2009 Legislative Session: Fifth Session, 38th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Volume 40, Number 3
Introductions by Members
Victoria Racquet Club amateur hockey champions
Hon. I. Chong
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, 2009 (Bill M203)
Statements (Standing Order 25b)
Social workers in B.C.
Canadian Agricultural Safety Week
Belmont Secondary School
Journée de la Francophonie
Treatments for kidney disease
Ethel Tibbits Awards
Role of Patrick Kinsella in B.C. Rail sale
Hon. W. Oppal
Government legal proceedings in Frank Paul inquiry
Hon. J. van Dongen
Report recommendations from Frank Paul inquiry
Hon. J. van Dongen
Transition assistance for forest workers
Hon. K. Krueger
Long-term care beds in Campbell River
Hon. G. Abbott
Lodge on 4th seniors care facility
Hon. G. Abbott
Committee of the Whole House
Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 8)
Hon. I. Black
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 8)
Budget Debate (continued)
Hon. J. McIntyre
Appropriate attire in the chamber
Royal Assent to Bills
Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2009 (Bill 2)
Ministerial Accountability Bases Act, 2008-2009 (Bill 4)
Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 8)
Supply Act, 2008-2009 (Supplementary Estimates) (Bill 3)
Supply Act (No. 1), 2009 (Bill 5)
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THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2009
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
Hon. M. de Jong: Mr. Speaker, one of the individuals that influenced my life, earlier life in particular, a great deal is in the gallery today. He is now the mayor of the city of Abbotsford, and his name is George Peary. He is accompanied by a team that includes Frank Pizzuto and, from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Alvin Epp.
I hope all members will make this dynamic threesome welcome here in the chamber today.
C. Evans: Joining us, just to the left of Hansard, are Tina and Dave Coletti, their daughter Christine, her best friend Elise and Tina's sister-in-law Jodi Laurie. I explained to Christine and Elise that this building actually belongs to them, so would members please welcome their landlords.
VICTORIA RACQUET CLUB
AMATEUR HOCKEY CHAMPIONS
Hon. I. Chong: I would like today to congratulate the Victoria Racquet Club Kings, who are from my riding of Oak Bay–Gordon Head, on their successful victory of the Vancouver Island championships for the midget triple-A division in the B.C. Amateur Hockey league.
The team, along with several parents, will be travelling to Prince George very shortly to participate in the provincial championships, which I hope are going to receive a warm welcome in my colleague's hometown. Clearly, there will be spirited competition, but I think it's appropriate to put in the Hansard records how well the Victoria Racquet Club Kings did this past year.
Their statistics — because I know how important it is for those sports fans out there — are a whopping 31 wins, seven losses and five ties. They were undefeated in the playoffs and are now on a 12-game winning streak and headed to the provincial championships.
Not only would I like to congratulate them, but I would like to wish all participating teams and volunteers and parents the very best as they participate in Prince George.
Introductions by Members
D. Chudnovsky: Today in the gallery we are joined by Rachel Marcuse. Rachel has been my constituency assistant on a part-time basis for the last number of years. She's young, dynamic, articulate and principled. She's one of the best political organizers in the province. I don't think this is the last time we'll see her in this House. Please join me in welcoming Rachel Marcuse.
Hon. K. Falcon: Today in the gallery we have three outstanding labour leaders who represent individuals who build and transport our economy. Today we are joined by Don McGill of the Teamsters, Mike Garisto from the Teamsters Rail Conference and Gary Kroeker from the Operating Engineers. I would ask the House to please make these leaders welcome.
H. Bains: In the gallery — if they haven't made it up to the gallery yet, they probably are looking around and visiting our beautiful building here — are two groups of students from Strawberry Hill School, grade 5. They are accompanied by their teachers Rapinder Gill, Sharon Goodwall and Harmony Wilson. A total of 56 of them are here. So please help me welcome them to this place.
Hon. J. McIntyre: [French was spoken.] Today I have the pleasure of welcoming His Worship Richard Stewart, mayor of Coquitlam; Dr. Réal Roy, president of the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique; Francine Bolduc from le COVAN, or VANOC; Robert Rothon from Canadian Parents for French; and Claire Grisé, president of the Société francophone de Victoria.
We also have the pleasure to welcome fifth- and sixth-grade students from Ecole Victor Brodeur in Victoria, one of the schools from the Conseil scolaire francophone.
We also had the privilege of having three athletes, Olympic-quality athletes, at our celebration: Carly Grigg, Erinne Willock and Michelle Bartlemann. I hope the House will make them all feel very welcome aujourd'hui.
M. Farnworth: It's my pleasure to welcome to this chamber, as others on the government side have done, a former MLA but now the mayor for Coquitlam, which is the Burke Mountain part of my riding. It's my pleasure to welcome Richard Stewart to this House and ask everyone to make him most welcome.
Hon. T. Christensen: I am pleased to welcome today and hope everybody will join me in welcoming three valued employees within the Ministry of Children and Family Development. All three are involved in that somewhat unenviable position of trying to keep ministers organized, deputy ministers organized and other senior staff within the ministry organized and coordinated.
Please join me in welcoming Zita Teng, who's an executive assistant in the deputy minister's office; Breanna Viala, who's a manager of executive operations; and my own administrative coordinator, Linsey Cole. Please help me welcome them all.
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Mr. Speaker: Opposition House Leader for a second go-round.
M. Farnworth: Hon. Speaker, I don't usually get many visitors from my riding over here in Victoria.
An Hon. Member: All your friends.
M. Farnworth: Hey, no one of my immediate family has been here my entire time as an MLA — not once.
Mr. Speaker: And this isn't even question period.
M. Farnworth: There is a very important constituent in my riding, and that is Gary Kroeker. He and his members have built an awful lot of roads and bridges and schools in my constituency since 1991 and my being an MLA. I want to welcome him here and tell him that I look forward to him and his members building an awful lot more roads and bridges in my constituency in the future.
Hon. I. Chong: Earlier today I introduced an individual, and I note that he has now returned for a repeat attendance to watch us at question period. I wanted to again provide a further welcome and introduction to him. He's the Hon. Jim Kenyon, Minister of Economic Development from the Yukon. He's also responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I know he is very familiar with many members in this House because he has been an avid supporter and participant member of the PNWER organization, so I know many members on both sides of the House will have met him over a period of years.
He joined us earlier today at an announcement. But not just that, he's come to every event and announcement thus far this morning and has decided to join us at question period. He would like us to be on our best behaviour. I hope the House would please make him welcome.
L. Krog: I apologize if the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations already introduced this person, but my ears are somewhat stuffed today. Joanne Hogan is with us, the president of the local francophone association in Nanaimo, an active supporter of community events and French culture in central Vancouver Island. I would ask the House to make her welcome, please.
Also wandering around the building is my sister-in-law Valerie Caselton and her daughter Morgan. I think it's the first time Morgan has been to this place, and as a teenager, I'm sure we're going to provide her with the greatest display possible in question period.
V. Roddick: In the gallery today are two super women who are married to great-grandsons of two of Ladner's pioneer still-farming families: Jackey Zellweger, Swedish-Irish-Swiss, and Sam Guichon, French. They both run me and my office, and I am forever grateful.
Joining them is the next generation, Chrissy Zellweger, a fabulous young lady who is here attending UVic. Would the House please make them very welcome.
H. Bloy: I'd like to introduce two great British Columbians in the gallery today. These two individuals were in Victoria today talking to the Minister of Advanced Education, proposing a public service internship program for immigrant professionals. I believe this is a great opportunity for the government to gain access to some strong professionals to work for government.
We have Patrick Coady, coordinator of the B.C. Internationally Trained Professionals Network, and Sakya Newman, who is the BCITP Victoria representative and a success story in her own right. She came from Panama four years ago and was just recently hired by the provincial government. Would the House please make them welcome.
C. Wyse: I believe today we have visiting with us in the House two constituents from up in the Cariboo area. I say they may be here because they also may be on Cariboo time. They are in transit. I am expecting them to be here. I would ask the House to join with me in welcoming Chris and Ray Hornby from Williams Lake.
Hon. I. Black: You know, Mr. Speaker, 60 percent of the great riding of Port Moody–Westwood is contained within the city of Coquitlam. I would be remiss if I didn't add the welcome to Mayor Richard Stewart, who is the friend of many in this House. Bienvenue, mon ami.
Hon. L. Reid: I am joined today by a woman, Lynda Turney, from Duncan, British Columbia. She and I attended high school together, so we've known each other for a long, long time. I would ask this House to please make her welcome.
First Reading of Bills
Safer Communities and
Neighbourhoods Act, 2009
B. Ralston presented a bill intituled Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, 2009.
B. Ralston: I move that a bill intituled Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, 2009, be introduced and read a first time now.
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B. Ralston: The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act will help communities across the province with additional legal tools to help make neighbourhoods safer for our citizens.
This legislation provides legal methods to hold landlords accountable if a pattern of criminal activity occurs on their properties. This legislation will also provide authorities with additional means to target criminal organizations and gang-related activities operating in residential neighbourhoods.
The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have enacted similar legislation. It works. This legislation also provides safeguards to protect vulnerable tenants who may face eviction as a result of enforcement actions.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M203, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, 2009, 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)
SOCIAL WORKERS IN B.C.
J. McGinn: It's my great pleasure to rise in the House today to recognize the extraordinary contributions made by social workers in our community. March 9 to March 15 is Social Work Week in B.C. This year's theme is "Strength, Spirit and Compassion: Social Workers Make a Difference."
Social workers play a key role in our society by empowering individuals and their families to overcome barriers in their lives. They have the skills and dedication needed to provide help and support during this economic downturn through their work and their advocacy of social justice and standing up with communities and individuals fighting poverty, discrimination and oppression.
In my constituency of Vancouver-Fairview alone, social workers make a tremendous impact in a variety of settings. At Little Mountain Neighbourhood House social workers provide support for families facing financial and life challenges. At the Jewish Family Services Agency social workers have developed programs to help people with mental disabilities in our community.
At the SAFER program social workers provide counselling to suicidal individuals and their families during their darkest hours and promote healing. At the Vancouver General Hospital and the Children's and Women's hospital, social workers provide crisis support and advocacy to ensure that patients get the support they need and deserve.
Unfortunately, the current reality is that our social workers have to help more people with fewer resources than ever before because of the cutbacks we've seen over the last eight years. I hope we can use Social Work Week to recognize the vital role that social workers play in our society but also to look ahead at how far we have left to go in supporting some of our most hard-working, caring citizens.
We need to recognize social workers do make a difference in B.C. and make sure that they have the resources necessary to provide the help that they do.
CANADIAN AGRICULTURAL SAFETY WEEK
V. Roddick: It is Canadian Agricultural Safety Week, and we want to recognize this in British Columbia.
On behalf of the province, our deepest condolences to the families of the three workers that lost their lives last fall in Langley.
This incident has highlighted the need to be ever-mindful of safety issues and the need for adequate training in all industries. However, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture and as someone who is active in agribusiness, I know firsthand how important it is that we look out for everyone's well-being and safety.
FARSHA, the Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association, funded through WorkSafe B.C., has recently brought in a Spanish contractor and employs Vietnamese- and Punjabi-speaking coordinators to provide safety training to workers in Delta and across B.C. The western agricultural labour initiative, WALI, facilitates and coordinates requests for temporary foreign workers.
A single accident is one accident too many, but it is encouraging that in the last few years, the injury rate in agriculture is on the decline. In recognition of farm safety week, I would like to say thank you to everyone who is dedicated to the task of ensuring safe, proper housing and working conditions.
Agriculture is often hard manual labour, the importance of which is often overlooked. I would urge everyone to remember how important farmers and farmworkers are to life in B.C., because we all still have to eat to live.
BELMONT SECONDARY SCHOOL
J. Horgan: Last week I attended an evening at the Grammies, a gala celebration of music performed by an exceptional group of students at Belmont Secondary School in Langford. Every year I attend musical productions at Belmont, and every year I'm astounded at the sheer talent of the students and the effort taken by the participants, teachers, parents and other volunteers to produce such professional events.
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Belmont is also a leader in green thinking and environmental learning. Through its various green teams, students are learning to be environmental stewards and taking the initiative to make our community and our world more sustainable. I encourage all schools in the district to participate in the Belmont Earth Hour challenge hosted by the school's eco-committee and turn off their classroom lights at one o'clock, Friday, March 27.
Belmont's hockey school academy is committed to supporting the development of young hockey players. Soccer, volleyball, basketball and football are all flourishing parts of a successful athletic program.
The gateway to the trades carpentry and cosmetology programs speak further to the diverse opportunities offered by the school. Belmont also has a very strong academic record, with one in five Belmont students enrolled in advanced placement and pre-AP courses in the areas of English, French, calculus, studio art, music theory and social studies.
The arts, the environment, trades, athletics and academics — these are just a few of the impressive programs provided by the one and only high school in the West Shore located in the fastest-growing area of the province. These students can take pride in their accomplishments, and the teachers can take pleasure in helping develop our next generation of leaders.
Tonight at 7:30 district 62 is holding a public forum at Belmont to discuss the pressing need to replace the old building. As a local MLA and a parent of two Belmont grads, I encourage all community members to come out and participate in this discussion. Despite the crumbling walls, the duct tape covering the holes in the floor and a leaky roof, there is strong school spirit. But the time has come to build a new school for the 21st century. Let's get on with it.
JOURNÉE DE LA FRANCOPHONIE
J. Nuraney: [French was spoken.]
I am pleased to announce that on March 20, 2009, we will have a proclamation for the Journée de la Francophonie in British Columbia. As the House will not be sitting on that day, we are taking advantage to make this declaration today.
This year Francophonie Day of 2009 was celebrated in style earlier this afternoon here in the rotunda of the legislative building. This year's event was hosted by my colleague the Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations, who is also responsible for francophone affairs. The celebration was attended by many in the Francophonie community. It was filled with music, fun, friends and great food.
This year's theme of B.C. Francophonie Day is sports and the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. These francophone athletes — Erinne Willock, Carly Grigg, Michelle Bartlemann — were recognized. I'm sure that we all wish them best of luck in their future endeavours in both winter and summer sports.
My colleague the Minister of Healthy Living and Sport was also part of today's celebration. The minister invited us to adopt a healthy lifestyle not only to maintain good health but also as a tribute to our athletes who are training hard to compete in Olympic and Paralympic Games.
To commemorate this historic fact this year, the year 2009, the city of Coquitlam is celebrating the foundation of the presence of francophone communities in British Columbia with the 100th anniversary of Maillardville, where the first francophone community emerged.
TREATMENTS FOR KIDNEY DISEASE
K. Conroy: A number of members in this House and their families have had challenging health experiences. Our family is no different, due to the ongoing experience my husband Ed has had with many levels of health care throughout the province. March being Kidney Month in B.C. and today being World Kidney Day, I want to talk about the latest focus in our life, and that would be kidneys.
Last year I acknowledged the amazing people who work in the regional renal unit in Trail, who continue to provide the excellent dialysis service for Ed and others in a caring and compassionate manner. Again, I say a huge thanks to all of them for being there.
In the last year we've had the pleasure of getting to know the staff from the renal unit at Kelowna General Hospital, another great group of caring professionals. I want to thank them too.
Our journey has taken us into the world of kidney disease, and it has taken us on another turn. Ed has now become eligible for a kidney transplant, a transplant that would not only give him a much better quality of life but save the health care system thousands of dollars in dialysis cost. The transplants are cost-effective. The average cost of dialysis treatment is $50,000 a year. By comparison, the one-time cost of a kidney transplant is $20,000.
I want to thank the people who work with the B.C. Renal Agency throughout the province and the kidney team at B.C. Transplant. Today in B.C., 220 people are actually waiting for a kidney transplant. For them, the wait-list for a cadaver donor kidney can be up to eight years.
However, with the new programs that have been introduced, there are more opportunities for living donors to make that gift of life. Family members with the same blood type who can meet all the requirements can donate a kidney. The paired kidney exchange program makes it possible for patients with living donors who are not blood-type compatible to swap donors with another couple in the same situation, enabling two kidney patients to receive a transplant.
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Just recently we have learned of another option, an option that will be available to us only because of research. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the medical researchers, the unsung heroes who work in their labs and struggle through the complexities of kidney disease and once in a while say: "Eureka. We have it."
This time they have. They have found a way for an A donor, me, to potentially give an O recipient, Ed, a kidney. For that I want to say thanks. Thanks on behalf of all the families who, like our family, could potentially benefit.
ETHEL TIBBITS AWARDS
J. Yap: The 16th annual Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards were held on Tuesday with 300 community members in attendance to celebrate the achievements of a truly distinguished group of women who embody the spirit of community. The awards are named in honour of the Richmond Review newspaper's visionary editor Ethel Tibbits.
Ethel became editor in 1934 and was well known for her outspoken nature and her passion for standing up for what she believed in, characteristics that all of the award winners share. Ethel Tibbits was truly one of a kind and the perfect inspiration for awards to honour women who carry on her tradition of community work. With 27 nominees in total, the organizers had quite the task to pick winners, as all the women nominated were truly deserving of recognition.
Melanie Pudlas, a three-time nominee, was awarded the arts award for her work in dance at the Richmond arts centre. Prianka Dhir, an R.C. Palmer Secondary student, won the youth award for her volunteering. With over 30 years of experience with coaching and skating, Connaught figure skating club's Marilyn Grubb took home the sports award. Ami McKay was awarded the business award for her environmentally friendly line of furniture.
Frances Clark was awarded, in a new category, the pioneer award for her advocacy for and founding of the Richmond Centre for Disability. A winner close to my heart, Nina Graham, a longtime friend, won the community award for her extensive volunteering in Richmond.
The Ethel Tibbits Awards also serve as a fundraiser for Nova House, a domestic violence shelter, the Richmond Hospital maternity ward and the Richmond Women's Resource Centre, as well as funding a scholarship for women returning to school.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, please join me in thanking these six women and all the other nominees for giving their time and energy towards making Richmond and, indeed, British Columbia a better place.
ROLE OF PATRICK KINSELLA
IN B.C. RAIL SALE
L. Krog: Yesterday the Attorney General said he couldn't answer questions about Mr. Kinsella because the B.C. Rail corruption case is before the courts. Later he said he had no idea if payments to Mr. Kinsella were before the courts. The fact remains that the Premier's friend and campaign manager received $300,000 in public money, and this government thinks it's none of the public's business to know what he was paid for.
My question is to the Attorney General. Why did B.C. Rail pay $300,000 to the Premier's friend, and why is the Premier hiding the truth?
Hon. W. Oppal: I have no idea if any of those facts alleged are accurate or not, and I'm not going to comment on them.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: Perhaps the Attorney General is not aware that B.C. Rail is a Crown corporation. Perhaps he's not aware that he's the chief legal spokesperson for this government. Perhaps he's not aware that this is not the B.C. Court of Appeal and that he's expected to actually answer public questions in a public place.
I want to ask him again: what did Mr. Kinsella do for $300,000? Tell us here in this chamber today.
Hon. W. Oppal: Perhaps the member doesn't know, but the matter of B.C. Rail is before the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and I will not make any comment on it.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a further supplemental.
L. Krog: The facts are not in dispute. They are public record. Mr. Kinsella and his companies received $300,000 of taxpayers' money. The question is: what did he do that he got paid to do for $300,000? A big chunk of change for most people in the streets of Victoria. Taxpayers' dollars. Let this Attorney General stand in this House today and tell us: what did Mr. Kinsella do for $300,000?
Hon. W. Oppal: The fact that something is of public record does not mean that it can be the subject of comment. Every piece of evidence given in a courtroom is a matter of public record. Every document that's ever filed in a courtroom is a matter of public record. That doesn't mean that we need to comment on it.
J. Horgan: Yesterday in this place the Attorney General said he would not comment on Mr. Kinsella's
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contract for $300,000. Yesterday in the hallway he went on at some length talking about whether or not the case was relevant, whether or not Mr. Kinsella's contract was or was not relevant.
So I'm curious, and I'm certain that people in this House are curious and that the people of British Columbia are curious. What is it today? Is it what you're going to say in the House or out of the House that matters? Three hundred thousand bucks of public money up in smoke. We don't know what happened.
What did he do? Give us something. Give us anything so we can go back to our constituents and say you're not squandering tax dollars to political pals.
Hon. W. Oppal: Yesterday it's fairly clear that the opposition drew a link between the B.C. Rail trial and Mr. Kinsella, and I'm not going to answer the question. [Applause.]
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. Horgan: A tepid round of applause for the non-answers. They're getting silent on the other side, because they're as concerned as we are. I'm absolutely convinced that every backbencher on that side of the House, when they go back to their communities, wants to know what the Premier's pal did for 300 grand.
If the Attorney won't answer, maybe Mr. Infrastructure can answer. Maybe the Minister of Transportation has an idea of what he could have done if he had $300,000, rather than giving it to a guy who did nothing.
Hon. W. Oppal: You know, yesterday a defence lawyer in the Provincial Court in Vancouver made a comment.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Attorney.
Hon. W. Oppal: Yesterday a defence lawyer in the Provincial Court in Vancouver made reference to certain comments that I had made, general comments that I had made, regarding bail law in this province. He used my comments to….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. W. Oppal: He argued before the judge that it was inappropriate for the Attorney General to be making general comments about the law on bail. He argued that that jeopardized his client's right to a fair hearing. I would think that the members opposite would….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. W. Oppal: The opposition members seem to have missed the point. It underscores the reason for the rule that people in this House should not be commenting on those matters that are before the court.
B. Ralston: I think the Attorney General has the obligation to give us the other side of the story, which is what the judge said — that those comments of that defence lawyer had absolutely no bearing on the decision that she proposed to make. So can the Attorney General tell us here in this House: what did Mr. Kinsella do for that $300,000?
Hon. W. Oppal: Obviously, that member there has missed the whole point of the argument. The fact is that it's the appearance of justice. It's the appearance of people in this House making comments about matters before the court. I well know that the judge, at the end of the day….
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Attorney.
Hon. W. Oppal: I well know that at the end of the day, the judge dismissed the argument. That's not the point. The point is that no one in here should be even speaking about those matters before the court.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Attorney.
Hon. W. Oppal: The point is, the principle is that we operate under the doctrine of separation of powers, and we should not even be commenting on anything that is directly or indirectly before the courts. That member well knows that. He is a member of the Bar.
government legal proceedings
in FRANK PAUL INQUIRY
J. Kwan: "Frank Paul died cold and alone in a back alley in Vancouver sometime on December 5 to 6, 1998." That's the opening line of the interim report by the Davies commission, which the government finally released today, after sitting on it for six weeks.
Commissioner Davies is unable to provide a final and full report because the Attorney General commenced legal proceedings to block a key part of the inquiry. The family of Frank Paul, his friends and the public want closure. They deserve answers, not more stonewalling.
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Will the Attorney General commit today to end the legal barriers, to stop the stonewalling and allow the commission to complete its work?
Hon. J. van Dongen: As the member stated, the Attorney General tabled the report today of the commission of inquiry into the death of Frank Paul. Frank Paul was a native man in the Downtown Eastside.
I want to, first of all, express the sympathy of the government to the family and friends of Frank Paul. I also want to acknowledge the first nations leadership who supported this inquiry.
I think it's important to note that the report is very clear in that the system failed Frank Paul, both in terms of the conduct of the police and the subsequent review of their conduct, and in terms of the social services that were available to him. They did not meet his needs in terms of his medical condition and his possible addictions.
The criminal justice branch, in answer to the member's question, felt it was an important principle of independence that needed to be upheld. The decision of the B.C. Supreme Court in that regard is currently in the B.C. Court of Appeal, and we can't comment any further on that at this point.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. Kwan: Commissioner Davies, a respected judge, ruled that he had the authority to fully investigate. The ruling was upheld by another respected B.C. Supreme Court judge. Justice Melnick wrote: "By personally signing the order-in-council establishing the inquiry's terms of reference, the Attorney General was effectively giving the Assistant Deputy Attorney General in charge of the branch a lawful, binding directive under section 6 of the Crown Counsel Act to waive both immunity and privilege."
Two judges have ruled on this now. If the Attorney General truly believes that the family and friends of Frank Paul and the public deserve to know the truth, all the circumstances related to the death of Frank Paul, will he stand up today and waive and remove the legal barriers and roadblocks?
Hon. J. van Dongen: The criminal justice branch feels there's an important principle at issue here in our system of justice, in our legal system. B.C. Supreme Court decisions are appealable to the B.C. Court of Appeal. That's a decision made by the criminal justice branch to follow through on that appeal.
from Frank paul inquiry
M. Farnworth: The report says the system failed Frank Paul. The recommendations in that report are to ensure that the system never fails anyone again, and they're to fix the flaws and the failures. Does the Solicitor General support those recommendations, and will the government be implementing all the recommendations in the report?
Hon. J. van Dongen: The government will be reviewing all of the recommendations carefully, but it's important to note that our government has been acting on all of the issues that have been raised by Commissioner Davies.
Our government has been acting on a number of fronts on those issues — for example, changes in the Coroners Act that were initiated in 2007 and the Josiah Wood report looking into the independent police complaint process, which we commissioned and which forms the foundation for the Police Act amendments that have been tabled in this House.
Through the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, our government is acting to implement programs for people in terms of medical aid and addictions treatment that are specifically targeted to help people like Frank Paul.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Farnworth: The government's had the report for six weeks. The minister, by saying that they're working on some of the recommendations, the information and the issues raised by these recommendations, clearly indicates that the government has been thinking about which recommendations to implement and which not to implement.
Can the minister tell this House when we will know which specific recommendations will be implemented? And can he also tell this House which recommendations the government does not intend to move on?
Hon. J. van Dongen: It's important to note that the tragic event that is the subject of this inquiry happened in December of 1998. On all of the issues raised in the report and in the recommendations, the 12 recommendations in the report…. On all of those issues, the government has been acting — in some cases, starting years ago.
Our government will continue to implement elements of the report that haven't been implemented, and we will continue to pursue the very specific recommendations that Commissioner Davies made. For example, he suggested there needs to be a civilian-based addictions treatment service particularly geared to first nations people in the Downtown Eastside.
In 1998 there were 12 aboriginal service providers in the Downtown Eastside. None of them provided the specific service that Frank Paul needed. The Vancouver
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Coastal Health Authority is putting in place an alcohol management program that will specifically meet the recommendations made by Commissioner Davies.
TRANSITiON ASSISTANCE FOR
B. Simpson: I ask the Minister of Community Development to inform this House of the exact date that forest workers will be able to apply for transition assistance.
Hon. K. Krueger: We are reconstituting the group of stakeholders that advised us when we first rolled out the community development trust. When we have their recommendations, we'll be inviting applications again. I don't have a firm date yet.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
B. Simpson: The last opportunity that forest workers had to apply was August 15, 2008. Tens of thousands of forest workers and their families have lost their jobs or had their jobs put at risk since then. They have been pleading with this minister, the Minister of Forests and the Premier's office to give them another opportunity to get transition assistance.
The former mayor of Williams Lake suggests that their unemployment rate in Williams Lake is hovering around 35 percent. The minister must inform these families, give them some certainty. When are you going to reopen transition assistance for these workers? What date will that happen?
Hon. K. Krueger: We had 2,294 applications for transition assistance. Some 83 percent of those have been approved. The average payment has been $36,813.
We feel tremendous concern and compassion for displaced workers in the forest industry and other industries in British Columbia in these tough economic times. The throne speech made a commitment to expanding these programs to other resource industries.
In the meantime, we're employing hundreds of British Columbians through the job opportunities program, and we've had 1,538 applications for tuition assistance and a 90 percent approval rate on those. As I said to the member, we're working on the question that he's asked, and that is what I've been conveying to workers and their representatives.
G. Coons: Workers need help now. It's obvious by this minister's response that he's so out of touch with what's happening in rural British Columbia. He's got to get hold of this file.
Gary Weeks, a registered log scaler from the Queen Charlottes, is one of the thousands of British Columbians neglected by this government. He's desperately looking for help from the minister. He says, "The forest industry and my family need assistance now," and that if the transitional assistance program was open, he would be the first to apply.
My question to the minister: what date will it be open for applications so that hard-working British Columbians like Gary Weeks and the thousands of other workers get the help they need?
Hon. K. Krueger: Many of the workers that we're talking about have already also applied for tuition assistance, and those decisions continue to be made. We are presently taking action right across the province to ensure that there's work available to displaced people from all the resource industries. This includes a $14 billion investment in important infrastructure projects.
Jobs are being created constantly through the job opportunities program, and also through these many infrastructure grants that are being announced. Some were announced again today. Jobs are tremendously important to British Columbians. Jobs are the first and highest priority of this government.
Mr. Speaker: Member has a supplemental.
G. Coons: This deliberate neglect and abandonment by this minister is shameful. Workers deserve respect and action from this minister.
In Sandspit, Joni Fraser, who works in the forest industry, says she lives in a ghost town where the biggest export besides raw logs is our young people. She says that this Liberal government has been sucking the life out of our industry and that workers, families and communities are nothing but political pawns to be sacrificed by this government.
Will the minister commit today to opening up the needed applications and putting in provincial money so that workers and families get the help they need?
Hon. K. Krueger: I have in front of me a printout which indicates that there's been a job opportunities program grant to Port Clements in the member's riding. I see that there have been six in the member's riding — who represents Columbia River–Revelstoke. I see that the member for Cariboo South has had eight different job opportunity program approvals.
We think that….
Mr. Speaker: Take your seat, Member.
[ Page 14481 ]
Hon. K. Krueger: The forestry critic, the member for Cariboo North, of all people, just said these are weed-whacking jobs. That is so demeaning and disrespectful to the workers, who are eager to take these jobs, and their employers.
We had the same kind of commentary from the NDP candidate in Kamloops–North Thompson the other day — and people that he brought with him to an announcement. I can tell the member that that's very offensive to the people who fill these jobs, who generally are making $20 per hour or more.
LONG-TERM CARE BEDS
IN CAMPBELL RIVER
C. Trevena: John Hussey has been living in Campbell River for more than a quarter of a century. He's on an emergency list for long-term care. There are six beds open at New Horizons, but they're private. So Mr. Hussey has been told he has to go to Courtenay.
VIHA has said that Campbell River needs at least 60 more beds to deal with the current needs in our community. To the Minister of Health: why can't those six beds be used to start to ease the crisis?
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member for her question. I'm pleased to note, first of all, back in 2001, 127 total long-term care beds in Campbell River — today 248 long-term care beds. That is a 95 percent increase in the number of residential care and assisted-living beds serving the community of Campbell River. So….
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. G. Abbott: I have been fully briefed on the case of Mr. Hussey. There are some details of that case that I think are inappropriate to share with the member in this House. I'd be glad to do that outside this House.
Needless to say, Mr. Hussey has not been obliged to go out of the community. He can remain in the community with supports if that's his wish, or he can undertake to utilize the residential care option that's been provided to him in Courtenay. He is not obliged to undertake that if he does not wish to.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
C. Trevena: Mr. Hussey is being told that if he wants public care, he has to go to Courtenay. If he had $69,000 a year, he could stay in his hometown of Campbell River. That is blatantly unfair.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Health: will he commit to putting public health dollars into public long-term care beds so people can stay in their communities and not be forced out when they need to stay in their communities?
Hon. G. Abbott: This member, like so many of her colleagues, is attempting to talk out of both sides of her mouth. There has been, as I noted, a 95 percent increase since 2001 in the number of residential care and assisted-living units in Campbell River.
Mr. Speaker: Take your seat for a second, Member.
Hon. G. Abbott: New Horizons, which the member referenced, is 86 total units, and 80 of those are under contract with the Vancouver Island Health Authority. Six are private-pay beds. The member, if I hear her correctly, is saying that we should acquire all of the private-pay beds in communities as well as the 80 that we have contracted.
Obviously, they're attempting to say two different things here. Is the member telling me now that somehow we should acquire all the private-pay beds in the province? If she is, they've made another new, interesting policy pronouncement on the fly here. But I do look forward to hearing from her now just exactly what the NDP's position is on this.
LODGE ON 4th SENIORS CARE FACILITY
D. Routley: Talking out of both sides of one's mouth is promising 5,000 long-term care beds and then switching that with assisted living…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Member, just take your seat.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Just stay sitting down.
D. Routley: …and breaking that promise. That's talking out of both sides of your mouth, Minister. That's what the B.C. Liberal government has done.
The Lodge on 4th in Ladysmith is a privately operated seniors facility, and it continues to be a problem. The staff struggle to continue giving adequate care despite diminishing and decreasing staffing levels. The residents, their families, this member — we support those noble efforts. But there just isn't enough staff.
[ Page 14482 ]
I've asked the minister in question period. I've asked in estimates. I've asked Mr. Waldner, the CEO of VIHA, directly. The operator says VIHA isn't providing enough funds. VIHA says the operator is a bad businessman. The minister just points at both and says it's their problem.
The people of Ladysmith have had enough of this passing the buck. The minister is responsible to provide care levels to seniors. What will he do today to ensure care levels at Lodge on 4th?
Hon. G. Abbott: I'm well familiar with the issues at the Lodge on 4th in Ladysmith. I had the opportunity to meet with the owners and managers of that group to try to better understand the situation that faced them, and I can advise the member that the Vancouver Island Health Authority is working hard to attempt to resolve the challenges that face the Lodge on 4th.
But the Lodge on 4th — it's interesting — is one of the facilities that comprise the more than 5,800 units that we have delivered across the province of British Columbia since 2005.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: In the 2005 election we promised an incremental 5,000 residential care and assisted-living beds. Today, over 5,800 incremental units of residential care and assisted living. Further….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. G. Abbott: I am remarkably proud to be a part of a government that not only delivered on that promise but also has taken more than 6,000 substandard units that we inherited from the New Democratic Party — substandard units, narrow hallways. We've remediated those units. Quantitatively and qualitatively, we have the best seniors care ever in the history of British Columbia.
[End of question period.]
M. Karagianis: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
M. Karagianis: I have here in excess of 7,500 names of petition asking to ensure that old-growth forests survive and to stop exporting jobs and logs.
C. Trevena: I have a petition to present.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
C. Trevena: I have a petition with 2,000 signatures calling on the government to protect old growth and also to protect jobs by stopping exporting logs.
J. Horgan: I have a petition.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
J. Horgan: I have a petition with over 2,000 names calling on this place to protect old-growth forests and to ensure that we stop exporting logs.
R. Fleming: I have two petitions this afternoon. The first is from constituents demanding that the B.C. government take immediate action to address current funding shortfalls and to support the public education system.
The second petition is from constituents of the south Island to reduce tuition fees, increase funding to improve the quality of our education system, restore upfront provincial grants and reduce interest rates on B.C. student loans.
D. Routley: A petition.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
D. Routley: I have a petition signed by over 1,700 Vancouver Island residents calling for the protection of old-growth forests and the banning of raw log exports.
S. Herbert: I'm presenting a petition seeking for this House to take action to stop exporting our jobs with our raw logs and to stand up for our ancient forests.
J. McGinn: I present a petition of 4,500 names to urge action by the government to protect our ancient forests and to stop exporting our jobs with our logs.
S. Fraser: I'm submitting 25 pounds of petitions urging action to ensure that we have old-growth forests for the future and that we stop exporting our jobs with our logs. The total is 30,000 signatures.
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: I call committee stage debate on Bill 8, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009.
[ Page 14483 ]
Committee of the Whole House
Amendment Act, 2009
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 8; H. Bloy in the chair.
The committee met at 2:37 p.m.
Hon. I. Black: I just wanted to very quickly introduce the staff I have with me. I have my deputy minister, Paul Straszak, from the Labour side of our ministry as well as Michael Tanner, who is our director of legislation.
Just to remind members of what Bill 8 is accomplishing. This amendment will enact a lung cancer presumption for firefighters who are non-smokers, effective May 27, 2008, as announced publicly by the former Minister of Labour and Citizens' Services in May of 2008.
It establishes the presumption that if a qualifying firefighter contracts primary site lung cancer, WorkSafe B.C. must presume that it was caused by the worker's employment as a firefighter, unless the contrary is proved. This presumption means that firefighters will be eligible for workers compensation benefits without having to provide scientific and medical evidence that the cancer was caused by their work in their specific situation.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
K. Conroy: Just on subsection 2(c)(ii), in the case of primary site lung cancer, and the date of May 27, 2008. Why is the date May 27, '08, the date that it's retroactive to?
Hon. I. Black: The date is such because that is the day the government announced its intention to provide this presumption.
K. Conroy: Then am I clear in understanding that any firefighters who potentially contracted the disease prior to that date will not be eligible for the retroactivity on this bill?
Hon. I. Black: Those individuals would not get the benefit of presumption, but their cases would be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis by WorkSafe B.C.
K. Conroy: To clarify, then. If that was the case, why would the minister not have just made it so that their cases would be approved as of April 11, 2005, like all the other cases have been set in the previous bill?
Hon. I. Black: We're not providing the retroactivity earlier than that date in order to maintain consistency for the workers compensation system. Generally, the historical approach for workers compensation legislation in British Columbia is that changes that affect entitlement to benefits are not retroactive.
K. Conroy: I need clarification on that, then, please. You said that it would be done on a case-by-case basis, but now you're saying that due to the Workers Compensation Act, they will not be retroactive.
Hon. I. Black: It is the presumption that is not retroactive. The individual cases will be adjudicated by WorkSafe B.C. on a case-by-case basis.
K. Conroy: Then what this legislation is setting up is that firemen and their families who have contracted lung cancer through non-smoking will have to go to WCB and plead their case on a case-by-case basis. Once they are already struggling with the effects of lung cancer, they will have to also go to WCB and plead their case in order for it to be compensable?
Hon. I. Black: If the firefighters were diagnosed with lung cancer on or after May 27, 2008, they will receive the benefit of the presumption that it is job-caused, and if the diagnosis is prior to that date, then their case will be adjudicated by WorkSafe B.C., as it does with many other ailments.
K. Conroy: To that end, I'd like to propose an amendment to the bill, which I've already supplied to the Chair.
I'd just like to amend it as follows.
[Section 2(c) is amended by repealing the phrase "May 27, 2008" and substituting the following: November 16, 2005]
The Chair: Minister, do you want to talk to it?
On the amendment.
Hon. I. Black: This question and this proposed amendment. The content of it and the spirit of it have already been canvassed. This is about maintaining consistency with the workers compensation system in general. The historical approach for workers compensation legislation in B.C. is that changes that affect entitlement to benefits are not retroactive.
The Chair: Having examined the amendment, the amendment is out of order as it creates an impost, which is out of order in the hands of a private member, contrary to Standing Order 67.
Amendment ruled out of order.
[ Page 14484 ]
K. Conroy: Thank you for that ruling, and it's unfortunate that firefighters who have contracted lung cancer prior to this date will have to go through the process, as explained by the minister. In fact, November 16 was the first time that lung cancer was introduced in the House through a motion by the member for New Westminster. So that is actually the first date that it was first introduced in the House, not May 27, 2008. But I will accept the Chair's ruling on that.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
K. Conroy: Under "interim period," it means "the period starting May 27, 2008 and ending on the effective date." So I know this has been canvassed, but I just want to bring it to the attention of the Chair that we are again asking for that interim period to be changed to November 16, 2005, because that is actually the date that the whole issue of lung cancer and presumption of lung cancer was first introduced in this House by the member for New Westminster.
I think that would be the date that should be effective, as opposed to May 27, 2008.
Hon. I. Black: I appreciate the perspective of the member opposite, though I may not agree with it, nor the historical account. However, the context and content of that question has been asked and answered.
K. Conroy: Just for the minister's knowledge, the historical account is in Hansard, so it's there for his reading. But I have put the amendment forward.
I would like to acknowledge another amendment that I've put forward.
The Chair: Proceed.
K. Conroy: That's under section 3.
[Section 3 is amended by repealing the phrase "May 27, 2008" and substituting the following: November 16, 2005]
On the amendment.
The Chair: After reviewing the proposed amendment, the amendment is out of order as it creates an impost, which is out of the hands of a private member, contrary to Standing Order 67.
Amendment ruled out of order.
Sections 3 and 4 approved.
Hon. I. Black: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 2:47 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
AMENDMENT ACT, 2009
Bill 8, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. I. Chong: I now call continued debate on the budget.
R. Thorpe: I rise to speak on Budget 2009 and my support for Budget 2009. It is the right budget for the challenges we face today — the right budget at the right time.
[H. Bloy in the chair.]
The world is in global recession — the first time there has been a global recession since World War II. Budget 2009 takes into account the world situation all Canadians and all British Columbians are facing. Yet despite unprecedented global economic turmoil, our Budget 2009 shows British Columbians that your government is listening. In these tough economic times we will improve public services and make critical investments to create jobs — yes, jobs — here in British Columbia.
Budget 2009 plans to create tens of thousands of jobs, and Budget 2009 positions British Columbia as a leader for the economic recovery. Budget 2009 invests almost $14 billion in infrastructure programs in every region of British Columbia. Yes, jobs.
Over the years, our government has developed great working partnerships. The first partnership that I'm very proud of is the one….
I want to say thanks to the citizens and the mayors and councils in Summerland, in Peachland, in west Kelowna, Central Okanagan regional district and the Westbank First Nation. We have worked together in partnership to move our communities forward.
With our federal government, I want to thank my MP for the area that I live in, the Hon. Stockwell Day, for his
[ Page 14485 ]
commitment to British Columbians. British Columbian taxpayers want their elected representatives to work together, and we have an excellent working relationship. Thank you, Stockwell, for working so closely with us to achieve the goals that British Columbians want.
I also want to thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for working in partnership with British Columbia and to acknowledge the support and leadership he has shown British Columbia in working in a very positive partnership with our Premier and our province. Thank you, Prime Minister.
I also want to thank all British Columbians who have worked in partnership with our government over the past eight years. Together with British Columbians, and by working hard, we have restored British Columbia as one of Canada's leading provinces.
As a caring fiscal hawk, I was driven to public office with the goal to restore fiscal responsibility, balance budgets, cut red tape, reduce unemployment and build a strong economy so that we could help those truly in need and so our children could find jobs close to home and not have to leave the Okanagan, not have to leave British Columbia.
We have achieved so much by working together in partnership with British Columbians: the best economy British Columbia has seen for years, in the past eight years; and the lowest personal income tax rates in Canada, here in British Columbia. We have achieved the lowest unemployment rates we've seen in the past 30 years, right here in British Columbia.
I'm particularly pleased that the significant reduction in youth unemployment has taken place so that our best and brightest can stay in British Columbia, find opportunity in British Columbia, find opportunities in their communities. By building strong communities, we build a strong province, and I'm so proud of that. Also, British Columbians working together have re-established British Columbia with a triple-A credit rating. And yes, today our students and our youth can find jobs in the Okanagan, one of the fastest-growing parts of the province of British Columbia.
Budget 2009 builds stability, builds confidence, creates jobs in every region of British Columbia in these unprecedented times of economic challenge. British Columbians know where our government stands and what our government's plans are. They know because we've told them.
But the question is…. The question that British Columbians want answered is: what is the NDP going to do? We know that the NDP destroyed the fiscal credibility of British Columbia in the '90s, destroyed our credit rating, doubled our debt, increased taxes for all and made British Columbia a have-not province. NDP equals fiscal mismanagement.
The current leader of the NDP says she has changed how the NDP would manage B.C.'s finances. This is a quote from the Leader of the Opposition: "I believe strongly in balanced budgets. I believe strongly in making sure that fiscal situations are strong and that our economy is strong." That's what the Leader of the Opposition said on November 6. Another quote that I have here says: "I've said all along that I believed in balance budgets. I believe in fiscal responsibility." That's what the Leader of the Opposition said on January 28 of this year.
But then there's the NDP Finance critic. The member for Surrey-Whalley recently — after voting for balanced-budget legislation that would see the budget balanced in 2011-2012 — said: "That's the law at the present time, yes." Quite frankly, that translates to: the NDP will not honour the balanced-budget legislation that they voted for in this House only a couple of weeks ago. Hypocrites. That's what they are — hypocrites.
Then the member for Surrey-Whalley said the following, on The Bill Good Show on November 25: "We're committed, and what our leader has said is that if the money is not there, we won't spend it. Our commitment is to undertake these initiatives and keep them within a balanced budget." One day they say this; one day they say that.
It sounds like the same old NDP to me. Sounds like Glen Clark is in this building somewhere. British Columbians, take note. Take note, British Columbians, that if the NDP are ever re-elected in British Columbia and bring their reckless and irresponsible tax and spend and tax and spend as in the '90s here, British Columbia will fall backwards once again.
Another quote from the Leader of the Opposition. When people say things, when people are leaders, people actually expect that they're going to do what they say. So let us just do this quote. "We will come forward with a fully costed election platform, just as we did in the last election. It will be done with a balanced budget." That is on the Voice of the Province of October of this past year.
The election cycle is four years. That's what the election cycle is, but our budget cycle is three years, so one would obviously think that the Leader of the Opposition was going to bring forward a detailed, costed platform for three years, just as the government has tabled.
Then on March 10 what does a senior insider of the NDP caucus from Nanaimo say, the one that always stands in this House and demands transparency and full disclosure? What did he say on CKNW? He said that the NDP will produce a platform "for one year of finances only" — so it's the old move-the-numbers-around trick, the old fudge-it budget — and would not make commitments. "No commitments beyond the first year." There's the NDP, same old tricks. Glen, where are you?
The reckless NDP leader is breaking another commitment. Refusing to produce a three-year budget plan proves the NDP have no intention to live up to their
[ Page 14486 ]
commitment to balance the budget by 2011-2012, as they voted unanimously in this House to do. The NDP are here to try to deceive British Columbians, and we know they just want to spend, spend, spend.
It's true. The picture is clear. The NDP have not learned from their errors of the 1990s, and they want British Columbia to believe that their reckless and irresponsible spending is good enough as they move forward. I'm here to say that's not acceptable. British Columbians do not want to go back to a have-not province. They've had it. They enjoy leading Canada. They don't want to go backwards.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to serve the voters of Okanagan-Penticton and Okanagan-Westside — the honour they have given me to serve for three terms and 13 years. I remain committed to working for those constituents up to and when the writ is dropped. Together and working in partnership, there are many things we have achieved.
Let me just mention a few. The major expansion of the Kelowna General Hospital; new cardiac services at KGH; a new medical school at UBC Okanagan; expansion of the Okanagan College; a new university, the University of British Columbia Okanagan; the new William R. Bennett Bridge; the new Campbell interchange, working in partnership with the Westbank First Nation; improvements to the Westside Road with WRC committee, the first time in the history of the province; major water and sewer projects at Casa Loma, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, and lastly Faulder.
It just keeps coming. Spirit Squares in West Kelowna, Peachland and Summerland; widening Highway 97 at Okanagan park; rebuilding the trestles at Myra Canyon that were destroyed in the fire of 2003.
Currently we are four-laning 71/2 kilometres north of Summerland, where people have died year after year, removing 1.6 million cubic metres of rock; the expansion of the Mount Boucherie Secondary School, working with PACs throughout the riding; new senior facilities in every one of my communities.
Working with the Boys and Girls Club of West Kelowna; working with the Peachland Wellness Centre; StrongStarts, where you can go in and see the magical smiles of children in the StrongStarts.
That's what we've been able to achieve — working with Summerland Asset Development Initiative, which has taken troubled youth off the streets and given them opportunities in our community; working with exceptional volunteers on a new Agur Lake Camp for those with disabilities; working in partnership on many projects with the Westbank First Nation; and moving forward on the Westside urgent care centre, just to name a few.
It has been a pleasure to work on behalf of my constituents, but as we all know, we can't do these things by ourselves. We need to work in partnership, and there are so many people I have to thank.
The one thing that members on that side of the House will agree with me on is that they need the help of others to achieve their goals. We can all agree on that.
My first thanks go to the citizens of Penticton, Naramata, Summerland, Peachland, Westbank, West Kelowna, Westside Road and both the Penticton and Westbank First Nations, who have honoured me by electing me to this chamber for three terms, 13 years.
My second thanks go to those who gave me the initial encouragement to embark on this journey: Judy and Tony, Janice and Rob, Linda and Ron, Carol-Lee, Finchie, Bob. Thank you.
My third thanks go to the staff members who have worked with me over the years: Marion, Maureen, Sarjit, Candice, Jamie, Sam, Caroline, Lisa, Jenn, Kelsie, Kiel, and many more.
A special thanks goes to Mike Reed. Mike Reed has worked with me for 13 years, and I know members on this side can appreciate that someone who would work with me for 13 years deserves that hand. I know that. [Applause.]
It's all about character-building, as the member from the Cariboo knows.
My fourth thanks go to those who have worked tirelessly to help me get elected and then re-elected twice. There were hundreds. Today I will only be able to mention a few. We'll start with Judy, A.J., Sy, Jamie, Orv, Harry, Cathie, Bruce, Gerry, Christa-Lee, Carla, Walt, Irene, Otto, Tracey, Kim, Allen, Linda, Marion, Al, Chuck, Joy, Graham, Wayne, Jim, Anne and Jane, Stan, and many, many more. I just want to say thanks to those folks.
I also want to say thanks to my colleagues — to the team of '96, to the team of 2001, to the team of 2005. Without question, the learning, the challenges, the accomplishments are many and will be treasured, especially our friendships.
I also want to thank the Premier.
Premier, thank you for your vision. Thank you for your work ethic. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship. And Premier, isn't it great to be a grandpa?
My biggest thanks, my biggest thank-you, is to the one without whose support this journey could have never begun or continued for 13 years — my wife and my best friend, Yasmin John-Thorpe, or Doll, as her father called her.
Your support, listening, advice, strength and love have made this journey possible and, in my opinion, so rewarding. Thank you, Doll.
I must also say thanks to my daughters Richa and Ranette and my son Jason for their understanding and support, and a very, very special thank-you goes to my grandson Eben — or as I like to call him, Rocco — for bringing focus to why we do what we do — making decisions today and building a future for our children
[ Page 14487 ]
and, most importantly, for our grandchildren. So thank you, Rocco.
I've also had the opportunity to serve the public, and it has been a privilege to serve as their MLA. Yes, many memories to treasure, but I'd like to share just a few of my most treasured memories. It's not about the opening of a new facility. It's not about a bridge. It's about those that we all are elected to serve. In my particular case over the years, a few come to mind that I will treasure forever.
The young man with disabilities, Paul, who needed help to walk across the stage for his high school graduation. We were able to help him, and yes, he got out of his wheelchair, and he walked across the stage to receive his Dogwood.
The senior lady who needed bridging until SAFER became available. We were able to help her, and now, with SAFER, she lives with certainty and comfort.
The disabled senior who provided us with his experiences, which resulted in changes to the homeowner grant for those with disabilities.
The disabled senior who needed help with his driver's licence and the issues with the special vehicle that he had. Together we were able to make changes so that people who have those disabilities and have those safety components, if you will, in their vehicles can do what we do — drive our vehicles.
The parents who gave us the reason to pursue changes to the child care subsidy program — to take a program that layered some 30,000 pages on families and parents who were entitled to help. Working together with those parents, we were able to reduce that red tape to three pages.
The young constituent who needed brain tumour surgery in California. We were able to assist him with air travel and air travel for his family so they could be with him in California.
These are a few examples that I have had over the past 13 years, and I know every member in this House has those special examples, whether you've served 19 years or 23 years or four years or whatever. That is why I believe all members of this House are elected — to help those and those special cases. And I know that all members try to do that the best they can.
Yes — I want the members on the opposition to hear this — I will vote yes for Budget 2009, because it's the right budget at the right time. It's about jobs, it's about stability, it's about partnerships, and it's about confidence.
To all members of this House: I want to say thank you for the opportunity to serve with you. Yes, from time to time my colleague from Nelson-Creston wants to get up and talk about socialism, and I listen to him. I like to get up and talk about the power of the individual and free enterprise, and he listens to me.
The member from Nelson did say something that I do agree with. It's about us sharing our differences and having the debate and having the dialogue. So I thank all members of this House for the memories that we will all share.
I don't know. It must be a moment of weakness. I'm going to agree on two things with the member for Nelson-Creston today. That is a first in 13 years. We are honoured to serve in these buildings. I look forward to coming back to these buildings to see many of you here.
But we have been given a very, very special opportunity that very few get. We should treasure that. We should treasure our democratic processes as we all continue to work for what we as individuals believe in — hopefully, at all times putting British Columbia, our province, first; putting the people of British Columbia first; and making sure that we can help those truly in need.
I would also like to thank the staff in this building and also the ministries. As MLAs we get to have interface with folks in various ministries throughout government. As a former minister, I want to say thank you to the staff and the ministries that I worked with.
I'm very proud of the accomplishments that, by us working together…. Whether it was in Competition, Science and Enterprise or whether it was in Provincial Revenue or whether it was in Small Business and Revenue, our accomplishments are the result of their dedication, their work, their tenacity, their interface with British Columbians. That's how we work in partnership. That's how we achieve things.
It's getting close for me to turn the page to the next chapter of my life, but I will be busy until about 8:30 on May 12. I am very, very hopeful that my friends will be here and my other friends will be there.
I look forward to returning to the House to see you. As you go out on the campaign trail, I wish you and your families and your friends all the very best. Do it in a positive spirit. Do it in a healthy debating spirit. I think I agreed again with my friend from Nelson-Creston. That will be the third today. Do it for the right reasons. Don't do it for the wrong reasons.
I stand here, and I will vote for Budget 2009 because I believe in the support and the investments in health care. Since we've been government, the health care budget has increased by 61 percent. I know some members on the other side of the House somehow — I don't know where they went to school or where they took math — interpret that as a cut. I don't understand how $8.3 billion to $17.5 billion is a cut. I don't get that math. I'm only an accountant, but maybe I would learn that. I don't think I'll learn that.
I'm also very pleased by the investment in K-to-12 education and pleased that the Minister of Education is beside me today. Funding to the highest levels in the history of the province of British Columbia for K-to-12.
I'm pleased that the Minister of Advanced Education is investing, I believe, $228 million more in advanced education in the province over the next three years. I'm also pleased that in the past two years I've worked
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with the Minister of Human Resources and Housing on a number of things. I'm pleased that we're making progress on dealing with the homelessness issue.
It's not an issue just for Vancouver. It's an issue in communities throughout British Columbia. These issues were not created overnight. They will not be solved overnight. Sometimes it would be very good if we could park the political rhetoric and actually focus on the people.
I'm also very, very pleased that our government has been able to reduce the taxation burden and put the money where I believe it's most powerful — in the pockets of British Columbians, to let them make their decisions. I do not believe that the best place to put it is in big central government.
There's where I will disagree with my friend from Nelson-Creston. I think it's important to put it back into small business. That's why I was pleased, as the Minister of Small Business and Revenue, to work with the Small Business Roundtable, with the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, with the Retail Council of British Columbia, with the restaurant and hotel association of British Columbia — all those like-minded small business organizations. All they want is the opportunity to have a chance to succeed and look after their employees.
I think — as a matter of fact, I know — that Budget 2009 gives us those opportunities to continue to make British Columbia strong, to continue to grow British Columbia, to continue to give opportunities in every region of the province of British Columbia for those that seek them. I know and you know that British Columbia is still where people in Canada want to come.
Our future is bright. Our work will be there. But when we all work together in our communities, in our province, in our country, we can achieve so very, very much.
Mr. Speaker, let me just close by saying to you and, through the Chair, to all members of this House, to the constituents that I've had the pleasure to represent and to all: thank you very much for the opportunity to serve. It's been my pleasure, and I wish you all well in your future endeavours.
R. Lee: I ask leave to make an introduction.
Deputy Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
R. Lee: In the gallery today we have two visitors from Burnaby, Wendy Wang, vice-president of the Greater Vancouver Table Tennis Association, and Zhiyong Wu, visiting coach from Putong, Shanghai, China. My daughter Leanne benefited tremendously from the GVTTA, as well as, most recently, under Mr. Wu's coaching. May the House join me in welcoming them.
J. Brar: It's a real honour for me to stand up in this House and speak on many important issues to the people of British Columbia. Today I will give my response to the budget, introduced by the government a few weeks ago.
Before I do that, I want to wish well to the member for Okanagan-Westside who just finished his speech, because this is his last speech. I wish him well for his future endeavours and for the services he has provided to the people of British Columbia during the last many, many years.
I would also like to thank many other people who have been part of my journey as the MLA of Surrey–Panorama Ridge since I was first elected through the by-election in 2004. To my staff in my Surrey office, Ruby Bhandal, Murray Bilida and Peter Leblanc: thanks for your passion and commitment to serve the people of Surrey to the best of your ability.
To my fellow members on both sides of this House: thanks for your hard work and commitment serving the people of British Columbia.
To our staff in Victoria, Gurbinder Kang, Brian Kowalski and others: thanks for your able support and meaningful assistance to me on a day-to-day basis.
To our communication team and research team: thanks for your valuable support and advice on issues very important to the people of British Columbia.
To our intern team: thanks for your energy and innovative ideas, providing me a springboard to think outside the generation-old box.
To my friends and my supporters: thanks for standing with me during good times and during tough times.
To the love of my life, my friend, my partner, Rajwant Brar; to my daughter Noor; and to my son, Fateh: I love you so much, and I'm proud of you.
To my brother Jaswant Brar and my sister-in-law Brigit Brar: thanks for being lifetime friends and advisers.
I would like to start my critique to the budget speech, but I would like to add at the beginning, to the member for Okanagan-Westside, that the second part of his speech was much better — actually, the best that I have heard in this House since I've been here — as compared to his own past standards in terms of tone, volume and content. So I appreciate the non-partisan delivery of his speech.
So Mr. Speaker, think about a busload of 46 people going on the wrong side of the highway. People are shouting to stop them, but they won't listen. They continue driving on the wrong side of the highway.
Another busload of people are police officers driving parallel but on the other side of the highway, warning them to stop because they are going in the wrong direction. The driver of the bus is so overexcited with the power given to him by the people of British Columbia
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that he wouldn't even listen to the same people of the province.
He continued driving on the wrong side of the highway until he ran out of gas and was not able to go any further. Guess what. They had no choice then but to make a U-turn. The driver of the bus was very surprised to find that making a U-turn at that point was an illegal action. Therefore, they had to shamelessly plead to the people and the police for changing the rules to allow them to make the U-turn.
That is the story of this budget. The budget is a U-turn made just before the pending provincial election with a sole purpose, and the purpose is to stay in power by making promises they have no intentions of fulfilling — as they did during the last eight years. A brief look at the last eight years' economic record of mismanagement supports the argument that the Premier has no intention of fulfilling his promises in this budget and no intention of protecting vital public services such as education, health care and public safety.
We see that the Liberals have broken all records, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of the people of British Columbia on cost overruns. A $500 million cost overrun on the convention centre alone is a prime example. Last October the Premier said he would cut the waste. Instead, he spent tens of millions of dollars on pre-election ads and hundreds of millions more on pet projects like a retractable roof for B.C. Place. He said he would speed up infrastructure projects. Instead, he spent millions on failed privatization schemes, delaying projects and wasting taxpayer dollars on offshore bidders.
The Premier also broke all the records by giving himself a raise of $65,000 a year. Similarly, he has given his highest-paid advisers a raise of 43 percent. That is his economic vision: take care of the few and forget about the rest; take care of the rich and forget about the poor.
As a member of this Legislative Assembly, I get the opportunity to attend lots of community events and meet with lots of people. During the past four years, I have visited lots of organizations and attended hundreds of events in the community. I have met and listened to seniors, students, patients, workers, small businesses, victims of crime, newcomers — and the list goes on. They have shared their stories with me as to how they have been left behind by the B.C. Liberals. I would like to share some of the most powerful stories from those people, which bother me the most.
The first story is about the crisis we have in health care. The people of Surrey say: "We need a new hospital, not just a model." The people of Surrey are waiting and waiting for a new hospital, announced by the B.C. Liberals more than ten times. After eight years in power the only thing the Premier could offer to the people of Surrey is just a model, that big model. Nothing more than that. That shows clearly that the Premier is completely out of touch with the health care needs of the people of Surrey.
In 2001 the B.C. Liberals promised to provide the best health care when and where you need it. In fact, they did exactly the opposite. They closed hospitals. They privatized services key to the quality of care. They closed acute care beds in the province as well as in the city of Surrey, the fastest-growing community in the province.
The story of Surrey Memorial Hospital is a prime example to show that B.C. Liberals don't care about the people of Surrey. Because of their broken promises, Surrey Memorial Hospital has now become the second-largest hospital in British Columbia by volume of patients. It is home to the busiest emergency department in the province, with up to 75,000 visits per year. Between 300 and 500 patients leave the emergency room every month without seeing a doctor because of the extreme wait times.
The Premier didn't listen to the people of Surrey at all during the first four years in power. The only time the Premier found some time to visit the city of Surrey was in the middle of the last election, when he made the promise to build a new hospital to the people of Surrey.
The construction of that hospital was to begin in 2007, with a completion date in 2009, but 2007 has gone, and the Premier has done nothing. Now 2008 is gone, and the only thing the Premier has given to the people of Surrey is just a model of the hospital. The reality is that the Premier has broken his promise and delayed the out-patient hospital to 2011. That means the Premier failed to make any improvements at all during the first two terms of the B.C. Liberals, as far as health care is concerned, for the people of Surrey, and that is a shame.
The people of Surrey deserve better. The people of Surrey have a dream. The dream is to see the new out-patient hospital up and running. I share that dream with the people of Surrey, and I will continue standing up for the people of Surrey until we see the new hospital up and running.
Another promise the Premier made to the people of Surrey during the last election was to build a new state-of-the-art emergency room. The construction was to begin in 2008, with completion in 2010. Very surprisingly, there is no money in this budget to start the construction, to start the new emergency room. In fact, the Premier has also delayed the construction of the new emergency room to 2014. The people have to suffer for five more years.
People in Surrey are really, really worried to learn that the B.C. Liberals failed to build the new emergency room and the new out-patient hospital during good times. Can they now build these facilities during
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bad times? That's a big question that people have on their minds.
I would like to share a story with you. Four months ago a teenage girl bitten by a dog had to wait for six hours at the emergency room and received 40 stitches. Imagine the pain this girl experienced for six long hours to receive 40 stitches. That is the level of crisis we have in the emergency room in Surrey. How can the people of Surrey wait for five more years without any improvements? That is beyond my understanding, and people don't understand that as well.
[K. Whittred in the chair.]
That tells very clearly that the B.C. Liberal government and the Premier are completely out of touch with the health care needs of the people of Surrey. Therefore, the people of Surrey have lost their trust in this government.
Another promise they made to the people of British Columbia was they promised to build and operate an additional 5,000 new long-term care beds. That was the promise made in 2001, but in reality they did exactly the opposite. Between 2002 and 2004 the government closed 26 residential care facilities throughout the province for a net loss of 2,500 beds, or 15 percent of the total bed stock.
The other story that the people of Surrey have shared with me is save our schools. Once upon a time the B.C. Liberals made a promise to provide the best education system so that no child is left behind. It's a good slogan, but in fact, they did exactly the opposite. The B.C. Liberals closed 177 schools in the province of British Columbia. The rationale given to the people was that they closed those schools because the number of students is declining.
One of those schools is a school in the city of Surrey, Fleetwood Elementary School. The city of Surrey is the fastest-growing community in the province and in the country. In fact, we receive almost 1,000 new people every month. That is the level of growth that has been going on in the city for the last many, many years. The location of this school is in Fleetwood, the fastest-growing constituency we have in the city of Surrey. But the B.C. Liberals are so out of touch with the reality and needs of our children that they closed that school anyway.
The parents fought back to save this school. The students of the elementary school fought back to save this school. The opposition MLAs joined the parents and the students to save this school. The only people who remained silent were the B.C. Liberals, including the local MLAs. They didn't even care to meet with the parents and the teachers and the students of that school. The Premier is known for his arrogance, but that was the height of arrogance I have ever seen from this Premier.
Because of the wrong priorities of this government, Fleetwood Elementary School will become a bedtime story. Once upon a time there was a school named Fleetwood Elementary School. This school was closed by the B.C. Liberals when the population in the area was growing and when B.C. had the biggest surplus. This is the bedtime story that school has become.
Parents and children are now concerned to know: if they closed 177 schools during good times, what will they do during bad times? That is the question people are asking of this government.
The other story that I hear at the door is that we don't feel safe. The people have the right to feel safe. People have the right to take their children to parks, beaches and malls without any fear. People have lost that right. Our streets have been taken over by gangs. Gang members are killing themselves on the streets in Vancouver, Surrey and many other cities in the Lower Mainland. Innocent bystanders are being caught in the crossfire. In communities throughout this province, people don't feel safe anymore.
Because of the failures of the B.C. Liberals on this file, crime has been rising since they took over. This budget has no hope. It makes the situation from bad to worse. The B.C. Liberals have cut funding for policing, cut funding for prosecution. How are the gangs going to get under control?
That response from the Premier clearly indicates that the Premier is not serious and that the Premier is completely out of touch with the issue of public safety. Parents and children are concerned to know: if the B.C. Liberals couldn't make our streets safer during good times, how can they make our streets safer during bad times? That's a question this government needs to respond to the people of British Columbia.
The other story that I hear at the door is that the average family and small business didn't benefit from the good economy of B.C. There's no doubt that B.C. was blessed with a good economy, but the B.C. Liberals failed to make it a successful economy because of their one-sided policies to benefit only the rich.
They gave big tax cuts three times to the richest, who don't need them and never asked for it. They gave 43 percent pay hikes to their senior staff. On the other side, the Premier is so arrogant that he has constantly refused to raise the minimum wage for working families. The only people who did not get any raise are people who are working for minimum wage, and that is a shame.
Life has in fact become too costly for average families under the B.C. Liberals. The transit fare has gone up. It now costs $10 to take a return trip from Surrey to Vancouver. It is hard for working families to afford that.
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Tuition fees have gone up over 100 percent. They are now the second-highest in the country. The cost of MSP has doubled. The cost of insurance has gone up. The cost of the driver's licence fee has gone up. On top of that, the Premier has introduced a new gas tax at the pump. Average families and small businesses, including the taxi industry and the trucking industry, are being forced to pay when big corporations were given subsidies. Particularly oil and gas companies were given subsidies at the same time.
So people are concerned. If the B.C. Liberals couldn't make life affordable for average families during good times, how can they make life affordable during bad times? That's a question this government needs to answer. There are many, many other stories I have heard from the people.
Forestry workers have told me that the B.C. Liberals have killed the forest industry because of their self-serving and one-sided policies. B.C. Rail workers told me that they promised not to sell or privatize B.C. Rail. In reality, they did the opposite. B.C. Rail was sold to CN Rail in 2004. There are lots and lots of important questions regarding the B.C. Rail corruption case, but the B.C. Liberals are constantly refusing to answer those questions.
People have told me that it is unacceptable that for the fifth year in a row, child poverty remains the highest in the province of British Columbia. People have told me that the number of homeless people in this province has gone up significantly as a direct result of B.C. Liberal policies. Workers have told me that they didn't get a raise during the last eight years when, on the other hand, the Premier gave himself a raise of $65,000 per year.
Students have told me that their tuition fees have gone up 100 percent or more, and their debt load is growing every day. People have told me that life has become costly under the B.C. Liberals because of the rising costs of almost everything. This budget does not provide any hope to those people. People are very, very concerned. If that is what the Liberals were able to do during the good times, what would they do during the bad times?
I would like to conclude by saying that it pains me when a young girl had to wait for six hours at the emergency room at Surrey Memorial Hospital to receive 60 stitches, even if she is not my daughter. It bothers me when a retired senior, who spent his entire life building this province, has to go to a food bank to receive a hamper, even if he's not my relative.
It concerns me when a mother doesn't feel safe taking her kids to a park, even if she's not my sister. It bothers me when a student is unable to continue his study because he cannot pay high tuition fees, even if he is not my brother.
This budget does not provide any hope to average families, to seniors, to forestry workers, to the homeless. The list goes on. I cannot support this budget, because this budget does not provide any hope to average families, which should be the case because everyone matters in this province.
With that, I will take my seat. Thank you very much for listening.
V. Roddick: I rise with great pride and enthusiasm, Madam Speaker, hon. Members and guests in the gallery, for my last budget speech.
In 2001 a new era for British Columbia dawned, a vision for hope and prosperity for the next decade and beyond. In that year we made 201 specific commitments. The following are just a few examples.
We brought in balanced budgets; cut provincial income tax; ensured public services appointed by merit, not patronage; restored workers' democratic rights to secret ballot certification; restored open tendering; protected public ownership of B.C. Hydro, all its dams, reservoirs and lines; focused resources on improving northern and rural transportation and infrastructure; encouraged mineral exploration; increased trades and technical training; preserved Burns Bog; and promoted clean and renewable alternative energy sources; and support for more flexibility and choice in public schooling.
We guaranteed that parents of students attending schools are entitled to volunteer; expanded training to care aides, licensed practical and registered nurses; increased the number of medical school graduates; gave ambulance attendants access to training and better life-support and communications equipment; increased emphasis on early childhood intervention programs for families with special needs children; introduced free votes to the Legislature; appointed the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and established fixed election dates.
We raised health care funding by 66 percent since 2001 and established 5,000 intermediate and long-term care beds plus new assisted-living units. We have invested over $200 million in housing; purchased 45 existing buildings and are constructing new units; worked in partnership — an unknown word — with the federal government for B.C.'s fair share of federal tax dollars; pushed to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers with TILMA; and embarked on aboriginal treaty negotiations.
All of these commitments are aimed at revitalizing the economy, restoring sound fiscal management and putting patients, students, people first. We have continued to build on these commitments and many, many more great goals over the past eight years. We are putting more tax dollars into individuals' pockets and into small businesses, the backbone of our economy.
For example, we are investing in silviculture and training to replace our lost pine beetle wood, plus heading into the urban areas with the goal of planting four
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million new trees at schools, hospitals and public places across the province. We are committed to making better use of every tree and, more importantly, to doing a better job at growing trees as well as marketing the fact that wood is good.
Environmentally, we are leading the world with our revenue-neutral carbon tax. Since 2001 we have delivered 103 positive tax cuts and reductions for individual British Columbians, small businesses and corporations. We have worked to unite British Columbia, to find solutions to all kinds of issues and challenges — social, environmental, economic. We've developed a new era of common purpose with a focus on people in need. We are builders in the truest sense of the word.
Does this sound familiar? It should. The United States, our biggest trading partner, just elected a new President who says his people can by working together — can. Of course they can. B.C. has proven it.
We have a team led by a Premier who has worked determinedly to ensure that this province can and does, year after year. We have provided real leadership, real progress in education, health care, support systems, environment and jobs.
Just as Barack Obama has asked the people of the United States to pull together to rebuild their country, people from all walks of life in British Columbia have worked to make our province the best place on earth. As I said in my second session in the Legislature eight years ago, if we find ourselves riding a dead horse, dismount. Sometimes it takes longer than we would like to change mounts, but change we can, and change we do.
Unlike the member for Delta North, who cannot seem to understand the role of being a member of the Legislature and representing his riding provincially…. He still, after four years, has his head buried in municipal minutiae, which honestly does not help Delta or the province.
On the other hand, we have accomplished a great deal, and the all-important social well-being of British Columbia is improving. As noted in the B.C. Progress Board report, the province has been able to maintain its first-place standing in environmental quality and health outcomes.
We have the second-highest rate of university completion, the second-lowest top marginal personal income tax rate. We also rank third in terms of standard of living, real average hourly wages and government surpluses. The Progress Board also says that we have the lowest rate of cancer mortality, the highest life expectancy at birth, the largest proportion of land base protected from development and the second-lowest greenhouse gas emissions.
There's more good news, Madam Speaker. Personal disposable income growth beat the national average in 2006 and 2007. When the NDP was last in power, their budgets were reckless and irresponsible. These budgets became "monuments to drivel." They drove B.C.'s growth rate of GDP from fifth place internationally in 1993 to 29th place out of 31 jurisdictions by 2001.
Under a B.C. Liberal government, we have climbed out of that hole. We've had five years of better than average employment growth. Listen up, Delta North. Our plan, based on productive economy, also includes support for the arts, heritage and cultural diversity. Even in today's economy, that support remains.
The provinces, territories and federal government realize there is strength in numbers, strength in consensus. Our financial world is facing its worst crisis in 75 years. There are no easy solutions, but we are acting to help alleviate the impacts and emerge stronger than ever.
Madam Speaker, this is not the time for a traditional budget. We as a government are committed to being flexible and responsive to our families and our communities. With $6.6 billion in revenue evaporating due to global circumstances, we must make immediate and dramatic investments in our infrastructure that will keep people working and position ourselves for future growth.
We must all work together. Party politics will not help our families and their communities, our province or our country. We are focusing on two key priorities for our jobs, competitiveness and productivity.
On October 22, 2008, the Premier announced a plan to build economic strength for the future by undertaking five initiatives: create a new economic advisory council composed of top Canadian CEOs, academics and economists; organize a new Northern Economic Summit to focus on northern issues; organize a two-day economic summit to investigate ways to capitalize on economic opportunities; implement the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, TILMA, with Alberta by April 1, 2009; and work with other provinces and the federal government to eliminate regulatory duplication and reduce the cost of federal-provincial overlap.
To support families and small businesses during this economic downturn, we promptly announced several key measures as a stimulus to the economy: unlimited deposit insurance for deposits to credit unions, new pension opportunities for private sector employees without access to pension plans, an accelerated retroactive personal income tax cut of 5 percent, school property tax rebate for industry, accelerated tax benefits for small businesses, double commission paid to business for PST and HRT collection, accelerated public infrastructure and curtailing avoidable government spending.
These measures account for an additional accumulation of $485 million in tax relief and support for business, families and individuals over the next three years. Most fortunately for British Columbia, we are the host for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games only
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a year away. As we have seen, our marvellous Spirit of 2010 committees and athletes provincewide are holding great countdown events.
Every community stands to benefit, every young person. It's something to look forward to. It's exciting; it's positive. GamesTown and Spirit Squares are excellent examples. We are striving to equalize opportunities across B.C., and the 2010 games are a perfect stimulus.
That doesn't mean it's all going to be smooth sailing. Life, unfortunately, just isn't perfect at all times, but we must keep our eyes on the horizon. Our forefathers did, and we cannot let them down.
Through interprovincial meetings, groups like PNWER, Pacific Northwest Economic Region, developed partnerships with American west coast states in areas of climate change and economic development.
British Columbia is building a foundation that will enable us to strengthen our nation and thereby strengthen North America. Our municipalities, through their collective bodies — the UBCM, Metro Vancouver, plus our first nations people — bring the necessary grass-roots perspective to this vision.
Delta South has had, as I've brought to this floor every year since 2000, more than its share of ongoing challenges. Many difficult decisions have been made by our caucus over the past years.
I have to say that serving as MLA for Delta South has been an honour and a privilege, hard but exhilarating work — and fun. I have been touched by the extraordinary contributions of constituents who have poured their hearts into our community.
My thanks to the people of Ladner and Tsawwassen for your incredible participation and for the love and support of your community. You are truly amazing. And my thanks to the members of our riding association and to my office staff: Elizabeth Merritt, Tim McDougall, Jackey Zellweger and company, who have been second to none.
The legislative team here over the years, all of you who have diligently and patiently aided a hopeless techno-dolt. The dining room staff, who have kept us alive and well fed and, most importantly, the unflagging support of my entire family, especially my husband Noel who, as I recently said, can now retire from driving Miss Daisy.
As the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Planning and Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health, I have had the opportunity to meet with people from every part of this province to hear their ideas on sustaining and strengthening our agriculture and health sectors. I have been heartened by my riding's and our province's talented and caring citizens. Many of their suggestions and solutions have been implemented by the province.
As long ago as July 2003, when I spoke to the Rotary Club of Tsawwassen, I stated that Delta South was going to be faced with enormous challenges over the next several years, challenges that would overshadow the one-time threat to our now hugely successful Delta Hospital.
Delta South changed forever with the opening of the Massey Tunnel. Since that time our community has continued to face increasing pressures. Of these issues, the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty has been a real achievement, the first urban treaty in B.C. We now have the opportunity to combine our extensive local talents to work with and work beside the Tsawwassen First Nation in their ongoing community development.
My role has been to represent this community and reinforce to my government that Delta South, a gateway community, is host to or affected by many serious issues. The port and its proposed expansion. The B.C. Ferry terminal. Four highways: 10, 17, 91, 99. The South Fraser perimeter road. Three rail lines. The Tsawwassen First Nation's ongoing development. Burns Bog. Vancouver landfill. The agricultural land reserve and our farming industry. The Fraser River and our fishing industry, plus dredging, diking and flooding issues. Brunswick lands buyback. Boundary Bay Airport. Delta Hospital and the VITR transmission line project.
There is — pardon the pun on this one — power in numbers. A unified voice — and I repeat: a unified voice — dedicated to Delta South would be capable of wading through the quagmire of six separate provincial government ministries: Agriculture, Aboriginal Reconciliation, Energy, Environment, Health and Transportation. There are also five levels of government required for cooperation: federal, provincial, municipal, Metro Vancouver and Tsawwassen First Nation.
All of these issues hugely affect residents and local farmers and have resulted in the loss of approximately 1,000 acres of our first-class agricultural land base, as well as heavily increasing truck, rail and marine traffic within the surrounding area.
Such challenges in our community require an incredible amount of work and negotiation. Cooperation at all levels of government is vital to successful negotiation and resolution. Believe me. It is the only way. Municipal, provincial, federal, Metro Vancouver, Tsawwassen First Nation and school trustees need to join forces and develop a demonstrated willingness to work together to find solutions and areas of consensus and to negotiate mitigation where and when necessary.
To work together rather than independently is our responsibility as elected officials. This will produce a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. We may not always agree, but we need to compromise for the greater good of our community. In other words, we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Over the years the community and its superb volunteers have hosted an amazing assortment of forums.
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To name just a few: the Delta Conversation on Health, women's forums, seniors forums, health fair, employment fair. We're a community of doers, but because Delta South has had so many big-ticket challenges, we have difficulty recognizing our many individual successes and extra investments.
For example, health: Delta Hospital redevelopment, acute care, CT scanner and hospice — $17 million, plus all the expanded, dedicated operational costs. Environment: Burns Bog, $28.6 million. Seniors: McKee House Seniors Rec Centre, Lions Wellness Park, Kinsmen retired assisted living — $7.1 million. Education: seismic upgrades to schools, literacy innovation grants, South Delta Secondary expansion, North Delta Secondary renovations, StrongStart early learning, school playground grants — $36.63 million. Child care: Bright Eyes Academy at Holly Park, Rainbow Connection at Pebble Hill for $260,000. Transportation: Highway 10, 17 and 99 access improvement; Deas tunnel upgrade, plus designated truck lanes; HOV down from three to two occupants — $25.2 million.
Plus many miscellaneous items, such as traffic fine revenue-sharing; Boundary Bay sea dike reinforcement; community charity gaming grants; Spirit Square; BC150 Years: Rivermania; and Holly Park synthetic field, with its fantastic washrooms, which of course have left me flushed with pride — for a total of $29.1 million.
As I have said, there are so many stellar volunteers in our community that I am loath to name any particular individual. But I have to mention Harry Caine, known locally as our Energizer Bunny. And the Tsawwassen Boundary Bay Lions are to be thanked for their contribution to 18 seniors wellness parks across the province.
I am working on many more of these successes, so stay tuned, because a positive, constructive approach does produce results. By taking this kind of action, Delta will be a better place.
Now, in the past eight years it goes without saying that the constituency highlight was the saving, reorganization and expansion of Delta Hospital. This year we have the separate hospice unit being built on the hospital grounds. The new addition for the CT scanner is in place, as of Saturday, February 21 — a terrifically exciting and satisfying moment for all of us. Among the many other available treatments, thanks to this upgrade and the CT scanner, we can now plug into the B.C. stroke strategy, which has opened three clinics in the Fraser Health area to coordinate and integrate stroke care protocols, activities and services across the region.
Provincially, for me, it was the creation of a provincial agriculture plan to set the direction of the agriculture industry in British Columbia and re-establish the essential link between agriculture and society as a whole, because as we know, we still all have to eat to live.
This plan will not languish on a shelf. It is part and parcel of the Ministry of Agriculture and must be delivered, as do the transportation, mining and energy plans.
My thanks to the Premier of B.C. and the Minister of Agriculture for providing the wisdom and leadership which enabled our MLA team to lay the foundation for growing a healthy future for B.C. families. Thanks also to a whole host of terrifically talented agriculturalists, both ministerial and private. This plan would never have made it without their unflagging help and guidance. My particular thanks go to Andy Dolberg, Heather Anderson, Dave Melnychuk and Carla Shore.
We are working to ensure that our farmers and farm families are able to continue growing, both in products and, equally as important, in profits. School property tax on classified farmland will be reduced by 50 percent for the 2011 tax year and beyond. Genome B.C. and the B.C. Innovation Council have been given research money and project grants as a step towards advancing our productivity.
The provincial and federal governments are investing $24 million over three years for flood protection, a huge issue for those of us who live and farm on the banks of the Fraser River. In fact, for the future of Delta South, I would like to see the municipality, Metro Vancouver, Tsawwassen First Nation and the provincial and federal governments working together with DFO, Delta Farmers Institute, Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust and other environmental groups — such as the Suzuki Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, etc. — to expand and protect the Fraser River delta and our incredible farmland.
Early pioneers built Richmond, Lulu Island and Sea Island and Delta South. Now, with the threat of global warming, we are desperately in need of surge dikes as well as more land for our farmers and wildlife. Last year even Richmond school fields were being eaten bare by snow geese. Let's look at the possibility of building more land through accretion and diking. Let's work collectively to see if such a concept is attainable or practical. It is in Winnipeg. Duffs Ditch is indispensable. British Columbia does think outside the box, because we can.
On that note, I would like to thank each and every one of my colleagues, who over the years have been inordinately patient and generous with their time. You were always there.
I support this budget, and in closing, I would like to say that our future is ours to build. Serving Delta South and the province under the leadership of the Premier has been the experience of a lifetime, and it has given me full confidence in the overall future of British Columbia for our children our grandchildren.
C. Wyse: Madam Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure once more to have this opportunity to address you, the rest of the House and British Columbians with my response to the budget that has been introduced. But before I do
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that, I would like to take just a moment of your time and acknowledge the riding that has indeed been my pleasure to represent over the last four years.
This is a huge riding geographically. It includes the communities of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake. It includes portions of two regional districts: Thompson-Nicola regional district, Cariboo regional district. Geographically, the community of Savona…. When those individuals get up in the morning, they look out across Kamloops Lake. The riding goes all the way up to Williams Lake. It goes out west to Anahim Lake, and it includes Bridge Lake and the Interlakes. A huge geographical area that also contains with it, besides those communities that I've talked about…. It includes the first nations of three great communities: the Tsilhqot'in, the Shuswap and the Carrier.
It's appropriate for me to mention that geography, because contained within it — as I'm here to talk about the budget — it also has the industries of forestry, agriculture, mining and tourism that form the basis. As my discussion unfolds, there will be a rationale that I'm sure people will understand why this budget is not supportable. Where it fails in those areas, I will be discussing with you relatively shortly.
Before I go on, in serving that vast geography, I have had the support of people back in the constituency: Mark Woons; Jayne Ducker; Robert Chometski; and, Larry Day, who has been with me the longest. They have worked diligently in looking after the interests of the constituents, making sure that their needs have been met to the best of our ability.
Here in Victoria, I've been supported by many staffs, as we all have been. However, I would like to acknowledge my assistant down here, Terese Scambler, who has worked diligently in making sure that I'm organized in the sense that I know where I need to be.
Finally, before I go on to the budget itself, I would like to acknowledge my wife, who has been very supportive, like many of us here in the House with our significant others who have supported the time that it takes in order for all of us to attempt to do the best job in representing all of the constituents that are found in our riding and also, at the same time, to do our best to ensure that the needs of all four million British Columbians themselves are looked after and addressed.
Having said that, I wish to return to the budget itself, a budget that continues the practice of not looking after the interests of all British Columbians equally, continues on with the practice of looking after the interests of the exceptionally wealthy and looking after the interests of the large corporations.
When you look at this budget, it has some shortfalls that are contained in it. But they are evident, to find what they are, because it is there…. In a moment I'm going to draw attention to a couple that concern me.
The budget itself contains a quarter of a billion dollars — that's $250 million — of further cuts that are necessary in order to actually bring this overall plan into balance. There are many, many financial experts who also look at the revenue projections that are contained, whether it be for this year or whether for the upcoming two years, and question the validity of those revenue forecasts in actual fact being met.
You see, those concerns already point out that this budget is simply the start of a different agenda, a hidden agenda in one sense — that if you don't sit down and go through it and find items of this nature, you do not know what is coming down the track.
While I'm here talking about coming down the track, that reminds me of a promise that was made not to sell the tracks of B.C. Rail, a service that has had a profound effect upon the interior of the province from where I'm from. The fact that the railway is no longer owned and being run for the betterment of the province of B.C. — for the opening up of the province's interior, for looking after the industries of forestry, agriculture and mining.
What I hear with increasing volume is that with that broken promise, in these very tough economic times that are facing everywhere in the province, those industries cannot and do not receive the railcars in quantity and in a timely fashion for them to be able to stay in business. They are forced to look at other means of providing their product and getting it to market — more expensive means.
When I go through the budget itself and I go through the ministries, I'll be talking further upon where the budget fails those industries. It is those industries that employ the people from where I am from. It employs the people, and they have been abandoned. They have been left by the wayside.
C. Wyse: At the same time, the policy decisions that have been made here in Victoria, as the Minister of Community Development is well aware, are not contributing to their viability to be able to stay employed.
So those are some of the concerns. As we go through the budget, we look at the various ministries and we have a look at where the funds have been placed and the support that it will not provide to those industries — reasons why I will not be supporting this budget.
But before we move on from there, I think we also need to take a look at what the record is from the government for the last eight years and the effect it has had upon the area where I am from.
I've identified areas of significant financial shortfalls. That means that there are additional cuts coming. There is more heartache to take place, and let's talk about some of the heartache that the Interior has been subject to already — not for a long time but just a little bit to give the flavour.
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We have issues with homelessness. We have issues around minimum wage. We have issues around child poverty. We have issues around class size and composition. We have a whole variety of issues, none of which is overshadowed by the thousands of people that have recently been laid off in my area — thousands. Shortly, we'll also be talking about, as we go through the budget, what is not found in the budget for supporting those people.
Let me continue to go back through those industries and have a look at the budget itself and what is there and what isn't there in support for them. Let's begin alphabetically with agriculture, the base industry where I'm from, and what is contained for it in the budget, what the policies and practices and decisions by this government have meant for agriculture. It will be clear why this budget would not be supportable on its own, on that one item.
When you look at agriculture, you see contained in it an increase of 3.1 percent. And I thought: "Great. Here is a government that has finally recognized that it has ignored this industry all this century." All this century they have ignored it. With the advent of mad cow, the agriculture industry asked for help. They looked for support from their government here in British Columbia, and they got diddly-squat. But I will come back to that.
I want to go back to the budget and talk about it and what is not contained within it. When you remove one line item alone — and by name it's called the Crown lands special account, which deals with future Crown land deposition — it has moved from $87 million to $127 million, and it will go back to $57 million.
When you take that one line item out of there, rather than a 3 percent increase for agriculture, you have, on average, a 7 percent decrease on every line item that supports this entry — a 7 percent decrease for an industry that has been struggling to stay afloat. For a government that talks about interest in food security and food production, for all this century they have not been doing such.
The productive insurance special account. That's the account that looks after the very special challenges that face agriculture, from drought and so on. Very trying times. My colleague from the Peace recognizes that they have been in a drought for three years. Very trying times. That fund is stuck at $11½ million. Madam Speaker, there is nothing in this budget for agriculture.
But let's talk about some of the policies that have been put into place and the effect that they have had upon the production costs of this industry that has been struggling. Let me talk about some of those.
The meat industry regulations. A good idea when you start talking about that when you're dealing with health, but we have a government that has no idea how many animals are in production in this province, what species they are, where they are and what the slaughtering capacity is. When you take the meat-processing industry down, you take ranching down. There is no means of making a viable living financially as either a meat processor or a producer, and there is no game plan here in Victoria.
There are no funds in the budget to develop a game plan in Victoria. There are no funds in this budget to get the information that is required to make informed, planned, thoughtful decisions so that our food security may be dealt with and looked after.
We've got a government whose policy is one of taking the arable lands of the province and treating it as a land bank, as the previous speaker readily admitted. A thousand acres of the most arable land in the province used to address whatever pet project the Premier has in mind and wishes to deal with. It takes hundreds of thousands of years for Mother Nature to make arable lands. To give it away willy-nilly, to then turn around and suggest that we have protected food security by taking lands of less quality, putting it in the ALR and putting it in climatic regions that are less supportive of food production….
Madam Speaker, those are concerns that I have, but one more before we leave agriculture and move on — the SRM, specified risk materials. The costs of disposing of those materials are increasing substantially. As my colleague the Community Development Minister is aware, the costs of getting rid of those products is going from seven and a half cents per pound to 12½ cents per pound. Pelts that used to be able to get some money now will have a cost associated with them for disposal.
This is an industry that is being squeezed on all sides, and we have a government here in British Columbia that expects the individual farmer and rancher, on their own, to carry all that cost and speak with pride of having the lowest support financially of any province in Canada for the agriculture industry.
That's the first industry that is in Cariboo South that I'm drawing to this House's and to the people of British Columbia's attention — the shortfalls that exist in this budget and why, in my judgment, it is not supportable.
Before I go back to the industries, I have one more critic area to deal with, and that's local government. I've looked at this budget through the eyes of local government, and this is what I've discovered. What I have discovered are massive cuts to local governments and services almost entirely in the transfers through grants and agreements to local governments. That is down 24 percent. They are front-end-loaded with their announcements.
The Minister of Community Development, very rightfully so throughout estimate procedures, was able to have demonstrated with the estimates that he was building a budget to take out on the campaign trail — the same minister who should also be aware that this is front-end-loaded money.
[H. Bloy in the chair.]
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When you examine that box of money, what the government has done is simply say: "The funds that you would normally receive from here in Victoria over the next three years…. We will collect it together. We'll wrap it up in a box. We'll put a ribbon around it and give it to you in the first year, but you will sign a contract that says you acknowledge that you are not going to get any more in the upcoming two years and that the money that you receive front-ended is going to drop."
Where I'm from, the people aren't working. Their costs haven't gone away. They still need the services. There are still the demands on them, and there's no assistance. There's some smoke being blown, and there are some mirrors being moved around, but there's no support in the budget for them.
I have heard from my colleagues on the other side: "Wait. There are great infrastructure funds coming." They're coming from somewhere. I don't know whether it's Ottawa. I don't know whether it's here in Victoria, but I have not heard an announcement yet that there's going to be an agreement in place — federal, provincial, municipal — for sharing those funds.
Who knows whether my colleagues on the other side are going to palm the money off the table when it comes from Ottawa and put it into their pet projects that are all over budget, out of control and can't be financed? There's concern by local government about having trust here in Victoria, about how they've been treated, and there's nothing in this budget to suggest that they would be treated any differently.
But I digress. I wish to return to my riding. I hope I mentioned mining and its importance where I'm from. I know that I mentioned first nations. I know that. Mining, first nations, agriculture, forestry — what is the relationship? When I was first elected — it seems so long ago now — I met with representatives of first nations up in my area, and they were very clear. They said: "We have to find resolution to issues of first nations."
So in my naivety, I wrote the Premier back in January, the first year I was elected, and said the equivalent of: "Mr. Premier, we have to begin to work on resolving these issues." Why? For sure there's the self-evidence of how first nations have been dealt with and those items. But I'm relatively naive, and I thought: "Oh yeah. Where I'm from in Cariboo South out in the Chilcotin, the Nechako basin comes down." Nechako basin — my colleagues from up in the Peace country would recognize that's the oil and gas formations.
They'd also recognize the porphyries that exist out in the Chilcotin. They're porphyry deposits that in actual fact are Gibraltar mine and Mount Polley. My colleague up from the Smithers area…. Another porphyry. Over in Kamloops, another porphyry. Over in Ashcroft there are those deposits. For them to be developed, it requires that there's an agreement and things will move.
I looked through the budget. Guess what. Commodities are down, but that's back to the revenue aspect that may be plugged upwards, but I can't find the money. I cannot find the money to deal with first nations issues and resolution of those items.
This is a government that this century has squandered the time that should have been spent on discussing those issues and resolving them. But no, they didn't. According to what I'm hearing from the other side, we have to hurry up and get on with those items.
We have to hurry up and get on with those items, because they're 150-plus years out of date for having been addressed. I spent time attempting to bring together the parties that were involved over my short period of time — the federals, the provincials and the first nations — to keep it at the table so that they could resolve the issues. I wasn't successful. And where does that come in? It's because the economic development for all of us is in play in my riding. I failed in my job in trying to bring it together.
I'm not going to mention that every time people got together, either the federal government or the provincial government went to court and challenged what was going on. I'm not going to mention that. I'm not going to talk about how the parties would then fly apart. No, that would be petty on my part.
Here we are, having wasted this century on addressing this issue. It matters for all British Columbians. I couldn't find any hope in the budget for that either.
Forestry is another industry I know I've mentioned. In the last few weeks, hundreds of employed people in my riding of Cariboo South have been laid off. They've lost their jobs, and there is no backup plan for them. There is no support for them — an EI program that has got gaping holes in it. There is no transition plan for them to deal with issues. There's no transition plan financially for the communities that are affected by it.
Here in this House, we could not get a commitment for a date when we would know when people could apply for those types of funds. There's not a penny in this budget to provide support for those individuals, those communities, to support the business people that have absolutely no support at all. As the doors shut, they go away.
This budget fails. It fails the test of looking after the needs of the people of where I'm from. It fails the test of looking after the needs of all British Columbians, because it is those industries that have provided the wealth.
At the same time that that has taken place, this government here in Victoria has ignored the Interior and the rural part of the province. My riding shares those scars, and they're deep.
I close by reminding people that the budget has got a quarter-billion dollars yet to be found. It's got revenues in it that are highly optimistic, and there will be a return
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down here to the Campbell days of cut and slash on the backs of the ordinary people of British Columbia.
It's with that that I thank you for listening to me, and I will not be voting for this budget.
D. Hayer: First of all, I want to thank my constituents, my volunteers, my wife, my children, my mom, my family and friends and many other workers, teachers, mill workers and other businesses who come regularly for coffee meetings and share their concerns with me for the last eight years. I want to thank them for working with me and helping me out, providing information.
Also, I want to thank my staff, Manuel Santos, Mark Rushton, Gina Andersen, Gillian Dolding, Tim Morrison, Grace Lore, Christie Pruden, Paul Keenleyside and other support staff for the help and support they provided me over the last eight years of my job as an MLA for Surrey-Tynehead. Without their help, I could not have been able to do the job I've been able to do either in Victoria or in my constituency.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to respond to this budget speech. Do you know that by dictionary definition, the word "prudent" means sensible, marked by sound judgment? It also means wise, cautious and careful in providing for the future.
Prudent is an apt and precise description for this budget. As we are all acutely aware, the global economic troubles are also having a profound effect on British Columbia. Our citizens are concerned. They're worried about their future. Yet this budget in many ways addresses those worries. It provides for jobs and, regardless of the future implications of any economic downturn, protects health care and education, the keys to protect our residents and future opportunities for our children.
Protection is also there for this year and coming years in job creation and in jobs that will be created through this budget. In my city of Surrey alone, the largest expansion in the history of the Fraser Health — well over half a billion dollars — will be spent to build a new critical care tower at Surrey Memorial Hospital.
That project alone will create, over its construction phase, thousands of direct and indirect jobs. This new tower at Surrey Memorial Hospital will add 151 acute care beds and will expand many services, including 48 children's neonatal intensive care beds, specialized mental health and geriatric units.
The new tower is projected to cost between $500 million to $600 million and will contain a new emergency department that will be five times larger than the one existing at the Surrey Memorial Hospital and will include a separate children's ER and an enhanced minor treatment unit. The maternity department will have 13 new birthing beds, private rooms for mothers and their families, and additional academic space for new doctors and other health care professionals in partnership with the UBC medical school and Fraser Health.
The new tower will also have a new rooftop helicopter pad for emergency use. This is just one more investment we are making in health care throughout Surrey, and it will create 3,760 jobs. That is prudent.
All this comes on the heels of 73 new acute care beds that we opened at Surrey Memorial Hospital in August, 2008. As well, there was a $10 million expansion to Surrey Memorial's kidney dialysis unit, increasing the stations from 18 to 30.
This is all part of a $30 million upgrade initiative at Surrey Memorial begun in 2005 to build capacity, expand services and ease congestion at the Surrey Memorial Hospital. These additional beds represent a 26 percent increase in acute care beds in Surrey, 491 of them since Fraser Health was created by our government.
For the cancer services, this government has spent $12.5 million on renovation to the B.C. Cancer Centre in Surrey, vastly improving services to the cancer patients in our community.
Just a couple of weeks ago I attended the first concrete pouring for the new ambulatory outpatient day care hospital being built on Fraser Highway and 140th Street. This tremendous new facility will be 188,000 square feet, is worth $239 million and is expected to create 1,500 construction jobs. The new hospital will feature expanded day surgery and diagnostic services including four operating rooms and ten procedure rooms. It will also include a primary care area for seniors and people living with chronic disease or HIV and AIDS.
Across B.C. $2.9 billion in capital spending will be invested in construction and renovation for health care facilities over the next three years. But investments in health care don't end with infrastructure additions.
Funding for health care has increased every year since our first budget in 2001, when we were elected. This year we are adding an additional $4.8 billion over the three years to what we have already spent — almost three-quarters more on health care since our government first took office in 2001. In 2001 health care spending was $9.365 billion. In the 2009-10 budget, government spending on health care is budgeted at $15.7 billion. That's an increase of almost 68 percent.
On mental health and drug and addiction services we are spending over $1.2 billion. Our mental health and addictions services budget is 42 percent more than in 2001, when our government came into this province. There are now 7,776 mental health beds. That is 2,836 more than the 4,940 in place in 2001 under the NDP, an increase of 44 percent.
In the area of education and training of health care professionals who will staff those wonderful new additions to our health care system, we have made great strides. We have invested $189 million since 2001 in our B.C. nursing strategy to attract and retain nurses.
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We've increased the number of nurse training spaces by 93 percent since 2001. We have added 23 new nursing programs. We now have a record number of nursing graduates and practising nurses programs. When I talk to the nurses and people in health care, they're very happy to see so many new spaces created and that there are so many new opportunities for them in new facilities.
New medical schools were added to Prince George and Victoria, and we are now graduating 256 medical doctors every year, up from 128 in 2001-2002. The number of medical school spaces in B.C. has doubled since 2001 when our government was formed, from 128 to 256.
We are adding a fourth program at UBC Okanagan, which will allow us to increase the number of medical doctor grads to 288 per year. Also, the spaces for residency for international medical school graduates have increased by 800 percent, from two to 18.
For our children's future, another $1.3 billion will be invested in job creation to replace, renovate or expand schools offering kindergarten to grade 12. We are continuing to invest in our future with increased funding for our students with a per-pupil funding increase in this budget to $8,242 for each child. That is the highest-ever funding for education in the history of this province.
Since this government was elected in 2001, we have built new schools throughout the Surrey district. Rosemary Heights Elementary opened in 2008, White Rock Elementary in 2007. Panorama Ridge Secondary School, Pacific Heights Elementary School and Cambridge Elementary all opened in 2006. Bridgeview Elementary and Surrey Centre Elementary opened in 2003. Kwantlen Secondary, A.J. McLellan Elementary and Morgan Elementary opened in 2002.
We also opened Sullivan Heights Secondary, Coast Meridian Elementary and Chimney Hill Elementary. In addition, Hazelgrove Elementary is expected to open this year, and Woodward Hill Elementary is also under construction, expected to open in 2010.
Most of these are brand-new schools, while some of the others were built to replace aging facilities to improve the educational environment for our children. That is thinking and building for the future.
I also want to point out that since 2001 we have increased the number of teachers in Surrey by 365. In 2001 Surrey school district had 3,391 teachers, and today they have more than 3,756 teachers working in the Surrey school district. In other words, Surrey schools are far better off today than they were eight years ago. They have more schools, newer and better schools, and we have more teachers.
All these investments in Surrey's education system have been built at the time when elsewhere across the province, school enrolment has declined by 50,000 students. That is a huge drop in the number of children attending our schools. Yet despite that huge decline, this government is spending more money per pupil on education than at any other time in our history. This is thinking for the future.
In the area of post-secondary education, a further $1.7 billion will be invested in facilities including projects that increase student capacity. I know how important that is to the young people in my riding, who are now able to obtain post-secondary degrees at the wonderful new Surrey campus of Surrey Simon Fraser University and at Surrey's own Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
In fact, since 2001 our government has funded more than 1,000 new student seats at the four Kwantlen University campuses. Also, the Surrey campus of SFU has received almost $70 million from the Ministry of Advanced Education. In 2008-09 we are funding a total of 19,464 student spaces at SFU.
Couple those excellent centres of higher learning with the new world-class $42.3 million trades and technology centre in Cloverdale and Surrey, and our students have at hand and close to home the ability to learn skills and trades that will serve them well in their careers anywhere in the world. This 17,000-square-metre building has room for more than 900 students.
All these advanced education centres will provide Surrey students with training to take advantage of all job opportunities our government is creating through infrastructure investment. There will be capacity, and there will be plenty of jobs.
Our government is putting more than $2.3 billion into transportation projects, including the new ten-lane Port Mann bridge crossing — which will be designed to have buses, bicycles and also a light rail system in the future — and the South Fraser perimeter road.
In addition to these, we will soon see the freeway widened through my constituency all the way into Vancouver. We will soon see the new Golden Ears bridge coming on line, and the Pacific Highway–176th Street four-laning project is close to completion, creating a seamless route for across-the-border traffic going to and from the United States. That is prudent.
We are also expanding the SkyTrain transit system, all the way to Guildford and to the Fraser Highway and 168th Street and then to Langley and Newton, and doubling the number of buses in Surrey and our area. These are vital links in our transportation system that will enhance travel, save millions of dollars and get B.C.'s goods to market and ports and consumers quicker at less cost.
On top of all that, the smooth traffic flow will eliminate the huge quantity of vehicle pollution that is now generated in my riding due to hour-long tie-ups at the Port Mann Bridge. My constituents are thrilled that the construction has begun on the new ten-lane Port Mann Bridge crossing and the addition of extra lanes on Highway 1 all the way from Vancouver to Langley.
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They appreciate that the government is also updating the interchanges at 152nd Street, 160th Street and 176th Street on Highway 1. They are impressed that after 20 years of needing it, construction has finally begun on the South Fraser perimeter road. They are also thrilled that after 20 years of wanting it, there's finally a new underpass soon to be opened at 156th Street and Highway 1 connecting Fraser Heights and Guildford to vastly improve north and south traffic flow.
In the Port Kells area there are now new on- and off-ramps at 192nd Street and Highway 1 to ease commuter congestion and improve commercial truck traffic flow. Surrey residents are also impressed with the four-laning and widening of both Fraser Highway and Highway 10, which were needed for a long period of time.
All these new improvements have come after years of wanting them. They have come only through the hard work, effort and investment of our government. These investments will allow my constituents to save time and fuel wasted while stuck in traffic and will get them to work and back home much quicker. It will get them to the shopping centres much faster and allow them to get the children back and forth much faster to the recreation centres and all other activities the children are involved in.
These investments are also a means to reduce costs and increase profit for the businesses in Surrey, who are very pleased to see contained in this budget the industrial property tax credit for the 2009 tax year.
The Port Kells area of my riding is one of B.C.'s most vibrant industrial areas, and taxpayers on both major and light industrial properties in Port Kells and across B.C. will now see the provincial school tax reduced by 50 percent. That means that across the province, $155 million will be saved by industry over the next three years. That is prudent.
The farmers in Surrey and throughout the Fraser Valley will now see an exemption for PST on purchase of egg-packaging equipment and on refrigeration equipment used for cooling and cold storage of farm products, including berries, vegetables and other produce that make our farmland so valuable.
This budget also provides for the most vulnerable in our society. Included in it is $110 million to support vulnerable children and families and another $110 million over the three years to meet the increased income assistance needs of vulnerable British Columbians during this economic downturn.
To help end the cycle of homelessness, our government is investing an additional $34 million in outreach and interim assistance. In fact, this government is spending more on housing and converting homelessness than ever before in the province's history. Since our first election, our government has tripled the housing budget to more than $400 million today. This government has also built or committed to building more than 16,000 units of social housing, including over 4,000 assisted-living units for seniors.
Today there are more than 4,400 supportive housing units in communities all across B.C., more than three times the number of units under the NDP government, when in 2001 there were only 1,300 units. The Surrey seniors have not been overlooked in the provisions of more residential care facilities.
Last March 26 we opened the new 191-bed CareLife Fleetwood residential care facility, and 157 of those beds are funded by Fraser Health. On June 23 last year we opened Laurel Place, a 215-bed residential care facility with 162 beds plus 20 hospital beds funded by Fraser Health. We also have Rosemary Heights Seniors Village, which is a new 151-unit campus of care with 61 assisted-living units and 90 residential care beds. The province will supplement with annual funding of $240 for rent for 42 of those residential units under the Independent Living B.C. program, while Fraser Health funds 85 of the residential care beds.
For those who face end of life, we opened 20 beds at Laurel Place Hospice in May, which doubled the number of hospice beds formerly available at Surrey Memorial Shirley Dean Pavilion. Surrey also received 53 assisted-living units at Elim Housing in spring of 2006 and 80 residential care beds at Elim in winter of 2008, which are funded by the province through Fraser Health. I will be going to the opening ceremony this Friday.
Mr. Speaker, 29 beds have been added to the Evergreen Cottages, 59 beds at Fleetwood Place and 60 at the new Fleetwood Villa. In total, there are now 2,091 residential care, supportive housing and assisted-living units for our seniors in Surrey funded by our province. In 2001 when this government took office, there were only 939.
Across the province today there are 5,896 net new residential care beds, assisted-living and supportive housing units, compared to 2001. There are also 6,539 replacement units, for the total of 12,435 new replacement bed units that have been opened, replacing many beds that were old and unsuitable.
In 2008-2009 we will spend over $2.2 billion on home and community care for seniors, an increase of $686 million from 2001 — 44 percent more than the NDP spent in 2001. For independent seniors we have the SAFER program, which provides rental subsidies for seniors. More than 15,700 of them have received rental assistance — 3,500 more than in 2001 when our government took office. The average assistance is $151 a month, and the maximum is $210 for single seniors, with $226.50 for a couple in Surrey and throughout the Lower Mainland.
We also increased the property tax homeowner grant to $845 and raised the property value threshold to $1.05 million to cushion the tax effect for seniors whose homes have increased dramatically in value. This move
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has allowed them to keep and maintain the family home they have lived in for years. In addition, there is now no property value threshold for low-income seniors, people with disabilities or veterans.
As well, as part of the Premier's economic recovery plan announced in the fall of 2008, families can now defer their home property taxes for two years. And for low-income families we launched the 2008 rental assistance plan, which provides up to a maximum of $765 a month in rental assistance for those families earning less than $35,000 a year.
Also for low-income families, the child care subsidy program was expanded in 2005 when the qualifying annual income threshold for families was increased from $21,000 to $38,000. This increase in the number of eligible families benefited more than 12,000 children. The child care subsidy program supports around 50,000 individual children each year. This government also funds approximately 90,000 child care spaces throughout the province, an increase of more than 40 percent since 2003. And the Fair PharmaCare program lowered drug costs for 2,080 people.
Last year the budget provided an additional $104 million over the four years to help break the cycle of homelessness; $78 million of that will allow emergency shelters to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are now more than 1,500 shelter beds available in B.C., nearly double the 850 beds that were available when we took office from the NDP.
Last year we established a $13 million outreach program to expand homeless housing and supportive services. To date, more than 4,500 people have obtained housing as a result of the services. We also provided $3 million over the four years in rent supplements to help homeless people find rental accommodation.
There is a lot more — $10 million in one-time funding for the pre-development costs of city-owned sites in cities across the province to help fast-track construction of affordable and supportive housing units. In the agreements we have already reached are the cities of Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Campbell River and Nanaimo. The approval process has been fast-tracked for almost 2,000 new supportive housing units and shelter beds.
Also, as a result of last year's budget, our government has spent, over the past few months, $96 million to purchase 25 hotels to preserve the stock of some 1,440 affordable housing units. In addition, we are investing another $90 million to renovate these units to provide services to help people break the cycle of homelessness.
In addition to those hotels in Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster, our government has preserved additional affordable housing by purchasing buildings in Surrey, Kamloops, Burnaby, Quesnel, Port Alberni, Prince George, Mission, Williams Lake, Abbotsford, Osoyoos and Logan Lake. This investment of $34 million provides some 560 housing units.
Last year alone we invested $130 million in 45 buildings to protect and upgrade some 2,000 units of existing affordable housing — most of which, if we had not intervened on behalf of those in need, would have been converted into more expensive forms of housing or changed to other uses.
For those who require additional services, our government has stepped up to the plate. In Surrey we have opened Creekside Withdrawal Management Centre, which replaced the existing Maple Cottage in Burnaby. The two-storey Creekside Centre on 94A Avenue, adjacent to Surrey Memorial Hospital, contains 24 adult beds and six more dedicated to addicted youth. This centre provides a 24-hour, safe, supportive, medically supervised environment for those adults and youth who want to withdraw from substance abuse.
Our government also invested $10.9 million in Phoenix Centre, which offers integrated addiction services and provides the continual support for those recovering from addiction and mental illness. The Phoenix Centre is the first development of its kind in British Columbia to combine clinical addiction services with transitional housing, employment and educational services. This centre provides 28 early stabilization and addiction services beds and 36 transitional housing units. It's operated by the non-profit Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Society.
That is all about caring for the vulnerable in our society and making decisions and decisive action to help them live in comfort and security.
This action and these decisions are all about caring about the future for everyone, and we want to make sure that our sound financial management is there. We want to make sure we can do everything we can by having a sound financial management plan for the future and a plan for today.
We are keeping on that plan. We have that plan. That is prudent. That is keeping British Columbia strong, keeping our province at the forefront of fiscal responsibility and keeping British Columbia a leader in the role of economic prudence for all of Canada.
Our government's plan is to invest close to $14 billion in infrastructure over the next three years, which will donate some 88,000 jobs, and that is what the dictionary describes as prudent, careful action to provide for the future. Just as prudent is the government's decision to cut back discretionary spending on such things as travel and advertising for our government employees and government members.
Because we have been prudent in all the years following the 2001 election, B.C. has the best possible, triple-A credit rating — the best in Canada. It is that solid financial foundation that will help our citizens weather this
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current economic turmoil, and when the economic turmoil is over, we will return by 2011-12 to a balanced budget so that we will not leave decades of deficit for future generations to look after. That is prudent.
Also prudent is the assistance we are providing to the home property owners through the temporary property tax deferral program, which was introduced in the 2009 and 2010 tax years to help those homeowners who are experiencing financial difficulties. As well, there are extensions included in this budget for the extension of provincial sales tax on energy-efficient home heating equipment, as well as for specialized commercial vehicles.
This budget also increases the low-income climate action tax credit by 10 percent, effective 2011, which will put some $15 million a year back into the pockets of families who need it the most. For those whose land is classified as farm, property tax costs will be reduced by 50 percent in 2011.
Remember, everyone is better off thanks to the tax scheme this government introduced and continues to improve on, and that is almost eight years ago when we took office. In fact, one of the first things our government did in 2001 was to reduce personal income tax by 25 percent. Today, as a result of our tax cuts, we have completely eliminated provincial income tax for everyone earning less than $15,500 a year. That means almost 250,000 low-income British Columbians will now pay no provincial income tax at all. That's the first time in this province's history.
Those earning less than $112,000 a year pay the lowest income tax in Canada. When we took government in 2001, under the NDP, British Columbia had paid the highest income taxes in North America. Our 2.5 percent tax rate for small business is also the lowest tax rate in Canada, and B.C. has the lowest business income tax rate in all of the G7 countries.
Another issue that is of great concern to my constituents and all of British Columbia is public safety. That is why, on February 13 of this year, the Premier announced an additional 168 police officers and ten prosecutors as part of the comprehensive initiative to strengthen B.C.'s fight against gang and gun violence.
The public safety package also included $185 million to invest in new jail cells and new regulations around the sale of body armour, revisions to the Motor Vehicle Act to outlaw modified armoured vehicles and aggressively utilize the Civil Forfeiture Act to seize and sell vehicles and property obtained through criminal means. So we want to go after the gangs and stop them.
We're lobbying the federal government to make changes to the Criminal Code to make it harder for those accused of gun offences to get bail; eliminate two-for-one time served; expand the ability to obtain and utilize wiretap evidence; also, new technologies so we can put them in jail; simplify evidence disclosure requirements; more protection against intimidation; stronger power to fingerprint suspects at site; and also introduce Bill C-25, 26 and mandatory minimum sentences in Ottawa.
Since 2001 we have added 950 new police officers into communities across B.C., and 100 percent of the fine revenue is returned to B.C. municipalities to help fund local policing. I want to point out that since 2001 Surrey has received almost $26 million from our government for fine revenue to help fight crime.
Last year over $1 million was given to three jurisdictions — one of them is Surrey — for the pilot project that will increase the use of closed-circuit TVs in high-crime areas. The prolific offender management project will also be piloted in five jurisdictions, including Surrey. This project will involve a more integrated, multi-agency response, because many of those chronic offenders are dealing with issues such as drug addiction, mental illness, unemployment and homelessness.
Our government is also committed to providing funds in support of the environment, parks, recreation and healthy living in our community. In Surrey we had invested $500,000 to expand the public spaces for community gatherings with special grants to the Spirit Square in Holland Park. The province has also transferred approximately 77 acres of land in the heart of Surrey worth millions of dollars to the city of Surrey to protect public park space in Green Timbers Park for all the community to enjoy for generations to come. We have made Surrey a better place to play for our youth.
I have a lot more to say. I notice my time has run out, so I'll continue later on, whenever I can get back to this.
J. McGinn: I've been suffering from laryngitis these past few days, so I'm hoping that my voice will hold out for the duration of my speech.
It's with great pleasure that I rise to give my first budget speech in this House. I'd like to start by recognizing that we're on the traditional territory of the Songhees First Nation and give respect to the first nations of B.C. for welcoming us to their traditional territory.
I just want to also give a warm thanks to all the people in Vancouver-Fairview that made it possible for me to represent them here. It's indeed a great, great pleasure to represent my residents of Vancouver-Fairview in this chamber.
I really wanted to send a sincere thanks out to my staff in Vancouver-Fairview, Jarrah Hodge and Steven Klein. They're working hard for the people of Vancouver-Fairview, and here in Victoria, my staff, Susan Farmer. I just really want to send my great appreciation for the hard work that they do to help me to do my job.
I also wanted to say a big thank you to the residents of Vancouver-Fairview. I might be a newcomer here as an MLA, but I'll tell you. I've been out there on the ground the last several months meeting with groups and individuals, whether it's out on the doorstep, at a com-
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munity meeting or in my office. I've been out there and hearing their ideas, and they've been providing me with their input, their critiques and their ideas, never hesitant to contribute and support me in my work and ensuring that their voices are heard here in the Legislature.
I take those responsibilities quite seriously as their representative, and I just wanted to take a moment here this afternoon to tell you a bit about what I've been hearing in my constituency. I've been hearing from young families who are facing increasing pressures to make ends meet. Vancouver-Fairview is actually one of the most expensive constituencies in the province in which to live. Families are being challenged by high rents, and high housing prices are being driven out of reach for many.
Hydro prices are increasing, and transit prices are always increasing, while the lineups for buses continue to rise just along with them. Ferry prices are increasing, as is ICBC.
More and more families are being faced with both parents having to work to accommodate these rising prices. They need safe and affordable child care to ensure that their children have somewhere to go before and after school. There are not enough child care spaces to meet this great demand. I see very little in this budget to address the wait-lists for child care.
There was an opportunity, however. There was an opportunity to create a voluntary all-day kindergarten program for five-year-olds this September. This program would help to address some of the pressures for working families, but this opportunity was lost in this budget. Again, children and their working parents fail to be a priority for this government.
Lack of affordable and available child care in my community is a major concern to the residents of Vancouver-Fairview. I've talked to parents who are being forced to consider having to quit their jobs because there's no after-school care for their children. Parents have been forced into desperate situations because of the decision of this government not to invest in all-day kindergarten programs.
The Mount Pleasant Child Care Centre, which is located in my constituency at Ontario and 16th, is struggling to find operational dollars to ensure child care programs continue while the centre is relocating. Parents are worried they won't have a space for their child and are calling on the provincial government to step up and provide the necessary funding for this vital program.
The government has invested less money into child care than it has on a new roof for B.C. Place Stadium. It's quite appalling. Clearly, when the member from Point Grey stated that all he has tried to do in public life is about children, he was spewing rhetoric instead of delivering services.
If this government really cared about children in this province, they would invest 1 percent of the GDP towards a child care program. Imagine what that would do to help children and working families in our province.
Speaking about kids, British Columbia has the great shame, five years running now, of having the highest child poverty rate in our country. This is absolutely shameful in a province as rich and prosperous as ours, and there's no provincial child poverty plan in B.C., despite having the highest child poverty rate in the country.
There was a study done a few months ago. It was conducted about poverty in our province. Some 91 percent of respondents said that they would feel proud if our Premier took action and leadership on poverty reduction, and 87 percent of British Columbians said now was the time for strong political leadership to reduce the number of poor people in our province. This budget falls short of that kind of leadership that British Columbians want and expect from their government.
Furthermore, British Columbians believe that an economic recession is exactly the time when governments need to act on poverty reduction. When asked further whether in the face of a recession governments will have to focus on other priorities or whether an economic downturn makes it a more important priority than ever to help the poor, 77 percent chose the latter. Again, this seems to indicate just how out of touch this government is with the interests and the concerns of the majority of British Columbians.
But when we're talking about child poverty, what we're really talking about here is poverty for their parents, particularly women's poverty, since the majority of poor children are often raised by a single parent, usually a woman. In fact, children living with single parents have nearly four times the poverty rate compared to that of children in two-parent families. That's 43 percent compared to 11 percent. In B.C. poverty among single mothers rose an astounding 15.8 percent between 2001 and 2005. Vancouver was worse still, at a 24 percent increase.
The budget fails to address child poverty in any meaningful way. It has also failed eight years counting now to raise the wage for the lowest-paid workers in our province. Full-time earnings for minimum-wage workers in B.C. amount to only $16,640. That's more than $5,000 below the StatsCan poverty line for an individual living in a large urban centre.
It's with significance that women constitute two-thirds of all B.C. workers earning the minimum wage. If this government truly cared about the welfare of our children, they would raise the minimum wage to assist low-income parents to provide their children with a better standard of living.
Now, I think — and I think my colleagues on this side of the House would agree with me — that kids are worth the investment. It astounds me that any government in this day and age can take an approach that actually undervalues, undercuts and undermines our kids. Our kids are our future. From child care to education to
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eradicating child poverty, we need to radically improve the prospects and the potential for our kids, and this budget does not do that.
Homelessness is also a key concern in the riding of Vancouver-Fairview. My constituents ask me how it got this bad and how, in just a short number of years, we have failed our most vulnerable citizens. Whatever happened to us being a caring and a compassionate society?
In the most recent homelessness count in Vancouver that was conducted in March of last year, 2,660 people were found to be homeless. There's also a growing number of the hidden homeless. These are mostly women and children who are staying at the homes of their friends or their family. After almost eight years of Liberal government policies, homelessness in our province has risen by over 300 percent.
In a recently published report entitled Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed the Auditor General has concluded that the government has not been successful in reducing homelessness. The Auditor General states that the government has not established a clear direction for addressing homelessness. Its goals and objectives are ill-defined, and it has no overall measure or target for homelessness.
The government lacks a profile of the homeless population, the Auditor General further states. He recommends that the government ensure it has comprehensive information about the numbers and the needs of homeless people to guide its decision-making.
He further states that homelessness is growing in B.C. This is contrary to what we've heard from the members opposite. The Auditor General states again that homelessness is growing in British Columbia, and then he states that the government's reporting on homelessness is inadequate.
The inaction is deafening. The disappearance of low-income housing and the lack of necessary supports are appalling. They say that we can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. Well, I would suggest that this government would be judged quite poorly by the lack of action on homelessness and the reasons that cause homelessness.
I've also been hearing from people in my constituency who are concerned about cuts to legal aid. The Vancouver Family Law Clinic run by the Legal Services Society is slated to be closed by April 30 of this year. This is in spite of the fact that there is a family law crisis in B.C., in which Legal Services acknowledges that there are just simply not enough lawyers to take on family law and child protection legal aid cases.
The Family Law Clinic is a place of last resort for some of the most difficult cases that private bar lawyers just won't take. With no family staff lawyers, the most vulnerable people — those with mental health issues, literacy challenges, language barriers and victims of domestic violence — will go unserved. These cuts will primarily hurt women, who are likely to have fewer resources than their ex-partners to deal with family law matters and are much more likely to be victims of abuse, violence or harassment.
It seems strange to me that these cuts would be coming at a time like this. There's a direct correlation to economic downturns and increases in family violence. In the last year alone battered women's support services saw a 36 percent increase in demand for their services. This is across the board, and a disproportionately high number of these women are immigrants, refugees and non-status women.
The cuts to legal aid mean that far too often these women will have to self-represent in an alien system, where English is not their first language, and they will have to experience the trauma all over again. Clearly, women who have been victimized by violence deserve better treatment.
In a similar vein, it's absolutely astounding to me that there is nothing in the budget to deal with the pressing issue of gang violence. You can't turn on the TV or read the newspaper these days without hearing about the horrible and deplorable situation of gang violence in our city. I've been hearing from my constituents in Vancouver-Fairview, who are fearful to leave their homes, worried that they might be caught in the crossfire. One of these incidents happened in my own constituency, in Vancouver-Fairview, at Arbutus and Broadway.
The violence is so random that nowhere seems safe anymore. The Premier himself has said that gang violence is absolutely unacceptable and that we have to do everything we can to stop it. Well, what we need is more than empty words. We need some action.
This is from the same government that has closed jails, made cuts to prosecutors and made significant cuts to important community programs. My constituents expect action from their government on this issue. In fact, they deserve it.
I've also heard from small businesses on Cambie Street. They've been adversely impacted by the Canada line construction and have been calling for compensation from this government. Yet we see no allocation of compensation for these businesses, despite the fact that over 50 businesses have either gone bankrupt or have been forced to relocate.
Instead of sitting down with these businesses and negotiating a deal, the Liberal government is fighting their claim for settlement in court, using taxpayers' dollars to fight these small family-owned businesses in court — instead of sitting down and trying to negotiate a deal with them, which is the right thing to do for the business community.
Leading up to the budget, the government announced that it would have to go into a deficit this year. The Premier said that this decision caused him great pain
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and that he had sleepless nights, tossing and turning about this decision.
Prior to entering this chamber as a member of the Legislature, I worked as a banker at Canada's largest credit union, Vancity. At Vancity we saw the signs of the economic crisis about to unfold. As a banker, I took the precautionary measures that were necessary in times of a credit crunch. I was prudent and responsible when lending money to small businesses and non-profit organizations, because that was the necessary and the responsible thing to do, both for the credit union and for our members.
We all knew that an economic downturn was about to happen. We knew that well over a year ago. But the Premier and the members opposite state that it was only last December that they realized the negative impact of the global economic crisis in B.C. and for the 2009 budget.
I have a question. Were they asleep at the wheel, or do they just not understand the economy? Burying their heads in the sand is absolutely irresponsible, and now British Columbians are paying the cost, and they're paying it dearly.
The government did not show the same amount of caution and prudence that our financial institutions were showing. Instead, we saw reckless and irresponsible cost overruns on the convention centre and misplaced priorities, like wasteful spending of $365 million on a new roof for B.C. Place.
Now all of a sudden it seems that the government has woken up, and they've realized the economic circumstances that are upon us. Yet this budget does very little for the most vulnerable in our society. They said we had to go into deficit so we could support important programs like health care and education. Those are, for sure, important programs and deserving of protection.
However, the reality is that this budget does not protect education at all. The budget includes an increase for education of about $73 million. However, this is less than half the increase in 2008-2009. Public schools received the lowest percentage increase in funding of all education programs in this budget for 2009-2010.
The Ministry of Education's three-year plan shows funding for education programs cut in half each subsequent year. That means that the very real and painful shortfalls boards of education across the province are experiencing will only increase in subsequent years.
A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet with members of the Vancouver school board. The Vancouver school board is facing a massive deficit in their budget. They're faced with making some very difficult decisions that will impact some of our most vulnerable students — students with special needs.
[K. Whittred in the chair.]
The government claims that this budget provides the highest-ever per-student funding, but let's look at the reality. School boards are faced with declining enrolment numbers. A school's operating costs do not necessarily decline when enrolment declines. The funding-per-student allocation is not adjusted for inflation. The budget does not take into consideration the changing complexity of the needs in the student population and the increased vulnerability of students entering the K-to-12 system.
It does not provide a per-student amount based on what it would cost to properly fund unmet needs in the public school system, such as addressing class size, composition issues, increasing support for special education and fully funding new initiatives.
The parents I speak to in Vancouver-Fairview have a great deal of concern about the funding for education. They want to ensure that their children receive the best education possible and that opportunities exist for them. They feel that this budget fails to do that, especially for the children most in need. We need to invest in sustainable and predictable funding so that our school boards can plan over the long term for our students' future.
I've also talked to post-secondary students in my riding, students who are doing the right thing, the responsible thing, out there gaining the skills necessary to allow them to be productive members of our society and contributors to our economy. However, this government is making that goal much less attainable for countless post-secondary students in our province. We've seen escalating tuition fees, skyrocketing student debt and funding clawbacks.
Since 2001 tuition in B.C. has gone up from $2,500 to $5,000 — double. This is the fastest increase in Canada. As a result, under this government's watch we've seen student debt loads go from one of the lowest in the country to the second highest. The concern of student debt is precluding so many students from entering post-secondary institutions, hence reducing their future earning potential.
We need to invest in our future and invest in the future of our young people by providing them with better opportunities and easier access to post-secondary education. In the long run this investment will increase productivity in our province.
Despite the fact that there has been an increase in spending in health care, seniors in my community are still not having their needs met. Recently I met with St. Jude's Anglican Home in Vancouver-Fairview. Staff and volunteers at St. Jude's are some of the most dedicated and hard-working people I've had the pleasure to meet. They've told me about the challenges they have in providing care for the residents in their home.
The recommended care for long-term care is between 2.8 and 3.2 hours per resident. However, the fact of the matter is that St. Jude's Anglican Home is only receiving
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funding for 2.3 hours of care. This is in spite of the fact that the needs of the residents are growing. Residents need more assistance with basic needs such as eating or going to the washroom. Due to a lack of funding for seniors long-term care, a resident is lucky to have one bath a week.
This is the case not just in this home. It's a systemic problem throughout the region — in fact, throughout the province, as my friend from Cowichan-Ladysmith will certainly attest. Surely, the people that built this province deserve better than what has been afforded to them.
In fact, overall in Vancouver-Fairview we've lost almost 300 long-term care beds for seniors since the Liberals have been in office. We've also seen a disappearance of affordable, non-profit long-term care beds, replaced instead with expensive, private care beds charging $5,000 a month — certainly out of reach for many, many seniors in my community. I've met with seniors in my community, the South Granville Seniors Centre. They've expressed their frustration and their anger about cuts to home care.
Deputy Speaker: Member, just a moment.
Members, the noise level is getting to the point where I can't hear the speaker. Could we give the speaker the courtesy of her time.
J. McGinn: As I was mentioning, I've been meeting with seniors in my community over at the South Granville Seniors Centre, and what these seniors have been saying to me is that they're expressing their frustration about the cuts to home care services.
You see, these seniors are lucky enough to live in their own homes. They're independent, but sometimes they need a little help around the house just to make life a little bit easier for them, help with light housekeeping or bathing or grooming. But what's happened since the Liberal government has come to power is that access to home care services has been slashed. This greatly hinders seniors' ability to live independently.
Also, the provision of home care services just makes sense from an economic point of view. It's much cheaper to have seniors in their own homes, where they want to be, and with extra supports so that they can have their homes cleaned and themselves taken care of. The cuts to home care services don't make any sense from either a human or a financial perspective.
I cannot, with any good conscience, support this budget. It is not, as it reports to be, a budget that provides stability and confidence. It's a budget that provides volatility and instability to many in our community. It's a budget that neglects students and teachers, health care workers, seniors, parents and children, women in need of legal aid, small business people on Cambie Street, minimum-wage workers, homeless people and those at risk of being homeless.
It's a budget that does not speak to the values of the people I am here to represent. I thank you for the opportunity to add my comments to this debate.
Hon. J. McIntyre: I rise to take my place in this debate for Budget 2009 with great pleasure.
Before I begin my remarks, I would really like to take a few moments to respond to the speaker before me, the member for Vancouver-Fairview, who I really take exception to. I found that her comments painted a picture of this government and the way that we have treated people, seniors and single mothers, that looks as if we have absolutely no compassion and gives us no credit for the many steps that we have taken. They're wrong. They're absolutely wrong. [Applause.]
Don't applaud, because you're wrong. You're wrong. If you're applauding for that, you're misguided.
Let me speak about what we've done. Let me actually talk about their record on single mothers. There were mothers at the lower end of the wage where they made them pay full provincial income taxes. They paid full MSP. They did not have any access to programs like Fair PharmaCare. No, their answer for those people who are most disadvantaged was to put them on welfare.
This government has taken a completely different approach. We created jobs — thousands, hundreds of thousands of jobs to give people dignity.
Then we talk about minimum wage. It shows the fundamental misunderstanding about economic matters that the members of the opposition have. They don't understand that by raising the minimum wage at this point in time, in an economic downturn, over 50,000 jobs would be lost, and $450 million would be imposed on the small business community at the worst possible time. It would impact the very people she was talking about: the vulnerable single parents and youth and seniors. That's the NDP version of economic stimulus, and it shows complete lack of understanding.
Similarly, when the opposition talks about the lower-wage earners, again they don't give credit. They no longer pay MSP premiums. They pay no provincial tax. They do have access to programs like Fair PharmaCare, and there are subsidies for child care that we've expanded and subsidies for rental. They do not paint an accurate picture of what's going on out there.
One last topic, before I move to my remarks, is homelessness. I would like the member who talked before me, and who again created the most negative picture, to ask the former NDP
member of this House who is now the mayor of Vancouver, the city she
purports to serve, if he's not pleased
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with the partnerships that are going on with the provincial government to deal with the tragic situation we have with the homeless, particularly the Downtown Eastside.
We are beginning to see the effects of several years of work where this government has tripled the budget, over $300 million, to deal with this situation. We have people being housed. Those with the worst sort of addictions and mental health problems now have a place at Willingdon, opened last summer, where they can go to get compassionate treatment for their problems.
We've opened Keremeos Crossing to help youth with addictions — all sorts of programs and homes and things that are being revamped to help and serve the most vulnerable. This government is proud of the record that we're doing, and I want to be on the record to correct the misperceptions that this opposition continues to paint.
With that, I'd like to turn to my remarks, because….
Hon. J. McIntyre: My positive remarks. Yes, thank you. The positive picture of what's going on.
I will be responding, of course, to the budget. This is the last budget of my first term in office and, I have to say, the first one, however, that unfortunately, we cannot call Balanced Budget 2009, like the numbers before us since 2004.
As was portrayed in our debate on Bill 48, this was not an easy decision for any of us to take on this side of the House, to allow government to run a temporary deficit. But I think everyone by now acknowledges that we are unexpectedly in very tough times due to global forces that were way beyond Canada's, much less B.C.'s, control.
I know that much has been said in the media and in conversation, much speculation about how long we're in for this downturn. Are we at the bottom, and where is the bottom? But let me reassure this House and members and viewers at home that when our Finance Minister put the finishing touches on this budget, despite the numbers changing regularly, he did it with the best available knowledge and forecasts.
He did it with our professional and highly skilled Finance Ministry staff and a council of 12 independent economists who were providing advice right up into January. Then we took their average forecast of a flat growth, of zero percent growth, and added again our usual prudence to go with an even lower, more conservative figure of minus 0.9 percent.
Our record of budgeting over these past two terms has been characterized by fiscal discipline. It would have been very easy to spend every penny while our economy was firing on all cylinders and have nothing for a rainy day, as the NDP members opposite would no doubt have done. That's what they would have had us do. Their answer to every issue is: "Just throw money at the problem. Spend money, more money."
Or even worse, we could have added to the debt instead of paying it off, as we have done over the last few years so that we and future generations are not hobbled by interest charges and the high rates of borrowing. But no. Our fiscal discipline resulted in us achieving a triple-A credit rating, an achievement to be especially proud of as we balanced our last budget by law and raised this province from worst — where the NDP had plummeted us with a series of fudge-it budgets — to first in the country.
In fact, this current economic downturn could not have come at a worse time, as we were just finally, finally digging ourselves out of the hole that the NDP placed us in when they virtually doubled the operating debt under their regime of spending way beyond their means for programs, for services, in salaries, that we could not afford.
Interestingly, also at a time when they invested next to no capital in critical infrastructure and aspects such as skills training and health care education for doctors and nurses, where they generated no new numbers at a time that was most important, as we knew we were having an aging workforce…. No, they invested nothing. That's why we find ourselves partially in the situation we do today with a labour shortage in health care.
So yes, this budget forecasts a deficit over the next two years before we estimate a return to a balanced budget in 2011-12. However, when you hear news of Alberta running a billion-dollar deficit and Ontario more than ten times that, B.C.'s comparatively healthy position comes right into focus.
We have managed well, and as many have pointed out, we are the best jurisdiction to be living in to withstand these turbulent times. When you actually see beyond the highlights of the budget and dig into the details, it is evident that we have skilfully managed to not only preserve the pledged funding in our operating budget for core services, including the planned increases — notice the operative word "increases" — in key areas like health.
We have also identified over $300 million for funding a whole range of social programs, like $110 million for B.C. families with children, families and children in care, children with special needs, and child care subsidies; $110 million in new funding for income assistance; and $73 million for programs and services for adults with developmental disabilities.
To help end the cycle of homelessness, our government is investing an additional $34 million in the outreach teams and interim assistance, all the kinds of things that are so important for those that are most vulnerable. This government does care. Members on this side of the House do care, and we're actually acting instead of just talking.
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Let me speak for a moment about education funding. While enrolment is dropping and continues to drop, again, we have education funding at the highest levels for people in the whole province's history, over $8,200 now. Additionally, for post-secondary education this budget provides an investment of $228 million. It's almost a quarter of a billion dollars over three years for post-secondary education at a critical time, when we heard loud and clear in our economic summits that it is imperative to be providing skills training and retooling for the new economy when we emerge out of this downturn.
We need our workers to be prepared for the 21st century economy, where we'll be emphasizing all the IT skills and opportunities and ties with Asia-Pacific markets. We need some of our workers retrained and retooled, and we need to make sure that the younger generation coming up behind us has the appropriate skills for the new economy.
Let me also remind the House that 90 percent of all new spending in this budget is allocated to health care. With a commitment of an additional almost $1 billion — $945 million — to the $3.9 billion over three years previously allocated, bringing the total to a staggering almost $5 billion…. By 2011-2012 this will translate to a budget of $17½ billion, closing in on 50 cents of every dollar this province spends. When we started in 2001, this funding was at about $10 billion. So much for the myths that the NDP continue to spread about health care cuts. Only the NDP could figure out that 5 billion additional dollars is a cut.
All of this is in addition to our capital spending, designed to keep workers working and money circulating in the economy. This is about jobs, jobs, jobs. A $14 billion investment in infrastructure projects in every region of the province, and $2 billion will be cost-shared with the federal government for new projects that we're accelerating over the next few years.
In fact, Minister Baird, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure in the federal government, was here today with our Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure to announce millions of dollars for five highway projects in the B.C. interior — right today.
So this investment — not this investment in particular but the investment that we're doing over the province — is estimated to be 88,000 jobs, and every job, every single job, counts. It matters to families.
This investment means new housing for seniors, new housing for first nations and new housing for the homeless. This funding is for hospitals, for schools, for bridges, for roads, for community buildings. Since 2001 a staggering $31 billion has been expended on capital projects which this NDP opposition neglected for a decade. Today we're building a new critical care tower at Surrey Memorial; a new Surrey out-patient hospital; revamping Royal Jubilee; expanding hospitals in Vernon, Kelowna, Fort St. John; a new cancer centre in Prince George.
In any discussion about our budget I'd like us not to forget for one moment the steps that our Premier and our government took last fall. Instead of waiting for Budget 2009, when the economy turned down so quickly, we took swift action. We wanted to provide tax relief and other measures to shore up confidence and provide concrete assistance to those starting to suffer the ill effects of this global economic situation like forest workers, for whom there are no takers for their products in today's market.
In October we announced a series of key measures. In November we came back to this House to enshrine the proposals into legislation. Key measures such as accelerating personal income tax relief with a total of 5 percent retroactive to January 1, 2008, putting $144 million back into taxpayers' pockets and into the economy. That's on top of the 25 percent cut in June 2001 and the additional ten points in a subsequent balanced budget a few years ago.
Also, let me share with you a couple of facts. Let me put it in terms that I'd be confident that people at home could relate to, things like a family of four which is earning about $70,000 now pays over $2,000 less per year in provincial tax than when we took office. That's 45 percent less.
Another example: a single individual earning $20,000 now pays over $600 less in provincial taxes. That's a significant amount when you are just entering the workforce or you're a senior on a fixed income. In November we accelerated tax relief for small business as well. Effective December 1, 2008, the rate was dropped to 2.5 percent, a full two years ahead of schedule and, incidentally, down from the 4.5 percent that we inherited in 2001.
I operated a small business. For many years I had to meet a payroll. I know how appreciative a tax break is, and this step alone for small business is injecting $146 million back into this economy when we most need it. We established a new property tax credit to help industries stay competitive, where 50 percent of school property taxes are rebated to light and heavy industry. In this budget we raised it to 60 percent to try and give those most in need some relief.
We also legislated property tax relief with a deferment of property taxes for those in areas who are struggling, as well as protecting RRSPs from creditors. These combined steps provide B.C. with a competitive advantage at this time, in these difficult economic times. Right now British Columbians earning up to $116,000 pay the lowest provincial income taxes in the entire country, and we're very proud of that.
Since 2001 we've reduced the provincial debt, and we've cut taxes over 120 times. We are the party of tax cuts. The NDP has the opposite record, a record of adding to the tax burden, no matter what they claim. That's the clear difference between this side of the House and that side.
[ Page 14509 ]
As my first term nears its end, I have been reflecting for some months now on why I first ran for office, what originally motivated me. I think, first and foremost, that I was very determined. I wanted do whatever I could on my part to ensure that the B.C. Liberal government received another mandate. From 2001 to 2005, members who served in this House before me did heavy lifting. They had to make some very, very difficult decisions about how to get this economy turned around.
I really believed in my heart that they deserved a chance to follow through. They proved that they could do, and they deserved an opportunity to do what they wanted to do, to provide investments back into this province and look after the people of this province and reinvest in health care, education, social programs, the environment, all sorts of things like that. I believed they deserved that chance.
We delivered. We have a huge list of accomplishments far too long for my allotted time today that prove the power of a strong economy. In a few short years we had a provincial economy on fire with jobs looking for workers, instead of the other way around. We created well over 400,000 jobs. We had in-migration to the province to reverse the mass exodus under the NDP's watch. The skills training — we more than doubled apprenticeships.
Our policies produced a high-employment, high-wage economy — again, something we are very proud of. Youth wages have been at the highest levels ever, peaking at over $13 an hour. An average wage in this province a short time ago was above $20 an hour. We have over one million women employed in British Columbia for the very first time.
We've had record funding in health with the $5 billion added that I mentioned earlier and, again, in education the highest per-pupil funding at $8,240. In advanced education, thousands of new spaces, making education more accessible. Five new university designations, including Capilano. We've capped tuition increases to the rate of inflation.
In the area of the environment our Premier has been taking a bold stand, recognized around North America and in Europe for having B.C. lead North America in putting a price on carbon. We've been working with our U. S. partners in the western climate initiative on an integrated cap-and-trade system that President Obama is now calling for. We've been expanding development of renewables, of clean, green sources of energy, and that's an industry that these members opposite would put out of business.
They have promised that if they were elected, they would shut that industry down. They would destroy jobs. They would lose those opportunities for green energy. They would lose opportunities for those living in rural areas and for our first nations partners. And they would divert billions of dollars in investment away from schools and hospitals, things like that. That's their record. Our approach is very different, and again, that's what differentiates us.
Here's another point of differentiation. We're building a genuine relationship with our first nations. We have treaties, treaty success. We have economic accords that are allowing first nations access to revenue and a land base that will forever change how they're recognized in this province and in this country and will provide untold opportunities for their people and the youth coming up behind the current leadership. We have engaged in genuine reconciliation and recognition of the past injustices, something that has needed addressing for generations.
We are continuing to further that new relationship in ongoing discussions about a statutory framework that will guide how the Crown and first nations will relate. We are still committed to narrowing the socioeconomic gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginal populations.
Another success is unprecedented labour peace, by treating workers respectfully. We've put an end to mandatory retirement. These are major achievements on a provincial scale.
The second reason I jumped into politics. I wanted to ensure that the benefits and rewards of a strong economy were returned to my region of the province, especially as 2010 loomed and the world was shining a spotlight on us as we prepared for hosting the world. Now I absolutely can't believe that it's going to be here in less than a year's time. We delivered on that front as well.
We have a whole variety of accomplishments in the riding that I have been so privileged to serve for the last four years. Of course, I have to start my comments by pointing to the safety upgrade of the Sea to Sky Highway that links my communities, which is over 80 percent complete now, well on schedule for completion by this fall. We have upgrades, three and four lanes now, sightline improvements, additional passing lanes. We have taken a notorious road…. This road, along with the Kicking Horse Pass, were the top two priorities in this province for highway upgrade for years and years. I'm very proud of that.
We have an ambitious goal of reducing accidents by 30 percent, and I am confident that that highway will now be much safer and easier for the almost 15,000 travellers per day — the visitors, the commuters, the commercial traffic — that make use of the Sea to Sky corridor.
Infrastructure grants. It's maybe not the most exciting topic, but it's completely essential, especially in some of the rural communities that I represent that have small tax bases. There have been many projects that the government has been able to support in the last four years dealing with water and wastewater treatment, debris torrent, diking — all the kinds of things that are so important to the communities like Squamish, Pemberton and Whistler that I represent.
On the environment. As well as what we're
doing on a provincial basis, we've spent millions of dollars for
[ Page 14510 ]
upgrades in the provincial parks. I think there are almost 20 parks in my constituency. We've expanded protected land. We've signed the Squamish estuary agreement with our first nations. We've added hundreds of thousands of dollars for trails in the Sea to Sky corridor and millions of dollars for a spirit trail that's connecting Horseshoe Bay and West Vancouver to Deep Cove in North Vancouver, a proposed lasting legacy that will be there for generations behind us to enjoy.
We managed to sign a land resource management plan for the Sea to Sky region, and it just won an award, I'm proud to say and announce in this House, from the Fraser Basin Management Council. That was a culmination of years of work on the part of local elected officials, those environmental groups, commercial interests and loggers with the input of three different first nations, creating conservancies and spirit places. As I said, untold land protection. It's a high-level vision for land use in our whole region.
We've also successfully engaged the first nations in opportunities in the Sea to Sky corridor: legacy lands; land agreements for the Sea to Sky Highway accommodation; apprenticeships on the highway, particularly for first nations; the Squamish-Lillooet cultural centre, which the government supported to the tune of $6 million, along with private sector support from Bell Canada.
In education we have four new StrongStart centres — two in West Van, one in Pemberton and one in Squamish — where parents and caregivers can drop in with their children for free to have an early learning experience that will prepare them for kindergarten. We have the designation of Capilano College now as Capilano University. We've had literacy grants and funding, awards for high school training apprenticeships, grants for playground equipment.
In health care we've managed, with the help of our residents, to raise money for a CT scanner in Whistler, expand the Squamish Hospital emergency department and expand Hilltop seniors home in Squamish — not to forget the expansion of the emergency department at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
In child care, we were able to do significant capital developments at three different centres and expand subsidies for families in need. We've doubled spaces that we support.
Assistance for women. I had the opportunity with my colleague from Oak Bay–Gordon Head when she was responsible for women and seniors…. We took a tour of Pearl's Place in Squamish, where we were able to announce an extra $100,000 a year for that centre alone to do 24-7 funding for transition families, to assist those fleeing abuse, which is again another example of why and how we care and that we have actually delivered what we feel and what we care about, what we talk about. We actually are able to deliver.
We've managed to expand moneys for homeless shelters and outreach programs in places like Squamish, where organizations such as the Sea to Sky community services do such a wonderful job. Public safety — returning 100 percent of traffic fines to all the communities in the corridor where they can spend money on public safety and reducing crime. This list goes on and on.
As I wind down here, as I see we are getting on in the day, I do want to speak about a topic near and dear to my heart, and that is the upcoming 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games — the Olympics that the NDP opposition leader never supported from the outset, the Olympics that the NDP members across here bash every single day as we sit here in the House, that every day they find a reason to fearmonger….
In direct contrast, members on this side of the House and I personally have been boosters for virtually this entire decade. I volunteered on the communications committee, assisting in overseeing the polling that was going on to include in our bid book in the early 2000s.
I attended in Prague in 2003, when Canada and B.C. were successfully awarded the privilege of hosting the 2010 games. Along with hundreds of thousands of British Columbians, I was beaming with pride then when we were awarded the games, and today I continue to be as proud of all that B.C. and all of Canada will be able to showcase to the world very, very soon.
Our venues have been completed well in advance, according to plan and to ensure that we have the opportunity for all of our athletes to hone their skills and practise in their own back yard to give them that competitive edge. We've succeeded in doing that. Not only our athletes but our volunteers have also had the opportunity at a series of test events and World Cups to test their training and their procedures.
Additionally, we've had the great opportunity of all the economic spinoffs before and after 2010 that could not come at a better time. Estimates now say that about $3 million to $4 million a day are going into the British Columbia economy related to the games, just at a time when we need it.
I have been privileged over the last years to meet and hear stories of the amazing impact that hosting an Olympics will have on all of our citizens, especially our youngsters. We've heard stories about youngsters that were…. The shy youngster in the school, when the school principal awarded him with being a torchbearer — this was a story that was told by the Governor of Utah — and how something like that transformed that young fellow's life. I think we can barely imagine what this is going to mean, particularly for our youth.
I ask you to imagine for a moment what people are going to feel in this country when the torch race begins this fall. Just think about that for a moment. When this torch goes across our country, reaches the most northern parts and goes through hundreds of communities in our province, just imagine what our citizens are going to feel.
[ Page 14511 ]
I've been so privileged and fortunate to have represented for the last four years this corridor that links Vancouver and Whistler. Our school children, our homestay families, our volunteers are all going to get to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We will be the beneficiaries of all the lasting legacies for years to come, and I can hardly wait. I'm very anxious to return to the constituency and to this venerable House after May 12 to continue to work on behalf of my constituents and to assist them in taking full advantage of all the opportunities that I foresee.
I'll obviously be voting in favour of this budget, a budget that reflects these times and that is manageable.
We're asking all British Columbians to help get the province through this downturn. By working together, we will return to economic strength and prosperity. We need stability, we need experience, and we need to maintain confidence in British Columbia's potential.
As I close, let me say that these past four years have been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I could not perform this job without the unwavering support of my husband Andrew and my two children, Leigh and Drew, who allow me the time away from my family to serve my constituents.
My thanks, also, to my constituency assistant, Judi Fee, whose talent and compassion and years of experience on this job give me comfort that my constituents are receiving all the assistance they so deserve.
Hon. J. McIntyre moved adjournment of debate.
Deputy Speaker: Members, I will call a recess until the call of the Chair.
The House recessed from 6:06 p.m. to 6:07 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, we'll reconvene the House. The Lieutenant-Governor will be here shortly.
APPROPRIATE ATTIRE IN THE CHAMBER
Mr. Speaker: Before the Lieutenant-Governor comes, it has been brought to my attention that two members of this House have been in attendance in this chamber improperly dressed, thereby contravening the longstanding traditions of parliamentary democracies throughout the Commonwealth.
The Chair considers this to be a serious offence. Therefore, it's my decision that the offending members, whom I will not specifically name, will be excluded from attending this chamber from April 14, 2009, for the balance of the session. Should the offending members identify themselves and offer the appropriate apology, I would be prepared to reconsider this decision.
If the hon. members would just stay in their seats, the Lieutenant-Governor is in the precinct and will be in shortly.
Royal Assent to Bills
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took his seat on the throne.
Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2009
Ministerial Accountability Bases Act, 2008-2009
Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2009
In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth assent to these acts.
Supply Act, 2008-2009 (Supplementary Estimates)
Supply Act (No. 1), 2009
In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to these acts.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Hon. M. de Jong: Safe travels to everyone. A good week at home.
Hon. M. de Jong moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until March 23 at 10 a.m.
The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.
Copyright © 2009: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada