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
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Volume 26, Number 10
Introductions by Members
Introductions by Members
Office of the Auditor General, report No. 8, 2011, B.C. Hydro: The Effects of Rate-Regulated Accounting
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
GROW Week and food policy
Fire Prevention Week and work of firefighters
New Vista Society in Burnaby
L&M Lumber and Nechako Green Energy project
Support for small business
Bear Smart community program
Travel for treatment and wait time for surgery case
Hon. M. de Jong
Government handling of uranium-mining application and role of chief mines inspector
Hon. R. Coleman
B.C. Ferries executive compensation
Hon. K. Falcon
Student financial assistance
Hon. N. Yamamoto
Auditor General report on financial reporting by B.C. Hydro
Hon. R. Coleman
B.C. Treaty Commission Annual Report 2011
Orders of the Day
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 12 — Teachers Act (continued)
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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2011
The House met at 1:33 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
Hon. I. Chong: Mr. Speaker, I hope you will indulge me. I have a rather lengthy introduction today with respect to a number of guests who are here.
We've often heard that Victoria is home to Canada's oldest Chinatown, and we may even have heard that 100 years ago Victoria's Chinese community dug deep into their pockets to help Dr. Sun Yat-sen mount the revolution that brought an end to the Qing dynasty and launched China's republican period.
But until today precious little about our historic Chinatown has been published and widely distributed for local residents and visiting tourists alike to understand the fascinating and well-illustrated history of our oldest Chinatown, which even includes an explanatory walking-tour map that points out its significant buildings and structures. Even as recently as yesterday people have noticed a film crew in Victoria's Chinatown.
What I would like to say is that a new pamphlet has been published with a chronological chart of 220 years of Chinese in Canada, which serves to briefly review the history of Chinese migration, segregation, integration and contributions in Canada. Together, these two publications offer an unforgettable portrait of national and local history from a Chinese-Canadian perspective.
Dr. David Lam, our former Lieutenant-Governor, was a patron of the centre that now bears his name and was a great Chinese Canadian and a proud contributor to Victoria. He inspired the mandate that guides the David Lam Centre at Simon Fraser University.
The centre is publishing these documents as a public educational project in accordance with its mandate to enhance intercultural understanding. It is genuine understanding, not mere mutual tolerance, that creates and sustains bonds of friendship and cooperation between Canadians of many backgrounds.
I will be distributing this pamphlet and the insert to every member here at the Legislature so that they have them in their offices.
Today in the gallery I am pleased to introduce members of the SFU David Lam Centre's Chinese-Canadian history project council. They are Dr. Paul Crowe, Dr. Jan Walls, Prof. David Choi, Dr. David Chu Yan Lai, Miss Edith Lowe and Miss Winnie Leung. I hope the House will make them all very welcome.
M. Mungall: Today we have four members from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators who are joining us for what will, hopefully, be a good, raucous question period. We have Shirley Ackland from the North Island College Faculty Association, Joel Murray from Kwantlen Faculty Association, John O'Brien from the Thompson Rivers University Open Learning Faculty Association and Graham Rodwell from Douglas College Faculty Association. May the House please make them welcome.
R. Hawes: In the gallery today are some people from my area: Mr. Ron Childs and his wife, Kathy; and Brian Puhl and his wife, Lucy. Now, Ron and Brian can usually be found on the golf course where I live, but today they're here kind of hoping a fight might break out. But I've assured them that with our new sense of decorum in this Legislature, they probably could have a nap upstairs. Could the House please make them welcome.
J. Horgan: Joining us in the gallery today is a councillor from the great city of Port McNeill who also happens to be my sister-in-law. She's married to my very, very, very much older brother, Patrick. Would the House please acknowledge Shirley's presence here in the gallery.
J. McIntyre: I just wanted to let members of the House know that in the precincts today, and tomorrow actually, we will be having two different classes of grade 5 students from Brackendale Elementary just north of Squamish, in my riding. Brackendale was actually the site of one of the torch relay stops back leading up to the 2010 games. So I was just hoping that if you see them in the next day or two, all members of this House will make them feel very welcome.
S. Simpson: I'm really pleased to be able to introduce friends of mine and of Cate, my wife: Sandy Bowman and Don McKee, who are here from Penticton. They're here with their niece, Theresa Clark, who lives in Victoria. Very importantly, one of the reasons that Don and Sandy are here is that Sandy is here to receive her 30-year long-service award for time working for the people of British Columbia as part of the government civil service. Please make them welcome.
J. Thornthwaite: In the gallery today are some members from the North Shore Home Learners and parents. I just wanted to welcome them, and I wish that everybody would join me.
Hon. D. McRae: Today in the gallery we have an essential member of the Ministry of Agriculture. Heidi Scott is my administrative assistant in the offices here in the building. Would the House please make her welcome.
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D. Barnett: Today I would ask this House to help me in congratulating a longtime resident, nurse and community-spirited lady in 100 Mile House who is turning 101 years old on Sunday, October 30. Would everyone help me wish Dorothy Rendall a happy birthday.
Introductions by Members
Hon. P. Bell: I'm very pleased today to be able to introduce to the House my administrative assistant, who has been with me for quite a number of years and does an absolutely wonderful job keeping the office organized and in order. Would the House please make Laura Tennant very welcome.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I have the honour to present the Auditor General's report No. 8, 2011, B.C. Hydro: The Effects of Rate-Regulated Accounting.
(Standing Order 25B)
GROW WEEK AND FOOD POLICY
G. Coons: I'd like to bring attention to Oxfam's GROW Week, which took place from October 15 to 22. It's an international week to celebrate food and the people who produce it. In Prince Rupert residents have been inspired by GROW Week, and we have gathered together to organize a community event that provides local, organic or fair trade food only. Other communities in the province make a conscious effort to host similar events, but the truth of the matter is that no effort should be involved.
Having access to locally sourced and sustainably produced food should be the norm, not the exception. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge that while this week is a time for celebration, it also presents an opportunity to discuss the necessity of developing a food policy that will help us build a sustainable B.C.
Food supply and security is impacted by a number of complex factors, but solutions do exist. The ancient Greeks believed that the most honourable vocations were to be a philosopher or a farmer. Well, this province has many philosophers and farmers who have expertise, skills and clear visions regarding food supply and security.
As decision-makers, we must listen and collaborate with these experts. The government must adopt smart policies. Whether a growers production program to assist Okanagan orchardists or the restoration of Buy B.C., we must promote small-scale agriculture and broaden access to local food by creating incentives for new farmers. Providing tax breaks to organic producers transitioning to closed-containment aquaculture and mandating a food strategy for local use in hospitals and in schools would be a great start.
We cannot afford to stall on the development of a provincial food policy. Doing so undermines social equity and democracy and fails to protect the commons. B.C. must again be a leader in valuing our food and those who produce it. GROW Week is a celebration but also a reminder that we need to move forward and build a sustainable food policy today.
FIRE PREVENTION WEEK
AND WORK OF FIREFIGHTERS
J. Thornthwaite: Last week was Fire Prevention Week, when families around B.C. are encouraged to make a plan on how to get out of your home safely in the event of a fire. Having a plan is essential — one of the many things that I learned after joining 38 of my fellow MLAs, mayors and councillors at the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association Fire Ops 101 course at their training facility in Vancouver.
We were taken through several different scenarios that firefighters across B.C. face every single day and thrown into the fire. After being suited up in what felt like about 300 pounds of full gear, we were sent into a burning building. Imagine that: going into a building engulfed in flames, trudging up stairs weighed down by cumbersome equipment and carrying a heavy hose, and the entire time you're feeling this intense heat with no clue where you're going because of the darkness and the smoke.
From there we actually put out a car fire and rescued victims trapped after a car accident using the Jaws of Life. Our last stop was the CPR station where we learned that bad CPR is better than no CPR. The good news is that all of our grade 10 students in B.C. now learn CPR in school.
So what did I take away from all of this? After experiencing just a small fraction of the type of incredibly hard work our firefighters do every day, I have a much greater appreciation for their commitment and dedication to helping others. I hope everyone here will join me today and thank all the firefighters across British Columbia, who fight fires and save lives in our province every day.
NEW VISTA SOCIETY IN BURNABY
R. Chouhan: In Burnaby-Edmonds we have many organizations proudly serving our residents. One of them is the New Vista Society. For almost 70 years it has been
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serving seniors with love, compassion and a high degree of professionalism.
I would like to congratulate New Vista's recertification as an Eden home. The New Vista Society was the first residential care home in B.C. to become an Eden home in 2000. The Eden Alternative is a senior-centred philosophy of care, focused on creating a homelike environment for residents as a means of combatting loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
Research has shown this leads to improved quality of care and high rates of satisfaction for everyone involved while also benefiting the bottom line. The New Vista Society was founded in 1943 by Burnaby MLA Ernest Winch. Today the society is a recognized leader in the non-profit sector in the areas of housing, long-term care and community outreach programs. The society is home to 236 residents, includes two special care units for people living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease and provides an adult day program that helps 60 seniors with disabilities.
This news is timely and important, given our province's aging communities. Improving the way that we as a society provide long-term care will have a significant impact on many Canadians as our aging population begins to rely more on support to meet basic daily needs.
I hope Fraser Health will recognize the unique service provided by the New Vista Society and ensure it has the budgetary capacity necessary to look after the aging seniors.
L&M LUMBER AND
NECHAKO GREEN ENERGY PROJECT
J. Rustad: Forestry in B.C. has always been about utilizing our forests to their best potential. Just 50 years ago pine trees were considered a waste product. Sawdust, end pieces, shavings, etc., were simply burnt or left in piles to rot.
Along came the invention of the chipping saw, and suddenly an entire new industry of pulp production grew in the northern Interior. Years later the shavings, dust and waste products were utilized for drying lumber. Again, years later end pieces were often used for finger-jointing. Sawdust and shavings are now captured for wood pellet production, and a significant amount of the remaining waste is used for power production.
Through all of these changes, L&M Lumber in Vanderhoof has been a leader. They have continually upgraded their facility and embraced new technology. Today they have one of the fastest planer mills anywhere in the world, a pellet facility and a host of other modern technology to keep them competitive and to keep their skilled workforce employed.
L&M Lumber is once again taking the next step in pioneering new technology. Through their subsidiary Nechako Green Energy, they'll be harnessing waste heat to produce clean, renewable electricity. Utilizing an organic rankine cycle power system from Turboden, a first in any sawmill in Canada, they'll be able to produce about one-third of their electrical needs.
Just imagine: waste heat turned into low-cost electricity, a new revenue stream supporting sawmills, and no additional fibre is required. This is a revolutionary development that I believe we'll see in mills across the province in the coming years.
Please join me in congratulating Alan Fitzpatrick and all of the workers at L&M Lumber for their innovation, hard work and willingness to be leaders in the forest industry.
SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS
J. Brar: I'm pleased to recognize this week as Small Business Week across British Columbia. It is a time when we honour small businesses and their vital contributions to the local economy and community. In 1979 the Business Development Bank of Canada organized Small Business Week for entrepreneurs to share success stories, talk to leading business experts and exchange innovative ideas.
Small businesses account for 98 percent of all businesses in B.C. and employ over one million people. Without our small businesses, tens of thousands of British Columbians would be without jobs and so many community and charity organizations would be without constant supporters. They are the lifeblood of our community.
I served as the executive director of Surrey Self-Employment, an entrepreneur development society, for many years before running for public office. I appreciate the hard work, dedication and optimism that it takes, and I understand the challenges.
A weak global economy combined with the economic uncertainty here in B.C. is hurting small businesses in the province of British Columbia, and it remains the biggest economic roadblock for many struggling small businesses and new investment. Therefore, the best thing this House can do to help the small business community in B.C. is to expedite the elimination of HST and reintroduction of the GST and PST system as soon as possible.
Today I want to congratulate everyone who owns, runs or works in a small business for their valuable contribution to the province of British Columbia, and I ask all British Columbians to support our local small business community.
BEAR SMART COMMUNITY PROGRAM
J. McIntyre: For several weeks I have been planning to congratulate residents and community leaders in three
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Sea to Sky communities for achieving the Bear Smart designation. So you can imagine my shock and horror to see the recent headlines about the death of Whistler's most famous photogenic bear, Jeanie. This just serves to dramatically underscore the importance of programs to reduce human-bear conflicts.
To date there are only four communities in B.C. who have earned this Bear Smart status. Kamloops in '09, Squamish in 2010 and just last month the village of Lions Bay and resort municipality of Whistler were added to form this select group, who have committed considerable resources to meet rigorous requirements, such as: prepare a bear-hazard assessment of the community and surroundings, prepare a bear-human conflict management plan, revise planning decision-making documents to be consistent with that plan, implement a continuing education program, develop and maintain a bearproof municipal solid waste management system, and implement Bear Smart bylaws prohibiting providing food to bears.
The goal of this voluntary program, designed by our Ministry of Environment in partnership with B.C. Conservation Foundation and UBCM, is to address the root causes of bear-human conflicts, reduce the risk to human safety and property and, importantly, reduce the number of bears that have to be destroyed.
Committed citizens on Bear Smart committees, such as the one led by Norma Rodgers in Lions Bay, are working proactively to reduce conflicts, whether caused by bears travelling through the village or resident bears that you'd find in Whistler, like Jeanie. I actually had the privilege of viewing her, feeding in the alpine.
Please join me in congratulating Bear Smart communities, whose citizens are making a positive difference by working in partnership with local government to deal with bear hazards and provide continuing education to try to avoid the horrific fate of Jeanie, who'd become habituated and ultimately a threat to public safety.
TRAVEL FOR TREATMENT AND
WAIT TIME FOR SURGERY CASE
D. Donaldson: John Babcock is 82 years old. He lives with his wife in Kitwanga. Like many northern seniors, they are self-reliant, proud and not accustomed to having to ask for help. In late August Mr. Babcock was told he needed to go to Vancouver General Hospital to have surgery to correct a problem with his back. He was admitted to Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton to wait for a bed to become available.
Thirty-eight days, Mr. Speaker — that's how long Mr. Babcock had to wait in a hospital bed. Thirty-eight days stuck in a hospital, waiting for surgery that took less than 38 minutes.
When they first formed government ten years ago, the Liberals promised "health care when and where you need it." Would the minister now explain how waiting 38 days in a hospital meets the test of health care when you need it?
Hon. M. de Jong: Thanks to the member for the question. I don't have the same advantage as the member in terms of the specific details around Mr. Babcock's case, although I am happy to examine those details later on.
I will say this. Part of the rationale for the unprecedented level of investment that has taken place in health care facilities right across the province is to ensure that people receive timely care. Whether that investment has been in the north, in the interior of the province, on the Island, in the Lower Mainland, those investments have occurred.
Every day officials and employees and dedicated health care professionals around British Columbia do their very best to ensure that people receive the very best quality of care in a timely way. All of the data and all of the results we have seen from across the country indicate that they are doing an excellent job.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
D. Donaldson: I'm not talking about health care professionals. I'm talking about this government's record.
John Babcock, along with others of his generation, helped build the health care system we now depend on. He should be in a position, hon. Speaker, to get good service from it when he needs the care. Instead, after ten years with these Liberals in charge, an 82-year-old has to wait 38 days in a hospital bed for an operation that took less than 38 minutes. That's this government's legacy: a broken-down health care system.
Does the minister think that it's okay for an 82-year-old man to wait 38 days in a hospital bed to get the surgery that he needs?
Hon. M. de Jong: What the member chooses to ignore, of course, is the extraordinary progress that has been made across a broad suite of services to dramatically reduce wait times. Whether it is the….
Hon. M. de Jong: Mr. Speaker, the members want to try and score political points, and I presume that is what lies at the heart of the decision not to bring the information to me some time ago. The member prefers to stand in this place and try to score some political advantage on the back of Mr. Babcock.
The members choose to ignore the fact that whether it is in orthopedics — hip replacements, knee replacements — or in the care that is being provided on the
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cardio side.... In every one of those instances the wait times have dropped dramatically for British Columbians. We're proud of that fact.
M. Farnworth: We're talking about an 82-year-old senior, an individual who helped build this province and whose taxes help fund our health care system. He waited 38 days, at a cost of around $1,000 a day. That's a significant amount of money. He deserved better than that — 38 days to wait for a 38-minute surgery.
M. Farnworth: It's unacceptable, former Health Minister — a 38-day wait.
My question to the Minister of Health is this. Why is Mr. Babcock paying for the failure of this Liberal government's policies?
Hon. M. de Jong: Here's an admission. I think the members always like it when the government and ministers stand and make an admission. There are parts of the province that still suffer from a shortage of physicians.
Now, we're trying to address that. In fact, we are training dramatically more physicians in British Columbia than we were in 2001. So maybe the question is why, at a time when all of the demographic information confirmed we were an aging population and were going to need more medical professionals, the bunch over there did absolutely nothing to address that need. They did absolutely nothing to train more physicians, to train more nurses, which in fact we are doing.
Those physicians are now graduating, and they are locating in rural parts of British Columbia so that people like Mr. Babcock can actually get the service they require closer to home.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Farnworth: Once again, a government that's stuck in the past — the last refuge of those who don't want to deal with the present, never mind face the future.
The services that Mr. Babcock needed were down here in the Lower Mainland at VGH. That's where he needed his surgery. He waited 38 days. That's unacceptable. But when he did finally get down here, he was put in an air ambulance with 20 other people. They packed a sandwich for him, but they lost it, so he didn't eat for six hours — at 82 years of age.
Will the minister admit that this government's policies failed Mr. Babcock, that they should have done better and he deserved better when it came to health care for him and his community?
Hon. M. de Jong: The important — in my view, most important — element when you are considering the health care needs of British Columbians is actually the present and to plan for the future, and that is the sin that the NDP committed in the 1990s. They refused to plan realistically for the future.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. M. de Jong: Sorry. I was prepared to surrender to the doctor from Merritt.
Mr. Speaker: Continue.
Hon. M. de Jong: Actually, each day professionals across the province do their level best and succeed in providing the best health care system in the country, and that is confirmed by independent sources and has been confirmed by independent sources.
But occasionally people find themselves in difficulty, and each day files and people and individuals and families are brought to my attention. I can only surmise from the fact that no one on the opposition side thought to bring this case to my attention that they felt it more important to try and score a political point than to help Mr. Babcock.
S. Hammell: It's not about the professionals; it's about this minister. Mr. Babcock deserves an apology, not yesterday but today or tomorrow, from this minister. But he and his generation deserve much more than an apology. They deserve a health system that works.
This bungling put the health of this senior at risk. His family and his doctors were worried that he would develop pneumonia from being stuck in this hospital bed unnecessarily for 38 days. When will the Liberals acknowledge that their crisis management mode has completely failed the health care of British Columbians?
Hon. M. de Jong: Well, I don't know where the member has been. Actually, I know where she was a couple of months ago. I think she was at Surrey Memorial Hospital at the unveiling of the single biggest investment in health care infrastructure in the province.
So $7 billion — levels of investment in health care infrastructure unprecedented in the history of British Columbia. In Surrey, in the Lower Mainland, in the Interior, in the Kootenays, in the north — everywhere you go in British Columbia, there is drywall dust blowing on the campuses of hospitals.
We can always do better, and we strive to do better. But in a system where there are literally millions upon millions of visits to health care facilities in British Columbia, I will say this on behalf of the professionals that work in those hospitals and in those health clinics. There is a
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reason they are regarded as delivering the best system in the whole country — because they are doing so.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
GOVERNMENT HANDLING OF
AND ROLE OF CHIEF MINES INSPECTOR
H. Lali: The B.C. Liberals admit to breaking the law. The Minister of Mines admits to actually botching up the uranium ban because it took him too long — 11 months — to put the order-in-council together.
Now the minister says that their boondoggle "probably put some of our staff in an untenable position." Untenable? I'll tell you. Douglas Sweeney, the former chief inspector of mines, who actually refused to break the law when directed by them to do so, had his life ruined by this scandal-ridden Liberal government. Mr. Sweeney had to move to the Yukon and then on to Saskatchewan for work, while leaving his wife and his kids behind in Kamloops.
Douglas Sweeney deserves an apology for the price that he paid for the Liberals' boondoggle. Will the minister offer this upstanding civil servant an apology today that he deserves?
Hon. R. Coleman: As the member knows, we made a decision in 2008 that we were not going to be doing uranium mining in British Columbia. There was an order-in-council that was actually filed nine months later as the result. During that period of time I think that there may have been some confusion. But the reality is that the fact of the matter is….
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. R. Coleman: But you know, in both the 2002 and the 2007 energy plans we stated we would not be re-permitting uranium production. We also announced we would not support uranium exploration or development in 2008.
This case was about a company that had a legal tenure, just like you might have a legal ownership of the land title of your house, hon. Members across the way. We are not going to expropriate without compensation, so we negotiated a compensation through a lawsuit and settled a claim.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
H. Lali: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson, who sits over there, has called Mr. Sweeney a personal friend. A personal friend, hon. Speaker? With friends like the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, who needs enemies?
An honest public servant who actually refused to break the law as directed by the B.C. Liberals…. While the member for Kamloops–South Thompson was the Minister of Mines at the time, this public servant had to actually leave the province to find work and leave his family behind in Kamloops.
Will the minister actually do the honourable thing today for the Sweeney family and their good name and reputation and make a public apology to Mr. Sweeney?
Hon. R. Coleman: I think that all of our public servants are outstanding people doing a great job on behalf of the province of British Columbia. This is a discussion about the fact that the public has been clear over the years that they want uranium left in the ground, and they do not want it to pose a health or safety problem to workers or the public during exploration activities.
It is about the fact that the opposition, in the 1990s, not once ever put in a ban with regards to uranium and actually sat on their hands while claims were still there and still growing over a period of time.
It's about the fact that we stepped up to the plate, made the decision that we weren't doing uranium mining, and we made the decision. We knew that there were tenures on the ground. We set aside the appropriate dollars in our fiscal plan. If we had any issues with any lawsuits, we dealt with the lawsuit, we settled it, and the deal was done.
B.C. FERRIES EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
G. Coons: We recently heard about bonuses for executives at CLBC at a time when clients are suffering due to poor Liberal government policy. A similar situation exists with B.C. Ferries and coastal British Columbians who have been cheated and gouged. Fares have shot up, ridership has plummeted, and B.C. shipbuilders were cheated by this government out of the opportunity to build new ferries.
Meanwhile, it's full steam ahead for executive bonuses. In 2010 the CEO, the million-dollar man who is about to abandon ship, and his three vice-presidents received $1.1 million in bonuses alone. That's outrageous.
My question is to the Deputy Premier, who should be very familiar with cash giveaways at B.C. Ferries. My question is: will he admit this Liberal government has failed ferry-dependent communities in B.C., and will he end the outrageous executive bonuses at B.C. Ferries immediately?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm happy to take that question on notice on behalf of the Minister of Transportation.
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M. Karagianis: Any rational person in British Columbia knows that the bonuses being paid to executives at B.C. Ferries are outrageous. To add to that, the B.C. Liberals' million-dollar man has not only driven ridership down; he's left B.C. Ferries with a $20 million deficit and sent our shipbuilding jobs to Germany. For this he got a bonus. Not only that, he's now nicely jumping ship into a very cozy little $300,000-a-year life raft.
Now, it is not reasonable. It is wrong that this is happening. It is ludicrous that these large bonuses are being paid. To the Deputy Premier: stand up today and tell British Columbians that this kind of ludicrous bonus system will stop.
Hon. K. Falcon: Again, with respect to the bonuses, I defer, as I indicated before, and take that question on notice on behalf of the Minister of Transportation. But I do have to say that on the jobs, I'm certainly happy to answer that.
At a time when there's enormous instability around the world, in Europe in particular, and there are very high unemployment rates — the United States is seeing unemployment rates that are close to 10 percent — a week ago Friday I was very interested to see a jobs report come out from Stats Canada of the 60,900 new jobs created in the country of Canada. Over one-half of those were right here in British Columbia.
At a time when we head into some global instability with challenges in Europe, challenges in America, British Columbia looks forward to meeting those challenges with low debt, a triple-A credit rating, the lowest taxes in the G7 countries and the most employed British Columbians ever in the history of the province of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Karagianis: We're very thankful that Ottawa had more confidence in our shipbuilding industry than this government. This government undermined the confidence of our shipbuilding industry. They basically said we were not capable, and thank God the federal government thought differently than what this government did about shipbuilding jobs.
For this government to stand here and to justify in any way the ludicrous amount of money that has been paid to the million-dollar man at B.C. Ferries — a double pension at a time when there is no money in this province for community living — is absolutely unacceptable and outrageous.
So if the government wants to justify anything, the Deputy Premier can stand up today and say: "Enough of bonuses, and enough of Mr. Hahn's doubled-up pension." Stand up and admit that the pension is outrageous.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
M. Mungall: B.C. has the highest student loan interest rate in the country, on top of an average student debt load of $27,000. In June the Minister for Advanced Education said in the Vancouver Sun: "The ministry has been working on a review of potential changes for student financial assistance." Changes, she said, were slated for this fall.
Now the beginning of the school year has come and gone, and students are yet again racking up debt. They want to know if this minister is actually working on the issue. Will the minister table today in this House that review? And if she cannot table it in this House, please explain to students what's the holdup.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: Well, since this is my first opportunity to address the member opposite in the House this session, I'd like to — in the spirit of Jack Layton, that love is better than anger — wish the member opposite all the best. I understand she was recently married.
In that vein….
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: But at every turn, I hear criticism — negative, destructive criticism — about our top-quality, world-class post-secondary education system in B.C., and it's absolutely unfounded.
Students in B.C. have access to over $700 million of student grants, Canada student grants upfront, and upfront grants and student loans to ensure that we have good accountability and affordability for both our students and taxpayers. We invest annually over $1.9 billion in our post-secondary education system. With the financial support of B.C. taxpayers, our students pay only one-third of the actual cost of their education.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Mungall: Thank you so much to the minister for acknowledging what was a very happy day this summer for me.
But we need to get to the issue at hand here. That is what question period is all about, after all. Of course,
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students, graduates and instructors all agree that student debt is much too high in this province.
It's not just them. It's the presidents of B.C. universities. They've called on this government to make a change. In their submission to this review they said: "It is now time to improve B.C.'s StudentAid program so the province is in line with other key jurisdictions across the country."
The minister mentioned that students in B.C. have access to $700 million of grants from the federal government but not a dime for financial needs–based grants from this government — not a dime.
To the minister: will she let these groups know that they are being heard and release this review? Or will she admit that this is just another example of this government shuffling papers and not getting the job done?
Hon. N. Yamamoto: This is an interesting line of questioning, especially in light of two recent reports that came out this week. One of them, the Canadian University Report, shows that coming to B.C. for a post-secondary education is a great bargain. The other one, the Maclean's university report, ranks several of our universities and colleges in Canada as being one of the best.
AUDITOR GENERAL REPORT ON
FINANCIAL REPORTING BY B.C. HYDRO
B. Ralston: In his report released today the Auditor General spoke of rate-regulated accounting and its impact on B.C. Hydro's finances. What the Auditor General pointed to was that by deferring over $2.2 billion in expenses — in other words, not taking them down into the profit-and-loss statement — the revenue of B.C. Hydro was overstated and the deficit of the province of British Columbia was understated by $450 million.
Given the Auditor General's concern about this lack of financial transparency and the fact that he may even have to put a reservation on the financial statements of the province of British Columbia, what is the minister's response to this very profound and sharp criticism of the fundamentals of financial reporting here in British Columbia?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. R. Coleman: I'm happy to defer to the Minister of Finance, if he wishes.
There are a couple of things that people should understand about the deferral accounts of B.C. Hydro. First of all, they were established in year 2000. Now, you might want to know about your history, about who was in government in 2000, when these deferral accounts were actually established.
B.C. Hydro discloses its independently audited financial statements for public scrutiny, including the effects of rate-regulated accounting, which is the deferral accounts. The B.C. Utilities Commission has actually endorsed these deferral accounts to cover a range of purposes, including the variances between forecasted costs and revenue expectations; the maintenance of assets; the cost for First Nations negotiation, litigation and settlement; environmental compliance and remediation; and foreign exchange gains and losses.
These deferral accounts are used so that we can shape the rates to keep them affordable for British Columbians, so that we can shape them over time as well as deal with our management.
The reality is that it's not just us that use these accounts. I know the member opposite doesn't like to hear this, because he's already yapping over there like some kind of a little dog.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Hon. R. Coleman: Sorry, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Withdraw that comment.
Hon. R. Coleman: I was hearing all the little things coming from the one member.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Hon. R. Coleman: So I apologize. I unequivocally apologize, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. R. Coleman: So the members opposite can hear that too.
The rate-regulated accounting is also used in Ontario by Hydro One, in Alberta by Fortis and by other utilities across North America with the way we do our management.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
B. Ralston: Indeed, deferral accounts did start in the year 2000. They started at $200 million. They're $2.2 billion now and projected to rise to $5 billion by 2017, with no plan to deal with them.
The Auditor General has stated his profound disagreement with the way in which that technique is being used,
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its fundamental impact on the balance sheet of the province of British Columbia, including understating the deficit by $450 million. Surely the minister can do better. Maybe if he consults with his colleague the Minister of Finance, between the two of them they could come up with at least half an answer.
Hon. R. Coleman: I know the members opposite do not want rates to be kept down and affordable for families in the province of British Columbia. I know they refuse to admit that during the 1990s they put in a rate freeze on B.C. Hydro and messed with their business. A rate freeze put in a significant structural deficit on the maintenance of our dams and utilities, and everything else that had to be dealt with. So in the last ten years we've been fixing that problem to make sure that this utility stays the modern, capable utility it should be and not one destroyed by bad policy of the former government.
[End of question period.]
Hon. M. Polak: I seek leave to present a report.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Hon. M. Polak: I have the honour to present the B.C. Treaty Commission Annual Report 2011.
N. Simons: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
N. Simons: Joining us in the House sometime during question period was Chief Garry Feschuk of the Sechelt Nation, accompanied by, I believe, some members of staff and perhaps other council members. Will the House please make them welcome.
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: We will continue second reading debate of Bill 12.
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 12 — TEACHERS ACT
D. Barnett: Today I have the privilege of standing in this House to support Bill 12 and to thank the Minister of Education for his leadership, his vision and his passion for a great education system.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
The people of British Columbia want some assurances that if someone provides a service, and especially to the most vulnerable — our children — it is a service that is safe and it is a service that we can be proud of. This bill provides that.
I am very fortunate. I'm a grandmother. I'm a mother. I have adopted grandchildren, and they are the most precious gift one can have — one gift that we can all nurture as a society, because the education system we have today will bring these children, many of them, into this great House someday to provide the leadership that is today provided.
A child spends most of its life, its young life, in a school system, some in private schools but many, and most children, in the public system. I find it ironic but not unusual that a member from the opposite side of this House would speak in a negative manner — who in the past was a member of, and admitted in the past being an activist in, the BCTF. It is time that we put politics aside in our education system.
I live in the most beautiful place in the world, called rural British Columbia, where I hear so much about school closures. I hear so much about the lack of education in rural British Columbia. Rural British Columbia has challenges, but opportunities are so great. We are all working together — in rural British Columbia, in urban British Columbia — to provide something to our young people, and it's called a great, accountable, transparent education system.
What system is this? This is a system that is about what? It is a system that should be about students and children. It is a system where the teachers are to provide the education, and those in the management are to provide the rules, regulations and guidance. You know, there's another person that we always seem to forget in our systems these days, especially public systems. It's called a taxpayer.
I know many, many, many taxpayers who have put their children through this public education system, who are seniors and today continue to provide the dollars for this great system we have. But they, too, believe in this Bill 12. I can guarantee you that they believe in changes because they, on a daily basis, say: "Who is being accountable to our students, to the taxpayer and to the public?"
I have many, many friends that are teachers — some of the greatest people you could ever want to meet, teachers who care. They are accountable, but we have a system that is in trouble, and I think we all in this House will admit it.
So it's up to the government. It's up to the leaders to make change but only change that is going to improve the quality of this system.
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Today, as I stand here, I'm proud of many organizations in this province that provide education. I'm proud of our teachers, proud of our parents, but I also, like many others, am concerned, and our concerns must be addressed — those of teachers, those of students and those of taxpayers.
I'm not going to stand here and belabour this, Madam Speaker. All I can say is that I encourage everyone to take the time to listen and to support Bill 12, one that our Education Minister has put time and his heart and soul into, making this system a better system today.
V. Huntington: I do rise to speak to the Teachers Act, a bill awaited with a mixture of anxiety and hope right across the province and a bill I hoped would solve the unsatisfactory professional impasse that has been the lot of this province for too long.
Bill 12 is not perfect, but it's a good step forward, and I want to congratulate the minister for finessing the loud and unhappy speculation he received from all sides of the teaching profession.
The B.C. College of Teachers has had a troubled existence from its very beginning, and we all know that as fact. Its fundamental purpose, to achieve an arm's-length distance from professional practitioners and to set disciplinary standards, was co-opted from the start.
It was so troubled that there was an early attempt to dissolve the college and to put in place an interim council, but even that interim council was not only fought but deliberately intimidated with the withdrawal of partner funds.
By late 2009 the teachers college executive committee tabled a governance report with the college council. Among other recommendations, it asked government to develop new conflict-of-interest rules so that a greater distance could be created between the college and the BCTF. But even that report was blocked by the majority of the college council.
Then, in April 2010, 11 members of the college wrote to the minister that fundamental issues were paralyzing the college and that extraordinary measures were urgently needed to ensure that its mandate could be achieved. So change was essential, and one could almost say that any change would be welcome in such a poisonous and unproductive atmosphere.
Unlike most provinces, B.C. does not have a government certification process, which means that standards and controls and rules of conflict are absolutely critical among the professional body itself. Bill 12 may dissolve the B.C. College of Teachers, but it replaces the bankrupt college with two entities. It creates a disciplinary council while leaving issues of conduct, competency and certification in the hands of the BCTF, an elegant though not perfect solution in a difficult time.
There is still a conflict, in my estimation, which is only partially resolved by cabinet approval of bylaws and by what the minister terms his disallowance powers. Until that conflict is properly resolved in future legislation, I believe it is incumbent upon the minister that his office be vigilant as the two bodies develop their protocols and separate standards.
The bill is not perfect, but it does deal with the key issue of discipline. This gives the people of this province and especially the parents of this province some assurance that discipline of wayward teachers can now be consistent and impartial. The B.C. College of Teachers was ineffectual in protecting the public interest and lost the confidence of both the public and many within the educational community. Bill 12 begins to deal with that impasse, which has been part of B.C.'s educational reality for too long.
The Minister of Education has moved appropriately, in my estimation, and in fact has finessed a difficult situation. He deserves to be congratulated.
R. Sultan: It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in support of Bill 12. As we all know, this new act repeals the Teaching Profession Act, dissolves the existing B.C. College of Teachers and replaces it with a 15-member British Columbia Teachers Council, which will presumably be referred to as BCTC, or merely as the council.
This council will, if the bill passes, represent all members of the education community, and it's a large community. In terms of teachers, we have in the public system alone 41,000 certificate holders and another 10 percent or so active in the independent school system. So this is probably the largest group of professionals, singularly identified professionals, in the province, easily exceeding the number of professional engineers at a mere 25,000.
This is a terribly important group. It is the professional body upon whom we lodge the upbringing of our children. One can hardly imagine a more fundamental and important responsibility for the future of our province than the duties carried on by our teachers.
I'd like to refer to the comments by the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke, and I would point out many points of agreement with his remarks, which is a pleasure in this House of so frequent contention and confrontation.
I agree with the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke when he said this is a complicated issue — namely, the redesign and the restructuring of the college which governs the professional aspects of the teacher body.
He said that it's very important — check. I agree with that. He said that due diligence and deliberate process is vital, and I believe we're engaged in that right now. He said that consultation will be important. Well, I would only amend that to say that consultation has been important. Clearly, the minister has gone the extra mile, I think.
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As he said, he gave his cell phone to everybody, which astonished the clientele, because ministers are very careful not to give that out. But that's his personal style, and I think in this case it has worked. It has built trust. It has certainly opened the lines of communication.
The member for Columbia River–Revelstoke also said it merits a clause-by-clause examination. Certainly we will have ample opportunity for that, and a clause-by-clause examination is fully warranted. I don't think we want to rush through that. He went on to say that thought must be put into this bill. I would suggest thought has been put into this bill, but certainly thought by all the members of this Legislature is appropriate.
I also agree with him when he said that we have in the school system such issues as class size and composition and technology which must be dealt with, and one can hardly disagree with that. He said, in summary, that it's important, and we must get it right. Once again, I would say I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
With those thoughts, it was again with some comfort that I picked up the Vancouver Sun this morning, and I read what has not been officially announced in these chambers, to my knowledge, but it apparently was told to Keith Baldrey, a distinguished member of the press corps: that the NDP has expressed early support for the bill — the bill drafted after a critical report last year by Victoria lawyer Don Avison.
I hope that the media report is accurate, because I think this bill does warrant support on both sides of the House. But in contrast, what does the same newspaper story say about the reaction of one union president named Susan Lambert? Susan acknowledged that the BCTF has tried to influence the college policy in the past, which was one of the main thrusts of the Avison report findings, but vehemently denied that it had ever meddled in discipline. "She has described the Avison report as spurious for leaving the impression that it has" — namely, that they've been meddling — "and said the reforms introduced by the minister are unnecessary." That is what the Vancouver Sun says today on page 2.
Meanwhile, it goes on to quote the minister as saying that the changes are in fact needed. Well, why are the changes needed? It would seem to be the consensus of most members in the House that changes are needed.
Let me summarize the situation that the bill endeavours to address by quoting from another distinguished journalist, Les Leyne, a columnist with the Times Colonist of Victoria on October 27.
"All people want is some assurance that if someone proves unfit to be around children, they'll eventually be declared as such and ushered out of the teaching profession. That's not too much to ask."
Skipping down a few sentences:
"It's a basic expectation that government started trying to address years ago. But it's been bogged down in a power struggle that has been running for years."
We're all painfully familiar with that in this House.
Mr. Leyne goes on to say:
"Considering the minuscule percentage of teachers who get themselves into trouble, it's remarkable what a long-running and intense argument the mood prompted" — referring to the new bill from the minister. "It ran smack into the formidable herding instinct of the B.C. Teachers Federation.
"Faced with the choice of acknowledging the need to weed out problems or protecting their own, the union made the wrong choice.
"Various BCTF officials have been transparently clear about the goal. It was 'to limit and neutralize' the college's effectiveness by stacking the board with union loyalists. The results were laid out in a report by lawyer Don Avison last year. The former Deputy Education Minister outlined some truly shocking cases where the BCTF-controlled college put teachers ahead of student safety.
"A former teacher convicted of sexual assaults on students years earlier actually got his teaching certificate returned to him. A man sentenced to six years in prison for drug trafficking got his…credentials after a sympathetic hearing. A former lawyer who racked up multiple complaints from clients over things like forging court documents was judged fit to teach.
"And, of course, there was the case where one of BCTF's own reps on the college" — on the college, I would interject, charged with discipline and, shall we say, quality control of the profession — "was found to have child pornography on his laptop computer. Another teacher discovered it. The union didn't tell her to run to the police immediately. It advised her to tell the official to 'clean it up.'"
Mr. Leyne concluded by saying:
"The only thing more astounding than the story was the union's insistence to Avison that there had never been a case where a council member failed to serve the public interest."
Wow. All I can say is: "Shame on you, Susan Lambert. Shame on you." It makes me angry that these people have put at risk not only the reputation of our fine body of public school teachers, who I do believe are about the best in the world….
I'm a product of this public school system, and I'm very proud of the education I received. It carried me a long way, and I think it's gotten even better over the years. To put at risk the reputation of that body of teachers I think is shameful, but even worse, it puts at risk the reputation of our public school system.
I have worked in a country and sent my children to school in a country where the public school system has fallen into disarray. The malaise in the public school system in the United States has had some very grievous consequences — social stratification; demoralization, I think, of many in the less-well-off classes, shall we say, who find that their own education preparation does not prepare them for a very brutally competitive world. It results in class distinction. It results in social discrimination. It has resulted, in fact, in what I would call a dumbing down of certain aspects of America. It's terrible.
The public school system, in my opinion, is at the core of our social institutions. It's at the core of the training, the value system that we hope to imbue in our young people, which means we can have healthy communities, helping communities, communities where people have respect for one another and help one another, not palaces of privilege at one end of town and social chaos and
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decay in the other end of town. It's terribly important that we maintain the strength and the reputation of the public school system.
But here's the problem. If people lose faith in not just the quality of the education but the safety of their children when they go to the public school system, if they have the means, many of them — and it certainly is happening in my town — will trickle off to the independent school system, which is superb. And why shouldn't they be? They have a carefully screened student body. Money is less of an issue. They give a fine education. My hat is off to them.
But in the grand scheme of things, they are not friends of the public school system, and we do not want to encourage that. I think it's a sign of social dysfunction to see people escaping from, shall we say, the public school system. We have to denounce that and discourage it.
Therefore, Susan Lambert, I hold you responsible for helping tear down the reputation and prestige and confidence in our public school system. Shame on you. I repeat it for the second or third time.
Now, the bill that has been presented is balanced. As the minister has said, he wasn't expecting any bouquet of roses from the union, and as a matter of fact, he's not getting bouquets of roses from some other people as well.
I refer to my friend Kit Krieger. Now, Kit is the current college registrar. He does not support the proposed legislation since, in his view, it will be dysfunctional because the BCTF will theoretically, on paper, have a majority of the board as a whole, as it has had in the past. In his view this doesn't address the problems of the college, laid out by Don Avison in his report A College Divided. He has been very vociferous — surprisingly so. In fact, I would say, uncharacteristically so, because I know Kit.
He's an expert on baseball. He was brought up on the other side of the tracks in Massachusetts, as I recall, where I spent a good deal of my life. He is a true social reformer. He is a theoretician in terms of pedagogy. He has been a teacher a good deal of his life himself, and he was the college registrar. He's very angry with the minister for having, as Kit apparently believes, given in to the union.
No bouquets from the union. No bouquets from Kit Krieger. But what's the other interesting thing about Kit Krieger? He's the former president of the union. Who knows more about the inner workings and value system and consequences of BCTF than Kit Krieger, who ran the union — and had his differences and was forced out, he told me once. That's an interesting piece of evidence of the dysfunction that an insider has reported about this institution and also, I think, probably a tribute to the balance that I think our very balanced sort of guy, the Education Minister, has perhaps achieved. Let's hope so.
I'd like to wind up this soliloquy by talking about professional colleges generally and refer to my own, because I am a member of a professional college. I am what they call a P.Eng, a professional engineer, although please don't ask me to design either an airplane or even a sewage system, because I haven't been a real engineer for a good many years. But I belong and am subject to the discipline of APEGBC, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. I take a keen interest in the functioning of this body, and they come to me about their legislative aspirations and so on. I guess you'd say I'm quite involved in my college.
The interesting thing about APEGBC is that it's had disciplinary procedures in force, I suppose, almost from the get-go. They've been around a long time, and I don't think they're unusual in that regard. I think the health professions have colleges that keep a close eye on what their members are up to.
Governments have wisely delegated to the peers in these colleges the enforcement of standards and disciplinary action. No government inspector is going to come and descend on the College of Physicians and Surgeons and really, truly understand who the incompetents might be or those that should either be reprimanded or perhaps even have their licence to practise suspended. But their peers certainly do, if anybody does.
Same thing in APEGBC, the engineers and geoscientists. If you go on their website, and it's easy to find with Google, you will find a section called "Discipline and enforcement." What do we find under "Disciplinary actions"? Well, there are four or five categories you can click on.
"Membership cancelled or revoked." Click here, and you'll get a list of people who have had their memberships cancelled or revoked. Next button: "Membership suspended" — that's to say, held in abeyance; you may get it back. "Members with practice restrictions," "Members with other disciplinary actions," "Upcoming disciplinary hearings and enforcement actions," "Memberships controlled or revoked."
Well, it's public knowledge. It begins with Jamal Asfar and ends with a person who I think is my constituent, Frank Stromotich from West Vancouver. I didn't know he'd had his membership cancelled or revoked. I'll have to talk to Frank about that next time I see him. If you click on Frank or Jamal or James or Ross or Yogesh or Peter Lo or any of the other names, they'll detail the court documents, the hearing documentations of what their transgressions are and what the punishment was and who signed off, saying: "Sorry, that's what you deserve, and that's what you get." So that's "Membership cancelled." There are nine names on the website.
Then there's another list, which is longer: "Membership suspended." The members are current under suspension. They haven't been kicked out of the profession,
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unlike the previous list, but they are suspended. They can no longer practise. The name starts with a gentleman named Philip Bolton from Surrey and ends with Lynn Trott, who also happens to come from Surrey. But they are from all over the place: New Westminster, Edmonton, Kelowna, Quesnel, Lake Country, Nanaimo, Gibsons, Delta. These engineers are everywhere, and they are being suspended all over the place. In fact, there are 21 names on the list.
Then you've got a category of "Other disciplinary action." Four names, from Randy Hartford to Robert Weiker. "Upcoming disciplinary hearings" — Orlando Gutierrez from Ontario is on the docket. "Enforcement actions." This is getting more serious. This is going to court and getting an order. You'd better pay attention. You're not paying attention, so we're going to get the attention via court. It goes from Ken Dextras, who is subject to an injunction, to Sherman Yee, another injunction. Amir Shoolestani has a consent order against him.
It's all there, hanging out in public. Have I embarrassed anybody? Perhaps, although I don't know if Hansard is exactly at the top of the list of reading or watching. But it's all there on the Internet if you want to look it up. Before you hire an engineer, you might want to check it out.
If you are further curious, I printed a few of these documents. What did Randall Hartford do? Well, it's not clear, except the court order says that he cannot use a professional engineering stamp or seal. He must not represent that he is either involved in engineering, professional engineering or representing himself as an engineer or a professional engineer, use the initials P.E., P.Eng. or any combination thereof — or else. Signed by some judge whose signature I can't read.
Here's another one. Joseph Bonaventure Thorburn, P.Eng., consent order, 2010. Mr. Thorburn's sin was to design a sewer system that has, according to this, 13 different flaws, the main idea being, I guess…. The odds seem likely that Mr. Thorburn's sewage system is likely to leave an awful lot of residue, unpleasant things on your front lawn or wherever it was. He admitted his unprofessional conduct. He was reprimanded, and he was told he could carry on working as an engineer but only under very close supervision of his peers. The peer reviewers had to report on the reviews every three months in writing to the registrar. And so it goes.
Here's another one. Tough name — Yogeshchandra Ramanlal Nathawad: consent order, court order, 2009. He has entered into an agreement to desist from unprofessional conduct. You know what his sin was? This surprised me a little bit.
He evaded or attempted to evade compliance with the Income Tax Act on income of $440,000 and change for three years. Not bad. An engineer — over a hundred thousand bucks a year. And he didn't pay his goods and services tax. Now, I'll be interested if the forthcoming College of Teachers will be very interested in tax evasion as unprofessional conduct, but it certainly is in the engineering world.
Finally, Amir Shoolestani, who it's not clear had any credentials at all. He was asked to shut down his seven websites advertising his engineering services.
So that's how the engineers do it. Is it embarrassing? You're darn right it is. Would I want to see my name there? Heaven forbid. Do we cover this up? No. We let it all hang out.
If you display unprofessional conduct, you should be put on the Internet as well. I'm assured by the minister that that is in fact the intention of the new Teachers Act. And so it should be.
Now, I think it's one thing to say you're an engineer when you're not, and it's another thing to not pay your GST tax. But to harm children through sexual misconduct, to misbehave when children are involved, to me, is the ultimate sin.
R. Sultan: The member opposite obviously doesn't think this is quite as serious. I think it's darn serious. I think the future of our public school system is on the line here, and I'm delighted to hear that the caucus of the members opposite plans to support the bill, because I certainly do.
Deputy Speaker: The member for Cowichan Valley seeks leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
B. Routley: We have with us in the gallery today Tom Harkins. He's a longstanding member that worked in the forest industry. Tom is from the Nanaimo mill. He's been talking about retirement for a long time, and I think he has finally jumped and made the move to retire.
I want to certainly wish him well on his retirement and to say that Tom is one of those rare people who actually pays attention to politics. He knows who just about everybody in this House is, and he can speak about them and does so on the radio regularly. Please join me in welcoming Tom Harkins.
D. Routley: It's my pleasure to be able to rise in the House and speak to Bill 12. I think there has been an effort from a number of speakers…. I would refer back to the independent member for Delta South, who credited
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the current Education Minister with an effort to bring the various disparate parties to the table to deal with what is a very contentious issue in a very chaotic climate. I think that is a sign that people are doing everything they can to invest hope and faith in the process, and that's a good thing.
What we've unfortunately just heard is a return to the same kind of characterization and the same kind of implication that is made in generalized ways, as citations are made against the worst possible evils done by individuals and a group of people, and using those as an aspersion against the entire group — in fact even the entire representative body to which those professionals, our teachers, subscribe their faith, their union, the B.C. Teachers Federation.
The member who spoke before…. It actually pains me to make these criticisms, because I think of him as a very fine gentleman and I have affection for him. But I'm very dismayed by the fact that we again hear this whitewashing of a whole group of people with the unfortunate deeds of a very, very rare example of bad behaviour.
Not only did he manage to deride their professional organization, the B.C. Teachers Federation, as a union and therefore solely self-interested; he made the point that he belongs to the professional engineers association, which of course, is a representative body of professionals that does the same that the BCTF does. It lobbies for the interests of its members, and we all benefit from that.
They lobby for safer standards, and therefore, we have safer bridges and sewage systems that work. They lobby for better protection of the public interest. The member took some time to read out examples of discipline that were meant to show that the organization does succeed in defending the public interest against wrongdoing.
But there's a difference here, a very key difference, when you consider the means and the process of discipline for misconduct. When we are talking about professional engineers, as the member previous noted, we're talking about the design of a sewage system, a bridge railing. When we're talking about the potential discipline of teachers, we're also talking about children.
To simply read out the name of an engineer who made a mistake in designing a sewage system is entirely different than reading out the name of a teacher implicated, as the member suggested, in a sexual assault allegation, for example, which would potentially identify that child and would obviously result in a criminal investigation. So when the member criticizes the simple suspension of a teacher's credentials during that type of investigation, he's merely citing the fact that that's the way the process works, worked and will work in the future.
It does us no good — none of us — to set up our schools, our classrooms, the place where our children learn, as political battlegrounds, and that, unfortunately, is the history that the current Education Minister must grapple with. The B.C. Liberal history in dealing with the teachers of this province, particularly the formalized relationship between the government and the union representing teachers, is one of an intended and purposeful use of chaos and disruption in order to achieve political goals. What we all are being asked to trust is coming to an end here.
I've heard speakers from our side of the House point out the positive step that the minister has taken in bringing people together in this province around this very difficult issue, and I agree with those speakers. I agree that it's admirable that the current Education Minister has managed to pull people together, and I hope that this will materialize into something very positive.
Our Education critic right now is, as we speak, being briefed by the ministry staff on what this act really means. I'll talk a bit about that later — how hastily legislation that's essential to very sensitive issues in the province is being rammed into this House without proper consultation. That's another issue.
I think it's really important to look at the history of the relationship between the B.C. Liberal government and teachers if we are to understand why it will be a large task for the current minister and this government to regain the trust of the teachers of this province, of the parents of this province, of the students of this province, given their history.
I am the grandson, son, brother, cousin, stepbrother of people who are teachers or involved in early childhood education. My entire family has been very intimately committed to public education. My father was an administrator in a school district, the maintenance and buildings administrator responsible for the capital assets of our local school district.
I have served as a school trustee, and I've worked as a school custodian. I've taught English overseas. I think that I agree with most British Columbians when they express their deep commitment and their deep appreciation to their schools, their education system and particularly their teachers.
You know, when the teachers last had a contract dispute with the government, I read a study of British Columbians that showed that teachers are the second most trusted profession by British Columbians. Now, some of the bad assertions that have been made against the union have, I am sure, impacted people's impressions of that role. But when it comes right down to it, people trust the people who teach their children. People trust them.
Any effort to undermine that trust by using the most rare example of misdeed in order to characterize and paint the entire profession as being bad somehow is a real tragedy and a real loss to this province. That is why I find it so particularly saddening that I heard this last speaker make those very same kinds of assertions. This is very sad.
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What we've seen over the ten years of B.C. Liberal governance in this province has been a very intentional destabilization of the system. When the current Premier was Education Minister in 2002, when she was bringing forward the new funding formula and changes to the teachers' contract without consultation with those teachers, that decision was found to be unconstitutional.
Deputy Speaker: Member, I will draw you back to the content of Bill 12.
D. Routley: Yes, absolutely.
The requirement of trust to have these parties work together under this new form is informed by that past, Madam Speaker. That past is of a Premier who used the words, in speaking to school board administrators, that they must "run silent and run deep" because they anticipate disruption, increased class sizes, decreased classroom conditions and a backlash against that.
Deputy Speaker: Were you unclear, Member — the direction of the Chair?
D. Routley: Yes, thank you. So….
Deputy Speaker: No, no. That was a question. Please contain your remarks to the bill under discussion.
D. Routley: Thank you.
Bill 12 asks us to trust, asks us to invest trust in a new form. Well, in order to engage trust, people must consider record. The record, as they consider Bill 12, is tainted by that past.
Unfortunately, we have seen, in the establishment of the original College of Teachers, a chaotic playing field of political football for the sitting government. That's what we're being asked to forget about with Bill 12.
Bill 12 is another example of a government that behaves as if it were the arsonist at their own fire with a pail of water, saying: "Aren't I the hero?" Now, I think anybody who's standing hoping a fire will be put out, will welcome the pail of water but not the assertion that the commendation should go to those who started the fire.
That's the level of trust. That's the huge leap of trust that Bill 12 asks us to make. And it's quite, I think, reassuring that several speakers here have almost stated their willingness to do that. The fact that the parties have come together to discuss this issue, in good faith, with a government that has shown them in the past, around this issue, so much bad faith, speaks volumes to the commitment of the people, the professionals, in our education system. That is something that we cannot be cavalier or reckless with.
Bill 12 is asking us to re-engage that trust. The previous speaker referred us back to exactly why people have a jaundiced and untrusting view of this government.
As the one who put eight rocks in our shoe shows up to take out four and says, "Aren't I your best friend?" and as we are asked again to forget, with Bill 12, the misdeeds of this government when it comes to our public education system…. I as a former trustee am asked to trust Bill 12. "Don't think of the funding formula. Don't think of the per-student funding assertions that have been made." The issue of trust. Bill 12 asks me to trust. For years we've heard Education ministers say that per student, we've got more money than ever.
Well, this is the prudent, conservative government, isn't it? Isn't it? Wouldn't it understand that there are two sides to every balance sheet — income, costs? As costs rise faster than income, it equals deficit. Yet that deficit was denied for years. That deficit was denied and denied.
I repeatedly asked ministers to manage my daughter's allowance. I asked them if they could increase my daughter's allowance by 100 percent — from $25 a week to $50 a week. Then they could download about $100 worth of my costs onto her, and when she said, "I don't have the money for this," the minister could simply tell her: "You have more money per child than you've ever had before. Don't be silly." This is the level of manipulation that we're asked to forget about with Bill 12.
This is unfortunate, and I don't know if the gymnastic capacity of faith in British Columbians can meet the huge leap. Perhaps. I hope so. I hope so for the benefit of the new minister, but most of all, despite the partisan differences in this House, I hope that for the children of British Columbia and the future of our province.
We have fallen behind where we should be. We are proud of our system. We've been reminded by speaker after speaker how great our system is. It's great in spite of those measures and that bad faith. It's great in spite of it because of the people who work within it and the parents who invest in it.
It's great because teachers have been able to ignore this battlefield that has been created by past decisions and policy pronouncements by a government intent on creating chaos — to shut the door of their classrooms to that and cope with the outcome, which has been larger class sizes, poorer classroom conditions. That's what they're all being asked to put aside in order to invest in this new process.
For the benefit of the new minister, I sincerely hope that they do that, and I sincerely hope that his government is up to the task of changing its course from this intentional and strategic use of chaos within the public school system to achieve political goals. That has to end, and I am hoping right now that it will, with a new step forward, with all parties coming to the table in good faith.
There are concerns. Several speakers have spoken, including myself, about the value of this effort to bring the parties together, but there are deep concerns. I men-
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tioned one of them: the fact that discipline of a teacher, just the publication of that, often implicates the identity or the well-being of a child.
The previous speaker derided the current president of the BCTF as though somehow she were complicit with the worst kinds of deeds that could ever be done by a human being. It is a shameful way to speak of someone.
In fact, we all know, if we are to be reasonable and fair, that when a discipline of a professional person who deals with children is underway, that process has the potential to reoffend against the child, just by such a publication of that process, should there be an identification. We all know how damaging that might be. That's one of the big concerns that this side of the House has with this process as it appears now.
Hopefully, after the critic has his briefing, we'll be better informed as to what that really means. But it's a sign. It's a sign, isn't it? Bill 12, like Bill 3, which dealt with privacy rights…. Bill 3 was forced into this House for second reading at the same time that I, as the critic of privacy protection in this province, was scheduled to stand here and speak to second reading of that bill. Now we have a case where the Education critic, the member for Skeena, is at this very moment in a briefing with ministry officials on this bill. What haste.
Haste makes waste. Haste makes waste financially, as the Premier found out when her unconstitutional measures as Education Minister were punished by the courts. This province now pays for the outcome of that, in the millions. Children for years have paid for the outcomes of those decisions, with reduced standards in their classrooms. Those are things that we may never gain back. That's what haste does. And, again, we see the same kind of haste here.
Haste also makes waste of people's rights, not just in the case of Bill 3 — their rights to privacy — and not, potentially, here in Bill 12 — people's right to a fair hearing or a child's right to protection of their innocent identity in that process; it's also a waste of another essential right: a right to adequate democracy in this province.
How can we have an adequate discussion of legislation in this province when it is sprung on the people — as we are their representatives — without proper consultation; when the essential stakeholders of the province are so uninvolved that they are racing through the pages, in this case 61 pages of very technical, complex changes to an essential service. In the case of Bill 3, complex changes to an essential democratic freedom: privacy?
How can we be expected to have an adequate debate, which protects and balances the public interest, when this is the behaviour of a government that seems to shoot from the hip, that seems not to take serious issues seriously and that seems to be willing to circumvent the democratic process in order to achieve, expediently, its own goals?
That is a very troublesome aspect to Bill 12 — not the content of the bill, but the same tired process to which the B.C. Liberals seem to be addicted. It is unfortunate.
Again, every piece of legislation that I have seen come to this House, every piece of legislation, is really an exercise in trust. The government brings forward rules and regulations for our communities that attempt to guide the way our communities function, and the people are asked to trust that the government's plans will benefit them.
This side of the House is critical, and we're critical for a reason — in order to improve that process, always. But when we see an unwillingness to allow the process to work to the highest advantage, when we see a government that fails to involve those who are most intimately connected to an issue, shuts them out, doesn't make a seat at the table when the decisions are made, that is a prelude to disaster. We've seen it so many, many times, particularly in our schools.
My own community, where I was a school trustee, saw the closure of eight schools in that period, brought on by this Premier's education policies — this Premier who picked fights with the B.C. Teachers Federation, this Premier who repeatedly created chaos and crisis in order to achieve her goals.
I was one of the trustees who had to balance that. I was one of the trustees who had to serve those layoff notices to teachers and to staff every year, had to try and try to cut from every corner in order to bring back the core services to our children. I was a school trustee who saw the outcomes of those policies in a reduction of the number of teacher-librarians, a reduction of the number of specialists who worked in the classrooms with special needs children. I and others like me know all too well how damaging those kinds of decisions can be in the lives of children.
It's not as though it's a situation, as we celebrate the good in Bill 12, as we celebrate the new minister's efforts to bring people together, where we can simply flick the switch and change things. The children who were in grade 1 when the current Premier was Education Minister, most of them, are about to graduate from high school. They have had to cope through their whole student lives with the chaos and disruption that I've described.
Their parents have had to backstop that, have had to rush in to fundraise and give additional support at home that so many families struggle to be able to do in any manner — basic supports that were taken from their classrooms by our Premier when she was Education Minister. Now her government asks those same parents and those same students to trust. It's really a display of the capacity of British Columbians that they can even entertain that request.
I'm encouraged when we speak positively about the fact that the Education Minister has been able to bring
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people together around this contentious issue. I mean, it would hardly be a habit of this side of the House to congratulate the members on the other side. It is because we're encouraged not so much by the Education Minister's efforts but by the fact that people, so well-worn into a cynicism they've earned by seeing such bad faith from the government, are actually willing to sit down at the table.
D. Routley: "What a crock," I think is what I just heard from one of the members on the other side. What a crock to be talking about good will. What a crock to talk about the record of a government that laid such waste to our classroom conditions. We had the Supreme Court condemn their legislation.
Deputy Speaker: Members, debate on second reading should be confined to the principles of the bill itself.
D. Routley: Absolutely. Thank you, Madam Speaker. Thank you very much, because Bill 12 is exactly that, an effort to re-engage the trust of British Columbians.
That kind of comment from a member on the other side, the member for Kamloops–South Thompson — for him to say.…
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members, the debate….
Deputy Speaker: Columbia River–Revelstoke, the debate is through the Chair.
D. Routley: Thank you, Madam Chair. Well yeah, I guess we're reminded with those heckles and this attitude of just why it's such a great leap to engage trust in Bill 12. We're reminded. If it weren't for such unfortunate remarks from the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, those people at the table might go there without the adequate guard to their faith.
I'm sure, I'm hopeful, that they will, in Bill 12, re-engage. They will be looking for good faith from the government. But that kind of commentary, the kinds of aspersions that were made by the last speaker, are something that reminds us in a very unfortunate and dark way of exactly what got us here.
Bill 12 is attempting to clean up a mess that was created by the B.C. Liberals' bad faith in dealing with the B.C. College of Teachers. The very way that the government consistently picked fights with the teachers union is the kind of bad faith we have to ignore in order to adequately invest in supporting Bill 12. I just find it amazing that after all of that, people are actually willing to do so.
I've heard from the speakers on this side of the House, and I'm hearing it from myself right now, congratulating the Education Minister for trying to bring people together. I'm sure, you know, it is not something that we do every day.
But we do it for a reason, and not to make the Education Minister feel better, certainly not to prop up the B.C. Liberal government in a failed public policy but in order for us all to use this vehicle as the means to re-engage in the good faith necessary to protect our children — not just protect them from the kinds of evils that have been characterized by the former speaker but from the ravages in their lives caused by policy gone wrong in a sector so essential to their future and the well-being of this province.
I think that the members on the other side who would heckle reasonable criticism of their past and make the kinds of comments that we've heard are reason, unfortunately, for renewed cynicism. In an attempt to engage faith we look to every positive aspect we can in this legislation, and we will hold the government to account for aspects of the legislation that we find are insufficient or inadequate.
We will work to guard the interests of children in this process, and above all, we will work to re-engage faith in a system that despite that dismal record continues to produce excellence, that despite a lack of support and resources continues to perform at a world-ranked level, the highest ranking.
We are proud. Our teachers are proud. Our parents are rightfully proud. Let's cast aside the kinds of aspersions that we've heard in characterizing those people, and let's move forward as positively as we can.
R. Lee: Madam Speaker, I would like to speak in support of this bill.
This is a very important bill. Since 1996, I believe this is a major change to the Teaching Profession Act. Fifteen years ago, of course, those bills were probably brought in, in good faith, but over the 15 years I think experience has shown that there are some problems there.
With this process, the new act will actually establish new certification and discipline processes for public school as well as independent school teachers. These are long overdue changes, and I thank the Minister of Education for bringing this forward.
In the community there are a lot of concerns, especially when news stories break out in the media that some of the teachers — not many but some teachers, a few — are not doing their part to protect our children in the school system. This will establish trust and also will establish public confidence and transparency in the sys-
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tem so that we know our children in the schools will be getting the best measures, in terms of safety and learning conditions, around.
Education is very important. Education in our society is a cornerstone. In many parts of our society, under sociological or economic challenges, there are children that have a way, a door, to get out of that system, that kind of environment, by taking advanced education, by taking training and by doing well in the education system.
I have been a product of that. Actually, I have experienced different kinds of education systems. My childhood was in Macau and Hong Kong, and so I experienced a more rigid kind of learning system — large classes, up to 50 students in a class — but the teachers were committed to teach. Not from a very wealthy family, I could benefit from those systems, with the teachers inspired to teach.
For each student, they treat them as individuals. The learning process, actually, not only from the blackboard but over their spare time — they invite the students to their home to make up for some of the learning deficiencies.
I think the commitment for teachers to teach is very important in our system. Teachers have a lot of respect in many cultures, and the teachers in our system — most of them, I think 99.99 percent — have our respect, as well, in our teaching environment. But for teachers who need some kind of discipline, I think the process has to be there in order that the system will work, in order to protect the students' safety. So I think this change will actually go a long way in terms of re-establishing the public's trust in our education system.
I notice that we have about 73 percent of our teachers teaching in the public system. The rest, I guess, is 27 percent in the private system. So both the public system and the private, independent system, for the teachers, have a role to play. I am encouraged, actually, hearing the member from Delta South say that this bill is a step in the right direction. I think this is the way the public should view this bill as well.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
I am also somehow encouraged by the opposition member from Nanaimo–North Cowichan. I think he has also mentioned that trust is the gist of this bill and that the value of bringing educational partners together is good. I think that this bill should have most of the public's support and the members' support. I think that this is the right direction to go.
I should mention that this bill, actually, will do a little bit of change to the membership of the body regulating the teachers. I think the 15-member change is really good. It's the right step. It's not a big number, not a small number, but the right representation from the stakeholders of the education system. I notice that there would be different partners in this membership.
I see that the B.C. School Trustees Association is a member, and we all know that trustees are very important. Their association is actually serving the school boards quite well.
We know that there's an election coming up, as well, in November. Every three years they have an election. The trustees association has members from all over the province, from about 60 school boards in our province. At the local level they encourage their communities to participate, and they encourage the teachers to participate. They also encourage professional development, legal counsels and communication among their board members. I think this is a good association.
They represent their trustees in terms of being a voice in the educational system, so it's nice to have them be a partner as a stakeholder in this new board. I would also quote the president of the BCSTA, Connie Denesiuk. I think that from her quote, you will notice the emphasis for them. She says:
"Being a school trustee isn't easy. You're going to need a pretty thick skin, but keep the kids in mind. I remain motivated by school concerts and students who excel in different areas and then go on to represent our district and the province. It's wonderful to see the amazing people who dedicate their lives to student achievement in all areas."
In her quote is that we have to keep the kids in mind. That's what I want to pull out.
For the stakeholders, the students are the focus. So to justify this bill, and the changes, we have to keep this in mind. Don't lose focus. I think that's important.
The second stakeholder, I believe, is the B.C. School Superintendents Association. That association is also there for many members. Many of them have teaching skills. They have been teachers themselves. They are superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors of instruction and other senior executives of B.C.'s 60 districts.
I believe they have a contribution to make. Their role actually is serving their members, as well as encouraging the success of students. From their website I can see that this is their aim. Their aim is that they are the province's educational leaders, uniquely qualified to ensure the success of students and school district operations.
Again, this stakeholder is emphasizing and focusing on the welfare of the students, so I think it is important to include them in this board. This is a very positive step for the government to take.
The third stakeholder is the B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association. Of course, the principals are important in our school system. They promote the success of all students by leading, guiding and coordinating the educational programs. I think they are important stakeholders.
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They carry out their responsibilities and duties according to the requirements of the School Act. So the School Act is their guiding principles, and the regulations provided by the minister will be listened to by the principals and the vice-principals. Their leadership role in terms of the system itself is really very, very important. Their purpose is to enhance student achievement.
Again, student achievements are in their focus. So I think this is a good stakeholder and nice to have in the membership of this BCTC. This is the B.C. Teachers Council, which is going to be established under this bill. I think this is a very good step.
Another stakeholder is the Federation of Independent School Associations. I have mentioned that there are many independent school teachers in our system, 27 percent. This is a good number. The independent schools have been growing over the years, but they're not new in B.C.
The first independent school, when I look at the history, is from 1858, which is actually before our province became a province. This is how many years ago? It's 152 or 153 years ago — the first private schools in B.C. So they have a long history.
They are stakeholders because they have a large number of teachers in the system as well as in education curriculum development. Sometimes they don't exactly follow the B.C. curriculum, but if they follow, they have 50 percent of funding from the province. Over the years the funding formula has been working well. Some schools are getting only 10 percent. Some are getting 33 percent, I believe. Those are actually helping our education system to provide more choices in the system so that if students are more suitable to be taught and to learn in that kind of system, that's the way for them to learn.
Also, over the years I have been helping, actually, to implement some of the systems to accommodate the students with disabilities. In 2006 our government changed the system so that students with disabilities are getting some funding help in the independent school system.
I've been listening to the opinions in my school district. St. Helen's School has had some of their opinions accepted in our ministries, and some of the changes will make it better for those students who are challenged physically and mentally.
So I think the independent school system has a role to play in our school system and in being a member at the table to regulate, to provide guidance for regulation, conduct and to set education standards. I think this is really appropriate.
I also would like to mention about another stakeholder, which is the Association of B.C. Deans of Education. Actually, there are not many deans in our school system. It's the university system we are talking about. The mission of the association is to promote collaboration and cooperation between B.C.'s nine faculties of education. Who are those faculties? Those faculties are, of course, in the universities as well as…. Those members have a stake in this education system because they are responsible for training teachers.
The faculties of education in our higher education system, in our universities, our advanced education system, support lifelong learning as well. They have a few objectives to provide and to serve in our system. For example, they provide innovative, resourceful, responsive and inclusive undergraduate programs and prepare the teachers and prepare the goals for teaching and learning in our system. I think that building this kind of partnership for our stakeholders would be welcomed by the public.
I also would like to say that for this kind of system to work, the teachers are very important. The education they receive in universities…. For some sectors especially…. I recently heard at the refugees conference for youth — I attended one recently, about a week ago — the idea that sometimes the teachers don't understand the culture and where the students are actually coming from. So some of that training in the advanced education system for teachers, I think, is important for them to be effective in the classroom so that the students have the proper attention. I think that's important as well.
The next stakeholders I would like to mention is the First Nations Education Steering Committee. This committee actually was formed in May 1992, so that's about 20 years ago now. This committee has the mandate to facilitate discussions about education matters affecting First Nations in B.C. by disseminating information and soliciting input from First Nations. This is a First Nations group just getting people together to discuss what's affecting First Nations students' education. However, over the years they have been taking up quite a few tasks.
For example, the First Nations language subcommittees and the post-secondary subcommittees are doing a good job in support. Also, there's the First Nations Schools Association, as well as the Indian studies support program, the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association. They are supporting organizations, those First Nations associations.
I had the fortune of being a member some time ago on the Education Committee. We went around the province to listen to communities about ideas on adult education, ESL education and continuing education — a good opportunity for me at that time to go into the First Nations territories. The Haida Gwaii now has been…. It's mentioned that aboriginal education needs support. Also, they need skills training. They need the models in the community for them to learn from. Teachers from the aboriginal community provide a special role, not only in terms of teaching the material, but they are also models in a community for the students to follow.
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I have also the opportunity to attend many activities with the Native Education Centre around Main and 5th Avenue. This institute is not in my riding, but I got invited because of my interest in aboriginal education. Every year they welcome students to come to the centre, and they have to go through a ceremony. For example, you go into the door, then you turn around 360 degrees, and you throw away all the burdens. Then you go into the institute, and you have a calm heart and mind to learn. So you clear all those burdens, and then you're going into a learning environment. I think those kinds of ceremonies are actually very refreshing and very educational.
They also provide opportunity. For example, the BladeRunners — those are skills-training programs in cooperation with our skills-training agency as well as community organizations. They provide valuable contributions to our education system. With the skills shortage in our economy projected in the next ten to 15 years, I think that our economic growth under, of course, the new jobs plan will be even more in terms of the skilled trades.
In the future students from the aboriginal community, I think, will have a special opportunity and will play a special role in our workforce. The more opportunity for them to be successful in the educational system, the better. I think this is the way that we should be going.
With committee members like a representative from the First Nations Education Steering Committee, it's very fitting and very important as a member, as a stakeholder in this newly formed committee, if this bill is passed. I think this is very encouraging.
The last organization I want to talk about is the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils. Everybody knows that this is a very important council, representing the voice of the parents from our districts and from our schools.
I had the fortune of being a representative of the district advisory council many years ago — I believe it was about 15 years ago — for a few years, since my eldest child went to school. The first year I became a member of the advisory council in the school, and then I was asked to go to the district parent advisory council. So I had been going to that council for a few years. I listened to the concerns of other parents. Also, in our district it's very special. The school trustees were also being invited to attend. So the school trustees also had a very good time listening to the concerns of the parents, and they worked together. I think it was very productive.
The B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils also has a good mandate. This mandate is to advance public school education and the well-being of children in our province, and also to carry out activities to promote and enhance meaningful parent participation in an advisory role in the school district and also at the provincial level.
Keep in mind that their focus is also on children. By children, I mean students in our system. So I believe this is a very important stakeholder in our newly formed council — operated as a council in this bill — that is called the B.C. Teachers Council.
I would like to spend a few minutes. I don't know how much time I have, but I think it's important to also mention about the disciplinary aspect of this bill. This bill will create a committee, a panel of committees, to consider disciplinary action if it's necessary. I think this is a way to see that the teacher in question has a fair hearing in the system.
The panel members would be two educational partners and one BCTF member. I think this is the right composition. With independent panelists on this committee, I believe the public trust question will be addressed by this kind of composition. The role is, of course, to conduct disciplinary hearings and also certification appeals.
I am also encouraged to see that the certification process will be managed and also administered by the ministry, just like other provinces. I believe right now, with these changes, only Ontario will be the exception. So I think this is the national standard, if I can say. The commissioner appointed by this process would be listening to the complaints, receiving reports and also conducting investigations.
This is the place to go if disciplinary actions are being considered. It also would be overseeing the resolution process, as well as the appeals. I think this is a good change. Of course, this will, as mentioned, restore some of the public concerns and will restore some of the public's confidence in the system.
The changes, I believe, are also keeping some of the power structures, I would say, in terms of the teachers, who will still have a majority in this B.C. Teachers Council for the profession. They have maintained some control on how the regulation for those teaching standards could be. The role of this new council will approve the teachers' education programs for certification purposes.
I think that's a way for the teachers to have their input in the certification process and what kinds of standards they should have. Those are important steps as well. I think this is a good change, and this will allow changes set by the council as well.
Right now the standards would be reviewed by the Ministry of Education, and the minister of the day would decide if those standards would be appropriate to be changed. I think this is the right thing to do. On the whole, these are very good changes, and I would like to give my full support for this change. I thank the minister for his courage as well as for his skill in terms of getting all the partners around one table to have their input. I think that it's important because open government and engagement is our aim.
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To get educational stakeholders or partners together to talk about their concerns and, in the final structure, to get their continuous input into the system and have all the voices heard in the future to decide our education regulations — I think this is a great achievement. I congratulate the minister for bringing this forward.
C. James: I rise to speak to Bill 12, a critical bill. I want to take a little bit of time to talk about the context that this bill comes forward in — a critical bill dealing with standards, dealing with discipline and dealing with professional conduct of teachers. The reason this bill is so critical is because, of course, it touches on one of the most important parts of our society, our education system — a critical part of our society when it comes to our economy, when it comes to our communities, when it comes to our citizens. What could be more important than our education system in building for the future?
Now, you would think with this bill, because the bill is coming forward on such an important issue like education, that the government would recognize how important it was to bring this bill in, in a way that was respectful of all parties. I think it's an understatement to say that the government hasn't had the best relationship with teachers over the years — all of their own doing, I might say.
Because of that, again, you would think that the government would be very careful about something so important as dealing with discipline and conduct in Bill 12 — that they would be cautious about how they brought this bill in.
Instead, what we see is just the opposite. I think, again, the way this bill was brought in really shows that the Liberals have a long way to go in building relationships with stakeholders and truly understanding what it is to build a partnership that is so critical in something like Bill 12.
We saw this bill come in yesterday, be introduced yesterday, and then we saw the debate start this morning. On something so important to our society, you would think that the government would have given some time for this to be discussed. You would think that the government would have given an opportunity for feedback, for people to see the bill to be able to give feedback. Instead, that didn't happen.
Now, I've spent some time around education, as people know — 11 years as a school trustee sitting around those tables, working with all of the partners — and I recognize that some of these discussions are tough discussions. We don't always come to agreement. We don't always bring everything to the table and everybody leaves the room feeling great that their view was taken. But one of the things I learned that is so important in the education system is respect — respect for all of the partner groups.
The previous MLA to me talked a lot about the partner groups in education, talked about the parents and the school boards, talked about the principals and the administrators, support staff. I'd add one other partner group, which is students. Those partner groups are critical to making an education system work, and the most important part in making that work is the issue of respect.
I'm sad to say that's not what we've seen in the last ten years under the B.C. Liberals. We haven't seen respect. It makes it even more important, when it comes to Bill 12, that the government makes sure there are opportunities for a thorough discussion and feedback on this bill.
This covers critical pieces of our education system. Standards for teacher education, disciplinary and professional conduct are all parts of Bill 12. Well, we all know that if you look at a quality education system, what's key to quality education, Mr. Speaker? Key to quality education are teachers, the person in front of the classroom. I don't think there's anyone in this Legislature who doesn't have that memory of a teacher who made that difference in their life as they grew up, as they went through school.
I was very fortunate. I grew up in a household with a mom as a teacher, which meant that August was always taken up heading to the school, putting up the things that you needed to in the classroom, spending time getting ready for the school year. September still has that feel to me — about the start of school and those memories from that time period.
A teacher's job is an incredibly difficult, challenging and rewarding job. Bill 12 speaks to the role of teachers, speaks to the professionalism of teachers. Over the years teachers' jobs have been made more complex. The school really has become the centre for everything in our society.
Think of the roles that we expect schools and teachers to take on. We don't simply expect a teacher to be in a classroom and educate children. We also expect them to take on fitness. We expect them to take on healthy living. We expect them to take on, often, nutrition and clothing and challenges for students in our schools, because as we know, those are things that have to be addressed for students to be able to learn in the classroom. Those are things that are critical, and they're roles that teachers take on because they know that to do a good job in their classroom they have to address those things.
Have they seen back respect for that role? Have they seen back resources to help them with that role? They haven't, which again, to come back to Bill 12, makes it all the more difficult to bring in major change — if you haven't been providing the respect to teachers and other partners in the education system over the years.
When I take a look at the changes that are here in Bill 12, I want to hear from those stakeholders in our province. I want to show that respect to the people in my community.
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I want to hear from the teacher in the classroom or the principal who has a responsibility in Bill 12 when it comes to teacher discipline and teacher conduct. I want to hear from the support staff. I want to hear from the parents whose kids are in the classrooms and who have also raised issues on this piece of legislation.
Well, for a piece of legislation to be introduced yesterday and come up for debate today makes it very difficult for people to be able to give specific feedback on a bill that's come forward. I would think that MLAs on both sides of this Legislature would see the importance of making sure that we had that conversation, of making sure that we had an opportunity to be able to hear from everyone around these issues.
I've sat in negotiations. I heard the minister, when he brought in this piece of legislation, talk about the challenges and the partners who came together to be able to bring this legislation forward, and there isn't always agreement on all of the pieces. There are major changes that have to be worked through. I think there is certainly a step in a positive direction in Bill 12, in many of these pieces around the college, around looking at discipline, around moving the standards piece out.
I think those are positive steps that, I certainly have heard over the years from teachers and others, need to occur, that we need to be looking at those changes. But again, it becomes an uphill battle when you don't build the relationship of respect and then bring forward these kinds of changes. I think that's a very difficult thing that the government is facing right now — an uphill battle for the minister to try and change what we've seen over the last number of years under this government with teachers.
Basic respect means more than simply sitting down and talking. You also have to show respect. I can tell you that all of the partners in the education system right now would say that to show respect to the partners would mean putting the resources in that are needed in our education system. But that would be a first step — the recognition that the Liberals over the years have downloaded costs onto school boards, which has meant more difficult times in classrooms for teachers, for support staff, for principals and, most importantly, for students.
When we talk about the downloading of resources, the downloading of costs, which means cuts in resources, what that ultimately means is students in larger classes, students with special needs who aren't able to get the supports they need. Those are the teachers who are feeling that they've had a lack of respect from this government for the last ten years, who feel that education hasn't been a top priority, that education hasn't been on the top of the list.
I think we saw that again when we saw the jobs agenda brought forward without a mention of education as one of the critical keys to building a strong economy. Bill 12 comes in, in the context of that, and that can't be forgotten.
Teachers are looking for support because the job they do in the classroom is one of the most critical jobs we have. They're looking for support because if a child loses that year, they've lost that year. They don't get it back. The teacher goes back into the classroom the next year, and the student is already behind. That is what's at stake here in the education system. That's the critical piece in the education system that we all have to look at.
Some of the specifics in Bill 12 that I know we'll get to as we get into committee stage, but that I just want to talk about. The first one is around standards and establishing teacher education program approval standards, as it mentions in Bill 12.
It talks about, in this bill, the fact that the council will cooperate with the faculty of teacher education in the design and evaluation of teacher education programs. That's a broad area, and I would have a number of questions as we get further along on this bill. I'll have a number of questions around who gets involved in those discussions.
What happens if there are disagreements around what those standards should look like between the board and the universities and the ministry? Who makes the determination? Who holds the final decision-making? Again, teacher education programs, as mentioned in Bill 12, are critical to our quality education system.
We need to make sure that teachers — and teachers would agree on this — get the best education they can as they come into the classrooms, that they get the best opportunity for professional development after they're in the classrooms, because the world of education is changing, just as the world around us is.
What happens in the classroom today is so different than what happened in the classroom 20 years ago. We're not in the same education system, whether it's technology or whether it's assessment. Think of all the kinds of things that teachers now are faced with in a classroom that they weren't faced with, probably, when they came out of education training back in their education days.
Bill 12 talks a lot about education and teacher education programs. It's a piece that…. Although we'll spend lots of time on the discipline end, as we should, in this bill, I would also hope that we don't forget the teacher education portion of this legislation, because it really does make a huge difference to making sure teachers are successful and, therefore, making sure that students are successful.
There's a piece in this bill, as well, that talks about TILMA. Now, we'll all remember discussions happened around TILMA in this Legislature. Certainly, this side of the House raised all kinds of concerns that TILMA had the possibility of lowering standards. As people may know, TILMA means that there has to be commonalities between the western provinces.
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Well, this legislation also talks about the ability for the minister, because of TILMA, to make changes to standards that come forward. So you may have the faculties of education in agreement, you may have the new board that's put in place in Bill 12 in agreement, and then the minister could come in and say: "No. In fact, we have a different standard in Alberta. Even though you've come to agreement on this, we're going to get rid of it because it doesn't fit with TILMA." That's another piece, I think, that we really have to pay attention to, because we want the highest standards possible right here in British Columbia.
We want to make sure we provide our teachers with the best opportunities we can, whether you're talking about education in a rural community or whether you're talking about education in an urban setting — providing support to our teachers. It's not just something that's needed for teachers; that's what's needed for students and for our education system and, therefore, as I said earlier, the importance for our society.
Building a strong education system is building a strong society, is building a strong economy, and we need to make sure that we put all the resources possible into addressing that. Bill 12 is a step. I want to say thank you, as well, to the minister for bringing forward something at a very difficult time, for being able to have these conversations with the partner groups on a very difficult issue that's been on the table for a very long period of time.
The College of Teachers and issues around the College of Teachers have come forward not simply from governments but have come forward from teachers themselves and have come forward from other partner groups. This is not a brand-new issue that has arisen. This is something that has been in place for a very long period of time.
So I think the minister does deserve thanks for taking the time to be able to bring forward a major change like this, which certainly isn't going to make everyone happy. As I said earlier, having sat around negotiations on school board, I know that you're not going to please everyone when you bring forward something. But I think it has taken a step in being able to address some of the challenges that were there.
I think the other piece that fits with this will be the implementation and what happens afterwards. As this bill is brought in and as we make changes, people are going to be watching, just as I mentioned at the start of my remarks, to see what the attitude of government is when it comes to the partners in the education system. Is the government serious about rebuilding that trust with teachers? The implementation of Bill 12 is really going to be where the rubber hits the road, as they say.
It's easy to bring in a piece — well, easy…. It's challenging, but the easier part is bringing in the legislation. The tougher part is making it work afterwards — making sure that all the partners are included, that the implementation is done well and that, ultimately, the public education system is supported.
I certainly would love to see any government put forward education as one of their key priorities, because it truly is one of the most important investments that we can make, both for the present and for the future.
I think it's going to take some work for this government to try and address what we've seen over the last ten years, whether it's court cases where the Supreme Court told this government that what they did was wrong — we're still in the process of trying to fix that — or whether it's the downloading of costs that have meant schools that have libraries with no teacher-librarian; special needs students who aren't able to get the support they need; learning-assistance students who are struggling in classrooms; student assistants who have so many kids to be able to try and provide support for that they're frustrated at the end of the day; and teachers, most importantly, who are not able to provide the support that they know every child in that classroom needs.
We hear those stories from parents as well. We hear parents raising the concerns about what's going in their schools. Parents have faced downloading of costs as well. It's not simply the teachers in the classroom that have been facing that. We've also seen that happen with parents.
Parents used to fundraise for extras in our schools. Now what we're seeing is parents fundraising for basics. They're fundraising for playgrounds, for computers, for library books — basic tools that every school should have and every student should have. So the implementation of Bill 12 is not going to be successful, in my view, unless some of that respect is built into the entire education system — not simply this one piece of legislation, but building back that respect that is so critical to be able to build a strong, strong education system for every child.
So I hope that the minister is serious. I hope that he's serious about making sure that that happens, because I can certainly say to the minister that we on this side and parents and school boards and administrators and, most importantly, students will be watching very carefully to see whether this piece of legislation is a start to a shift to see education supported by everyone in this province. As I started with, what could be more important than investing in the present and future of our society?
I look forward to the further discussion around Bill 12. I look forward to the detailed debate around the pieces that need answers to, and I look forward to supporting what I hope will be a shift around this government's attitude in education.
D. Hayer: I, also, would like to support Bill 12, the Teachers Act. Just like many of the other members have
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spoken about this bill, on both sides…. I think that generally they both support it. I think the minister has done a very good job with this bill. This is a bill that was needed. It was required for a long time.
All people know that the past bill was not working. This bill, the new act, repeals the Teaching Profession Act, dissolves the B.C. College of Teachers and replaces it with the 15-member British Columbia Teachers Council that represents all members of the educational community.
I personally have four children that have gone through kindergarten to grade 12 through the public school, and they are all in post-secondary universities now. One of them is a paramedic.
I can tell you from personal experience that teachers are doing, generally, a great job in our province. We all have a lot of respect for the teachers. I have many family members who are teachers, and my daughter is studying to be a teacher.
I think teachers are one of the most respected professions, but the general public and the parents want to make sure that when we have bills and we have acts and we have a college of the teachers and we have rules and laws, they are there to represent and protect our children. Many people have agreed that the past act was not proper — the one we're trying to change with this bill — and it was not really protecting the kids. This bill will protect the kids.
At the end of the day, the parents, the teachers, the government and society want to make sure that kids are put first. We have great teachers in here. I think that, generally, when I listen to most of the members from both sides, they will say that this is a good act, that it's a fair act, because this will have a reflection and representation from both sides, and it will have a system in there — when you look at the disciplinary council — where one side cannot decide, especially if they're in conflict.
Sometimes in the past what has happened…. There were even many stories in the papers since this bill was introduced yesterday which talked about how the system was broken. We have seen many reports that talked about how the old act was broken.
I want to say thank you to the minister for introducing a good bill — as a matter of fact, a great bill. The last time we tried to change it, it didn't work that good. You know, I've been here for ten years, and I have seen it try to make changes. A good thing in government is that if it doesn't work the first time, you can always go back and fix it.
I think that this is a bill that we should all support. I have my colleague from Merritt. He's talked about how sometimes ten years is too long. He was there for ten years, and they sort of sent him out for a little while, and then he came back. You know, it's good to have people from different walks of life, different backgrounds, represented in here — and different political parties. But at the end of the day our goal is the same: to have the best province, the best education system, the best economy here.
I want to say that when I talked to the teachers, the principals and the vice-principals, and the universities, they all agreed we need an act that is reflected by all of them and that it should have a government say in there, that the government should be there. When any teacher — you know, in every profession there are some bad apples, every profession and any type of job — does something wrong, they want to have assurance that that person can never teach again.
In the past, when you take a look at it…. There have been many stories in the papers, including this morning in the newspaper, that talked about how some of the teachers who were charged with many different things were still allowed to teach. It was a shame. People used to say: "How could your government not fix that? Why is it taking so long to fix it?" So I want to say, on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of all those parents who have talked to me and to the minister, thank you for fixing it, because this will go a long way.
Many of us will take a long time to talk in here because our personal political support is given by certain groups of people, but at the end of the day both sides have MLAs who have been teachers in the past, and both sides have colleagues who are teachers who support them. I can tell you myself that ever since I was elected in 2001, I have many teachers who helped me, who supported me in the 2001 election, in 2005 and 2009, and when they have any concerns, I go listen to them.
When they have any concerns, I bring them to the Minister of Education. When they have any concerns, I bring it to my caucus. If they have any concerns, I bring it to our Premier. I can tell you that that is a job of the MLAs — to bring the teachers' concern there. They have all said: "We don't want to get politics involved when you're trying to fix this legislation. It should be fair legislation." I think you will see that almost all the teachers will say this is fair legislation, and I think all the parents will say, almost all of them, that this is fair legislation.
Some have said that it hasn't gone far enough. I wanted to say that the minister wanted to make sure this is fair. When both sides are complaining a little bit, and you're in the middle, you've probably got the right balance. It's not the perfect legislation, but it is the best legislation that can probably be supported by both sides.
I think what I hear from both sides of the House is that when we go to voting on the second reading, both sides are going to support it. When they speak about it, sometimes they have personal views. It's good to see that in this House we can bring our personal views, and we can let the public know how we have different views. But at the end of the day the bill is about the education of our children — to have the best education — and the safety of our children.
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Who can accomplish that? I think we're all winners. BCTF will be winners, the teachers will be winners, the society will be winners, universities and colleges will be winners, and the parents will be winners.
Again, in closing, I just want to say that I support this bill, and I know that my colleagues from both sides will support the bill regardless of how much time it takes for what they say about it. But I think we will see on second reading that we will get unanimous support for this. I'll be surprised if we don't get a unanimous vote on this.
I will give this time to the members from the opposition to make their remarks. I'm sure that they will also say what a great thing this bill is, just like the past leader of the NDP, who was a school trustee before, has made her remarks. She appreciates this bill, and she's thanked the minister for bringing this forward.
I want to say thank you very much for keeping the politics out of it and just getting to the meat of the bill.
R. Austin: It's a privilege to rise and speak to Bill 12, the Teachers Act. I am the designated speaker, and so we'll be here for two hours of exciting debate on this.
R. Austin: The member from Kamloops south is going to miss the best part as he rushes to the ferry, hon. Speaker.
I'd like to begin by just making some comments — I think it's important to put these comments on the public record — in regards to the process around which this place works. I'm speaking specifically about Bill 12. We've heard comments from both sides of the House today, and there have been many people from this side of the House who have spoken about this. But here's what I have to say about it.
Bills are introduced into this Legislature at the behest of the government, and the opposition is not privy to when those bills are going to come in and, of course, is not privy to their content, although in this case somehow quite a bit of the content was available in the media prior to it, which I guess was part of the sort of building the broad consultative atmosphere needed for this kind of transformative change.
My point is this. Some bills are very small and can be read in a matter of minutes, and some bills are long and hefty and bring in transformative change and require more thought and a lot of work.
I just want to say this. If we are going to, as legislators, do our job diligently as opposition, then I think we need to be respectful to one another and expect to be given sufficient time to actually study a large bill like this before getting up and speaking to it.
I want to say that I went and made some arguments today with the minister, and frankly, I was able to get a full briefing, clause by clause, from some of his staff. I would hope that this kind of thing takes place on a regular basis so that we can do our jobs as opposition members and fulfil our functions properly.
I'm going to say upfront, as I did outside in the hall yesterday, that I think this bill is in large measure a good move forward, and it will be getting the support of this side of the House. I mentioned the words "transformative change," and that certainly is what this is.
I am not really aware of all of the history of the College of Teachers — fortunately, I suspect. I haven't been in this place for more than seven years, and I didn't follow all the ins and outs over the last 25 years that partook in the teachers college.
But my impression as a non-political observer before I entered public life was that it wasn't working that well; that there was a source of conflict, either real or perceived by the public; that the college was unable, in many instances, to separate its duties to look after the public interest and also to be fair to the profession that it was there to take care of and had a statutory obligation to manage. I don't know whether all of those criticisms are fair or not. Nevertheless, that was the public impression.
So what the government is intending to do with Bill 12 is dissolve the college as it stands and essentially bring many functions of it back into the government so that it will be managing the processes of running the old college in what is now going to be called a council.
I've looked at other parts of Canada, and this seems to be the norm — that provinces right across Canada actually license the teachers in that province. In that sense, I suppose British Columbia is catching up with what's taking place in other provinces.
This bill, of course, takes care of essentially three things. It takes care of the disciplinary function of the teaching profession, it takes care of the certification of teachers, and of course, it takes care of setting standards. Teachers are expected to have best practices and to be able to improve their standards.
But the most important thing from the public's perspective is the notion of children's safety. Who can argue with that? What this clearly does is ensure a process where our children's public safety is put at the top of the agenda.
It's hard to imagine what it's like to have a job where every day one has to be in charge of children, to have the trust of parents to look after those children in a respectful way and to maintain the proper boundaries no matter what the circumstances.
For a number of years I was a foster parent in this province and for ten years parented other people's children. In some respects, it's kind of similar to what we do with our teachers. We put our trust in our teachers. We say to them: "Our kids are going to be with you for several hours each and every day, and we want and expect
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that those children are going to be safe." For the most part, obviously, they are always safe. Teachers spend an awful lot of time ensuring their safety.
We heard one of my colleagues, who was a longtime teacher and later a principal, this morning describe the kind of time and attention that teachers pay on an everyday basis to ensure the safety of the children that are in their care. He mentioned what it's like to take children off the school site and all that's involved in terms of getting the parents' permission and in understanding that you may have one adult or two adults in charge of a large group of children who are going somewhere for a visit.
For those of us who are parents, most of us are responsible for one or two kids at a time, perhaps a little bit more if we have a large family. But it's another thing to be in charge of 30 kids or 24 kids, to pay attention and to ensure that at all times those children are safe.
Those of us who are parents are also well aware of the challenges that children pose to us as adults as they get older. We're all human beings, and we can all have our buttons pressed at certain times in our lives. The job and the role and the duty of a teacher is to suppress a lot of those instincts. As parents, sometimes one would get mad and say things that are inappropriate.
[D. Black in the chair.]
In a public school system — in any school system, whether it be a public school system or a private school system — a teacher has to display that level of professionalism that allows them to be the adult at all times and to recognize that they have the trust of taking care of somebody else's child and that they have to maintain a sense of responsibility and decorum under all circumstances. Sometimes that's probably challenging, but that's what they have to do each and every day.
I think it's fair to say that not just the vast majority of teachers do that; almost all, to the almost infinite percent, do that. But there are occasions when things go awry. After all, we're talking about a population here of 45,000 to 50,000 people. If you took any population — a city, a town — of 45,000 to 50,000 people, there are going to be some who do not fulfil their responsibilities properly.
What this bill attempts to do is set up a process that allows a disciplining process to take place that has the input of the profession as well as the input of outsiders.
It's important here to make a statement about one of the big changes of this legislation. That is this. There has been some criticism in the media that this bill plays too much interest into that of the teaching profession.
I would simply say this. We'll go into this in greater detail so that the minister can explain this, but my reading of this bill is that the discipline process will be taking nine members from a council of 15, four of whom will be members of the teaching profession and five of whom will not be members of the teaching profession.
Should that situation warrant going all the way up to serious disciplining, at that point a smaller panel of three people, of whom only one can be a member of the teaching profession, would be on that panel.
Clearly, there is an attempt here to ensure that the teaching profession is seen to have input but not to dominate. I think that's a clear thing that we must acknowledge in this House, and it's a judgment that I think most British Columbians would want to see.
If we were to go to our doctor or to our dentist or to a lawyer and be treated in an unprofessional way, we would not want to see that it was entirely lawyers or doctors who had to go and look into that case and then make a decision as to whether it bore merit and, if it did bear merit, as to what the discipline would be. That's a very clear instance of the fact that this allows the profession to be a part of this decision but will not be dominating it.
The other part of this, of course, is that while we want to make sure that any teacher who has a complaint made against them is taken seriously, we also want to ensure that the process for the teaching profession is a fair one.
We don't want to have a system in this province whereby there are spurious allegations made against teachers and those are then found to be innocent people and to have their reputations in any way tarnished or in fact destroyed. I mean, we have to be honest about how serious this is for a professional person. If any one of us in this chamber had jobs where we dealt with children and we were accused of any sexual malfeasance, the mere fact that that went public would be enough to destroy one's career.
What we need to ensure in this bill is that any allegations are looked into in a process that is done in-house, carefully, and that the only time it becomes public…. For a teacher's name to be made public…. By that time the allegation is deemed to be so serious that it has a huge chance of being indicted or, in the case of here, some serious disciplinary action taken. That's only fair. You can't have a profession that is sitting there worrying about any kind of allegation that would unfairly destroy their career.
This is something that I had to deal with when I was a foster parent. There used to be training as foster parents to ensure that parents understood that when you are raising somebody else's child — in the case of teachers, they are spending time all day with other people's children — you knew and protected yourself to not even be in situations where spurious allegations could be made.
I want to state clearly on the record that it's important — and it seems to be the case here — that we are not going to see the teaching profession dominate the disciplinary process.
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Now, there are lots of things I could talk about here. If an allegation is so serious that it is going to be taken to a three-person panel, at that point a teacher would be suspended. Again, I think if you were a member of the public, sitting here looking at this legislation, you would deem that to be right under the circumstances.
Unfortunately, we have seen many instances, not just in Canada but around the world, of continual misbehaviour by certain professionals, not just in the teaching profession but in all kinds of professions, where there has been a pattern of complaints and people have been able to go from one place to another, whether it be one province to another or one job to another, and continue to behave in a completely unprofessional manner. This bill here would suspend somebody temporarily while that process was taking place, and I think that's appropriate.
I also think that one of the things that the public really worry about is the notion that if you move from one province to another…. And we've seen this very recently, with disciplinary allegations that happened within the scouting movement here in Canada, where there wasn't openness and transparency and a scouting leader was able to mistreat children and forever change their lives over a number of years.
What this bill attempts to do here is to ensure that there will be a registry that all teachers who have licences would be participating in, and if there are any disciplinary allegations that have been founded and proven, that would also be there. So when somebody here is going to hire a new teacher, they would be able to have access to a registry of all people who are licensed — not the disciplinary side; this is just for people who are working in the school system — to be able to do reference checks on teachers who are coming in from out of province or within province to get a job.
I think that's important, because by maintaining that database and allowing prospective employers, school districts, to have access to a database, it enables them to see what the history of that teacher is; to see in how many school districts they have worked; to see whether their employment record is consistent; and to wonder why, if there is anything that comes up that looks suspicious.
For example, if a teacher took a leave for a few years and then came back, the person who was doing the hiring would be able to then access a disciplinary registry and say: "Okay. Well, why did this person take a leave?" It may be because the person took a leave to go and have some children and then came back into the school system. All well and good.
But you may also spot someone who is applying for a job and puts on their resumé two or three recent jobs but misses one. This registry would then allow the employer to go and find questions as to why that particular job in that particular school district wasn't part of their resumé.
That again is an important safeguard to ensure that school districts, potential employers, have access to information that's going to create another level of safety in terms of who they're hiring.
This whole council is going to be coming into government, as I mentioned, and one of the things that I think is important to note is that the actual functioning of it, the actual people who work on a daily basis to make it run, will now all become civil servants of British Columbia.
That means they will be under the jurisdiction and the guidance of civil servants, like the rest of the people who work in the civil service, and there's going to be a strong connection between what's taking place in this council and the ministry itself.
As we know, with the old college, there was a registrar who essentially ran that college. Under this new model, there will not be a registrar. There will be a commissioner, who will be appointed by the minister, and that person will be there to essentially manage the running of this new council. There are going to be very clear guidelines as to what they do, and there is going to be a very clear reporting process back and forth to the minister, as well as a public reporting process.
One of the other attempts that this bill tries to make is to make the entire system more open, more transparent. So part of the role of the commissioner will be to provide an annual report, to be reporting back and forth to the minister on an ongoing basis as to whether this thing is functioning properly. When you consider the history of the college, that's probably a good thing, because the college had all kinds of problems.
We heard the previous speaker there referring to the challenges that the college had in the past and to the former Minister of Education, who is now the Premier of this province. Her solution at that time, I guess through sheer frustration, was to blow up the entire college at that time. I think that was 2002, maybe 2003. I'll allow other people to correct me on those dates.
The solution at that time was to blow up the entire college and for the government to appoint everybody to the College of Teachers. Now, why was that wrong, and why is this a better process? Well, any profession that wants to manage itself — the most important thing is to put the public interest first. But secondly, it's also there to serve the interests of the profession that it purports to be supervising.
You cannot have any professional body that wants to manage itself set standards without there being a huge amount of input from that body itself. You couldn't imagine the dental college being run without dentists. You couldn't imagine the medical college of physicians being managed without the input of physicians.
When the current Premier dissolved the old college and appointed people, needless to say, it didn't work for
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lots of reasons. And this bill, as the previous speaker said, is an attempt to fix that mistake that happened in 2002-2003 by creating a system that has had, clearly, lots and lots of input from the teaching profession, but not just input into how this is being set up.
It has also got lots of input from the teaching profession in terms of the processes by which this new council is going to operate, always mindful of the fact that in certain instances, in certain parts of it — specifically disciplining, not necessarily the setting of the standards or the certification — it's going to be dominated by non-teachers, and in other parts the teachers will have a huge say.
For example, in terms of setting standards for certification, I think it's fair to say that when it comes to setting standards, those who work in a profession are best able to figure out how to raise the standards of that profession. After all, you can't expect the minister to be laying down the standards of a teaching profession. I know he did teach for a while, but it has been a long time. So one can't expect the Minister of Education to be coming there and pontificating as to what he thinks the standards of teachers need to be and how they can be upgraded.
This bill allows for the teaching professionals themselves to be having those discussions as to how they can raise the standards. What are the appropriate standards, and where can they improve? It allows the minister to say no to a suggestion — okay? — but not to actually put forward his own suggestions as to how standards should be raised.
I think that is probably the right approach, because as I've said, in every profession you want to have those who work on a daily basis figuring out the complexities as to how they can make improvements to their profession. I think that that is the only way to go.
I would like to comment for a second around laypeople. If you consider that this council is going to be made up of, potentially, eight teachers and seven who are going to be selected from a variety of stakeholders, we could end up with maybe no laypeople being on this. Who knows? It depends on how the elections take place and who is appointed.
I would comment briefly around a situation that I came across. I have a person who lives in my constituency, who I met one day at the airport. He was on his way down to a meeting of the dental college. Now, this person happens to have nothing to do with dentistry, other than the fact that he probably goes to a dentist every six months, like most of us.
I said to him: "What have you got to do with dentistry? Why are you going to attend a meeting of the dental college?" He said: "Well, one of the things the dental college does is ensure that it has laypeople, people who are not involved in the profession at all, there to give different eyes and ears to a situation."
We'll have this debate more in committee stage, but I think it's very important to think about that, because if everybody in this council has a background solely in education, no matter what different field they came from, at the end of the day you've still got people who have spent their entire lives within a sort of framework of the education system.
They may have been a teacher. They may have been a university lecturer who teaches teaching. They may have been a school trustee who spends a lot of their time discussing the education system. They may be a member of the First Nations Education Steering Committee — again, who spends their entire life thinking about the education system.
There's an argument to be made, when you have a body that's entirely made up of people who spend their entire lives thinking about the education system that…. You know what? Maybe there are some ideas that can come from people who haven't spent their time ever thinking about the education system. They may have some radically new ideas that people who are stuck within a system don't think about, because that's the way human beings work.
For those of us here who do politics every day…. Sometimes I think, when I go for lunch with my colleagues: "Goodness, wouldn't it be nice not to talk about politics when we go to lunch with our colleagues?" It's refreshing to actually spend time outside of the people who work in the profession that you're purporting to try and improve.
There are huge arguments to be made to figure out: in what way does this new council allow for people outside of the profession to have input into it? As I've said, it's very easy for people who spend their entire lives and sometimes their entire careers focused on one particular thing…. You can just sometimes get bogged down and not appreciate that there's a different way of doing things.
It also, of course, allows people who may have come to this country from another country…. We're lucky here in British Columbia to bring people from all over the world, from all kinds of different educational systems and backgrounds. Again, if you were to take somebody and be lucky enough to have somebody who comes from another country, who has seen things done differently, it adds some input into how we do things here in British Columbia.
Those are the kinds of topics that we'll canvass when we get into committee stage, and I think there are a few questions that will be brought up during committee stage.
I wanted to comment on one other aspect of this bill, and that is the whole notion of being able, in the disciplinary process, to ensure that if a complaint comes forward many years later, there's a process in place to take care of that.
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I happen to be living in a community, Terrace, and I'm very friendly with a teacher who went to school in the Lower Mainland many years ago and was part of a very famous court case. I can speak about it here publicly, because it's been on television. She had the courage to go forward, along with lots of other women who as teenage girls were abused by a program where teachers took students out into the wilderness, onto boats and taught them sailing and stuff like that. It sounds like an extraordinary program.
My point is this. That teacher, that person, had the courage to go public, I would say, 20 years or so after the events happened. I know her very well. A documentary was done on CBC around this whole issue. It took 20 years for this adult — who was an educated teacher, lots of confidence, lots of skills — to have the courage to go out. All that happened was that they met at a reunion, some conversations happened, and there was an awareness suddenly that she wasn't the only one — right?
There is a part of this bill that recognizes maintaining jurisdiction long after a teacher has retired and no longer holds a licence. It recognizes that these kinds of issues can come back, and I think that this kind of thing gives people confidence.
You want to ensure that children are safe. If you are a teacher, you want to ensure that the public deems me as a teacher to come from a profession that has such high standards that it creates more respect for the teaching profession because we deal with those issues in an open way, in a transparent way, and we're not trying to hide them. I think, again, that there is an aspect of this bill that recognizes that sometimes it takes a long time, and they are able to go back, after a complaint is made, if that process is deemed to be real.
Let's get back for a second here in terms of the process. None of us want to see silly things going forward that are not serious. We want to make sure that if a teacher is late for work three times that months, that is dealt with at the school. That is a normal employer relations issue. We don't want to see those kinds of issues. We don't want to see an issue where a teacher who doesn't warm up some food for a special needs child in time is then suddenly disciplined and sent to some process. Those are the kinds of issues — and I'm just picking them — where it needs to take place back at the school.
The process and the job of the person in charge of looking at all complaints is to do all of that stuff in-house, to decide whether any kind of allegation that's coming forward is one that's worthy of actually starting to investigate or whether it should go back to the school district and be dealt with at the school level or by the trustees. They're elected officials as well. They have a governance role here at the local level. Let's not forget that we have another level before coming to this that has always taken care of issues around the school system.
We want to make sure that we don't fill this process up with allegations that simply don't make any sense and are going to waste people's time and should be dealt with. We also want to make sure that there are allegations that take into account the relationships.
Somebody earlier today mentioned the complexity of the education system in terms of relationships. It is full of relationships and relationship-building. The essence of teaching, between a teacher and their student, is forming a relationship. The better that relationship is, the better one is able to teach. If a child has huge respect for their teacher and is excited by the work that teacher does, that is what helps to make great teaching.
There are also relationships between teachers and all the other staff. There are relationships between teachers and their supervisors, the principals and vice-principals. There are relationships between the teachers and those who come and clean that school and make sure that it is a healthy, safe place.
Sometimes, as we know, relationships can be strained, for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes people don't get along with one another. And what we have to ensure, especially as this process is going to have a large level of transparency, is that there are no situations where, say, a principal — and I'm just using conjecture here — who's having a bad relationship with a teacher figures out that an easy way is to suddenly find something to send to a disciplinary committee.
We'll get more explanation from the minister during committee stage. It is my belief and my hope that those kinds of allegations will be clearly seen for what they are when this commissioner looks into anything that comes before them.
You know, the old college that's going to be disbanded I think sometimes had 200 or 300 cases that sort of sat there and weren't being processed or were in a kind of limbo. I don't know how many of those cases were real and how many of those cases were in limbo because they just weren't serious cases. But we don't want to have this council blocked up with a whole bunch of cases that come about simply because relationships that happened back in the school weren't what they should be.
There needs to be a way for the commissioner who's going to be looking after this body to recognize a pattern and to say: "Look, you know what? We're not here to look after matters of governance that should be taking place between an employer and an employee as the normal part of how adults treat each other. We're here to deal with allegations of a serious nature."
I'm hoping that the way this will work is that it will not get bogged down in 200 or 300 cases that sit there for months, years at a time, because teachers are also due to have their due process. You know, the tribunal ultimately is going to have almost the legislative power of a court. In many ways it's very similar to a court, and just as we have due process in a court system, we want to make sure that a teacher is deemed to have fair due process in this system.
[ Page 8486 ]
Let's face it. Anytime one is being disciplined and going before one's peers, before one's professional college, the new council, it's hugely stressful. If one has done something serious, well then it should be hugely stressful — right? But if it's a matter of having a challenge with one's immediate supervisor, then the stress needs to be dealt with at a different level than here. If it ends up here and that's all it's about and it ends up becoming a public issue, then of course that teacher's reputation is besmirched. I'm hoping that those kinds of things will not happen.
I'm looking to the leadership of the vice-principals and principals, and obviously they've also had a great deal of input into this. I haven't spoken to them since the bill came down yesterday. I have a call in to them, just to ask them their opinions. I note that they were, I think, in the chamber yesterday. I think that was a…. Was there a member of the principals and vice-principals…?
R. Austin: Oh, it was superintendents. Okay.
I'm speaking here of the principals and vice-principals, and they have a very important role to play here. Not only is somebody from their role going to be a part of this council, but they're also going to have an important role to play in ensuring that when an allegation comes in or there's any kind of disciplinary matter to take place, they recognize what needs to be done at the local level. They need to know what needs to be done if it has to go through to the local board and to the trustees and on.
My understanding is that the principals may be able to take a complaint directly. I'm going to ask the minister that more directly in committee stage, but it's an important aspect.
I think, also, we should talk about how this is going to be paid for. In the past, of course, the college was paid for by the teachers. They ran their own college, and they paid for it. In this instance, it's going to be coming in-house, and many of the employees will be paid for by the taxpayers of British Columbia. But it's still going to be doing the work, essentially, that the old college did, so there is going to be a fee that teachers will be paying that will basically offset the costs of running this council.
Now, I guess people might make the argument: "Well, when it was our college, we paid for it. Now that you in government are taking it over, you can pay for it." I think in reality we have to recognize that even though government is taking a lot of this work in-house, they are essentially doing the work that's going to help the teaching profession, so I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the teachers to contribute and offset it so that it becomes — I hate to use this word, because sometimes it's used wrongly in this House — revenue-neutral.
I don't want to go down the path of revenue-neutral too much today. I want to keep this, you know, nice here. Revenue-neutral hasn't always been revenue-neutral, but I think in this case I'm hopeful that it will be revenue-neutral. Hopefully, once whatever the fee is, is disclosed publicly…. I don't know what it is, but hopefully it will be at or maybe even below the current fee that teachers have to pay every year as being a normative part of being licensed and part of the profession. I don't think there is anything wrong in that.
I'd like to take a few minutes, also, to report on an element here in terms of putting down in law the duty to report, again using my own experiences. I hold a bachelor of social work, and there is legislation within the profession of social work that is very clear around a social worker's duty to report, because a social worker often hears things that are dangerous, either to the client themselves or deemed dangerous to somebody else.
It's a very clear mandate within the social work profession that if you come across something that is going to put someone else in danger, their life in danger, their life at risk, it is a professional duty of a social worker to report that.
If one is in a counselling situation as a social worker, where you are bound by confidentiality and by your professional ethical duty to report, one of the things that you have to say when you're in a counselling situation, right at the outset or the beginning of that counselling relationship is: "By the way, just so you know, here's the law. You and I will sit down, and we'll form a relationship, and you can tell me anything that you decide is appropriate for you to tell me."
But right at the outset a social worker will tell their client: "Just so you know, if you tell me that you're going to even kill yourself, I'm going to take some action. I will break confidentiality for that. If you tell me you're going to harm somebody else, I will break confidentiality over that. You may be so angry that you want to go and kill your ex-wife. I'm going to make sure you don't." Those are the kinds of things that social workers have to deal with.
By the same token, teachers sometimes hear things. I remember working with child protection workers when I was working in the school system where teachers heard things from children that were suspicious, very suspicious, and they had a duty to report.
I don't know whether it was in legislation prior to this, but here, clearly, it is in the legislation, making sure that teachers have a duty to report to ensure, once again, the safety of children. There is, I think, an ethical, professional expectation that a teacher will report no matter who the perpetrator is, including some member of staff, if that's what they hear and that's what they believe to be right. Again, I think it's what one would expect of a professional.
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If you went to see your lawyer and your lawyer was working with another lawyer on something of an issue to do with you and that lawyer discovered that something unethical was being done to you or to somebody else, you would expect your lawyer to come forward and to say: "You know what? I'm going to take this to the professional body." Lawyers have an interest in policing themselves. Any profession has an interest in policing themselves. so does the teaching profession. Here it is in statute, ensuring that people have a duty to report.
I want to also take a minute to talk about how people appeal things. Ultimately, I guess, the final appeal process in this bill will be through the court system — right? If something seriously goes wrong, obviously, it may end up in the court system anyway. There'll be a separate process that takes place, quite aside from what the process is within this new council. Ultimately, if a teacher feels that they have not been treated fairly by the three-person tribunal, then they can seek redress in the courts.
I think, by and large, we see a whole range of issues here that are attempting to set up a new process that is in many ways similar to what's taking place in other provinces. It's one which is transformative for this province because we've had a different system. But if we take the time to look at what has been going on in the rest of Canada, it's not that unusual.
I think it's important, when we think of how this council is going to be elected, that we have a variety of people from different regions. We were having the discussion within our own caucus around how the five members of the teaching profession are going to be elected to this. You know, they're going to basically come from what are geographically, closely, the health regions. One person said: "Oh well, that's not really fair. In the coastal Vancouver health district there are, you know, 1.2 million people, and in northern B.C. there are 382."
Personally, I think this model works fine, because it is a vast region, and what this bill is attempting to do is to make sure that there's a voice from all parts of British Columbia. This is taking the senate model more than it is the congressional model and recognizing that we want to have a council that functions.
We want to have voices from all over British Columbia. If we tried to have elections for five teachers based on population, well, inevitably, most of those teachers would come from the greater Vancouver area, the GVRD. I think that establishing five zones is a reasonable attempt to get that variety.
Whenever I have been to any kind of meeting with teachers or with any of the stakeholders around the teaching profession, it's amazing the different points of view that come, depending on where one lives and on the circumstances. If this thing is going to function properly, then it is incredibly important that we see that variety of views.
We want to ensure that when this becomes law, the transition from the old college to the new council is done in such a way that there isn't a lot of disruption to the profession and to the work that is going to be attempted to be done here. I think that's going to be a challenge for the government.
I think anytime government moves any kind of body that was outside government back in or, indeed, tries to take something that was in government and make it independent, there are those challenges. This government, luckily, has quite a lot of experience at bringing bodies in and out of government, so maybe some of the lessons they've learnt over the years in taking things in-house and taking them out of house to save money, etc., will be used here to ensure that this transition happens in a seamless way.
Let's not forget that lots of things are happening within the education system while this transition is happening. There is a huge dialogue going on right now with the government on other tables with regard to Bills 27 and 28, and that is still causing a lot of stress within the system. Of course, this isn't happening in a vacuum. This change is happening while we have teacher action going on right now in terms of their negotiating a contract. So there's already a lot of the stress in the system, and there's already a lot of stress at the school level.
I'm glad that we're debating this bill, and I'm glad that there's a broad consensus around this bill, but there are huge issues that fill my in-box every day that have nothing to do with this and have everything to do with what's going on in the classrooms right now.
We need to ensure that this transition is not going to add to the uncertainty of teachers who have moved classrooms or of teachers who are not having enough assistance in the classroom, etc. That's a separate issue. I realize that. That's not Bill 12. But it's hard to work in a school system and not be aware of, not be influenced by all the things that are taking place on any given day.
I think it's fair to say, and it doesn't matter which side of this House you are on, that it's not an ideological thing. It's just a fact to say that there are stresses in the school system. To some extent, there always have been, and I guess there always will be. But there are real stresses in the school system, and we want to make sure that this transition takes place and doesn't add any stress to teachers so that they don't feel that they have to worry about that, in addition to their daily work. That wouldn't be fair to them.
I think that teachers need to be spending their time, when they're not in the classroom, preparing the work that they do each and every day to go out there and be the best teachers that they can the following day. I certainly don't want them to end up thinking that this is going to be such a transformational change that they need to go and pay a huge amount of attention.
I realize, obviously, that those who work for the teaching profession and advocate on their behalf, the members of the executive of the BCTF…. That's their
[ Page 8488 ]
full-time, paid job. They take a leave. That's their job — to have had input. My understanding is that they have spent quite a bit of time with the Minister of Education and his staff. In fact, I think I overheard the minister say yesterday out in the hall that he spent 30 hours himself working with the teaching profession to try and get some of these things worked out. Presumably, his staff spent a lot of time.
I have to say it's great to see that the Minister of Education is finally getting close to big labour, because he's always been very careful to not want to have a lot of input from the teaching profession. But here he is. He's spent 30 hours. That's a long time.
He's still smiling, and by and large, he has created a working document here which, once we pass it, will hopefully take us into a new era, really. That's what we're trying to do here. I think we're trying to figure out a new era, a new way of doing things, at least for British Columbia, that will overcome the troubles of the past and take some of the politics out of what should not be political.
Let's face it. If you're deciding who should be certified and who should not be certified, that's not a political issue. That's an issue of a profession deciding, if you come from another jurisdiction, what kind of qualifications you have. What kind of education were you able to get in Quebec or Ontario before your family moved out here and you decided to become a teacher? Or what kind of education did you get when you were teaching in the United Kingdom before you moved here? Those issues are not political.
So we need to have a process that takes the politics out of this and ensures that we can certify people properly who come from either outside this province or, more importantly, how we certify those who are gaining their education in this province.
The same goes for the standards. What do we teach teachers — right? There's a big debate going on, on this day about what the future of education is. We have seen so many changes happen in the last ten or 15 years, particularly on the technology front. Are we going to be teaching teachers in our universities different kinds of stuff and different kinds of methodologies than what we have traditionally taught teachers? That's a great discussion to have.
That's a discussion to be had by the teaching profession. That's not a political issue. That's something only the teachers themselves can start to generate — that conversation — and have input from the other stakeholders who are going to be part of this council.
I'm not sure exactly how often they'll have to meet. I guess that's one of the questions that I'll be asking in committee stage as to whether it's prescribed how often they're going to meet. But let's hope that when this council meets, by having all of the stakeholders together in one place as well as a huge input from the teachers, they will be able to discuss in a meaningful way some of the changes necessary and that they'd like to see happen in the teaching profession.
Society is moving forward. It's amazing the extent to which our children now use technology in a way that even five or ten years ago would be considered just to be space age. Yet much of our methodology in terms of how we teach is still the same as it was ten or 15 years ago. I think that while for the elementary school students it's probably hard to envisage how one could change the methodologies in which we teach young kids, certainly once you come to the secondary level, to the middle school level, you have to wonder, because we've got some challenges.
Bill 12 may address some of those challenges, because it will enable us to have discussions around what the standards are for teaching. What are the new methodologies that need to come in to ensure that teenagers who might be getting a little bored by the age of 16 of having one person stand at the front of the room and teach in a traditional manner…? It may be that there needs to be ways in which we change that format. I'm certainly not going to be the one to start to prescribe that.
I think what we see here is if this council works properly, if this council works as the legislation hopes it will work, then those kinds of conversations can happen, because these people are going to finally be all in one room together and having those conversations.
The teaching profession has a huge interest in ensuring that standards are always raised. That's what every profession tries to do. One that specializes in teaching has an even greater interest in that because that's what they do for a living. So one would hope that a group of men and women who dedicate their lives to teaching would also be interested in how they are taught and how the next generation of teachers are going to be taught.
You have to wonder whether the new methods that are going to be taught to our teachers…. How is this going to connect with the post-secondary level? I'm hoping that the kinds of reports that come out from the commissioner on a regular basis…. By the way, as I've mentioned, these reports are not just going to be reporting to the minister; they're going to be made public.
Hopefully, some of those reports will generate ideas within the post-secondary sector amongst those who think about curriculum for teachers, not just curriculum at the K-to-12 system, and how they can incorporate some of these new technologies.
I have a child who is currently doing a degree in biology at UVic. I try to keep up sometimes with the conversations he has with me over the dinner table around the stuff they're learning about how the brain works. A lot of it is beyond me. I'll be very honest. I failed O-level biology, which in this country I guess would be maybe grade 10. Well, it's English, so it would be higher than grade 10.
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Anyway, the reality is that I have a hard time grasping high-level biological new learning. Yet the stuff that's coming out in terms of how the brain works is quite extraordinary. It has a huge input into how we are going to teach teachers in the future. We're now discovering that kids learn in a whole variety of ways. The brain works, and is wired, in a variety of ways.
If we continue to have a model that is sort of a one-size-fits-all, it will work for certain people. Inevitably, that kind of model will work well for those kids who would have succeeded no matter what. But it may not necessarily succeed for the kid who simply finds sitting there for 45 minutes, or for an hour, listening to one person speak…. It may not work for them.
I would sincerely hope that out of this process we have those discussions, because it is very difficult to move any system, to change any system. This is a big, large system. It's a supertanker, and supertankers don't change direction easily. You make some incremental turns several miles before the tanker actually turns.
The education system in British Columbia is one that is recognized not just across Canada but around the world as being one of the best education systems, but any education system needs to have an ability to self-evaluate, to look at itself and see how it can make itself better. The kinds of discussions that hopefully will take place in this council will generate debate not just amongst the teaching profession and not just amongst all the stakeholders but also outsiders. We need to have that debate. We need to engage parents more — one of the challenges of our school system.
We'll probably ask some questions in committee stage on Bill 12 in terms of to what extent parents have input into this. The research shows us that if you have a school system that engages parents and if parents are meaningfully involved in their children's education, that's probably one of the largest variables in how well a kid does.
Yet to a large extent, we don't have an education system that is always necessarily welcoming of parents to come in and join, and that understands how challenging it is sometimes for parents to go and get involved with their kids' education.
I find too much in my discussions that parents seem to think that the teaching profession is there to do the job of educating their child — which, of course, it is; that's why they go to school to do that — but they forget the important role that parents play. Part of that challenge is the difficulty in feeling comfortable with going and getting involved with your teacher.
Where I live in northern B.C., we have a large First Nations population. Some of our schools now are almost 50 percent aboriginal. At the same time, we have very huge challenges in terms of the success rate of aboriginal kids in our school system.
Given that we know that part of leading to success is to have the parents involved…. That's a little bit difficult, though, if you're a First Nations parent who grew up to have a very uneasy feeling about the education system because of things that have taken place historically, or feel that you don't have the confidence to go and speak to a teacher.
I have met many parents in my home community of Terrace who think that going to speak to their teacher is like going to speak to a nuclear physicist. There's that gap where they're scared to go and talk to this nuclear physicist because they don't think they speak their language and that they're above them.
We need to figure out ways in which we can make teachers understand that they need to be able to be open to parents coming. At the same time, we need to educate our parents to get them to understand that, you know what? They're teachers. Yeah, they spend all day with your kids. Yes, they go to school, and they study for a number of years and learn specialized skills.
At the end of the day, they're just regular human beings. They have an interest in helping your kid, and part of that is in helping you to get involved with your child. If children go and spend six hours a day in the school system and then they go and spend several hours a day more with their parents, the effect that the parents have on supporting whatever it is that the children learn in the school from the professional teachers…. It can only work well if we can encourage more parents to get involved.
Hopefully, maybe some of the reports that come out from this council in terms of the dialogue that's happening here will figure out some of those challenges in terms of how to get parents more engaged.
As I say, we have known of some of these problems for years, and we talk about them. I've been to various conferences where these items are brought up, yet we don't seem to go from the point where we analyze some of the challenges and difficulties to the point where we have real ways to solve them. We don't seem to come to the solution part of it.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
The solution part of it is perhaps difficult to arrive at and perhaps even more difficult to actually find ways of putting it into practice. I would hope that with this Teachers Act we can start to generate these public conversations.
Welcome, Madam Speaker. It's nice to see a former teacher here as we're discussing the Teachers Act.
I would hope that part of the deliberations that come out of this council, once again, will help us to have conversations that go beyond just the council and bring other people involved so that, for example, BCCPAC will get more engaged and will find a role that this plays in helping them become better parent advocates.
It will, hopefully, also generate ideas in how parents who aren't part of BCCPAC, who don't even know
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how to go and get involved in a PAC and maybe find that a little bit difficult…. As parents they still have a huge responsibility to connect with the school and with the school system to ensure their children are moving forward.
We'll see, as the future unfolds once the bill is passed, as to where it goes, but I think there is a huge potential here for a lot of good to come out of these deliberations.
I want to take a minute, also, to mention the whole issue of private schools and teachers who teach in private schools. I think it's important for all teachers in this province to recognize the profession that they're in, to be proud of the profession that they're in, irrespective of whether they happen to be teaching in a private school or whether they are teaching in the public school system.
We still want to maintain the same standards of certification. We don't want to have a private school system that has teachers that are not as qualified as those in our public school system. We still want to ensure that as we raise standards of teachers in our public school system and give them better tools and better educational opportunities, all teachers have that opportunity.
My understanding is that a majority of teachers in private schools were already in the former College of Teachers, so I guess the transition for them to the new council will not be a difficult one.
I would hope that for whatever reason the other teachers decided not to join their professional college, maybe they will look at this piece of legislation in detail and figure out whether it's important for them to participate in it.
Again, we want to make sure that we have standards that are even, right across the board. We want to make sure that every teacher in British Columbia — including, I might add, those who teach within the First Nations sector and on reserve — also has the same level of teacher qualification.
I note that this council is going to have some input from First Nations. Having just talked about the challenges of many of our First Nations kids in this province, I think it's been a long time coming to have First Nations actually at the table discussing all of these ideas and being part of teacher certification and the quality of our education and the level of education they must all have. Clearly, hon. Speaker, if you go and look at this province and at districts that have large First Nations populations, we have a very, very long way to go.
I don't like to treat people as statistics, especially in the school system, but that particular statistic is a troubling one, and it has barely moved over the last 15 to 20 years, especially in districts such as mine and that of the north coast, which have large First Nations populations. While we sit and discuss all these ideas down here and pass legislation, the reality is that for many First Nations kids in our province, nothing has changed.
In fact, we have lost several generations of First Nations people by not engaging them properly in the school system, by not having those conversations that allow First Nations to even attempt to understand the huge importance of what is to them, I guess, a westernized base of education.
Traditionally, First Nations people learned by watching and speaking with elders and with others. As this society industrialized, it sort of overwhelmed the traditional ways of many of our First Nations, and it sent terrible messages about education in the way that they were treated, and there's a real legacy of that.
We need to figure out ways to overcome that. With the fact that the First Nations Education Steering Committee is going to be one of the partners in this council, hopefully they will feel that they are always at the table and always there to put forward ideas that will improve the educational outcomes of aboriginal kids.
I certainly don't have the answers to it. I suspect that nobody in this chamber does. We can only get the answers by having them there and making them part of the process and making them realize that yes, we have a responsibility and that the First Nations have a responsibility. By sharing ideas and trying to implement some new ideas, we can maybe move this horrible statistic in a way that recognizes that we have so many kids who we are literally just, and I hate to say this, washing down the drain.
I was having a conversation with a mining company that's negotiating to open up a mine in northern B.C. Their challenge is…. They're obviously working with the First Nations, and they're working out benefit impact agreements.
This does refer to Bill 12. Don't worry, hon. Speaker. I'm coming back to Bill 12.
Yes, they signed an impact agreement that says: "Okay, we want to hire X number of members of your community, and we want them to do this, this and this task. These are the kinds of tasks that are going to be available when we open this mine, if indeed this mine goes ahead." But the reality is that even if they sign that benefit impact agreement, too many of the children have not found any success in the school system and have not been able to go on to further their skills to be able to take the jobs which are now finally being lined up.
Here you have a population that has been, essentially, kept out of the mainstream of our economy. We see all the social statistics and all the pain and heartache that comes from that. Finally there's huge investment coming in. Finally we've recognized rights and title in this province, and in many cases, aboriginal people are signing agreements that are multi-million-dollar agreements in terms of finally bringing investment and jobs to their areas.
But guess what, hon. Speaker. We have failed in British Columbia — as a society, as an education system, as a people, all of us collectively — to move and ener-
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gize large numbers of aboriginal people to get the skills needed to go and do these jobs.
So back to Bill 12. I hope that that will help solve some of these problems, because you know what? If we don't solve some of these problems, we're going to be in a situation soon in my area, northwest B.C., when these projects get going, where we're going to be importing workers.
We're going to have to import workers because our education system hasn't been able to generate enough people who have succeeded and graduated and gone on and got the kinds of extra skills that they needed, either in the trades field or in the academic field, to actually go and do some of these jobs.
It is hugely important that this bill moves us forward in a whole bunch of ways and creates a new era for the way in which our teaching profession manages itself and is assisted by those people who are going to be working here.
The fact that a bill like this, which essentially is blowing up one system and creating another, hasn't generated a firestorm out there in the media…. We haven't had people coming out saying: "This new change is outrageous. It's terrible. I think it stinks."
The fact that we've managed to have all of these various stakeholders, who sometimes have very different opinions, very varying opinions about how the school system should run…. The fact that they have largely come on board and said that they are going to support this suggests to me that they also have looked at this in detail and seen.…
Nobody gets everything they want, right? I'm sure that, as soon as I leave here, my phone will be buzzing, and there'll be people saying: "Well, you know, we would have liked this. We would have liked that." That's always the case when you have a negotiation and you're bringing large numbers of different sectors of a system into a room and saying: "How do we sit down and how do we build something different?" Obviously, that's going to happen.
In committee stage I will bring forward some of those. I mean, I haven't had a real opportunity to work the phones because I've been kind of busy since it came in yesterday. I'm sure that people will be contacting me, saying: "Here's a suggestion. Maybe here you can make an amendment — okay?" If that amendment makes sense, we'll have a conversation. If I don't think it makes sense, then I'll say: "Thank you very much, but here's why I don't think it makes sense." We'll wait and see what happens.
The mere fact that we have reached this point, where the bill has been introduced, we're at second reading and we aren't getting a lot of people coming out of the woodwork saying that there are huge problems with this would suggest that there isn't simply a consensus that we're moving forward in this House. There's probably a consensus outside of this chamber amongst those people who dedicate their lives to working within the education field that: "You know what? This is probably as good as we're going to get, and therefore, we're going to support that."
I think that's what we're hearing from outside this chamber, and I think that that's a good thing. I think that we need to go through this bill at committee stage, whenever it comes forward. We'll have to go through it and do our due diligence, clause by clause, like we always do.
Certainly, I have some questions in areas around this bill. In large part, I think some of it will go through very quickly. I don't think this will be a Bill 3–type issue, where we'll be here for a number of days. I think that we will be able to get through this bill in fairly short order. It depends, obviously, on the answers that we get to some of our queries.
In large part, as I've said before, I am supportive of this bill. My colleagues on this side of the House think that this is an apt way to move forward from what was not a good time here in British Columbia and a college that had huge difficulties, for whatever reason. I think we're going to see some professional operation happening here, simply because whenever we bring in an institution and ask civil servants to come and, in large part, run it….
We have very professionally trained civil servants here, and we have great managers in this province. I'm sure that they will look to the staff who had been working at the college. I think most of them are going to be offered jobs. They will get good, clear direction from ministry staff as to how this new council should operate. They will, hopefully, also be able to help the government in terms of making that transition, because, let's face it, you've got ministry officials who are now going to be coming in and managing this, yet how it worked before was done by other people, and there's a different culture.
While they will now become public employees and, therefore, be supervised by senior management within the ministry, by the same token they will bring all of their skills that they had in terms of how they were running things. And yes, there will be cultural things that have to be changed over this.
Obviously, when you take people who are working outside of government and bring them in, there's a change, but hopefully, the employees who have been working diligently behind the scenes will make a smooth transition and inform government as to how they think this whole plan should come into play.
Hopefully, the government itself and the people who are going to be running this will also have some ideas as to how they can make the old system work better. Those two minds will meet, and we'll see a safe transition.
As I've said, we don't need any more instability in our school system. I imagine that this transition will take place over a matter of weeks, and like anything, it'll have to deal with all the technicalities of computer systems and changes in that; and coming over to having in-house financial systems used as opposed to having
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their own financial systems; and having an in-house, government-run human relations department as opposed to having their own human relations department.
There's going to be a huge challenge with the transition. For employees, by the way, who are sitting there nervously wondering, "What does this mean for me," I think that the government should offer all those employees who choose to stay working within this new council, who have got the skills and have built up years of experience with the college….
I'm hoping that they will see this as a move forward and think that it's fruitful for them to come and work for the government and help to run this college. Obviously, if the government has to start from scratch hiring new employees, that, again, is going to cause a real difficulty.
Hon. Speaker, noting the time…. I gather I'm going to have a few more minutes to speak. That's good.
I'm going to speak to another aspect. This is one that I think has really plagued people who in the past maybe had a complaint that was dealt with, and they didn't really know what happened.
Part of this bill is to ensure that all issues that are dealt with are going to be made public. For example, if somebody under this bill was to be investigated and they decided that, yes, in fact, they had crossed the line, and they were going to admit to that…. In the past, if that ever happened in British Columbia, very often the complainant wouldn't even know how it ended or how it was dealt with.
That's clearly wrong. The fact that somebody says, "Yes, I did something," and admits to it and has their licence pulled…. I think it's instructive for the rest of the public, in order to have confidence and for the victim to have confidence in how it went, to understand: "You know what? This is how it ended, and this is what happened. Here's what was done. Here's what the judicial decision was, the tribunal decision was, and here's the result."
I think that it's very important to have the public on side to be able to see that and to have it done transparently, because in the past if somebody said, "Yes, I admitted to something," they could have gone away silently into the night. And you know what? That's not right — okay?
I think that people who admit to doing something need to be held accountable, and there needs to be a level of transparency around that issue. If that happens in the legal profession and a lawyer breaks their own code of ethical conduct, you better believe it. You can go on the Internet and see all of the crooked lawyers who have done something wrong. I'm looking….
R. Austin: Not that there are that many crooked lawyers, apparently, as I hear from my colleague. There are not a lot of them, but nevertheless, I think it's important.
If you look at all of the professions — doctors, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, whatever…. If they make a mistake and, of their own volition, recognize they've made that mistake and say, "Yes, I did it," there needs to be some transparency as to what the outcome was so that other people can feel safe, so that when they go to see a lawyer, the lawyers themselves are policing themselves in such a way that gives you confidence that no matter who you go and speak to in the legal profession, they are doing that job.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
We need the same kind of confidence. Every parent needs that confidence. Every citizen needs that confidence to know that when they send their child to school, there is absolute trust, both from the parent's point of view in giving the charge of their children to a professional teacher and also from the teacher's point of view. It is important for the teachers to hold their heads up high as a profession and to recognize that there is a benefit to them.
In whose interest is it, if not for the teachers', to ensure that anyone who crosses a line in a serious way is brought before the public and is known about? That way we have confidence in our teaching profession, just as I would have confidence in the medical profession knowing that I could look up a doctor before I went to see that person and ensure that that doctor had their credentials, was trained at a legitimate school and was not in any trouble with their own professional body.
I think people need to see that and want to see that within the education profession. It's important. It's important for the confidence of citizens, it's important for the confidence of parents, and it's important for the profession themselves to understand that that needs to be made public.
I think, all in all, that this bill creates the correct balance in terms of achieving the goals that we've set out here, that we've spoken about today. We will have some more discussions when this reaches committee stage. I may have some more comments to make later.
Noting the time, hon. Speaker, I reserve my right to continue debate and move to adjourn debate.
R. Austin moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday morning.
The House adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
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