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
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Volume 19, Number 7
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill M211 — Open Government Act, 2010
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
B.C. Beef Day and ranching industry
Strathcona Provincial Park centennial
Dorel Industries expansion in Burnaby
New Westminster Salmonbellies
Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition conference
B.C. Hydro energy purchase agreement with Forrest Kerr project
Hon. B. Lekstrom
Impact of harmonized sales tax on used clothing costs
S. Chandra Herbert
Hon. C. Hansen
Wedding costs and implementation of harmonized sales tax
Hon. C. Hansen
Availability of meat-processing licences
Hon. I. Chong
Acute care beds at St. Joseph's Hospital
Hon. K. Falcon
Standing Order 81.1
Schedule for debate on Bill 17
Hon. M. de Jong
Orders of the Day
Second Reading of Bills
Bill Pr401 — Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010
Committee of the Whole House
Bill Pr401 — Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill Pr401 — Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010
Second Reading of Bills
Bill Pr402 — Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010
Committee of the Whole House
Bill Pr402 — Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill Pr402 — Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 20 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010 (continued)
Hon. S. Bond
Hon. M. de Jong
Hon. B. Lekstrom
Reporting of Bills
Bill 20 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 20 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 17 — Clean Energy Act (continued)
Hon. B. Penner
Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room
Committee of Supply
Estimates: Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (continued)
Hon. G. Abbott
[ Page 6113 ]
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 2, 2010
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
L. Popham: It's family day at the Legislature for me today. My husband, Jon, is here; my mother-in-law, Joan; my mom, Lorna; and my sister-in-law Kath are here. It's the first time for my husband to watch question period. So everyone be nice.
R. Cantelon: In the gallery today are at least 40 grade 10 students from — well, if I seem a little biased — one of the best high schools in British Columbia, the Kwalikum Secondary School. They're brought here by their teacher Mr. Jaret Abel. Please make them feel welcome as they observe the democratic processes in action.
H. Bains: It is my great pleasure to introduce my good friend who is the president of the Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver and also a long-term activist in the IWA and Steelworkers now. He is here with his uncle and auntie from England, who are visiting him. Please help me welcome them here to this great place of democracy.
R. Howard: It's a great pleasure to introduce five visitors from my city of Richmond. We have four directors and the executive director of the Richmond Chinese community services society. They do great work. They're celebrating their 21st anniversary this year. The city benefits greatly from all their volunteer efforts. Would the House please make them welcome.
D. Routley: I would like the House to help me make welcome, from the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group, Mr. Robert Morales and his assistant Roseanne Daniels. Robert is a real leader in our communities, not just in the First Nations community but a leader for all of us in the newcomer communities of the mid-Island as we consider the complicated issues that confront us all when it comes to reconciliation.
D. Hayer: It is also my pleasure and the member for Vancouver-Fraserview's Liberal riding president…. We had a lunch with three very special guests. One is Major Sanghera and Mr. Baldish Sanghera, who are from London, England, visiting here with their nephew, Kashmir Dhaliwal, who is a long-time community activist and president of the Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver, which is also called Ross Street, one of the oldest Sikh temples in North America.
This is the Sikh temple that fought for the rights for all the people from Southeast Asia to get them rights. Also, anybody who ever needs any help, that's the temple that goes and helps them. Would the House make all three guests very welcome to this House today.
J. Horgan: Joining us from the aging, decrepit and nearly-falling-down Belmont Secondary School in my constituency are three young grade 11 students who had sent some positive vibes to the Minister of Education in the hopes of a new school. They are Grant McLachlan, Kelsea Bendell and Kira Chow. Would the House please make these three students very, very welcome.
D. McRae: I have four guests visiting me in the Legislature today. They are registered nurses from the Cowichan Valley, Parksville and the Comox Valley. Would the House make Brenda Hill, Genoa Daniel, Betty Fitzsimmons and Mary Wilton welcome.
S. Fraser: I would like to join my colleague across the way from Parksville-Qualicum in recognizing Jaret Abel's class from KSS, Kwalikum Secondary School. My daughter graduated from there two years ago. I just want to add one thing to the member for Parksville-Qualicum's welcoming, and that is that KSS rocks.
M. Dalton: Visiting us today in the gallery are three special and very important people in my life. First of all, my lovely wife and personal angel, Marlene. Also for the first time is my father, Peter Dalton, and his bride of three years, Cleo Jones Dalton.
Cleo is a wonderful and brave woman. When she married, she adopted six families, including 19 grandchildren at last count. She helped run a family logging business for many years in the Enderby area.
Dad is a man who I've always had tremendous respect for. He was in the Canadian military for 36 years, going up through the ranks to become a captain. His service included a stint with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Egypt.
Would the House please make them all feel welcome.
D. Routley: I have another guest that I'd like the House to make especially welcome. Young Tali Campbell, who is sitting up in the press gallery, is a student reporter. He started the first student newspaper at John Barsby secondary school in Nanaimo.
I'm very pleased to have a young person who is concerned
with the affairs of the community and with what happens in this House, because it's
so important to us,
[ Page 6114 ]
our future and to his life and those he will be reporting to. So welcome Tali Campbell.
Hon. S. Thomson: It's family day in the Legislature, but it's also Beef Day in British Columbia. In the gallery today we have many representatives of the ranching industry from British Columbia, from across the province. We're very pleased that they were able to join us today for an event at the Legislature celebrating B.C. Beef Day.
In the gallery — and I'd like the House to make them welcome — are Roland Baumann, the past president of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association; Judy Guichon from Merritt, the newly elected president of the Cattlemen's Association — just elected on Saturday as the new president of the association; Bill Freding, the president of the B.C. Cattle Feeders Association; Kevin Boon, the executive director of the association; Karen and John Kochel with the B.C. breeders association; Chief Harold Aljam from the Coldwater band, who is also the president of the First Nations Agricultural Association; Mark Grafton from Prince George, a director of the association; Ted Haney from the Canada Beef Export Federation; and Janet Canters from the Beef Information Centre.
They're all here today to help us celebrate Beef Day in B.C., so I'd like the House to make them welcome.
Just to make it official, I'd like to read the proclamation proclaiming Beef Day in British Columbia.
"To all to whom these presents shall come: greeting.
"Whereas B.C.'s grasslands produce some of the world's highest-quality cattle; and whereas B.C. beef producers are renowned for the way in which their cattle are raised in a healthy environment and ecologically sustainable manner; and whereas B.C. cattle are part of an integrated Canadian beef production system that is the third-largest exporter of beef worldwide and well respected for having a high-quality finished product; and whereas ranching in B.C. has the advantage of proximity to markets and the drive to move ahead in a competitive world; and whereas the ranching industry supports B.C.'s economy through more than $250 million in cattle sales and more than 8,700 jobs; and whereas the Ranching Task Force has a goal to increase the profile of ranching in British Columbia to the public and the government; and whereas our Lieutenant-Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the executive council, has been pleased to enact Order-in-Council 903 on October 11, 2002.
"Know ye that we do by these presents proclaim and declare that June 2, 2010, shall be known as Beef Day in the province of British Columbia."
Hon. J. Yap: Further to the introduction by the member for Richmond Centre, I'd also like to add my greetings to our visitors, great community leaders from the Richmond Chinese Community Society who are here with us. They are Clara Chow, president; Norman Sung, vice-president; Evelyn Lau, past president; Teresina Lau, director; and their executive director, Henry Beh. Would the House please give them a warm welcome.
B. Routley: I would like to join the member for Comox Valley in welcoming Brenda Hill. She's a registered nurse and one of the many nurses that deals with difficult circumstances on a daily basis and does so with a smile. Please join me in welcoming her to this precinct.
D. Hayer: I have eight more special guests here. Six are our six Global INK students from India's IT school who are studying at UVic right now. These are top students from India who were offered to attend the graduate schools at Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and other universities. These special guests include Chinmay Misra; Nivedita Patnaik; Avirishu Verma; Pranav Sakulkar; Saurabh Goyal; Vidhoon Viswanathan; Sean Cunnin, from UVic; and Jason Lesage, a stakeholder relationship coordinator from MITACS Inc. at UBC. Would this House please make them very welcome.
First Reading of Bills
BILL M211 — Open Government Act, 2010
D. Routley presented a bill intituled Open Government Act, 2010.
D. Routley: It gives me pleasure to rise to introduce the private members' bill, Open Government Act, 2010, for first reading.
D. Routley: At a time when voter turnout and faith in government is at unseen lows, it is incumbent on us as leaders to move to restore that faith. The fourth President of the United States, James Madison, said that a popular government without popular information or the means to acquire it is but a prelude to farce, tragedy or both. James Madison paints for us a picture timely in today's democracy.
This act takes advantage of changes in electronic technology to promote routine disclosure and decrease overall government costs of disclosing information while expanding general public access to information.
This act also recognizes the role of reasonable data-sharing of personal information while safeguarding an individual's right to privacy by adding a requirement that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provide for privacy impact assessments, to be completed in a timely way so that they may guide all future electronic records projects.
These amendments restore government accountability by
creating a duty to document decision-making, giving the commissioner power to oversee
the Document Disposal Act and increasing the scope of the act to include information
from quasi-public bodies and alternative service providers, ensuring public access
to information concerning
[ Page 6115 ]
bodies that are paid public dollars for performing government functions.
Finally, this act increases the transparency of government with regards to information available to the public. By expanding the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, enhancing the public interest paramount principle and limiting exceptions under section 13, it restores a high standard for public access to information. Coupled with improvements in the time and cost involved, this act improves government accountability, transparency and openness.
I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting after today.
Bill M211, Open Government Act, 2010, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
B.C. BEEF DAY AND RANCHING INDUSTRY
T. Lake: Today is the first annual B.C. Beef Day in British Columbia, and today we celebrate the men and women who raise the high-quality beef that many of us enjoy on a regular basis.
For well over a hundred years British Columbians have been ranching on the high-quality ranges that cover much of our province, particularly in the Interior, where western ranching traditions are part of the fabric of most communities. Over 4,000 ranches operate in the province, from small hobby operators to the 20,000-head Douglas Lake Ranch.
Ranching is one of the few enterprises that uses a completely renewable resource: grass, known in the Cariboo as green gold. Cows and their calves turn B.C. sunshine into protein, utilizing our high-quality grasslands, and help us feed us here at home and many around the world.
Not only does B.C. beef taste good; it's good for you. Research at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops and the University of Alberta in Edmonton indicates that a conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid found naturally in all dairy and beef products, may have considerable benefits for human health, including the prevention and reduction of several chronic diseases.
B.C. ranchers are also among the best stewards of the environment, as they understand that the two critical inputs, grass and water, are precious resources that need to be protected for future generations of ranchers. Many ranches have carried out environmental farm plans that guide their operations and have won national awards for their sustainable management.
The ranching industry has faced tough times — drought, BSE, the high Canadian dollar — but we know that the men and women of the range are resilient. Working with the Ranching Task Force, the industry is committed to finding new markets both at home and abroad, conducting research into new management and marketing techniques and ensuring that ranching remains not just a historic B.C. industry but one with a very bright future.
In closing, I want to remind the House that wood is good, but beef is better.
STRATHCONA PROVINCIAL PARK
C. Trevena: Tens of thousands of people hike, bike, canoe and camp through B.C.'s oldest provincial park every year. This year one camping trip in Strathcona Provincial Park is going to be a little bit different. The Strathcona Centennial Expedition is marking the 100th anniversary of B.C.'s first and, I'd argue, still perhaps B.C.'s foremost park by recreating the expedition which originally explored the area on central Vancouver Island.
The land had already been determined to be a park when the Minister of Lands, Price Ellison, and a party of 23 left Campbell River in July 1910 to assess the territory. Setting off along the Campbell River lake chain and then on foot, it took the group three weeks to reach the summit of Crown Mountain and from there a view of the magnificent swath of countryside which was to become the park.
It continued on via Buttle Lake, eventually reaching Port Alberni. This July the Strathcona Centennial Expedition will set off from Campbell River to recreate Ellison's route — canoeing the Campbell lakes, Buttle Lake and Great Central Lake, hiking the mountains and the passes. Recreating the trek was the dream of island mountaineer and publisher Philip Stone from Quadra Island. It has been years in the inception, and with the execution coming soon, the final details are being worked out, including where and when people can join in.
Philip isn't doing it just because he can. He loves the area and wants to raise awareness of the beauty and the history of Strathcona Provincial Park. But it is also an effort, in times of receding government dollars, to start the Strathcona centennial legacy fund, which will enhance stewardship and rehabilitation within the provincial park.
People hold Strathcona Provincial Park very dear to
them. There were massive protests when a mine was approved at Myra Falls. People
are concerned about horse trails being allowed in the Bedwell Valley, and the Friends
of Strathcona Park are working on trails and upkeep. The centennial expedition will
show the world what we already know: it is a jewel to be protected.
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DOREL INDUSTRIES EXPANSION
H. Bloy: Recently a business made a decision to expand into my riding of Burnaby-Lougheed. This company is Dorel Industries, a major world supplier of sporting goods and equipment. I was present to open Dorel's new 100,000-square-foot apparel and footwear complex, which will develop cycling and running gear.
This company was started by three brothers from Montreal — Alan, Jeffrey and Martin Schwartz. Dorel is commonly known for their production of high-performance bicycles. I'm sure you're all familiar with the Schwinn bicycles, just one of the many brands that Dorel produces.
They will hire more than 225 people in the new facility, and that's excellent news for my riding. You know, Dorel has been a special company. They have recreational facilities located on their premises to encourage employees to maintain physical activity. They have recreational rooms with ping-pong, weight-training rooms and even a rock band room.
Another thing that Dorel does is rent lockers at the production Skytrain station, 12 lockers, complete with bicycles for their employees to ride back and forth from work and to help out on the carbon footprint.
You know, Dorel is one of the world leaders in production. They have over ten million square feet of production facilities around the world, and I believe it's nearly one million square feet in Canada now. Dorel has situated their central call system worldwide in Burnaby, hiring additional people and keeping this call centre open from five to ten each day.
James Bottoms is the heart and soul of the company and the person who has really worked with all the employees to make it the place to be. Dorel is a proud Canadian company, and I am proud that Dorel has chosen my community in which to locate their newest plant.
NEW WESTMINSTER SALMONBELLIES
D. Black: In April the member for Juan de Fuca enthusiastically promoted his hometown lacrosse team, the Victoria Shamrocks, and predicted that the New Westminster Salmonbellies would "get a kicking" in their first match of the season in Victoria. Had the member looked at the record book, he would have known that the Salmonbellies have won 24 Canadian championship Mann Cups, compared to only eight for the Shamrocks.
So the member should not have been surprised when New West defeated Victoria 8 to 4 that night before a dejected crowd of 2,500 Shamrocks faithful. He concluded his remarks by calling the Salmonbellies pathetic and sad sack. There's more from the record book on the legendary Salmonbellies to educate my friend.
The 'Bellies represented Canada at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam as a demonstration sport and were gold-medal winners. They certainly deserved this honour, because they worked their way across Canada playing exhibition games in order to pay for the voyage and then played numerous games in Britain and Europe to pay their expenses and worked their way home across Canada to pay for the train.
This was a truly determined effort of amateur athletes, as opposed to the U.S. team that year, which was hand-picked by an American soldier, better known as General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Olympic president that year. In '54 the Shamrocks imported the famous Jack Bionda from Ontario. He quickly tired of Island life and moved to the Salmonbellies.
Clearly, in spite of the rhetorical flourish of the member, the luck of the Irish is neither with him nor with the Shamrocks. When New Westminster once again wins the league trophy, I challenge the member to wear this glorious team jersey at the opening game of the playoffs.
Mr. Speaker: Did the member wish to continue with some more? [Laughter.]
R. Howard: There were those who said it couldn't be done, there were those who said it shouldn't be done, and there were those who said it must be done. This was a project that I had the pleasure of being with from start to finish as a city councillor. I'm speaking, of course, about the Canada Line. I'm congratulating all those people who believed in this project and brought it to such a successful conclusion.
The Canada Line links downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the airport. During the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games the true value of the Canada Line was demonstrated daily. Hundreds of thousands of passengers, tourists, residents, volunteers and commuters shared the experience of riding this most amazing part of a great transit system.
Hearing spontaneous bouts of O Canada being sung by Olympic fans on the Canada Line is a memory I will cherish. The experience that we all had with the Canada Line during the Olympics translated into increased ridership overall, and it's continuing to grow today. Right now almost 100,000 passengers per day take the Canada Line, which is three years ahead of schedule of TransLink's target.
The Canada Line is taking cars off our roads and taking carbon dioxide out of the air. The Canada Line is keeping congestion off our highways and leaving more money in pockets of consumers. The Canada Line is supporting the growth of Richmond and is making the connection to YVR easier than ever.
To those who said it couldn't be done and shouldn't
be done, I say enjoy your meal of crow. To those who
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got it done, on behalf of the people of Richmond I say thank you. The Canada Line is a legacy for the province of British Columbia.
water watch coalition conference
S. Fraser: The member for Nanaimo and I had the honour of attending a major conference last Sunday. We were in good company. Some 500 concerned citizens joined us in Nanaimo at Beban Park for Your Water, Your Future. The theme of the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition's forum was an important one — in essence, our survival on this planet. Water is key.
The goal was to inform citizens of the dangers of privatization of water and watersheds that sustain our communities. The premise is that a well-informed public will make the right choices for themselves, for the communities they live in and for generations to follow.
Vancouver Island Water Watch is a non-partisan, multicommunity organization that has expanded to include groups in every region of Vancouver Island. These regional groups are composed of individuals, ecumenical organizations, environmental organizations, businesses, social justice activists and organizations, anti-poverty organizations, unions, retired workers and others.
They coordinate activities with independent local and regional coalitions who actively promote the protection of community water and watershed systems, community watersheds and the environment and the precious resource that water is in our communities.
Talk about a great lineup of speakers. Maude Barlow is the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians and senior adviser on water to the United Nations. I've seen Maude speak before, and she is brilliant. Her analysis of the dangers we all face from the commercialization, commodification and privatization of water is riveting, compelling and inspiring.
Following Maude Barlow, we heard no less compelling presentations from a star-studded cast, including two former members of this House, Rafe Mair and Corky Evans. Other very informative presenters included Arthur Caldicott, Ingmar Lee, Robin Mathews, Trevor Wicks and Andrew Gage.
B.C. HYDRO ENERGY PURCHASE
AGREEMENT WITH FORREST KERR project
J. Horgan: Last week the government and B.C. Hydro quietly announced that they had signed an electricity purchase agreement with the AltaGas Income Trust for the Forrest Kerr run-of-river project in northwestern British Columbia. The interesting thing about this announcement is that it is a 60-year term with the consumer price index indexed over the course of that period of time. Unfortunately, Forrest Kerr only has a 40-year water licence.
My question is to the Minister of Energy. How is it that the government of British Columbia will allow a 60-year contract on a 40-year licence? How do you do that?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: As the member stated, last Friday was a great day — a great day for the people of the northwest of this province, a great day for the Tahltan Nation, good news for the ratepayers of British Columbia and something I'm very proud of. As with all projects, the proponent must obtain all of the environmental and regulatory requirements to meet the needs of that. They will be looking at a 40-year water licence. They will have to apply for a renewal of 20 years, and at that time the determination will be made.
But Member, I do want to say…. I know you seem to think that Friday was somewhat to be hidden, in the implication of your question. I can tell you we're very proud of this and what's taken place, and let me tell you, the Tahltan are as well.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. Horgan: You can always tell how proud a government is by how late on a Friday afternoon they issue the press release. Now, this one did come out before five o'clock, so I guess there is a modest amount of pride in that.
But I have another question for the minister. If he doesn't want to talk about the term, let's talk about how much it's going to cost British Columbians for this fixed-term, 60-year indexed contract.
The minister has said he will not buy power that he can't sell on the open market. Will the minister today tell us the megawatt cost of this project? How much is it going to cost for one megawatt hour of electricity from the Forrest Kerr run-of-river project?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: With all due respect, it clearly shows with those comments that he doesn't understand how the markets work or how business works or how you actually have to make these. Let me tell you. Let me leave no….
Mr. Speaker: Minister, just take your seat for a second.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: If there's
any question of how proud we are, I'll reiterate it. I'm extremely proud of a situation
where we can actually benefit the people of
[ Page 6118 ]
northwest British Columbia, we can benefit the Tahltan First Nation, and we can actually have a company that's going to invest and create jobs.
Let me tell you something, Mr. Speaker. What I find very interesting from the member is that until 2003, when our government made the change, there was no expiration date on the water licences issued by the NDP during the 1990s. I want to take the opportunity to read into the record the Boston Bar–Scuzzy Creek generating station — no expiration date on the water licence. Soo River plant — no expiration date on the water licence; they're in perpetuity.
The list is long, Member. So to question a project of this magnitude, one that benefits not only the people of the northwest, not only the Tahltan Nation, but all British Columbians, I have to question your business sense, Member.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a further supplemental.
J. Horgan: I could feel the pride when the minister said that he was going to be buying low and selling high. But he didn't get that out.
Let me help the minister out a little bit. The average price of the private power that the government has been signing up for is $88 to $120 a megawatt hour. Now, the minister will know that the five-year average for electricity on the commodity market is $54 a megawatt hour. So we're buying at $120 and selling at $54.
I want all members of the House to take some comfort. Over the past 18 months, the government has had one day — one day in 18 months — where they were able to make some money off this private power.
So again to the minister: will he tell the people of British Columbia what the cost is for this 60-year indexed agreement for an income trust from Alberta?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I think the member implied that I said we would buy high and sell low. I've said nothing of the sort.
But the member seems to have a problem with investment. What I will tell the member is that we're in favour of investment in British Columbia. We're in favour of generating clean, green, renewable electricity. We're going to continue to do that, but if the member is implying that because there's a company from Alberta that actually is going to reap a benefit, I encourage the member to go back, to look at the numbers, to look at the contracts that you entered into, Member, when the opposition was in government — Alberta companies, Ontario companies.
You know what? I'm proud that people want to invest in British Columbia. I'll tell you another thing. We're going to continue in the direction to create jobs in British Columbia and create clean, green, renewable electricity, and we're going to do it on our terms.
B. Ralston: British Columbians themselves have long been the main beneficiaries of British Columbia's hydroelectric resources, but that's clearly changing. This is a very long-term energy purchase deal; 60 years is unheard of. Roberto Luongo's contract with the Canucks looks like an overnight fix compared to this.
The company is bearing no risk at all because B.C. Hydro has guaranteed to buy all the power.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
B. Ralston: Either the minister doesn't know the answer or he just won't share it with the public. How much is he paying Forrest Kerr for the power from this contract?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I think the member knows — we've canvassed this numerous times — that due to confidentiality we don't put out specific prices, but if the member and the opposition want to listen, the range of prices that is paid for clean energy in British Columbia will be made available. We do that. We've made that commitment.
But the other one is…. I can tell you the big difference. We don't support being a net importer of electricity. We're committed to becoming electricity self-sufficient in British Columbia again. We're going to continue to do that.
Mr. Speaker: Just take your seat for a second, Member.
The member has a supplemental.
B. Ralston: Well, a direct award of the contract, no public oversight. Is it any wonder the public is suspicious of these kinds of deals? Why doesn't the minister just answer the question: how much is the public paying for power from Forrest Kerr?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The member can ask the same question a hundred times. He'll get the same answer. Member, I've actually done that. Let me tell you, what we are….
What the member is saying is that the opposition is in favour of importing dirty energy regardless of whether it's cheaper. We're in favour of generating clean, green renewable energy in British Columbia that creates job, Member.
There's also, I want to point out, a significant benefit.
We committed to building the northwest transmission line. We have an agreement with
the federal government. We now have a $180 million contribution towards this line
that's going to help the people of the northwest. It's
[ Page 6119 ]
going to help the Tahltan Nation, and it's going to help the ratepayers of British Columbia.
IMPACT OF HARMONIZED SALES TAX
ON USED CLOTHING COSTS
S. Chandra Herbert: From restaurant meals to the tourism sector, the HST betrayal will hurt British Columbians every step of the way. Now we learn even used clothing is going to become more expensive under the HST. Starting July 1, stores like Value Village, stores like Salvation Army will be forced to charge their customers an additional 7 percent.
To the Finance Minister: why are B.C. Liberals making it more difficult for B.C. families to purchase affordable reused clothes?
Hon. C. Hansen: As I outlined yesterday, B.C. families that are low- and modest-income families are going to receive the benefit of the HST credit, a cheque in the mail every three months, to help offset some of those things that will cost a little bit more.
Yesterday I also shared with the House some comparisons as to what a family would pay in personal income tax today compared to what they would have paid on the same amount of income in 2001. It's interesting that one of the opposition members asked me where my….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Minister, just take your seat.
Hon. C. Hansen: One of the members asked where the facts came from and questioned the facts. Actually, the facts for what that person would pay in 2001 came out of a budget document that has Joy MacPhail's picture on page 3.
Let me just share for the House another example that comes, again, out of that same budget document with Joy MacPhail's picture on it from 2001. This is about the total taxes that a family of four would pay in British Columbia — all the taxes — income tax, including the sales tax and the harmonized sales tax, as it will be.
A two-income family of four earning $60,000 a year, according to Joy MacPhail in 2001, would pay a total of $14,478 in taxes to the provincial government. On Budget 2010 it's got the apples and apples comparison. That exact same family today would pay only $11,031.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Chandra Herbert: Well, I asked about old clothes, not old lines, not used lines that the minister tries to apply to this issue.
In my riding the West End Seniors Network runs a popular used clothing store and has a very loyal client base. They've told me they don't want to charge their customers more — many of whom are living on fixed incomes — and they also want to support reusing clothes because it's good for the environment. But starting July 1, the B.C. Liberals are forcing them to charge more.
People of B.C. have been loud and clear about this government's HST betrayal. Will the minister stop defending the indefensible and scrap the HST?
Hon. C. Hansen: I'm glad the member brought up the example of seniors, because I can give you, again, some actual facts from Joy MacPhail's budget of 2001 and what a senior couple, with $30,000 of pension income, would have paid in their total provincial taxes under Joy MacPhail's budget. It would have been a total of $5,103.
Under a B.C. Liberal budget from 2010, including the harmonized sales tax and the benefit of the HST credit that comes off, that same senior couple will be paying $2,500 less.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
WEDDING COSTS AND IMPLEMENTATION
OF HARMONIZED SALES TAX
D. Black: This government's flimsy defence of the HST is simply infuriating the public. With the wedding season just around the corner, B.C.'s brides and grooms, who've been planning their big day for months, are now being forced to pay much more with the HST. Venue rentals, catering, wedding planners, air travel, tailoring — all of them will cost more under the HST, and the list goes on and on.
Brides and grooms are just one group who will be hurt by this betrayal, but they are part of the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who've said no to the HST.
So my question is to the Premier. Will he finally do the right thing, just say, "I do," and scrap the HST now?
Hon. C. Hansen: What we saw in the 1990s, actually, was young married couples who had no job opportunities in British Columbia. That's why in the late 1990s we saw 50,000 young British Columbians leave this province in search of job opportunities elsewhere.
What we actually see today, because of the tax changes that this government has made, is more job opportunities for young families in British Columbia so that they can actually have more money in their pockets and they can build a future in this province.
Mr. Speaker: The member
has a supplemental.
[ Page 6120 ]
D. Black: Well, clearly British Columbians can see now what the Liberal election vows are worth — nothing.
The B.C. Liberal HST was concocted in the middle of summer only days after the provincial election, when they promised not to implement the HST. As soon as the election was over, it was sprung on the people of British Columbia without any warning or any consultation.
Now it's clear that the B.C. Liberal HST betrayal will spare no one, not even the couples who are preparing for their weddings, not even their families who are supporting them in one of the most exciting but expensive undertakings of their lives.
Again to the Premier. Across B.C. hundreds of thousands of people have rejected the HST. Will he finally do the right thing, stand up in the House today and say: "No, cancel the HST"?
Hon. C. Hansen: This is coming from a member of a political party that actually taxed young families out of this province in the 1990s.
As opposed to the NDP, which actually turned British Columbia into a have-not province, we have made British Columbia into a have province. We have made sure that tax rates have come down for those young families. Every young married couple in British Columbia today is paying thousands of dollars less in taxes than they would have in 2001 under the NDP.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
H. Lali: You've all seen….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Member, just take your seat for a second.
I remind members that we want to listen to the question and listen to the answer. The member for Fraser-Nicola has the floor.
H. Lali: You've all seen the commercial on television with the bankers with their hands in your back pocket. They follow you around. We know that the Minister of Finance is going to tax you from birth until death. Just imagine the shock of British Columbians, obviously, when they found out that weddings were also on the list.
Maybe the Minister of Health cheated. He avoided paying the HST. He got married and had a kid just in the last year alone. Maybe it should be insider trading taking place here.
Weddings are a special time for families, for friends, for food and music, song, love and romance. You get the picture. Then all of a sudden, the Minister of Finance, uninvited, shows up with his hands in the back pockets of the bride and groom just before they're about to say their "I do's."
My question is this. The people of British Columbia did not get a chance to vote on the Liberal double-cross that took place. Will the Minister of Finance please do the right thing today: scrap the HST and leave wedding couples alone so that they can go off and enjoy their honeymoons without the minister's hands in their back pockets?
Hon. C. Hansen: I think the only time that British Columbia couples felt the government had their hand in their pocket taking out all their spare change was when the NDP were in power. I can tell you that if that young married couple each had an annual income of $50,000, they would each be paying 50 percent less in personal income tax than they would have under the NDP. That would only be because what was happening in the 1990s was that most young couples, when they headed off on their honeymoon, were heading to Alberta on a one-way trip. That's where the jobs were.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member has a supplemental.
H. Lali: The minister's answer is about as lame as his excuse that they weren't going to do the HST in the middle of the election. Hon. Speaker, there's a lot of diligent planning that wedding couples do before they're about to get married.
There are a whole lot of items like photography; the cake; planning for the band; the deejay; dry cleaning; hairstyling — and the Minister of Finance ought to know a thing about hair styles; catering; refreshments; decorations; and the list just goes on. Now they find out their weddings are going to cost them 12 percent more because of the tax grab. Last summer….
Mr. Speaker: Take your seat.
H. Lali: Last summer the B.C. Liberals broke their promise about the HST. This year couples find out they're actually going to be paying more for their weddings.
So to the Minister of Finance again: will he actually
respect the will of the people of British Columbia, abandon his hated HST plan that
he's got right now, disinvite himself from people's weddings and keep his sticky
fingers out of the back pockets of wedding couples who are about to go off on their
[ Page 6121 ]
Hon. C. Hansen: I think what we just heard from the member for Fraser-Nicola is actually sad, because what he said was that weddings would cost 12 percent more. That is absolutely false. That is absolute nonsense, and it's an example of the kind of misrepresentation and misinformation that is being spread by members of the opposition and members of some of the campaigners on the anti-HST campaign.
I know that the NDP have had to go outside and get on the bandwagon with Mr. Vander Zalm. I think it's a classic example of how the NDP have become a net importer of political power.
J. Brar: The people of British Columbia know very well that it was this minister and this Premier who misinformed people of British Columbia about the HST.
This government recently introduced a new meat-processing licence called a class D licence, which will allow farmers to process their animals on site, sell their meat from the farm gate and directly sell to stores and restaurants. However, D licences are available in Powell River but not right across the water in Campbell River.
My question to the Minister of Healthy Living and Sport is very simple. Why is this government making D licences available to some communities in the province but not to others?
Hon. I. Chong: One of the reasons why we introduced our meat inspection regulations for the province was because we want to ensure the safety of food for the public. What we know is that when we introduced this in 2004, there would be some challenges, and we allowed for a number of transitions to take place. We provided $11.9 million to help those food processors put in those plans that would allow for the safe slaughter of meat so that the public would have that safety of their food.
We also know that in some of our more rural-remote areas there were still some challenges. That is one of the reasons we were pleased to work with the B.C. Food Processors and farmers in these rural-remote areas to introduce two new classes of licences that will allow for further safety of food that we deliver to people who want to buy them at the farm gate.
ACUTE CARE BEDS AT
ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL
S. Fraser: The member for Comox Valley will be presenting petitions today with over 8,000 signatures demanding a halt to the ministry's dangerous plan to cut acute care beds and staffing at St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox. The rubber hits the road today.
Will the minister agree today to halt cuts to St. Joseph's Hospital, provide adequate funding for residential care and stand up for the medical staff, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and the entire staff who make the hospital function?
Hon. K. Falcon: We've canvassed this in the House before. As I pointed out at that time, and I would emphasize again, I think it's important that the member not misrepresent what's actually happening. The fact of the matter is that the only cuts to acute care beds that ever took place at St. Joseph's took place in the 1990s — the 13 percent reduction.
What is happening now, and the member should know this…. I've actually worked very closely with the MLA for Comox Valley. What is happening in this hospital and other hospitals is that you have a number of patients in the hospital who are often seniors, though not exclusively, that have had their acute care needs looked after and are now waiting to transition to either residential care or back to the community.
But until they are able to do so, it is entirely appropriate — in fact, a practice used increasingly around the world — that you congregate those beds into one part of the hospital and provide the appropriate level of care. That's exactly what's happening at St. Joseph's.
I can tell you this, as a final point. One thing I know for sure is that the MLA for Comox Valley is also working on another important initiative, and that is to ensure a new hospital in the Comox Valley to build on the other investments we made in capital projects on Vancouver Island. That's what we're doing on this side of the House.
[End of question period.]
D. McRae: Well, believe or not, I have a petition from approximately 8,400 residents. I thought it was going to be a surprise, but you never know. I have a petition from approximately 8,400 residents from the Comox Valley and the north Island who want to see the current level of service, professional care and acute care beds maintained at St. Joseph's Hospital.
Standing Order 81.1
SCHEDULE FOR DEBATE ON BILL 17
Hon. M. de Jong: I rise
to advise the House that as we draw near to the conclusion of this session — whilst
the vast majority of the work has been completed, and there is a schedule in place
for most of the remaining work — the government and the opposition have been unable
to reach an agreement under the provisions of the standing orders with respect to
[ Page 6122 ]
Therefore, I move the following motion:
[Pursuant to Standing Order 81.1 (2), all remaining stages of Bill (No. 17) intituled Clean Energy Act shall be completed and disposed of on or before 5:30 p.m., Thursday, June 3rd. At 5 p.m. on the date mentioned, the Speaker and the Chair of the Committee of the Whole will forthwith put all necessary questions for the disposal of all remaining stages of the said bill without amendment or debate and divisions called on sections of Bill (No. 17) shall be taken in accordance with Practice Recommendation No. 1. Any divisions called on the second or third reading of such bill may be taken in accordance with Standing Order 16 and all other divisions will be covered by Practice Recommendation No. 1. Proceedings under this motion shall not be subject to the provisions of Standing Order 81, or the Standing or Sessional Orders relating to times and days of the sittings of the House.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: In Committee A, I call Committee of Supply — for the information of members, the estimates of the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations — and, in this chamber, I'll first call Bill Pr401.
Second Reading of Bills
BILL Pr401 — Horizons Unbound
Rehabilitation and Training Society
(Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010
J. Horgan: I move that the bill be read a second time now.
Bill Pr401 standing in my name, the Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporation Restoration) Act, 2010, was brought to my attention by Dr. Philip Ney, a constituent of mine who has operated programs for youth at risk in and around the Sooke region for many, many years.
Over time the registration with the registrar of companies lapsed for this organization. Mr. Ney approached me. He has attended a committee of this Legislature to put forward his case to have that corporate restoration restored. With that, I move second reading.
J. Horgan: By leave, I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered forthwith.
Bill Pr401, Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010, read a second time and ordered to proceed to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
Committee of the Whole House
BILL Pr401 — Horizons Unbound
Rehabilitation and Training Society
(Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill Pr401; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 2:37 p.m.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
J. Horgan: I move we report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 2:38 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill Pr401 — horizons unbound
rehabilitation and training society
(corporate restoration) act, 2010
Bill Pr401, Horizons Unbound Rehabilitation and Training Society (Corporate Restoration) Act, 2010, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. de Jong: I call Bill Pr402, Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010.
Second Reading of Bills
Bill Pr402 — Vancouver
Amendment Act, 2010
G. Hogg: This bill, the Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010, modernizes the language and provides greater flexibility to the Vancouver Foundation, similar to an act previously passed by this House with respect to the Victoria Foundation.
The bill modernizes the wording; adds greater flexibility
to the Vancouver Foundation; allows donations that are given for specific purposes,
which may be outside of the province of British Columbia, to be so placed. It gives
greater flexibility to the board to ensure that nominees
[ Page 6123 ]
have the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to sit on the board. It allows greater flexibility in investments as well as the placement and granting of funds.
I move the bill now be read a second time.
G. Hogg: By leave, I move the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered forthwith.
Bill Pr402, Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010, read a second time and ordered to proceed to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
Committee of the Whole House
Bill Pr402 — VAncouver
amendment act, 2010
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill Pr402; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 2:40 p.m.
Sections 1 to 19 inclusive approved.
G. Hogg: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 2:41 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill Pr402 — vancouver
amendment act, 2010
Bill Pr402, Vancouver Foundation Amendment Act, 2010, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. de Jong: Committee stage debate on Bill 20.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 20 — MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT (No. 3), 2010
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 20; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 2:45 p.m.
Hon. S. Bond: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
Hon. S. Bond: I have the pleasure this afternoon of introducing a group of 24 grades 10 and 11 students, and they have come all the way from Prince George today, actually, to visit here. We're absolutely delighted to see them in the gallery today. They are from Westside Academy in Prince George. They are accompanied by a number of adults, including Rob Tower.
This group is the first of two. I hope to be able to introduce the second group later in the afternoon, but they are touring the Legislature. They go to a wonderful school in Prince George. They do a great job of providing a Christian education in Prince George, and I want to ask my colleagues in the House to make these students and the staff and parents that are accompanying them very welcome here in the precinct today.
On section 217.
G. Coons: For people that are joining us, here is a section dealing with amendments to the Coastal Ferry Act. I have a few questions about this section. It deals with adding that information is going to be sent to the authority and to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. It talks about reservation fees and some methodology and public comment. I'm just wondering, in section 217(a), why the minister included this information being given to her.
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, the reason we included it is that it is helpful to us. There is a potential for it to impact the ferry services contract. So it's important information, and we ask that it help inform our processes.
G. Coons: I find this
a fairly significant addition to the Coastal Ferry Act, where information is actually
coming to the minister or to the minister's staff. What type of information is going
to be coming to the minister and the staff?
[ Page 6124 ]
Hon. S. Bond: I think it is important to clarify that we're not asking for anything that is exceptional. In fact, the information will also be published on the website. So we're asking for it to be given directly to us. The information would include the tariffs for the core ferry services. It would also include expenses that the ferry operator has incurred — very basic information but certainly not provided exclusively to the ministry. In fact, it will also be published on the website.
G. Coons: And with this information, will the minister be getting information about fuel surcharges or information regarding the finances of the ferry operator?
Hon. S. Bond: Whatever the ferries commissioner requests in terms of information, the scope that he or she requests would be the same information that we would receive.
G. Coons: Again, since this is one of the first times that information is directly going to the minister…. Over the last seven years there's sort of been a "hands-off" or "keep your distance" from the workings and functionings of the ferry corporation or ferry operator. I'm just wondering. In the past, what information did the minister receive from the ferry operator?
Hon. S. Bond: I do want, from the beginning, to make it very clear that the operating model for B.C. Ferries is not changing. In fact, the comptroller general made it very clear that operationally, B.C. Ferries is incredibly successful. Previous to this, we would have received our information the same way the public would have, and that would have been by looking on the website. We're simply adding another step which would have that information shared directly with the ministry as well as being posted on the website.
G. Coons: So this new information that the minister is finally getting, she is saying, has always been available on the website, but now you're just going to get it handed to you.
I think, if I remember correctly, the Auditor General in 2006 had concerns about the amounts of information out there and no consolidation of it. One of the recommendations from the Auditor General was for the minister to do a comprehensive summary report in the service plan on B.C. Ferries.
I'm just wondering if the minister will incorporate this new information that is now being legislated to come to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and if she will use that information to do a comprehensive summary report in the service plan.
Hon. S. Bond: I think we need to be clear that the Ferry Services model is not changing dramatically as a result of the comptroller general's recommendations. Really what is changing is that previous to this, we were able to access the information at the same time as the general public. All we're actually creating in this bill is the opportunity for us to receive the information perhaps a day or two before it's posted on a public website. Really, it's a change in timing more than a change in content.
Additionally, we're not intending to change the way that we report on B.C. Ferries. We actually feel that the method we have in place now is appropriate.
G. Coons: When I look in section 217, I'd like to go to subsection (c) where it talks about "the portion of the expenses applicable to the terminals serving the applicable designated ferry route that the ferry operator has reasonably allocated to the designated ferry route, and the methodology by which those amounts have been allocated among its routes." I'm just wondering what the minister means by "the methodology."
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, this is a direct response to a recommendation by the comptroller general. It's simply asking for clarity — that the ferries commissioner have an explanation as to the methodology that's used in determining costs. In fact, it's a very straightforward requirement, and it is in response to the comptroller general.
G. Coons: Yes, and the minister talked about the kudos that the comptroller general gave to B.C. Ferry Services, as it's currently operating, but obviously after seven years…. You know, it was a scathing report, looking at the conflict of interest between the boards, the outrageous executive compensations and director compensations and down the list — concerns with freedom of information and alternate service providers, the reservations and dealing with public complaints.
Also dealing with this methodology — I'm under the assumption, and perhaps the minister could correct me…. She says this relates to one of the comptroller's concerns, where the comptroller says: "It is essential that key information received from B.C. Ferries be reliable because it is the basis for fares, and in turn, fares directly affect B.C. Ferries bottom line and the level of service fees. Therefore, the commission should apply an appropriate level of verification."
One of the recommendations, as the minister talked about…. And this is a recommendation from the comptroller — applying increased verification procedures to the information provided the commissioner by B.C. Ferries to ensure its validity.
When the minister gets hold of the information that's
given to the commissioner, will the minister ensure that
[ Page 6125 ]
it's valid information and reliable, so that when fares start to go up or fuel surcharges are put on to ferry-dependent communities, this government can stand up and say that they have been verified and they are reliable?
Hon. S. Bond: The point of asking for the methodology is so that the independent ferries commissioner can do exactly what the member opposite is asking about. He or she would have the opportunity to test, by looking at the methodology, the accuracy of the information. That is absolutely essential that an independent ferries commissioner do that job.
G. Coons: In this legislation, is there a format or template for the ferries commissioner to use to ensure that the methodology is reliable and verifies the information that it is given?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, the whole point of having an independent ferries commissioner, one that has professional stature, is that it would be his or her responsibility to actually test the methodology. So it's not about prescribing a methodology; it's about a professional, independent ferries commissioner testing the methodology.
G. Coons: In section (d) just following that, it talks about: "Each ferry operator must provide to the commissioner, with the information submitted under subsection (1), (a) a plan as to how the ferry operator intends to provide services more efficiently…." Has a plan ever been submitted to the commissioner previous to this legislation before us?
Hon. S. Bond: Previous to this the commissioner would have set efficiency targets and the ferry services would have had to report back about how they were able to actually meet or attempt to meet those targets. What this legislation does is actually require that a plan be put in place and presented to the commissioner.
G. Coons: I want to go down to (f) where we're talking about reviewing that "the information and plans provided to the commissioner under this section, (a.1) make public a request for public comment in relation to the following," and there's a list there. I'm just wondering: how is this section different than what's in the current Coastal Ferry Act?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, previously the ferries commissioner would have responded to input. He or she will actually now be required to solicit input.
G. Coons: When the minister put together this part of Bill 20 — which is close to 250 sections — as far as the ferry section, who did the minister consult as far as putting together the "public comment" and "request for public comment" and methodology and everything that's involved in this section? What was the consultation process?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, in fact the member opposite would well know that the reason we're in the Legislature today is because I actually requested that the comptroller general review B.C. Ferries. She did, I think, an excellent job of actually consulting, considering all of the issues. She provided government with a report and a series of recommendations. The vast majority of those recommendations have been responded to positively and are incorporated in Bill 20.
G. Coons: Did the minister personally meet and consult with the ferry advisory committee chairs?
Hon. S. Bond: Obviously, throughout the course of the work that I do, I've met with a number of individuals, but related to the recommendations and the legislation that's here today, the comptroller general actually did a significant degree of consultation and provided her report to government. Our job was to review it, which we did, and it's her recommendations that we're acting upon in this bill.
Section 217 approved.
On section 218.
G. Coons: Just a couple of questions about the reservation fees. Why did the minister include the reservation fees in the price cap?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, what's critical when the ferries commissioner is trying to determine the price cap…. We believed that it was important that every source of revenue be considered before the cap is set. We thought it was essential that this be included as well.
G. Coons: If reservations are going to be included as part of the price cap, I'm just wondering if the minister knows what the revenue is from reservations for B.C. Ferries.
Hon. S. Bond: I don't have that information.
G. Coons: Does the minister have any idea of what the impact will be on setting fare caps when reservations are included?
Hon. S. Bond: I can't,
and I am not going to, speculate about what impact it might have. I think the comptroller
general also believed that it was important that all
[ Page 6126 ]
sources of revenue be considered before the price cap is set. I think the bill reflects that today.
G. Coons: I know the minister understands that the commissioner, for four or five years, has expressed real concern with the reservations being part of ancillary services, not being regulated. Basically, somewhere it was referred to as a cash cow. And the Auditor General had concerns. I guess there was no analysis done, but I think it's a good move to have this section in.
Section 218 approved.
On section 219.
Hon. S. Bond: I move the amendment to section 219 standing in my name in the orders of the day.
[SECTION 219, as it enacts section 45.1 of the Coastal Ferry Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 14, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Regulation of unfair competitive advantage
45.1 (1) If a ferry operator is providing a competitive service, the commissioner must determine whether the ferry operator is pricing the service below the direct costs and an appropriate proportion of the indirect costs associated with providing that ferry transportation service, or has an unfair competitive advantage in providing that ferry transportation service, including, without limitation, an advantage as a result ofresulting from the ferry operator having been provided with
(a) use of, access to or ownership of vessels or terminals that are or had been owned by the government or a government body within the meaning of the Financial Administration Act,
(b) any tax exemption, or
(c) any subsidy.
(2) If the commissioner makes the determination referred to in subsection (1), the commissioner must regulate the ferry transportation service in one of the following ways:
(a) make an order under section 69 (1) and, after an alternative service provider satisfactory to the commissioner has been located through a competitive process established in a plan approved under section 69 (4) (a) or created under section 69 (4) (b) (i), order the ferry operator to arrange with that alternative service provider, under contract, franchise agreement or otherwise, for the alternative service provider to provide the ferry transportation service;
(b) calculate the amount that the commissioner considers would be charged as a tariff for that ferry transportation service to recover the direct costs and an appropriate proportion of the indirect costs attributable to providing the service were none of the factors referred to in subsection (1) (a), (b) or (c) of this section present, and order the ferry operator to charge at least that tariff when providing that ferry transportation service.]
On section 219 as amended.
G. Coons: I do have a few questions here. When we look at the amendment the minister has put forward, what was the minister contemplating? Why was this amendment put forward?
Hon. S. Bond: I'm going to ask the member opposite to clarify that because I think he referenced reservation fees, and I think this is about drop trailer. I'm not quite certain what the question was.
G. Coons: Yes. Going back to the definition of "competitive service," a key component of that is a drop-trailer service. I'm just wondering why this was brought to the minister's attention and whether or not the minister or their staff consulted with anybody on this particular issue and the concerns with unfair competitive advantage.
Hon. S. Bond: It was a recommendation from the comptroller general that, in fact, we consider addressing what might be perceived and, indeed, might be a real competitive advantage for B.C. Ferry Services. Once again, we agreed with the comptroller general that this was a prudent step to take in Bill 20.
G. Coons: In the section that we're looking at, it talks about an "appropriate proportion of the indirect costs associated with providing that ferry…service." Now, what would be an appropriate proportion?
Hon. S. Bond: That's obviously one of the questions that the ferries commissioner will have to determine. That would be within the professional judgment of the ferries commissioner.
G. Coons: I'm looking at section 219, and they start talking about unfair competitive advantage as far as use of or ownership of vessels and terminals, any tax exemptions and any subsidy. What are the tax exemptions currently available to the current ferry operator?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, there could be implications in terms of property tax, in terms of income tax. There are a number of areas that might be considered. Again, the ferries commissioner, in the determination, would have a look at those very elements.
G. Coons: As far as tax implications, what do B.C. Ferries currently get for tax exemptions as far as, say, not property but other tax exemptions?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, it's fairly complex, and I don't have an exhaustive list. What's important is that the ferries commissioner would consider this if it actually has an impact and creates an unfair advantage.
So it's going to be important for the ferries commissioner
to do that work, and as I said earlier, some of the areas that might be contemplated
are property tax. Again,
[ Page 6127 ]
that's very complex. There are parts of it that the ferries commissioner may consider applicable and others that he or she may not. I don't have an exhaustive list. But again, it will be under the auspices of the ferries commissioner to consider that matter.
G. Coons: Well, it's interesting that we have legislation here to regulate unfair competitive advantage, and people that have contacted members on this side wanted to get on record some of the answers besides: "It's fairly complex."
When we start looking at some of the information that we're putting forward, it seems the minister is lacking quite a bit. She doesn't have the B.C. Ferry articles. She doesn't have information about some of the financial implications. Again, some questioning about tax exemptions is fairly unclear.
I'm just wondering: when we look at competitive services, are there any other competitive services that the minister foresees, other than drop trailer, that B.C. Ferries has gotten into or possibly could get into?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, first of all, to the member opposite's first comments, we should be perfectly clear. This legislation is before the House today because the comptroller general of British Columbia looked at B.C. Ferry Services and said that there needed to be or could well be some change considered.
But I would remind the member opposite that, in fact, she said, generally speaking, B.C. Ferry Services is well run. So this legislation is about principles. That's why we are not going to articulate a list here today. It is about the principle of ensuring that there is not a competitive advantage for B.C. Ferries.
That will be part of the job of the B.C. ferries commissioner — to actually look at what might be considered a competitive advantage. We think that is an important principle, and we agree with the comptroller general that the ferries commissioner should undertake that work.
H. Bains: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
H. Bains: In the vicinity we have a school from my constituency, Ecole Gabrielle-Roy. There are 45 students of grade 10 here with their parents and teacher Samantha Marshall. Please help me welcome them to this great place of democracy.
G. Coons: When I look at some of the competitive services that the minister specifically looked at or mentioned, like drop-trailer…. There are other services that B.C. Ferries has gotten into. The new tourism centre, a 2,700-square-foot tourism centre, is high-rent space adjacent to the new convention centre. A few of the ferry advisory committee chairs have a problem with this, and the Gabriola Island trustees have a concern that they're a monopoly.
I'm wondering if the minister thinks that the subsidies going to B.C. Ferries in an unfair-competitive-advantage scenario, where they get tax exemptions and they get close to $200 million in subsidies from taxpayers — that the tourism centre that they're running could possibly run in conflict with, say, Tourism B.C. or Tourism Vancouver.
Hon. S. Bond: I actually am not going to speculate about that particular piece of the B.C. Ferries organization. This is a broad principle that would allow the ferries commissioner to look at areas where there may be concern that there was a competitive advantage, but the primary focus of the legislation is transportation services. It is a principle that says — and we agree with the comptroller general — that B.C. Ferries should operate on a level playing field, and that's really what this principle embraces.
G. Coons: I'm just wondering if the minister has concerns, because under tourism and business opportunities, in 2007, B.C. Ferries established Pacific Marine Ventures Inc., PMV, "as a wholly owned subsidiary to pursue strategic business opportunities related to commercial traffic, tourism and terminal management." I can see that the commercial traffic is the drop-trailer component of the concern that the comptroller general had.
Due to the unfair, I would say, competitive advantage as PMV, Pacific Marine Ventures, goes into tourism, terminal management or commercial traffic, I'm wondering if the minister would agree that the PMV ventures would be an unfair competitive advantage, as B.C. Ferries is getting the tax breaks and subsidies, and whether or not this is something that the minister should encourage the commissioner to investigate.
Hon. S. Bond: I'm not in a position to make that determination because I'm not the ferries commissioner. The ferries commissioner is an independent professional who will be given direction only through legislation. I don't intend to direct the ferries commissioner.
What I do intend to do through Bill 20 is provide the ferries commissioner with a principle that requires him or her to actually ensure that B.C. Ferries is not operating with an unfair competitive advantage. That will be up to the ferries commissioner to take the legislation and move forward using that principle.
G. Coons: I want to get
into the drop-trailer situation and major concerns, as the minister probably heard
[ Page 6128 ]
through the comptroller general. When we look at the commissioner ensuring there's fairness…. Washington Marine Group, Seaspan Coastal Intermodal and Van Isle Barge Services Ltd. had concerns and alleged unfair competition and pricing due to the subsidies and tax exemptions.
I'm just wondering. The minister has, through this legislation I would say, downloaded the obligation onto the commissioner to ensure there's no unfair competition, to ensure at least the competitive rate is charged. I'm saying: what evidence will there be to ensure there will be a level playing field with those in the drop-trailer business who are trying to compete with B.C. Ferries?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, I think that the member opposite should take a great deal of confidence in the fact that when the comptroller general made the recommendation that we contemplate the issue of a fair, competitive circumstance in British Columbia, we responded to that with this legislation.
I have every confidence that an independent, professional ferries commissioner will take very seriously the legislation that will be provided to him or her. In fact, we have every confidence that that professional, independent individual will ensure that we have a competitive environment for those services in the province.
V. Huntington: The minister will recall that during the fall estimates we had a rather extensive discussion on the issue of the drop-trailer competitive advantage that B.C. Ferries, in my opinion, had. At that time the minister was unable to provide for me the exact terms of reference that she had provided to the comptroller general. But I simply want to thank the minister and her staff for the thorough response that they have provided.
I think the entire business community, with responding to what was in many of our minds a serious issue…. I think the speed and the thoroughness with which the comptroller general provided a report to the ministry and your department should be congratulated. I wanted to just put that on record.
G. Coons: I'm still trying to grasp and trying to understand how the commissioner will determine what is fair and what is unfair with no direction from the minister. When you look at the objectives of the commissioner, number one still is to look after the financial sustainability of the corporation.
I'm just wondering: will such things as infrastructure, real estate, staff and vessel costs come into account? This is because those concerned — as I said, Seaspan and Van Isle Barge Services — are looking to this legislation and some sort of commitment from the minister that there will be fairness or a definition or a determination from the minister on how it's going to be determined to be fair or unfair versus sloughing it off to the commissioner.
Hon. S. Bond: First of all, I want to just also respond to the member for Delta South. I really do appreciate and wanted to convey to her how much I appreciate occasionally a member standing up and recognizing that work has been done by staff and by the comptroller general which I think is in the best interests of British Columbia. I think occasionally those good things happen in this place, and I think it should not go without notice. I appreciate that.
The member brought us a series of concerns from her constituents, and we listened very carefully, and I think the comptroller general did as well. So I want to say that I appreciate the recognition for staff and for the comptroller general.
To the member opposite, I would like to suggest that we are hardly sloughing off this issue. We are bringing the most serious direction that one can provide, and that is through the law in British Columbia. This legislation will require the ferries commissioner to look at anything that might be perceived or, in fact, in reality have the ability to give B.C. Ferry Services an unfair advantage.
In fact, the amendment that we've already passed made sure that the scope was broad enough to cover whatever items might need to be considered in this. So I have every confidence that whoever is the ferries commissioner of the day will take the most serious guidance, which is the law.
Section 219 as amended approved.
Sections 220 to 223 inclusive approved.
On section 224.
G. Coons: I want to look at section 224 — a few questions about alternate service providers. I do want to look at the changes and acknowledge that since day one we've said this is not workable — to try to find alternative service providers, as far as section 69.
The minister, in her consultation and listening to the comptroller general, and I'm sure talking with B.C. Ferries…. I'm wondering what would be the cost per year of B.C. Ferries, the current operator, trying to put in effect section 69.
Hon. S. Bond: This section is really about looking at current practice. The comptroller general, at least, outlined that this particular practice has not been overly successful, and so the comptroller general actually recommended that we take away the mandatory requirement to look for alternate or additional service providers.
I can only imagine that the ferries commissioner would
look at requiring this if it were to be a cost advantage. I'm told, at least — and
would find that very practical — that this section actually might reduce costs.
[ Page 6129 ]
anticipate a large cost when we're removing a mandatory requirement — retaining it as an option. I can't imagine that we would see additional costs as a result of this section.
Sections 224 and 225 approved.
On section 226.
G. Coons: Section 226 is something…. The minister says it's not too often that a member stands up and says that this is a good amendment and that the government has listened.
Since day one, back in April 2003, there have been concerns about the exemption of B.C. Ferries from freedom of information.
The Privacy Commissioner had major concerns and sent a letter to the minister of the day, saying that they should not be exempt and that he had problems with them. Again, seven years of a lot of people trying to get information, whether it's people in the Legislature, MLAs, ferry users or the public.
I just have one question, and kudos for putting this in there. We've called for it. We've put forth our Fair Ferries bill on this side of the House, which included freedom of information. I'm just wondering: approximately, what would be the date of commencement of section 226 after this bill is passed?
Hon. S. Bond: I do want to provide a bit of context for the freedom-of-information issue, because I know the member has been very public with his concerns about this. In fact, you cannot…. Certainly, I think the comptroller general also made the point.
It is possible now for us to contemplate freedom of information for B.C. Ferries because there is no longer, once this becomes law, a requirement to look for alternative service provision. There was, and would have continued to be, an issue of commerciality. Now that that no longer exists, we are able to move B.C. Ferries under the freedom-of-information and protection-of-privacy process.
To that point, we have been clear that this will follow the normal course of procedure in terms of moving B.C. Ferries, as other entities, under freedom of information. There are a number of processes that have to be put in place, but I can assure the member opposite that we will do it as expeditiously as possible.
Sections 226 to 244 inclusive approved.
On section 245.
G. Coons: There is an amendment that I've had on the order paper dealing with 245, so I would like to put forward the amendment.
[In Part 12 – Transportation and Infrastructure Amendments, adding the following section:
SECTION 245.1, Section 75 of the Coastal Ferry Act, SBC 2003, c. 14, is deleted.]
On the amendment.
G. Coons: Just for the minister and staff and people following along, in 2003 when the Coastal Ferry Act came into effect, section 75, under the Ombudsperson Act…. It says that the Ombudsperson Act does not apply to the authority or to B.C. Ferry Corporation after its conversion. The amendment would make the Ombudsperson Act apply.
Travellers, communities, businesses and taxpayers are all affected by the decisions of the corporation, but at this point in time there's no requirement to consider their impacts. There is a public input component in this legislation, but there are concerns that people — whether they are in the tourism sector, trucking, construction, commuters, seniors — need to be treated fairly in the provision of all public services.
The Ombudsperson, as people know, is the independent voice for fairness so that every person in British Columbia is treated fairly in the provision of public services. There's quite a lot of information that the Ombudsman does, and it promotes and fosters fairness in public administration.
I believe that as we push forward to include B.C. Ferries and the authority under freedom of information, it also should be included under the Ombudsman Act.
Amendment negatived on division.
Section 245 approved.
On section 246.
G. Coons: Just a few questions about section 246. It talks about baseline remuneration of the directors of B.C. Ferries. Just so I understand it and to make this clear, what concerns did the minister have with remuneration of directors at B.C. Ferries?
Hon. S. Bond: Certainly before we draw to the end of our sections, I want to be sure to put on the record my thanks to an incredible staff team that we have working not only on this but on dozens of other initiatives at the same time.
Today I have been supported incredibly well by Peter
Milburn, Frank Blasetti and Nisha Bathe, and I appreciate the incredibly good job
they do on behalf of British Columbians. They represent a team of hundreds of people
in the Transportation Ministry, and it is an exceptional group of individuals. I
just wanted to make sure
[ Page 6130 ]
that they were given the appropriate thank-you for the work they do.
I think it's clear to the member opposite that, in fact, we shared the belief and the recommendation that the comptroller general made. Considering the nature of this organization — and despite the extremely good work that the comptroller general agreed that they did very well, in her report as well — because of the nature of the work that is done, it was important to look at compensation and remuneration that was comparable to public sector organizations. So this legislation will require that as we move forward, that principle will be applied to B.C. Ferries.
G. Coons: Yes, we had that debate over the last year or so about the directors and their retainer fees. I think this is a good move to compare them to public sector organizations.
Now, in section 246(4)…. This is very interesting, and I'm scratching my head trying to figure this one out. It says: "At the BCFS annual general meeting on September 30, 2010, the Authority must replace the existing directors by electing or appointing directors in accordance with section 21.1 of the Coastal Ferry Act." I'm assuming that's replacing the existing directors of B.C. Ferry Services.
Hon. S. Bond: It is the transition date where we will actually be separating the two entities, as recommended by the comptroller general and reflected in the changes in this bill. So that is the transition date where that separation will take place.
G. Coons: Currently there are 13 members on the B.C. Ferries board of directors. So in the next four months there needs to be a process for gathering up the 13 directors of the board within four months. What is that process?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, it will be a responsibility of the authority to identify and appoint those members, and it will need to be done within the act, which looks at skills. There are also restrictions as well. So it will be the responsibility of the authority within the act that we are debating.
G. Coons: As far as within the act, is there geographic representation? Would there be geographic representation on the B.C. Ferries board of directors?
Hon. S. Bond: The authority will retain its geographic differentiation, so there will continue to be geographic representation on the authority. The authority will appoint the directors according to section 21.1, which means that they must select individuals in a way to ensure that they are qualified, who hold all of the skills and experience needed to oversee B.C. Ferries in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
I think, to sum it up, the assumption is and the expectation would be that the authority finds the best people for the job, certainly the most qualified.
G. Coons: Thank you, Minister. As I understand it, the authority is chosen by geographic regions, but B.C. Ferry Services, for the 13 members…. Even though in the B.C. Ferry Services articles there could be 20 that we don't have access to, and the minister hasn't seen, or they don't have a copy of B.C. Ferry Services articles. There is still no geographic representation on the board of B.C. Ferry Services. Just clarify that, please.
Hon. S. Bond: As I said in my earlier answer, in fact, there are no geographic expectations when the authority appoints the directors. There is absolutely a requirement that they be skill-based, that it be a skilled-based appointment, so that we're finding the best individuals possible to actually take on this role. That, of course, is written in section 21.1, and those are the guidelines that would be utilized.
I'd also like to offer the member opposite a copy of the articles of the British Columbia Ferry Corporation. I know that he has expressed concern about not being able to get them for five years. In fact, it's a matter of going to the corporate registry and asking for them. You pay a very nominal fee. I'd be happy to share a copy of the articles with the member opposite.
G. Coons: One last question. When we started in section 206 and we looked at qualified B.C. Ferry Services candidate, we talked about whether or not there would be union representation. It is mandated to have a union representation on the authority, so I'm wondering: will there be union representation on the B.C. Ferry Services board?
Hon. S. Bond: As I mentioned to the member opposite, there are clearly expectations that there be qualified candidates based on skill and experience. The authority is more than welcome to consider representation from any sector, and that's exactly what we would expect them to do.
There will not be a change in the provisions, as I indicated, in terms of appointments by geography and by sector. In fact, the authority will make the ultimate determination about the appointment of the directors based on skill and their ability to function in the oversight role.
G. Coons: Again, I'm going
to have to check what was said, but I thought the minister said yesterday that the
representation would remain the same for B.C. Ferry Services when I had a concern
about the qualified B.C. Ferry Services candidate. It sounds like there is a possibility
that the B.C. Ferry Services board of directors will not have union representation
on it like it has had for the last seven years.
[ Page 6131 ]
Hon. S. Bond: I am certainly hoping that I didn't need to clarify my comments from yesterday. I thought the member opposite asked about the composition of the authority. The authority will retain the positions that it has today. The designation of those seats will not change. The reason that, in fact, there are members of….
The same composition today actually exists on both the board and the authority. That was the problem that the comptroller general identified. So when the two entities are separated in transition this September, the authority will retain those designated positions that they have today.
The change will be that the authority will now appoint another group of individuals or a group of individuals that will serve on the board. There are not the same stipulations around the board because we're separating the two entities as the comptroller general recommended we do.
Sections 246 and 247 approved.
On section 248.
Hon. M. de Jong: I call the amendment standing in my name on the order paper to section 248, item 15, altering the commencement provision.
[SECTION 248, by deleting item 15 of the table and substituting the following as indicated:
Provision of Act
|15||Sections 66 to 68||By regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council]|
Section 248 as amended approved.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: By agreement, I wish to revisit section 52 of the act. Thank you.
On section 52.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I would move an amendment, which is in the hands of the Clerk, that is changing a word in 52. [See appendix.]
On the amendment.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: That change is under the formula and under "EER," which equals "energy efficiency ratio." We are changing that to "energy effectiveness ratio." I would so move.
J. Horgan: It is with consent. The minister and I discussed the elaborate and complicated formula, which we canvassed thoroughly yesterday at committee stage. The minister was able to find an error with his staff, and I'm pleased that he was able to bring it back to this House and not complicate the passage of Bill 20 by having to explain it one more time.
Section 52 as amended approved.
Hon. M. de Jong: Madam Chair, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The committee rose at 3:50 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Reporting of Bills
Bill 20 — Miscellaneous Statutes
Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010
Bill 20, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010, reported complete with amendments.
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be considered as read?
Hon. M. de Jong: With leave, now, Mr. Speaker.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 20 — Miscellaneous Statutes
Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010
Bill 20, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. de Jong: That brings us to second reading on Bill 17, Clean Energy Act.
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 17 — Clean Energy Act
B. Routley: It is a privilege to get up in this House and speak about such an important issue — an issue that's going to make major changes to British Columbia.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
[ Page 6132 ]
I want to first comment that I think this act is really misnamed. What it should be called is what it really is all about, and what it's really all about is…. Here's a suggestion for you, hon. Speaker: "Clean out our public rights act." How about that? Or the "Energy and profits for our friends and insiders" act. That's a more appropriate name. Or the "Public assets dirty deal" act — there's another one.
Deputy Speaker: Member.
B. Routley: Yes, hon. Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: I will bring you back to consideration. The title of the bill: Clean Energy Act, Bill 17.
B. Routley: Exactly, hon. Speaker, the Clean Energy Act. You know, when I think about this act, I think that an appropriate name might be "A river runs through, but it's not for you" act. This act clearly has nothing to do with clean energy. It's all about fouling up the B.C. Utilities Commission oversight and empowering a handful of Liberals, if you can imagine this.
Just imagine a bunch of cabinet ministers — and I understand there are 25 of them; they're quite a bloated group — sitting around making these backroom deals that we have no knowledge about until some announcement comes out the other day — no transparency, no knowledge about exactly what's going on. And then we hear today that we can't even talk about this bill….
Deputy Speaker: The member will come to order.
B. Routley: Yes, hon. Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: It would not be appropriate to continue in that vein.
B. Routley: At the end of the day, what we want is for British Columbians to have public oversight, and this bill is taking away the rights of the public of British Columbia to know what's going on, and that is a very serious issue indeed.
You have to look at our rivers and streams, and who they should benefit, at the end of the day. Well, they should benefit all British Columbians, I would submit, but that's not what's going to happen here. What's going to happen here is that we're going to have major profits for shareholders — and for friends and insiders, I might add.
Under Bill 17…. Our rivers don't belong in private hands. Our rivers are spectacular places. Any of us can, I'm sure, envision a river. Imagine standing by a place that you think is outstanding, and any one of British Columbia's powerful and beautiful rivers can bring up emotions in how we feel about this place, about British Columbia.
So I have to ask, under Bill 17, when you think about this: is that really what we're going to end up with under the so-called Clean Energy Act — that at the end of the day it's just a whole bunch of backroom deals that are done? Our rivers — our spectacular rivers — should be there for our children and our children's children. They should be there for future generations.
I want to talk about all of these rivers. I really don't know how this government comes to the conclusions they do on rivers. What do they do? Do they sit in the cabinet office with a whole bunch of maps scrolled out, or do they wait for the satellite to send down a bunch of pictures, and then they sit around with a bunch of people dressed up in suits and talk about: "Well, you know, here are some rivers available"?
Carving up British Columbia…. That's what this Bill 17 is going to do — carve up British Columbia. And it's going to take away our public oversight. By doing away with the B.C. Utilities Commission, our public oversight is gone.
You know, I come from the Cowichan Valley, a region that's got a beautiful heritage river, and there are all kinds of tributaries that come into that river. In Cowichan Lake, which feeds it, there are all kinds of tributaries. I just want to mention that as part of this Bill 17, people are concerned: "What's it going to mean? Could one of our rivers one day…? Do we suddenly wake up one morning…? Does somebody throw a dart at a map on the wall and one of our rivers comes up?"
Well, that's unacceptable. I know that people…. I think about up in Lake Cowichan, the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society. This is the kind of concern that people have for rivers, and what Bill 17 is dealing with is rivers. There are all kinds of people committed to ensuring our rivers are looked after.
This group that I'm talking about — Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society in Lake Cowichan…. I was talking with Art Watson the other day, and he was telling me, if you can imagine this…. Here it is a heritage river, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people have come to the Cowichan Valley to visit that heritage river and to fish on its banks and in its tributaries and even in the lake.
[C. Trevena in the chair.]
This Salmonid Enhancement Society in Lake Cowichan is telling me that they're scrambling for cash. They've got, like, $3,500 donated to them, and the funding has been cut off. They need only $12,000 to run the program.
Here under Bill 17…. I heard the member for Juan de
Fuca the other day talking about a billion dollars for smart meters. We're going
to have a billion dollars spent so that we can have some gadget on the wall and
we can tell what's happening with our power. We can
[ Page 6133 ]
tell that somebody has turned the lights on or the lights off. But we can't come up with funding for little groups like that that are out there trying to rescue our fish in our streams.
We've got a government bent on taking control of rivers and streams all over the province, and I know the people that I've talked to don't understand how this happens. People have said: "We haven't seen an ad in the paper in Duncan or Lake Cowichan saying, you know, 'Get your rivers.'"
What is this? Like at the PNE — win a car, win a house? Now you can come down to the cabinet and win a river apparently. That's the gimmick that we got going on here, and this bill is going to allow that to happen. A bunch of people sitting around in a room, and who knows how they come up with these harebrained schemes on how they get their rivers?
But I have to be concerned. I think it's an absolute disgrace that our future power profits — in some cases, even the environment — are being forfeited by a government that has no mandate from the people of B.C. to do what they're doing, by eliminating the B.C. Utilities Commission. They didn't run on that, hon. Speaker. They didn't say: "By the way, we're going to get rid of any public oversight so that we can just have our way with rivers." It's just an absolute disgrace.
I look now at what's going on. And who knows what's going on behind closed doors? I get asked by constituents who say: "Well, how do all these things work? How do they come up with the number — a 60-year or 30-year contract? Apparently, they've got some kind of clauses in there to take into account inflation. My, my, that's a pretty sweet deal. Who picks the bargaining strategy that goes along with these rivers? You really have to be concerned about it.
You look at these independent power producers, and we know that what's happening here with this bill is going to have far-reaching consequences for all British Columbians for generations to come, just to provide some megaprofits to private power companies and their shareholders. They're going to be making profits that I believe belong to our province. It's absolutely scandalous that we're going to have all kinds of backroom dealings going on. A lot of it is with big political supporters and friends and insiders. That's an absolute sham.
This bill allows $10 billion in spending without appropriate public oversight, just to start with. It's going to remove consumer protection from unnecessary Hydro rate hikes and shift more of British Columbians' money into the hands of private power companies, and the profits aren't even staying in British Columbia.
Nearly 84 cents of every dollar paid to IPPs goes out of the province to corporate parents in either foreign countries or other provinces. Those are the reports that I've been reading. In 2008-2009 B.C. electricity consumers spent $203 million. They sent it to foreign-based IPPs — $203 million — and $163 million was given to out-of-province Canadian IPPs. Just $70 million was spent here by IPPs, independent power producers, owned and operated here in British Columbia.
Without the B.C. Utilities Commission oversight of major projects and independent power producers, the risk for British Columbians is just too great. The profits will be taken out of the province.
Let's contrast that a bit with some of the history. When you look at Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act, we had the spectacle of the Premier going up and having his picture taken up there at the Bennett dam. I had the opportunity to tour the Bennett dam within the last year and had a look around. It is quite an amazing spectacle, as well, as you think of the history that went on there.
I was recently reading an article. You know, the Internet is a wonderful thing. You can go on there and ask it questions, and it tells you. There was an article by Rafe Mair about W.A.C. Bennett and, if he were alive today, what he would be thinking. He comments that he thinks W.A.C. Bennett would want to support the NDP because…. And he makes some valid points. He says that back in the 1960s one would have had to say either that W.A.C. Bennett was a "brash free enterpriser" or that he was a "rampaging socialist," depending on one's viewpoint.
But he understood that private business should not be running B.C. Ferries. The issue here is about privatization versus the public having control. Who's going to have control of the future destiny of this beautiful province? Is it going to be put in private hands for the profits of a handful of individuals and people to spend money outside of the province? Or is the money going to be here and generated for the people of British Columbia?
That was old W.A.C. Bennett's vision, I would suggest. He understood that private business should not be running things like the B.C. Ferries or B.C. Hydro. He understood it, and certainly when you look at the history, it wasn't just B.C. Hydro, the B.C. Ferries. In fact, I was just a kid riding on the Black Ball ferry. I remember it well because I got lost, and they had to call over the speaker system. Fortunately, my mom and dad came and found me, but I remember being on that Black Ball ferry, and I remember where it docked up there in Nanaimo.
It's all gone. It's all history now, because the Premier of the day recognized that our ferry ought to be part of our transportation and highway system for British Columbia, that, again, it belongs to British Columbians, that we here in this province ought to have the right. The public oversight and control ought to be there of things like ferries, hydro and, certainly, our rivers and streams.
I would say that W.A.C. was certainly a free-enterpriser
at one point, but he was a British Columbian first and foremost, and his ideals
fit with ours. Why? Because we
[ Page 6134 ]
care about the future generations, and we know that it ought to be in the hands of the public.
B.C. Rail was another way. In terms of public policy, when you contrast that with what's going on here with Bill 17, the contrast is absolutely stark. Really, B.C. Rail — he looked at it. He took it over at a time that it was certainly losing money, and as a stand-alone business, B.C. Rail wasn't always a big moneymaker.
However, without it, we would not have been able to develop many of the northern communities, and B.C. rural communities and businesses all over the north benefited dramatically as a result of B.C. Rail, and now it's gone. Now it's gone, all under a cloud of doubt about exactly what went on, and the whole thing seems to be mired in the scandal. It's just a shame. It's sad. It's sad, really. It should still be owned by B.C. to generate jobs in B.C.
I've heard people talking about supporting the forest industry. You know, one of the things that would support the forest industry is to have B.C. Rail so that we wouldn't have to depend, go cap in hand to this new company. I understand from the forest industry that they're having to pay huge rates, and they feel that their competitive advantage…. Certainly, their costs are going through the roof.
So it's bad public policy, just as this Bill 17 is bad public policy. It's bad public policy because it takes away our public oversight and our future public energy and profits — some certainty for British Columbia. British Columbians are losing so much with this bill. It's unbelievable.
Look at what writer Rafe Mair suggests. He was talking about what old W.A.C. would have been suggesting, and he would have been thinking that we shouldn't be doing this because we shouldn't be dependent upon foreign companies. I absolutely agree with that — for our resources, our rivers.
Is there no feeling for British Columbia when Liberals on the other side stand on the banks of the rivers? Do they really look at those rivers and think: "It's just okay. Give it all away. Give it to some foreign enterprise to make money"?
Secondly, he made it clear that we needed to expand the availability of electricity to wherever we thought we needed it best, and no private company is going to expand into places that we may need to go as British Columbians unless there's profit in it for them. That's just the facts.
Thirdly, we wanted the price of electricity to be an incentive for the industry and business and fair to the public. For this to happen, B.C. Hydro had to be the conduit, if you like, for that. When you look at it, the rationale is very simple. The electorate, when it's under public control, can force their wishes at the ballot box far more effectively than they can affect any decisions in corporate boardrooms, particularly the corporate boardrooms of foreign companies.
You know, I want to pose…. With all of this change and uncertainty that this act brings, I want to talk about the fact that we've heard from some employees about the impacts of this. We know that this government is going to bring closure at some point pretty quickly here. They're going to ram this through against the wishes of many British Columbians. But the employees are very concerned about what this means.
When I look at the employees that are affected by the amalgamation of B.C. Hydro and the B.C. Transmission Corporation, there apparently have been some….
B. Routley: No, it's about introductions, but I'll get to that in a minute.
The employees are concerned about what's going to happen after this bill goes in, and just for the record, I want to be certain that we are concerned about the employees and the workers.
Certainly, this side of the House would want to make sure there was a transition that took as much fear and concern out of the workers as possible. I understand there were some communications that went out that said things about reviewing any vacancies or potential impacts and minimizing the disruptions. But there's still a concern that there may be some disruptions. So I just — into the record — want to be sure that that's an issue.
With that, I want to pause long enough to allow someone to make an introduction.
Hon. S. Bond: I appreciate the opportunity, and I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
Hon. S. Bond: Thank you to the member opposite for that. I very rarely get the opportunity to introduce two classes in one day in the Legislature, especially when students have to travel from as far away as they do from Prince George.
I'm very delighted today, on behalf of my colleague the member from Prince George North as well, to introduce the second group of students who are here from Westside Academy. They've had the opportunity to, I think, tour the Legislature.
I'm so sorry I didn't get to join you. I was actually
busy doing my work here in the House, but I know that all of my colleagues would
be most appreciative of the fact that your teachers and a number of adults have
made it possible for you, with a lot of hard work, to actually travel here to the
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We're very glad you came. We hope that you have an opportunity to take back some really good information and a great experience here in the Legislature, and I look forward to visiting your school very shortly.
Please, if the members would help me make welcome this group of students from Westside Academy.
B. Routley: Just to follow up on the employees' concerns. I don't know whether these employees are from the IBEW or the COPE Union, but I do know that they have concerns.
They want to be assured that there will be as little disruption as possible, so I would ask that the government communicate in any way that they can to try and allay those fears and concerns of workers and ensure that people feel that their jobs are secure and opportunities…. If there are going to be any, disruptions will be minimal. So any information in that way would be appreciated.
Finishing up on W.A.C. Bennett and his adherence to the principles of working for the common good of British Columbians, I would hope that this Liberal government would listen and learn from the lessons that worked so well in the past. However, I must say that I'm less than optimistic. It seems the Liberal government is intent on continuing this death spiral, I would call it, of telling the public that they have no concern for their public interest, whether it comes to the HST or, certainly, on Bill 17.
As I say, it's a river runs through, but not for you. That's sad. It breaks my heart to think that that's where we're going in the province. It's certainly not visionary in any way for the province to just be giving away the assets of our province to allow independent power producers to stuff their pockets with cash from B.C. resources like our rivers.
I think it's worth mentioning, in terms of transparency, and read into the public record…. I find it alarming when I read what was disclosed to me on the donations from IPPs — donations to the Liberal Party. Starting in 2001, they were somewhat modest. It was $32,240 that was donated that year. They ramped up pretty quickly, though. By 2005 there was $200,663.50, and then by 2009 there was $599,929.25 for a total since 2001 of — get this — $1,411,009.
This is the public oversight. Not only do we have the public oversight, but we're….
B. Routley: It's interesting. I hear some chirping from the other side about donations. You know, there's a big difference between a government closing the door to the public utilities commission, taking them out of the picture so that they no longer have any public oversight…. They're doing that at the same time as they're getting $1 million, $1.4 million. The public have a right to be concerned.
Where is the public interest in that? I think anybody on the street corner, anybody…. I ask any of these Liberals. You go down to the street corner, and you say: "You know what? We took $1.4 million from a bunch of people that we're doing backroom dealings with, carving out deals and writing up paper — all kinds of documents."
Well, how come we don't even know? We have no idea whether we're getting any profits for the people of British Columbia because it's a secret. We heard that today in question period. It's unbelievable. We have no idea what's going on, and all this cash….
How does one get one of these rivers? Like I said, I've never seen it in the Lake Cowichan Gazette that you could come on down and get one of these rivers. Come on down, eh? How does that work?
B. Routley: Yeah, it's not in any of the union newspapers. I haven't seen it in any union newspapers. I haven't seen it in any public newspaper, because there's some kind of cozy club going on here.
It's frightening to think $1.4 million…. I think that with no public policy, I would view this Bill 17 as like a stickup in broad daylight right here at the Legislature. That's what it is.
I remember watching the movie The Great Train Robbery. Well, that's chump change, at the end of the day, for what's going on here. This bill — we're going to be robbing British Columbians now and in the future. On this side of the House, we have a set of principles, and I'd like to contrast those and talk about….
I'd like to quote from our Sustainable B.C. principles — what we believe in. What we believe in is protection of the commons. The commons must be held and managed in the public interest. That includes our rivers and streams, our environment, the whole province. The commons must be managed in the public interest.
The shared public interests are water, air, fish, wildlife and parks and our protected areas, cultural and intellectual assets and amenities such as health care and education, public utilities and infrastructure. That is the kind of government we would be — a government that cares about the people of B.C. and is not running off doing deals behind closed doors that we can't even tell the people of British Columbia about.
"Oh, we have privacy laws," apparently. "Oh, we've got
privacy laws, so we can't disclose what we're paying, what we're giving away to
these friends." Isn't that unbelievable? You know, the other day, the minister from
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Shuswap — well, I won't comment — was wondering about my feelings…
Deputy Speaker: Members, order.
B. Routley: …on Bill 17, on that debate. We were asked the question…. He named me specifically in his speech. He talked about the member for Cowichan Valley in his debate on Bill 17, so I think I have a right to respond. He asked the question. The question was: what do we feel about corporations? I want to be clear that I think that they're very important — in fact, needed — in a modern economy. And it may come as a surprise to the members from the other side of the House.
The difference between us is that we believe B.C. politicians and our government shouldn't be in bed with the big corporations. That's the difference. We're supposed to be acting in the public interest. How can you tell the people of B.C. you are acting in the public interest when you're afraid to tell the public what's going on behind closed doors?
V. Huntington: It is so hard to follow the hon. barnstorming member for Cowichan Valley, but I shall try as I rise to speak to Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act, which outlines the government's plan for our province's energy future.
Let me say at the outset that the list of recommendations from the Green Energy Advisory Task Force is a remarkable piece of work, given the time frame allotted to the committee. As we so well know in this province, energy plans seem to come and go with the speed of lightning.
The former Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum's plan allowed "for the role of coal-fired generation in B.C.'s electricity future," a role that would "allow B.C. to compete for investment with neighbouring jurisdictions." Perhaps there should be a prize for the speed with which government jumps on bandwagons.
The Green Energy Advisory Task Force has provided us with a thoughtful and thorough approach to a modern power plan, one that could see B.C.'s power needs secured for years to come. While I have some concerns with the recommendations, in the main I feel the best interests of British Columbians were served well. But how those recommendations unfolded once in the hands of government is what we now face with Bill 17.
For myself and my constituents, I must look at how Bill 17 preserves and protects the environment, the power of independent oversight, the ratepayer and the rights of individual landowners and communities who will be impacted by power projects. On the face of it, no one can argue with the provincial mandate to produce clean electricity, both for our province and for neighbouring jurisdictions. And no one can argue with the wisdom of encouraging — even requiring — energy conservation.
As energy analysts point out, the best source of new electricity is conservation. Similarly, one can't argue with the idea of additional turbines or bioenergy calls or contracts with pulp and paper customers to purchase electricity. Who among us wants to disagree with the idea of reasonable and responsible run-of-river projects that can feed power into our grid?
But as usual, the devil is in the details — the details that disappear in a deceptive publicity that surrounds so much of what the government tables in this House. Every jurisdiction on this continent is developing a modern energy plan that will help it through the troubling years ahead.
I can't describe to members how much I wish I could support the directions outlined in the Clean Energy Act, how much I wish I could trust this legislation as the result of expert deliberation and honest appraisal. That it is an act that has the stamp of approval from experts in the energy field, experts in the environment and experts on agriculture — an act which is the result of a public discussion regarding the massive shift in direction it represents.
But that isn't what happened. The government didn't have time and didn't want to debate and didn't want to listen to the public or a broader expert perspective. As is the case in so many areas, transparency was and is nonexistent. The government knows best.
The Clean Energy Act is a political document that orders the experts, B.C. Hydro, to develop an energy plan that already has its parameters put in place by cabinet. To make sure the plan is just what cabinet wants, the Deputy Minister of Energy becomes the vice-president of B.C. Hydro. In another one of those devilish details, the former head of the environmental assessment office and the Premier's deputy of clean energy and technology is now the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum.
Who among us dreamt that B.C. Hydro, once the star of all public corporations, would be reduced to providing what its political overseers demand? I feel like I'm in the Chicago of the '30s, watching precinct politicians run their wards by proxy and backroom deals.
A radical policy shift is in the works, and the people of B.C. had better get ready to start paying for it. The policy shift represented by this act affects every individual in the province and defines an energy plan that changes the very nature of our public utility, that serves to privatize our common resources and that impacts the very essence of our physical environment.
Yes, it will likely make us self-sufficient, and yes, it will provide power for export, but at what cost? Is it a cost we should be paying?
Let's look at the environmental cost of this clean energy
bill. The task force appeared to have a clear
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understanding that the massive hydro power generation envisaged, whether run-of-river or stored, would have a massive impact on the environment. They clearly recommended, and I quote from the government's own press release, that "the province should review and strengthen the environmental assessment process to address and manage the cumulative effects of green energy projects and improve monitoring and compliance."
How did the government respond? Yes, they slipped the phrase "including potential cumulative environmental effects" into the Environmental Assessment Act. Did they review and strengthen the process? No, they painted a pretty picture by wordsmithing a permissive clause that permits the consideration of cumulative impacts. In this province the environmental assessment process only gets in the way of government policy.
Does the act provide incentives for the average citizen to assist us in the transition to self-sufficiency? No, but it provides plenty of assistance for private energy firms for the development of energy. Why doesn't the act encourage individual conservation and include a plan that can help the public achieve targets in a financially manageable manner?
The smart meter is a good idea, but it's a punitive one. Where are the rebate and grant programs that would encourage British Columbians to install renewable energy systems in their homes? Where is the personal tax incentive to make it attractive to install grid tie systems in homes?
American and European governments have shown that consumer incentives are vital to the installation of renewable energy technology and that renewable energy produced by citizens is an important part of the energy mix.
Does the act do anything to help remote and rural communities benefit from the energy plan? The task force recommended that the province "establish an equity fund to enable First Nations and remote communities to be full participants in the green economy." The government has created a First Nations clean energy business fund, but it has left non-native communities out in the cold.
Why shouldn't all communities benefit? Or is it the sad fact that government doesn't have a legal obligation to consult with non-native communities? These projects will have significant impacts, and every community should be the beneficiary to the largest extent possible.
What does this bill do for democracy in this province? Does it preserve the opportunity for independent third-party oversight of the energy plan? No. In fact, it deliberately removes oversight and places the authority for both approval and regulation in the hands of cabinet.
This consolidation of power is chilling and does absolutely nothing to make me feel that this government will protect the public interest in the face of business interests. On the contrary, the opposite would appear to be true.
Among the papers submitted to the task force was one prepared by the David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina Institute, Watershed Watch Salmon Society and West Coast Environmental Law. The paper was a solid and holistic approach to a comprehensive energy plan.
It asks that the province "identify the best and worst areas in B.C. for low-impact renewable electricity and plan the pattern of development accordingly." It asked the province to "ensure that the public and First Nations have meaningful opportunities to affect project plans while details are still being formulated, and to appeal licensing and leasing decisions." And like the task force, it asked for a strengthened environmental assessment process that addressed cumulative environmental impact and ensured "robust monitoring and compliance."
It also suggested that energy exports require that demonstrable greenhouse reductions will accrue in the importing jurisdiction. That is a comprehensive plan we could all support without hesitation. We could trust motives, actions and outcomes. We could believe that the vast development envisioned by this Clean Energy Act would have desirable and planned outcomes that could have been accepted by the citizens of B.C. But that is not the case.
I understand the vital need the province has for new sources of revenue, and I understand that power production for the export market will provide that source of revenue. I understand that the province feels the private sector is the cheaper, more efficient way to build that capacity.
What I do not understand is the willingness of the province to throw open our doors to a relatively new, untested industry that will have access to our lands and our waters, that will have markets secured for them by a public corporation, that will have transmission lines built for them by a public corporation and that will have little obligation to protect either our communities or the environment on which they depend.
Deputy Speaker: May I ask members to keep their separate conversations a little bit quieter so we can hear the speaker?
P. Pimm: I am glad to stand and take my position and speak to Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act. It's very interesting. The year that I've been in this House now…. It's very interesting to me to note the differences — distinct differences — that the government side has compared to the opposition side. I knew it was always there, but I didn't realize it was quite so large a difference.
Our government is consistently looking at the economy, looking at promoting jobs, looking at promoting the economy and doing that in a good way. This energy act is going to do that exact thing for British Columbia. It's going to allow us to produce some projects. It's going to allow us to generate some jobs.
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Even if we just look at one project alone — in my area, Site C. Nobody has talked much about it — 35,000 direct jobs. I think that's pretty impressive. We'll talk a little bit more about that as we go along here.
The member for Cowichan Valley talked about the rivers and the giveaway of the rivers. I don't really get that. This act enshrines the two-river policy. There are no more dams. It goes right into that distinctly.
He talks about BCUC being gutted. I disagree with that as well. The BCUC is going to be there. It's going to continue doing the job it does now. It sets aside a few projects that we can move ahead on, and I think that's good for our province. It's good for rural British Columbia. It's good for all of British Columbia. You know, the jobs that it's going to create in this province as a result of this act are going to be astronomical.
He talked a bit about W.A.C. Bennett. I think he'd probably roll over in his grave if he heard those words, actually. He had a vision, all right, but that vision was the W.A.C. Bennett dam. We're very proud of that dam up in our area, and I think everybody in the province should be proud of it. It certainly makes it so we can all have good, strong power for years and years, and Site C is going to add to that vision. That's all part of it.
We're so fortunate to be living in British Columbia. This is such a good province. I can't imagine ever living anywhere else. The northern part of the province, to me, is a beautiful place to live. But we get it. We get it that we have resources, and there's a little bit of a trade-off. You're going to have the resources, you're going to have jobs, and we understand that. It's a concept that seems to be a little difficult in other areas of the province.
There are so many things that are going to create jobs, and that's what this whole thing is about. It's about creating more jobs and keeping the economy moving and moving forward.
The area out to the west, in the northwest, with Highway 37 — the amount of jobs that project is going to create and what it has a potential of down the road is going to be great for an area of the province that desperately needs help. The potential is just absolutely amazing — what you're going to have from out there.
We're actually a powerhouse. We're going to be a powerhouse in clean energy. There's no doubt in my mind, and there's absolutely no reason we should be afraid of saying that we want to be a net exporter of power. I don't believe there's anything wrong with that. We're an exporting nation. We're an exporting province. We export lumber. We export our mining. We're an export-oriented province, and we should be proud of that fact.
It's because of those exports that we have all the wonderful things we have — that we have health care, that we have an education system we can all be so proud of — and continue to have those kinds of revenues. If we didn't have a resource community, we wouldn't have the revenues to support any of that infrastructure we've got. So I think that the whole energy act is a good act. I support this act 100 percent moving forward.
You know, we're going to have energy requirements over the next several years. Some of those requirements are estimated at 20 to 40 percent more energy required in the next 20 years, and I think that might be understating it. If we happen to have the growth that they're suggesting this province may have, we may have a need for more energy than 20 to 40 percent more. I think it's more like 60 percent more possibly.
So how do we get there? Obviously, through conservation. That's one way we get there, somewhere between 50 and 65 percent conservation that we're going to be doing.
The member from Cowichan talked about the smart meters and how that was such a poor idea. That's a good idea, and it's going to go a long way to getting us to a point where we're actually going to be able to see what kind of consumption we're using, what kind of time-of-day consumption we've got. It is also going to give us the opportunity later on to pick your peak times when you want to do stuff, and maybe you can do that at a lesser rate than what we're getting now. I think all that is very, very important.
The other way that we're going to get to our goals is we're going to have to have run-of-the-river projects. We're going to have to have biomass projects, geothermals, solar, wind. We're going to have to have all the projects. In order to meet the goals that we're looking for, building on our heritage assets, we're going to have to keep moving forward on all these projects, and all these projects are good for industry. They're good for jobs out there. I'm certainly proud of the fact that we are moving in that direction.
There's going to be a goal to generate 93 percent of B.C.'s electricity from clean, renewable sources, and I think that's an achievable goal. I think it's a good goal to shoot for; there's no doubt about it. This act is going to allow us to get to that level.
This act is also going to set up the foundation for electricity self-sufficiency. We're going to get there by 2016. That's the goal. I think we'll definitely meet that, and then we're going to get beyond that.
It's going to allow us to meet some of the markets and move forward with some of the projects. The heritage assets, including Site C, Mica dam, Revelstoke, the northwest power line, northeast power lines — these are all projects that are going to benefit all of British Columbia for many, many years.
You can look at the upgrades that have been going on
in the Revelstoke area, the B.C. Hydro upgrades at the Bennett dam over the past
few years. They're putting people to work. They're good, solid jobs. I'm sure the
member from Revelstoke would have to agree that these are good, high-paying jobs,
and they're jobs that people do need. So I don't understand why the opposition is
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opposed to this bill that is going to allow us to move forward and to create this kind of infrastructure that we so badly need.
The other thing that it's going to do is it's going to harness B.C. It's going to make us a clean power potential out there. It's going to create jobs in every region of the province. Every rural area is going to benefit from this act. There's absolutely no question about it. Northwest, northeast, Kootenays — all of those areas are going to benefit from this act. If jobs are what we're looking for, if the economy is what we're looking to build on, this act is going to go a long ways to help in that.
It's also going to give the independent power producers a market that they're going to have. It's going to allow them to continue to provide the jobs that they provide. They're going to provide 10,000 jobs over the next decade. That's a lot of jobs.
This act is also going to allow us to continue to have the lowest power rates in North America. At this point in time we've got the second-lowest power rate in North America, and I think we want to keep that.
P. Pimm: That's good, though. Second is pretty darn good, I've got to tell you. It beats the heck out of a lot of provinces, especially one right next door to us. It gives us that competitive advantage for our industry that we so badly need.
We've now got industry moving back to this province. We got through the regime of high taxes for industry, business and corporations. We've now got the tax structure in place to allow businesses to move back. We've got the energy in place to allow them to have good energy at a realistic and reasonable price. That's important. That's how you get corporations to move into your area.
We've got to remember that corporations and businesses are who provide the jobs. It's not people going out themselves and providing jobs. Businesses and corporations provide jobs. You've got to give them a climate that enhances the opportunity for them to invest and create jobs. That's what this act does. This act makes it so that we're going to have a stable economy and help move forward with the economy over the next…. I can see 20 years of good times here, coming forward, just by this act alone.
I'd like to talk a little bit more about the heritage assets. We're fortunate. In our area, with the W.A.C. Bennett dam, it's an asset that is there. It's one that provides us with the power in this building. As you know, we went through some storms here a month ago, and we lost power in our area. We lost power in the Lower Mainland. When you lose power for two or three days, all of a sudden you start realizing that you need to have that power. It's a fundamental part of our lifestyle and something that we definitely need.
Because of what the government has done, the investment in the heritage assets throughout the province…. That's what keeps our rates at the level they're at. That's why we've got the best rates anywhere, because we have those assets, and we continue to have those assets. We're going to continue to build on those assets, and that will continue to give us the rate at the prices we have today and keep us at that competitive edge.
Hydro has embarked recently on reinvesting in that infrastructure. They're going to spend $2 billion over the next few years on the aging infrastructure. They're going to bring that up to speed. They're going to increase some of the transmission capabilities so that we can actually accommodate the new infrastructure that's coming on stream.
By law, the low-rate benefits that come from B.C.'s existing and future heritage assets are going to flow exclusively to British Columbians, and they're not going to be used to subsidize export power sales. This bill sets that out. It secures those low rates for British Columbians, for our residents and for our industry over the next years to come.
The act ensures that our heritage assets are going to remain heritage assets. They're going to be owned by the province, and we're going to be adding new assets to that as well. The Highway 37 project, hopefully, is going to get cleared and move forward, hopefully this fall even. There are opportunities that that's going to move forward, and it's certainly going to help the whole northwest area — a lot of optimism coming around that project.
I'd like to talk a little bit more about that northwest power line. I was just recently over at our NCLGA meetings in Smithers. I got an opportunity to talk to several communities over there, and they're hurting. In that part of the province they're needing some help. So this hydro line is something that's going to help. It's going to allow industry to start thinking about making the investments, moving up that Highway 37, and they're starting to talk about it now. But the communities over there have to get on board with this as well.
When I hear the MLAs talking about not supporting that project, I don't understand where they would be coming from. It doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. In the northeast we understand that we have a resource there. We work with it. That's how we survive. That's what it's going to take in the northwest as well. They're going to have to start thinking about how to survive. So Hydro's going to be moving forward with that line. It's going to be one of our assets. It's going to be one of our heritage assets.
The line on Highway 37 is going to be high-voltage transmission. It's going to add to the grid. The project's going to provide a secure interconnection point for clean generation projects, supply clean energy to support industrial developments in the area, and it's going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by connecting communities now relying on diesel generation to that grid.
I know about that. We had one of the communities in
my area that went from everybody having their own
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generators in their back yard. They actually got to go on to a B.C. Hydro grid, and they're pretty amazed. It's changed that community. Every time I go and talk to any of those people, they're going: "Wow, how did we survive this for so many years?" Rural British Columbia. It's something that you don't even think about when you come from a big urban centre. But in rural areas, those are problems that you deal with on a daily basis.
It's amazing. This is a big project. The northwest transmission line is a big project. It's 335 kilometres from Skeena substation to the new substation at Bob Quinn Lake — $400 million. That's a big project. This government, along with the federal government, can see the opportunity, can see the potential — the whole northwest corridor. There's huge potential in that area.
The transmission line is going to result, I think, in a boom in the mining industry. There are 11 proposed projects in that region — $15 billion of potential investment and up to 10,000 jobs that could be directly attributed to the Highway 37 electrification. It's amazing.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the Site C project as well. Site C, in my area, is part of the vision we talked about — W.A.C. Bennett's vision. Site C is going to move forward. It's a huge announcement for our province, and 35,000 jobs could be directly attributed to Site C. I know, for myself, I'm going to be fighting to keep some of those jobs at home. That's going to be my number one role up there. I'm going to be securing jobs.
The opposition are fighting against projects like this. So when it comes to jobs, I'm thinking…. I don't understand. I don't know where their unions are at. They must be telling them in the back rooms, "We want those jobs too," but I guess, obviously, when it comes time to fight for those jobs, I'm going to be fighting harder for the non-union jobs, I have to tell you right now. Hopefully, we can fill them all up there, but I don't think we can. I think there will be a little spilloff.
The project, 900 megawatts in capacity, is a third of the capacity of the current W.A.C. Bennett dam, and all that capacity is going to be done within 5 percent of the footprint of the Bennett dam. I can't even get my mind wrapped around that, and I think a lot of people up there can't get their mind wrapped around it either. They think it's going to be another dam the same size as Williston, and it's going to be 5 percent of Williston, to create 33 percent of the capacity.
The smart meters. Again, 1.8 million customers are going to be on the digital solid-state meters. It's going to give us that opportunity to deliver real-time data for customers to manage their electrical consumption and the possibility for lower rates if you happen to be going at off-peak times. You have the possibility of saving even more money on your energy bills if you can turn your dishwasher on at ten o'clock when you go to bed instead of six o'clock, when it's the most used time.
The Environmental Assessment Act process will be strengthened by this act as well. It's going to specifically provide assessments for potential cumulative environmental effects. In addition, the development or proposed energy projects in parks, protected areas, conservancies are all going to be prohibited by law. That's part of this as well. I think the act itself is certainly going to be beneficial to the province. I think it's a good act. I think that's all I'll say about the act for today.
M. Mungall: As we all know, we've been signing many of the graduation certificates in this House. I've been seeing many members doing that, and it's because graduation season is upon us. That's the time where our high school graduates are going to be going across the floor, across the stage, and the tassel on the mortarboard is going to be moved from the right to the left to commemorate their great achievement.
It was actually about a week ago. Geez, time flies in this House, and it's hard to keep track of all the days. I was actually sitting in this House, listening to the minister start the debate for Bill 17, when I was signing the certificates for graduates in my constituency of Nelson-Creston. They are amazing and truly inspirational young people. I've had the opportunity to speak with many of them in their classrooms over the last year.
What I think is very interesting — not just having been signing those certificates as the minister was starting this debate — was it was so fitting because so much of what this act is about is about looking into the future, just as those graduates are doing right now as they take their step into adulthood and start thinking about what kinds of careers they want to be having, but not just careers — what they want to see out of their world.
They want to see things like environmental sustainability, social and economic sustainability. They want to see decisions being made for the public benefit because that's who they are. They're the public. This is so in line with what they're needing for our natural resources.
Hon. Speaker, I do believe that I have a colleague who would like to make a special introduction. I see several people in the gallery, so I'm sure this is exactly what it's for. I will let him do that.
G. Gentner: Thank you to the member for Nelson-Creston for my indulgence. I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
G. Gentner: It's a great
deal of pleasure for me today to introduce John Nyznik and Mr. Yang and fellow teachers
and parents and 50 grade 6 students from
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McCloskey Elementary School in North Delta. They were here, and they went down into the dungeon, and yes, they actually saw some Liberal cabinet ministers down there, along with the jail. Could the House please make them welcome.
M. Mungall: Yes, some of our guests who are here in the gallery, being in grade 6, only have six more years to go before they're going to also be graduating and getting certificates from their MLAs in this House.
Back to my point around creating a plan now for our natural resources. The things to consider are the exact same things that young people who are graduating from high school today are wanting.
They want to see that environmental sustainability. They want to see that public benefit. They want to ensure that the benefits that we accrue from our natural resources, such as water, biofuels, our trees, our agricultural lands, everything…. They want to be seeing that come back to them as part of the public. It is our resources, after all.
That, of course, is part and parcel with not just the social sustainability of making sure that when those benefits come back to us, we're able to deliver strong public programs like health care, education, post-secondary education — which many of the grads are going to be looking to this fall — but also we need to be thinking about economic sustainability.
How do we create a stable economy? Not one that rides a roller-coaster at the corporate whims of the day, but one that is stable, that ensures that we have long-term benefits, that our wages are matching the inflation, the cost of housing — which doesn't happen right now in B.C.
That's what people want. That's what people want to be seeing — especially the young grads of today — and how we manage our natural resources to maintain that, as well as, of course, the environmental sustainability. Here we are in the era of climate change, and we need to be thinking well into the future, just as the high school grads are, to ensure that we are maintaining environmental integrity.
What does this act do for that, planning for our future? Well, it fundamentally changes the way in which we are currently managing our resources and assets. But it doesn't do it in a way that I think most high school grads want to be seeing when we talk about public benefits and that social, economic and environmental sustainability. Rather, what we're seeing with Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act, is a fundamental change that creates a profit-friendly environment first and foremost.
It's about creating an environment where big corporations get to make big profits off the public's resources and the public's assets, and yet, do those profits come back to us? No, they don't. No, they don't. One thing, most notably, that this act does not even consider — and that the whole private power scheme that this government has not considered — is, of course, our free trade deals and the North American Free Trade Agreement and, currently being negotiated, the free trade agreement with the European Union, whose largest…. The largest corporations that want water privatization are housed in Europe.
We have these free trade agreements to which British Columbia, as a part of Canada, is going to be beholden. These are very important, as I learned today — again, learned today — on a radio show that I host called Women and Water, where I discussed with two guests about what's going on around privatization and international trade and how international free trade is actually the mechanism in which we are seeing water privatization in this country.
It couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to this government's private power plans that this bill embodies, that we are going to see the ultimate privatization of our waterways. Water is for sale in B.C., apparently; water is for sale in B.C.
M. Mungall: I hear some chirping from across the way saying that that's not true. Well, perhaps they should go and investigate and get more details around the international trade agreements, because that's an issue that that side of the House never wants to talk about. They never want to talk about that. But it is a fact of life in this country.
It is a fact of life, and if they went and actually did their research and learned how international trade agreements are going to be impacting their private power scheme embodied in this bill, they would know that exactly what they're doing is selling our water out to the highest bidder, who happens to, likely, donate to their party.
This bill not only reminds me of high school graduation simply because it's the season for high school graduation, and I was writing certificates of congratulations to Nelson-Creston grads when the hon. minister got up to start this debate, but I have to admit that it reminds me of some of the dates I went on when I was younger.
An Hon. Member: Do tell.
M. Mungall: People are eager to hear about some of these dates, hon. Speaker.
At first glance, this bill has got an eco-flirtatious
title. It's looking pretty good — Clean Energy Act, promises of development with
more renewable energy — and even includes some expensive, flashy advertising, trying
to make itself look good. But when you read the full document, those good looks
come to an end.
[ Page 6142 ]
This is one particular date I had with a cute guy. He was really cute, a really good-looking guy, and he professed that he was an environmentalist. We went out once. He went on and on and on about all the good things he does for the environment.
You know, he likes to reduce his waste. He recycles. He even has a compost bucket underneath his sink. Apart from that, he likes to go on hikes. He really enjoys being out in the wilderness, he'd say. He really enjoyed all of this beautiful, super, natural environment that we have in British Columbia, and he was doing his part to make sure that it was sustainable. Just as a parallel….
M. Mungall: Oh, the Minister of Environment is insisting that he's the guy. I bet you, hon. Speaker, he might have been. Otherwise, it might have been his brother. So just like this date of mine, who…. Maybe we'll leave it up for the B.C. public to decide if it was the Minister of Environment or not. We'll leave them guessing.
But just like this date, who went on and on about how good an environmentalist he was, how he cared for all the little critters in B.C., how he did the three Rs plus composting and all these good things for the environment…. You know, he was conscious about drinking water from the tap rather than buying it in water bottles and everything.
I listened to the words from the Minister of Energy and listened to the words that he said in opening up this debate, and it sounds really good, just like this guy I went on a date with. Here it sounds really good: "The Clean Energy Act responds to these opportunities and establishes a long-term vision for British Columbia to become a clean energy powerhouse." Doesn't that sound great, hon. Speaker? It sounds so good.
It goes on. [Applause.] Oh, they're just cheering for themselves across the way, because it goes on: "B.C.'s actions to implement the clean energy powerhouse strategy will focus on three areas: meeting the long-term electricity needs of British Columbians at low rates, harnessing British Columbia's clean power potential to create jobs in every region, and strengthening environmental stewardship and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Oh my goodness. My heart is pitter-pattering, almost, here.
But then we go on. Then the minister says: "But we will need to be even more aggressive with energy efficiency and conservation." More aggressive? Now, I'm an environmentalist, so I'm just thinking, like: "Oh, this sounds really good."
"The Clean Energy Act includes a new commitment to meet 66 percent of B.C. Hydro's future incremental power demand from conservation and efficiency improvement by 2020, an increase from the current target of 50 percent."
Members across the way are patting themselves on the back just like that guy I dated — so convinced that what they're doing and what they're saying is wooing me, that it's winning me over. They're so convinced that it's happening. They're like: "Here's this young gal on the other side…." Like this one guy I was dating. I was sitting across the table from him. He was sitting there, and he was, like: "I'm doing a good job. She's really liking me. That's what's happening right now." And it was working for a time. It really was.
Then he offered to give me a lift home. I was kind of liking this guy at this point, so I said: "Okay." You know, I did ride my bike there, so I thought: "Okay. I'll just leave my bike locked up overnight, and I'll take a ride home, just so I can spend a little bit of extra time with this charming, good-looking guy" — really cute, saying all these great, environmentalist things.
An Hon. Member: Did he run out of gas?
M. Mungall: Then I got outside. I didn't even get in the car. He was driving a Hummer, hon. Speaker. He was driving a Hummer. He's sitting there talking about how he's an environmentalist. I get out to his vehicle. He doesn't have a hybrid — or, better yet, have a bike so we could go bicycling together. That would be more environmentally friendly, especially since we got it before the HST came in.
M. Mungall: One member across the way says it's harder to park with a bike. Actually, it's easier, and he would know if he actually rode a bike to work. I know he doesn't, hon. Speaker, because I see him all the time walking down the street. I'm on my bike; he's probably walking to his car.
Anyway, back to the story about how this date of mine was driving a Hummer, the most environmentally unfriendly vehicle he could possibly be driving. That brings me back to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, to his speech that opened up the debate on this bill, Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act. It sounds good, but it's driving a Hummer.
Just like that guy who was driving a Hummer, here we have the member from across the way talking about what essentially is the Hummer of the Clean Energy Act.
"Site C will provide lasting economic and social benefits for northern communities, aboriginal groups and the province. It will create an estimated 7,650 construction jobs" — those are direct construction jobs, he said — "and up to 35,000 direct and indirect jobs through all stages of the project. Construction of Site C will be subject to regulatory approvals and to ensuring that the Crown's constitutional duties to First Nations are met."
He also says: "Site C and new turbines at Mica and
Revelstoke will ensure a source of clean, reliable, competitively priced power for
decades to come." Then he goes on to say: "All will
[ Page 6143 ]
still be subject to environmental assessments and to ensuring that the Crown's obligations to First Nations are met."
He wanted to really emphasize this, so I'll emphasize it too. He says:
"Let me read that again. All will still be subject to environmental assessments and to ensuring that the Crown's obligations to First Nations are met."
Come on. He's driving a Hummer. How on earth could he possibly be ensuring that environmental standards are going to be met for Site C when he's driving a Hummer? He's obviously not that dedicated to the environment when he's driving the most environmentally unfriendly vehicle there can possibly be.
Not only that, but he says that Site C is going to be subject to environmental assessments. But previously in his speech, those quotes I read previously, it sounds like Site C is a done deal. So which is it? Which is it? Is Site C going to happen, or is Site C going to be subject to environmental assessments? Because it sounds like Site C's going through. It's going through because these environmental assessments, as determined by the California Senate, are just like driving a Hummer.
Just like that Hummer that my good-looking date drove, the B.C. Liberal independent power project scheme isn't so good for the environment. We already mentioned Site C, but let's talk about what they like to say is run of river.
Well, we all know, especially in my region of Nelson-Creston in the West Kootenays, and it's been often said, that the run-of-the-river projects proposed under this Liberal government are more like ruin of the river and incredibly damaging to important ecosystems — just like that Hummer vehicle that that date I had drove.
Parallel that to this government's IPP scheme that is going to be rolled out and expanded upon with Bill 17. That scares us in Nelson-Creston, because we've already fought very, very strongly for two lovely creeks, beautiful areas of the region, Glacier and Howser creeks — just located off Duncan reservoir — which a lot of people would like to see a turbine in.
What Glacier and Howser creeks were going to look like after a proposed private power scheme would be a dam up about 22 kilometres from the road turnoff, a dam diverting the water into a total of 16 kilometres of penstock the size of a bus in diameter — diverting that water, never to go back to the creekbed again. It wouldn't go back there. It would go through the penstock, eventually heading back down to the lake after it's generated around 100 megawatts of power — private power, which would then be transmitted to the East Kootenay.
How? How would it be transmitted to the East Kootenay, you're wondering? You know that there's no power transmission there. Well, let me tell you. AXOR corporation, along with building these dams and these turbines in the back country, in pristine, beautiful wilderness, was going to build a transmission line from the one side of the Purcell Mountains over to the other side in the east Kootenay.
They were going to do it right through ancient forests, cutting down beautiful, ancient trees that provide homes to a diversity of wildlife, to a diversity of plants so important for our biodiversity that ensures that our province is environmentally sustainable.
It would have damaged habitat for endangered species like the wolverine. Studies are a little bit inconclusive at this time, but a lot of proponents for caribou habitat were concerned that this was going to negatively impact them as well as grizzly bears. But right in the creek, going back to that Glacier Creek…. It's home to blue-listed bull trout, genetically unique to that creek. Because of the Duncan dam, we would have lost them, and it was precisely because of those little critters, those bull trout, that we were able to stand up for them and stop this project.
Over 1,000 submissions were written in to the environmental assessment office. Over 200 people came out in Meadow Creek to have their voice heard on the Glacier-Hawser proposed project; over 300 people in Invermere. In Kaslo there were more people at the public meeting than there were that actually live in Kaslo.
Over 1,100 people packed J.V. Humphries gymnasium to say: "We don't want to see this project in our area, and frankly, we don't want to see this type of scheme anywhere in British Columbia." So I know that when I stand here today, people in Nelson-Creston don't want to see Bill 17 because they see it for what it is — that Hummer of a vehicle.
But the other side, you know, does keep saying that we're going to have low rates. Now, every time we hear the minister saying that, I know he's sweet-talking me. I'm very sure that he is. In fact, I was listening to his speech when he first opened the debate on this bill, and he says: "The benefits of electricity exports will accrue to all British Columbians, but ratepayers will not bear the cost."
"Trust me," he says. "Trust me." He also says earlier on in his speech, and I've already mentioned this part: "Meeting the long-term electricity needs of British Columbians at low rates." That's the goal of this bill. That's what he says.
That's some really good sweet-talking. I've got to be honest. I've got to talk about another guy I dated. I was a bit more committed to this one. We actually moved in together. Yeah, I was pretty young. Before we moved in together, he did say that the rent and the housing costs would be low. But he wasn't quite upfront with how low that they were going to be, and he wouldn't tell me necessarily why they were going to be low. He wouldn't let me look at the books, and I very naively moved in with him all the same.
At this point you might be thinking that I have dated
a lot of guys who aren't too stand-up, and I have to tell you that my dad reminded
me this last weekend that he
[ Page 6144 ]
would agree with you. He said, "My daughter, you have not dated a lot of good guys, but thank goodness you're with a good one now," and he pointed to my current partner.
It's true. I have kissed a few toads in my lifetime, so I know when I'm seeing one, and I see one again when the minister says that rates are going to stay low. I see another toad here — some good sweet-talking, just like that guy that I dated or even moved in with, and he told me that rent was going to be low, and you know what? It wasn't low. It wasn't low at all.
Of course, everything was costing more, and I can tell you what I did with that guy. I left, which is how maybe British Columbians are feeling about this government these days.
Anyhow, how does this act behave just like that guy that I moved in with so long ago? Well, it paves the way for IPP development off of our natural resources and guarantees the corporations running IPPs an export market at the ratepayers' expense. I'm going to have to pay more. I had to pay more for rent when I lived with that guy. Well, now I'm living with this government, and I'm going to have to pay more. This is not a sweet deal — just sweet-talking.
Section 8. Let's go right into the act. Section 8 of the act requires the B.C. Utilities Commission to allow rate increases so that B.C. Hydro can pay for projects, programs and contracts, particularly contracts with private power producers. We're going to have to increase rates to make sure that we can have those contracts with the private power producers. Sounds to me like I'm going to have to be paying more.
Considering that most of B.C. Hydro's energy purchase agreements with private power companies are above market value and certainly above what it costs for B.C. Hydro to generate its own power, you can expect us to be paying more.
I love going back to the minister's speech — right? — because like I said… The minister is so proud of his speech, but I've referred to it several times. He's standing there patting himself on the back, trying to be an environmentalist, but he drives a Hummer vehicle.
M. Mungall: The minister is fixating on a particular issue, hon. Speaker, and it's not the issue at hand.
"In addition to Crown investments," says the Minister of Energy, "new independent power projects will also be needed to achieve the self-sufficiency requirements." We're going to have to do this, he says. "The clean and renewable electricity and technology sector has contributed significantly to the development of British Columbia's electricity system, and the Clean Energy Act creates new opportunities" for them. That's where he's going.
"The Clean Energy Act will expedite B.C. Hydro's electricity purchase agreements…." It will expedite them. What does that mean? If we're expediting them, the question then says: well, who's expediting them? Why, and who is watching on behalf of the public? Going back to my parallel of that guy that I dated, I wasn't watching very closely as I should have been when he said: "Oh, don't worry. The rents will be low, dear."
My dad was the smart one, like BCUC, saying: "Don't get mixed up with this guy." That's what my dad was. My dad is a good guy, and he knows that I deserve better. I've got to agree with him, and I've got to agree with BCUC here. I've got to agree with them, because they've been watching out for the public. They've been watching to protect our interests. They've been looking at the books on our behalf.
What have they found? They've found that this Liberal government's plan is not in the best interest of British Columbians. How did the Liberal government respond? It responded by hobbling BCUC, by reverting decision-making on energy production to the political realm of cabinet. Not an independent body that's there solely for the benefit of B.C. residents but to the political realm of cabinet — a cabinet, by the way, that has received over $1.4 million in donations from independent power producers.
Here we are. We have them being pulled in two different directions. One direction is to do the right thing. It's being pulled by an independent body. The other direction is by their donors. I feel like they're choosing their donors over the public, and that is wrong.
Like I've said throughout this contribution to the debate on Bill 17, I've kissed enough toads in my life to know that the only thing that's being offered by Bill 17 is yet another toad. It is not good for British Columbians. I'm going to be paying more, British Columbians are going to be paying more, and our interests are not going to be at the table for our energy interests.
The grads who are going across the stage right now throughout B.C. and celebrating their achievement of graduating from grade 12 — they're not going to be seeing what they want out of this bill. They're not going to be seeing environmental sustainability, social and economic sustainability, and public control over public assets and public benefits coming back to us. That's what they're not going to be seeing.
R. Cantelon: I was held
spellbound for some time here listening to the travails — I won't say escapades;
that's not the word I intend to use — and adventures, perhaps, of the member for
Nelson-Creston. I'm very relieved to hear that the story had a favourable outcome
personally for her. I'm greatly relieved about that. I wondered for a moment to
myself whether we were going to have to evacuate the grade 6s in the gallery before
the story was played out fully, but thankfully not.
[ Page 6145 ]
I understand. I mean, to be confronted by this eco-flirtation, I think she called it…. I guess the individual would have to be called an "eco-imposter" — or something like that. Certainly, it was not a happy experience for her, and we're not surprised that she acquitted herself well from the situation.
But I want to talk about the Minister of Energy, who is sitting here today. The Minister of Energy has been referred to as a sweet talker. I don't know if sweet talker is a phrase we would use in connection with our Minister of Energy. We love him dearly. He's very bold, and he's very persuasive. That's true.
R. Cantelon: Bold, not bald. Sorry. Let Hansard read "bold" with an "o."
I don't think he would be called a sweet talker. And he doesn't drive, I can assure you, an energy-consuming Humvee at all. In fact, his preferred mode of transportation has only two wheels and two cylinders. He drives it modestly. It's very conservative. So he's anything but a sweet talker.
As he's presenting this bill to us, Bill 17, I know that uppermost in his mind is that he wants all British Columbians to respect us in the morning. That's uppermost in his mind. Indeed they will, not just in the morning but in decades and centuries to come, because this is a very bold — not bald — forward-looking act that takes us into the next decades and into the next century, with energy self-sufficiency. It's certainly something that we need.
R. Cantelon: I hear some comments from the member for Juan de Fuca who, on the subject, has commented — and I hope I'm quoting him correctly — on the Voice of B.C., on February 1: "The notion that we need to be self-sufficient in electrons seems to run hollow in my brain."
I won't give him a whole physiology lesson — I know he's present and would appreciate these comments — but the electrons are actually synapses in the brain. They actually cause thoughts. That may be a new concept for the member for Juan de Fuca, but that's actually what it is. I encourage him in the development of that activity. It will be only beneficial to both sides of this House, and we appreciate his comments.
Let me move on and move away from the…. Although we certainly appreciated the comments from the member for Nelson-Creston, I would like to take issue with a couple of them.
She mentioned the concept of selling water. Well, of course, I think that's certainly a misconstruction of what is actually happening. The water goes nowhere but stays in British Columbia. It's returned to the streams in a manner that's useful to the fish, wildlife and other recreational purposes. The water isn't sold.
But we do extract the energy from it, and I think this is certainly a very clean way to do it. It doesn't require any harm, with emissions or anything else being put into the atmosphere, but it takes the power out of the water and returns it peacefully — its energy withdrawn from it — into the streams and gives us the benefit of ongoing sustainable power.
Sustainability is a key word. I agree with the member opposite from Nelson-Creston that young people are indeed interested in sustainability. Certainly, the people in my area are, as the representative from Parksville-Qualicum. We're very cognizant on Vancouver Island of not being able to be self-sufficient in hydroelectric power or any other form of power. We have a couple of small hydroelectric facilities. We have, of course, a biomass project up in the Deputy Speaker's own home riding of Campbell River, which works quite efficiently.
Some time ago, when I was sitting on Nanaimo city council, there was a proposal for a natural gas energy plant facility to produce power through steam. While it was certainly the most efficient device of its type in the marketplace, very similar to the one that's installed in Campbell River…. In fact, the entire turbine could be placed in this room, and yet it would power an immense amount — about 20 percent, as I recall — of Vancouver Island's needs.
Nevertheless, it was powered by natural gas, and even though the zoning was in place to install this at Duke Point and the project could have gone ahead, the developers and the proponents respecting the concerns of people living in the Nanaimo airshed — in fact as far as Gabriola Island — backed away from that proposal, although they could have done it.
So I'm very aware that the citizens on Vancouver Island are very sensitive to the environment, very sensitive to sustainability.
We have an older demographic in Qualicum Beach, in Parksville where I live — some of the more senior of seniors in British Columbia. But they're very sensitive, as they enjoy their senior years, that they want to leave British Columbia as beautiful as the community that they were born into or came to, whichever the case may be. They're very concerned about sustainability, and that's why it's so important that this act move forward and that we adopt it and, so importantly, why I support it.
Some of the clauses, I think, in terms of sustainability
are that the Environmental Assessment Act process will be strengthened to specifically
provide for assessments of "potential cumulative environmental effects." The member
for Nelson-Creston and her community reacted to the immediate effects, but I think
we need to go beyond that to assess what the cumulative effects are over a period
of time, the effects of developing energy sources for the people of British Columbia.
[ Page 6146 ]
I think that alludes not only to greenhouse gases and other emissions but to other cumulative effects that we may have through watershed diversions and other effects — that we remain as neutral as we can with respect to the environment and keep our footprint as small as possible.
The development of energy projects in parks, protected areas and conservancies will be prohibited by law. Now, that seemed to be a pretty obvious thing to do, and yet there are fearmongers. I'm not accusing members on the opposite side, but there are people who continually say: "Oh, they're going to go into the parks with run-of-river projects or conservancies or dam this water in a park area." This law protects our future citizens from any such incursions into protected areas, and I think that's a very important principle.
The member for Nelson-Creston also mentioned that big companies and big corporations will profit. Well, she's right in a way, because the biggest corporation in the power business, which is B.C. Hydro, definitely will benefit from this act. The sole shareholder, the citizens of British Columbia, will benefit. The biggest company will get bigger.
They're going to acquire the assets of the B.C. Transmission Corporation, which was originally created in 2003 to respond to industry directions in being able to wholesale and sell power. But it became clear that it was more workable to have everybody under one roof and that they could consolidate and become more efficient with using the same human resources departments and other management capabilities.
B.C. Hydro will get bigger, and they will combine into a single corporation with one board of directors and one executive. I know the members opposite are loath to hear about the highly paid executives and directors, and they're loath to hear the high salaries given to corporate directors and corporate chairs. So I'm sure they're going to be heartened. They may not mention it, but I will, if I may. Certainly that's why I'm here.
They'll be merged into one board of directors, one executive and the transfer of B.C. Transmission Corporation's assets, liabilities and employees to B.C. Hydro. So we'll have one large corporation, and it will be owned by….
R. Cantelon: That's right. Well, we counter those who would say we're simple ideologues…. We're not. We're practical, and we do what is best under the circumstances. The integration will be owned by the province of British Columbia, and public ownership of B.C. Hydro's assets will remain protected by legislation.
I think this is going to be the stake through that devil that we hear: "You're going to sell off B.C. Hydro." No — wrong. You're going to have to put that myth away from your catalogue of suggestions to assail us with. By law now, B.C. Hydro will remain protected by legislation. British Columbians will benefit from a unified, publicly owned entity that will capitalize on the proven strengths and trusted service of both organizations.
I think this puts to calm a lot of myths and fears British Columbians had that we were selling the assets of British Columbia. We're not selling them. You got it? By law, we're not selling them. So there we are.
I think these two moves to make British Columbia's greatest assets, our power and river resources, under the control and direction and development of B.C. Hydro is going to be a long-term and great benefit to all citizens of British Columbia.
The member for Nelson-Creston did mention, again on the big companies issues, that it's to the benefit of big companies. I think one of the most encouraging things that I see coming out of this act is the diversification not only in methods of developing hydro power resources and other hydro resources — certainly not hydro power alone, but the diversification within the province.
I mentioned earlier that on Vancouver Island we're very acutely aware of the fact that we have to import the majority of our power from the Mainland. We're sensitive to the fact that this power must come through other corridors, that it's not always a popular thing to the residents on the Lower Mainland that the power has to be funnelled through and delivered to Vancouver Island so that we can turn on our lights and our stoves and enjoy the electrical benefits that are common everywhere in British Columbia.
I'm very encouraged by the fact that now we're attempting to diversify in locations on Vancouver Island not only geographically but by methods of power generation. There's a group on Vancouver Island near my area called International Composting Corp. They're a very, very unique corporation. They have developed patents worldwide on composting what is to everybody else refuse, garbage — unwanted material basically.
They have digesters that would nearly fill this room, a couple of them, and they use an anaerobic process that takes virtually any input and slowly rotates it in this massive drum. Over the course of three days the material decomposes naturally at a temperature that kills all the pathogens. So there's absolutely no material that could be harmful to anyone from a bacterial or organic point of view, and it's done anaerobically — that is, without air. That's one of the factors that kills all the germs and the bugs in it.
At the end what you have out is a neutral-smelling,
almost earth-like material. They've developed this process that works very, very
well. The only disadvantage is that it produces too much material, which is normally
used for composting. It produces an abundant amount of this material, literally
tons of it. In fact, they would be very
[ Page 6147 ]
interested in looking at expanding their facilities. Their model is scalable. So they could move it to handle all of the Lower Mainland's garbage.
But it's working very well. They're taking garbage from the regional district and from Cowichan and composting all the normal waste from restaurants initially. Now we're doing pickups in Qualicum Beach and other areas, and the residents are responding tremendously.
It has a double benefit here. First of all, the garbage, the organic material, is collected and then sent to this facility and composted. It composts beautifully and completely down to something that looks like black soil.
They've been working for some time on their process. It's patented and works well. It produces an excess amount of material. As I mentioned, they would also like to expand it to other areas. It has a secondary benefit, then, of diverting stuff from the landfill, as well as having a potential for power.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
But we're here to talk about the potential for power. I'm surprised members opposite haven't alerted me to my diversion here, but I thank them because I know they're so engrossed and engaged by my story about this.
Now they have this excess of organic material, and they can't, frankly, sell it fast enough to empty their storehouse of it. Now, what they're going to do with this project that's being funded through the climate action fund will be to gasify this material.
What they do when they gasify it is basically break it down to its elemental compounds. They can select, then, from an array of output materials. One of the ones that probably is going to be most usable will be methane. Methane is one of the worst greenhouse gases, as we all know, and a common by-product of cattle and also of waste landfills.
The methane can be converted and added to gasoline, so we can have biodiesel or biogasoline. It can be taken all the way to an energy source as well. Let's remember that this is all emissions-neutral because it all starts with naturally growing organic material, put in a digester and comes out the other end. It can be burned directly, and steam can be created through turbines and, therefore, enhance the delivering power. So they have great potential.
Japanese investors have been looking at this technology and looking at it from two points of view, from diverting stuff into the landfill, because garbage is a worldwide problem, but also into power production. Chinese investors, as I've mentioned, have looked at this technology. It's unique in the world and shows great promise.
I'm very encouraged that this holds hope not only for power production on Vancouver Island but perhaps for the Lower Mainland and perhaps exporting it to all the world. I'm sure that this will happen.
They're entrepreneurs. This is not a big company, as was alluded to today by the member for Nelson-Creston. This indeed is a small company of a handful of people that has the potential to become an international leader in energy production.
While I'm on that, in terms of talking about the regional district of Nanaimo, I would like to compliment Chairman Stanhope and all the members of the regional district of Nanaimo for all the energy-saving ways they've taken. Diversions from the landfill now exceed 60 percent, but more specifically, they now are capturing all the methane from the landfill. That methane is being converted into production of energy and being put back in the grid through diesel engines.
Of course, please remember, these diesel engines are running on the product of methane which is, in effect, natural gas, which is developed and normally would go into the air and pollute our atmosphere. We're capturing it from the landfill in Cedar and putting it into diesel engines, which are now producing power. That is one part that the regional district is doing.
The second one that they're very ahead of the curve on is taking methane from the solid waste plant and converting fumes, which usually have a very noxious and unpleasant odour to residents. They're capturing that and converting that, again, into methane and putting it into diesel power and generation.
So there are two initiatives, taking both sewage waste and organic garbage waste and converting it into energy. These developments are very heartening to people on Vancouver Island because they're very concerned about the sustainability of energy, as mentioned by the speaker from Nelson-Creston.
Certainly, all our people on Vancouver Island are very sensitive to environmental implications and are greatly heartened, I know, and will be supportive of the many parts of this act that protect the environment, that require further and more extensive long-term environmental assessments that prohibit the development of parks and conservancies. The people on Vancouver Island want it kept the way it is as a beautiful island.
But that's only one of them. There are several others. There's an intriguing one near Ucluelet. This is done by the Pacific Coastal Wave Energy Corp. This is something that people have talked about and said: "Why don't we use the energy from waves?" It's a complex and intricate technology. You would think the energy is the wave hitting something that would do it, but there are various ways of collecting the energy.
As the wave passes through, it can flip a series of turbines — or other methods. It takes a considerable amount of waterfront, which is one of the concerns from an environmental point of view.
Of course, it's absolutely endless in its supply potential.
Anybody who has been to Ucluelet to experience
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the great storms out there and the waves and the surf coming in…. It's a regular surf rolling into Ucluelet, and if they're able to practically capture this energy, it's going to be a completely limitless supply, ongoing. In terms of sustainability, it gets no better than this, because it will be limitless and perennial.
The other one that people often talk about — and, again, I'm very proud that this is taking place on Vancouver Island — is the Canoe Pass Tidal Energy Corp., another small company near Campbell River.
I think we can all recall or have heard about Ripple Rock, that great hazard in the middle of the straits near Campbell River that had to be blown up, and the continual stories about loss of boats caught in the huge whirlpools and swirls as the tide ebbs and flows. Basically, all the Gulf of Georgia — well, the Salish Sea land — has to exit through that as the tide comes in and water comes in from the bay's north. They're immense, powerful currents. Now they're exploring how to harness that energy in a way that won't affect the environment, affect the fishery, but that can be used for power generation.
It's hoped that on Vancouver Island we'll be able to take advantage of some of these power sources to alleviate the reliance we have — and more than just an inconvenience to the residents of the Lower Mainland, who don't appreciate power lines going through their properties, as we found out so acutely in the last election.
These are just some of the things that I think affect Vancouver Island. We've got a couple of others that I'll mention that I honestly don't know as much about. There's a solar photovoltaic and solar thermal project on a First Nations land. There's SyncWave Systems, another ocean energy project in Tofino that, I understand, takes advantage of the tide differentials. Basically, it's a matter of having large semi-submersible devices that look like oversized jellybeans that tilt, and when they tilt, they move generators to produce power.
So there are lots of unique ways of producing power that we're looking at. Of course, they're looking at a biodiesel production facility in the capital regional district, I understand, similar to what the Nanaimo regional district is.
All of this has been encouraged. I think Bill 17, the Clean Energy Act, makes it not just an opportunity; it makes it an imperative. We're committing to energy targets that will require all of our resources, all of our imagination, all of the new projects we can develop, as well as developing the traditional systems of power generation.
It's certainly a boon to the science and development of these scientific projects, the development of these new technologies, these new energies, that hold great hope for export of energy.
R. Cantelon: I think the synapses are going off on the other opposite side again, and I'm glad to hear that. It's always good to have them participate in the important discussions.
Some of the other points I'll briefly talk about. Some of the ones seem minor, at first, but they have large impacts. A good part of how we're going to face our energy needs in becoming self-sufficient is going to require conservation. I would comment that, again, the member for Juan de Fuca….
I'm going to talk about smart meters and how they help us save power — and smart grids. If I don't misquote: "Cancel the $1 billion smart meter project and use the money to expand conservation programs and control rate increases." Well, that wasn't the member for Juan de Fuca. He specifically said: "In principle, that sounds like a pretty good idea for grow ops."
If I don't quote you correctly, please stand up and correct me. I would be happy to hear that. Apparently, that is what he said. He nods.
The smart meter program is certainly sympathetic to our approach. This will give individuals the opportunities to save energy within their own homes because they'll be aware of how the meters work in a new digital format. They'll be able to log exactly how much different aspects of their household, their utilities, cost in terms of energy.
We think, and I'm sure, that people are all sensitive to energy wastage. Everybody in British Columbia is very sensitive to how wasting energy can waste our resources, and certainly, I think that these smart meters will be a great addition. The payback is tremendous.
R. Cantelon: Well, certainly…. Let's put it to you this way. Now, this is a concept that I know is far beyond the mathematical computations capable on the other side, but the net present value, what that's worth to us today, is $500 million. Get those synapses working, Member for Juan de Fuca: $500 million is what it's worth to us in cold, hard cash today, and that's a good chunk of money.
That's how we're going to have to do it. It's going to have to be 66 percent through saving energy and giving people the choices, the options, to monitor their own hydro, to use power in an effective way. For example, flipping the dishwasher on at night is one of the many ways it will help save power. I know that our citizens are going to be very sensitive to it and be very effective in saving power.
The other part is the smart grid. Now, what is a smart grid? Basically, the traditional methods of hydroelectric power envision a large central dam or source of hydro power that goes through simple transmission lines to its end users. But now we're in a much more intricate environment as we develop more diverse methods of generating power, some of which I've mentioned here.
Also, they have mentioned run-of-the-river projects.
By the way, one of the most successful is on Vancouver
[ Page 6149 ]
Island at China Creek. It has been expanded. It's a great partnership between First Nations and the power producer, and they're expanding it and going to the next phase. It's done in a way that's very sympathetic, and no one is more sensitive to the effects on nature than our First Nations.
It's done in a way that, again, withdraws the power, not the water. I don't know how they get confused about that — that it's withdrawn from the river and bottled or something. It's not. The power or the energy is taken from the water, and the water returns to its stream bed. Of course, that's a very sensitive environment area for salmon reproduction. Certainly, everything has to be done consistent with maintaining and preserving the salmon runs in the Alberni Inlet, and it is. That's extremely important. Certainly, it wouldn't be going ahead without their endorsement.
We have this variety, then, of diverse sources of power and energy, and it's a different game than simply water from the dam out to the user. The power, then, has to be drawn from these many resources and channelled through a smart grid. A smart grid basically analyzes your power usage on a more detailed grid or detailed pattern and puts the power where it's needed quickly, but it also will have people feeding power back in.
We were given the opportunity to consider, for example, when electric cars come. What we might do is plug our cars in not to charge them at night but to have their excess power bled off so that it can be used and sold in other areas. So the smart grid will enable us to most effectively use power where it's most effective and also to sell power when the opportunity presents itself.
I think there are many, many benefits. I think this closes and puts away some of the myths about selling B.C. Hydro. By law, that won't happen. In fact, the opposition members will say: "So what." I will say: "Well, we made it into one big corporation, and there's only one shareholder."
I think we've committed to staying out of the parks. We've committed to more stringent environmental assessments and moving forward to consider not only the immediate effects but the long-term effects. I'm sure that when the synapses get moving on the other side of the House, they will certainly see the benefits and understand them for the benefit of all British Columbia.
D. Routley: It gives me some displeasure to have to rise to oppose the Clean Energy Act, which is another example of the failure of this government to act in the public interest of British Columbia.
Let's look at the backdrop that this legislation is played against. This is a backdrop of a government who introduced the HST after promising not to, who in the past has told such whoppers as "We won't sell B.C. Rail," "We won't tear up contracts" and "Look at the size of this deficit — $495 million." What is it? It's $3.3 billion.
These are issues of trust, and every time legislation comes before this House, we are asked to trust. We read the legislation. Its title is meant to reflect its content. Its contents are meant to be understandable when it comes to the intent and the plans of government, but can we trust this government? It's clear that British Columbians can't trust this government.
We can't even trust the government not to engage in ridiculous names for their bills — the Clean Energy Act. This is an act that allows the entire province, the entire environment of this province, the entire river system to be turned into simply a generating station for Californian demand. That's what they've done, and they have the nerve to call it the Clean Energy Act. Ruin-of-river projects were described by the former speaker as something that "just removes the energy from the water and then returns the water to the stream," but at what temperature, at what cost to the environment around that stream, at what cost to the fish-bearing streams of this province?
That's what British Columbians don't trust this government to safeguard. They don't trust this government to safeguard the public interest, and what could be more paramount to the public interests of British Columbia than B.C. Hydro and that jewel it presents to us? Yes, we have dammed river systems. We have used that as the jewel of storage, and with that storage, we were able to generate hard, consistent power for British Columbia and British Columbian corporations.
We are able to trade on markets, where we buy low and sell high, and thereby we don't dam more rivers than we need to. We meet our needs, and we even made, in the past, a huge profit in doing it, but this government wants to change all that. This government not only wants to hand over the common wealth, the ownership of these jewels to the private sector donors who supported their campaign, but they want us to pay for it. They want us to pay for it.
They want us to pay for it with higher rates. They want us to pay for it with a loss of oversight in the public interest. They want us to pay for it by giving away the determination of what should happen in our environment, in our rivers, and it is a disgrace. It is a failure. It is a weak government that fails to protect the public interest, and this is a weak government. This is a weak government.
Look into this bill. Look into the member from Kamloops and his conscience as he endorses this stripping of the B.C. Utilities Commission, which British Columbians trusted would be there to guard their public interest and can trust that that will happen no more after this bill is passed.
This government that promised non-interference set up
their ridiculous Coastal Ferry Act and the B.C. Ferries corporation. They promised
no interference, and then, when they needed a boost in the polls before the election,
they interfered and forced the corporation to
[ Page 6150 ]
lower its rates. Another example of a failed promise not to interfere.
This is the ultimate political interference, stripping the power of the B.C. Utilities Commission to properly guard the public interest. That is a disgrace, and that is another sign of a weak government — a weak government.
This parliament, this place and the people who are honoured to sit here and represent their communities are meant to defend the public interest. That is our paramount responsibility. Because BCUC challenged the ridiculous plans of this government when it came to their marketing of our power, our rivers and our common wealth to their friends and actually stood in the way of those plans last year when they denied their power purchasing plans…. Well, this is retribution. This is retribution for that act.
You stand in the way of this government, and they will step on you. They will step on you. That's what this government has proven, and they prove it again here.
Even in the closure they bring to this bill, in stepping on process and not allowing continued debate on this bill…. That's what you're responsible for, Mr. Kamloops.
What about their grandiose language and lofty ideas around reconciliation with our First Nations? And yet we hear that there's no consultation. I've seen it in my constituency with the Halalt people — no consultation on the use of their water. No consultation here. We have seen our First Nations line up to condemn this act. We've seen that. This government can't hear them because they have been tarnished, they have been stained by the most toxic element in politics, that being arrogance. This is an arrogant government. It doesn't need to listen to the people it represents. It knows better.
We've just passed an election, and would the government have had the guts to stand at the doorstep of their constituents and admit that they were going to impose the HST? Would they have admitted that they were going to privatize the entire environment of this province? This is not just a government committed to free market idealism. This is a government that's trying to turn our society into a free market society where nothing in this province has value except in their marketplace.
This province was built on public interest. This province was built by people who cared, people who cared about each other, people who cared about the well-being of this province. Nobody before this government had the arrogance and the raw confidence to stand up and say: "You know what? This is the best place in the world to live, work and play."
You know what we used to say in this province? Beautiful British Columbia. We gave it back to the province. It wasn't about us. It was about the province. But no more. No more. The colours of B.C. Rail — the two greens, the white, the yellow. Those were the colours of the dogwood leaf and flower — quickly converted, quickly privatized. And we should trust this government in their handling of our precious jewels, our river system? We should trust them? British Columbians don't trust them.
There's no review here. There's no democracy. The costs, the public will underwrite. They will hand to their friends, their donors, the benefit of the storage in those Crown jewel dams that will underwrite the soft power that's being produced, that's being bought at exorbitant rates that aren't justified by their marketplace but only justified as payback to their donors. That's an abomination of the public interest. That's what they're doing.
Now the public bank account is tapped one more time — one more time. In the end we the people of B.C. underwrite their ideological commitment to privatization, and we underwrite it through the loss of jobs, the loss of environmental sustainability, the loss of our common wealth. That's a weak government that would do that — a weak government.
Marvin Schaffer, professor of public policy. You know, I think it's been well recorded and reported here, but I just can't resist reading into the record his remarks. He says:
"It is remarkable in the power it is putting into cabinet and the costs it is imposing on B.C. Hydro. It is the government's response to its concern that it won't be able to convince the B.C. Utilities Commission of the merits of the independent power purchases, transmission extensions, smart meters and other measures it wants B.C. Hydro to undertake and its concern that even B.C. Hydro might not eagerly go along with its plans.
"One can only laugh at the media spin that the act is designed to protect ratepayers and enrich taxpayers. The absence of any independent oversight of almost all of what is required under this act is bad public policy."
To cap it off, we keep getting worse legislation, followed by the worst legislation. Marvin Schaffer says: "It is bad legislation. It has to be a frontrunner for the worst legislation of the decade."
Well, everyone who sits in this House is responsible to the public interest of this province, and they can sit there and chuckle if they want because they have a few more votes and they can pass acts like this that pass by the public interest and the interests of their constituents, but democracy has a remedy for that, my friend from Peace country.
Democracy has a remedy for that, and it comes round when people vote. The members are seeing a preview of that remedy in the initiative around the HST campaign. They're seeing a preview in the recall campaigns that are going to start because people are offended by this weak government.
One of the chief myths that they rely on is the sustainability
myth: "Well, we don't produce all the power we use." Well, we do that to our own
benefit. We don't have to dam as many rivers as we would have to if we lived up
to their sustainability myth. We buy power low. We buy power low at night, store
the water behind our dams and
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then we generate power during the day and sell it back — clean power sold into the marketplace at a higher rate.
Deputy Speaker: Member, take your seat for a moment, please.
The Chair is unable to hear the speaker who has the floor.
D. Routley: Well, I guess I have to speak louder. I guess the people of B.C. will have to speak louder to be heard by this government. I guess some 85 or 90 percent of the people rejecting their biggest plan for the economy isn't enough for them to hear the people of B.C. I guess the parade of First Nations leaders who have condemned this legislation isn't enough for this government to hear.
You know why, Madam Speaker? It's because they're shouting down the people of B.C. too. They shout them down with closure. They shout them down by not calling this House to order, to session. They shout them down by shutting down the process. They shout them down by shutting down BCUC. They shout them down by giving away their common wealth. They shout them down by not defending the broad public interest. A weak government, a weak minister — that's what we have.
Deputy Speaker: Member, it is possible to oppose without resorting to personal attack. I would ask you to withdraw that last remark.
D. Routley: I withdraw that last remark.
Our minister is acting in a weak manner. Our minister is weak in his defence of public interest. Our minister may be strong himself, but his performance as a minister is weak, atrocious and a failure in the public interest. That's what we have.
How will the people of B.C. be heard? How will the people of B.C. be heard when it comes to projects that they don't approve of, when it comes to plans of this government that they don't approve of? How will they be heard? Well, they can't be heard through BCUC, because BCUC can't question the government. The people of B.C. can't question their government. B.C. Hydro can't even question these plans.
Not even the Liberal caucus member for Kamloops–North Thompson who chirps behind me can question the plans of his government, because he's not a part of making those plans. This government is run from one office, the Premier's office, and this cabinet has taken upon itself the arrogance to dismiss all protections of the public interest — they know best — and that is the sign of a weak government.
Yes, only cabinet can decide, through this bill. Only cabinet can decide. Only cabinet could decide on the HST. Only cabinet could decide to sell B.C. Rail. Only cabinet could tear up HEU contracts — the largest mass firing of women in Canadian history. Only the cabinet could claim a $495 million deficit that they knew was bigger. That is what these members are responsible for. They serve a cabinet that has failed to serve the people of B.C., and that is the ultimate failure in democracy.
Then they come forward with a billion-dollar plan for smart meters. Well, who are the energy gluttons in this province? The poor. The poor are the energy gluttons, because they can't afford to put double-paned windows in their homes. They can't afford to insulate. They can't afford it as they meet the additional costs heaped on their families, like MSP premium increases, HST and all the other costs laden onto ordinary British Columbians by their weak government. They can't afford to retrofit and improve their lifestyles to reduce their consumption.
Who will benefit from smart meters? Well, it will be the people with the most modern homes. It will be the people who can afford the most modern appliances. It will be the people who don't need the help of this government. It will not be the people who need their help. It will not be the average British Columbian who is left with the burden of this government's failed policies of privatization — lost jobs, lost revenue, lost interests, lost common wealth and lost process — that this member defends.
So what could we do with that billion dollars? Imagine how many homes, how many low-income apartment buildings, how many public institutions could be retrofitted so that ordinary British Columbians can do their part and contribute to conservation of energy. But instead, according to the raw ideology of this government that serves only its donors — only those people — they are the ones who have created this gap in our province between those who have and have not. This bill will make it worse.
So this bill, this act like others from the B.C. Liberals, is designed not in the public interest but to satisfy the demands of their supporters, those who have bought public policy in this province, who have bought the public interest or at least the interests of this government. These are acts that fail our people. This is sad; this is a sad state. This is a province where, like nowhere else in North America….
Deputy Speaker: Member, please take your seat.
Members, with all due respect, it is difficult to hear in this chamber with a commentary. So if everyone could come to order and lower the volume, I would appreciate it.
Member, please continue.
D. Routley: Madam Speaker,
I appreciate the support, but I also appreciate the chirping because it shows us
that we're tapping into a vein where this government
[ Page 6152 ]
actually feels something. I mean, any ordinary human being would have to feel ashamed of a record of broken promises like this.
Any person who went to the doorstep and asked those seniors who they betrayed, asked those children who they betrayed, asked the people of B.C. who they betrayed for support the way they did in May would have to be ashamed with the outcome.
I'm sure the members who are chirping here are all backbench members who weren't part of formulating the policies that they're now paying the political price for. The Premier and the cabinet who brought these ridiculous schemes to British Columbia — they're not the ones defending right now. It's those members who are going to have to pay the political price when democracy takes its remedy on them. That's what will happen.
Yes, Madam Speaker, the private sector has always had an important role in harnessing the wealth of this province in our forests, in our power sector, in our mining sector. The really important difference is that they were partners in providing public benefit at that time. They had a role, and ultimately the people who were expected to take the long-term equity stake benefit in our resources were the people of B.C.
This act is another step that strips us of our citizenship, the value of our citizenship. By taking the benefits of our natural resources and our province and handing them off to corporations that could be good partners in these endeavours but, once given the ownership and all the benefit, take it away from our province…. That is a remedy for disaster.
T. Lake: Evil corporations.
D. Routley: Oh no, Member from Kamloops North, not evil corporations. The corporations meant to make profit. When you have a government that fails to act in the public interest….
Deputy Speaker: Member.
D. Routley: Through the Chair. When you have a government that fails to act in the public interest and guarantee that some of the benefit flows back to British Columbians, then you have the weak government that that member is so desperately defending — defending the indefensible.
I mean, look at the condemnation by the public of this government. In the end, this is more bad B.C. Liberal economics, just like their forest policies. This is bad economics because it's bad for the future of the province. It's bad because it takes away revenue from the province. It takes away equity of citizenship from the people of the province.
That's bad policy, that's bad economics, and that's why our debt has doubled. That's why the off-balance-sheet bookkeeping that this government is engaging in with their privatization plans has taken us further and further into debt.
This government has failed our core industries. They are in disrepair, they are languishing, and that's bad economics. That's a weak government, a bad government that does not manage the public interest, which allows the economic fundamentals of this province to slide, allows the wealth of our province to be given away. That's what this government is responsible for. That's what they'll be remembered for, and the memory and the past tense they will live in is coming along soon.
It's bad economics because it keeps unnecessary costs and risks on the citizens of B.C. and on B.C. Hydro. It's bad economics because, as John Calvert put it, this bill should be titled "Act to take B.C. citizens to the cleaners." That's what he said, and I agree with him.
The bill in its title, Clean Energy Act, excuses massive affronts to our environment. The environmental damage that will be done by achieving their false, mythological sustainability goals will be irreversible.
Finally, at least this act unmasks their real agenda, and their real agenda is to become an exporter of energy at the expense of our environment and the expense of the public interest. That's the bottom line. That's what they're on about.
You know, this Clean Energy Act from a B.C. Liberal government that actively promotes lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, from a B.C. Liberal Energy Minister who will not stand in this House and commit to British Columbians that they will not lift the moratorium…. We're supposed to trust the title of this bill from that government. I think not.
Now that we've unmasked that agenda, we have some significant questions that need to be asked and answered. Is this what British Columbians want? Did anyone ask British Columbians? To turn over our entire river system, our entire environment, and turn it into a generating station for their private donors — is that what people want? It's a question that has never been asked. These are questions never asked, much less answered by the voters of this province.
The next question that needs to be asked is: do British Columbians want the capacity of their province, once harvested, to benefit only large corporations? These are corporations that we expect to partner with to bring benefit to British Columbia, but this weak government that fails to protect public interest is ready to hand over the entire benefit, common wealth and equity stake in our province to them.
Is that what we want? I don't think so. I think you
could ask a grade 6 student. Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
I don't think this government would qualify for that quiz show, because you know
what? Any grade 5 student would answer that question: "No, I don't want you to hand
off the future equity of my citizenship, and
[ Page 6153 ]
I don't want you to give away the benefits of my lovely province to your friends." How about that? I think pretty much anyone would answer that way.
Let's go back to the 2001 new era of hope document. You know, I guess we could look to the core of the intentions of the government. They said: "You shouldn't have to pay higher than necessary electricity or auto insurance rates because government wants to play politics with B.C. Hydro or ICBC. You should be confident that government will protect your interests."
Well, I mean…. It's not a joke, really. It's not a joke. It can make you chuckle, but it's one of those sad, bittersweet things — isn't it? Even in terms of opposition politics, we stand on this side of the House enjoying a circumstance where that government is plummeting in the polls. It's lost its trust, its credibility. But you know what? We're not celebrating that, because what's good in those political terms is a tragedy for this province — a tragedy. That's what we're seeing in this act — the playing out of a tragedy.
What's really happened in B.C., and what's really at stake? What's really happened is we've liquidated the common wealth. We've given away assets for less than they're worth to friends and insiders of government. We have sacrificed the future potential of this province. That's what's happened.
What's at stake? The most beautiful province, the most beautiful place — not a boasting claim on it but something that we pay back to it, a service. It is our beautiful British Columbia, and it's up for sale with this government. And you know what? To buy yourself into that marketplace, you have to be one of their friends, one of their donors, one of their supporters. That is the ultimate betrayal of this province.
What should be happening? Well, we should in this House be recommitting ourselves to acting in the public interest. That's our sole purpose: to act in the public interest. We should — with every sentence that's read in this House, every motion that's debated, every public dollar that's spent in this province — reconnect the people of B.C. to their common wealth. But that's not what's happening under a weak government that instead is liquidating that common wealth, giving away the equity of B.C. That's a tragedy.
So let's be honest, Mr. Premier. Let's be honest, B.C. Liberal members. Put your agenda of privatization, not just of the assets but of the values of B.C., against our agenda.
Our agenda is to protect the public interest. Our agenda is to act with integrity to bring sustainability to this province — sustainable public interest, sustainable justice, sustainable economy, sustainable environmental interests — to take care of the people we are charged to represent. That equals justice. And that equals failure and weakness in government. This side equals a recommitment to public interest, and we can't quit.
Hon. B. Penner: I rise in support of Bill 17 and would like to add my comments to this debate.
First, before I address the substantive issues represented in the bill, I feel it's important to correct the record and set a few people's minds at ease, because I have received some e-mails in the past hour, following comments from the member for Nelson-Creston. I want to clarify for the record that although we were all entertained by her recounting of various dating experiences, we were relieved on our side of the House, at least, that she stopped in her description at kissing and didn't provide any further details than that.
I do want to correct the impression, though, that some people had, based on her comments, that I drive a Hummer. In fact, I drive a hybrid. I can also confirm, not just for members in the House or people who are watching but also to my wife, that I've never dated the MLA for Nelson-Creston. And unlike her, while I'm fond of wildlife such as the yellow-bellied marmot that's currently residing at the Empress hotel a few steps from the front of the Legislature, I've never kissed a toad. I just want to make sure that's clear on the record, unlike the member for Nelson-Creston.
Now, just to respond briefly to some of the remarks from the last speaker from the NDP, and that's the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan. He made some comments about someone being weak. I can tell you that it's obvious from his remarks that it's the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan who is rather weak in terms of his memory and understanding of energy and the history here in British Columbia.
Just to help the member, perhaps, with a little bit of history, I picked up a book from the Legislative Library called W.A.C. Bennett and the Rise of British Columbia, written by a former member of this Legislature, David J. Mitchell, who details, to some extent, power politics in British Columbia in the late 1950s and 1960s.
I think the member would be interested to hear about how the NDP opposition…. I'll quote here from page 313. This is during the spring session of 1962: "Opposition MLAs were outraged, and the strange spectacle of socialist politicians defending the rights of B.C. Electric shareholders was the feature of an eight-hour debate on March 23." That's merely to remind the members of the opposition that their party opposed a previous government of this day, led by W.A.C. Bennett, and a previous Premier, in his attempts to establish B.C. Hydro and to build the legacy that today we are all proud of.
Even members of the opposition today now like to hide
behind B.C. Hydro and pretend that somehow they have always been supporters of that
Crown utility and public ownership of power generation assets in British Columbia
— the W.A.C. Bennett dam, the Peace Canyon dam and the Columbia River dam system
that's owned, operated and managed by B.C. Hydro for the benefit of all ratepayers
in the province of British Columbia.
[ Page 6154 ]
As it's clearly documented in a fairly exhaustive treatise on the history of W.A.C. Bennett, the NDP opposition engaged in a filibuster and were opposing efforts by the governments of that era to establish the kind of B.C. Hydro that we have today and that we're proud of.
So that's a little bit of a trip down memory lane for the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan, because I think it's important to remember where you came from if you want to have a hope of getting to where you want to go.
Similarly, in the vein of providing a bit of a historical account of how energy policy is developed in British Columbia, I've heard members of the opposition decrying the suggestion of a 40-year water licence for a new project that's going to help fund the development of the northwest power line in the northwest part of British Columbia, to open up new renewable energy opportunities and job opportunities for the Tahltan First Nation.
Interesting to hear that the NDP here is opposed to what the Tahltan are hoping to see happen, but maybe we shouldn't be surprised, given some of their previous positions that certainly hurt the NDP during the last election campaign.
This particular project will result in taxpayers not having to front the costs of more than $100 million of investment into this particular project, and that 40-year water licence, under the changes we made to the Water Act in 2003, stands in stark contrast to the kind of water licences that the NDP themselves gave out when they were in government.
I want to give you, perhaps, the most dramatic example. I'll give you a number of independent power project examples, all of which I've been to, by the way, including one in Boston Bar, Scuzzy Creek. That was a project that was given a water licence by the NDP in 1992, without any end date on that water licence.
They did the same thing for the Soo River 14-megawatt power plant in 1992, near Whistler. They did it for the Akolkolex hydro plant, a 10-megawatt project in Revelstoke.
I know the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke likes to pretend here, publically, that he's opposed to these kinds of projects, but there's a project right in his own riding that the NDP government of the day gave a water licence to in perpetuity — no end date — unlike what we now require, due to changes that our government made to the Water Act in 2003. There's also the Mamquam project.
I heard some members saying: "How big are these projects?" This was a project that the NDP government of the day approved, gave a water licence without any end date — so in perpetuity gave them the opportunity, a private company, to use that water to produce 50-megawatts of electricity at a project near Squamish called the Mamquam River power project.
Madam Speaker, you may think there are a few examples and that maybe some of those projects aren't as big as others. Well, there's a very, very big project — 1997. Well, I'll tell you how big it is. This project that I'm about to refer to is so big that the NDP themselves referred to it yesterday in their news release.
I want to share with members of this House why it's so important that they be really suspicious about the numbers that the NDP puts out, because we know they have difficulties with math, and they can often be very wrong and misleading.
According to the backgrounder in their news release yesterday, they said that the single biggest place where dollars go as a result of power projects in British Columbia is Australia. When you peel that back, $142 million is accounted for by Rio Tinto Alcan — $142 million. So let's think about it. What is significant about Rio Tinto Alcan? They operate a very large hydroelectric project — I believe it's 700 to 800 megawatts of installed hydroelectric capacity — near Kitimat, my birthplace.
And who was it, Madam Speaker? Which government gave that international corporate corporation — which, according to the NDP, is sending $142 million to Australia — a water licence with no end date? Now, if anybody has been following the debate, you can probably guess which party in here might have done that.
It was in 1997, and I have for members opposite…. The member for Nelson-Creston may need to be provided with a copy of this. I'd be happy to do so. It's signed by a former NDP minister, Paul Ramsey, who was then the minister responsible for the Industrial Development Act. He signed a water licence that says as follows:
"Alcan Aluminum Ltd. of Montreal, Quebec, is hereby authorized to store, divert and use water and to construct, maintain and operate works…. (a) The sources of water supply are the Nechako River above Grand Canyon and all the streams and lakes tributary thereto. (b) The points of storage, diversion and use, and the extent of the Nechako reservoir, are approximately as shown on the plan marked exhibit A which is attached hereto and forms part hereof."
Then it goes on to say in paragraph (j)…. This is relevant to the concerns we heard from the opposition about giving away water rights. Here I quote again from the water licence signed by an NDP government of the day:
"At no time will this licence be cancelled, nor the quantity of water that the licensee is authorized to store, divert and use be reduced below the quantity set forth in this licence, except in the case of default by Alcan in the performance of its obligations under sections 5 and 6 under the 1950 agreement as amended."
Hon. B. Penner: Hon. Chair, I was here in the Legislature when that happened, but I was on the opposition side of the House. It was the NDP government of the day that gave Alcan a permanent water licence.
Deputy Speaker: Member.
[ Page 6155 ]
Excuse me, Minister.
Hon. B. Penner: You'd think that the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke, as a former member of the teaching profession, would have more than a passing interest in history.
So we have on the record books the NDP of the day opposing W.A.C. Bennett and his efforts to establish the legacy that we now have in the form of B.C. Hydro. A few decades later we have the NDP government — when they were in office, sadly, in 1997 — giving a water licence in perpetuity to what's probably the largest independent power producer, private power producer in British Columbia. That's Alcan, 700 or 800 megawatts of installed capacity. They do so, and it states clearly: "At no time will this licence be cancelled."
That stands in stark contrast to the changes that we made in 2003 to the Water Act. Again, I just think it's important to bring members back to some sense of context when they make the comments that they do, which are clearly not based in the history of British Columbia or the reality of what's taking place.
There are a number of projects I'm particularly interested in that are specifically identified in Bill 17. Now, I know that the NDP say they're voting against this bill, so I assume that means they're voting against these particular projects. But if the members have taken the time to read this bill…. Its substantive portions are 26 pages long, and there are another 11 pages or so of consequential amendments.
If you go to section 7, it lists specific projects. The member for Columbia River–Revelstoke should, I think, support this bill and if not the bill then certainly these sections, because it specifically mentions projects in his riding that are benefiting his constituents not in the future but right now with good-paying unionized jobs that are supporting that community and supporting families in the riding that he's supposed to represent, instead of representing the party line.
I'll give you some examples, Madam Speaker. Section 7(1)(b) specifically refers to "Mica Units 5 and 6, a project to install two additional turbines and related works and equipment at Mica" and "(c) Revelstoke Unit 6, a project to install an additional turbine and related works and equipment at Revelstoke."
Those are very substantial projects. In fact, not that long ago I had a chance to go to the Revelstoke dam, and I talked to some of the workers who are working on the project. In fact, they work and live in Revelstoke. The worker I was talking to at the gate was telling me how delighted he was that for this past winter, instead of having to leave town….
Deputy Speaker: Members.
Columbia River–Revelstoke, commentary is through the Chair only, and you do not currently have the floor.
Hon. B. Penner: This employee I was talking to told me what a positive development it was for him to have employment this close to home, instead of as a tradesman having to leave, often for months at a time, to earn a wage and support his family that lives in Revelstoke.
This was a project that was approved not by the NDP government of the day; it was approved by a B.C. Liberal government. It was one of the projects that I as Minister of Environment had the distinct pleasure and honour to approve after completing an environmental assessment review of the proposal to expand the Revelstoke dam by adding a fifth generation unit.
I just want to quote here for the members a bit more information about that project, which was approved in June of 2007. "The Revelstoke 5 power project involved increasing the capacity of the Revelstoke dam, which was completed in 1984, from 1,980 megawatts to 2,480." That's a 500-megawatt increase that our government approved and that B.C. Hydro went ahead with and is now in the process of completing.
In fact, I understand that testing and commissioning should be completed by this fall, so that fifth turbine unit will be on line but not before having generated 285 person-years of employment for tradespeople and 79 person-years of employment for engineers and managers over the three-year construction period. That is a very positive development.
For people who are interested in the general health of the government, generally speaking, for example, it will help the provincial government with our revenues by providing $2.5 million annually and additional water rental remissions to the province of British Columbia to help us fund all the good social programs that we've come to rely on. So the member is correct that that is a project that's already been approved — and it's nearing completion — but it has resulted in significant benefits.
The other projects that I just referred to in section 7 of this bill have not yet started construction, but they have been subject to an environmental assessment review.
I can advise members that it was in April of this year that I again had the pleasure and the honour to sign off on an environmental assessment certificate, along with my colleague the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, to approve the project after it went through an environmental assessment office review to add units 5 and 6 to the Mica dam, which is located upstream of the Revelstoke dam.
Now, this particular expansion will take it from 1,805
megawatts of installed capacity to 2,805 megawatts of
[ Page 6156 ]
installed capacity — a 1,000-megawatt increase. As a reporter for the Vancouver Sun immediately noted: "It will make it B.C.'s largest facility in terms of installed megawatt capacity, bigger installed capacity than the W.A.C. Bennett dam."
This is a project that we think makes sense. It's about building on B.C. Hydro's heritage assets, because these projects are of course owned, operated and managed by B.C. Hydro.
As these projects go ahead as I expect they will, because I hope that a majority of the members of the Legislature will support Bill 17 — certainly the members on our side of the House think it's worth building our capacity in British Columbia — these projects will provide continued and additional employment benefits for people in British Columbia and specifically in the riding that is supposed to be represented by the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
Let me be a bit more specific about what those benefits are going to be. The capital cost of expanding the Mica dam is estimated to be between $900 million and $1.3 billion. That's a significant capital investment.
Those projects are expected to provide 821 person-years of employment over a four-year construction period. Again, the community closest to the Mica dam is Revelstoke. While the project that's now wrapping up there in terms of the Revelstoke 5 addition has provided significant benefits to that community over the last couple of years by generating 285 person-years of employment, this project will create almost four times that amount of employment over the four years of construction.
That is a big boost to the local economy, and it's exactly why I would expect the local MLA who should be representing the workers that want the jobs in this community to support Bill 17 instead of saying he's going to vote against Bill 17. It does dismay me when I hear members of the opposition say no.
Like in the last election, they wanted a moratorium on independent power projects, including wind power projects. When we ask them, "Well, what's the alternative?" they say: "Well, B.C. Hydro." But then when we come up with B.C. Hydro projects…. And by the way, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources points out that we have spent, as a government, far more expanding B.C. Hydro's owned and operated capacity than the NDP ever did in ten years in office. They're against that too.
By voting against Bill 17 and the specific projects enumerated in section 7, they're putting a lie to those comments that they support B.C. Hydro expansion as opposed to a moratorium on independent power producers, because we know that you can't have it both ways. You can't say you support B.C. Hydro, but then when B.C. Hydro goes to build extra projects, they say: "Well, it's politically convenient for us to oppose that too." And the best example of that is their outright opposition to Site C.
Here is a project that would be again owned, operated and managed by B.C. Hydro, but their position is: "We're against it." Now, that wasn't always their position. I know the Leader of the Opposition, a couple of years before the election, said — I think it was on Voice of B.C. — that "sometimes we take a position on issues before an election," when asked about what her position was on Site C. So she didn't come out right then and say they're actually against it, but now, after the election, we hear that they are against Site C.
Our position is clear that it should be subject to a thorough environmental assessment review and First Nations consultation. That is a commitment that our government will maintain. Bill 17 provides for that. It's already been noted, by the way, that this bill before the House increases the environmental review process by providing for consideration of cumulative environmental effects. That's something I used to hear that the members of the opposition wanted, and yet here today, it's in a bill. They have a chance to vote in favour, and they're against it.
I hear from them they're going to vote against Bill 17, which would include consideration of cumulative environmental impacts, and the NDP is against that too. I guess, following the last election campaign, when they said they were against putting a tax on carbon emissions, I shouldn't be too surprised. But I am still disappointed that they would run against a price on emissions for the atmosphere out of a sense of political convenience, hoping to garner public support.
We saw that their effort to do that failed, and I think it's because the public had a general sense that they just weren't getting a real consistent thought pattern from the members of the opposition.
I know we've got the Energy critic from the NDP opposition saying that in his mind, I think he said…. Let me get the quote. "The notion that we need to be self-sufficient in electrons seems to run hollow in my mind," according to the member for Juan de Fuca, stated on February 1, 2007. Perhaps it does explain a few things about how they think about energy policy, if it's hollow in their mind.
I would have thought that a party that purports to represent the little guy, the working people, would appreciate a policy that says we should be self-sufficient in energy because it puts people to work in British Columbia. If for a moment they now — after their ten years in office in the 1990s when they supported independent power projects — have come to a conclusion that while maybe that was a mistake on their part and they would rather just have public investment, why wouldn't they at least then support public investment in power projects in British Columbia to make us self-sufficient so we could generate jobs at home while producing renewable energy?
[ Page 6157 ]
But they're against that too, and I think it speaks volumes about the lack of internal consistency on that side of the House. Ultimately, the responsibility for that lack of internal cohesion rests with the leader.
The Leader of the Opposition has not been able to set a tone for the members of her caucus and critics to follow — one of intellectual consistency. On the one hand, they say, "We would support projects if they were public," but then, when projects come along that are public, they're against that too. They say they would like to see cumulative environmental impacts considered, but then they say they're going to vote against that too. They say that they would really support renewable energy projects, but they come out in the election campaign and say they want a moratorium on renewable energy projects, including wind power projects.
Ultimately, the responsibility for that lack of internal cohesion or coherent thought process does rest with the leader of the NDP opposition, who has not been able to bring her caucus around to some kind of position that might make sense.
A further manifestation of that lack of internal cohesion and discipline, I dare say, is when you have members of the opposition saying here, in front of their leader and their colleagues, how much they oppose private power development and then quietly, from the sanctuary of their constituency office, write letters to the proponents of private power projects saying that they actually support them.
The member from Revelstoke obviously knows what I'm about to say, because he's getting defensive already. But he wrote a letter, and I'll quote from it, saying: "I'm pleased to add my support to the Remote Structures Inc. run-of-river hydro projects at David Thompson Falls and Cedar Creek." So not one project, but two.
He gives the following as an answer to why he would support those two independent power projects in his riding. Why? I'll quote directly from the member's letter, because I couldn't have said it any better myself. He says: "Adding clean, green power will contribute to the growth of the local economy. It will also help B.C. Hydro achieve its goal of having the most economic and environmentally friendly resource acquisition program in North America in the next five years."
I couldn't have said it any better. Now, it doesn't mean that every project doesn't first need to be assessed according to its potential environmental impacts. That's why, before any water licence would be issued for projects such as these, as many as 50 different approvals and permits would be required from as many as 14 different government agencies, federal and provincial. Every project…
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members, I need to be able to hear the member who has the floor.
Hon. B. Penner: …must be scrutinized, and certainly not every project gets approved, hon. Speaker, as you know. In fact, if you look at the record over the last eight years, more water licences have been withdrawn or rejected by proponents than have been approved, by a ratio of about 2 to 1.
That's because not every project will meet our standards. People are entitled to apply, but that doesn't mean they will be approved. People are entitled to take a chance in the private sector. It doesn't mean they're going to get approved, but if they can meet our standards, then they do have an opportunity to move forward.
On the one hand, we have the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke saying that….
Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. Members, I need to remind you again that it is possible to oppose without resorting to personal attack.
Hon. B. Penner: We have the member for Alberni–Pacific Rim who actually — I think it was during or just a week before the election officially started — stated in reference to the Canoe Creek run-of-river project: "There may be a benefit to this plan, and I applaud the First Nation for taking charge of this project. It could give them the lead as true stewards of the land, and it sounds very innovative." Of course, April 8, 2009.
Then, of course, there was the NDP candidate for Prince George–Valemount, Julie Carew, who was kind enough to inform members of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce at the candidates forum on April 24, 2009: "While I think we need to make it very clear that the NDP does support IPPs…."
I know there's considerable confusion on the opposition side of the House. On the one hand, they say that they would like to support renewable energy projects, but to this date, I am not aware of them ever having supported a single one. I have not heard them come forward and publicly — publicly — say that they support a single wind power project in British Columbia.
If somebody could show me the record, I would love to be corrected, but to this date, they have not supported wind power. In fact, the member for Juan de Fuca, the Energy critic, continually derides a wind power project in the northeast because it's a startup company — as if people shouldn't be given the opportunity to be a success.
I think that in itself says a lot about the NDP opposition
and, frankly, their approach when they were government that businesses should not
have a chance to be a success, individuals should not have a chance to succeed even
where they can meet environmental standards and other tests that the government
puts in terms
[ Page 6158 ]
of approving projects. It is something that continues to be a mystery for me.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
I know that my time, unfortunately, is drawing near to an end, but there's one other thing that needs to be mentioned in reference to Bill 17. It's not just that B.C.'s objective is to generate at least 93 percent of energy in British Columbia from clean or renewable resources and that that's put into the legislation through this act, or that we're going to be working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
I should note here, as I wrap up, that Bill 17 will enshrine in law B.C.'s historic two-river policy by prohibiting future large-scale hydroelectric storage dams on all river systems in British Columbia, such as the Liard River system.
I know that not everybody shares the view. Some people think we should be pursuing more large-scale hydro dams on other rivers, and perhaps in the future some future parliament or future legislature may decide to revisit that. But I think that is the right policy choice. It's the right thing to put into legislation, and it's again one of the reasons why I will be supporting Bill 17.
Hon. B. Penner moved adjournment of debate.
Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. B. Penner moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 6:53 p.m.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM
Committee of Supply
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); H. Bloy in the chair.
The committee met at 2:43 p.m.
On Vote 11: ministry operations, $29,905,000 (continued).
The Chair: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Douglas Fir Room. We're doing the budget committee estimates on the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, treaty and other agreements funding.
B. Simpson: I just want to sort of set out what the agenda for the day might look like for the minister and appropriate staff.
On Monday we started canvassing treaty, and I do want to go back to that. But I think in order to get there, I want to do a little bit of work around the current status of the new relationship and where we're at with the transformative change accord, because that's a broader context for treaty; then get back into treaty; eventually move towards the ministry's actual service plan budget — implications of the broader budget; and then the ministry's role relative to other ministries and their strategic objectives.
That's the flow. At about 4:30 I've asked our MLAs…. Part of the process, of course, is that individual MLAs often have questions pertaining to their own riding and, in this case, First Nations questions. At that time, around 4:30, we will be canvassing urban aboriginal issues. A couple of our MLAs that deal with that more directly will be coming in at that time, so we'll address that then.
I'd like to start off with something that is a very timely and pertinent issue and to turn the floor over to a colleague.
S. Fraser: Hello to the minister and his staff, and thanks for being here. It's déjà vu. I've had the pleasure of working with some of you before, so thanks.
I want to thank the minister, first off. This week he acknowledged the tragedy that happened with the plane crash, Atleo River Air, just off Ahousat. Ahousat lost three young people on their way home, and a pilot died too. His service will be on Friday. I would like to acknowledge the minister's acknowledgment of that.
I have a bit of a correction that it's actually within my constituency and not in North Island, so just north of Tofino.
With that in mind, the first question to the minister is: can he let us know if he is providing any resources to help deal with the tragedy that's rippling through the community in Ahousat?
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member for correcting me. I'm not quite sure why I thought North Island in that case, but thank you.
In terms of the tragedy and the fallout of the tragedy,
we have a senior official from the ministry on scene
[ Page 6159 ]
there. He is certainly looking at any way that we can support the work that has been undertaken by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council in the form of counselling and other services that would support the community through the difficult situation that exists now.
The funding for this work, of course, comes from the federal government. The work is being provided on the Ahousaht reserve, but we're certainly prepared to support that, and we have an official there who is trying to identify any way that we can assist.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for the answer. I appreciate the official being on site there. It's important, I think, for the province to be there, so I thank the minister again.
There are a lot of resources that…. Well, not a lot, but there have been resources that have been brought to bear in Ahousat before this minister's portfolio — a previous minister I worked with. There was a flurry of suicide attempts in Ahousat — not unique to Ahousat. We see this from time to time, often with very isolated communities that have gone through very tough economic times, the never-ending aftermath of residential school systems, and that sort of thing.
There were resources put in place there for mental health workers and such. In my discussions with Chief Frank after a protocol-signing a couple of months ago in Ahousat, he indicated that those resources seem to be stopping.
Now, the issues around suicide are cyclical, I would submit. I'm not an expert, but from what I've seen, that comes and goes. Incidents like what happened now, where we see three relatively young people in this very tightly knit community losing their lives, can often trigger those sorts of things again.
Can the minister comment, please? First of all, I'm not sure what resources have been removed as far as mental health assistance in dealing with things like youth suicides and suicides on reserve.
Hon. G. Abbott: I should introduce early on the very capable staff who have joined me today for these estimates. They include: behind me at the moment, Deputy Minister Bob de Faye; to my immediate left, Julian Paine, assistant deputy minister; on my immediate right, Steve Munro, assistant deputy minister; Arlene Paton, assistant deputy minister; Dave Hoadley, executive director; and Michael Lord, director of finance. They're all here to assist today.
To the member's questions, we're not aware of any cuts to resources for health-based issues. You might well be asking the wrong ministry, because we don't provide those. Those, I expect, would come through the health authority. The Minister of Health might be the person to canvass with respect to that.
I would note, however, that our ministry is involved in what has been not only a very important but also a very successful program. One of the communities where the first work is being done is Ahousat, and that program is Ahp-cii-uk. It is an aboriginal leadership initiative. It is a program which has partnerships that extend not only to the First Nation, in this case the Ahousaht, but also Ministry of Aboriginal Relations, Health Canada and others come together in an aboriginal leadership initiative.
One of the issues that really benefits from the work of Ahp-cii-uk is suicide. Suicide in some First Nations has been a very challenging and very persistent issue; in others, less so.
I know that Dr. Perry Kendall, the provincial health officer, has done some important work in this area. I don't pretend to be an expert on that, but I know that there is considerable variation among First Nations communities in terms of suicide rates. Socioeconomic conditions are not always a determinant of whether suicide rates might be high or low, so it's a complex issue.
For the purposes of our discussion here, though, I would again just point out that Ahp-cii-uk has been very valuable in building community capacity. It is working in Ahousat. It centres on a community development approach and on building capacity in the community to manage issues.
As the member knows — and he hasn't referenced it yet, but I'm sure he knows very well about this — substance dependencies have been a big, big issue in Ahousat. It has been a controversial issue to the extent that some of the needs and some of the important steps to address substance dependency have attracted some newspaper headlines provincially.
It's a huge issue too, and again, we believe that Ahp-cii-uk will be very, very useful, through this integrated partnership, at trying to get at some of the root causes which lead to substance dependencies and other pathologies in communities.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that. Ahp-cii-uk — Ahousat is a good venue for that. Leadership is a part of the history of Ahousat. As you know, Chief Shawn Atleo is the head of the Assembly of First Nations nationally now, the highest office for First Nations. That's from Ahousat, so we see that this would be a good fit, I believe. I thank the minister for that.
I must say that the Minister of Health…. I didn't…. That estimate has finished. On the previous times, then, I'll go back to Minister Christensen, who's no longer a sitting MLA but was a previous minister when I first began. I dealt specifically through this ministry to try to get assistance to Ahousat when that was necessary, so I came here assuming something similar.
First question. I am wondering if I can still maybe
work through it with the ministry and the minister here
[ Page 6160 ]
to try to address the needs as they show up. You know, if we see the spectre of that loss of hope that looks like we're getting to another rash of suicide attempts, and there were…. I can't even recall the number in one year. There were like 50 or something attempts that were documented.
It was a huge strain on the community, and the great resource work, the people that were working there in trying to bring the assistance — the mental health people locally in Ahousat — desperately needed the assistance that came from the previous time that I came to the ministry. I want to compliment Minister Christensen on that too, because he did stickhandle resources getting up there. He understood the issues so well, and I know that the minister does too. He's spoken on this.
I'd like to have some assurances that I might have the minister's support, if necessary. I'm trying to make sure that those resources are there, should they be necessary in Ahousat. That'll be a question.
I'll move right into…. The minister was prescient, and the issue around substance abuse is a problem. It's also a symptom of desperation and loss of hope, and it's often concurrent with suicide attempts, I would suggest too. The minister is right that it has got press because the Ahousat people and the leadership — Chief Frank and council and hereditary chiefs — all have stood as one and tried to wrestle with that problem in an isolated community with very few resources.
As the minister knows, this is the second time they've taken the bold step of identifying people with problems on reserve and moving them to get treatment at the north end of Clayoquot Sound, and I applaud them for that. I was there for the first round that happened a couple of years ago. There was a return to the beach of the people that participated in that program, and it was a moving experience. There were canoes that came in from afar with these people that had substance problems, and they came back very much better people for it.
There's a cost associated with that, and that's being borne by a First Nation, largely, that does not have the resources to deal with it. I'd just like to get the comments from the minister on that. I'm seeking help here for the people of Ahousat to offset some of those costs. They're real issues, and they do not have the resources to address that.
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member for raising the important question. I guess, where to begin, though.
I think that the member is familiar with the fundamental constitutional division of responsibilities with respect to these matters in Canada. That is, on-reserve issues are the purview and constitutional responsibility of the federal government. First Nations off reserve are generally a provincial responsibility, and that's the general division.
That having been said, what Canada and British Columbia have committed to and First Nations leadership has committed to through the tripartite health plan is to find ways that we can work better among all of those jurisdictions.
There's important work underway today and has been important work underway now for at least, probably, three years in respect of trying to break down some of those silos between federal government, provincial government and First Nations governments in terms of delivery of health care.
Nonetheless, at this point in time the constitutional responsibilities and the funding programs tend to move from the federal government through the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to the band government or directly from INAC to the band government. It depends on the area of responsibility — whether the First Nations and Inuit health branch is involved or whether it's INAC, depending on the program.
Again, I want to reiterate that the province — and I know that former Minister Christensen was very good about this point — is always prepared to work with the federal government and to work with First Nations government. If there is a role that we can play in terms of improving the social and economic characteristics of a First Nation, we're glad to do it.
Again, the Ahp-cii-uk program, which we discussed just a little bit earlier here, is an example of that. Nevertheless, the basic constitutional responsibility and funding responsibility for the programs the member references continue to reside with the federal government.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that, and I'll refer to Jordan's principle. As the minister knows, a couple years ago the Premier recognized Jordan's principle. I am not bragging here, but prior to that — certainly under Minister Christensen's watch — in this House, actually in estimates, I raised Jordan's principle.
Of course, Jordan's principle highlights, just in a thumbnail analysis, the jurisdictional problems, the gaps that happen between the federal and provincial authority. In this case, with Jordan's principle, it was children on reserve that were falling through those gaps. I know that the minister knows that, and the staff are nodding.
I stood in this House, and Minister Christensen allowed me to read into the record a main excerpt from Jordan's principle so that it would be on the record of Hansard. I did the same with the late Stan Hagan, the former Minister of Children and Families, to try to make sure that that was understood here.
I believe that there is a gap here. I understand the
constitutional responsibility federally on reserve. However, there is a big problem
with that, whether it's mental health issues, whether it's housing issues. If there's
a failure at the federal level, in many cases I believe that there's an ethic and
moral responsibility for the province, but in many cases the cost of that federal
failure, if that's what it is, lands on the province.
[ Page 6161 ]
If it's mouldy housing, it's increased childhood asthma. There are diseases and children put at risk because of a federal failure, arguably, and that cost is borne by the province through increased health care costs. That might continue for the whole lifetime of that child, who becomes an adult. So I would submit that there's an argument here that the issue dealing with substance abuse….
As the minister knows, the Ahousaht moved the people that were having the problems off reserve. So if we're going to be technical about whether it's on reserve or off reserve, the treatment is happening within traditional territory, arguably, but not on reserve. It is a health issue; therefore, it is a provincial responsibility.
There are cost savings to be had, too, for policing and court costs. Some of those fall on the province too. I know that the minister is aware of this, and I'm not telling him anything new, but I just want to suggest that we shouldn't — and the minister has alluded to this — silo these issues by who is responsible jurisdictionally, provincially or federally, because there's a big grey area there.
I think there's a danger in assuming that the feds are doing something and, if they don't, us standing back provincially. I don't think is acceptable. I don't think that it's acceptable to the minister and his staff, and it's not acceptable to myself as the MLA for an area that has to deal with that.
Having that on the record, I wouldn't mind a comment from the minister if he wishes. But if Chief Frank needs to meet with the minister and/or his senior staff to try to address some of the key issues here, you know, regardless of the Ahp-cii-uk work…. I mean, if there are grave necessities in Ahousat due to this tragedy or dealing with the substance abuse issues, can I rely on the minister to have an open door policy if requested by Chief Frank or the leadership of the Ahousaht?
Hon. G. Abbott: I agree with much of what the member has had to say but not all of it, and perhaps it's important to try to correct a couple of points.
Jordan's principle relates back to a very unfortunate incident that occurred in the province of Manitoba probably four or five years ago now, where a young aboriginal boy was denied service at a hospital. I think that as a consequence of that, he died. It was a tragedy.
What it highlighted for federal and provincial governments and for federal and provincial services was the importance…. There should be, from the client perspective, a seamlessness in federal and provincial programs so that if people needed a health service or another service, it would be available to them, regardless of what their residence might be — on reserve or off reserve — or what their status might be in terms of status Indian or non-status Indian.
I think the Premier of British Columbia was the first in Canada to both embrace Jordan's principle and to persuade his colleagues nationally that that was important. I think it's also important to note that while it may not be directly related to it, the tripartite health plan is a hugely important part of trying to address the core issues around Jordan's principle. That is, we shouldn't have these distinct silos, where this is federal, this is provincial, and this is First Nations.
We should be seeing how those different funding streams, how those different program streams can be delivered as cost-effectively as possible but also as efficaciously as possible — that is, with the greatest effectiveness.
I think the member was asking: do we fund the substance abuse program of the Ahousaht? I'm not sure that we've ever been asked to fund the substance abuse program of the Ahousaht. I suspect that the funding for that flows through the First Nations and Inuit health branch and into either the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council or to the Ahousaht First Nation and is achieved there.
That having been said, the province stands willing and able to sit down and talk about how we can make these programs work better. I'm like the member; I'm an admirer of what the Ahousaht leadership have done in respect of their substance abuse program. I'm very respectful — in fact, admiring — of the way in which they have tried to connect their substance abuse treatment program with their culture and heritage, in terms of trying to connect some of the troubled drug users with their heritage and getting perhaps a better understanding through that. So I'm very much admiring of that.
I am happy to tell the member that now, one year into this role as Minister of Aboriginal Relations, I have been able to maintain an open door policy — even for opposition members — through all of that year. Certainly, if Chief Frank wanted to meet, I'd be delighted to meet him. We always try to accommodate any First Nation leader or community that wants to meet.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that. I will make one comment. While I appreciate the Premier's position on Jordan's principle, I believe — just a clarification — that it was first raised in the federal parliament by MP Jean Crowder in a private member's bill. I believe it was roundly supported by all members of the House federally, too, which is a good sign. I'm not meaning this in any…. But I just want to give some credit where credit's due there too.
Thank you to the minister. I will pass this on to the leadership in Ahousat and to Chief Frank, and also, of course, I will recognize your thoughtful words around the tragedy that occurred with this plane crash.
So a final turn on this. Moving out of Ahousat, going
north to the north end of Clayoquot Sound, is Hesquiaht territory. The open door
policy the minister's talking
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about…. I'm going to probe just quickly. There was the unjust execution of Anayitzaschist. As the minister knows, we probed this before. Katkeena and Anayitzaschist were in a very gunboat-type of justice — were taken away from the Hesquiaht village, the Homais community there, in 1869 and were subsequently executed due to a kangaroo court decision.
Now, I know the minister had staff working on this. I've come back and forth to the minister. I've met with him personally, and I agree with the open door policy. He was happy to see me.
I'm still waiting, and I know that the family members, the descendants of Anayitzaschist, are anxious. This is not a political issue. It's not involving so much the leadership or at all the leadership. This is a family issue, the descendants of, you know, a chief that represents…. It's an issue that represents a grave injustice to the people of Hesquiaht and certainly to the family members.
Again, we're trying to get some form of reconciliation on this. Again, we're not trying to rewrite history, but we've got more information. We have learned that the very family involved and the community involved were rewarded and acknowledged by the then President of the United States for helping to try to, you know, recover bodies from shipwrecks before, in a respectful way, and so I think there's enough evidence to try to bring some closure to this, which would go a long way in healing a very dark part of our history, certainly for the family anyway.
So if the minister could just update on this. I'm mindful of time and thankful to the critic for allowing me this time. If the minister could please give me some edification.
Hon. G. Abbott: I'll do my best. I want to thank the member for raising this important issue with me. I know it's a very important issue for the family, and I certainly would share the member's aspiration that hopefully we can find some understanding around this that would bring some satisfaction or closure to the family on this incident.
That having been said, that's proven to be quite challenging. The member, I think, raised this important issue in last year's estimates. We had some limited work underway at that point, and there's been much more work undertaken since that time on this issue as well.
For the history buffs that are watching today, this is referred to sometimes as the John Bright incident — involved a shipwreck and questions about whether some of the apparent survivors of the shipwreck were or were not murdered. Were they assisted? Were they murdered? As the member indicated in his question, there's much — well, actually, I shouldn't say much has been said. Actually, very little has been said about this historically. There have been some comments, but this is not…. I wasn't familiar with this issue until the member raised it, and I've been around a fair bit of British Columbia history.
I guess the first thing to say is that it is challenging at this juncture; 1869 is now — what? — about 150 years ago. Much has changed in the culture of the judiciary since 1869. As a pre-Confederation period, I guess, the governance of British Columbia, of course, has changed much over the time as well.
We've attempted to work with the available historical documents in British Columbia to see if any of that helped us understand. There were some newspaper accounts and other accounts that are of limited assistance. In some respects the newspaper accounts of the day tended to reflect the biases and prejudices of the day and, hence, weren't always terribly helpful in terms of trying to get a value-free account of what occurred there.
One of the things that we have done to try to get a better understanding of this is to canvass the United Kingdom National Archives and, in particular, to look at the British Admiralty information, look at the court records from the day and try to pull all that together to see if there are any conclusions that we could appropriately form from that material.
As an amateur historian, this is fascinating. Someone should do a…. Maybe someone has done a book on it; I'm not sure. I don't think there has been one.
Hon. G. Abbott: It has been done?
S. Fraser: No. It's being done.
Hon. G. Abbott: It is being done. Darn.
S. Fraser: It's not over yet.
Hon. G. Abbott: Oh, it's not over yet. Oh, we're still writing the ending.
The Chair: I'm sure you'd like to include me in this discussion, so we'll make all comments through the Chair, please.
Hon. G. Abbott: Yes, you're absolutely right, and that would be a sad chapter were we to abuse the House rules and have that become one of the principal themes of the historical analysis before us.
There's been much analytical work done around that material that's been assembled from Britain and elsewhere. Some materials now have been shared with the Chief of the Hesquiaht, who wants to have an opportunity to review the materials, discuss it with the family — that sort of thing. We do want to respect that.
I'll be glad to, you know, at some point work with the
Chief, work with the member and work with others to think about how we share this
with the public as well. I
[ Page 6163 ]
mean, obviously, it is of principal concern to the family, but it's also, I'm sure, of interest to all British Columbians and does offer a kind of window into the way in which these issues were managed militarily, judicially and so on in 1869. It's a fascinating story. Again, I thank the member for raising the issue with me.
S. Fraser: Hon. Chair, I apologize for engaging in a side comment with the minister without the respect for the Chair. Sorry about that.
Thanks to the minister. Just in closing here, I've dealt with your predecessor on the same issue. I appreciate the progress that's happening, even though it seems like it's glacial in speed. I understand the difficulties involved.
I would suggest…. No one is trying to prejudge history here. I mean, 20-20 hindsight on how the judiciary worked then and how the policing system worked back in the 1800s…. You don't want to go back and try to judge that from this point of view here.
That being said, it wasn't that long ago that First Nations were denied the vote in this country. It wasn't that long ago that the residential school travesty was occurring in this province. It was 1980-something before the native veterans were allowed to lay a wreath at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day.
We don't have to go back and judge the people of the time, but we can acknowledge that injustice happened when, say, there was no translator available, there was no…. The due justice that we see now in the judiciary — we recognize that it has evolved, but we can look back and say that at that point in time there were things that should have happened and that didn't happen, based on our knowledge now.
Then in closing on that, I would suggest that the minister and his staff are missing one key piece of this investigation, which I find fascinating too. As I said earlier, there is a documentary being worked on, on this, and the closing chapter will be, hopefully, reconciliation or some acknowledgment of what happened in the past and some closure to this dark chapter.
The resource that's not being utilized is the family. Now, it's Nuu-chah-nulth tradition we have passed down. There's no written language, historically, from Ahousaht or from Nuu-chah-nulth. It is passed down from elder to youngster. It's done orally, and it's done through song. I witnessed the song as sung by family members and their representatives, Nuu-chah-nulth representatives, at the pole-raising in Tofino, probably four years ago now.
I would just submit: please, do not overlook that. The courts recognize oral history. This is a piece of the puzzle. The Admiralty, the judiciary in Victoria…. The stuff you're doing now would not be complete without meeting with the family.
I appreciate the protocol, going through the Chief, and I agree with that. However, the family themselves are the repository of this story. It is a valid story and should be considered and respected, I think, as part of the deliberations or the work you're doing to try to uncover the truth of this dark part of our history.
With that, I will sit down, but I wouldn't mind if the minister has any comment to make.
Hon. G. Abbott: I'd say, first of all, that one doesn't need to go very far back nor have to reach back very often to find many examples of historical injustices to aboriginal people in British Columbia and in Canada — whether it's denying First Nations the opportunity for pre-emption, which my great-grandparents on both sides of my family made good use of; the imposition of the Indian Act, which has had over a century of adverse consequences, I would say, to First Nations people; or back to the employment exclusion and licence exclusion of First Nations.
There is a wonderful book called Makuk — I should be getting a royalty on this, because I've been advocating so often that people read it — by Prof. John Lutz at the University of Victoria. It's a fabulous book, called Makuk. Again, as an amateur historian or a political historian, I am very, very impressed by the book. It is a remarkable account and done, I think, in a very thoughtful and evidence-based way.
There are many, many examples of historical wrongs. I'm not in a position to conclude whether this situation with the Hesquiaht in 1869 was. It may be. It would be, again…. I guess there's something called historical relativism. It's difficult to take an incident that occurred 150 years ago and try to, necessarily, layer all of what we have come to expect from the Charter of Rights and other issues onto that.
We're doing our best to try to understand the situation. If there's something we can learn from it, apart from it being a sort of fascinating, small chapter in British Columbia's history, I think we should do that.
In terms of the family, though, I understand that there is a discussion ongoing, last week and this week, with a family elder around how they're wishing to manage this document and this record. We do, first and foremost, want to be respectful of the family and its wishes. We're going to be guided by that, as I mentioned in my earlier response.
B. Simpson: I appreciate the member's questions here. I want to get into some of the details of what's in the minister's purview, but a couple of quick comments.
The minister's comments about historical relativism
I take, but if you look at something like the Chilcotin wars, where a war is a war
is a war, regardless of where it occurs…. Again, we haven't redressed the issue
of hanging as common criminals chiefs who thought they were engaged in a war. Sometimes
those historical injustices remain injustices and need redress.
[ Page 6164 ]
A couple of comments. One, I do want to take what the minister has indicated about his open door policy and put it on the record that I have found that to be true, not only to the minister but to his staff. I appreciate the pre-briefings we've had. I appreciate the briefings I've had on things like the reconciliation act, etc.
That is very much appreciated. It is, I agree with the minister, how this place needs to work for all of us to be able to understand, especially an important file and a complicated file like this.
The second is a comment I made to the minister when I came in, and I do want it on the public record. While the minister is surrounded by staff, I get surrounded by paper. That's by way of stating that if I ask any questions out of ignorance, I ask forgiveness of the First Nations folks, and I ask the minister to be gentle in his answers. I've done my best to try to find out, and we've had some good help from staff in our basement offices, but sometimes we won't have found documents that I may be asking for, whether they exist or not. We're actually going to start off with that. I wanted to make sure that that's on the record.
I want to start with the new relationship in the general sense and try to get an understanding of where the new relationship is, but we often fail to fully represent the Métis as part of our First Nations dialogue. I would like to actually start, before we get into the general new relationship, with the Métis new relationship accord and ask the minister if he could give a quick update.
I did try to find whether or not there was an official or formal update of the accord. It was, from what I can find, signed in 2006, and I'm just curious. Maybe we'll start there. Does the ministry do formal updates of this accord as they have attempted to do for the new relationship and for the transformative change accord?
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member, first of all, for his kind comments about my office and the staff at Aboriginal Relations. I appreciate the member's kind comments in respect of that.
[S. Cadieux in the chair.]
Also, I want to thank the member for raising the issue of the Métis Nation in B.C., because that's sometimes something that gets overlooked in our discussions of aboriginal relations — the Métis Nation of British Columbia.
I've been very fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with Grand Chief Bruce Dumont and with the Métis Nation B.C. I attended their annual general meeting in Penticton last year. It was very good. Even back to the time when I had Aboriginal Services responsibility in the early 2000s, the Métis Nation B.C. were always leaders. I'm sorry; I should have said President Dumont, not Grand Chief. Forgive me for that.
The Métis Nation B.C. have always been very keen partners in terms of the aboriginal human resources development agreement with the federal government. They've been exceptional partners there, and they continue to be so. I know that they're doing some work in and around Abbotsford on some additional training opportunities, so we very much welcome that and look forward to continuing our work with the Métis Nation B.C. on that.
In terms of the specific relationship, I'll reference — perhaps I can send over to the member, if he'd wish, but he could probably pick it up on line as well — a document entitled New Relationships with Aboriginal People in Communities in B.C.: Annual Report on Progress, 2008-2009. That would provide information with respect to the relationship with the Métis.
B. Simpson: I do have that document, but I wasn't clear that the Métis were rolled into general reporting out on the new relationship in total. That's fair that that's the case.
In the case of the Métis Nation relationship accord, as it's called…. Again, it was between the president of Métis Nation British Columbia and the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and signed in 2006. I have an unsigned version here, but I'm assuming it was signed. The statement was that a Métis Nation relationship accord secretariat would be established to review the progress, etc., and that there would be a meeting of the parties once a year to make sure that progress was being made. Did that secretariat come into existence, and if so, where is it funded? How much does it take to maintain that secretariat?
Hon. G. Abbott: The Métis Nation B.C. receives annual funding from the province of British Columbia. We know they receive annual funding from the federal government as well, but they do receive annual funding for their core organization and core programs, core operations that are sustained through Métis Nation B.C. There isn't a separate secretariat. This area is relatively small and probably wouldn't merit an independent organization. We do that work jointly through their core operations.
B. Simpson: But the accord does stipulate: "To support this relationship, the parties to the agreement" — which I presume to be the Métis Nation relationship accord between the Métis Nation and the province of British Columbia…. It states that they "will each appoint two senior officials. These officials shall constitute the Métis Nation relationship accord secretariat. The secretariat's primary role will be to review the progress of the Métis Nation relationship accord." Did that specific secretariat come into existence?
Hon. G. Abbott: The technical
work that the member references through the accord is undertaken through
[ Page 6165 ]
four officials. They include Arlene Paton, who is the official immediately on my right, along with Mariann Burka, who is an executive director within the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.
They meet with the executive director from the Métis Nation B.C. and their chief operating officer. In addition to those technical-level meetings, we have regular meetings between the deputy minister, Bob de Faye, and Arlene Paton, the assistant deputy minister. They meet with President Dumont and his executive. Of course, I have the opportunity and the honour to, on occasion, meet with President Dumont as well.
B. Simpson: Thank you for that clarification.
The other aspect of the actual accord states: "Once a year the parties will make best efforts to convene a meeting between the president of the Métis Nation British Columbia and the province of British Columbia as represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation." By my count, there have been at least…. If you don't count the signing year, there are, then, four years.
I understand that the minister has indicated that there are meetings that are ongoing, but this suggests to me that it's a very specific meeting, to sit down and say, "Where are we at with the accord? How is it working?" etc. Do those formal meetings actually occur? If so, is the content of the meetings captured in the public domain?
Hon. G. Abbott: Yes, the meetings do occur. I'm not sure that they have the level of formality associated with them that one might anticipate from the formal character of the accord, but they are invariably instructive and valuable to all of the parties.
B. Simpson: But are they duly documented? Is the information…? Technically, they're supposed to sit and look at the accord and track progress on the accord. I just did another quick scan of the document that was referred to, with respect to the new relationship. While it names the Métis Nation accord, it doesn't actually explicitly report out on the accord. So I'm just curious whether or not that's a public dialogue that occurs and whether the public are aware of how this is progressing.
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member again for his question. When we get together with Métis Nation B.C., generally it is to talk about those issues which are of principal concern to Métis Nation B.C. In short, we basically let them set the agenda in terms of what issues they wish to talk about.
There is, further to the member's question, a strategic plan which has been developed by Métis Nation B.C. in conjunction with the province of British Columbia. That having been said, much of the focus — at least during the one year that I've been Minister of Aboriginal Relations — the principal interest, concern of Métis Nation B.C. has been around the areas of economic development and skills training or education. So those have been the principal areas which we've worked on jointly.
B. Simpson: Partly what I'm trying to understand is the nature of the relationship that government has when it engages in these kinds of relationships or accords or whatever and whether or not they truly end up becoming formalized and inform the work that the government does, or whether they end up being a statement of a kind of a set of principles, and then you continue either business as usual or on a priority basis.
I guess the minister has indicated that, really, the accord is there, but the work is going on, on a priority basis as articulated by the Métis. The accord actually states: "health — community, family, individual; housing; education — lifelong learning; economic opportunities; collaborative renewal of Métis tripartite processes; Métis identification and data collection."
Of course, the minister has indicated that there are two that have floated to the top, and that, strategically, that's what's being worked on. So fair enough.
Just before I get into the broader new relationship context and the transformative change accord, I have been looking for a more current update. The most recent update I have seen is '08-09, which the minister has referenced. I'm wondering when the '09-10 might be published.
Hon. G. Abbott: The staff anticipate in July of 2010.
B. Simpson: I want to spend a little bit of time trying to understand where we are at in the broader context of a new relationship with First Nations. I ask the minister's forbearance, because I want to set the context. I know both of us have a propensity to kind of wax — not necessarily eloquently — on, I guess. But I think it's important, because I need to know — and I think it's important for the public record — that there is a foundational understanding of what it is we're talking about here.
The New Relationship is an actual document that captured the essence of a relationship and how the government wanted to further its relationship with First Nations. There's a statement of vision, and I want to get into some of the details later on, but the statement of vision…. I want to pull out a couple of things. It said: "We agree to a new government-to-government relationship based on respect, recognition and accommodation of aboriginal title and rights." So a government-to-government relationship.
"We agree to establish processes and institutions for
shared decision-making about the land and resources" — and then a critical component
of this is revenue- and benefit-sharing — "recognizing, as has been determined in
court decisions, the right of aboriginal title in its full form."
[ Page 6166 ]
That statement is very important because, as we've seen in other court rulings, the court system has indicated that both Canada and B.C. often bring what's called an impoverished view of aboriginal title to their negotiations.
The statement of vision actually states that aboriginal title will be recognized "in its full form, including the inherent right for the community to make decisions as to the use of land" — again, vital for our forthcoming discussion — "including the inherent right for the community to make decisions as to the use of the land and, therefore, the right to have a political structure for making those decisions and is constitutionally guaranteed by section 35."
Then it goes on to say, as the transformative change accord also says, that this is really attempting to address the continued rise in the "socioeconomic disparity between First Nations and British Columbians." Madam Chair, that is one of the reasons that this ministry exists: to address that concern on behalf of government, to act as a leader for that on behalf of government.
Having put that in context, I want to then bring it forward to the spring of 2009. We canvassed this somewhat last fall, but we couldn't really address this issue, because it was definitely in flux. That's the issue of the government projecting forward that they were going to effectively formalize the new relationship, if you will, in a deeper way, through the proposed recognition and reconciliation act.
I just want to read a section from the spring 2009, pre-election throne speech which stated: "This government is working with First Nations to develop a recognition and reconciliation act that will establish a new statutory framework to further the implementation of the new relationship."
As I said, the reason this is coming up now is because in the fall we really couldn't canvass that. I think we were getting together in late August or early September, and it was definitely in flux. What is the minister or the province of British Columbia's understanding of the status of that proposed legislation?
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member for his question and thank him for the kind of introduction to this, because I think it's a fair starting point.
Back in the spring of 2009 there was much work being done around a proposed reconciliation and recognition act. There was some work undertaken with respect to that. The work was being undertaken, largely, jointly between the government of British Columbia and the legal counsel for the government and legal counsel for the First Nations leadership groups. There was considerable work done.
As the member will recall, in the period after the May 2009 election, the First Nations leadership group undertook, I thought, a very good and quite comprehensive discussion around the province with, in the end, probably dozens of First Nations communities and regions and so on to talk about the content or potential content of the proposed R-and-R legislation.
The discussion, as I understand it from news accounts and other accounts that we've received of the First Nations consultation…. Much of the concern of the First Nations communities and band leaders and so on tended to focus around the reconstitution of First Nations in the province into what was termed in the document "indigenous nations." I think there was generally a map associated with that, containing plus or minus 32 indigenous nations which were thought to reflect the historical composition of First Nations.
I think what the leaders heard as they consulted around British Columbia was that if there was going to be any aggregation of First Nations in the province, they would self-aggregate. They were not about to accept the aggregation model that was proposed in the map that was appended to the statement of the agreement. They made it very clear that they believed that the First Nations leadership had gone too far in terms of assuming that there was support for the aggregation proposed in R and R.
All of the opposition that was reflected during that consultation, I think, came to a head in late August at a meeting of all of the chiefs or many of the chiefs of British Columbia, and I'm sure many councillors came together in North Vancouver to talk about that. They made it very clear at that point that no further work should be done on the reconciliation and recognition act, that they were withdrawing their support from that, that they no longer wished to proceed with that work.
As you know, just to continue the sequence forward from there, they also resolved to create an All Chiefs Task Force, which would look at the future of the First Nations Leadership Council or whatever sort of amalgam of First Nations leadership they would think appropriate for the future.
We're still awaiting that. I think there may be a report, actually, later this month on that work being done by the All Chiefs Task Force, probably at the First Nations Summit meeting, but I'm sure there will be discussion of it at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs meeting, as well, I think, a little later this summer. That's a piece that's still in progress, and I think, like many things in our relationship, there's never a sort of terminus point. These things continue to evolve.
But to step back, from the government's perspective
we had some decisions to make post–R and R about how to manage our future relationship
with First Nations in the province. What I recommended to cabinet and what we resolved
was that we would remain consistent with the principles in the new relationship
agreement, remain true to the principles which were enunciated in R and R, but attempt
to do agreements with First Nations in
[ Page 6167 ]
whatever corner of British Columbia — doing it, from the First Nations perspective, on a self-identifying, self-aggregating basis.
Further to that, one of our priorities was to attempt to reach agreement with the Haida people on Haida Gwaii. As the member knows — as he has engaged in some thoughtful debate on this in the House previously — in December we were able to achieve and sign a reconciliation protocol with the Haida First Nation, and that contains many elements.
It's a document of some 40 to 50 pages, I think, that includes, among other things, some economic elements but importantly includes…. Again, we debated this in the House, so I won't go into it in detail.
The member probably knows more about that particular model than he'd care to remember every day, but there is a model in there of a management council which oversees a decision-making matrix, etc., as there is in the northern coastal reconciliation protocol, which involves, again, another self-identifying, self-aggregating group of First Nations who have come together to reach a reconciliation protocol with the government.
Needless to say, the signing of the Haida reconciliation protocol and the northern coastal reconciliation protocol has attracted much attention among First Nations across the province, so we are in discussions with a variety of, again, self-identifying and self-aggregating First Nations about potential reconciliation protocols among their peoples.
We have also engaged with agreements that are a little less intensive than a reconciliation protocol but, nevertheless, a very substantial achievement as well. As an example, the strategic engagement agreement with the Nanwakolas group of First Nations on the southern and central coast of Vancouver Island and the mainland.
That, again, contains a decision-making matrix similar to the northern coastal decision-making matrix. So it pulls together a lot of the pieces that were involved in R and R but does it on a basis that is self-aggregating and self-identifying. I think that's hugely important in terms of the success of this.
In the future, for example, with the Ktunaxa in the southeast corner of British Columbia, or the Gitanyow, or the Tahltan or the Gitxsan, if we want to work with First Nations in whatever aggregated form that they believe is appropriate, I think that's the best way to proceed in the future.
The member was absolutely right about us waxing on, and so I'll try to have the wax fuse for a moment as we hear another thoughtful question from the opposition critic.
B. Simpson: Compounding our capacity to wax on is that, of course, it is a complicated issue. I think we do need to get to the heart of this because, I guess, where I would disagree with the minister's assessment of what I understood…. The First Nations, as they have indicated to me, were trying to achieve with both the new relationship stimulated by the government and with the recognition and reconciliation act a broader context for all parties to agree on a set of principles. Whether they ended up self-identifying or self-aggregating, as the minister put it, at least they were all operating on a broader set of principles.
The new relationship was supposed to infuse treaty and non-treaty. It was supposed to recognize government to government, lay out some kind of criteria for revenue-sharing, shared decision-making, independent decision-making with respect to resources. So there was a broader context here.
While I agree with the minister that part of the derailing of the R-and-R act was this reconstituting of the bands, there was also the aspect of who spoke for First Nations and the issue of the leadership council. The minister's answer basically says: "Look…." If I understand it correctly, and I want to paraphrase, as far as the government is concerned, the First Nations have said: "Pull it off the table." It's off the table.
The government is going to continue to do business with First Nations and look for things, as the minister indicated — the Haida reconciliation agreement, the mid-coast, other interim agreements, incremental treaties, etc. The minister and I have had significant dialogue around that, both in terms of bills in the House and private conversations.
But what I want to try and focus on is the status of the new relationship, because even the Auditor General at the time indicated that the new relationship was problematic because it was ill-defined.
There was a new relationship business council that came together and made, actually, a significant number of recommendations to the government on trying to make sure that the new relationship didn't interfere with business occurring. My sense, as I go around and talk to people, is that what the new relationship did is it pulled expectations among First Nations up to a very high level. Now, because of its status and questions about its status, First Nations aren't sure where they're at.
I want to get into some of the specifics, but let me ask the minister the question this way. There were claims that because the recognition and reconciliation act died, it actually derailed the new relationship. Those were statements that were made at the time. Is it the minister's sense that the new relationship in that broader context ended up getting derailed as a result of the failure of the proposed act?
Hon. G. Abbott: No, that
wasn't my sense at all. I'm not sure who the member may be quoting from in terms
of it potentially being derailed, but I certainly wouldn't
[ Page 6168 ]
have been among those who would have expressed that view, because I don't share that view. I would disagree with that view and disagree very fundamentally.
First of all, in the new relationship agreement, the principles are a kind of aspirational, visionary view of how relationships should be conducted between First Nations and the government of British Columbia.
I mentioned earlier some of the unfortunate elements that have existed historically between First Nations and governments in British Columbia. Particularly in that period between the 19th and 20th centuries we had, on either side of that, many, many adverse aspects in the way in which First Nations were treated by the province of British Columbia.
I think that what we're attempting to do in a new relationship is to give expression to a different way of governments working with First Nations. As an example, there's the reference to the respectful government-to-government relationship that should exist between First Nations and government.
I think that remains the case today. In all of the things that we do as a ministry with the many First Nations bands and tribal councils and so on that exist in the province, we always try to manage those issues on a respectful basis. Just as we would be respectful with the government of Canada or the government of Alberta, we are respectful to the First Nation we are working with.
As well, on the issue of decision-making or shared decision-making, one of the real challenges of the proposed recognition and reconciliation act was attempting to define, with statutory precision, exactly what was meant by shared decision-making or joint decision-making or other expressions that might follow.
One of the things that we have very much wanted to do — and I think have found expression in the Haida reconciliation protocol, in the northern coastal reconciliation protocol, in the Nanwakolas strategic engagement agreement — is to create a framework or a matrix, as we call it, for that kind of decision-making that ensures that we continue to reach decisions in an effective and timely way but that we also devote appropriate attention to the issues that are of abiding concern to First Nations in those land-based decisions. So that continues.
In fact, I believe that it's evolving in a very constructive way that will, again, go to the purpose for all of this — which I think the member himself acknowledged early on — which is to try to begin to narrow that unfortunate and unacceptable gap that exists among a whole range of social and economic elements between First Nations communities and non–First Nations communities in the province of British Columbia, whether it's in health, education, social services, representation in the criminal justice system, diabetes.
There's a whole range of areas where, if we are to be a truly just society, we need to, over time, see some narrowing of those unacceptable gaps. That's important on the shared decision-making.
Shared revenue is one of the ways that we will get there. Again, shared revenue sounds like an interesting concept when it's stated baldy. What we've tried to do, and this has gone on long before I was ever Minister of Aboriginal Relations…. While I had my head down preoccupied with the business of the Ministry of Health, others were working on economic benefit agreements for the oil and gas sector, for example, up in the northeast.
We've had now, for several years, economic benefit agreements with Treaty 8 First Nations about how they would get some share of the oil and gas revenue of the province. We've seen in recent years, as well, the forest and range agreements between First Nations and the province.
We have seen work undertaken very recently between First Nations and the government and industry in respect of mining, in respect of independent power projects and the like. The latter two are very recent. In fact, we're just on the cusp of seeing some of those economic and community development agreements between First Nations, the government and industry. There have certainly been agreements between industry and First Nations, but in those two areas, the inclusion of government in that is more recent.
Those are all exciting things, because I think they make a difference in the lives of First Nations.
A final point — because I think this is an area where I feel particularly strongly and particularly passionately about how we close the gaps — is around education and skills training. I think school boards and post-secondary institutions across the province are doing great work these years in terms of reaching out and welcoming First Nations students.
There are many, many more First Nations students at colleges and universities today than there ever were 15 or 20 or 25 years ago, when I used to teach. It was rare to see an aboriginal student in a post-secondary political science class, at least. Today? Okanagan College is just one example. It has over 800 aboriginal students. It's amazing. Camosun College has a comparable number — I think close to 800 aboriginal students.
There's lots of great stuff, but I think that is an area that we need to continue to build on, and build on in partnership with First Nations. It is through education and skills training, I think, that some of the other indices of social and economic health start to improve.
B. Simpson: I always state everything baldly. It's not by choice, though. The minister gets the choice every once in a while to say something baldly.
To the minister's question of me as to who is saying
that it may be derailed, let me put the following forward. Grand Chief Ed John,
after the reconciliation act's failure, indicated — and I'm quoting from a statement
[ Page 6169 ]
he made to the press: "We haven't seen the new relationship being implemented. It's nice to have all these commitments, but people want to see the action, concrete examples. We shouldn't have to go to the courts to prove our rights and title."
Then, of course, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip indicated — again, I'm quoting him from what he stated publicly — that he was "deeply embarrassed and bitterly disappointed by the lack of progress made over the last four years."
The only other individual who is missing from the leadership council, of course, was involved in his own elections, Chief Shawn Atleo, as he was moving from the regional Assembly of First Nations to become national chief, so he did not go on the public record about his thoughts.
The other reason I raise it is that in the throne speech in the fall of 2009…. And I challenge anybody to go do that, to just simply put "new relationship" in the search on the PDF version of that. It doesn't exist in that throne speech. It wasn't mentioned in the fall of 2009.
The only mention that it has in the spring of 2010 is actually a non-capitalized statement, "Your government is working hard to build a new relationship with First Nations," but this time "new relationship" is not capitalized. It's as if the formality of the government's attempt to continue to work the new relationship has disappeared. The transformative change accord, which I'm going to speak to shortly here, is also not mentioned.
Interestingly enough, however, the comments about First Nations and the need to have reconciliation processes…. And I accept the minister's statement about finding ways to have revenue-sharing, finding ways to be able to engage First Nations in business arrangements, incremental treaties, etc. I take that. I'm not disputing that.
But again, we are talking about the whole intent of the new relationship, the transformative change accord. To do that at a much higher level, to provide a framework at a much higher level, because a lot of the one-off was evolving anyway, a sense of frustration among First Nations who were either in or out of the treaty process, changes in leadership, a more business-oriented, younger leadership coming on who just simply want to begin to address the issues….
I think the government is capturing an opportunity and a period of time where there is a bit of a shift, where First Nations are saying: "Let's just get on with some stuff on the ground for our folks." I'm not diminishing the government's good work in that area. What I'm saying, though, and what I'm trying to understand is: what is the broader context? Because overarching all of that — and I'll get into some of these — are disputes about…. The disputes occur over natural resource use, over access to territorial lands, etc., because this broader framework did not come into existence. There isn't a framework there.
Just to finish my thought about the throne speech…. The interesting aspect of the throne speech is that it does talk about new revenue-sharing opportunities, the Yale final agreement, the Queen Charlottes being renamed Haida Gwaii, etc., but then immediately goes into the one-project, one-process commitment by the government, which the minister must know inflamed First Nations' concerns about running roughshod over their rights as governments, over their territorial claims. In fact, the First Nations Energy and Mining Council came out with a counter-proposal on how to do environmental assessments, etc.
The juxtaposition of the loss of the capitalized New Relationship with the one project, one process gave — what's been articulated to me — First Nations the sense that the broader framework is gone, and we're now back to trying to drive business as usual. "We'll see you in court." That's language that's been articulated to me.
So to get to a question in that…. The reason I'm asking that…. The minister has already alluded to it, but I wanted to get clarity. The New Relationship was an actual document. It has some deliverables, some principles, etc. The transformative change accord is an actual document. That one was signed. It was signed by the leadership council. In fact, it says, and for the public record: "The transformative change accord between the government of British Columbia and the government of Canada and the leadership council representing the First Nations of British Columbia."
Now, I'm curious if the minister can tell us who now represents First Nations, because it is a relationship between First Nations and the government. The transformative change accord is a tripartite relationship. Where does the government understand we're at with respect to First Nations representation on these broader framework agreements?
Hon. G. Abbott: I'll kind of start at the beginning of the comments the member made and hopefully move reasonably expeditiously through them.
I am familiar with the quotes which the member provided from Grand Chief Ed John and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with respect to reconciliation and recognition. The comments they made, I'm sure, were reflective of the frustration and disappointment that they were feeling at the end of a long process that they had worked very hard on and given much personal commitment to, and I'm sure it was deeply disappointing to them that it came to that kind of end.
I know that they incurred some considerable personal
criticism as they undertook their pan-provincial consultation. So I appreciate when
coming out of what had been a process that was, I guess, vested with considerable
emotion that it's not surprising that there would be quotations of that character.
[ Page 6170 ]
That having been said, while reconciliation and recognition as a kind of pan-provincial act had passed — passed in the historic sense, or not been proceeded with — I do think that, nevertheless, there is much that can be learned from that. Again, I don't want to be presumptive here, but I do think that we've taken some of the lessons of reconciliation and recognition, and we have seen those principles expressed through individual or regional reconciliation protocols and other agreements.
It's only been, for me, a year here, and there has been…. I think it's not a credit to me; it's a credit to First Nations and to all of the negotiators that work with the federal and provincial governments, in some cases, or the provincial government or the remarkably capable staff that I have around me. There are lots of great discussions going on, and I do feel that we are at the cusp of even greater achievements in terms of agreements between First Nations and the government of British Columbia.
I don't feel at all disappointed. I think we've made spectacular progress over the past year, and we're on the cusp of seeing even greater things in the year ahead. This, to me, is an enormously exciting time to be a minister in this ministry, and I think that we will see great things happen in the weeks, months and years ahead as well.
In terms of the new relationship and the member's observation about "new relationship" in its capitalized and non-capitalized forms in different documents…. That reminded me of one of my areas of interest back in university, and that was Soviet domestic policy. There was a whole group of scholars who focused on what we called a Kremlinology. Kremlinology used to focus on where individuals in the Soviet leadership stood in relationship to Brezhnev or Kosygin and so on, and they would use where those individuals were to deduce whether they were rising or falling within the ranks of the Soviet leadership.
In this case, I would say that while it's an interesting observation, I wouldn't say it's compelling evidence that we have abandoned the new relationship. I think it's probably more reflective of just the context in which the term "new relationship" was used. I've been pretty much to every cabinet discussion on aboriginal relations for the past now ten years, and I can tell the member that there is no diminution of the cabinet's commitment to the new relationship and its principles. That remains very much in place.
I did actually agree very much with the member's observation about the young leadership that is emerging in First Nations leadership organizations. I have been very impressed with some of the young leaders. That's not to say that I'm not impressed with some of the older leaders as well. I think that in both cases it's true.
It may reflect the younger demographic of First Nations in the province compared to our own broader demographic, but there are quite remarkable leaders. One doesn't need to look far for them. Shawn Atleo has proven to be a very capable and articulate leader. Jody Wilson-Raybould, his successor with the assembly, is an amazing individual and I think will be very much a force to be reckoned with for decades to come in the world of First Nations leadership.
Chief Willie Charlie of the Chehalis, one of the executive members of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, is young and very thoughtful and constructive. I've had many wonderful conversations with Chief Willie Charlie, and I know he's going to be a great leader for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and for the Chehalis people for a long time to come as well.
I think that observation is true. I think the observation that the member made about those young leaders seeking progress on the ground versus having long periods of time spent in what is ultimately non-fruitful litigation is true as well. Litigation as a tool is a good one. I mean, people litigate when they're unhappy with what is occurring. But whenever one can find negotiated solutions versus either legislated or court-imposed solutions to problems, we're always much further ahead. I do see, I think, a disposition, particularly among young aboriginal leaders, to try to move to negotiated solutions and to understand these things by discussion.
The member also asked the question, and it's a fair and reasonable question…. In the transformative change accord, on the back page we have all the signatories currently to that accord. The leadership organizations are also on the signing page. Our understanding — to the member's question — is that in terms of the transformative change accord, the three leadership organizations will continue to represent themselves in that discussion.
So the question of whether there will be continued sort of constitution of the First Nations Leadership Council is a question which will, at least in some measure, be concluded through the work of the All Chiefs Task Force. That won't have a bearing on this. The three groups represented as signatories will continue to represent those groups as signatories.
B. Simpson: I want to correct the record. The Grand Chiefs' statements that I read into the record were specifically about the new relationship, not the failed act. They were explicit about their statement, and that's what they were being asked about: what did the failure of the act mean for the new relationship?
Secondly, to the minister's point about whether it's
capitalized or not capitalized, the minister knows we had that discussion in the
Haida bill as to whether "a new relationship" was capitalized in the Haida bill
or not. The reason that's important is because the new relationship in its capitalized
form, which all the throne speeches up to that point had used it as, actually references
the document, The New Relationship. Uncapitalized, it
[ Page 6171 ]
says that we're trying to get a new relationship. There's no reference point for that statement.
I wasn't trying to be Stalinist or Leninist or Soviet-style First Nations policy. It is an important distinction in this case, and the government actually used the capitalized version all the way up until that speech. That's why I think it is fair comment to find out what the government understands the nature of the new relationship is.
I would add that the minister's comments about all three parties coming separately and individually to the government get to the heart of the issue. The minister has also reflected that the All Chiefs Task Force has come together. They are trying to resolve how they want to be represented, because that was part of the problem with the reconciliation act.
On that note, before I come back to the new relationship as a framework, I just want to clarify, then: is the provincial government going to continue to provide funding for the leadership council members — the Assembly of First Nations, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the summit? Is there individual funding being provided to those?
Hon. G. Abbott: I don't want to be quarrelsome, Madam Chair. As you know, I'm rarely quarrelsome, but on this point I do want to continue this fascinating debate around new relationship, capitalized and uncapitalized.
The distinction between the new relationship, which is capitalized in a variety of documents, including, as the member rightly knows, the throne speech at one point…. In the Haida protocol — and, as I recall, the bill which gave statutory expression to the Haida protocol — it commits British Columbia to building "a new relationship" with the Haida.
In that context it makes far more sense to say a small-n, small-r new relationship. In fact, I would submit to the member that it would look curious if we said we are building a new relationship and capitalized both those things, in building a relationship with the Haida.
Again, I don't want to be quarrelsome. The member has been entirely civil and constructive in his comments, so I don't want to be anything other than that myself. I hope I'm not being too quarrelsome on that point with the member, but I do think it does make perfect sense.
We do have some funding for work which can be undertaken with the First Nations leadership groups, or if they decide to reconstitute in some way as the First Nations Leadership Council, we do have some funds to deal with that. It's kind of a question mark for us.
I think we've heard commentary from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and others that the First Nations Leadership Council was dead, dead, dead — or whatever, something like that — to indicate that it wasn't continuing. But in fairness, we haven't received at any point correspondence from the First Nations Leadership Council to indicate that it was no longer operational. One might deduce that from the level of interaction.
We do have some funds. We are prepared…. I think we've signalled this through correspondence with the three groups — that we do have some funds to do collaborative work with them and that we're certainly welcoming of proposals they might bring.
B. Simpson: As a former high school teacher, I often look across at the minister in the House in question period and again today, when he says he doesn't want to be quarrelsome, and I thank goodness that he was well out of the high school system when I was teaching. As my mother would say: "He has a very cheeky face when he wants to put one on."
B. Simpson: Yeah, I'm sure it has.
Anyway, let's leave the "the" or "a" or capital or not. I think the point remains that what we're trying to understand is: does the work on a pan-provincial, as the minister put it, framework for shared decision-making, a pan-provincial framework for revenue-sharing and a pan-provincial framework for government relationships…? Does that continue to exist? Does that dialogue continue?
I would suggest that the minister already…. We know that answer, because the All Chiefs Task Force is trying to figure out how First Nations re-engage in the pan-provincial work that needs to be done, and the minister's already admitted that the government is going to continue on self-identified groups that come forward.
The problem with that that's been articulated to me is, again…. Someone put this to me. They're not my words. I want to be clear for Hansard. They're not my words. The way that that system works is exactly why the attempt was made to get the new relationship: because you have to be a good Indian.
That's what this person said: "You have to be a good Indian." You have to be playing in the government's, whether that is Canada or British Columbia, sandbox to be able to get agreements or revenue-sharing or whatever. You often have to give up legal battles. You have to give up your claims, etc. That's the trade-off to be able to get something going on.
Now, I know that there are some circumstances where
the government enters into agreements, and there are some core processes underway,
but the point remains that the new relationship was an attempt at a pan-provincial
solution to all of these things. That was treated that way by the First Nations
business group, which actually said to the government: "Wait a second. This move
actually has more implications to it."
[ Page 6172 ]
They started recommending a whole bunch of things that they needed to have realized if we were going to move down this direction of a pan-provincial approach to this, and including…. They recommended an implementation of a consultation matrix or even said: "Look, why don't you appoint an independent consultation commissioner." They were trying to understand that they weren't going to be left behind in this.
Let me get to some of the things that were in the new relationship agreement. I'm trying to understand whether they are in play or not as the government does its one-off agreements or agreements with large groups.
On page 3 of the agreement version I have, it says, for example, "Integrated intergovernmental structures and policies to promote cooperation, including practical and workable agreements for land and resource decision-making and sustainable development will be put in place" — that that structure would be put in place. Does such a structure exist?
Hon. G. Abbott: The member may want to explore this a little bit more. I'm not entirely sure where he's going with this, so I'll try to be clear here. But he may want to explore some of the dark corners of my answer more thoroughly.
Government, certainly on a pan-provincial basis, has developed policies with respect to revenue-sharing and with respect to shared decision-making in the form of decision-making matrixes, and so on. I think that there are pan-provincial policies. It has been our aim over the past several months now, a year, to try to find expression of those policies and those principles in either regional or individual agreements with First Nations.
I don't dismiss the possibility, based on the outcome of the All Chiefs Task Force and based on circumstance and the evolving nature of our relationship with First Nations, that we may be able to do something on a pan-provincial basis in the future. That's possible.
[J. Thornthwaite in the chair.]
It's not what I would expect though. I'm not expecting that that will be the character of future agreements. I think the far more viable, practical way to go is to work on agreements on that self-identifying, self-aggregating basis that we talked about in the past. But I certainly wouldn't be dismissive of the possibility of a pan-provincial agreement on some area that we're not yet identifying.
In terms of the question: do First Nations have to play in the federal and provincial government sandboxes before any progress can be made…? I think the most powerful piece of evidence one could offer that that is not the case, and I suspect the member would agree with this, is the agreement with the Haida. If there ever was a First Nation in the province of British Columbia that stuck to their principles — and, in some cases, their guns — around disputes with senior governments, it was the Haida.
We were able to find a reconciliation protocol with the Haida. I think that if we can find ways to work in collaboration with a First Nation towards the economic and social betterment of an area of the province, Haida is a great example — notwithstanding the history — that it can be done.
So I don't agree with the point. I'm not even sure who the author of the quote was, but I don't agree. I think we are, through these smaller agreements, actually able to take account of the local, regional differences between First Nations. In some cases the agreements take special account of circumstances and issues in those areas.
I guess, as an example, in the northern coastal reconciliation protocol there's a commitment by government and, I think, by B.C. Ferries to see a better ferry docking arrangement at Klemtu. That was hugely important for one of the First Nations. It was a provision that we were able to get into the agreement, and it was reflective of something that was of great local and regional concern, and we were able to do that.
In terms of a structured approach, the strategic engagement agreement, I guess, is a structured approach. The emphasis has been on trying to achieve agreements rather than on trying to structure organizations, or restructure organizations. We're glad to await the advice of the All Chiefs Task Force in relation to the future of the leadership council. I'm glad to sit down at any point and talk about that with them.
We'll look forward with interest, as I'm sure the member does, to the conclusion of the task force.
B. Simpson: The minister did actually confuse me somewhat with the nature of the new relationship and what the government was trying to achieve. He articulated it in a way that, "if we ever get to pan-provincial, that's sort of out there," when in fact, from what I understood, the whole new relationship was to actually try and get there. That was the point of having the leadership council, the discussions — eventually moving to a reconciliation act, etc.
Let me give another example. I want to just quickly go back to the sandbox question. This came up in the discussion around the First Nations woodland licence, where the First Nations Forestry Council explicitly states that they do not like clauses in that act. I actually asked the minister if he would repeal those clauses in that debate, because it does require it to be part of an interim measure or some kind of ongoing agreement.
There will be — and I know the minister has got an invitation
— next week, Tuesday, a session with the First Nations Forestry Council around that.
There's that same feeling of: you've got to be playing with us in order to get
[ Page 6173 ]
one of these things. So it's not just an individual who has indicated that; it's a general sense.
Let me ask the minister then specifically…. In The New Relationship document — which the minister indicates he still believes exists; it hasn't been derailed by the loss of the R-and-R act — it states, as a matter of principle to guide the new relationship, that "dispute resolution processes which are mutually determined for resolving conflicts rather than adversarial approaches to resolving conflicts" is a guiding principle.
The New Relationship document actually then stated that it would, jointly with the leadership council, "develop impartial dispute resolution processes and work towards a decrease in conflicts leading to litigation."
As a result of the new relationship and the previous work that was being done, has some kind of alternate dispute resolution mechanism been brought into existence where individual First Nations can call for dispute resolution instead of litigation or direct action?
Hon. G. Abbott: I think the answer to the member's question is this, and again, he may wish to explore this further: negotiation or litigation remain largely the two paths that parties in dispute can take to try to resolve their differences.
I'm advised that there was considerable discussion with respect to having a common, quasi-judicial method of dispute resolution. There was much discussion about that quasi-judicial approach, and I think the parties agreed ultimately that it was likely to be almost as expensive as judicial processes and perhaps less satisfying and conclusive in the end as well.
I think it's fair to say that the shift that has occurred since that point in time is to try to find dispute resolution models within the context of agreements. I would refer the member again to the Haida reconciliation protocol, wherein we have created a management council comprised of two Haida representatives, two representatives from the provincial government, with a fifth, a neutral chair who would engage when the parties were unable to reach consensus on our agreement. That is a form of dispute resolution I think consistent with the spirit of the new relationship.
The other example I'd cite, and this gets down to the sort of technical detail level…. Within the decision-making matrix associated with SEA and with the northern coastal reconciliation protocol, when one gets up into the more complex areas of decision-making in the decision-making matrices of those kinds of agreements, there can be engaged dispute resolution models as well.
B. Simpson: The minister's answer to the question actually reflects, this time, what I understood the attempts were that were being made at the new relationship — the leadership council discussion, whoever was managing that — which was to establish much broader processes. It's interesting to hear the reflection of the attempts to look at a quasi-judicial body or some kind of thing that First Nations could go to as an alternate to the court system.
The reference to the Haida, again, is a one-off. It will deal with that, but the new relationship was to try and find the provincial piece. So here's an explicit example that, again, I think captures some of the frustration around the new relationship relative to the realities on the ground. It certainly has been expressed that way to me and, I believe, to the minister.
For example, the Prosperity mine. The mine itself is not in my riding, but it impacts my riding. It's in the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin's physical riding, but it impacts us both. It is a proposal in an area that's economically depressed to create hundreds of jobs. It is a proposal that a lot of individuals see as a way out for them seeing the collapse of the forest industry, which was the major driver. Unfortunately, because of lack of process, it has become a flashpoint in our community and a very ugly debate in the community.
I know the minister is well aware of this. In fact, the minister and I engaged in an electronic debate on this when he was on Voice of B.C. I got to ask a question, and the minister got to answer the question on Voice of B.C. But in the case of the Prosperity mine dispute with the Tsilhqot'in National Government, what they raise in their reflection to the minister is: where is the new relationship which promises government-to-government relationships, promises shared decision-making, promises that they would have the ability to make decisions about what would happen in their territorial areas?
Yet the Ministry of Environment comes out and gives the province's approval for that mine to proceed. That's where there's a clash of expectations versus reality. A pan-provincial or provincewide dispute resolution mechanism might have resolved some of that.
One of the new relationship objectives was to give First Nations the ability…. It says "each First Nations' decision-making authority, and financial capacity for First Nations" to develop "frameworks for shared land and resource decision-making and to engage in other negotiations." I wonder if the minister can explain or reconcile the promise of a new relationship, trying to avoid litigation, with Ministry of Environment doing business as usual and actually using what I would call inflammatory language with respect to the major bone of contention for First Nations, and that's the future of Fish Lake.
So how does the minister reconcile, again, the expectations of the promise of the new relationship with the business as usual in the case of Prosperity mine?
Hon. G. Abbott: I think
the character, the principles, the spirit of the new relationship are all well evident
in the very constructive discussions that we have been
[ Page 6174 ]
having in recent months with the Tsilhqot'in National Government in respect of arriving at a strategic engagement agreement.
Those discussions have gone very well. The member is right that historically this has been an area where some of the most difficult relationships have existed between the provincial government — and, I suppose, the federal government as well — in relation to the Tsilhqot'in peoples. There have been very good discussions with the Tsilhqot'in in respect of a strategic engagement agreement.
We are hoping that we will see, through the conclusion of that SEA, an agreement between the government and the Tsilhqot'in National Government of a commonly agreed-to decision-making matrix. I think that will be a huge step ahead. So I think the spirit of the new relationship is alive and well in relationship to our discussions, our negotiations, our relations with the Tsilhqot'in National Government.
In terms of the Prosperity mine, I was up to Williams Lake last weekend, as I know the hon. member was too. I met with, I think, three or four of the First Nations up there. I do know that Prosperity mine is a very important issue to them.
I know that for the citizens of Williams Lake it's also a very important economic development issue for them. There is not unanimity of opinion among the residents of Williams Lake about whether Prosperity should proceed or not proceed, nor do I think there's necessarily unanimity among Tsilhqot'in people about whether Prosperity should proceed or not proceed.
I think it would be, probably, remarkably unconstructive for me to speculate ultimately on what Prosperity mine and all of its ancillary features might be. There is still an important process underway. The federal environmental assessment processes are still underway. I think all parties wait with great interest as to what will come out of that federal environmental assessment process.
There is also, I'm certain, going to be, in the wake of the decision of the federal review panel, additional discussions between the Taseko Mines and the Tsilhqot'in First Nation and, perhaps, individual First Nations within the Tsilhqot'in and other areas about potential revenue-sharing and so on.
I don't know how that's going to come out. I think it's too early in the process to form conclusions about what should or shouldn't happen. I think at least until the federal review process is complete, we shouldn't form our conclusions about what can or should be in relation to that.
B. Simpson: I'm aware of some of the work that the ministry is doing. Again, I don't want anything that I'm saying to be misconstrued. I believe that this is a ministry that is trying to truly address the socioeconomic gap and trying to use strategic engagement, reconciliation agreements and various other tools to get there.
What I'm trying to understand, though, is…. That could also end up as sitting in a situation where we have haves and have-nots in the province, where some First Nations are able to move forward rather rapidly because of the leadership they have, because of the resources available, because of the willingness of the broader community to engage on those, whereas others may not have those same circumstances and get left behind.
The intent of the new relationship was to build a provincial framework to try and address some of that inequity.
In the case of the Tsilhqot'in National Government and the dispute over Fish Lake, they have been crystal-clear in all presentations that they've made. Fish Lake is a no go. I understand that the minister has indicated there are some members of some of the bands in there that would like to enjoy some of the economic prosperity, but the leadership and the representations they've made to the federal panel have been very, very clear that as far as they're concerned, that's a showstopper.
The issue that I want to get back to is, again, The New Relationship, where it indicates that as part of the action plan, there would be the establishment of "effective procedures for consultation and accommodation."
The minister, in his answer to my question on Voice of B.C.… I'm not being petty in this. There is a reason for raising this. The minister states…. This is a transcript of Voice of B.C. When I asked the question about how the Ministry of Environment could issue a certificate to approve a mine where the First Nations have indicated they did not want it to proceed, used inflammatory language about "too bad Fish Lake has to go," but they think that that's reasonable, where that's the issue for First Nations.
I said that the First Nations found this decision to be unilateral, disappointing and frustrating. The minister responded by saying: "I'm familiar with this issue. Bob is confusing some of the issues and responsibilities in his question."
Then the minister goes and talks about Ministry of Environment processes, etc., but doesn't come back to where the confusion exists. It's not just mine. The minister must know there is confusion out there about what due process is for consultation and accommodation when you have situations like this. That's really at the heart of what the TNG are saying, what the West Moberly are saying with Site C and the Nak'azdli with Mount Milligan.
All of those things are what constitutes consultation with First Nations before a development project proceeds. I'd like the minister, on the public record, to indicate: in the case of Prosperity, what does he understand to be an appropriate consultation mechanism for TNG and other interested parties — the Hul'qumi'num, etc. — that are making individual representations?
They're all frustrated because they believe that the
obligation rests with the province and Canada to consult
[ Page 6175 ]
with them, not for them to be left with Taseko or simply make a presentation to the review panel.
What is the minister's understanding of appropriate consultation in these cases?
Hon. G. Abbott: I appreciate the member's important question, and I think we need to back up a little bit in terms of understanding. Over the period of probably the last 20 or 30 years, there have been a variety of court cases — some of which have gone on to the Supreme Court of Canada — which have provided guidance to governments about how and where and with whom the consultations should proceed.
Haida is one of the recent examples of a court case that helped to hone the way in which the province needs to look at its responsibilities to consult. The courts have also provided some guidance to governments with respect to those circumstances in which governments should not only consult but, where appropriate, accommodate — that is, appreciate the special concerns of the First Nation or respect that a certain proposal has impacts which need to be mitigated through accommodation measures.
There is a body of case law that the province has learned from, which is embodied in our consultation practices and customs and documents. I think the work that the environmental assessment office in British Columbia does is consistent with all we have learned over a period of decades about consultation and, where appropriate, accommodation.
If one looks at the EAO and what it does, they consult extensively with First Nations. They listen to the submissions that are presented. They weigh the evidence that is assembled by First Nations and give account to it, but there should never be confusion between consulting, listening, versus making a decision. In the end the decision which is rendered by the environmental assessment office may or may not be agreed to by the First Nation in question, but that shouldn't be confused with the sincerity and the adequacy of consultation.
The fact that a particular EAO panel rendered a decision which one or more First Nations disagree with doesn't say that the consultation was inadequate or insincere. One shouldn't form that conclusion.
A final point on this. If a First Nation is unhappy with what they perceive to be inadequate consultation, the courts stand as the arbiter of whether that consultation has been adequate or inadequate. Of course, there are a variety of court cases — past, present and no doubt future — in British Columbia which will be testing the adequacy of consultative processes in courts in British Columbia and in some cases in the Supreme Court of Canada.
So that's, I think, the layout. Again, I really want to refrain from the invitation of the opposition Aboriginal Relations critic to speculate or form conclusions about Prosperity mine or the processes associated, because I think some of those matters remain before the courts. Of course, as I said at the outset, the federal review process also remains in process, and it would be inappropriate, I think, for me to make definitive comments about this when those processes are still in play.
B. Simpson: This does go to the heart of some of the struggles out there with respect to the new relationship, because part of what the new relationship did is put the strategic vision…. Again, I agree with the minister. The federal review panel has to complete its work, and then it goes to federal cabinet.
I think that's where most First Nations have also landed. They're going to see how that process works — not necessarily by choice, because they're limited in resources. They don't have the capacities the minister indicated to make the court the arbiter of final resort, because often they don't have the financial resources or the wherewithal. They've got so many irons in the fire that they just can't go there.
I think that right now the First Nations are also awaiting the outcome. But there are a couple of things that the minister indicated. This isn't alone. There are also, as I said, Mount Milligan, the ramping up around Site C, in the minister's own riding, the dispute between Tolko and the Okanagan band, the Carrier-Sekani and the Enbridge pipeline.
You know, I can enumerate a lot more. In fact, one just hit the press recently. The Endako Mines expansion is now going to court; the Upper Nicola band with the B.C. Transmissions Corporation; West Moberly in the Cariboo and the Haisla are also involved in Enbridge.
So I'm using the Prosperity situation as an example, and the minister's answer is actually quite intriguing. So here's the context that I'm trying to get at.
Inside The New Relationship document is the province's five great goals, which they then couched as the strategic vision for B.C. Point 4 is to "lead the world in sustainable environmental management, with the best air quality, water quality and best fisheries management, bar none." And you have a group of First Nations that are sitting there saying that there are two lakes there — which, again, they make the claims and have made those presentations — that have a unique species of fish, an overstocked fish, in Fish Lake and historical and territorial rights to that, and they're seeing that that's going to be blown out.
The other thing is that they are promised in the new relationship the recognition of the need to preserve their decision-making authority, the promise of shared decision-making, revenue-sharing, etc., yet the minister's response is that the EAO office is sufficient in and of itself.
I think the minister understands it at a deeper level
than that. That was part of the whole impetus behind the new relationship — the
question of what constitutes
[ Page 6176 ]
due consultation. My understanding of the court cases is that it is the obligation of the Crown.
So is the minister indicating that the EAO, the environmental assessment office, is the agent of the Crown as far as consultation and accommodation occurs? I want to be very explicit about this. Is that what the minister is saying on the public record — that the environmental assessment office is acting as the agent of the Crown and that what it deems sufficient consultation is sufficient and that it is supposed to look at accommodation as well?
Hon. G. Abbott: The environmental assessment office is an agent of the Crown. They are part of the Crown. They are an agency which, while it does technical work, provides recommendations to ministers of the Crown and is certainly very much a part of the Crown. They are the agency through which many of the responsibilities of the Crown in respect of land use are achieved.
In terms of accommodation, some of the accommodation that might be associated with a specific project may be found through the conditions on a project. Again, as an example, the member will recall the environmental assessment process around the Halalt. Actually, it was the city of North Cowichan and their water project, in an area adjacent to the Halalt First Nation.
In that case, the environmental assessment produced conditions on the project, reducing the number of wells from three to two and limiting the amount of pumping which would be done seasonally. That would be an example of accommodation introduced by the environmental assessment recommendations.
In terms of other elements of accommodation, though — and there is, I must say, a little bit of confusion around this point — there may be other elements of accommodation which will be achieved outside of the environmental assessment recommendations through agreement between the First Nation and industry and/or government. It would be difficult to speculate, because it's going to vary with every project and every circumstance, but there may be elements of accommodation that are found outside of the EAO process.
I would go back again to what I think is…. I'm not sure why this misunderstanding exists, but the member will recall…. I know we've had some spirited debates on this, and perhaps we can get that kind of really good debate going on here briefly.
When the issue of the Halalt environmental assessment process came up, one of the member's colleagues — the member for North Cowichan, I think…. Sorry, I've got his riding wrong. The member basically stated in the Legislature during question period that the environmental assessment process with respect to the North Cowichan water system must have been flawed because it didn't produce the outcome which the Halalt First Nation desired, which is the dismissal of the project in whole. That to me is unfortunate.
In fact, environmental assessment processes existed under the former NDP government. They exist under our government. I think even the president of the New Democratic Party, Moe Sihota, who had some considerable experience as an Environment Minister in the province, said that parties should put their faith in environmental assessment, in the environmental assessment office. I think that was good advice.
I do appreciate that there's always going to be politics around this. I had ministerial responsibility at one time for EAO. It is a very sound, very comprehensive, very technical, very non-partisan, very non-political approach to trying to understand the project and trying to, where appropriate, put proper conditions around it or dismiss it as a project inappropriate on the land base.
B. Simpson: The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan isn't here, so I think it's unfair for us to continue to foster that debate. I do recall the minister's comments in the House about: "So do you want First Nations to have a veto?" What the member actually, in my recollection — it's on the public record — was asking the minister was to include the First Nations at the table in a watershed planning exercise.
As the minister well knows, this isn't a contentious issue with respect to just the opposition. This is a contentious issue with respect to First Nations on what constitutes appropriate consultation and accommodation. The EAO does not address traditional territories, territorial rights, broader accommodation issues, etc. It is project-focused.
There's a heightened concern around the EAO, the environmental assessment office, on two fronts, because of budgetary constraints that they have had and a pulling back of their budget, and because of the government's intent to go to one project, one process.
Often First Nations default to the federal process, which they believe is more robust, and they have greater opportunity to have input than what is currently available to them in the provincial process. The minister must know this. I know First Nations are talking to him about this bone of contention, of what constitutes consultation.
In the case of Prosperity, the issue, of course, is that you've got the Vickers case, which compounds or I guess reinforces the claims of the TNG. Judge Vickers came very close to saying: "We're going to recognize this in the courts if the governments don't get their act together and recognize it through a negotiated process." It came very, very close to flat out using the law and the judicial process to recognize territorial rights.
The Prosperity project area sits in the heart of what
Judge Vickers indicated — that he recognized the rights
[ Page 6177 ]
existed for the TNG but because of some technicalities, etc., did not recognize them.
So back to the EAO, though, in the interest of time. One of the things that the minister is well aware of is the case of a similar project, the Kemess North project. What First Nations are calling for is a joint review panel process where First Nations with territorial claims are actually involved in the review of the project. They're not just another stakeholder coming to the EAO or the federal panel and saying: "Look, we kind of have an interest in this area, and we'd like to be heard."
There was a joint panel process in play in the case of Prosperity mine. It disbanded, I would argue, because some partners got cold feet when the Kemess North decision came down, and the Amazay Lake project was effectively put in abeyance.
So my question to the minister is: would the minister consider…? It's presumptive of the federal panel. If they say to go ahead — and I've already had these discussions with Taseko — going ahead as is, as the environmental certificate for the ministry has indicated, is too bad, so sad about Fish Lake. There isn't accommodation there or offered at this juncture. The First Nations are saying they would like to get back and be at the table in an appropriate fashion in a joint review panel.
Has the minister had that dialogue? If not, would he be interested in that dialogue with the TNG?
Hon. G. Abbott: The important question that the member posed is: are First Nations just another stakeholder in terms of EAO processes? The answer to that is no. They are most certainly not just another stakeholder, nor are they treated as such in the process. Their participation is specifically welcomed by the EAO. They are invited to participate in working groups associated with the EAO deliberations. They are invited, outside of the working group process, to engage government to government on issues of concern as well.
I should also note for the record that Prosperity Lake is not in the Xeni Gwet'in title area that was adjudicated by Justice Vickers.
B. Simpson: As I said at the outset, I would state my ignorance, and I appreciate the minister correcting it as gently as he did.
I do want to close off this section. I promised my colleagues some time on some other issues that we'll address here, so we'll interrupt. Then, when we come back, we'll come back to treaty.
The promise of the new relationship was to get away from litigation, to try and look for a provincial framework, to have other, alternate decision-making processes and consultation more clearly defined so that First Nations were as comfortable with it as the government was comfortable with it, etc. I think the reality is…. Partly that's a collapse of the First Nations ability, through the leadership council, to continue to engage.
As we've indicated, we'll see what happens with the All Chiefs Task Force, but I would hope that that would reinvigorate the discussions. What I hear — and I know the minister must hear it…. For a lot of these bands that are dealing with these issues and forced to go to litigation, it's a negative impetus. It's not a constructive way to resolve these issues.
They don't share, in my estimation, the minister's assessment that they are not just other stakeholders at the EAO. That is a bone of contention for them, and I've heard wherever I've gone that they believe they are. They're invited to come and make a presentation, just like everybody else. It's not, in their estimation, due consultation.
Let me close on the consultation piece, again against the backdrop of the new relationship. There were some councils that were formed to do some of the work. They were indicated in The New Relationship as the working groups to work on some things — a forestry council, the energy and mines council, etc.
One of those councils initiated going and interrupting the work of the All Chiefs Task Force on a very specific issue, and that is failure of the government, in their estimation, to consult with respect to a piece of legislation we have in front of the House, the Clean Energy Act.
My question to the minister is not about the bill. It has to do with the response of government to the First Nations, because the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources indicated: "No, we did consult." I'm sure the minister has seen it. It was cc'd to him.
The resolution states explicitly that they were not consulted, and they're asking for the bill put in abeyance in toto. We can't discuss the bill, but I would like the minister to reflect on what he believes are the appropriate steps for the government to take to address the divide that exists on the number of First Nations that believe they were not consulted with that piece of legislation.
Hon. G. Abbott: I appreciate the member's important question with respect to consultation. This won't be a full answer to it, but I know that the member doesn't want to have the period between now and seven o'clock completely occupied by my answer either.
There is a distinction between bills of general application and bills of specific application. I think that's one way to begin to frame it. Secondly, I think, in terms of the Clean Energy Act, there was as a predecessor to that act, a clean energy task force, which I know enjoyed the advice of Dave Porter as one of its members and of Chief Ken Brown of the Klahoose as one of its members. I know that they were both very active members of the task force and provided excellent advice to it.
There are two areas of the Clean Energy Act which I
think are very positive from a First Nations perspective.
[ Page 6178 ]
Just two days ago — Monday — the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and I had the opportunity to meet with the First Nations Energy and Mining Council to discuss some of the issues in and around the Clean Energy Act, and we have committed to further discussions on that.
I can certainly advise the member that the council very much welcomes the commitment contained in the Clean Energy Act for, for the first time ever, revenue-sharing for power projects. That's a huge and important step ahead. Also, they very much welcome, although they…. We have to have some further discussions around the quantum, but they very much welcome the creation of the First Nations energy equity business fund to assist First Nations to get some skin in the game — I guess would be the best way to do it — to acquire an equity interest.
Those are very much positives from the council's perspective and, I suspect, from most First Nations' perspectives. We look forward to continuing discussions with the council and other First Nations about how this act can work for them.
S. Simpson: What I'd like to do is discuss with the minister some issues related to urban aboriginal issues in particular. The minister knows all too well the challenges that the urban aboriginal community is facing in a whole array of areas, whether it be issues around poverty, around homelessness, around addictions, around kids in care…. The list is long. It's very difficult, and it's very challenging.
The minister would know, and I appreciate, that while it's certainly not exclusive, the ministry is largely focused on issues related more to on reserve, to treaties, to economic development issues, to the broader issues of the aboriginal community on reserve and issues related to that. Yet as we know, of course, the majority…. I guess it's now about 60 percent, I think — the last number I saw. About 60 percent of our First Nations community, in fact, are living in urban areas throughout the province.
I guess the first question I have for the minister is: could the minister just give me his sense of what the initiatives are, what the focus of the ministry is in terms of getting at some of the challenges that our urban aboriginal communities are facing? Then maybe we'll get into a little bit of some of the specifics on two or three of those areas after that.
Hon. G. Abbott: I thank the member for his question. I certainly agree with his premise that First Nations in an urban setting are often experiencing some of the most compelling challenges from health, education, housing perspectives. So there are many things that are underway in terms of trying to improve that situation, and I'll make note of a few of them, but there are many initiatives. We all look forward to the day when we start to see some narrowing of the differences between social and economic outcomes between aboriginal people, whether on or off reserve, and other British Columbians.
In the urban context, one of the organizations that we work with that I think deserves enormous praise for the work that they do are the aboriginal friendship centres. Whether we're in a big urban area like Vancouver or smaller urban areas like Prince George or Kelowna or Kamloops, friendship centres play a very important role. We very much appreciate the dedication and partnership that they bring to the work that's done with both the province and the federal government.
Among the initiatives that I should highlight, the area of housing is an important one. I know that the member's particular interest is in housing. More than 4,000 new and upgraded supported-housing units and shelter beds are being created through the provincial homeless initiative, which benefits many homeless aboriginal people. As the member well knows, aboriginal people are overrepresented among the homeless in Vancouver and elsewhere, so the commitment that the Housing Minister has made to expanding the stock of supportive housing units and shelter beds is an important one.
Through the aboriginal housing initiative, the province has committed $50.9 million to build 200 new units of affordable, off-reserve aboriginal housing, which is creating safe, secure and culturally appropriate housing in ten communities for youth, women, elders and those struggling with addictions. So those are two important ones.
An area that I think is particularly important for narrowing the gaps in the future — education. I want to note particularly that we have created, signed and implemented some 49 aboriginal education enhancement agreements around the province. Those are very important. As well, the government has implemented the $65 million aboriginal post-secondary education strategy to increase access to post-secondary education.
We had some discussion of this earlier, and I won't repeat all of the discussion that occurred between the critic and me, but I think that there is some very important work that's being undertaken at colleges and universities across the province. Many have added aboriginal gathering centres on campus, which have made the universities and colleges much more welcoming places to First Nations than they were a decade or two ago.
Also, I cited a couple examples: Okanagan College now with over 600 First Nations or aboriginal students, hugely up from when I used to teach there; and Camosun College, another recent example, of around 800. Actually, in both cases, it's around 800 aboriginal students.
They are doing an amazing job of outreach, connecting
aboriginal students to adult basic education programs,
[ Page 6179 ]
to skills-training programs and to academic programs, all of which I think are hugely important in the shift that we all want to see in terms of more positive socioeconomic outcomes.
We've provided $6 million to aboriginal ActNow B.C. health initiatives, many of which are delivered through the friendship centres as part of the aboriginal ActNow B.C., and $2 million to the aboriginal nursing strategy, hoping to see more First Nations among the nurses that we're educating in the province.
Those are some of the areas. We've been talking generally about some of the economic development side of the work we do, but those would be some examples of attempting to address the issues of off-reserve urban aboriginals.
S. Simpson: I would agree with the minister in his comments about the friendship centres. I certainly know that in Vancouver I've had the opportunity to work with the friendship centre, which sits just outside the boundaries of my constituency, on a number of issues — primarily because I probably have most of the urban aboriginal housing in Vancouver. The bulk of it is in my constituency, as well as some of the schools that host significant numbers of aboriginal kids.
The minister talked about housing. Certainly, the initiatives around housing for the homeless are initiatives that First Nations can take advantage of. The minister will know that some of the most critical areas are around family housing for First Nations — family housing questions.
I certainly see families, younger families, particularly, often with very young parents — teenaged moms or just out of being teenaged moms — that are having kids and looking for opportunities. They're living with relatives in housing that doesn't meet their needs. It's too cramped. It's not working, and they really need the opportunity to be able to get out and find housing of their own as well as the opportunities around education and that.
The other thing we know, of course… I know I look at the schools in my constituency, like Macdonald, which may or may not survive as a school, but probably about 80 percent of its population now is First Nations kids. There's just an array of the problems there that start with the poverty that so many of the families are living in, and the challenges they have.
The complexity there…. I look at that area, and that's the first area that we see predators coming in, trying to draw some of these kids — elementary school kids, 11- and 12-year-old girls — into prostitution in the community, and trying to draw them out of the schools and into street prostitution.
We're seeing those predators on a fairly regular basis. I know the school board and the police and others are working hard to crack down on that and deal with that, but it's the allure of dollars and those things that come with some of the alienation that they feel.
I want to just pick up on that, because I think it's one of the really critical areas. I know in discussions with the friendship centre and with native health — Lou Demerais and those folks, who kind of know these issues way better than I or, I assume, the minister ever will, because they live with them every day — that we need to find ways to break this cycle in the urban areas — and I think of Vancouver, particularly, with young people, young First Nations.
This is a very challenging area. We're seeing increasing numbers end up in gangs where there's serious violence involved. It now appears, from my discussions with the police, that some of these gangs are now getting co-opted by some of the more sophisticated gang elements in British Columbia, the Hell's Angels and others, to kind of do their dirty work for them at the street level. These kids are way out of their league here and in serious trouble. There's serious violence going on.
I get told by elders in the community that part of their biggest worry is that these kids are feeling that nobody values them at all. If they're not valued, they then feel this freedom or whatever to go out and sort of adopt an antisocial behaviour that's very, very serious both for themselves and for others in the community.
The question I have for the minister is: how does the minister see his ministry working with Education, with Solicitor General and with other partners in the government? What is the role of his ministry to advance a series of programs or initiatives to try to get at these kids and give them some modicum of hope that there's a life in front of them that they can be excited about, and maybe get them to turn their back on the road that too many seem to be heading down and change that dynamic?
[H. Bloy in the chair.]
Hon. G. Abbott: I'll try to be relatively quick with my answer again because I'm aware of the time constraints. I generally want to indicate that I appreciate the member's question. I appreciate the member's observation, and I particularly appreciate him referencing Lou Demerais, who I've had an opportunity to meet on many occasions as Health Minister and more recently as Aboriginal Relations Minister.
I think Lou does just a terrific job in his work with aboriginal youth, particularly, but also with those who are suffering through all the issues associated with mental health and addictions. He does terrific work, and I'm glad the member acknowledged his important role.
There are — and the member rightly observes — many issues
associated with the challenges of mental health and addictions, and with youth crime,
the gangs in particular, that are certainly not confined to First Nations. This
is a challenge for every community in Vancouver — those issues.
[ Page 6180 ]
In terms of how we try to begin to deal with them, there are programs of general application in the mental health and addictions area which I think First Nations benefit from. The member will recall the addition, for example, of the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction — the challenge of concurrent intractable mental health and addiction disorders.
I think that was a big step ahead when I visited there, as I have a couple times, though I haven't since I left the Health Ministry. Certainly, First Nations are well represented there in terms of the client base. They get more than their fair share of these challenges in the community, and so the additional programs and facilities are of much benefit to them.
The Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation plays a coordinating role in relation to other social policy ministries. We may bring the ministries together, as an example, to discuss how we can improve aboriginal education. The leads will be the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development. We come together and talk about ideas for programs and improving existing programs.
Recently we had a meeting around aboriginal sport and how we can use sport more effectively as a way of providing an alternate outlet for youthful energy in sport rather than some of the gang-influenced criminal activities, which kids of any background can too easily fall into.
Another example of an idea that I feel passionately about and that we're working on, which the member knows well, is the program BladeRunners, which, I think, was instigated back about 1995 under an NDP government. It is one of those programs that have endured very well, that have played a terrific role in at-risk youth. As I recall, about 80 percent of the program participants are aboriginal, and many of those have gone on to have ongoing sustained employment in the construction sector.
We explore ideas about how we can take a very good program like BladeRunners and build on it. Are there ways that we can utilize graduates of the BladeRunners program to perhaps go back into either the urban community or the reserve community, share some of the skills and become some role models and mentors to aboriginal young people to think about careers in construction?
I think that there are many exciting things going on in this area, and I think we need to continue to build on those. I should also mention that in terms of youth specifically, we work with a group. I think the member may be familiar with them: the Unified Aboriginal Youth Collective. I met with them earlier this year. They gather together, and in the most recent case they gathered at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver.
There were at least several hundred youth from around the province who gathered to talk about the kinds of issues which the member has raised here: drugs, alcohol abuse, crime, gangs — all of these issues — and what they can do as youth to build stronger communities.
Again, as we've talked about a little earlier in this debate, there is a younger demographic among aboriginal people. I'll try to get this right: more than 50 percent of First Nations and aboriginal people in British Columbia are under age 26. In relation to the non-native demographic, they are very young.
That, to me, says that we have a real opportunity as a society if we can reach out to aboriginal youth to ensure that they have all of the opportunities that my kids are pursuing, that they have the same opportunity to access colleges and universities, to access basic education and then skills training or academic professions. All of those, I think, are very exciting.
We know that in the decade ahead there's going to be a tremendous demand for human resources and particularly health human resources. That, to me, says that we have an opportunity. If, as a government and as a society, we can reach out to aboriginal young people and acquaint them with the great opportunities they're going to have in the next decade or two ahead, I think we can achieve those kinds of fundamental shifts around socioeconomic outcomes that we need to achieve to reverse some of the current situation, which is, I think, very unfortunate.
S. Simpson: I would agree with the minister that there are both opportunities and challenges here in terms of dealing with this. The minister talks about the large percentage of young people. I've heard similar numbers. It's dramatically a very young community, largely. But when the minister talks about some of the programs and that….
I certainly know those programs — like BladeRunners, which are very effective. Certainly a large number of the successful people who have come through the BladeRunners — a majority — have First Nations backgrounds, and there are other programs I can think of. But I also know that there are real challenges in the community around where their funding comes to deal with some of their programs.
The one that jumps out at me, I know, in discussions I've had with folks at the friendship centre, is that there are significant numbers of children in care out of aboriginal communities. It's their lack of resources or the reduction in their resources at the friendship centre to be able to provide staff who simply can help parents whose children have been taken into care to understand what that means, to kind of understand the processes they have to go through, to understand the things they need to accomplish to get their kids back or to deal with that.
Too often they don't have the resources to be able to
mentor or to help people through that process. So it then becomes a pretty bewildering
process for somebody who
[ Page 6181 ]
doesn't understand it. Too often that happens, and probably the end result isn't the best result that it could have been for anybody.
I guess that really leads me, kind of, to the last question that I have. It's the one that has been raised to me, and I've raised this with the minister's predecessors in this ministry too, and I know there's been some concurrence. It is a difficult question, and I would acknowledge that.
You have this large percentage of First Nations people living in urban centres. Their connection is not necessarily by band but by the nature of their ancestry as First Nations and their geographic relationship. They come from across the province or across the country, and they're in Vancouver or Surrey or Prince George or wherever they are.
They are increasingly a community, yet of course, when it comes to discussions around significant decisions, when it comes to discussions around resources and resource allocation, the bands say: "Those folks belong to our bands, and we will deal with them as members of our band."
I understand that, and I certainly don't profess to be expert in this in any way, but the folks that I talk to at the community level say that doesn't occur and, "We don't have a working relationship with those bands, which may be halfway across the province, in order to deal with our issues. Our band and our community is here in Vancouver or Prince George," or wherever it is, and yet they don't have the resources in the same way.
The other critique that I hear is that they don't have voices at the tables that are having the discussion around the issues that will begin to bring some of the resolve around issues for First Nations in British Columbia. As those issues get discussed and evolved — and resolved, we all hope — this community, which is so significant, does not have voices at that table, and they want those voices.
I certainly would be the first one to say that I understand the complexity of this and the challenge in doing this and that there's nothing easy about it, but there's got to be some way to address this very real question about how this group of people, whether it's in fact or not, feel alienated from a process that's about protecting their culture. We know that's important because, as the minister says….
He talks about the need to provide opportunities and education for these young people to move forward, and the leaders in the communities in Vancouver and Prince George and the elders would say: "We want that to happen, but at the same time we want it to happen in a culturally reflective way that ensures that they don't lose their culture." That's part of the discussion too, and I know that the government has been conscious of that.
The question I have is: how does the minister or the government see getting at this question of this majority, arguably, that feel alienated from the process of resolving the questions that relate to First Nations because they have somehow kind of got themselves into this situation where they're caught between the on-reserve and the traditional leadership, for lack of a better term, in the First Nations and the governments in this negotiation and this discussion?
They are in the middle, and they, frankly, are feeling that they have no place at the table, that they have no voice, and they don't know how to get at that. What's the minister's advice on that, or how do we deal with that?
Hon. G. Abbott: Again, I thank the member for his important question. It is a complex question, but I'll do my best on that. I think that the issue that the member raises is about the, at times, loss of connection between the former on-reserve leadership versus the urban situation, where often there isn't the same connection to a specific leadership.
I guess these are just some thoughts I have, and I don't intend this to be a definitive answer to the member's question. I'm not sure that there's an entirely definitive answer to it. But first I'd want to acknowledge that some First Nations, more effectively than others, have maintained an off-reserve connection. As an example, the Nisga'a, through their treaty and some treaty funding, have maintained a political, social and economic connection in Terrace, and they are looking to develop the same thing in Vancouver. That would be one example.
I know other First Nations — the Gitxsan, for example — also will gather in a place like Vancouver where their members are. So in some cases those traditions are maintained despite being away from the reserve setting.
The second thing I would say in respect of this is that the friendship centres, I think, provide a general area of support or home for collegiality between First Nations regardless of what the band background might be. They do play that important role. I've never heard of the friendship centres having any particular band affiliation. It's always pretty general. So that has offered up some opportunity for First Nations to engage with other First Nations — I'm sure some from the same background, some from other backgrounds — as they gather at the gathering centres at the friendship centres.
A third point. Formerly, the provincial government and the federal government largely related politically to off-reserve urban aboriginals through an organization that I know that the member is familiar with, the United Native Nations.
That organization is, I guess, somewhere between either
deeply troubled and defunct right now. I'm not sure it's functional. I think it's
effectively moribund. Hopefully, it will recover at some point. I thought they had
very good leadership at a time, but I know they've been beset by some internal issues
which have troubled
[ Page 6182 ]
them. But the way in which governments tended to work with urban aboriginals was through that.
I think that the other really important part of the shift that is occurring is the challenge that not only First Nations and aboriginal people have but is reflective broadly of all British Columbia. I was talking to some colleagues from the interior of British Columbia who, like me, have a few kids. In every case our kids have decided, obviously, of their own volition, to go to university and to get jobs and so on in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island.
I think that in many respects, aboriginal First Nations kids are no different than my kids or anybody else's kids. They see the excitement, the opportunity that comes with these large centres, and it's often difficult to persuade them that they can or should be a part of the rural experience rather than the urban one.
That's not just indicative of B.C. That's Canada. That's the world. I think that's been the trend now for a hundred years — urbanization — and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon.
I know that the member may not ask another question in this area, and I wanted to end on what I think is a positive note. The recent Environics Institute poll was very counterintuitive to what one might expect these answers would be in a poll of urban aboriginal people across Canada. Based on the report's findings, B.C. is faring quite well.
For example, in Vancouver — and this is in relation to First Nations aboriginal people — 86 percent report excellent to good health. Their satisfaction with city life is rated very high. Aboriginal cultural activities are regularly available, and Vancouver is rated high there. Most are likely to say they have many close non-aboriginal friends. Most are likely to say they are happy. Rates of employment are the highest, at 71 percent, and Vancouver is one of the top three cities where urban aboriginal people are most likely to be satisfied with their jobs and more likely than average to report they are in excellent to good health.
All of that is very positive. Again, I don't throw that in to be dismissive of the very real challenges that exist on the Downtown Eastside and elsewhere in the province of British Columbia in relation to urban aboriginals, but I think of it as indication that relatively speaking, urban aboriginals are finding their feet and are, in some cases, thriving in the urban environment.
We need to continue all of the work that we've been talking about in these estimates to try to ensure that that pattern continues and that we can say happily someday, before we all die, that we in fact have equality of opportunity in this great province we call British Columbia.
M. Karagianis: I wanted to ask a direct question here about federal funding, INAC funding, for the child welfare system for aboriginal communities. I do know — I'm sure the minister is aware as well — that First Nations and aboriginal communities for many years have been saying that the funding coming from the federal government is inadequate. We do know that that money does channel through the province to First Nations communities.
Very recently the Minister of Children and Family Development was on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and commented about the fact that the B.C. government has been going after the federal government, after Minister Strahl, on this inequity in funding. I would just like to know if the minister could perhaps elaborate on that to tell us the progress that's being made, if any, and if there's going to be further pursuit of that.
I understand that a letter was sent in November of 2009 to the federal minister and that, as of the airing of this show, there had not been a successful meeting with the federal minister. I would like to know what is happening on this file and if the minister can talk about the future plans for this and the long-term implications of inadequate funding from INAC to the province.
Hon. G. Abbott: I'll do my best to answer this. I'm certainly familiar with it, not to the extent, though, that the Minister of Children and Family Development would be. We're very much supportive of their efforts to try to improve INAC funding to the province of British Columbia, particularly in support of child protection.
My understanding is that through the processes the federal government has created, it has resulted in a situation in some provinces, and I think that Alberta would be one example, where there is greater funding than is received in British Columbia. They're gradually implementing, as I understand it, a delegated agency model for children and family wellness councils, etc. Again, appreciate that I'm not the expert here, but I did co-sign a letter from the minister to the federal minister encouraging them to try to resolve this situation.
In terms of update, we understand that there may be some additional funding for prevention models in the most recent federal budget. We are still attempting to ascertain, and their ministry is still attempting to ascertain, what portion of that will find its way to British Columbia.
M. Karagianis: I will watch that keenly to see if, in fact, that comes to pass from the federal government, because that would be good news indeed.
In the interest of time, I'll not pursue further questions. I appreciate that it's not the minister's main file here, but I did know that as a co-signator to that, he would have some information.
I want to just briefly touch on another issue here.
The minister is familiar with a private member's bill that I
[ Page 6183 ]
have submitted to the House on numerous occasions around heritage protection. A recent article appeared in the Times Colonist newspaper where the Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts commented on that.
I'm not necessarily going to go into his comments on that, other than to say that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts did admit that the existing provisions in the Heritage Conservation Act are not adequate for protection of aboriginal sites and artifacts. And certainly, First Nations communities know that.
The minister made reference to an internal committee of government officials and aboriginal representatives that had been put together to look into this. I have been familiar with ongoing reference to this committee for many years, actually, but this one refers specifically to perhaps a new one. I know the leadership council had some initiatives underway, and perhaps this committee, which apparently was launched in November of 2009, may have more direct action that they're taking.
Could the minister just update us on the progress of that and perhaps address whether or not the government would even have an interest in taking the bill themselves and resubmitting it with their own additions to it and their own power behind it?
Hon. G. Abbott: Thank you to the member for her question. The area of heritage conservation is a remarkably challenging one. I had responsibility for it for a time, and it is very challenging.
The government, as the member recognized, is attempting, in consultation with First Nations, to try to develop ways of improving the policy framework here. We have, as the member noted, established a joint working group on First Nation heritage conservation — which we'll call the working group — to identify First Nations issues and develop options or make recommendations to, first of all, create a more meaningful role for First Nations in provincial heritage conservation, improve the protection and conservation of First Nations heritage sites and human remains and provide for the protection of sacred and spiritual sites or areas.
In 2009 the working group was revitalized with the appointment of Peter Walters, who is from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, as provincial lead, while it is expected that Judith Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation will continue to lead on behalf of the First Nations. Both leaders are supported by a number of representatives from the province, including the provincial staff of the archaeology branch, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, and MARR staff. That work will continue.
Will the group or the ministry adopt the thoughtful and constructive suggestions contained in the private member's bill that's been put forward? Anything of thoughtful value can always be stolen for beneficial societal purposes, and your bill may be one of those.
B. Simpson: I appreciate the minister dealing with those questions. We've got about 40 minutes or so left, and I do want to touch on some things. I've been deliberately not getting into the nitty-gritty of the ministry, because I think it's been carrying forward this way in some fashion. There's a bit of a reorganization of the vote appropriation that I, hopefully, will get a question in on, but I wanted to spend a little bit of time just tidying up some of the questions we had about treaty and some things that are now evolving.
But I want to state on the record again, in response to the minister's final response to me about meeting with the First Nations Energy Council and what they're saying about revenue-sharing and the First Nations trust in the bill…. The minister also knows that the statement that they've made to government is that they think the lack of consultation flies in the face of the new relationship and that what consultation did occur ended up getting watered down and not included in the act. So we're going to have to wait and see what the outcome is later on. But it goes to the whole issue of consultation.
The minister also stated that there's a difference between bills of general application and specific application, and that triggers different kinds of consultation. But again, even in the First Nations woodland act that was brought forward…. The First Nations Forestry Council has called a summit together in conjunction with the energy council to talk about the failure of consultation around that particular thing as well. So consultation is an enigma, and it was one of the things that the new relationship process was attempting to redress.
I just want to go to the First Nations trust very quickly. The First Nations trust was established by an act of the Legislature — $100 million. It was part of the new relationship's unfolding. It was in order to foster the new relationship. I just want some clarification on the public record of the government's relationship to that trust, post–its enactment, given that the parties now to the new relationship agreement are trying to figure things out.
The trust, I know, is established. It's a stand-alone entity. It does its own reporting. But what is the government's relation to that? Is it reporting to the government? Is it reporting to the public? Does the government have any involvement in the trust at all?
Hon. G. Abbott: The new
relationship trust is a completely independent organization. British Columbia does
appoint two members to the board of the trust, but it is independent. It develops
a three-year strategic plan wherein they lay out their objectives, programs and
so on. There is an annual reporting to the public, and I receive a copy of the report.
I'm sure that many other people receive a copy of the report, and the report would
be universally available online at the website.
[ Page 6184 ]
B. Simpson: I have looked at that report. Part of the reason for raising this is partly in the context of the urban aboriginal questions that one of my colleagues asked, because the vast majority of the trust fund, again, goes back to the more reserve- or land base–oriented projects, etc. We've had questions from the executive directors council for urban aboriginal groups about their ability to access quite a large First Nations fund.
The other is my own curiosity. The minister and I had a discussion with another piece of legislation about First Nations languages and the act that came forward there and the need for immediate action on that front. I note in the trust's documentation that there is some work being done around culture and languages.
I'm just wondering if the government has the capacity, with its two members or in some other way, of sitting down and making sure that the alignment of priorities for the trust is actually meeting emerging needs and not just simply vested in what was the new relationship document, which was more around rights, title, accommodation agreements, consultation, etc., on the land base side of the issue.
I'll leave that with the minister. I'm not sure if the minister or the government has conduits to possibly be looking at that. Given our fiscal constraints, that's a large sum of money sitting there that may — and I don't know if it is — be open to reorientation of priorities.
Hon. G. Abbott: The trust is independent. They make their own decisions. There are opportunities to certainly convey the provincial point of view through the two representatives we have on the board.
I would also note that I had the opportunity to meet with the trust a few months ago, and we had a very good meeting. Again, I laid out where I thought the province of British Columbia was going in terms of trying to build on initiatives in the area of shared decision-making and resource-sharing and building capacity and health and education and so on. It was a very useful meeting, and I hope we can continue to have the very good relationship we've had with the trust and have their spending opportunities be one of the ways in which we can strategically advance some of the province's goals.
I am pleased with a lot of the work that they do. These are just some of the examples of recent spending by the trust: $1.5 million in scholarships for 240 post-secondary students and $1 million annually for language programs managed through the First Peoples Heritage, Language and Culture Council. That's very important, and as the member noted, we did talk about that recently. I think that is excellent support from the trust. There was $1.2 million to First Nation communities for planning and $1 million to develop First Nations economic development plan.
I know the trust is looking at different ways they can assist in advancing opportunities for economic development, equity interest and so on. Some of that work is very early on, but I think the trust is generally steering in the right direction in terms of trying to improve outcomes for First Nations.
B. Simpson: I did go through the trust documentation and looked at that. There are also some interesting ones about facilitating lobbying of government to get shares of gaming revenue. There are various other things that are in there as well.
Some of the discussion that I have had with some First Nations…. I know that it's an early process. It's new. They're figuring it out. But the application process, the alignment of priorities…. I think you get that when you institutionalize a trust and institutionalize an organization in a general case. But I was just curious about the government's residual abilities to kind of influence the trust if there are emerging priorities, and the minister has answered that question.
Back to treaty, and there are some things I want to tidy up just on treaty, if I could. One of the fundamental differences between treaty and the success that the government is having on some of its reconciliation agreements, incremental treaties, etc., is that treaty, effectively, if you can get there, establishes a different degree of certainty. Ultimately, that's why, you know, Jock Finlayson recently made comment about that being how you get to some certainty in terms of investment, etc., that you want to try to drive the treaty process.
As we were canvassing on Monday, there are questions about whether the treaty process needs a real good shot in the arm and to be revitalized. There's the work of the common table. I was trying to get clarity from the minister around whether or not the province has submitted a response.
I subsequently talked to some of the First Nations leaders. They indicated that there was a response of some sort. It wasn't as detailed as what they had hoped for from either level of government, but the provincial government, in particular, has indicated some of its priorities for some of the work of the common table.
I went back and looked at the Hansard, and the minister did mention a treaty revitalization committee that's underway. I wonder if I could get a little bit more clarity on that. What is the nature of that committee? How is it going to be working, relative to the recommendations and the work of the common table, and what are its priorities?
Hon. G. Abbott: The treaty revitalization table consists of representatives from the First Nations Summit from British Columbia. Mr. Paine — or, as we affectionately call him, Dr. Paine — on my left, is a member of that table and a representative from Canada as well.
The purpose of the treaty revitalization table is to
examine process issues that may be impeding progress
[ Page 6185 ]
under the British Columbia treaty process. The treaty revitalization senior officials group agreed that the topics for discussion should be dealt with in the following order of priority.
The first is one that the member has noted is of particular concern, and that is financing treaty negotiations — that is a big issue and a growing and important issue — then capacity to negotiate and implement treaties; process for addressing overlapping claims and shared territories; interim measures and incremental treaty agreements; streamlining, as in negotiation processes; and confidentiality agreements and the role of the B.C. Treaty Commission.
B. Simpson: I guess the feedback I got from everybody that I've talked to is that there's a lot of talking going on. It seems like the easiest way to avoid addressing an issue is to put another group together and have them go and discuss it.
You've got the common table that actually spent significant time trying to decide on what the critical issues were. The federal and provincial governments went away with a promise to come back and respond and to get on with some of that. I guess the response is to convene a group of people to go and start working on the issues on a priority basis.
Does this group have a timeline? Does it have resources? For example, on the financing, a big chunk of that, of course, is the debt load that is incurred and the rationalization of that debt load. A lot of First Nations end up being stuck in the treaty process. They may prefer to take alternative routes, but then the debt comes due if they decide to formally walk away.
Let's take that one example. Is that time-lined? Will it be resourced? Will there be a definitive resolution to that particular issue in a timely fashion? You know, we could do each of the priorities that way, but is that the way that this group is going to work, where they actually get the job done?
Hon. G. Abbott: The member rightly has identified what is one of the principle concerns of the revitalization table, and that is the issue of treaty financing. The loan authorities, all things being equal, come due on March 2011, so that's not that far away. There is much discussion continuing to occur in the renewal of those. Should it come in the form of loans or contributions or whatever?
Right now it is federal loans that are in question. I mean, to a degree it is a federal issue, because it's their loans that are out there and, in some cases, may or may not be returned through successful treaty negotiations. That having been said, it is everyone's concern. We want the treaty process to continue effectively, and this is a big issue that has to be resolved. So yes, there is talk, but my understanding from the officials involved is that it has been constructive talk. But that's not to say that the answers are easy. I'm certain they're not.
B. Simpson: If they were, I think that there'd be a lot more progress on a number of fronts. They are very complicated issues, as we've said a number of times. I assume that the other priorities will have that same kind of impetus to them as well. The debt…. One does have a clock ticking down.
One of the things that we all know is that the Treaty Commission have done a good job of labelling this "unfinished business." They have the PricewaterhouseCoopers report about the unrealized investment potential to the province.
I would argue that if we look at resource development over the next little while, First Nations have found their voice, and they'll exercise it in one way or another, whether that's direct action, litigation, cutting deals with the government, or bogging the whole process down or cutting deals with the third party as well. So it is an issue that needs to be resolved.
With that then, I note a statement in the general budget that "as the province enters a new decade, it must ensure its financial resources are focused on those areas that reflect tomorrow's needs." That was the starting comment for the realignment of some of the funding from the natural resource ministries — $320 million coming out of those ministries.
It's a twofold question, and I'm truncating because of time. One is that in that realignment there wasn't an infusion of additional dollars to see if we could move beyond breakthrough table approaches to putting more resources to a broader range of tables to see if we could move the treaty process forward.
Does the minister believe that there's a sort of resource allocation issue that lies behind this — that if we had the ability to put more negotiators, some mediation services, more capacity-building, that if it was one of the government's priorities to get on with economic development in the province, additional resources could actually start to get more breakthrough tables and more resolution and certainty?
The second part of my question on this has to do with whether or not the realignment of resources out of natural resource ministries may actually run counter, because in actual resource ministries the treaty process for reconciliation agreements, etc…. You depend on those ministries to actually be able to do a lot of the on-the-ground work, find the resources and do the mapping.
The Minister of Forests even admitted that there may
be some problems with the First Nations woodland licences because the mapping work
all has to be done. At the same time he took a couple of hundred people out of his
own ministry and is taking $230 million out of that ministry.
[ Page 6186 ]
I appreciate the minister's patience with me, but it's twofold: with a realignment of resources and an infusion of resources, could we actually see faster progress? And on the flipside of it, by realigning out of the natural resources ministries, are we actually undermining to a certain extent some of the work that needs to get done to make that happen?
Hon. G. Abbott: So the member's first question really was: with a greater resource allocation, could there be a beneficial impact on the progress of treaty negotiation in the province. We think that, I guess, generally the answer is no. We believe there are no resource issues that are impeding our ability to work through to achieving treaties or agreements which may be related to or incremental to treaties.
We'd say that for a number of reasons. I guess the first would be that we are one of three partners who help to determine whether there's going to be a successful treaty. We work with the willing, and often the willing are self-identified.
I've even, in the short time I've been Minister of Aboriginal Relations here, had meetings with First Nations who say: "No, we really want to move. We're tired of spinning our wheels. We want to get to a conclusion." Typically, they're sincere about that. When we hear that, we try to move things along just as quickly as the First Nation is comfortable with.
In the end I think that we all have to recognize that it's important the First Nations are proceeding at a pace that they're comfortable with, that their community members are comfortable with — that they can hold community meetings and explain where they're going and why, and so on.
Often it's not just the First Nation. We talked — I guess it was Monday, when we had our last discussion — that fish…. The federal government tends to be often the biggest barrier to getting across the goal line with treaty. Everybody is working hard to try to address that, but that's probably one of the big sorts of facts of life in terms of the rate of treaties or the rate of progress on treaties.
So I think the answer to the question is no. I was just looking at the list of approved final agreements, final agreements that are in the final stages of negotiation, agreement-in-principle offers and incremental treaty agreements, and that list is more expansive than it has ever been in the history of the province. We're not feeling like we're constrained by resources on that side of it.
The member also asked a question about whether we were feeling that any of the expenditure reductions or budget reductions in our colleague resource ministries were having any impact on our ability to get work done related to treaty. The answer, at least to this point, is no. There certainly are some challenges which the resource ministries are wrestling with, but to date it has not impaired our ability to either proceed through treaty discussions or to implement treaties.
B. Simpson: I have to reflect, I guess, on the minister's answer. As I go around talking to the Nazko, for example, they're indicating that the length of time between their table convening and all of that stuff…. When they do get to a certain stage of readiness, there is a desire to move a bit faster, maintaining the consistency of negotiators, etc. But I appreciate the minister's candid and forthright reply on that, and it's something that I think we need to explore over the next little while.
We have a resource allocation issue, and we've got about five minutes left before the Chair starts telling us to note the time. I've got two quick areas I'd like to canvass. One is that there's a new degree of frustration, I think, that is occurring. That's a lot of the context around the discussion we had about the new relationship, the discussion around the treaty process and how difficult it is.
The Mining Association has indicated that treaties are our number one issue for them, or certainty on the land base. I indicated that Jock Finlayson of the B.C. Business Council and the New Relationship Business Group came together. That's one area where there's a desire for certainty, and they think it's going as slow as molasses to get there.
I'm more just curious about MARR's role this time in addressing these. We have seen a couple things happen recently that may be the beginning of another reflection of that frustration. One is the Ahousaht and Catface, where the Ahousaht basically said: "Look, it's our area. If we want to develop it, we're going to develop it, and everybody else leave us alone."
I met with the Chief of Cape Mudge — a similar kind of scenario, where "we're going to put an aquaculture venture where we think an aquaculture venture goes, and nobody can tell us differently."
So there's that kind of thing. Then there's a situation that I'm sure the minister is fully briefed on, with the Tsleil-Waututh and their stewardship fees. The concern it's raised is that if the federal and provincial governments don't actively intervene and somehow redress the fact that local governments have to start paying First Nations that haven't dealt with their territorial claims, etc., out of frustration by development and economic activity happening on their traditional territories, they're just going to start charging people.
That's problematic. I know the local government table
on treaty has put a substantive brief to the government about this issue and is
looking for redress. It's a complicated issue. My question is actually a fairly
simply one. Is it MARR that this comes to? Is it MARR that tries to figure out a
way through these things, or does it go somewhere else in the government?
[ Page 6187 ]
Hon. G. Abbott: There are a few aspects to the observations and questions which were posed by the critic. I'll begin with the Nazko. I'm advised that we similarly are impressed by the resolve and the positive constructive approach that Nazko is taking at the treaty table. I'm also advised that the preliminary challenge there is that the federal government does not yet have a mandate for the Nazko table.
We want to work with the Nazko First Nation to see if there's some way we can work with them and build on that very positive and constructive approach that they are taking towards these negotiations. Potentially, we could explore things like incremental treaty agreements and that sort of thing, because it would be unfortunate if that enthusiasm being exhibited at the treaty table is not in some way rewarded. We want to do that.
The member references Ahousaht and the emerging controversy around Catface Mountain and Cape Mudge and some of the current conflict that is evident between the regional district and its foreshore zoning and the aspirations of the Cape Mudge band to enhance and develop their aquaculture industry.
I think while at one level those are a challenge, because they potentially involve conflict between local government or governments and the aspirations of First Nations, at another level it's a very positive thing. It indicates that First Nations are wanting to move, and move forward quickly, to greater economic development within their traditional territory — in the case of Cape Mudge, into a development of aquaculture resources right off their own Indian reserves.
It's hard not to feel some sympathy for them as they attempt to build economic capacity and build economic and employment opportunities for their young people and their members — that they are constrained from doing that. It's a double-edged sword, as we love to say in the world of politics.
Our role in government is, like I said, at one level to provide coordination between the various ministries that may be interacting with First Nations. We are also — and this is one of the really delightful things about the ministry — problem-solvers for government in relation to First Nations issues. Not every ministry can have the same kind of congregation of resources around First Nations, so we work with them when problems emerge to try to resolve them.
I guess a final point in relation to the questions and observations of the member is that I don't share the view that treaties are essential to certainty on the land base. We've talked about those earlier in estimates. For many, many reasons treaties can be a positive and constructive element in the world of aboriginal relations, but certainty on the land base doesn't have to have full treaty to provide for it.
That's why we want to continue to build on revenue-sharing, particularly through the ECDAs, the economic community development agreements; the strategic engagement agreements; the reconciliation protocols. All of these are new paths to reconciliation, and they are new paths to the economic expansion and diversification of British Columbia for the benefit of all British Columbians, including First Nations.
I don't necessarily agree that treaties are essential to achieve that goal. They're helpful, but they're not essential. There are other paths, and we are committed to exploring those many paths.
B. Simpson: This will be my final question. My thanks to staff. I know they all have busy days, and the work is accumulating while they're sitting in here and allowing the minister and me to have this dialogue.
It's been an important dialogue. It has certainly got a bit more clarity on where we're at, and I continue to offer our support as the government moves forward on this important file. I think it's important to all British Columbians that we do get some resolution to these things. I appreciate the open door, and it works both ways.
My final question to the minister is something that I've been trying to figure out over a number of ministries. It's the whole issue of where the First Nation communities are around the fire work that needs to get done — the interface fuel management, the fire plans, all of that. I know they're trying to get some clarification on where that will be funded. As the minister may well know, because of the federal funding disappearing, they have been rolled into just being in the queue with whatever is available through UBCM and others.
Is the minister aware of any work that's done in his ministry to try and release some of the promised federal dollars to fast-track the work in interface fire? With that, I'll look forward to the minister's response, and that concludes my part of the debate.
Hon. G. Abbott: Noting the hour, the business of fireproofing communities, including aboriginal communities, is not something that's been sort of front and centre or central to our ministry.
That work is being undertaken, I understand, principally by the Ministry of Forests and Range assisted by the office of the fire commissioner. Were we requested to act in any sort of coordinating or liaison role with a First Nation, we'd be happy to do that, but that hasn't been the case to this point. It has been principally MOFR and the fire commissioner who've been doing that work.
I'd also like to say thank you, in conclusion, hon.
Chair. I want to thank the members who have asked their very thoughtful and constructive
questions during our estimates debate. I agree with the critic that this has been
a very useful and interesting process, and I do appreciate the way in which the
critic has managed his role. It's quite startlingly unusual in this place, but we're
able to sit down and chat about the issues of the day. I've appreciated having that
relationship with the critic, and I thank him for that.
[ Page 6188 ]
Also, I want to take a moment to thank the staff of the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation for the great work they do each and every year, each and every day of the year. The last year has been a very exciting one, and I know that the next year is going to be exciting. One of the reasons why we are making such great progress is that I enjoy the support of such remarkably capable, intelligent, experienced, devoted, committed and awesome people in the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations. I want to thank them for the great work they do, and thank you for your patience as you eagerly await the final resolution of these matters, Mr. Chair.
Vote 11: ministry operations, $29,905,000 — approved.
Vote 12: treaty and other agreements funding, $5,927,000 — approved.
Hon. G. Abbott: I move the committee rise, report resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 6:48 p.m.
Amendment to Bill 20 —
Amendment Act (No. 3), 2010
[SECTION 52 (a), as it amends section 10 (1) of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Requirements) Act, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
52 Section 10 is amended
(a) in subsection (1) by striking out everything after "the following formula:" and substituting the following:
|administrative penalty =||(actual CI - required CI) x||sum of (EER x EC for each fuel)||– NEcredit + NEincrease||x PR|
|actual CI||=||the weighted
average of the carbon intensities of all Part 3 fuels
supplied by the Part 3 fuel supplier in the compliance period before
taking into account notional emissions under section 8;
|required CI||=||the prescribed level of carbon intensity for the compliance period;|
|EC||=||energy content of a fuel;|
|EER||=||energy efficiency effectiveness ratio;|
|NEcredit||=||notional emissions credited under section 8;|
|NEincrease||=||notional emissions increased under section 8|
|PR||=||the penalty rate prescribed by regulation;, and]|
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