent, and we're going to solve the problem and fix it for British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member has a supplemental.
G. Robertson: Our position is clear on this side. We don't want a radical expansion of raw log exports.
This minister talks and talks about all his elaborate plans. He's not talking to the people and the businesses that are impacted by his lack of policy. This industry is being shut out of decisions on their own fate.
I'll quote again from the submission: "In the last six years communication and consultation at the political level has gone from reduced to nonexistent. B.C. Liberal forest policy is killing the value-added sector, which is truly the key to sustainable forest economy in B.C."
Again, when will the minister stand up for B.C.'s value-added businesses and be sure that they get the logs they need?
Hon. R. Coleman: I find it rather interesting. However, I will say this. In the value-added sector that I've met with in the last few months…. A number of the value-added manufacturers in this province came to me before Christmas and said: "We're not here to ask for anything. We're here to thank you for what you did in softwood and for putting a high-value cap in there and saving the future of the value-added industry in British Columbia."
As a matter of fact, the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke said that the softwood agreement was good for the value-added sector and for the Downey Street mill in his own community. And you know what? That was one of the companies that actually came and said: "You did the right thing for British Columbia's value-added sector."
Mr. Speaker: Members.
IMPACT OF GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON
VALUE-ADDED FOREST SECTOR
C. Evans: The Minister of Forests says that the people on this side have no position on the issue of the remanufacturing sector.
[ Page 6538 ]
Mr. Speaker: Members.
C. Evans: I have here the lumber remanufacturing report of the standing committee, which in fact we did in 1993 with the Minister of Mines sitting just to the left of the minister. Guess what. It was unanimous — not NDP position, not Liberal position or even — at the time what was it? — Social Credit or Reform. It was a unanimous position.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
The member for Nelson-Creston continues.
C. Evans: What the standing committee determined in its unanimous investigation was that the remanufacturing sector requires a real open market in logs and lumber to survive. Now Mr. Russ Cameron, the president of the Independent Lumber Remanufacturers Association of British Columbia, says that the free market for lumber no longer exists. He says: "The many suppliers and buyers of the 1970s is a thing of the past. The last ten years of mergers and acquisitions reached the point where we can now say that the B.C. industry is dominated by four regional oligopolies."
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Can the member put his question.
C. Evans: I'm not kidding. I could spell it for Hansard if you want. By four….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, please.
C. Evans: O-l-i-g-o-p-o-l-i-e-s.
Okay, now they're having a good time. But it's dead serious, so let's calm down.
Mr. Speaker: Can the member pose his question. Question, Member.
C. Evans: Dominated by four regional oligopolies. Their influence over government policy is now greater than ever, and the independents now live or die at their pleasure. My understanding of forestry jargon has always been quite good, but the Liberals have now invented an industry…
Mr. Speaker: Member, pose the question.
C. Evans: …that I no longer seem to understand.
Will the Minister of Forests please tell us: what is an oligopoly? Wait for it. What is the impact on the remanufacturing sector of having created oligopolies, and what does he intend to do about it?
Mr. Speaker: Members, members.
Hon. R. Coleman: Out of that, there are two things I should point out to the member. The member that was the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has had uninterrupted standing in this House since 1991.
Secondly, to the member: an oligopoly is a big guy like me maybe. I don't know. What I could suggest to the member — and I don't want to be glib about it — is…. The fact of the matter is that there's a lot of work that's been done on the forest sector in the future in British Columbia. There are some very strong plans coming forward on the coast on our log exports.
There is work being done on value-added and always is. We actually have an industry that I think is making a big turnaround and setting a great direction.
Hon. R. Coleman: Frankly, Member, I know you want to heckle me from across the hall, but if you want to look up oligopoly, go to wikipedia.com.
[End of question period.]
C. Wyse: First, a petition on behalf of 150 of the students from Peter Skene Ogden in 100 Mile who feel that the portfolio course is unnecessary and time-consuming.
A further petition is from 236 residents of Williams Lake requesting both the Interior Health Authority and the government to reconsider their decision to close Deni House in Williams Lake, bringing the total to 7,000.
The third has 340 signatures on a petition to reinstate the funding cuts to the child care resource and referral program.
B. Simpson: I present a petition signed by 217 people in my constituency decrying the state of our roads and asking for more road maintenance.
S. Fraser: I also present petitions from the constituents of Alberni-Qualicum demanding that government immediately restore and maintain child care operating funding. This is from over a thousand residents.
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: In the wake of the bipartisan conspiracy to extend question period, Mr. Speaker, I call Bill 9 in this chamber, Securities Transfer Act. In Committee A, Committee of Supply — for the information of members, continued debate on the estimates of Ministry of Transportation.
[ Page 6539 ]
Committee of the Whole House
SECURITIES TRANSFER ACT
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 9; S. Hawkins in the chair.
The committee met at 2:40 p.m.
On section 1.
B. Ralston: Can the minister set out the basic objective of the bill?
Hon. C. Taylor: The point of this bill is really to put into legislation the backup that we need for what is the practice in terms of securities. It recognizes that no longer do we all hold our security certificate in hand as we're making trades, but in fact it's done electronically.
B. Ralston: Can the minister advise what effect this will have on what is called the OTC Board?
Hon. C. Taylor: None.
B. Ralston: Does this piece of legislation deal with the Securities Commission on the regulation of the securities in the province? Obviously, that's a matter of continuing public concern.
Hon. C. Taylor: No, it does not.
B. Ralston: Can the minister explain the definition of a certificated security? The definition seems to be circular, in the sense that what the act says in section 1 is that a certificated security means a security that is represented by a certificate. So can the minister illuminate, please?
Hon. C. Taylor: It is literally what the words say. It's a security that is represented by a piece of paper.
B. Ralston: If the certificate or the security is held electronically, does this definition apply and, if so, how?
Hon. C. Taylor: It could be either a certificated security or one that is uncertificated when it's held.
B. Ralston: My next question pertains to the definition of an uncertificated security, which says that it's one that's not represented by a certificate. So the definition seems to be circular. I'm wondering if the minister can explain more fully what the distinction is and what the importance is, if any, in the operation of this act.
Hon. C. Taylor: What you often find with the CDS is that you could have one certificate which is a bulk certificate representing a number of shares that do not individually have certificates attached to them. Really, what this act is trying to do is ensure that it is quite clear — it's consumer protection in a way — how the ownership line follows and how transfers happen.
B. Ralston: For those who are not familiar with the jargon of the securities industry, what does CDS stand for, please?
Hon. C. Taylor: Canadian Depository for Securities Ltd.
B. Ralston: Can the minister then explain the role of that agency in the formulation of the principles of this act?
Hon. C. Taylor: If I understand the question, they had no role in our creating this act. This has been an intergovernmental effort to really bring British Columbia up to international and United States standards, and it is a model that other provinces across the country are doing as well. Alberta and Ontario have already brought their act and legislation in, and the other provinces are following. This has been a very positive, coordinated effort across the country to ensure that all the provinces are moving in the same direction on this particular legislation.
B. Ralston: I had understood that CDS was listed as the registered owner on the books of issuers or their transfer agents and that it holds securities as depository for the benefit of 104 direct participants of CDS, primarily banks, trust companies and investment dealers. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
B. Ralston: Turning to the definitions section, section 1, which we're on, a security certificate means "a certificate representing a security, but does not include a certificate in electronic form." To return to the previous two definitions that we were discussing, how does that interact with those two definitions — the certificated security and the uncertificated security?
Hon. C. Taylor: If I understand your question correctly, security certificate and certificated security are basically the same thing.
B. Ralston: Can the minister explain what a certificate in electronic form is and whether it falls into the category of an uncertificated security or a certificated security?
Hon. C. Taylor: Uncertificated security is the electronic version, but this act applies to both so that the rules are clear. Whether you have a certificate or whether it's electronic, these are the rules that follow in terms of ownership and transfer.
B. Ralston: Can the minister give a sense of what percentage of certificates within the province or na-
[ Page 6540 ]
tionally are held in paper form and what percentage are held in electronic form? I would assume that the vast majority are now held in electronic form. Perhaps the minister can confirm that.
Hon. C. Taylor: We don't have a specific number, but if you ask what our guess would be, it would be the same as yours. Clearly, the world of securities is moving much more towards the electronic transfer.
B. Ralston: In the definition of securities intermediary, there are a number of persons referred to, including a broker, a banker, a trust company. Aside from banks and trust companies, are brokers provincially regulated?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
B. Ralston: Does this definition have any impact upon other provincial securities legislation or regulation?
Hon. C. Taylor: No.
B. Ralston: Can the minister explain the definition of "issuer" and why this definition has been framed in the way it has been?
Hon. C. Taylor: I'm sorry. The definition is written here. What part of it did you have a question about?
B. Ralston: We can begin with definition (b): "with respect to an obligation on or a defence to a security, includes…." Then there's a number of subdefinitions or subparagraphs. Can the minister explain what that means?
Hon. C. Taylor: The definition of issuer specifically applies to the directly held securities only, and with respect to a registration of transfer of a security refers to a person who maintains the transfer books.
B. Ralston: Is that the same definition that appears in the United States revised article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code, sometimes known as rev 8?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's very similar, but not identical.
B. Ralston: What significance, if any, is there to the differences that are represented in the drafting of this definition?
Hon. C. Taylor: We don't have their particular definition in front of us today.
B. Ralston: I had understood, perhaps incorrectly — and the minister can correct me if I'm wrong — that one of the objectives of the Uniform Securities Transfer Act, which this act is following in an attempt to harmonize the similar legislation in other provinces and in the American states, is to replicate those definitions for ease of interjurisdictional business.
It would seem to me that if you have a different definition, however insignificant the differences may appear, there may be some legal significance to those that would appear to defeat the harmonizing effect of the legislation. So I'm troubled by the fact that the minister can't answer that question.
Hon. C. Taylor: These definitions are harmonized across Canada, but because we have different drafting conventions between the United States and Canada, you will see slight variations.
B. Ralston: Then can I take it that this definition of issuer is identical to the one that appears in the same statute in Ontario?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
B. Ralston: Turning to the definition of "purchase." There's a very lengthy definition of purchase. A similar question. Is that the same definition that appears in the Ontario legislation and, secondly, that appears in the so-called rev 8 American legislation?
Hon. C. Taylor: Rather than talk about whether every comma is exactly the same, I think we should return to basic principles. This was a cross-government effort across the country to make sure that we harmonized the legislation that we were all introducing. Not that every word would be exactly the same, but in function it would be harmonized. It would be harmonized and work with the United States and international standards as well. In terms of whether every single word is the same, I could not give you that guarantee.
B. Ralston: Well, I appreciate the enunciation of the general principle. I suppose my concern is legal interpretation. Lawyers and courts thrive on different phrasings of the same similar concept. So I'm concerned that in this effort to harmonize where the wording is not identical and the differences are not explained, the purpose of the legislation may be defeated or at least clouded by an ambiguous comparison of definitions across the jurisdictions that this legislation is designed to span.
Hon. C. Taylor: Our drafters and those across Canada worked very hard to harmonize this act so that it would work across the country and work with the United States as well. Our legal advice is that it is harmonized.
B. Ralston: I understand that the Uniform Securities Transfer Act, which this bill is based on, was developed by the Task Force to Modernize Securities Legislation in Canada. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: This came under the Canadian administrators' task force.
B. Ralston: I think we're referring to the same thing — the Canadian securities administrators, a forum of the 13 securities regulators. Is that the same body?
[ Page 6541 ]
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is.
B. Ralston: Has a form of this act been passed in Ontario already, or is it only being considered prospectively? A similar question with respect to Alberta: has a form of this act been passed in Alberta, or is it only considered prospectively?
Hon. C. Taylor: In the two provinces cited, Ontario and Alberta, they have been passed and are in effect as of January 1, 2007.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
On section 4.
B. Ralston: This section refers to what's called the "obligation of good faith." There's a definition given to what's called "good faith." It reads: "means honesty in fact and the observance of reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing."
What measures, what legislation or what case law would be looked at to determine the observance of reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing in interpreting this section?
Hon. C. Taylor: I'm certainly not a lawyer, and it's not our job to interpret case law, but these double definitions were put in to make sure it meets the double standard of not only honesty but also the reasonable commercial business expectations of the day.
B. Ralston: I appreciate that the minister may not be a lawyer, but that shouldn't be an impediment to offering an interpretation or the intended interpretation of the section.
Is this section based on the Uniform Securities Transfer Act? Did it flow from the task force? Is it represented in other commercial statutes in the province? Is it followed in the Alberta legislation? Is it followed in the Ontario legislation?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
B. Ralston: So we're clear, because that was a number of questions all together…. It is followed in both Alberta and Ontario, and it's also modelled on the Uniform Securities Transfer Act. I want to confirm that that's a yes to all of those three.
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
B. Ralston: In section 5 there is a reference in (2): "The obligations of good faith, diligence, reasonableness and care imposed by this Act may not be disclaimed by agreement, but the parties may by agreement determine the standards by which the performance of such obligations is to be measured so long as such standards are not manifestly unreasonable."
Is that an ability to contract out of section 4(2) the "reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing" or not?
Hon. C. Taylor: No, it's not.
B. Ralston: If it's not, then what's the intention of section 5(2)? My reading of it would be, certainly at first blush, that it offers that possibility. I'm wondering if the minister could clarify.
Hon. C. Taylor: Actually, the warranty provisions of this act apply unless otherwise agreed, and the parties can enter into express agreements to allocate the risks of possible defects.
B. Ralston: Allocating risk is one thing, but derogating from reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing may be another. I suppose I'm concerned that this appears to open the way, by agreement, to circumvent section 4. I'm not clear why that interpretation or that possibility of an interpretation that I'm offering is incorrect.
Hon. C. Taylor: The intent of this is that two parties could agree to the definition of good faith, as long as it's not unreasonable.
B. Ralston: The wording of section 5(2), though, seems to suggest that it's not limited to good faith, because the words are: "…good faith, diligence, reasonableness and care imposed by this Act may not be disclaimed by the agreement."
One possible conclusion would be that the reasonableness and care imposed by this act refers to section 4(2) and, in fact, the observance of reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing.
Again, I'm concerned by the explanation that's offered, and I wonder if there's further clarification available.
Hon. C. Taylor: The intent of this piece of legislation is just to codify what's already happening. It's not intended to do anything new or different. It's just to give legal basis to the practices that are currently out there. The parties may agree on the standards by which the performance of the obligations of good faith, diligence and so on may be measured, but they have to be reasonable.
B. Ralston: Well, I suppose the concern by some might be that within this particular industry, if it's seeking to codify present practice, it may not be codifying practice of the highest standard. Certainly that's been an ongoing concern of many observers of this particular industry. I would take it that wasn't the intention, but perhaps we should just confirm that the legislation seeks to codify best practice or something other than, necessarily, what's acceptable in some parts of the industry.
[ Page 6542 ]
Hon. C. Taylor: We have relied, in developing this, on some of the best minds in this industry across the country, and it's done interprovincially so that we are all using a similar approach and similar words. So we have been assured that this is the best way to codify what is currently happening and in fact give protection to what's happening, because there will now be a legal basis for the transfer of securities even if you don't have that piece of paper in your hand.
Sections 5 to 10 inclusive approved.
On section 11.
B. Ralston: This section defines mutual fund security. Can the minister advise for what purpose these definitions are included? Then I have some following questions about how that might affect, if at all, mutual funds that individuals might presently hold.
Hon. C. Taylor: All of the drafters who worked on this across the country put this in because there was a thought that perhaps some people would not think about mutual funds as a security, so it was put in for clarification.
B. Ralston: I appreciate that, and that's obviously quite a common way that many individuals participate and maybe the only participation they have in stock markets or the holding of securities. What effect, if any, would this have on the transfer process or the purchase process for a private individual purchasing mutual funds from a bank or credit union in British Columbia today?
Hon. C. Taylor: It doesn't change anything. It just gives the legal backing for current practices.
B. Ralston: The mutual fund industry is obviously a huge industry carried on by a number of independent mutual funds, banks and credit unions across the country. Would most of those securities be held in electronic form, attributing ownership to individual holders of fractions of the relevant mutual funds that they've purchased?
Hon. C. Taylor: I couldn't say for sure, but our assumption is that most would be held electronically.
B. Ralston: Perhaps the minister could advise. I assume that this would be part of the task force to modernize security legislation in Canada and the Canadian Securities Administrators. Were representations by the mutual fund industry incorporated as part of this process? I would assume so, but I really just want to confirm that that's the case.
Hon. C. Taylor: There were no delegations or presentations made to us on this, but I could only assume that there was broad consultation at the level of the task force at the national level. There was certainly broad support for what is being done here, because they didn't see it as changes. They saw it as giving the necessary legal support for current practices and recognizing that, really, so many securities are just not held with certificates these days. It's done electronically.
B. Ralston: I appreciate this may venture into an area which the minister is not responsible for, so if she could please indicate, that would be acceptable.
It would appear that there's a growing national movement, which this task force would be part of, to regulate securities nationally as opposed to by individual provincial securities commissions. The Minister of Finance, in the budget speech he made just recently, said that he expected some progress in the area. I understand the appropriate minister in Alberta has taken a position that the province of Alberta is prepared to consider a national securities regulator.
What is the position of British Columbia with respect to a national securities regulator?
Hon. C. Taylor: This is the file of the Attorney General.
B. Ralston: Returning to the definition of a mutual fund security, it refers to what's called an open-end mutual fund. Then there's a definition of that that follows. Could the minister give a plain-English definition of what an open-ended mutual fund is to assist the public?
Hon. C. Taylor: This section is clarifying that the term "security" does include the interest offered to the public by open-end mutual funds. This clarification is necessary given the fact that a typical transaction in shares or units of an open-ended mutual fund is an issuance or a redemption rather than a transfer of shares from one person to another, as is the case with normal corporate stock.
Section 11 approved.
On section 12.
B. Ralston: This refers to an interest in a partnership or a limited liability company. As the minister will know, in a separate piece of legislation that we expect to deal with in committee stage sometime soon, there's reference to what's called an unlimited liability company.
This section expressly excludes that. Is there any particular reason why that is excluded from this particular section, or is it not contemplated at any point in the future to include it in this section?
Hon. C. Taylor: These are the exceptions: the partnership and limited liability. The unlimited liability, in fact, would be included under this bill.
B. Ralston: Just so we're clear, then — and this may assist in the debate of the subsequent legislation — an interest in an unlimited liability company is a security?
[ Page 6543 ]
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is.
Sections 12 to 17 inclusive approved.
On section 18.
B. Ralston: This division of the bill, division 3, refers to notice of adverse claims. Can the minister set out what an adverse claim is, how that might come about and what the relevance and the necessity to include that in the legislation is?
Hon. C. Taylor: Adverse claim is an assertion that the claimant has a property interest in a financial asset and that it is a violation of the rights of the claimant for another person to hold, transfer or deal with the financial asset.
B. Ralston: In the ordinary course of business or in accordance with what's called "reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing," how would a notice of adverse claim be transmitted or given?
Hon. C. Taylor: The person with the claim would give notice to the issuer.
B. Ralston: How does this section or this division change, if at all, what is reasonable commercial practice in the sense that…? Is there now an ability to give notice electronically? Is there an ability to give notice interjurisdictionally, or does it merely codify existing practice?
Hon. C. Taylor: It codifies current practice.
Sections 18 to 20 inclusive approved.
On section 21.
B. Ralston: This section refers to "a purchaser of a certificated security." What would be the mechanism for giving notice of an adverse claim to an uncertificated security?
Hon. C. Taylor: If it were an uncertificated security, you would just give it directly to the issuer.
B. Ralston: Is that, then, what's called a bearer certificate? Ownership is determined by simply having the certificate in one's hand or not?
Hon. C. Taylor: I'm sorry; we don't really understand your question exactly. If you don't mind repeating it, please.
B. Ralston: Well, I had understood — and correct me if I'm incorrect — that there is a form of share certificate which is a physical piece of paper, and sometimes it's referred to as a bearer certificate. In other words, there is no registration of the ownership other than the fact that the owner has the certificate, and that determines their title to it. I'm interested in whether that's a correct interpretation or whether that is a way in which, under this legislation, securities could be held. If it is so, I have some other questions that would follow.
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is still one of the options. You could have a bearer certificate.
B. Ralston: Given that there are a number of instances of new legislation and the federal agency that's set up — the Fintrac agency, which tracks money laundering and the proceeds of crime — I'm wondering if this ability to still issue bearer certificates is of concern to those agencies that would attempt to monitor unauthorized and illicit movement of funds in particular in that form. It would seem that if the company can issue a bearer certificate, the control of those assets, then, is highly mobile throughout the world.
Hon. C. Taylor: We're not aware of any specific concerns about the issue that the member opposite has raised. But in any case, that's not what this piece of legislation is about. This is just codifying what's already there. If there were ever to be changes in terms of bearer certificates, that would come under a different act.
B. Ralston: Well, then, just for my edification and perhaps those members of the public who have an interest in these matters, what act would have to be modified in order to eliminate the legal issuance of bearer certificates in this province?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's the Business Corporations Act that talks about the kinds of shares that can be issued.
Sections 21 to 23 inclusive approved.
On section 24.
B. Ralston: Just so that we're clear, then, this is designed to codify purchasers…. It is described as "Purchaser's Control of Uncertificated Security." How would that come about? Is this the electronic means of keeping track of a purchase, or is it some other physical method of holding security certificates?
Hon. C. Taylor: This is talking about direct electronic securities.
B. Ralston: So that I can be sure I understand it, then, this is the entitlement of a purchaser to an interest in a security where the records are held electronically through the CDS network. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: This has nothing to do with CDS.
B. Ralston: Then what process is being referred to here? Just so that I understand, there's a subsequent section that refers to the purchaser's control of security
[ Page 6544 ]
entitlement. I'm seeking to explore the difference between the two. They both refer to purchaser's control. I take it they're different forms of recording purchaser's entitlement or legal interest in a security. I'm not clear on the distinction that's being drawn between these two sections. Perhaps the minister could help me understand the difference between these two sections.
Hon. C. Taylor: Madam Chair, could you please identify the second section you're referring to?
B. Ralston: Section 24 says the "Purchaser's Control of an Uncertificated Security." The subsequent section, section 25, refers to the purchaser's control of security entitlement. That would suggest to me there's two different ways of recording a purchaser's interest in a security, depending on how that interest is held or recorded — whether it's recorded electronically or whether it's held in a paper certificate. Perhaps the minister can lead me through that and clarify that this is the distinction that these two sections are seeking to draw.
Hon. C. Taylor: If I can try to clarify this, in section 24 it's an individual who has a direct share in a company. In section 25 it's a person who has an entitlement to a share held by an intermediary.
B. Ralston: Section 24(2) makes reference to some changes that the registered owner can make. It says: "(a) to make substitutions for the uncertificated security, (b) to originate instructions to the issuer, or (c) to otherwise deal with the uncertificated security." What commercial practice is this seeking to codify?
Hon. C. Taylor: The key concept of control is that the purchaser has the ability to have the securities sold or transferred without further action by the transferor. But there is no requirement that the powers held by the purchaser be exclusive.
B. Ralston: The subsection refers to the registered owner. My understanding is that the registered owner would be, perhaps…. For example, the brokerage house would be the registered owner. The purchaser would have an interest in the security, although the actual title was registered with the brokerage house in an account. Does this seek, then, to empower the practice of the brokerage firm — to give these powers, under section (2), to the brokerage house as the registered owner of the security?
[S. Hammell in the chair.]
Hon. C. Taylor: I'm assuming we're still on 24, and this doesn't have anything to do with brokers.
B. Ralston: Obviously, one would assume there's a purpose to the section, so what current commercial practice is this seeking to codify?
Hon. C. Taylor: The business practices this section is trying to codify are that even though you don't actually have the share, you are still registered, you have the rights, and it follows the rules of transfer and transactions.
B. Ralston: Again, correct me if I'm wrong. The wording of this section appears to draw a distinction between the purchaser and the registered owner. I can understand the response where the purchaser then becomes the registered owner, but this section seems to draw a distinction between the purchaser and the registered owner. Am I correct in that interpretation or not?
Hon. C. Taylor: This really is intended to cover the time delay between when a purchaser's name is on the certificate and just before that transaction happens.
B. Ralston: Again, I'll make reference back to the purpose, which is to codify current commercial practice. What would be the time delay that this section is seeking to bridge ordinarily?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's as simple as trying to codify that there is a time delay between my actually purchasing a share, which is registered in somebody else's name, until that change is made.
B. Ralston: I'm wondering: what would the ordinary passage of time be for this to come about? I understand that the transfer of ownership would take place electronically, and that would be almost instantaneous. I'm wondering if that indeed is current commercial practice or not.
Hon. C. Taylor: We were simply advised by those in the industry and those guiding us across the country that this was a good protection to put in.
B. Ralston: I suppose the question arises: whose interest is being protected — the purchaser's interest, the interest of the issuer or the interest of the brokerage house or other intermediaries? Whose interest is being protected?
Hon. C. Taylor: This protects both sides. This really is codifying what already happens and just ensures that everyone's rights are protected during the transaction.
Section 24 approved.
On section 25.
B. Ralston: Can the minister explain the difference between a registered owner referred to in section 24 and an entitlement holder referred to in section 25? What's the difference in the nature of the legal interest?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's the same explanation that I just gave, which is that in section 24 it's an individual who
[ Page 6545 ]
holds a share directly in a company. In section 25 it's an individual who has an entitlement to a share that's held by an intermediary.
B. Ralston: To put it in plain English, then, an entitlement holder would be someone who had an indirect interest, and the actual registration of ownership rests with the intermediary. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: This could be, for instance, a broker or a clearing agency.
B. Ralston: In section 26, which is obviously the next section, it refers to security intermediary. Are there any other parties that would meet the definition of a holder of an entitlement?
Hon. C. Taylor: I'm not sure if you've jumped to section 26 or whether you're still on 25.
B. Ralston: Well, I was being murmured to by the House Leader, so perhaps I should rephrase my question. An entitlement holder is referred to in section 25. I'm wondering whether there is any agency other than a securities intermediary that would be entitled to deal with a purchaser and confer upon him that designation of an entitlement holder. Is that the only agency in the securities arena that would be described as the keeper of an entitlement?
Hon. C. Taylor: The entitlement holder is the person who holds the share through an intermediary.
Section 25 approved.
On section 26.
B. Ralston: Section 26 refers to a securities intermediary. In the definitions section, section 1, there's a definition that refers to a clearing agency or person, and so on. I take it from that definition, which is fairly expansive, that no one else would be in a position where an entitlement holder could grant to them the control of the security entitlement.
Hon. C. Taylor: It says in the definition, as you've identified, that the securities intermediary could be "(a) a clearing agency, or (b) a person, including a broker, bank or trust company, who, in the ordinary course of the person's business, maintains securities accounts for others and is acting in that capacity."
Sections 26 to 32 inclusive approved.
On section 33.
B. Ralston: This is the beginning of a division relating to "Warranties applicable to direct holdings." Can the minister explain what a "warranty" in this particular act means, and what's the purpose of it?
Hon. C. Taylor: This is an implied warranty that a person gives to a purchaser. This is traditional across Canada.
B. Ralston: What would be, in plain English, the implied warranties that would be given and referred to in this division of the act?
Hon. C. Taylor: I think it lays out pretty clearly what these warranties would be. But it's basically that it's genuine; that it hasn't been altered; that the transferor does not know of any fact that might impair the validity of the security; that there's no adverse claim; that it doesn't violate any restriction on transfer; that if the transfer is by endorsement, the endorsement is made by the appropriate person; and finally that the transfer is otherwise effective and rightful. It's just trying to ensure that this is a proper transaction.
Sections 33 to 39 inclusive approved.
On section 40.
B. Ralston: The reference in section 40 is to brokers. This is a provincially regulated industry, I take it. Are these warranties any change in ordinary commercial practice, or do they merely codify existing commercial practice?
Hon. C. Taylor: No change, Madam Chair.
Sections 40 to 43 inclusive approved.
On section 44.
B. Ralston: The "Conflict of laws" division that's referred to here prescribes, I take it, the relevant law that would be used to settle a dispute, should one arise in the operation of this act. Just to confirm, then, this is a product of the Uniform Securities Transfer Act and is the same section that would appear in the Ontario act and in the Alberta act. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is.
Section 44 approved.
On section 45.
B. Ralston: The law that is referred to here is the law of the securities intermediary's jurisdiction. In the case of provincially regulated brokers and credit unions, would this section apply to those commercial actors?
Hon. C. Taylor: If we understand your question correctly, as long as they are involved in securities, this is the law that would apply to the transfer of securities.
B. Ralston: For example, if a purchaser had a dispute with a brokerage house where litigation was con-
[ Page 6546 ]
templated and the brokerage house had its headquarters here, would the law of British Columbia then apply to the dispute?
Hon. C. Taylor: No, it would depend on what the contract between the parties said.
B. Ralston: Does the legislation contemplate that the jurisdiction of the courts of British Columbia could be ousted by agreement, even if the securities intermediary is a registered company and carries on its business in British Columbia?
Hon. C. Taylor: Again, it depends on the nature of the contract between the two parties.
B. Ralston: Perhaps just to better understand this, then. If there's a brokerage firm here and an individual purchaser has a dispute that falls within the jurisdiction of this act, is the minister saying that by the standard contract that the purchaser might sign, jurisdiction to resolve the dispute could be agreed, by the words of the contract, to be the law of Ontario, for example, and that that would require the person seeking a resolution of the dispute to engage lawyers in Ontario to solve the problem?
Hon. C. Taylor: It depends how the contract is worded. The contract, of course, is presumably signed before there's any dispute or any problem.
Once again, I'll say that I think it's important to ask the detailed legal questions, but this is codifying current behaviour. It is giving protection to a system of electronic transfer of shares which is happening without the legal background. It is based on work done nationally by the task force that the member opposite identified.
Every province is doing the same thing. Alberta and Ontario already have theirs into law as of January 1, and other provinces are following. So this is a harmonizing of the Securities Transfer Act across the country. It's an important piece of work, and it is based on a model that we're all following.
B. Ralston: I appreciate that the minister may be slightly impatient with the questions of individual sections. However, there's an obligation, I think, on the part of the opposition to scrutinize legislation. Since members opposite, or at least staff employed by members opposite, have expressed some concern about the scrutiny that some legislation is getting, I think it appropriate that I continue in this vein.
My question is: would a standard agreement that might require a potential litigant — someone with a dispute with a firm — to engage a lawyer in Ontario comply with the reference in section 4 to "reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing"?
Hon. C. Taylor: The same answer as I've given twice previously. It depends on the contract that's signed initially, and it covers the matters that you see in section 45(1).
B. Ralston: Turning to section 45(2), the subsection of the same section refers to a number of instances where jurisdiction is decided. One method is by agreement, subsection (2)(a). But (2)(b) then refers to the law of the particular jurisdiction, and then it goes on in (c) to give other alternatives which would decide jurisdiction.
Is that a standard commercial practice, and does that codify the standard commercial practice that this statute, we're told, purports to?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes.
Sections 45 to 52 inclusive approved.
On section 53.
B. Ralston: I'm just wondering whether this particular section of the act complies or is in accordance with the Evidence Act of British Columbia, or is this a unique codification of commercial practice? Is it consistent with it?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's based on commercial practice.
Sections 53 to 55 inclusive approved.
On section 56.
B. Ralston: Can the minister give some examples of terms of a certificated security that are being referred to in this section?
Hon. C. Taylor: The terms might include redemption rights and voting rights, for example.
Sections 56 to 70 inclusive approved.
On section 71.
B. Ralston: This section refers to forms of endorsement. The division is entitled "Endorsements and instructions." Can the minister give an example of an endorsement and explain what the purpose of an endorsement might be?
Hon. C. Taylor: An endorsement is your signature.
B. Ralston: The subsection refers to "an endorsement in blank to a special endorsement." Can the minister explain the distinction that's referred to in section 71(4)?
Hon. C. Taylor: An endorsement can be in blank — signed by the transferor and left blank or specifying "to bearer" — or a special endorsement signed by the transferor and specifying to whom it is to be trans-
[ Page 6547 ]
ferred. A holder may change an endorsement in blank to a special endorsement.
B. Ralston: Forgive the question in this sense. I had understood that the purpose of this act was to regulate or normalize what was ordinary commercial practice, which would be largely electronic transfer. The use of a signature endorsement seems to be somewhat archaic.
Is this designed to simply preserve that option as a way of issuing certificates, or is there some other purpose for it?
Hon. C. Taylor: As we said earlier, this is intended to cover all the practices out there. Not everything is electronic yet, so this also is the piece of legislation that would cover regular certificates and endorsements.
Sections 71 to 94 inclusive approved.
On section 95.
B. Ralston: This section refers to the "acquisition of security entitlement," and there are a number of methods by which a person acquires security entitlement. The reference here in section 95(1)(a) is to a "book entry. " Is that intended or meant to be an electronic entry?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is.
Sections 95 to 112 inclusive approved.
On section 113.
B. Ralston: This refers to the Personal Property Security Act. I take it that these are consequential amendments that adopt the same definition that's set out in the Securities Transfer Act that we're dealing with. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Taylor: Yes, it is.
Sections 113 to 139 inclusive approved.
On section 140.
B. Ralston: This gives the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council the opportunity to bring the act into force. Can the minister advise: assuming that this bill is going to be passed — and I think it's imminent — what's the likely date that the act will come into force?
Hon. C. Taylor: We are hoping by summer or early fall.
B. Ralston: Is that designed to coincide with the coming into force of similar legislation in any other province, or is that simply the province's own time line for bringing it into force?
Hon. C. Taylor: It is our own time line. Alberta and Ontario are already in force.
B. Ralston: What has to be done in order to proclaim the legislation in force?
Hon. C. Taylor: This is just, out of an abundance of caution, trying to make sure that we consult with everyone and that everyone understands what the words are and what they mean and how it will work before it's in force.
B. Ralston: I had understood that the industry was eagerly awaiting this, so I'm surprised to hear that further consultation will be necessary. Does the minister expect that there might be a necessity for amendments?
Hon. C. Taylor: It's really about education, not amendments. It's just to give everyone time to absorb it.
Section 140 approved.
Hon. C. Taylor: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 4:08 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
SECURITIES TRANSFER ACT
Bill 9, Securities Transfer Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. B. Penner: I call continued committee stage debate of Bill 11, Community Services Statutes Amendment Act, 2007.
Committee of the Whole House
COMMUNITY SERVICES STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2007
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 11; S. Hammell in the chair.
The committee met at 4:11 p.m.
On the amendment to section 15 (continued).
N. Macdonald: I rise to continue my comments on our amendment to section 15 of Bill 11. The amendment adds the need for the board of the regional district to approve the creation of a resort region. The amendment comes as a result of a deep conviction this
[ Page 6548 ]
side has that local government is best able to deal with land use issues.
The Columbia Kootenay is well removed physically and in many ways culturally from the capital as well as from the lower mainland. Good decisions come from institutions that are closer to the people that understand exactly where these areas are, who understand the impacts of developments and have to live with them, frankly.
This government has moved consistently to pull decision-making away from the rural areas. You see that with the end to appurtenance, but you see it with local government with the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, which still sits there as an act that can override anything that local government decides to do. And you have section 56 of Bill 30, which removed regional districts from decision on the independent power projects despite the fact that ministers signed a serious affidavit — well, they signed a solemn promise — to the UBCM that they would not do that. But they chose to instead.
The further that you move from…
The Chair: Order.
N. Macdonald: …local government to this level of government, the further you get from the truth. I'll give you an example. The minister put out a press release saying: "The NDP's" — my name — "votes against new revenue for local municipalities." Hey, that came out yesterday.
So far, what have we voted on? We voted on: a resort region means a resort region designated under section 6.8. That's a bit of a stretch. We can maybe let Matthew MacInnis…. Whoever is up there writing these press releases needs to wait and just see what unfolds. They can't make it up ahead of time. He talks about a conspiracy theory that we're working on here, and we will see if it is a conspiracy theory or if it's actually accurate.
I spent six year in Africa. Governments there intimidated a certain way. Here we've got press releases turned out by 200 people who spend millions of taxpayers' dollars to produce these press releases.
I just want to say that the least we can do is make sure that my name is spelled properly. So I will pass that alongthe primar in terms of accuracy. The simplest thing to do is to get my name spelled properly. Of that press release, the only thing that offends me is that fact that is there. I will write it down and pass it across to the minister, and she can make sure that when she gets these press releases put together, she gets at least that part correct, and then we can move from there.
I find this bill problematic, and I've said it again and again. I've asked this minister. She talks about a conspiracy theory. I have asked ten times one simple question that needs either a yes or a no. For a government that in 2001 came in claiming that it was going to be the most open and the most accountable, you cannot even get a yes or a no.
Will the regional district be making the final decision on Jumbo Glacier Resort? That's the question that's been put in front of this minister and this government again and again, and you get no answer. How is that to be interpreted as anything other than devious and sly? So there is a need to be open and clear with that question. From the beginning we would have been able to settle much of this if a commitment that was made was going to be kept.
The Chair: Member, I'd like to remind you to be very, very careful about your language.
N. Macdonald: I apologize.
As we move with this amendment, it is my intention of course to encourage people to vote for it. Without this change, section 15 in my view is unsupportable. Once we have moved through there, we will turn to section 16 and examine in detail what section 16 has to offer.
With that, I turn it over to my colleague from Cariboo South.
C. Wyse: It is indeed my pleasure to rise and speak in favour of the proposed amendment and to give a rationale behind the need for this proposed amendment, in my judgment. Before I do that, I would like to acknowledge the diligent work that was done on both sides of the House yesterday.
I was able to watch it late in the evening on reruns, and it was obvious that the amount of work and effort put into the discussion around section 14 leading into the proposed amendment was given much banter back and forth between both sides of the House. I mention that before I begin to give a reasoned, thought-out need for this particular amendment simply so that my hon. colleague is aware that I attempted to stay in touch with the legislation that is in front of us here today.
It's a very good bill overall. However, what we have in front of us, which came out of the discussion around a definition of the resort regions, was a lack of clear understanding of what those regions may be in actual fact when we're finished with the legislation here in the House.
That's a very important principle that needs to be remembered in our discussion. Our responsibility here in the House is to put the legislation into play and then turn it over into practice. Right now the proposed amendment that is in front of us for section 15 removes that ambiguity of the possibility of shopping around to come up with actual examples of resort regions.
We had in the debate yesterday around the definition, if my understanding is correct, that you could have a multiplicity of people, regions and communities bringing forward a request to be considered a resort region. They could be from a wide variety of areas around the province. They would presently qualify under the act as it now stands.
[ Page 6549 ]
What the proposed amendment does is remove, in our judgment, the ambiguity that presently exists. In essence, it simply moves ahead and takes from section 18 the same type of wording and puts it into section 15 so that it is clearly understood that local government, called the regional district, has a say directly in the formation of a resort region. It has a say in the application of the definition that will go in front of cabinet.
In the process, it is important for us to remember that amongst the 79 of us here, there never is any assurance where the elected representatives will come from tomorrow or where they will sit in this House. They can sit on different sides of the House. That is a fact that is self-evident, but it's also possibly been overlooked that this decision, as it now sits, would pass to the cabinet.
In that particular set of circumstances, there are no assurances that the cabinet minister is from the region of the province that we're talking about. There are no assurances in the legislation that there is a conduit for the feelings of those regions to be heard in the closed rooms where these decisions are going to be made in the future. That is the situation as we understand it on this side of the House.
The proposed amendment is here in the spirit as is contained in section 18 in the legislation, a section of this legislation that is most supportable. It takes that same principle that is contained here, removes the ambiguity with the amendment and puts it into play.
In the discussion around the definition of section 14, it reinforced the concerns of residents that exist here in British Columbia whether in actual fact, inadvertently or in any other fashion, their possibility of having say into the formation of these regions will be lost. There is a record that exists by members opposite, who are on record on behalf of the government, to clearly state that no, that principle should not be lost. I will come back and give some examples of that very shortly in support of this particular amendment being passed.
More importantly, this House passed the Community Charter in 2004. The principle of the Community Charter is based upon a principle. Paraphrasing, it says that the two levels of government — the senior level, the provincial government, and the local level of government — will have respect for each other and that they will not override legislation one over the other. Legislation passed here in this House sets up that principle.
The last time I looked at the legislation, regional districts are by definition a form of local government. In my briefing, I was advised that somewhere, in the future but definitely within the intention, the government intends to extend the principles of the Community Charter around regional districts.
However, the point here is that we're in the now, which makes this proposed amendment even more important. It removes that ambiguity so that as the government gets time and comes around and extends the Community Charter to this other level of local government, the ambiguity is now removed with the passing of this amendment.
Returning to some principles that are in the nature of speaking on behalf of these principles being applied in a part of the province where my colleague from Columbia River–Revelstoke is from — and, by the way, where many of the local elected representatives from that area have voiced their concerns to me, as the critic, around sections 14, 15 and 16…. This proposed amendment is in front of this House to remove the angst that exists at the local government area. It removes it by having it put into play.
As has been discussed, we are talking specifically about an example that has been in the front of discussions for over 15 years, the Jumbo Glacier Resort. "For more than 16 years" — and I quote now the member for East Kootenay — "the Jumbo resort proposal has been a major source of discussion in our area. It's a project that has been subjected to the most comprehensive environmental review in British Columbia's history, it is consistent with the resort development that was identified in the Kootenay-Boundary land use plan, and it is time for a decision to be made."
When we go back and look at the other two legs on the stool that makes up that particular statement, once more from the member for East Kootenay: "The government recognized that there are strongly held views surrounding this project."
Pardon me, Madam Speaker. I do wish to apologize through you to all members of the House. My eyes went to the wrong part of what I was reading, and I have ascribed some words incorrectly to the member for East Kootenay, and for that I do apologize. I will very shortly ascribe those words to the correct individual in the House. My apologies to the House. I make that profusely and thank you for accepting that.
Back to the member for East Kootenay. "Government also has to take into account what the people in the region actually want. On this particular project, that's going to be an interesting exercise. It is a bit like putting your finger into your mouth and holding it up to the wind, trying to figure out just exactly where everybody is on that particular project."
Makes sense to me from where I am, but not living in that part of the province, I can only say that I think I understand the thought and the feelings that exist there.
The present Minister of Health, in a different capacity but as a cabinet minister on behalf of the government, made these statements on this particular project: "The government recognizes that there are strongly held views surrounding this project. The final decision will be in the hands of those closest to the project. Those who will benefit most directly and who most directly understand the costs will have the final say here. The project would not be able to proceed without the approval of the East Kootenay regional district."
I would like to repeat that for emphasis: "The project would not be able to proceed without the approval of the East Kootenay regional district."
Madam Speaker, you believe, in your wisdom, that you can understand why this particular amendment is
[ Page 6550 ]
being proposed. It removes the ambiguity of where the regional districts fit in on the definition of the resort region. It removes that ambiguity and clearly has the input and the endorsation in passing on that recommendation through whoever to the minister and to the cabinet.
Having set the tone around the need for this particular amendment and the rationale behind it, it also, through my eyes, is important that this amendment is passed, because it removes a developing feeling amongst regional districts by recently passed legislation that says that regional districts are a second order of local government.
For example, in the last section of Bill 30, section 56 removed the input of regional districts on issues of independent power producers and their say on the effect upon local government. You will always have, in my judgment, the conflict on certain issues between what are considered to be provincial overguiding responsibilities versus the interests and the desires of local government.
The province, through many, many pieces of legislation, maintains that right to always override, in their wisdom, what they believe are local interests. This amendment, however, removes the possibility of government — whoever they may be — taking the interests of local residents behind closed doors, in secret, without necessarily any input by locally elected individuals at the municipal or the provincial level and in secret making the decisions on behalf of those areas.
This amendment ensures that that will not happen. That is what we believe is the intent of the Community Charter passed by this House. We believe that it is in line with other proposed parts of this bill, whether it be section 18 or other sections dealing with the Vancouver Charter. It has the bill staying in step with the intent and flavour of ensuring that the interests, when they are in conflict between the two levels of government, will be done fully in the open with the full input of the local levels of government that are affected.
C. Puchmayr: I rise in support of the amendment. No one should take this too lightly, as we head towards this road of secrecy where decisions are no longer made by the public and decisions are made more by an elite group of people in the Premier's office or by the cabinet themselves.
For many years as councillors in New Westminster, we worked very hard to achieve a community charter to work towards getting some of the respect that the Vancouver Charter had, to create some autonomy, to create some ability to have more control over how our communities are developed. I know some of the frustrations with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs through both governments. The frustrations were continually having to apply variances to the old act in order to proceed with certain provisions and certain directions that municipalities wanted to go.
There was a lot of work that went into creating a working relationship, a respectful relationship where both sides more clearly defined what the roles of the senior levels of government were with respect to the roles of the municipal governments. There was a lot of fanfare. I know that the work began under the previous government, under the NDP.
The end result of a document that was also endorsed by the members from the other side was a document that really created, for the first time in many years, a clear vision of where the roles between senior levels of government and municipalities should lie. It eliminated many variances that used to have to be signed off on a daily basis by the Municipal Affairs ministry in order to proceed with the daily functions of the community.
In the new charter, it starts off by saying that municipalities and their councils are recognized as an order of government within jurisdiction that is democratically elected; is autonomous, responsible and accountable; is established by the will of the residents of their communities; and provides for the municipal services of their communities.
Citizens of B.C. are best served under this relationship. It's true. This is a relationship that establishes some growth patterns. It establishes the direction your community wants to go. It establishes what amenities are required in your community. To take the direction that this government is now taking, by removing the ability for a municipality to actually have the final say on this type of initiative, is very alarming.
I think the people of British Columbia need to understand the impacts that may have. I'll give you just one impact. If you look at some of the areas that are experiencing problems with water, with the water crisis, where a certain development will not be sustainable through the aquifers and the reservoirs and the water that is remaining….
Let's talk about mountainous areas or areas that use a lot of water in the summer, for instance. This development could go in, and of course the regional district or the municipality would express concerns using those arguments. But the final say of that decision will not be made by those most greatly affected. They are the citizens that live there year-round.
[S. Hawkins in the chair.]
A lot of the tourist venues we have in British Columbia are seasonal. Some are seasonal summer; some are seasonal winter. Of course, this beautiful province also has tourist opportunities year-round. But having the impacts on those very seasonal areas, where the greatest demand could be on a resource that is not sustainable for the rest of the community, has some very serious impacts on the affordability of your community, on the value of the residences in your community. The value of your very home could be in jeopardy because of the adverse impact this resort would have on the long term.
The decision-making process would be as simple as a sign-off by an order-in-council by the Premier's office.
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A simple sign-off could create havoc on investments of people that decided they wanted to live in an area, invest in an area and have their children go to school in that area. That could be in jeopardy simply because there is no ability for them to stand up and say that this does not work in our community.
That's frightening. That is frightening that we are heading towards a type of zoning, a type of amendment that would actually create very significant financial impacts on people who have chosen to live there and have lived there for many years.
We have to remember the goodwill that was in the Community Charter when it was developed. That goodwill can't just be re-legislated because somebody has attempted to bring a proposal forward, or has gone to the regional district or to the municipality and has had their proposals rejected, or has not come to the table with an adequate accommodation for that proposal or a mitigation for that proposal, or hasn't taken into account the serious impacts of the community.
Because a developer is not able to come to the table with a district or with the citizens of an area and make a compromise to create that investment in that area…. Because they're not able to do that shouldn't allow them now to come to this place here, in Victoria, and meet in an office somewhere — outside of the scrutiny of anybody — in what is supposed to be the most open and transparent government in the history of British Columbia.
I'm afraid I don't buy into that. That is not grass-roots democracy. That's not how this province was built. This province was built with the grass-roots local autonomy first, with some dusted-off rules from Great Britain. Here's a template. Get the people in your community, elect a mayor, elect a council, and start to grow and build your community. But they built the community to fit their needs — their economic needs. They didn't build a community against their own basic economic needs, and that's what sustainable development and sustainable growth are.
For instance, if this resort wanted to come in — and they've already attempted it three or four times — they would come to the table again and say: "Look, we really want to do this, but there is a significant impact. I know you're experiencing an impact, so here's what we propose." They try to partner up with the community. If they succeed, then there's a say.
The people elect their local officials, and if the people aren't satisfied with their local officials for the decisions they make — we see it over and over again — they're gone, next election. Or there is such an outcry at a public process, which is now a mandatory process for any such development, where people can come there and speak. They can speak for as long as they want and for as many days as they want. They can speak passionately for or against a specific proposal. At the end of the day, there has to be a vote on that proposal.
That's all gone, and it scares me. I know that members on the other side applauded Bill 30, section 56. They applauded it. They're applauding taking away local autonomy on growth in your community. They are applauding.
You've got the Minister of Environment who says that he will sacrifice local autonomy. For what? For his own wishes? So that they can sell power at elevated prices for a period of, I think, 30 or 40 years. Then that power becomes a commodity that can be traded anywhere. So at the end of these contracts, we could be in the biggest power crisis in this province that we have ever experienced, and we would still have, in some cases possibly, some unsightly developments or coal-fired generators going that are just unacceptable in the community. He applauds that.
I'm sure I can get applause from the other side when I talk about the trade, investment and labour mobility agreement. You know, here is something that should come to the House, that should get debated, that should go through a process where we have an ability to ask questions, to analyze it in committee stage, and it's being done behind closed doors.
That, my friends, is an alarming trend. That is not open. That is not transparent. That is what we are up against, and that's why I support this amendment. I support it strongly because what it is saying now is: "Okay, if that's not your intention, if your intention isn't already precast, then here is a relief valve." Here is something that is an amendment to this that says: "There will be a final say by the community." My friends, that is what it's all about.
S. Simpson: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to stand and speak to this matter. I do believe that the amendment makes sense. The amendment is sound, as my colleagues who spoke before me have said. This makes the process more open. It makes the process more transparent. For those people who have been involved around local government and have looked at the experience of local government, they'll also know that it often makes the planning more sound and more complete as well.
What we know about the planning process in general…. I know that much of my experience before coming to this place revolved around local government and local government processes. Much of it revolved around land use issues in local communities and how those decisions got made — mostly by municipal councils, sometimes by regional districts. They tended to be the political, governing bodies that drove those processes.
There always was a process of public hearing. There always was a process that went on of dialogue with those elected officials. There always was a process where staff who were working for those municipalities and regional districts engaged directly with citizens who had concerns, who had issues, and tried to sort those issues through. There were substantive discussions around finding solutions that still allowed processes government wanted to proceed with to go ahead but that met the needs of communities, that addressed the needs of communities, that looked at those communities and tried to find solutions in a positive way.
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It didn't always happen. Sometimes decisions made people unhappy, but in most cases, the process was substantive and efforts were made by all parties to find solutions. We know that when that goes on, citizens also respond in a different way. If citizens believe that they are in a meaningful process, that they are being listened to, that they are being heard and that their contribution is reflected in the final result and they can see that in the final result, then, quite frankly, they are more often there to try to find those solutions.
If they feel like they're being railroaded, if they feel like they're not being heard, if they feel like the decisions are being made by government officials behind closed doors — often with industry interests — and that they're being shut out, then they have no choice but to be as adversarial as they can be to try to protect what interests they have.
Frankly, that's not a healthy situation. That's what I believe the current bill does with the wording that it has. What this amendment does is change that. It brings it back to the local level, much more so, and the local level is the place where these decisions are best made, where these processes work best.
One of the things I've learned about this place is that senior governments don't always plan that well. It's not the fault of this government — or any government, necessarily — but government is mighty big. You have these massive ministries, and they often function in silos. We know there are deputy ministers, committees and ADM committees and that, but ministries don't move quickly. They kind of chug along, and they're big. There is a little bit of time periodically between an idea and resolution of that idea — a couple of years here, a couple of years there — and they operate in silos.
I understand why that happens. These are big, big organizations, and big organizations don't communicate as well as smaller organizations. The reality is that at the local government level they have a more holistic and, I think, a more integrated approach to planning. They're able to look at a whole range of issues in a much more complete way than senior levels of government are. Because of that, they're able to apply staff who cross over those areas and staff who actually can work in a more integrated way in planning and dealing with issues that communities have.
My inclination is to think that the smaller, more direct, more front-line, closer-to-the-ground levels of government do a better job of that. I think it has to do with scale of government as much as anything. So I'm very much inclined to try to bring this stuff down to that scale, whether it be a municipality or a regional district.
I think, as my friend from New Westminster said, that those local politicians, if they start doing stuff that doesn't work for their citizens, well, a couple of years down the road, they're gone. Here at our level the reality is that as individual members we can distance ourselves, and governments can distance themselves, from these decisions in ways that don't allow the electorate, politically, to get at the people they want to get at. The minister may have no direct connection to the area where something is being conducted. The citizens there may be very angry with the minister, and they'd like to be able to reprimand the minister by taking their vote away from him or her. But the reality is they don't get to do that, because the minister represents some other place. And they may not necessarily want to do a deal with the government, but they want to deal with the minister. They can't do that.
They may like their MLA. They may not be happy about the government decision. So they have a conundrum. If you're at the local level in this province, you pretty much get to get at everybody and you get your chance to have your say, because you get a chance to cast your vote for those people who put their hand up or not on any given matter. So it's a much more direct approach in terms of being able to hold elected government officials accountable, and I think that's a positive thing.
The other reality about this, I think, is that there are problems. People are very cynical, quite frankly. Increasingly, I hear this from local governments. We see it in the raft of resolutions the UBCM passes on critical issues. But we do see things like Bill 30 where the government chose to rip up local authority — basically to say that local government had no say over what went on in their community — and dismissed local government completely on these questions of privatized power by saying: "You don't have a say."
In those communities…. If we reflect back on the community that drove that decision, the Squamish-Lillooet regional district, it is not in fact a community that was opposed to private power. I think they had approved through their own zoning processes five run-of-the-river projects. They had one project that they had significant concern with, the Ashlu. They saw the Ashlu river as having broader value than simply as a power project, and they didn't want that river to be dealt with in that way. But that wasn't good enough for this government.
Interestingly, even at that point when the government came back and pressured the Squamish-Lillooet regional district over the Ashlu, the local government, the regional district, said: "Okay. We're not saying no to this. We're saying we want to do some planning. Come, sit down, and help us look at the 60 rivers in our region and see which ones it makes sense to use for power, for habitat, for recreation or what."
The government said: "No. We're not interested in planning. We're just going to take your rights away, and we're going to ram this thing down your throat." That's exactly what the government did with Bill 30.
That's a problem. It's a problem when this government thinks that it has the moral authority to just rip up the rights of junior levels of government and do whatever it pleases and to rip up the rights of communities and do whatever it pleases when it meets this government's agenda. So that's a problem.
The experience that we see around industrial development, generally — or around, in this case we're talking here about, what might be called, I guess, the
[ Page 6553 ]
Jumbo resolution with a recreational and resort development — is that there are an awful lot of people in those communities who have real concerns.
They are the people who will live with this development if it goes forward. They are the people who will be impacted directly by this development if it goes forward, and they are the people who want to have a say. They know that if they're going to have a say that's meaningful, their best chance to do that is if the regional district has the final say and that the people who represent them most directly have that say and that, in fact, they can deal directly with those people.
If they know that, then I believe they will engage in the kind of substantive and meaningful discussions to try to find solutions that work for everybody. Those solutions will be left in the hands of the people that it most appropriately should be left in the hands of, which are the people most closely aligned to the folks on the ground who have the most concern about this.
I do think that we need to be cognizant of the important role local government plays in planning and land use matters. I think that's the reason why many of the land use decisions have always been left in the hands of local governments.
Local governments do a good job of dealing with land use, with local communities, with the give-and-take it takes to find solutions on development initiatives that work for people. Local governments do that better, frankly, than senior levels of government do. That has historically been true, and I think that holds true. It doesn't matter the political stripe of the government. I think local governments do a better job of it.
I would hope that the government — the minister, in this case — would give that some thought and think about what this amendment says and about how this amendment in fact enhances Bill 11 — how it allows for more transparency, more accountability and ultimately, better decision-making over this initiative.
I would hope that the government, the minister, would see this as legislation that enables better solutions, that enables the communities to be involved in ways that they want to be involved and that enables communities to have the confidence they want to have that decisions aren't being made behind closed doors by faceless and nameless people who they have no connection to, no access to, and who are making decisions based on discussions they don't get to be part of, on agendas they don't get to see.
I believe that they want that. They want to be engaged in the process and be a part of that process. The more we engage the people directly affected, the better the decisions will be, I believe, at the end of the day.
So I would hope that the minister, as I said before, would give this some thought. I think this amendment is a small amendment, but it is substantive in terms of what it does to open the process up, and it would make for a better piece of legislation. Hopefully, we're all here to create the best legislation we can.
Hon. B. Penner: I'm rising just to indicate that I will not be supporting this amendment. I will also just make a few comments to address some of the things I've heard from some of the members sitting across the aisle.
The member who just spoke made some reference to governments operating in silos. I would suggest that some of the comments we heard from the members opposite indicate that the NDP opposition caucus seems to be operating in a silo.
On the one hand, they say that they purport to care about the environment. Then we continue to hear comments from them, including their Environment critic, that they oppose hydroelectric projects that were facilitated by the passage of section 56 of Bill 30 last year.
If we had listened to the opposition and acceded to their opposition to that bill, today we would not have construction taking place in a number of small hydro projects in the province. We would not have people working and paying taxes where, in many cases, today they are. We would not have literally billions of dollars of investment lined up to come into British Columbia, into our province, to help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is a global problem, and if we can help offset pollution elsewhere — primarily CO2 emissions — by creating green electricity here, we're helping not just ourselves but the entire planet. This is something that the opposition seems to have a hard time understanding and, to use the term adopted by the member for Vancouver-Hastings, indicates they're operating in a silo when they consider these things.
The Ashlu project that the member has just referred to and which they are opposed to, once it gets construction completed and goes into operation, will help displace the equivalent of 219,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which would be produced from coal-fired generation in order to produce the same amount of electricity.
Today British Columbia is a net importer of electricity. Much of that imported electricity comes from coal-fired generation. So if we can produce clean, green, renewable electricity to zero emissions in British Columbia, we displace 219,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from a coal-fired plant located outside of British Columbia.
Further, Madam Chair….
The Chair: Minister, direct your comments to the amendment.
Hon. B. Penner: I will do that. I'm just addressing the comments made by the opposition, as the previous Chair allowed them to do.
We keep jobs, we keep taxes in the province. We help make ourselves energy self-sufficient. Now I know the Energy critic for the opposition questioned why we need to be energy self-sufficient, as we've indicated in the throne speech our commitment to do that. But I think that's a rather shocking position from the opposition — that they would rather we continue to be reliant on our neighbours, particularly the United States of America, for electricity rather than strive to become energy self-sufficient, as we've set out in the throne speech to do by 2016.
[ Page 6554 ]
We can't just think about these things in isolation or operate as if we're in a silo, because when it comes to climate change, it's a global problem. While they may have ideological hesitations about private sector investment in solving climate change challenges and producing green, renewable electricity, we don't on this side of the House. We want to get on with getting the job done.
There's $3.6 billion in new investment that's lined up as a result of B.C. Hydro's call last year. Today there are more than 45 people working on the Ashlu Creek small hydro project that we supported; the NDP voted against. Many of those people working today are members of the Squamish First Nation. If the NDP had their way, those people would not be working today. I will not be supporting this amendment.
Hon. I. Chong: I know everyone is anxious to proceed with a vote, but I would like to just make some follow-up comments regarding the amendment.
As I indicated yesterday when it was proposed, I indicated that it was unnecessary. I say so again — that it is unnecessary — simply because…. Regrettably, the information that the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke — I don't know from where he received it — has provided to his colleagues has clearly misinterpreted what section 15 is doing. Section 15, as I indicated yesterday, has all to do with the ability to access unique permissive opportunities for sharing of hotel room tax, development tools to enhance the resort sector. As I say, the purpose of his amendment is unnecessary.
You know, a statutory requirement for approval by a local government is appropriate in a situation where a local government is being required to do something or where its governance structure or jurisdiction is being affected. That is not the case here. I would really hope that the members opposite listen. That is not the case here.
Section 15 does not enable cabinet to affect the governance structure of a regional district. It does not affect the regional district's decision-making jurisdiction. It does not require that the regional district do anything.
Section 15 creates the mechanism by which local governments that are in a resort-oriented geographic area can be officially recognized as such an area so that they can access revenues and authorities that will help them make the most of the resort opportunities. It is the local governments that will sort out among themselves how they will do that.
I just again want to put for the record the clarification of what section 15 is about. The member for Cariboo South said something about a formation, and his comments lead me to believe that he thinks a new structure is being formed, that a formation of a resort region is happening. It is a designation for the purpose of accessing these tools. So I wanted to ensure that he realizes what it is that he was given as information for which he wanted to support this amendment.
He also indicated ambiguity in the section. There is no ambiguity in this section, because this is about accessing the resort tools that are necessary.
There were some allegations made regarding some form of secrecy that can occur. Again, I would state for the record that he is wrong. I clarified yesterday, as I have just done now, that section 15 allows local governments to put forth their request to designate a resort region in order to access these resort tools. There is nothing secret about that. If a local government wants to access those resort tools, they are going to come forward and request that.
I really would like the members opposite to understand why the amendment is unnecessary. I can also share with the members opposite that we wanted to be sure that local governments did understand what was happening with sections 14 and 15, so we contacted some of the mayors. We contacted Mayor Jimmy Doyle this morning. He is very happy about the legislation. He mentioned more than once that he was part of the group that asked for this, and he understands what sections 14 and 15 are all about.
We talked to Mayor Greg Deck about the sections. He also has been watching the debate, and he understands what the intent and purpose of the section is. Mayor Jim Ogilvie in Kimberley also understands the sections that have been receiving much attention. He gets it.
I don't know what it is about the members opposite who don't understand. I have three mayors who do understand what this is all about. They have not indicated to me that they felt that section 15 needed to be amended. So I just wanted to put that out there for the clarification of the members so that they realize what it is that they are voting against and what it is that they are attempting to amend, which is really accessing these unique resort tools that we have made available to these local governments.
The Chair: Members, the question is: shall the amendment to section 15 pass?
The Chair: Order, please. Order, members. Thank you.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 26
[ Page 6555 ]
NAYS — 41
The Chair: Will section 15 pass?
Division has been called.
Law Clerk: The time has been waived.
The Chair: Members, the time has been waived, and we shall proceed.
Section 15 approved on the following division:
YEAS — 41
NAYS — 26
On section 16.
N. Macdonald: Section 16 and we're still on the same theme. I appreciate the staff's patience as we moved through sections 14 and 15, and I appreciate the minister, with the explanation at the end.
We move into section 16, and she knows that the topic that I have is the same one, and we look forward here in section 16 to seeing the solution. I think I've asked ten times of the minister whether the government intends to honour its commitment to the people of the Columbia Valley. To speed up this process, as we move through section 16, I would ask her again: is the regional district of East Kootenay going to be making the final decision on Jumbo Glacier Resort? If we could just have a yes or no, that would certainly speed up the move through section 16. So I'll give the minister an opportunity.
Hon. I. Chong: Thank you, hon. Chair, and I appreciate allowing me to just ensure that I have the information for the member opposite, because I want to make it clear from the very outset what section 16 is about. I know the member likes to read into the section at times more than what there is, and I just need him to understand at the very beginning what section 16 does.
Section 16 does amend the Local Government Act by codifying the policy that only areas with specified mountain resort operations and facilities can be incorporated as a mountain resort municipality. Section 16 provides another governance tool that could be used in relation to a ski resort area.
This tool is in addition to other governance options which are already available. Options that could be used today include regional district governance of a resort area or extension of the boundary of an existing municipality to cover a resort area. Incorporation of a mountain resort municipality is another tool that's available, and that is what section 16 is about.
N. Macdonald: So section 16 then amends section 11 of the Local Government Act, and it deals with the creation of municipalities. I look at section 16(a)(1.1)(b), "a person has entered into an agreement…" and I just ask: what type of agreement is needed?
Hon. I. Chong: That would be the master development agreement with the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts.
N. Macdonald: So the person will be deemed to have entered into an agreement when they have completed the master development agreement. Did I get that correct? A person will have entered into an agreement when that agreement is complete?
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Hon. I. Chong: I'm presuming the member wants to be clear that the agreement would have to be complete before you enter into an agreement. If that's what he is alluding to, then that would be the answer.
N. Macdonald: In (2.1) it says: "Despite section 8…." Section 8 is from the Local Government Act. It lays out the democratic rights of residents in an area to create municipalities. I believe that that's accurate. So (2.1) begins with: "Despite section 8…." Will the minister just confirm that that means that section 8 does not apply in the case of new mountain resort municipalities?
Hon. I. Chong: Again, just wanting to provide clarity so that we can move along on the section. Currently, you can incorporate where there is a resort in place or there is an agreement for a resort. The incorporation can take place because there are voters to request an incorporation and request that a vote be taken.
However, in more remote areas, where there is no ski resort yet built but there is an agreement in place to develop a ski resort, there is unlikely to be a resident population. The section is providing for an opportunity to take an approach where we can have an area be established and incorporated without the electors, because there are none in place.
I want to say, as well, that that is the same approach that was taken to create the resort municipality of Whistler in 1975. That is also the approach that was taken to create many resource towns in the period from the 1960s to the early '80s — communities such as Elkford, Sparwood, Tumbler Ridge.
It's not something that is new to the province. I just want to make that clear to the member as well. But it will provide for this to take place should the matter arise. I'm hoping that's provided some clarity for the member.
N. Macdonald: Let's come right to the point, then. Will (2.1) allow cabinet to create a new mountain resort municipality in the Jumbo Valley without needing the consent of the regional district of East Kootenay?
Hon. I. Chong: I just want again to make it clear for the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke that currently there is no resort. There is no agreement in place. It would be pure speculation, in terms of government, as to what would take place.
As I indicated earlier, the section has provided for incorporation if in fact there was a resort or an agreement in place. Subsection (2.1), as he's pointed out, would allow for an establishment once an agreement is in place. None of that is available, and I'm not going to speculate as to what may or may not occur.
I hope the member understands that I don't have any information for which I can give him a direct response on that, simply because we are not in a situation where I can make a definitive answer for that.
N. Macdonald: Look, we've been going through this for a long time. You have all sorts of resources behind….
The Chair: Through the Chair, Member.
N. Macdonald: Excuse me.
We've been going through this a long time. The minister knows the resources that I have available to me are limited, and therefore I am trying to get an answer to a question that…. She knows the question that I have, and she has known it for days and in fact for weeks. She has probably known for a long time that this would be an area that I would be very, very interested in.
Let's put out a scenario. If there was this master plan agreement and it was approved by the government for the Jumbo Valley using subsection (2.1), is it possible that the cabinet could simply approve that project? Is that what this section means? I would appreciate clarity.
Hon. I. Chong: With respect, I am not trying to frustrate him, and I'm sure he is. He keeps alluding to the fact that he has limited resources, but as he has indicated in the past, he is well familiar with his particular area. I'm sure he has spoken to many people in his area. As well, he is, at this point, speculating on a number of things that may or may not happen.
What I am trying to do is provide clarification. I attempted to do that at the very beginning in clarifying what section 16 was providing for here. It was providing another tool that could be used, because currently we do have regional district governance of a resort area. That could be a tool that will be adopted. It could be an extension of a boundary of an existing municipality to cover the entire resort area. That could still be an option that is available.
At this point there is no agreement in place. There is no actual situation. I cannot say with any certainty the governance model that will take place, because I do not have an absolute situation that is in place right now. It could very well be that the regional district governance model could be the situation. It could also well be that there is a request for a boundary extension.
I know the member is looking to say that there is only one solution here. There is not, and that is what I am trying to put forward to him. These are options. We have provided yet another option. That's what section 16 is about: another option. Until such time as a decision is made as to which option works best, we are encouraging the local government people in the area to work and collaborate. They will decide what they feel is best.
If an extension of a boundary, which happens quite frequently around this province, takes place, that may well be what occurs. In that case, the municipality that takes in that boundary will then make all the decisions in terms of the land use and other decisions that take place. So if the member is asking me to say that only one possibility will occur, I cannot do that.
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N. Macdonald: That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking specifically…. You've said there are a number of tools. You're introducing a new tool that I want….
The Chair: Through the Chair, Member.
N. Macdonald: Excuse me.
The minister is introducing a new tool that I want to understand. The question I have for you: if we have a valley and in that valley there is a master plan agreement that the province has agreed to with a person, does that mean that the cabinet can unilaterally create a new mountain resort municipality? I think that's something that could be yes or no or you could clarify. But I just want to know: with this new tool you are providing, can cabinet unilaterally create a new resort municipality if there is a master plan agreement?
Hon. I. Chong: Again, I would stress that this is another option that is being made available, and I want to preface my remarks by saying that there is no situation for which I can make a decisive ruling on what may or may not occur. I would have to say that it would depend upon which governance model would fit the very best.
You know, at the end of the day, I'm sure we will hear from people in the local area. We will have to take a look at the lay of the land. We will have to take a look at the local area. We will have to speak to the local area representatives. If it makes sense that one of these governance models should be chosen, then we will be able to provide the authority for one of those governance models to take place. But I cannot, and I will not, say emphatically that it will be one or the other. I don't know what decision will be made, because the situation has not arisen to require us to make that decision.
As I said, if the local area representatives, which include not only the residents but the local mayors in the area, believe they have a solution that works for them, that is what I'm sure they would want me to consider. I know the member is attempting to put a decision before me today and put us with only one option, and that is not going to happen.
N. Macdonald: With due respect, Minister, I just want to understand this section. I think I just need to remind you that these are complex. You know that I struggled to understand 14 and 15, because when it's presented to us, I need to go and understand what a resort region is.
You have the opportunity to meet with colleagues. You have all of the resources around you.
The Chair: Through the Chair, Member.
N. Macdonald: Excuse me.
The minister has all of these resources around…. She has the answers, and I could move through this much quicker if she would give me clear answers to a very specific question. I gave the minister a scenario that is very simple.
I want to know not about all of the tools and about any options that might be out there; I want to understand this one tool that the government is creating here. Does this tool allow, in subsection (2.1), for a mountain resort municipality to be created by cabinet unilaterally in an area with a master plan agreement? It can be in Jumbo Valley. It can be anywhere that has all of the master plan agreement completed. Is that what this tool does?
Hon. I. Chong: Again, I would like the member to understand that this is one tool that would be made available, and if the local area has asked for that, then it could take place. If the member would like to listen for a moment…. Clearly, I am saying that if in fact the local area has asked for that to take place, then yes, we would be able to proceed. But he is absolutely speculating that that is the decision. He keeps narrowing it into one particular project on which he believes the decision has been made. I've been trying to make it clear to him that that is not the case. A decision has not been made.
What I am saying, though, is that if in fact the local area believes that they want that particular decision made, they will present that to us. They will have gone through the necessary viewing and airing of public views. They will have gone through the master development plan. They will have gone through a whole range of opportunities. At the end of the day, if the local area came forward and said, "This is what we want to do," then yes, cabinet can consider it and make a decision, just as it can make a decision on the other options.
If the member wants to believe that this is another opportunity, as well as the others that are currently in place, then he's correct. But if he is suggesting that it is the only option that is available, then I would have to tell him that he is incorrect.
N. Macdonald: Now we're getting closer to it. So we have an option. We have an option that…. Even though the minister talks about local consultation, there is nothing in this option that talks about local consultation. That may or may not happen, depending on circumstances. You will talk about the master development plan having consultation. Members here have discarded as irrelevant the input that the community had during that process — very limited.
What we're talking about is very clear. If I understood the minister properly, a mountain resort municipality can be created arbitrarily by cabinet. They do not need any local approval. They do not need any input. They have the power to do it arbitrarily, which means that the minister can suggest to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, and without needing the approval from the regional district of East Kootenay or any neighbouring municipality, that they may create on their own a new mountain resort municipality.
As the representative, I'm focused on my issue in my area, and I'm concerned that the people I represent are going to have a commitment that was made by the government to them broken. That is one issue. But the
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wider issue is that if it can happen in my area, it can happen across the province. Wherever the government wishes to put new mountain resort municipalities, they are able to arbitrarily do that without any local government influence, without local people having any say.
My question is: with Jumbo Valley, is it possible…? I realize that the minister has made it clear that there has been no decision, but is one of the options that is possible for a development such as Jumbo Valley…? The minister knows that master development plan is pretty well ready to go, so is it possible that, without the regional district of East Kootenay involved, cabinet could decide to set up Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Jumbo Valley as a new mountain resort municipality? Is that within the scope of possibility with subsection (2.1)?
Hon. I. Chong: I would like to assure the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke that the choice of words that he's offered lead to a conclusion and an insinuation when he says that cabinet can arbitrarily make a decision. Ultimately, yes, cabinet makes decisions on a variety of things, but they do not do it arbitrarily, unilaterally or without having received some input.
In this particular case where we're talking about resort development, what we know is that there is a process that will evolve. The master development agreement requires public involvement. There is also an environmental assessment process that takes place and that also engages the public. As for the opportunity for a ruling from cabinet to be arbitrary or unilateral — if that is what he is trying to say — I will have to refute that because that is not the case.
Once there has been discussion, once there has been an agreement…. If he keeps referring to the project that he's been talking about — which he well knows has been 15 years, so I imagine there's been a lot of discussion that has taken place — if the local area wants a governance model that best suits them, we now have an additional option that is made available. Yes, cabinet can approve it, but it will not be done in an arbitrary, unilateral way.
I'll tell you what was arbitrary and unilateral. They know what was arbitrary and unilateral, by a cabinet in the '90s. That's when they removed the unconditional grants to local governments. We are not making those same types of decisions. I'm sorry if the member doesn't want to hear that because I want to make sure he understands the distinction.
We can, through cabinet, make the decision, as we do on a variety of things, but we will have done so based on an agreement in place. We will have done so because we knew an environmental assessment process will have taken place. It will not be someone who can just show up and say: "Okay, cabinet, you can arbitrarily, unilaterally just make this decision." There will have been a process in place.
At the end of the day, for the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke, this will occur after we get an agreement in place. It can occur if that is the governance model that is requested to be in place.
I can tell you right now that, because of one of the other options, if one of the municipalities wanted to extend their boundaries tomorrow and made a request, and if they fit within the guidelines of our boundary extension best-practices guidelines, this could take place. Guess what that means. It means, then, that the regional district has no ability to have any land use decision. It means that only for the municipality that has extended its boundary would that take place.
If he could at least understand what is going on here, then perhaps we can move this along a little bit more. I've been trying to be clear from the very beginning.
N. Macdonald: Well, the minister has been anything but clear. From day one this minister knew what I was interested in, and from day one she has been trying to make it as difficult as possible to get to the bottom of this issue.
This issue has to do with very clear questions. From day one I have asked if this project is going to be handled in the way that the government promised. It is clear that there are other considerations, and this is part of it. This is a new tool that the government has put in front of this House. It's clear that the cabinet can make arbitrary decisions because there is no mechanism for any control on what the cabinet does.
If the cabinet wants to do something, it can. There's nothing in there that will stop them from doing it. If you say, "Well, we wouldn't be arbitrary; we would consider everything," there's nothing within here to stop the government from being completely arbitrary.
Is the decision made in secret? Yes. Does the decision have to be explained? No, it does not. Therefore, it is arbitrary. Clearly, the mechanism that the government has set up will involve Jumbo Glacier Resort. The minister knows this as much as I do. She knows this is one of the mechanisms that the proponent has been asking for and has talked about, and here it is.
It gives the cabinet the ability to unilaterally set up a mountain resort municipality. There is nothing in there that allows any local input — other than the input that flows in the environmental assessment and the master plan agreement, and that local input is limited.
Quite frankly, the member for East Kootenay has been going around saying that the local input that took place there was meaningless. Even though 15 percent of the people in Invermere some time back participated, and 90 percent of them said that they were not in favour of this project, it has been denigrated as meaningless. There has been no process that really allows local people to make a decision that impacts their life.
It is clear that this section does what the government, quite frankly, has been ashamed to say: they have no intention to keep their promise. They fully intend to put in a new tool that allows them arbitrarily to create ski resorts around the province and, in so doing, take public land to turn it over to private operators. These projects are basically around real estate.
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The suggestion that there are other options for Jumbo Valley is quite frankly…. To do an extension, this is an area that is 55 kilometres away from Invermere. It's 60, 65 kilometres away from Radium. There are huge costs that are going to need to be absorbed around the development. The building of the road, the maintenance of the road — all of those costs exist.
It is clear to me. After three or four days we've come to see that this section will sit to give this government an opportunity to do what it has wanted to do for some time, to not honour a commitment that it made to the people of Columbia Valley in October of 2004. Instead, it has put a hidden tool in this bill that allows them to set these resorts all over the province.
Now, for me, this is particularly troublesome. With local government, with people that you know, there are individuals that have worked on this project for a long time. They have worried that there would be some sly trick — excuse me; there would be an attempt — to move around the promise that the government gave. What I see here in section 2.1 provides that possibility.
Now, I give the opportunity…. The minister has called me irresponsible. The minister said that I was a conspiracy theorist, I think, in her press release. I would give her an opportunity to tell me. Rule out that that section 2.1 will be used for Jumbo Glacier Resort, and confirm for me and for the people of Columbia Valley what the government had already said in 2004 — that the regional district of East Kootenay will have the final say.
Hon. I. Chong: Again, I want to stress that there is nothing before me at present. There is no situation at present for which I can rule on, and he is asking me to do that. I've said that I cannot do that. He's asking me for a very specific decision, and because a situation has not occurred, I cannot make that comment. I cannot offer him any decision for which the situation hasn't arisen for me to do that.
I just want to remind him that the province has a history of using municipal institutions as an instrument of provincial economic development policy. This goes to the development of our resource towns. In the period between 1965 and 1981 a number of instant towns were created by cabinet order following a petition. The instant towns that were created are places like Sparwood, Elkford, Logan Lake, Tahsis, Gold River, Port Alice, Granisle, Fraser Lake and Mackenzie. That is what happened to the resort towns being established as instant towns.
There is a possibility that we should also take a look at not just resort towns but perhaps those that have a mountain resort potential.
I'm going to quote from someone here that I know the members opposite know. Perhaps this can put it in a bit more of a perspective. This was from the former Premier, Mr. Glen Clark. This is what he says:
"The skiing industry is growing in British Columbia, with millions of dollars in new investment and new jobs being created every year. Today the ski industry employs more than 6,000 British Columbians. A significant amount of the growth is coming from international visitors and investors. Whistler has once again been voted one of the best resorts in North America by North American ski magazines, ski organizations and skiers.
"I remind hon. members," he goes on to say, "that Whistler was an invention of the previous NDP administration. Sometimes people forget that this magnificent facility, this magnificent mountain, might well have been logged off, might well have just had a mine or something on it, or they would have dammed it or something. But the last NDP government had the foresight to say that Whistler had the potential to be a world-class destination resort, generating jobs in British Columbia. I'm very proud, of course — and I think all British Columbians are — of the success now at Whistler.
"What this legislation does" — this is what Mr. Glen Clark was saying — "is level the playing field for mountain resort communities outside Whistler and allow those communities to share in the success of Whistler. What this bill does is create, potentially, more Whistlers in British Columbia. It will extend the same local governance, service provision and resort association benefits enjoyed by Whistler to other resort communities and developers. This legislation, unique in North America, will further enhance B.C.'s international reputation as the only area on the continent where mountain resorts can still be developed. The new act will allow other mountain resorts access to the benefits that have been given to Whistler under the existing Resort Municipality of Whistler Act.
"As a result of the passage of this act, mountain resort local governments will more easily be able to provide specialized amenities and community services, such as recreation facilities to rapidly growing mountain resort communities."
It would appear that the NDP Premier, Mr. Glen Clark, thought that it was useful to have mountain resorts established and that it was important, perhaps, to have all these Whistlers around the province. He didn't seem to have a difficulty with that, and I guess now we have some NDP members who seem to disagree with him.
Again, I want to stress the fact that this section will provide for that opportunity to take place. More specifically, the member suggests that the particular project he is interested in, and I do acknowledge that he has interest in that, will only have decisions made by the regional district. Currently that is also not necessarily the only scenario that can take place. If a boundary extension were to take place, I can tell him right now that it would be the municipality, whichever that municipality is that takes in the area that he is concerned about, that would have the decision.
He knows that. He's been in local government before. He should understand that, and he would know the municipality would have the decision within its boundary to make land use decisions, not necessarily the regional district. So if that should occur, then he should acknowledge that the municipality — whichever that may be — will be making those decisions. I'm sorry if he doesn't like that to be the situation, but in fact that occurs right now.
N. Macdonald: I'll tell you what the situation is. The scenario that was laid out by this government was that the regional district of East Kootenay would have
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the final say. I didn't make that up. That's what the Premier and the government said, and they said it in the most solemn and serious way they could.
Now, if their intention was not to keep that promise from the beginning — it certainly often appears that that was the case — I don't think you should expect me to come here on behalf of the people of Columbia River–Revelstoke and say that that's acceptable. So that's the scenario that was laid out.
Now, what this minister is suggesting…. There is now a new tool. I understand that ski resorts need to be built. I understand because when I was mayor, I had a $200 million ski hill put in — Kicking Horse. I was mayor there, and I worked with the proponent that is presently putting forward the project in Jumbo. He came; he was there. We had a referendum. Without that referendum it would not have gone forward, because we believe that locals have a say in land use. And 96 percent of the people that were there because it was front country….
By the way, Glen Clark made sure that the road was built up there and looked after it, because we wanted it. But if we had not wanted it, it would not have gone ahead. There was a former Social Credit MLA, Duane Crandall. He was area director. He said it had to be a referendum because if people don't want it, it doesn't go. Jimmy Doyle, who was the MLA at the time, was for it if the people were for it. He was against it if the people were against it. When I was mayor, it was the same thing.
You look at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. That is going to be an incredible ski resort. That will be one of the best ski hills in the world. What's the difference? The difference is that the local community supports it. By every indication, the local community wants it. It is in proximity to Revelstoke. It makes sense in every single way.
Where Jumbo Glacier Resort differs is that there have been questions for many, many years. Whether it goes ahead or not, according to this government, will be whether the regional district of East Kootenay decides to put it forward or not. What I have asked ten, 11, 12 times — is that commitment still there? — the minister refuses to answer. Therefore, it is not some conspiracy theory. There are all sorts of questions between what people say, what the MLA for East Kootenay will say….
By the way, I would commend the MLA for East Kootenay. For all of his brusqueness, that member would tell me straight to my face where in here the tool was that could be used for Jumbo. He would tell me. What frustrates me is that I have to spend hours and hours and hours trying to pick through the nuance.
As I understand it, section 2.1 of the amended section 11 is the tool that the government could use to make the new mountain resort municipality. Now, the minister has gone to lengths to say that there are many possibilities. There are many possibilities, including that this government will actually keep its word. I would say that's the preferred possibility.
I would say to you that the regional district of East Kootenay has in no way made up its mind on this project. The promoter thinks that they have and is worried about it, but that in fact is not the case. They voted 13 to 2 at the regional district of East Kootenay to keep the decision local because they believe in local decision-making, but they did not vote on the project. I would say that it is still very unclear how they would vote.
There are two principles. The one is that promises that a government makes, especially — certainly from my perspective — to the Kootenays…. It is not going to be accepted easily that that promise is broken. The second is that we want to say that if we want something done in our area, we do not want to be excluded from the decision-making.
Where this ties in is that if it can happen in Jumbo — if you can take a valley in the middle of nowhere that people in Invermere or Radium or Fairmont care deeply about for reasons nobody in this House will understand…. I don't expect you to; you don't live there. You have no idea what their concerns are.
The Chair: Through the Chair, Member.
N. Macdonald: The minister will have no idea what their concerns are, but their concerns are nevertheless valid. When a government tries to concentrate power and make it simple to get these resorts up, there is a problem with that expediency.
The assumption is that it makes it easier, that you somehow get good decisions. I don't agree with that. I think that good decisions come from grass roots and that when you remove that consideration and put in something that's going to be simple and straightforward — cabinet can just decide; there it goes — you give up a great deal. In this case the government puts itself in a place where it is breaking its word.
So I would ask the minister to say clearly: will this amended section 16(2.1)…? Will the minister indicate clearly that she will bar the possibility of Jumbo Glacier Resort going forward using this tool unless it has the needed consent of the regional district of East Kootenay?
If she says she cannot do that, then I would remind her that that is the current stated government policy. Unless she has been told something different by the Premier, I think she is in fine shape to actually be completely clear on this. Then I can relax and not worry about it. But until I get that assurance, I cannot.
I ask the minister to stand up and make the simple statement that this tool, 2.1, will not be used to create Jumbo Glacier Resort, and that the government remains committed to its promise to have the regional district of East Kootenay make the final decision. After all of this time, that is a very simple and straightforward thing to do. Stand up and be clear on that.
The Chair: Member, the Chair has listened carefully to the questions and has listened carefully to the answers. The Chair feels that the minister has answered the questions.
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The Chair: Let me finish. The questions are getting repetitious. I'm just advising the member. Member?
N. Macdonald: But I haven't had an answer to it. So I want an answer. It's a yes or a no. I have not had an answer to the question. I mean, otherwise, you know, you're asking a question and you don't get an answer, and it can be a yes or a no. It's a yes-or-no question.
Instead, we move off into some other track about the '90s and everything else. It's a simple question. I don't want to know the history of Glen Clark and everything else. All I want to know is: yes or no, is the government going to honour their decision, and, yes or no, will the minister be very clear and state that this section will not be used with Jumbo Glacier Resort?
She knows whether that's within the realm of possibility or not. It's not as if this has not been discussed at cabinet. It will have been discussed, and they will have an idea about what they want to do. So rule it out.
Hon. I. Chong: What I will make clear to this member for the final time is that I do not intend to rule on the outcome of a governance model that may ultimately take place. I will not today make a final decision on a governance model. He is asking me to do that. I know what he would like, but he is asking me today to rule out all possibilities, and I cannot do that. We're not here to debate how this section will be used.
He has asked for clarification. As I understand it, the purpose of committee stage, of sections by sections, is to get an understanding of how the sections can be used. I have given him an answer as to how they can be used. It's pretty clear to me now that the member does understand the section. He has no more questions about the section. He wants to debate about how the section will be used, but that's not what committee stage is about.
So if he's asking for a decision on an outcome, again, I clearly said I cannot provide that decision. I do not know because there are several options available. He understands the section. That's quite obvious, so I would respectfully request that if he has no more clarification on how the section can be used, we perhaps should proceed with a vote.
N. Macdonald: I do understand, and I understand that it is something that the minister realized that I would have been interested in a long time ago and would have easily brought my attention to. The minister will know that that's the section that I was concerned about.
But let's look at this. What happens to mining rights in newly created resort municipalities?
Hon. I. Chong: There would be no change.
N. Macdonald: Thank you, Minister. I'll give you a list of things. What happens to existing heli-skiing tenure in newly created resort municipalities? What happens to guide-outfitter tenure? Who is responsible for building roads to new resort municipalities? Three questions.
Hon. I. Chong: In regards to the tenures that the member listed, there would be no change to those. In regards to the road, if it were within a municipality, that would be the responsibility of the municipality. Nothing changes in that regard. I hope that's clear to the member.
N. Macdonald: In terms of the council that's set up, you have members who are appointed by cabinet to run the newly formed mountain resort municipality. They are appointed for what length of time?
Hon. I. Chong: The best I can offer to the member is that it would really depend on the circumstances involved. An example and perhaps a model that we would likely follow is what happened in the case of Tumbler Ridge, where an administrator was appointed for a period of, I believe, three years.
N. Macdonald: The appointed councillors. Would they sit on a regional district in their area?
Hon. I. Chong: In the example I used for Tumbler Ridge, that person did in fact sit on the regional district. I would imagine that we would have the same provisions apply.
R. Sultan: Just so the minister knows the direction of my question, it is to ascertain whether section 16, amending section 11, in any way exempts mountain resort projects or other municipal developments in remote areas from the CORE land use process or environmental assessment processes.
I should also declare at the outset that the reason this particular issue is of some interest to me, aside from the generality of the principles involved — and they are significant to our province — is that I have a constituent with a strong economic interest in the particular project that the member opposite has been dwelling upon today.
Setting that constituent interest aside, I am drawn to quote the member for Nelson-Creston, who had some rather strong language, which I'd like to quote:
"If you want to manage the land base that you think you own — your patrimony, the land base that you think you're passing on to your grandchildren — and not have the Premier decide for you or turn chunks of the mountains of British Columbia into colonies for the well-being of developers, then you're going to have to speak up, because I can't stop it for you."
Carrying on a little bit later in the same soliloquy, the member for Nelson-Creston said:
"I think this is happening as part of a long process that essentially expropriates from the people of British Columbia their land, private and public, and their heritage and turns them over to the corporate sector."
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And another quote following:
"The government of the day has essentially removed the protections that historically were in place for British Columbians to keep their public wealth, to make decisions over public land and to have some rights over their private property. In every case, private and public, they turned it over to the corporate sector."
Now, I juxtapose those remarks from the member for Nelson-Creston with a copy of a letter I received from a former academician at UBC who talked about the CORE land use process that was involved in the underpinnings of the particular mountaintop resort we're talking about. Apparently, the allegation has been made that the CORE process, at the outset, did not approve the land use for the Jumbo Glacier Resort project.
This gentleman, Mr. Artibise, if I am pronouncing his name correctly, says that the CORE table land use designation voted 18 to 4 in support of a favourable land use designation for the project, and the commissioner specifically confirmed the land use designation in the final report.
From there, as I understand the process, it went into the environmental review process, which is quite well articulated, and I gather it spent some 13 years in the EAP process and came forward at the end of the day with a green light.
Somewhere along the way, as I understand the correspondence made available to me — correct me if I'm wrong — the regional district had approved going forward in the EAP. When the favourable decision came forward, the regional district government decided that maybe they should change their mind and not approve the project, even though it successfully, by now after 13 to 17 years — I'm not quite sure what the total interval was, but it was a long time — had survived both CORE and the EAP process.
The question is: is this how we intend to encourage the growth of the economy of British Columbia? We set up these elaborate processes. In this case, according to the information available to me, at the end of a very long-drawn-out process with, I presume, ample opportunity for local citizens to participate and make their views known, it passed, and then a particular local government decided that maybe they'd change their mind.
I just don't think that is good public policy. I think it works much better, it seems to me, and we create a much fairer visage to the world when we say: "That's the process. Everybody's going to get a fair kick at the can, and at the end of the day, we'll abide by the decisions that have been brought forth."
In this case, because certain groups didn't agree with the decision, they said, "Well, let's just forget about the process and start all over again," and the 13- or 17-year process — or whatever in fact the total elapsed time is — perhaps could be extended another five or six years, by which time maybe the proponents have certainly got discouraged, if they haven't died.
I have some difficulty in accepting the proposition that this somehow is a scheme that was snuck through in the middle of the night over the opposition of a lot of people who, if they'd known what was going on, would have raised some very serious objections from the get-go.
I am led to believe — correct me if I'm wrong — that these meetings were advertised. Submissions were entertained. There were passionate speeches, much as we've heard for the last several days, about the need to preserve our British Columbia wilderness. I'm as much in favour of that, I hope and think, as anybody here. But having created this process, I think we are bound in some sense to live with the results. If we don't, we say: "Well, we don't agree with that process. Please go back and start again until you come up with the right answer."
The other issue that I'll just comment on briefly — and I know the member for Cariboo South is urging me to be brief — is that local governments and local people are somehow being overridden by a lot of people here in Victoria or some other part of British Columbia and that this is very undemocratic. I guess I would accuse the opponents of this project of, to some degree, shopping for the particular democratic forum that suits their particular interest and their particular bias.
The member for Nelson-Creston spoke quite eloquently in this chamber about the huge public meeting. He said it was about the largest public meeting ever held in the city of Nelson — a wonderful community but perhaps a little bit further from the project than some of the other more immediate constituencies.
I'm also told — and again, I stand to be corrected; I may be wrong — that in terms of a measure of local community sentiment on this project…. In the last election, which I guess you might say locally in the valley was a referendum, the member opposite won but did not carry in the local community closest to this proposed mountain resort.
If the acid test of paying attention to local sentiment is how people feel about it in the most adjacent of the hamlets and communities in that part of the world, I would have thought that they would have soundly defeated this government in their own local poll.
R. Sultan: I'm told that they did not, but I stand to be corrected.
Those were the points I wished to make. I think we could, if we could turn back the clock, argue the merits of projects of these sorts 17 years ago. But having invited these people into the province to do business, come and spend their capital, raise money in Europe — which apparently was done….
These are the rules, and if they play by the rules and win, we say: "Gee, it wasn't such a good idea after all. Sorry. Go back to Italy or wherever you came from,
[ Page 6563 ]
and maybe you'll do better in some other part of the world." That's indeed what they might decide to do.
I think the fair treatment and due process is an important consideration that I would hope the members of this Legislature would consider.
N. Macdonald: I'll just respond quickly. First, for Invermere, it's true. I did lose in Invermere. I just want to say, though, in my defence, that Invermere for the NDP is a very difficult one. I had the highest NDP vote ever, and what I can tell you is that I won everywhere else.
N. Macdonald: I won in Golden. That's right.
Very many of these arguments, of course, have been made by Mr. Oberto Oberti. I hear them again and again. I can certainly take each one for the member, who is one of my favourite colleagues from the Liberal side, and I can go through each one.
I also want to say that I worked very closely with Mr. Oberto Oberti on Kicking Horse. He's consistently a gentleman. He certainly has bent my colleague's ear and pushed the agenda.
We have just a minute, and I have to wrap it up. There is no question that the government made a clear commitment as to how this was going to be handled. There's no question on that. The issue around whether it has public support or not — I can tell you that I can't accurately judge that. But that's not even the point. The point is that the government made a commitment.
I can say — for future reference, because we do need to wrap up and move on; I do understand the bills we're going to vote on now — that this should have been presented in a different way. This should have been presented through the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts. It should have been presented in a way that we could have a full discussion, because there are many things that I think we could learn as we discuss how we are going to do tourism in this area.
How we are going to do it in the interior is a debate that we should have had. What has consistently happened with this is that there's been a realization that's been unpopular. There was an attempt to make a decision they were uncomfortable with. That cannot be acceptable.
I can tell you that in the time I've been here, I have not won a vote, and I understand how this is going to go. But I can also tell you that this is not the end of this issue. I still expect and insist, even if this tool exists, that the regional district of East Kootenay make that decision. We should not presume what that result would be, because I think that is not at all clear and that to do anything otherwise would be disrespectful.
I know that we need to move through and finish off. So in respect for that and to respect our ability to finish, I sit and we can move on.
Section 16 approved on the following division:
YEAS — 39
NAYS — 25
Sections 17 to 39 inclusive approved.
On section 40.
C. Wyse: To the minister: on behalf of the member for Malahat–Juan de Fuca, I'd ask, for the record, for an explanation of what section 21 is about.
Hon. I. Chong: The member will be aware of the purpose of this section. It provides certainty for landowners that land use authorizations that were received are valid despite the CRD's procedural area. It validates only those land use decisions voted on incorrectly by the director for the district of Central Saanich, part of the Juan de Fuca electoral area that was used by the Sooke electoral area.
Sections 40 to 51 inclusive approved.
Hon. I. Chong: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 6:31 p.m.
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The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
COMMUNITY SERVICES STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2007
Bill 11, Community Services Statutes Amendment Act, 2007, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported resolution, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. M. de Jong moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:32 p.m.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM
Committee of Supply
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); H. Bloy in the chair.
The committee met at 2:44 p.m.
On Vote 42: ministry operations, $881,847,000 (continued).
D. Chudnovsky: First, to the minister: just to let you know that before you came in, we had a little chat, and we all want to encourage you to be disciplined and careful in your answers, not to go too long. We've got lots of questions, and everybody's agreed we should encourage you to have your internal editor work hard today.
Hon. K. Falcon: As long as you ask fair questions, I will.
D. Chudnovsky: Absolutely. The first question has to do with some advice that we got from the minister yesterday with respect to the work that's been done by Gateway on emissions. The minister indicated in his answer that there were a number of environmental organizations or environmental regulators and experts who had commented favourably on the work that had been done — and that all we had to do was look on the Web and we could find it.
We had the entire — and I mean the entire — research staff with whom I'm working spend a lot of time last night looking for this material that the minister encouraged us to go find, and we couldn't find it. I'm wondering whether the minister could provide for us some specific advice as to where to find the information he referred to yesterday.
Hon. K. Falcon: Member, I have been advised that it's supposed to be on the project website. It's certainly on the environmental assessment office website — obviously, the comments of the regulatory agencies with respect to the environmental assessment application — but I certainly apologize if in any way I misled the member.
I was advised by staff that it was on our Gateway project website. They will go and try to confirm that for the member opposite, but if in any way I misrepresented that to the member, I sincerely apologize. It is certainly available. I understand and I'm led to believe that the information is available, as I did indicate yesterday, on the environmental assessment office website.
D. Chudnovsky: There was no suggestion here that we were being misled at all. That was not the point of my question, but we are interested in the information. The point is to find it, so we appreciate the commitment that's been made by the minister.
My second question is a follow-up to something that we talked about, it seems, months ago now — but probably it was only a couple of days ago — with respect to the submissions to the TransLink review. The minister said that soon that information would be made available. I was just wondering whether "soon" is now.
Hon. K. Falcon: No. My answer is the same as it was earlier, which is that the information is being put together and collated. It will be released once they've completed that work. I made the commitment that it would be publicly released, and it will.
I can't commit that it'll happen now, because that would be irresponsible. But the moment they're finished doing whatever work they've got to do to prepare it for websites and all the other things, it will get released.
D. Chudnovsky: I wonder whether the minister is familiar enough with the material that he could indicate to us how many of the submissions called for an unelected, unaccountable board to make the most significant decisions that will be made by the new TransLink. What percentage of those submissions called upon the minister to support an unelected, unaccountable board to make those significant decisions?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member should know that, no, I haven't seen those background studies. I think it's important for the member to know that what I asked these three eminent British Columbians — and when I
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say eminent, in every sense of the word they are eminent British Columbians with a wide range of experience both in local government service and in the transportation sector — was to get whatever written reports that anyone in the public with any interest in TransLink as an organization might have.
I asked them to go and meet with whatever groups were prepared to meet with them, and I'm looking for their best advice. If this member in any way confuses this with meaning that what I asked them to do was to go out, get input and then merely mirror to the minister whatever input they got, the member would be incorrect — if that's the interpretation he believes I asked.
What I was asking was for three eminent British Columbians to go out and talk to whoever they had to talk to — I put absolutely no restrictions on it — to get whatever information they could get. My understanding is that they felt that the information they received was very valuable to them, but I honestly don't know what it was.
What I do know is this. They came out with recommendations that I thought were exceptional. These were recommendations that have received wide plaudits from almost every sector of the economy that I've been aware of. I've heard lots of very, very positive feedback, and I think it's a testament to the fact that these three eminent British Columbians did an exceptional job.
D. Chudnovsky: I wouldn't want the minister to think that we on this side are confused about what the process was. It was very clear from the beginning that this was not a public consultation process.
The minister will recall that he and I had a little discussion about that at a previous set of estimates, in which he was very clear — as he often is, although not always, as we all know — about the fact that, no, this was not a public consultation process. There wasn't going to be a process of inviting the public, and in fact this was advice to the minister. I think that's the quote, actually, from the last time we got together; it was "advice to the minister." I'm under no illusion about the fact that it wasn't meant, on the part of the minister, to be a public consultation process.
My question was different, and the minister will recall that my question was different. I'm sure he recalled, even when he was answering, that my question was a different question. It was: was he aware of how many of the submissions called for an unelected, unaccountable board to make the significant decisions about what will happen in transportation in the lower mainland? I take it that what he's saying is that he isn't aware of that.
We will all be aware — won't we, Minister? — when those submissions are made public. We of course will be looking forward to that being sooner rather than later. I'm sure the minister won't be surprised by the fact that we'll remind him, from time to time in the interim, of the commitment that it be done soon.
My third question. Is the minister able to tell us what the total cost to the people of the province is of performance bonuses to the contractors doing road maintenance in the province?
Hon. K. Falcon: For the past year, the number is approximately $4.2 million. We say "approximately," Member, only because we're going off what isn't a fully official document here, but it would be very close. We can get you the exact number if you want, but that is well within the range of accuracy.
D. Chudnovsky: To the minister: see, that wasn't so hard, was it? The last time I asked, I got some cockamamy answer that had no numbers in it. It was a whole speech, but there were no numbers. It wasn't so hard, was it, Minister?
I wonder if the minister could confirm for me…. I just want to make sure that we've got this right. As I understand it, there are 29 regions, and the contractors in 28 of the regions are receiving the bonuses. Am I correct?
Hon. K. Falcon: For the benefit of the member, the only numbers we have would be for last winter. We haven't got this winter's numbers yet. When we get those, I'd be happy to share those with the member.
So that the member may understand how the bonus system works, there's a winter bonus and a summer bonus. They're for the two different seasons. Essentially, the bonus represents between zero percent and 2 percent of the annual contract value. That's the range at which they're eligible for a bonus. Obviously, the amount, if any, of bonus they receive will be dependent upon their performance.
For last year in the winter, which I believe the member is referring to, we had one of the maintenance contractors get zero. They received no bonus. Two of the other maintenance contracts weren't yet awarded. There was no bonus to be paid, because they hadn't yet transitioned from the old contracts into the new ones. The balance of the bonuses varied between 1 percent and 2 percent. It would depend on the performance level.
D. Chudnovsky: Now I'm a bit confused, so I'm just going to ask for some clarification from the minister. As to the number $4.2 million that the minister gave us a little while ago, do I understand that number to be for last year's bonuses?
Hon. K. Falcon: That's right.
D. Chudnovsky: What was clear is that the minister, then, in answering my last question, gave us some very specific information about winter bonuses for last year. I'm assuming that when we say last year, we're talking about the winter of 2005-2006.
Do I understand the minister to be saying, then, that he has no information about the performance bonuses being paid to the maintenance contractors for the winter 2006-2007? Because that's really…. Well, it's not
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the only information. We want to thank the minister for the information that he's provided for us to this point, but what I'm particularly interested in right now is: what information do we have about performance bonuses paid to the contractors in the winter 2006-2007?
I know we have some information, because the minister has provided us some information, and he's gone to some great length in the House to tell us that one contractor on the upper Coquihalla didn't get the bonus this winter. Then he went on in question period — at some length, as you may recall, hon. Chair — to talk about what a fantastic job the rest of the contractors are doing and how they all got a bonus, so there must be some information. What I'm looking for is the specific information about the winter of 2006-2007 and the performance bonuses for the highways contractors.
Hon. K. Falcon: Before the member gets too wildly away from himself in his flourish of rhetoric there, I think he needs to know that the only reason we're talking about last year's figures is because this year's winter isn't over yet. It's important to know, Member, that none of the contractors has received a bonus yet, because winter's not finished. We will have to complete our performance assessments on all of the maintenance contractors.
The one that you are aware of, quite correctly, is the one that we did notify. We had enough evidence at that point. We notified them: they ain't gettin' a winter bonus. Because their performance level consistently failed to meet the standards, they were told: "No winter bonus."
For the balance of them, we're still in the winter. There are big parts of the province that are still dealing with winter conditions. When it finishes and we go through the assessment process, that's when those bonuses will be calculated and delivered, and that's when we'll have the information for the member.
D. Chudnovsky: There clearly is some confusion somewhere. The confusion arises from this. I asked the minister in question period…. We can certainly find the date, but he'll recall, because I'm sure he recalls every question I ask him in question period and commits it to memory.
I asked him this very question, the very same question we started with just now. I said: "How many of the maintenance contractors are getting bonuses?" He said: "One isn't, and the rest are."
I'm certain that that was the answer. I'm willing to accept the minister's answer from a minute or two ago that we're not finished the winter yet and that none of the bonuses have been paid. Fair enough. If that's the case, what was he telling us when he was answering the question in question period?
What I want is a clarification. Which is it? I certainly heard the minister in question period say: "One isn't; the rest are. I'm very proud of the work they're doing. It's been a tough winter." I mean, we could go on and on, but that's what he said in question period. He has said something different here, so I'm looking for clarification.
Hon. K. Falcon: The clarification would be pretty straightforward. In my recollection I would have said that the rest would be eligible. At least that would have been my meaning. Sometimes…. In the House, in question period, with a lot of noise going on, maybe I didn't articulate it clearly or correctly. If that's the case, I certainly would accept responsibility for it.
But I think it's pretty obvious. I can't imagine that I would have said that the rest got bonuses when we're in the middle of winter. Obviously, we don't pay bonuses till the winter season's over. If I said it, I would certainly want the record to be corrected.
I would have been meaning to say that the rest would have been eligible for those bonuses. I believe that's what I said, by the way, but if that's not the case, it's certainly what I would have meant.
D. Chudnovsky: Let's just finish up this little section with a very specific question. At what point…? What's the schedule that the ministry uses for…? On what day do we find out which maintenance contractors got the bonuses and which ones didn't, for this winter, '06-07?
Hon. K. Falcon: I understand that once they complete going through the stakeholder consultations…. Because of course, we do get input — as I said to the member the other day — from the RCMP, from bus drivers, from trucking associations, etc. Once that information is all gathered and they complete their assessments, we can have that information for the member by the end of May.
D. Chudnovsky: Thanks for that. We'll be looking forward to that information. Let me, if I may — and I know I may — just finish my comments on this section by saying a couple of things.
First of all, I think there is no doubt that there has been a problem with road maintenance this year. I don't think that it's only the winter. I think the problem stretches back to previous years as well. I know the minister has heard from and will hear from some of my colleagues in these estimates and in previous estimates about these problems. We would want to say in passing that we think the primary responsibility for those problems lies with government policy and decision-making.
There was a round of significant cuts that took place in 2002. We, I think…. More important than "we" is that the public identifies the beginnings of the more critical problems that they see with respect to potholes, snow clearance, the encroachment onto the road of vegetation and the crumbling at the edges of roads — all of the issues that the minister knows very well. The critical time for changes in that pattern came after the reductions and the cutbacks of 2002.
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Finally, I want to say that I think the people of the province, judging from the correspondence I get, up to and including yesterday and today…. I'm sure that the minister…. Well, many of them are copies of correspondence that go to the minister, so he will know very well that I think the people of the province would be disturbed, disappointed and many of them angry to find out at the end of May that significant performance bonuses had been provided for many, many of the regions in the province.
The reality is that hundreds and thousands, tens of thousands, of British Columbians are very disappointed, angry and frustrated about the state of road maintenance. I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to talk about that as we move along.
Now, if I might return to the place where we were at together yesterday. Let me just refresh the memory of the minister about the discussion we were having with respect to the Sea to Sky privatized highway and the provisions for maintenance on that highway. As I recall, my questioning began with a discussion of the slide that happened near Ansell creek. The minister reassured me, and I think reassured British Columbians, that the responsibility for the cost of that cleanup was to be borne by the corporation because the slide arose from the construction work that it was doing.
Then we started talking about responsibility for maintenance in general. The minister indicated that he thought it was about $50,000 per event that the company was responsible for. I asked about the total amount that the company would be responsible for in a year. He thought it was maybe half a million dollars. I thought I recalled $150,000. We agreed to set aside the numbers for a bit.
That's where we got to, and I said: "Well, if the company's only responsible for $50,000 per event and a total of $150,000 a year — or maybe it's a little more; maybe it's half a million — where's the risk?" The minister responded that he thought I was confusing construction risk with ongoing maintenance risk, and that's where we were. I don't think I was confusing construction risk with maintenance risk, but maybe that's the case. I'm open to having it explained to me better.
My question is this: with respect to the risk of slides on the Sea to Sky privatized highway in the maintenance period — let's say it's built now — am I understanding correctly that there's a limit of $50,000 of liability to the corporation per event and a limit on the total amount that they're liable for with respect to slides?
Hon. K. Falcon: I appreciate the member's patience here. It's not really complex; I just want to make sure I explain it accurately. It's all, of course, as the member knows, available on the website. It's laid out in painstaking detail, I would add, as the whole contract is.
So essentially what it says…. First of all, we need to acknowledge that the member was right. The threshold number that I believe the member said yesterday was $43,000. It is $43,750 for landslides. Landslides are defined, and that's an important thing to note. They are defined as landslides, mudslides, rockfall, rock slide and debris flow.
The member may ask what I think would be a very good question, which is: where did you come up with $43,750? The member should know that the vast majority of slides that we have historically had in British Columbia come in well under $43,000. In fact, the vast majority of them come in under $20,000, including the one that was referenced, by the way, by the member yesterday — the one just south of Ansell Place that had the big boulder they had to blow up and then move off. That was also under $20,000.
When we put this contract together, we actually researched back as far as we had records in terms of what our experience in landslides has been. So that is something that certainly gives me, again, just growing confidence as I learn more and more about this contract and this level of detail — the fine job they've done in fashioning this contract.
The second thing I think the member will find interesting is that for any major events that are not a landslide — that would be like washouts, floods, where the highway slides right away, as we saw in the Fraser Canyon, where you lose an entire chunk of the highway — the concessionaire pays 100 percent.
The reason the concessionaire pays 100 percent is because they are in fact covering this off in their design. Because they're responsible for maintaining — not just for building it and disappearing out of town…. Because they're going to be responsible for maintaining and rehabilitating, we expect them to be building in design features that will protect the highway from that.
Of course, it is going to be very much within their interest to make sure that they build in those design features because, remember, their performance payments are based upon lane availability. Every day that that traffic is not able to move — whether as a result of a landslide, mudslide, whatever the case may be — they don't get a performance payment, which represents approximately $50,000 a day. So built into all of this is a very, very strong disincentive for them not to perform.
The third and final thing, Member, and I appreciate your patience on this, is what we would consider force majeure — an earthquake, for example. In this scenario under this contract, the responsibility up to $5 million belongs to the concessionaire again. The reason that we chose the $5 million number is because over $5 million the federal government comes in with their dollars. The federal government would then pay any costs over $5 million on a force majeure event or any event like that.
That provision was important to be put in there because we also wanted to make sure that there was a very strong incentive for the concessionaire to build and design into this highway the highest possible safety standard to ensure that it will be fully capable of handling a major event like an earthquake. Naturally, with those kind of penalties in place — $5 million is a fair bit of money even for a concessionaire like the ones
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we have on the Sea to Sky — there is again a very, very strong incentive for them to build in those kinds of protective measures. I know that the member opposite will celebrate these kinds of provisions that do a very, very good job of protecting the taxpayer.
D. Chudnovsky: Let's talk about the landslides, mudslides, rock slides and debris flow. I would assume that the minister has said that the ministry looked carefully at the history to determine the costs, and I'm sure that the ministry has information about the history of the types of events that take place on the roads and, in particular, on this road.
So one request and one question. My request would be for the minister to share that information — based on which these judgments were made — with us. We'd very much like to see the history of those events and the costs. As the minister said, the $43,750 was determined by average costs over time, and that makes a lot of sense. We'd like to ask the minister to share that information with us. And he, I'm sure, will confirm that he will share the information with us when he gets a chance to answer.
My question has to do with what the ratio is…. Not looking to the third decimal point, but in general terms, what is the relationship between the first type of incident — landslide, mudslide, rock slide and debris; that kind of incident — as compared to what he described as any non-landslide-type incident — the washout, flood, etc., type of incident — as compared to the force majeure type? Well, we don't have to deal with that. That's too big. The first two would be worth comparing.
Hon. K. Falcon: The landslides which I defined for the member — you know, the rock slides and the mud falls, debris flows, etc. — are much more common. They happen on a…. I don't want to say a regular basis, but these things happen all the time.
As I mentioned to the member, the vast majority of those are under $20,000, including the one at Ansell Place. They look fairly terrible in terms of the picture and the media and stuff, but they're actually fairly cheap to clean up.
Also, the member will know that on that corridor, particularly, we've had very significant events in the past, where the highway and sometimes bridges were washed out. Now, those don't happen with anywhere near the same regularity, but my goodness, when those happen, they are very, very expensive — in fact, way, way more expensive, I would argue, than the cumulative of all the little ones that happen on a periodic basis.
The comfort that I certainly take is the fact that those kinds of major events are covered off by the concessionaire up to $5 million, with the balance, of course…. Excuse me, no. I don't want to confuse that with force majeure. I want to make sure I get this right — yeah, $5 million. No, that is a major event.
Hon. K. Falcon: Yeah, it's the in-between one. That's right.
We expect them to cover that off in their design work and the work they're doing, because there is obviously huge incentive for them to do so.
D. Chudnovsky: I just want to get some clarification. I understand that both for the minister and for me, this is complicated stuff. The staff folks deal with it all the time and, I know, are on top of it.
The answer was not an unexpected one for the landslide, rock slide and mudslide category of events. It's kind of common sense that those happen much more frequently. I think what the minister was talking about when he described the second kind of event…. I think what he was describing was a force majeure kind of event. He wasn't. I'm seeing some people shake their heads.
A Voice: That's the third.
[R. Cantelon in the chair.]
D. Chudnovsky: That's the third. Okay.
Let's leave the comparison for a second.
Would the minister agree with me? I think the minister would. The minister would agree that…?
Let's put it another way. Can the minister help us with any information about how many events of the first type cost more than $43,000? It seems a fairly straightforward kind of mathematical calculation. If $43,000 is the average, then in terms of value, there's about as much over as under. Is that a reasonable way to think about this?
Hon. K. Falcon: One of the things that I think is so important for the travelling public — especially on a highway like this, which has an accident record and a safety record that has certainly raised concerns in the past — is that this highway is being rebuilt. As we speak, this highway is being rebuilt with improved catchments, with improved culverts. The concessionaire is spending literally millions of dollars on rock-bolting and meshing to try and defray against these kinds of things.
They're also spending $400,000 a year on rock slope stability for the next 25 years. That's about $10 million in additional safety measures. When you contemplate that, what you get is a situation where…. As I explained to the member opposite, the landslides we talked about in the past have been based on the current highway that we have, without all of these very significant improvements — in the millions of dollars, which the concessionaire is spending because they know they're going to be responsible for this road. As a result of those investments being made, it is going to dramatically reduce the landslides and the debris flows that we have had.
As I pointed out to the member, the vast majority of those events that have happened in the past have been those low-level ones under $20,000 per event. What we
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see going forward, when that highway is completed, is that there will be an even more dramatic reduction in those events.
Here's the great news. The great news is that if it is a bigger event — a highway washout, a flood, any of those kinds of events that trigger the very significant dollars — it's 100 percent the concessionaire's responsibility — 100 percent.
If it's a force majeure type of event like an earthquake, again, it's the concessionaire's responsibility up to $5 million. Anything beyond that brings the threshold for federal dollars to come into play. There would be little to no provincial dollars involved in that scenario. I know that the member will now stand up and hail this kind of an agreement which provides such extraordinary protection for taxpayers of British Columbia.
D. Chudnovsky: Hail, hail, rock 'n' roll.
The minister gave a very interesting answer, but it wasn't an answer to the question that I asked. He thinks I'm going to forget, but I'm not going to forget. He keeps doing this, but I don't forget the question.
The question was: how many of the events about which we're speaking are worth more than $43,000, and how many of them are worth less than $43,000 in terms of the cost of the cleanup?
Hon. K. Falcon: I know the member opposite is a reasonable individual, and I think the member would recognize that that's not the kind of information we're going to have at our fingertips here. But I can assure the member that that will be part of the information provided to him when we provide the information in terms of what the value of the incidents were as far back as they were able to check records.
D. Chudnovsky: Thanks to the minister for that.
I was going to ask for that commitment. We would very much appreciate that commitment. I also understand the point he makes about how the specificity of the information available to staff here doesn't go that deep, and that's fine with me. We certainly do, though, want that information and look forward to that information.
I might make a comment. The minister — who yesterday I called the Superman of privatization, and I think that that's a terrific description for him — talks about the concessionaire spending all this money on stabilizing the route. That's one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that we're spending all that money, because of course the concessionaire is not building us a highway for nothing. We are in fact paying, together as a community, $1.983 billion over the period of the contract for the design, building, financing and maintenance of that privatized highway.
What we've been talking about over the last couple of days is whether that's worth it. The minister reassures us that in fact it is worth it. We want to explore that, and we will continue to explore it.
What about the cap on the yearly cost of these events? I suggested the other day that it was $150,000 — I thought. The minister and staff thought it was maybe $500,000. We agreed that nothing particular turned on that figure that day. Has the minister been able to ascertain what the yearly cap on the cost to the concessionaire is for these events?
Hon. K. Falcon: I can tell the member. Actually, that number, Member, is capped at $75,000 annually for each contract year. That is a figure, of course, that's based upon the new highway being completed and built with all the new protections put into place.
The member again may ask the logical question: well, where would that number come from? I'm pleased to tell the member that that number was found to be adequate for all the years. In other words, it was enough to cover off all the events in all the years back that we were able to find, based on the research that we did on all of those kind of events that we defined as landslides. I listed that off.
The other thing I would re-emphasize…. Two more points I'll make, actually, for the member opposite, and I'll be brief because I committed to do that. There is, remember, the performance payment penalty for every day that that highway is not clear and available — a $50,000-a-day penalty to the concessionaire for not keeping that highway open. That's no small amount of money.
The final thing I'll say. When the member talks about this highway…. I know that the member doesn't like P3s. I know that ideologically they have trouble with that — even though they're ahead of schedule, on-budget and those kind of things.
I do have to remind him of one uncomfortable fact, and that is that the Auditor General reviewed the value-for-money report. The Auditor General actually signed off and said: "Yes, there is $131 million in additional safety benefits and other benefits for road-users."
I, for one, am kind of comforted by the fact that we have an Auditor General who reviews the value for money and says that there is $131 million of additional safety and other benefits for road-users. To me that is pretty good news, combined with an on-schedule, on-budget highway.
D. Chudnovsky: The minister and I have been through this little back-and-forth before, and the minister will recall that I put it to him that the Auditor General didn't…. He's very careful, as he should be, in not describing the Auditor General's investigation of the project as an audit, because it wasn't an audit. It was a review, and a review is essentially a process by which the numbers inside the contract are added up to see if they make sense. Inside the contract, it's true that the numbers make sense.
The minister needs to recall…. I would encourage the minister. I can't tell the minister what he needs to do, but I would encourage the minister to recall that what we're talking about is a review by the Auditor General, which is a low-level investigation of what's going on in this contract.
I would repeat, just for the benefit of the minister, that I'm disappointed that he rankles at the description
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of the highway as the Sea to Sky privatized highway. He's the one who supports the privatizations, and if we call a spade a spade he seems to get uncomfortable. We're disappointed at that.
This is a minister who has some beliefs, and he's passionate about those beliefs. We disagree with him about some of those beliefs. But I would have thought that he would proudly stand and say, "Yeah, it is the Sea to Sky privatized highway," instead getting defensive about it at least once every day. So I'll continue to describe it the way I want to describe it, which is "the Sea to Sky privatized highway," and I suppose the minister will get uncomfortable from time to time, and that's just the way it has to be.
Before I get to the unstable slope mitigation program, which we want to look at carefully as well, I just want to make sure that I heard what I heard. Is the minister saying to us that the total cost in previous years of cleanups for that category — that first category of events that we've been talking about — is usually less than $75,000 on the whole of the Sea to Sky corridor?
I'm willing to take that. I just want to give the minister the opportunity to repeat that, because that's what I thought he said. If that's the case and the minister tells me, then I'm going to accept it. But I just want to give him another chance to say that.
Hon. K. Falcon: Yes.
D. Chudnovsky: Thanks to the minister for that.
The unstable slope mitigation program. I wonder if the minister could explain that program to us.
Hon. K. Falcon: Maybe the member can help us out here. As the member well knows, this is all available on the website. There are three and a half pages referring to that section.
I'm not sure what the member is asking. Maybe he can get right to the specific question, I can give him a specific answer, and we can both save time.
D. Chudnovsky: That's a great idea. My understanding is that the concessionaire pays $400,000 a year — is committed to $400,000 a year in the unstable slope mitigation program. What I'm particularly interested in are those improvements that need to be done which are outside the responsibility of the concessionaire in the contract.
That is that the contract as it's written, as I understand it, calls on the concessionaire to spend up to $400,000 a year — it's not $400,000 a year; as I understand it, it's up to $400,000 a year — for certain specific requirements and then requires the government to pay for additional kinds of improvements that need to be done outside of the contract. I wanted to explore those areas that are our responsibility.
Hon. K. Falcon: Again, I'm pleased to expound on the fantastic nature of this contract and the good news this is providing for taxpayers and to get it on the record, which I'm excited about. Hopefully, some of his public union friends who are opponents of this will have a read and learn some things that are very positive.
The first is that, to correct the member a little bit, it's not "spend up to." The concessionaire must spend not less than $400,000 a year. Of course, what that means for the layperson out there is that the concessionaire will be rebuilding slopes to current standards — the latest standards, the safest standards — so that we and the travelling public along that corridor will know that they're driving along a corridor where the very latest technologies and efforts have been made to ensure that they've got slope stability.
The second — as it says right in the agreement, and as the member well knows — is that the concessionaire must deal with the site and the adjacent areas and other lands within the vicinity of the highway. So it is fairly expansive in terms of the scope of the area that the concessionaire is responsible for.
To the nub of the member's question, which is: what about costs above $400,000? Again, I'm pleased to tell the member that we are not just well satisfied. We are more than well satisfied that the $400,000 a year is well more than enough to protect taxpayers in terms of our exposure.
Again, we've gone back and we've looked at the historical experience. We know that with those improvements that are being made that not less than $400,000 a year, which is going to represent over the 25 years some $10 million in the latest and best possible improvements…. We know we are well satisfied that that will be more than enough to protect the taxpayer from virtually any risks in that regard.
D. Chudnovsky: I wonder whether we can expect from the minister — ask the minister for — the historical analysis to which the minister referred a moment ago, which informs his tremendous confidence in the lack of exposure to the taxpayers. I wonder whether we can get a commitment from the minister that that information will be made available to us as well.
Hon. K. Falcon: I would be happy to have that information shared with the member. The member should know that we had an extensive analysis done in this regard on the slope stability question. In fact, we brought in some of the best geotechnical minds from across Canada to come and actually be a part of that extensive analysis. That's helped form government's….
I do want to commend staff. I think staff here deserve tremendous credit for the calibre of research and work that went into making sure the concession agreement they signed provided these kinds of protections to ensure that the taxpayer is protected not only in the construction phase but on a go-forward basis.
We would be happy to share that very extensive analysis that was also undertaken in regard to slope stability.
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D. Chudnovsky: Great, and thanks to the minister for that commitment. We'll do a little review, before we finish, of the information the minister has so kindly said will be available to us.
I wonder if we could talk for a bit about the volume payments over time on the project. As I understand it, there is a piece of the agreement that calls for the payment of what's called volume payments to the concessionaire on the basis of the volume of vehicles that travel on the road. Could the minister let us know what the expected costs to the province of the volume payments will be?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member should know that this is an extremely detailed question that involves some fascinating spreadsheets. I'm happy to arrange a briefing for the member. I don't consider myself the dumbest person in the world, but I can tell you that these are very complex calculations.
What I can tell the member at a level that the folks watching on television would understand is that the traffic volume payments would represent approximately in the range of 12 to 15 percent of the annual performance payments made to the concessionaire.
I think, Member, any detail beyond that is going to be excruciatingly challenging to try and get across on an oral basis. I will certainly do my best, if that's how the member wishes to spend his time. It is, after all, his time. But if the member wishes, we can provide a detailed briefing for the member on that particular issue.
D. Chudnovsky: It's an interesting way to think about it, which I hadn't before. First of all, I just want to agree with the minister. I don't consider him to be the dumbest person in the world either — far from it; he's a worthy and capable opponent — but I don't want him to explain the stuff to me in detail either.
What's interesting in what the minister said is that 12 to 15 percent of the performance payment…. Do I understand correctly that the volume payments are seen by the ministry as being part of the performance payments? Is that my understanding?
Hon. K. Falcon: Yes, that's correct, Member.
D. Chudnovsky: Again I seek the help of the minister on this. My understanding is that the $1.9-something billion that the Auditor General laid out as the cost over the 25 years of the privatized highway project includes the expectation that their performance payments will be paid. Is that a correct assumption? I see nods.
Hon. K. Falcon: I appreciate the member allowing me to get on the record. The answer is yes.
D. Chudnovsky: We're liable to get into the minutiae here, but let's try not to. Let's work together at not getting into it.
Somebody must have made a calculation as to what the expected volumes would be so that it's possible, then, for the performance payment calculation to be made so that somebody, the Auditor General in this case, can make a calculation as to what the total cost of the project is.
What are those estimates on which the performance payments are based when it comes to volume?
Hon. K. Falcon: For the member's benefit, this is…. I kind of laugh. This is such a level of detail that it's funny. The spreadsheets are obviously very, very detailed, and in fact I couldn't even give the member an aggregate number on the corridor because it's actually calculated by sections of the corridor.
What I can tell the member — again, I'm trying to keep it at a level that I will understand and the member opposite will understand and the viewing public will hopefully understand — is that we first of all bring in traffic experts that really have expertise in this area. We use the info that they gather for traffic modelling, which we then plug into a financial model. To give the member an idea of just how joyous this financial model will be, it is found in schedule 10, part 1A, of the contract under total performance payments.
Essentially what it determines is that this formula, which is TPP = ap + vup + pip + ia – acr + eotp…. Once you plug it into that rather brilliant formula — and the mathematicians out there, no doubt, are having a jig dance right now at the excitement they're feeling — then you calculate that. But I think for the purposes of the member and me in layperson's terms, what we're talking about are performance payments that, percentagewise, are approximately 12 percent to 15 percent of the total performance payments annually.
D. Chudnovsky: Perhaps we'll deal with this in another forum, although I think that there is some….
D. Chudnovsky: Maybe we'll do it in question period — who knows.
Let me turn to the issue of road maintenance costs on the Sea to Sky privatized highway. Can the minister help us by telling us what the per-lane-kilometre cost of maintenance is in the contract?
Hon. K. Falcon: I guess the simple, understandable answer is that we don't have that figure. The reason we don't have that figure, Member, is it's actually built into the performance payments. We don't pay for the maintenance costs separately. That's built into the performance payment.
D. Chudnovsky: I knew he was going to say that, but he probably knows what I'm going to say now. Certainly there is a gross cost of the contract. But somebody somewhere on our side — that is, working for the people — must have sat down and said to themselves: "Now look, they're going to have to do maintenance, so part of the contract is maintenance. If
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part of the contract is maintenance, we've got to figure out what it is approximately that that will cost, and we have to ascribe a value to it." Otherwise, how could we have negotiated the contract?
My question is: what value do we ascribe to the cost per lane-kilometre of maintenance on the highway built into the contract?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member would well know that we had, of course, an existing maintenance contract in place. We had great information in terms of what historical maintenance costs were along that corridor. The member also knows, of course, that a concessionaire is responsible for the rehabilitation costs that go into this project.
What we did as part of preparing our negotiations on this concession agreement was bring together world experts that were involved to determine what component of those costs we use went into the public sector comparator.
When I say world experts, the member should know that the world experts I'm referring to are from a company called Geoplan Opus from New Zealand. They're recognized as the best in the world in this regard, and based on their input and the historical data that we obviously would make available to them, that was how we came up with part of the performance payment.
D. Chudnovsky: When the calculation was made with the world experts as to the projected costs of maintenance on this privatized highway, was it expected that the costs…? This would be for information for the ministry people who were negotiating with the concessionaire. Was it assumed that the cost of maintenance of the road would be less than, the same as or greater than what we pay now per unit — which, as I understand, in this case is lane-kilometres?
Hon. K. Falcon: We looked at what the highway would likely require in terms of maintenance costs based upon the input of the world experts — Geoplan out of New Zealand — and, of course, the historical data which we were able to make available to them. Based on the combination of those two streams of information, that's how we were able to determine that figure.
[B. Lekstrom in the chair.]
D. Chudnovsky: Was that figure lower than, the same as or higher than what we currently pay?
Hon. K. Falcon: It would be our estimate of what the costs would be. So it would be relatively the same as what it was before because that would be, of course, based on all of that historical data we have available to us.
D. Chudnovsky: Just going to the general case again for a second. Is it, then, reasonable for someone who wanted to unpack the total costs of the Sea to Sky Highway…? Would it be reasonable to take the number of lanes on the highway; multiply it times the number of kilometres of the highway; multiply it times, more or less, approximately the amount we pay, as a general proposition, for maintenance on that highway now per lane-kilometre; and multiply it times 25 years and ascribe that cost as a hunk of what we're paying inside the total contract?
Hon. K. Falcon: The short answer is no, you couldn't do that. The reason you can't do that is because the maintenance they're responsible for covers everything. It's not just the work that was traditionally done, but it also includes the work that we would traditionally do: rock scaling, centre-line painting, all the electrical maintenance, all of the signage work, etc. All of that forms part of what is the responsibility of the concessionaire now.
D. Chudnovsky: Thanks to the minister for that logical and very useful answer. Do we have an estimate? Is there a figure that the ministry uses, or is there a calculation that can be done, that could determine those additional costs today or on an equal piece of highway? That is to say, if the minister as….
He's absolutely correct. There are these additional activities. How do we today calculate the cost of those activities?
Hon. K. Falcon: I think that at this point I just have to be really honest with the member and say: look, don't try and deconstruct this thing in an estimate period. We are talking binders and binders of information that is a gathering of, as I say, some of the best minds in the world with Geoplan and with historical data. It is extraordinarily complex. It is voluminous in terms of the amount of detail we're talking about.
I value the member's time, and I respect the nature of the question the member is asking. I'm not in any way…. In fact, I'd be happy to have the member come over and wade through that information. Absolutely no problem at all.
To try and deconstruct that here today is just virtually impossible. It is way too voluminous an amount of material to cover. Obviously we haven't got it all here. Because I know the member has limited time, I just honestly don't think I'd be serving the member well or his interests in trying to do these things in a timely way.
D. Chudnovsky: We really appreciate the minister's concern for our time — ironic though it is. I absolutely accept the point that the minister makes. This is very, very complicated stuff.
I also accept the invitation, although I'm not sure it would be me who would be doing all the wading. Certainly, we would want somebody to hold our hand as we're wading because the water might get kind of deep, and we wouldn't want to drown. But maybe we can figure that out.
We certainly would want to do the kind of investigation that the minister points to. The reason that we
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would and the reason I come back to this kind of question in every estimate period and risk the annoyance and impatience of the minister sometimes is because the folks are paying a truckload of money for this highway and for all of the other projects that are going on. It's our job and our responsibility precisely to deconstruct — to use the minister's word — those contracts.
Frankly, hon. Chair, it's not easy. It's not easy because it's complicated, but it's also not easy because of the way that the ministry and the minister and the government have chosen to structure these contracts. The minister will know that these contracts are not FOI-able. That makes it complicated and difficult.
Notwithstanding that, it's our responsibility precisely to deconstruct these projects, and I'll continue to try to do that. I've learned a lot about the way that we build these things, and I try to communicate some of that to many people who are interested.
We very much appreciate the minister's offer, and we would very much like to take him up on that and find a way to do that that's in the service of the people of the province, whose interest it is to understand as clearly as they can these enormous contracts that we enter into for decades to purchase services and to build infrastructure.
I note that the minister has been trying to get my attention, and I'm all ears.
Hon. K. Falcon: What I thought I could say to the member and the members opposite that I think should give them some great degree of comfort and perhaps even…. In fact, I'm sure it would perhaps even avoid the member having to walk with whoever he wants to walk with into the abyss of very, very great detail on this thing. Actually, there is somebody else that did spend that time going into that abyss — a very significant amount of time, in fact. That individual is called the Auditor General.
The member should know that the Auditor General went into huge detail. In fairness, I don't believe the member meant to say this, but the member did kind of imply that the Auditor General…. Well, it's just a review, and a review is kind of like he flipped through it and: "Eh, whatever. It looks good to me." That is not the case, and I want the listening public out there to know this.
The Auditor General spent over $150,000 of their time. That is a huge amount of time that the Auditor General spends going through in great detail all of the information that we are currently talking about here — frankly, a lot of the information that is even way too complex for me to begin to understand. But I do have a lot of confidence in the fact that the Auditor General spent an enormous amount of time looking at it.
What the Auditor General came forward with after that very, very detailed review with a huge amount of time and dollars associated with it…. In the value-for-money report review that he did after looking at all of this information in great detail, the Auditor General said: "These assumptions are reasonable."
The work that has been done, the numbers that have been pulled together and all that detailed stuff that they went through and that was reviewed by some of the best experts around the world and some of the best geotechnical experts from across Canada on slope instability, and Geoplan from New Zealand on some of these issues…. The Auditor General looked at all that, looked at it in great detail, and said: "They're reasonable assumptions."
I would say this: I don't believe there's anybody that the member could walk into that room holding hands with to look at this information that has more credibility, at least to the listening public, than the Auditor General. So I'm quite prepared to stand by the work that was done and the fact that it was reviewed by the Auditor General, and he said that the assumptions were reasonable to be acceptable.
D. Chudnovsky: Thanks to the minister for the advice. It's good advice to talk to the Auditor General again. I've had some discussions with the Office of the Auditor General on these questions. I think that the advice is well taken, and we will be talking.
In fact, we were talking with the Auditor General last night in more detail about these questions. We also note the kind offer of the minister to provide for us information from his own office and his own staff on these questions as well, and we'll be taking advantage of that.
Hon. Chair, I will be back later in the afternoon or evening, to ask a couple of questions. But right now I'd like to ask my colleague from Surrey–Panorama Ridge to ask some questions, and we'll have some other individuals who will be asking specific questions about their communities as well.
J. Brar: Last year Sher-e-Punjab Radio conducted an open forum to discuss issues relating to and the challenges faced by the taxi industry, particularly in the lower mainland area.
There were a couple of things that I think were important, which I want to bring to your attention and ask you questions on. The first one was, of course, the use of HOV lanes and bus lanes by the taxi industry. The second one is the chauffeur licence issue.
I would like to start with the first one. Can the minister tell us if the taxi industry is permitted to use HOV lanes and bus lanes or not?
Hon. K. Falcon: I appreciate the member asking the question. The answer is: yes, we have made a decision to allow the taxi industry to utilize the HOV lanes, but no, they are not allowed to use the bus lanes.
J. Brar: Is it possible for the taxi industry to use the bus lanes? If it's not, why?
Hon. K. Falcon: There are a few reasons. One is that a bus, of course, typically holds 35 people, and the primary effort of municipalities in the province is to try and get more people in the buses and utilize that. But
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there is also a safety element. One of the key things is that many of the signal lights are called "pre-empt designed," meaning that a bus will actually trigger the signal to change.
If a taxi were allowed to use the bus lane, what would happen is that they wouldn't trigger it because they are not large enough or heavy enough to trigger the pre-empt. You would actually get the buses stuck behind taxis, unable to get through a light. It wouldn't change because you have got a taxi now taking up a position that should be a bus.
That's the reason why they are not allowed in bus-only lanes. But I certainly think that the allowing of the taxis in the HOV lanes was the right decision. I think, based on the feedback I heard, that the industry is fairly appreciative of that.
J. Brar: Thank you, Minister, for that clarification.
My second question is about the chauffeur permits. At the same forum there were a number of other MLAs. My colleague from Surrey–Green Timbers and some other MLAs were there as well.
Before I go to the question, I just want to inform the minister that the training program for the chauffeur permit…. They all receive one type of training from the Justice Institute of B.C. But when it comes to the chauffeur permit, they have to go to different cities and apply individually in each city.
The concern they had was: is it not possible to create one window for a chauffeur's permit, particularly for the lower mainland? I would like to ask the minister: is that possible, or is there any plan to do something like that?
Hon. K. Falcon: If I understood the member correctly, and maybe we're confusing two things here, I think the first is that…. When the member talks about a chauffeur's permit, I don't believe he's referring to the licence that they are required to have by the superintendent of motor vehicles. That is just standard — right? You want to get a driver's….
Hon. K. Falcon: That's right. It's a special category, so he's not….
I think what the member is referring to, then, is that there is a business licence that municipalities will apply to chauffeurs that they have to pay in different municipalities. I guess the question is: could there be one? I think it's a reasonable question to ask.
It's probably a reasonable question that needs to be asked to the cities. I think what would really make more sense is if Surrey, Vancouver and some of the lower mainland municipalities could work together to have a single acceptable business permit for all of the areas. That would certainly be consistent with our government's drive to try to reduce regulation.
That is something that the cities have done on their own. It is a business licence requirement that they are imposing. But I would be happy to work with the member and try to encourage the cities to collapse their individual ones and have a single one. That might make some sense. I'd be willing to have the discussion, at least, with the municipalities.
J. Brar: Thank you for the clarification, Minister. Is there any role that the province can play in this, a leadership role, to bring it together?
Hon. K. Falcon: I think there could be one of encouragement that we could bring. The Community Charter allows them to do that. It's well within their rights as cities and municipalities to put those kinds of permit fees in place. But I certainly wouldn't have any hesitation to….
We do have good relationships with the municipalities and a lot of the associations, like the taxi associations, etc. So if the taxi associations came together and said, "This is something that we think would be of benefit to all of the lower mainland," and perhaps could come forward with a resolution amongst themselves, that resolution could be shared.
We would help to get that across to the different municipalities and see if that is something that we could get the municipalities to cooperate in. That's a role I think we could play, but it would be a moral-suasion role, not a tell-them-to-do-it role.
J. Brar: I appreciate the response from the minister, which of course is giving me some encouragement that this is something that can be pursued, at least, at the various levels. We'll come back to that, as the minister suggested.
I would like to go to the border infrastructure program. Last year I did ask some questions, and there are still outstanding questions. I would like to go on, on that as well. Maybe the member for Delta North may have some questions as well.
One of the components of the border infrastructure program is building an overpass on 72nd Avenue and 91. Last year when I asked the minister that the last piece. When we talk about the border infrastructure program, building the overpass on 72nd is on the schedule. It, in my opinion, is the key traffic congestion point in Surrey, which has been put at the end of the schedule.
When I asked the question to the minister last year, the minister informed us that it was because there was an issue that the developer wanted an access to the overpass. Subsequently, the minister also informed us, in the subsequent question, that that issue was between the developer and the city of Delta.
Subsequent to that we checked with the mayor of Delta. She informed us that nobody had made any contact with her on that critical issue. I would like to ask the minister where that issue stands today. Is that still a conflict? Do you know anything new about that issue?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member's recollection is largely correct. The one thing I would say to the member — that the member should know — is that we have
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had extensive discussions with the Corporation Of Delta over this issue.
Essentially it goes like this. Delta, from the very beginning, said they wanted a full interchange. We had a problem with that because it was about, if my memory serves me correctly, 60 percent more expensive to have a full interchange at 72nd and 91, and we wanted a unidirectional interchange.
The reason we said that is because a full interchange, for about 60 percent more than the cost of the proposal that we had put forward, would only be handling about 5 percent of the traffic needs — in other words, 5 percent of people coming down 72nd and wanting to go south on 91 — and that traffic could very easily be accommodated through other streets. So we were not able to come to an agreement with Delta.
The issue of the landowner was simply a case that a full interchange — to the best of my recollection, Member — required lands that were not owned by the province or by the Corporation of Delta. They required lands that were owned by a private land owner. Part of the discussion would have to be that if Delta wants that, then they're going to have to come to the table with a proposal that deals with the fact that the costs are 60 percent higher.
I don't make any apologies for the fact that communities don't get to say to us: "We want you to put a Cadillac thing here. We don't want to pay any costs toward it. That's just what we want, even though it's hard to justify in terms of a 60-percent project cost increase to handle 5 percent of the traffic."
That's not something that made sense to us. I don't believe we've had any recent discussions with Delta over this issue as a result of that.
One thing I can also say is that, unfortunately, the budget for the border infrastructure program is fully committed at this point. There are no dollars now available for that. That is the risk of delay. We tried hard, I think, to try and work something out reasonably but were unable to. So, unfortunately, that is not a project that will be moving forward.
J. Brar: Last year, again, when we had this budget debate…. At that time the minister informed us that the minister was not able to finalize the design for the overpass because of those complexities which the minister just mentioned. I would like to know whether the design has been finalized now about the overpass on 72nd and Highway 91.
Hon. K. Falcon: The short answer is no, because we couldn't get to a final design without knowing what the situation was between Delta and the private land owner. To the best of my understanding they, at least up to this point, had yet to come to any agreement on making sure that lands would be available to do the design for the approach that Delta wanted.
So the short answer is no.
J. Brar: My concern is this. A lot of people are going from my riding towards Vancouver and even Burnaby, particularly in the morning hours. That is the spot which has the highest traffic congestion in Surrey. What the minister is telling us is that the issue related to that one is between the developer and the city of Delta.
But I think that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of the ministry to basically make sure the border infrastructure program is finished on time and on budget. So my question to the minister would be: what is the action plan of the minister to deal with this issue so that the overpass, as proposed on 72nd Avenue and Highway 91, is finished on time? Otherwise, it can go on forever if you just leave it to the city of Delta and the developer.
Hon. K. Falcon: I mostly agree with the member. I'm disappointed too. We had a design in place that I thought was very reasonable, and that accommodated 95 percent of the traffic and would have dealt with all of the concerns of those member's constituents. Frankly, really collectively, we're all from Surrey. We want all of the Surrey residents to obviously benefit.
I wish we could have done this, but unfortunately we were unable to reach an agreement with Delta because they didn't accept the design that we wanted to move forward with. We can't unilaterally move forward. We try to do this on a cooperative basis.
Ultimately, this is the risk. When things don't get done, and time passes and dollars get expended, we don't get additional dollars. The federal government, when they pass the border infrastructure program, provide us dollars. They don't provide additional dollars when costs go up — land costs, the cost of construction, etc. We have to eat that as a province.
The municipalities that are prepared to work with us and move quickly will get things done. Where we have challenges — as we did, unfortunately, in this case — they don't get done. I'm sorry about that, but that's the way it is. Hopefully, at some point something can get worked out.
I'm always willing to talk, and I'm always willing to try and work with municipalities. But I'm not willing to bang my head against a wall for too long before I have other things that I have to move on to. I'm always open to discussions. I would hope that we can sort this out at some point in the future, but I can't pretend that I'm terribly optimistic at this point in time.
G. Coons: The minister…. We did talk previously about some road conditions in my region. I want to follow up on the letter that he got. I'm still waiting for a response to that, but I'm sure that will be forthcoming — about Ridley Island, where it was not a priority for O'Brien.
G. Coons: Yeah, it was just from me. We're working on that; no problems.
I did travel, and I did before mention some current concerns, I think, from school district 92, Nisga'a school
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district. They had concerns, and they were dealing specifically with Nechako Northcoast Construction. They dealt with Don Ramsay, who does a wonderful job up in that region.
I thought I'd follow up on that. I travelled to the Nass Valley last week and had a wonderful time. Previously we talked about conditions in Stewart, and the member for Bulkley Valley–Stikine was talking about 25 feet of snow. In Rupert we got six or eight inches of snow today, apparently, so I can imagine what it's like inland. I'm going there next week, to Stewart, so I'll put on my boots and get a vehicle that can make it and make my way there.
I want to talk about the Nass Valley. I travelled there last week for three or four days and travelled the road between Laxgalts'ap and Gingolx, which is between Greenville and Gingolx. I had the opportunity to go into the villages and talk about health. I held four health discussions in each one of the four villages. I travelled the road.
This week in the motion about road maintenance put forth by my colleague the Transportation critic, I was able to talk about that road. I referred to it tongue-in-cheek, saying that they aren't potholes; they're more like craters, and you could lose your first-born in them if you weren't careful.
Hopefully, I did provide some pictures of that, because I did take pictures. It is very significant, and I would think that anybody in this room that looks at the pictures or anybody out there watching would say that it's not reasonable to expect somebody to travel them.
RCMP needs to travel on that. The ambulance to Terrace, which is a three-hour trip, needs to travel on that. School buses need to travel on that. As I mentioned before, school district 92, Nisga'a, had concerns about the seal-coat, and Nechako did respond to them. I gave letters of that to the minister.
It's been recognized by Nechako and the ministry that the seal-coat has failed. Nechako is committed to monitoring and maintaining a smooth travelling surface. That was January 19. I travelled that last week, which may have been March 19, 20 or so, and the result is fairly horrendous. I don't think anybody needs to travel on roads like that.
My concern is: will the minister commit to having Nechako and Mr. Ramsay look at that road and, as Nechako said, monitor and maintain it to a smooth travelling surface?
Hon. K. Falcon: I thank the member for the question. I do think it's important to recognize that in addition to the $50 million that was spent by the province on upgrading the Nisga'a Highway, this was an additional road that was provided for the folks up there — a $30 million investment, as I recollect, to build this new gravel road. We actually did some seal-coating on that to try and extend the life of that road between, I believe, Greenville and Gingolx. But I think we should also recognize that it is a very low-volume road.
It's unfortunate that…. Well, it's not unfortunate. It's actually not surprising, given the kind of winter conditions we've had, that there's some potholing and breaking-up there. The freeze-thaw cycles, as I've mentioned in previous descriptions…. Not to make excuses, of course, but just to recognize that on a very low-volume gravel road with very, very difficult winter conditions, it's not surprising there's some potholing.
Don Ramsay and I appreciate the member's comments. I think Don Ramsay is an outstanding district manager. Don is very much aware of this, and they're working — obviously, conditions permitting — to begin repairing that.
I want the viewing public to know that this is a very low-volume gravel road. A considerable amount of dollars were invested in this road. It's unfortunate that there is some potholing. I get how inconvenient potholes are to the member, but I can assure the member that the district manager is aware of that, and they will deal with that.
G. Coons: I'm sure the minister knows of Kitimat municipal councillor Joanne Monaghan's petition because he responded to it in an e-mail, saying that his people up there have asked the maintenance contractor, Nechako Northcoast, to "review their winter maintenance procedures and to make any adjustments necessary to keep roads in your area as safe and reliable as possible."
These roads that the minister refers to are a major lifeline for the communities down there. We're talking about ambulance, police, busing of students. These are roads in that area. The minister has responded that he would talk to Nechako. I expect that this would be a high priority for the people there.
They aren't potholes, as people sitting across from me with the pictures can see. You know, you could lose your vehicle, whether a small one, in one of those craters.
So I would hope that the minister keeps to his word and has Nechako review their maintenance in the whole region, especially since Nechako indicated on January 19 to the school district that they would monitor and maintain a smooth travelling surface. That commitment, specifically to this road, is not being kept. The school district has concerns about busing of students. The community has concerns about ambulance and RCMP travelling and emergencies — to get there.
When I was there, elders on their three-hour trip to Terrace and their three-hour trip back, after travelling that road, felt worse with the bumps and grinds happening on that road than when they left to go for their treatments in Terrace.
I find the response I'm getting appalling. I would hope that the minister makes this the number one priority to keep Nechako on track to ensure that their commitment to a smooth surface is done as soon as possible. I hope the minister can commit to that today.
Hon. K. Falcon: I thank the member for the comments. I do think a little perspective is required. This road did not exist three or four years ago. I mean, we built this road. It's a $30-million investment.
[ Page 6577 ]
The member talked about Joanne Monaghan doing a petition. I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, she was talking about the highway between Kitimat and Terrace. I don't believe she was talking about the road between Greenville and Gingolx.
Again, I just ask the member to not be completely unreasonable here. This is a very low-volume road. Yes, it is a priority, but there are other priorities. I think we would reasonably expect that the maintenance contractor, when they're dealing with the challenges of difficult winters, are going to focus their attention, as they're required to do, on the roads that have the high-volume traffic first and make sure that they deal with those.
Then they start moving their way across to secondary roads and roads with much lower traffic volume. They will get to fixing this too, but priorities are about priorities. That means setting your priorities, your time, your equipment, your machinery and making sure that you allocate it in a way that makes sense.
I am pretty sure that Joanne Monaghan would not be excited if all the equipment disappeared off the highway that she's concerned about — which, as I say, I believe was between Kitimat and Terrace — and found out it was all disappearing to this other smaller road between Greenville and Gingolx to deal with these potholes.
That does not mean that they're not important. It does not mean they shouldn't be dealt with, but I think that the member just has to be fair to the contractor and understand that they have to also prioritize.
G. Coons: Just for the recollection of the minister, this is the second foray into road maintenance for Councillor Monaghan. The first one was for the road from Kitimat to Terrace, and she did happen to get it upgraded to a level where it would be looked after. This current one is circulating through the northern and central interior portions of the province.
"We're getting requests from as far away as Quesnel," she says. "It's taking on a life of its own." The petition wants the province to "ensure sufficient funding is available and in an appropriate, transparent process to ensure proper performance, as well as financial audits of the maintenance contractors to be in compliance or provide the services that they are contracted for."
It's going, as I said, through the northern and interior of the province. It's just not the road from Kitimat to Terrace, for clarification. I'm sure that Miss Monaghan would agree that she wouldn't want to see funding designated from one area to another. What they want is sufficient funding and a transparent process for all northern roads that are not getting the service standards that are necessary.
So, on that…. Unless the minister has a response to that? I just wanted to clarify that it's a different petition. The other one was previously dealt with for the Kitimat to Terrace road.
Hon. K. Falcon: I thank the member for the comments. Again, I would just say that I would hope that the member would recognize — and I do think that I asked the public not to be unreasonable — that after a very difficult winter, I think we have to recognize that many of those maintenance…. I'm not saying they were perfect, for goodness' sake.
Where there are shortcomings, let's all be clear that we should identify those and point those out. If there are penalties that need to be imposed, they will be imposed. We have strict standards, and they need to meet them, etc.
But I just think that after going through a very difficult winter — I get that people would love to see every road black and not a scrape of snow anywhere — we have to be at least reasonable to the folks that are working — and, I know, are working very hard. That's why I am loath to just see sort of broad generalizations made about the work that the contractors are doing.
My experience is that these men and women have been working very hard. It's not an issue of funding. So that the member knows, they've got lots of funding. It's an issue of the equipment. They're bringing in extra equipment and extra manpower whenever they can. They're doing everything they possibly can, and I think they've tried very hard. That's just something that I want to say on the record.
It doesn't take away from the fact that the member raises very legitimate concerns, and those will be dealt with as soon as they have the opportunity to do so. I know that Don Ramsay, as a regional manager up there, is doing a very good job and will get on that as soon as they're reasonably able to do so.
S. Fraser: Thank you to the minister and his staff for indulging us today. I've got a few questions. I'm going to start with more road maintenance issues just because that was where we were at with the last hon. member.
Highway 19, the coastal route. The old highway going along the water is a beautiful route, from Qualicum Beach up through Bowser, Lighthouse Country, up towards Courtenay and Comox, ultimately.
I received a call this last winter from the volunteer fire chief up around Lighthouse Country, the Bowser area, and he was not able to get access to the emergency vehicles. That's the ambulance services and the volunteer fire department, where the fire truck is located off the highway. That was not being cleared by the contractor Emcon. There was no access there, and he wasn't getting anywhere.
Hon. K. Falcon: In front of the fire hall? So the snow was piled up?
S. Fraser: No. There's a road that goes off the highway which goes to the ambulance service. The emergency service vehicle, the ambulance station and the fire department are up that road, and they were not being cleared. It wasn't part of the mandate for Emcon as a company. They said that their priority was the highway.
I made some phone calls through to the local highways people, and I'm hoping that'll be cleared up for
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next winter — not literally, not as a pun. The snow has melted since then, but that seems like a glaring gap, if the emergency vehicles and the road…. It's not a long stretch of road. That should be made a priority with the contractors.
Hon. K. Falcon: I appreciate the member for Alberni-Qualicum raising that. It's quite incorrect of me to actually yell out questions to you while you're doing it. I was trying to recall if I'd received correspondence on this. I get a lot of correspondence, and it was ringing a bit of a bell.
S. Fraser: I don't know that you did.
Hon. K. Falcon: No problem. I appreciate that.
Maybe the member could clarify. Is this a road we're talking about? Is it a driveway to where they keep the fire trucks and ambulance service, or is it a road?
S. Fraser: I apologize. I don't recall the name of the road. I will as soon as I leave the room. It is a road, a dead-end road, but it goes to the ambulance service and then to the fire department beyond. Then there's a community centre beyond that.
Hon. K. Falcon: Thanks very much, Member. I appreciate the member raising this because I suspect what probably is at play here is that it's not defined as a public road. I could be wrong. I'm just speculating here. If that's the case, the contractor would perhaps even be right in not having that cleared.
I think it's a very legitimate issue that the member has raised, and we'll look into that for the member. I do think that clearly, from a safety point of view, we'd want to make sure that those folks have the ability to get out of what may not even be a public road. But we'll look into that for the member.
[A. Horning in the chair.]
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that. Just following the same theme, Highway 4, going over the hump to Port Alberni from Qualicum Beach.
I didn't bring the photographs with me today, but suffice to say that I have them. It was from a bus driver who travels that road all the time. He's seeing the snow removal on Highway 4 as being a big problem, where it was not in previous years. It was a year of some snowfall, but that highway has snowfall pretty much every year. He said it is a problem, and that as a school bus driver, he's laying it on either the contractor or the mandate given to the contractor by the ministry.
I wonder if the minister could respond.
Hon. K. Falcon: We will check the specifics of that area for the member. Staff work very closely with the contractor. I believe it is Emcon. I don't believe staff identified that area as being any particular problem. I do know that, of course, Highway 4 received the same rather surprising levels of snow that we saw in the lower mainland — perhaps even more. That certainly was a challenge in terms of the rapidity with which the snow would fall.
We'll look into that and try and follow that up for the member.
[The bells were rung.]
The Chair: Members, we'll recess till five minutes after the vote.
The committee recessed from 5:04 p.m. to 5:21 p.m.
[A. Horning in the chair.]
On Vote 42 (continued).
S. Fraser: I'm going to switch gears here. The minister will know we've had correspondence back and forth on Highway 4 alternative route access through to Port Alberni and the west coast beyond. I just want to reiterate — we touched on this in the last estimates also — that the issue has become one primarily of safety, which is always a fundamental piece of an alternative access.
However, in the last year we've seen that highway closed through Cathedral Grove a number of times. There have been trees down. There have been cars hit. Besides that there have been accidents, there have been mudslides. So there are man-made problems, and there are nature-made problems that seem to be escalating.
We have a route that goes right through a class-A park. A class-A park is a huge attraction, and it also is a risk at high-wind times. Now, I think this might be a bit of a unique situation, but there is no way around that park. There's no access around that park. There are times when the weather conditions are such that the public should not be in the park. Certainly, I'm sure, with workers compensation requirements, if you were a worker in the forest you would not be permitted to be working in that forest at the time.
So my question, I guess, is: have the recent incidents of the last year resonated with the minister and had any effect on his decision to not consider an alternative route?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member should know we did give it some consideration. In fact, we undertook a study back in 2005 that suggested that the costs we would be looking at for an alternative route would be in the $40 million to $50 million range. That was in 2005. I suspect that the number today is probably going to be somewhat north of that.
It's a very significant cost, and we're not going to do that. I've been very upfront with the region, telling them that we're not going to do that. It is not the only area that does not have secondary routes. There are lots of communities in the province that don't have secondary routes.
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What we have done is focused our attention on making incremental improvements to Highway 4. Since 2001 we've spent about $14.5 million in trying to make additional safety improvements. We're trying to increase passing lane opportunities. We're trying to reduce the accident risk through improvements that we can make through the corridor. That is, I think, a considerable amount of money to be investing in trying to improve safety outcomes.
But, no, I want to be clear about the fact that there's not going to be a secondary route built. That's not going to be a priority of the province.
S. Fraser: I appreciate the answer, although we are seeing an escalation of incidents here where people are being put at risk, people are being injured and people are dying. With that in mind, and with the unique situation of a park that is its own attraction and its own hazard, I have to ask: is there a point where the numbers game, just based on sheer numbers…? This is rated at a certain level of highway based on — my understanding — commuter traffic. There are studies done on the amount of activity on the highway, and so it's being discounted as not a good investment because maybe there aren't enough numbers to warrant that.
But what about the numbers when it comes to safety? When there are obvious risks that we can't ignore, when does the ministry, the province or the government face some sort of liability or culpability when injuries begin happening. If they're more frequent, will that change? Can that change the criteria for the priority of getting an alternative access?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member should know that we take safety very seriously. Any accident that happens, especially fatalities on our road network — over 43,000 kilometres of road in British Columbia — is absolutely tragic, and it's unfortunate.
What we try to do with the almost $14.5 million we've invested on Highway 4 is reduce the risk of that happening. Unfortunately, sadly, in many cases, if not most cases, it's driver irresponsibility and error that can lead to these kinds of things. That's why we're trying to do things like provide additional passing lane opportunities so people don't make irresponsible decisions to pass when they shouldn't be passing, because they may be frustrated, they want to get somewhere quicker or what have you.
So those are responsible improvements. Yes, the trees came down this…. We had the highest levels of winds that I think we probably ever had that brought down a number of trees there. It was very fortunate that no one was injured. We do have an ongoing program of trying to identify those kinds of situations that may provide a risk, where we can ameliorate that wherever possible.
But the member should know that I'm very comfortable with the improvements that are being made with the safety record. I feel saddened any time there are any accidents, especially fatalities. Sadly, they happen throughout the province. I wish it never happened, but we will continue to make improvements where we can make improvements.
Safety is always a number one priority, but again, we studied that, and we spent a significant amount of money studying that. The costs are extremely large. We believed that we could realize equivalent benefit by making improvements to the existing road, and we've done that.
S. Fraser: Thank you for the answer, Minister. I will continue with this at another time. There was somebody hurt in the last year. It was a tree coming down on them. Thanks to residents from Port Alberni joining with the emergency crews, they were able to get the tree off the car, but it was a significant accident. It was not driver error. It was tree error.
I'll come back to that at another date, but just to finish off the last issue…. I only have time for this one last issue. I have others that I would like to say. The road to Bamfield…. Again, I have had correspondence back and forth, and I have invited the ministry, through correspondence, to travel the road with me. It is a deplorable artery for public traffic.
It is not maintained to any standards that are acceptable for public safety or public use. It is maintained only up to the industrial standards required by the private managed forest landowners, and that relationship must change.
I'm asking for the minister to take leadership on this. This is the access to Bamfield, Huu-ay-aht First Nation, and the marine centre that is internationally known there. It's where school buses travel. This road is not maintained to public standards. It's part of the contract.
I've got correspondence back and forth to the minister on this, and the minister has corroborated that there's a deal that the government has with the private managed forest landowners, and it's only to allow access to the public to use the road.
It is the only road to these communities, so I see us needing to change that relationship. It is not safe, it's costly to those who drive it, and it has got to the point where the public interest must come forward. We need to change that relationship. That $200,000 a year that is paid by the province to the land owners for the use of that land is not an appropriate contract. It is not keeping the road safe or up to any adequate public use.
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm sure that my answer will continue to disappoint the member, but that relationship has been there for a long time. We provide an annual grant — I believe it's about $220,000 — to the private operator and owner of the road. The vast majority of it is not a public road. And no, I do not have any interest in changing that relationship. It will continue as it is.
[H. Bloy in the chair.]
S. Fraser: I don't know if there are any other roads in this situation in the province, where we have com-
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munities that have no access that is up to any public standards. I'm not questioning the minister's statements about this being a longtime situation. I agree that it's a longtime situation, and it has spanned many governments.
What I'm suggesting is that we have to be creative here in finding a way of maintaining that road so it's safe for public use, because it is for public use. It's for school buses, it's for emergency vehicles, and it's for public transport back and forth from the west coast — from Bamfield, Huu-ay-aht — through to Port Alberni.
In 2004 this government released 70,000 hectares from the tree farm licence, TFL 44, to the private managed forest landowners. They should have been required, according to the ministry's own documents — not this ministry but the Ministry of Forests and Range…. They should have paid compensation back to the province, and they were not required to.
Was that ever an issue? Did this minister, did this ministry ever consider, for instance, suggesting that the private managed forest landowners have to maintain this road to some kind of better standard? Because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of benefits by having land in a tree farm licence, which was given back to them out of the tree farm licence.
Has anything creative like that been considered?
Hon. K. Falcon: I don't want to try and answer questions that are better directed to the Ministry of Forests. What I will say, though, with respect to this road is that there's nothing unique about this.
There are numerous roads and Forest Service roads that serve communities throughout the province. We operate in exactly the same way. In fact, in this case we do provide a very substantial annual grant to the landowner to keep the road in reasonable shape.
As I say, I'm not going to be changing that very longstanding relationship and commitment. I think it's a considerable sum of money. I get that some folks don't think it's up to the standard they'd like, but we're not going to be changing our commitment. I think it's already a substantial commitment, and that's not going to change.
C. Wyse: So that I can give the minister a little bit of warning, I'm going to provide some information to the minister on one set of circumstances that I hope he will take into consideration as things unfold in 2007, and then a couple of other points. I'm going to roll them together and ask for his reply.
The first one. The Esketemc First Nation has entered into a number of agreements with local government, the regional district and the city of Williams Lake. There have been requests through various ministries for road improvements. Esketemc First Nation is out towards the Alkali Lake way. Hopefully, with the correspondence we have received, maybe they're finally going to get some road improvements surviving through into 2007. I want to give the minister that new information about how the local governments, along with the first nations, are working together.
The other general comment that maybe the minister can provide for me. I have several inquiries from small day contractors from the Nimpo–Anahim Lake area, as well as from 70 Mile and the 100 Mile region areas, about their inability to succeed in obtaining contract work because the project gets rolled up so that the maintenance provider ends up getting all the contracts.
Specifically, my question, finally. The Tatton-Helena forest road…. For the information of the minister, I've extended an apology to one of the residents that have been involved in this outstanding issue for a long period of time.
The residents along the west side of Lac la Hache have identified a possible alternative route so that their landlocked aspect would be addressed. It removes and it is separate from the issue that has been outstanding with the rancher in the area. It's an alternate route, and I'm looking for some type of a commitment where maybe the local transportation people would have a look at that to see whether it may become a solution in the future for providing year-round access to the properties in the Lac la Hache area.
Hon. K. Falcon: I think that the issues the member has mentioned could be fairly complicated, and I don't have an easy answer. I'm not aware of the situation, although I hear those kinds of complaints every once in a while by some of the day labourers and contractors that don't believe they are getting a fair share of the work. I don't know whether this has to do with subcontracting by maintenance contractors, whether they're projects being tendered by the ministry or what have you.
What I would suggest about that and the third issue — which can also be very complicated when you're talking about landlocked properties and issues about access, etc. — is to have the parties involved, whether the contractors, the small contractors or the folks that have the land issues, to contact our district manager in the area and go have a sit-down with them. I'm sure that they will work with them.
G. Gentner: With the time constraints we'll try and be real quick with these questions and, Minister, hopefully we can get out of here tonight without having to arrive back tomorrow.
Regarding the municipality of Delta's industrial bylaw and amendments relative to, of course, its container changes, there is provision where the ministry could withhold fourth reading of the municipal bylaw regarding land that's within 800 metres, namely back from the highway.
My question to the minister is…. I could be wrong here, and he could correct me. My understanding is that the ministry has denied fourth reading of Delta's bylaw. Could he explain to the House why?
Hon. K. Falcon: The Transportation Act requires ministry approval in municipal land use bylaws that involve lands within 800 metres of a highway or any controlled access highway. The staff, who actually
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make this decision, look at decisions that are made. We have to look within this ministry at the broader provincial interest.
There is a broader provincial interest to the extent that container storage is actually something that's quite important for the interests of the Pacific gateway and the interests of this province as we move forward. So we have to be careful about any decisions that a local municipality may make in isolation. I'm sure that Delta may have some rationale that may fit within their smaller parameters, but there is a broader provincial interest that ministry staff need to be alive to, and that is why ministry staff rejected the application that was submitted for ministry approval.
G. Gentner: Just for the record, how often is this provision rejected by the ministry with other municipalities? Is this a frequent thing, and if so, could he tell us for how many a year does this happen?
Hon. K. Falcon: I don't have those kind of numbers for the member. What I can tell the member is our experience. We work very well with municipalities, and typically these things are worked out between us without us having to reject anything.
In some rare exceptions — this would be one of them — the municipality will continue forward even after presumably being made aware of what the ministry's position is likely to be. That's unfortunate, but these things happen in very rare cases. Most of the time we work these things out very cooperatively with the municipality.
G. Gentner: How rare is it? Just a ballpark look — is it 100 a year or 50 a year or one a year? Or is it just a one-off strictly for the people of Delta?
Hon. K. Falcon: Again, as I said to the member, it's rare. There is no question. Sometimes municipalities want to rezone. They have ideas on issues that are near or within the 800 metres of highways. They usually work very cooperatively with our staff, and we solve these issues. So it is a rare circumstance — not never, but rare.
G. Gentner: Well, municipalities do have ideas. It's called planning on how, Minister, they want to create their communities. My question therefore is: if the ministry has now arbitrarily decided what's in the best interests of Delta, relative to its own provincial interests…. Changing industrial zoning according to the plan means that we could see erosion of the industrial base, whereby that rich industrial base, which was earmarked for warehousing, etc., now may be affected by the land values. It's now going to be set aside strictly for containers. Will Delta be compensated for the direction of this ministry on how it should plan its land use?
Hon. K. Falcon: No.
G. Gentner: We understand that the provincial interest is such that the municipality of Delta will not be compensated for the direction that this ministry and government want to impose upon the free will and how the municipality wants to direct its planning process. So that's fair. That's what the minister has said, and we understand what's being imposed upon the people of the Delta in the provincial interest, which will of course mean more containers.
Noting the time, I want to quickly move to the South Fraser perimeter road. There are still a lot of questions here that have to be asked and answered, and I'm sure the minister won't be able to do it all today. However, we do know about the so-called bubble zone, which is underneath the Alex Fraser Bridge. This will be the connection regarding egress, etc., from the Nordel section around to the frontage along River Road.
However, underneath the bridge there is a very active mill, namely that, of course, of Delta Cedar Products and Sunbury Cedar. There are about 200 employees there. My question is: when we go through the expropriation and purchase of properties, will this mill be forced to close?
Hon. K. Falcon: We can't comment on that at this point, because we actually don't know. The only comment I would make that the member should be aware of is that rarely are expropriations ever utilized by the ministry. We usually make willing buyer, willing seller arrangements. It's very rare. It happens sometimes, expropriation. In most cases, I'm pleased to say, we're able to settle, but I don't have the information on that for the member.
G. Gentner: Is it not fair to say that the location where this mill is will be impacted by the South Fraser perimeter road?
Hon. K. Falcon: It could very well be that we may need some lands associated with the businesses that the member opposite mentioned, but again, those are subject to ongoing discussions, and I don't believe there has been finality around that issue. As those discussions develop, I'm sure we'd be happy to share that information with the member.
G. Gentner: If or when part of the property is removed for construction, has there or will there be a cost-benefit analysis as to the viability of continuing operations?
Hon. K. Falcon: Naturally, that would be subject to negotiations that take place between the parties. I couldn't even begin to speculate. That would be a decision the mills would have to make. It's certainly not a decision I'm capable of making, but again, that'll be subject to the discussions they have back and forth between them.
G. Gentner: I flag it to the minister's attention because there are very few cedar mills of this productiv-
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ity left along the river. This is one of the jewels, and it's been very, very successful. Many of my constituents worked at this mill, and they are very concerned, not knowing what the direction is. So I bring it to the attention of the minister that this is a major issue for me and for my constituency. I hope the ministry will do everything in its power to keep this mill alive and operating.
I do want to quickly move to the costs, particularly the area within North Delta. The costs seem to have been changing through the development stages. Can the minister come forward now with what the projected overall cost of the South Fraser perimeter road will be from phase 1 to all-phase completion, including a time frame for when he's anticipating those phases to be completed?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member will recall that one of the things we did in this project, one of the things I'm very proud of, is that we put…. As the member knows, there are contingencies on each of the three pieces of this project. We also had a $300 million extraordinary contingency, and the reason for that contingency is that as we go through the process of negotiations and public consultation, there are changes made to the plans.
For example, the member will know that there was an issue with Ladner regarding the alignment of the highway. Ladner residents did not want the highway as near to their neighbourhood as the option that was being proposed, which would have saved a considerable amount of farmland. As a result of listening to the area residents, that added significant tens of millions of dollars of cost. Certainly, the environmental mitigation dollars have been increased dramatically to make sure that we appropriately deal with environmental mitigation.
Of course, industrial land costs certainly aren't going down; they are moving up. So we have allocated $200 million of the extraordinary contingency to the South Fraser perimeter road budget, which now stands at $1 billion.
G. Gentner: My understanding is it was $800 million. Is this a new revelation, or have I missed something here?
Hon. K. Falcon: It's certainly not a new revelation to me. In fact, I met with the editorial board of the Vancouver Sun and went through this in some detail. It's exactly why we have an extraordinary contingency. I mean, that's why we do it.
In this province since 2001, since we got elected, this is the first time I'm aware of that we've put an extraordinary contingency in place. We did that because we knew that as we went through the public consultative process, we would be allocating that contingency to deal with the results of public consultation, etc.
It may be extraordinary to the member opposite, but in fact for the Ministry of Transportation, this is exactly why we put it in place. I'm very proud of that.
G. Gentner: Relative to the amount of homes in North Delta — again, the residential area from the Alex Fraser Bridge to Elevator Road — how many will have to be removed? The story seems to change. And how many properties, combined, will be impacted?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member is quite right. That figure does change. It changes because as we work with the communities on the alignment, it can vary. I believe initially that we thought we were going to be looking at perhaps over 200 homes. Both partial and total takes would be required. That number is dramatically reduced — I believe, by at least 50 percent. But that number shifts because we're continuing to work on alignment issues.
To be honest, Member, I haven't got those numbers at my fingertips. We can try and get the latest numbers to the member, subject of course to the proviso that that's subject to change as we go through the consultation process.
G. Gentner: Regarding the whole project, what is the estimated budget for all property acquisitions?
Hon. K. Falcon: It's approximately $400 million.
G. Gentner: My math tells me that 40 percent of the total budget is property. That's a lot of property, Minister.
I want to talk about the Elevator Road area interchange. How many privately owned acres and how many homes will this interchange affect?
Hon. K. Falcon: I don't have that level of detail in front of me. Certainly, we could try and get that. The Gateway project office could probably get that information to the member.
Just as a comment to the earlier comment on land acquisition costs, the member is quite right; $400 million is a lot of money. This is one of the things about spending 20 years talking about a project while the communities are building up in the area in which they themselves are calling for a highway. That does create challenges. There's no question about it. In fact, I can tell the member, with some confidence, that this would probably be the single largest property acquisition process we've had to undertake as a ministry on a single project, so it is significant.
In terms of the detail the member wants on the other aspect, I'm sorry. That's a level of detail I don't have, but it's certainly one we can try and get the member.
G. Gentner: Yes. If it is one of the largest acquisition of properties for a major project in the province, my question to the minister is therefore: how persistent has this ministry been in looking at all alternatives to the South Fraser perimeter road?
Hon. K. Falcon: I can answer that with great confidence. I can say to the member: exhaustively. In fact, we have expended hundreds of thousands of dollars looking at options that have been brought forward to the ministry. Hoover-Naas from Surrey, for example,
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the member will know, was examined in painstaking detail.
We look at all the options. There was talk about tunnels, and we brought in world experts in terms of tunnelling to look at what those options would mean. So yes, we've examined this in great detail.
I think the critical thing to recognize is that the South Fraser perimeter road is something the region has been calling for, for over 20 years. It's consistent with the livable region strategic plan. It's consistent with the official community plan objectives of both Delta and Surrey.
It's never an easy process when you have a built-up suburban area. There are lots of very challenging decisions that we try to very carefully navigate through to make sure we don't impact the protected areas of the bog, which we don't.
We should be clear. It's not without impact. We try to work through that as carefully and as responsibly as we can, and I believe that staff are doing a very, very good job in that. Everything I've ever heard from the people that have talked to staff…. Even the ones that may be unhappy with their decisions do acknowledge that they have worked with them very, very well.
G. Gentner: The hon. minister mentions the exhaustive studies that have been conducted on alternatives. One was the Hoover-Naas proposal. My question, therefore, is: how much property acquisition was needed in this proposal — and the value of it?
A Voice: Hoover-Naas?
G. Gentner: Hoover-Naas.
Hon. K. Falcon: What we do know about the Hoover-Naas proposal was that it used…. Equivalent or more agricultural land would have to be utilized to move forward with the Hoover-Naas proposal. It was also a very challenging…. Well, in fact it was very deficient in a number of very significant ways, in terms of dealing with less than 10 percent of the traffic that the South Fraser perimeter road would be able to deal with, and there were other problems.
I don't have the exact number of the properties that would have been involved in terms of takes required, whether partially or fully, on the Hoover-Naas proposal. Again, I don't have that information in front of me. But I do know, the member should know, that it would have required the equivalent or, if it was to be done to the same four-lane standard that it would be under the South Fraser perimeter road, would have required significantly more agricultural farmland.
G. Gentner: Okay. Therefore, if the Hoover-Naas is going to, for all intents and purposes, follow the existing railway spur line, do we not have any idea how many acres were going to be lost from the agricultural land reserve? And can the minister reiterate how many acres are going to be removed from the ALR to facilitate the present South Fraser perimeter road proposal?
Hon. K. Falcon: I think, in the interest of the member opposite's time…. I don't want to just say that in a dismissive or glib way, but I think that the level of detail in the questions that this member is asking is really best directed to the project office. I would be happy to have them sit down with the member. In fact, the member might find it really helpful to sit down….
They can walk the member through the Hoover-Naas proposal, the amount of agricultural land that would result in the take. It's very significant. In fact, as I say, to provide the equivalent four-lane-type express highway that is being provided for in the South Fraser perimeter road, it would utilize far more agricultural land than would the current route option.
In terms of the number of acres, etc., I just don't have that, but I would be happy to set up a meeting for the member so that he can get all the level of detail he would like on whatever options.
G. Gentner: I look forward to having that meeting. I've had several meetings with Mr. Proudfoot, and as the project continues, I look forward to continuing that discussion.
The loss of farmland: does the ministry have a policy relative to no net loss of ALR land? And is there a position in place to try and compensate that loss?
Hon. K. Falcon: No, we don't have that policy in the ministry. One thing I can tell the member is that we have set aside $10 million to work with the Delta Farmers Institute to ensure that we can put into place measures that will increase the productivity and capability of the farmers to work their lands. That's something that we're continuing to work on with the Delta Farmers Institute.
I think $10 million is a fairly substantial contribution to try and make sure that those farmers have every opportunity to service their land and, in some cases, improve the ability to service their land in a very productive fashion.
G. Gentner: There is an alternative, as well, that has been discussed — I talked to Mr. Proudfoot about it, but I'm interested to know what the ministry's position is — and that is regarding the design stage in the studies that have been conducted by the ministry on what's known as the Surrey diagonal, which is going to connect one day up to about 216th, and it's going to run around where my area is, Colebrook, south of Highway 10. Could the minister elaborate where we are with this proposal?
Hon. K. Falcon: We are aware of the concept, but no, that's not a concept that is in our planning horizon at all.
G. Gentner: That's a revelation. When I talked to Mr. Proudfoot, he did tell me that it was at a latter stage when we reach congestion with the South Fraser perimeter road in maybe a 15- or 20-year time frame.
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There is the diagonal, which is going to connect Highway 99 up with the 401.
I want to make sure I've got this straight. There has been no work and no studies and no money spent on this connection, or possibility of.
Hon. K. Falcon: No, there has been no money spent. I'm advised by staff on this. As I said, it's not on our planning horizon. Typically, on a project like this our planning horizon is going out ten years.
G. Gentner: But the minister is aware that this concept exists.
Hon. K. Falcon: Yes, we are aware that the concept exists.
G. Gentner: Earlier the minister mentioned that he looked at all alternatives that are available to us. This is an alternative. My question is: why hasn't he looked at this alternative?
Hon. K. Falcon: At the early stages there was an alternatives study done. That was one of the alternatives. That does not mean that dollars were spent towards investigating that particular option. It was part of the alternatives that were looked at. It was rejected fairly early on because it didn't deal with the traffic issues that were trying to be dealt with the same way. It didn't deal with the movement-of-goods traffic. It would have mostly dealt with commuter traffic and not the movement-of-goods traffic. But that was something that was looked at early on.
G. Gentner:. It's looking at commuter traffic only. Therefore, I'm assuming that the South Fraser perimeter road is not for commuters. What is the projected use by commuters on the South Fraser perimeter road? Is it 80 percent? Is it 70 percent?
Hon. K. Falcon: I hope I didn't leave the impression with the member that there is not commuter traffic being utilized on South Fraser perimeter road. My goodness. Of course there will probably be a very significant amount. I don't know the exact amount — probably 75 percent to 80 percent. But the primary beneficiary…. In fact, the day this opens it will be the second-busiest truck route in British Columbia.
That's why it's so critical that it tie up to the industrial locations, as the member well knows, along the south shore of the Fraser River. That's why it's so critical to relieve the congestion that is currently on River Road, which the member well knows, being from Delta North, is just at horrific levels. That's why the message to me from the folks that I talk to has consistently been: "Just get on with it and get this thing done to deal with this problem."
Let's not forget the problem we're trying to fix, and I think the member knows this. We have traffic along River Road, which is a local municipal road dealing with an enormous amount of truck traffic volume. That truck traffic volume is only going to get significantly worse, and this will provide a tremendous relief to the local road network for the benefit of Delta. That's why we're doing it.
G. Gentner: My neighbourhoods will be quite relieved to know that it's going to be the second-busiest truck route in the province. Of course, we just heard earlier where the minister has stated that the erosion of the industrial tax area could in fact be caused by this ministry deciding to not grant Delta its planning right to plan its community in a proper way.
My other question, looking at the alternatives…. The ministry is obviously bent on the notion of a single megaproject. Has the ministry looked at — including, of course, a diagonal — a multitude of alternatives that could share the load?
Hon. K. Falcon: Again, I didn't even understand what that question was. It could be because it's late in the evening, but it made no sense to me at all. What I can tell this member is that this concept has been studied and discussed and debated and argued for over 20 years, but the one conclusion that the livable region strategic plan called for, that the communities of Delta and Surrey have called for, is the South Fraser perimeter road.
Having said that, I don't want to pretend that there are not impacts. When you relocate a road, there are going to be some new people that won't like the fact that the road is now there, and there will be people where the road no longer is who will be quite happy. I imagine the residents of Ladner would be one of those groups of people that will be quite happy. I don't want to pretend that everyone stands up and does a Hail to the Chief song, as projects like this often can have controversy, as did the SkyTrain, as did Cambie Street Bridge, as did Canada line.
Virtually any major project you undertake in the province is going to have challenges. The issue is: how do we deal with those challenges? What we have tried to do, and I think it's been reflected…. We have worked very, very hard to consult with communities, as the member well knows. He's met with Mr. Proudfoot on many occasions.
I know he will share my opinion that Mr. Proudfoot is probably the epitome of the professional public servant doing an outstanding job, working with all of the stakeholder groups, spending enormous amounts of hours trying very, very hard to accommodate as many folks as he can but always recognizing that we can never accommodate everybody. I think we should always be upfront about that, and I've tried to be.
G. Gentner: The minister is correct when he says that this project has been in the works for possibly 20 years. But time does change. Situations change. We have a project that was conceived 20 years ago in the '80s. We're now into the 21st century, and modes of transportation have changed. Therefore we know that the two ports are going to merge.
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We know some are looking at how it's going to impact it. There is going to be a change. The Vancouver Port Authority is looking at intermodal shifts, moving containers possibly by truck barge up the river. The mini-gateways are going to change. How is that merge of the ports going to affect truck movements up and down the major corridors of the Fraser Valley?
Hon. K. Falcon: I think the member would be well-served by going and talking to the ports and asking them what they think about the South Fraser perimeter road. The reason the ports are discussing mergers is because they recognize there is going to be considerable growth in container traffic from the Asia-Pacific. That creates tremendous potential opportunities for British Columbia to become, in fact, the preferred gateway to North America in terms of the movement of goods to and from Asia. He will find, if the member goes and has those discussions, that they will be very, very strongly in support of this.
I think the member should also recognize the tremendous relief this is going to have on the local road network. I can tell you all the communities bordering Highway 17 are going to see a tremendous amount of relief knowing that virtually all of that truck traffic is going to move off Highway 17 onto the new South Fraser perimeter road. That's why it's been called for, for so long. It's consistent with Delta's own official community plan — and Surrey's. The member should know this.
That doesn't mean that these are easy decisions. It doesn't mean that they don't go forward without challenges. You try to work through, and that's why we have very extensive public consultations. I commend the work that the staff is doing; I think it's exceptional.
The member talks about how times have changed. Well, I can tell you, the voices for the South Fraser perimeter road haven't changed. It's still entirely consistent with the livable region strategic plan. If the member is saying that that ought to change, he should say so, but we're going ahead and doing this.
We actually, as part of our agreement with TransLink, said that we would do this and that they were going to work on the north side of the Fraser and do the works there through New Westminster. We're just trying to get this done and trying to do it the right way, and I think we're succeeding.
G. Gentner: Yes, the voices haven't changed. It all depends on which voices you are listening to.
My question, quickly. I have maybe one or two left. We're seeing Burns Bog…. It's highly debatable, of course, primarily with the environmental assessment office, the overpass, the cranberry fields. I'd first like to know how much that's…
D. Jarvis: That's the one you wanted to pave, isn't it?
G. Gentner: …going to cost.
The member opposite talks about the paving of Burns Bog. The South Fraser perimeter road will pave part of Burns Bog, however you define it, on the outreaches of Burns Bog. It's part of a complete ecosystem.
My question is: one, what's the cost of the overpass to assess, reach the cranberry fields; and two, can the minister assure this House that his road will not impact the ecosystems of Burns Bog?
Hon. K. Falcon: I do think I have to give a tiny bit of a history lesson to the member. It was actually this government that moved to protect the bog. It was the member opposite's government that was planning on paving the bog and moving an amusement park from the PNE to the bog. I think we need to get that part right.
The second thing the member needs to know is that it's false when he says that we're paving into the bog. We are not touching any of the protected areas — the identified protected areas of the bog. We have done considerable environmental research, particularly on the hydrology of the bog. If the member reads up about the hydrology of the bog, what he will find is that one of the challenges the bog faces is that the water radiates from the centre out to the extremities of the bog and actually creates a challenge for the bog because it dries it out. We think, and the studies show, that we can actually improve the hydrology by having a hard edge to the bog, which the highway in part will help provide.
It doesn't mean there are not impacts. The member is quite correct to point out the environmental impacts. Through the environmental assessment process we're doing everything we can to try and minimize those impacts as much as humanly possible.
First of all, that starts with being very upfront about not pretending there are not impacts, because there are. So the issue is: can we minimize those impacts as much as humanly possible and try to, in some cases, create opportunities for improvements to areas where they are seeing some challenges? The answer is that I believe we can do that, but we will do that with the input from regulatory agencies and with input from interested environmental groups.
As I said at the beginning, it's a little hard to listen to a lecture about the bog and protecting the bog when that member's government wanted to pave it. We protected it. It continues to be protected. I'm very proud of the work we've done to make sure that as we go through the South Fraser perimeter road it will be protected and that there are opportunities to provide some improvements.
G. Gentner: As a former vice-president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society, I have a great knowledge of the hydrology, and it's a complete ecosystem. You can't go on the edges without impacting the other parts of Burns Bog. It is going to impact public lands — lands that are owned by the municipality of Delta and, of course, the Greater Vancouver regional district.
The other question I had asked was the complete cost of the overpass to reach the cranberries. Hopefully the minister can respond to that.
My question is, of course, on the air impacts. We know that when you look at all the technical volumes
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that have been submitted on the Gateway program, it suggests there in volume 16, page 51: "Human health is the second-largest category impacted by the Gateway program." We look further in volume 16, page 39: "With increased air pollution there can possibly be increased employment in the health sector because of the economic activity associated with correcting the results of its impacts."
It's quite a long list here, regarding the concerns of notable schools close by. Here is another one…. I can go on and on and on, quite frankly, on some of the concerns that are being reached in the environmental assessment.
How does the South Fraser perimeter road work with the ministry's carbon reduction program that seemed to be said in the throne speech — other than this concept about stopping the idling of trucks — when we have a technical volume here from the environmental assessment office saying that we're going to see an increase in carbon, particularly of diesel particulate, once it's completed?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member opposite may not be aware that we actually spent quite considerable time the other day canvassing these issues of air quality vis-à-vis Gateway programs. The member might want to refer to some of the transcripts, in the interest of time.
What I can say to the member is that he's reading selective excerpts from the reports. I think that the member has to be careful not to do that, because what he does, as some of the folks there have tried to do, is he takes selective excerpts, some of which are general statements about highway and impacts on air quality generally — not the South Fraser perimeter road — and they're trying to apply those to the South Fraser perimeter road.
The important thing for the member to know is there is virtually no impact on air quality as a result of the Gateway program. The other thing the member should know is that when he talks about diesel particulates, he should read that in its entirety. What it really is saying is that obviously when you put a road into an area where there wasn't a road, yes, there is an increase in diesel particulate. Clearly there would be, just as in other communities like Ladner. When you move a road and you move traffic off of where trucks were formerly going, there is less diesel particulate.
The issue is that the diesel particulate levels we're talking about are well within the safety range. I think it's important for the member to know that it's fair to point these things out, but it is not fair to take selective excerpts and try and create community fear about something. That's not appropriate.
We work very, very hard with this information. I'm very familiar with the information the member is talking about. I would encourage the member to read it in its entirety. Be careful not to just read excerpts and try to create unnecessary fear around a situation. The other thing I will say is that the overall air quality effects over the next 20 years are all projected to improve.
The Chair: Member, noting the time.
G. Gentner: Very quickly…. Do we have time for one or two more questions?
The Chair: No.
G. Gentner: No. Then I will surrender to my dear colleague to the left.
D. Chudnovsky: I just wanted to wrap things up with a couple of very quick comments with respect to substance — it won't take me any time at all — and then say a couple of things about the process in general.
As always with these estimates, we unfortunately don't have the time that we'd like to have. There are a whole number of issues that I would have liked to have canvassed with the minister in much more detail. I know that we will find other ways and other means and other processes to do that.
To be clear, there is a discussion to be had about the TransLink review and the recommendations. No doubt there will be legislation at some point. There is already the beginning of a response in the community. I note the response of the Fraser Valley mayors and many others. As I said before, there will be other opportunities and other processes for having that discussion.
CN and the recent reports of the audit, which we in our office asked be made public, was made public. There's a discussion we need to have around that, and the minister and the ministry's response. We look forward to other opportunities to have that discussion.
Certainly the Gateway and its broader implications. We look forward to other opportunities to speak with the minister and the ministry about that.
We want to thank the minister and his staff for the commitments they've made with respect to the information which will be forthcoming to us. I think it's important that within the next couple of days we nail down precisely those commitments that were made so kindly by the minister with respect to information that we want and need to do the job that we are being asked to do by the people of the province.
We will be in touch very, very quickly to make sure that our understanding of the commitments that were made by the minister is the same as his and to facilitate a process to make sure that information gets to us.
Finally, if I may, I want to thank the minister very much for his always entertaining and often substantive — well, sometimes substantive — responses to the questions we asked. In particular, we want to thank the staff of the ministry for their hard work and wonderful work on behalf of the people of the province and for the information they have provided for us over the last couple of days.
Hon. K. Falcon: I also want to extend my thanks to the official Transportation critic. I think that every year he does a very good job in asking often very detailed and penetrating questions in all aspects of the ministry. I appreciate that. As much as we sometimes have fun with each other in terms of the rhetorical flourishes, he
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is very much a worthy critic of this ministry. I want to thank him and all the members in his organizational efforts that were undertaken.
[The bells were rung.]
The final thing I will say, recognizing the bells are ringing, is that I, too, would like to thank the staff, in particular the staff who have worked with me here over these five sometimes seemingly very long days. They've done an exceptional job, and they always provide me with very accurate and up-to-date information.
The final thing I want to do is to thank the member for his comments to staff too. The staff in this ministry across the province do an exceptional job on behalf of British Columbians, and again, I want to thank them on the record for the work they've done and how much we all appreciate it.
With that, Mr. Chair, I move that the committee rise, report resolution and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 6:23 p.m.
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