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
Monday, October 31, 2011
Volume 27, Number 1
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Addressing crime in rural B.C.
J. van Dongen
Private Members' Motions
Motion 16 — Government settlement with Boss Power Corp.
Point of Order (Speaker's Ruling)
Private Members' Motions
Motion 5 — Group home closings (continued)
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MONDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2011
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. I. Chong: I call private members' statements.
Private Members' Statements
S. Hammell: Today I rise in this House to speak of a health issue that is unique to women, and that is maternal health care. This area of health care concerns itself with the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period.
[D. Black in the chair.]
It includes the health care dimensions of family planning, pre-conception, prenatal and postnatal care. This effort, as in all health care, is to reduce deaths of the women giving birth and the newborn child or children.
Pre-conception health care can include education, health care promotion, screening and other interventions to reduce the risk factors that might affect future pregnancies. The goal of prenatal care is to detect any complications of pregnancies early and to act appropriately, which may include referring the woman to another appropriate specialist.
The goals of postnatal care include a swift and speedy recovery from childbirth and address concerns about newborn care, nutrition, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, infant jaundice and other factors that may affect the mother or the newborn child. These consequences may not be and are not always detected at discharge.
With childbirth, as is well known, there can come complication and dangers. In many developing countries these complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among women of child- bearing age. A woman dies from childbirth complications approximately every minute, according to the World Health Organization.
Of course, we're not a developing country, and in the developed countries the consequence of access to high-quality, accessible health care has reduced maternal deaths to around 1 percent. I think we can thank our Canada Health Act and the five main principles enshrined in that health care act for some of this great progress around maternal health care in Canada.
The five main principles enshrined in the Canada Health Act are ones that we talk of but often don't review. The first is public administration. "All administration of provincial health insurance must be carried out by a public authority on a non-profit basis." That's the first principle that has led us to this extraordinary care for women. "Comprehensiveness — all necessary health services, including hospitals, physicians and surgical dentists, must be insured."
Another principle enshrined in the health care act is universality, and I think this is one of the principles that underlines some of my concerns around maternal health care. "All insured residents are entitled to the same level of health care." Another principle is portability. "A resident that moves to a different province or territory is still entitled to coverage from their home province during a minimum waiting period." And the last is accessibility. "All insured persons have reasonable access to health care facilities."
I think it's an amazing fact that many Canadians see the health care system in our country that our parents built as one of the most important things that define us as Canadians. We have seen the country south of us struggle to provide health care to all of its people. We choose here in our country to pool our resources and to pay through our tax system so that when we need health care, it is here for us.
We draw on those resources that we have contributed. It's sort of like a big co-op where we've contributed. We draw down when we need it. Really, we hope never to have to draw on the resource. But we do, if we need it, expect it to be there, which does bring me to the universal nature of maternal care and how important it is for all of us, all newborn mothers, to have access to preventative care.
For childbirth, even in a sophisticated and rich country like ours, giving birth is often a traumatic and, believe me, never, never forgotten experience. Many a time, if the opportunity presents itself, women share their stories of what happened, when and why.
I think almost every new mom has a story, and I would say that most of the stories are a consequence of some problem or some issue that came up that the mom was dealing with during this period of time.
Most women in this House will know that the responsibility of becoming a new mother is sometimes overwhelming and, in fact, quite frightening and can be quite isolating. To eliminate the public health nurse that provides services to postnatal moms is a troubling decision from a number of perspectives.
I think the first perspective that I find foolish is…. Again, I would quote Nasir Jetha, president of the BCMA, who has been a pediatrician for 30 years and who says that the province won't save money with the cut. If you cut the prenatal services to a mom, that baby or the mother can often stay in the hospital a couple of more days, and that is tremendously costly to the system.
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So you have an experience that is unique to women, is often traumatic, is overwhelming in its responsibility, and what we do, instead of supporting and enabling and assisting that new mom, is cut the services.
The second quote that I just need to put on the record will wait until I hear from the member across in the response.
M. Stilwell: In response to the member, I certainly will agree that nothing transforms a home and the people in it more than the birth of a baby. No matter where that baby is born in this province or anywhere, what's shared is the hopes and aspirations for that child.
Having a family-first agenda means that by definition, children matter. By definition, children are a vulnerable group in our society, and we all know that young children's family environments predict children's cognitive, social and emotional abilities and their subsequent success at school.
Children also matter because they are the adults of tomorrow. The first years are important because they shape a person's ability to participate in work, family and community life. They influence adult unemployment, welfare dependence, violence and ill health, which can be as a result of negative factors.
Governments do not bring up children, as you know, but certainly their decisions affect families in some way. A sustained and integrated maternal and child health service is the hallmark of a First World country, and we are proud of ours here in British Columbia. We want an evidence-based approach to children's services and policies so that we can be sure that our investments in child development, especially in the early years, bring the most positive results for children and future productivity. So we want to make sure that we apply our resources to where they can help most.
The healthy start initiative reflects that commitment to families first and is meant to enhance the public health and maternal and child health prevention services and focus pregnancy and parenting support on the families who would benefit most by the intensive follow-up.
Being a new mother can be stressful. Some of us are fortunate to have resources and supports around us that enable us to go through that transition in the best possible way. The Minister of Health, in partnership with the health authority, is applying best-practice evidence to examine how the public health nurses and public health resources can be best utilized to support the families for whom this will make a difference and who need it most.
So what do we know about home visits? Home visits to vulnerable mothers who are most at need and are having most difficulty with the transition decrease partner violence, and in adolescent young parents, can decrease depression, school dropout and poor parenting. The province of British Columbia is reviewing its perinatal and child public health services offered by public health nurses and other care providers across the province as a component of this healthy start pillar of healthy families B.C. strategy.
I think it's important to note we are not taking any resources out of the system. No funds are being cut for the healthy start program, and there will not be a reduction of staff.
The goal simply represents an opportunity to apply $23 million to improve the population health of vulnerable mothers, mostly young mothers, and their children through home visits. To ensure that all women and families have access to the services they require to meet their varying needs, a postpartum nursing assessment will be conducted to determine women and their families' care needs. Appropriate services such as a home visit, breastfeeding support or referral to a family practitioner or other referral source will be provided based on the outcome of that assessment, and additional support will be available on request.
I want to highlight the nurse-family partnership program, which is a part of this healthy start initiative and will offer public health nurse–led, in-home parenting programs for first-time, at-risk parents and their infants through two years of age.
The case for these home visits and focusing on this group is strong. A study done, called The Case for Home Visiting, by the Pew Center noted that by the age of two, children in one home visit program were 35 percent less likely to end up in the emergency room and 40 percent less likely to need treatment for injuries and accidents. Clearly, focusing on mothers, children and families that are struggling with new parenting is the best use of these resources.
The ministry recognizes that the health authorities are in different starting places along the healthy start continuum. For example, some health authorities have started working towards the implementation of phone assessments for all postpartum women. I think it's important in a province like British Columbia, where we have in many places few people with wide distances, to implement and assess and monitor….
Deputy Speaker: Member, thank you.
S. Hammell: I'd like to thank the member opposite. I do laud the government's effort to shore up those people, or those moms, who need it most, but I don't laud the effort to cut it for those who need it least.
The obvious implication is that all women need support or can use support during this period of time. To choose one group over another seems to me to be illogical, and it violates or flies in the face of the notion of universality in terms of this very critical time in a woman's life.
Preventative care is unique in its positioning, in the sense that you're not asking for the disease to show itself or the concern or the situation to show itself. What
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you're doing is preventing problems in the future, and the problems that arise are quite significant. I'll give one quote and then make a few comments.
This is from Heida. She says:
"I'm a public health nurse that provides service to postnatal mothers discharged from the hospital."
Certainly, I don't know the situation as intimately as Heida does, but she says:
"Many people I see no longer are able to find a family doctor and have to resort to having follow-up, when needed, from the ER or walk-in clinic. Many times we are able to assess potential health risk issues for mother or infant and provide necessary and appropriate advice or referral. I agree that high-risk families need a lot of support and follow-up, but many times it is our non-high-risk families that benefit from the service.
"Sorry, but potential health problems such as infant weight loss, dehydration, postpartum depression, post-op infection, infant jaundice are not always identified at the time of discharge."
Nor are they found in only one ethnicity or at one income level. They cross every demographic. Women who have difficulties can live in the British Properties. They can live in Shaughnessy. They can live anywhere in this province, and the notion of preventative health care and universality is that those women get service.
Addressing Crime in Rural B.C.
D. Barnett: Today I'm going to talk about rural crime in British Columbia and addressing it. We can all play a great role in creating communities that are safe, where B.C. families can thrive and grow.
Our province remains committed to the principles of community-based policing. We believe it's the best way to address local priorities and develop strategies that don't just respond to crime but help prevent it. Our police value the relationships they have within their communities because its citizens, as I've said, can play a major role in preventing crime.
We have many community-based programs throughout the province that are supported by government, and I would like to describe a few that I personally have been involved in, in my communities. We have Citizens Crime Watch and Citizens on Patrol. We have Rural Crime Watch. We have Block Watch. We have SpeedWatch. We have restorative justice. We have safety committees. We have Crime Stoppers. We have Senior Watch. Rural British Columbia is involved in prevention of crime.
For those of you who would like to know a little bit more about these types of committees, I will explain it to you. Our safety committees promote safety. How they promote safety is working with seniors, having seminars, giving seniors brochures that they can read, showing them where to call in case of an emergency — not just criminal emergency. Safety is about safe seniors should they fall, should they need help.
SpeedWatch is a great program. SpeedWatch is actually funded through our Speed Board through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Our local police give seminars to citizens, and they go out and they actually help control speed. I can tell you, Madam Speaker, that our senior citizens do this to keep them active, and it is very successful.
Citizens on Patrol is a group and an organization of citizens who take their time and go out in the evening and patrol our communities and report anything that is unusual. All these programs are funded locally with these groups raising funds along with grants from the gaming.
I can tell you another one I would really like to talk about that really helps make our communities safer. And people say: "Why?" It's a program called restorative justice. It's a program that brings families and communities together, brings victims and the accused. The relationships and the success of this program throughout my communities are amazing.
Another program that I would really like to talk about, go back to, is safety committees. Some people say: "Well, what do you people really do?" Well, you know what? Safety committees in my communities meet on a regular basis. RCMP, paramedics, Ministry of Transportation, citizens, local governments — they come together, and they see throughout the area where things are not safe. That can be roads or anything.
What they do is they put together reports and send them off to different ministries that maybe a road needs to be fixed, maybe a speed limit needs to be decreased. And it is wonderful to see how prevention creates safety throughout our communities.
I would now like to tell you that our government over the past few years has worked hard with our local enforcement officers and our citizens and organizations. But we also recognize many factors — that British Columbia communities are ethnically and culturally diverse, and it is important for them to have confidence in their police services, especially for communities that have not traditionally felt supported by police.
The RCMP have more than 100 First Nations policing members who work with First Nations communities to promote partnerships, security and culturally sensitive professional policing. Since 2002 we have added more than 1,100 additional police officers across B.C., including 168 more police officers dedicated to fighting organized crime and gang violence. The integrated municipal police auto crime team and B.C.'s bait car program is the largest program of its kind in North America.
I will take a moment, Madam Speaker, to tell you that one of the communities within my riding had a very high crime rate, and one of the reasons was car theft. So the bait car came to one of my communities, and it's amazing how it has decreased theft.
The integrated municipal police auto crime team is an amazing group. We introduced Canada's toughest
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driving impaired laws, including new immediate prohibitions of three, seven and 30 days for drivers with a BAC level above 0.05 and 90-day roadside prohibitions for drivers with a level above 0.08.
In addition, there are new administrative penalties ranging from $200 to $500. Police will also have the discretion to impound vehicles for three or seven days. Since the introduction of the new penalties, drinking-and-driving fatalities have decreased almost 50 percent. Isn't that a wonderful number, to think how safe children and families and citizens are?
Some other facts. We have steadily increased our annual provincial policing budget by over $128 million since 2001. We invest $66 million a year in ten major integrated units to solve major crimes.
B. Simpson: I will be splitting the response time with the MLA for Fraser-Nicola, as we share some of the same area that the member of the government is speaking to.
Very quickly, in 2008 the Williams Lake RCMP detachment, one of 57 RCMP detachments in British Columbia, had the third-highest calls and first-highest case burden per officer; in 2009 the second-highest calls for service and second-highest case burden; and in 2010 the third-highest calls for service, second-highest calls in terms of case burden.
Yet despite that fact and despite significant staff limitations, they were able, as the member opposite has indicated, to work in partnership with the community to reduce various crimes quite significantly. B and E, for example, in businesses was reduced 70 percent, in residences 44 percent; robbery, 22 percent; mischief, 34 percent; and overall calls for service reducing by 25 percent. However, the issue is that the overall crime statistics and crime in our area, despite the fact that there's a community association, is handled by quick apprehension and quick prosecution. That does take RCMP resources.
One of the things that I wanted to stand today and raise a concern about is that our area has benefited from one of these special investigative units, the Cariboo region integrated marijuana enforcement unit. That unit allowed resources to come into our area to deal with organized crime and gang-related marijuana grow ops. A very successful program, it unburdened the local detachment to allow them to have community liaison and get at some of these other crimes that they were dealing with. Yet that crime unit is winding down.
As it winds down, it does a number of things. It reburdens the local detachment with dealing with marijuana grow ops and organized crime, which will take away from liaison with the communities. Secondly, it states that the B.C. interior is once again open for business for organized crime.
I would hope that the government would address that issue so we can continue to benefit from what this member is speaking about.
H. Lali: I want to thank both the members from the Cariboo. I share the southernmost part of the Cariboo with both of these members. I don't want to reiterate some of the positive things that both members have actually put on the floor. In rural B.C. the neighbourhood watches, the crime watches that have set up or the restorative justice and community policing — all of those are very good programs, and some of them exist in my constituency as well.
It's also essential that we have a contract with the RCMP — who, as you know, in rural B.C. are the police force that are out there — to make sure that criminal activity is kept to a minimum or that criminals are caught and also to do all the prevention kind of work that also exists.
Crime. The reduction in crime and prevention are very, very important — some of the things have already been mentioned — but also fighting poverty. If you reduce the level of poverty in the province, you reduce the number of people actually getting involved in criminal activity.
You'll find that First Nations, unfortunately, are overrepresented in terms of the jails and the legal system. That's because the First Nations are the poorest group in our society, and unfortunately, we don't do enough to help and assist aboriginal people to participate in educational and employment opportunities. If that starts to happen, you'll see the crime rate not only going down generally but also on First Nation reserves and in urban areas as well.
Youth programs are also essential. If you want to teach people not to get into criminal activity, you've got to start them young — very, very young. So when youth are occupied and they're busy with activity and recreation in school, they have less of a chance, much less of a chance, to actually get involved with the criminal element.
Similarly, repeat offenders. You'll find a lot of people go to jail, they come out, and they go back into jail again because they've ended up committing another crime. And punishment doesn't work. We're finding that in the States, where they've built just thousands of jails across the country and filled the jails, it hasn't worked. What happens is that the form of punishment….
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
H. Lali: Thank you, hon. Speaker. In the future sometime I'll have more to say.
D. Barnett: Thank you to my colleagues for their input. Yes, the member for Cariboo North is correct in what has happened in the Cariboo-Chilcotin and throughout the north. This integrated…. They call it the Cariboo region integrated marijuana enforcement team. It has been very successful and between September 2010
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and September 2011 has successfully dismantled numerous grow ops: Prince George, 20; Williams Lake, 19; 100 Mile House, 12; Quesnel, seven; Vanderhoof, two; and Alexis Creek, one. This is not just right inside the municipalities; this is throughout the region.
We are all working very closely and very hard to have this integrated team not leave us. As we know, as the member across the way has said, the ramifications because of work they have done and the work with the local volunteers who are out there and are the eyes and ears….
Yet I would also like to say that in the communities where I live, our First Nations communities are at these tables with these committees and working together in an integrated manner. We can always do more, but together we will continue to make our communities safe.
In rural British Columbia we're proud of our enforcement officers, proud of our citizens and our organizations who work so hard to ensure the quality of life for everybody. Preventing crime is one of those things. Teaching our children the better way to live and how to work together to help your fellow man next door will help prevent crime. I am very proud of rural British Columbia and the things we have done. I am very proud of our officers, who are our friends. They take time to talk to young people to ensure that they are not afraid of going to where they can get help.
Another type of crime prevention we have is Block Watch in some of our communities. The children are taught that if there is someone there on their way home alone from school or going to the park or their neighbours, they know there are houses with certain signs in the windows that they can go to. These citizens, too, may not do other things, but because they cannot leave their homes, they are always there to help our children.
So crime prevention is important, crime safety is important, but integrated police forces, integrated with communities and citizens in rural British Columbia, make a huge difference.
D. Donaldson: I'd like to talk today about responsible development. But before I begin, I want to put it in context. What we're talking about here are large external investment projects on the landscape, not local development, which often abides by community economic development principles. The second part of the context for this discussion we're going to have relates to where this development often occurs. It often occurs in rural areas where people really depend on the land for social, cultural and economic purposes.
In Stikine, for example, if it wasn't for the fish that people can and the moose meat that people put in the freezer, many people would go hungry throughout the winter. So that's the context.
In this context responsible development stems from the degree of public trust in two fundamental areas. One, environmental considerations, and the second point is social licence to operate. Under both points there's much evidence suggesting an increasing lack of public trust, and that's for good reason.
Let's first begin with environmental considerations. Environmental considerations have mainly to do with the environmental assessment process. That's the main driver — how government addresses environmental considerations when considering responsible development.
The Environmental Assessment Act was substantially weakened in 2002. Objectives were deleted, structures eliminated and reporting mechanisms undermined. I'll give one example of that. Prior to 2002 there was a well-defined project committee with a clear-cut rule for First Nations involvement. That project committee was eliminated, and now that is up to the discretion of the EA project manager. So that's one example.
Interestingly enough, many of the reasons that the Prosperity mine was rejected by the federal environmental assessment process was due to some of the undermining of the B.C. provincial environmental assessment process that occurred in 2002, including a lack of a defined role for First Nations in the environmental review of that project.
There's also the Auditor General's report that just came out in the summertime. It was looking into, once projects are approved, how the government is doing at monitoring the mitigating measures. In other words, the measures put in place to ensure that the environmental damage did not become irreparable — how are they doing on that?
Well, the Auditor General found that the monitoring post-approval is so weak that the possibility of grave environmental degradation — the potential is high for that. The Auditor General went on to say that self-regulation is not working because of a lack of oversight. So it's a lack of boots on the ground in those areas.
All of this together adds to a lack of public trust in the ability of government to consider environmental concerns in a really substantial way. A lack of public trust leads to a lack of public confidence and, therefore, a lack of confidence in responsible development.
The other area that defines responsible development is social licence. Now, this is the ability of local people to not only have a say but to benefit from local projects and, also, that when governments are trying to balance decisions — and that's the role of government — there's actually some faith that if the local people say it's not in the best interests of community and it's not part of community stability, governments will actually have the option to say no to a project. That's a hallmark of social licence.
Recently at the University of Victoria there was a forum held about mining in the future in B.C. It was
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called Co-operation, Not Conflict, and it was put on by the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. Ed John was there from the First Nations Summit; Stewart Phillip, as well, from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. No government representative was there, and that was noted, though they had been invited — although industry was there, and others. It was just typical of the inability for government to take advantage of what could be a very good forum for social licence.
Ed John wrote, prior to that conference: "The lack of First Nations' approved land use planning and decision sharing prevents cooperation. The discredited and clearly one-sided EA process inspires no confidence."
It's not just First Nations who are pointing this out around social licence; it's also industry. Byng Giraud, vice-president of Imperial Metals, presented to the Finance Committee this year, and he really laid out clearly that the government must be explicit in First Nations consultation. "Provide a clear consultation process." "Clear direction...." "Determine what level of consultation is necessary." This is the government's role around the social licence aspect, and industry is pointing out that it's not being fulfilled, and First Nations are pointing out that it's not being fulfilled.
The Fraser Institute. Last year I attended a conference of theirs. They pointed out that in 72 jurisdictions worldwide, their survey…. The lack of investment confidence in B.C. under aboriginal rights and title was highest — in other words, the greatest risk. So this leads to delays in projects that can be developed responsibly and also a lack of confidence amongst the general public for these projects.
I must say there has been one good effort from government in this regard. The Atlin Taku land use plan was recently completed and signed just in the summertime. It was between a First Nations, community, industry and government. That process was well supported by government and their employees and was a good example of how a good process around land use planning can go.
The government put about three to four years' worth of time into that process. The Taku River Tlingit had three years prior to that — amounts to about a seven-year process. But that's the kind of time that's needed, and unfortunately, the government now says that is the last effort of that type that they're willing to undertake. So this doesn't bode well for outlining and defining and looking at what is responsible development and looking at the robustness of the environmental assessment process as well as the social licence aspect.
J. Rustad: I am pleased to stand and respond to the member for Stikine. He raised a couple of interesting issues.
I want to start by telling a little story about the Anahim area, in particular around forestry. A number of decades ago there was significant opposition from First Nations to logging in the area, to the various activities that happen there. There were roadblocks and other types of things going on around there. Just a few years ago I talked to one of the chiefs of one of the bands down there, and he said: "Thank God some logging actually happened because it's the only green trees we have left."
It's interesting when you think about perspectives on the land base and activities that happen on the land base, because sometimes the opposition that can come up from it…. Perhaps conditions can change over time, and having the development and having those opportunities can often make a huge difference on the land base.
The member for Stikine has a lot of activity up in his area. A direct question that I would have for him around economic development and particularly rural development is: why did he oppose the construction of the electrification of Highway 37? In his election campaign in 2009, he said that money would be better spent on planting trees. So it's interesting, because when you think about opportunities and development, as the member is talking about, we need to be thinking about what type of activities, what kind of things we need to do on the land base to be able to enhance this.
The member has a lot of projects up in his area, and I'd like to ask him which ones he would like to support. Copper Fox in Shaft Creek. The Hard Creek Nickel project up in Atlin. The new Polaris goldmine. The Tulsequah Chief mine. The Hudson Bay Mountain Resort project. The Suskwa biomass power project. The Long Lake power project. The Jade Lake power project. The Kerr-Sulphurets. The McLymont Creek hydro project. The Moore Creek hydroelectric project. The Bronson Slope hydro power project. The Forrest Kerr hydroelectric project. The Bronson Slope copper, gold, silver, molybdenum mine project.
The list goes on and on. The Ruby Creek molybdenum mine. The Davidson molybdenum mine. The Sustut gold and copper project. The Bear River aggregate project. The Swamp Point aggregate project.
The point in mentioning this rather long list of activities for the northwest, of the projects in Stikine, is that we've had many discussions in the past about rural development, about the types of things that need to be done. I've asked a simple question each time. What do you actually support that isn't already permitted?
The process that the member talked about in terms of Prosperity mine. He seemed to indicate that there was a lack of consultation — 17 years of consultation has happened around Prosperity mine. How much more is needed?
Around other environmental projects and First Nations, one of the things we're doing that I'm very
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proud of is revenue-sharing with First Nations. We're trying to work with them with consultation. It's been successful in some areas, and in some areas it hasn't been as successful.
However, is the member for Stikine suggesting that if the local people say no, there should be a veto — that there should be no activity on the land base? It reminds me of what happened in the Anahim area around the logging and what happened through that area. At the end of the day, whenever you have resource development, you're going to have an impact on the environment.
We need to try to minimize that. We need to try to make sure that we mitigate as best as possible and accommodate where necessary. We're doing that. We're trying to work on the land base. We're trying to promote these projects. However, at the same time we also recognize we must see some development if we really want to make the social difference for communities.
I would point to examples like Fraser Lake and the Endako Mines and the Nadleh Whut'en and the people in that area who are working there and the difference that has made to those people personally and to their families and to the area.
So with that, I just want to thank once again the member for Stikine for bringing forward the comments and talking about this. Resource development is something that is near and dear to my heart — its enormous potential all the way through the northwest and especially in my riding. We need to find ways to be able to work together. We need to find ways to be able to see things move forward, but ultimately, we have to make decisions based on what is best on the land base.
D. Donaldson: Well, I appreciate the comments from the member for Nechako Lakes, although I don't believe he was listening very closely to what I had to say. It wasn't me saying that the monitoring of mitigation measures is failing right now under this government. It was the Auditor General. And it wasn't me that pointed out the poor process that led to the rejection of Prosperity mine. It was, for instance, the former Environment Minister federally. Mr. Jim Prentice said: "A number of stakeholders didn't take part in the provincial process, and this is why the federal and provincial processes arrived at different conclusions." So there's an hon. MP describing the failings of the B.C. environmental assessment process.
I must say that this member has asked me before about naming mines that we could be in support of and under responsible development. Well, I've got to point out that it's this government that refuses to name the eight mines that the Premier announced would be coming on line before 2015. By refusing to name them — it's this government that brought up that number — it creates great uncertainty and instability in communities that are wondering if their community is going to be affected by mine development in a positive or a negative way. It also creates uncertainty in industry as they vie for one of the potential ones that are going to be approved.
So I put the challenge out to this government and the hon. member for Nechako Lakes to name the eight mines that the Premier so proudly announced in her job plan but now refuses to name.
Getting back to the responsible development, the social licence aspect and the environmental assessment aspect that I discussed. Under these criteria, we can see why projects like the Enbridge tar sands oil pipeline or Royal Dutch Shell's coal bed methane plants in the Sacred Headwaters would not qualify as responsible development, whereas we could see that there could be potential mine projects or the proposed LNG pipeline and processing facility that could meet the criteria for responsible development.
It all comes down to trust, and that trust relates to the robustness of the EA process — and that's not been addressed by this government — and the social licence issue as embodied by the First Nations consultation framework set out by the government, which needs to be made clear as industry has pointed out, as Imperial Metals pointed out.
The reason this is important is there are responsible development projects out there that could be significantly delayed if we don't see an approved EA process from the government and improved First Nations consultation process under the social licence aspect that could be significantly delayed. Some of them could never see the light of day, and that would be a tremendous shame for the people of Stikine, for the people of rural areas and for the province as well.
J. van Dongen: I am pleased today to speak about fighting gang and gun violence in British Columbia. January to March 2009 were found to be the most serious three months of gang violence in B.C.'s history, according to researchers at UBC.
But due to the efforts of police and other players in the justice system, a recent Statistics Canada report noted some significant progress in that 83 homicides were recorded in 2010, which was down 35 from the 118 in 2009.
In a similar pattern, gang-related murders in British Columbia, according to Stats Canada, were down from 35 in 2009 to 18 in 2010. While B.C.'s homicide rate is still a little higher than the national average, our homicide rate is now at its lowest level since the mid-1960s.
I want to speak today a little bit about the efforts that have been made in the last 2½ years to get these rates of gang violence down. In particular, I want to note the anti-gang strategy that the province embarked on in February of 2009, which included a number of points
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that I think were equally supported on both sides of the House.
Other speakers this morning have talked about the additional police officers that were hired with $53 million of federal money that was part of a national plan to increase police levels in Canada. We hired 168 new police officers, nearly doubling the existing force of police officers working on gang-related crime to almost 400.
There was a decision made to deploy 16 of those members to satellite anti-gang units in Prince George and Kelowna. With the efforts of the integrated police forces, together with the community police forces, to stamp out gang and drug-related crime in the Lower Mainland, it has become increasingly important to have police support in the Interior and in the Prince George areas of British Columbia.
At the same time, there were significant net traffic fine revenues of almost $500 million returned to communities for policing at the community level. Of those dollars, $66 million went to the ten major integrated police teams.
In addition to beefing up police forces, there was a focus amongst the prosecution branch to ensure that there were specialized prosecutors available for organized crime cases. They helped to support the additional police forces in the integrated units.
There was also expansion of provincial jails, an investment of $185 million adding 340 cells, including a major provincial jail being built in Surrey.
I think one of the major efforts that involved both the province and the federal government were critical amendments to the Criminal Code that I believe are necessary on an ongoing basis to ensure that the war against gang violence continues to go in a positive direction.
Some of the changes that were made by the federal government to the Criminal Code included making it harder to get bail, providing stronger powers to fingerprint suspects on site and mandatory minimum sentences for serious drug convictions.
The province focused its effort with the federal government in three main areas starting in February 2009. First, we worked very hard with other provinces to eliminate the two-for-one credit for time served. This was really a judge-made law that had been built up over time which really provided incentive for delays in the court system by defence lawyers. It was something that was, in essence, abused by the accused to reduce the net amount of time they served for a particular crime.
The other two areas of focus that were particularly important and continue to be important are to simplify and create greater discipline in the evidence disclosure requirements in a trial and, secondly, to provide stronger powers to the police in terms of their ability to get wiretaps and get access to the new communication devices.
There was also a focus on the large numbers of illegal weapons in British Columbia that came in, very often from Washington State, and moved through British Columbia to other provinces. There was a ten-member weapons enforcement unit to seize illegal guns established, and tougher standards and security were established for gun dealers and prop masters who were importing guns for movie sets.
Additional legislation was also passed by this House to ensure that patients who were checking in with gunshot wounds into our health care facilities had to be reported to the police.
There was also legislation to restrict the sale of body armour to legitimate purposes, an idea that was promoted and supported by the opposition critic as well. That same legislation outlawed modified armoured vehicles and provided more powers to confiscate and destroy them. Vehicles carrying illegal weapons could also be confiscated.
Finally, a new gang hotline and rewards program was established, which created additional incentive and the means to identify gang activity. This resulted in a first-year 23 percent increase in tips that came in involving gang crime.
Civil forfeiture has also been a very helpful tool in fighting gang violence and gang activity. To date $21 million has been obtained from that program.
K. Corrigan: I'm pleased to rise and speak about fighting crime and gang violence.
Government has made many promises related to the justice system over the last several years, and the member for Abbotsford South spoke about some related to gangs. The reality is that the budgets for policing and for corrections and for the justice system have not risen. What has happened, particularly over the last year, is that money may be moved from one area to another, but the fact is that the justice system is in chaos as a result of the lack of funding. The government has promised more police officers, more prosecutors and improvements to the courts and corrections, but these promises have not been kept.
What about the promise of more police officers? Well, the vast majority of policing is provided by municipalities. If there are successes, I think we need to thank municipalities, largely, for the improvements. The reality is that the provincial budget for policing is virtually unchanged, certainly in the last couple of years.
The further reality is that the province has continued to download costs onto municipalities. PRIME-BC, the provincial registry of criminal activity, is a perfect example. The province created it, charged the municipalities for it and then, without consultation, doubled the charges for PRIME-BC in one year.
I do have to say that municipal and police forces overall are doing a great job in British Columbia. Certainly,
[ Page 8501 ]
we appreciate our RCMP detachment in Burnaby, and crime statistics have dropped. We should thank those forces throughout the province for the great work they do, but there are challenges in areas that should be provincially coordinated.
For example, the number of gangs operating in the province has jumped from less than ten a decade ago to about 130. So we do need to continue to support the integrated gang squads.
Our policemen and -women are doing a good job, but it's a different story when criminals get into the justice system. Over the past ten years the funding for court services has been cut by about a third, from $137 million to $94 million. There's a critical shortage of judges, sheriffs, court clerks, prosecutors and defence counsel, which has resulted in wasted time and money. There are delays in cases, sometimes unsafe courtrooms and even many cases where the accused have gotten off scot-free.
On the same day the province delivered a throne speech that mentions the ongoing problem of court delays, the Supreme Court released a judgment calling a 31-month wait in jail without trial for the accused scandalous. In that case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan stayed six charges against Michael Ellis with regard to allegations he had assaulted a police officer, led Mounties on a stolen truck chase and dealt drugs. So he was off scot-free because of delays caused by lack of funding for the justice system. Justice McEwan said: "This is obviously a thoroughly unsatisfactory outcome, but it is a consequence of government decisions that have seriously impaired the Provincial Court's ability to schedule matters of a week or more within a constitutionally tolerable time…."
Earlier this year dozens of sheriffs were hired and trained only to be immediately laid off; 29 sheriff positions were cut resulting in dangerous courtrooms, more delayed or cancelled trials and further chaos in our justice system. Those positions were reinstated, but the crisis remains.
Associate Chief Judge Michael Brecknell of the Provincial Court said that a lack of resources including sheriffs and court clerks had caused unconstitutional delays in the case of Joseph Hammer, who sold cocaine to an undercover cop.
So government has also promised in the past more prosecutors, a promise that was not fulfilled. Instead, existing prosecutors had their jobs shuffled.
What of the promise and the mention of improvement to corrections? Well, the budget for corrections actually went down this year. Despite increasing prison populations, it went down from $192 million — almost $193 million — to $190 million. We are facing a whole range of costs in corrections and policing that are and will increasingly be borne by the provinces.
J. van Dongen: I want to thank the member opposite for her comments, but I do want to point out that it was this government that put in place the traffic fine revenue going to local government. Prior to that, local governments had all the costs, and the provincial government collected all of the fine revenue.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Not only did we promise 75 percent of the net fine revenue; we actually delivered 100 percent of the net fine revenue to communities. I know from my own community of Abbotsford that that is a very significant number every year and growing virtually every year.
I want to make some comments from the perspective of my community of Abbotsford, which luckily no longer claims the title of murder capital of Canada. The same Statistics Canada report that I referenced earlier indicated that Abbotsford homicides dropped from nine in 2009 to four in 2010, placing us eighth on the list of 34 census metropolitan areas in Canada.
This is a direct result of the hard and dedicated work of Chief Constable Bob Rich, Deputy Chief Rick Lucy and their whole Abbotsford police department to work with the community to address gang violence directly with a number of anti-gang initiatives, including a very strong and innovative youth anti-gang blitz, the identification of gangsters by the new Abbotsford gang violence oppression unit and an active community engaged with them in their efforts. I want to commend Sgt. Mike Novakowski, who was really the driving force in some of the innovative programs that our police force is delivering.
In closing, I want to pay tribute to Eileen Mohan, the mother of Chris Mohan, and Lois Schellenberg, the wife of Ed Schellenberg. Chris and Ed were the two innocent murder victims, along with four gangsters, who made up the Surrey Six deaths on October 19, 2007, exactly four years ago.
Eileen and Lois have been exemplary and inspirational in how they have dealt with the worst kind of loss that anyone can experience in their lifetime. For four years now they have maintained their confidence in the police and the justice system despite some difficult setbacks along the way in the investigation and prosecution of the murderers of their family. I know they have deeply appreciated the tangible support of many MLAs on both sides of this House.
We give Eileen Mohan and Lois Schellenberg and their families the goodwill of this House as the Surrey Six case moves to trial — hopefully, as soon as possible for them.
Hon. R. Coleman: I call private member's Motion 16.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, the unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 16
[ Page 8502 ]
without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
Motion 16 — Government settlement
with boss power corp.
[Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly request that, pursuant to sections 13 (1) and 13 (2) of the Auditor General Act (SBC 2003, c. 2), the Auditor General undertake an examination of the payment by the Government of an indemnity of approximately $30 million to Boss Power and report its findings to the Legislative Assembly forthwith.]
Point of Order
E. Foster: I find this motion to be out of order as a way to impose a cost on government.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Surrey-Whalley, are you speaking on the point of order?
B. Ralston: Yes.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
B. Ralston: The motion asks the Legislative Assembly to request the Auditor General to undertake an examination of the payment by the government of an indemnity of approximately $30 million to Boss Power and report its findings to the Legislative Assembly forthwith.
I say this motion is in order for the following reasons. The Auditor General reports to the assembly. He is the creature of the assembly and not of the government. His budget is passed in an annual appropriation in the budget process, and in his budget unexpected expenditures are provided for. In other words, there is a contingency element to what he does.
My position here is that this examination requested under section 13 falls within the operational expense already passed by the Legislative Assembly and falling within his annual appropriation.
The interpretation involved here is Standing Order 67. There is a case back in 1939 which expressed some concern about that but allowed the case to proceed.
More recent authority in the Canadian Parliament — and these are the authorities on which I rely — is an article by Michael Lukyniuk, who is the former principal Clerk for the House of Commons. He cites two cases which I want to draw to the Speaker's attention.
A decision in 2005, an amendment of the Canada election bill:
"Finally, the bill proposed to appoint returning officers by way of an open competition organized by the Chief Electoral Officer. The Speaker explained: 'Although this will involve the spending of public moneys, it appears to the Chair that this would be an operational expense of the Chief Electoral Officer that would be within the annual appropriations provided to his office.'"
So just as the Speaker there said that the expenditure would fall within the annual appropriation of the Chief Electoral Officer, I say this examination falls within the annual appropriation of the Auditor General.
A further case referred to — again, a case in 2005 — was discussion in the Parliament of Canada of the Heritage Lighthouse bill. It contained a provision that required that heritage lighthouses be reasonably maintained.
"An objection was made that this would entail greater government expenditures. However, the Speaker explained: 'I would characterize those expenditures as falling within departmental operational costs, for which an appropriation would have been obtained in the usual manner.'"
My point is simply this. The resolution that's before the House, the examination that the Auditor General is being asked to conduct, falls within the annual appropriation for his office, which has already been made, and as such the motion is in order.
Hon. R. Coleman: It is the opinion of the government that Motion 16 places a cost on the government and should be ruled out of order.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Point of Order
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I have listened carefully to what the member for Surrey-Whalley has to say, but the relevant standing orders relating to Motion 16, rightfully so, are Standing Orders 66 and 67. Standing Order 66 states that the House "will not receive any resolution stating an express or abstract opinion of the House on recommending an expenditure of public money unless recommended by the Crown."
Standing Order 67 states: "It shall not be lawful for the House to adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address, or Bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by Message of the Lieutenant-Governor in the Session in which such vote, resolution, address, or Bill is proposed."
I should add that the wording of standing orders is based on even stronger provisions in section 47 of the Constitution Act of British Columbia. Although the provisions with the Auditor General appear contradictory, based on the statement of the minister this morning and the longstanding practices of this House,
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I rule the motion out of order in the hands of a private member.
Hon. R. Coleman: I move that we move to Motion 5.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 5 — GROUP HOME CLOSINGS
L. Krog: The motion before the House is: "Be it resolved that this House urges the Government to immediately halt the closure of group homes in British Columbia."
[L. Reid in the chair.]
I think that the operative word here with this motion is "homes." These are, in fact, homes for the individuals who occupy them. There is no question that there is incredible public concern in the general sense and, obviously, incredible private concern in the personal sense across British Columbia with the conduct of these homes and the conduct of this government in their management, directly and indirectly, through CLBC.
The reality is that individuals who have resided in these group homes for many, many years are now being forced to leave them — literally to leave the family associations that they have developed in those group homes. It is astonishing that a government that claims to care so much about the most vulnerable amongst us would so directly be involved in a process and a program that would see the closure of group homes.
Initially, there was a great deal of defence raised by the government that in fact this wasn't happening. It is now obviously apparent — through case after case after case that have been cited by members of the opposition, which have been brought to the attention of the public through media — that in fact these group homes are being closed.
There are many, many vulnerable British Columbians with significant disabilities whose lives are being entirely disrupted by this process. If there was ever a time for this government to step up to the plate and say that it is sincere in its concern for vulnerable British Columbians, it would be now.
It is time to open the chequebook, if you will, and ensure that these individuals continue the opportunity to reside with their families — and I use the term "family" in a very meaningful way, I hope, in a direct sense — with the people who've provided care and assistance to them, the people who represent stability in their lives.
It is absolutely crucial that this government stop this process. To pretend somehow, as it has, that CLBC is this entirely independent agency beyond the control of government is as silly as suggesting that B.C. Ferries is beyond the control of government. The truth is entirely to the contrary. We know that if this government says jump, the question will be: how high?
So this morning while we have this opportunity in this House, I think it is important, if the government is sincere…. I urge government members to stand up and speak in favour of this motion. If the government is sincere, then they need to step forward, pass this resolution, stop the closure of group homes in British Columbia, reassess their policy, reassess what they've been doing and take the fear away from people who are facing extraordinary changes that they had not anticipated, which they should not face.
Their families are in crisis. I can assure you that members on this side of the House…. From previous speeches made by members opposite, we know there are constituents all across this province who have come to various MLAs to raise this issue very directly, who have raised the cry. They deserve to be heard.
Members opposite have spoken very passionately on this issue, quite appropriately, in defence of their constituents, in defence of the most vulnerable. So, hon. Speaker, I urge this assembly this morning to do the right thing. I urge all members of good conscience to stand here this morning, support the resolution of the member and do the right thing for the vulnerable people of British Columbia who occupy these group homes. Give them security and stability. It is the least we can do.
B. Stewart: I rise today before this House to essentially oppose the member opposite's motion about group homes.
First of all, I think one of the reasons that this is important — that we do discuss this in this House — is because of the fact that one of the things happening in front of us today is that there is change upon us.
Many of these people that have been using the services that CLBC has been providing have been aging. They've been getting older. There are more people coming as adults into the system, and the challenge that's facing us is the fact that many of these people that have been receiving these services require different needs.
Some of these group homes don't necessarily meet the standards of what we would expect today. They've been in business for many years. The reality is that the owners have made a decision to either close them down and not necessarily make the upgrades necessary…. But the reality is that of the 700 group homes, there are some that are closing. The reality is that nobody in this province that needs the care of 24-7 help for group homes is being denied that.
I can tell you specifically in my own riding, a specific individual, a young fellow that I went to school with…. In grade 3 we were riding home on Anders Road in Lakeview Heights. He went through a stop sign, and he
[ Page 8504 ]
was hit by a speeding car. His life for him and his family changed forever.
I've known Ron for generations, and the reality is that Ron has struggled with all of the trauma that was caused by that particular accident. Ron comes from a very loving family in my riding. His parents, both of them recently deceased well into their 90s, cared for Ron until…. Ron can't care for himself.
Certainly, his family is looking at the options. His sisters, who have grown up knowing Ron the way that he is today, realized they can't necessarily provide the service that Ron really needs. Ron is capable of doing some work and taking care of himself, but he still needs that extra care. I can tell you that the people in our riding who are working for CLBC have done a great job in making certain that Ron is able to receive the care and the planning that needs to go into it.
This has only recently happened. Ron currently is receiving care by being able to be out of the home during the day, but a plan is in place to move Ron, at a cost of some $100,000 a year, to a group home facility where his needs will be met for many years to come. I hope Ron continues to enjoy that. He'll be in a different environment.
I think that what the members opposite continue to describe here is the fact that this family association in the group homes is being torn apart by some sort of, I guess, intention that…. The reality is that these relationships they've built up will be torn apart. Not all of these homes are appropriate for the same people, and we have to make those changes.
I can tell you that what they have been doing is creating a culture of fear in the media. With people in the audience, trotting out people that…. Frankly, they have no business telling the facts the way that they're positioning them. The reality is that the member opposite here is, frankly, out of order in terms of what he's really doing, in terms of telling these people that we don't provide the services.
We agree that there have been increased pressures, and the fact is that one of the things we have instituted, one of the things we have promised, is that we are making certain…. Certainly, it's been raised in this House that maybe for some people there is this concern.
One of the things we are doing is that we've put in place a client support team. That client support team is a multidisciplinary team that will review the processes and decisions to ensure that the services offered meet the individual's disability-related needs and promote their safety and well-being.
The focus is on reviewing the circumstances where an individual has requested the type or level of service and does not believe the response has been satisfactory. As well, one of the things we have made certain is that we have taken the approach that, frankly, CLBC has been a growing Crown organization that has received increased funding.
We, government, face those same challenges in health care, other social ministries — Children and Families, Social Development — and the reality is that we do have to think thoughtfully and wisely about how we're delivering those services. Often the answer is not just putting more money into the situation. It's about how we deliver the service, making certain that the services are appropriate and that the people are getting the services they need. Hopefully, I think we can say with confidence that since 2005 and the creation of CLBC, B.C. has been leading in terms of the standard of care for these people. The reality is that we have increased pressures.
The ministry has started with a deputy ministers' audit. I know the people who are heading that up are deeply concerned about this. They want to get to the bottom of it, and the fact is they will report out to the minister to make certain she has the facts available about what the changes are. Whether it happens to be changes in the system we've set up or whether there is a requirement for additional funds in certain areas, I know the team — we have great confidence in them — will be able to bring forward to the minister some suggestions.
For Ron's benefit, I want to tell you that, frankly, I stand here because in my riding CLBC and the people that are there, Lisa Bourget and her team at CLBC in the Central Okanagan, do a fantastic job — not without its challenges. But the reality is there's none of this that the member is suggesting.
M. Elmore: I'm rising to stand in favour of the motion calling to halt the closure of group homes in B.C.
It was very incredible, the speech from the previous speaker, in terms of claiming that a culture of fear has been created raising these concerns. Certainly, if the member or anyone had taken a look at the Vancouver Sun today and saw the front page…. We have seen stories in the media over the last number of days and weeks and months, heard from the families themselves on TV in terms of the challenges and struggles they're having dealing with their loved ones who have been forced out of group homes and the difficulties and challenges of finding adequate placements for their loved ones.
It's a reality, and I would urge the other side and all members of the House to basically listen to the pleas of these parents and to also offer our support to halt the closure of group homes and provide adequate funding.
Besides these stories, today it was Marlene Adam and her brother Donny — he's got Down syndrome and Alzheimer's — on the front pages of the Vancouver Sun talking about the challenge of finding an adequate home for him. There are over 1,200 on the list waiting for group homes. Over the past number of months we have seen the closure of over 65 homes. The closure of the group
[ Page 8505 ]
homes has certainly been driven by the government drive to cut costs.
We've seen that CLBC's funding has been frozen from 2010 to '11 and 2012 to next year, but also the caseload is expected to rise by 10 percent, adding 1,300 individuals over that term. We've seen that this has been a shift in terms of the closure of group homes. It's been identified as a strategy to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the service expenditures and also to cut costs.
We've seen the impact of that, cutting costs in this manner, and the human toll it has taken on these individuals who have been moved from their homes, from their families, where they've developed relationships over many years, and also the anguish it's created for their families and their parents and their friends trying to provide support.
Another aspect is that the closures have been carried out without the consultation of family members, and families have really reached the breaking point not only in terms of the closure of group homes but the lack of adequate support for services for adults with developmental disabilities. We've heard that MLAs from the government have also heard these concerns from their constituents and are also raising them. As well, we've heard from Faith Bodnar, the executive director of B.C. Community Living Action, an advocacy organization, saying that the situation is as desperate as anything she's ever seen.
There's also a concern that while these changes are cost-driven, we're really placing our most vulnerable citizens at risk and falling short of our obligation to support our most vulnerable citizens in British Columbia. This is a crisis we're seeing. I would like to close by reiterating my support for the motion to halt the closure of group homes in B.C., put an end to the anxiety that these families are facing and also provide support for these individuals. The families-first slogan that we hear from the Premier rings hollow for me in terms of this reality that we're seeing and the crises with developmental-disabled adults being forced from their homes.
I'm in favour of the motion to halt the closure of group homes in B.C. and urge everyone in the House to support the motion.
D. Horne: It's with pleasure that I stand this morning and speak to this motion. Obviously, dealing with the most vulnerable in our society is a very difficult and tricky thing to accomplish. The principles that were set in place when Community Living British Columbia was founded, I think, are sound and something that we on both sides of the House all want to see accomplished — that is, ensuring independence, ensuring respect and ensuring that the supports and safety measures required by these groups and individuals are met. Obviously, those are very important things and principles that I think all of us would support.
The difficulty with group homes and the way we provide a nurturing environment and the supports necessary for these people is something that evolves over time. It's why I wouldn't necessarily support an overall ban on the closure of group homes. I don't believe simply banning the closure outright and overall within the entire system necessarily accomplishes what any of us are trying to accomplish. There will be times and there are many circumstances when group homes will close, and there are many things that contribute to that.
The real essence of the question is: how do we deal with it when that is the appropriate thing to be doing? You know, it's communications. It's being able to understand and deal with people so that they don't feel that this is being pushed upon them, and that, basically, this is something that is to the betterment of their care, their safety, their development over time.
The difficulty with people with developmental disabilities is that the support they require isn't stagnant. It isn't the same day after day after day as well. You know, like everyone, people have good days; they have bad days. The difficulty is that on those bad days, the supports that people with disabilities require are far greater than on others, and it's this that really provides one of the great challenges — how to deal with this very vulnerable group and make sure the support they need, the services they need, the extra help they need is there. I don't think that anyone on either side of the House would disagree with those principles.
As each of us are elected…. I think this is true, and it's certainly something that I use as one of the driving principles behind me — that is, if I believed everything were perfect, I wouldn't seek election. I seek election because I believe that things can be changed, that things can be better and that we always need to strive to make things better.
That being said, we have a new minister responsible for Community Living British Columbia, and I believe that minister is very, very capable. I believe that minister understands the challenges she faces. She has done many, many things over the last number of weeks to address some of the issues that are there, some of the issues that are being faced by Community Living British Columbia.
It's a very, very difficult file. It's something that all of us as members…. To make sure that these people are well supported, I think, is a foundation of our society in general. The review currently being undertaken in the system which was put in place last week will make sure that cases are being addressed where it seems that things are falling through the cracks or where the supports that are necessary aren't there.
I think that is fundamentally very important as well — that we now have a review committee on a regional and on a provincial level that deals with those and deals
[ Page 8506 ]
with those quickly to ensure that we address those situations and to make sure that the required services and supports are there.
That's why I think, overall and holistically, that we have to continue to approach this on a case-by-case basis. Each case is different. We have to make sure that the supports are there. We have to ensure that these most vulnerable people are cared for and get the care they truly need.
I think the last thing that I do want to say on this issue is just how our society has changed over the last little while when it comes to Community Living British Columbia. Those that are at the bottom end of the spectrum or those that don't have the severe disabilities that others have oftentimes in the past were simply cared for at home, cared for by their mother or their father, in a situation when both parents didn't work.
But our society has changed, and changed drastically. Now with many situations where both parents have to work simply to support the household, that isn't necessarily possible. We do have to make sure that we put systems and supports in place to be able to deal with these people so that these families can enjoy life and have a lifestyle that is the best that it can be.
M. Farnworth: Hon. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak to the motion. The preceding member made some comments that we should be dealing with the cases all around Community Living B.C. on a case-by-case basis of people falling through the cracks. To a certain extent, I would agree with that, but the problem, I think, arises when the case-by-cases become too numerous, and too many people are falling through the cracks.
CLBC was created with a great deal of hope and a sort of enthusiasm that this would be a model that would work, and for many people it has worked. The problem we've seen in the last number of years — it particularly manifested itself in the last few months — has been that for too many people it's not working. The changes in government policy that have affected CLBC are having a negative impact on the very people that it's supposed to be serving.
We're seeing the closure of group homes, which is resulting in people not having access to services, disruptions to communities and to groups of people that have been together for a very long time. The example that I think most of is Melissa Park Lodge in Port Coquitlam. Melissa Park Lodge has been there as long as I can remember, since I was a kid of nine years old, and there have been people who have been living there for many, many years.
Well, it's being closed down. Some are being sent to some new facilities; some are ending up farther up the valley. But the bottom line was this. That little community of people was broken and disrupted or dispersed, upsetting the residents, upsetting the families and raising an awful lot of questions about what was to happen in the future.
We've all watched some of the absolutely heart-wrenching cases that have been in the media and raised in this House over the last few weeks. There's a real sense that things are not working. The opposition has called for an independent review to get to the bottom of what's going on, to identify the problems so that we can get them fixed. The government has responded by saying there's an internal review.
Well, an internal review isn't good enough. We need a review that's public. We need a review that's going to identify what the key problems are and allow us to put forward a plan that will deal with them. Central to that is a sense that we should not be closing group homes until those issues have been identified and those solutions have been put in place.
What we're doing when we continue down that path is just adding to the problem. I don't think that's what any of us in this House want. I think all of us as MLAs have been in our offices and sat with people, parents of individuals with developmental disabilities, and have heard the heart-wrenching details of the challenges they face. You cannot help but be affected by that.
To me, what we need to do is to recognize a couple of things. One, CLBC was created with a mandate. Is it still the right mandate? Is it still the right model? I think we need to look at that. We need to identify the problems. We need to be able to fix them, and we need to give people in the system and the parents of those individuals confidence that that's taking place.
We also need to recognize in the bigger picture that even more people are not in group home situations, are looked after by family members, by parents. In many cases demographic changes are having a significant impact on the ability of those individuals to look after and care for their children. They're getting older. They have health issues of their own. They're not able to do what they once were able to do. As a result, that will be placing even more pressure and stress on the system over the coming years.
Rather than eliminating services in the form of group homes that are in place right now, we should be stepping back and saying: "Hang on a sec. What's taking place here? Let's find out what the problems are. Let's identify and put in place solutions." A key to that is ensuring that group homes aren't being closed while that's being done.
I don't think it's a difficult step for the government to take. I think what's more of a difficult step for the government to take is to recognize that things aren't going well and that they need to be addressed, that they need to be fixed. I think if they were to take that step back and say that we're not going to allow any more closure of group homes until we have gotten to the bottom and
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have made changes that will work and benefit people, they'll be applauded by this side of the House.
They'd be applauded for that by the general public at large, I think, because what's pretty clear is that what British Columbians are seeing and what they are learning about what is taking place in CLBC is leaving them extremely frustrated and extremely concerned that the government is not going to take the action that's required and truly address this problem.
It has been my pleasure to speak to this motion. I look forward to the comments that other colleagues on both sides of the House have to say to it.
D. Barnett: I am pleased to stand here today to this motion. I'm also pleased at the steps that government has taken with our new minister over the last very short period of time. We all know that our most vulnerable need our help, and we're all willing to help. From time to time, yes, changes are made. Changes are made to every walk of life, and one of the fears of everyone is change.
When you hear the word "change," what do you think? You think your life is going to be changed in a dramatic way, that you will not be able to accept it. But you know, change is not always bad. Change is for the better.
We have a new client support team that our minister put together to work with Community Living, and I can honestly stand here in this House today to tell you that I do have a constituent I am working with who has worked with this new team. This new team has taken this individual and the family and lifted them from low to high. The success story in a short period of time is absolutely amazing.
It's not always about money. It's about process, systems and how we deal with issues. For many of us who have had the fortune of knowing these wonderful people who get our assistance…. And they are wonderful people.
I come from rural British Columbia, where these people who are not as fortunate as some of us are part of our community. We have local organizations that work with these people on a day-to-day basis, who help nourish them. They are more accepted in our communities than you could ever imagine.
I want to tell you about this organization, which is a volunteer organization in the 100 Mile House, called Cedar Crest Society. They are the community living agency in our town. They have built this wonderful facility with community help. They deliver the services that we need, but they also make all of us feel welcome. We all integrate and share each other's resources, stories and community involvement.
When you see some of these misfortunate people out there in the wintertime shovelling snow for the community, we all love it. The restaurants run out and give them a hot chocolate. The rest of us go out and say: "Are you warm enough?" It is truly a community living organization in some of our small rural communities. And as with everything else, it takes a community to take care of these types of people and help them.
It's unfortunate when things happen that are incidents that we can't control from time to time. But always talking about the negative certainly doesn't help anyone. I believe that we have been socially responsible. Yes, we have more and more people needing our help as demographics change, and we will always have that. Nothing will ever change.
Look at the age of us in this facility here. Our needs are changing. Can we change as fast as our needs are? Never. It wouldn't matter who you were and how much money you had. It will never happen, and that we have to accept. But we do the best we can do. We work with people. We work with families.
This is a very personal issue with each and every citizen who is involved in these types of family situations. I commend the families. I commend the workers. The people who work with these people are absolutely wonderful, and I am really grateful that I come from a community that cares and a community that participates.
Just to remind everybody, the client support team is part of a number of significant changes at CLBC with our new minister. We have the appointment of an interim CLBC CEO; the creation of a deputy minister working group to examine how individuals with development disabilities and their families are being supported by government ministries and how CLBC assesses and prioritizes needs; an internal audit to report on a number of areas related to the service demand, performance management and cost analysis for CLBC; and the request for an interim update from the board of CLBC for their vision for the organization and how they expect to achieve this vision.
These are all great things, and they're happening as we all sit here and discuss this issue this morning. We have a long way to go with everything we do in the province of British Columbia. We have day-to-day changes. We have more needs. We also have more accessibility.
We have a government that is full of innovation and citizens that are full of innovation. Working together, we will accomplish these goals. We will not leave people out. We all care. On both sides of the House the passion is there for everyone. We know how to deliver and how to deal with them.
A review of any organization is great. I'm sure that each and every one of us has been in business or worked for somebody where we all take reviews. We do business differently.
We've got climate change. Do we do things the same out there on the landscape as we did before we discovered that the climate was changing and the pine beetle was here, and things? No, we did not.
So we must change with the times. We must put our energy into positive actions that are in the best interests
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of our citizens and those that need services. It's time we all stood up, moved forward and supported CLBC and our great minister.
B. Simpson: The member opposite's comment that a review of any organization is great — I wholeheartedly support that and think that this motion is too narrow in scope, as we talked about the last time this motion came up.
But the critical factor is that this review should be independent. The list of changes that have been made to CLBC is a result of an organization in crisis. The change of the minister; the loss of the CEO — or firing of the CEO; this internal review that's about to go on, or is going on; and this new client support team are all responses to crisis without the admission of the crisis.
I think what needs to be done…. It may be appropriate to put a moratorium on the closure of group homes as an interim step, but what we need is a fulsome independent review, because the real issue here is that it's the wrong model. We're trying to run an independent Crown corporation as a business with a fixed budget and indeterminate needs. The needs of society are not addressed by driving CLBC on a business model. The fact that you have 2,800 people on the wait-list is a testament to that.
With respect to the client support team, I have a constituent who has gone through that process. I think it's a cumbersome, strange process, where you put your hand up and say, "I don't like what's going on," and a regional table has to come together. They have five days to respond. If they don't like that, then it goes back to CLBC and out to the assistant deputy ministers, and they have to respond. What's going to happen if 2,800 people on the wait-list say they don't like the fact they're on the wait-list?
We've just taken that organization, taken all of its processes, and skewered it into this new process. The individual that we were able to work through this process did get a speedy response. Here's the response: "We're going to continue status quo until April 1." This young girl turns 19 in December, but they're going to continue her care till April 1. Why? Because they don't know what the budget is.
You can actually try and address all of these concerns, but with no budget to address them, even people within that agency are saying: "What is it we're supposed to do?" It is about money as well as about the structure of CLBC.
So while I think it may be appropriate to stop the closure of group homes until we have a better assessment of their role in serving disabled adults in British Columbia, I support opposition members and others who are involved with this agency in the call for a substantive, independent, significant review of CLBC and the crisis that that organization is facing.
M. Sather: I rise to support the motion to place a moratorium on the closure of group homes in British Columbia. The members opposite seem to be a bit in denial about what's going on in this regard. The member for Vernon-Monashee mentioned that some group homes don't meet standards. The member for Coquitlam–Burke Mountain said that many things contribute to group home closures, and the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin said: "Change is not always bad."
Well, this change has been very bad for a lot of clients in British Columbia — 65 group homes in the province closed since last year, including Bramble house in Maple Ridge. I've talked in this House before about one of my constituents there and how her assessment was downgraded significantly, such that she was no longer eligible to be in a group home.
This is all happening, too, at a time when $300,000 bonuses have been paid out to CLBC managers. That's kind of consistent, unfortunately….
Deputy Speaker: My apologies, Member. I understand you've spoken on this motion.
M. Sather: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
R. Howard: As usual, it's a pleasure for me to take my place this morning in this House and address the motion on the floor: "Be it resolved that this House urges the Government to immediately halt the closure of group homes in British Columbia."
I cannot support this. I do understand the concerns, but I think we can't be running around with this gas pedal, brake, gas pedal, brake kind of management style. I don't think we can reasonably assume that this one-style-fits-all will work either. I think we've heard many stories in this House, in our communities and in our offices where individual service plans, individual responses, are what is in fact needed.
This is an issue that, obviously, I take very seriously. I know the government takes it very seriously. In an effort to understand the community, I personally undertook the review of some group homes in my community. I take advantage of an annual picnic that happens with CLBC where you can get out and meet the families, meet the staff and meet the clients — meet some of these wonderful, disadvantaged young children and adults, in fact, that do so much to add to the fabric and to the vibrancy and to the compassion in our communities.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Touring the group homes was significant for me because to meet the very sincere, professional, caring staff members that look after the clients for CLBC was a real
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reminder for me of just how much we depend on folks that are so inclined to take those jobs.
I'm also pleased that there are some phenomenal people involved in CLBC that I've known for many years now in the management structure and the staffing structure of the organization itself. I think we need to remind ourselves at times like this that CLBC, in fact, is well known as a leading-edge innovator throughout the province, of course, but throughout the country and throughout the world. I think they have been recognized as a leading-edge service provider and an innovative service provider.
I don't think that it can always just be about more money. If it's always just more money, more money, we're going to be swimming in debt. We'll lose our triple-A credit rating. The economy will start to suffer. We'll start to lose programs, and we'll have to further ramp down these programs which we all value so much. So it can't just always be about more money. Sometimes some management expertise has to go into it.
I'm mindful of the time, so I just want to give some context, if I can. We know that CLBC provides services in this province to over 13,000 people. That's a remarkable statement right there. We know that within that there are many, many success stories. I know that there are many success stories even in my own community, where there has been successful transition from group homes to home-sharing.
We've had a recent increase to the CLBC budget, $8.9 million, which will allow new and additional services to approximately 540 people. So the government is taking action and has taken action. We have a whole list of things that other speakers to this issue have outlined of what this government is doing as we speak.
Just as a last little bit of context, the regional health authorities' spending on home and community services for CLBC clients increased from $5.24 million in 2005 to just under $13 million in 2011, and that goes with annual increases to the CLBC budget and this government's funding thereof as well.
Mindful of the time, I will wrap up by saying that it's important to me that we do things right with CLBC, in partnership with CLBC. The government has clearly demonstrated it's important to them by the series of recent announcements and actions that they're taking. So I am pleased to see that the government is taking action and continues to invest in these vital services for our society's most disadvantaged.
R. Howard moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:56 a.m.
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