2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Volume 28, Number 7
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill M207 — Sustainable Development Indicators and Reporting Act, 2011
Bill M208 — Private Career Training Institutions Amendment Act, 2011
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Mural project by immigrant and refugee youth
North Shore Congress child- and family-friendly community charter
Elimination of violence against women
Voter turnout for municipal elections
Vancouver rent bank proposal
S. Chandra Herbert
Curling in Maple Ridge
Retail industry and timeline for elimination of harmonized sales tax
Hon. K. Falcon
Information on harmonized sales tax transition period
Hon. K. Falcon
Prior comments by Premier on payment of legal fees in B.C. Rail court case
Hon. S. Bond
Safety of corrections officers
Hon. S. Bond
Capacity at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital
Hon. M. de Jong
Islands Trust, annual report, 2010-11
S. Chandra Herbert
Orders of the Day
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 5 — Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. K. Falcon
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill 5 — Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 10 — Nurse Practitioners Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Hon. M. de Jong
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill 10 — Nurse Practitioners Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 19 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2011
Hon. S. Bond
Hon. M. Polak
Hon. S. Thomson
Hon. D. McRae
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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2011
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
C. Trevena: Most people in the Legislature know Campbell River as a place for forestry and a place for fishing, but it's also a place for agriculture. I'm very pleased to say that there is going to be an agreement on developing agriculture for our community. The outgoing mayor of Campbell River, Charlie Cornfield, is in the gallery this afternoon. He's here to sign this agreement with the Minister of Agriculture. I hope the House will make him very welcome and make sure that Campbell River continues to be a place for agriculture in the future.
I also would hope the House will make welcome to the precinct some councillors and mayors from Tahsis. We had in the precinct earlier today the outgoing mayor of Tahsis, Corrine Dahling; outgoing councillor Martin Davis; the mayor-elect, Jude Schooner; and the village administrator, Bob Lafleur.
They were here to meet with the Minister of Natural Resource Operations to talk about the impact of an IPP on the village's watershed and how to ensure that the village could maintain a clean, safe water supply. I hope the House will make sure that they are made very welcome.
C. Hansen: I had the pleasure today of having lunch with Jennifer Johnson, a young lady from Vancouver who is an aspiring politician. I have no doubt that at some point in her career she may well be a member of this legislative chamber. She's in grade 6, and she is in the middle of her first election campaign. She is running to be on student council as her class representative. Election day is going to be this Thursday, and I wish her good luck with that.
She is joined here today with her mother, Jacquie Hollis, and I hope the House will join me in welcoming both of them to the House today and wishing Jennifer every success in her first big election this Thursday.
M. Farnworth: In the gallery today visiting us we have someone who I thought might have taken a few days off after being one of the main organizers for the crushing re-election victory that Gregor Robertson achieved in his mayoralty campaign in Vancouver. That is Marcella Munro, who is over here. Would the House please make her most welcome.
Hon. N. Yamamoto: I have two sets of introductions to make. The first is that I'd like to introduce several university students that are visiting the Legislature today. I had the pleasure of having lunch with them, along with several of my colleagues, and had some very interesting conversations.
They are Conor Pommerville, a Camosun accounting student; Jason Possel, a UVic business and economics student; Scott Jerasuk, UVic business student; Blair Shumleck, a UBC law student; and Robert Phan, a UBC and grade 12 student. I ask that the House please make them welcome.
I also have the pleasure of introducing my constituency assistant, Erin Rennie. Erin has been with my office since March of this year. I have to say all of us would agree that while we're in Victoria, our constituency assistants are the face of our office and represent us so well. I'd like the House to make Erin feel very welcome.
D. Horne: It's with great pleasure today — and apropos, given our Premier's return from a very successful trade mission to China — that I introduce a delegation visiting from China from Zhejiang province.
I'd like to introduce Yongchang Wang, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference for the province; Ms. Yaping Hu, deputy director general, population resources environment committee for the People's Political Consultative Conference for the Zhejiang committee; Mr. Chengwei Ye, deputy director general of culture, health and sports committee for the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference for the province; Mr. Tao Zhang, deputy director of the general office of the People's Political Consultative Conference for the province; Xiaoqing Shen, manager of the management department of the tourism group for the province; and Lei Hu, the interpreter for the group. May the House please make them truly welcome.
Hon. T. Lake: Along with the Minister of Advanced Education, I had the opportunity to meet with some university students today, three of whom are from Kamloops. They are attending law school in other areas of the province. Even though TRU has the first new law school in 35 years in the country, we have sent them out in our quest for world domination.
Would the House please welcome Jeremy Comazzetto, who is at UVic; Alex Ned, who is at UVic; and Emile Scheffel, who is at UBC. Would the House please make them very welcome.
R. Lee: In the gallery today we have a delegation of six from the Jiangxi province of the People's Republic of China. The delegation is led by the vice-chairman of the standing committee for Jiangxi province People's Congress. They have come to this area to see how the House is operating
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and to see our province. I just met them accidentally outside this chamber, so would the House please join me to give them a very good welcome.
First Reading of Bills
BILL M207 — SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
INDICATORS AND REPORTING ACT, 2011
R. Fleming presented a bill intituled Sustainable Development Indicators and Reporting Act, 2011.
R. Fleming: I move first reading of the Sustainable Development Indicators and Reporting Act.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Member.
R. Fleming: Effective planning for the sustainable development of this province requires policy-makers to measure and report, over time, key indicators of British Columbia's sustainability of economic, environmental and social progress.
This bill seeks to create a comprehensive picture of the well-being of British Columbia by creating a sustainable development board with a mandate to establish genuine progress measurements for sustainability and to report on those measurements annually to the Legislative Assembly. The bill sets timelines for public consultation to build the key indicators of sustainable development and requires the setting of targets that government agencies, the business community and civil society can strive to realize together.
This bill advances the credibility, transparency and accountability of government by utilizing the knowledge and independence of established experts to fairly measure and report the things that matter most to our economic, social and environmental well-being.
This bill allows the continuation and expansion of reporting previously carried out by the B.C. Progress Board. The bill is introduced today on the eve of government terminating the B.C. Progress Board, to ensure that B.C. doesn't create a performance measurement vacuum with the loss of important data reporting.
Over the decade just completed, the Progress Board issued reports showing a decline from the previous decade with regards to productivity, economic growth, trade deficits, and our research and development regime. While the B.C. Progress Board lacked many dimensions of performance reporting from other jurisdictions, it did provide B.C. with annual benchmark reports that documented, among other things, B.C.'s decline in infant health and poverty indicators that ranked the province tenth in the last reportable year.
The Sustainable Development Indicators and Reporting Act builds upon established benchmark reports and adds to the Progress Board's former mandate. Effective planning for a sustainable economy in B.C. will require lawmakers to pay attention to indicators of sustainable economic progress that go beyond traditional GDP measures. This bill ensures that new indicators are integrated with the province's accounting system and avoids unnecessary complexity.
I move that the bill be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M207, Sustainable Development Indicators and Reporting Act, 2011, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
bill m208 — PRIVATE CAREER TRAINING
Institutions amendment act, 2011
M. Mungall presented a bill intituled Private Career Training Institutions Amendment Act, 2011.
M. Mungall: I move that a bill intituled Private Career Training Institutions Amendment Act be introduced and now read a first time.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Member.
M. Mungall: Private post-secondary institutions provide an important role in fulfilling British Columbians' and international students' educational needs. Most schools provide exceptional programs and consider students' needs and interests as their top priority. But as many participants said at the recent B.C. Career Colleges Association conference, it only takes a few bad apples to tarnish B.C.'s international and domestic reputation in post-secondary education.
To be sure, this was felt in 2007 when the Chinese and Korean consulates warned students against enrolling in Canadian private colleges as a result of schools in both B.C. and Ontario. In 2008 former BCIT president John Watson did a review of B.C.'s regulatory regime for private post-secondary. He identified several key recommendations, yet three years later only a few of those recommendations have been considered by the Liberals.
Meanwhile, complaints and stories of fraudulent programs and students left out in the cold continue to persist. It is time to take action to ensure that students are protected and that we as a province have the regulations necessary to strengthen the private post-secondary system and, thereby, give students at home and abroad
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confidence that they will be studying excellent programs beneficial to their careers. This act empowers students with the information of their rights and responsibilities, while also ensuring that quality assurance and monitoring are ongoing.
Equally significant, this bill will now regulate schools that teach English as a second language. Currently this sector is not regulated. There is no doubt that we must strengthen ESL for the benefit of our international and immigrant students.
At the core of private post-secondary education in B.C. is the Private Career Training Institutions Agency. This agency continues to provide oversight for the sector, but now, as recommended by John Watson, the government will appoint the board members to remove any conflict of interest.
This bill is a step forward in ensuring that the private post-secondary system, and by extension the public system, has an international and domestic reputation of excellence. When we do our utmost best to protect the interests of students, we become leaders and a destination of choice for education.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M208, Private Career Training Institutions Amendment Act, 2011, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
MURAL PROJECT BY
IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE YOUTH
M. Elmore: There's a beautiful community mural currently on display in my constituency office portraying the issues and experiences of immigrant and refugee youth. The youth mural project is a collaboration between Bert Monterona, a national and internationally acclaimed visual artist living in Vancouver, and Migrante B.C. Youth.
Bert was the 2009 artist in residence of the Leigh Square Community Arts Village mural project, city of Port Coquitlam. He has organized art workshops in schools and communities for skills development, art as therapy, and art as an organizing tool for youth interested in visual arts. Migrante B.C. Youth organize immigrant and refugee youth through education workshops, cultural events, sports and political action.
To create the mural, workshops were held on migration to Canada, and youth were trained in the skills of mural painting. The mural brings to life the touching, inspiring and sometimes painful journey and sacrifice that countless migrants make as they strive to create new lives abroad in B.C. and elsewhere.
Many migrant workers make this journey as they're forced to work overseas to escape grinding poverty at home. The youth mural is a picture with a thousand words, and it is also an educational piece through Facebook and a YouTube video. It will also be displayed at an upcoming youth conference in Montreal.
The mural project is part of a broader youth training collaborative effort to train the trainers. There will be seven follow-up workshops to train youth to facilitate children's arts workshops this summer.
I'd like to give a heartfelt thank-you to the youth and artists for illustrating the reality of immigrant and refugee youth to us: Dexter Calaramo, Raymund Dagang, Carlie David, Marjorie Eda, Eric John Estepa, Stephanie Lim, Albert Lopez, Lara Maestro, Babette Santos and Josie Sapelino. Also a special thank-you for support from Jane Ordinario, Aileen Villeta and Leo Alejandria. Funding was provided by the Canadian Council for Refugees newcomer youth network.
I would like to close with a quote from the youth. "We dream of a world that will never be torn apart just for the need to survive."
Mr. Speaker: I remind members to keep the noise level down. It's hard to hear the two-minute statements at times.
NORTH SHORE CONGRESS
CHILD- AND FAMILY-FRIENDLY
J. McIntyre: I rise to pay tribute to the North Shore Congress for the development of a child- and family- friendly community charter. Congress members comprising the three North Shore municipalities of the city of North Vancouver, district of North Vancouver and district of West Vancouver; Bowen Island municipality; village of Lions Bay; boards of education from North Vancouver and West Vancouver; the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations; as well as the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have successfully worked together to create a forum for discussion and cooperative action on the multi-jurisdictional issues that influence the health, social well-being and sustainability of all the citizens they represent.
Spurred on by the good work of Dr. Paul Kershaw from the human early learning partnership at UBC — whose research has clearly shown that the period of development from prenatal to the age of six is critical to life-long success — the congress worked together on this 13-point charter to develop a framework to work together to provide conditions that help children and families thrive in our local communities.
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We're all familiar with the phrase "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, they're putting this into action. I was privileged to be at the signing of the charter on October 12 with an array of local officials, all very proud of their accomplishment, as they should be.
So I'd like the House to join me in congratulating all these community leaders, including former North Van school trustee, Linda Buchanan — she's now councillor-elect of the city of North Van — and Dr. Brian O'Connor, who I understand were instrumental in the drafting. I want to thank them for their hard work, the vision and commitment to collaborate in improving the quality of life on the North Shore.
Congratulations also are in order for the recognition in the document that children and families are a vital part of community and that early childhood development is a collective responsibility. I look forward to working with the North Shore Congress for a brighter future.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
K. Corrigan: November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Internationally, violence against women has reached pandemic proportions.
While in British Columbia we do not experience some of the more visible atrocities of violence, like rape as a weapon of war, women in this province are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual assault. In addition, in my community of Burnaby and in other communities many women and girl refugees bring with them some of the most horrific and brutal histories of violence and rape, stories that often are never even told because of fear and shame.
All women have the right to live in safety and dignity, free from threat, intimidation and violence. Violence against women is never justified and is contrary to our shared values. We all, men and women together, share the responsibility to protect women and children who are at risk of harm. Government must play a leadership role in protection, intervention and prevention of violence against women and girls.
I'm pleased with the provision in the new family act that, in determining guardianship of children of separated or divorced parents, the impact of family violence on children must be considered. This will provide some critical comfort and assistance to women and children fleeing violent relationships.
However, these provisions will be of no assistance to those women fleeing violence if they can't access support systems or the justice system because of cuts to funding. These cuts — in addition to poverty, lack of social housing and lack of access to training and education — have placed thousands of women in British Columbia in positions of relative inequality and, therefore, vulnerability to violence.
We are still waiting for the day we address these and other issues that will finally lead to the elimination of violence against women.
FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
B. Bennett: Elections — who needs them? Apparently, most B.C. citizens don't think they need them, because last Saturday the vast majority of British Columbians stayed home, went to the mall perhaps or watched hockey rather than getting out to vote.
I want to read to the House what Saudi Arabian university professor and women's rights activist Hatoon al-Fassi has to say about the significance of voting. "I haven't been able to take my breath. We're so excited. We believe it's a response to our demands, the first step in our long struggle to get our rights."
Professor al-Fassi was so excited because she had found out that, with permission from a male relative, by 2015 she and the rest of the women in Saudi Arabia would finally be allowed to vote and hold office. Contrast that with the 14 percent turnout last Saturday in Langford, 17 percent in Chilliwack, 18 percent in Esquimalt. We have the lowest turnout of any province in all of Canada in local government elections.
Are things so good at the local government level that happy-as-a-clam citizens just put their feet up and stay at home? Would on-line voting or mail-in ballots increase turnout? We need to answer these questions.
But let's also celebrate the small rural communities where citizens got off their you-know-whats and went out and voted. More than 50 percent of all eligible voters in these great little communities voted. I want to list them: Anmore, Bowen Island, Clearwater, Clinton, Gibsons, Gold River, Greenwood, Harrison Hot Springs, Hudson's Hope, Invermere, Kaslo, Keremeos, Kimberley, Kitimat, Stewart, Sun Peaks, Tahsis, Tofino, Valemount and Wells.
Congratulations to every citizen who voted last Saturday, but particularly to those small rural communities that exceeded the 50 percent level. For those of you who didn't have a good reason for failing to vote, I must assume that you are pleased with your tax levels, snow clearance on your streets and the condition of your parks and that for the next three years not a negative word shall pass your lips about your duly elected government politicians.
VANCOUVER RENT BANK PROPOSAL
S. Chandra Herbert: Today I rise on National Housing Day to speak about founding a Vancouver rent
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bank. Many British Columbians live paycheque to paycheque, hoping that last paycheque is enough to keep the debt wolf from the door and keep them in their homes. They have few savings and few means to respond if an emergency strikes.
I started to get to work to found a rent bank in Vancouver after getting to know a constituent who was in this situation. She became homeless when she couldn't make the rent due to a short-term illness which prevented her from working. She had no extended health benefits and was living on low wages, paycheque to paycheque. She had no rainy-day fund to tide her through.
She missed the rent and was evicted. She ended up living in her van for over two years, and she lost everything. Had she been able to apply and receive a short-term loan paid to her landlord, she wouldn't have lost her home or her dignity. She would have been back to work, and the loan would have quickly been repaid.
Rent banks assist people with steady but low incomes and a proven history of paying bills on time with a one-time bridge loan so the landlord gets paid. There's a strict application process to prevent abuse, and the vast majority of loans are quickly repaid.
I've been supported by Surrey's Newton Advocacy Group rent bank in getting Vancouver's one founded, and I am so pleased that the Network of Inner City Community Services Society has taken up the challenge. We've received the support of the Streetohome Foundation, with a very generous donation from Frank Giustra and received the ongoing support from Mayor Robertson, Councillor Jang and the city of Vancouver.
I look forward to a day when our people will not be living so close to the line, living paycheque to paycheque at such a risk of homelessness. But until that day, I hope that Vancouver's rent bank will be there to assist them through tough times.
CURLING IN MAPLE RIDGE
M. Dalton: Canadians love to curl. There are an estimated 1.5 million curlers worldwide, and more than a million come from or reside in Canada. B.C. itself has nearly 100 clubs. Although hockey is our official winter sport, thanks to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, curling's popularity is sweeping the nation even more.
My hometown of Maple Ridge is also the childhood home of Canadian Olympian and medallist Kelley Law. Law is a world champion and won the bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Local residents Diane Dezura and Terry Becker enjoy competing with her as teammates.
Maple Ridge is also the home to the Golden Ears Winter Club, which has a reputation for the best ice in the Lower Mainland. The club has 400 avid members. Every winter high school and elementary students come to use the club's facility for PE classes. Guy Scholz is the manager and the author of a best-selling curling book. Bill Fowle is the club president.
The club has six regulation-sized curling sheets and three practice sheets, and they work hard to debunk the myth that the sport is only for seasoned athletes. Golden Ears Winter Club holds programs and classes for people of all ages. It has members as young as eight and as experienced as 94 years old.
With the recent introduction of wheelchair curling, their club is helping to make curling an inclusive, welcoming sport where anybody can play, regardless of ability, age or handicap. So if you're stuck between a rock and a hard place this winter, looking for a fun activity for the whole family, hurry hard to the Golden Ears Winter Club. It's only a stone's throw away.
AND TIMELINE FOR ELIMINATION
OF HARMONIZED SALES TAX
A. Dix: My question is to the Premier. Yesterday we heard about a crisis in the construction industry caused by the government and the Minister of Finance dragging their heels in getting rid of the HST as the voters asked. Today retail sales figures came out showing B.C. dead last in September and dead last in the last 12 months in retail sales. It should be clear to the Premier, as it is to everyone else, that the slowness in making the transition back to the PST is hurting the economy and costing jobs in communities across B.C.
It took 11 months to bring the HST in. Yet the government continues to maintain that it takes 19 months to take it out. When is the Premier going to order her Minister of Finance to make returning to the PST a priority?
Hon. K. Falcon: Well, I'm always happy in this House to put forward what I call uncomfortable NDP facts, because it typically goes against the picture that the NDP try to paint of, of course, gloom, doom, everything falling apart in the province. But in fact, when we look at the statistics, it's never borne out.
So let's just share some uncomfortable NDP facts, if we could. Interestingly, in spite of a worldwide economic downturn in late 2009 that spilled into 2010, in 2010 we saw housing starts return to more than 26,000 — up from 16,000 during the downturn in 2009 — and this year they're forecast to increase again, in 2011, to over 26,000.
Now, what is interesting about that is the contrast. The Leader of the Opposition would know, because he was chief of staff to one of the worst NDP governments that we can recall during the '90s. And while that Leader
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of the Opposition was chief of staff to one of the worst governments that we can recall in the history of the province, housing starts actually fell 66 percent from the early '90s to the year 2000. That was his record as chief of staff to the worst NDP government in the history of the province.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental.
A. Dix: Tenth in retail sales in the last month. Tenth in retail sales over the last year. Tenth in retail sales since they brought in the HST. Oh yeah, the world economic crisis affects other provinces too, but we're number ten. Only the Premier and the Minister of Finance could declare mission accomplished on that record.
Yesterday the Minister of Finance alternatively blamed the federal government and then the voters and their presumably, to use his word, "stupid" decision for the chaos in sales tax policy.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Take your seat, Member.
A. Dix: The Minister of Finance has repeatedly expressed contempt for the voters. The voters decided to get rid of the HST. It's the Minister of Finance who is dragging his feet and hurting the B.C. economy along the way. Tenth, tenth, tenth — that's the record on retail sales since this government caused chaos in bringing in the HST. That's the record.
So can the Premier maybe tell us this: why won't she instruct the Minister of Finance, who yesterday blamed the federal government and the people for his problem, the problem they caused, to get on with it and get rid of the HST sooner?
Hon. K. Falcon: This is remarkable stuff coming from that Leader of the Opposition. This is the same individual who was the chief of staff to one of the worst governments in the history of the province.
Now, the member can make up all of the statistics the member wants. The member opposite can do that. But you know, Mr. Speaker, the one thing that that member cannot correct is what actually happened in history, and that is this. Under his leadership as chief of staff of one of the worst NDP governments, he managed something that was rather remarkable. They took British Columbia, for the first time in our long, proud history as a province, and made us a have-not province under the NDP. That is the record.
They single-handedly managed to take us from a triple-A credit rating to multiple credit downgrades. In the last decade we have rebuilt our credit rating with seven consecutive credit upgrades, to where we have a triple-A credit rating.
Mr. Speaker: Member.
Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.
A. Dix: I think what's happening in British Columbia is that people are struggling and the government isn't listening. The government's policies have damaged our economy. They've put the sales tax system into disarray. They caused this chaos. All the efforts to blame other people, to try and point the finger somewhere else, aren't going to work with people.
It's this government that has a 7,000-permit backlog in the resource ministries and cut the budgets. This Minister of Finance cut the budget and is cutting the budgets for those ministries. That's what they did — a 7,000-permit backlog.
People are really struggling, and what does the government respond? They're ordering focus groups to sell the Premier's jobs plan. They're doing a communications plan for the Premier's jobs plan. They're running photo ops as fast as they can. That's not what the province wants.
The province needs skills training. The province needs to use B.C. resources in B.C. to create B.C. jobs. That's what the province needs.
The continuation of the HST is hurting our economy. Why doesn't the minister get on with it, work overnight or whatever he has to do, and get rid of the HST before 18 months?
Hon. K. Falcon: Maybe the Leader of the Opposition should have read the other parts of the independent panel report that he was so fond of quoting. Maybe he should have read the part about, "Oh, by the way, if you want to go back to PST-GST it will take a minimum" — a minimum, Mr. Speaker — "of 18 to 24 months." That's what that report said. That's what the report that the member opposite used to selectively quote from meant.
Maybe they should have thought about that. Maybe they should have thought about what the impacts would be of having to go back. Maybe they should have thought about the very uncertainty that they complain about here today is exactly what was spelled out very clearly in that independent panel report. But to sit here and listen to that Leader of the Opposition, listen to those members of the NDP who had the worst possible economic record in British Columbia's history, try and lecture the government on job creation is unbelievable.
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This is the same group that didn't just have the highest personal income taxes in the country. No, no, no. That's setting the bar too low. The highest marginal personal income tax rate in North America was his record. This is the same Leader of the Opposition that today is going around begging big business leaders: "Please have a meeting with me, please, just so I can say I've met with business leaders." They all find it quite humorous.
He never talks about what he's planning, though. He never talks about the corporate tax hikes, the personal income tax hikes, the increased regulation and the destruction he wants to bring about to the B.C. economy.
INFORMATION ON HARMONIZED SALES TAX
B. Ralston: Average annual economic growth this decade of 1.5 percent. Average annual GDP growth in the 1990s, 2 percent. Let's go back to the facts of what we have right here — dead last in retail growth. Dead last. Small businesses are suffering. Construction and development….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
B. Ralston: Construction and development companies are unable to plan to hire people. There are people waiting to be hired to work on construction projects. The HST is still here, and that is damaging the market. Many people have expressed that.
The minister yesterday blamed his federal counterpart. The question is this: given that he's probably someone on that side who has some influence in Ottawa, how hard has he tried to persuade his federal counterpart, the Finance Minister, to not get rid of the entire HST system but introduce some interim transitional rules while we're waiting for the transition back?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm glad the member is talking about the record. I love how they try to rewrite the '90s, as if, actually…. "Everyone, forget everything that happened. Just pretend it was actually a really good time economically."
Let's think about this. Remember, the 1990s was a time of a global economic boom. Imagine this today, with all the problems in the United States, folks. Imagine that. In the '90s — Bill Clinton is president — they actually balanced the budget.
That's how good things were in the United States. It was that strong an economy, except for one jurisdiction, one little black hole amidst all the other good news in North America. That was right here, where those folks, the NDP government, managed to run deficits in eight out of ten years. They had budget management plans where they missed every single target they set. It got so embarrassing for them as a government that they stopped producing the plans, just because it was so embarrassing to keep missing the targets.
Now what do they do? They stand up and say: "Well, there's going to be all this uncertainty as a result of going back to the PST." Well, no kidding. That was what the independent panel report pointed out. So for them to now stand up and complain that the very thing they campaigned on, the very thing they wanted to see happen…. They now complain about the outcomes and the results.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
B. Ralston: Well, people out there — out in British Columbia, outside the Legislature — are worried about their economic future. Small businesses are worried about their economic future. They're struggling. They're waiting for some signal from this government about transitional rules.
The minister can rant all he wants about events that happened in the past. People are worried about the future. What's going to happen to them and their family in the immediate future? So when is the minister going to step up to the plate and get on with bringing back interim transitional rules and help this transition move forward?
Hon. K. Falcon: You bet they're worried about the future. I can tell you they are worried about the future. They're very worried when they have a Leader of the Opposition going around whose whole plan comes down to raising corporate taxes 20 percent; small business taxes — raising them 80 percent; restoring a corporate capital tax, which sent a terrible message around the world in British Columbia. It's such a bad tax that the federal government actually paid provinces to help get rid of it. It's such a disincentive to jobs. That is the economic strategy.
The funny thing is about the NDP…. In their world they just say, "Well, gee, we'll make all these spending commitments. Then we'll crank up all these taxes," as if it just creates extra revenue and there's no flip side to the equation.
There is a flip side. The flip side is lack of confidence, lack of investment, people moving out of the province — the same things that happened in the '90s, when they drove us to become a have-not province. They haven't learned a single lesson out of that decade. That's what I'm hearing here today.
PRIOR COMMENTS BY PREMIER on
PAYMENT OF LEGAL FEES
IN B.C. RAIL COURT CASE
L. Krog: Well, I don't think the terms "desperate" and "hyperbole" have ever gone so well together in this House.
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British Columbians still have a lot of questions about the B.C. Rail corruption scandal and the involvement of convicted Liberal insiders. In fact, so did the Premier last year — October 21, as a matter of fact, back when she was a talk-show host.
Now that she is in a position to answer those very questions, I'd like to ask the Premier one of those questions: "Why did the Crown offer the plea deal in the first place, and why did they feel that they needed to throw in the $6 million indemnity in order to get the accused to sign it?"
Hon. S. Bond: We have canvassed this extensively in the House over the last several weeks, and we've made it clear to the members opposite. Their decisions were made. We have read over and over again a statement by the Deputy Attorney General that made it very clear that the Deputy Minister of Finance, the Deputy Attorney General made a decision and provided that information to the Attorney General.
He makes it clear in his statement, and I quote once again: "No one outside legal services branch, myself and the Deputy Minister of Finance had any knowledge of this or any involvement."
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: Well, the Premier said not too long ago that these questions were "not excluded from Dr. Toope's review." The Premier promised British Columbians to get more answers when the Auditor General completed his investigation too. Of course, we learned through court filings last week that the Liberals are stonewalling, as usual, and have "slowed and hampered the audit-planning process."
So you'd think she'd have the lawyers up all night working busily away to get those answers, wouldn't you, Mr. Speaker?
I have another of the Premier's questions for her, and I'm sure she'll be delighted to answer it. "Was the Crown worried that they couldn't get a conviction otherwise — that they could only get a conviction, they could only get these guys to agree that what they'd done was criminal, if they threw $6 million into the pot to sweeten the deal?"
Hon. S. Bond: Once again, we will repeat the answer that we gave three times last week, which is that we are absolutely cooperating with the Auditor General. We have released all of the documents.
In fact, at the beginning of this week I had my deputy contact the Auditor General's office to confirm that all of the requests that have been made to this date have actually been delivered, and we are working on some additional documents that were requested on Monday. So we are cooperating completely with the Auditor General.
To the member opposite: you bet my staff has been busy. In fact, they've been busy all night dealing with Occupy Vancouver. Maybe the Leader of the Opposition would like to stand up and tell us his position on Occupy Vancouver.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
J. Horgan: You would think, with the heckling and the questions, that the Liberals would think they were on this side of the House, but in fact, they're not.
On October 21 last year Joe on line 1 had a question for the then host of a radio show, and the response back from that host, the now Premier, was the following: "Did they think the case was already so shaky that the rest of the witnesses getting up on the stand could harm them and make a conviction less likely?"
Good question. I'd like to pose that to the member for Vancouver–Point Grey. Do you think that the reason we just gave six million bucks to convicted Liberal insiders was so that her friends wouldn't have to take the stand?
Hon. S. Bond: I don't know how many times that we can answer the same question. Maybe we're running a little short of questions on the other side. Here's the answer. Let's just repeat it over and over again.
You know, what I'm really interested in today — and the members on this side of the House are…. The members of the opposition want to stand on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Let's stand up today and tell British Columbians what their position is in terms of Occupy Vancouver. That would be a productive action in the House today.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. Horgan: If the Liberals on the other side would focus on being the government of British Columbia in the 21st century and maybe answer for the past ten years of incompetence, mismanagement and borderline corruption, we'll get an answer to the questions from the former talk-show host to poor Joe on line 1, who's still waiting for an answer beyond the repetition and the mantra of the Attorney General.
My question is to the member for Vancouver–Point Grey. "Why did they offer the plea deal now? Were they concerned that the remaining list of witnesses would further damage their case?" Very good question, Member for Vancouver–Point Grey. What's the answer? Where's your curiosity from a year ago?
[ Page 8981 ]
Hon. S. Bond: Well, one more time. Maybe the member opposite wants to disagree with the Deputy Attorney General, but on October 20 the Deputy Attorney General made it perfectly clear, so perhaps I'll try this one more time: "No one outside the legal services branch, myself and the Deputy Minister of Finance had any knowledge of this or involvement."
M. Karagianis: It's really fascinating, the lack of curiosity from the Premier, when a year ago, as a talk show host, she was very, very curious about this topic of the $6 million payout. I'd just like to pose a question here.
This is what the talk show host, who is now the Premier of the province, posed to listeners on October 21, 2010. "What's on your list of questions for the government?" she asked her listeners. "Let's start now. Let's start building our list of questions that we would like to put to the government if they ever decide to come out of hiding and answer them."
Well, the Premier's in charge. Are they going to come out of hiding and answer those questions now?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, we'll try it one more time. We actually asked an eminent British Columbian named Stephen Toope to do a review of the entire indemnification process. Great news: got the report, said we were going to adopt every single one of those recommendations — every single one of them.
In addition to that, the Auditor General…. The documents that we can and are able to release have been released. I already answered to the member opposite on Monday. We actually called the Auditor General's office, and we said: "Have we sent all the information that you require to date?" Guess what. The answer was, "Yes, you have," and then he said, "Here are some more requests," and we said: "We're going to get them right on over to you."
So, in fact, we have dealt with the Toope report, we are dealing with the Auditor General, and the Deputy Attorney General's statement is clear. There was no information other than that provided after a decision was made by the Deputy Minister of Finance and the Deputy Attorney General.
SAFETY OF CORRECTIONS OFFICERS
K. Corrigan: Today a report released by Neil Boyd, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, says that over 90 percent of B.C. corrections officers surveyed have been exposed to blood and other bodily fluids, and more than a quarter of the officers have been physically assaulted by an inmate in the last year. Meanwhile, under the Liberal government's watch, the prisoner-to-guard ratio has grown from 20 to 1 up to as much as 60 to 1.
To the Solicitor General: how did this Liberal government allow conditions in our prison system to descend into such chaos?
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. S. Bond: I want to begin by saying that the safety of corrections officers is paramount to us and that's why this government is actually expanding correctional facilities in the most significant plan in the history of British Columbia, a $185 million plan.
What I can't understand is how the member opposite could actually stand up and ask this side of the House about prison capacity when the mayor of Burnaby and the member for Burnaby–Deer Lake campaigned against opening a new prison that would actually have capacity.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
The member has a supplemental.
K. Corrigan: I'm really thrilled that I'm going to be able to go back to my community and tell them that this minister, as well as the Premier, thought it was a great idea to put a prison right next to a school and daycares in a residential neighbourhood and that it was a great idea to drop it on a community with absolutely no consultation. So if you don't want to share it with my community, I will.
Let's be clear: our corrections officers deserve better, and this Liberal government is failing them. The minister talked about increasing this ministry. This government closed ten correctional facilities when it got into power. We have nine out of ten corrections officers saying their jobs have become more difficult and more stressful during the past years.
The first recommendation in Mr. Boyd's report is to reduce the inmate-to-staff ratio to the pre-2002 level of 20 to 1. Again to the Solicitor General: will this government, this Liberal government, stop dragging its heels and fix the crisis in B.C. prisons before the situation gets worse?
Hon. S. Bond: The member opposite leaves out one little important detail. The site where we intended to put a new corrections facility had actually been zoned for exactly that purpose.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
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Hon. S. Bond: I can assure you that we are adding capacity across the province. In fact, since 2007 we've added an additional 240 corrections officers and, as we move through this expansion phase, phase 1, we will be adding up to another 200 corrections officers.
It's just incredibly disappointing that, in fact, when it's convenient to oppose a prison, that's what the member opposite did. And now to stand in the House and suggest that we're creating delays…? I think that's just a pretty rich example of NDP flip-flops.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
NANAIMO REGIONAL GENERAL HOSPITAL
M. Farnworth: Well, I will bring it home to the Island, to Nanaimo, where for the past year overcrowding at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital has resulted in the children's ward, the pediatric ward, being used as an overflow for adult patients because of this government's mismanagement. Children with compromised immune systems, for example, are potentially being exposed to superbugs, C. difficile.
Physicians have been advising this government privately over the past year about the problem and have been wanting to see some sort of solution. They have become so frustrated that they have gone public last week, saying that the situation in Nanaimo in the pediatrics ward is intolerable.
The question they have for the minister, which has not been answered in the last year, is: when will a comprehensive strategy be developed to stop the overcrowding in the pediatrics ward in Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and a proper plan put in place? How much longer do they have to wait, hon. Speaker?
Hon. M. de Jong: One of the things that we as a government are proud of is the investment that has taken place not just across the province in improving hospitals but in Nanaimo to provide the people in that community with improved health care services — millions of dollars.
In the specific situation that the member has mentioned, there is no question that at this time of year the capacity at the hospital is challenged. There was a room adjoining the pediatric ward, an overflow room that was occasionally — very occasionally, as a last resort — utilized to take into account the overflow situation.
I am advised, Mr. Speaker, by the health authority officials that they do so only when it is absolutely necessary and that if there is any risk, any risk whatsoever, detected that might adversely impact the health of a child patient in the hospital, they immediately take steps to eliminate that risk.
The professionals working there do so in a dedicated way, day in and day out, and I reject any suggestion that the member may make that the health of children in the Nanaimo hospital is being put at risk.
[End of question period.]
Hon. I. Chong: I rise to table a report. I have the honour to present the 2010-11 annual report for Islands Trust.
M. Karagianis: Hon. Speaker, I have a petition here on behalf of the member for Victoria–Beacon Hill. This is from residents in her community asking that this House develop and subsequently adopt a poverty reduction strategy.
S. Chandra Herbert: I rise with a petition of 2,000 signatures supporting changes to be made to the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Act that prevents single-screen movie theatres from obtaining a liquor licence, as well as regulations that prevent licensed cultural venues from selling alcohol during film screenings in which the primary audience is adults of legal drinking age.
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: This afternoon we'll do committee stage of Bill 5 to start, the Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011. Should we complete that, we would then move to committee stage on Bill 10, intituled the Nurse Practitioners Statutes Amendment Act, 2011. Should we complete that, we would then go to Bill 19, intituled Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2011.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 5 — Personal Property Security
Amendment Act, 2011
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 5; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 2:36 p.m.
On section 1.
B. Ralston: The section amends certain definitions by removing them or by repealing them. The first one that's
[ Page 8983 ]
repealed is the definition of the "chief forester." Can the minister explain why that's necessary?
Hon. K. Falcon: The definition of "chief forester" will no longer be required because the reference in section 58 of the act will be removed by section 3 of this bill.
B. Ralston: Next in section 1, the definition of "intangible" is altered. Under the present act, it means: "(a) personal property, but does not include goods, chattel paper, a document of title, an instrument, money or investment property, and (b) a licence." So the main change seems to be, aside from some grammatical changes, to include a licence in the definition of "intangible." Is that correct?
Hon. K. Falcon: One of the major things we're achieving under this bill, as the member would well know, is that we're really trying to reclassify the definition of "licence" to expand it to include all transferable licences regarding personal property that are issued under contract and/or legislation that could be used to guarantee a loan.
So this definition of "intangible" will incorporate a new, broader definition of "licence" that is consistent with what we've seen and the style that is being used in other provinces. It will align and harmonize B.C.'s definition of "licence," which prior to this was very narrowly referenced to refer to the Forest Act. Now it will be broadened to harmonize with the other provinces.
B. Ralston: I understand that the drafters pay particular attention to the companion bill or the equivalent bill in Saskatchewan. But can the minister explain how it is that a licence now is properly defined as "intangible," where previously it was not?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that the definition of personal property was not clear and that it didn't specifically include a licence as part of the definition of personal property. Under the change, it now will.
B. Ralston: The definition of "intangible," from the way in which it is written, excludes "goods, chattel paper, a document of title, an instrument, money and investment property." Can the minister give an example of what might fall into the definition, given those exclusions?
Hon. K. Falcon: Nothing has changed with respect to those goods that are not included. So when it says that it does not include goods…. I think we can agree that we know what goods are: chattel paper, whether it's mortgages, a document of title, an instrument, money or investment property. That does not change. Nothing changes there. We are referring merely to the inclusion of a licence now as part of the definition of what intangible is.
B. Ralston: Probably, I think, to assist the reader, a definition or an example of what personal property that would fall under the category of intangible is would be helpful.
The other question…. I think we may deal with this in the next definition in this section, but I'll deal with it now.
Clearly, in the case that was before the Supreme Court of Canada, from which these amendments flow, there was much discussion about what the legal content of a licence was. As I understand it, given the inclusion of a licence in this Personal Property Security Act, that would enable the holder of the licence to approach a financial institution and attain some financing on the basis of using the licence and its attributes as collateral.
In the review that the ministry has done in preparing this legislation, I think the public would be curious to know…. Obviously, this will be, perhaps, decided by commercial interests, in the sense that a bank or credit union will want to do its own due diligence prior to lending on a particular licence. Would it include, for example, a commercial fishing licence, a retail liquor licence, agricultural marketing quota, security business licence, guide-outfitter licences?
There are a number of licences that are issued that regulate economic activity of one kind or another, and they are issued within provincial jurisdictions. What advice has the minister got as to the potential ambit of the application of this revision of the Personal Property Security Act?
Hon. K. Falcon: The member asked for some intangible examples. Intellectual property and accounts receivable would be a couple that spring to mind. In terms of what transferable licences we might be referring to…. That is the key word there — transferable. In other words, if they are non-transferable — for example, a minister's law degree…. A legal practice would not be transferable, nor would a doctor's medical practice be considered a transferable licence.
We would be referring to things like a fishing licence, for example. An aquaculture licence could be another example, or a winery licence. The member mentioned guide outfitters. That would certainly qualify. Licences that are issued under contract, that are transferable, would qualify — basically all licences respecting personal property that are able and capable of being transferable.
B. Ralston: Continuing on section 1. In looking at the definition of "licence," it says: "means a right, whether or not exclusive" — and the next clause is the one I'm
[ Page 8984 ]
interested in — "that may be transferred by the holder with or without restriction or the consent of the grantor and that entitles the holder to do any of the following." It enumerates a very broad definition of economic and personal activity.
This is all new, because under the old act the licence simply referred to a right to harvest timber or to grow or harvest Christmas trees, which is now contained in subsection (d). This is a much more expansive definition.
I suppose the question that arises is: given the intention that the minister expressed of enabling and furthering commercial transactions with the licence as collateral, is there any subsequent policy direction or thought about the individual licences in different areas and making that a reality? In many cases the agency that issues the licence does impose restrictions upon the transfer. In fact, I think they're almost, in some cases, issued as personal licences, I understand, and they're not transferable at all.
By enacting this amendment, is the government giving a hint about future policy direction as it concerns licences across the broad spectrum of government? Or is it premature to be able to answer that question?
Hon. K. Falcon: The goal here is to, first of all, bring B.C. into line with other provinces and territories in terms of the definition of what a transferable licence is. Of course, the major significant benefit to that for our small business, primarily, but our business community is the ability to then use that transferable licence as collateral in terms of securing financing from a lending institution.
Certainly, as the member is referring, if it is not a transferable licence, you can be pretty sure that the lending institution is unlikely to allow the individual to borrow against it, utilizing it as collateral. So the lending institution will, through their own due diligence, ensure that this is indeed a transferable licence. If it is not a transferable licence, I think it's very unlikely that they will provide the financing and allow the utilization of that particular licence as collateral.
B. Ralston: I thank the minister for that. That's all quite reasonable. I suppose my question is a broader one that follows upon this provision coming into law, which makes that possible. Is there an intention to do a review by the ministry to look at licences that may not now be transferable and to change the attributes of that licence to make it transferable, in order for the holder to be able to take advantage of this provision of these amendments to the act?
I regret I'm not able to give a specific example. Certainly, when you come to look at individual licences, in the research that I have done, there are some where the government body or agency issuing them does not regard them as transferable or indeed puts restrictions on the transfer or may require their consent to a transfer, for example. Is this an emerging broader area of policy, or is the minister simply not able to offer comment on it at this stage? That may be the case, but I think it really does beg the larger question that arises, should this become law.
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that it's actually up to the grantor to make the decision as to whether there will be conditions that will be put on the licence that may in some way impair or limit its transferability. That will not change.
What we are doing here is expanding the definition to, essentially, harmonize with what the rest of the country has done, and that is, I understand, something that the legal community and the business community are very conversant with, in terms of what is transferable and what isn't. But there is not an intention to do a review on those licences that today are currently not transferable.
Certainly, if individuals wish to make a case, they always have the ability to do that through the MLAs, whether it be the member opposite or through government ministers. They will still enjoy that right. But no, we are not planning on doing a more expansive review.
B. Ralston: Perhaps I can ask the question in reverse, then, and I appreciate the minister's answer. Given that this now may make certain licences issued by government agencies subject to these provisions, is there an intention to review those and make some of those that are now transferable non-transferable or to put in a caveat that would require the consent of the issuing agency?
One can foresee that the agency may not, in certain cases, wish a licence to be transferred to someone who may not meet the attributes for the proper conduct of a business, in the view of the agency. Is that kind of review going to take place at all?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that, although we're not putting caveats on, as the member is talking about, one of the things we are doing is that we're enacting the bill but we have given notice that we're not bringing it into force for six months to allow a time period for those that are in the licence-issuance business to learn and understand what the implications are and whether they wish to continue to allow their licence to continue to be transferable.
B. Ralston: I think that gives some assistance. Again, the minister may not be able to answer this at this point. But is there an intention, then, to change the conditions of licences retroactively in the sense that, should an agency decide…?
Say they issue aquaculture licences — it's the example that the minister gave — or a guide-outfitter licence, one
[ Page 8985 ]
that I gave, if there's a concern that transfer in these conditions may not meet the policy objectives of the agency and there's notice given, is there an intention to change, retroactively, the status of the licence that's been issued, in the sense of making it non-transferable, where in the past it may have been transferable?
Hon. K. Falcon: We're not aware of any pending changes to be made retroactively. All we are doing is ensuring that there is an opportunity now for transferability of a licence in the definition of "intangible," or the definition of "intangible" to include a licence so that we will enable what has taken place in other provinces to take place in British Columbia.
Decision-makers today will still be able to make the same decisions they were making yesterday with respect to a guide-outfitters licence or what have you. Nothing changes except that they are allowed to utilize this licence, the transferability of this licence, for issues around borrowing.
B. Ralston: One further question, and I'll close on this point. What may be seen as an advantage by some, in the sense that it would enable the holder of the licence to have access to finance, may be seen by the agency that's issuing the licence as a potential source of instability if the person falls in arrears, there is a foreclosure, there's a transfer or the licence is tied up in litigation. So the agency may have a different perspective on the transferability, and what the owner may regard or the licence holder may regard as an advantage may be seen by the agency as a disadvantage.
Does the minister have any thoughts about that, or is this simply going to be judged on an individual, case-by-case basis?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that existing security agreements that are in place today are the same and don't change. It would be up to the licensees and the agency in the future to decide whether there needs to be any change. The strong sense here is that that is unlikely, but that would be a discussion that would happen between the two parties.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
B. Ralston: This section amends section 4(f) of the existing act and section 7(8). I think section 4(f) is fairly straightforward in the sense that it strikes "licence" and substitutes "a forest agreement." Can the minister please explain the impact of that change upon section 7(8), which reads: "Despite subsection (2), the validity, perfection and effect of perfection and non-perfection of a security interest in a licence is governed by this Act"?
Hon. K. Falcon: Subsection 7(2) applies to an intangible, generally. All it is doing is saying that forest agreements are governed by the laws of British Columbia. Others under subsection 7(2) are governed by the laws of the debtor. So if you've got an Albertan that's dealing with the situation, all it's suggesting is that they will be governed by the laws in Alberta. This is saying that in this case forest agreements are going to be governed by the laws of British Columbia. Just clarifying — it is a technical consequential amendment.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
B. Ralston: This section moves to what I suppose you would call creditors' remedies and changes the mechanism by which a secured party — that is, the person who is the lender — may seize the licence.
It says that if a licence is collateral, "the secured party may seize the licence by giving a notice of seizure to the debtor and doing whichever of the following applies: (i) if the licence was granted under an Act, sending a copy of the notice of seizure by registered mail addressed to the minister responsible for the administration of the Act at that minister's office in Victoria; (ii) in any other case, giving a copy of the notice of seizure to the grantor of the licence, or if there is a successor to the grantor, to the successor."
My recollection of my studies in secured transactions was some time ago. I understood that there was a registry under this act of secured transactions, which was where a secured transaction was required to be registered.
It would seem that there may be some potential for confusion here, if it's not clear to the person seeking the remedy which minister might be responsible for the administration of any given act. Was there not consideration given to designating one particular ministry to receive these? Because it does appear to offer the potential for some confusion.
If these notices arrive sporadically in ministers' offices, and they're not ordinarily accustomed to dealing with them, it may give rise to further administrative questions and complications. I understand the intention, but it does seem that it may pose certain practical problems in the administering of this part of the act.
Hon. K. Falcon: No, the idea is not to have one minister responsible, because we want to make sure that the notice goes to the minister that is responsible for the act. Chief forester is a good example. We would want
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that notice to go to the Minister of Forests, and if you designated one minister, then you would have a minister that may be perhaps not the Minister of Forests receiving notices from the various ministries of which that minister does not have jurisdiction or knowledge or background, trying to make decisions around those particular circumstances.
So it was thought, and I would agree with the direction here, that the notice be given to the minister responsible. That is the intention of this particular section.
B. Ralston: The requirement is to give notice by registered mail. Well, the registered mail does have a considerable lineage. Was there thought to making other forms of notice effective? Many court documents are now filed on line, including at the Supreme Court registry. The land registry, as well, has moved to on-line filings.
This doesn't appear to contemplate an on-line notice but requires registered mail, and that appears to be the only method that is permitted under this act. Could the minister explain that?
Hon. K. Falcon: I am advised by staff that they did consider other alternatives, but they ultimately landed on the utilization of registered mail because they wanted to be able to show definitively that notice was served.
B. Ralston: Well, if I might just briefly comment, I think the Supreme Court registries and the land title office have worked out the method by which effective notice is given, and it's acknowledged in that method. Perhaps this will be something that will come forward for an amendment at some point in the future.
Other than that, could the minister explain in subsection (ii) the term "successor to the grantor"? How would that be determined by the creditor?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm not sure I'm entirely understanding what the member is saying here, because it seems clear to me. If you've got a lender that is lending money on the base of collateral, the lender would presumably do the due diligence to know who the grantor of the licence is and almost certainly would have provisions under the lending agreement. They would indicate that if that grantor is no longer going to be a grantor at some future date, then whoever their successor to the grantor is, or the successor to the successor, those would still continue to be the individuals to which notice-of-seizure letters would be sent by registered mail.
B. Ralston: The minister mentions due diligence, and presumably a financial institution, a credit union or a bank, would want to engage in that prior to making a decision to lend. Is the minister confident that the registries in provincial jurisdiction that might issue licences that would be searched are prepared for the inquiries that might come from financial institutions and will be able to respond in a timely fashion?
I do recall that in the Finance Committee there was a submission by someone involved in the trapping industry. There's a registry, apparently, which keeps track of registered traplines, but apparently it's fallen into some disuse, and I don't think there's an ability to either…. There hasn't been an administrative action taken to recover licences that have not been used and are technically no longer valid in the sense that you have to use them in order to maintain your ownership of the licence.
So there seems to be a suggestion, at least in that case, that the registry may not be able to respond to these kinds of inquiries. When this passes, is there, in that six months the minister mentioned, a proposal or a plan to let registries know that, indeed, they may be subject to these kinds of inquiries and that they'll be expected…? I would assume that the minister would expect that they will respond and give authoritative answers as to the legal status of the licence that they are inquiring about.
Hon. K. Falcon: The personal property registry, as the member would know, is all electronic. It's searchable electronically. As I mentioned earlier in a previous section discussion, we are providing six months to make sure that all the ministries have ample time in which to consider and prepare for the bill becoming law and impacting all of them. They're all comfortable with the time frame. They all believe they can handle that without any difficulty, and we've had no problems whatsoever, I'm advised, with respect to the personal property registry to this point.
B. Ralston: Perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I understand the question of the personal property registry, but what would be required from the financial institution is not a search on the personal property registry, because in many cases this would be new. They would be lending for the first time.
So due diligence would require that you'd have to go back to the agency that issued the licence and find out about the conditions that attached to the licence, verify that the representations are accurate that the person who's seeking the loan made to you and that the licence is as it's stated and what are the conditions of transfer and all that.
Individual registries. I gave the trappers registry as an example. My question is: are they prepared, or will there be administered direction given so that they will be prepared for those inquiries and be able to answer them in a timely way?
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Hon. K. Falcon: We consulted with all the ministries that have responsibilities around issuance of licence, and they have no trouble handling it. They're very comfortable with that.
Section 3 approved.
On section 4.
B. Ralston: This is a straight addition to section 59. Is it intended to leave the issue of the terms and conditions to the due diligence of the bank or credit union? In terms of finding out the terms and conditions of the licence, there's no additional remedial action to be taken by the government?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that there is effectively no change. If the licence is disposed of or sold, it will be sold in accordance to the terms and conditions of the licence. That will not change, and that is specifically spelled out here under subsection (18)(a).
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
B. Ralston: I'm particularly interested in subsection (4)(b), the mechanism or the procedure by which, if a licence is a forest agreement, it would be "retained, held or disposed of under subsection (3)." This is part of the creditors' remedies by the secured party — that is, the bank or the credit union.
In subsection (3), "at the expiry of the 15 day period or periods referred to," they are "deemed to have irrevocably elected to retain the collateral in satisfaction of the obligation," and then they're entitled to dispose of it or sell it.
So can the minister explain how that would work in terms of ministerial involvement that's in subsection (b) — "if the minister responsible for the administration of the Forest Act has consented to the application"? Does the Minister of Forests stand in the place of the secured party in subsection (3)? I'm just not clear, from the wording of these rather complicated sections, how that might work if the licence that's seized is a forest agreement and the Minister of Forests — or Natural Resources, I suppose — is going to dispose of it.
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that subsection 61(4) has essentially been rewritten to have exactly the same effect under subsection 4(b). The administration of it by the minister responsible…. This does not affect how that is administered. I'm not the Minister of Forests, so I don't know specifically what administrative approaches they take, but this does not change those. They will still take whatever administrative approaches they were taking prior to this.
B. Ralston: There were some cases in the recent past. I'm thinking of some bankruptcies of forest companies and the disposition of their licences. How does this section interact with what is federal bankruptcy legislation, the Bankruptcy Act? As the minister may recall, or his staff may advise, the Saulnier case — the one in the Supreme Court of Canada — dealt with the issue both in bankruptcy and under the provincial statute, the equivalent of the Personal Property Security Act. So is there a different step that would be taken, were that a bankruptcy rather than a simple default?
Hon. K. Falcon: I'm advised that the Bankruptcy Act would apply and take precedence, and this would, then, not apply.
Section 5 approved.
On section 6.
B. Ralston: This section amends section 72 of the present act — if I can locate it here in my notes. This would appear to be a housekeeping amendment simply to conform with the previous amendment of section 3 of the act that's before us — just to make that conform with the amendment that was made to section 58(2)(e). Is that correct?
Hon. K. Falcon: Yes, it is.
B. Ralston: I'm assuming the same with subsection (b), as well — to conform with the previous section that was amended.
Hon. K. Falcon: No, this is a little different. This is to cover a document. It is referring back to a broader notice to include a copy of a notice of seizure. So not only the original notice but also a copy of a notice. So that's now referencing that in subsection (2) under the term "document."
Sections 6 and 7 approved.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 3:22 p.m.
[ Page 8988 ]
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 5 — Personal Property Security
Amendment Act, 2011
Bill 5, Personal Property Security Amendment Act, 2011, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I call committee stage of Bill 10.
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 10 — Nurse Practitioners
Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 10; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 3:25 p.m.
On section 1.
J. Horgan: My colleague the critic is going to be joining us shortly. If we could just begin the committee stage discussion, I would ask the minister if he could advise of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act consequential amendment at the front end. Could he talk about consultation that took place prior to that amendment?
Hon. M. de Jong: I think, to the member's general question, that I can advise that when the notion of a nurse practitioner was enshrined legislatively, there was extensive consultation around what the scope of practice would be. That consultation involved the BCMA, medical practitioners and a range of stakeholders.
With respect to the individual components of the legislation, there may or may not have been specific consultation with any one group, but there certainly was with respect to the original creation of nurse practitioners and the scope of practice that they would enjoy in B.C.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
M. Farnworth: Section 2 adds nurse practitioners as "health professionals qualified to certify, among other things, the state of health of a person to be committed to a correctional facility." Can the minister tell the House as to what the current status is when it is not nurse practitioners? We're going to add that, but who would be doing that at the present time?
Hon. M. de Jong: The current practice requires a medical practitioner to conduct that examination. A medical practitioner presently doesn't include a nurse practitioner. In a situation where a nurse practitioner was involved in that examination, he or she would have to have a medical practitioner, under the present definition, sign off on the paperwork. This amendment would preclude the need for that to occur.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
M. Farnworth: Section 3 adds nurse practitioners as "health professionals qualified to diagnose, for the purposes of the person receiving benefits under the act, a person who has a close personal relationship to a victim of crime as suffering psychological harm."
In a similar vein, I want to ask a few more questions on this particular section. How is that different from what the process is now? What is this current process? And what consultation took place in the development of this section?
Hon. M. de Jong: The idea here is to eliminate the need for a patient who's receiving treatment from a nurse practitioner to get a subsequent diagnosis from either a psychologist or a medical practitioner when they are already a patient of a nurse practitioner. The College of Registered Nurses identified this as a practice barrier to the full utilization of nurse practitioners within their scope of practice.
As with many of these provisions, there is a geographic element to this, as well, where we are dealing with people located in more isolated parts of the province. It's perhaps not as big a deal in the Lower Mainland, although sometimes it can be an impediment as well. But certainly in more rural parts of the province the ability to rely fully on the professional training of the nurse practitioner was deemed to be appropriate and helpful.
M. Farnworth: What this will allow, then, is for a nurse practitioner to determine the state of injuries that an individual may have sustained, in terms of their psychological nature, and enable for benefits under the Crime Victim Assistance Act. They would be able to deal with that. That's what this change to this section does, and in essence, then, it expands the scope of practice into that particular area.
Hon. M. de Jong: That's correct. It is within their scope of practice, and this would authorize them under
[ Page 8989 ]
the Crime Victim Assistance Act to carry out that function.
Section 3 approved.
On section 4.
M. Farnworth: Section 4 amends the Employment Standards Act, section 50, and adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals qualified to substantiate, in respect of pregnancy leave, the expected or actual date of birth or to certify that an employee is able to resume work." In other words, the way I read this is the nurse practitioner will be able to say, "Yes, you are pregnant," and "Yes, your due date is this date," and "Yes, here's how the act works in terms of maternity leave and the amount of time you have," and: "Yes, here is your expected date of return."
Hon. M. de Jong: That's about it.
M. Farnworth: That seems extremely straightforward to me, and I have no further questions on this section.
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
M. Farnworth: Again, section 5 deals with the Employment Standards Act and adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals qualified to provide evidence of an employee's entitlement to parental leave." Again, it strikes me as being pretty straightforward, and it does exactly what it says, which is: "You are a parent, you have a child, and you're qualified under the terms of the act to access the parental leave benefits that are available to you." Is that correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: That's correct. It's consequential to section 4 of the act and refers, as well, to the woman's partner and their ability to access parental leave.
Section 5 approved.
On section 6.
M. Farnworth: I have a couple of questions around here, and I think my colleague from Delta South may also have some questions on this. This amends the Employment Standards Act, section 52.1, and adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals qualified to certify that an employee's family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks."
I guess the question that I would have around that is: is that a diagnosis that is done by a physician and referred to a nurse practitioner? Or is it a diagnosis that's done by a nurse practitioner themselves? Just how does that particular section work? Is it on a basis of, for example, what may seem fairly obvious — that you have terminal cancer and the end is going to be within the 26 weeks? Or is it something different, in a sense that a nurse practitioner is making the diagnosis as opposed to a physician?
Hon. M. de Jong: By the way, I was remiss not to introduce to the House the officials that are here today assisting us. Sheila Taylor, Sharon Stewart and Christine Massey are all in the House today providing us with their assistance, and I thank them.
I think the answer to the member's question is yes. The nurse practitioner, within their scope of practice by virtue of this amendment, would be able to determine and issue a certificate stating that a particular patient has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks.
The situation presently is that only a medical practitioner can issue that certificate. In some cases, where a palliative patient is receiving care from a nurse practitioner, that would require the patient to be subjected to another examination, when the nurse practitioner is, in our view and under the scope of practice guidelines, eminently qualified to issue that certificate.
M. Farnworth: So the expectation and the way this section would work would be for somebody, for example, who is in palliative care. Would it also apply to outside of palliative care, and if so, could the minister give me an example of how the ministry sees that as working?
Hon. M. de Jong: No, it's not restricted to palliative care. It's conceivable that someone who had suffered a catastrophic injury would qualify. In those cases, where someone is in a hospital, there are generally medical practitioners around as well, so it may not be as common. But it is not, to answer the member's question, restricted to palliative care situations.
V. Huntington: Perhaps the minister could explain. If it's not restricted to palliative, does it in any way contemplate diagnoses by the nurse practitioner, and on what basis are they certifying?
Hon. M. de Jong: The answer is a bit of yes and no. There is an element of diagnosis involved here, but what we're talking about is the nurse practitioner being empowered to issue a certificate on behalf of the family member of someone who is critically ill.
This is where the nurse practitioner is able to say: "On the basis of the information I have seen, I am satisfied that this family member qualifies for leave because
[ Page 8990 ]
their mother, brother, sister, husband or wife is suffering from a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death."
So it seems to me to flow naturally. That doesn't mean that the nurse practitioner is actually diagnosing the patient themselves but rendering an opinion based on information that he or she may read relating to that patient and saying: "Their family member, in my view, qualifies for leave under the Employment Standards Act."
M. Farnworth: Just to follow up, then. Instead of a family member, for example, having to go to a family physician to get that and the attendant time and energy spent on that, a nurse practitioner is able to provide the same service and get that certification, that process, done. That's my understanding.
Hon. M. de Jong: That's correct.
Section 6 approved.
On section 7.
M. Farnworth: Section 7 amends section 28 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act and adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals required, when requested by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, to provide reports respecting individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents who have been treated by those health professionals."
So then what this is doing is: in essence, if this section did not pass, ICBC would have no ability to request records or information from an individual who may well have treated a patient that's been in a motor vehicle accident.
That's my understanding of the way that the section reads. So in terms of adding this.... It strikes me as just a normal thing to do, that this person is correcting something that would, in essence, be an oversight if it was not put in place. Is that correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: That is in part correct — or a part of the rationale for the section. The other part relates to the fact that nurse practitioners are qualified to prepare reports required by ICBC, but under the existing provisions they are unable to report on the care given or the prognosis for recovery.
The idea here is to improve the efficiency by not requiring that a medical practitioner examine or write a report for ICBC where a nurse practitioner is already treating the patient, and it allows them to follow through in the way that the member has described.
The other part of the act replaces the term "physiotherapy" with "physical therapy," which is somewhat of a technical amendment to the act.
Sections 7 and 8 approved.
On section 9.
M. Farnworth: Section 9, section 10 and section 11 deal with the Mental Health Act. I'd like to ask the minister's indulgence for a minute and just go…. The three sections are all important, but section 9…. When you read it, I actually think that perhaps we should deal with section 9 after we've dealt with sections 10 and 11. I'll just give my quick rationale, if that is okay.
Section 9 deals with liability, as I read it, as I understand it, in terms of admission either voluntarily or an involuntary admission; whereas section 11 actually is the section that adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals on whose examination and opinion a director may admit a person to a mental health facility as an involuntary admission."
So in some ways it's kind of like section 9 is providing the indemnity in case someone makes a mistake, but section 11 is actually the section that's allowing you to be able to do something that will allow you to make a mistake, if a mistake were to occur.
If we could deal with section 11 and section 10, and then section 9, if the Chair doesn't have a problem with that, I think that would be really helpful.
Hon. M. de Jong: I understand the logic advanced by the member and bow to it.
M. Farnworth: And that's on Hansard too.
Sections 10 and 11 deal with the Mental Health Act. Section 10 — Mental Health Act, section 20 — adds nurse practitioners as health professionals "on whose examination and opinion a director may admit a person to a mental health facility as a voluntary admission."
As I read this, what this is doing is expanding the scope of practice to allow a nurse practitioner to admit someone who voluntarily says: "I need to be admitted to a mental health facility for examination because I believe that I have some mental health issues that need to be addressed." Currently they would have to go see, I would presume, a medical doctor, a psychiatrist or a psychologist. If that is not correct, please tell me. This is basically expanding the scope of practice to allow that to take place.
Hon. M. de Jong: I think the member has it right. I'll restate it in this way to correct one aspect of his summary. The scope of practice exists now. The failure to amend the act represented an impediment to the nurse practitioners acting on that scope of practice. So this amendment allows them practically to do what was contemplated in the scope of practice that was bestowed upon them.
M. Farnworth: What consultation took place with regards to this particular section?
[ Page 8991 ]
Hon. M. de Jong: This relates in part to the question the member's colleague asked off the top. With respect to this specific amendment that we are dealing with in this bill, no consultation; with respect to the original discussion around scope of practice, much consultation. But none with respect to this particular amendment.
V. Huntington: I would just like to clarify. The member mentioned voluntary admission. Are we on section 10 or section 11? Section 10. Thank you.
The Chair: Members, once all the questions are exhausted, I'm going to call sections 9, 10 and 11 for a vote.
M. Farnworth: Section 10, I think, is fine. Section 11 amends the Mental Health Act, section 22. It adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals on whose examination and opinion a director may admit a person to a mental health facility as an involuntary admission." Again, this one is slightly more, I think, different. This is one where you probably have more issues raised — around an involuntary admission.
If the minister could explain what the process is now and how this would change. The way I read it is that a nurse practitioner would be able to admit.
Now, the question is also: is there a difference between committing to a facility and admitting to a facility? If there is, I'd like to know whether or not that is addressed by this legislation, because I notice the wording at the front is different than this particular section in the bill. I'm wondering if there's an issue there.
The second question I have on this particular section is: with a nurse practitioner being able to admit, do they still require additional signatures, as well, or again, does that relate to committal? Am I potentially missing something there? If the minister could answer those questions, that would be great.
Hon. M. de Jong: I'm not certain that there is any practical difference between "commit" and "admit." We're trying to locate the second word, but if I learn otherwise, I'll pass that on to the committee.
Essentially, the change that is going to take place, if the committee and the House choose to pass this section, relates as follows. Today if someone is going to be admitted and detained — because there's an element of involuntariness involved here — it requires the signature of a medical practitioner. Presently that does not include a nurse practitioner.
That covers the first 48-hour detention period and admission period. If the person is to be detained beyond that period of time, it requires presently a signature from a second, different medical practitioner. The change that's contemplated by this act would authorize a nurse practitioner to sign the first certificate, admitting and detaining the person for 48 hours.
If the person were to be detained beyond that 48-hour period, it would require a second signature. I'm just going to check whether or not that second signature could be a nurse practitioner or must be a medical practitioner that does not include a nurse practitioner. It's a medical practitioner. So it would require, for extended detention, a signature from a medical practitioner, and that would not include a nurse practitioner.
M. Farnworth: I think this is key. So for 48 hours we are expanding the scope of practice and allowing nurse practitioners to commit an involuntary patient to a psychiatric assessment at an institute for mental health treatment. But after the 48 hours it has to be somebody else. It has to be a medical practitioner, and that basically means, I guess, a physician or a psychiatrist or a psychologist. That's correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: That is correct. A physician or a psychiatrist — not a psychologist, I'm advised. Again, not to get caught up in the semantics, but the point that has been emphasized to me is that the scope of practice to conduct this work exists. This removes the statutory impediment to the nurse practitioner acting on that scope of practice.
M. Farnworth: I thank the minister for doing sections 10 and 11, because I think it makes section 9 that much easier and faster to deal with, with the answers he has given on sections 10 and 11.
Section 9, then. What that does is it amends the Mental Health Act, section 16. So it adds "to the protection from liability already provided to the director, immunity in respect of admitting a person to a mental health facility in good faith based on a nurse practitioner's opinion that the person suffers from a mental disorder and provides protection from liability to nurse practitioners who sign certificates or reports related to the admission of persons to mental health facilities."
One, that scope of practice is already there, from what the minister has already put in place. So this just removes, I guess, the legislative impediments or legal impediments in terms of making sure the sections of the act are correct. I think one of the key things, again, is that 48 hours. So if a nurse practitioner makes a decision based in good faith, the maximum that somebody can be held involuntarily, for example, is the 48 hours. I think that's where the issue will come up, not on the basis of a voluntary admission but rather on an involuntary admission.
Secondly, it also indemnifies the director, but after the 48 hours then it would be the practices and procedures
[ Page 8992 ]
that are in place requiring an additional medical professional to be able to sign a further committal.
So what we're talking about is for the initial 48 hours and putting in place the standard indemnities that already apply to other medical health professionals — the director — and extending that to nurse practitioners. If that's correct, that will be all the questions I have on this particular section.
Hon. M. de Jong: As best I can tell, that is a correct summary of the section.
V. Huntington: Just in relation to section 11 in particular, are there any additional requirements, regulatory requirements, on the training of a nurse practitioner to examine and give opinion on something that would allow an involuntary commitment?
Hon. M. de Jong: There is, I am advised, certainly training that relates to elements of mental health, but I think the essence of the member's question is best answered this way. Once an individual has qualified as a nurse practitioner and met those requirements, they will, for the purposes of the Mental Health Act, be qualified to render the opinion relevant to the admission or commission process.
Sections 9 to 11 inclusive approved.
On section 12.
M. Farnworth: Section 12 amends the Mental Health Act, section 28, and adds nurse practitioners "as health professionals to whom a police officer or constable may take for examination a person who apparently suffers from a mental disorder and is behaving in a dangerous manner." That seems pretty straightforward. Basically, as I interpret this, a police officer…. They don't have to get a physician or a medical practitioner. They can use a nurse practitioner. That is the scope of practice that is currently underway, and this is just another impediment that needs to be removed to make that happen.
I see the minister nodding, and I thank him for that.
The follow-up question to this is while…. It adds nurse practitioner as a health professional for a police officer or constable. What about…? For example, let's say you arrive upon the scene. There's not a police officer there, but you have either a paramedic or firefighters who are saying: "You know what? This person appears to have a mental health problem, and clearly they need help that we aren't able to provide."
Are they able to do it on the basis of a firefighter or a paramedic who appears at a particular scene — let's say an accident or something along the highway or a situation of that nature — or do they have to wait for a police officer to be able to come and do it?
Hon. M. de Jong: Good question, because it's a practical matter. The short answer is no, because this section doesn't contemplate anyone other than a police officer having the power to detain, and I, off the top of my head, can't think of any other statutory provision that bestows that power on other first responders.
M. Farnworth: I appreciate the answer. It's one of those things that when you're going, "Oh, okay. I wonder: what about this kind of situation?" it pops up. It may be one of those things that as we amend and extend scope of practices, you may find that the situation arises from time to time. You know what? This person needs to be apprehended, and that may be something that's looked at in the future. But that's not for now.
So that's pretty straightforward. I have no further questions, unless my colleague from Delta South has further questions on this section.
Section 12 approved.
On section 13.
M. Farnworth: The next series of sections deals with the Motor Vehicle Act and the Motor Fuel Tax Act. Section 13 adds nurse practitioners as "health professionals who may certify persons as suffering from disabilities listed in the definition of 'person with disabilities' in the Motor Fuel Tax Act."
Again, my only question to the minister is that this is a scope of practice that is currently underway and removing the impediment for nurse practitioners to be able to fulfil this function.
Hon. M. de Jong: It's a situation where a nurse practitioner is treating or seeing a patient to certify that that patient meets the definition under the Motor Fuel Tax Act of a "person with disabilities."
Sections 13 and 14 approved.
On section 15.
M. Farnworth: Section 15 amends the Motor Vehicle Act, section 227, and adds nurse practitioners as "health professionals whose certificates respecting the ability of a person to comprehend the nature of a demand to give a blood sample will be accepted as evidence in an impaired driving proceeding." Could the minister explain how they see this working and what will be the difference with this change between that and how the situation is at present?
Hon. M. de Jong: So the scenario is this: a motor vehicle incident, maybe a motor vehicle accident. There
[ Page 8993 ]
will likely have been a demand for a breath sample or not and then a subsequent demand for a blood sample. Ordinarily, as a means of proving the blood sample, the individual would be required to sign. In some circumstances the person may be incapable of providing that proof or providing that acknowledgement that the blood sample is theirs.
As it stands, the opinion on whether or not the person was capable of understanding the demand was an opinion that could only be obtained from a medical practitioner. With this amendment, that opinion can be rendered by a nurse practitioner, as well, as to whether or not the defendant was capable of comprehending the demand for a blood sample.
M. Farnworth: I thank the minister for the explanation. So the question I would have is…. That's within the current scope of practice right now; it's anticipated in the current scope of practice. What consultation took place at the time of that scope of practice change? And who was involved in that?
Hon. M. de Jong: That initial consultation would have involved, amongst others, the College of Physicians, the BCMA and the College of Registered Nurses. Those would be the major groups, and I think there were some other stakeholders as well. That's who would have been involved in the initial round of consultations around what the scope of practice was going to be for nurse practitioners.
V. Huntington: In effect, what we're saying here in a small way is that the nurse practitioner's opinion on the individual's mental capacity to understand the taking of a blood sample is basically that of an expert witness, if you will, only because it's in an impaired driving proceeding and it's not considered as critical.
I'd just like to clarify again: (a) is that correct? and (b) once again, is there no additional training required for the nurse practitioner to judge a person's mental capacity in this instance?
[D. Black in the chair.]
Hon. M. de Jong: Again, I think my answer to the first part of the question is similar to one I gave earlier which is that upon being qualified as a nurse practitioner, the full range of scope of practice is deemed to be available to that nurse practitioner, although there's a variety of training modules that go into receiving that graduate-level degree and distinction.
What's being authorized here with this legislative amendment is that the nurse practitioner, by virtue of being a nurse practitioner, is qualified to certify that a defendant was incapable of comprehending the demand for a blood sample due to either physical or mental trauma. The act says that the nurse practitioner is qualified to render that opinion, to use the member's own word.
Section 15 approved.
On section 16.
M. Farnworth: Section 16, I take it, is similar to section 15. But in this particular case what we're saying is that the nurse practitioner, if there's, let's say, an accident, and they're looking to take a blood sample…. I don't know if this would apply to somebody who is unconscious, but the nurse practitioner under this, with the passage of this section, would have the ability to say: "No, I don't think that taking the blood sample is the right thing to do in this particular circumstance." Is that the way that I understand it? And what would be the current situation?
Hon. M. de Jong: At present the act contemplates situations in which someone authorized to take a blood sample is concerned about whether or not the taking of that blood sample might endanger an individual's life, the person from whom the blood sample is being taken, and that is an opinion presently that can only be given by a medical practitioner. With this amendment, the person authorized to take that blood sample would be able to consult either a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner and secure that opinion about whether or not the taking of a blood sample might endanger the life of the person from whom the blood is being taken.
M. Farnworth: So in terms of the authorizing of taking a blood sample, who would be taking the blood sample, and who is authorized currently to take a blood sample? Does it include someone, for example, who would not be classified as a health care worker or provider? I'm thinking, for example, a police officer or a firefighter or, you know.…
Hon. M. de Jong: I believe, based on the advice I have received and read, that blood samples can be taken by a medical practitioner or a registered nurse who has been appointed for that purpose. In the former case, this section probably isn't terribly relevant because the person taking the blood would be in a position to render his or her own opinion. In the case of a registered nurse, however, they would not, and they would seek an opinion from either a nurse practitioner or a medical practitioner.
M. Farnworth: So this section, in essence, codifies or removes the obstacle to what is already the practical reality or should be taking place in the current situation, which is that the nurse practitioner has that higher
[ Page 8994 ]
degree of training than just a registered nurse and, therefore, is capable and educated to be able to make these kinds of decisions, and then this section is allowing that full use to actually take place.
Hon. M. de Jong: That is the case.
Sections 16 and 17 approved.
On section 18.
V. Huntington: Once again, I just want to clarify. This section enables a nurse practitioner to provide an opinion that a judge can rely on to remand a person — i.e., incarcerate an individual. Is that correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: I think the answer is yes, but maybe the…. It's an important enough question. I want to make sure I understood it correctly. Could the member repeat the question?
V. Huntington: You can see my concern is that involuntary incarceration based upon the opinion of somebody other than a medical practitioner has me somewhat concerned throughout the act. I'm just asking here for clarification that this section enables a nurse practitioner to provide an opinion that a judge can rely on to incarcerate an individual for observation.
Hon. M. de Jong: The answer to that question is yes.
M. Farnworth: On this particular section, this ability — does it deal with just for 48 hours, or does it deal with for longer than 48 hours? I think that's an important issue. If it's for longer than 48 hours, then, in essence, you're contradicting what the earlier sections we've dealt with would allow, which is for a nurse practitioner to commit for the 48 hours either voluntarily or involuntarily. So that's what I wanted to clarify with this particular section. Would this be for 48 hours?
Hon. M. de Jong: We're dealing here with a situation in which an individual is brought before the court and there are concerns relating to the mental health of the individual. What would occur in those circumstances was frequently called the 30-day remand, where a judge will decide whether or not to remand the person in custody for a period of 30 days to have a detailed examination of the individual's mental health conducted.
So the first point is that it is the judge's decision as opposed to any individual professional. What this says is that whereas today the judge may rely on the opinion and evidence of a medical practitioner, which today is not determinative but the judge may rely in coming to his or her decision, this amendment would say that the judge is equally able to rely on opinions presented by a nurse practitioner — not to conduct the mental health review but in determining whether or not to remand the person in custody for 30 days to have that mental health review take place.
M. Farnworth: I thank the minister for that clarification. So right now it's a medical practitioner whose opinion the judge can rely on. This change would allow a nurse practitioner — the judge to rely on that opinion. But that individual is not going to be the one who is doing the assessment and also not going to be the one who's doing any particular treatment. Second, the people doing the assessment would, in fact, be medical practitioners. Is that correct?
Hon. M. de Jong: I believe the member is correct. What I was trying to do is to cite the statutory passage out of the forensic psychiatric services act. I can't, but I'll check that to make sure. That act is not being amended, and I am virtually certain that it restricts to medical practitioners — to find medical practitioners who may conduct the psychiatric assessment during the 30-day period.
M. Farnworth: If the member could clarify that for me, I would appreciate that.
Section 18 approved.
On section 19.
M. Farnworth: Section 19, School Act, section 91 adds nurse practitioners as "health professionals who may certify that a student is able to return to school following a communicable disease or another physical, mental or emotional condition." The current situation would just be a medical practitioner. Is this another case where the scope was already amended and we're just removing the legislative impediment to allow what is currently taking place to take place?
Hon. M. de Jong: In part. Presently a nurse practitioner wouldn't be in a position to render that opinion because of this School Act impediment, but I think the reality is that in many parts of the province school-aged children would have more regular contact, and will have more regular contact, with a nurse practitioner than they will with a medical practitioner.
It seemed to us, based on, again, the scope of practice that has been defined for nurse practitioners, that it made sense to statutorily authorize them to render this opinion relating to a return to school.
M. Farnworth: So under the current circumstance, it may well be a medical practitioner that is the one that has
[ Page 8995 ]
to do that. And in remote and rural parts of this province, where that may involve significant travel requirements or a medical practitioner not always being available, the nurse practitioner, as the minister says, is more likely to be having contact with students in our education system.
So this, in fact, in essence, just makes total common sense. I see the minister nodding his head, and I have no further questions on this section.
Section 19 approved.
On section 20.
M. Farnworth: Just so the minister can clarify. This basically allows a nurse practitioner to let Vital Statistics know that "Yes, this person has been born" or "Yes, this person has died" or "Yes, this individual is married." It allows what is pretty straightforward and what I think most of us, when we talk about expanded scope of practice…. This is one of the things that would just strike us as common sense and that you sort of wonder: "Well, gee, I would have thought that would have been allowed in the first place."
Hon. M. de Jong: I would concur with the member's opinion that it is a commonsense amendment that authorizes a nurse practitioner, under the Vital Statistics Act, to provide basic information concerning the birth of a child.
Sections 20 to 22 inclusive approved.
Hon. M. de Jong: Thanks, hon. Chair, and to the members who participated. I move the committee rise, report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 4:25 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 10 — Nurse Practitioners
Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Bill 10, Nurse Practitioners Statutes Amendment Act, 2011, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I call committee stage of Bill 19, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 3), 2011.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 19 — Miscellaneous Statutes
Amendment Act (No. 3), 2011
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 19; D. Black in the chair.
The committee met at 4:27 p.m.
Hon. S. Bond: As we move into the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, there are sections, obviously, that each minister will be speaking to. The first section we'll be dealing with is Aboriginal Relations, and we're ready to start. The minister and her staff are here.
The Chair: The member for Alberni–Pacific Rim on section 1.
On section 1.
S. Fraser: Thank you, hon. Chair. They did a boundary change, and they changed the name. I still get it confused sometimes.
Thanks to the minister and her staff for being here for this. It's not a very lengthy part of the miscellaneous bill. It's just section 1, and section 1 is only divided into two subsections.
I guess I'd like to just get some clarification, first of all, from the minister. This is an amendment to the Maa-nulth treaty. It has been incorporated in a miscellaneous bill. I don't know if that's precedent-setting or not. I know it's not a big amendment, but it's not a stand-alone amendment. It has been moved into this miscellaneous statutes act. Is that normal for an amendment to treaty?
Hon. M. Polak: I think perhaps we're speaking at cross-purposes. This is not an amendment to Maa-nulth. In fact, this will retroactively validate regulations of an interim nature that have to do with the forest compensation. So once the Maa-nulth treaty was signed off and the implementation began, interim regulations were put in place. This is simply here to validate those retroactively and ensure that everything is legal going forward with the forest compensation.
S. Fraser: So just for clarification, Bill 19, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2011. The first part of the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act is not an amendment, but it is in an amendment act? Just to clarify that for anyone watching that might be confused, because I think that would be an easy outcome from this.
Hon. M. Polak: This is an amendment to settlement legislation. That is different than an amendment to the
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treaty. So this does not amend the treaty, but it amends the legislation that we have put forward in order to enforce the settlement.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that clarification. This is essentially a bit of housekeeping, to some extent. I realize that. But was this change anticipated with the final agreement when it was completed? Was there anticipation that at some future point this would have to be added? Again, for clarification, why are we doing this now?
Hon. M. Polak: Yes, it was anticipated. It's part of the process. We first put the interim regulations in place and then follow up as we go forward with bringing them into force retroactively.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister again for that answer. Is there an economic component to this, the retroactivity of this? Does it have a direct economic impact on either the resources that the Maa-nulth treaty members will be getting, or are there financial implications?
[D. Horne in the chair.]
Hon. M. Polak: No, there's no financial component. This simply ensures that it begins on the effective date of the treaty and continues until all the compensation is allotted.
S. Fraser: Is there an anticipated date for it to be completed? Do we have any length of time, any idea? Are we talking weeks, months, years?
Hon. M. Polak: The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has put out initial offers to all the affected parties. To give you a sense of things, with Nisga'a it took ten years to complete all the compensation. We don't anticipate it is going take that long. We're thinking it's likely in the neighbourhood of two fiscal years.
S. Fraser: That compensation would be…. Is it all related directly to forestry, and if so, is that to deal with access to tenure, tenure acquisition? Is it Western Forest Products land? I guess I need some clarification on that.
Hon. M. Polak: Yes, it's compensation for the taking of harvesting rights. Western would be the largest that would be compensable, and it is to ensure that you have compensation that would date from the effective date of the treaty through to when that harvesting right would have naturally expired.
S. Fraser: Again, just to get it clear in my own mind, are there discussions currently happening around compensation that involve both Maa-nulth Nations and, for instance, Western Forest Products? Are these ongoing discussions, or are they anticipated discussions that will happen?
Hon. M. Polak: The Maa-nulth First Nations has no role in this. The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations makes an offer, and then there are back-and-forth discussions with the parties.
S. Fraser: I've just learned something which I had assumed wrongly.
So there are discussions happening with the current tenure holder of the public land portion, which would be Western Forest Products, around the compensation that would date back to April of 2011 — April of this year.
Is there a ceiling on compensation? Has there been something budgeted for this? I don't mean to interfere with the bargaining position of the government, but I have to know. Are these vigorous discussions? Are they heated? Is there some understanding anticipated in the near future?
Hon. M. Polak: It is not open-ended. There is a budgeted amount, which of course I'm not going to disclose here, which will be no surprise to the member. But certainly it's not open-ended.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for that. I understand her inability to give me any numbers on that, and I respect that too.
When a compensation level is arrived at that is acceptable to the parties, which in this case are the province and the tenure holder, then at that point will the Lieutenant-Governor…? Will his role kick in again? It says here that it continues in force until it is repealed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. I guess I'm looking at just how that process unfolds.
Hon. M. Polak: In answer to the member's question, it may be repealed through OIC. But it could also be in the best interests of the Crown to leave that on the books with, therefore, the certainty that there's capacity to deal with anything of an unknown nature that may arise in future years with respect to compensation.
S. Fraser: The minister may or may not be able to divulge this, just as we tried to cover the actual monetary amount of the discussions. Are there discussions with the tenure holder around compensation? Are we talking just money on the table here? Are there potentially other tenures? Is there forest land that may be considered?
I'll just let the minister know where I'm going with this. There are other Nuu-chah-nulth Nations in the
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area — some Maa-nulth, some not. Are there other things on the table that might affect other First Nations through these negotiations or the Maa-nulth Nations themselves?
Hon. M. Polak: This relates simply to a financial compensation arrangement, and there is nothing that would impact on neighbouring First Nations or other nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth.
S. Fraser: I don't have too much further to go. I guess one of the question I do have, though, is: is there any potential effect on these negotiations that are clarified by this retroactivity with other levels of government? I'm thinking particularly of the regional district. The Maa-nulth Nations, there's certainly an overlap of jurisdictional…. There's some complexity there. So is there any concern that the regional district government needs to be aware of? Could there be impacts or implications on any of these zoning uses, the existing land uses that are in that region?
Hon. M. Polak: With respect to what impact the disposition of the land would have on the surrounding area, the local government, that doesn't have anything to do with the compensation aspect. The compensation aspect is simply financial. So the impact to the communities with respect to the implementation of a treaty is a separate matter. Of course, the member is familiar with how those negotiations unfold as a treaty takes on its implementation phase.
S. Fraser: That's helpful. To the minister, though. She's answered that the compensation will be monetary in nature, that nothing else is anticipated. There are issues that affect, for instance, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation near Bamfield. They are a Maa-nulth member, one of the treaty First Nations. There has been a longstanding issue around the only access to Huu-ay-aht, Bamfield, the marine station and the West Coast Trail. The Bamfield road has been the issue that I've raised with consecutive Transportation ministers, since I've been elected. Its safety and its maintenance is a problem for Maa-nulth Nations also.
Considering that Western Forest Products is one of the players…. The road issue is complicated because it actually crosses a different number — Western tenure land; also private managed forest land; Island Timberlands, I believe. I don't think TimberWest is involved, but I think there's some Crown land, too. So it gets convoluted, but I think Western Forest Products is the main player as far as the road access goes. It crosses their tenure, so it's their jurisdiction.
Considering that there's an outstanding need for road improvements, has there been any consideration that it might be a time to provide, in the discussions with Western, the resources to maintain the road to Huu-ay-aht, who is one of the Maa-nulth Nations? Is there any discussion that might occur, that might help and be a win-win situation for Western, for the Huu-ay-aht, for the people of Bamfield and the regional district?
Hon. M. Polak: The two are entirely unrelated. We have an obligation to compensate those folks who have had harvesting rights taken from them as a result of the treaty. The impact of the land designations as a result of the treaty has nothing to do with our obligation to compensate those from whom we've removed harvesting rights.
S. Fraser: I think I'm going to be coming to a close on this. I realize I have taken a bit of liberty of stretching the purview of this amendment a bit. But it is an opportunity at least for me to ask the question.
The minister has assured that these negotiations that are being contemplated through this amendment and the retroactivity of that won't have any implications on other levels of government, the regional district specifically, Alberni-Clayoquot regional district.
My understanding is that the Alberni-Clayoquot regional district had discussions. Representatives, directors of the regional district met with the minister at the UBCM. They have already been given what they see were assurances during the latter part of the treaty process that they would be assisted in working with the Maa-nulth Nations, including the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and the Ucluelet First Nation.
They, I think, are the two that are actually looking to join the regional district as members there, which is a wise thing. It was anticipated, and it should be encouraged, I think, for all benefits. But they were assured that there would be, or at least it was implied that there would be assistance from the province as they reconfigured the regional district. They were told that the treaty wouldn't be a burden on them. It would be a benefit, which I'd like to think it is for all involved.
As it turns out, the minister has clarified to the regional district that the implementation funds that were expected from the province are not going to be forthcoming. The minister has given me assurances that these negotiations with Western involving an area within the regional district — the compensation we're talking about — won't have any effect on them.
But the regional district themselves were told that there wouldn't be any downloading or off-loading as a result of this treaty, and now there has been because they are trying to reconstitute a regional district that involves new First Nation members that's quite complex. The regional district were not at the table negotiating treaty, so they do not have the expertise to reconstitute
[ Page 8998 ]
the entire regional district in a way that might be a template for the rest of the province.
Does the minister anticipate any help in that regard as far as ensuring the regional district that this bill won't have any direct effect on them through the negotiations with Western Forest Products? The regional district believes…. A previous assurance that they wouldn't be downloaded or off-loaded on as a result of the treaty didn't seem to come true, so can the minister comment on my sort of stretching the limits of this debate?
Hon. M. Polak: I, too, recognize the concerns that the regional district has had, and I'm pleased to advise the member that our staff continue to work with the regional district to assist them through the implementation of the agreement which in this case involves some First Nations who wish to join into the regional district, which, of course, we see as a positive. Of course, the member will not be surprised that I might disagree with his characterization with respect to downloading, but it's something we can agree to disagree with respect to.
In terms of the amendment that is before you, again, this is unrelated to those aspects of treaty which, of course, are very complex. This is relatively straightforward in that we have as a result of the treaty taken harvesting rights away from tenure holders, and thus we are obligated to compensate them financially for those takings.
Section 1 approved.
Hon. T. Lake: I seek agreement from the committee to move to sections 23 to 36 and then revert back to section 2.
Sections 2 to 22 inclusive stood down.
On section 23.
N. Macdonald: I think we're still waiting for some staff to come in. My understanding is that we're going to move to section 23 and then come back to the sections that we haven't dealt with already. Just on section 23, while staff come in. Basically, this broadens the purpose it describes here for the use of the environmental remediation sub-account.
Just to begin with, Minister, if you could explain the current use of the account.
Hon. S. Thomson: Before I start, I'll just quickly introduce the staff who are here with me: Richard Grieve, director of legislation; John Harkema, who's our senior provincial resource officer in compliance enforcement; and Tom McReynolds, who's a senior legislative analyst for legislation.
Sorry, I was just getting the staff organized here, so I hope I got the question correct here. I think the opening question was just: what is currently the general use of the fund? Currently the fund is used essentially for complex investigations, in terms of remediation — primarily at this point related to forest matters.
N. Macdonald: Can the minister give an example of a case where it has been used, just so that I can get a better grasp of exactly the uses and the extent of the use of this fund?
Hon. S. Thomson: In terms of a specific example, this is one that has been provided where the funding was used. This is related to tree thefts. Two people were convicted of stealing cedar and maple trees from Crown land in Chilliwack. They attempted to sell the wood cut at a nearby mill, before the authorities intervened. They pleaded guilty to theft.
On average, there are about 50 reported incidents of tree theft in B.C. a year, according to the RCMP. Commonly targeted species are cedar and maple, which can fetch up to $5,000 a tree. So the funding is used to pursue those investigations, as one example of the use of the funds.
N. Macdonald: Since this is a special fund, where does the money actually come from? Is this just out of general revenue? Is it funded each year? Does it come specifically from fines levied? Where does the funding for this sub-account come from?
Hon. S. Thomson: The funding is derived from penalty revenues under the Forest and Range Practices Act and under the Wildfire Act. They go into two separate sub-accounts under the overall environmental remediation sub-account.
N. Macdonald: How much is in the two funds? How much is in those two sub-accounts?
Hon. S. Thomson: Approximately $250,000 is deposited into the sub-account annually. Since 2004 we've collected nearly $1.3 million, and expenditures since 2004 have totalled approximately $500,000.
N. Macdonald: So the amount that's collected into the sub-accounts — is that all of the money that has been collected in fines related to forest and range and wildfire? It totals $1.3 million. I'm sorry. I didn't hear the period of time. Is that an annual figure, or is that over a period of years? I think the minister said the period of time, but I didn't hear it.
Hon. S. Thomson: It is all of the penalty revenue from the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Wildfire
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Act — just to clarify for the member, $250,000 annually. What I noted was that since 2004 we've collected nearly $1.3 million.
N. Macdonald: Just to understand, in terms of compliance and enforcement. The total amount of money that is paid in penalty for forest and range infringements and for Wildfire Act infringements is the total that the minister has described here. That's the grand total of all the compliance and enforcement penalties. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to clarify on this, these are the administrative penalties. So this would be the total of administrative penalties. If there are other provisions for fines under the Offence Act or other penalties, that would not go into this account. This is strictly the administrative penalties. For example, if there were administrative penalties on unauthorized harvesting, those administrative penalties would go in there. If it was pursued through fines, that would go separately. The stumpage that would be assessed and collected under that goes into stumpage revenue. So it's just the administrative penalties.
N. Macdonald: Essentially, this removes the definition in subsection (a) of "Crown forest land or Crown range land" and substitutes just the term "Crown land." Maybe the minister could explain the purpose that is served by making that change.
Hon. S. Thomson: Currently the subsection says that funds are to be used to remediate on Crown forest land, defined in the Forest Act, or range land, defined in the Range Act. While there is some feeling these definitions are likely broad enough to apply under our broader range of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations statutes, removing the specific references to land associated with the former Ministry of Forests and Range clarifies that these funds may be utilized to remediate the damage that occurs on all Crown lands that are under Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations statutes.
N. Macdonald: Could the minister give an example of Crown land that does not fit under the definition of "Crown forest land" or "Crown range land"?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to clarify. As I noted in the comments, while the definitions previously were likely broad enough to cover under our full range of statutes, removing the specific reference just makes that abundantly clear. So there is not another type of Crown land that would be covered under the broader definition. It just makes it much more clear in terms of the overall approach to this and tidies up the definition. It's not intended to bring in another whole different type of Crown land, so it's just to make it, overall, clearer.
N. Macdonald: So just to be clear, at the moment there's really nothing that the minister can give as an example of Crown land that wouldn't be currently covered by the description "Crown forest land" or "Crown range land," but there's an anticipation that in the future there might be definitions that wouldn't fit under those categories, and therefore "Crown land" is just a broader term that covers possible changes in the future. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. S. Thomson: No, we're not anticipating a new definition or another type of Crown land. It was felt that while we were in this section — because the previous definition said "Crown forest land" and "Crown range land," which referenced the previous Forests and Range — in order to broaden it under our overall scope with the new ministry, simply define it as "Crown land."
N. Macdonald: Coming back to the source for the fund, the minister has said that this is administrative penalties. What other penalties does the ministry use in enforcing the Wildfire Act in the forest, land and range? What other possible penalties are available? Are we talking, you know, criminal penalties? Are we talking about civil suits? Other than administrative penalties, what other tools has the government used to make sure that the acts that put into this environmental remediation sub-accounts are followed? What other tools are used?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to be clear, again, the funds that go into this account are the administrative penalties under those two acts. The other provisions that are available are tickets under the Offence Act, charges that may be pursued under the Offence Act that are provided for in the legislation. For example, under the Wildlife Act, there are the administrative penalties, but there's also the ability to pursue recoveries and cost recoveries for damages. That would not go into this fund. Those are pursued under separate parts of the legislation.
N. Macdonald: So just a final question on the fund. The minister has provided the amount of money that goes into this fund based on administrative penalties. Can the minister give a total for penalties applied in the same period of time to these same acts? What are the total penalties that have been issued and have come in as funds?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just discussing with staff here. There's a whole number, including, as I mentioned, cost recoveries, tickets — everything. Rather than try to estimate or guess without all the information here in terms of that
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total, I can undertake to provide that total to the member opposite as a follow-up, if that would be acceptable.
N. Macdonald: Absolutely, and I thank the minister for that. We'll just go to subsection (b) in 23. It talks about, again, basically…. Instead of just the Wildlife Act and the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act, there's an additional space for any other prescribed act. I just, I guess, would ask: such as what? What are some of the acts that the minister thinks will be part of broadening the uses for this account?
Hon. S. Thomson: Currently it's limited to the acts that are referenced there. What we've done with this section is provide the opportunity or the potential that administrative penalties could be brought in under other prescribed enactments. We wanted to be able to leave ourselves the option to be able do that. If it was felt that those would be appropriate under other provisions or other enactments, we wanted to leave ourselves the ability to be able to do that so they could contribute to the fund, as well, through those administrative penalties that would go into the fund.
There are a number of examples: Fish Protection Act, Heritage Conservation Act, Water Act, Weed Control Act. A number of those other statutes and acts that are under the administration of the ministry have that. We wanted to leave ourselves that potential. There are no current plans to do that, but it simply was that in the future, if it was felt that administrative penalties would be appropriate and could help contribute to environmental remediation, that is something we wanted to leave ourselves the ability to do.
N. Macdonald: Just to make sure that I understand this. There's also a broadening of the work that the fund can be used for. That's also part of the broadening that the minister talks about. It's not simply the administrative penalties that are collected, but there's a broadening of the work that can be done with these funds?
Hon. S. Thomson: I think that I need to be clear, and perhaps I wasn't as clear in the answer. In terms of this specific section, what this does is allow us to defray the costs of investigating contraventions under those specific acts and other prescribed acts that may be prescribed with this capacity under this section — to be able to use the resources or the funds that are in the account to defray the cost of investigating contraventions under those other acts. So it broadens the use of those funds.
D. Donaldson: I had a question for the minister in section 23 here. He described examples of how revenue is generated — I suppose, for lack of a better word — for the special accounts through fines.
There's this situation I want to describe to him. I believe it has to do with unauthorized harvesting that he described as one way that fines are allocated into these special accounts, as described in section 23.
The harvesting in residential areas of pine beetle–killed trees was brought to my attention. I just want to ask the minister if this would be an example of the kind of fines that would go to this special account.
A fellow who has the skill and ability to harvest these trees in a safe manner has been asked to take the trees off private residential properties in a residential area, to decrease the incidence or risk of wildfires creating more damage than if the trees were in place. He doesn't have a stamp for this kind of activity, and he ends up wanting to sell the wood for other purposes, such as firewood or perhaps to people who have home-based mills to create lumber.
Now, he feels that the onerous part of getting a permit to do the selling of this wood every now and then far exceeds the benefit of harvesting the wood and creating a safer neighbourhood. However, if he doesn't get the stamp and go through the process of having people come out and inspect the wood that he's harvested off these residential lots…
The Chair: I would ask that the member relate….
D. Donaldson: Yeah, I'll get to it. Thank you, Chair.
…then he'll be fined. So is that the kind of fine that would accrue to this special account?
Hon. S. Thomson: With this situation, if the individual harvests that tree on private land and keeps it on private land, then there's no issue. If he transports that off, then he's required to have a mark. There are two potential penalties, I'm advised. One could be an administrative penalty which would go into this fund; one could be a violation ticket which would go into general revenue. It would depend on which penalty was applied.
Section 23 approved.
On section 24.
N. Macdonald: Section 24 is obviously connected to section 23, and maybe the minister can just give a quick explanation of what section 24 does.
Hon. S. Thomson: This section is consequential to the previous section where we talk about the prescribed act. This section provides the regulatory authority to be able to add that prescribed act.
Section 24 approved.
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On section 25.
N. Macdonald: Section 25 basically gives a definition for "bag limit." I think I just have two questions here. The first is the term "bag limit." Is that a terminology that's consistently used in government publications, or is this a new term?
Hon. S. Thomson: It's an existing term that has been used for a long time.
N. Macdonald: The second question. In the definition it talks about "wildlife that a person may take or kill." Does that mean that the hunter would have it in possession? What's the exact description of what that definition means?
Hon. S. Thomson: The expression "take or kill" means kill or capture. It includes killing by shooting and can also mean capture, when the killing is delayed for some reason. In the trapping context, it includes the capture of an animal that is trapped alive and then moved to another location to be euthanized. It would cover both of those.
N. Macdonald: This will be the last question. The capture: could you give a scenario under the Wildlife Act where that would take place?
Hon. S. Thomson: As we said, the term means to kill or capture. Animals are frequently live-trapped — for example, on traplines using non-killing traps. The trapper then kills the animals when the traps are checked. So that would make sure it covers those.
Nuisance wildlife may be live-trapped, moved to another location and euthanized.
Section 25 approved.
On section 26.
N. Macdonald: Again, this is a definition: the "initiation hunting licence." The only feedback I had on this was a question by one of my constituents, who was asking about the addition of the idea of having a family licence.
I guess the question I would have for the minister is: in looking at types of licences that are being put forward, has the idea of a family licence ever come forward? The rationale from my constituent was that very often families will need to get a number of tags, but obviously they are only going to harvest the needs of the family, which won't use all of the tags. So for limited entry and such, has the minister considered or heard a consideration of the idea of a family licence?
Hon. S. Thomson: No, that has not specifically come up. It's not something that has been brought forward by the Wildlife Federation in the discussions.
I think that the overall intent of these licences, both the youth licence and the initiation hunting licence, is to make it easier for families to hunt together. That was the direction that was brought forward by the Wildlife Federation. They did not specifically bring forward the idea of a family licence.
Section 26 approved.
On section 27.
N. Macdonald: In section 27 the age has changed, and the minister could give an explanation of why that has taken place. The age range has been extended from 14 years up to 18 years. Like I say, if the minister could simply give an explanation for why that change is in the public interest.
Hon. S. Thomson: I think the question goes to the nub of what we're bringing forward with these amendments, which, as I mentioned, was to help enhance and expand hunting opportunities, to help provide those opportunities for families. The youth licence has been extended to 18 to cover that age group there. That's when the parent would apply. We want to make sure that there's still the oversight of parents in the process. The initiation licence, which provides those opportunities for 18 years and above, is again about providing those enhanced opportunities.
I think we all recognize the fact that outdoor recreation and hunting are an important part of rural British Columbia. So this is about providing those additional opportunities. It's about helping the B.C. Wildlife Federation meet their goals of enhanced hunter recruitment.
They have got a target and goals of increasing the number of people involved. That helps the economy and helps provide those family experiences. So this is in response to requests that have come forward for quite a while from the Wildlife Federation — about wanting to have those licensing provisions that help enhance the experience and help provide those additional opportunities.
N. Macdonald: Just one last question on this, then. Can the minister describe some of the benefits of this type of licence for the individuals involved? Are there cost advantages? Are there tag advantages? Maybe if the minister could just put on the record the opportunities that this type of licence provides after this passes to individuals now up to 18 years of age.
Hon. S. Thomson: Currently in the 14-to-17-year-old category, they would have to pass the prescribed exams,
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obtain his or her own hunting licence. This amendment allows those to try hunting under close personal supervision before being required to take the prescribed exam.
There's a high level of interest in the resident hunting community to allow this group to try it without having to take the time or the monetary commitment to take the prescribed exam, the core exam, that's required. It provides those additional opportunities. It makes it easier. It provides that initiation, or that initial experience, under close parental supervision without having to go through the full tests and those costs of doing that. That's the benefit.
N. Macdonald: Maybe we will just stick with this, just to understand. The example that the minister used was as a parent — obviously, often it would be a parent — but basically we're talking about a mentor, right? It could be an uncle. It could be somebody who is not related — but obviously, somebody who has full qualifications as a hunter.
Is that the thinking of the minister? You would, essentially, have…. Before somebody has invested fully in what they require to be hunters in their own rights, they're given an experience with a mentor. And it's not confined to, necessarily, somebody who is a parent or a family member?
Hon. S. Thomson: So just to be clear. In providing these opportunities, first of all, it has to be the parent or the legal guardian who applies for the licence. Under regulation, we can prescribe who must accompany. Clearly, it would have to be somebody who had a licence, but it could be another family member, or it could be a mentor, but it very clearly has to be under that close personal supervision that would be prescribed in regulation.
Section 27 approved.
On section 28.
N. Macdonald: Again, this looks like a fairly minor change. Can the minister just explain exactly the intention of the change here in section 28 and as to the purpose of why the change is needed?
[D. Black in the chair.]
Hon. S. Thomson: This amendment adds to the qualifications that a hunter must have to supervise a hunter below the age of 18. It means that it would be an offence to hunt under the supervision of a person who holds an initiation hunting licence. So that would prevent somebody with the initiation licence from being the supervisor for the close personal supervision.
It will allow us, also, to make regulations regarding the qualifications for supervising hunters. So we could specify, for example, that the supervising hunter must have a specific number of years of hunting experience in this case — for example, two years of experience. That will provide the ability for us to set those prescribed qualifications of that personal supervision.
N. Macdonald: In the consultation that the minister and ministry have had with the B.C. Wildlife Federation, and presumably with other groups, have these prescribed qualifications already been outlined? Are they already in regulation, or is this to be coming in the near future? If they are in place or just about to be in place, can the minister give an outline of some of the definite rules that are going to be in place?
The minister mentioned the length of time that somebody would have to have been active as a hunter. Does that mean how long they have had their hunting licence, or is it a series of courses that need to be taken if one is going to be a mentor? Maybe the minister could describe just how far along we are in the process of prescribing qualifications.
Hon. S. Thomson: The regulations will be developed in consultation with the B.C. Wildlife Federation. We haven't had those specific discussions yet, other than to discuss the principles with the Wildlife Federation, which are very clear. From their interests, they want to assure that the regulations and the provisions apply, make sure that it is carried out in a safe manner with appropriate supervision. So we expect that that will be the focus of the discussions with them.
I used the example of a number of years and things. Those are general discussions we've had with the Wildlife Federation. We haven't developed the specific regulations yet, but that will be the next step — but clearly with a focus on ensuring that the activity is carried out in a safe manner.
N. Macdonald: In terms of consultation, obviously the B.C. Wildlife Federation has a long history and is a group that is really effective at bringing rules to government. There are other pockets of the province where the resident hunters are a group that often is the voice for hunters.
I guess the question is: in the consultation, is it entirely with the B.C. Wildlife Federation, or is there also an attempt to reach out to different groups that have an interest in hunting in British Columbia?
The example I would give — and it's not the only example, perhaps — is resident hunters. I think it's primarily down in Kimberley, that area, and I think there are pockets in the north where it would be one of the larger organizations representing hunters.
[ Page 9003 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: No, the consultation process would not be limited to the Wildlife Federation. Obviously, they would be one of the key stakeholder organizations we would consult with, but we will consult with the others. The regulation proposals would also go up publicly on the website for public input for all people to see. We'll ensure that there is broad consultation on the proposed regulations.
Section 28 approved.
On section 29.
N. Macdonald: With section 29, then, we have a definition of the youth licences. Primarily, the description that we're given here is that this is making it a more readable section. Can the minister highlight any other changes that are significant in here, other than really cleaning up the language of the descriptions of youth licences and the types of examinations that need to be taken?
Hon. S. Thomson: This section is a restatement of what was there previously. I think the main change or the main additions to it are in section 17.1(1)(c) and 17.1(3)(g), where we talk about meeting the prescribed qualifications. That's really the addition to this section, to add those — that ability to have those prescribed qualifications so that when we work through the regulations, both with the initiation licence and the youth licence, how it will ensure that the safety provisions are there and the appropriate supervision is in place. That's really the only addition to the sections. Other than that, it's a restating.
N. Macdonald: Of course, it's also talking about, as the minister has pointed to, the responsibilities of an adult. If they're moving with a minor that is in possession of a gun, there are responsibilities for the adult to have the proper training. Is there anything substantive that has changed in the wording here or has been added to those obligations? Or is it essentially the current practice and, as we've said before, simply stated in a clearer way?
Hon. S. Thomson: This adds in…. In terms of having this capacity here, it provides us the ability to put some additional qualifications in place that may not have necessarily been present in the previous regulation, just to ensure that we have those appropriate levels of supervision and safety. This is something that the Wildlife Federation in particular has asked for, as we move forward. They recognize that we're providing some additional licensing opportunities. They want to make sure that we have the appropriate qualifications and the appropriate provisions in place for those new licences.
Section 29 approved.
On section 30.
N. Macdonald: Here again we have a section that's dealing with the initiation hunting licence, but in this case it's for somebody who is no longer a minor and, presumably, can be of any age. I guess the question here is that the responsibility still sits, I would presume now, with both parties to have the individual that holds the initiation hunting licence, as well as the mentor, to be there carefully supervised.
I guess the question I would have is: if that's not happening…. Is there dual responsibility? How does that work? Clearly, there's an obligation for the mentor to closely watch the person who's just learning, but what's the breakdown in terms of responsibility when you have two adults rather than the case where you would have somebody who is an adult and somebody who is a minor?
Hon. S. Thomson: The way this has been set up is dual responsibility. So there's responsibility on both parties — on the person with the initiation licence to make sure that he is with somebody who meets the qualifications, and from the other perspective, the person taking him out has a responsibility to ensure that the person has the initiation licence.
N. Macdonald: Again, the idea is that the prescribed regulations that are referred to here will be worked out in consultation with the wider public and, specifically, with the B.C. Wildlife Federation to make sure that the details on how this is going to work are put together and then presented publicly?
Hon. S. Thomson: Yes, under the same provisions that we talked about previously with the qualifications around the youth hunting licence.
Section 30 approved.
On section 31.
N. Macdonald: Section 31, then, deals with a different issue. It gives the cabinet the ability to make regulations that cover a fairly large number of areas in setting openings for fishing. I guess the question for the minister is just basically: can he give a general explanation and just the intent of why these powers have been given to cabinet in this way?
Hon. S. Thomson: The section creates regulation-making powers for setting out limits but does not provide explicit authority to treat various classes of people differ-
[ Page 9004 ]
ently from each other. So the amendments to the section will ensure that there's clear authority to treat various classes of people differently from each other in the regulations. These could include youth, seniors, B.C. residents, non-residents.
This is what we currently do, but the current regulation was not clear in providing that explicit authority. So this is simply taking this opportunity to ensure that the regulation provides that clear authority for the approach that we already undertake.
N. Macdonald: Sorry. So just one other question. Is this part of, again, the initiative to bring new people into fishing? Is it part of that same initiative, or are we just cleaning up existing practice? And are examples of sort of special opportunities…? Would they be provided to, perhaps, people with disabilities or seniors or…? What are some of the examples where you would want to have a different season or a different access? The minister did talk about residents, non-residents, but are there any other scenarios where that would be provided?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, as I stated, this provides us the clear authority to do it. It does give us that opportunity to provide those additional opportunities to recruit youth into angling, providing those opportunities, but we just want to make sure that we have clear authority to be able to do that. This will enhance the opportunity — something I think we all support.
N. Macdonald: We're just going to go for another ten minutes, and I think that that's in accordance with what the minister was expecting. On section 32, basically, this is the removal of the requirement that the results for a guided hunt be reported to the regional manager in a specific period of time. I think ten days was the old practice.
The Chair: Excuse me, Member.
Just for clarity, shall section 31 pass?
Section 31 approved.
On section 32.
N. Macdonald: Section 32 — and my apologies for jumping ahead there — removes the requirement for a guide-outfitter to deliver a completed guide report to the regional manager within ten days of concluding a hunt. I guess the question is: what's the explanation that the minister has for doing that? My understanding is that this is a proposal that has come from guide-outfitters, but the minister could maybe explain the changes and the rationale for it.
Hon. S. Thomson: This section is to repeal the current requirement that says that the guide-outfitter must submit a guide report within ten days after the hunt is concluded. The guide report, as you know, is a record of the hunt. Guide-outfitters currently have difficulty complying with the current ten-day deadline due to the remote location of many guiding operations.
Repealing this requirement will allow the deadline to be extended by regulation, and we can adjust it if necessary. The new deadline will make it easier for guide-outfitters to comply with reporting requirements and would be more consistent with reporting timelines for hunters, which are usually 30 days. So it's not taking away the requirement to report. We're just going to be able to extend it — and extend it by regulation, as to having the specific timeline set in legislation.
N. Macdonald: Is the minister saying that it likely will be 30 days, or is this a period of time that will be decided upon later and then put into regulation? Or is the minister pretty sure it'll be 30 days?
Hon. S. Thomson: This will be done with some consultation, but just to advise the member opposite, the guide-outfitters have asked for 30 days currently. Given the view that that's probably a reasonable request, that is at this point the likelihood of what it would be.
Section 32 approved.
On section 33.
D. Donaldson: Section 33 deals with an amendment to section 59 to change the maximum time period of a guiding territory certificate issued under the section from ten years to 25 years. Could the minister advise what situation this is attempting to remedy?
Hon. S. Thomson: As you know, the guiding territory certificate grants the holder an exclusive control over guiding privileges in an area described in the certificate. This amendment increases the term from no more than ten years to no more than 25 years — up to 25 years. The longer certificate will provide for that additional certainty for the guide-outfitters and help them secure funding for their operations. It is something that is designed to be able to provide additional, longer-term security for the guide-outfitters and the operation of their territories.
D. Donaldson: Thank you for that. Are there any concerns that the minister wants to make us aware of — of increasing the period from ten years to 25 years?
Hon. S. Thomson: No — no specific concerns. As I pointed out, the provision is to extend it up to 25, not
[ Page 9005 ]
automatically to 25. If there are some concerns that might need to be taken into account when the application is being considered, those could be taken in by having a lesser term — if there were some concerns. But at this point we're not identifying any specific concerns.
D. Donaldson: If the minister could describe…. At this point we have certificates that are issued for ten years. Is it incumbent upon the guide-outfitter, then, after a certain number of years — eight years or whatever — to reapply for the next ten years? How does the system work currently?
Hon. S. Thomson: Under the current provisions, you can reapply after five years for the extension. Under the new provisions for guiding territory certificates that are issued after this amendment comes into force, this section provides for the renewal of those guiding territory certificates after three-fifths of the term of the certificate has lapsed. Three-fifths is specified, rather than the number of years, because there will be the regional manager's discretion to issue a certificate for up to 25 years. That's why we based it on a percentage, as opposed to a set number of years, under the new provisions.
D. Donaldson: Thank you for that. Just so I can understand this better, how many guide-outfitting certificates are there in the province? And can you tell me how many are over the five years? How many are in the situation of being able to apply for this increase in time period under the certificate?
Hon. S. Thomson: Currently there are 242 certificates in B.C., and 79 of those certificates will reach their five-year time period by September 5, 2016 — that would provide the number that would reach that five-year time period — and 26 have renewed or transferred since January 1, 2011. Of the recent renewals, there have been 26.
Sections 33 to 36 inclusive approved.
The Chair: The committee agreed earlier to advance the debate, and we're now going back to section 2.
On section 2.
L. Popham: I do have some questions on this section. First of all, I'd just like to say that as the minister was talking about bringing this legislation in, he did make a point of saying that the legislation would be coming with some financial commitments, so I just wanted to clarify some of that. The minister has stated that there'll be $600,000 coming. I'm assuming that's immediately after this legislation passes, but I'd like clarification on that.
Hon. D. McRae: Actually, the money has already been transferred; $625,000 is with the Agricultural Land Commission now, with almost a million dollars to follow in the next fiscal year.
L. Popham: That's great news about the $625,000. The almost million dollars that's to follow for the budget year — is that a budget commitment for this coming budget and the year after, and is it a continuing budget item? Or is this just a two-year promise?
Hon. D. McRae: While the $1.6 million is not part of the ALC Act, I'm more than willing to talk about it for a while. The money is transitional dollars that allows the ALC to become more self-sustaining into the future.
L. Popham: I think we'll be probably talking about that in part of the legislation. But as far the ALC becoming more self-sufficient, is this just a two-year commitment for the $1 million per budget year?
Hon. D. McRae: The idea is for the ALC to be more self-sustaining. The chair is keen to actually work within the legislation and the fees that potentially could be generated by the ALC, but that has not been examined yet.
L. Popham: Now, that's interesting, and I hope that the minister will allow me to ask this question. The idea of the ALC becoming more self-sustaining by working on application fees or change fees…. I understood that this legislation was actually going to strengthen the ALC and that there would be less movement in and out of the agricultural land reserve. I'm not sure I understand how that would in the long term create a sustainable fund for the ALC, if we're actually going to be reducing the number of applications.
Hon. D. McRae: It might be best to have some conversations with the chair of the ALC and his vision for the fee structure that he may intend. But I think this is definitely at very early stages at this phase. There have to be extensive consultations. I'm sure the chair of the ALC will be more than willing to talk about what, perhaps, he envisions as a potential fee structure down the road. I think he is more interested in actually having those discussions in the near future with British Columbians.
L. Popham: That's very well, but the minister is the one bringing in the legislation, which is built around a fee structure making the Agricultural Land Commission more self-sustaining. So I'd appreciate if the minister answered that question.
Hon. D. McRae: I was engrossed in conversation. I could either pretend to answer the question, pretend to
[ Page 9006 ]
have heard what you said or ask for you to repeat it, if that's okay.
L. Popham: I appreciate it that the minister is wishing that the chair would answer the question, but it's the minister who's bringing in the legislation allowing a fee structure, with the intent to make the Agricultural Land Commission more self-sustaining. I'd appreciate it if the minister would answer the question with regard to how that would work, long term.
The minister promised funding for the Agricultural Land Commission, making it stronger than ever. I'm having trouble figuring out how that works as a self-sufficient organization that's reducing applications and movement out of the agricultural land reserve.
Hon. D. McRae: The idea is we're just actually allowing legislation that gives the ALC the ability to enact fees. As for what those fees were at this stage, it still requires extensive consultation. Those have not occurred yet, and I don't want to prejudge what the outcome of that may be.
The reality is that the ALC looks at this as a piece of legislation with the fee aspect that will become an opportunity for them to be self-sustaining, but that's…. As for the outcome, like I say, I don't wish to prejudge what the outcome will be there.
L. Popham: Can the minister tell me how section 2 changes the current legislation?
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Hon. D. McRae: Right now the word "official" is very limiting amongst employees. By broadening the definition it allows especially municipalities, if they so desire, to potentially use some of their bylaw officers to work on behalf of the ALC.
L. Popham: How would the billing for those services work?
Hon. D. McRae: It would be a contractual arrangement between the ALC and the organization in question.
L. Popham: So would the billing come out of the Agricultural Land Commission budget?
Hon. D. McRae: I think if I was a municipality, I would go into a contractual obligation where the contract and the duties carried out by the municipality would be a cost recovery based on the dealings they have with the ALC. So the municipality, maybe, would charge, perhaps, a fine and retain that fine within the municipality for the cost of doing the bylaw work for the ALC.
L. Popham: Is that how it's going to work, or is that the minister's estimation of how it's going to work?
Hon. D. McRae: At this stage we don't know. That will be a contractual obligation that is yet to be determined between two willing parties. The key word here is "willing" parties. No one is forcing municipalities to enter into this agreement. It is just an option they could choose to pursue if it's something that they would consider advantageous.
L. Popham: All right. Well, that's fair. What are the duties that could be included in this designation?
Hon. D. McRae: Basically, everywhere in the act where you see the word "official" and the duties that they are able to perform — that would be what they would be empowered to do.
L. Popham: Can the minister tell me how section 2 strengthens the Agricultural Land Commission and protects the agricultural land reserve?
Hon. D. McRae: Simply stated, it gives more eyes on the ground — the potential for municipalities or other individuals to have the ability to, basically, work with and for the ALC in protection of ALR farmland in the province of British Columbia.
L. Popham: Can the minister tell me why there was not more funding put into the Agricultural Land Commission to have more of these officials working underneath the commission rather than outside the commission?
Hon. D. McRae: The dollar amount is more of a budget issue — maybe something we could pursue at estimates — but the reality is that the chair believes this will provide the ALC the flexibility, again, to have more eyes on the ground and, basically, have more access to more C-and-E-type officers and allow the ALC to become a more proactive organization.
L. Popham: For example, if one of these officials were to find a situation within the agricultural land reserve — something like fill dumping — can the minister explain to me how…? Who would the official report to? How would that work? How would that stop something like fill dumping from happening?
Hon. D. McRae: We'll say, hypothetically, the municipality actually has fill dumping bylaws. The new changes in the act will allow the bylaw officer to, basically, act on behalf of the ALC, with the duties and powers that the ALC would have in this situation.
[ Page 9007 ]
L. Popham: What powers does the ALC have in that situation?
Hon. D. McRae: I have a lovely flow chart here, but I'll just read from it.
The official could issue a stop-work order. They could do an investigation. It could basically result in the ALC CEO levying a penalty. Furthermore, the ALC could apply to the Supreme Court for an order for compliance. That would be something along the lines of remediation.
L. Popham: I understand the flow chart. I've read the flow chart. I'm quite familiar with how that works. But I'm just wondering if this legislation makes that flow chart more effective, because from what I've seen in my investigations there's a problem with enforcing that flow chart. It's somewhat about eyes on the ground, but it's not completely about that.
There seems to be a lack of power that the ALC would have to completely stop a situation like that from happening. Municipalities with eyes on the ground…. I can give you an example of a situation in Saanich South. Babe's Honey Farm, which had stop-work orders on it, had reports to the ALC. There was nothing that seemed to stop the 10,000 loads of construction fill from being dumped on this farm. In that instance, how does this legislation change that outcome?
Hon. D. McRae: Again, this legislation allows for literally more eyes on the ground, whether it's the municipality or the ALC. It is often up to either individuals in the local area to make sure that the municipality — or, in this case, maybe the ALC — is aware of an issue. By also reducing the number of applications before the ALC, it allows the organization and its employees to be more proactive. So instead of dealing with numerous applications, potentially, they have the ability to deal with issues where there is maybe a C and E type of event.
In regards to Babe's Honey, my understanding at this stage is the complaint was made. The ALC was made aware of it. The ALC has investigated and is now working on a remediation plan with the current owner.
The Chair: Member, additional questions for section 2?
L. Popham: I'm going to move past section 2, but I just wanted to add on to something the minister said about Babe's Honey Farm. The fact that there's remediation in process is not exactly a good-news story, because the farm is ruined.
I guess what I want to see in legislation is strengthening the act so we don't have to get to the point of remediation. I'm not sure I understand that section 2 does that, but perhaps it does. I'll look forward to a conversation with the chair of the ALC.
V. Huntington: I'd just like to follow up on the issue of compensation for the delegated authorities. Those public officials that have been delegated enforcement authorities under multiple acts, are they going to be required to charge back their services to the ALC, or is the government going to assist the ALC in allowing them to enforce, when necessary, without charging?
Hon. D. McRae: Again, it's a voluntary agreement between the ALC and local government. But it would all depend on the contractual obligations and agreements reached between the ALC and the particular municipality. And since we don't have a precedent at this stage, I'm not sure exactly what municipalities would like to see and what the ALC would like to work with them as.
V. Huntington: Just to clarify. From my perspective, I don't know if municipalities would even want to charge back. My question had to do with the recent delegation of provincial officials — their enforcement authorities under the multiple acts of the government — and whether government is intending to charge back or whether it will assist the ALC budget in this regard.
Hon. D. McRae: Apologies for not getting it the first time. For example, if an FLNRO official were to be designated, the dollars would remain within the ALC, not FLNRO.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
L. Popham: Can the minister please explain to me how section 3 changes the current legislation?
Hon. D. McRae: This section will allow the chair to direct certain applications — for example, like a sightline adjustment — to a panel and then, once directed to a panel, provide that panel with guidance on the scope of decision they are allowed to make, basically making sure that there is not an unintended precedent being set.
L. Popham: Can the minister tell me why he decided to keep the regional panels rather than going to one provincial panel?
Hon. D. McRae: British Columbia is obviously a very large province. In the discussions with the chair, it was decided that if there was adequate funding, and he be-
[ Page 9008 ]
lieves there is at this stage, having 18-member panels to represent a province that is basically the size of France and most of Germany would give the regional scope of knowledge that would help not just agriculturists but regional governments, making sure that the interests — agricultural, climatic, geographic — are reflected in the boards' and panel's decision.
L. Popham: I understand, because the minister and I have had this conversation before, that the chair agreed to staying with regional panels. But given the chair's extensive report and very clear indication that a provincial panel would be best for the Agricultural Land Commission, can the minister tell me why that decision was made? I highly doubt that it was because the chair of the Agricultural Land Commission changed his mind. But there must be reasons around it, because the reasons that the minister just gave could be negated in the actual report given by the Agricultural Land Commission chair.
Hon. D. McRae: As I stated earlier, there was some concern at the beginning of the process, when the report was written, that the panels were not necessarily consistent in their decision-making. So one of the things that we thought was very important, if we were going to keep the six panels, is to include amendments within the ALC Act to give the chair a greater oversight role to ensure consistency and a provincewide perspective to the decision-making process. With conversations with the chair, both during and at this time, I think we have met that test.
L. Popham: Fair enough, but one of the recommendations around going to a provincial panel was with regards to how unwieldy the regional panel system was. So how does that change it? To me, that seems like there would be more management by the chair.
Hon. D. McRae: One thing to, as well…. The chair is having his vision of having greater training and orientation for panel members, something that hasn't occurred in the past to the level that he would have liked. Furthermore, the idea of having a hired CEO to look after the day-to-day operations will allow the chair to have more interaction with the various panel members, the local governments across this province and the agricultural community in general.
Noting the hour, I seek leave to rise, report progress and seek leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 6:24 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The Committee of the Whole, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 6:25 p.m.
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