2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Volume 26, Number 7
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill 7 — Regulatory Reporting Act
Hon. K. Falcon
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Safety of Trans-Canada Highway
Vancouver International Airport and air travel between B.C. and Asia
Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health
Connaught Skating Club in Richmond
Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences
Government settlement with Boss Power Corp.
Hon. R. Coleman
Government handling of uranium-mining application by Boss Power Corp.
Hon. R. Coleman
Government settlement with Boss Power Corp.
Hon. R. Coleman
Community living services review
Hon. S. Cadieux
Orders of the Day
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 6 — Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2011 (continued)
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TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2011
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
J. Les: I have the pleasure this afternoon to introduce four guests who are seated on the floor of the Legislature — to your right, Mr. Speaker. They are: from Arizona, Senator Al Melvin; from Nevada, Assemblyman David Bobzien; from New Mexico, Senator Timothy Jennings; and from California, Senator Curren Price.
I had the pleasure of meeting with these gentlemen this morning, and they have met with other members of cabinet as well, discussing with us different areas of common interest. I'm told that they have very much enjoyed their visits here for the last day or so, and I would ask the House to make them feel welcome in our precincts.
J. Horgan: I want to join with the government member in welcoming our guests from the United States.
In the next number of minutes you're going to see citizens introduced in this assembly. You're going to see polite statements by members and then a raucous thing called question period. I hope you have a good time.
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm pleased to announce several guests, some of whom are from Surrey, that are joining us in the House today. I would like to welcome an outstanding businessman and community leader, Hardev Grewal, who is here today with his son Isher, along with Harjinder Singh Hayer, who is visiting from India, and Sanjiv Alawalia, who are all here today. I would ask the House to please make them all welcome.
L. Popham: I'd like to welcome my mother, Lorna, back to the House today. She's from Brentwood, British Columbia. And I would like to welcome two very, very longtime dear friends, Russ Fuoco and Star Weiss. They're from Metchosin. I've known them…. I grew up with them being part of my family and their family being part of our family from Quadra Island.
Hon. D. McRae: I have two guests today, and they both advocate and represent for agriculture in British Columbia. I have David Taylor, who is the chair of the B.C. Vegetable Marketing Commission, and Robert Butler, who is the general manager of the B.C. Potato Growers Association. Would this House please make them welcome.
B. Ralston: I'd like to introduce two guests today, Holly Reid and Will Beale, who are here in Victoria as part of their work with the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union. Will the House please make them welcome.
L. Reid: Last Thursday I had the absolute privilege to attend a vigil in Emery Barnes Park. A gentleman who made a remarkable set of comments that evening was Ryan Clayton. He has joined us today in the gallery, and he is joined by his lovely colleague, who is Daniel Belkin. I'd ask the House to please make them both very welcome.
N. Letnick: Mr. Speaker, we frequently rise in this House to announce grandchildren. I wish I had one to announce today, but I'm very proud otherwise to announce that I have guests from the best business school in the country. And the best business school in the country, for those of you who don't already know, is not even in my riding. It's in the riding of the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations, and that's the Okanagan School of Business.
With us today we have Blair Baldwin and Laura Thurnheer, who are the faculty, and they've brought with them an outstanding team of students who just had an intense competition in tourism. They are Jena Huber, Jordan Lacroix, Nathan Milligan and Shelby Fransen. If you wouldn't mind helping me make them welcome.
R. Chouhan: It gives me great pleasure to wish someone a very happy birthday today, a very dear friend of mine from Burnaby–Deer Lake. So I hope you all join me in wishing her a very, very happy birthday and many, many more.
J. Rustad: It's not often I get an opportunity to introduce somebody travelling down from Nechako Lakes, but Maureen Czirfusz is down, joining us here today. She is with the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce. She's also a manager and economic development officer. She's, more or less, a go-to person in Houston, so would the House please make her welcome.
Hon. C. Clark: I'll join in congratulating the member for Burnaby–Deer Lake on her birthday today. It's not every day or every year you get to celebrate your 35th birthday, although some of us try.
I am also pleased to introduce to the House today two of my newest correspondence branch staff, Jas Bains and Stephanie Klak. Both ladies are graduates of St. Michael's University School here in Victoria, and they've gone on to receive post-secondary degrees. They are hard-working, they are enthusiastic, and I am delighted to have them on my team.
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Hon. M. de Jong: And from the Minister of Health's office, new arrival Julie D'Argis, who is all of those things and brave to come into my office. It is her first opportunity to watch deliberations of the House, and I know that all of my colleagues will want to make her welcome.
D. Routley: Joining us in the House today is the conflict commissioner Paul Fraser and his lovely daughter Jackie, who have come to see the question period.
I can share the story that I shared with her. Mr. MacMinn, the former Clerk of the House for over 50 years — I could share this with the gentlemen from the United States as well — cautions young people when they come here that at home we teach you to work cooperatively in a friendly way with each other. This isn't that kind of place. He says it's that way for a reason. There's anger and passion in this chamber so that there isn't blood on our streets. I think it was a good reminder.
J. van Dongen: Visiting the Legislature today are a wonderful couple named Barbara and Martin Epp from Abbotsford South. I ask the House to please make them very welcome.
N. Macdonald: Joining us in the House is my constituency assistant, Joy Orr. All New Democrat constituency assistants are coming, but they're coming tomorrow, so we've jumped the line here a bit. But please join me in making her welcome.
First Reading of Bills
Bill 7 — Regulatory
Hon. K. Falcon presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Regulatory Reporting Act.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that Bill 7 be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm pleased to introduce Bill 7, Regulatory Reporting Act, 2011. Bill 7 introduces a commitment by government to ensure that progress on our regulatory reform initiatives is made public each and every year. This legislation responds to calls from the small business community in particular to institutionalize accountability and transparency of regulatory reform. It also demonstrates government's ongoing commitment to reduce the red-tape burden imposed on citizens and small business.
Bill 7 will impose on government a requirement to produce an annual public report on its regulatory reform activities each and every fiscal year. It will require the report to be made public no later than June 30 of each and every fiscal year, and it will require that the report include specific content that will be specified by regulation.
The legislation solidifies British Columbia as the Canadian leader in regulatory reform by being the first Canadian jurisdiction to enshrine in law a commitment to publish annual reports on regulatory reform. It builds on our leadership in reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape by 42 percent since 2001.
I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 7, Regulatory Reporting Act, 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)
SAFETY OF TRANS-CANADA HIGHWAY
N. Macdonald: Those of us who live along the Trans-Canada Highway in the eastern part of British Columbia are intimately aware of the problems that exist with our national highway. We hear the ambulance heading out to attend yet another accident scene, we experience the closure of the highway for days at a time because of avalanche or accident, and we see the volume of traffic clogging the highway, both tourist and commercial.
Few would argue; this is an unsafe highway. In a single month one summer there were 17 fatalities and many more injured between Salmon Arm and Field. On some stretches this highway is unfit for truck traffic. Truck News Canada estimates that over 2,200 semis per day travel the Trans-Canada Highway, and the volume of truck traffic is growing by 2 percent a year. So many trucks on an inadequate road results in overturned trucks, injuries, deaths and highway closures.
Over the past 12 years there have been positive steps towards improvements. Projects such as the Kicking Horse Canyon, Clanwilliam and Donald Bridge are all important, but there's still much work to be done. British Columbia needs to make a clear financial commitment with an established time frame to complete the four-lane divided highway from Kamloops to the Alberta border. The signs went up proclaiming an impending completion before the last election, but there is still no comprehensive plan to complete the work.
The Trans-Canada is a critical piece of infrastructure, and work on these projects gives much-needed economic
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activity to rural British Columbia. So people in Columbia River–Revelstoke are waiting for a commitment from government. Canada may start here, if that's the slogan one wants to use, but much of the transportation route linking us to the rest of the country is still stuck in the 1950s.
VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND
AIR TRAVEL BETWEEN B.C. AND ASIA
R. Howard: Every once in a while we must stop and celebrate a success. It is well known that expanding into Asian markets is a major focus of this government. Asian countries such as China and India are enjoying phenomenal economic growth, and our status as Canada's Pacific Gateway means we are uniquely well positioned to capitalize on this growth.
An important means for us to do this is through expanded air access, which allows us to move people and goods to Asian markets, and I'm very proud that one of the most important parts of our air access infrastructure is in my riding of Richmond Centre. I'm speaking, of course, of the Vancouver International Airport, otherwise known as YVR.
I would like today to highlight one important development at YVR since this House last sat. China Southern Airlines — Asia's largest, and the world's third-largest, airline — has started operating between YVR and mainland China. Since July, China Southern Airlines has been transporting B.C. goods, including heavy equipment, from all across the country. This new cargo service provides a crucial means for transporting high-value and time-sensitive goods to China.
A good example of this is B.C. seafood. The province exported $957 million worth of seafood in 2010, and this new service is going to help us increase that. B.C. seafood is much in demand in China, and it is now easier and faster to get it here and to get it there than ever before. This is just one more indication that YVR has arrived as a key international gateway for cargo on the west coast of North America, and I look forward to reporting on even more successes at YVR in the future.
UMBRELLA SOCIETY FOR
ADDICTIONS AND MENTAL HEALTH
C. James: "I have a very long road ahead of me. I'm certainly not out of the rain, so please don't take my umbrella away." Those are the words from Steve, a man who is a client of the Umbrella Society for Addictions and Mental Health, an exceptional organization doing vitally important work in my community.
This year across Canada 10,000 people will die as a direct result of substance use. Many more will have their quality of life and their family's life severely compromised. Studies say that 11 percent of Canadians will have a problematic relationship with substances in their lifetime, and the rate is slightly higher here in B.C. The numbers are staggering. Those struggling with addictions are 20 percent of those in family physicians' waiting rooms, 30 percent in acute care hospital settings, 40 percent or more in emergency rooms, 65 percent or more in child protection cases and 80 percent in the corrections systems.
The Umbrella Society provides understanding, acceptance and support for people affected by substance use and mental health issues. The enormously dedicated volunteers and staff members provide peer support and strive to accept each individual's reality without judgment. They empower them, leading with trust, hope, respect and honour. Their approach is to walk with their clients, to laugh with them and, yes, sometimes to cry with them.
The Umbrella Society provides shelter from the storm through the generosity of citizens in my community, but money is tight and the demand for help continues to increase. Staff struggle to keep up. It's not an easy road for this place of incredible new beginnings and hope for a better future.
C.R., a 32-year-old client, is proud to say he has been 20 months clean and serene. He's been employed for more than a year, and as he says, he's contributing to society, not taking away from it. One other client said: "Umbrella shielded me from the darkness so that I could see a doorway into a new life."
That's the inspiring work, and I ask members to join me in saying thank you to Umbrella and to continue to advocate for support for addictions treatment.
CONNAUGHT SKATING CLUB
J. Yap: Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of presenting an $85,000 community gaming grant cheque to the Connaught Skating Club in Richmond. Directors Aundrea Feltham and Takami Schreiber, as well as Keegan Murphy, director of skating programs, were on hand for the event, and they took the time to update me on the history and the future of the club.
This year Connaught Skating Club held its 100th anniversary. It was founded in 1911 by Mrs. H.G. Ross under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught. Connaught is the oldest skating club in our province and the second-oldest skating club in all of Canada. It's a non-profit organization and is a member of Skate Canada, the successful national organization for the sport.
This dynamic club is run and managed by a dedicated group of volunteers. It offers a variety of programs from ones designed for young skaters who are learning to skate to those for the recreational skater and programs for the competitive skater. Rising skaters to watch for in
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the future include 12-year-old Angus Chan and 13-year-old Emma Carr. They are just two of the Connaught skaters that personify passion and dedication to competitive skating. From skating equipment and skating costumes to fostering this excellent form of recreation to nurturing future skating stars, this club offers it all, right in my community.
Fellow members of the House and Mr. Speaker, please join me in congratulating the Connaught Skating Club on its 100th anniversary. Best wishes to the members, parents, skaters, coaches and volunteers for the next 100 years.
PACIFIC COAST UNIVERSITY
FOR WORKPLACE HEALTH SCIENCES
S. Fraser: On September 6 the members for Cowichan Valley and Burnaby-Edmonds joined me, and we were honoured to attend the grand opening of the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences in Port Alberni. The university is setting the standard for a new approach for workplace health. It is about providing workers — disabled, on or off the job — with the means and rights to continue to play a strong and productive role in that workplace rather than being marginalized in society. Sixteen nations worldwide have already adopted this curriculum.
The attendees included the chief executive of the German Workers Compensation Board — that's the largest WCB in the world — as well as the chair of the UN Technical Commission on Workers Compensation, as well as the chair of the UN Disability Research Commission. The who's who of the disability management world were joined by the CEO of Teck Resources and the president of the United Steelworkers of Canada.
As I've said, 16 nations around the world have adopted this curriculum. The grand opening of the Pacific Coast University in Port Alberni brought together the countries around the world that operate workers compensation boards. It's quite a coup for Port Alberni, hon. Speaker. The university will also bring much-needed economic development for the region.
I would like to thank all members of this House, of this chamber, for supporting the accreditation of the Pacific Coast University back in legislation we did in 2007. It was truly a non-partisan event. I would like to thank the minister, the previous minister, for attending as well, and agreeing to provide financial support through WorkSafe B.C.
Malaysia has formally adopted these standards already, making it the 16th nation to do so. In Canada the Ontario Workers Compensation Board has formally adopted these standards. Perhaps it is time to get WorkSafe B.C. to do the same and join the rest of the country and the rest of the world in becoming true leaders in disability management.
M. Stilwell: Recently my colleague the member for West Vancouver–Capilano talked about the importance of personal and private property. Property can come in many different shapes, sizes and forms. An important and complex type is intellectual property. The term refers to a broad range of rights, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights and industrial designs. It is property based on the legal right that others can be excluded from using and their ownership can be transferred. It is intellectual because they protect intangible assets, most often arising from some form of human creativity.
Intellectual property rights spur innovation and job creation, allowing the owners to benefit from the property they have created. It provides a financial incentive for the creation of an investment in developing new products to make our lives better. It is estimated by economists that two-thirds of the value of large businesses can be traced to these intangible assets.
Recognising this, since 2001 our government has invested over $1.8 billion in research and innovation to give our province an advantage in the knowledge-based economy. Research at UBC, Simon Fraser and University of Victoria has resulted in 274 spinoffs, including WebCT at UBC, which provides software used globally by educational organizations; Air Games Wireless at SFU, the world's leading mobile social entertainment provider; and Protox at the University of Victoria, for developing drugs for the treatment of prostate diseases.
Mr. Speaker, if I could have one creation, it would be for B.C. to lead the nation in the field of innovation for the sake of job creation.
WITH BOSS POWER CORP.
J. Horgan: Yesterday we were discussing the on-the-courthouse-steps settlement between the B.C. Liberals and uranium company Boss Power. The Liberals announced by a press release in April 2008 that they were going to be banning uranium mining in British Columbia, and within weeks Boss Power, a company with an existing claim, was told by the then minister, the member from Kamloops south, that they would be compensated.
But two years went by after the moratorium, hon. Speaker, two years of on-and-off discussions between the Attorney General's ministry and the plaintiff, the applicant in this case, and on March 2, 2010, an e-mail was sent by the chief negotiator that said: "I regret to advise that there has been a change in my instructions. The province is not willing at this time to enter into a negotiated settlement." No explanation as to why the ne-
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gotiations were terminated, just a brief statement from the government.
Yesterday the House Leader said: "We negotiated in good faith." So my question to the House Leader is this. How is it that a two-year protracted discussion terminated by an e-mail is negotiating in good faith?
Hon. R. Coleman: We did negotiate in good faith, and sometimes negotiations go certain ways where there are times that you step back and you come back with regards to negotiations. I don't know if the member has ever been involved in dealing with a lawsuit on one side or the other, but if he had, he would know that this would not be unusual with regards to negotiations.
Mr. Speaker: The Opposition House Leader has a supplemental.
J. Horgan: Now, it may be good faith in the bizarro world of the Government House Leader, but in the world that most people live in…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
J. Horgan: …when a minister of the Crown brings the applicant into his office and says, "You will be fully compensated for your claim," the expectation is that that will be accelerated and expeditious.
Two years go by, negotiations are suspended by the government, and Boss Power is forced to seek compensation through the courts. And in the process of seeking compensation through the courts, they discover Douglas Sweeney was terminated from the government of British Columbia as a result of his refusal to disregard his statutory obligation.
So let's recap for the good negotiators on that side of the House. You played around for two years when you had a reasonable case to settle a claim for costs incurred, and instead you delayed, you delayed and you delayed, and that allowed the company to find their star witness who demonstrated public misfeasance and resulted in a $30 million settlement.
Court documents on July 30….
J. Horgan: You just spent 30 million bucks, sister.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
J. Horgan: Documents on July 30 said: "Our claim for expropriation now encompasses a broader legal landscape than is focused in your pending application."
So again, your good-faith bargaining cost us $30 million.
Hon. R. Coleman: We actually did bargain in good faith. We came to a settlement on a lawsuit.
I do find it rather humorous that the member opposite wants to tell me how to negotiate or tell this government how to negotiate on a lawsuit.
I mean, let's just talk about a couple of your great experiences with that. First of all, you had the most scathing comment from a judge in the province of British Columbia. Mr. Justice Parrett stated during the Carrier Lumber case: "It is difficult to conceive of a more compelling and cynical example of duplicity and bad faith. The words 'managing perception' may have a gloss that seems to carry with it some high purpose. The reality is, at least in this case, little more than a process of altering reality by concealing the truth and presenting a fabricated cover story."
That case — which had to be cleaned up by us because of what you did in the 1990s, hon. Member — cost British Columbians well over $100 million.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The opposition House member has a further supplemental.
J. Horgan: The only person not clapping is the Minister of Social Development, because she knows she could have used $30 million for a good social purpose.
Now, I know it's just someone else's money to the Premier, but I'll put my question again to the Government House Leader. By bargaining in good faith, by hanging out public servants to dry, by admitting to public misfeasance, we took a basic regular compensation claim and sent it through the stratosphere.
The legal team for the plaintiff, in writing to the government on September 21, said…. I know that the minister doesn't care. It's not his money that we're wasting either, but on the 21st of September, legal counsel for Boss Power wrote to the government suggesting that the plea of malfeasance of public office changes the game. Now the particulars of damages are as follows: damages for lost profits, punitive damages, damages for loss of goodwill, special damages, aggravated damages, exemplary damages, and let's not forget interest.
Again, to the minister responsible, how did your good-faith bargaining go from a reasonable expectation to 30 million bucks?
Hon. R. Coleman: I know that the member opposite hopes the effect of his question by shouting would do better, but I don't actually need a hearing aid yet because I'm not at that advanced age.
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I want to remind the member of a couple of things. First of all, I stood in this House yesterday and said that we take responsibility for this decision. We take full responsibility for the decision as government. It was the executive council that made the decision that we would get out of uranium mining in British Columbia.
I know it chokes the members opposite up, because in the 1990s they could have got out of uranium mining, but they refused to do so. They did nothing about it.
But they did manage in the 1990s to blow $166 million in loans, subsidies and other financial assistance to develop another site as a result of Windy Craggy and would be required to pay millions more in compensation to what the arbitrator described as an unreasonable delay by the government. So the members opposite have no place to stand and tell us how to handle a negotiation.
GOVERNMENT HANDLING OF
BY BOSS POWER CORP.
N. Macdonald: Yesterday's defence has proven completely incorrect. The government did not act in good faith in negotiating with Boss Power. This government purposefully broke the law in dealing with Boss Power. This government destroyed the career of Mr. Sweeney, this province's inspector of mines, because he tried to follow the law. This government paid $30 million to keep this out of court and keep it hidden.
So clearly the government is wrong. Yesterday we asked again and again. It's a simple question. Who is responsible? Was it the member from Kamloops south? Was it the Premier? Who is responsible?
Hon. R. Coleman: The executive council of the province of British Columbia, which is the cabinet and the Premier at the time, made a decision to get out of uranium mining in B.C., did a press release and subsequently, a number of months later, did an OIC to confirm it.
You know what? The reality is that's what we did. The responsibility is here. The buck stops here with government because we're the ones that made the decision to get out of uranium mining and, quite frankly….
I'll just go back to a quote yesterday from Hansard. "I am well aware of the political firestorm that was brewing over the uranium mine. The residents of the area did not want it." That was the MLA for Kootenay West yesterday. We actually did it because we thought it was the right thing to do, and evidently, so did she.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
N. Macdonald: I honestly don't know who the minister thinks he's fooling with an answer like that. I honestly don't know. The fact of the matter is that this is, as much as anything, a window into how this government works. Mr. Sweeney did the right thing. He tried to protect the public interest, and he was purposefully ruined, simply to serve this government's narrow interest — a narrow public political interest. Mr. Sweeney would not break the law, so he was disposed of.
Then we have this government trying to strong-arm Boss Power, and that blows up in this government's face. It is an ethical and financial mess.
The question is simple. It's the same one. Who is responsible for this mess? Who is it?
Hon. R. Coleman: When we made the decision to actually get out of uranium mining in 2008, Finance booked $50 million as a reserve in that particular fiscal year for any civil issues that may come out of the decision. That money was booked, and it was in the fiscal plan. The government knew that there had to be some negotiation settlements with regards to this particular proponent. Negotiations take place over time.
I know that the members opposite would like to tell us how to negotiate and could question each stage of the negotiation, but we actually have pretty exceptional lawyers in the Attorney General's department that actually do that work for us. We don't do that. But you know….
Mr. Speaker: Minister, just take your seat.
Hon. R. Coleman: You know, the instructions from them or the advice from them was that we would settle this claim for $30 million, and we did just that.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
H. Lali: Yesterday the opposition asked over and over again who in this scandal-ridden B.C. Liberal government gave the order to civil servants to break the law. Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun reported comments by the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, who yelled back: "Nobody. That never happened."
That's incredible, you know, considering the member for Kamloops–South Thompson was the Minister of Mines, and he was also at the helm when this whole sordid mess took place in the first place. Their own court documents admit that the B.C. Liberals broke the law.
So will the minister clarify the comments of the member for Kamloops–South Thompson? Is he saying that the B.C. Liberal government's admission to the court is not true?
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Hon. R. Coleman: You know, this member was there in the 1990s. In the ruling on Carrier Lumber, again, Mr. Justice Parrett said....
Hon. R. Coleman: I can stand here all day.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. R. Coleman: "The provincial government chose to cover its own failings and to orchestrate matters to conceal their own breach. Through a series of manoeuvres and self-serving documents, they sought to frustrate Carrier's…."
Hon. R. Coleman: Let me say that again, just so you heard it. "Through a series of manoeuvres and self-serving documents, they sought to frustrate Carrier's harvesting activities and then to proceed with the suspension and eventual cancellation of their licence."
We negotiated a settlement. We did it through our lawyers, and we did it on behalf of British Columbians because we made the decision to get out of uranium mining in B.C.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
H. Lali: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson is pretty quiet today. But here are the facts.
Mr. Speaker: Take your seat.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
H. Lali: Here are the facts. The B.C. Liberal government admitted unconditionally in court documents to knowingly breaking the law, and taxpayers are now paying $30 million for another B.C. Liberal scandal. After seeking legal advice from the Ministry of Attorney General, which stated that Mr. Sweeney had a statutory obligation to consider the permit on its merits, the B.C. Liberals still went ahead and knowingly broke the law.
The Liberal court document states: "The province admits that the official, Cavanagh, knew that he did not have the authority to take action and that Cavanagh took action anyway." So it's pretty clear that someone in the B.C. Liberal government gave the orders to break the law.
Yet incredibly, the member for Kamloops–South Thompson — who created this mess, I'd like to remind you again — says that never happened. Yeah, in The Twilight Zone maybe. But for the benefit of the ill-informed member for Kamloops–South Thompson, will the minister please clarify by restating the government's own admission in this House today?
Hon. R. Coleman: I just find it rather interesting that the New Democrats want to sit over there, and I guess they want uranium mining in British Columbia. But then that would be contrary to the comments of the member from Beacon Hill and Leader of the Opposition at the time when she stated in August 2008 — which was, quite frankly, not too long after we made the decision: "New Democrats strongly believe that the nuclear option is not and should never be an option for B.C., and we will continue to speak out against this development here at home and in our neighbouring provinces."
We acted to ban uranium mining in British Columbia. We did it in April of 2008. There was a tender. There's a tenure on the land. Now, I know that the guys on the opposite side would rather just not pay the tenures, obfuscate and play the game like they did on Carrier Lumber, where they went and moved things around. They did a whole bunch of things that the judge found absolutely unbelievable. We negotiated. We came to a settlement, and the settlement was done.
WITH BOSS POWER CORP.
L. Krog: With the greatest respect to the minister, the only hiding and moving and shaking around here appears to be happening on that side of the chamber today. So perhaps the Attorney General could actually give an honest answer to this question. It's very straightforward, hon. Speaker.
Government surely would not have entered into this negotiation without an evaluation of the claim. We're trying to determine how much of $30 million of taxpayers' money was spent in this boondoggle. So can the Attorney General stand up and tell this House in a very simple way: did the ministry undertake an independent evaluation of the claim? And if not, why not?
Hon. R. Coleman: Of course we did an evaluation of the subsurface minerals. It's also a pretty complicated process which requires considerable time to the parties. And frankly, the reason there's no negotiation is because as that was being done on both sides, the parties didn't agree to the same number. Surprise. That's why you negotiate a settlement.
The members opposite are trying to find out who is responsible for us getting out of uranium mining and
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dealing with Boss Power. Right here, hon. Members. Right here. The members of executive council and cabinet made this decision and made it on behalf of the province of British Columbia and evidently — I'm not quite sure, but I think — supported by the members opposite who seem to kind of like uranium mining and don't like uranium mining and do like uranium mining. But we made a decision for the people for the future of the province of British Columbia to protect our environment with regards to uranium mining, and it was the right decision at the time.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: I want to thank the minister opposite. We've made progress here today. We've had government admit they actually undertook some independent evaluation in the claim, so we know they did not kiss off $30 million without thinking about it.
Having made that admission in this chamber, the question is very simple. We can pretend over there, perhaps, that we're a bunch of yokels over here. But when you enter into negotiations and you've got independent evaluation, you've got nothing to hide. If this government has nothing to hide, then I say: will the Attorney General commit to tabling the evaluations in this House so that B.C. taxpayers can know they supposedly got the deal this government claims they got?
Hon. R. Coleman: Interesting — some of the comments that are thrown out by the members of the opposition across here, particularly the member for Nanaimo.
I know that my government has never been under investigation for taking money from charities. I know that my government has never…. And I know you haven't paid them back yet, you know. I think that's interesting. I think it's interesting that, you know, they get a little sensitive when you tell them a little bit about their own history when they want to be holier than thou, when all we did was we actually made the decision to get out of uranium.
We had a legal tenure. We had to negotiate compensation on the tenure. I know they would rather not negotiate compensation on tenure and send a message to the international community that we would not cooperate with regards to what the value of tenures was in British Columbia. But we believe that's a fundamental piece of this thing and that we did have a responsibility to negotiate a settlement with this company because we were changing the rules, and they already had the tenure.
B. Ralston: This House is against uranium mining in British Columbia, and it's also against taxpayers getting ripped off. The public has a right to know…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
B. Ralston: …the real reasons why the B.C. Liberal government paid $30 million in this case. The Auditor General Act provides, by motion of this House, that the Auditor General could begin an examination of this matter tomorrow. Such a motion in my name is tabled. Will the Premier agree today to consent to that motion and get the Auditor General to work on this tomorrow?
Hon. R. Coleman: So we negotiated a deal. The members of the opposition don't like it. That's fine. We actually take responsibility for it. They don't like that. We paid for a tenure that somebody had, a legal tenure on the land, because we changed the land use. They don't like that. They would rather that they didn't make any compensation on anything because that's how they want to do business.
Unfortunately, that's not the way…. The member opposite just brought up an interesting point. He doesn't want to talk about the over $300 million between Carrier Lumber and Windy Craggy that you guys blew out the door. You did it without even thinking about it, and the statements from the judge in the Carrier Lumber thing are absolutely damning on you guys. We negotiated in good faith a settlement on account of tenure. Get over it.
COMMUNITY LIVING SERVICES REVIEW
C. James: The B.C. Liberals and the minister responsible continue to say there's no crisis at Community Living. But families, caregivers and advocates know differently. Tory Hasting's daughter is turning 19 in a few months. Tory and her husband are doing all the work that should be done. They're trying to set in place a plan of care. They're trying to ensure a smooth transition to ensure that when her daughter's birthday arrives, the supports are in place.
Tory has been told by Community Living that they won't even consider looking at her daughter's case until she turns 19. That means for months there could be no supports in place for this family. The system is failing. It's clear that everyone knows the system is failing, except the minister. So I ask the minister today: will she do her job and call for an independent review of Community Living today?
Hon. S. Cadieux: In case members opposite have not heard this in the last number of weeks, I have been hearing from the community, and certainly we have acknowledged, that there are challenges and there are circumstances that we want to see addressed. That's exactly why, in September, we created a deputy minister work-
[ Page 8363 ]
ing group to examine how individuals are supported through a number of ministries in government.
In October we had an internal audit team begin work with CLBC to look at service demand, performance management and cost analysis within the organization. I asked for an interim report from the board chair of CLBC, and I asked for that by November 1 to see exactly how they plan to deliver on their vision of serving clients. And because people are the most important factor in this conversation, I asked for a client support team to be set up to address the urgent issues facing families.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
C. James: This family, Tory's family, can't wait for interim reports. They can't wait for the minister to get reviews. They need action today on behalf of their daughter.
For the minister's information, Tory Hastings's daughter has received support since she was three years old. Her needs have not changed; in fact, they've increased. Tory's daughter is severely disabled. She's non-verbal. She can't feed herself. She's completely dependent on care and supervision. Tory says that without a plan in place "one of us will have to quit working, which will pose even more hardship for our family and quite frankly terrifies me. It's unfair for government to put families into this dilemma."
A birthday doesn't change Tory's daughter's needs. The complexity doesn't disappear. It's clear that Community Living isn't doing its job when families like this are left in limbo.
So again, on behalf of those families, on behalf of those adults, I ask the minister: will she stand up today, will she do her job, and will she ensure that there's an independent review in place for Community Living so those families can get the supports they so desperately need?
Hon. S. Cadieux: For any family that's going through a transition, and especially a family with a child with a significant disability, these things are challenging and very stressful. I acknowledge that, and I feel for the family who's going through this.
That's exactly why we set up the client support team to make sure that we had ministry officials in place to help people who don't feel that their circumstances are adequately being addressed by CLBC at this time, to work with them right now to get them the support they need.
While we admit there are challenges facing CLBC, and we want to get to the bottom of those challenges, doing that in a responsible way will take time. The review will take some time, as will the audit, both of which I have committed will be made public. But we need to deal with the families who are in crisis now, and that is exactly what the client support team is set up to do.
N. Simons: We should tell the people of British Columbia that when they call the client support team, they're going to be put on hold. They'll be asked who they're really phoning for, and we'll see if they'll get any answers from the government.
I know for a fact this is a crisis that has been going on for 15 months, and we've seen absolutely no action until one minister was demoted and the CEO was fired. Now the minister is saying we're going in a new direction — no idea what direction that is. It's probably still in circles.
This government has no problem throwing away $30 million, and they haven't got enough money to provide for the necessities of families in this province. I find that shameful.
They hire a communications consultant whose first job is to create this team, this team of CLBC's — the same people who've been denying services for the past 15 months, the same people who are going to use the same methods for determining that your family is not eligible.
I don't think the people of this province are going to be satisfied. They certainly won't be satisfied in the family of Stephanie Byrne, whose daughter has been requesting services for a long time. Are 2,800 people going to line up to call that client support team? I think that's a little bit much to ask.
What has happened in this ministry? It's complete chaos, and every advocate knows that. Every family who needs services knows that. I'm asking if this minister will finally do the right thing, finally recognize the chaos that her government has created and call a complete top-to-bottom review of Community Living B.C.
Hon. S. Cadieux: You know, Mr. Speaker, what's at the heart of this is that there are families who feel that they're not being adequately supported, and that is absolutely my first and foremost concern.
This government wants to make sure that the services that families need so that individuals with developmental disabilities can be included in their communities and can have safe, supportive places to live are our first and foremost priority, which is why I have ensured that assistance is being put in place to have families feel that there is another alternative for them when they feel they cannot get the response they need from CLBC while we do a thorough review and audit to ensure that the $710 million that goes in to support these individuals is used in the best way possible.
[End of question period.]
N. Letnick: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
[ Page 8364 ]
Introductions by Members
N. Letnick: In the gallery I just noticed that Mr. Roger Sellick is there, a friend of many in this Legislature; a former manager of the Kelowna Airport, the tenth-busiest airport in the country; and now a leader of Tourism Kelowna. Please help me to make him welcome.
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: This afternoon in debate we will continue with second reading of Bill 6, intituled Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act; followed by, if there's time, second reading of Bill 4, intituled the Offence Amendment Act; Bill 5, intituled the Personal Property Security Amendment Act; and Bill 9, intituled the Natural Resource Compliance Act.
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 6 — Forests, Lands and Natural
Resource Operations Statutes
Amendment Act, 2011
R. Cantelon: I rise to support Bill 6.
Mr. Speaker: Member, just take your seat for a second while members get off to other business.
R. Cantelon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
These amendments will facilitate the harvesting and the processing of lumber on Vancouver Island — that great, green island. I want to say that on Vancouver Island the forest industry is absolutely critical and a key component of the economy of Vancouver Island.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
There have been difficult times. I think that sometimes people tend to forget the fact that the markets — for example, in the United States — absolutely, virtually dried up. They reduced to a small fraction of their size.
Often it's said by members of the opposition and others: "Why do we ship round logs? Why don't we mill more lumber?" Certainly, that is the goal of our industry — to add as much value-added effort to our lumber and our products.
It's not always possible. If people aren't buying the product, you can't sell it. You can't just stack it up and hope to ship it for a price later on. It's a component that seems to be missing or an aspect that seems to be lost on the opposition. You need to have markets, and you need to do the marketing.
I want to congratulate, however, the efforts of the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation in his previous ministry. What a wonderful job he did in expanding and opening up new markets. Clearly, the flaw in our whole strategy was that we were too dependent on the United States housing market, and in 2008 when it evaporated, it left a great gap in our supply chain. The demand just evaporated.
Thankfully, the minister, through his efforts, was able to open up that wonderful market called China, where literally billions of people — a billion and a half people — are now looking at our wood products but much more favourably. A good part of how they're responding is because of our emphasis at home on it. "Wood is Good" became the theme, and we began using wood in our own products and extolling its benefits by showing what wonderful products and what beautiful buildings we can make out of wood.
I use as an example the shellfish research station up in Bowser, a marvellous building. Not only is it built environmentally friendly from its use of water and other supplies, but it's a beautiful example of what wood can do, used as a structural and interior material for finishing. Its curved beams are absolutely magnificent. They're evocative of the ribs of a ship. Anybody who has been there would immediately react to the marvel of the engineering and architectural beauty that has been created there, Madam Speaker. That's one of them.
I'm very happy, in my community as well, to congratulate the Port of Nanaimo, which did a wonderful job in the cruise ship welcoming terminal. It's so often, as anybody who has been on cruises can testify, that you're dumped on an industrial dock, if you go to some countries like Mexico, and you have to make your way through a gauntlet of stalls to find your transportation. Here's a building that showcases the ocean with a beautiful glass vista looking over Gabriola Island and a backdrop of wood panelling and wood beams that really make a powerful statement of the beauty and structural integrity of wood. I would also like to say that the piece of aboriginal art also in this building commemorates and indicates the significance of the aboriginal community in our community, in Nanaimo.
We now ship more wood than we do to the United States. This is good. We still have to harvest, and I think we appreciate that a balance must occur between the amount of wood we harvest that can be economically converted to lumber and shipped and also the shipment of logs to sustain the forest growth. We still don't cut as much as we could. We underharvest the annual allowable cut, which means we're growing trees faster than we can process them into timber. That's not a bad thing. It's a great green island. It's one of the best places in the world to grow wood fibre.
These amendments will facilitate and streamline the process, and it's in response to many things we have
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heard from the industry — to make it simpler, to make it easier to harvest wood, to get it to the mills and to ship it overseas as finished lumber. So they'll be welcome.
The woodlot owners will appreciate more flexibility in how they run and manage their operations. Being able to subdivide parts for their own house will enable them to plan better for the security of their future. Certifying, basically, the timber cruising will certainly make it more uniform and standard in terms of how we evaluate timber and get it to the market, get the right logs to the right mill at the right time. I think that's absolutely critical.
Things are moving ahead, and certainly in our community there's a growth of optimism as we hear that TimberWest, in response to the China market, is committed to spending $200 million on new mills and new kilns to meet the growing demand in Asia — in China, particularly. So things are turning around. We look for better things, we look for expanding markets, and we look for more diverse uses of wood.
Recently I was touring Forintek, and we're now exploring and expanding the use of a timber product called cross-laminated timber. Basically, you can think of it in terms of jumbo plywood. It's being used in other jurisdictions in Europe to build up to six- and seven-storey buildings. We haven't used it that way yet, but it would be an ideal thing, again, for ports and industries on the island to pre-manufacture, perhaps, shopping centres or apartment buildings and ship them to other destinations around the world. They can be tilted up and made into buildings, constructed into final buildings.
Right now at Forintek they're examining it to determine its stress resistance to earthquake and other factors. All of these things are going to contribute to our ability to export and add value to our lumber, because certainly we have to manufacture. We have to use all of it that we can.
I know that places like Nanaimo Forest Products, formerly Harmac Pacific, certainly have a thirst for the chips and the sawdust and the other parts of the wood that are the results — leftovers, if you want, but they're valuable products to them — of sawmills. We need to encourage and expand the sawmill operations.
This has happened. I mentioned earlier that Western Forest Products is looking at expanding their mills. I was very happy to see and be at the site of the mill in Ladysmith, which opened up for cutting lumber exclusively to China. I understand they have now opened, as well the one in Nanaimo Harbour — again, for shipment exclusively to China. There are more than 25 mills that have been reopened to this market, as well as other planned openings throughout the province.
I think we've turned a major corner. The outlook for lumber sales to China and the rest of the world is expanding. The future looks bright. These amendments will certainly help and support the industry. They will streamline the processes, as we have committed to do. They will make it easier for us to convert timber into sawmill products and take advantage of the world markets.
The people in my area of the community are welcoming these changes. They are very supportive to the forest industry. They are very supportive to the manufacturers and very supportive to the pulp mill operators. They will help expand and support the industry, which has a long and bright future on Vancouver Island.
B. Routley: It is interesting that here we are in the United Nations international year of the forest in 2011, and once again we have got this government coming up with a plan to dismantle the public interest and really to shred any remnants of what remains of the social contract that we have with British Columbians — certainly with B.C. communities and forest workers.
Bill 6 is yet another example of what is, after a decade of saying one thing and doing another, a complete failure. I will go into more detail on why it is a complete failure — their forest policy — to act in the public interest on forest legislation, regulation and policy.
Under Bill 6, in section 47, one of the things they are asking for is the unfettered right and the discretion of the minister to permit a woodlot owner to remove the private land portion from a woodlot licence. That is what this will do.
We asked for an opportunity to sit down with the ministry staff and hear what was behind this. I was stunned and shocked and surprised by the answer when I asked a simple question. "Exactly what is the benefit to the Crown? What is the public interest?" The answer that I got was: "There isn't any." There is none. This leads me to be very concerned, indeed.
When you look at the history and intent of woodlot licences, I believe they were clearly intended originally to create community stability through managed smaller community and family-supporting woodlots, which envisioned that they were clearly going to affect public interest. The community was concerned about what was happening on our forest land, and they still are today.
As I was digging into this issue a bit further, I discovered that one of the main reasons the woodlot association is now seeking the right to remove private land is because this Liberal government has already given this right to the corporate owners of private lands within tree farm licences.
Now, two wrongs don't make a right. We can't continue down a path where we have already had significant involvement in the Auditor General and looking at what was going on. There were clear issues that were identified — that government was not acting in the public interest. Yet again, another example in the….
Let's go back and look at what the B.C. Auditor General inquiry reported out back in July 2008 on the removal of private lands, because there is a real parallel here. Yes,
[ Page 8366 ]
they are smaller in nature, but one of the features of adding a value to a woodlot licence is that the woodlot owner comes with some private land, and they get extra points. Under the legislation there are extra points given for the distance the private land woodlot owner is from the public land. So if he lives closer to it, there are more points assessed, and you're more likely to get the woodlot licence in the first place. The other issue is, of course, that bringing the private land into play in the first place provides for a larger unit in which to practise sustainable forestry in the province of British Columbia.
I might add, hon. Speaker, that I had some experience. Years ago I had a trip to Sweden. I was part of a group that was loosely called the B.C. future forest study group. We had a woodlot owner along on that trip, and I remember the amazement that we all had, actually, when looking at the forest practices in Sweden, where at the time they were actually adding what was agricultural land. It was not high-yield agricultural land, and the forestry representatives in Sweden had decided to plant trees on agricultural land.
I remember that one of the contractors from British Columbia said, "Well, that is not a very wise use of agricultural land," in his view. It wasn't a very good use, he believed, of public dollars and expense to be investing in planting trees on what was agricultural land. What was fascinating was the answer.
The answer from the Swedish forestry representatives was: "We're not just caring about today. We actually care about our children and our grandchildren and future generations in Sweden. We want to ensure that the sustainability is there."
I was and still am impressed when I think back on the sustainable forest practices I saw throughout Sweden. They are very much like the northern region of the province of British Columbia, primarily a pine and spruce area. It was intensively managed. They did pruning, thinning, spacing and planted way more trees. They actually had a first thinning after only the first part of the growing season. Somewhere between 22 and 26 years they would go in and do their first commercial thinning, and that actually was to provide products. The top end of the log primarily went to pulp mills, and the stump end of the log often ended up in wood manufacturing. There was a real difference in attitude.
We once held onto those same values in the province of British Columbia. There was once a social contract, I would say, in the province of British Columbia that has been shredded by this government, completely shredded. They have torn it up and ripped it to pieces, and this is just another piece of what I see as a government that is absolutely bent on destroying the public interest and certainly the public use in the long term.
For a moment I want to camp on the issue of public interest. Let's look for a moment at what Wikipedia says. It says: "The public interest refers to the common well-being or the general welfare. The public interest is central to policy debates, to politics, to democracy and to the nature of government itself."
This government has too often abandoned public interest not just in the TFL land removal but in not acting in a clear and transparent way. Let's just talk about that for a minute.
Some examples. They said one thing to the people of British Columbia — they weren't going to sell B.C. Rail — and then they did.
They said that they weren't going to be ripping up contracts, and here in a country that prides itself in our democracy, they ignored free collective bargaining rights. They've ripped up health care contracts. They've destroyed the bargaining rights of paramedics, teachers, and the list goes on. Recently we, of course, had the $2 billion or $3 billion, depending on who's counting, HST boondoggle, which is a clear reminder. The people of B.C. decisively told the B.C. Liberals that they had no interest in being jammed on what was clearly not in the public interest.
Smart meters — another thing. The last number of years I have been on the Select Standing Committee on Finance. It's been real interesting, because you go all over the province of British Columbia and hear from British Columbians on what their needs are. Do you know that not once did I hear anybody come and say: "You know what? We really think we need smart meters." No, not once.
This government, once again, has shown that they really think…. They really should be called "We think we're smarter than the public" meters. That's what they should be called. "We think we know best" meters.
"We're going to go and hammer it on the side of your house. We don't care what you think, people. We don't care. We're going to bring it to a home near you. In fact, it might be coming to your door, whether you like it or not." No consultation. It's an example. No consultation. They talk about democracy.
Deputy Speaker: Member, might I bring you back to consideration of the bill.
B. Routley: Under Bill 6, this is another example, hon. Speaker. It is absolutely a parallel. Where was the public process under Bill 6? Where was the public process under Bill 6 to determine this matter?
We're going to find that out. We're going to go through the bill section by section. Unfortunately, we're not there yet, so we get the opportunity to talk about…. When you look at Bill 6, it's just another piece that's come down the pike. Here we are in a year where we say we care about jobs.
They say they care about jobs, and then they're busy exporting jobs out of the province just as fast as they can,
[ Page 8367 ]
ramping up log exports and shutting down mills. At the same time, they're introducing legislation to peel out a piece of land that is going to affect the sustainable cut in that land base. That minister knows it. Whose interest is that? How is that in the public interest — to peel out a piece of land?
I do understand. I've heard that one of the other issues in addition to doing the same thing that the corporations were allowed to do….
I can understand why they would start to say: "Well, wait a minute. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Why aren't we allowed to get in on the sweet deal and convert our private lands into a cash cow? Why can't we do that?"
As I've already said, two wrongs don't make a right. Public interest has to be taken into account. Looking at the public interest, while nearly everyone would claim that aiding the common well-being or general welfare is positive, there is little, if any, consensus on what exactly constitutes the public interest or whether the concept itself is even a coherent one.
At one extreme, an action has to benefit every single member of society in order to be truly in the public interest. At the other extreme, any action can be in the public interest as long as it benefits some of the population and harms none. However, it seems obvious to me that the public interest clearly should benefit and not harm the public.
I think that's what we'll hear in a moment, which the Auditor General was getting at. In the last fiasco — that this government carved out the private land as a big gift to their corporate friends and insiders — they had no problem whatsoever just cutting a deal. "Oh well, the public is a little outraged, but they'll get over it."
Just like so many other of these issues that are coming down the pike from this group…. I want to go into what the Auditor General actually had to say.
"Overall, the report concludes that the removal of private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest."
The report notes that….These are the three bullets, and they apply directly to Bill 6. You know, the minister should pay close attention to this. These are issues that the Auditor said mattered then, and I think they matter now.
"The decisions were not adequately informed. It was based on incomplete information that focused primarily on the forest and range matters and interests of the licensee, with too little consideration given to the potential impacts on other key stakeholders."
Point 2. We've got it all over again. This is it in spades.
"Consultation was not effective, and communication with key stakeholders and the public about the decision was not transparent."
Just, you know, slid off the back of the truck like so many other plans — no understanding for the public, no public meetings.
"The impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to help inform future decisions."
Are we monitoring? We'll get to some of those questions eventually. In due course, we'll have that opportunity, but just a reminder, a heads-up, as the right, fair thing to do.
He goes on in the executive summary. In part he says:
"The evidence of our review includes key documents and interviews with the ministry staff, with other government staff, WFP and a range of other stakeholders. The material in the report attributed to the minister is based on written responses to written questions."
This is the Auditor saying this.
"When we asked for a meeting with the minister to understand his decision-making process, he was unable to meet us."
This is what the Auditor General had to write in a report on one of the largest land giveaways in the province of British Columbia — a land transfer without any penalty. There was no compensation to the Crown whatsoever, at the end of the day. We know now that the people who are benefiting are the big multinational corporations. That's what we know.
His overall conclusion was: "We concluded that the removal of the private land from these tree farm licences was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest." There it is again.
There is a clear theme all through forest policy in the past. It ought to apply in Bill 6. We're not just talking about some new concept. It didn't just come down the road yesterday. This is a longstanding history in the province of British Columbia where we look at this.
Actually, I want to stop for a minute and talk about the history, look a little deeper at these issues, because for the sake of the public interest, we need to. In something as important as this, something as life-changing in communities, we need to have the facts.
In the 1956 royal commission, Chief Justice Sloan wrote in volume 1, page 93, about the fundamental reasons for creating a tree farm licence, or an FML, as they were known. By combining private and public lands, Sloan wrote:
"In deciding whether or not a forest management licence would be awarded in an area, or to which applicant where more than one applies, first consideration would be given to the relative importance of the individual proposals in fulfilling the functions of a permanent" — hello, permanent — "forest, towards the pre-eminent social and economic objectives that I have described" — for the Crown."
There it is. That's the goal.
"Secondly, consideration should be given to the contribution of the timber and the productive forest land which the applicant is himself prepared to make to the licence. Evidence indicates that these two features have not always been given the first consideration in the award of licences to date" — this is back in 1956 — "yet they are the basic reasons for the award of any licence."
First, to repeat, stability of employment — hello, anybody care about jobs over there? — in the dependent communities, and second, the establishment of permanent forestry on these lands.
[ Page 8368 ]
Sloan went on to say: "Permanent forestry on private lands." You know, you think about it. You put together a piece of private land, and in most cases there is more public land added to the licence than there is private land. So if you think about it in the concept of a pie…. You imagine the whole piece as a forest pie, and they're now going to start cutting into that forest pie, based on a sustainable yield.
I read my first tree farm licence back in 1985-86, and I still remember back then that they were planning on harvesting on a rotation age of somewhere around 86 years. That was the plan then — 86 years. Since then they've ratcheted down and ratcheted down to the point where now they are talking…. Some companies are harvesting…. Well, we call it harvesting baby trees, because they're sometimes 35 or 40 years of age. It's, in my mind, unbelievable that on the coast of British Columbia in my lifetime I would see us go from that kind of harvest plan.
But back to my pie. On the woodlot owners, they would be harvesting…. By the way, I would say that there are a lot of good people in the woodlot licences. Over the history of British Columbia, they've done amazing work. I've been to woodlots where you can hardly tell. They've been managed so well that it is just beautiful to behold, much like what I saw in Sweden, in Scandinavian operations where that kind of forestry was practised.
But again, the theory is to take out that slice and then not come around for maybe another 80 years, or in the cases today, some folks are thinking that they want to come around and take their piece of pie in 50 years. I actually used to represent forest workers that worked out here in the Victoria watershed, and I stood at council meetings and defended forest workers. We had a crew of 25 people that were working there, and they were harvesting on a 200-year rotation — 200 years, hon. Speaker. What's really fascinating about that is that the oldest tree on the claim was about 140 years of age.
So we took into calculation the entire land base and started to take little chunks. The plan was to come back to that original piece in 200 years. Now, that kind of forestry doesn't happen too many places in British Columbia. I don't know that there are any woodlot licences that are managing on a 200-year rotation. I remember that Merv Wilkinson was a character who had what everybody would remember as one of the foremost lands in the province of British Columbia.
But at the end of the day, these woodlot licences…. The goal of woodlot licences is to manage and harvest in a sustainable way, in a community-supporting way and, clearly from the history, that it was permanent.
Sloan went on to say if these licensees want to withdraw their private land from a joint forest tenure on Crown land, they should have that right.
However, it must be understood in B.C. policy and legislation that these deletions violated the initial premise of a public-private sustained yield of the forest tenure. These actions would confirm that they no longer had an interest in permanent forestry on these private lands. Therefore, if the private land is withdrawn, it should be declared null and void and the management of the Crown licence returned to the province.
That was the original — back in 1956 — intent of what was to happen, but it was certainly to happen to tree farm licences. In the case of woodlot licences, again, the history and the notion were very much the same. I'm not going to put words in their mouths. I'm going to read what the woodlot owners say themselves.
I took the liberty to have a look at their website and to take off the January-February version of the Woodlot Communicator and the March-April version. I just want to quote a few paragraphs, because I think they're instructive. They're very helpful in having us have a more fulsome understanding of precisely who it is that we're dealing with.
I want to read it into the record so the public and those interested at home can have an understanding of, really, what this is all about. They say:
"There is a small but well-organized group of Crown forest managers who have consistently demonstrated their ability to adjust their forest practices to meet many challenges. These are the more than 850 woodlot licensees in the province who manage a small but significant piece of the provincial forest harvest.
"Compared to other forest tenures, woodlot licences are very unique in their tenures. Many woodlots are in an interface between forests and urban or industrial areas. Woodlots often have recreational uses such as hiking, biking and horseback riding. There are usually many eyes watching the operations…yet there are few complaints."
Up until this point. We're definitely hearing from people now. This is a brand-new day. People hadn't imagined that this kind of thing could come their way. They go on.
"The diversity found in many forest ecosystems in this diverse province is reflected in the woodlot licensees. Many are ranchers or farmers whose woodlots are adjacent to or near their private lands, their family homes and communities. Numerous woodlots are purposely intergenerational."
Now, there's a point. They had a plan, just like the Swedes that I ran into. They had the notion that their children and grandchildren and future generations were going to be handed and were going to manage these lands, and not only in the interests of the family members and the generation that would be supportive of the communities in which they lived and interfaced. Certainly, they would be supporting the fibre supply basket in the province of British Columbia.
By the way, I want to stop there. I heard the member say that we've got this overcut. You know, they want to talk about the coast on the overcut, at the same time ignoring that we've got a massive overcut in the northern part of the province in all the pine beetle region. We've been overcutting for years because of the pine beetle. We've been aggressively managing that land.
Why? To get the maximum use out of those pine stands prior to the death of those forests. It made sense
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to do that, and I understand that. I support the thinking that it's better than just letting it die. We had to get some value. So at the end of the day we've been harvesting it at accelerated rates.
You know, there are forest economists. Russ Taylor gave an interesting review of what's about to happen in the next five, ten years. He talked about the fact that the cut has to come down. In fact, it's already started to come down. We've had a million-cubic-metre reduction.
Again, to put that in perspective for those people at home, a cubic metre is roughly a telephone pole–sized tree. There are roughly 35 to 40 cubic metres on a highway logging truck. A sawmill might consume somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 cubic metres in a year. A pulp mill might consume two million cubic metres of chips. But a million cubic metres is actually a fair volume, and it's already started to come down.
It's going to have to come down, according to Russ Taylor, between 25 and 35 percent — in that range, somewhere around there. At the end of the day he's talking about maybe 20 mills going down. That's certainly within the next ten, 20 years, maybe sooner, depending on what is happening with a real examination of the fibre supply.
I want to say again that I am frustrated, hon. Speaker, when I hear from forest professionals and they tell me: "We don't have a good inventory." I asked the professional foresters association, "What's your number one issue," and without hesitation they said: "We need an updated inventory."
Then we hear there's a big controversy about what NSR is. First of all, they want to have a big debate about how NSR is "not sufficiently restocked land," so the argument goes like this. If you don't log it and if it's just dead and dying because of the pine disease, somehow that doesn't count. You don't have to count that in the calculation at all because what you want to do is talk about land that has been logged, and then you're talking about NSR land as it applies to that land.
We've got huge volumes, somewhere around 80 million hectares. Maybe it's 90 million hectares by now; I don't know. The last I heard it was around 80 million hectares. A hectare is like 2.4 acres or thereabouts, so you're talking about a huge, vast area of British Columbia that has some percentage of dead and dying pine. It's dramatic.
Deputy Speaker: Member, your 30 minutes has elapsed. Are you the designated speaker?
B. Routley: I am the designated speaker.
Deputy Speaker: Please continue.
B. Routley: I was just getting started, thank you.
B. Routley: There is. And I'll tell you, the jiggery-pokery…. I don't need encouragement from the other side.
Hon. Speaker, it just shows. They're begging because they know that it's something they really…. They sit there in their reflective moments, and they smile to themselves, and they say: "He's got it right. That's what it is." There's jiggery-pokery going on, and we're going to be maybe doing some more of it tomorrow and then again the next day. It'll be jiggery-pokery once again, more changes that are dramatic and disastrous for the people of British Columbia.
Thank you, hon. Speaker, for that reminder that my time is frittering right before my eyes. It's like the sands of time. It goes by so quickly.
I was having a wonderful time explaining the various issues in forest policy in the province of British Columbia that are quite alarming, and I want to get back to what these woodlot licensees say.
In the January-February pamphlet of theirs they talked about how the United Nations declared 2011 the year of the forest. You know, this group hasn't done a lot of talking about the year of the forest. Why do you think that is, hon. Speaker? I think I'll hazard a guess: because this is the same government that has eliminated…. For the first time in the history of British Columbia, in the year of the forest, we no longer have a Ministry of Forests. It's sad. It's really, really sad. It's tragic.
Especially, I talked to the…. I shouldn't call them old-timers. They're fine, upstanding senior citizens in the province of British Columbia. I'm an old-timer. There are folks, though, that I have talked to that are really quite depressed when they think about how sad it is, what the former Minister of Forests used to be all about and where you have come today. It is really, really quite disappointing indeed.
In their January-February paper they said:
"Since the interception back in 1979, the woodlot licence program, which is unique to the forestry sector worldwide, has entrusted provincial Crown land to a diverse and dedicated group of foresters who manage this publicly owned resource under strict guidelines. The result is one of the most progressive and innovative methods of simultaneously protecting the forests" and generating revenue.
Here's one I really like.
"B.C. is an industry leader in sustainable forestry."
Back to the pie. We can't have sustainable forestry if you just take a huge chunk of the pie out. That's what happened in the case of tree farm licences all over the province when they took out the forest land. I know the one that I was certainly familiar with, TFL 46. Roughly a third of the land was private land. When you take out that much land, you've got to think about the fact that over the past 50 years they've been taking slices of that pie, primarily because of the larger size of the Crown part of the tenure.
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Primarily they were harvesting at levels on the Crown land using that one-third of their private land as part of the so-called sustainable yield. By including that land, of course, they were able to cut more forest on the Crown or public tenure.
When the government allowed, after all those years…. You know, 50 years or so of harvesting, year after year, and you're following a plan. Let's just use the 86 or 87 years. If they were 40 or 45 years through the cut and suddenly you take out the private land forest portion, what you've done is make every annual cut on the Crown land wrong — every single one. You've been harvesting at rates that are not correct.
Now, in most cases the companies had to do a recalculation of where they were at with their volumes when they took out the private land, and they were of course going to flip some real estate. I've been there at the meetings and heard the companies talk about…. They use a new grand word. The new grand word is "higher and better use." Go figure.
At the time, 50 years ago, it was the best thing since sliced bread: "We've got to have tree farm licences. We've got to have woodlot licences. We're going to manage this province sustainably in absolute perpetuity for the benefit of the people of British Columbia." Now this government comes along: "Oh, that's so yesterday. Throw it out like yesterday's news. Throw it out with the bath water. It's just gone."
Now all of those years of planning…. Think about those foresters and people that were out there cruising the timber and looking at the land base in a more precise way. They were planning carefully.
Have you ever been into the mapping room, where they map out…? They show all the rivers and streams and the roads and the bridges. They start looking very carefully at each particular land base and harvesting very carefully, setting out the cutblocks, setting out the roads and managing in what they thought at the time was a long-term sustained yield — a plan to harvest the land in perpetuity.
I was at those meetings. In fact, I've got to tell you, and it's kind of an interesting story. I still remember back in the '80s. I was supposed to be representing the forest workers and trying to keep them on the job, and I had a group of fallers from Renfrew. They downed tools. They said: "No, we're not having any more of this. They're bringing another contractor into our claim."
I still remember that one big faller who looked at me and said: "Here's the company comes in and they tell us: 'It'll be okay, boys. It's going to be okay. There are trees forever, and we're logging in a sustainable way. In perpetuity we're going to be logging. You'll still be here. Your grandchildren will be able to come here and carry on work.'"
The fallers, they said: "We don't believe it, Bill. It's not right. We know there's something wrong when we have to jump in a crummy…. We used to have to drive for a half-hour to find a tree big enough to cut down. Then we had to drive for an hour to find a tree big enough to cut down." Pretty soon they're driving two and 2½ hours to find a tree big enough to cut down. They knew. They drove those roads. They knew that it was going to take a long time, and they knew that there was a real problem bringing someone new in to start cutting.
You know, we had a big meeting in the town hall there. I remember there was a fellow…. Graham Bruce, actually, was there, and Claude Richmond, I think, was the other character from the past that came in there. They came in, and they assured us all. If it could've been violins and flowers and candles, they would have had that too. They were there in the hall saying: "Fellows, trust us. Just trust us. It's going to all work out in the end. It's going to be beautiful. It'll be wonderful. We're going to take care of you fellows. Just trust us." At the end of the day, sadly, where did it leave them?
I want to reiterate, in part…. Before I move away from these woodlot associations, I took the time to look at their document. They have a woodlot association vision, and I really like vision 8(A). It's short and to the point and punchy. It says that their goal is "to promote excellence in sustainable forest management."
If that's the case, sustainable forest management, my question and my challenge to the minister is: how? How do you take out the private land base and then tell us that it's in the interest of the Crown, when all these years they've been harvesting on a so-called cutting plan that's supposed to bring about sustained yield? It was all about the public interest. It was done to help the community. The community is interfacing with the woodlot licences. It was all part of a wonderful vision to create sustainability.
I'll be interested in the minister's views of what the purpose of the act was and how they have decided to skate away and depart from the original concept and plan. Exactly what has changed? What new day?
Again, I've been on these committees, and we've been all over the province. There's a public process for people to come and make their presentations on issues.
I ask any of the folks on the other side: did they hear anybody come and say they think it's a really good plan that we should give away some of the land that's on our private land because there might be some people reaching an age where they want to slice and dice and cut off that land and maybe make a bagful of money? Who would they make that bagful of money for? Who do you suppose that would be benefiting? You know that at the end of the day there's going to be somebody benefiting.
The other thing. You go back and look at their vision. In point No. 5 they talk about how "woodlot…owners will participate in a healthy and diverse forest industry with woodlot licences and private forest lands making
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significant contributions to local communities and providing" — wait for it — "a sustainable supply of forest products."
Now, just how are we going to have a sustainable supply of forest products through Bill 6 and the actions of Bill 6? How is that going to bring about a sustainable supply, giving up land that is now part of a woodlot?
It's a mystery. It's an absolute mystery. It is jiggery-pokery if you can pull this one off, if you can convince folks that "oh yeah, we can take this on, and there's no impact whatsoever; yeah, that's just wonderful; oh well, it was there, and that was yesterday, and now it's gone."
Sustainability. We've a whole new interpretation. Instead of being sustainable at 80 or 50 years, maybe we can be sustainable at ten or 15 years. How about that? You can have ten years, maybe. What about that? Is that the plan? I guess we'll find out.
Anyway, I want to reiterate, and this is the Auditor General. He was clear. He said: "Overall the recommendation was not clearly supported by ministry analysis to demonstrate how the removal on the terms proposed was in the interests of British Columbia."
Here we are again, and I don't want to deviate from that theme. It's important; it's principle. People in this Legislature for years during the '50s, during the '60s, during the '70s, during the '80s, that wonderful decade of the '90s that the other side likes to talk about….
B. Routley: They like to remind us regularly. Anyway, there it is.
The issue was, and he goes on: "The minister was the final check…." The minister might want to take note of this. "The minister was the final check in the process and the statutory decision-maker, but, given the importance of the decision, he did not do enough to ensure that due regard was given to the public interest."
This was the Auditor General. The ink's hardly dry. This was in 2008. We got a fresh opportunity to reflect back on the recommendations. They were well-thought-out, well-documented. You know, he made some really important points that this Legislature and everyone in here ought to consider before embarking on any changes under Bill 6.
It goes on: "The minister…." You know, there it is. It's that "public interest" in the final quote. This government has in the past accepted them, and I know they don't like it. They squirm a bit and might even get excited again that they accepted huge donations from forest companies and other major players. And, you know, you hate to think, don't want to think the worst. I really want to try to have hope in the province of British Columbia, but it does lead one to ponder in a case like this, in particular, where the public interest is. Where is it?
This bill leaves a very uneasy feeling indeed about just who this government is acting on behalf of. Is it the people of British Columbia? That's what we're all here to do — to represent to the best of our ability the good people of the province of British Columbia — and we try to do that every day. When we come into this place, I'm in awe of the responsibility that we have, and I think often that when we walk in here, literally we're on the stage in front of British Columbians, who have a right to expect that we're here every day, thinking about what we can do to make things better for British Columbians. This gives me a very uneasy feeling indeed.
I believe that we have to act always in the public interest, and you do have to ask yourself: "Is there some kind of financial interest?" or "Whose interest is this going to benefit?" Someone will benefit. When you make a change like this that affects land use, always someone is going to benefit.
I think I've made it perfectly clear that there's really only one answer for the province of British Columbia. There ought to be. If we were in front of the people of B.C. and they had a big green button and a big red button and I was to ask the question, "Hit the green button if you believe the forests of British Columbia, based on what I've just told you, are to be managed for the benefit and the interest of the public," they would hit the green button without question — without question, hon. Speaker.
The Auditor General goes on. He says, "Meanwhile the ministry is not adequately monitoring its other land removal decisions to better inform future requests," and I must comment that I fear that this government hasn't learned a thing from the past. The Auditor General reports on a similar issue, the removal of private land in the case of the tree farm licence, and now we are here with woodlot licences.
The common denominator is that the majority of the land is public, and the offer to the Crown was made at least in part because the private land was added to make it a bigger and better woodlot licence. In the current case the private land was offered up, and certainly not just as a benefit to the woodlot owner. I would suggest that it was clearly offered. Again, when you review the legislation, you see the points that are awarded, extra points. If you, based on the land — how close you are to the land, all of those kinds of details….
Clearly, it was envisioned from the outset that this was going to be there. It was going to be a fine thing indeed, and it was going to be managed in perpetuity.
I know things change. People still have the option to take their land out. It's not like it's impossible for them to take their land out, but they forfeit the Crown portion back to the Crown.
If there are some other ideas that the woodlot owners have, I want to hear from them, in terms of the sustainability question. How can we, in good faith, as
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representatives of the public of British Columbia, act in the interest of the good people of B.C. if we're not standing up and ensuring that at the end of the day every piece of land is going to be there now and in perpetuity?
I still remember something my grandfather said. I should have listened more; I did listen a bit. I bought some land. My grandfather, who came from Saskatchewan, used to say: "Buy land. They're not making any more of it." If I was smart, I would have run…. I saw one guy on the greenchain. I remember he was buying up land. He's a multi-millionaire today. He was a teacher, and he was working in the summer on the greenchain. I got to know this guy. He quit the mill and went out. He was pumping every spare dollar — never mind into RSPs; he was buying land.
Land is the critical issue at the end of the day, and it was from the outset. That land was offered up. Why? To attract a benefit from the Crown. That benefit also transferred onto their taxation. That can't be missed. We can't miss the point that all of these years they've been taxed at a dramatically lower rate on the land that is both Crown and certainly private land that's offered up as part of a woodlot licence. It's taxed lower.
I remember when, back in 2000 and 2001, the Youbou mill closed. We were taking a close look at the impact of Crown stumpage versus what the company was paying on their private land. I remember at the time I was shocked and surprised that in the annual report of TimberWest they were bragging that they only paid, I think it was, $2.97 or $2.98 per cubic metre on average in tax, through taxation. They didn't pay stumpage on their private land timber, but on their Crown land timber they were paying almost ten times that. They were paying like 30 bucks a cubic metre back then and down to, you know, less than three bucks — a no-brainer that was. It was very profitable, in their mind.
I might add that at the time they shut down the Youbou mill, it made a million dollars, but they could make more exporting logs. That's the case in some places today. The problem isn't that they weren't profitable. The issue is you can make a lot more money, and you can stuff your pockets and be part of the 1 percent if you can cash in at the expense, certainly in my view, of the community in that case.
Bill 6 has some other features. I don't know how my time is doing. I don't want to miss the opportunity to talk about timber cruising versus scaling, because that's another feature.
Part of this bill is they're going to create a whole new category. They want to create a technical timber cruiser category. The timber cruiser in the past has had to be overlooked by a forester, somebody who was a licensed professional forester. One of the features of the new bill, as I understand it…. We're going to get some more questions into the details of that, but there are at least one or two new categories of licence that this bill contemplates. It's talking about timber cruising, making that a real category versus a forester.
I do want to say, with respect to the timber cruisers…. I remember talking to timber cruisers. It's kind of like the difference…. You know, the timber cruiser takes his lunch, and he goes out on a real nice day. Maybe the sun comes out, or maybe it starts to rain. If it is raining and cold or snowy, they get it. I'm told. They were able to be transparent with me, because I wasn't going to do any firing. I wasn't their boss; I was their workers representative.
They used to tell me that on a real bad day, they might stay in a tent. It was kind of like this thumbnail. They'd look and say: "Well, you know, there's probably 400 to 600 cubic metres in that area." On the sunny days, they really launched into a full-blown effort to tape off the area. They'd make sure that they had a clear understanding of precisely what was cruised in that area.
[D. Black in the chair.]
But we should all understand that there is a big difference between volume…. Timber cruising can calculate volume. I talked to the guys down at the dry-land sort who used to say that if a timber cruiser was out by 10 or 20 percent on his cruise, he was out by 10 or 20 percent all the time. They could almost take that to the bank.
But the real calculation, the one that was important, not only to the company but clearly to the Crown, particularly on the coast of British Columbia…. Heaven forbid that this government…. That would really be jiggery-pokery if they ever contemplated moving to a plan where we were timber cruising on the coast because of all the different timber values — cedar, spruce, yellow cedar, fir, Douglas fir, all the valuable timber.
On the coast of British Columbia roughly 60 percent is hemlock, but there are big, vast differences between the value of individual trees within a stand. So you can't…. Timber cruising…. They're trying to apply this method to the Interior, particularly to the pine beetle region, as I understand it.
The concept is that you've got 35 percent, I think it is — or plus or minus — that are dead and dying trees. Then we're going to do a timber cruise, and people are going to bid. They're going to buy the whole package — twigs and all. They're going to pay for everything — the waste. They can waste it if they want. They can pay what they pay.
I'm told, and I have no reason to disbelieve them…. The folks that gave me the update on what was happening with this bill suggested that normally they bid a little higher than 25 cents a cubic metre, but all you have to do is look at the revenue to the Crown. It has been falling like a rock. I would think that we would be very interested in ways to promote extracting maximum value.
In fact, one of the key obligations of the minister of…. Well, I'll just call him the minister of permits. I hope
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that's okay with you. It's kind of transferred from what used to be the Minister of Forests. Now we've got Lands and Natural Resources. But the real focus today seems to be…. You know, they got rid got rid of as many staff as they could, and they've cut to bare bones, and now they go: "We have got to get $24 million from somewhere and add back some staff."
We're not focused on compliance and enforcement, by the way, hon. Speaker. I want you to be assured that this government has no interest in more money for compliance and enforcement. No, that would be in the red-tape category that they like to go…. They think that's red tape. I don't think that's red tape. They promised the people of British Columbia way back in their so-called revitalization…. Boy, any more revitalization and we couldn't stand ourselves.
We've lost 35,000 full-time jobs under these guys' plan, and they claim to come into this House and have a jobs plan? And by the way, there's nothing there — no help for the forest workers at all. They know that there's going to be a huge transition coming. As the pine beetle cut comes down, there's got to be training and retraining.
The studies in the province of British Columbia show that many forest workers don't have a lot of education. You know, I understand that. I really do. I understand how so many forest workers just were attracted away from school because of the fact that at one time in our industry in the province of British Columbia there were jobs aplenty. So people went for those jobs.
Now we're going through a massive change, a tremendous, tumultuous change in the province of British Columbia that is going to affect the north forever. As those mills have to come down because of the pine beetle situation, we need to have a plan, and we should have a plan to connect those forest workers who are losing their jobs.
But I am attempting to go far afield from Bill 6, so I want to get back to the bill. This bill is just another example of how this government failed to listen to the Auditor General the last time, because here we are just a few years later. "Oh, that's so far in the rearview mirror. We have done so many deeds after that." The government is, I'm sure, thinking that way.
We come into this place, and the first thing we hear is some big announcement that we're going to have a jobs plan. Then they act totally opposite to their jobs plan interest, which is their own interest, and plan to reduce the amount of fibre that's available in the wood basket of British Columbia by limiting the very land that we're going to need now and in the future.
It's really quite frightening. It's stunning. But you know, if you've got a government that thinks in short blocks of time, four year blocks of time…. "What can we do for now? Tomorrow is not really all that critical to look at." Well, I think it is. It is critical to think about.
We can't use words like "sustainability." We can't talk a good talk about family-supporting jobs and then go and take the wood basket, that land that is not growing any bigger. And we're going to yank it out.
Do you know the huge demands on our private lands and our Crown lands all over the province of British Columbia? Forest land is being carved up for transmission lines, for pipelines. We've got new roads and bridges even introduced in this latest jobs plan. Part of that will shrink the available land base forever. So we're not making more land.
Seriously, hon. Speaker, both sides of the House should take a sober second look at this and be saying: "Wait a minute. What are we doing here? Is this in the interest of the Crown? Is this in the public interest?"
There needs to be a clear need to ensure that we have the public interest met when we're dealing with one of B.C.'s most valuable assets, our public forest lands, and once again, I fear it's being ignored. So we have a number of important questions to ask as part of this process. In some ways, I think the process is a little backwards — that we get to do a speech and then ask questions. But eventually we're going to get to ask some thought-provoking questions.
Just one of the questions that I think we need to ask is: who is going to benefit? That's our role as opposition for the people of B.C. We need to ask thought-provoking questions about who is going to benefit, why we're doing this and where this is going in terms of who it's going to benefit and what it will mean for communities as well as the individual.
I mean, there's no question that individuals are impacted and have a great interest in what the government might do. But the idea that we can have the minister decide one day…. The legislation is going to allow him, essentially, the unfettered right. The minister decides. You know, that's not a very comforting situation.
There's no panel. There are no public meetings that are promised that will have…. There may be public meetings, but they're not going to be determinative. It's not like, "Well, the public has spoken," and like the HST, they can throw it out. There's some process to stop it. They're not offering any process to stop it.
Clearly, we have to be concerned about and get to the bottom, if we can, on exactly where this did come from. Like, where did this come from? As I said, I've been on the select standing committee, travelling the province. Not a single person has said: "You know, we have nothing better to do this afternoon. Let's go away and give the private land portion of the woodlot licences up just because we can."
As an opposition, we have an obligation to put you to the test if this is in the public interest and to be perfectly clear about how this will work out at the end of the day.
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I wanted to review the promises that were made. You know, you look back on the promises that we had by this government, and the parallels are so similar that we need to, notionally at least, look at how we got here and how there is this continuing pattern.
Back in 2001 we had, at the end of the day…. They called it a new era. Get this, hon. Speaker. We were going to have a new era of sustainable forestry. My, my. Whoops. Sustainable forestry we were going to have. Well, that hasn't been working out so good.
It said in there that they were going to be the leading edge — "globally recognized for their productivity and environmental stewardship," I might add — and the Premier at the time said we need "to make our forest industry strong again and ensure a bright future for forest workers."
Since that time 35,000 jobs are still today…. Like, we looked at the math, the numbers. You add back some of the jobs and, yes, we did our research, and it showed that there are some 24 mills that have come up, and maybe some of them down again. There were also more mill closures. But at the end of the day, the final analysis, we're still down 35,000 forest industry family-supporting jobs, and certainly, value-added opportunities have become almost non-existent.
So that was back…. We were going to have a new era, and sustainability was the theme. Then a couple years later we were going to have forest revitalization. Do you remember that one? That was going to be a bright new day for all British Columbians. We were going to have forest revitalization.
At the time I remember three major forest companies. I was there. I heard the offering. They went around to communities all over the province of British Columbia, and they had a really good plan that they thought they could offer up to the people of B.C.
"We're going to invest a billion dollars," they said. "We'll invest a billion dollars in the province of B.C. Just give us a free rein. We want to put the foxes in charge of the chicken coop. We want to do away with all this red tape because — my, my, my — it's in the way of doing what we need to do, and it's going to be so wonderful. We're going to revitalize the province." There was going to be investment.
Do you remember that? Does it have a vague ring? You know, it's the same…. And they sold us that bit, and they gutted the forest legislation, laid off thousands of jobs in the province of British Columbia. The facts are…. You talk to any forester: when was the decade of the best forest practices in the province of British Columbia? Right here when the NDP was in charge, absolutely. We had the best forest practices in the world.
I was very proud. I had the opportunity to go over to the European countries, and I stood up, and I said: "You know, it's not true. It is not true what Greenpeace is saying, that we're overharvesting our land. We have a real plan to take care of the forests of British Columbia, an aggressive plan to take care of the forests of British Columbia." Every forester that you talk to today, if you ask him: "When were the good old days, if you were a registered professional forester…? Eh?"
B. Routley: And there's the guy; there are the boys. They're chirping over there. At the end of the day, they led the charge to the largest number of jobs lost in the history of British Columbia, and they're proud of it. Yeah, back in 2001 — 11,300 jobs lost, public sector workers.
You're the rottenest employer in the history of British Columbia, rottenest, and I really feel good about being able to tell you that. You're rotten to the teachers; you're rotten to the health care workers. You presided over the largest mass firing of women and immigrants in the history of British Columbia: 8,000 people and their families. That is the reality.
Deputy Speaker: Member. Member, can I remind you, please, to address your remarks through the Chair.
B. Routley: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I think I need to refocus my frustration, but there's plenty of it — years of broken promises, year after year after year of the same kind of language. It was going to be new era. Then it was going to be forest revitalization. We had the heartlands strategy. We had so many golden fingers or whatever it was that they were going to give us. We know how that worked out.
It didn't work out for British Columbians. I can tell you that. At the end of the day forest communities all over British Columbia got the shaft. This government has given the forest industry the keys to the chicken house. The foxes are fully in charge, and they're running things. They're having a great time.
You know, when you look back…. Let's just talk about the facts on some of those impacts, how deeply this provincial government has been cutting the Forest Service. This is an old article that I'm reading from, but they talk about and they're reflecting back to the good old days.
They say that there used to be 42 district offices in the province of B.C. in communities all over B.C. that represented real British Columbians. On the ground you could go to your district Forest Service office. And now less than half remain. According to the B.C. government employees union, over 1,004 or 1,006 jobs have been eliminated, a lot of them in compliance and enforcement.
If you go back and look at the record, this is the same government when they brought in their notion…. Do you remember the promise of: "We're going to do away with this regulation"? "We're going to have this new light
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touch on regulation, but boy, we're going to be real serious. There'll be million-dollar fines."
There was going to be jail time if you didn't follow the requirements of the act. They were going to get tough. It was like getting tough on crime. They got tough on crime, all right. Now if you're a compliance and enforcement officer in the province of British Columbia, you're lucky if you've got enough money for pens and ink. Never do they have enough money to get in their car and turn the key on and actually go anywhere. That's what the reality is. They keep cutting budgets to the point where people can't do the job.
Let's have a look at this. This report says we've only got a handful of field staff left that are now responsible for over two million hectares, a thousand times more per forester than Sweden here in the province of British Columbia — a thousand times larger area for each forester.
You know, Roosevelt once observed…. He talked way back when about having forest rangers, and he said: "If the land goes unprotected" — these are important words — "and the laws that are set in the land are set aside, it becomes meaningless." If you do away with compliance and enforcement and don't have boots on the ground out to do the job, it is a failure to the people of British Columbia. We're failing the communities of British Columbia, and we're certainly failing the future environmental needs and concerns of this province. I am really concerned about what we see going on.
You look at that, some of the impacts. Let's go over…. Let's see if there were any good ones. Let's look for them. There's got to be one. I've got to live in hope. There's got to be one or two real good ones, maybe a gem hidden in here. This was the revitalization.
So they eliminated cut control. What did that do? Well, cut control required them to cut plus or minus 50 percent of their annual cut within 10 percent after five years. Well, now we can lose jobs and they can leave an entire area sitting dormant — no problem, no problem whatsoever, no requirement.
I want to talk about that for a minute. Here's an example, in fact — Western Forest Products, which the Premier was glad to stand next to, just the other day, with this bagful of hot air that they had. There were no real promises in terms of what they were going to do, but they were there.
Just in this last six months we had workers who had been sitting home for almost two years. The Duke Point mill has been down almost two years, and they just started up with a skeleton crew. The workers feel betrayed by the company. They know that the mills all over Western Forest Products are not running at full capacity, and they feel like that mill was started up just to cheat them out of their severance pay. Almost two years, and they start up the plant on a skeleton crew.
You know, it's a pattern that we're seeing in other places too. I think it's mean-spirited. Right now we have way less than a third. Those two mills — they're just within a stone's throw, almost, of each other — across the water have way less than a third of what those two plants used to have put together when they had crews of 140 to 160 people working. So they're working at a skeleton crew.
B. Routley: Of course, I'm delighted that people are…. I hear somebody has woken up, and they are obviously wounded. They're wounded because they know the truth of what I speak. They know that it hurts. It's a result of their actions, a result of eliminating appurtenancy clauses all over the province of B.C. They eliminated appurtenancy clauses and thousands of workers have lost their jobs because of the actions of people like that, who don't care a bit about forest workers and their families.
It's just like this bill that we're talking about today. We're talking about a bill that hasn't taken into account the public interest. They have no interest in talking to the people of B.C. They just go ahead and do whatever they want. Talking about clawing back forest tenure, we lost 20 percent of every tree farm licence in the province. Over a thousand forest workers lost full-time, family-supporting jobs.
And we've got B.C. Timber Sales that can't make a buck. They're losing money. We're babysitting them. It's unbelievable, and it's unacceptable what's happened on this government's watch. Timber auctions — they've got a timber auction plan. Hon. Speaker, I don't think these guys could sell lemonade at a lemonade stand. In fact, if they had a lemonade stand, you know what they'd do? They'd take away the real lemons for sure. They would bring in the artificial kind. They might….
I can just see a poor little Liberal kid there standing on the corner with his…. "Well, we don't have real lemons. My mom says we don't have the money for sugar either. We're going to add one drop of Realemon from concentrate." That's what we're going to get — lemons but not the real thing. That's the problem. The province of British Columbia needs the real thing, and we're sick and tired of just a fake government that's making it up as we're going along.
On a more serious issue, hon. Speaker, it's really quite sad. I defended our province on the record that we had as environmental stewards. And to be good environmental stewards, one of the clear things that have to happen is….
You know, the Liberals once talked about having boots on the ground to really do enforcement and compliance. If they had actually done what they said they were going to do…. Like so many other things that don't seem to happen, it's just another takeback plan. They do this jiggery-pokery and big announcements, and there's more.
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They bring in the communications people and bring in the load of lumber for the Premier to stand beside and say: "Oh, it's going to be wonderful. Trust us. It'll be so good. It'll be beautiful." But the facts are that in less than a decade British Columbia has gone from an environmental leader to, really, a laggard in terms of stewarding one of our most important natural resources, and it could not come at a worse time, as we grapple with climate change and horrendous impact on our forests in what was once one of the greener jurisdictions on earth.
A major reforestation crisis is underway. We have a major crisis. Every year that goes by, it's like a deficit. We've got a failure to keep up. The NSR land numbers are shameful. It's horrendous. The silviculture contractors talk about the need to do more reforestation. I remember when I went to Sweden. They were literally planting five times what we were doing in British Columbia. They were, as I say, tending their forest in a real, renewable way. They had aggressive spacing, thinning and pruning.
I've seen with my own eyes, right outside of Duncan. You go up to Hill 60. I'd be glad to take the minister on a tour and have a look at what happened there. It's all overgrown. I had a Swedish forester who was over here on a tour, and he said that if we're not careful, we'll be growing pulp crops. Why? Because it's just like a carrot patch. If you don't do the thinning, you are going to have lower value timbers. You've got hundreds and hundreds of trees struggling to get light, and they're not sufficiently thinned.
Sadly, we have no plan. There's no plan by this government to deal with forest health — not a real forest health plan. There's not a real plan to deal with fire mitigation issues. How many years since we had the Filmon report? There seems to be…. These guys are out to lunch when it comes to any kind of a real plan. There's no plan to sit down with communities and make that happen in a more aggressive way. We're so far behind.
I'll be interested in hearing from the minister how we're doing in that regard. I think the last time I heard, wasn't it 3 percent or in that range? It was stunning to me — the fact that we were so far behind in a real strategy to help mitigate the potential impacts of fire to communities.
Certainly, that's one of the benefits, by the way, I might add, of small woodlot licences. When you've got families relying on that tenure for a livelihood, one of the things they do is manage it so well that fire is not really a problem. I mean, sure you can still have a lightning strike, but in terms of dead and dying and woody debris being left about, they take care of that. It's more intensively managed when you have people that are looking at it. But I am very concerned about the ongoing sustainability and the potential impact that that might have.
I do want to conclude by saying that I want to question the minister more about the potential impact. Are log exports somehow going to be impacted by this change? I have to say that the rising log exports from the coast….
I come from a coastal mill. You can understand some of my passion when you understand that I used to work day in and day out with people every day at the Youbou mill. We went through…. It was a terrible situation to go from a mill that was making a million dollars to be told we're shutting down one day. All of those family-supporting jobs, more than 220 jobs, lost — just like that. This company just said: "They're gone."
They, in their annual report the next year, announced that they'd ramped up log exports by 85 percent — okay? Now, we've seen ups and downs, but log exports are once again in a huge and growing number, particularly on the coast of British Columbia. I would add, based on what I've laid out here today on the problems with the northern part of British Columbia and the AAC decline, that that's going to have to happen there.
You know, I've heard from the truck loggers and others the notion that there's some kind of undercut, that we could actually accelerate the harvest and somehow export even more wood out of the province of British Columbia.
First of all, I want to say to those that don't understand, if you're exporting logs…. By the way, they're not just taking low-grade stuff. They're taking higher-grade timber. They're buying our low-grade lumber in massive quantities, but they want the logs that they can make something more valuable out of. But that will ultimately…. Every time you ramp up log exports, if you think about it, you're then supplying the raw material — the feedstock, if you like — to Chinese mills to do what? Do they think they're not competing in our market, in the market that we're going to need by supplying…?
You know, we have these rules that have…. I understand the government is having some kind of a review. I hope that…. There's one of the hopes. Jack Layton talked about how we need to have hope. I have hope that the minister will be listening to the pleas of British Columbians and listening to those who know that losing jobs and not taking real action to defend forest communities in British Columbia, to promote value-added action and save jobs here in British Columbia….
Certainly, one of the ways to do that is to look at things like…. The fee in lieu of manufacturing is clearly not right. If it was the right fee in lieu of manufacturing, it would have stopped log exports. But clearly it's not much of a detriment if in the last few years alone we've gone from almost no mills on the coast of China to now 80 or more mills. I don't know what their latest number is, but last I heard it was 80 mills and growing on the coast of China, ultimately to use the raw materials — our raw logs. I like to think of them as B.C. jobs, because that's what it is. It's a B.C. job.
All of the studies and all of the reports show that when you utilize that timber here in British Columbia, you're going to get four or five more jobs out of the fibre supply
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than if you simply export it. Sure, exporting logs — like, I heard the argument — somehow creates jobs, and it does. It creates jobs for the handful of loggers.
I want to say this. If I believed that at the end of the day there was no hope, that there was no hope for British Columbians…. But I am more optimistic. I think the other side has a jobs plan that isn't optimistic when it comes to the future of British Columbia and particularly our forest industry. Why do I say that? All of the recent studies…. Again, I want to talk about something Russ Taylor said that was, I thought, a very thoughtful document. He was looking ahead.
Maybe he was overly optimistic, given the fact that we've now got nations of the world collapsing in financial chaos partly because of the greed, the unfettered greed, and the lack of any real plan to protect the interests of the people that some politicians were there to represent. They didn't always do that job. They allowed banks and corporations to overrun things and fleece the people, and now we've got people taking to the streets because they've had enough. They're sick and tired of it, hon. Speaker.
But we have to have more vision when it comes to the future of British Columbia. When Russ Taylor says that what will be happening in our future, not so long away…. He talks about the fact that the fibre supply wood basket is shrinking worldwide. You know, all of the material…. I would ask any of the folks on the other side to do some research into that. Look into the fact that in Malaysia, and certainly in other parts, in South America and, certainly, a lot of places where there's illegal harvesting going on, whether it's for soybeans….
There's all kinds of illegal logging going on in all parts of the planet. There's fire, pestilence and disease destroying massive amounts of forest land all over the world. As a result of that, we have that shrinking supply basket.
He rightly points out that if the market starts to take off in the States, anywhere close…. I mean, we're about a quarter or less than a quarter of the number of homes annually that were being built in the United States, so we're down dramatically in our piece of the lumber sales in the United States.
I think even the minister will agree that there are people who say, when they project ahead, that if economies — and I know it's a big if — can start managing themselves into some confidence again, we can start to see a rebuild. I said the word, so now it's got to come out of me. It's the word "confidence."
You know, it's interesting. I want to say this on the record. The one thing that corporations and even governments don't seem to understand — and maybe that was the case in this whole HST thing — is that you've got to have consumers. You can be the best businessman in the world. Good luck if you don't have consumers — like, good luck. You know what will happen.
In fact, we are watching right now as the world, all over the world…. Why are we struggling? Because there is a lack of confidence in consumers, so the real people, the people that drive industry….
People think they should get bonuses. Go figure, hon. Speaker. They think they should stuff their pockets with hockey socks full of corporate cash because they're so wonderful and they're some kind of superhero and they've done it all. You know, they couldn't do a thing without the consumers who want their goods, and businesses that are successful grow to understand that.
With woodlots it's much the same. We can't have a woodlot without a sustainable fibre supply. How can we shrink it down to the point where it's not going to be there, and it's not going to supply the kind of forest products that we need for these communities and these generations? In a lot of cases they're supplying the fibre supply that's needed in small and value-added producers.
We have companies right now…. I mentioned before about the little community of Lake Cowichan. They have to watch as day after day wood goes through, some of it from private lands, that is being exported out of the province, and meanwhile, there's George Donnelly's mill just outside of town in Meade Creek.
He wants one load of logs a day — one load of logs a day. Do you think he can get them? No. No, they just keep rolling right through town, and at the end of the day, you've got the mayor and the community saying…. Every place that I travel in the province of British Columbia we hear the same theme — that there are far too many communities that feel ignored by this government.
So, hon. Speaker, I thank you. I've had the opportunity to really say what was on my mind on this matter. I think there's a lot more there, but in order to give other people…. I only have one more thing to say, and that's we're fed up with the jiggery-pokery of this government.
E. Foster: I must say, in the world of jiggery-pokery I am humbled in the presence of greatness.
There are a couple of things. I'm not going to take up a lot of your time, because I know the opposition wants to get to the committee stage of this so they can talk to the minister. But to start off with the woodlot licence holders.
The member for Cowichan Valley mentioned several times…. I read from the reports…. I'd like to just add into the record here. It says here:
"In support of the amendments that pertain to the woodlot licensing, Mark Clark, president of the Federation of B.C. Woodlot Associations, said: 'The majority of B.C. woodlot licences are held and managed by families. The Federation of B.C. Woodlot Associations asks the government to create an option whereby government could approve requests by our members to remove private land so they can better plan their financial futures.'"
That comes from the federation of woodlot owners.
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I've spent many hours at meetings of the woodlot licence holders, as I was one prior to being in this House. I was advised by the Conflict of Interest Commissioner that I might be doing what I am doing right now — speaking on woodlots — so I had to relinquish my woodlot. But as a licence holder, I've got a lot of experience with the woodlots, the licensing system.
One of the things that was mentioned by the previous speaker was sustainability. Well, when you own a woodlot and you do as he said — put up private land against it when you make your application, put your submission in — those two pieces of property are managed separately. So the Crown portion of the woodlot is managed based on an allowable annual cut; the private land that's part of your woodlot licence is managed as per however you put together your management plan. So that wood is not necessarily tied into the fibre supply.
I'm concerned that the opposition is opposed to this. They're opposed, then, to families being able to manage their finances. There have been woodlots in the last while…. Especially in the last few years when the industry was in such dire straits, in order to save their farms, save their homes, they had to give up their woodlots to sell the private land. Whereas with this amendment, if the minister saw fit to help them, they would be able to sell off some or all of that private land in order to sustain a living and be able to continue to manage the woodlot as they have done so.
To that, I think, the members opposite should look at this as an opportunity, not a wholesale sale of land but an opportunity for people who are in distress financially to have an opportunity to continue to make a living and to hold on to their woodlots.
The previous speaker also talked about the old-timers who cruised timber and laid out cutblocks and laid out roads. Well, I did appreciate the fact that he then referred to them as senior citizens in the province because I am one of those old-timers, who over many, many years, starting back in the early 1970s as a forestry technician, cruised timber, laid out cutblocks, laid out roads. I packed a chainsaw. I felled. I've fallen trees. I drove skidder, laid under skidders in the middle of the winter and fixed hydraulic hoses.
I've done the work in the bush. I know what it's like to be out there. It's a tough life. We talk about making some amendments just strictly to this….
Go back to the woodlot licence holders — anything that we can do to keep them in business. If they need to sell some of their land, they need to sell it. You're not going to be able to do it two weeks after you get a woodlot. It's up to the minister to look at each individual case.
I think this is not a wholesale sell-off of the land, as I said. In opposition to this, the members opposite are saying that they don't think that these individuals, these family farms, the family woodlots, should be considered. I find that strange.
Another thing. You know, we talk about mill closures. I'm from Lumby, and I know all too well about mill closures. I've watched them over the years close — the three biggest employers in our community. It's a tough time. Now we see mills reopening that have been closed for a few years, and 25, 26 mills have reopened in the last while. Those are good family-supporting jobs.
We talk about sending lumber to China. That's a big part of why these mills are open again. We talk about the log exports. You know, if those logs could go into a local mill, that's where they'd be. It costs a lot of money to ship those things across the world. But if we say no log exports — right? — just flatly, no log exports, we're back to what I talked about a few minutes ago, just sort of throwing a blanket over everything.
Let's take a look at these things as individual cases. I don't want to see the loggers go. I have a really empathy for loggers. That's how I made my living. When loggers have to stay home because nobody wants to buy their logs, I've been there. I've stood and looked at my woodlot and left the trees standing — no money. My skidder operators didn't work, my cat skinners didn't work, because I had no place to sell my logs.
To look at this and say, "Look, we're not going to do this. We're not going to ship raw logs. We're not going to let people sell their land." You're putting people out of work every single day that you do that. So let's look at these things as individual situations so that…. And this is what this amendment does. It gives the minister the opportunity to look at people's situations and make a decision based on that situation.
If someone has got a woodlot, things are going along great, they've got good timber to sell off their private land and there's a market for that timber, they're not going to sell that land because it's an ongoing opportunity. I think we're being awfully shortsighted from the opposition when they just say: "Look, we're not going to do this."
One of the amendments is about the timber cruisers. We're moving towards a system — I know the member opposite didn't like this system, but if you talk to people in the industry, they're very supportive of this system — where we're going to sell blocks of timber through B.C. Timber Sales based on a cruise. We want the people doing that cruise to be qualified. The RPF, registered professional forester, still has to sign off on it. It's just that the people that are actually doing the cruise know what they're doing.
That way the purchasers of that timber and that sale have confidence that those numbers are accurate, and that maximizes the value to the Crown. If the purchasers of that timber or that sale are not confident that those numbers are accurate, they bid those things down. So having good qualified people putting those numbers on the table reassures the purchaser that the numbers are accurate. They'll bid it accordingly, and that additional revenue comes to the Crown.
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I don't understand what the concern about qualifying timber cruisers is. It doesn't make any sense. It just ensures that the numbers that we're getting and the numbers that the potential purchasers of that timber are getting are accurate and solidifies the value to the Crown.
There's not a lot…. I mean, I can't see how anybody could speak for two hours on this. Obviously, they didn't. We talked about everything else in the world. But I will be interested to hear what the opposition has to say during the committee stage of this. I know that they're anxious to get at that, so I'm not going to take up any more of their valuable committee time with long, sad stories about nothing that I know anything about.
So I will take my seat and allow the member from the Cariboo to speak.
B. Simpson: I've said many times in this House that the bills I don't like the most are amendment bills. They're one of the most complex to really understand. This one isn't that complex, but it often feels — and is presented to individuals who have to make sense out of it in this Legislature — like just moving a word here, deleting a word there. But of course, once you start digging into the actual act and backdating and doing all of that stuff, you have to figure out what is actually going on.
There are some things going on in this bill that I do think it is absolutely correct to call into question, and I do have some amendments to put forward that would be my recommendations to the minister to address some things that are in this bill that I'm certainly, as a legislator in this House, not comfortable with.
I think, quite frankly, the minister ought not be comfortable with the degree of discretion being given to him as a political entity — the ability to do direct awards without regulation guiding those direct awards, the ability to release land from woodlots without regulations to guide that release.
I think that a minister would want regulation as a protective device so that he or she is actually backstopped in making decisions, particularly with the financial implications and some of the other implications that are in this act.
Now, the interesting thing for me, of course, is that often the press releases for these amendment acts do not necessarily dovetail with the details of the act. I note that members in the government and the press release talk about this "streamlining." I have a hard time figuring out what the streamlining is that's going on in here, other than it's just a nice rhetorical phrase that fits in with the government's objectives around deregulation and streamlining.
It does a number of things. It extends the terms of a master licence to cut to ten years. So I guess that streamlines from five years to ten years in a free use permit, etc.
It releases private land. I'm not sure that's streamlining anything, because hopefully, there's going to be a process that will have to be gone through to address the release of those private lands and enable the minister to direct-reward fibre supply licences. That's, in some ways, already enabled in the act. This business of issuing press releases with bills that simply speak more to the government's agenda than what's in the bill…. I don't think it serves us well politically.
Now, there are two pieces of context here that are missing for us to truly understand what it is the government is attempting to do. The first piece is that we do not have the parliamentary secretary's report on the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Ministry.
If people will recall, the Premier committed to a review of her predecessor's decision to collapse a bunch of the so-called dirt ministries into one house. That was brought into question by a number of people, including members in the government, who questioned the validity of doing that, the way that that was done and whether or not the government should continue on that path.
The Premier committed, when she was selected as leader and sworn in, that there would be a review of that process and that the public would know the intent of government with respect to Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations — whether the minister who has that file gets even more stuff in his file or whether some stuff is going to be taken away. It would be nice for us and for British Columbians if we actually had that report to understand this bill and some other bills we have in the context of what the government's intention is.
It's interesting to me that we have a bill that's entitled the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act when Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations actually has no standing before law. We have a Forest Act, and we have a Land Act. We have the recognition of the Forests Minister. We have the recognition of the Agriculture Minister. There isn't really a recognition in statute or in law, other than possibly under order-in-council, that a Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister actually exists. He's been designated those responsibilities through order-in-council.
That speaks to the fact that, really, what we need is to rationalize…. If you're going to make this ministry successful, work has to be done to look at all of the legislation that comes under this umbrella. If you go back to the original order-in-council, some of the Forest Act is now here; some is there. Some of the Ministry of Environment Act is here and there and everywhere.
I think the ministry of reconciliation with First Nations is hived off over four different ministries. It's a real hodgepodge. I won't go so far as to say — what is it? — jiggery-pokery, but it's a real hodgepodge of acts that have been split up and moved around. We've already been down this path twice under the current government's mandate. MSRM, the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management, was an attempt at integration
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that failed. The Ministry of Water, Lands and parks was an attempt at integration that failed.
My concern is that without seeing the parliamentary secretary's report on the future of this ministry and the intentions of government, I'm not sure that doing little bits and pieces of amendments is actually addressing the key concern, and that is: where is government going with this whole entity that it has created?
I would have preferred — I mean, I've stated a number of times — that for a millisecond, when the previous Premier announced, to save his own political skin, a 15 percent tax cut…. For a previous second, we had cabinet government in this province when that was reversed. It's unfortunate they didn't listen to some of the cabinet ministers at that same time and reverse Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations until work was done to make this thing successful. But that's not what happened. We're stuck with this. That's one context piece that's missing to really understand what it is the government is trying to achieve with this small amendment act.
The second context piece that's missing is the whole sense of where the government is going to go with forestry in general. Forestry is now subsumed under a large omnibus dirt ministry. The minister knows, and anybody who is paying attention knows, that the future of the Forest Service is heavily debated inside that context.
We're going to celebrate their 100th anniversary next year, and there are a lot of the people who say: "We're not sure that there's going to be a Forest Service left to celebrate if…." You know, new logos, a new ministry and all of those things come up. But it's more than that, and I have to listen back and forth to your plan and your promises and all of this stuff.
The reality is that governments fail more often than not in delivering on promises. You can ascribe to the Social Credit government "a government of broken promises." You can ascribe to the NDP government "a government of broken promises" and now to the Liberal government "a government of broken promises" because of what we're forced to do in terms of presenting things.
B. Simpson: No, scrap the political parties that label the governments.
If you look at it, yes, the members in government were calling out the forest jobs and timber accord of the NDP — whether that delivered or not. But seriously, if you look at the revitalization strategy and all of the promises of the revitalization strategy, it didn't deliver on any of the promises that it made — right? And again, I would challenge the members on this side. They should thump the desk when I say that neither did the jobs and timber accord deliver on the promises.
Now what we have is a whole new jobs strategy, and the only point I want to make in all of this is that I think, for the sake of the public, that there ought to be an accountability mechanism built into those promises. If a Premier or a government states that they are going to do thus and so, there ought to be some independent-officer function of the Legislature that holds them to account to that, because if we actually had that, then we would have an independent assessment of whose strategy for forestry actually did what it was supposed to do in a more meaningful way.
With that in mind, one of the things that I find that's interesting, and it's a context piece that's missing from this act, is that the current jobs plan — and this is an indictment of the previous two administrations — is a fundamental shift away from sustainable jobs to unsustainable jobs. That's an important shift that we should all be cognizant of.
Mining jobs are not sustainable. Oil and gas jobs are not sustainable. They are limited natural resources. When you extract them, they are done, so you eventually wind an ore body down. In fact, one of the things that happens when you open a mine is that you start the clock for the end of the life of that mine. When you drill a well in the oil and gas field, you start to wind the clock down for when that well will no longer produce.
They are not sustainable jobs in the sense that forestry jobs ought to be sustainable, agriculture jobs ought to be sustainable, fisheries jobs ought to be sustainable because those are naturally reproducing biological functions that we can take advantage of.
That's the fundamental question for British Columbia right now that we don't have a context for, and I think the minister knows this. I know his staff are talking to him about it. The deputy critic for the opposition pointed it out: we don't have good enough data to really answer the fundamental question of whether we're managing our forest resources sufficiently and sustainably anymore.
In fact, some of the legislation the government passed actually made sure that we weren't managing it sustainably by absolving themselves of all responsibility for land that is disturbed, independent of the licensees harvesting that land, whether that's B.C. Timber Sales or elsewhere.
That one change in the act alone created a circumstance in British Columbia where, legitimately, we ought to be saying that we are mining our forests. We are undermining the capacity of British Columbia's number one renewable resource at the expense of future generations, and that is not addressed in this act.
With that in mind, I want to start in on the act. I'm only going to look at three aspects of the act: the master licence to cut, which most people haven't touched on; the woodlot licences, which have been canvassed; and then the final one on the fibre supply to cut. I have recommendations to the minister by way of amendment that I'll table at the end of my comments.
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Under the aspect of forest stewardship, I have grave concerns — I've expressed this to government — about extending the life of the master licence to cut from five years to ten years. What we should be doing is asking if that's the right tool. Because under that tool, we don't know what's happening in the oil and gas fields. We don't know what the implications are of the forest practices in oil and gas and mining for the long-term sustainable cut in British Columbia.
There was a report issued by a grad student at UBC forestry in 2009. The report is named The Impact of Oil and Gas Industry Policy on Responsible Forest Stewardship in North-Eastern B.C.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
What this report points out is that under the master licence to cut tool, under that licence, the oil and gas industry is basically not under the same forest stewardship obligations as under the Forest and Range Practices Act. As a consequence, things like wildlife tree patches, which are a very important aspect of managing and maintaining biodiversity, are being blown out. They're being blown out with seismic lines, roads and the actual well pads themselves. Yet under the forest act it would not be allowed. Under a master licence to cut and under the regulations governing that activity, that is allowed.
More importantly, Mr. Speaker — Mr. Speaker now; welcome to the chair — one aspect of the master licence to cut is that we don't know the volume and the implications of the forest harvesting activities under master licence to cut for the annual allowable cut in the areas where oil and gas, in particular, is operating.
The report points out that "the overall concept of volume control" — even in the areas that they have this AAC control — "to promote forest sustainability is not practised or enforced by the Oil and Gas Commission" in these licences. In fact, the report points out that the chief forester has to guesstimate the total activities of the volume implications of oil and gas when he does AAC determinations for the forest districts in that region.
Now, that's that tool of master licence to cut. My question is: why would we extend that for ten years? Why wouldn't we step back and say…?
This is a tool initiated, again, by the previous administration. The Oil and Gas Commission was put in place by the NDP, and master licence to cut as a tool was put in place, so this crosses administrations. This is not a blame game. This is a question of whether or not streamlining actually causes us to undermine forest practices.
One important aspect of that that goes back to my point of whether or not we're mining B.C.'s number one resource to extract unsustainable resources is that there are no silviculture obligations associated with this licence, as far as I'm concerned. We'll canvass the minister's understanding of that when we get into the clause-by-clause debate.
So the fact we don't know the volume; the fact that it forces the chief forester to make guesses about annual allowable cut and sustainable cut levels; the fact that under the Oil and Gas Commission and through the master licence to cut, forest stewardship regulations that apply elsewhere do not apply, does not suggest to me that this is a tool you want to just simply give ten-year unfettered licence to.
It's currently five. The act proposes to extend that to ten. I would say leave it at five, and then let's step back and say: "Is it the right tool?" Does it protect the forest and forest resources? Does it allow us to manage the forest sustainably and facilitate oil and gas development? I'm not saying it's an either-or; it's an "and."
I'm not convinced this tool is the "and." What it does is undermine the forest resources to get at oil and gas. It's undermining a sustainable resource to get to an unsustainable resource.
Instead of extending it ten years, I'll be putting forward an amendment that that portion of the bill is actually removed and suggesting to the government and minister: leave it at five years, and let's go look at that and see if there is a better tool that can be used to enable oil and gas and protect the forest. So that's the first piece in this bill that I think needs to be addressed.
The second piece is the woodlot piece. I listened with interest to some of my colleagues in here about the woodlot piece. I have to say quite plainly — I've had the discussion with the executive director of the woodlot federation and some of the woodlot folks — this is clearly, in my estimation, quid pro quo for release of land from tree farm licences.
The big guys got the private land released. It is patently unfair that the little guys in the woodlots who had a similar arrangement with government don't have the right to also get their land released if they want to.
I find it intriguing, again going back to the political rhetoric in the press releases around these, that the argument made in the press release for doing this is that the minister will be able to remove private lands from woodlots at his discretion. Again, I think there's a huge trap in that, which I will address in a moment, because that's politicizing, in my estimation, the release.
I wouldn't, if I was the minister, want to have the discretion, holus-bolus, to release private lands without backstop by regulation, because that makes me susceptible to the claim of making political decisions on something that has significant economic value and significant economic potential.
But the press release says: "At the discretion of the minister, to provide woodlot owners flexibility in managing their assets in changing economic types and to plan for retirement." However, under the government's own existing policy governing woodlots, it states that under the current regime, if a woodlot owner wants his
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land removed or wants to change the land that he has in a woodlot: "The review of all requests for deleting or exchanging private land will consider the impact of the request on forest resource management within the woodlot licence." Forest management has priority, not the retirement plans of the owner.
Let's be crystal-clear. If that woodlot owner wants to walk away from the Crown obligations, they can. They just surrender the licence. If they want the land freed from the constraints in the woodlot, they can. They walk away from the licence. The deal was and always has been, you get a woodlot licence, you get control over a little piece of Crown land as a result of a number of factors, but it includes bringing private land in.
If that private land comes out, the social contract is broken, and it doesn't matter that that social contract was broken for the big guys. Two wrongs, as my colleague here said before, don't make it right in this case.
It also doesn't suggest, because it's at the discretion of minister…. And I feel for those woodlot folks. I get it. They've got some work that they need to do, but unfortunately a contract is a contract and a deal is a deal. The social contract in this case I think is solid, and they should simply be asked to abide by it or surrender the woodlot licence so that somebody else can get that woodlot licence that will put private land in, because we need more land managed as forest, not less.
I'll make the case, and I'll probably get e-mails and phone calls on the coast: this is a development issue, not a retirement issue, not a "you know, I've got to manage my assets" issue. Much of the private land now on the coast is in the development interface of these communities, and it's significant dollars involved in the potential to open this land up for development.
Yet the sole purpose and the main reason for bringing that private land in, according to the government's own policy, is that it recognizes — again this is from the government's website — that access selected for the woodlot licence program, often located in the interface area, offers many local people with jobs and forest recreation opportunities. It must recognize scenic values, forest ecosystems, watershed systems, recreation features.
I don't want us to have mini–Jordan Rivers all over the province because the government is amending the act to give the minister the discretion on a one-off basis to address this issue.
I'll be putting forward a recommendation that I think is in the spirit and in keeping of what John Doyle, the Auditor General, said about the lessons the government ought to have learned from the release of land from tree farm licences 6, 19 and 25.
For the record, the Auditor General said to government that the decision to release those private lands was approved "without sufficient regard for the public interest," that "the decision was not adequately informed;" that there was "too little consideration given to the potential impacts on other key stakeholders;" that the "consultation was not effective and communication with key stakeholders and the public was not transparent; and that the "impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to help inform future decisions."
Well, I'm suggesting that looking at this, the decision to release private lands from woodlot licences should be taken into account. So I'm putting forward an amendment to this that I look forward to debating at that point.
I'm suggesting that embedded in the legislation, to protect the minister, to protect the government from claims of political interference and political favouritism and to make it fully transparent to the public for the release of these lands, and the lesson learned by the Auditor General, I'm putting in the following subsection: that in order to remove private lands from a woodlot licence area, the woodlot licence must have been in operation for at least ten years; the cut under the licence and all of the obligations under the licence must be met or compensation to the Crown in order for the Crown to meet those obligations.
The third thing is that notice has been given to the public for a 90-day window for consultations so that the minister can hear directly from the public any concerns associated with that release; that notice has been given directly to local governments, who are going to have to live, as we saw in the Jordan River case, with the implications of not having the right bylaws and not having the right development plans and community plans in place; and that compensation to the Crown has been negotiated commensurate with the amount that the private land played in getting the licence in the first place.
I think if those regulations are there, a lot of woodlot owners are going to think twice about asking for it.
Now, are they going to claim this is patently unfair because it didn't apply to the big guys? Absolutely. I get that, and I get the fact that they're not going to be happy about that. But as I said before, two wrongs don't make a right. This is still a social contract. It still has to be protected.
I'd like to debate that clause by clause and see if the minister agrees. I also have another alternative amendment to that, because I do believe that the minister ought to be protected by regulation.
The final piece I want to speak to in this bill. There are other things in there to deal with timber cruising and the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals. Quite frankly, that doesn't get to the heart of the issue. Again, I know that government members are aware of that, of an unresolved issue around professional reliance and the role of professional foresters in the stewardship of our forests.
This act doesn't go anywhere near addressing that. It does address some of the ABCFP's issues. I talked to the executive director, and she's comfortable that it goes
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where they want to it go. That and the resort timber and so on that's in there.
The final one I want to speak to is the fibre supply licence to cut. Now, this is a licence to cut, and as my memory serves me, it was one of the first times I asked about law dictating the activity of a minister. What's happening here is that we have a process under B.C. Hydro to call for bioenergy production. Under that call, if they're successful….
It's a very onerous, ugly process. Nobody likes it. It's not really that functional. But if at the end of all of that pain, you get a successful bid and you get to provide Hydro with power from biomass, now you hit the problem of: how do you get the biomass to be able to fulfil that contractual obligation? When the legislation first came in recognizing that these licences had to be awarded, I had a lot of questions for the minister at the time around the legislation saying the minister must award these licences — directing the minister.
What's happening and what I think this is fixing is that the minister must, under the act, but there's a question as to whether he can, in reality on the ground, and this is attempting to fix the issue of "can."
Now, make no mistake. This is called a fibre supply licence to cut. Again, the press release in the political language suggests that all it's doing is allowing people to get access to the residuals to be able to meet their obligations under B.C. Hydro. This is a licence to cut. Under this licence they do cut standing timber. The problem the government has just now is all of the bolt-on licences and tenures that they've issued keep collapsing into the same small area of fibre that's supplied, that's close to communities, that is accessible, that has sufficient volume on it to commercialize it, and so on.
That's the problem with these licences. They don't address the government's issue, which is: get these people that win a B.C. Hydro award to go outside of that little area where everybody is playing into a whole other area.
Noting that I'm going to get cut off here, I will be putting forward an amendment, because I think the best way to do that is by putting in, again, by regulation. I'm going to suggest removing the opinion of the minister and put in by regulation, because I think government needs a tool to say: "You get this fibre, but that fibre is here." It pushes people out of the limited amount of fibre, particularly in the Interior, that's available to keep our sawmills and our pulp mills and others operating.
So I'll be looking forward to the next stage of this debate, clause by clause. My amendments — and I think the minister knows this — are a reasoned attempt to make this better legislation. But at the end of the day, I think all of us need to pay attention to the fact that we have made a fundamental shift in this province to relying on non-sustainable jobs, jobs that are based on non-renewable resources, and if we truly want to serve future generations, we'd better get back and make sure that we are managing our forest resources sustainably, and I'm not convinced that, as of today, that is the case.
J. Slater: We all know we are going through tough economic times right now, and the forest industry is no different than any other industry. We have worked really hard at expanding our market. We know the U.S. customers aren't there today, and that's why we need to look at other sources.
Since 2001 we have invested over $1.3 billion in the forest industry and secured an additional $500 million from the federal government. Exports to China have increased by a remarkable 2,200 percent since 2001, and over the last two and a half years, 25 mills have reopened in B.C.
Yes, there are still some closed, but I'll use the Midway mill as an example in my area. It was all about partnerships, so it was all about the citizens that lived in Midway and Greenwood and Rock Creek and in the Kootenay-Boundary regional district. They all got together and said, "We need to reinvent our mill up there." They've done a remarkable job, and they've got the market to prove it.
Since 2001, B.C. has committed $831 million to battle the pine beetle and mitigating the future impacts of pine beetle. We don't know what that's going to look like in the next five to ten years, and we're working with all kinds of organizations to make sure that the beetle coalitions are working for the betterment of British Columbia.
We're also partnering with First Nations. So 172 First Nations now have access to over 55.6 million cubic metres of timber and over $243 million in revenue-sharing. The Osoyoos Indian band is an example. They're in my riding, and they've got forest licences in the Okanagan and Boundary area, and they're just getting going and putting people back to work.
Last month the Premier issued a request for expression of interest so that architects, designers and engineers can put their ideas to work on the wood innovation centre in Prince George. We're looking forward for new ways to enable forestry and natural resource operations to thrive in our beautiful province.
The FLNRO Statutes Amendment Act amends the Forest Act, the Foresters Act and the Resort Timber Administration Act, with the overall goal of streamlining natural resource operations and processes to allow more efficient client service delivery and permits and authorizations. We are getting out of the way of innovation. Many sectors and stakeholders will benefit from these proposed amendments.
In keeping with our commitment to streamline permit and authorizations, we're looking at master licences to go from five years to ten years and extend the term of free use permits from one year to five years. Master licences to cut and free use permits are used to remove timber to
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help establish mining operations and oil and gas projects. These longer terms align better with the lengths of tenure commonly used by the Ministry of Energy and Mines and by the Oil and Gas Commission.
Woodlot licence holders are a huge issue in my area. They will benefit from the proposed amendments to the forestry act as they will allow for the removal of private land from woodlot licences. In other words, families that have holdings, which may be able to make those decisions, will be able to do that, to have the next generation continue in their operations.
There are a lot of small woodlots in the Boundary area, and there's no chance of development and things like this. So it's to keep the generations going, so that mom and dad can sell off to their kids one of the woodlots.
Government has received a lot of money from the woodlot program. Those guys that operate those woodlots have done a remarkable job. I have seen a few woodlots in the Boundary area, where you go into the regular forests, and the woodlots are ten times as good and ten times as efficient.
The bottom line is: they all pay taxes. You know, some of the woodlots used to be agricultural lands, where they had cattle on them. Well, the taxes on agricultural lands are 10 percent of what they are on a woodlot. So they have to make sure that they do a good job operating their land.
When these guys commit their property to the woodlot program, there is no requirement for electronic forest management. That has only come in lately. So we have made sure that we take care, electronically — to make sure that these properties are taken care of.
The ethics of those guys are just remarkable. You know, currently the Forest Act does not give clear authority to remove private land from a woodlot licence, but with these amendments, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations will be able to alter the boundaries of a woodlot licence by removing private land from the licence area.
Typically, woodlot holders are not major licensees. They only represent, I think, less than 5 percent of all the licences in British Columbia. They're rather a small-scale operator, many of whom do not have the financial resources to get any bigger. But they do a great job of managing the lands.
These amendments will allow operators to sell their private land portion of their woodlot to help with their retirement plans, improve their finances or pursue non-forestry economic activities, such as agriculture and ranching.
The bioenergy sector, too, will benefit, as the minor amendments to the Forest Act will allow bioenergy producers direct-award provisions for accessing wood residue and debris. Right now the highways in the Interior and the Boundary area would…. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is looking at removing some of the wood adjacent to the highways to allow more sunshine to hit the roads, because a lot of the corners are in the shade in the winter and even in the spring. They're icy, and it is causing a lot of accidents. This will allow the timber that comes from that 15 or 20 metres adjacent to the roads to go into a program for accessing the wood residue and debris.
This is a minor housekeeping amendment that includes the fibre supply licences to cut in the list of tenures that can be direct-awarded under the Forest Act.
By amending the Forest Act outlined in this bill, timber cruisers — individuals who collect key forestry data — will now be officially certified. Timber cruisers are vital in the collection of data, such as the amount, type, grade and value to the trees to be cut into timber, which is used in the calculation of stumpage fees. By certifying the position, this will enhance the professional reliance and place the forest sector in a better position to defend cruise-based cutting authorities in case of third-party scrutiny or legal challenges.
I really believe that these changes are important, and I look forward to hearing the debate at committee stage.
G. Gentner: I'm here to discuss Bill 6, the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2011. In many ways, though, it should be retitled the "Forests, lands and natural resource operations real estate and disposition and speculators statutes amendment act."
You know, Bill 6 will ultimately change the whole notion of woodlot forestry. This is a government that is supposed to be in support of small business. However, this is a real blow to small business. This is a blow for forestry itself, but then the change was quite imminent when similar fiddling was made with removal of 28,000 hectares of private forest land four years ago from tree farm licences on Vancouver Island, controlled by Western Forest Products and worth potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
This legislation may not be as extensive to the continual giveaway, but it's more of the same — the de-evolution of the forest industry.
Now, it's been estimated there is about almost 100,000 hectares of woodlot licences on private Crown land. People were granted woodlot licences on Crown land by agreeing to include their private forest lands within the woodlot licence. The removal of these private lands from the woodlot licence essentially frees them up for development while allowing them to keep the Crown woodlot licence.
Some, not all, woodlot operators want this change, and the federation is pushing for it. These are good people with good reasons. But their intentions are driven because of a failure of B.C. Liberal public policy.
Now, public policy regarding forestry, as Peter Pearse recognized over 35 years ago — actually this month, 35
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years ago — was intended to create the circumstances where good things happen regardless of the intentions of politics.
You know, it is a neutral tool, the woodlot legislation, to set rules and not decide who is responsible and who is not. Woodlot foresters are undoubtedly probably one of the best selective loggers in the province, and they might be totally justified in wanting this change for their family, their land or their situation. But it negates the intention of the act and would allow people of less good intentions to operate in the future.
The good operators will get that. The good operators hate the non-forestry carpetbaggers worse than any of us do, because the opportunists in this industry give logging a bad name and make it hard for the good operators.
The best logger is the little guy. The family that cares within a free market that was not always controlled by the big mill. There is a place for woodlots.
The bill is going to smash the best land available. Many private woodlots are located in the valley bottoms, where the best forests are and were and can be with second growth, because they grow quickly. But like all developable land, it is going to be creamed. With woodlots, the private land was within a forestry plan, but this is not so under this bill. There'll be no management plan left.
There are other solutions to deal with the kids who don't want to forest, and those who want to retire, but you don't have to change the law. Personal issues always come and go, and we must be cognizant of them, but you don't have to ruin the principles behind the woodlot legislation, to suddenly give it away.
I believe this bill should be tabled until we have a fuller conversation and consultation, a larger approach to where forestry is headed.
The current woodlot licence program — really, the modern context — was established in 1979, during the Peter Pearse report, to increase opportunities for small-scale forestry in British Columbia. The program enables individuals and, perhaps, native bands and corporations to manage and harvest Crown timber.
The current woodlot program has existed for about 30 years and has gone through several phases during this period. In its early years the program was small and operated in a relatively informal manner. As the program's popularity grew, many applicants failed to get a woodlot, and this led to concerns about the licence award process.
While complaints about woodlot licence awarding have not stopped completely, and improvements are still needed to make the process more accurate and objective, the ministry years ago was able to work with the stakeholders and their concerns about the licence and the award process.
The scary part about this bill is the lack of process to be accurate and objective in its approach to release woodlots. Why were they set up in the first place? Well, the reason is that small-scale forestry, which could be the future, is a niche forestry and a necessity. But above all that, it was increased productivity.
The industry has changed, like farming. We can try and protect the land through the ALR, but if we don't support the farmer, the operation, the market and the access, ways and means will be found to destroy the farmland and make it less profitable, which is a rationale to take it out of the ALR.
What has this government really done for the little guy? I don't think it's done very much. Oh, it helps the speculator on property to turn good arable land into a holding company. A similar scenario appears to be happening here within forestry.
British Columbia woodlot land is designed to increase the amount of private forest land being managed on a sustained-yield basis. A forest management plan that balances well the growth and harvest rates throughout a forest is said to be managed on a sustained-yield basis. Now, this is a huge responsibility. It has been relatively successful.
It's also designed to increase the productivity of small parcels of forested land. Smaller operations may not have the same overhead and could draw greater attention and revenue from smaller plots than larger corporations. It's also to promote local employment opportunities and promote excellence in forest management. Yes, excellence — a direct personal relationship to the land.
Support for the concept of small-scale, locally based forestry rests on several perceived benefits over large-scale operations, including expectations that there will be (1) increased economic opportunities in British Columbia forests; (2) better management of the forest, a greater investment in silviculture; (3) more attention paid to environmental and non-timber values; and (4) more benefits flowing to local communities, putting more into the industry itself and also a needed relationship that puts the community on the table as a stakeholder.
Now, my good colleague from Cowichan mentioned the social contract. The licence holder can use the private land for other purposes that are compatible with forest management. There's been a harmony that sustainable forestry and compatible economies could coexist, and there's no need to remove woodlots, private or otherwise.
The Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act, the Forest Act and their accompanying regulations regulate forestry in British Columbia. The regulations detail the procedures, policies and standards all licensees must follow to ensure that the woodlot is properly managed for sustainability, optimizing the economic return and a host of other values, such as wildlife conservation and cultural concerns.
Woodlot licensees, however, harvest relatively small volumes of timber, so they do not enjoy the benefits from the economies of scale as the large tenures do. In
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addition, because woodlot licensees have generally been limited to log sales only, they do not enjoy the benefits of adding value through manufacturing.
At the same time, woodlot licensees face similar responsibilities as the large tenures, such as having to construct and deactivate roads, reforest the land after harvesting and meet extensive planning requirements. It's not easy making a buck as a woodlot operator.
Now, through speculation, securing the land base and its purpose for future forestry is threatened. What's at jeopardy? Well, we've seen the deconstruction of the ministry itself, the amalgamation of various components into what's known as the super-duper ministry of everything else. But, you know, through that downsizing the ministry has been negligent. How, who and what will be done? The devil will be in the details, and it's another reason to neglect the forests.
Information and policy should be a two-way street. Information to support policy is important, but there are many barriers. What will dictate the right decision in this new legislation? That's the question.
It's based on a whim. It's not a policy based on information. This bill creates subjective decisions according to the whims of the minister. There is a greater chance of less communication to key stakeholders and communities as to why some private lands can be removed from small woodlot licences and others aren't. There's no substantial reason to do this.
The clear goal now is to remove private property from woodlot licences. There will be a backlog, I predict, of applications to remove, and in the end the ministry will simply cave in because it doesn't have the resources to do the proper research.
Now, the ministry can enforce compliance today or monitor its inventory. It can't do it today, yet how will it be able to make a decision on removal? Can the ministry forecast how much will be removed? Is there a long-term strategic plan outlining where we will be in 20 or 30 years? There isn't.
Are we now creating speculation and real estate opportunity as opposed to small-scale forestry entrepreneurship? I believe that's where we're going. We're killing the little guy. There has been for years no strategy to create forest diversity. It's been a policy of take, take and take.
You know, it's really part of the Pac-Man approach. We used to play Space Invaders 30 years ago. I think it actually happened about 30 years ago, the time when the woodlot program was coming into place. The Pac-Man approach is similar to eating up agricultural land. Governments didn't support farming, and now we are losing it. Landfilling is an option. The farmland is destroyed and therefore a need to remove it for farming purposes, and therefore it is also being removed from the ALR.
It's the same thing with the forests: little stewardship and therefore no mandate or passion to build a sustainable forestry and therefore a ministry that will remove it. Cut it — no management, no silviculture or restoration. Cut, or shall we call it remove the private land from the woodlot licences. It means greater speculation. I'm sure there are a lot of speculators out there who…. The saliva is just running off their chins, just dreaming of the day they're going to get their meathooks on this land.
The government, I believe, is turning the original intent of woodlots from a means of an investment into forestry into a means of speculation for a very different type of economics. It's simply development and speculation. This bill can only result in a higher return for the few who happen to be seen as the cronies of this particular government.
The ministry has clearly laid out the responsibilities that licensees must meet to ensure that they do not harm the forests or negatively affect values that are important to local communities. The ministry intent was to see that licensees meet their planning and harvesting responsibilities. However, silviculture monitoring has been deficient over the years under the B.C. Liberals because of funding and staffing cuts.
The ministry lacks, I believe, a fully developed program performance evaluation framework, and it has not carried out a comprehensive evaluation of the extent to which program goals have been reached. I mean, the ministry can't manage it now. How will it evaluate the need for the removal of these lands? The ministry needed to provide licensees and staff with better guidance in the area of licence transfers but has done a very poor job.
With cutbacks in the ministry to monitor, the lazy approach is to let it all go and forget about its purpose of managing a sustainable forest. The government is not committed to forestry, so why expect it to be involved in the substance of woodlots?
The ministry in the past attempted to implement a process to ensure that licences are awarded only to eligible and suitable applicants, but now, through an inconsistent application, the process will occur during the letting out of woodlots, causing some stakeholders to question the integrity of the process itself.
Arbitrary decisions taint integrity. Isn't this exactly what the Auditor General told us — the need for integrity? He told us about how the ministry responsible in 2008…. The Auditor General said: "The minister did not do enough to ensure that due regard was given to the public interest" when he allowed Western Forest Products to remove 20,000 hectares of land formerly in tree farm licences near Jordan River. That's the Auditor General.
This bill does not set out the criteria for removal. A lot of effort has been made to determine how woodlots were ascertained. But now who will be eligible for removal? Who will be the suitable applicants? It will be a
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B.C. Liberal minister who will decide. Experience says that's not only arbitrary; that's laughable.
We have seen the arbitrariness of this government, the lack of consultation, the incompetence, the corruption regarding insiders of the Basi-Virk trial, the court-stairwell deals with uranium mining companies, the unregistered lobbyist/Order of B.C. recipient Ken Dobell.
There's no culture of integrity, so how can we trust a process of woodlot removal? With further cutbacks to staff, how can the ministry be vigilant? They can't, and therefore more woodlots will slip through the cracks.
Do you honestly believe that the process will be filtered through a risk assessment? No. A model that will determine when and how often each woodlot applicant for removal will be inspected? This government is not going to do that. The rationale for removal will be based upon a government that is incompetent to manage the land base and has shirked its responsibility regarding the forests. The rationale for removal will be done by simply a stroke of a pen.
However, monitoring of licensee silviculture responsibilities has been deficient in many instances and requires greater emphasis in the future. The ministry also has powers ranging from warnings to licence cancellations to enforce the rules and to acts when it deems it appropriate to do so. How many woodlots, though, have been monitored and found in compliance? Where are the silviculture responsibilities? That is what is driving this bill. The government is walking away from silviculture.
This is a very sloppy government. Information needed to manage the day-to-day administrative affairs of the woodlot program needs to be improved. It needs to be improved, not destroyed. The information systems were not specifically designed to manage a woodlot program in the first place, and some district employees consider them difficult to use.
Information management has been deplorable, and the ministry has never had a dependable, fully developed, performance-based woodlot program. We know the history of forestry giveaway, as seen in the Auditor General's report in 2008.
"The decision to remove private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 has drawn criticism from many members of the public and First Nations. My office received many requests from individuals and organizations to review the land removal decision. Overall, the report concludes that the removal of private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest."
"The report notes that the decision was not adequately informed. It was based upon incomplete information that focused primarily on forest and range matters and the interest of the licensee, with too little consideration given to the potential impacts on other…stakeholders. Consultation was not effective and communication with key stakeholders and the public about the decision was not transparent. The impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to help inform future decisions."
That's from the Auditor General. Doesn't that say it all regarding forest policy in the province of B.C.?
The Auditor General also said that in addition, important and longstanding forestry research sites, some of which may not be replaceable, will likely be lost. So we're going to be losing a lot. What a shame. And now we have Bill 6.
I want to go back to history here, because it seems to talk about the last authentic attempt at modern forestry policy. It came in 1976 from Peter Pearse's royal commission on forest policy and land tenure. Forest policy, it said, has been the main instrument of economic growth in B.C.
Well, I have to tell you that since the B.C. Liberals took control, the industry has virtually collapsed. The government will blame the international global economy, but it's policy that shapes our future. Policy such as Bill 6 is one of many examples of bad public policy. That is another result of a once buoyant industry driven into ruin.
Why is Bill 6 symptomatic of what is wrong? Because the most critical aspect of forestry policy has been devised for conveying rights over Crown forest land and timber to industrial users, and that longstanding agreement or balance or the social contract has gone the way of the dodo bird.
Tenure policy forges the essential links between the Crown as public landlord, the Legislature — not the whims of the minister, hon. Speaker; it's the Legislature as overseer of the public interest — and those who seek to develop and use forest resources. It's by statute, not by a stroke of the pen of a minister.
Bill 6 affects the legislation that also controls water, the environment, pollution control, the DFO, wildlife and the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Peter Pearse said: "Policy toward private forestry in B.C. should focus on preserving the integrity of the environment and protecting neighbourhood forest owners, including the Crown, other resource users and the general public from adverse effects of private activities." It's heady stuff. He was way ahead of his time.
Like the previous tree farm fiasco, public interest, I believe, is trumped once again. No need for a piecemeal approach to forestry. What we need is a systematic approach to forestry and private forestry. A private owner who has no natural incentive…. This is the reality as private individuals, as homeowners, etc. There's no natural incentive to protect wildlife, fisheries, water resources and aesthetic values beyond complying with the legislation.
If you introduce uncertainty, which this bill is going to do, why would the private owner put back or care for an asset if the sole purpose is — beyond forestry or reforestry — to speculate, make money and sell for another use?
The public interest in preservation of the productivity of land and water can be threatened by an owner's actions. What happens if the owner's actions are no longer motivated under the name of forestry? Allowing private lands to be removed from small-lot licences at the
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minister's discretion gives little weight to the protection of watersheds and water districts. Non-traditional uses could impact quantity and quality of watersheds. With the current legislation, there is a balance between the ecology and the hydrology, the discharge and stability of the land.
Removing private land from small woodlot licences will have far-reaching impacts on surrounding land, watercourses and Crown assets. This bill, Bill 6, is fundamentally changing the relationship, and therefore it can't be supported, particularly regarding the woodlot legislation.
It is disarming the fundamental reason there are private woodlots in the first place. It is completely changing the landscape and our future. Why? The land is not an investment anymore for the future generations or retention of forestry practices or environmental integrity. It is now a piece of speculation, a wager that can be traded like a commodity for some fortunate person to make a bigger buck.
If the goal is to change the legislation because of personal situations such as what's being suggested here — divorce or the need for inheritance — then it is clear that this government has failed to ensure forestry as a viable economy.
There are many options before us that could address these personal issues without destroying the land base and a once viable economic means. This bill clearly states again that B.C. Liberal forest policy is a colossal failure.
Most woodlot forest areas and the most settled areas, as I said earlier, are found in the valley bottoms that support advanced second-growth and uneven-age timber that can begin to yield values very quickly. Uneven-age timber hasn't always been palatable for larger company timber leases, but the smaller operator has been able to home in on the even more uneven cuts.
Originally, small, isolated pieces of Crown land were difficult to manage by the forest service, and it was the woodlots that were assigned with the view that through licences and approved plans they could be managed. Today that isn't the case with this government, is it. The government has not only neglected a forestry plan and a strategy but has done its utmost, I believe, to destroy it.
As Pearse recognized:
"The topography near the valley bottoms where many of the fragmented parcels are located is generally gentle and stands are generally of good quality, containing smaller timber, which is manageable with light equipment."
But the valley bottom is today ripe for development, and that, I think, is what's driving this bill.
Here's the foresight. Commissioner Pearse wrote 35 years ago:
"Finally, it is important to note that the intensive forest management on these lands would generate particularly significant environmental benefits. Silviculture on these natural forest areas has the potential for enhancing watershed management and conserving fish and wildlife resources. It also offers scope for outdoor recreation and improving aesthetic amenities.
"Indeed, forestry is undoubtedly the land use which is complementary to those other values, and they are especially important in these most developed and densely populated parts of the province."
He said that in 1976 — what foresight.
The best way to protect water environment recreation on these smaller lots was seen through private woodlot forestry. Pearse recommended expanded woodlot policy, two features. He wasn't talking about destroying it.
"…offer encouragement to private owners to bring them under management, and make Crown land, forest land, available to small enterprises wishing to engage in silviculture and timber production activities."
That was the original intent.
I think this bill flies in the face of that original intent of the woodlot legislation. Pearse warned that a potential danger may occur.
"The system may encourage forest land for other purposes than practising silviculture, with the result that instead of enhancing forest productivity, the program may effectively withdraw land from forest production, thus defeating the purpose of the scheme.
"Moreover, there should be no implementation of a subsidy for any particular group. The licence should, therefore, be explicit in its silviculture purpose and require adherence to an approved plan of operations that involves both management and harvesting."
That was the intention regarding woodlots and the so-called social contract between the private and Crown — 1976. We're throwing it all out. It's gone.
Now, I believe what we have to do is maybe the government should really start looking at a new royal commission so that by 2013, when we have a new government, we'll be able to start looking at that White Paper.
We'll start to be able to look at forestry in the 21st century. We'll start to be able to look at ten-year practices again and see where we're headed and the forestry policies. Putting our efforts into the public interest rather than being driven by certain private interests — I think that's where we should be going. We have to have a vision; we have to have a plan.
I said earlier that this is a piecemeal approach. I wish we could start looking at the suggestions of the likes of Peter Pearse, but I think that we're going more down the road of Gwyn Morganomics. That's where we're going.
C. Trevena: I rise to talk about Bill 6, another bill about forestry where, once again, I think we have another missed opportunity for forestry. In the last six years I think I can count the times I've stood up here and talked about the opportunity we could have had to debate a real forestry plan, and unfortunately, each time a bill appears, it is very thin and does nothing to support communities like the one I represent, the north Island, which has long been dependent on the forest industry.
We have had, instead, ten years of damage to the industry, which has seen more than 33,000 direct forest jobs lost. That's direct jobs. That's not all your ancillary jobs.
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That's simply through neglect, through bad management and through policies that have done nothing to support our communities and our industry. Rather, it has done everything to support, I would say, the wholesale export of our industry. I was going to say expropriation. I think that might be a little strong, but definitely the wholesale export of our industry.
As I say, I represent the north Island, and we regularly look at these bills, hoping there is going to be something. We talk about forestry a lot. There have been countless meetings in my community, ones that I have organized and ones that other organizations have called to talk about forestry. Each time they look at what legislation there has been, and they find that the legislation has been wanting.
The member for Columbia River–Revelstoke, when he was talking about this bill, when he was starting the opposition's arguments about this bill, mentioned the sadness for Campbell River. It is extraordinarily sad that we have a community that has long been…. It was built on the forest industry. It was built on fishing and the forest industry. It was built on our natural resources.
There isn't a mill there now. There are a couple of shake and shingle mills, but there is no big mill. The TimberWest mill was closed a few years ago, and as soon as that was closed, we knew that the Catalyst pulp mill was going to go down. It's such a shame. We have the resource there, and we have no industry. We have no support from a government to ensure that the industry is there.
Likewise, we have the continual sight of trucks going through our community, barges going past our community with logs that are not even bound for the Lower Mainland, for use in mills in the Lower Mainland anymore. They are bound for export to the U.S. and primarily now to China.
I think we all recognize that putting all our hopes in an export basket is hugely risky. We don't know how long we are going to able to continue selling to China. While you hear the arguments about how we need these logs to be exported because it's keeping jobs in our community….
No question. People are working in the bush in my community because of log exports, but — there's a big "but" — those logs should also be used in the community to create jobs in the community and should not be dependent on the housing market or a construction bubble in a country where we have no control of how long that's going to last. We need to be building in our communities and using those resources in our communities.
Again, we have a bill that ignores the real needs. It ignores the significant needs of forest-dependent communities. What we have here is, again, a government that I feel has really let us down. We watch not just the exports, but we watch now the mill going.
We have the Catalyst mill closed. It's now permanently closed — no hope for it being reopened. I talked to the chief executive of Catalyst. Absolutely, the mill is closing. The equipment is being shipped to Indonesia. The logs go to China, and the equipment we could be using in our communities goes to Indonesia. That makes no sense.
Some parts of the bill may be necessary, but we need to have a wholesale look at what we're doing in our forest sector, not come with this bill, with Bill 9, which is another look at another part of the forest sector, and incremental small bills, small amendments, small changes.
We need to be looking seriously. We need to have a policy that looks at what we can do in our communities to ensure that we can keep jobs in our communities, we can keep families in our communities and we can keep our communities sustainable and resilient.
This is one of the things that…. There is the added sadness about this bill for me because it does absolutely nothing for the communities that depend on the logging industry. It does nothing for the Tahsis, for the Gold Rivers, for the Port McNeills. It does nothing for those communities. It does nothing for Campbell River.
There was always a hope in the woodlot program for resilient communities, because under the woodlot program operators worked in their communities and with their communities. Woodlot licensees on the coast were part of communities. I think that that is one of the best ways that forestry can be done, where the licensee works with the communities.
It used to be that the big licensees worked with communities. They used to have a social contract. They actually harvested the logs. They would use those logs in the community to create the jobs. So you'd get, literally, people working in the bush, you'd get people working in the mills, and you'd get communities thriving. The big licensees used to have to do that.
The government cut those links. This government ended those links.
We had the smaller licensees, able still to have the links to the community. What they were doing had to be part of the community. There was the oversight. But that has been eroded year after year after year with this government. It has come to the fact that woodlots now are little more than a small-scale commercial operation. It is very sad for what I think could be a program, a type of forest management that I think should be the envy of the country and the envy of the world. It is a wonderful way of looking after our forest resources if done properly and if not diluted as it has been done by this government.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
I have a very strong affection for woodlots. One of reasons is that there are a lot of woodlots in my constituency. In fact, from just south of me in the Comox Valley there are a number all the way up. There are 37 woodlots in the Campbell River forest district alone. On Quadra Island
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— which is a small island, comparatively, in the bigger scheme of the whole forest area — there are 11 woodlots now. A significant amount of Quadra's forest land is with woodlot licences.
Woodlot licences. The licensees are our neighbours. The people who are looking after these pieces of Crown and private lands — we know them. We know what they are doing. They work with us. They employ people in our communities. They volunteer in our communities. They use their equipment to help our communities. There are trails that go through their woodlots that are used by many, many people. They are part of the community, and it is a really wonderful way of operating forest tenures.
The people who run them are committed to forestry, and they are committed to their communities. You can walk through some of the woodlots, and it's a joy. You walk through them, whether it's the Crown part or the private land part, and you don't know that there has been any harvesting. Yet you know that that person is making as much in income as anybody can do in forestry at the moment.
It is a great way of looking after the forestry, if done properly, and it also includes community involvement. The community has oversight, and that oversight works because the woodlot licensee knows that they are living and working in that community, so they want to make sure the community is involved and is kept happy.
In fact, Madam Speaker, one of the Quadra woodlot licensees, Grant Hayden, was recently awarded the inaugural Minister's Award of Excellence for Woodlot Management. I think that Grant was slightly surprised when I talked to him about this bill, but he has managed a woodlot on the island for more than a dozen years.
Like other woodlot licensees, he's involved in the community. He volunteers. He uses equipment when we're building trails or when we're doing maintenance. In fact, when he was given the award, it was noted that his innovations include a special rake for excavators that helps remove brush and creates plantable spots.
I mean, to think about the care of the forestry, to actually be inventing and using new equipment, I think is quite marvellous. It is something people really care about.
I think that while Grant would acknowledge that it's great to be honoured for this, he is doing what many other woodlot operators on our island and across the north Island do. I'm talking about the coastal woodlot operators, because they're the ones that I have the greatest experience of. They know that they…. They live in the community; they work in the community. It is important to them.
That was the spirit under which the woodlot program was designed. It was designed for people to work and live together. In fact, the Ministry of Forests' own website from the Campbell River office states:
"It provides the management a local perspective, a light footprint and offers local people jobs and forest recreation opportunities. Licensees work within the community, taking into consideration local values and objectives on issues that include the protection of scenic values, forest ecosystems, watershed values and recreation features."
Madam Speaker, I will continue, because I think this is important.
"Harvesting operations provide a source of revenue supporting local priorities, while harvest rates and cutblock locations can be modified within operations to meet locally determined objectives and interests."
However, I think that many woodlot operators would acknowledge that those interests are already being diluted. One woodlot operator I talked to described it as "being beaten up." The program has been so battered over the last few years that what he went into when he took his woodlot licence and what he sees today, although he's still fully committed to working in the community and keeping the licence going, is not the same. It is not the community involvement.
The system has changed. It was supposed to be a multigenerational, stable way of managing forestry, but instead, what we're seeing now is that money matters more for the government, and you can see that through the regulations which have come into place and now through this piece of legislation. Money matters more than management plans.
It used to be the woodlot operator had to show how the woodlot operator's plans matched those plans of the community. Well, now that is not the case anymore. The woodlot operator, yes, still has to have plans, but they don't have to be so cognizant and so responsive to what the community is saying.
The other part of the woodlot program which makes it responsive to community needs…. They mention that the woodlot operator tends to, has tended to, used to, live within the community. This is, I'm very sad to say, less and less the case.
When you apply for a woodlot licence, there are several levels of weighting, and one of those weightings is how locally you live. One is that you're going to be bringing your own private lands into the program, and the contentious piece of this legislation is taking the private lands out of the woodlots. The other is that you are going to be bringing some money into it.
Unfortunately, the part which is bringing your own lands into the program to augment the Crown lands, to make it a package, to make it work as one, is now less and less important. Now it is about the money. "How much money can you bring in?"
It's becoming more of a bid operation, a commercial bid, rather than creating this integral package of lands, bringing your private lands into the Crown land and working them together as a package in the interest of forest health, forest management and in the community's interest. Now it is: "How much money can you bring?"
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As I have alluded to, nor is there the need to live locally. It's not that you have to live in the community. I cite an instance recently where a woodlot on Quadra was up for bidding and the bid went to somebody from Ladysmith. I know that geography of the islands is not everybody's strong suit, so I'll let my colleagues know. You have a ferry crossing from Quadra to the big island, Vancouver Island, and then you've got a two-hour drive to Ladysmith. So the person in Ladysmith isn't part of a community responsive to that community.
I mean, I use that as one instance, and I'm not trying to denigrate that person's ability to manage the woodlot. They may be doing a very good job. But it's the responsiveness to community needs and having people living within the community that has been so important. Now the weighting is how much money you can put to the program. It does seem to matter more than the amount of private land you're bringing in. It does seem to be more of a bidding process, rather than looking at the woodlot's unique value as a tool for forest management.
With that move to a commercialization of the woodlot program, a monetization of the woodlot program, it really isn't surprising that this bill will make it easier to sever the private lands from woodlots. My fear is… And it's the fear of a number of woodlot operators, because woodlot operators do value the program.
The fear of a number of woodlot operators is that it will be completely monetized, that it will be a completely commercial operation, that soon they will just have to bring money to the table. It won't matter where they're living. It won't matter what private lands they have. If they've got the money, they can be a small operator running a small piece of Crown land for themselves and for their own profit, which is not what the woodlot program was devised for. It's not how it was set up.
My colleagues have spoken of this bill as being similar to the sell-off of the private lands from Western Forest Products a few years ago. There is the resonance there. We have to be very cognizant that these are much smaller pieces of land, that they are small operators.
For a number of those people I talked to, it is an issue of planning for their futures. They look at this as a good way for planning, for wanting to retire. Some have been in the program for many years. Their homestead is on the private piece of property, and they want to retire. Others maybe have a divorce or have a situation where they feel that they need to be able to take that piece of private land out and still have the woodlot operating.
There is a big question over this, and it has been alluded to by my colleagues on this side of the House, and that is: what's the public interest in this? It's a bit like the monetization, the commercialization, of the woodlot program in itself. The bringing together of the private lands and the Crown lands is done to create a package of lands that can be worked fully for the health of the forest, for the development of the woodlot, for the business of ensuring that we are using our forests in the best way possible.
What does the Crown get by allowing the private lands to be severed? I talked to a number of woodlot owners when I was preparing for this debate, and we got into quite a few discussions about how it could work and whether it would benefit people, whether it wouldn't.
One of the woodlot owners said to me: "Well, you could do it that you just work the Crown lands. You don't work the private lands, and you've got a very valuable piece of property to sell in the end."
There are lots of different permutations here. There are lots of different things that could happen. But the basic concern that this side of the House has is that there is no public interest in severing these private parts of the woodlots from the main part of the woodlot. What does the Crown get in return for having allowed somebody to manage a whole section of Crown land and then allow the added piece to leave?
I mentioned the social contract that we used to have with the big forest companies. Well, it is similar. There is a social contract when you bring your private lands into the woodlot program. You are making a contract with the Crown. You are saying that you are going to be working for the better good of the forests, for the better good of the community and for the better good of the land, and obviously, as a small business owner, you want to make money, so for your own good.
But that contract is going to be dissolved in the same way that the social contract was dissolved for the big companies when they no longer had to have mills tied to their TFLs, which has caused many, many problems — at least across my constituency and, I think, across many other areas of this province — since that was dissolved.
There are concerns of what would happen next. The cost of bringing private lands in is getting more and more difficult. The cost of buying private lands is harder and harder. Are you going to be left with small packages of Crown lands that are there on their own, because people can't afford to bring private lands? Because they can't afford the private lands, they are just dealing with the cash upfront for the Crown lands.
We have a lot of discussions about forestry in my community, as I mentioned. We've had a lot of panels, a lot of discussions, a lot of round tables over the last few years. Across all of these, woodlots are brought up as a way to support our communities. They are seen as an opportunity for forestry in our communities to have a strong base, a strong community-sustainable base, that they will provide stability and that they will ensure that communities can get through and that people within the communities can work together.
What saddens me is that woodlot operators feel battered by all of this. As small businesses, they know they've got families. They know that they care about forests, and
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they care about the way that the forests are managed. But as one longtime operator said to me when I was talking about this: "Some of us got into this for a way of doing forestry. But now, for the government, it's just a way of making money."
I think that is a very sad reflection on what this government has done to the sector, to the woodlot program, and the woodlot program is a microcosm for what has happened to the rest of the forest sector.
People have invested their lives in this resource that should be able to sustain our communities, whether it is the woodlot operating on the smaller scale through to whether it is a large company having control over large tracts of public land. We have to remember it's often public land. In neither way are our interests, the community's interests, being looked after anymore.
I am very saddened by this. I think that the change in the operation of the woodlot licences and the woodlot program is very, very troubling. I would hope that the government could stop and look at what its philosophy is in regards to forestry, what its philosophy is in regards to community development and whether it really believes in woodlot operation or whether it just wants to turn it into yet another commercial operation.
With that, Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this bill, and I take my place in debate.
H. Bains: It's my pleasure to stand and speak on this bill, Bill 6. Right at the onset, I might say that there are a few parts of this bill that really trouble me. My colleagues in this House before me have spent quite a bit of time talking about those issues, especially the woodlot issues and how the woodlot owners would be able to subdivide and take out the private part of their woodlot and do whatever they wish to do with it.
I'd like to speak on this bill also because I think, like many British Columbians, when I first came to Canada in 1971, my passion and love for the forest industry grew. What I noticed at that time was that in the community I belong to, the South Asian community, many of those folks worked in the forestry industry.
Going back to the origin of the first immigration of South Asians, people from India, in the early last century, many of them ended up in the forest industry. I think what you see, a thriving community — the South Asian community in B.C. — is the result, largely, of the forest industry, because they all ended up working in the forestry industry.
There was a saying when I first came here. This lady's son got an engineering degree when he emigrated from India. After struggling like all new immigrants, he finally was able to get a job as an engineer. After a few months, his mother, watching, asked the son, "What is happening?" and he said: "I have a job as an engineer." She said: "Son, keep on trying, and one day you will get a job in a sawmill."
That's the kind of passion that the community had, and that's the kind of value that they had for sawmilling and for those jobs, because they thought sawmilling or the forest industry is the only job, and that's the only way you can get ahead in this new country.
My passion continued on because my family also was dependent on the forest industry. Everything, I think, I own or have is because of the forestry industry, so my passion continues on, like many British Columbians. That's why you see the passion here in this debate on Bill 6.
When you are looking at the bills that are before us…. For the last six years that I've been here…. It troubles me because my perception of coming here was different. I thought that regardless of the stripes of the people who come here and who were elected under whatever party banner, at the end of the day their main role is public interest, front and centre, when it comes to the public policies debates.
But to my surprise and to my disappointment, many bills that I saw going through this House — and Bill 6 is no different — were not as a public interest or to keep public interest in the front and foremost in designing those bills and having the debates on those and passing those bills. They were largely for small interest groups that the party has support from. I think they end up becoming the beneficiary of those bills.
That troubles me, and I think that troubles many of the British Columbians out there. You can have your politics, but at the end of the day the public interest has to guide your public policy debates and designing of those new bills and legislation.
That hasn't been the case, and Bill 6 is exactly the same pattern that was set by this government, starting in 2001. It continues on. You ask yourself: "In this bill, what is the public interest?" — as many people have asked that question.
I think at the next stage of the bill and the next stage of the debate we will be asking those questions, clause by clause. I can see through the bill, and I don't see any public interest in there, regardless of what attempts the minister will try to make, trying to make it as a public interest. There is none.
How do you see, when you look at…? There is a social contract that was put in place back in the '50s, when major forest policies were decided — how we are going to manage our forests, going forward for decades. That's the time when tree farm licences were created. That's the time when the discussion on woodlot allocation took place. The main theme in all of those discussions was the public interest and how we maintain the public interest in changing those policies or maintaining those policies going forward.
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For example, when you look at what used to exist before 2003, we had a social contract between the industry and the public, through the government, which means that the industry would be allowed to take raw material in the shape of raw logs and process them in their own mills to create jobs for British Columbians in those forest-dependent communities. So there was a win-win situation.
B.C. built on that. No wonder we said the forest industry was the economic engine that drove our economy here in British Columbia. We all benefitted from it. Our health care system, our education system — all of them are beneficiaries of that policy we had. There was a social contract where industry was encouraged to come and invest and set up their sawmills, and at the same time they were required, as a result of giving them the raw material, to process those logs in their own mills.
Going forward, in the '80s that appurtenancy clause got watered down a bit by then Minister Waterland. He was the minister. But even at that time they kept that basic fundamental in place. Originally, the tenures were tied to an individual sawmill so that those logs, or the equivalent value, were processed in those mills to create jobs in those communities.
What he did was that he said: "Well, this may not be economically viable for the companies because of the changing nature of the industry." What they did at that time was…. The main theme was still the same — that they must process those logs, or equivalent volume, in their mills or their affiliates. And there was a definition of affiliates. It was that they must have around a 50 or 51 percent interest in those mills.
Again, they were not tied to that particular mill, but they could take, for example, logs from the north Island and process them, if they had a mill here, in the Lower Mainland. They could trade those logs, because those logs were not suitable for their mills, and they would trade with another company and bring in logs, in trade, that were suitable for their mills.
That system worked. It created jobs here in British Columbia. The smaller communities always had some action in their communities, whether it was grocery stores, whether it was a small factory, whether it was a gas station, because of the cut-control portion that was there as a part of the social contract — that 50 percent of the cut, 50 percent of the AAC, that must be harvested in each year.
Then in the '80s that also got changed a bit so that you could actually go to 150 percent in one particular year, but over five years you must be within 5 or 10 percent of your AAC on an annual basis. It made sense because at that time when they were making those policies, all of that had…. Fundamental to that policy was to have the public interest front and foremost as the key guide to come up with those policies.
Look at the British Columbia that we have today. It is because of those types of policies, where industry came and benefited from our policies and our communities benefited because those industries were required to process those raw logs in those communities and create jobs here in British Columbia. What's wrong with that? There's nothing wrong with that, that we have to change this.
In 2003 the Forestry Revitalization Act was brought in by this government. Again there was no public interest in that as a guiding principle, which used to be there. As is the case in Bill 6, what they did at that time was that they tore apart the social contract. Whereas the industry was able to keep all of their tree farm licences, there was no requirement to process them in their mills or here in British Columbia at all.
Then the cut control that used to be there, that you must harvest 50 percent of your cut — gone. With 50 percent at bad times, they would have had some forest activity in those communities. That supported the local store. That supported the local gas station. That supported the local community. But if good times came the next year or the year after, you could go up to 150 percent, and the communities were thriving. Now, what they did was that they took the cut control out. They took the appurtenancy clause that required them to process those in their own mills. All of that is gone.
Also, there was a mill closure justification. If the plant was shut down for longer than three months, 90 days, the company must come to the minister and justify why they should carry on and keep that tree farm licence if they are not operating that mill past 90 days. So there was an incentive for the companies to continue to operate if they could operate. That is also gone.
All of that was done with a promise from the industry that they would be investing $2 billion in their mills to rebuild those mills and bring them up to standards so that they could be competitive with the rest of the world, especially south of the border.
Madam Speaker, $2 billion was to be invested. Guess what happened. What did we get for giving everything that the industry asked for? What did we get? Did we get a $2 billion investment? Not a chance. But they did invest, though. They did invest money. It's not that the industry went away and did nothing. They took everything that the government gave them, and they starting investing across the border.
Interfor bought five mills after the 2003 Forestry Revitalization Act, which gave them the opportunity not to process logs here in British Columbia. They bought five mills in Washington and Oregon, so they created jobs with our forest policy across the line.
Canfor purchased mills back east in the United States. Interfor was so bad that they uprooted a mill from the Fraser Valley and moved it 20 kilometres over to the other line and set up a shop there. That was such a bla-
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tant disrespect for British Columbia and the resources that they were benefiting from.
The flow of jobs continues on with the flow of raw logs that is allowed under that act that was changed in favour of the industry. There's no public interest in it — none whatsoever. It was all to please their friends in the forest industry, who are the biggest supporters of this B.C. Liberal government. There's no doubt about that. They got everything that they asked for.
Bill 6 is going in exactly the same direction, on a smaller scale. The example before us is that, as a result of the 2003 Forestry Revitalization Act, companies are investing elsewhere, except in British Columbia. What is the result of that? Was there any public interest in it? Since that day, 34,000 jobs gone. Dozens of sawmills shut down here.
They did all of that not because of economic reasons. Some of it, maybe; that could be argued, in the last few years. But largely because they could do that. The minister and this government allowed them to do that — use our raw material that was given to them to create jobs in British Columbia. They took that raw material and created jobs south of the border.
Today those raw logs are not even ending up in the United States. They are going to China. There are mills being built, mills actually being unbolted here in British Columbia, put on a barge, taken over to China. They set up their shops there because they know that they can depend on B.C.'s raw logs. Why would they process their logs here in British Columbia when they can process them in their own country?
They will never come back here. Why would they? They're allowed to do that. Is that a good public policy? I say not, and no one out there…. If you go and talk to your people — all your constituents when you are in your constituencies on Friday, the weekends — ask them how they like raw logs leaving their neighbourhoods.
And the mills here in British Columbia are starved of fibre. The mills are shut down and not running at capacity, and the raw logs…. They see shipload after shipload leaving our communities. Ask them. Ask your constituents. Ask them. See what they say about that.
They'll tell you that that is a bad public policy. If you listen to them, you will come back and bring that message here. Obviously, the arrogance gets in the way — too long in that government there. The time will come. They'll send a message. You will hear them, and they'll then throw you out of this office forever. Madam Speaker, Bill 6….
Deputy Speaker: The member knows the comments are directed through the Chair.
H. Bains: Through the Chair, Madam Speaker, of course.
The constituents can't wait out there. They can't wait for an opportunity to show this arrogant Liberal government that they will not be allowed to come back here after that opportunity is given to them. Because policy after policy….
Bill 6 is no different. Policy after policy. You take a look. Bill 29 — you go back to 2001. Bill 28. What were those policies about? Not for the public interest. They were all to please their multinationals. And here another attempt is being made.
Policy after policy. You can take a look. They are only to benefit their supporters, Liberal supporters, not the ordinary people who are packing their lunch pails like most of us do every day, going to work, putting in a good eight hours, coming home, taking their children to the park or hockey game, paying their taxes and obeying the law. Those are the people that should be reflected in their policy, but they're not.
I started in the forest industry in 1973 in Vancouver. My local used to have 7,500 members, all west of Boundary Road. You extend that to the North Shore, to the international border — in that area, 7,500 members. Almost all of them were forest industry workers.
Today, if you took a look in that area, you'd be lucky if you could get about 300 members left there working in the forest industry. That didn't just happen. It was because of the policies of this government.
I worked at Eburne Saw Mills. The social contract that was in place helped us to secure…. Although Canfor made up mind that they are going to shut the last mill on the coast, and although they had 1.5 million cubic metres of logs….
The only sawmill they had was the Eburne sawmill — they shut that down. But because there was a requirement under the act that they must justify closure with the minister, at least the workers were able to negotiate the best closure agreement that they could find in the history of IWA.
I'll take you to Squamish. Interfor was shutting down that mill. They announced the closure, but the community got together, the mayor Corinne Lonsdale got on side, the chamber of commerce — all of the community. When they went and met with the minister of the day, David Zirnhelt, at the end of the day, with the help of the job commissioner that we used to have — whose main job was to help the parties put together an economic plan to restart those operations — that operation got restarted. Because there was a requirement that the company must sit down with the government and the workers to come up with a plan to see if they can revive the operation, they did that.
You know what? Over 200 members benefited from over four years of reopening of that mill. But Madam
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Speaker, let me tell you this. The day this government came in, they shut the mill down and opened up their shops in Washington and Oregon. That's the history of this government — not for the public, not for the working people, not for small business; all for their supporters, who happen to be the multinationals and big business.
Here, Bill 6 again talks about that. What is the public interest in here? Under that social contract that existed, the lot holders were…. They brought their private land and put it on the table. They went to the government, and the government said: "Okay, we'll give you additional land of forest. Now, as they're larger lots, you can manage, and you can be viable."
That was the condition — that you must bring your private land with it. When you are allowed to take that private land out of that equation, then that social contract is gone, and that agreement is broken. This government is allowing that to happen — legally now.
What was the purpose behind having that social contract? It was the public interest behind it. That was the guiding principle. Now there's none. All this will do, with due respect to many of the woodlot holders…. Many of them are ordinary working people. They are making a living out of this. Now you are allowing them, for their benefit, to cut the private part of their lot and sell it, subdivide it, do whatever they want to do.
My question, and I'm sure the questions will be asked in the next stage: what does that do to our fibre supply basket? As a result of that, if there is a reduction of that, what does that do to the jobs that are created through the fibre that comes out of these woodlots? None of those questions are answered in here.
The only way you can do that is if you go out into the public and ask and get the consultation from the communities. "What do you think about this?" But because they think they know best and the public doesn't know anything — that's their attitude — they're going this route. "We will get into the boardroom. We will design this bill. We know who this should be benefiting, not the public. The public is not in the picture at all. Then we will present it here. We've got a majority. We'll pass it." That's the attitude. I think that has to end, and it will end very soon if they continue on with this approach.
I went to Williams Lake over the weekend. I met with the Steelworkers. They are worried every day. They don't know what tomorrow is going to look like because of uncertainty that is being created by this government's policies. There are no future plans, post–pine beetle era.
They're worried that within two years, three years — four years, maybe, at most…. They're talking about their AAC, their lumber supply, reduced by 25 to 40 percent. And they're talking about that between 100 Mile House and Prince George perhaps half the mills will shut down. They're worried about their members. They're worried about those families and those communities they live in. Half the mills, because you can't shut a quarter of a mill down. You can't shut half a mill down and be viable.
The member from Prince George, who used to be the Minister of Forests — what did he do? He accelerated the deterioration and devastation of the forest industry. What did he do? Did he put any policies together for that region? None whatsoever.
You go into those communities, Madam Speaker. They'll tell you. They'll tell you that there's nothing, that there's no policy in place — none whatsoever.
H. Bains: They think shipping logs to China is some sort of a panacea in the forest industry, because that's the only thing they know. They talk about creating jobs. Go to cut those trees. Put them on a ship. Send them overseas. Somehow, that's job creation.
H. Bains: I'm happy that they are all engaging in this discussion, because truth hurts. Truth hurts, and — you know what? — they will find the truth when their constituents are given the opportunity.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
They were hoping this fall that there would be some sort of opportunity, but somebody backed away, knew that the constituency and the citizens are angry about their policy. No wonder they saved their jobs for another 18 months or something — right?
Madam Speaker, I just want to say here, in conclusion, that I think we need to have…. Mr. Speaker, welcome. We are deeply engaged in the discussion, and I ignored seeing that there's change of guards, Mr. Speaker.
This is a serious debate. Our forestry critic laid it out, and I'm sure he will have more questions when we go to stage 3, the committee stage, when we are going to ask clause-by-clause questions about what's behind this bill. Because that's the only way we'll find out if even the minister has some answers to those questions. I doubt it somehow, because somebody put it together for the minister, what the minister is going to do. Well, that's what I'm told.
There's no in-depth analysis done. How many jobs will be lost if this bill is passed? How much fibre supply will be lost as a result of this? What happens to the social contract that has existed since the 1950s?
There was a serious, serious debate that took place. You know, if you really think about where British Columbia is today, it's because of those policies, because of the social contract that existed in those policies. The main guiding principle of those policies was the public interest front
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and foremost, and we need to keep that. Until we continue to get this government directed in that direction, we will not stop.
I can tell you that those communities can depend on this side of the House, because we will be on their side.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Nanaimo, noting the hour.
L. Krog: Thank you, hon. Speaker. I just want to begin my remarks, if I may.
Having been born in this province, I have seen the great profitable times in the forestry industry, and I have seen some of the darker days.
As I mentioned a few days ago in my response to the throne speech, those lovely murals just outside this chamber…. Agriculture, fishing, mining and forestry were the mainstays of this province's economy when this very chamber was constructed.
L. Krog: I think it's interesting. I'm being heckled before I've even said anything critical about the Liberal government, which only tells me they are extremely hypersensitive when one wants to talk about the mainstays of the economy because they've done such a lousy job of handling it.
The member mentioned mining. How many mines have opened in British Columbia since the 2001 election? How many? The members on this side can tell us: zero — a big fat goose egg, zero, nada. This is the government that claims it has wanted to restore the prosperity of the mining industry in the province of British Columbia, and they haven't opened one mine in over a decade.
You want to talk about a decade? This has been a dismal decade for the mining industry, a dismal decade for the forest industry, a dismal decade for fishing and — I hesitate to even touch on the turf of my friend the member for Saanich South — if we want to talk about it, a dismal decade in agriculture as well.
This government has failed to defend the traditional industries of this province. Every time they had an opportunity to step forward, they have failed and they have failed, and British Columbians know it.
We are here today, however, to debate Bill 6. When the forest industry faces such difficult times, all this government can do is bring forward a bill that, in its essence, is designed to allow land to be withdrawn from woodlots.
Now, is this the best a government, after ten years in office, can do for the forest industry — to allow more land to be taken out of forestry production?
I don't even want to mention the River Jordan. I don't want to mention the River Jordan, but we all know this government crossed over to the other side where their rich friends reside and handed over the land.
Did they defend the forest industry and the rights of workers in this province to earn a decent living in one of our four traditional industries? No, they sold it out for land development. They paid off their big friends in the forest industry rather than address the serious economic issues facing the forest industry.
Noting the hour and wishing to reserve my place in debate….
L. Krog: As much as I am tempted, I do note the hour. I move we adjourn debate.
L. Krog moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 6:23 p.m.
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