2010 Legislative Session: Second Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Monday, May 17, 2010
Volume 17, Number 6
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Moving ahead with Gateway
Crime and punishment
Positive signs in the forest industry
Private Members' Motions
Motion 10 — Investment in capital projects
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MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Moving Ahead with Gateway
D. Hayer: I rise today, as I have often in this Legislature, to talk about the Gateway project and the impact it will have on my city of Surrey, on British Columbia, on Canada and throughout North America. The Gateway project, as we see it primarily today, is a construction project creating the new ten-lane Port Mann bridge and the North and South Fraser perimeter roads.
[C. Trevena in the chair.]
It is far more than just a collection of improved transportation corridors. The gateway, properly known as the Asia-Pacific gateway, is all about growing the economy and about how British Columbians will benefit through thousands of new jobs, long-term secure prosperity and the transformation of B.C. as North America's trade powerhouse.
In recent years Asian countries — significant among them China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and India — have not only become enormous producers of goods. Their increasingly wealthy and fast-growing populations are now huge consumers of products we generate here in North America and in British Columbia. British Columbia, with North America's closest and best deep-sea ports — Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Roberts Bank, Deltaport and the Fraser-Surrey docks — is poised to take advantage of that.
We have the ports, and with the work now undertaken by our government to develop the new ten-lane Port Mann bridge in my riding, the perimeter roads and all the infrastructure improvements taking place — including the improvement to all the interchanges, the widening of Highway 1 from Langley to Vancouver and the South Fraser perimeter road and all the other infrastructure improvements that are taking place, as I have stated — we will have an excellent transportation corridor route in British Columbia. It will provide access to all those billions of consumers in Asia.
To be clear, we are not just stopping at improving on the ground right here. As I speak, our Premier and the Premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan are in Asia promoting western Canada trade. They are also opening up trade offices in these countries, as we have in India, where I travelled earlier this year to celebrate the new offices we opened in Chandigarh and Bangalore.
The Premier will be discussing all aspects of trade, letting the people of Asia know that we are the quickest, easiest and best route to the markets in North America. And we can provide across Canada access to Europe as well. This government and our Premier have a vision that will not only improve the economic climate following the recession; it will strengthen the economy of our provinces and our country for decades to come.
In the 19th century people on the east coast of this continent heard the refrain, "Go west, young man," for economic prosperity. Well, in the 21st century we are looking west again — west to the eastern nations that have great products to sell to us and a vast number of consumers to buy our products, produced right here in British Columbia and in Canada.
In fact, Madam Speaker, just yesterday the successful efforts in Asia are paying off, with an announcement that China National Building had signed a major purchase agreement with B.C.'s Tolko Industries Ltd. for B.C. wood products. This means Tolko now ships the equivalent of two full sawmills' production to China, supporting 400 mills and woodlands jobs right here in British Columbia. But we need an excellent transportation system to move those goods and products either way, and that's what the Gateway project is all about.
It is a key in establishing British Columbia as China's Pacific gateway and fostering increased Asia trade and investment opportunities in B.C.-based companies. The Asia-Pacific has the potential to drive B.C.'s economic prosperity for decades, with $76 billion in additional annual trade with an employment impact of up to 255,000 jobs by 2020. To seize that advantage, it is important that we expand and improve our infrastructure system to handle the growing volume of shipping business that will flow between our continents.
I also want to note that improvements we are making are not simply to improve trade routes. We are also improving the lives of British Columbians, particularly those who live in Surrey and the Fraser Valley. The new Port Mann bridge in my constituency will eliminate the traffic gridlock that exists more than 14 hours every day. It will eliminate the air pollution created by those tens of thousands cars and trucks in the traffic jam. People will be able to get to work faster and home quicker.
For the first time in 20 years they will be able to
use buses to cross the Port Mann bridge. Transporting people in a green form of
transit will benefit our environment. It will include bicycle lanes and pedestrian
lanes. The new bridge will streamline the flow of commercial traffic. It will, at
the same time, save time for commuters. They'll be able to spend more time with
their families instead of stuck in the traffic. At the same time it will save the
provincial economy more than $1.5 billion a year.
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We have four-laned the Pacific Highway, 176th Street from the U.S. border to Highway 1. We have also four-laned the Fraser Highway and Highway 10, which improves east-west traffic flow through Surrey. We started the work on the Gateway project in 2003 in response to the impact on growing regional congestion and to improve the movement of people, goods and transit throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
We are growing at a marked rate. Surrey, in particular, is experiencing significant growth and is one of the fastest-growing regions in Canada. Approximately 1,000 new residents each month move to Surrey and call it home. Surrey is expected to become the largest city in British Columbia, surpassing Vancouver within 15 years. Yet with all this growth and good environment, we have seen no significant infrastructure improvement since the 1980s. Today those improvements are coming.
H. Bains: It is a pleasure for me to stand here and respond to the member's statement.
Madam Speaker, when I was preparing this morning about responding to this title called "Moving Ahead with Gateway," I thought that the member, on behalf of his government, the Liberal government, would stand up here today and come up with some contrition about why, after making an announcement years ago about how much taxpayer money they would be spending on the Gateway project, they didn't have any consultation with the public.
I thought he would stand up on behalf of the Liberal government and apologize to the north Surrey residents in Whalley — how their neighbourhood will be affected by this project, why we neglected and ignored their concerns. I thought he would stand up here and talk to the residents of North Delta and explain to them why they refused to consult with them, why they refused to listen to their suggestions about rerouting the South Fraser perimeter road, why they basically ignored the concern brought to them about the 300 acres or so that we are taking out of the ALR and why we are actually encroaching more and more into the Burns Bog.
I thought he would stand up on behalf of the Liberal government and say: "Look, we're sorry. Yes, you know, these projects are important. There are some economic benefits to the region, but we're sorry that we forgot or we ignored your concerns." I thought he would set some records straight. What you hear is, I think, a re-announcement of the same.
If you go back and look at the announcement made by the minister years ago, I think, word for word, it was almost the same as the member has stood up and read. I think this is the same old sloganeering coming up from this member and the rest of the Liberal members on that side day in and day out. People of this province are looking for some direction, some leadership. They are looking for some substance behind these statements and these slogans, but it's not coming. He's repeating the same old rhetoric — an announcement of the same announcement.
What I see here today unfolding, I think, is the same thing that they have done with the Surrey Memorial Hospital: first, the announcement that we have listened to the people of Surrey and that: "Yes, you know, we are going to expand the Surrey Memorial Hospital." Then there was an announcement of when we are going to start building that expansion.
Then there's an announcement of the cost. Then there's an announcement that, yes, we have picked up the contractor. Then there's an announcement of where the expansion is going to be built and an announcement that we are tearing down the old building where the new expansion is going to go. I think that's the same thing that's unfolding here.
He failed to explain the effect on the truckers in the Port Mann and on the Highway 1 expansion — how they are being affected. The contractor was given a fixed contract at the price that was prevailing at the time, two years ago, at the highest of the construction cost. Today there's a windfall profit by that contractor, and that contractor now is paying much less than what it actually takes to operate a truck in a safe manner. He failed to explain that again, hear why they are not going back to that contractor.
Either that money comes back to the province, or those truckers and all those contractors will be paid the amount of money that, actually, the contractor is going to charge the government and the taxpayers.
I think it's about time that this member and the rest of the Liberal government members stop undermining the intelligence of British Columbians. That's exactly what they're doing — announcement, announcement of another announcement. They fail to explain why, on the South Fraser perimeter road, the province and the taxpayers are taking the bigger risk in preloading. They failed to explain why $400 million, which was the initial cost of the South Fraser perimeter…. Why has that cost gone up to $1.2 billion?
Maybe this member is saying that this Liberal government does not actually have any intention of complying with what they announce, but in this particular case, because they have chosen a contractor for the South Fraser perimeter, they actually are going to go ahead with this project. Perhaps that's what he's trying to say: that we have changed, that this project will go through and that we have contractors in some of the other areas.
D. Hayer: I thank the
member for his response, but I want to remind the member, if he cares to look back
at the records, that this was one of the longest consultations in transportation
history for the South Fraser
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perimeter road or the Gateway program. Over 10,000 people participated in the years' worth of discussions. The South Fraser perimeter road has been part of the regional plan for over 20 years. The NDP and this member love to talk, but they never like to act.
Madam Speaker, at this time I will remind you of this. When our government first announced the new Port Mann bridge to be built, it was his Leader of the Opposition who said that it was the wrong bridge in the wrong place. She was wrong.
I was hoping this member would say that he disagreed with his leader and say: "Look, actually we need to have a twinning of the Port Mann Bridge. We need to widen Highway 1. We need to ten-lane Highway 1 from Langley to Vancouver. We need to make sure the South Fraser perimeter road is built, because our truckers and our workers need it. We need to make sure these improvements are good for our constituents." Many of his constituents who are truckers use that road. They need it.
The Surrey Board of Trade and the Surrey Chamber of Commerce have talked about it for more than 25 years. They wanted the government to make changes on it. This member's government was in power for ten years. They never did anything. They made no improvements. They insulted the trucking industry. They insulted the Surrey constituents. They made sure we were stuck in the traffic. Sometimes it takes an hour and a half to get to the Port Mann Bridge from my constituency, when it should be a five-minute drive.
By having the South Fraser perimeter road, it will make sure truckers can move quicker and safer. It will take them off the local road on this regional highway. That will be good for everyone. This will save $1.5 billion to the economy. This will be good for the parents who are driving their kids to the playgrounds, the schools, the shopping centres, because it will eliminate a lot of the traffic. This is environmentally friendly.
This is the first time the Port Mann Bridge is going to have buses moving on it for the last 25 years. It's been more than 25 years since the rapid bus transit system has moved on it. Actually, as a matter of fact, we are putting the largest investment in bicycle lanes, and Port Mann Bridge is going to be having bicycle lanes beside it and a pedestrian lane.
I was hoping this member of the opposition would be supporting all those things instead of what he and the NDP do all the time — just speaking negatively, opposing everything government tries to do. Instead of showing an alternative, instead of constructive criticism, instead of finding solutions, all they do is oppose everything. I was hoping this member would have changed that.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
D. Hayer: Madam Speaker, I'll have more to say later on. I'm sorry I ran out of time.
crime and punishment
M. Farnworth: I want to talk today about crime and punishment. I want to start off by saying that one of the things that I am particularly pleased about in my constituency is how my constituents are very clear in telling me what they want to see from government and what they want to see in the form of public policy when it comes to issues around crime and punishment.
Public safety is a top-of-mind issue for people in my constituency. People in my constituency, and I think the public in general, have very strong views in terms of crime, how it impacts on them and the scourge that it is in our communities. People have watched as gang violence over the last number of years has reached levels that we haven't seen for a long, long time, and they've been extremely concerned about that.
They've been extremely concerned about violent crime and the nature of violent crime and some of the horrific crimes that have taken place and what they see as some of the flaws in terms of the justice system, in terms of dealing with violent crime.
They want to ensure that those who engage in violent crime, particularly repeat offenders, are dealt with by the court system and by the justice system in a way that ensures they are not out on the streets to be able to reoffend and that when someone injures someone deliberately and maliciously, the penalties in place are in fact penalties that will not only deter individuals but, more importantly, will ensure that they're not able to do those types of crimes again into the future.
We've all seen on the news some of the terrible tragedies that have taken place over the last number of years, and the public is extremely concerned about that. I want to talk about that. But I also want to talk about two other areas that the public is concerned about. As I said, they want to ensure that people who engage in violent crime — gang crime, repeat violent offences — are dealt with by the courts and that the penalties are commensurate with the type of crime, in that they are severe penalties and ensure that, as I said, people are off the street.
People also recognize that the crime needs to be dealt with on another angle, and that's around the area of prevention — that is, deterring people at the beginning from entering into the criminal justice system, ensuring that we're doing everything that we can to ensure, or that we have the ability to ensure that people, particularly young people, are steered away from running into problems with the justice system.
There are a number of programs in my particular area
— restorative justice, for example — which have been very successful and supported
by the police, the com-
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munity and local councils, which would like to see more attention paid to it. There have been issues around the funding around restorative justice that are causing a lot of communities concern, and this is something that I believe needs to be addressed.
We need to be ensuring that, on the one hand, while we have the penalties in place to deal with violent crime and those who would thumb their nose at how civilized people behave in our society.... We also need to make sure that we have in place programs such as restorative justice, which ensure that there are alternative ways of dealing with offenders, particularly those who are coming into contact with the justice system for the first time.
We also need to recognize that there is a group of individuals who for too long have been ignored in our system, and those are victims. We need to ensure that victims and their rights are also respected within the justice system, and there are issues there that need to be dealt with.
I want to come back just for a minute, though, to the issue of prevention. I've mentioned the area around the issue of penalties, and I know some of those need to be done in Ottawa. But some of those that we've advocated on this side of the House before, that I've advocated for in the fight against gang crime…. There have been some changes that have been made, which we support.
We think more needs to be done, for example, around the issue of tracking the money and tracking ill-gotten gain. We'd like to see additional auditors hired whose sole job is to audit and go after the money of those associated with gang crimes. So in essence, we're being more aggressive on the confiscation of the proceeds of crime, and we're expanding it by providing additional resources, by having more auditors who can follow the trails of money, because I think that is one of the more effective ways of dealing with tracking crime.
As I said, we need to ensure that we're dealing on the prevention side not just with programs or restorative justice but also in our school system, which means having the funds in place targeted to deal with the issue of gangs and, finally, in dealing with the issues around victims. I think one of the areas of victims that's particularly important is victims' rights to know.
Too often victims are left in the dark about what's taking place in the court system. Too often they are left in the dark as to how an individual with an extensive and lengthy criminal record can be out on the street again, and that is something that we have to change.
I think we need to look seriously at and work with groups involved with victims. FACT, Families Against Crime and Trauma, is an example of a group that's trying to change that, and we need to do that by listening to what they have to say and putting some of those programs into play.
One of the key ones around that is, I think, having and devoting more time to putting into place a program so that individuals understand what's happening in the justice system, because too often they don't. Too often they feel as though they're being ignored when, in fact, they have a right and should have a right to know exactly what's going on. In my response I'm going to talk a little bit further about that.
This is a very important issue that is of top of mind for my constituents, and I look forward to hearing the response from the government benches.
J. Les: I'm pleased to be able to respond to the member for Port Coquitlam this morning on a topic that is of great importance to us all. There's no question about it. Not a whole lot of partisanship, actually, on this particular issue. I think we all share the same goal. Public safety is paramount. It's one of the primary things that we're here to ensure actually occurs in our community so that people can go about their business without concern for their personal safety.
Happily, I can advise the House that we've been pretty aggressive as a government in dealing with some of these challenges when, for example, since 2001 we've increased the complement of police officers in our communities by some 1,100 members over that nine-year period of time. That's a pretty significant increase.
We've also given considerable extra resources to communities to enable them to hire additional police officers, as well, when we return all traffic fine revenue to these communities. That's almost $300 million in resources that's gone to communities, cities and towns across the province of British Columbia.
We've also done, I think, a great job of integrating police forces across the province to respond effectively to criminal challenges, such as the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the Organized Crime Agency, the Integrated Gang Task Force, the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Unit and other integrated units that have performed extremely well in addressing some of these issues.
In late 2007, given the upsurge in drug-related gang violence that we saw at that time, the Uniform Gang Task Force was created, which operated mostly in the Lower Mainland. That directly resulted in 124 charges being laid, 39 firearms seizures, four armoured car seizures and six seizures of body armour — and that was just in the first year of its operation.
It's also important to give the police forces the tools
that they need. The police records information management environment technology,
or PRIME for short, is a great data-management system that probably leads North
America in giving police the ability to handle information on the street, where
they operate, giving them real-time information when they need it. Those are just
a few of the initiatives that have been undertaken in the last several years.
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The other thing to keep in mind is that we have developed through all of this a very effective relationship with the federal government. The Criminal Code, as we all know, and the various changes that need to be made from time to time are the responsibility of the federal government.
Because of the very good and effective relationship that we have with the federal government, we were able to take the lead in advocating for changes to the Criminal Code so that, for example, we're eliminating this notion of two-for-one credits where people waiting for their trials to occur were getting two days of credit for every day that they served — and sometimes deliberately so. The public, and I think most of us in this House, found that particularly offensive, and that has been effectively dealt with through changes in federal legislation.
Bill C-46 was another piece of legislation that we advocated strongly for, given the new technologies that are available on an ongoing basis today. These are taken advantage of not only by society at large but certainly specifically by the criminal element as well, and police need effective powers to deal with those new and emerging technologies.
Also, Bill C-15, which imposes mandatory penalties on drug producers and traffickers, was something that our government advocated strongly for, and this, too, has now passed into law in Ottawa and is another, I think, important initiative that people solidly support.
Finally, Bill C-14, which makes murders connected to organized crime activity automatically murder in the first degree, again signalling the attitudes of, I believe, all of us that the organized drug trade and the organized crime that evolves from that is simply unacceptable and that a forceful response by government was called for.
M. Farnworth: I thank my colleague for his comments. Yes, a number of things have been done. But I would feel and I think the public would take greater comfort if the government wasn't always so reactive and would be a bit more proactive, particularly in a number of areas, and less dismissive when positive suggestions are made to them.
I'm reminded of two right off the top. One was the issue around gang colours. Initially the government thought they would consider it; other provinces have done it — the banning of gang colours as a tool for the police against organized crime. Then they decided that no, they weren't going to do it.
We saw on the issue of body armour — again, a suggestion raised from this side of the House and by the public — that the government dismissed it as not something worth doing. Then they turned around after continued public pressure, and in fact did do it. I wish, in that sense, that the government would be a bit more proactive.
Even in our dealings with Ottawa around the issue of the two-for-one sentencing, it took quite some time to get there. One of the more disturbing things is that sometimes they just stay silent. When the crime bills that the member trumpets fell off the table because of prorogation, not a peep from the government side.
I want to come back to what, I think, is one of the key issues. That's around the issues of victims and victims of crime and how they need to be better served. I'm thinking of the case of Jesse Penner in my own constituency. He was killed in a vicious knife attack. His father Gord Penner and others have been fighting for justice, and continue to fight for justice.
One of the key issues that they want and that we have to find a way to deal with is that they don't receive information. They feel like they are isolated within a system that ignores their needs. It's not good enough for us to say, "Oh, we have a victims of crime fund," when in fact what's required is for them to be able to understand what's taking place, to get answers from government, to get answers from the justice system as to why decisions unfolded the way they have.
How is it that someone can be involved in ten or 15 violent offences, keep going back on the street and then, when something terrible happens, the family involved in the tragedy is told nothing? They have no understanding of how the system has failed them and how it has failed an individual in terms of them constantly being back out on the street. That's something that needs to be addressed.
Issues such as wage loss are things that we've tried to address by our private member's bill. Hon. Speaker, I will talk about this at another time.
IN THE FOREST INDUSTRY
J. Rustad: It's a pleasure today to rise to talk about the positive signs in the forest industry. When you think about the forest industry and you think about the challenges that we've been facing over the last three or four years, you might find it odd to talk about positive signs in the forest industry. But the fact is that our forest industry, which has been so important to our province for so long, has gone through many cycles throughout its history.
I've been involved in forestry pretty much all my life. I've gone through many of those cycles and seen how things have gone and what happens when we pick up from the cycles. There's no question that this last three- to four-year period for the industry has been tougher than just about any one I can remember in my time around forestry.
I remember the time in '81-82 when the forest industry
went through a significant downturn, and we had very high unemployment rates. Similarly,
in the early
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'90s we went through some challenges, and back in the '70s and '60s, going back quite a ways.
This previous turndown, actually, was quite pronounced because of what had happened in the U.S. housing market. The U.S. housing market topped out in about 2006-2007 at around two million homes. That's huge in terms of the overall demand for our lumber and our lumber exports going down to the States.
As that declined to 450,000 to 550,000 housing starts, of course there was a ton of production that came off line, not just in B.C. but across North America and, indeed, actually around the world. That production that has come off line, of course, is simply that when prices drove down, we ended up hitting, I think, $127 a thousand board feet back a few years ago. I mean, companies just can't make money at that rate.
But we're in a different situation now. Because of that decline, because of that change, as we start progressing, what we're seeing is that lumber prices have been recovering. They hit up into the $350 range just in the last few weeks. They pulled back a little bit from there just in the last week, but those lumber prices have gone up at a time when housing starts haven't really picked up much in the States.
The interesting thing is that the supply-demand scenario has changed. Because of all those productions that have come off, particularly stuff in eastern Canada and down in the States and some here in B.C., we don't have the same type of supply that we used to have. That has changed the dynamics somewhat in our forest industry and has created some opportunities for us here in B.C.
Coupled with that, we also have a very interesting situation in China. Typically, we have put about 80 percent, 90 percent of our lumber into the United States. The vast majority of what we produce goes into that market. Now, the Chinese market is starting to grow significantly in demand, to the point where it has changed what we do in our province, and it has changed how much we're shipping now to the U.S.
Just some stats around that. The annual lumber shipments to China are now six times greater than they were in 2003. That equates to 1.63 billion board feet last year or more than twice what it was from the previous year in 2008. We have a goal to try to achieve three billion board feet this year shipping into China. As of the first two months of the year, we actually shipped 296 million board feet to China, which is more than double the amount compared to last year, so we're on track to be able to achieve those goals.
You might say: "Why is that important? What's the significance of that?" As that lumber comes out of going to the U.S. and starts going to China and as those markets develop over there, that creates a different supply dynamic for forest products in North America and, quite frankly, everywhere. That's a very positive opportunity for us as a province, and we are trying to take advantage of that.
We're working with China. We're working with, actually, many of the Asian countries, but particularly China. We're working with them around trying to get wood trusses in the houses, trying to build large buildings utilizing wood, trying to understand what they can do with wood products.
It's actually having a great effect. We're seeing in China that demand change. We're seeing some of those patterns change, as the Chinese learn that building with wood is faster, it's better from an environmental perspective, it's more resilient in terms of earthquakes and other types of challenges, natural disasters that can happen. That is slowly changing how they build and how they do things.
When you think about a country that has 1.2 billion people, a slow change for them means a rapid opportunity for us. We recognize, of course, that in our province, being able to set the stage to be able to take advantage of that, we also need to build and encourage construction. We need to be able to encourage investment in the forest industry in B.C.
I happened across an interesting quote the other day around this, and in particular, it's with regards to HST. This is from Jim Shepard, the president and CEO of Canfor in August of last year. He said: "Without investment, there are no jobs, and what this does" — it's talking about the HST — "is that it's one small step, but it's a significant step, in making our manufacturing sector look attractive and competitive."
That's the key, Madam Speaker, in terms of what we need to be doing going forward. We need to make sure that we have the right environment, the right opportunity to be able to attract the capital, to be able to create those jobs and take advantage of those markets and that changing supply-demand scenario.
We're seeing that across the province there have been enormous amounts of investment that have actually started to happen in our forest industry. Many of the mills are now running double shifts. They are back up and running. There are some new mills that are opening, and we're seeing signs of a very positive change in the industry. The forest industry is actually optimistic about where their future will be.
New revenue streams, such as bioenergy and new opportunities for products are all adding to that new attitude, that new opportunity that we have in the province that is coming forward, that new optimism.
I'm about to turn it over to the opposition for some
comment about this, but I will close in my comments afterwards with a list of some
of these activities that are happening around the province. It is quite extensive,
and I believe that it shows that we are taking the right steps. We're moving in
the right direction to be able to
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create that positive opportunity and to be able to take advantage of what the world presents us.
J. Horgan: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
J. Horgan: Joining us in the gallery today is Ms. Shaw and 28 grade 8 students from Spencer Middle School in Langford in the heart of the constituency of Juan de Fuca. Would the House please make all of these students very, very welcome.
B. Routley: I certainly am happy to agree that any signs of improvement in the forest industry is indeed good news. Unfortunately, I am not so optimistic in the shorter term, and I certainly have to look at what the factors are that are behind the current turnaround in the industry.
Global but somewhat temporary factors have affected supply. These include weather-related work stoppages in the southern United States, an earthquake in Chile, a port strike in Finland, and a new log export tax in Russia. This is what was stated by Andrew Casey, vice-president of trade of the Forest Products Association of Canada. He recently pointed out that there are somewhat temporary events taking place.
I would hope that China does pan out to be the market that we all hope it to be. Unfortunately, a lot of what they're buying right now are lower-cost and lower-value products.
I want to turn away from markets and talk about…. In the longer term there is definitely going to be a supply problem. Part of that supply problem worldwide is because of what's happening with climate change and the impact that that's having on forests. We don't have to look any further than right here in British Columbia. We've seen more than 15 million hectares of forests suffer the assault from the mountain pine beetle and other bugs.
As a result of this dramatic increase in the frequency…. We've had a dramatic increase in the size and frequency of wildfires here in British Columbia. Obviously, we all hope that that doesn't happen this year, but with all that dead and dying wood all over British Columbia, all it takes is a lightning strike to get that started. At risk are our watersheds, our parks and our present and future timber supply. The structures of entire ecosystems are affected. Plant and animal species are at risk. Our communities and environment and economy are profoundly affected.
We have a responsibility to act now. What I'm concerned about is that I don't see the members on the other side taking the necessary steps to protect our forests. It's not just the opposition saying that. You need to look no further than the Western Silvicultural Contractors Association. Look at their website, and see what they have to say about the future of forests in British Columbia.
They're indeed under threat. We've got the 15 million hectares of forest that have been affected by the mountain pine beetle, and somewhere between three and six million hectares will not regenerate naturally and will require tree planting.
Unfortunately, we're going the other way. We're planting fewer trees. The member opposite is the Parliamentary Secretary for Silviculture to the Minister of Forests, and I would hope that he would act aggressively to seek changes to the way we're going to less planting. We need to be aggressively planting our forests and dealing with the dead and dying forests of British Columbia.
But they go on to say that this is going to require that we plant over six billion trees — six billion trees. With the province's current approach, it's going to take years to accomplish, instead of getting on the job right now.
We've also got the problem of not sufficiently restocked land. We've got an estimated 700,000 hectares that have suddenly appeared on the books that need reforestation. That not sufficiently restocked land is the equivalent of 1,750 Stanley Parks, if you can imagine that. It's a huge area and a very serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Healthy trees and forests are at the heart of the economy of British Columbia. We are far from a sunset industry, although we're never going to return to the same level of production that we once were able to do. We've lost almost 50 percent of the mills in British Columbia. Huge numbers of mills have closed, and I'm not so optimistic about the investment. In fact, we've seen investment since 2009 that's almost nonexistent.
J. Rustad: I want to thank the member for Cowichan Valley for his response to my statement here.
I just want to start with a couple of things. The member said he hasn't seen any evidence of investment. Well, how does this sound? As of June 1 now, the mill in Quesnel by Canfor will be opening up, starting up new. The exciting thing about that mill is that a hundred percent of its fibre is going to be dedicated to the China market. That's all qualities of fibre.
On May 17 the Canfor Chetwynd mill will have started up with one shift, with a $20 million investment in new equipment. That's coming up here just today, as a matter of fact. That's opening up. The mill for Canfor has also been started up with investment and opening up now for two shifts. That's the Mackenzie Canfor operation.
Conifex has just bought the Mackenzie mill. That deal
is hoping to be completed by June 1, and they'll hopefully be back up and running
by late summer.
[ Page 5372 ]
Fort St. John — a $45 million upgrade to the Canfor operations up there and also pumping out the wood. That's a pretty significant investment that's already been made.
Fort St. James. Conifex just completed a $10 million upgrade in my riding and is planning to go to two shifts there on August 1.
Radium and Vavenby. Both are looking towards the potential for restarting this summer. Isle Pierre mill, another Canfor operation, just completed $5 million of upgrades. Another mill in my riding, the Apollo, is looking at the opportunity to perhaps invest some money. Pinnacle Pellet is making an investment to create a pellet mill in Burns Lake. The list goes on and on in terms of the amount of investment.
The real key to that investment is: why are they making those investments? If there's such a concern with mid-term fibre supply, why would companies make those kinds of investments? They're making those investments because they believe in the future of the forest industry. They believe in the opportunities that we have in this province, and they believe in the scenarios that are happening around the world. That is phenomenal when you think about what forestry means to us as a province.
Adding to that list, Harmac is also adding a second line, bringing the total number of employees working at that mill to 265 and bringing on another 50 percent in production. Adams Lake Lumber is up and running on a five-day workweek with a one-shift capacity in both the new $100 million state-of-the-art sawmill and the planer mill. Interfor is increasing its hours 65 percent with the move.
All of this, when you look at what's happening, is pretty incredible. I have companies around my riding today that have never been busier than what they have seen because of these investments, because of these changes.
I am very optimistic about the future. It is a great time to be in forestry.
K. Corrigan: A decade ago, in the year 2000, ten years ago, the Ministry of Women's Equality sought British Columbians' response to a discussion paper on women's economic security and pay equity. One submission noted that while there had been some progress over the past decade in narrowing the wage gap between women and men who work full-time, full-year jobs, women in British Columbia at that time still made only 73 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The submission also highlighted the successful Vancouver Island Highway project and said that that kind of model should be used for future equity initiatives in training and hiring.
The first of its kind in Canada, this large-scale construction project was accomplished within budget and on time, while at the same time meeting the social objectives of hiring local labour and mounting a significant training program specifically for women and First Nations people.
That was a decade ago. I would love to be able to stand here and say that it didn't matter that the present government abolished the Ministry for Women's Equality, that it didn't matter that pay equity initiatives had been reversed, that it didn't matter that initiatives like the Vancouver Island Highway training program had been abandoned — in fact, that significant gains had been made and that the equity gap in the intervening ten years had been wiped out.
What is the reality for women ten years later? Women are losing ground, with women only making about 70 cents now for every dollar earned by men. British Columbia has had the highest child poverty rate in the country for six years running, and the families that these impoverished children live in are vastly, disproportionately headed up by single-parent mothers. Single mothers remain the poorest family type in Canada, and immigrant women, senior single women, women with disabilities are all disproportionately poor.
Women continue to disproportionately be minimum-wage workers. Traditional women's jobs continue to be low-paying jobs, and labour market discrimination continues to undervalue and underpay or not pay at all for the work that women do. The glass ceiling still exists.
At the same time there appears to be an intentional abandonment of any recognition that gender inequality even exists in British Columbia. Government has become gender-blind. This gender blindness, not coincidentally, has emerged as both federal and provincial governments have systematically dismantled or removed support for institutions dedicated to supporting women — things like removing funding for women's centres, the court challenges program, legal aid, and I could go on and on.
If we are ever going to address women's inequality, the first thing we must do is to recognize its existence. We must start to look at government policy and legislation through a gender lens to consider the impact that legislation and policy will have on women in this province. We must, for the sake of a healthy economy and healthy families and for the sake of justice for women, develop strategies to ensure the economic security of women in this province.
Minimum-wage laws are a key pay equity strategy. Women
account for two-thirds of minimum-wage earners. Immigrant women, women with disabilities
and aboriginal women are even more likely to be working for the minimum wage. Therefore,
increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour would have a significant impact on closing
the gender pay gap and reducing poverty. I think
[ Page 5373 ]
it is shameful that there has not been a minimum-wage increase in this province for a decade.
We also know that unions reduce the inequality between men's and women's wages, particularly for those unions that negotiated strong pay equity settlements, such as the Hospital Employees Union. The passage of Bill 29, which cleared the way for the privatization of health care support services in hospitals and long-term care facilities, profoundly impacted the lives of the thousands of women who predominated that workforce. Not coincidentally, it rolled back the clock on pay equity achievements in this province.
Pay equity, or equal pay for work of equal value, is critical to reducing the pay gap between men and women. It is an internationally recognized fundamental human right and a right which has been enshrined in legislation in most provinces across this country.
Reducing women's economic inequality in fact benefits the economy. Studies have confirmed the direct relationship between the amount of equality between men and women in a country and that country's economic performance. Reducing gender inequality actually improves productivity and economic growth in countries.
When a government's economic policies, such as child care subsidies, make it easier for women to work and have children, the result of these better choices is that they support families.
Considering that by 2006 two-thirds of women with children under the age of three were employed and considering the significant gap in women's wages, it is imperative that society support child care policies that help move women out of poverty, not more deeply into poverty.
You know, we just hosted the Olympics here, an event that this province spent billions of dollars on. What a missed opportunity in all that building, with all those tradespeople hard at work. Why did we not use this opportunity to increase the number of women working in trades? These are the kinds of strategies we need to put to work in order to improve the economic security of women, to decrease the level of poverty of women and their families.
Increased economic equality and economic security are the keys to ensuring women's equality in society. We know, for example, that some women stay trapped in abusive relationships because they don't have the economic wherewithal to leave those relationships.
In conclusion, it is time to take off the gender blinders, to talk about the particular inequities affecting women and to address those inequities now.
J. McIntyre: I'm delighted to rise to speak to this statement, because really, I think one of the fundamental tenets of this government is that we need a healthy economy. This whole discussion of pay equity becomes moot if there aren't jobs. This government has been dedicated to job creation, and we have an incredible track record on that.
Without job creation, without dramatic investment in post-secondary creation of spaces, without dramatic investment in skills training and without a diverse labour force, as I say, the conversation on pay equity becomes moot. We've made those investments, Madam Speaker.
I want to talk for a moment about how well the plan is working. We're leading the country in 2010. Despite a major economic recession, the Conference Board of Canada reports that B.C. is expected to lead Canada in economic growth at 3.8 percent this year. Leading Canadian financial institutions are forecasting B.C. to either lead Canada or be in the top three in GDP growth. RBC, Scotiabank, CIBC and others are all predicting B.C. will lead the country in job creation — jobs.
According to Stats Canada, last month alone, in April, we created 49,300 jobs — the third highest in Canada. And it's 21 percent of the total jobs created in this country over the last month. That's what we need — jobs. The unemployment rate in British Columbia fell to 7.3 percent in April, the lowest level in the past year, and it remains lower than it was during the '90s.
Our major industries are rebounding. Business confidence is on the rise. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, B.C.'s small and mid-sized businesses — many of them led by women owners — are the most optimistic since March '08, two years ago, with an index of 71 percent. It's a 47 percent increase over April a year ago. Those are dramatic statistics. That's what's going on in our economy.
Our credit rating shows that British Columbia is on the right track for job creation. We've had our triple-A credit rating renewed, noting that our debt reduction has given B.C. an increased capacity to respond to the global recession. Again, that means jobs.
Let me talk about women in the economy specifically. We've created an economy that's created almost 200,000 new jobs, and now 1,093,500 women are employed. I remember in my first term when we passed that million mark, when a million women in this province for the first time were working. The unemployment rate for women is now 6.2 percent, significantly lower than in 2001 when we inherited office, and it's lower than the 7.3 percent that I just quoted for the whole province. So women are being employed.
In 2008, 34.3 percent of all business owners in B.C. were women. This is on a par with the national average, and it's the fourth highest in the country. The average hourly wage for women in B.C. just this past month, in April, was $20.57, up 27 percent from the $16-and-such in 2001. That's way above minimum wage.
The member before me mentioned this, but British Columbia
will be spending $300 million this year on
[ Page 5374 ]
child care programs, which is an increase of $8 million over last year and an increase of 42 percent, again since 2001, when we inherited government. That creates more opportunities for women to participate in the workforce. Look at the program for full-time kindergarten that will be rolling out over the next two years.
Not only is that about early investment in children, but also it allows women to participate more fully in the workforce, to be earning full-time wages. That, of course, is a positive. The same with the three- and four-year-old playschools and preschools we're looking at. All of that will enable women to be in the labour force, working at capacity and working in full-time jobs.
Another important point is that in 2008, women made up about 56 percent of the students in public B.C. research-intensive universities and 58 percent in the public colleges and institutes. That will lead to high-paying, family-supporting jobs. I think soon men will be wanting pay equity at that rate — just a minor aside, not to offend any colleagues.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Anyway, let me talk about trades training and diversity in the workforce, because those are very important issues. We've been making significant investments in training and attracting skilled workers to B.C. to meet the demand. The funds trading has increased 40 percent this decade. We're now investing over $100 million a year on trades training. That was a commitment in our Budget '06.
K. Corrigan: I was at the LMLGA — Lower Mainland Local Government Association — meetings this past weekend. Somebody got up and asked the Premier of this province about a poverty-reduction strategy because they were terribly concerned about poverty in their community. The response from the Premier was that the poverty-reduction strategy for British Columbia was to create jobs, which is similar to what the member has just said.
I'll tell you that the local politicians from around the province were appalled — appalled at the lack of concern for people who are in poverty in this province. This trickle-down theory that has been continually rehashed by this government has not worked, and it's time to do things differently. It has not worked.
Despite ten years of trickle-down economics, B.C. has the highest overall rate of poverty in the country. Despite this trickle-down economic theory, children living with single parents have nearly four times the poverty rate than that of children of two-parent families. This government reduced income assistance to levels that the National Council of Welfare called "to the level that they were cruel."
Mr. Speaker: Members.
K. Corrigan: Full-time earnings for minimum-wage workers in this province amount to only $16,640 a year, more than $5,000 below the Statistics Canada poverty line for an individual living in a large urban centre in 2007. I can't believe that the member opposite is proud of that record.
Women constitute two-thirds of all Canadian workers earning that below-poverty minimum wage, and the member opposite is proud of that record. You know, I'd also like to mention that…. Let's look at international comparisons.
By international comparisons, support for single-parent families is damning — again, mostly women families. In 16 OECD countries B.C. ranks 15 out of 16, only ahead of the United States in disposable income after paying for housing. Single mothers in Norway and Austria had over $1,500 in disposable income after paying for accommodation. B.C.'s single moms had $414.
You know, I'd like to mention some of the things that you could do and which were done in the 1990s.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member.
K. Corrigan: But I won't.
Hon. G. Abbott: I call private member's Motion 10.
[Be it resolved that this House recognize the importance of investing in capital projects across the province that will create thousands of jobs today to facilitate an even stronger economy in the future.]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 10 without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 10 — INVESTMENT
IN CAPITAL PROJECTS
R. Sultan: I am pleased to offer the motion, which I shall repeat. "Be it resolved that this House recognize the importance of investing in capital projects across the province that will create thousands of jobs today to facilitate an even stronger economy in the future."
I'd first like to quote Mike Currie, president of the
Consulting Engineers of B.C. and head of Burnaby's Kerr Wood Leidal Associates.
About three months ago
[ Page 5375 ]
Mike noted that the provincial budget increased committed capital to accelerated infrastructure investment in B.C. to $5.3 billion from the $3.4 billion allocated in the government's September '09 budget.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
About a third of the money has gone to transportation, but Currie noted that the province has also funded smaller projects, benefiting many smaller rural and urban areas.
Some of the latest projects include highway rehabilitation projects, including improvements on Highway 1, which slows down traffic in my own riding as we head to the airport; work towards the northwest transmission line, vital to the future of British Columbia's mining industry; upgrades to the Royal B.C. Museum, right across the street; air tanker bases in Castlegar and Williams Lake; the Klemtu ferry terminal; and the Mackenzie connector. Other major projects, including the Port Mann bridge and the Evergreen line, will keep the consulting engineers busy.
This government is very active on the infrastructure front. Where will the money come from? To answer this, on April 21 Bloomberg.com headlined from New York: "British Columbia Sells Five-Year Global Notes." British Columbia sold $1½ billion of U.S. dollar denominated five-year bonds, 50 percent more than originally planned, amid expectation that Canada's economic performance will lead the Group of Seven countries this year.
Carrying on with the Bloomberg comment, British Columbia:
"'…priced its 2.85 percent five-year notes about 16½ basis points under comparable Ontario debt trading in U.S. dollars,' said Jim Hopkins, an assistant deputy minister in B.C.'s Ministry of Finance. 'We were hugely oversubscribed in the offering,' Hopkins said yesterday. The debt sale benefited from the halo effect of Canada's economic performance. 'The province's'" — referring, of course, to British Columbia — "'AAA credit rating also really helps,' he said.
"'B.C. originally planned to sell $1 billion dollars worth of notes,' Hopkins said. 'Total demand from central banks and other investors around the world topped $2½ billion,' he said."
Bloomberg's report makes it quite clear there is an international appetite to invest in British Columbia. Why? This brings me to my third point this morning. On April 29 the Globe and Mail reported that the Bank of Canada's governor, Mark Carney, added another gold star to his resume Thursday, joining the likes of Oprah, Lady Gaga, Ben Stiller and Bill Clinton on Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for 2010.
Mr. Carney was on the leaders section of the list along with 24 others, including Barack Obama; former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin; Brazilian president, da Silva; and IMF fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. I say: "What?" A central banker on the Time magazine list of the world's 100 most influential people — a Canadian central banker? What's going on? The world has indeed changed. Balance sheets count. Look at Greece. Look at the United States. Look at the United Kingdom. A bit shaky, Members.
So that ferry terminal in Klemtu is readily financed by this government in British Columbia due to its fiscal discipline, financial probity and strong balance sheet. Financial discipline can sometimes be painful for those who grew quite comfortable under the old rules, but the world has changed.
We have a strong balance sheet, and there are enormous capital project funding benefits in keeping it that way. The age of the balance sheet has arrived, and British Columbia capital projects are the beneficiary.
B. Ralston: Well, the world has changed and so, apparently, has the B.C. Liberal Party. They now believe in the virtues of effective government regulation of the banking system. They also understand the importance and the effectiveness of using the government rate of borrowing rather than the P3 model, which costs the taxpayers hundreds of millions of extra dollars when capital is borrowed privately. Certainly, since the rates have diverged between government borrowing and private borrowing, that difference has become more acute.
It's great to know that that conversion has taken place on the other side and that much of the rhetoric, overblown and off-base, that we've heard about P3s has now been abandoned. There was no mention of that in the member's statement whatsoever.
He spoke about the government borrowing rate — the government in the money markets in New York getting a very effective rate. We on this side of the House have claimed and argued against the P3 model for that very reason: that the government cost of borrowing is far lower than the cost of borrowing by a private entity in a P3 model.
I think it's refreshing to see that the member is leading the way for his caucus. Perhaps we'll hear some retraction by the Minister of Finance and maybe even the Premier, who has repeatedly claimed the virtues of the P3 model, notwithstanding that it was rocked to its core in 2008 and 2009, notably in the Port Mann bridge financing where, ultimately, private financing was not available, and they were forced to rely on the government guarantee.
There's no doubt that capital funding for judicious
capital projects in the province — whether they be seismic upgrading of schools,
hospitals, roads and all the other kinds of minor capital projects that are so important
for communities throughout the province — really are important parts of the government's
capital plan. Indeed, that's what we set forth back when the crisis began in terms
of stimulus spending. That's just the role
[ Page 5376 ]
that the government should take: use the government rate of borrowing and get in and do the work that communities want done.
I'm very happy to hear the refreshing change of direction that the member from West Vancouver has announced here today in the chamber.
D. Barnett: I'm honoured today to stand here and support my colleague's motion. Capital investment in our province has been around for a long time. If we look back to the days of W.A.C. Bennett, I would think that maybe that's when capital investment started, and our province grew from there.
I am pleased to say that I have been around for a couple of days. I have seen years of capital investment by governments, and I have seen years of no capital investment by government. I am pleased to say that over the last ten years the capital investment by this government is one that we are very proud of.
Capital investment is, yes, P3s and other methods of capital investment. When I look at rural British Columbia and I look at the highways, the health care and the schools that come from capital investment, I look at the benefits and the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are our people, our constituents.
I look at projects in the Lower Mainland, and a lot of times people from rural B.C. say: "How come all the money is going to Delta or Surrey for bridges?" Those bridges, those roads are so important to rural British Columbia, and from time to time nobody understands that.
We are the resource communities. We need to get our commodities to market, and thank goodness this government has provided a transportation system so that we can get our commodities to market quicker. Our resource industries are, once again, the benefactor, and that makes our citizens and our constituents the benefactors.
I look at the projects in rural British Columbia that have happened over the past ten years. I look at projects such as Towns for Tomorrow helping our infrastructure for our water systems, our sewer systems. I look at the highways. I look at the airports. I look at all the initiatives that have happened, and I'll give you a few in my riding.
In 100 Mile House, a water system upgrade recently of almost $300,000. The 108 Resort, which you all know about, which is now a big subdivision, over $1 million. Cariboo seniors low-rental housing initiative, $5.4 million. Horse Lake and Canim Lake water system, $1 million. Highway 97 improvements, $20 million. Williams Lake air tanker base, $1 million. Mackenzie Avenue rehabilitation in Williams Lake that they've been asking for, for years, and we finally are successful — one of my first successes as an MLA — over $10 million.
I am proud of this side of the House and the capital investments and the dollars that go from one end of this province to the other. You know, we just listened to my colleague over here talk about a great initiative which this government worked with the private sector called Tolko Industries, which is a big component of economic development in my riding. Signed this great initiative with China, but to get it there, we need the infrastructure, and this government once again has provided that.
All I can say is that when you look at infrastructure and capital spending, this side of the House has done more than their job for this province.
R. Sultan: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
R. Sultan: In the gallery with us today is Dr. Georg Witschel, who is the ambassador from Germany to Canada, representing the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ottawa. Would the House please make Dr. Witschel welcome.
J. Kwan: I was looking forward to the member for West Vancouver–Capilano's response to my good colleague the Minister of — sorry, the soon-to-be Minister of — Finance, the critic for the Ministry of Finance. It is indeed a sea change, you know, what politics changes in a short period of time, one might argue.
I recall when I was first elected in this House. I would swear to you, Madam Speaker, that the other side of the House would be against debt. They would be against capital investment on behalf of British Columbians.
I recall those days when we were in government, when the NDP was in government. We would invest in building schools and hospitals and community infrastructure. And you know what? The other side, including the Premier now, then the opposition, would scream up and down and yell, "Spending money is bad, and actually increasing debt is bad," even though those were completely valid investments on behalf of British Columbians.
And what do you know? In 2010, here we are. We have, on the other side, the Liberal government talking about the value of investing for British Columbians by way of capital projects, and it is actually a good thing. How about that — hey? What ten years changes in politics. With the Liberal government now at the helm, they finally see the light. They finally see what the NDP saw a long time ago: that investing in communities is actually creating healthy communities and healthy economies.
So here we are. I have to say that there is one major
note of difference between the Liberals and the NDP,
[ Page 5377 ]
and that would be in the area of P3s. Although, I did just hear the member for West Vancouver–Capilano saying that it is better to invest using government borrowing rates. I did hear that. I wasn't imagining it. I didn't sort of dream it up. I heard it from the other side.
Hence, the logic follows that P3s, which actually put at risk taxpayers' money at a much higher rate because the borrowing rate from the private sector tends to be much more expensive than that of what government could secure…. If you follow that logic, then naturally, you would arrive at the place where P3s are not of equivalent value to that of publicly invested, government-invested projects, because governments have better borrowing rates.
So the better way to go, in fact, in investing in capital projects would be to use the government borrowing rate, and that would be public projects by government and not through the P3 model.
At least one member on that side of the House has changed his tune on that score, and he's an economist at that, to boot. So he must have studied this carefully before he made the statements today, I am sure, because he's a diligent member of the House who does his homework. I'm sure he's studied all of that and actually arrived at the position. That's why he made the statements that he did.
Now, if he could only just convince the rest of the Liberal bench on that side of the House to that thinking, then maybe you could get the Minister of Finance to can Partnerships B.C., because that's costing taxpayers a lot of money.
I just also want to say this. In terms of investments, there are many areas in which we can invest in our community to make our community strong. People will know in this House that I've long been an advocate of affordable housing. There's no mystery to that.
We know that investing in building social housing and cooperatives in our community creates healthy communities. Why? Because it provides for security of housing for people who are in greatest need. It provides for affordable housing for those in our community who are low-income, middle-income, seniors, families and across the board.
But what happened with the Liberal government when they came into office? Lo and behold, back in 2001 they actually cancelled the permanent affordable housing program that had been in place in British Columbia for a long, long time. What does that permanent housing program do? They actually build housing, invest in capital investment for British Columbians and for our economy and for our communities.
So if the government hears this message from the member for West Van–Capilano, then they will get up right away and bring back a permanent affordable housing program in British Columbia. That's what the government should do.
If the government did that, then guess what will happen. It would actually save taxpayers' money. Why would that happen? Because it would save on the social spending side of things. It would decrease the costs for health care. It would decrease the costs on the criminal justice system. It would decrease the social-related costs in our community, and that is the right thing to do.
Lastly, I simply have to say this. If we want to end homelessness, we need a permanent affordable housing program, capital investments in our community that will benefit all members of our community economically and socially.
To that end, Madam Speaker, let me just add one more thing.
I think I still have a few more minutes on my time — right, Mr. Whip? Yes, I do.
So on that note, there's another area for good investment for our communities as well.
I am a mother of two, as people know. I think about children all the time — infrastructure for children, capital investment in a small sense but one that's close to my heart because I see the joy of children at these places. Those are called playgrounds. They're actually called school playgrounds, and wouldn't it be wonderful if the Liberal government brought back the funding for school playgrounds, capital investments right in our communities to benefit children across the province?
I know the member for West Van–Capilano supports this because he's co-written letters with me asking the Minister of Education, asking the Minister of Finance, asking the Minister of Housing and Social Development to support funding playgrounds for inner-city schools.
We know that children in inner-city schools have little resources, actually, and often they rely on the public infrastructure to provide for the services that they need very much. School playgrounds are an important component of that, and the government this year cancelled the funding for school playgrounds for our communities.
Guess what. Those who are in greatest need, those that are in inner-city schools — and the PACs, the parent advisory committees — are running around like crazy trying to fundraise, and they're having a heck of a time. Even when they go and ask for a small portion of funding from the government to help leverage the fundraising efforts that they have, the government says no. Shame on them.
I ask the government to listen carefully to this member's private motion, to support this member's private motion and start funding capital investments from playgrounds to social housing to ending P3s so that we can save taxpayers' money on behalf of British Columbians by way of capital investment.
R. Howard: It gives me
great pleasure to rise this morning to speak to the importance of investing in cap-
[ Page 5378 ]
ital projects, and I would like to make something really clear right at the outset. P3 projects save taxpayers' dollars. It's unquestionable that P3s work.
I know there's some confusion down the aisle here from the members opposite. The member for Surrey-Whalley and the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant have mistakenly assumed that the only thing in the formula that determines the success of a P3 is the cost of borrowing. Well, what nonsense. What about innovation? What about the private sector drive? What about the competitive forces that all help to make sure that P3s work?
I will talk about some very specific projects. When this government came to power, as I recall, we inherited a capital deficit. The member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant talked about school grounds.
R. Howard: The Liberals…. The B.C. government has funded many playgrounds. The NDP opposition when they were in power, I am told by reliable sources, funded zero playgrounds.
Deputy Speaker: Member. A courtesy was afforded to you.
R. Howard: What, of course, my good friend from West Vancouver was referring to was the cost of borrowing. Of course, we've documented several times — I've spoken in this House a few times about it — the seven credit-rating upgrades that this government produced in their ten years in power. In the 1990s, when the opposition was in power, there were zero credit-rating upgrades — zero. I am also told by reliable sources that there were a number of credit-rating downgrades.
I think that, having clearly demonstrated that we've managed the cost of debt down, the success of P3s is well documented. I want to talk about just one in my community — the Canada Line. The Canada Line was a P3. It was brought in ahead of schedule and on budget. This major private-public partnership produced the Canada Line, the equivalent of ten lanes of roadway running between Vancouver, the airport and Richmond.
Just think of the tonnes of greenhouse gases that are not being emitted into the atmosphere. Think of the tens of thousands of cars that are off the street as a result of this. We have story after story of successful individual stories. The trip, prior to the Canada Line, from their front door to the front door of their office was often an hour or an hour and a half. Post–Canada Line this trip now takes somewhere between 25 and 35 minutes. It's a tremendous success.
We look at the businesses that are around the Canada Line stations. They're reporting increases in businesses as we speak. This new Canada Line and its guideway provide for new walking paths, new connectivity in the city, new bicycle paths. It has enabled us to take No. 3 Road and turn it into a great street, providing connections to all sorts of other places in the city. It has allowed us to reconnect and crank the bus lines so that we can get smaller buses driven further into the neighbourhoods, more convenient ridership, take them straight to the SkyTrain station and straight to their destination.
It has allowed us to accelerate development in our city, create transit-oriented density nodes where people can live, work, learn and play, all without a car. This is a tremendous success story. It was a P3, and when you look forward, you actually get excited by the other projects such as the Evergreen line, the possible Broadway line, the extension of the Surrey line that will all, I hope, be done with a P3 way of doing things. They will help create a city and a region that is connected.
I would just close by talking briefly about the big picture again and the Conference Board of Canada. As a result of the many significant infrastructure projects that this government has undertaken, the Conference Board of Canada said that B.C. is expected to lead Canada in economic growth at 3.8 percent in 2010. Now, that means jobs. That means jobs for us. It means jobs for our families. It means that we can have peace and security and look forward to a prosperous future in this province.
Deputy Speaker: The member for Cowichan Valley seeks leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
B. Routley: We have with us today a group of grade 5 students from Queen Margaret's school in Duncan. With them is Susan Cruikshank, and I would ask that you make them feel welcome.
D. Donaldson: I rise today to speak to the resolution introduced by the member for West Vancouver–Capilano: "Be it resolved that this House recognize the importance of investing in capital projects across the province that will create thousands of jobs today to facilitate an even stronger economy in the future."
I understand the member is part of the Association of
Professional Engineers of B.C., so I can see the logic in his introducing this motion,
because implicit in it are
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large capital projects that would benefit the professional engineering designation.
I'm not saying that in casting any aspersions on the member for that at all. What I'm saying is that it's a way that he's coming about and approaching this project. However, there's a disconnect between the potential merits of this motion and the actual B.C. Liberal government decisions around capital projects.
The first is where these projects have taken place. Here's an example, just a small sample: $800 million, 100 percent cost overrun on the Vancouver Convention Centre; at least $600 million on the Sea to Sky Highway, a highway to a ski area; and now at least $400 million for a new roof on Vancouver's B.C. Place.
Now, I'm not commenting on the merits of these projects. Certainly, there is some debate about the merits there, but note that all of these projects are in a small geographic location in a tiny part of the province. That flies in the face of where the actual wealth, the new revenues are generated in the province. These are in the rural areas.
A study done by economist David Baxter of the Urban Futures Institute pointed out that 70 percent of the new revenues generated in the province come from non-urban areas, places like the constituency I represent, Stikine, in the northwest part of the province.
I'm sure the member for West Vancouver–Capilano can understand the frustration of people where I live, when they are working to extract the natural resources that drive this new revenue, when they pay taxes like anyone else in B.C., and then we see that most of the money that the government is deciding to spend on capital projects is in faraway places that bring little benefit to hard-hit communities where unemployment is at extreme levels.
In fact, Greg Halseth, a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, who actually studies rural economies, calls this approach by the B.C. Liberals a continual withdrawal from the resource bank. If you continually withdraw from the resource bank without reinvesting, the bank goes under.
That's what the B.C. Liberals are doing to rural B.C. Their decisions on capital spending largely benefit the urban areas but do little to improve infrastructure in rural areas — infrastructure that we depend on not just to fuel the economy for the rest of the province but for our basic quality of life in smaller rural communities.
Another contradiction is how these large capital projects are instituted by the B.C. Liberal government. Let's go back to the Sea to Sky Highway. It was a P3 decision by this government to let private interests initially fund this public project, but the repayment on the back of taxpayers is deplorable. Over the 25-year life span of this deal, it will cost taxpayers an extra $300 million more than if we funded it ourselves like we used to.
This is a number from Partnerships B.C., saying $300 million more out of the pocket of taxpayers for the Sea to Sky Highway. That's money out of the pockets.
Good for them. The private companies arranged the best deal possible, but obviously, this government wasn't looking out for the concerns — our concerns — of rural people. That's $300 million more that could have gone into our schools, that could have gone into day care, that could have gone into housing, that could have gone into high-speed Internet connections and other public infrastructure projects in rural communities. It's a bad decision all around.
D. Donaldson: I know some of the members on the other side have personal interest, and good for them. They're trying to promote and boost their constituency over the rest of the province, but when it comes to $300 million more, surely the member on the other side could see that other areas of the province could benefit from that kind of money, not just her constituency.
When this government goes on to proceed on a capital project in the north, they create a situation that hinders the ability of the project to proceed in a fair and timely manner. One example of that is with First Nations. This government has not put the serious effort that is required into consultation and accommodation with First Nations in the north, in the northwest especially.
I'll give an example of that. Even on the issue of proposed coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters area of the northwest — an area where the Stikine, the Skeena and the Nass rivers all begin — this government has taken two years to negotiate with the Tahltan and still, after two years, no tangible results on that issue.
I would submit that if the B.C. Liberals were serious about resolving land title issues with First Nations on a specific area like this, then two years would be plenty of time to come to a solution. Two years. But no, nothing.
I'll tell you what. This does not bode well for a project like the northern transmission line that crosses at least five First Nations' traditional territories. Much hangs on that project in the north. I urge the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and other ministers to get on with their job around consultation and accommodation with First Nations so we can see projects move ahead in a timely manner.
Finally, and I'm sure the member for Nechako Lakes would
agree with me on this, you cannot have a thriving rural economy, which these projects
are supposed to support, without people. Rural people in small communities drive
the rural economy upon which the rest of the province depends. But this government
has gutted rural communities, gutted them to the point that some-
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times people in the north and in rural communities think that the policies of this government are leading to the depopulation of rural communities, much like the outport policy in Newfoundland years ago.
Sometimes people believe that this government thinks it would be better for all people to live in large urban centres — easier for them but not good for the people of the north or rural areas.
I'll finish off by saying that Elinor Ostrom, who is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for economics — just this year — talked about two things that are very important for people in rural areas to take care of the commons: a means of communication and support in the ability to self-organize. Well, on neither front has this government done anything of significance for rural communities in those regards.
This motion…. I take it to heart, but unfortunately, around capital investment this government says one thing, does another. It's all talk and no action. I hope that they on the other side take some of my positive suggestions, incorporate them into solutions that will mean further sustainability for the people of the north and betterment for all in the province of B.C.
M. Dalton: I'm pleased to stand in support of this motion: "Be it resolved that this House recognize the importance of investing in capital projects across the province" — including rural B.C. — "that will create thousands of jobs today to facilitate an even stronger economy in the future."
I'd just like to respond to some comments that the member for Stikine mentioned as far as infrastructure projects happening in rural areas. The government is investing in projects throughout this province, and the rural parts of our province are definitely enjoying this benefit. What happens? The benefit that rural communities feel actually benefits all of us.
Just to mention a few of the projects. Let's talk about the Cariboo connector. This is a $200 million first-phase Cariboo connector. We have the William Bennett Bridge; that's $144 million. We have the Kicking Horse Canyon. That's almost a billion-dollar, two-phase project which will upgrade 26 kilometres of Trans-Canada Highway to the western boundary of Yoho National Park.
Then there's the northwest transmission line, which the member alluded to and which is near his riding. This is a project worth over $400 million. This will not only create jobs as this line goes through — also all the mines, the forestry, the different economic opportunities right here. This is very important for rural B.C. It's very important for all British Columbia.
Then we have the ferries. We're investing over $175 million to revitalize the fleet and the new ships. This benefits people on ferry routes right across the province, right along the coast. Then there are the airports. We have invested in 33 community airports — Prince George, many different community airports.
Now, as far as the relations with the First Nations, we are developing good economic relationships. The Nisga'a treaty, again, is in the northwest section. That was the first treaty. The coastal First Nations just signed a treaty, again in that neck of the woods of the member. Part of that is a new ferry dock.
Also, the Haida Gwaii. We're seeing more and more First Nations agreements, which are great for the province, which is great for all of us, and they are also linking in with the economic opportunities.
Right across this province there are projects that have just completed, that are starting or shortly about to get going. This is an important time. It helps us pull out of the recession. We're seeing right now, with the economic forecast of 3.8 economic growth this year…. That says a lot of what we're doing as far as a government and as a province. We're making the right choices.
At the same time, we're not just spending money willy-nilly. We have maintained our triple-A credit rating, unlike the downgrades. So this helps everybody. This provides jobs for those that have more needs as far as financially, more difficult needs, but it helps everybody. So it helps us keep out of the recession.
Also, we enjoy better costs. Because the markets are down, construction costs are lower and we're able to maximize government dollars, public money, in order to receive more projects, more infrastructure than we otherwise would. It also helps set us up for improved economic prosperity and an improved quality of life.
I would like to just mention a few of the projects that are happening in my riding, because I think this is indicative of what's happening in ridings everywhere — every riding, every constituency in this province. Also, it helps us to leverage federal dollars.
Let's talk about a few. One is the Florence Lake Road, a forestry road, just a simple little project in the Mission area in my constituency.
Because of this road — which is a million dollars right here — Tim Horton's children's camp has indicated that they're going to be setting up camp up there, along with the Zajac Ranch for children with needs.
We have the Pitt River Bridge that just opened up, and this is saving time. It's a $200 million project. Over $100 million was in provincial funds and about $90 million in federal. It has alleviated a bottleneck, and it has been a real economic booster for my riding, Maple Ridge–Mission, and also in Pitt Meadows.
This has improved the quality of life. People are able
to spend more time at home. It reduces business costs. I talked to a vice-president
with CPR, and I know that it allows a truck, the container traffic, to move a lot
quicker. It just reduces pollution and increases the economic ability and maximizes
labour costs and transportation costs.
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Some other things are happening. One is the Alouette women's correction centre, which is receiving a major upgrade. This is going to provide, full-time, 80 jobs, and it goes in line with our focus on public safety and crime reduction. In the downtown core we have a beautification project happening. We just turned the sod last week on that project.
Last week another project that I was involved in the opening of was the Riverside College, which is $7.2 million — $5.2 million is provincial money. What is this? This is a transition program. It's a high school completion and entry-level program in trades and technical.
For kids that were otherwise falling through the cracks, we were able to get them in and give them training. All sorts of programs are being offered, whether it be in carpentry, plumbing, business support specialists, nail technicians, hairstylists, professional cooks or auto service technicians. This has just been a very positive announcement, and good things are happening there.
A comment was made as far as school playgrounds, spending money on capital programs. As a teacher for many years in both elementary and high school, I did not see funding for school playgrounds when the NDP was in power. I will say that what has happened is that in the past it has been PAC associations, parents and fundraising drives. The B.C. Liberal government has designated $20 per student, and this helps to pay for these programs, these playgrounds, in a much quicker way.
We're seeing dikes added. Another announcement just this week, not just an announcement but a completed project, was the Spirit Square in Mission, which was $350,000 in provincial money. This helps to pull the community together, and it's important for the community.
Last, a comment was mentioned by the member for Surrey-Whalley regarding P3s. Well, we have a new P3 that we opened up just recently. It's the Golden Ears Bridge. I think I've heard one negative comment in the past year about it — somebody having to pay. But other than that, all I'm hearing from people is that this has been a very positive thing. It's changed and given a lot more time for people. It's made the trips back and forth for business much better, and it is really a generator for our area as far as business and for improving family life.
With those remarks, I am going to conclude.
R. Chouhan: I was very pleased to hear the member for West Vancouver–Capilano when he was speaking in defence of his motion. He did not talk about P3s. That's really good, encouraging news coming from the Liberal benches. Finally, somebody has realized that P3s are not the solution. That's not the answer.
We have seen over and over again that when you have P3 projects, it costs a lot more money to the taxpayers in the long run. So I hope the other members will realize that's not the way to go. It's important. Unfortunately, some new members from the Liberal bench would like to see the B.C. Liberal government's record through rose-coloured glasses, because they were not there.
Let me give you some information about the B.C. Liberal record. This is not my document. This is from the B.C. Ministry of Finance's 2009 Financial and Economic Review. If you look at that…. In fact, when the B.C. Liberals came to power, they actually reduced the funding to capital projects by 14 percent. Many schools were closed. Many hospitals were closed. No new funding had gone into creating, building new schools and hospitals. That's the record of the B.C. Liberal government.
The only time we saw more money going into capital projects was when the Olympics came on the scene. They wanted to look really fancy in the eyes of the world, so they started creating, building some of those venues. But still, if you look in the real sense, there's no new funding into creating real projects that will help the community and that will address the needs of the public. British Columbians are still not seeing real investment in the projects which meet their needs.
Now, I was hoping to hear that somebody may have mentioned the Pattullo Bridge. That's a deadly bridge. It's an old bridge. Nobody is talking about replacing that bridge, although the community has been asking for many years that we need to take care of that. There have been some fatal accidents on that bridge. That's the kind of project I would support. Nobody has talked about it.
When we were in power in the '90s, we believed in investing in schools. We created a lot more schools. We built a lot more hospitals. As we have done in the past, we would like to see now more investment in affordable housing, day care, playgrounds.
Don't forget rural B.C. The member for Maple Ridge–Mission, when he was reading the motion, said that includes rural B.C. The motion doesn't talk about rural B.C. at all. So let's not try to create illusions out there that the B.C. Liberals are doing something about it. They are not. They have failed British Columbians. They have not done anything to address the needs of the public either in the Lower Mainland or in rural B.C.
I will support any capital projects which really create jobs, which create projects that help people. So by saying that, I conclude my remarks, because I think that there are a couple more speakers who need to speak on that.
S. Cadieux: I am very
pleased to speak about the importance of investing in capital projects in British
Columbia. Certainly, we are talking about the need to build things today that help
us create a better economy in the future. You know why we need to do that? Well,
in my riding and in the city I live in, we are one of the fastest-growing cities
in Canada. We've got approximately a thousand new people every month, and we're
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expected to become the largest city in British Columbia in ten years.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
With all those people that we need, of course, to work here and to pay taxes here, we need more than just houses. We need better roads, better transportation, more schools, more hospitals. And you know what? We're getting all of that because this government sees the importance of that.
We've got a new Port Mann bridge coming, the South Fraser perimeter road, new transit, all of which will help to see savings in the economy of $1.5 billion a year to businesses. That's really important so that they can continue to invest and create jobs and keep people working.
We've got the new Surrey out-patient hospital, the Surrey Memorial expansion — over half a billion dollars of new hospital investment in Surrey. We've got SFU Surrey, the expansion there. We've got Kwantlen trades and tech campus that opened in Cloverdale a couple of years ago, which is incredibly important in keeping skilled labour trained and ready to go.
We've been doing seismic upgrades to schools. We've got new schools. In fact, I was just there Monday at a new school that opened in my riding, built to LEED gold standards. Fantastic. It's not only a great new school, a healthy new school, but it will also bring savings in the future.
What I find really interesting is that the NDP voted against all of these initiatives. Yet here today they're talking about the need to invest and why didn't we invest. "We did so much better in the '90s."
Quite frankly, we had to get out of debt first before we could start incurring new debt. We had quite a hole to dig out of. Again, they're bringing up P3s and lecturing us on why P3s are horrible. Quite frankly, we've never said that P3s are the only way. P3s are one way. Sometimes they make the most sense. Sometimes they provide a fantastic option for government in providing for new capital infrastructure. I think we need to remind the NDP of that, because obviously, they don't quite understand the finance of the government.
We've got all of these great projects coming in. It's important. All of the money we're spending is money we're spending to build the future of British Columbia, to build the economy. It's all important. It's all great.
We've also heard today that all the infrastructure money should be spent on social housing and playgrounds. I'm sorry, but I thought we were doing an awful lot in terms of playgrounds, which I didn't see any of in the '90s. Also on social housing — announcement after announcement after announcement of openings of new social housing, providing fantastic benefits for our communities.
Noting the hour, I would close my remarks with a quote that I read just recently that I got a kick out of. I'm not sure who said this. However, it does pay to plan ahead. "It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark."
S. Cadieux moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. G. Abbott moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:57 a.m.
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